Letters from Readers, March 1939






I am purchasing a four-cylinder 10.8 h.p. Wolseley ” Grasshopper ” tourer of approximately 1927 vintage. The price g, taxed to the end of the quarter. The vehicle is in beautiful condition and was in the hands of the original owner for over ten years. As you know, whilst not very sports, it has such a wealth of mechanical features that it should qualify for a position in any collection of vintage cars.

The mechanical features include :— Overhead cam (skew shaft driven), four wheel brakes, quarter elliptic springs with radius rods, open flywheel with coneclutch built in. divided prop shaft only / in. dia. driven at engine speed, integral back axle and gearbox, gate gear shift on r.h.s. which is remarkably light. Easter 1037 I was given il0 to buy a car, tax and insure it, which I did :Car Humber Nine tourer 1926 1,4,

including fitting of safety glass. This car used no oil, did 38 m.p.g. and had a maximum of 48 m.p.h. I sold it for and went into partnership buying a rebuilt Austin Seven at £20 which had :

Two Amal carburetters, three 2 in. exhaust manifolds, 2fin. exhaust tube, special back axle giving a high ratio, was dropped 61. in. in front, the front spring being on a series of tubes above the frame, box-sectioned chassis, bound springs and special shock-absorbers, handpump pressure feed from rear tank. Aluminium body similar to a “Nippy Austin” but rebuilt on a 1928 saloon chassis. Then followed what has been the most enjoyable car to date. A 10 h.p. Lea Francis of 1926. A four-seater tourer, black with red disc wheels. It had a maximum of 55 m.p.h. and did 45 m.p.h. in third. The gearbox was so grand that the clutch was only used when starting

from rest. It was a delightful car on which I used to accomplish over 300 miles In a week-end without any mechanical trouble.

Only on one unlucky day did I have trouble with it. I had a front puncture and then a big end ran. The feed to the dip tray blocked for the one big end, and as I was on my way to a race meeting, I chanced it to be on time. However, by scraping oilgroo-ves in a 12/22 Lea-Francis big-end the car returned once more to the road, now with the oil up to the level of the tray whilst the timing gear was greased periodically by hand. My best average speed in this Leaf. was 36.8 m.p.h. from Ealing to Bristol, approximately 117 miles. On this run I had to take to the verge at 50 m.p.h,, and, cut past the inside of a modern saloon which had pulled out on to the Colnbrook By-Pass at the wrong moment. Which treatment did not damage the ” Leaf. ” at all. I feel most modern tens would

not do 50 m.p.h. on rough grass without damage to themselves whilst remaining under complete control.

Since then have followed two Riley Nines. The first, a two-seater with dickey seat which did in the crown wheel, and the next, a four-seater semi-sports tourer of 1930 which gave 6,000 trouble-free miles. It did 68 m.p.h. on the clock on one occasion, whilst 48 m.p.h. could be got on third speed. It cornered wonderfully a back skid technique being developed to the tune of an average of 46 m.p.h. front Chiswick to Bristol, 118 miles. In all the average speeds indicated I have made no allowance for stops, etc. I carried a passenger and. the starts were made at dawn, 6 a.m. being the order of the day with breakfast in Bristol.

Looking back on these two years, I feel they and the money spent could not have been spent for a more enjoyable, whilst useful, purpose.

Of the highlights I have olititted, I have reason to believe, for instance, that the rebuilt Austin exceeded 80 m.p.h. down-hill on the Wiltshire Downs. I am. -trourg


Birmingham. * * *


Sir, I am writing to you concerning Peter Clarke’s ” Blue Label ” Trials Bentley. I enclose a photograph of my own 3-litre, short chassis V.D.P. Speed Model, 1927

(October). Bodywork, etc. as original, new 6.00 x 17 tyres on new wheels, which, incidentally, gives good roadholding, free from ” kick ” when corner

ing. The unit has been re-sleeved by Laystall, and completely overhauled in all other respects.

The chassis is as good as new, having been also completely overhauled. With the 8.8 axle ratio, I have obtained 82 m.p.h., but on an indifferent road ; maybe, given the right conditions, she would do more, as there was plenty in hand. I also experience the change in exhaust note as you mention, but very seldom get the opportunity to hear it.

With regard to suspension, if triple Hartfords are fitted all round, on the roughest of tracks, there should be no ” axle/chassis” contact, and this adjustment has proved ideal for ordinary town work.

I have the close-ratio type ” A” box, with clutch stop, and very quick changes can be made with the clutch just freeing. With regard to tuning, I have four that, Wore attempting to ttirm the ettei , I. Lo the synchron

isation of the mags. will work wonders. When I first took her over, this adjustment added 5 honest m.p.h. to the speed. Consumption : petrol, driven hard, 17 m.p.g., nursed, 21. Oil, well she’s done 1700 since overhaul, and I’ve pit in half a pint I am, Yours etc.,



Sir. I have read with interest your article entitled ” An Outstanding Blue Label.” I am, I would point out, also an owner of an honoured piece of Old England, namely, one 3-litre Red Label and therefore consider that I am entitled to have my say as follows :

According to your article, Peter Clark’s Blue Label “goes up to 80 m.p.h. or 3,000 r.p.m. and has reached a maximum of 87 m.p.h. (3,300 r.p.m.) ” New having regard to the fact that this car has a” B ” gearbox (wide ratio) and top gear is 4.2 to 1 and the road wheels are 33″ X6.75″, how can this be ? Is this Blue Label really as outstand,ing as this or is the speedometer and rev-counter incorrect, because I maintain that at 80 m.p.h. the revs. are 3,400 r.p.m. and at 87 tri.D.h., 3,670 r.p.m. at which it should blow up.

Surrey. I am, Yours etc.,

B. M. Russ-TuRNER.



I would be obliged if you would insert this letter in your correspondence columns As I hope sonic reader may be able to 1,e.lp me with suggestions or experiences. 1%-‘ksriences on carburation on a 1928 Riley Nine. ‘The existing single

carb. is fitted at back end of manifold. Would EJ2i isting carb. if renovated, be much less efficient than a later type ? Is there any advantage to be gained by moving the earl). to a central position on the manifold ?

These alterations are suggested with a view to improving the performance without loss of economy.

Is there any way of altering the gearratios to suit a lighter type of body ? I am, Yours etc.,


Birmingham. Sir, Your correspondent ” Overseas ” from Burma seems in trouble some about the choice of a car. May I suggest a car which, though it did not appear in his list, may be of some use. This is the open four-seater Railton. I am at present the owner of one of the 1935 editions of these cars which I bought six months ago for

045. The specification is briefly as follows : Eight-cylinder, side-valve, 28 11.1). The petrol consumption is roughly 14 m.p.g. though this can be improved considerably by quieter driving. It has excellent acceleration, reaching 60 in in about 12 secs. from a standstill and in completely standard form its maximum is between 85 and 90 m.p.h. Thi5 car is extremely quiet and when the Telecontrol shock-absorbers are correct the road-holding is good without being exceptional. My car has a Berkeley body and despite its four years it has not a rattle in it. I suggest this car because I feel that the engine which is of transatlantic origin would be more readily acclimatised to petrol of low octane value which I presume would be prevalent in Burma. However, this car may be too quiet and easy for ” Overseas” but for vivid acceleration without fuss and a trouble-free engine I know no better. I am willing to supply any further information on this car if it appeals to “

Overseas.” I am, Yours etc.,


‘? indv,or.


Sir, In connection with your article ” A Racing Car in Retirement” on page 55 of your February issue, describing the late Major Harvey’s 200 Mile Race winning Alvis„ I was puzzled by referring back to the May 1937 issue of the Australian ” Car ” in which the same (?) car is described as being in New South Wales This article entitled ” A Great Old Car” states that the Alvis was brought to Australia in 1925, and raced by the late Phil Garlick who was killed at Marruatt Speedway in the car. About five years ago it was got -going again by Braitling, but not too well. Later Hope Bartlett tried his hand on it, but with little success. Then Turner acquired it, fitted Willys front axle, wheels ,braking system and managed to restore its lost fi Now the car is driven oy

and was second in the Australian Five Mile Championship, third fastest at the Waterfall Hill Climb in April ’37 and third fastest at the N.S.W. L.C.C. record attempts at Canberra on May 1st, at 101.1 m.p.h.

The accompanying illustration showed the car with a two-seater, short pointed tailed body.

The question is : have Messrs.. FernWiggins and Swain brought this car from Australia, or what ? I mil, Yours etc.,

H. 14. BIGGs. S.W .15. * * *


Dear Mr. Ed.,

I was alistening-in the other night on my old Cossor when a bloke comes on talking about tight corners he had been in, and be hadn’t half been in some, he telling us he is a film crash merchant who started off as a greaser in an Australian motor-racing team. I pricks up my ears at this and turns the old knobs round to full blast, because when I has a Saturday afternoon off and can get a free ticket for showing a Crystal Palace bill or get into Brook lands by driving a member who has lost his licence down, I likes to see some motor racing. Now this bloke on the radio got a drive in the team one day and had a pile up and the crowd was so pleased that, instead of him getting the sack, the boss kept him in the team so that he could either drive through the fence or catch fire or roll over every Saturday afternoon, so the public really thought they were getting their money’s worth, see. Now what I wants to know is why can’t Mr. Bradley enter this bloke and say, a couple of his pals, in the International Trophy or sonic such race that’s apt to fizzle out about half time. My idea is that when things get a bit slow and. every one has gone to join the queue at the bar they should hoist a flag, kind of secret like, of course, so that Death Dicer Dick should know that next time round he had to do a end-over-end in front of the pits with a bonus for any other car he managed to hit, would half make old “Bira” sit up, wouldn’t it. It would be just as well to take the names of his next-of-kin first though, I should think, just in case,

don’t you. They could even work it for the outer-circuit races with a simple drive off the track and knocking down a few trees for the blokes in the public, to a real good smash up under the Members’ Bridge for the toffs. My idea would be for one car to burst into flames and drive down the banking till it crashed over the wall on to the tunnel road. That would be a fine thrill for the people in the bars and the ladies who never leave the members’ car park, while the other sails over the trees and lands in Shell way to give those what’s coming in late a taster. How’s that, Mr. Ed., for a cunning idea, the more you pay the more thrills you get, see. But thinking things over like, I think they might not think much of my idea at Brooklands, specially coining from a chap like me, because I remember u, member who had paid his (Jul,. say that even when thcy auked you for new ideas at the A.G.M. they never took any notice of what was suggested, so what hopes have I got. No, I think I shall let the old Crystal Palace have it ‘cos I’ve often heard the Brookland’s toffs say the crowd there aren’t the right crowd and don’t know one end of a car from another and only want thrills all dressed up in caps and chokers like a football crowd. What a lark it would be in the Donington G.P. but those Jerries take racing very seriously and they might not see the funny side of it and think we were having a crack at the leaders of the Nazi Health and Strength through Beautiful Blondes Motor Sport Movement, and old Hitler wouldn’t half kick up a shindy and old Neville would have to give him India to square it.

Well, that’s my scheme, Mr. Ed. and they can have it free, gratis and for nothing, so long as they sends me a free pass and a plan marked with X’s, so I can he there with a little camera hung round my neck when the erashes come, and another thing, Mr. Ed., don’t put in any more pictures of cars crashing in Australia, ‘cos now I know they’re phoney, see.

Here’s another thing that sticking in my gizzard : last week Lord Nuffield gave £10,000 to the South African Cricket Club, now I asks you, wouldn’t that ten thou. have left E.R..A.’s going for two years, and isn’t he making his dough out Of motors, then why, if he’s got so much he doesn’t know what to do with it, can’t he give sonic to a British Motor Race Team. Hospitals, maybe, but a -South African Cricket team, well, I asks you. * * * Well, goodbye, my dear old Ed. Hope you can read my writing and hoping this leaves you as it leaves me at present. I am, Yours etc.,





Reading in MOTOR SPORT of the growing interest in pre-war veterans, has recalled memories of a Light “30” Gladiator that gave me great joy in the months immediately after the war.

The car was fitted with a sports fourseater body of modern design, and the steering column had been suitably raked. It was sold to me as a 1913 or 1914 model, and certainly in appearance justified the claim. Investigation, however, proved it to be a 1906 model, privately imported from Paris.

The six-cylinder engine, cast in three pairs, had a T head, near-side exhaust and off-side induction. Carburation by Zenith, and H.T. ignition by Bosch. Petrol was fed by exhaust pressure from a large rear tank. The timing gear was situated in the rear of the crankcase, entirely enclosed without any means of inspection. The crankshaft was bedded into the lower half of the crankcase, the upper half carrying the half time gear : consequently, timing the engine was a “hit and miss” process of Herculean proportions. A Hele-Shaw clutch was built into an enormous flywheel from which the drive was taken by a short shaft to the four forward and one reverse speed gearbox which incorporated the crown wheel and differential drive to the exposed half shafts and sprockets. Final drive was, of course, chain and gave a top gear of approximately 21 to 1.

The front suspension was semi-elliptic and the rear three-quarter elliptic. The wooden wheels, having detachable rims, were shod with 935 x135 covers. An octagonal radiator and straight bonnet and scuttle lines gave the old car an appearance which would not be out of place to-day. Under favourable conditions she would do an honest 68 m.p.h. in top, and 45 m.p.h. in third gear. Petrol consumption averaged 13 to 14 m.p.g. Oil consumption was heartbreaking : under the dash there was a row of seven drip feeds, each of which fed specific bearings, and had to be regulated at the start of every run, and then re-adjusted as engine heat warmed the oil tank, consumption worked

out at about 70 m.p.g. Perhaps the outstanding cost was that of tyres. Palmer Cords in those days cost 00 each, and lasted about 4,500 miles • so the annual tyre bill presented a problem. The car was beautifully sprung, and a joy to drive over long distances, she would develop a gentle fore and aft pitch, the big wheels bridging most pot holes. She suffered from only two idiosyncrasies. The first concerned the gear change, a long lever outside the body functioned in a gate bolted to the chassis frame. The selector arm was split and

clamped to the transverse shaft and had no key or other means of positive engagement, consequently, unless the clutch was completely disengaged during the process of changing gear, the lever was moved from, say, the third to the top position, but the gear remained engaged in third. It was most disconcerting when it seemed that a particularly good gear change bad been effected to discover, usually with a nasty jar, that the gear lever had moved independently of the selector mechanism.

The second bother occurred in the offside half shaft. Both half shafts were in two sections, flanged and bolted together. The near side appeared to have the original nuts and bolts, but the off-side constantly stripped its bolts, always, of course, when I was endeavouring to perpetrate a snappy take off.

I was never able to cure the trouble, and kept a large supply of nuts and bolts lying on the back floor boards : before long I became astonishingly proficient at replacing them.

When the present system of taxation was introduced, measurement showed that the “Light Thirty” was 42 h.p., R.A.C. rating : a nasty shock. Incidentally, is it generally realised that cars manufactured prior to 1914 are—or used to be—subject to a special tax rebate of 25%? What little I know of its history I learned from a man in a garage at Bettws-y-Coed. I pulled in for petrol and an amazed assistant commented, “Good Lord, here’s the old Gladiator.” Then reverently he doffed his hat. He told me that during the war the car had been used by a Lancashire charabanc owner, whose description suggested a cyclopean Jehu. Whenever one of his charabancs broke down, in those days a frequent occurrence, he drove out in the old Gladiator and towed the charabanc, complete with thirty passengers, to its

destination. I gathered that all his charabancs travelled much faster in that way.

I once had occasion to tow a very heavy old 16/20 Sunbeam, and the Gladiator did not appear to notice the extra load.

The car was sold for breaking in 1922, at that time it did not seem worthy of preservation, but it may yet remain intact on some dump. I am, Yours etc.,


W.11 . * * *


Sir, I have read with interest your article on V-twin engines for fitting to specials for road and sprint work. I have for quite a while considered a V-twin w.c. engine, a very suitable unit for an enthusiastic special builder with a limited pocket. About six months ago I heard

of a 1928 Morgan Aero “cheap.” I immediately dashed off to find the machine which had stood in a stackyard for about one year and looked very dilapidated. The owner only asked 10/so I bought for 9/-1 The engine is a Blackburne 1,1(X) c.c. w.c. I decided not to work on this but to try and obtain a 1,000 c.c. racing J.A.P. second hand and would be very pleased if any of your readers could supply the following information :

Was the 8/80 J.A.P. fitted to any three-wheelers for road work, if so which. models, what year, and how can this engine be recognised ? Also which models. were fitted with the 1,000 c.c. 54 b.h.p. tmit.

I would, of course, prefer the 8/80 and_ would like to know what fuel suits best and what are the possibilities for blowing such an engine.

I have recently remodelled a 1924. short chassis 3-litre Bentley for my own use.

I gave 05 for the old bus four years ago (very rough) flogged her unmercifully for 2i years, doing about 25,000 miles, during which she never let me down and the repair bill was nil. I then decided_ to transform her into a respectable motor, this took eighteen months of spare time having stripped and overhauled engine and chassis, fitted low pressure tyres and. a new four-seater sports body and mudguards.

The machine is now a real utility car with the looks and performance of a. true sports-car.

On remembering your “Letters from Readers” I have just seen a Talbot, I think an 8 or 10 h.p., 1926 or 7 in good condition. The owner has been doing it up for a hobby but finds he has not the time to bother further. It is in Scarborough and can be bought for about i4 and. is. practicallyready to run. If any readers are wanting a good old model I can give them the address. I am, Yours etc.,

T. B. GIBSON. Yorks. Sir,

I was most interested in your article in the February issue about putting V-twin engines in four-wheelers as I am now tuning the engine in a B.S.A. f.w.d. three-wheeler preparatory to putting it into a B.S.A. Scout chassis.

This should be a very easy conversion. as the clutch housing on the Scout will match up with the engine from the threewheeler without alteration.

Regarding hotting up the B.S.A. V-twin I should be very grateful if any of your readers who may have tried. increasing the performance of this engine could give me any information as there are several snags–not the least being that there seems to be mechanical considerations which prevent the raising of the compression ratio appreciably. I am, Yours etc.,

J. S. Simioua. W C.1 ,



I was rather interested to read in last month’s issue under ” Club News” various road-test journeys and average speeds and attach hereto one or two of my experiences.

I have a wholesome respect for my own well-being and always observe 30 mile limits, etc., but I do not keep on stopping for this and that on runs.

No doubt you will be inundated with readers’ letters on this subject, but if we all left it to the other you wouldn’t get any. In 1935 with a 1931 Austin Seven

saloon. Byfleet to Leeds (Roundhay), via Staines, Harrow, Elstree, Barnet By-Pass, Great North Road, Pontefract. Speed mileage, 220 miles on a Sunday. Departure 5.15 a.m., arrival 12.0 noon. 61 hours.

Return journey, same day, leaving Leeds 4.45 p.m., arriving Byfleet 11.55 p.m. 222 miles. 7 hours 10 minutes.

I made an error in Harrow on the return and lost a few minutes picking up my road.

In 1936 with a 1933 Austin Seven saloon. Byfleet to Great Yarmouth, via Staines, Harrow, Elstree, Barnet By-Pass, Great North Road, Royston, Newmarket,

Norwich. Speedometer mileage. 162.

Sunday departure 8.10 a.m., arrival 12.45 p.m..4 hours 35 minutes.

In 1987 with a 1937 Standard 10 h.p. saloon.

Byfleet to Chester via brook, Iver, Watford, St. head Road, Whitchurch. mileage 210. Sunday departure 7.15 12.15 p.m.= 5 hours (dead In 1938 with the same Staines, ColnAlbans, HolySpeedometer a.m., arrival



Byfleet to Weymouth, via Bagshot, Basingstoke, Winchester, Ringwood, Wimbourne, Dorchester. Speedometer registered 127 miles.

Sunday departure 6.20 a.m., arrival 9.5 a.m..21 hours.

Not knowing this road then, I missed the Salisbury fork after Basingtoke and finding myself in Winchester proceeded on the Southampton road a mile or two and then resorted to the maps. I am, Yours etc., 14. W. H. MILBOURN,




As a letter writer I would make a first-class driver, if therefore the following seems long and rambling kindly excuse it on the grounds that I am a real enthusiast with the interest of the sport at heart and also I so seldom write that you don’t know what a lucky chap you are to hear from me at all I All right, don’t throw it. I have always wanted to race motors. As the entry into the car world seems to

be a matter of s. d. I decided to do what I could with a ” Bike and Chair.” Even so the expense was still considerable and I had to stick mostly to grass tracks, bargain hunting at breaker’s yards, etc. for my spares. I did, however, manage to enter three times at the Palace. The first time we were unable to practise as we picked up a large nail in the Paddock and by the time we had. robbed another tyre off the float the practice was all over. Thus we started the race on a completely strange course, and I believe the

only machine on straight petrol. We managed to finish and get our 10/back, so I was quite satisfied to be well down the list.

We were unable to start at all at the next meeting owing to a broken frame.

Months passed while I entirely rebuilt the Bike with a secondhand chassis, sorry, I mean frame, of a totally different type. Again, I entered on August 18th, my lucky day. My first clear recollection after this is somebody showing me my picture in the paper the next morning. This was followed by a week in bed with concussion, but compensation came the following Sunday, August 21st when I was lucky enough to finish second in the S.E. Centre Championship meeting at Brands Hatch in both the heat and final. You ask on page 85 of your February Issue how much all your readers would put towards a Grand, Prix fund. I think an idea which meets with. approval wherever I approach the subject is to start a supporter’s club. Say for example, the entrance is 2/6 which entitles you to a suitable badge. Everybody would join if they felt they were getting

something for it. Subscription would_ be 6d. per week in return for which the member would get a monthly club, magazine telling him the plans and pro-gress of the team. This would net Ll 8 6 per person per annum. If we assume 5/or so for expenses per person,. and I doubt if it would amount to this much, the profit would still be 1 3 6. per person. Thus not only would the ends of the sport be met but the tremendous resultant popularity would be’ reflected in the attendance figures at the race meetings.

I would like to touch on another’ subject while I am writing. I refer to your article “Exploding a Fallacy.’

You mention the Anzani Buzzard. type as giving 35 b.h.p. at 3,150 r.p.m. and weighing only 105 lb. I presume this is on standard fuel with a normal: compression ratio, without special tuning.

The 1,000 c.c. racing J.A.P. weighing 30 lb. more and running on racing fuel’ with special ratios and tuning barely exceeds this figure at the same revs. Where is the fallacy. I maintain that if the Aero was given the same amount of hotting up and the moving parts. were allowed a smaller safety margin to further reduce the weight then this engine’ would still be superior.

In case your remark that the Dirt J.A.P. engine should make an interesting. road car with a L4 10s. tax induces anybody to try it I suggest you make it Clear to them beforehand that the fuel’ for these engines costs 6/per gallon and. the consumption is about 7 m.p.g.

even in a motor-cycle. About 1/per. mile. Further the life of a big end on. a ratio of 16 to 1 is about 15 miles. I am, Yours etc.,