SPORTING CARS ON TEST.
THE 1,100c.c. VERNON-DERBY. By THE EDITOR.
FOR some years past a small but energetic French factory has been busily engaged on the manufacture of the 1100 c.c. Derby, a car which is quite well-known on the Continent, but which until recently was hardly ever seen in this country.
The popularity of this type of car abroad is undoubted, but here the demand is comparatively small ; however, with a view to catering for this small but insistent demand, about a year ago Mr. Vernon Balls introduced an improved and Anglicised version of the Derby to this country.
This was known as the ” Vernon-Derby” and differed from the continental version chiefly in the matter of bodywork and equipment, being more suitably turned out for the British climate and temperament than the latter.
Owing to pressure of other business and his racing activities, Mr. Balls .has had. to relinquish his interest in the Vernon-Derby and the concessionaires are now Messrs. Morgan-Hastings, Ltd., of Berkeley Street, W.
In company with Mr. Kinneson, of Morgan-Hastings, I recently enjoyed a short day’s outing in one of these cars, fitted with the well-known 4 cylinder Ruby engine. In connection with the engine it is interesting to note that three models are made, one with a Ruby, one with a Chapuis-Dornier and one with a S.C.A.P. ; the latter engine can be fitted with a supercharger if desired, when an extremely high performance may be expected. The Ruby engine is a fairly conventional unit, with a two-bearing crankshaft and vertical overhead valves operated by push-rods and rockers, all enclosed by an oiltight aluminium cover. The inlet manifold is cast in the cylinder block and fed by a Solex carburettor
from the front end of the engine. A single dry plate clutch conveys the drive to a very useful 4-speed gearbox (of which more anon) and the propeller shaft is enclosed in a torque tube with an extra bearing halfway along. No differential is fitted as standard, but may be had as an extra, though hardly required on such a small car.
The absence of differential also eliminates considerable complication from the brake gear, as the foot pedal operates both sets of front shoes and the set in one of the back wheels, while the hand lever applies the shoes in the other rear wheel. The wheels are built up with integral brake drums so that when the former are removed the brake shoes can be inspected without further ado. The body on the Vernon-Derby, while fulfilling all
the ideals of the sporting enthusiast so far as appearance goes, is yet very comfortable and provides ample protection from the elements. A feature not usually. associated with this type of vehicle is a door on the near side, which greatly facilitates the ingress and egress of the ” not so young” and of the fair sex!
The whole car is extraordinarily low and ” racy” of line, due to careful design of the chassis and distribution of the components and not to cleverly devised cowling and under-shields!
On the Road.
Before setting out for our. road trial I was warned not to expect anything phenomenal in the way of maximum speed as (a) the Ruby is not the fastest engine fitted to this car and (b) the particular specimen in question was tuned for town demonstration work
and economy, where rapid acceleration combined with extreme docility are in far greater demand than any other quality.
I soon found that both the above qualities were present to a marked degree—the car responding to the mood of the moment with great amiability, running gently at about 8 m.p.h. on top gear, if required, and leaping forward on the lower gears in a startling manner, if a gap appeared in the traffic ahead.
The brakes, too, showed up to advantage under these conditions, and were called upon to do their utmost several times, during the first ten minutes, by the antics of various ” other fools,” who rushed out of side roads at high velocity.
As soon as we were clear of the densest traffic, began to indulge in a veritable orgy of gear changing, to which the gearbox not only lent itself, but which it definitely encouraged. Four extremely well-chosen ratios are provided, namely, 12.25 to I, 8.25 to I, 6.2 to i and 4.2 to i, while reverse gear is 16.25 to I. The result of such a box, combined with a really quick change, is to endow the car with a performance far more interesting than any similar engine in conjunction with the more stolid type of 3-speed gear. The actual operation of the gears is rather unusual, in that the upward changes, from 1st to 2nd, and from 3rd to top are carried out by a forward movement of the central lever. Once I became accustomed to this feature, I decided that it had much to recommend it, chiefly for the following reason:—The upward change is usually made under comparatively leisurely conditions, and I find that the backward movement of a lever is easier than a forward one. Hence, no disadvantage is felt when changing up in a forward direction (owing to the reason stated), while when changing down hastily for a corner, when perhaps braking is also occupying sundry limbs, the easier backward movement allows a more certain change to be made. Apart from all this, the gear change is just about the easiest I have experienced, seeming to require no very accurate judgment of engine or road speeds in order to engage the ratios silently, while only an in
finitesimal pause is necessary when changing “up.” Each gear is as nearly silent as can be expected, that is to say, they are practically inaudible although only separated from the cockpit by the usual thin metal sheeting.
Speeds. On the open road I found that 50 m.p.h. was attainable in a very few seconds by use of the gears, which
allowed speeds of 25 m.p.h., 38 m.p.h. and 50 m.p.h., respectively in 1st, 2nd and 3rd. At these speeds a certain amount of vibration was experienced, but nothing to justify the use of the term ” signs of distress,” so often applied to an over-revving engine. High winds and generally unfavourable conditions prevented me from exceeding a maximum speed of
62 m.p.h. on top gear and after a short burst at this rate, the ” town ” plugs evinced a marked disinclination to do any more work! On investigating the type, they were found to be quite unsuitable for high speed and had become extremely heated.
The carburettor setting, too, could have been improved for all out speeds, so that there seems to be no reason for doubting the maker’s claim of approximately 70 m.p.h. for this model, given favourable conditions. Steering is sufficiently good at all speeds to remain unnoticed, as it should be in any car calling itself a
sports model, and is certainly equal to that of any similar car, having the characteristic lightness usually associated with ” voitures de course.”
The springing was presumably set for town work (like the carburettor) and did not seem stiff enough on bad roads at over 50 m.p.h. No discomfort, unsteadiness or rolling was experienced on corners but a certain amount of fore and aft pitching occured on bumps when travelling fast.
Part of our trial was run over some winding country lanes when the liveliness of the car counted for more than its maximum speed on the arterial roads. I thoroughly enjoyed an extensive blind under these conditions, which, while being exhilarating, would have been dangerous but for the excellence of the brakes.
Towards the end of the run an insistent clatter developed beneath the bonnet and demanded a stop for investigation. In less than three minutes the trouble was diagnosed as a loose push rod and rocker adjustment, and remedied—thus showing the accessibility of these parts. A final demonstration of the “pep “possessed by the car occured at Hyde Park Corner when it became necessary to perform an extremely rapid negotiation of one of the hairpins on the “roundabout,” in order to slip
through a traffic stream. The road was bone dry, but a jab at the accelerator on bottom gear was sufficient to slide the tail of the car through 9o0 of a circle, thus pointing the nose in the right direction.
Altogether quite an interesting little car at 275 and we hope to have an opportunity of reporting on the supercharged S.C.A.P. model in the near future.
All particulars may be obtained from MorganHastings, Ltd., r 7, Berkeley Street, W.I.