Memories of the Essex

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Sir,

I have read with great interest the article by Mr JA Hobbs on cars I have owned and was agreeably surprised to see mention made of the 4-cylinder Essex car. I wonder if many people know something of the mechanical details of this car, which had such a fine performance, and several of its features were.well ahead of their time.

For instance, the valves had a very large head diameter and were ioe, and the inlets were in the detachable head and were operated by rockers which were lubricated by a wick feed from four oil cups in the valve cover. The induction on the near side was the nearest thing to a modern SU carburetter I have ever seen, with needle and piston and mixture control. The exhaust manifold was on the other side of the engine, and I have often seen the pipe glowing a lovely warm red if the ignition happened to slip a little retarded. The pistons and con-rods were generous and the crankpins for the big-ends were hollow, which must have lightened the crankshaft considerably. The oil feed to the big-ends was by splash from four oil-filled depressions in a steel pan in the sump, these depressions being filled by a low-pressure pump (about 5 lb/sq in), and this pump had its delivery varied by being coupled to the accelerator; needless to say this was soon disconnected and kept in the full-open position (ie, the oil pump not the accelerator). The wheels were interesting, being 815 x 105 BE tyres on wire wheels with centre-lock fixing nut with a locking catch that had to be released by the rather hefty special hexagonal socket spanner that had to be hammered tight, and the hub of the wheel located itself on five studs about 1/2 in high by 1/2 in diameter set in the brake drums. The shock-absorbers were “Gabriel Snubbers,” a mixture of gramophone spring and webbing and seemed to be quite satisfactory in those days. Other details I seem to remember are the well-built steel body (rather square), a sun visor shield and a windscreen that would open for no screen-wiper was fitted. I have vivid memories of fitting that startling innovation a screen-wiper that was operated by hand via a motorcycle throttle lever and Bowden cable. Another point was the radiator. When we had the car first it was painted black and through a few scratches I noticed it was plated underneath the paint, so the paint was removed and the radiator then looked like a small Rolls for it had shutters as well. The lights were not bad (only 6-volt) but the self-starter was good. I am more or less certain that it was of the pre-engaged pinion type although I may be wrong on this. The dynamo coupling was flexible (very), being a piece of radiator hose which used to shear off from time to time.

Anyway, the car as a whole had an excellent performance and was remarkably trouble-free and fairly economical, and seemed to rev at quite high speeds; the power output at that time seemed to me to be enormous.

In another, later, article I see mention of the AV cyclecar. I remember the model we owned was a rather frightening affair and some of its details escape me for it all happened so long ago, but there are some of its peculiarities of construction that I can call to mind.

The body was a 2-seater with a screen but no hood, the body sides (no doors) were of some queer thick cardboard, and behind the driver a large V-twin JAP air-cooled engine and motorcycle gearbox; there was a solid rear axle with huge sprocket for the final chain drive to the puny 650 x 65 (?) BE tyres. The engine was started by a kick-starter on the driver’s side and controlled by motorcycle levers (petrol and air) bolted to the steering wheel; it had a lovely tubular front axle and I feel sure that the springing was 1/4-elliptic all round. The steering was direct and one of its most exciting propensities was its habit of overlocking; that is, if one turned the wheel too far on one lock the front wheels would start to turn in the opposite direction, which to say the least was quite exciting if one came out of the garage rather exuberantly, and the jeweller’s shop-front on the opposite side of the road to the garage must have had a charmed life.

The oil tank was way up in the nose of the pointed V-shaped prow and the petrol tank somewhere behind it, and it had a lovely brass pump hinged to the dashboard which had to be operated from time to time to keep air pressure in the tank and petrol flowing to the carburetter.

The tail covering was a thin steel cover with large holes for the vast amount of hot air to escape, and though the colour scheme was a vivid red someone had ringed these aforesaid air holes in black, so the whole contraption had the appearance of some large freak ladybird.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Ronald Campbell, Pembroke.

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