CARS I HAVE OWNED
J. E. B. Little covers his 19 vehicles, from 90/Austin Seven to faster stuf.—
IN, common with many; peoplea-who have a regard for vintage motor cars, my first indulgence was a 1924 Austin Seven, which I bought for the vast sum of £4 10s. when I was 16. This car had many peculiarities, one of them being a decided tendency for the wheels to heel over whilst cornering. As is usual with youthful car-owners, my first thought was of building a new body, and on hear ing of a long-tailed 2-seater to be had very cheaply, I decided to buy it with a view to using the body only. On viewing this car at Bromley, I found it to be a make of which I had never heard, namely, an Eric Longden (not an Eric Campbell, as many people have since argued). This was purchased for £7 10s., and after a most hectic tow from South to North London at night, I decided that it was too good to pull to pieces, and consequently sold the Austin for about 30s. The Eric
Longden had many notable features. About 1923 vintage, it had an 11.9-h.p. side-valve engine, very much like an Anzani, a Moss 3-speed gearbox with a short gear lever very conveniently placed, and a most beautiful outside copper exhaust. I am quite sure now that it was the exhaust that made me buy the car. The body was not at all bad qpn sidering the price, albeit a bit sketehy, and the car_ had a very pointed radiator, rather like a Mercedes. The acceleration was exceptionally good, but I was never able to find out the true maximum, as
my financial position precluded me from taxing and insuring the car. It was eventually sold to the local breaker, and the last I heard of it was that someone was using it for dirt-track racing. My next acquisition was a 1924 pushrod o.h.v. Salmson, which had been given a very nice long-tailed body from an Amilcar by a friend of mine. My earliest recollection of this car was a most terrify ing tow from Folkestone, during which we arrived at the Bank crossing at about 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning with about 4 ft. of tow rope. The engine of this car, having blown up good and proper about two months previously, was
removed and another substituted, but somehow the car was never the same, and the best that it could attain with a following wind was about 62 on the clock. Following the Salmson came a ” Brooklands” Austin Seven, a really delightful little car, its only snag being a very narrow body ; as I am about 6 ft. 2 in., and most of my friends just as large, the journeys
we made in her were not of very great duration, but, nevertheless, I had a good six months of very happy motoring. After having bought this car I found that the engine was definitely not a ” Brooklands,” but a good 60 m.p.h. could be attained with quite passable roadholding, there being a slight tendency to boil in traffic. After the ” Brooklands ” came a car which, I believe, was called the ” Chinese ” Austin in the Trade—why, I could never quite fathom. It certainly was a most peculiar shape, the body being made of linoleum and plywood throughout. But if a little queer it was not really bad-looking. The steering column had been lowered so much that it was necessary to sit with one’s legs apart to accommodate the steering wheel. Its great feature was the lights, it having no fewer than six on the front (not including the side lights), and they all worked ! But I dread to think what would have happened if they had all been turned on at once. This car was kept until my long legs objected to journeys of more than 50 miles, and it was eventually exchanged for a Fiat Eight 4-seater, circa 1927. The only redeeming feature of this car was that it started quite easily, except for having one of those starting handles that Hy off
and smite you if a too vigorous crank is used. Its hill-climbing was exceptional, owing to the very low top gear, but on the whole it was not a particularly exciting car to drive. After the Fiat came a full 4-seater 1926 Frazer-Nash, and having decided that the body was a little dated, I lowered the chassis about 3 in. and endeavoured to fit a late-type Vernon Derby body on to it. Unfortunately it meant that, owing to the transmission, the tail would have to overhang to a great extent and the
scuttle would have to be very long, so I scrapped the whole idea and sold the chassis to a local enthusiast, who rebuilt it entirely and fitted it with a very nice J2-type body. My 21st birthday being attained, I invested in an 8-h.p. Vale Special, but I am afraid that this car was not a good
example, although it had “every conceivable” extra, including Rudge wheels. It lacked the one thing that one expects with cowls, large instruments, etc.— power. Its maximum was at the very
best 60 m.p.h., and after being passed on a slight incline by an Austin Seven saloon with three up, I decided that it was time to part with it and accordingly exchanged the Vale for an O.M. This car was a 1927, 6-cylinder, 2-litre fitted with a 2-seater boat-deck body
which was astoundingly roomy, it having done quite a few long journeys with six up. Its main features were acceleration and good roadholding, but the maximum VMS poor, in the neighbourhood of 65 m.p.h. Nevertheless, it was a very pleasant car to drive, with very easy starting. One of its greatest attractions was its hood ; first one had to construct out of various odd lengths of tubing a kind of framework, after which this was covered by the hood itself, all of which was held taut by a series of springs, and if one were unlucky enough to have a spring slip, the hood and framework would wrap themselves about you and endeavour to strangle you. My next venture was a ” Hyper ” LeaFrancis fitted with an Alfa-Romeo body, once the property of Lord Avebury, but whether or not this was the car he raced in the 1934 Relay Race I was unable to ascertain. It had a No. 8 Cozette corn pressor and was fairly reliable, with a maximum around 75 and quite healthy
acceleration, but its best feature was the gearbox, which was an absolute gem. I have only met one other box like it and that was on a 2-litre Bugatti. After the ” Leaf ” came a ” Brescia ” Bugatti, which I obtained from a friend, after having cast envious eyes in its direc tion for four months ; but here, I am afraid, I paid far too much attention to
the body, which was a beautiful low full 4-seater, but not enough to the engine. It was a ” Full Brescia ” fitted with twin magnetos and carburetters, but I was not able to stop a chronic misfire that developed. So with a view to a little more speed I exchanged it for the late Mervyn White’s F.W.D. Tracta, the parts of which were distributed over half the garages in London. After having spent three or four week-ends in trying to collect all that were missing, I found I was still three or four very important parts short, and was reluctantly forced to return the car to the dealer. The body of this car, I believe, now adorns Peter Clark’s ” scruffy ” 3-litre Bentley.
The dealer had, however, a very nice 2-litre, Type 35, straight-eight Bugatti, a car which I had always wanted but never had the nerve to buy, so after much talk, for and against (mostly for), I became the proud possessor of a real motor car. This was of about 1926 vintage, and I was told that it had been in the hands of the great Guilo Ramponi, which may or may not have been true ; but it at least had magneto ignition which is, I believe, a departure from standard practice. I will always remember the terrific thrill of hearing the engine run for the first time on eight new Bosch plugs ; a sound never to be forgotten. I spent many hours of real motoring in this car and never once regretted having bought it. Its acceleration was terrific, and I attained 92 on the Hatfield by-pass one memorable afternoon. My main reason for disposing of the 2-litre was because my long-suffering girl-friend objected to the all-weather equipment, which was stark, to say the least of it.
After the 2-litre came a very nice 1928 41-litre Bentley with a full 4-seater fabric body, not a Van den Plas, unfortunately. Any remarks concerning this car being superfluous, I will just say that it was all a Bentley should be.
As running a Bentley was getting a little too much for my pocket, I exchanged her for a terrible old 6-cylinder Amilcar, a Fifth Series Lancia “Lambda ” and the “Razor Blade ” Aston-Martin. The only thing on the Amilcar which was of any use was the front axle, the engine, unfortunately, having “had it.” I did quite extensive work on the Aston, including fitting a new tail from a 11-litre G.P. Bugatti and 12-in, brake drums to the front axle from the Amilcar. I was trying to fit a new rear axle when war was declared, and things began to get a bit sticky. The Aston was fitted with one of the original twin-wipe engines and had two S.U. carburetters, but, unfortunately, I was never able to get it moving under its own power. I was later forced to sell it owing to lack of garage space, for the princely sum of 214 10s. After having run the Lancia for about two months I exchanged it for a 1982 2-litre three-carburetter Alvis, with a very peculiar 2-seater body, rather after the style of the ” Chinese ” Austin„ The bodywork and extras on the car were truly phenomenal, everything being ciaomium plated and in Al order, but, unfortunately, I was never able to get the three carburetters tuned properly, and after three months I part-exchanged it for a 192$ Type 40 Bugatti with the well known pointed tail 4-seater body. I have been glad to read in MOTOR SPORT recently that people have been praising the ” MoLsheim Morris,” and I heartily agree with the senthnents expressed. Vor a Bugatti it was very reliable, with a true maximum of 70, . coupled with good acceleration, and a very cornfortaole body and the wellknown Bugatti roadholding characteris ties. The bodywork was immaculate until I unfortunately side-swiped four cars in a skid during a snowstorm going into Redhill. This was undoubtedly one of the most delightful little ears I have ever owned, and, after the war, I am going
to do my best to find another. ••• • .• After the Type 40 came a ” Ilalilla ” Fiat in need of rather a lot of attention. Having spent about £15 and a lot of time on it, I lent it to a friend for about three months, why, I just cannot remember. Having decided that I could not afford to hang on to the car I returned it to the dealer from whom I had bought it and received exactly what I gave for it, this being very unusual. This same friend has lately been able to buy this car and has been getting a phenomenal perfor
mance from it on ” pool.” Owing to the difficult positionlregarding petrol I decided not to buy another car, but had as much enjoyable Motoring as the ” basic ” would allow in my mother’s 1938 Rover Ten. Since then 1 have had a very scruffy Hillman ” Aero Minx,” and am now running an even more scruffy
Triumph “Southern Cross” saloon. About six months ago I was able to buy, , at a very reasonable figure, the immortal Anzani-Nash “Spook.” As readers will probably remember, this car was Dick Nash’s mount before the ” Union Special ” and clocked 13 seconds
at Shelsley in 1933. It has an 0.1).v. Anzani engine with a No. 9 Cozette cornpressor, which is in very good condition: It has a very sketchy short-tailed body and twin rear wheels. When I bought the car there was an awful lot of rust on it, but during the last six months I have been able to get rid of most of it. I have yet to attempt to strip down the engine owing to the fact that my garage facilities
at the present nmment arc not all that could be desired. During these past years I have had the opportunity of driving Illy mother’s ears, which have included Austin Seven, Billman ” Club ‘ saloon, Fiat ” 110’ 11.9 2-seater, S.S. II, Talbot Ten D.H. coupe, Hillman. ” Minx ” saloon, and the aforementioned Rover Ten. The local ” scuderia ” has consisted of Bugatti, Type 44, ” Ulster ” Austin, twin-camshaft Salm son, and 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th Series Lancias. There was also one memorable afternoon during which I borrowed my brother-in-law’s ” 38/250 ” Mereed6s and used 14 gallons of petrol in three hours,
which included a stop for tea. • ••• • • • • •