. . LATE PROPERTY OF TITLED OWNER”
Cecil Clutton Samples a ” Twenty ” Rolls Royce
IN advertising certain makes of ears particular clichés are considered essential to a profitable sale. For instance, it is indispensable for a Frazer-Nash to have “deflector head ; 88 m.p.h. in third.” A Bentley should have “close
ratio box ; ram’. seals intact.” A Bugatti cannot expect to change hands unless it does “115 m.p.h.—de-tuned for road work.” The high spot in Rolls Royce advertising, however, is undoubtedly “late property of titled owner.”
I was recently instrumental in buying and delivering such a car for a friend, in the shape of a 1927 20-h.p. Rolls Royce, with all-weather coachwork. Like most readers of MOTOR SPORT, I am more accustomed to ears with at least a modicum of sporting propensities, and I found the experience so interesting and enjoyable that I make no excuse for writing a short description of the vehicle ; to broaden one’s outlook is always salutary.
Most luxury cars have also some pretence to performance, but the 20-h.p. Rolls Royce was unusual in having none whatever ; the manufacturers devoted their whole attention to comfort and refinement. This particular example was in really superlative condition throughout, even the outside of the beautifully finished engine was immaculate. Available evidence indicated that the car had only travelled some 8,000 miles during its 15 years of life.
On taking delivery I had the 33″ x 5′ tyres blown up to 35 lb./sq. in. all round, which seemed a likely figure for a car which probably weighed little short of 2 tons. The engine started instantaneously from cold, on the starting carburetter, switching over on to the main carburetter in about a minute and gradually reducing the latter to ” weak ” on the mixture control. In some three minutes the engine was warm enough to pull properly, and under the influence of the entirely handoperated radiator shutters, the water soon attained a convenient running temperature of 70° C.
Once thoroughly warm, the tickovcr could be cut down to a negligible speed, at which the engine was genuinely inaudible. The accuracy of the Rolls Royce controls is uncanny. One click makes just so much difference and no more—never a trace of play or lost travel. To use the spark control is an epicurean pleasure in itself. The instruments, too, work in a most convincing way, and while there was no attempt to standardize the dials, the needles and calibrations all exhibited the highest degree of accurate workmanship. The needle of the A.T. speedometer was completely steady and showed no tendency to float vaguely to and fro over the speed range. Driving through traffic two things are particularly noticeable. One is the phenomenal politeness of the police force. The other is that where most cars will pull up in traffic on an apparently level road and stand still without the brakes, the Rolls Royce always supposes itself to be on a steep hill and starts to run away— a tribute to the freedom of the wheel bearings and transmission. In this par
ticular ease it was rather a tiresome habit, because the hand brake—an immense lever — severely barked the knuckles unless applied back-handed. The gear lever, by contrast, was very short and somewhat remotely situated from the driver ; it has light spring tensions towards the centre of the gate. It is a pity it is not longer (even if ingress and egress would have been made more difficult), because it is the sort of lever which is a pleasure to use and moves in that indescribable manner which is peculiar to Rolls Royce products.
The clutch is very positive, but sweet nevertheless. Upward changes are normally of the slow, double-clutching kind, but quite a noticeable degree of clutch stop action is available when required, and this would be invaluable for upward changes on an up-gradient. The clutch action is only reasonably light. The foot brake (in the centre) operates the fourwheel brakes via the well-known Rolls Royce mechanical servo system, and the complicated linkage system had developed a certain amount of play, which exhibited itself in a mild clatter when the pedal was released. The very skimpy, unribbed drums promoted no anticipatory confidence, but they do, in fact, pull the car up in a very convincing manner, without any tendency to wander. The pedal operation is light and sensitive. But if a real emergency stop is undertaken, the front axle winds itself up most wonderfully and the car rushes hysterically from ditch to ditch. Albeit, a stop from 30 m.p.h. in as many feet can he accomplished. Doubtless this vagary could be much improved by a little adjustment, and the front brakes certainly gave the impression that they were doing more than their proper share of deceleration.
The engine will pull smoothly down to a smart walking pace, but on acceleration from low speeds in top every slight clank suggested the pressure of wear in the timing gear. With further attention to carburation and ignition this would probably disappear altogether. From 20-40 m.p.h. in top the engine produces very fine torque, and this probably represents the range from 1,000-2,000 r.p.m. The car will cruise delightfully at 4045 m.p.h., but engine vibration begins to become apparent over 50 m.p.h. and at 60 m.p.h. is as much as one cares for. The equivalent absolute maxima on the gears are 20, 30 and 40 m.p.h. respectively, but for all practical purposes bottom can be ignored, and 20 and 30 m.p.h. regarded as the effective maxima on second and third gears. Largely owing to the silence of the engine, downward changes demand considerable judgment and accuracy ; there is, of course, no foolproofing device, and the gears are straight-cut, voicing that relined hum which is so pleasant to hear. In this particular car, third seemed a trifle noisier than usual or than one would have expected after so little use. For getting away from rest it becomes habitual to glide away on second, at little more than a tickover. Acceleration from 10-30 m.p.h. in top can be accomplished in a trifle less than
15 sees., but this could doubtless be improved upon. To advance from rest to 50 m.p.h., using the gears and rapid champs, took 30 secs. on an average, but this might be reduced with practice and experience, and the speedometer certainly erred on the side of slowness, if at all.
Despite several such acceleration tests in a run of some 25 miles, including getting out of London, the petrol consumption worked out at a little better than 20 m.p.g., which, for such a large car on ” Pool ” petrol, is remarkably economical. The driving position is delightful, though definitely of the upright variety, giving splendid visibility. The steering wheel kicks a good deal, but this might be due in part to unbalanced wheels or incorrect tyre pressures ; in any case, it was by no means disagreeable. The lock is almost taxi-like, despite which the steering wheel only moves through
turns in all—an exceptionally high ratio. The steering is highly sensitive, with no play, and the cornering capabilities of the car are altogether remarkable. The castor action is quite pronounced and the reverse castor action when travelling backwards has to be watched quite attentively. Contrary to expectation, the springing is by no means spongy, yet both front and back passengers enjoy a degree of genuine comfort which no amount of transatlantic suspension has ever attained; added to which, there is no need for the back passengers to be good sailors and wear crash hats. As already stated, the stability on corners is quite surprising, and this is no doubt attributable in large measure to the fact that the rear springs are set out right to the brake drums. Nor does the high body roll in the slightest degree, while slight skids are always beautifully balanced — genuine dicing would hardly be in keeping with this type of carriage
In fact, the most noticeable thing about the performance of the car as a whole is the mental state which it produces, even in such an impatient driver as myself. Ordinarily, when driving, I like to go as fast as possible and hate talking. In the Rolls Royce the tendency is to glide along at 40 m.p.h., converse with the passengers, admire the scenery and regard the owners of sports cars with good-natured contempt. This, indeed, is the best proof that the manufacturers achieved their object to a very complete extent. It was, indeed, possible to find faults in the car (though most of these could be minimised by adjustment), but the indifferent performance cannot be put forward as a criticism, and it is strange how little an habitual sports car driver is annoyed by it, so soothing is the general behaviour of the
car. The 20-h.p. Rolls Royce does, indeed, combine personal comfort, mechanical refinement and safe and sensitive handling in a degree seldom, if ever, achieved in a motor-car, and which in 1927 was certainly something quite out of the way.