Vintage postbag, June 1979

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Bentley Facts

Sir,

Oh dear! Those Bentley production figures again. I thought I had laid all this to rest in “All the pre-war Bentleys — as new” when I wrote that the figures (which I summarise below) superseded all those previously published and must, I think, stand unchallenged for all time. The statement was based on the research work I did in the course of compilation which included, inter alia, an examination of all the available Works records of each individual chassis.

The cars produced totalled 3,037 made up as follows:-

3-litre

Experimental cars ———————————————————3

First production cars — 9’9½” wheelbase:
I.c. engine; single Smith carburetter ————————————194

Tourist Trophy cars ——————————————————–3

Tourist Trophy replicas ————————————————–68

Indianapolis car ————————————————————-1

Standard production cars — 10.10′ wheelbase
otherwise same as first production cars ——————————–765

Speed Model — 9’9½” wheelbase;
h.c. engine; twin SU carburetters —————————————–512

Speed Model on 10’10” wheelbase ————————————1

100 m.p.h. Model — 9′ wheelbase ————————————17

100 m.p.h. Model — 10’10” wheelbase ——————————-1

Light Tourer — same as first production cars ———————-39

Models not ascertainable from Works records ———————18

—————————————————————————————————————-1,622

4½-litre

9’9½” wheelbase ————————————————————-9

10’10” wheelbase ———————————————————656

——————————————————————————————————————-665

4½-litre (Supercharged)

Birkin cars ———————————————————————-5

Production cars ————————————————————–50

———————————————————————————————————————55

6½-litre

Standard — 11′ wheelbase ———————————————–21

11’6″ wheelbase —————————————————————1

12′ wheelbase —————————————————————-97

12’6″ wheelbase ———————————————————–243

12’8½” wheelbase ————————————————————1

———————————————————————————————————363

Speed Six — 11′ wheelbase ———————————————–4

11’6″ wheelbase ———————————————————–121

11’8½” wheelbase ———————————————————-32

12’8½” wheelbase ———————————————————-24

———————————————————————————————————-181

Not ascertainable from Works records ———————————————————1

————————————————————————————————————————545

8-litre

12′ wheelbase —————————————————————-35

13′ wheelbase —————————————————————-65

————————————————————————————————————————100

4-litre

11’2″ wheelbase ————————————————————39

11’8″ wheelbase ————————————————————-11

————————————————————————————————————————–50

———————————————————————————————————————-3,037

and for the sake of completeness,

Rolls-Royce Ltd. manufactured 1,619 Bentleys at Derby between 1933 and 1940 as follows:

3½-litres ———————————————————————————————————-1,177

4½-litres ———————————————————————————————————-1,234

Mk.V ——————————————————————————————————————-11

———————————————————————————————————————–2,422

Incidentally, the source of all the production figures quoted by “W.O.” in his books, was the table I compiled in 1955 from the best informaton available to the Club at that time and published on page 3 of “The Technical Facts of the Vintage Bentley”. These figures have been updated from time to time during the last twenty years as research has progressed, but no further research is contemplated! With respect, I consider it an unrewarding task trying to allocate production numbers to particular years, for the reason that “dates of production” are capable of several interpretations. Bentley Motors manufactured completed chassis which were then sent to various coachbuilders for bodywork to be mounted; then each car underwent a final test before being sold, when the guarantee was issued. The latter date, being that on which a complete car left Bentley Motors, is the one most carefully recorded and generally regarded as determining the date of the car. There are grey areas surrounding even this yardstick — some chassis remained at coachbuilders for many months — years in some cases; there is no record of completion dates of coachwork on chassis sent to dealers abroad — many have never been heard of since; 13 chassis and cars were destroyed in a fire at the Gurney Nutting works in 1924; and so on.

An interesting point I would mention in passing, is that several chassis which were incomplete when the Company went into liquidation, although delivered after 31st December 1930, are deemed by a ruling of the VSCC made many years ago to be Vintage Bentleys on the grounds that the design was pre-1931 and the component parts were already in existence.

I am sorry I have no idea how many 4½-litre Bentleys were manufactured with the “heavy” crankshaft — actually 75 lb. against the standard 47 lb. — but we could look at this some time.

Long Crendon STANLEY SEDGWICK

President, Bentley DC

[We are grateful to Stanley Sedgwick for clearing that up. As to the supercharger used by Ray Fedden on an experimental sleeve-valve aero-engine rig, we have now remembered that Rolls-Royce Ltd. did experiment with blowing a Derby-Bentley, so the supercharger we referred to may have been this one and not one from a Villiers-blown 4½-litre. But it would be interesting to know what make of supercharger was used on a 4¼-litre Bentley by the works. — Ed.]

A “Tank” GP Bugatti

Sir,

Your report in “Books for Christmas” on “French Cars from 1920 to 1925” (December 1978 p. 1778), brings the following recollections to my mind: Having attended many Grands Prix de l’ACF since 1922, I have the clue of the question concerning the photograph of a 1923 “tank” GP Bugatti on a plinth, published in this book.

This picture was taken, as far as I can remember, in front of the building of the then-daily Parisian newspaper Le Matin, on the pavement of which the car was exposed for a few days. This daily belonged to the Bunau-Varilla family, long-time customer and friend of Ettore Bugatti: a member of the family was a chemistry engineer, who gave his name to the pharmaceutical industry. One can suppose that E.B., to whom grand gestures were customary (which did not exclude advertising breakthrough at the same time), donated the very car which had performed reasonably at Tours, to be sold, by auction, to the profit of pharmaceutical research. As no prospective buyer appeared, it was shortly afterwards announced that E.B., always a “grand seigneur”, had bought his car back, at a high price for the time as I remember, for 100,000 frs.

The French daily L’Auto published several articles on the matter between July and September 1923. Someone searching in that direction would certainly obtain the final clue on that interesting question.

Riorges, Roanne ROBERT KALTENBACH

A Ninety Mercedes

Sir,

I am enclosing three photographs of a Mercedes taken prior to 1936 outside of a hangar on the north side of Heston Aerodrome.

The hangar was at that time used by Jersey Airways Ltd. for overnight maintenance of their DH84, 86 and 89 aeroplanes. The late Lew Lisle was the Ground Engineer in charge at that time, and it was he who gave me the photographs.

This to me seems to be a wonderful piece of machinery and it would be very interesting if you or any of your readers know its history and ownership.

In passing, the commercial-vehicle partially shown on the left side is a Guy petrol bowser used for refuelling the JAL aeroplanes by Zwicky hand pump.

Winscombe W. T. DANN

LAE 2779

[This is very interesting to me because in the 1930s I used to see this 1912/13 Ninety Mercedes making its way late at night into London. This was at a time when the traffic returning from the coast on a summer evening used to get itself terribly tangled up where the trams changed over from overhead to track pick-up at the top of the hill between Streatham Common and Streatham High Road. I used to watch with amusement as novice drivers ran back into the vehicle behind when trying to restart, and so on. If one was patient, late in the evening, usually passing everything else, well over on the “wrong” side of the road, would come this great chain-drive Mercedes two-seater. I understand that it was owned by a pilot called Blythe and I presumed that he was returning from Croydon Aerodrome, See also letter in MOTOR SPORT, May 1973, et al. — Ed.]

“The Invincible Talbot-Darracqs”

Sir,

I enjoyed your article on the invincible Talbot-Darracqs in the March issue. It seems you want some information about the “Swiss Voiturette GP” held in Geneva on June 14-15th, 1924. The course was almost triangular (between Le Bouchet and the villages of Meyrin and Mategnin) measuring c. 9.5 km. A lot of races took place this week-end both for motorcycles and cars. If the grid were full in the motorcycle and side-car races, entrants were few for the two cyclecar and voiturette GPs.

The cyclecar GP had only five starters including Mr. Waithe from England in an Austin 750 c.c (in fact a 750 c.c. class was foreseen but with two entrants and only one starter . . . Mr. Waithe had to run with the 1,100 c.c. cars).

Waithe, one-time leader, had to retire and the race was won by Collet in a Collet after two Amilcars had to retire too.

The voiturette GP had only six starters, also the two works Talbot-Darracqs for K. L. Guinness and D. Resta to drive. One Fiat 501SS for the Swiss driver Mario Lepori, two Bugattis for Grecco and Banchetta and one Chiribiri driven by de Joncy.

Without serious opposition the race was a walk-over for the TD team. Guinness was leading for ten laps. The two Bugattis had to retire early. From 11th to 20th lap Resta was first but had to visit the pits to change a shock-absorber (the job was done in a little more than 3 min.) at the finish K. L. Guinness was first averaging 113 km./hr. for the 43 laps., Resta was second with the other Talbot 3 min. back and Mario Lepori was third (11 min. 30 sec. in arrears) with his 501 SS Fiat. (Later in 1924 Lepori performed well, still with the 501SS, in the Klausen hill climb finishing 5th overall behind three Mercedes works cars driven by Otto Merz 1st, Caracciola 3rd, and Kluge 4th and behind Rützler’s rapid Steyr (2nd).) At Geneva the top speeds were measured and one of the Talbots was timed 180 km./hr. Quite fast for 1,500 c.c. cars in 1924! Excuse me for my approximate English.

Gennecy ERIC PERRIN

Non-30/98 Vintage Vauxhall Register

Sir,

I refer to your comments in “V-E-V Miscellany” in the March edition and would like to correct a misunderstanding about the present position of affiliation bodies available for all Vauxhall owners.

David Marsh continues to be Registrar of the 30/98 Register (which deals exclusively with 30/98s). Mr. Ron Shier is secretary of the Vauxhall Owners Club and this caters for all post-1930 Vauxhalls (although vintage models are also eligible and welcomed for membership). John Price who founded the Vauxhall Register in 1972 has recorded the ownership of all vintage and veteran Vauxhalls other than the 30/98. As he has just sold his 14/40 Princeton Tourer so that he can pursue other vintage interests, he has handed over this responsibility to me.

May I therefore take this opportunity, on behalf of members of this Register past and present, to express our thanks to him for all his enthusiasm and efforts over this period (which goes back to 1966). At the same time, may I invite any reader of MOTOR SPORT who has any such eligible Vauxhall, who has not yet communicated with us, to let me know instead, at the address below?

83, Finborough Road, London, SW10 MICHAEL APPLEBEE

“Those Chronic Straight-Eights”

Sir,

I found your article on the Straight-Eight absolutely fascinating and it has prompted me to write you this letter. I think perhaps there is a grain of truth in what Lord Montagu says about Straight-Eights assisting to bankrupt their makers, but as I think you already know, my Mother and the Thomas family generally, of which she was a member, were all tremendous motoring enthusiasts and my Mother in particular was absolutely “sold” on the Straight-Eight engine when she was introduced to the Hupmobile Straight-Eight Series E, in the autumn of 1925. Mother was always trying out new cars and as the various models built by British makers were introduced she went for a demonstration run on them and then almost invariably compared them unfavourably with the Hupp 8. She summed up what she thought simply as “The British do not know how to build a Straight-Eight”. This was said over the luncheon table after that morning when she had been trying out a Beverley-Barnes; she simply had not got a good word to say for it. It was heavy to drive, it lacked acceleration, and was, to use her words, “Very woolly”.

The big 35 h.p. Sunbeam was too large and much too heavy; it was really intended as a chauffeur-driven limousine or landaulette. Both the Wolseley and the Hillman were terrible. She did not think much of the Lanchester Straight-Eight either; it was far too noisy and the fuel consumption of about 11 m.p.g. was almost down to that of the 40/50 Rolls-Royce New Phantom, with a difficult gearbox and heavy steering.

I think the Hillman Straight Eight was one she disliked most; it was curious it was so bad, as the “Fourteen” was considered a good car in its class, it was well appointed and very roomy and comfortable, in this respect perhaps better than the Austin Twelve Windsor, it was certainly far better looking than the Austin and had the advantage of the petrol tank at the rear, but it was a plodder, the Austin had the edge on it for performance, there were three Hillman Fourteens amongst the staff at Oundle when I was there in 1933-1936.

Mother became fascinated with the Straight-Eight as follows: In the summer of 1920 she took me in her Light Thirty Daimler to Skegness after my Father was re-called to rejoin his regiment in India. Whilst at Skegness she met and became very friendly with Alan Chorlton and his wife Louise. Alan Chorlton had a Belsize (he was chief designer to Beardmore and was a brilliant engineer). In June 1922 my Mother bought her first Austin, a 20 h.p. Ranelagh 4-door coupé, on the recommendation of her elder brother Lionel Beaumont-Thomas.

When in 1925 four-wheel brakes began to appear in large numbers, Mother, like my grandmother with her Lanchester 40, was seriously concerned about the stopping power of the back-wheel brakes on the Austin and through Jack Withers, who had a motor business in Osnaburgh Street and with whom she was on very friendly terms, she tried out a 3-litre long-wheelbase Bentley with saloon body by Harrison. I was with her when she tried the Bentley; I think Jack Withers held an agency. Mother was disappointed with the Bentley. It had to be rowed along on the gear lever and lacked the flexibility of the Austin 20 and although it had four-wheel brakes, it would not run slowly in top like the Austin. I know it was only 15.9 h.p. against 22.4 h.p. for the Austin, but Mother did not take this into account; she did not like the hard springing or the noise of the Bentley.

Not long afterwards Alan Charlton returned from America where he had been on a prolonged trip. He told Mother the car of the future was the Straight-Eight. He had been using a Hupmobile whilst in the USA and as soon as an agency started in Britain he said he was going to buy one, which he did. He took Mother to Plymouth in it and all thoughts of the Bentley went straight out of the window, Mother was sold on the Hupp. They came home via Lyme Regis and the Hupp went right up out of the town on top gear all the way. I can well remember the first time I saw the Chorlton’s Hupp, after Mother had borrowed it. I thought it absolutely hideous. It was very high for its length, looked terribly boxey, and had huge solid disc wheels. The front of the roof-line curved down over the windshield to protect the eyes from the sun. It was the perfectly standard American sedan, finished in velvet-type upholstery, with an exhaust-fed heater, which operated in the rear of the car, just in front of the back seat.

Mother loathed the interior trim, as her clothes stuck to it, and shortly after the agency commenced and chassis started to be imported, she decided to have the best of both worlds, the Hupp chassis with English coachbuilt saloon body by Victor Broom of Rochester Row, Camden Town. Our first Hupp, delivered May 1926, was a far better-looking thing than the Chorlton’s car, ours had a vee windscreen and the body could have graced any R-R or Daimler; it looked thoroughly British, had two bucket seats in front, was trimmed in maroon leather throughout with real mahogany woodwork, and was finished outside in maroon and black. It was the first of the five Hupps which Mother would run over the next nine years. Mother was constantly looking to see if anyone built a better Straight-Eight than Hupp, but she said she could never find one, the only one was the Packard Custom Eight or de luxe Eight chassis, but these were 39.2 h.p. and too large for her needs, being very much bigger than the Hupp 8.

I must confess that I do not quite understand your remark that “Lord Montagu reminds us that of the big three in America it was only Chrysler who listed an 8-cylinder car in the Vintage Years”. I have just checked in “70 Years of Chrysler” and confirm that my thoughts are correct on this; it was 1931 when Chrysler first brought out an 8-in-line, at the same time as Buick did so. Undoubtedly the best British Straight-Eight was the Daimler, but this did not appear until 1934, some time after the other concerns had either become defunct or given up in-line 8s. By this time we had no longer a Hupp, when the aerodynamic models appeared Mother thought them hideous, I still agree with her, I remember I disliked the first one I saw, so when changing it was Whitney Straight who suggested a Graham Straight Eight Custom Sedan with supercharger, which we took delivery of in January 1935 to replace the last Hupp.

This Graham was a fine car. I drove it many miles. It was I think in actual fact a 1934 model as it was so much better looking than the genuine 1935 models which came later. It had remarkable acceleration and when road-tested by The Motor it lapped Brooklands at 92 m.p.h. It gave wonderful service. I had a soft spot for the Minerva 28/30 Speed model, but Mother was not interested in this as she was anti-sleeve-valve. She tried the big Renault and said it was built on American lines, but was a great lump of a car and was not so good as the Hupp, but she was thinking of something to drive herself.

Of all the cars she tried and talked about there was one which she absolutely detested and that was the Armstrong-Siddeley. She never had a good word to say about them. I can remember on one occasion my Mother was going down to Highfield School, Liphook, to see my brother. As usual our governess (still alive at 94) was to accompany her, she would not go without the chauffeur, who was ill, so she decided to hire from Daimler Hire, but they were fully booked up and so she hired a car from Harrods, who had a fleet of Armstrong-Siddeleys with bodies by Watson of Lowestoft. It was a 30 h.p., which overheated going up the Devil’s Punchbowl. After taking my brother out to lunch at Moorlands Hotels, Hindhead it broke down and Mother had to return to London by rail. She was furious over it and it confirmed her opinion of Armstrong-Siddeleys; not long after Harrods disposed of their hire fleet. Reverting to the Lanchester Straight-Eight, I do not think this model broke the Company; it was simply the financial aspect of the time, with the World slump, and the fact that the Lanchester was a luxury car made and sold in very small numbers and the concern had nothing to fall back on. Personally I did not like it. It was far too noisy, being overhead-camshaft.

Jersey JOHN OLDHAM

* * *

Sir,

I was very interested in the above article and although I remember many of the “exotic” makes, I bought in the 1950s a 1935/6 Railton with a very “bread and butter” side-valve engine, with single Carter carburetter. There was no trouble with the engine at all. Ever-faithful starting, with exhaust hot-spot and automatic choke. I had occasionally to dismantle the carburetter to clean out carbon from the gauze to the thermal coil. Whatever the journey it averaged 18 m.p.g on cheap petrol and if the consumption started to fall, resort to cleaning the gauze to the thermal coil as mentioned above cured this.

The compression ratio was, I believe, only 4½ to 1 and thus the engine could be easily started up by hand on the few occasions this was necessary.

Thanks to a good power-to-weight ratio the car had outstanding performance in its day — 0-60 in just over 11 seconds. Was it a 4-4 crankshaft? I never saw it, but I seem to remember the firing order began with “one” and ended with “eight”. What was the appeal? — undoubtedly “graceful arrogance”. Somebody is always reminding me of the RaiIton — “what a lovely car — never forget it”. With many thanks for the information and pleasure I receive from your excellent publication.

Southampton GERALD L. ADAMS

[I have been gratified by the interest my article has aroused, but it was about the less-successful straight-eights, not the good ones. — Ed.]

Chitty III

Sir,

Reference pages 41 and 307, I was interested in the identity of the engine in Chitty III. Bill Selby’s photograph which you reproduced was compared with those of Mercedes engines in “Janes All the World’s Aircraft, 1919” which indicate that it was a 180 h.p. Mercedes. The cam/rocker box design is similar, six plugs only are visible of the dual ignition system and the camshaft-driven air pump with vertical stroke is visible adjacent to the dashboard, i.e. above the steering box.

Incidentally a 200 h.p. Mercedes was also listed of the same capacity of 14.78 litres but this is identified by a duplex air pump of horizontal stroke. The 200 h.p. engine has a compression ratio of 5.73 to 1 as against 4.64 for the 180 h.p. engine. I have enjoyed your articles since Brooklands Gazette days and trust that they may long continue.

Kalk Bay, Capetown M. W. GAZE

A Decayed Delage

Sir,

I thought you may be interested in the enclosed photo taken recently for your “Tailpiece”. It is of a 1928 Delage Type DM Weymann-bodied saloon which was found on a farm in Kent after standing in the open for 22 years! Trees had to be cut down to get it out of a copse that had grown around it. It is said to have once been the property of the French Ambassador in 1928 and it has been in the ownership of a lady since 1937 to recently. In the photo it is on its way to my home for restoration by me, this being my third Delage restoration.

Sutton FRANK ANNETT,

Secretary, Delage Section, VSCC

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