THE EVOLUTION OF THE SPORTING CAR. By LIONEL MARTIN (Designer of the Aston-Martin Car).
a purely historical point of view the story of the evolution of the sporting car is soon told, it is a comparatively recent introduction into the of wheels. Racing cars have undergone various of construction since long distance records were established by vehicles boasting engines of if h.p. have been huge machines with grotesquely engines, spidery built concerns with safety expressed in negative quantities, and all sorts conditions of machines constructed for the express of annihilating existing speed records. No would venture to suggest that even the most weird racing machines failed to have a beneficial influence
The Advent of the Sports Car.
Looking back to the year 1912, we saw the advent of the Prince Henry type of Vauxhall car, which put up some very remarkable performances for its power. About this time a gentleman required a very powerful but comparatively small engine for use in a hydroplane, and, purchasing a Prince Henry Vauxhall engine, proceeded to doctor it. The cylinders were bored out to 98 mm., various reciprocating parts were lightened and the increase of power was so remarkable that this engine was taken by the Vauxhall Company as a model upon which the now famous 30-98 was built. In the year 1913 the 3o-98 achieved many successes in corn
upon design in some way or another, and while this influence may be traced in the modern sporting car, readers should not fall into the too prevalent impression that a real sporting car is something in the nature of a camouflaged racing machine.
Speed is certainly one of its principal attractions, but whereas the racing car has speed as its main raison d’ etre, many other qualities are called for in the genuine sporting machine.
Since the year 1914, my firm has been engaged in the production of sporting cars, not on a very extensive scale perhaps, for the simple reason that the market happens to be a small one, and at the request of the Editor I am happy to give my personal views as to the evolution of this particular class of vehicle.
petitions, and in the following year was introduced• as a sporting model—the first genuine sporting model to be placed in the hands of the public.
This particular car, though eminently successful, could only be placed on the market at a comparatively high figure, and it therefore became a matter of interest to see whether examples of smaller cars could not be treated so as to enhance their normal performances. At this time the number of competitions open to small cars exceeded those for which larger vehicles were eligible, and my attention became centred in changing the habits of an ordinary io h.p. Singer. At first this particular car would only attain a speed of 40 m.p.h. by a considerable amount of persuasion, and it flatly refused to climb Westerham Hill at all.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE SPORTING
Various internal improvements were brought about until eventually it could do 8o miles per hour as a regular thing, and sailed over the Brooklands Test Hill at a speed of 22 m.p.h. My firm being agents for Singer cars, then began to specialise in the conversion of standard models into sports cars, and it soon became obvious that there existed a demand for a specially fast type of vehicle, which would be largely used by the sporting motorist in hill-climbing trials and club events of various kinds.
With the exception of the 30-98 Vauxhall, which was rather on the large side, there appeared to be nothing to meet the growing demand except the Bugatti, and, therefore, I decided to start in on the production of a British-built fast touring car which would enable patriotic sportsmen to buy British goods, and that was the beginning of the Aston—Martin, which has always been a car built up to the high ideals demanded by a small but extremely discriminating class of motorist.
The Cost of Competition Work.
Many motoring sportsmen, after participating in a season or two of strenuous competition work, have eventually relinquished it as being too expensive a form of hobby ; but in many cases the bulk of the expense has been traced to the cost of keeping unsuitable machines tuned up to a high pitch of efficiency and repairs resulting from the overstressing of certain components. Wear on competition machines is undoubtedly much higher than that on identical cars used for ordinary purposes, and the costs can only be kept down within reasonable amounts by purchasing a vehicle of high grade in. the first place. It is the old, old story of spoiling the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar, and fifty or even a hundred pounds added to the purchase price of a new sporting machine will go far to ensuring success, as well as immunity from certain after expenses.
Factors in Initial Cost.
As to external appearance, a sporting model may show very few alterations in chassis design from other
How Competition Work Influences Design.
In the evolution of the sports car of to-day I have no hesitation in stating that the sporting owner who indulges in public competition work has conferred immense benefits upon the manufacturer and designer alike. It is often said, with a fair degree of truth, that the designer produces drawings for cars which can only be handled to the best effect by experts, and that manufacturers sometimes lose sight of the many little problems confronting the owner driver.
During the course of a single competition an owner driver may gain more experience than would come his way in a year of ordinary motoring ; and, therefore, I find the policy of keeping closely in touch with all competition events of the greatest importance in our endeavours to keep apace with, if not ahead of, normal progress.
models, and one naturally enquires what there is to account for the extra money demanded as the purchase price. A good deal can be explained by the extra high grade materials of construction, but the most notable increase in production costs is due to the meticulous care with which every part of the engine and transmission mechanism is balanced. If, indeed, a small firm were to acquire the machines and instruments for doing the whole of the work under its own roof, the cost of the sporting car would be absolutely prohibitive. It is only by taking advantage of the scientific equipment of specialists in such jobs as balancing that the high grade sports car can be produced as a commercial proposition. Then again, in the manufacturers own testing house a very high standard of efficiency is insisted upon, and, before an engine Iinally passes test, it may be necessary
THE EVOLUTION OF THE SPORTING
to dismantle it wholly or in part once or twice, which naturally costs money.
In the case of commercially erected chassis a rough road test will suffice to show whether the machine is up to standard, but not so with the sporting machine, every example of which is built individually and tested individually, the tests often including several laps on Brooklands track in order that a guaranteed speed may be reached.
The evolution of the sporting car is a thing concerning which no man can say “It is finished,” and sit down to contemplate the latest thing in design and construction. Every month brings forth some fresh idea for improving the breed ; perhaps it may be a new carburettor, a solution to one of the known difficulties connected with the application of supercharging, or the introduction of some new metallic alloy promising an improved weight-strength ratio. The ordinary car manufacturer can stand aside, for these things do not interest him greatly, but the producer of sporting cars must give such matters his attention, and must, incidentally, spend money in substantiating the claims for himself, or proving them to be unsupported, as the case may be.
Then again, many people regard improvements in design as something in the nature of additions to existing engines, whereas real improvement should always tend in the direction of simplicity in design rather than in extra complications. Anyone can effect a so-called improvement by adding a new component or accessory, but it needs a clever engineee to make a machine more efficient by ieducing its complication.
Yet the latter line is being followed by earnest seekers after improved sporting car efficiency.
The Fallacy of Mere Speed.
As a sub-title this may sound ill-chosen by one whose interests lie in the making of sporting cars, and yet speed alone will not bring success to any make of car. Technically there is no reason why sporting cars could not be sold with a speed guarantee of 150 miles per hour, but no one would be so sanguine as to suggest it could be held on a road at such a speed, or that it could be stopped within a reasonable distance of a cross-road ! What is essential, however, on a sports car, is a high average speed, ultra-rapid acceleration, road-holding qualities, and efficient braking. A welldesigned sports car with a maximum speed of 75 m.p.h. can more than hold its own with a faster machine, which is difficult to hold on corners and hard to retard when travelling all out.
In my opinion the sports car of the future will have a four-cylinder super-charged engine, with side valves (the latter for the sake of simplicity), a four-speed gear box, a final drive with differential gear, four-wheel braking, and some well tried form of suspension by means of which the chassis will be able to hold the road with rock steadiness at all speeds on any kind of curve. The complete car, as a four-seater sports model, will weigh approximately 15 cwt., and be capable of a road speed of 75 miles per hour, without overexertion. ft 4ck)