In spite of shortage of materials, power cuts, labour difficulties, building restrictions, and the effects of continued petrol rationing, high taxation and purchase tax, impositions which the Government tells us are the penalty for winning the war, the British Motor Industry is getting into its stride and contributing a very fair share to the Export Drive. Naturally we of Motor Sport are particularly interested in the efforts of the smaller concerns making specialised high-performance cars and we recently made a number of unannounced visits to some of the factories around London, to see how things were progressing.
On a bitterly cold day we found Messrs. Robins and Godfrey very cheerful and work in full swing. Quite a row of almost completed chassis was in the finishing shop, together with a normal-bodied1 1/2-litre 2 seater, ordered by Delingpole, the well-known trials exponent. Robins uses the prototype “Aerodynamic” 1 1/2-litre car regularly by way of exhaustively testing it and, as a result, minor modifications have been incorporated in the production versions. The supply of Singer power units comes in satisfactorily and during January eleven chassis were turned out, some eight or nine returning before the end of the month as completed cars. The bodywork is built not far away and each chassis is, fitted with a bucket seat and skeleton equipment and given a thorough road-test before it goes to the coachbuilders, all alterations and adjustments thus being made before the body is fitted. This is a great timesaver, especially in respect of the aerodynamic cars, although even in these accessibility is admirable from the viewpoint of owner-maintenance. Naturally a final road test is conducted before cars are shipped overseas or sent to Follett’s showrooms. Three H.R.G.s, one of each type made, were amongst recent shipments to S. Africa. Production is expected to be ten or twelve finished cars a month from now on, and Robins confidently expected to have built the 50th post-war car by the end of last month. We were once again pleased by the business-like appearance of the aerodynamic job and look forward to following Peter Clark’s fortunes with his car of this type. With his usual thoroughness he is at present having his engine hand-assembled and bench-tested.
The prototype A.C. is being finalised and production will commence in May or June. A programme of 500 cars a year is planned, of which half will have to be exported. We examined the 2-litre saloon, which will constitute the first model and on which the firm will concentrate for some time to come. It retains the well-proved, light-alloy, wet-liner, 65 by 100-mm. 6-cylinder engine with three silenced S.U. carburetters, giving 74 b.h.p. at 4,500 r.p.m. A Borg and Beck clutch takes the drive to a synchromesh 4-speed and reverse gearbox with ratios of 4.625, 6.32, 9.16 and 1.5.6 to 1. Final drive is by open shaft to a hypoid bevel rear axle, braking is Girling, and the chassis retains 1/2-elliptic suspension front and back. It has a. wheelbase of 9 ft. 9 in. and a track of 4 ft. 8 in., and the saloon weighs about 25 cwt. It has an 11 1/2-gallon fuel tank, Dunlop steel disc wheels with 17 by 5.50 in. tyres, Lucas 12-volt electrical equipment, and the front shock-absorbers are Woodhead Monroe, those at the rear Girling. One’s first impression of the saloon is of its low build (aided by 17-in. wheels) and clean, almost futuristic lines. Yet this is not an aerodynamic car, although there is modern treatment of the front end, with recessed lamps, and spats fair-in the rear wheels. A high, almost vertical two-piece screen suggests excellent visibility and the “futuristic” impression is strengthened by the single wide door on each side, giving access to wide, inviting seats with upright squabs and very thin, yet comfortable-looking cushions. As detail matters have not been finalised not much can be said in this respect, but worthwhile features of the prototype are a bench-type front seat with folding central arm-rest, a very accessible “pull-up” handbrake, set centrally (we were assured that, unlike many dashboard-located brakes, it really holds the car), nicely-grouped instruments and a full-width dashboard shelf. The spare wheel has its own enclosed compartment beneath the luggage locker. A very good feature is that the radiator “mascot” is actually the bonnet-fastening lever, and when it is pulled forward the alligator bonnet automatically rises; reverse movement of the lever automatically shuts the bonnet. The need to lift a heavy bonnet is entirely obviated, and, moreover, if the lamps are “on,” the engine is illuminated while the bonnet is open.
We were not able to go out in the car, but are assured that it handles splendidly and that the distributors are very glad that this quality is allied to ordinary leaf springing, which is so much easier to service than i.f.s. A.C.s have no illusions about speedometer readings, but hope that “whatever the needle shows, we shall get an honest 85 m.p.h. from the saloon.” They are in the fortunate position of making their own bodywork.
The Allard Company has got nicely into production since the war. During our visit there were over twenty complete chassis in the Brixton shops, while at the coachbuilders something like eighteen bodies were waiting to be fitted. Enquiries and orders for Allard cars continue to come in from all over the world, and particularly from America, the Argentine, Belgium, Switzerland, Egypt, Palestine, Australia, India and Brazil. Many orders are for batches of cars and America would willingly absorb the entire output. Americans may be interested to know that the Allard is on view in the showrooms of the Hoffman Motor Co., Ltd., 62 West 47th Street, New York, 19. This company could make a valuable contribution to our export trade, but suffers from the universal difficulties over the supply and labour position. However, their initial aim is half-a-dozen chassis a week and this is being met. The majority of enquiries are for the drophead coupé, but at present the 4-seater Allard actually predominates. No more ultra-short “Competition” 2-seaters are being made, the normal-wheelbase 2-seater remaining as the most sporting model of the range. One of the last of the “Competition” cars, like those driven by Imhof, Burgess, etc., was sold to Miss Asbury. Many chassis are being sold abroad and being fitted with Continental coachwork. The engine supplied is the standard V8 Ford, but overseas buyers sometimes prefer to substitute a Mercury, of which they can obtain supplies more easily than is the case in this country.
Geoffrey Taylor is in an unhappy position in respect of supplies, building, as he does, very specialised cars. But by making his own parts, even to a 4-speed synchromesh gearbox, double-reduction rear axle, etc., he hopes to get a number of the new Grand Prix Altas into this year’s races. He has orders from Abecassis, Noel Carr, Charles Mortimer, Raph, de Graffenreid, Rodger Le Brac, who has ordered two, and Eric Verkade, amongst others, and hopes also to run one of the new cars himself. A chassis-frame went to the coachbuilders during the first week in February so that work could be commenced on the single-seater body. Taylor hopes to build a batch of twelve racing cars to start with, of which two will have 2-litre engines and the remainderwill be 1 1/2 litres. He also has plenty of orders for the aerodynamic sports 2-seater Alta. One difficulty has been obtaining racing-car brakes, but an Alta design of Girling with Lockheed actuation is to be used, with light-alloy back plates, and with drums about 2 in. greater in diameter than the largest proprietary drums.
The 3-litre G.P. Mercédès-Benz has been at the Alta works for technical examination but it has not been possible to run it, as certain pipe-lines, etc., are missing. Taylor states that it was obviously built to do a job of’ work and hasn’t the finish of the better Italian racing cars. He considers it possible to obtain the same b.h.p.-per-litre from more straightforward British 1 1/2-litre racing engines. The car is now being shipped to America.
We were told at the gate that none of the Governors (or guv’nors?) who could tell us anything was in, but that motorcars are not being manufactured. Servicing facilities exist for owners of prewar British-Salmson cars.
Aston-Martin Ltd. are well advanced with their new 2-litre, 4-cylinder engine and development work is proceeding on the chassis. Tests continue with a prototype saloon car. No attempt is to be made to rush the new Aston-Martin into production, but enthusiasts for this make can expect some very interesting announcements towards the end of this year.