Bravo Dobson I
Austin Dobson has announced his intention of running his newly acquired bimotore Alfa-Romeo in the B.R.D.C. Empire Trophy Race at Donington on April 10th. That should draw the spectators, and we hasten to congratulate Dobson on running such a fast car over an English road-course. Apparently he has not suffered an attack of” nerves” as a result of his unpleasant experience at the same circuit last year, when the ” mono Alfa-Romeo
• broke its near-side front hub at 100 m.p.h. The bimotore will be the most exciting road-racing car in England this season, unless, as now seems quite likely, Dick Seaman manages a brief visit with a Grand Prix Mercedes-Benz. Dobson is in for some sound fun. His other interest is poultry-farming.
It was just about thirty years ago that a luncheon was held in honour of the coining of the first Silent Knight engine, at which the menu was decorated with a drawing showing the flight of the poppet-valve before the attack of the sleeve-valve. Since then lots of sleeve-valve cars have taken to the road. In the realm of racing this type of engine has shown up quite well, from the early Argyle record attempts, to the exploits of Capt G. E. T. Eyston with the big wooden-bodied Panhard Lavassor, which gave us such a thrill in the Empire Trophy race of ‘:32, and which, though not so very cleverly streamlined, at all events in its earlier form, nevertheless was a 130 m.p.h. job and reliable. Then Voisin have been outstandingly successful in the long-distance record business, and M. Albert Guyot employed six-cylinder 2-litre Burt McCallum single sleeve-valve engines for the two cars
which he prepared for Indianapolis in 1925. And you may recall that that so versatile Brooklands driver, Capt. A. G. Miller, brought a 1-litre fourcylinder sleeve-valve Voisin to Brooklands in 1927, though it was sent back in disgrace to France, having done little else than indulge in persistent misfiring. Yet to-day Minerva alone upholds the sleeve-valve principle. All of which lends interest to the answer which Mr. G. F. Gibson gave during the discussion that followed his recent lecture before the I.A.E., when
asked if he would return to sleeve-valves if permitted by his directors. Mr. Gibson, who has been with the Vauxhall Motors, Ltd., since pre-30/9S days, replied with an emphatic ” yes.” You will remember the Vauxhall sleeve-valve six, one of which I came upon recently at the Phtenix Hotel at Hartley Wintney, and quite a few of which must still he in service. The path of technical development is ever wrapt in mystery.
Re-reading “The Autocar Biography of Owen John ” reminds me that Itala successfully mastered the rotary valve many moons ago, for we are told that H. R. Pope drove one of the first of the rotaryvalvers so rapidly that ” Owen John ” frequently cast his cap into the road to compel a halt ! Yet the Cross rotary valve engine, although claimed to be extremely successful by eminent engineers, cannot yet be bought by you and me.
Where Racing-folk Eat
Following up a tip given by Eason-Gibson a party of us, hungry after a strenuous day marshalling a trial, called a halt in Notting Hill Gate and went to the Linden restaurant, with the running of which some of the Nockolds brothers are involved.
Saw many motoring personalities there, R. L. Duller one of the first. Roy Nockolds has some of his racing pictures on view upstairs. We are eating there again.
Curious how a stray book is picked up casually and
read eagerly. ” The Flying Shadow” by John Llewelyn Rhys (Faber & Faber, Sept. 1936) may appeal to you. On the other hand, it may not.
A Welcome Return
Another change has taken place at Brooklands, hich is likely to be a far-reaching one. Douglas
Iawkes and Mrs. Hawkes (nee Mrs. Gwenda Stewart) are settling down there, and have taken over the commodious premises formerly occupied by L.B.B. Motors Ltd. Mrs. Hawkes needs no introduction and neither does her famous husband, but we might just remind you that Douglas Hawkes was a popular figure at Weybridge in the early nineteen-twenties, when men were men and proud to drive real motor-cars. Amongst his mounts in 1921, for example, were the 15-litre Lorraine-Dietrich and one of the first racing Horstmantis.
Activity at Tol worth
H. R. Godfrey was in command, as in days gone by, when we called in unexpectedly to see just what is happening at the H.R.G. works. So often cars designed to be built in small quantities by hand are assembled one at a time, so we were pleasantly surprised to find five H.R.G. chassis nearing completion, and the essential parts of several more rapidly taking shape, apart from three complete cars. It is now more than two years since Godfrey laid down the design with which he has staged his come-back, so the bugs should have been gotten out, well and truly. We examined several of the component parts and were astonished at the weight-saving which has been accom
plished in the braking system alone. It was this ability to save avoirdupois by utilising modern materials that largely influenced Godfrey in dropping his old love—chain drive.
On the subject of wheel adhesion for trials motoring he was very interesting, and it is noticeable that in an H.R.G. you do not sit on top of the back axle. The engine is a Meadows, of quite conservative design, but with a substantial crankshaft and high compression ratio, and the aim has been to supply a high performance, enthusiast’s car embodying proved components. A Moss gearbox is used, and the back axle is of E.N.V. manufacture. Godfrey still lives to some extent in the past—palmy days of the G.N. cycle-car. On Sunday mornings he often amuses himself building up bits of ” Kim “—the 1919 G.N. once raced by Capt. ” Archie” Nash, who now has a factory next door to the H.R.G. works—but not for making motors. Someone once said that the pioneer engineers cannot be surpassed.
Simple and Effective
The H.R.G. front suspension, composed of quarterelliptic springs, a tubular axle and shock-absorbers placed beneath the springs to act as radius arms, is very simple and very effective. It was evolved all those years ago for the G.N. cycle-car and adopted, in improved form, for the Frazer-Nash. In returning to it for the H.R.G. Godfrey has used springs 2 in.
wider than those he formerly employed, and incorporated special bearings in the shockers to take side thrusts.
The Future of the T.T.
We received the news that this year’s T.T. has been banned from the Ards Circuit just after reading a very well balanced article on the future of motorracing in Northern Ireland, that appeared in the February issue of the Ulster A.C. Monthly Review. In that article it was pointed out that, while the risk of accident and the inconvenience to persons living on the course was a very grave consideration, the loss to Ulster that would follow the banning of the T.T. would not be realised until after the summer season, and that it would then be found that tourist receipts had decreased seriously. The loss of the T.T. was regarded as the surest method of starting the Province’s tourist income on the downward path. Now Ulster has rid itself of the race. The R.A.C. announces that the T.T. will still be run on September 4th, and has the Isle of Man, Brooklands, Donington and the Crystal Palace circuits in mind. Is it too much to suggest that while these alterations are being made the rules be revised as well, so that much more standard cars compete ? So many modifications are allowed under the present ruling that it should be quite as easy to scrutineer for greater standardisation, and even if there are so few modern sports -ears that would last the race under the stricter conditions, at least the makers of real sports-cars—like Frazer-Nash, H.R.G., Alvis, Bentley, Lagonda, Riley, etc.—might be given a chance
to excel on sheer merit. At least we might have fuel limitations that would prohibit racing compressionratios in our premier sports-car contest. Will the organisers of Donington’s 12-Hour sports-car race bear these observations in mind, please ?
Looking through a pile of old motoring weeklies we were surprised to find how very good modern cars are, for according to the road-tests reports they all
had impeccable handling characteristics, all behaved in an identical manner, and varied only in respect of performance figures. Even the tiniest shortcomings were conspicuous by their absence. If MOTOR SPORT road-tests make rather heavy reading at times, at least we endeavour to give a detailed account of each car tried, and to indicate what it will do in the hands of an average driver. We plan to resume the full reports next month, and hope to deal with such inter
esting cars as the H.R.G., V8 Jensen, and supercharged Lammas-Graham, etc., in the near future. In the meantime, impressions of the 570 c.c. Fiat are published in this issue.
The Magic Century
During a recent discussion amongst a gathering of motoring personalities someone raised the interesting question of the important difference between standard 100 m.p.h. cars that just reach a three-figure speed, and those that will exceed the magic century without protest for some considerable length of time. Interest is lent to the point by W. Boddy’s opening paragraphs in his leading outpouring, “On Achieving High Performance,” published elsewhere in this issue. We wonder how many makers of 100 m.p.h. cars would feel embarrassed if asked by a client to drive down to Brooklands, go out onto the track without touching plugs and shock-absorbers, put in five or so consecutive laps each at over 99 m.p.h., and then return rapidly to the showroom without attending to the machinery. With Brooklands open again this creed might be recommended to those purchasers of 100 m.p.h. motor-cars who have racing and high-speed trials in view and who therefore have some use for an easy three-figure maximum.
Goodbye to India-Rubber Chassis
An interesting sidelight on modern road-racing is the manner in which the increased speed of presentday events shows up the frame design and construction of the older cars. The owner of a 2-litre G.P. Sunbeam once told me that driving fast enough to put up any sort of showing against the handicapper at Donington the car became practically uncontrollable on account of inadequate frame rigidity, although the layout was apparent satisfactory for pukka Grand Prix work in 1922. Similarly, we have seen the stripped chassis of Conan Doyle’s 1924 twelve-cylinder Delage, and, beautiful piece of workmanship that this is, the construction looks flimsy by 1937 standards and the compensated brake gear unduly complicated. Then again, there is Hampton’s 1litre Mercedes, which braked abominably until Lockheed came to the rescue, and a dumb-iron tie bar and axle radius arms were added, although in 1922 it ran in the Targa Florio, of all events—the
most severe test of braking and road-holding then extant.
A Wise Link-up
It seems that a link-up will be seen this year between the Bugatti Owners’ Club, Vintage S.C.C., United Hospitals and University of London M.C., and the City and Guilds M.C., inasmuch as these clubs will invite one another to Donington meetings, trials and speed events. This seems a good move, because all cater for the better class of sports-car, and the combined membership reaches considerable proportions. The Bugatti Club has amongst its supporters some of our finest drivers and best cars and is entirely nontrade. The Vintage S.C.C. also has an influential membership and its officials exude life and enthusiasm. The United Hospitals and University of London M.C., which made a profit on all its events last year, and City and Guilds clubs cater for real enthusiasts without much money and we believe that the latter body has no entry fee and its members can be affiliated to the
Hospitals club for a nominal fee. Together these four bodies should do excellent work in their own category. On April 17th, the City and Guilds, Vintage and Mid-Surrey A.C. are putting on a joint Surrey trial, with a common team award, but otherwise with separate officials, rules and prizes—a good way of reducing the number of trials in the Surrey area. The City and Guilds opened their March 7th trial to ” Hospitals” and the latter club is having three Donington meetings to which Vintagers and Bugattisti are invited to those for May 29th and July 19th. The scheme should be watched carefully by other small clubs.