Peter Clark’s Very Promising, Standard-Vanguard-engined Single-Seater
We mentioned in “Rumblings” in the February issue that a 2-litre Formula II H.R.G. was nearing completion at Tolworth, and having lately heard rumours that this car had been out on test we hastened to obtain further information. The first thing we discovered was that our old friend Marcus Chambers was on the point of leaving for East Africa, where he has accepted what sounds like an extremely interesting job with the “Ground-Nuts” scheme. Our best wishes go with him, and we feel sure he will do well in a job which will give plenty of opportunity for demonstrating that obstinate “refusal to be beaten” which Chambers has so often displayed with the cars he has prepared for long-distance racing. We then found that this car, together with a fall team of three new “Le Mans” H.R.G.s, was undergoing final preparation by Monaco of Watford, on behalf of Clark-Scott Racing Services and their associates.
When we arrived, the single-seater 2-litre car had been pushed out of the garage for Klemantaski to photograph, and the first thing that struck us, despite the octagonal H.R.G. motif of the air intake, was something remarkably “Cooperesque” about the front end. Sure enough, on inquiry, we were able to confirm that the bodywork was indeed by Cooper’s Garage of Surbiton: it is remarkable how a firm, or possibly an individual panel-beater, leave a trademark on everything they do. Chambers and Cooper have, between them, done a most effective piece of camouflage with this body, for the car is, like all single-seaters with a central propeller-shaft normally driven, in actual fact rather high, but by clever use of Mercédès-like sponsons this fact has been entirely concealed. The car is by no means ugly, although one might well call it “pugugly,” and very business-like.
Closer examination of the car revealed a virtually-normal H.R.G. chassis, but of only 8 ft. in. wheelbase, compared with the usual 8 ft. 7 in. for the 1 1/2-litre car. A Mercédès rather than Auto-Union scheme of weight distribution has been followed, with the radiator wholly in front of the front axle and the fuel tank wholly behind the back axle, both set very low. The Standard “Vanguard” engine, with sub-standard liners to bring it below 2 litres, and special Martlet pistons giving, at present, an 8-to-1 compression ratio, completely fills the under-bonnet space; in fact, there is an appreciable bulge in the lid to accommodate the two downdraught Solex carburetters. Ignition is by vertical magneto, and when we saw the car it had Champion LA 11 plugs fitted, as used for the last test-outing. The water and oil fillers are very accessible when the bonnet lid is off, the former commanding a small separate header tank and the latter being in the normal “Vanguard” position on the front of the valve-rocker cover. Fuel feed is by a special Tecalemit mechanical pump, cam-driven, and the rev.-counter drive is also from the camshaft.
The steering wheel is non-detachable, but it is not difficult to enter or leave the driving seat once one has mastered the routine of “right foot on the right-hand chassis-member, swing left leg in a wide are over the fuel filler-cap, thrust left foot between hand-brake and steering wheel, and in you go.” Whilst doing this one holds on to the steering wheel, and there are agonised cries from the bystanders if a hand looks at all like clutching on to the seat which, although of massive dimensions, is paper-thin. The seat, it is pointed out, is only for sitting on, and we must say for this purpose it is extremely comfortable, with excellent support all round, especially against undesirable sideways movement; one sits well and truly in the seat rather than on it, and it is obvious that a lot of thought has gone into this component.
Once in the seat, one’s feet fall very easily on to the pedals, both clutch and brake having a fair amount of quite “soft” movement and the organ-type accelerator being very smooth in operation. We were enjoined not to try it out much, because of the pump-action Solexes. When not actually pedalling, the feet rest in alloy trays level with the base of the chassis side-members. The steering-box is over the clutch bell-housing, very rigidly fixed, and the drop-arm and drag-link are on the left-hand side to avoid fouling the exhaust system on the right.
On the small “engine-turned” alloy dashboard are mounted a 5-in, rev.counter, gauges for oil pressure, oil temperature and water temperature, and the ignition switch. We were told that, at present, the car tends to over-cool — we must say we thought the radiator big enough for an omnibus — but on the other hand, of course, it is winter and the tests so far made have been on an even lower compression ratio than that now employed. There is, at present, no external separate oil cooler, and we gather that oil temperature is a thing which, in the next set of tests, will have to be carefully watched. The gear shift (the normal “Vanguard” variety, on the steering-column) gives rather a long and cumbersome travel from bottom to second, but an extremely short and snappy one from second to top and vice versa. The intention, we gather, is for this to be virtually a two-speed car, the special high-ratio constant-mesh gears giving a compromise ratio between bottom and second for standing starts, and the equivalent of a close-ratio third in place of second. It occurs to one that, with small rear wheels and a 5.5-to-1 axle-ratio in place of the present 3.7-to-1 ratio, second and top would give the equivalent of a close-ratio four-speed second and third, which would be very interesting indeed for sprints if it were ever decided to run this car in such events (which we gather it is not). The tyres fitted at present are 5.00 by 16 in. on the front and 5.25 by 18 in. at the back, but it may be that even larger cartwheels may be employed eventually. It will he remembered that this engine has a remarkable torque curve at the bottom end, and develops its maximum b.h.p. at modest r.p.m. No figures were forthcoming either for weight or b.h.p. — perhaps our friends are frightened of that distressing public weighbridge opposite, which made the “Veritas” 14 1/2 cwt.
Twin tail-pipes are fitted, and are carried through internally (in the right-hand sponson), to emerge, surprisingly but very simply, just behind and below the driver. The extractor-louvres on either side of the bonnet hinge bodily, with aircraft fasteners, to give excellent access to the plugs and other engine auxiliaries. The present fuel tank holds 11 gallons, and as Marcus rather sourly put it, “if the car isn’t worn out after that, the driver will be, so there will be plenty of time to refuel.” We hope he is wrong; indeed we shall watch with very great interest (at Goodwood on Easter Monday, we hope) this motor car for which, at the moment, we colud induce neither the designer, the tuners nor the owner to make any performance claims whatsoever, good, bad or indifferent. So for the time being we can only say that it looks an extremely workmanlike job which has been, and is still being, very painstakingly prepared.
We also looked briefly into the Monaco body shop and found no fewer than three new “Le Mans” H.R.G.s in preparation. Our first thought was that they made even the single-seater job look big: they really are quite the minutest things, and we shall endeavour to learn more about them when they are a little more advanced. The team this year will be Clark-Maréchal, Scott-Gee, Richards-Thompson, and we believe they will do Le Mans, Spa, Montlhèry, Comminges and (if held) our own T.T. It is small wonder that Clark says he must regretfully sell his wonderful 1914 G.P. Mercédès, because he will never have time to use it!