Letters from readers, March 1941




I’m sure Mr. Douglas Tubbs is right in advocating the American car as distinct from the English sports-car, though perhaps the British “Ritz-carriage” beats both. My first friend with whom I went motoring ran a super-sports Morgan. He pleaded desperately for me to go with him and spent the whole day talking technicalities. His associates rode with us on motor-cycles and talked more technicalities whenever we stopped. We never stopped for a meal unless a lorry-driver’s snack-bar was handy; a proper lunch would have absorbed money better spent on new plugs or chains.

My next spell of motoring was done in a sports Singer. The owner did not talk so much of carburetters and camshafts and he did stop at some very good hotels, not so much to please me as to display his car in an appropriate setting. He could not bear to be passed on the road, so I never saw any scenery, because the screen was invariably flat and goggles essential.

Later, I went out with someone sensible; he drove a Ford V8 coupe. He patronised pleasant hotels because he appreciated good food, not to ape Bentley owners. He knew a lot about the country and each run was most interesting. He dressed like other men, not like a maniac in a filthy leather coat and oil-blotched trousers, which the others thought so clever. I remained respectable in the worst weather and we could picnic in the car in the rain. We could also go to dances; can you do that in a Morgan? We never broke chains, oiled plugs or ran out of petrol. Yet I noticed we were just as quick over given journeys as the “sports” cars, and once we got up a hill which the Singer friend was terribly bucked about climbing when I foolishly let him take me on a trial.

Why trials drivers take girl passengers, since they are so fond of their cars, I cannot imagine, and doubtless these girls are fast young ladies who seek to attract attention to themselves.

Yes, Mr. Tubbs is right.

I am, Yours etc.,


London, W.14.

[Well, Tubbs has got an advocate here! Perhaps the sports-girls will reply to “Sedan Fairy,” or do all women secretly agree with her views? —Ed.]

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I wonder if any of your readers could let me have the name of the firm who made the car badges for the B.R.D.C. as I am anxious to buy one. Alternatively, if no new one is to be had, perhaps someone might be willing to sell me one secondhand, in good condition.

I am, Yours etc.,



[We hope that Mr. Kenyon does riot intend to display the badge on his cur unless he is a member of the B.R.D.C. To do so would be quite wrong, as this Club had simple qualifying requirements .—Et I.J

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During an enforced sojourn in bed I was able to really digest the last few copies of MOTOR SPORT, and could not help being greatly impressed by one out standing feature.

Among your contributors who have recently written reminiscences of their cars there is almost complete unanimity with regard to the method of cornering. The technique is, apparently, to go sideways round all corners, frequently tear tyres off, occasionally clash up banks and through hedges, wear new sets of tyres out in a few days, and generally indulge in what the vulgar call “dicing.”

For the behoof of these (doubtless) gentlemen, may I quote the following from a description of another method of cornering, employed in the Targa Florio (of which race they may perhaps have heard).

“A moving speck of red was picked out on the opposite mountain. With perfect precision bend after bend was negotiated. As he came nearer we could appreciate the full beauty of his cornering. No unnecessary effort, no useless flourishes, no playing to the gallery— just the work of a master driver.”

Oh, by the way, the driver was Achille Varzi.

I am, Yours etc.,



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We read with interest and humble amazement of Mr. Douglas Tubbs’s  “modest” expectations from a 2-litre £400 car, for which he is still presumably looking. We may, of course, have misinterpreted the argument of his article, but we are setting down briefly our reactions on reading it.

Concerning handling: he seems to require a car with Auto-Union qualities. To be disappointed with the handling of a 1931 M.G. Midget at 83 m.p.h. seems a trifle high-falutin’. Had he tried something larger, say a Wolseley 25, instead of D.K.W.s, etc., he might have more nearly attained his ideal. He seems to have been rather haphazard in his choice of cars, in this search for an ideal.

We gained the impression that he habitually canes any vehicle that comes into his hands, so it is not surprising that he has never reached the 30,000 mark without trouble. We suggest that a steam car would suit his requirements touching reliability and hard wear; but this would cost more than £400.

Rolls-Royce some time ago issued a list of optimum cruising-speeds for their Bentley and Rolls models, and we seem to remember that the 4¼-litre Bentley was recommended a speed of 75-85 with sympathetic driving. We need not remind Mr. Tubbs that behind these recommendations stand the vast technical experience and material resources of the greatest engine manufacturers in the world.

Even leaving out of account the higgledy-piggledy nature of Mr. Tubbs’s experiences in his search for an ideal, we cannot but feel that he is crying for the moon, and will continue so to lament for many thousands of miles.

The monthly purchase of MOTOR SPORT is more than just buying another motor paper these days. It is more like buying a slice of canned peace,

We are, Yours etc.,




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Re Mr. Clutton and Mr. Gandhi and that “Gauntlet.” In 1938 an S.S.”100″ 3½-litre was bought by a friend of mine (now safely in the Navy!) as a fast road car and for racing. Eventually it was made as fast as the Type 328 B.M.W., although its entire absence of road-holding spilt the motor in a certain round-the-houses event. The alterations cost over £1,000. The fuel consumption in racing trim was 4 m.p.g. A B.M.W. would be cheaper and better.

I have a 9 h.p. H.R.G. I bought it after trying every small car on the market. I was willing to spend £400. After nearly 18,000 hard miles, I can promise Mr. Gandhi that it is more than worth the extra money compared with the two excellent cars he mentions. I do not think that these are worth the extra money compared with the Morris Eight and Standard Eight two-seaters!

I heartily agree with his views on the Rover-Lancia question. But when he compares the S.S. with the Bentley I would suggest that, volume for volume, and effect for effect, beer is nearly as good as champagne! When new, the S.S. is certainly as smart as some Bentleys, but let them both do 30,000 miles and then stand side by side, preferably dirty, at the traffic lights. Then one sees why Mr. Sidgreaves can afford an onion in his hot-pot! I have driven them both, and . . . there is no comparison.

I am not sneering at the S.S. I do think, though, that there are many better cars at less than £445.

The Mercury, on which I spent quite an enjoyable half-day before the war, certainly had some get-away, but nearly £400 seemed a lot of money, and 22 m.p.g. was beyond the capacity of this particular model. It did not seem so very superior to the V8 Ford, its cheaper brother. I would have given it a run for its money in a Lancia Aprilia. Between January 1st and December 31st, 1940, the H.R.G. averaged 37.4 m.p.g. petrol (much of it town work: it will do 200 miles on 5 gallons) and no oil was put in the engine except for periodical sump-drainings. It did not enter a public garage for any repair. The maximum speed on the speedometer was 79 m.p.h., at which mark a pin sticks out of the dial and stops the needle! This is just over 4,000 r.p.m. Safe r.p.m. are 5,500. It has been decarbonised once, at 6,500 miles, but did not need it. The paintwork is as new, and there is not a thou. of play in steering or transmission. The brakes have been adjusted twice!

I am, Yours etc.,

W. G. S. WIKE.

Manchester, 20.

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The comparison of English and Continental sports-cars seems to be proceeding on false lines. The “Home Guards men” have three lines of argument :

(1) That English cars suit the requirements of the English market;

(2) That our roads don’t demand independent suspension;

(3) That it is unpatriotic to condemn the home product.

Taking (3) first, we have surely suffered sufficiently in this war from ostrich-like delusion about our own arrangements. The patriot is surely he who strives to improve British manufacture. Many aspects of English motor manufacture are unsurpassed (engine design and body finish, for example), but others (chassis and suspension layout, principally) are calamitous. A certain very popular 10 h.p. machine has an engine which is a marvel of economy and reliable power output; but, even when new, the whole thing goes sailing over the hedge at the least provocation and, after 30,000 miles, when the engine is still good, the steering and very queer suspension are 100 per cent. unsafe.

As to (1), it must be remembered that this war is turning the English into a mechanically minded nation, and the post-war purchaser is going to look a little further than the colour scheme and number of cubby-holes offered.

Equally, our roads (2) will be but a shadow of their former perfection after the war, and proper independent suspension will be a sine qua non.

In fact, what was good enough pre-war won’t do post-war, so let us make sure that our post-war designs are ahead of the inevitable demand, and not a couple of years behindhand.

I am, Yours etc.,


London, W.11.

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I was interested to read that Mr. Stuart Best runs a Lanchester straight-eight. The Lanchester he saw in a group of cars is my father’s 30 h.p. straight-eight, and therefore my opportunities of driving it have not been very frequent. But I was always impressed by the car’s top gear performance: one can start with ease, and practically anything but a freak gradient can be surmounted in top. Third is rather too low a ratio to be of any use in improving performative. But 50 m.p.h. can be attained in this gear. The most that I have seen on the “clock” in top is 76, though test reports that have appeared in “The Autocar ” and “The Motor” record speeds of just over 80 m.p.h. for this Model.

With the twin Zenith “gas works” fitted as standard the m.p.g. is about 14, but in the interests of economy we fitted a single Solex, the m.p.g. was then 16-17. The maximum m.p.h. were then only 55, so the Zenith was refitted. I have often played with the idea, of fitting four S.U.s to one of these motors. In fact, I can never understand why some enthusiast hasn’t “played” with one of these eight-cylinder Lanchesters. They ought to have distinct possibilities, when one remembers that the old 40 h.p. Lanchester designed in 1919 was made to lap Brooklands at well over the 100 mark! Incidentally, if anyone is interested in acquiring one of these fine eight-cylinder cars, I know of two in good preservation. One a 1929 fabric saloon and the other a 1931 coachbuilt sports saloon.

My father’s Lanchester has a “Sedanca de Ville” body by Windover, and is, I think, one of the most handsome cars I have ever seen. In addition, I possess a 1903 12 h.p. two-cylinder Lanchester which makes an interesting comparison, as there is roughly thirty years between the two models of the same make.

Does any MOTOR SPORT reader know what has happened to the single-seater Lanchester? I last heard of it at Hendon in 1935!

I am, Yours etc.,



[The Lanchester single-seater later went to the late Mr. Rapson’s place near Eastbourne, but seems to have vanished. It was a most imposing-looking car and Parry Thomas lapped at over 110 m.p.h. in it.—Ed.]

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Although I am a very old reader of your paper, and a rabid enthusiast, I have not previously bothered you with letters, but I felt I must offer you my thanks and congratulations for the manner in which you have not only kept up the standard of your paper, but in some ways (perhaps only to my way of thinking) actually improved it.

I refer particularly to your articles on “Veteran Types,” and the intensely interesting series “Cars I Have Owned.”

I started to drive (quite illegally!) way back in 1913, at the advanced age of nine, and since then have driven over a million miles, and have had some hundreds of cars through my hands; some of them were of once famous makes, whilst others were very ordinary and quite unexciting.

However, if you think that an article dealing with the more interesting cars would be of use I shall be very glad to write one.

My present stable consists of a 1939 Wolseley “12/48” Series III saloon (very ladylike to drive!) and a very excellent Le Mans Singer, which makes a very good substitute for the “12/50” Alvis I had to part with on getting married a few months ago, as my wife found the Alvis gearbox beyond her!

All the best for 1941, and keep up the good work!

I am, Yours etc.,


Liverpool, 2.

[Single men, beware! An article from Mr. Frank’s pen will be most acceptable.—Ed.]

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I have just purchased a 1934 Wolseley Hornet Special with twin S.U.s. As I have had no previous experience with a car of this type I should be very grateful if any reader could let me have a few hints on the hotting up of this particular model or any interesting points connected with it. I understand that the M.G. Magnas were fitted with an engine practically identical to that of a Hornet Special, therefore if nobody can supply me with any data concerning Hornet Specials I should be very glad to receive a few hints on Magnas.

I should also be grateful to anyone who could let me know the whereabouts of any old Bugatti Grand Prix model within about 20 miles of Sheffield. I am not bothered about condition so long as the engine is in running order.

I am, Yours etc.,




Sheffield, Yorks.

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What about the 12 h.p. Meadows-engined Hampton for your list of Economy Cars? It used to carry a roomy saloon at a good 60 m.p.h. with quite good acceleration, but I cannot remember the m.p.g of the 1930 model I used to drive—I fancy it was about 25. I suppose there must be very few about now.

I am, Yours etc.,



[We hardly consider that 12 h.p. and 25 m.p.g. constitute economy these days!—Ed.]

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Could you please assist me to obtain a handbook on the eight-cylinder 2.3-litre supercharged Alfa-Romeo, 1934 or 1935 vintage; also particulars of the Memini carburetter used on this model?

It is of no special consequence if the information is in Italian.

If any of your readers should have any information concerning a two-seater drop-head coupe by Farina on this model I should be very pleased to hear from them. The registration number of the car is BUC 228 and the chassis number is 2211062.

As a matter of interest I am running the car on pool petrol, and as yet have found no detrimental effects. Pinking is completely absent, whereas my other car, a 2½-litre S.S. Jaguar “100,” had to be laid up long ago on account of chronic pre-ignition using only 40 per cent. Pool and 60 per cent. Discol.

I am, Yours etc.,


85. Garden Close,

West End Road,

Ruislip, Middlesex.

[Please write direct.—Ed.]

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I should like to express my thanks to you for carrying on so marvellously under the present conditions, issues having been as interesting and sometimes even more so than in racing days.

I am now running my twin o.h. camshaft Salmson which I have completely rebuilt, and am being amply repaid for my trouble.

I wonder if you could manage an article on the Salmson? I think it is a machine worthy of it, and too few people know and appreciate it. I have had mine for six years; I bought it in my impecunious days, and even after six years, I haven’t come across a better “eleven hundred” for high cruising speed and road clinging, very similar, I think, to a Frazer-Nash—in my opinion, the only other machine worth owning.

Wishing you all the best.

I am, Yours etc.,


The Quarries,


Towcester, Northants.

[Any offers of MSS., not Salmsons?— Ed.]

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While thanking Mr. Peter Clark for his information regarding the Mercedes which ran in the 1929 Monza G.P., I fear I must remain unconvinced that this was a 2-litre. My reasons for doubt are as follows:—in the first case the event was run in three heats and a final, first heat being for cars up to 1,000 c.c., second 1,500 c.c. to 3,000 c.c., and third for unlimited capacities. Had the old car in question been a 2-litre it is only logical to assume that it would have run in the second heat. It was, in fact, in the unlimited class. Mr. Clark admits that it would have been a dangerous experiment to blow the 4½-litre 1914 car and in this case the motor blew up in the first lap, which points to the fact that the “dangerous experiment” was unsuccessful. Lastly, the current report of the event describes the Mercedes as “an old four-cylinder car to which had been fitted a supercharger.” It would appear from this that the supercharger was an addition to, and not part of, the original design.

I was pleased to see that Mr. Clark has rebuked your recent correspondent who referred to the 500 Fiat as “an untested termite from Turin.” My 1937 500, driven over 20,000 miles at peak revs. in all gears has given no mechanical trouble whatsoever, slight difficulty in cold weather starting has been entirely cured by the fitting of a full-sized 12 volt Lucas battery. Giving away 150 c.c. it can out-accelerate, steer, speed and brake any standard Austin Seven over give-and-take roads, and I have put up some astonishing averages, fully loaded, over long distances owing to the fact that its cruising and maximum speeds are practically the same. It must be remembered that one must definitely live in the gearbox, and I fear that in traffic I use top more as an overdrive. It will usually be found that critics of the 500 have rarely had any actual experience of the car concerned.

Regarding the 1914 21-litre Benz mentioned in “Rumblings,” it was prepared, whilst it was the property of Captain A. G. Miller, by Alec Francis, and it is interesting to note that, driven by Cyril Paul, it accomplished a standing lap of the “Outer” at 103, acceleration being incredible.

Mr. Pratley will have to go back more than ten years to find a report of the six-cylinder o.h.c. Amilcar. He will find full details in the 1928 catalogue, as the car was shown at Olympia that year as a standard model at £695. I believe only six ever came to this country. It would be more interesting to have a description of the roller-bearing, fixed head unit which was driven by Scaron in Continental events and was, I understand, used in the lighter side-valve chassis.

In connection with the Editorial remarks in “General Notes” I have always been given to understand that the Gwynne (of which I once possessed a 1922 model) was designed by Marc Birkigt of Hispano Suiza.

Should any reader be interested in a three-speed Anzani Frazer-Nash in fair condition, I can put him in touch with a car breaker who at present has one for disposal at a reasonable figure.

Wishing your paper continued success.

I am, Yours etc.,


16, Fyfield Road,

Enfield, Middlesex.

[Will prospective “chain-gangsters” please apply direct? The Benz was also prepared by Lines Brothers, we believe, along with George Newman’s Salmson.—Ed.]