Road Impressions of the Pegaso



I arrived at the E.N.A.S.A. works on the outskirts of Barcelona to investigate a rumour; to establish, if possible, whether or not the Pegaso was actually built up from the raw metal in the old Hispano-Suiza works. The factory’s main concern is with the building of ‘buses and heavy transport, the manufacture of the car being rather a sideline. Secrecy surrounds the whole building – an introduction from an influential friend in Barcelona was necessary in order to pass the front gate, into the wide frontal court, where fountains played in a garden. At the far end of the court was the main entrance to the building – a pair of heavy plate glass doors which opened into a great pillared hall, in one corner of which was a reception desk, and in another a very early Hispano on a raised dais. No inspection of this model was made, as I was sent at once to have my entry papers checked. This formality completed, I met the director of this factory of the E.N.A.S.A. organisation. After some initial confusion, we settled on German as a mutual language. To my great disappointment, I learned that permission to view and photograph the factory had not yet been granted me by the main office in Madrid, and that the factory closed down that day for a week’s holiday. In the circumstances, nothing could be done to further my original plan.

In answer to my question as to whether there was any foundation for the rumours that the Pegaso was not entirely a product of his factory, Ie chef said that in the beginning, when the car first made its debut, a rather exaggerated story had found currency, to the effect that not even a nut or bolt was made outside the factory. This was simply untrue, he said, and the natural reaction to this story had been one of polite incredulity.

In actual fact, the Pegaso contained perhaps fewer outside-built components than the average car – the motor and chassis generally are genuine Pegaso – but a high proportion of these chassis are filled with karosserie by Saoutchik and Superleggera Touring. Much of the electrical equipment is made on the premises. The Grosser Pris Pegaso is being manufactured in Madrid, practically under armed guard, it would appear. No further information could be released until “l’exposition.” When Would this be ? No further information!

I was invited to see the demonstration model in action, and jumped at the chance. To reach this model it was necessary to walk across a corner of the works, and a glimpse of the method’s used could be had. The cleanliness of the building was startling, and the atmosphere was rather that of a peculiarly tidy laboratory than that of a workshop. Engines and parts not in immediate use were covered in plastic bags. I passed quite close to one chassis in course of fabrication, and had time to note the massive box section members, the very heavy pendant footbrake, and the unusual coupling of the large telescopic rear dampers by means of lever and rod to the de Dion axle, to provide a variation of damping with deflection. This was one of the 200 chassis in the current production run, which was commenced some months ago. There seems to be no urgency about the painstaking fabrication, and the order books are quite full – which at about £10,000 each (depending on chassis type and bodywork) is no mean achievement.

There are three chassis types. These have in common torsion bar and de Dion rear suspension – also on torsion-bars. The ZF-type differential incorporates the five-speed gearbox, which is controlled by means of a short central floor-mounted lever acting through a single revolving push-rod. Steering is of a worm-screw type specially developed for the car, and 1 3/4 turns of the wheel bring the steering from lock to lock, turning circle being 31 feet in either direction.

The brakes are operated by two independent hydraulic circuits, the rear shoes having a conventional layout including mechanical operation by a hand lever. The wheelbase is 7 ft. 8 in., track 4 ft. 4 in. front, 4 ft. 2.8 in. rear. Ground clearance is 6.3 in., although this is not altogether fixed.

There are two basic engines, both 90-deg. V8s: the 2,472 c.c. (75 by 70 mm.) and the 2,816 c.c. (80 by 70 mm.). These engines are supplied with detail modifications – e.g., the 2,472 c.c. is supplied with compression ratios of 8, 8.5, and 9 to 1. Axle ratios are varied to suit, although an overall fifth gear ratio of 1 : 4.1 is normal. On the 8.1 -ratio this engines peaks to 160 b.h.p. at 6,500 r.p.m., at which speed the red line is marked on the tachometer. Maximum torque is 137 lb./ft. at 3,900 r.p.m. For the third chassis, this engine is supplied with a blower delivering 8 lb. above atmospheric; with a special magneto; and with the diaphragm-type petrol pump supplemented by an electrical model. The tyre size is increased from 16 by 5.50 to 16 by 6.50, and the compression ratios available lowered to 6 1/5, 7, or 7 1/2 to 1. In this form the engine peaks at 6,800 r.p.m., reaching 260 b.h.p. Torque becomes 240 lb./ft. at 4,000 r.p.m., and the normal overall gear ratio becomes 3.25 : 1. Maximum plug temperatures rise from 350 to 450 degrees.

The 2,816-c.c. engine is supplied with compression ratios of 7.8. 8.2, and 8.8 to 1. With the 8.8 :1 ratio 200 b.h.p. is reached at 6,300 r.p.m., and torque 160 lb./ft. at 3,600 r.p.m. Recommended tyre size is 16 by 6.00, intermediate between the other two types, and the usual gear ratio 3.78 : 1 overall in top. Fourth is, as in the other types, the direct drive. Weights with the 2/3-seater sports body, are: 2 1/2-litre unblown, 2,134 lb.: 2.8-litre unblown, 2,178 lb.: 2 1/2-litre blown, 2,332 lb.

At this point the interview was cut short by the arrival of the Type 120 2 1/2-litre test car, complete with driver. As I was being returned to my hotel in this car, I bade farewell to my new friends, and in turn was told “You are now being shown a typical Pegaso. When you return home, please tell your people that it is the finest car in the world.”

Well. here goes. I stepped down into the car, which was a fixed head two-seater model, through conventional rear-hinged doors. Sliding windows made possible a recessed door, carrying the minimum trim; its very perforated frame was quite visible, and was sprayed in the same metallic grey as was the rest of the car. There was plenty of leg-room, although the chassis members and shaft tunnel interrupted the floor. The bucket-seats were remarkably comfortable, and one noticed at once the lack of trim, and the vintage type steering wheel, almost vertical, the rim built up from the flat steel by the addition of wooden strips on either side, of semicircular section. This car had covered 60,000 km. and there was a backlash of about 10 to 15 degrees at the wheel. The Jaeger instruments were grouped in front of the driver, being deeply hooded, and including a large speedometer, a tachometer, and, grouped in the centre, oil pressure gauge, water and oil temperature gauges, and a petrol gauge. Oddly enough, these had no calibrations, being marked “working range” in the case of the first three, and “full – empty” in the last case. Four unlabelled switches occupied the centre of the dashboard. The perspex quarter-lights carried moulded extraction louvres. Visibility was very good, the thin screen pillars offering no obstruction to vision, while the bonnet dropped between the low front wings. The bonnet top carried two rows of louvres; and on each side of the car were extraction ports from the engine compartment. The throttle pedal was unusually substantial, and a comfortably inclined plate was provided for the left foot to rest on while driving. Heel-and-toe technique could have been employed, but of this more later.

The driver switched on and pushed the starter, and the still warm engine fired at once. Idling appeared rather uneven – but not more than one might expect from this type of car. As we moved off, the first thing to strike one was the tremendous acceleration, which in the lower gears appeared to be limited only by the local value of g, 0-100 km. took seven seconds. Braking was superb, and in a “handsoff” stop the car did not appreciably deviate from its course. One had the feeling that the car was stopping rather more quickly than theoretical considerations would allow – such performance has been recorded on certain motor-cycles – but in such an informal trip as this, accurate observations were impossible. We were now moving along a level, open road at about 40 m.p.h. in third gear.

Drawing my attention to the sole of his left foot, which remained in mid-air, the driver pushed the gear lever firmly into second without any hesitation or attempt to synchronise engine to road speed. Apart from a jolt, and a slight “clunk’ no evil effects were noted. Apparently encouraged by my interest in this manoeuvre, he slapped the lever firmly back and forth between the second and third positions, with no untoward effect at all on the upward change, and with the above mentioned sound-effects on the downward. The lever was spring-loaded into the central 2/3 gate, the other positions being 4/5 to the left and R/1 to the right. The road here was some thirty-odd feet in width, of good surface, and the trees on either side did not impair visibility. An S-bend appeared ahead, the road making two right-angle turns in one smooth bend. An approaching lorry limited the leaving space. This bend was taken at a steady 45 m.p.h. The rear wheels broke away a fraction of a second before the car settled down into a controlled four-wheel slide, almost instantly reversed in sense, and the second corner was taken in a prolonged slide, corrected quickly at the finish to pass inside the approaching lorry. In fourth gear we accelerated to 6,000 r.p.m., or about 100 m.p.h., before changing up. The maximum speed reached was not noticed, as we had come to the outskirts of the city, but 6,000 r.p.m. in top would have brought us up to 112 m.p.h. The outlying traffic did not slow us below 80 m.p.h. or so, and the sensation of driving through traffic at this speed was most intriguing. Other vehicles appeared to be frozen, not moving, and we simply drove around and between them – the very powerful braking coming into use more often as we entered the main streets of the city, and resumed a more reserved pace. Second and third gears sufficed in close traffic, and there was none of the “just-about-under-control” feeling so often associated with fast cars moving slowly; its “dressage.” was perfect. One had the feeling that it could make an excellent vehicle for shopping about the city, especially if a little smash-and-grab was being contemplated !

All too soon we came to my hotel, and I left the car with much regret over a financial position that did not allow me to buy for the stable, a £10,000 “Flying Horse.” – S.o’F.