Vintage postbag, June 1984

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Wrong Fire!

Sir, I note in your report of VSCC April Silverstone that you credit Guy Smith with a fire in his Frazer Nash. Unfortunately for me, the fire was in my Nash. As I came out of Beckett’s I smelled petrol fumes and thought I would go slowly to the paddock and mend the offending leak. Much worse than that, a fuel line had fractured and was squirting petrol everywhere, including over the magneto. When the fuel eventually got into the mag, the spark blew the cap clean off, straightening out the spring clips on the way and I had a merry bonfire, with flames as high as the car and the full length of the bonnet. There goes my newly rebuilt Nash I thought as I pulled up sharpish by the marshal’s post. To my enormous relief and gratitude a fire marshal stepped out with a powder extinguisher, squirted it and the fire went out as though someone had switched a light off! To say I was impressed is a gross understatement, and I would just like to say what a splendid job the marshals do at all times and in all weathers, with great cheerfulness and good humour.

The moral of this little story is always stop when you can smell petrol fumes and whereas you can always at all times rely on Guy Smith’s soldering, you can’t always trust that done by Dick Smith!

I didn’t attempt to run in the race because I wanted to be doubly sure none of the fire extinguisher powder had entered my beloved engine.

Thank you for always reporting our VSCC meetings. It is much appreciated by everyone.

Lorton Dick Smith

[Apologies to Guy Smith — Ed.].

Eccentric OHC Drives

I was most interested in your article on the subject of the Arab valve gear, and particularly the reference made to eccentric drive to the OHV camshaft on Bentley, Leyland Eight and Maudsley.

Such a drive was also introduced on the “H” type 30-98 OHC engine, although, admittedly, few were made. You may remember that a short time back, I sent you drawings of this layout, the factory drawings being dated 12.9.1919; one of those engines as you may recall was fitted into the Guy North Special, since replaced with an OE power unit, and which regularly competes in VSCC events.

Thought this little bit of information would be of interest to you and your readers. .

Brighton George Sanders

Eccentricities
From Sir Michael Samuelson, Bt

No doubt W.O. knew all about eccentrics, which is why he didn’t use them to drive Bentley camshafts. Eccentrics are better at dishing it out than at taking it, so W.O. used a three-throw crankshaft at both driving and driven ends.

Michael Samuelson

[Well, yes; but aren’t eccentrics, broadly speaking, crankshafts with rather unusual throws? — Ed.].

Running Costs

“How things used to be” always fascinates, and during thirty years of reading MOTOR SPORT I have often read with much interest the minutiae of motoring in the earlier days as recorded by you sir and others.

Among my late father’s papers are his tabulated records of the cars he ran, starting with a Morris Oxford in 1924 and finishing with a Rover 3500 in 1975. In the course of over half a million miles he noted the purchase cost (he always bought new), various running costs, mileage, and selling price, and very nostalgic reading it all makes.

One of his favourite cars was the Talbot 75 — he had two in succession. The second, AXE 423, he bought for £503 in January 1934, did 55,000 miles at 19.26 mpg and sold it in December 1935 for £200. Running costs were: petrol .905, oil .049, tyres .187, repairs .202, tax .143, insurance .115, garage .157, extras .018 total 1.776 pence (“proper” money!) per mile, or in grand total £407/6/9 running plus £303 depreciation equals £710/6/9, 3.099 pence per mile.

It would be interesting to hear of other information on the cost of motoring in the thirties, and what experts in these matters can infer about where we have gained and where we have lost.

Esher B. W. Osman Chicken

Hawker’s Triumphant Arrival

I read with interest your article on Harry Hawker’s famous car, and more so the part dealing with his arrival at King Cross. I was one of the large crowd outside the station to see the great man, and perhaps his famous car.

But much to our surprise and delight he appeared not in a car, but on the back of a policeman’s horse. We certainly could see him all right. Best wishes to MOTOR SPORT.

Braunstone James Andrews

[Most interesting — eye-witness account that confirms historyl—ED]

Sir Ralph Richardson

In 1957 1 bought a 1934 short-chassis Mark II Aston Martin (the third made, registration AXX 469) and inherited a letter from Sir Ralph to the previous owner. In it he said that he thought he had sold the car in ’38 or ’39, and, inter alia “— oh dear, she was a trouble to me and that’s perhaps why I liked her so much. The first day she was delivered to me — proudest day of my life — the gears jammed in reverse and no one went forward for a week. I ran her in for nine million miles, if I remember accurately, because every time one opened up the pistons melted and one started from what was called scratch — it was certainly irritating”.

It is interesting that Sir Ralph encouraged the purchase of a long-chassis model, perhaps he found the handling unsatisfactory as well as his other problems with the car. First Astons, like first girl-friends, do seem to linger on in the memory!

Anstey Cecil Gibson