The Austro-Daimler puzzle



Bill Boddy

I have never been able to understand why the 19/100 ADM Austro-Daimler, with its good six-cylinder power unit, was not more popular here, among vintage-period sportscars. I know that Mr Foden of the steam-wagon company said, when he gave up his 4.5-litre Bentley for a six-cylinder one, that he missed the former’s “bloody thump”.

I am aware that the Austrian car had not been a Le Mans winner, but A-D had a pedigree dating back to domination of the pre-1914 Alpine and Prince Henry tours, and the 19/100 model had several successes in Continental hill-climbs and sportscar races.

It was also quite well represented here. Three 19/100s took the Team Prize in the 1928 Ulster TT, the drivers being H Mason, Cyril Paul and Shell petrol representative L G Callingham, placing third, fourth and 10th overall. The Surbiton MC’s 150-mile Brooklands fuel-consumption race was won by one of these A-Ds (72.74mph at 13.47mpg) and in the Essex MC’s Six-Hour race an A-D won its class. In the shorter Brooklands handicaps a stripped black four-seater 19/100 won twice and was second in 1927, best lap 105.52mph. In 1928, having discovered a gap in the record books, Kenneth Eggar established International records for 200km and 200 miles with an A-D 19/100, at 83mph.

The sports 19/100 ADM, designed by Ferdinand Porsche, boasted a six-cylinder 2994cc (76x110mm) twin-carburettor engine of notably neat appearance, since the vertical shaft driving the overhead camshaft and rockers was enclosed at the back of the aluminium cylinder block, which had inserted cast-iron liners. Tubular duralumin conrods and a balanced crankshaft were used, and an ingenious floating ring incorporated with the flywheel acted as a torsional damper.

The handbrake, and gear lever for the four-speed box, were central, as was the accelerator between brake and clutch pedals. The brake gear, carried mostly within the front axle, used wedges instead of cams.

The sports 19/100 was first shown as a fabric four-seater with V-screen and concealed hood. The agents for it were A-D Motors of 18, Great Portland Street, London.

A guarantee of 100mph was mentioned, I presume without road-going clobber, for if we allow that a good Speed Model 3-litre Bentley would do 80 to 85mph in touring trim, I cannot see the A-D adding 15mph. But it was an impressive proposition, costing in 1927 £50 more than a Bentley, but not many seemed to have attracted attention here.

After the 19/100 A-D, the company produced Karl Rabe’s version of the ADM, with a tubular backbone chassis and transverse leaf springs beneath its independently sprung rear swing-axle, the new chassis so rigid at the rear that the front end had to be stiffened up. After this had been done, this spacious seven-seater with a comfortable ride and good road-holding was a much-praised car.

Production of the 19/100 model was now abandoned; which may have reduced sales here. More likely, the restricted interest in the A-D was influenced by attractions of the Speed Model 9ft 9.5in-wheelbase Bentley chassis, which cost £925 in 1928 against £1150 for the shorter 19/100 ADM Austro-Daimler chassis.

Tatra also took exception to A-D’s use of a backbone chassis and litigation ensued, which legally minded authors might bear in mind if ever my idea of a Cars in Court book materialises.

Lord Montagu has written that Austro-Daimler and Itala have the distinction of being the only vintage Continental cars for which almost every enthusiast would reserve a stall in Valhalla.

Praise indeed.