"Busman's Holiday"-II

The Editor Drives a Further Selection of Different Motor Cars

THE longer you defer a holiday the more reluctant you become to resume the daily routine at its conclusion, so perhaps I am fortunate that my duties as Editor of MOTOR SPORT give me but little time for vacations, if they do allow me the pleasure and excitement of occasionally taking a “busman’s holiday” by exchanging the Editorial desk and fountain pen for the seat and steering wheel of a fast car.

Last month I described a varied selection of cars which I managed to handle during one of these brief respites from office work and, just like other holidaymakers, at the end of it I experienced that “going-to-the-dentist or to see-the-Head” feeling. So I decided to prolong the joys of the open road, as it were, before again taking up my pen and I pressed various good friends for permission to let me take out their motor cars.

The first one was a car I had longed to try ever since it was announced, i.e., the blown Ford Ten-engined trials special which, with commendable acumen, K. C. Delingpole and R. B. Lowe, trials enthusiasts themselves, put into production.

The Gordon Garage (Dulwich), Ltd., has enterprisingly obtained the London and S.E. Counties distributorship for these cars and so, through the good offices of their Mr. Cox, I was able to have my day with a Dellow. It was the car Mr. Cox drives himself in competition events but was standard except for a Scintilla Vertex magneto, and a pair of Lucas WT 614 wind-tone horns operated by a delightful “push” in the centre of the white-rimmed sprung steering wheel.

I presented myself at the Gordon Garage one morning when the May sun was shining and they tilled the Dellow’s tank to the brim and told me to do what I would. This suggested commendable confidence in the little car, for Mr. Cox was driving in a speed-trial a few days later. I said I probably wouldn’t trouble to take the Dellow in search of “sections” because they would only have to scrape the mud off afterwards, and these cars have such a long string of major trials successes to their credit that if it failed on anything I put it to, clearly it would be my driving, and not the car, that would be at fault. But Mr. Cox’s henchmen were genuinely shocked, retorting : “But you won’t know a Dellow until you try it through mud!” So I did look for something sticky, but not until I got into the neighbourhood of Henley, where rain seemed to have been scarce, for I found nothing to stop me and the old Maidensgrove hill was child’s play, taken largely in top gear. This didn’t matter a scrap, for what I was really interested to discover was whether this car, constructed essentially as a trials car, mainly of Ford components, although having its own chassis of 3 1/8-in. diameter, 10-gauge steel tubes and 1/4 elliptics in place of a transverse back spring, would make it good “all-rounder”—a car as useful for fast cross-country and main road journeys as for down-to-the village trips, sprints and circuit-racing, in the way that the Allard is versatile in the many litres class.

I was prepared for the Dellow to be spartan, high-spirited and meant chiefly for the enthusiast. So I wasn’t surprised when I was requested to watch the oil and water levels, keep an eye on the fan belt and adjust or replace it as necessary, and forgive the clutch if it slipped a trifle because by a mischance some unwanted oil had got into it. As I nodded acceptance of these trifles, however, I was shown a very practical hood, and, to anticipate, in driving the car both far and fast no oil or water were needed, the clutch didn’t really slip, and the docility and comfort surprised me and pleased my wife. It may sound effete to talk of docility and a sports car in the same breath, yet I think docility is an attribute many of us look for these days, when one car has to cover a multitude of tasks and perhaps be used by more than one driver. This Dellow could be treated as a top-gear car to an extraordinary degree ; indeed, with its rather widely-spaced three-speed gearbox it paid to treat it this way. It was happy down to 20 m.p.h. on its highest (5.5 to 1) ratio and accelerated cleanly away from this speed, if one overlooked occasional hesitation, probably due to mixture building-up in the supercharger and induction system did things in the way of coasting down long hills with the engine ticking over that you would never have dared to do with a supercharged car pre-war, but the Champion L10-S plugs never once protested or needed cleaning.

The R007 Wade Ventor supercharger began really to sing when accelerating from about 40 m.p.h., exhilarating music to accompany you as you surged forward in middle or top gear. Moreover, that blower really did produce the most useful acceleration from low speeds. I didn’t actually time it, but it is in the order of 0-50 in 12 seconds or less—which I suppose is what you would expect from a 12-cwt. car developing over 46 b.h.p. at 4,400 r.p.m. It is this acceleration that makes the Dellow a truly fast car “across-country”—this, and the exceedingly powerful Girling brakes. Normal retardation by foot is admirable, but in addition there is that altogether fascinating outside lever which, pulled back, applies the rear brakes only or, pushed forward, puts on the front ones. The lightest pull, if you pull for effect, absolutely anchors the Dellow to the tarmac. Useful ! These is also a normal, rather timid Ford pull-out affair on the dash, so that when a cop calls “where’s your ratchet?” the laugh is yours all right.

So there it is—brisk pick-up, accentuated by a fairly pronounced exhaust note, plenty of evidence of things moving under the bonnet, and a thrilling whine from the Ventor, get the Dellow going well and truly, in fact as well as fancy, and if danger intrudes the brakes are more than a match for it. That spells high average speeds as well as a high factor of safety and driving entertainment. A lightweight car in which engine and occupants are purposely set well towards the rear and in which a big fuel tank and two spare wheels are outrigged behind the back axle to gain traction on slime is expected to oversteer to some extent. However, the slight oversteer tendency of the Dellow is matched by “quick” steering, light, without too-brisk castor action and asking only 1 1/2 turns from one generous lock to t’other. There is only occasional return-motion of the sort expected with a transverse drag-link and divided-axle i.f.s. In consequence, the car can be poked round fast bends and tight corners as effectively as most and represents remarkably quick transport “across country” and is equally handy in traffic. Bumps and cambers, it is true, do make for some rather sudden darts hither and thither, and in passing in tight places one is sometimes conscious of a “heavy tail.” However, I was told the shock-absorbers were rather slack (the front transverse SO2 Andres were set at “3,” in conjunction with a 10-leaf transverse front spring ; I didn’t go underneath to cheek the arrangements at the back) and certainly the riding comfort was notably good. In passing, full marks, too, for the excellent driving position and visibility—also, in no other car can the controls “fall to hand,” as they say, more readily! Stiffer shock-absorber settings, and perhaps a different pressure in the 6.60 by 16 Goodyears fitted to the back wheels (contrasting with 4.50 by 17 Firestones on the front) would probably have made a considerable difference to directional stability. As it was the Dellow didn’t, roll, didn’t scream on corners, simply wouldn’t slide and was, in short, jolly good fun to handle.

Moreover, as I have said, it gave a shock-free ride, even over London thoroughfares–and many of the roads in the Greatest City in the World are as good a test of suspension as anything in rural districts! The blown Dellow isn’t abnormally fast. The most I saw on the 90-m.p.h. Ford speedometer was 65 (and 45 in second), but I believe more than 70 is there is you really press. However, it. cruises very nicely at 50 m.p.h., which is probably the most economical speed, as the boost-gauge then shows “zero.” Writing of economy, I was stirred to find how far you go on a gallon, even using full-bore in the gears, which, I’m told, gives well over 5,000 r.p.m., and certainly sets the boost-gauge needle up to 8 lb./sq. in.— the supercharger runs at 1.35 times crankshaft speed. The single-belt-driven blower installation lies neatly on the near side, the blow-off valve being at the back of the cast manifold and an H3 horizontal S.U. carburetter with Smith’s air-cleaner being used. I was told the car might boil because the fan blades had been cut down so that for sprints a bigger blower pulley can be fitted without severing the off-take hose, but it lost no water, although the A.R.I.C. thermometer sometimes indicated as much as 220 degrees F.–certainly no heater is necessary, for the “office” gets quite warm! Even so, oil pressure remained at 30-40 lb./sq. in. according to engine speed all the time I had the car.

The remote gear-change is neither nasty nor nice, but midway between ; when doing snappy shifts from first to second you have to remember not to remove bits of Mr. Ford’s reverse pinions. The indirect ratios are 9.71 and 16.8 to 1, so mostly you keep in top. The door-less tube-frame body by Radpanels of Kidderminster is light and seems highly durable. It was finished in deep orange, a hue which, if unpalatable applied to a Bugatti or an Alfa, really rather suited this jolly little car, even if friends would make play of the “yellow Dellow.” I liked the frontal aspect, easily detached bonnet, panel and aluminium facia.

Altogether I had a lot of fun and am convinced that the Dellow is unbeatable as a trials car and second only in this respect as an admirable sports car for non-competitive occasions. Go along to the Gordon Garage and try their demonstrator and I’m sure you’ll feel the same way. Incidentally the Dellow is supplied in unblown form if required.

From the Dellow to a very different experience, that of accompanying Ronald Barker to the Biggleswade Rally of the V.C.C. in a 1911 “16/20” Fafnir tourer . . . And it was quite an experience, proving what Cecil Clutton, joint owner of this very durable car, has stressed often, namely that the less-potent Edwardians make admirable and practical touring cars. We covered a mileage approaching 150 that day with the greatest of ease, the old car performing in a particularly charming manner. It cruised at 35-40 m.p.h. by its toe-level Smith’s speedometer, accelerated reasonably, stopped reasonably. In spite of an entire absence of shock-absorption, the comfort was outstanding, the ride, if a trifle “lively” at times, being completely devoid of shock, pitching and roll. I drove the car for a very short, distance and enjoyed visibility of the order found in a forward-drive commercial, while all the controls were found to be surprisingly light. The hand-applied rear brakes, with their unlined cast-iron shoes, sounded, and were, reassuring, used alternately with the foot-operated transmission brake. The downward gear-changes could be effected quite briskly, but perhaps my lasting impression was of the mechanical silence of engine, indirect gears and transmission.

In lordly state we sat, able to look over the hedges and down on the tinware that so often impeded our dignified progress. That hill opposite Amersham bus-station on the road to Beaconsfield was taken quite fast in second gear, and not many of the moderns claim to do any better. When you consider that, in addition, this spacious, beautifully constructed 2 1/2-litre touring car made nearly forty years ago did 23/24 miles on each gallon of fuel and needed no attention, not even a glance at the water-level, you will appreciate that Clutton, who was virtually brought up on this car, was talking sound sense when he said “the Edwardian touring car, at its best, is a beautifully calculated and executed entity—smooth and effortless in performance for a sympathetic driver, or a clanking bag of nails in the hands of an ordinary butcher.” It only remains for me to make Barker blush by remarking that he does know how to handle his Edwardians.

A few days after this convinciing demonstration that a pre-1914 car can provide eminently practical transport I had to adjust myself to more modern things, when Mr. K. Smith kindly suggested that I should take away his special Speed Twenty Alvis and play with it. I decided to use it over the week-end of the Royal Silverstone Meeting and duly collected it from Harrow on the Thursday afternoon. It brought me in to Hampshire remarkably quickly, spurred on along A 30 by a Javelin saloon which I could just lose by exceeding 4,000 r.p.m. in top and on acceleration to rather beyond that in time indirect gears after a traffic check, but which was never far behind. However, that is to anticipate. First, to explain this Alvis.

Although I have owned five “12/50s” and a “12/60” in the past and am therefore favourably inclined towards the make, the Speed Twenty and its immediate successors had remained practically a closed book, although when I was in Yorkshire Norman Routledge did his best to attend to this side of my education and a year or so ago a ride in Guy Griffith’s Speed Twenty saloon considerably impressed me. Consequently, Mr. Smith’s car was of more than passing interest.

It started life as a 1934 Vanden Plas drophead coupé weighing 34 cwt., but was drastically reduced, by 9 1/2 cwt. to be precise, by throwing away the original body and designing a 2/4-seater sports body. This body is in four sections, radiator-to-dashboard, dash-to-doors, doors, and the tail. It was constructed to Mr. Smith’s own drawings by Middlesex Motors of Harrow, who made a very nice job of it. The car has a truly imposing appearance and I particularly liked the low, shapely tail. As the chassis is on the heavy side weight had to be saved in the body, which is of 22-gauge aluminium with no steel anywhere in its construction, mounted direct on the chassis with a packing of canvas belting, each section being free to move independently of its fellows. Light gauge duralumin flooring and alloy bucket front seats with blade backs complete the job. Derrington supplied the cycle-wings, which were neatly balanced, and a firm at King’s Cross made up a neat four-branch external exhaust and silencing system.

Neat, I thought, was the way the children’s rear seat folded forward to give access to the rear shock-absorbers and twin batteries. The car came to me with proper hood, tonneau cover, an Elliot fold-flat screen designed for the job and was smartly finished in racing-green, with chromiumed metal parts.

This Alvis looked as if it would “tick,” and it did. The reason was not far to seek; was, in fact, under the bonnet –talking of which, its length really had a lot to do with the imposing air imparted, for it was quite 8-litre-Bentleyish, only much lower, of course, the radiator of the 1934 Alvis being fairly far forward and the scuttle of this car moved back 4 in. to give better access to the new clutch assembly.

Under the bonnet, as I was saying, things had been “moved about” to the car’s advantage. The neatly-turned-out six-cylinder (push-rod o.h.v., 73 by 100 mm., 2,511 c.c.) engine has three downdraught S.U. carburetters, fed by two S.U. pumps from a rear tank, special bronze valve guides, a Vokes full-flow oil filter and improved cooling obtained by drilling extra water transfers into the head and by pumping the water direct into the back of the head instead of into the middle of the block. A new flywheel and Borg and Beck clutch assembly was designed, balanced to 5,500 r.p.m., a Ford V8 thrust-race being incorporated. The saving in weight here is notable–34 3/4 lb. against the 96 lb. of the Alvis assembly. Apart from these useful modifications new parts were put in where necessary and the block and crankshaft were reconditioned by Laystall. A Scintilla Mk. 6 magneto replaces the old B.T.H. The compression-ratio is quite moderate, as a 12 s.w.g. plate lives beneath the cylinder block.

I was told that this power unit has proved very durable, no wear being evident in the bearings after some 20,000 miles of lead-footed driving, and that although the triple downdraught carburetters have been difficult to tune, in the days of benzole around 5,000 r.p.m. was possible in top gear with bags of ignition advance, without departing front the standard setting of 90 jets and 81 needles. On “Pool,” screen up and P.100s in place, I got over 4,000 r.p.m., or about 85 m.p.h.

The car has a 4.5-to-1 back axle ratio and 5.50-19 tyres. So much for the technicalities of Mr. Smith’s intriguing Alvis.

Right from getting to know the car I enjoyed using the short, rigid central gear-lever, even if it did “catch-up” a bit at times, and found the roadholding and steering very good, the latter light, with just enough castor action, and asking 2 1/4 turns lock-to-lock, so that one took the big car through traffic with confidence. I liked the neat grouping of the instruments on a central alloy panel, oil gauge reading around 40 lb./sq. in., the water thermometer reassuringly below 70 deg. C. (55 deg. C. on a cold day), the 4-in. Smith’s speedometer (which suffered from cronic needle-float) and rev.-counter registered anything the throttle-foot dictated up to quite imposing maximums. And only once did I tread on the central accelerator when I wanted to stop!

It was pleasant to be out in a big car again, and this one was particularly good fun, because the exhaust note rose to an Alvis-crackle at around 40 m.p.h. in top gear, the gears made music, especially on the over-run, when an exhaust reverberation, quite startling at first, was set up, and transmission backlash was exaggerated by the light flywheel. Generally one sensed that this car was “alive,” lack of wooden floor boards and anti-drumming precautions accentuating the noise, of course. If I have described a certain car tried recently as a “boy’s motor,” I would call the Smith-Alvis a “man’s car,” with the proviso that it is really quite straightforward to drive and tractable in traffic.

With these thoughts in mind, rather than visions of “158” Alfas, I climbed into bed late on “Silverstone-Thursday,” anticipating an enjoyable run to the course on the morrow to see the practice. From my home near Aldershot I have evolved a delightful “off-the-red” route to Silverstone where one is either driving in the valley or along the heights almost the entire way. It reads : Eversley, Twyford, along that beautiful stretch flanked by the Thames via Wargrave to Henley, up the straight-as-a-die Fair Mile on A 423, off through the Chilterns via Stonor and up Pishill to Watlington, through its narrow winding streets and over its fantastic cross-roads (which I hope they never spoil by planting traffic-lamps) and out, past Pyrton atomic station, to Lewknor, which, with the “Lambert Arms” where I turn left for a brief spell on A 40, I somehow always associate with the M.G. Car Club in the time of cheery “Flem” Harris. And so off-the-red again to old-world Thame with its broad rough-surfaced high street. Then it’s right-handed at Long Crendon, up over Dortonhill with its seats at the roadside inviting the weary to tarry awhile and adore its splendid views, and down again, past Dorton’s School for the Blind in its rural setting, avoiding Brill, crossing another main road and going on a less picturesque route past the London Brick Company and over the adjacent concrete way into the delightful town of Buckingham.

I always find this drive satisfying, if better suited to the soul than to a fast car, for it crosses innumerable main thoroughfares without involving you very much with any of them, and the hills are never far away—”Goodness, how the man drools on, but then, of course, he does it for a living…”

To revert to that Alvis! It handled very nicely, possibly because the front end had been stiffened with extra 3/16 in. fabricated channel at the front cross-member and a tubular cross-member used to tie the front dumb-irons, so that the twisty route I followed provided much enjoyment., yet the i.f.s., with its rather heavy wishbones and massive transverse spring, and the rear suspension, damped by heavy double-acting hydraulic shock-absorbers from an armoured car, effectively absorbed road-menders’ indiscretions. The chassis was, of course, stripped and worn parts renewed while the plot was hatching.

Mr. Smith showed me over 5,000 r.p.m. (over 70 m.p.h.) in third gear on a rev.-counter checked by Smith’s for accuracy, before he handed his Alvis over, but I preferred to regard 4,000-4,500 r.p.m. (57-64 m.p.h.) as the limit, changing normally at 3,500 r.p.m. in the gears (50 m.p.h. in third). In top the exhaust crackle merged with the engine roar and the Alvis was particularly happy at 3,000 r.p.m. (62 m.p.h.), with 3,500 in hand (72.5 m.p.h.) when one wished to hurry. Aided by spells in the lower ratios, which gave very useful acceleration, this mile-a-minute gait could be maintained along the byways as well as on the through-ways, and what with the combination of mechanical and gaseous noises and scanning along the 4 1/2ft. of bonnet, it was a most satisfying way of getting along. All this added up to 44 miles or so in the first hour of the Silverstone journey without hurrying, and 1 1/2 hours for the 62 miles to Buckingham, including such rural things as cows and milk lorries and a stop to make notes. Naturally the engine disliked “Pool,” but intelligent use of the ignition control did notch to defeat the “little men mit hammers”; full retard killed the pick-up quite noticeably. I liked this control and its fellow lamps and hand-throttle controls in the wheel centre, also the neat triple bonnet fasteners, “proper” fuel pump and ignition switches, Bowden lever mixture control on the steering column, stowage of jack, etc., under the bonnet and the typically Alvis right-hand brake lever.

The engine started easily and really hard driving still gave a fuel consumption of practically 18 m.p.g. The Alvis clearly didn’t altogether appreciate this interruption to its hibernation, for its starter pinion made merry fire-bell music on the flywheel at times, the magneto-switch became useless, and eventually the exhaust tail pipe fell off—the latter rather fun, because the noise then became very “Juan Fangio” and I figured out that on Royal Silverstone Saturday no one would mind very much. But beyond that it behaved well. Its owner is now engaged on something lighter and more exciting and so the Alvis is for sale; whoever gets AXX 335 will have some pleasant motoring.

While the Smith-Alvis was parked beside the Berkeley caravan which MOTOR SPORT used as its headquarters at the Royal Silverstone Meeting, Peter Waring and B. Chevell, who both race Speed Twenties, came to see it, and the day after I returned it I went out in the Waring car.

These two Alvis cars made a most interesting contrast. Waring’s is a 1932 model with non-independent front suspension, which started life as a standard four-seater and which is, indeed, one of the first forty Speed Twenties to be made. The body has since been converted into a two-seater with tank and spare wheel in the flat tail and many interesting “mods” have been made to the chassis. The engine has a balanced crankshaft, Martlet narrow-ring pistons, KE 965 inlet and DDT 49 exhaust valves, 15 per cent. stronger-than-standard Terry valve springs, Glacier mains and big-ends, and a copperised head. Along the off side runs a water gulley which feeds water to the exhaust valves via four off-takes, the centre two going to the existing core-plug holes in the head, the other two to holes specially drilled for the purpose. The water pump sits on what was once the magneto bracket, the car now using coil ignition, and the old water inlet is coupled to the suction-side of the pump to give a static effect to the water in the cylinder block. The rear water transfer and the outlet from the head are as Mr. Alvis intended them. The compression ratio is in the region of 8 1/2 to 1, 30/50 benzole-petrol mixture being the normal diet, which is consumed at approximately 17.5 m.p.g.

The usual triple horizontal S.U.s are retained, using standard settings, but they have no hot-spots, as two manifolds from a 1939 Crested Eagle are fitted which contrive to avoid them. Fuel feed is by twin double-S.U. pumps from the usual rear tank. The ignition distributor is driven by Firefly gears and has a Lucas non-tracking head; the advance and retard is cunningly actuated from the Alvis steering-column control by Bowden cable. Waring uses Champion R15 or R16 plugs for road work and Lodge HLPs for racing.

Like Mr. Smith, he has thrown away the heavy Alvis clutch housing and flywheel and in its place has fitted a self-change gearbox which transforms the car’s entire character. A Firefly flywheel replaces the old one and drives via a flexible coupling to a Wilson gearbox taken front a 1938 25-h.p. Armstrong-Siddeley. This gearbox is mounted on the chassis, was overhauled beforehand and hasn’t given a moment’s trouble. It is controlled by a transversely mounted Daimler quadrant and lever, convenient to the left hand. Behind the box the propeller-shaft has been shortened. The 4.5-to-1 back axle is used, with 5.00-20 front and 6.00-20 back tyres. The brakes employ special Capasco linings, which resisted wear most courageously for an entire season, and are still like new. Thus it will be appreciated that this trim black two-seater differed considerably from the other car I drove. The earlier chassis were lighter than the i.f.s. pattern, and Waring told me it weighed only 22 cwt. 2 qr.

Naturally, I was very anxious to try it on the road, but in the short time I drove it I could not hope to emulate its owner, who took the car through heavy traffic along the Barnet By-Pass in a manner which showed a high degree of skill and entire confidence in the brakes and controllability of his car. Indeed, what with remembering to preselect the next required ratio with that delightful little lever and prod the clutch pedal to select it, and remember that the right-hand pedal was the brake and not the throttle, your Editor gave every indication that he is getting a ham-handed old man! Even so, the car responded sympathetically and obviously provides near-60 m.p.h. averages when driven properly. The revs. climb easily to 4,500 r.p.m. in the gears, the rasp of the exhaust note typically Alvis, and lightning changes are possible with the A.S. box, so that acceleration is continuous, with no pause to select the cogs.

Waring regards 4,800 r.p.m. as maximum, but points out that power falls away after 3,800. This gives you 70 m.p.h. in third and, as with the other Alvis, 3,000 r.p.m. is a very easy way of going along, and on this car represents 63.5 m.p.h. I understand that flat-out 4,500 r.p.m. will come up in top, equal to a shade over 95 m.p.h.

I found that you really could sit up and see things behind the wheel, that the car was beautifully taut to handle, the steering wheel very much in your lap and giving good, perhaps a shade low-geared, control, while the brakes, given a good push, were amply effective, of the wheel-locking kind if really used, yet delightfully smooth and well balanced.

Somehow one got the impression that this was a friendly car, giving of its best to those who would handle it; no doubt the instant response to a jab on the gear-selector pedal (there is, of course, no normal clutch) and pressure on the accelerator gave rise to this impression. The ride was comfortable, the pneumatic upholstery likewise, and only occasionally did the front axle remind you of its presence as a rigid beam. The speedometer read properly and was usually at 70 plus, save when traffic conditions intervened, when the Alvis could be slowed with reassuring rapidity, to the accompaniment of exciting explosions in its forthright exhaust system. Oil pressure, I noticed, sat steadily at 60 lb./sq. in., the water temperature at 100 deg. F.

Of necessity the ride was brief, but I came away feeling that these Alvis Speed Twenties can be very lively and that they have much in common with a vintage car (even to a whippy frame!) yet are perhaps less exacting to drive and to service. Moreover, spares should be readily procurable.

Finally, there was a run with John Wyer in last year’s “Spa” Aston-Martin coupé, which is similar to the recently announced six-cylinder D.B.H production model, but with slightly smaller body dimensions. These days UMC 66 is the experimental car-cum-hack-transport about the works and its austerity interior reminded me of a prototype aeroplane. Shabby it may be, but what a motor car! You sit in a remarkably comfortable bucket seat. Before you stretches the wide, all-enveloping bonnet, the roof comes within an inch of your head. behind you, up to shoulder level, is the vast fuel reservoir with its filler necks vanishing through the tail. Batteries of aircraft-type switches, two thermometers, an oil gauge and a Smith’s rev.-counter tested for accuracy confront one, and round one’s feet wavers a piece of hose bringing fresh (sic) air into this intriguing “conservatory.”

An exciting car, yes, but so comfortable. Your head never actually touches the roof, the ride being that of a town-carriage, and the wind just doesn’t roar round this aerodynamic body. It gets a bit warm inside, of course, and as there is absolutely no sound-proofing the noise when you open the throttle is interesting. But the emphasis is still on comfort, coupled with security.

Wyer went first and showed me 4,000 r.p.m., or 102 m.p.h., in the 3.5-to-1 top gear along a brief bit of wiggle-free A 30–“the tun,” they call it, don’t they? I tried straight out of an Austin Seven and got 3,800 (97 m.p.h.) the reverse way before the horizon filled with lorries. In other words, I felt thoroughly at home in this car from the commencement. The slender central gear-lever is a delight to use; you go up or down through the gears with the greatest of ease. The Aston-Martin is high-geared, even for a 2 1/2-litre (just over 25 m.p.h. per 1000 r.p.m. in top), so that the needle of the rev.-counter doesn’t rush indecently around the dial. When you go to change from third into top under normal circumstances the revs, have got to about three-five. The same thing happens in top gear, equal to an (entirety effortless) 87 m.p.h.–you just can’t help going quickly in this car. Consequently, it is just as well that the roadholding is impeccable. We experienced it first, in the four-cylinder chassis and it is just as good in this coupé. You can change course with precision at the highest speeds with only the slightest trace of roll, and round fast bends the control is superb. The brakes, too, give every confidence. The steering is literally finger-light, so light in fact that, as in an Alfa-Romeo, you mustn’t consciously steer. That, and the faintest suspicion of suppleness at the rear on slow, tight corners, were the only aspects of the car that would call for any “acclimatising.”

You had to remember always to start in bottom gear with not too many horses coming through, in order to humour the clutch, but any driver used to a small sports car would feel at home and get 100 m.p.h. in the right places, and averages of 50-very-much-plus on English roads from the word go. Truly, a remarkable motor car, the exterior lines of which spell “business” from whatever angle you view it.

The engine didn’t get as hot as we did, the oil temperature being 66 deg. C., the. water at 70 deg. C., and there were no petrol fumes from the interior tank; it was perfectly tractable, in second and third gear, through the Egham-Staines traffic muddle. The production model, with sound-proofing, heat insulation and a quieter exhaust at low speeds, in many respects must be the ideal fast car, and when David Brown can spare one for test we shall be at Feltham post-haste. Meanwhile, the month of May provided quite a pleasant ” holiday,” and a good “bag” of cars, I feel.–W. B.