Vintage Postbag, June 1959

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92

Sir,

By one of those strange chances, last summer I managed to contact the original owner of my 30/98 Vauxhall, though I already knew his name, having in my possession the owner’s name-plate from the dashboard. He is Major Guy Tylden-Wright, now farming down in Sussex. I went down to see him one afternoon, and he was delighted to see the “dear old lady” still going well. He had a short drive in her, but the time was late and it was not as long as either of us would have liked. It was enough, however, to show that he had not lost his touch, and I hope to see him again soon, when we may be able to go for a good long run. From him I learned a little of the car’s history, though the passage of time has made many of the details hazy.

The car was bought new from Jack Barclay; she was, in fact, a wedding present from Mrs. Tylden-Wright to her husband, and was first registered on April 21st, 1925. In consort with Jack Barclay, Major Tylden-Wright raced the car in a number of club events at Brooklands, but without success. What a pity I did not know of this when the memorial at Brooklands was unveiled! Altogether, Major Tylden-Wright covered some 136,000 miles with the car, including trips to almost every country in Europe. The enclosed photograph was taken in 1925, on the way to the south of France. Incidentally. the “Bonzo” which distinguishes the radiator cap of the Vauxhall was bought new with the car. Mrs. Tylden-Wright actually bought two of them, and they still possess the other, at present gracing the front of an Austin pick-up. Major Tylden-Wright eventually sold the car when he rejoined his regiment in October, 1939. In his first letter to me he said how bitterly he regretted ever doing so — he considers it the finest car he ever owned.

As far as I can gather from the registration authorities, the car was not used at all during the war, and when she was next registered, on May 11th, 1946, she belonged to a Commander G. A. Nunneley. It was from him that I bought the car in October, 1950, after she had been standing idle for a year or two. By then she was suffering rather from neglect, but, like most cars of that era, she was so well built that it required little more than hard work to make her as good as new. Her mileage by then was just short of 200,000, and to this I have added another 35,000 or so. I was very lucky in my acquisition — though I didn’t fully realise it at the time — as she must have been one of the few 30/98s to have survived so long without modification. She only differed from standard in that the hood and clock were missing. Such few alterations as I have made are very minor in nature, and, if required, it would only take two or three days’ work to restore her to her original specification.

Now that I have found out something about the car’s past, I want to try and build up an illustrated history of her career. On several occasions people have told me that they remembered, or thought they recognised, the car. If anyone can let me have some information, however slight, I will be very grateful. I would be even more grateful for any photographs taken before the war, particularly at Brooklands. I would also like action photographs taken at the following post-war meetings — I know there must be some, because you always see plenty of people clicking cameras:

V.S.C.C. Pomeroy Trophy, March, 1955; the demonstration at the V.S.C.C. Goodwood party, September, 1957; V.S.C.C. Eastern Rally, November, 1957; V.S.C.C. Heston driving tests, December, 1951; V.S.C.C. Pomeroy Trophy, March, 1958; V.S.C.C. race meeting, Silverstone, April, 1958; Thames Estuary A.C. Stapleford hill-climb, August, 1958.

For identification, the colour of the car is blue and the registration number XY 974.

In conclusion, can anyone else boast of their car’s contribution to two honeymoons, thirty years apart? In the case of the Vauxhall, a Continental tour in 1925 and some 2,000 miles, mainly in the southwest of England, in 1955.

I am, Yours, etc., H. Douglas Reid. Hornchurch.

*

Sir,

The enclosed photograph was taken in the summer of 1925 of a de luxe model Calthorpe tourer which we bought new in 1923 and sold in 1928.

The registration number of this car was XO 6826 and if anyone knows of the whereabouts of the car I would be most interested.

We very much enjoyed reading your article on the Calthorpe in your April number and I agree that the Calthorpe was a beautifully-made and attractive little car, sometimes known as “The Crimson Rambler.”

Though hardly fast, it always ran well, but 45 m.p.h. was about its maximum speed, and I well remember opening all doors as we climbed Bury Hill on the road to Bognor. Sometimes we had to jump out, sometimes not.

In February, 1928, this car was replaced by the Armstrong Fourteen which you illustrated in your December number and which is running well today.

I am, Yours, etc., E. B. Watson. Broadstairs.

*

Sir,

After reading of the Calthorpe in the last issue of Motor Sport I am enclosing a photograph of a 1923 model which my two sons have restored to original condition.

I have the original log book and the particulars are as follows: chassis No. 7520, engine No. 6454, year of engine 1923, original registration 28/3/23.

This car had only one previous owner before I came into possession in September last, after it had been standing for 26 years. The rated h.p. is shown in the log book as 11.9 and this model is fitted with a four-speed gearbox and Timkin rear axle, also a self-starter which works quite well; all the electrical equipment is by Brolt.

The car is in very good mechanical condition and has not done a very great mileage, the body is by Mulliner and is all aluminium, new Dunlop tyres have been fitted and there are two spare wheels. I wonder if any of your readers have had any experience of this particular model, the registration number is OK 7345.

I am, Yours, etc., A. C. Rogers. Beeston.

*

Sir,

I read with interest Mr. Ormston’s letter in the March issue of Motor Sport, particularly the reference to the Armstrong Whitworth car.

I bought one of these vehicles at a Ministry of Supply sale at Ruddington. It is described as a fire tender and once belonged to Vickers Armstrongs. The registration number is X 2176. The car is quite complete but rather dilapidated.

I am, Yours, etc., T. J. R. Woodman. Newark.

*

Sir.

With reference to “Performance of the Berkeley” in your March and April editions, it is interesting to compare these accounts with my experiences in a 1927 Austin Chummy under very similar conditions.

In six years I have driven over 35,000 miles in this car, and have never been so badly let down that it was impossible to finish the journey. Things have often gone wrong, sometimes in a big way, but impending disaster has always been announced in advance at a convenient moment, by strange noises.

When my neglect or ignorance has led to major mechanical failure, the old car has always carried on until a short and unimportant trip has given her an opportunity to cry for my help.

With such a faithful friend to carry me, I have enjoyed three Continental holidays in complete confidence. Though slower and more thirsty than the Berkeley, she will carry two adults and four suitcases, with room for many parcels, and without the need to fit a luggage grid.

Her vintage design gives a good view of the road and the scenery, from a useful height, making touring abroad untiring and pleasurable.

In July last we spent a fortnight in the Chartreuse district of the French Alps. Each day excursions were made over passes, and up mountain roads to altitudes over 5,000 feet. No seizures occurred, and the radiator boiled only on hot days after climbs of a mile or more in first gear at the greater heights. It was rarely necessary to stop for “cooling off,” and the superior climbing power over the Citroen 2 c.v. was most marked on the really steep and twisty bits. The latter cars were halted on several occasions by overheating. We really excelled ourselves one day in Switzerland by overtaking a modern Morris Minor (not 1000) on a hill that exactly suited our second gear.

The only mechanical fault was detected after the drive to Chartreuse. By stripping down the front end of the engine in the village square beside our hotel, the lock-nut of the camshaft gear was found to be loose. This gear had run for over 200 miles held only by its key, and was ticking with each tappet pressure with a noise reminiscent of a London diesel taxi.

The brakes, so often criticised, were able to cope safely with a 3,000-feet steep descent, the engine dead, and out of gear. The sump was dry, because I had forgotten to add oil, and I did not want to spoil my willing engine.

It is worth mentioning that the car is in standard trim, and uses all original parts, including Zenith carburetter, B.T.H. magneto, and short brake levers.

In the words of “The Man at the Pump,” “They made ’em in those days.”

I am, Yours, etc., D. R. Firth. Portsmouth.

*

Sir,

I have been interested by the correspondence on, and photographs of, early Citroen cars published in the last two issues of your magazine. Several members of my family owned pre-1926 Citroens at the time when I was a child and, incidentally, one of them, a 5 c.v. (7.9 h.p.), was the very first car I ever drove all by myself, at the age of ten.

For some obscure sentimental reason, I always had a particular liking for those early Citroens, specially the smaller of the two, of which very many are still in daily use in France. For a very long time I wanted to own one, but in Belgium they have become very rare, partly because Belgians change cars much more often than the French, and also, no doubt, because the very bad roads we had for a long time destroyed our cars much more quickly than those running in France or England. Nevertheless, about four years ago, I spotted one parked in Brussels which was obviously a runner and had been very little altered from its original shape. Being unable to find the owner, I left a visiting card in the car, asking him to ‘phone or write to me the day he wanted to sell it. The message was left unanswered for about a year, during which time I did not see the car any more, until I eventually got a card and purchased the car for about £35 — pretty expensive, but I was determined to have it.

The car, a 1925 “clover leaf,” was still a runner but in a really devastating condition. I had a short run around the block before I gave the owner his money, and there was a horrible knock in the engine; obviously from a big-end, but knowing they were plain phosphor-bronze, I was not too concerned about it, thinking the bearing was merely worn out. So I ran the car for about another 25 miles before I took the engine down, and you may well imagine my horror when I found that one big-end bolt was broken and had entirely disappeared, the cap being held by one bolt only!

Though the cylinder bores, which had been rebored from 55 to 57 mm., were quite good (the stroke is 90 mm.), the remainder of the engine proved to be in such a devastating state of wear that it was decided to strip the car right down to the last bolt and the bare chassis frame. Citroens in Brussels were very co-operative in providing most of the spare parts required and,as far as possible and reasonable, the car was rebuilt as good as new, including an entirely new body frame and a fair amount of new sheet metal. The spare wheel was replaced at the back, where it originally was in the “clover leaf” (though it was on the driver’s side in the two-seaters), a new radiator was obtained (unfortunately chrome plated), and the horrible sealed-beam units which had been fitted by a previous owner were replaced with more original-looking modern headlights, unfortunately somewhat smaller than the original ones. The body was resprayed dark red with black wings and valances (the most common colour of the “clover leafs”) and the car now not only looks almost exactly as it did when it left the works, but is also a very reliable runner and immediate starter, though I have been unable to bring its performance quite up to par, presumably because of slightly-recessed valve seats and weak valve springs. Its top-gear performance at low speeds, however. is quite remarkable. I am usually much too busy driving other cars to drive the Citroen for more than a couple of hundred miles a year, but I am glad to have it and enjoy lifting its dust cover from time to time to have a look at it.

Mechanically, the car is so simple that for anyone who wants to restore an example, no other data are necessary than a good drawing from which the dimensions and features of the body can be obtained. Such a drawing, showing the car in side elevation and from the front and back can be obtained in France, though I cannot say off-hand from whom. This sheet also gives some tuning data, the most important of which are for timing the valves and the ignition. The former should be set for exhaust closing at t.d.c. and inlet opening at 5 deg. after t.d.c. (I am writing this from memory but am pretty sure to be correct), and the fixed ignition spark should be set at 17 deg. before t.d.c. The carburetter is a very simple horizontal Solex with a venturi of only 13 mm. I do not remember the jet sizes off-hand, but could provide them if any of your readers are interested. From friends in Paris I could also probably get the address of the firm who has published the aforementioned drawing. When assembling the engine, the only important point to watch is that the phosphor-bronze main and big-end bearings have enough play, otherwise they will tighten up as they get hot. They must be absolutely free on assembly.

Now a few words on the history and various models of the 5 c.v. The model was first shown at the Paris Motor Show of 1922 and was very similar in its specification to the original Model A Citroen of 1919 (60 by 100 mm. -bore and stroke) and the 8.2 model (65 by 100 mm.) which followed it in 1921. It had a four-cylinder side-valve engine of 55 by 90 mm. bore and stroke, giving a capacity of 850 c.c. and about 11 b.h.p. at 2,100 r.p.m. It drove through a single dry-plate clutch and a three-speed gearbox to a banjo-type rear axle. A torque tube was fitted, but the drive went through the ¼-elliptic springs. The front axle was also located by ¼-elliptics, braking being obtained from a foot-operated transmission brake and hand-operated rear-wheel brakes only. The main differences in chassis layout between the 5 c.v. and the bigger 10 c.v. were that the latter had an open propeller-shaft, the torque being taken by twin ¼-elliptics mounted one above the other on each side, and that the 5 c.v. was steered through a transverse drag link. The mechanism was worm-and-sector in both cases. The engine was splash-lubricated (with a small pump circulating the oil to troughs in the sump) and cooling was by thermosiphon.

The original 5 c.v. was an open two-seater with a duck-tail-shaped body, the back of which was accessible through an opening and which could be used to accommodate some luggage under cover. There was only one door, on the passenger’s side (right or left, according to the position of the steering), and the spare wheel was carried on the other side. The wings were fabricated from sheet steel and the tyres were beaded-edged, high-pressure Michelin. Wheelbase was 89 in. and track 46.5 in. Very early cars had coil ignition, but, after only a few months, a magneto was fitted. In 1923, an alternative drophead coupe with proper, strap-operated, windows was offered. The lines of the car were generally similar to the open two-seater, but the body was wider, owing to the thicker body sides necessary to accommodate the windows. The only alteration made to the chassis for 1923 was to increase the length of the frame side-members from the anchorage of the rear springs to a point somewhere behind the rear axle, the added part being slightly upswept.

From 1924 on, “balloon” tyres were fitted and the”cloverleaf” model, having a third central seat in the back, was introduced as an open model on a chassis of 10 cm. longer wheelbase. There was still only one door, but the spare wheel was at the back and the tail was rounded instead of being pointed as on the two other models, of which the open two-seater was dropped soon afterwards.

Some changes were introduced for the last product year, 1925 when only the “clover leaf” and the drophead coupe were built. The fabricated wings were replaced by a new, pressed-steel pattern, the rear ones now being of a more enveloping shape. The engine was fitted with a belt-driven fan, which had been optional for some time before, and a new pattern of rear axle, stiffer than the previous one, was introduced. It was known as the “banjo” axle (why, I don’t know, as the previous model also was of banjo type) and was easily recognisable for the oval form of its central part, but the drive shafts continued to be rather fragile.

Some 70,000 of these 5 c.v. models were built and they were an immense success. Though there was nothing startling about their specification or their performance, they appealed to the public for their great sturdiness, compared to the better performing but wholly inadequate contemporary cyclecars, their comprehensive equipment and adequate accommodation, and, no doubt, also for their good looks. To my mind it is by far the best proportioned and most elegant small car of the vintage period.

Weight started at under 500 kg. with early two-seaters and went up well into the 600 kg. with the late “clover leafs.” A road-test by Marc Chauvierre in La Vie Automobile, published in 1923, gives 68 k.p.h. (about 43 m.p.h.) as maximum speed, which is at least 5 m.p.h. faster than my car ever went.

An almost exact copy of the early 5 c.v. two-seater was built by Opel, most parts apparently being interchangeable between the two cars. On the Opel, however, the bore was 60 mm, with the engine about an inch longer overall. The layout was exactly the same, however, except for an external oil pump feeding a forced-feed lubrication system. All this, of course, gave rise to a huge process which, of course, Citroen won, and Opel had to alter his ‘ Laubfrosch.” Mechanically, however, it remained almost unchanged and outlived the Citroen by some five years, being in the meantime fitted with front-wheel brakes, semi-elliptic front springs and various new bodies, including a four-seater saloon.

I am, Yours, etc., Paul Frere. Brussells.

*

Sir,

I wonder if you or your readers can give me any information about the Gwalia car. According to Doyle it was made at the Gwalia works, Cardiff, by Stanfield Ltd., during 1921 only, and then the company seems to have stopped manufacture. I believe this was the only car ever made in Wales. Perhaps someone is even able to supply a photograph of the car.

I am, Yours, etc., E. O. C. Goddard. Pembroke Docks.

*

Sir,

I had a 1926 Rolls-Royce Twenty, and expected complete silence, silver what-nots and great speed, but after a few weeks’ running, found none of these virtues. However, the old car was utterly reliable, but very greedy on juice for short runs — 14 m.p.g. The main snag was that the plugs would quickly become coated with a deposit resembling coal dust, mixed with oil! I discovered after I had sold the car that the fitting of plug extension pieces completely overcomes this trouble. I exchanged the Twenty for a 1924 Silver Ghost Rolls-Royce limousine and then I began to realise what all this R.-R. mythology is about. The engine is silent, the fittings, lamps and windscreen frame are silver-plated. The half-shafts do not break and the dynamo and starter (of Royce make) have never had the covers off, although the car has been used continuously since 1924! There is no play in the king-pins or steering and the brakes have never been relined and are still far better (with Servo) than most 1959 cars,

Although the R.A.C. rating is 48.7-h.p. she does 13½ m.p.g. on a run and still reaches 70 m.p.h. (on a really good road). Oil consumption is slight. Dual ignition is fitted (unlike the Twenty with its spare magneto using the coil distributor) and the 12 plugs were replaced for the first time last year. The centre electrode of each plug had worn paper thin.

Greasing the car takes a day. Each nipple has its silver cap and the gun screws on to it, but won’t work unless everything is quite clean beforehand, so there are no short cuts.

Any little job on the Ghost (like rewiring the horn circuit) takes ages, and there is always the little nut and bolt with its spring washer and its fiat washer to undo, followed by a dust cover, then conduit and finally armoured cable fitting as snugly as a glove in position — so neatly in fact that you begin to wonder whether it wouldn’t be as well to leave it alone and fit an entirely new circuit somewhere else!

And so it is throughout the whole car, all 3½ tons of it, beautiful workmanship not to he compared with any other car today or yesterday. I’ve studied them all, Napier. Daimler, Hispano-Suiza and Bentley, but the Silver Ghost stands aloof from them all.

I believe that is why these storms have grown during the last 30 years or more. Remember that the Silver Ghost was introduced in 1906 and had as its companions such things as single-cylinder Benz clanking along the roads (and the first Ghost was as silent as the last turned out in 1925).

I can’t afford to run my Ghost more than three months of the year, but I start her up every week and polish the silver.

My everyday car is a 1930 Swift coupe which in my opinion is the best light vintage car of the lot.

I am, Yours, etc., John Hopkins. New Barnet.

_

The Bullnose Morris Club has heard of a Morris-Oxford taxi which used to run about Oxford and was known as “Coppernose Connie,” as it had an outsize bullnose copper radiator. Does any reader remember anything about “Connie”?

*

The prototype Lea-Francis “Ace of Spades” 1929 six-cylinder engine and gearbox is looking for a good home, if anyone cares to collect it from Sheffield.

*

There is still time to enter for the Fleet (Hampshire) Carnival Concours d’Elegance, on June 14th, which will be judged by Lord Montagu And Mrs. Nancy Mitchell. It is open to almost every type of car, veteran to modern, and the entry fee is 5s. Details from Councillor Mrs. W. Boddy, Carmel, Wood Lane, Fleet, Hampshire.

*

A p.v.t. D8 Delage is apparently looking for a new home, being semi-abandoned in Scunthorpe.

 

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