Vintage veerings

The judge during the hearing of a case at Farnham County Court on April 20th: “. . .a 1937 Dodge is obviously an old crock, which might blow up.” Clearly a ease where it would have been better to have bought a vintage car!

ft further vintage-vindication is needed, beyond the letters we receive from enthusiastic owners of such cars, there was the case of your Editor who, his 1950 transport having rendered itself immobile most inconveniently just before the Daily Express Silverstone Meeting, brought out of retirement his 1926 10.8-h.p. Clyno. This vintage light car took him staunchly to Silverstone and back and on to the White Waltham Garden Party soon after his return home, and had started promptly on the handle after a day and a night in the car park, its aged Lucas magneto quite unconcerned by heavy deposits of rainwater on plugs and leads. It had also proceeded to pull itself out of the car-park quagmire, aided only by a gentle push, whereas others, Type 57 Bugatti included, required towing behind a tractor.

Moreover, the Clyno appeared to do all this at nearly 35 m.p.g. and it had certainly cost but a fourteenth of the purchase price of the 1950 sports car for which it was deputising. The only snag came from the insurance people, who, goaded into issuing minirmun third party cover for a week, quoted a premium equivalent to over £70 a year; even this can be cured, by changing to a more sympathetic company.

Calling at Richards and Brown, of Bromley, last month, we chanced upon an unusual vintage car, in the form of a 5 1/4-litre Series Excelsior, circa 1925, with Maythorn two-seater body. This massive car had American-type bumpers of the period fore and aft, a central, opengate (three-speed) gear-lever, minor controls labelled “Gaz” and “Allumage” above the five-spoke steering-wheel, which carried a horn ring, and close-set pedals. A big oil gauge was finely graduated from 0.2 up to 5 kg. per sq. cm. and the needle sat reassuringly at 4 1/2. A Bosch electrical panel was fitted, and a dashboard plaque gave the weight as 1,829 kgs.  Beaded-edge tyres graced the wire wheels, which were backed by discs.

Out the road this Excelsior was certainly impressive. You sat very high and rolled along commandingly, not a trace of gear noise or body rattles intruding, the suspension riding the bumps easily, the big 90 by 110-mm., six-cylinder, o.h.c. engine running silkily. Depression of the light throttle pedal resulted in quite rousing acceleration, accompanied by a good deal of “power roar,” which soon got the great car moving in the fifties.

The steering got lighter as speed rose; dead and transmitting slight return motion, it was nevertheless delightfully accurate and high-geared. A trace of flexibility in the underslung cantilever rear springs induced momentary oversteer, easily ironed-out. The clutch was exceedingly light; the gear-change-called for skill, both up and down, to ensure silent ratio-swapping, and refused to be hurried. The carburation was unexpectedly good for a triple carburetter layout, the pick-up smooth and clean. The brakes, cable-opperated via a vacuum-servo, with front drums set oddly proud ofthe wheels, were of the “through the windscreen” sort when so needed.

From its manner of riding, high seating and the appearance from certain angles, this Excelsior reminded us of a Parry Thomas Leyland Eight. A glance beneath the bonnet revealed a valve cover, not unlike that of a Hispano-Suiza though larger and less elegant, secured by seven knobs. A vertical shaft at the front drove the o.h. camshaft and fan, the latter via a clutch. Along the near side, water pump, dynamo and Scintilla magneto ran in line, starter behind them, while three small updraught Solex carburetters snuggled modestly against the off side of the block, fed from it neat little Autovac. On demand, “Le Nivex” proclaimed how much petrol they had consumed.

The body had a wonderful dickey seat with a big glass screen incorporated in its lid and the back-rest slightly panelled-the sort of dickey in which you could have a lot of fun. The dashboard was recessed under the scuttle and flanked by little built-in cupboards and a tiny pedal on the cockpit floor opened and closed the exhaust cut-out. The front seats were notably well padded. Novel features were snubbers at the ends of the back springs and pull-off lamp-lead connections on the front cross-member. Taken all round, quite a car !

Vintage car fixtures for June include the London-Windsor parade on the 3rd (Hyde Park, 8 a.m. Windsor Home Park, noon), the second V.S.C.C. Silverstone Race Meeting on the 23rd and a V.S.C.C. Light Car Meet at Stowe on the 24th.

“A gentle progression through four forward gears to a comfortable cruising speed of 30-35 m.p.h. meant a typical slow heart-beat front her long-stroke engine, accompanied by steering characteristics of her age, solid heavy but absolutely accurate. And where the wheels, were pointed, there they stayed without any skittish variation from the straight and narrow. More venerable than lovely, more commodious than the modern motorist would believe possible, more comfortable and more easily entered, and a companion with whom the pleasures of motoring can be recaptured in a leisurely journey.”-John Lloyd, writing, in The Car, of a 1921 16.7-h.p. Peugeot tourer.

“Bon Viveur” in the Daily Telegraph of May 11th :-
Champagne to the right of us,
Cigars to left of us, 
Bentleys in front of us,
Volleyed and thundered . . .
as I drove into Mayfair-by-the-Thames, a little company of river towns which grace the famous reaches.”

And if any members of the Bentley Drivers’ Club were driving the cars referred to, they will be glad to know that their characters were found to be beyond reproach, for “Bon Viveur” adds :- “Gone are the trailing draperies from the green lawns, the scarlet roadsters and the Eton crop, the midnight bathing parties . . . whoopee.”