Letters from the vintage postbag, June 1951

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Sir,

I have read with interest Sq. Ldr. Pemberton-Pigott’s letter on the subject of the formation of a Crossley register. We seem to have had little information on the cars of this classic marque.

In this respect, however, may I beg to differ with him in regard to his assertion that the “Silver Crossley” engine was fitted by Lagonda’s to the 2-litre model. The engine of the Lagonda was designed, I have always understood, by W. H. Oats, of the old Staines company, who was also the designer of the “Rapier.” The 2-litre was a four-cylinder of 72 by 100 mm. and of 1,954 c.c. capacity, with the twin “overhead in the block” camshafts, whereas that of the Crossley was a six-cylinder with push-rod operation. Lagonda, however, produced a “six” of 65 by 100 mm. (1,991 c.c.) known as the “18/80,” which may be what your correspondent has in mind. This engine was not of Lagonda manufacture but that of Henry Meadows. Is it possible, therefore, that the Crossley engine was not their own but also of Meadows origin?

Perhaps a more learned reader than I will be able to clear this up.

I am, Yours, etc.,

REX LEPPARD.
W. Chittington.

Sir,

Speaking of Crossleys, I own a Type 14, a model by no means extinct out here. Most owners like this type because of its great durability. Incidentally, I think mine does nearly 25 m.p.g. around town with moderate driving. My car seems to be able to corner as well as most modern i.f.s. specials, at least several modern types can’t do any better without their tyres howling.

CouId some kindhearted knowledgeable types provide we Type 14 owners with technical data on this model? B.H.P. torque developed, valve timing figures, and the like.

I am, Yours. etc.,.

H. E. DUNBAR.
Adelaide.

Sir,

I would like to pass on a useful tip regarding the old magneto-engined Austin Seven. As you know, starting handle trouble is a snag with, these cars. Remove the starting handle dog from the crankshaft: put in fire to soften; cut off the end; drill through centre a 15/32-in. hole; tap this hole 12 mm.; fit a Morris Eight starting handle dog; the end of the original dog when cut off will now come right through the fan pulley;  fit two or three washers to make the Morris Eight dog screw up flush to the fan pulley. The fan pulley pin will now of course not fit. Tap the pulley one side 1/4 in. 26T. and fit grub screw. Cut the handle dog off; file down to fit inside the Morris Eight dog; drill and fit 1/4-in. pin through the handle. Cut about 1/2 in. off the starting handle guide to give clearance. Fit up handle with spring in the guide. The handle is now permanently in position and will outlast the car.

I am, Yours, etc.,

W. S. BASHAM.
Brockworth.

Sir,

During the period. 1919-1930 which covers the light car section of the V.S.C.C., I owned very many light cars good, bad and indifferent, and there is no doubt that it was this type of car produced in that period which, together with the Ford, really started “motoring for the million.” Personally, I would like to see V.S.C.C. members collecting the worthwhile specimens, restraining their, in my view misguided, efforts to “improve,” and restoring to original specification and condition.

Many types and makes were uninteresting but the following, all of which I have owned, were, in their own way, fascinating and capable of adding real, cheap, fun to one’s motoring sport : A.B.C., A.C., Alvis (the early side-valves), Calthorpe Minor, Eric Campbell, Alldays & Onions, Horstman, Hillman, Argyll (sleeve valves, 12 h.p., 1925), Buckingham (twin air-cooled, made by T. G. Johns, later Alvis), Deenister (the one I had was Anzani-engined), Gwynne, Palladium (four-seater, four-cylinder, four-wheel brakes, four passengers in M.C.C. trials) [But not four doors, as I mistakenly wrote some time ago!—ED.], Riley “10/8,” Talbot “8/18” and “10/23.” There are many-more, some of which I owned, but they were either uninteresting, bad, or as true sports cars not eligible for the light-car section. By the way, the Humber “8/18” was in its day considered thoroughly stodgy and not in the same class as the Talbot or Gwynne for performance.

May I give a hint to any owner or purchaser of an A.C. with unit back axle and gearbox? In their day these had a truly excellent reputation and within the limits of metallurgical knowledge of the period they were far more reliable than most of their contemporaries.  However, the axle unit can give expensive noises if not treated correctly, so here is the “gen.” The axle is filled with S.A.E. 90, only when hot and immediately, repeat, immediately, after a run. If filled cold far too little oil is put in, for when-running the worm acts as a pump and forces oil from differential to gearbox and then to universal; they must therefore be filled before the oil has time to drain back to the differential housing. Worm gears do not like running dry !

I’ve been reading Motor Sport since Brooklands Gazette days and it gets better and better. Congratulations!

I am, Yours, etc.,

R. H. MARKS.
Worcester.

Sir,

We found her eighteen months ago, buried beneath sacks of potatoes and overrun with mice, on a Herefordshire farm. My husband, a vintage enthusiast, looked doubtful, but her forlorn expression demanded attention and we knew, come what may, that the last twenty pounds we possessed was no longer ours. That was how our 1925 bull-nosed Morris-Oxford tourer, hidden for 14 years in premature and uncomfortable retirement, was reborn.

We drove her home that very evening, under her own power—the only hitch a decomposed battery which caused the dynamo to blow the lights and us to finish our journey by torchlight.

A session of sweeping, polishing and de-mousing followed on my part, while my husband rejuvenated her mechanical parts.

Since then she has been our mainstay and we have driven her many thousands of miles. Without her our home is incomplete for among her other duties she tows our 19-ft. living caravan. She takes me shopping regularly and frequently we use her for long journeys. Even on the coldest of days she starts without fail on the dynamotor.

I had never driven a vintage car before, but Morris’ reliability, her stolid roomy body behind her eager engine have made me realise that motor cars were practical and full of character in those days.

She has had many adventures with us — once, when we drove her from Birmingham to Goodwood, and back the same evening, we made tea en route with a primus boiling a kettle in her spacious rear compartment. Once, due to an error of navigation, she towed the caravan up a 1 in 8 hill near Malvern without a murmur of complaint.

She is in almost original condition. My husband has fitted an S.U. carburetter instead of the Smiths. He is laboriously drilling a spare crankshaft by hand, to give more oil to the big-ends. Comprehension of those technical details I am proud to have eventually mastered; differentials and crown-wheels and pinions confuse and confound me!

I am, Yours, etc.,

Capenhurst. AUDREY M. CAIRNES.

Sir,

With reference to the correspondence in your columns concerning the performance of Austin Heavy “12/4s.”

I have waited patiently to see if someone would take pen and speak for the “opposition.” However, it appears I must start matters moving.

My car is a Morris Cowley, 11.9 h.p. of 1928 vintage, in fact its 23rd “birthday” is imminent, and I think some details about it may be of interest.

It is a tourer in quite a waterproof state, and had one owner for the first thirteen years, passing into my hands last May in Yorkshire, where it soon showed its capabilities under load, negotiating 1 in 4 hills with six up without being at all worried.

It has a low mileage by vintage standards, sonie 90,000, of which 10,000 have been very greatly enjoyed by me. It was rebored 0.03 at about 60,000 miles and now uses oil at a half pint per 1,000 miles, and most of that seems to leave via the magneto drive. An M-type S.U. earburotter, with a Vokes diffuser which, I installed recently, gives 28 m.p.g. at an average of 82 m.p.h., a speed which I find myself regularly averaging. The best running speed is 40 on the clock, but I suspect that this is a slow reading in view of the point-to-point timing. However, the road-holding and cornering powers, combined with a useful top gear acceleration from 25 m.p.h. on, enable me to regard modern light cars somewhat distastefully. My fastest run was front New Milton to High Wycombe, 84 miles, in 2 1/4 hours start to stop. Granted that it was early morning, but even so. 87 miles in one hour, and an average of 36.4 m.p.h., speaks for the car. I was in a hurry then.

As regards load, I have more than once surmounted the 1 in 7 drive to the school with ten largish boys on board.

Fitted with a dynastarter, it is a real source of joy to see the expressions on the faces of bystanders when the engine suddenly begins to run without it being apparent how it happened.

The brakes are quite effective, and one of THE things about the car is the red triangle—no, not Bass, though I was a brewer once—bearing the inscription “Four wheel brakes.” The car is finished in maroon with black wings, and although high off the ground does not look very antiquated.

The only mechanical trouble I have ever had was a split valve cotter which replaced in three minutes, having no tinware to handle, to reach the tappets.

According to the handbook which I possess, the car is standard in all respects.

Sorry to be longwinded. but I had to stand up for vintage Morrises, although I know of several others besides mine in the V.S.C.C.

Wishing Motor Sport continued success.

I am, Yours. etc.,

Little Kingshill. DONALD McINTYRE.

Sir,

I have a 1923 Morris Cowley, recently acquired for £5 after having stood idle and semi-exposed for 15 years. The car is now in daily use and of course goes very well.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Grimsby, B. T. GILES.

Sir,

I am only the third owner of a 510 FIAT; the first owner informs me that she has won Gold Medals on the Lands End Trial in the days of her youth, while the second owner believes her to have done 250,000 miles.

When I acquired her she needed new piston rings, a complete magneto overhaul and a new exhaust assembly. I had all this done to her, and she now runs very sweetly; I average 150 miles a week with no trouble. In warm weather she does better than 25 m.p.g., and about 1,000 miles to a gallon of oil. When her oil is warm, she cruises quite effortlessly at 40 m.p.h. Altogether a delightful car.

I am, Yours, .etc.,

Coventry. D. C. LESLIE.

THOSE AUSTIN TWELVES

Sir,

Your correspondence columns continue to be, for this reader at least, one of the events of the month—no discredit to the remainder of the contents intended. I am particularly interested in the letters apropos the Austin Twelve of the later twenties, and can add my assurance that they could be made to go quite quickly and at a very moderate expense. I am surprised that one or two of the more obvious points in the debate have not been seized upon—personally, I should plump for a gearbox permitting quicker, silent changing as the most desirable improvement in the old cars.

I had experience some years ago in warming up not one but two or three heavy Twelve-fours, as well as a couple of Sixteens, and undoubtedly the short cut to much improved performance lay in fitting a Ricardo-type aluminium cylinder head. It should be borne in mind that there were two distinct varieties of engine, and the interchangeability of heads did not, of course, cover the difference, adverse or advantageous, in compression ratio. The very early head had brass compression taps as standard and the mass of dead metal imposed by the provision of a boss lowered the H.U.C.R. very noticeably. The later type head, suitibly machined to suit either long or short-stroke capacity, even in cast iron, was a notable improvement. I am unable to give, after all these years, the carburetter settings we found to give best all-round results, but they were substantially different from standard. They tended to larger compensators and smaller mains and for sheer speed larger chokes were fitted. The engine was considerably over cooled, probably only being beaten by the 10-15 h.p. FIAT of the period in this respect! The remedies have already been referred to by other correspondents and thinner graphited oils-were helpful.

I don’t suppose anyone has ever bothered to supercharge an old Twelve-four, but it as certainly by robustness of construction far more anteitable to the process than many other makes and models so treated. This was one of the least sporting of motor cars in weight and bodywork, which effectually discouraged the enthusiasts I suppose – we got considerable amusement out of just this fact with the hotted-up specimens aforesaid. Just as interesting in its way was the close relative, the Sixteen Six, equally massively treated in the bearing department.  If this correspondence tempts anyone to have a go at blowing the latter I should be grateful to be kept informed!  Equally. has any reader tried fitting an S.U. of appropriate dimensions in place of the old-type Zenith?

Don’t let me go off into too many side issues, but another surprise packet (at slight expense) was a very early-twenties edition of a Singer Six with an unbelievably involved inlet manifold. We threw it away and fitted a pair of perfectly ordinary Solexes to the twin ports kindly provided by the makers on the cylinder block direct. The results with very little tuning were almost humorously satisfactory.  A lot of these old cars were staid performers freiptently. as in the case of Austins, because of a conservative works policy tending towards reliability and freedom from service troubles, and not because they didn’t have it in them or the makers didn’t know how. I know plenty of cases where performance was deliberately thrown away—not always (fortunately) irretrievably.

I am, Yours. etc.,

Banbury. J. A. K. FERGIE.

Sir,

I feel perhaps an explanation is necessary for my remark in the March issue, namely that the Austin “Heavy Twelve” has absolutely nil performance. Several of your readers have taken umbrage.

We are living in 1951 and the traffic conditions on the roads today are very different to when the Austin Twelve was designed. I sold mine last October, as I said in my previous letter, owing to the performance. If you -want a car -with good visibility and reliability to amble along at 30-40 m.p.h. well have an Austin Twelve.

I go frequently to the English Guernsey sales at Reading and to do the journey in my Austin Twelve meant driving it absolutely flat out the whole way; many lorries and coaches today travel at 40 m.p.h., and with an Austin Twelve one is either forced to the car’s maximum or has to stop behind, and this may suit some people but it does not suit me.

For the year of the Austin Twelve I think the performance was about average with its contemporaries.

Mr. Muskett says I despise the Austin Twelve. I do nothing of the sort; one could not admire the Twenty and despise the Twelve because the Twelve is a miniature Twenty. I wonder if Mr. Muskett less ever compared his Twelve closely with a four-cylinder Twenty and noticed how identical they are?

When I wrote of the Austin Twelve having nil performance I meant the standard model as turned out by the makers. In 1925 there was a firm offering an overhead valve conversion for the Austin Twelve and, further, a firm called Alan Bennett sold a model with special coachwork and tuned engine, guaranteed to do 60 m.p.h.

I was aware that in 1925 or 1926 a “Twelve” appeared at Brooklands, but I was not referring to specials. I was referring to the stantlard saloon and tourer of those days. 

I think for what it is the Austin Twelve is above critisism, otherwise it would never have been manufactured in such large numbers. Nearly all the London taxis were until recently Austin “Heavy Twelves,” and of all vintage cars on the road today, outside the quality cars such as Bentley, Rolls, etc., you still see more Austin Twelves than anything else, some in good repair, some bad and some converted into vans and lorries, etc.

One thing further I would like to point out to your readers and to Mr. Maskett: he is quite wrong when he talks of Mr. Herbert Austin, as he was then.

I have my copy of the Austin Advocate in front of me and he was knighted on September 27th, 1917. The “Twenty ” was first announced in the Advocate as a post-war car in the September copy, 1917, and was marketed in 1919, I think. The first description of the “Twelve” appears in the July-August 1921 Advocate under the heading Austin Ten. There is no doubt this was the “Twelve” as the details are given, i.e., bore and stroke 79 by 102 mm., later increased to 114 mm. in 1927.

The first photograph appears in the Advocate for Noveinber, 1921, with steel disc wheels. I have never seen a Twelve with these. The Austin Twelve was made front 1922-1935 with the “Heavy 12/4″ engine. It cost £675 in 1922, with  Harley Coupe” all-weather body. The 1935 “Hertford ” saloon cost £295. The engines, apart from stroke and accessories, were identical.

I am, Yours. etc.,

Piltdown. W. J. OLDHAM.

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