Being an Account of a B.M.W.-with-a-Difference
The B.M.W. and the Bristol are both cars which merit the respect of enthusiasts and Mr. B. Babani has made the best of them both. This we discovered when we had an opportunity of taking his car down to a pre-view of the new Brands Hatch circuit.
Tiring of his Centric-blown 3Â½-litre Bentley, Mr. Babani acquired a pre-war Type 326 B.M.W. saloon, which he admired as a roomy car, with very beautifully-made bodywork and having i.f.s., which the Bentley of that period had not. The car had had two previous owners, one of whom, was Leslie Johnson.
The first move to re-vitalise the B.M.W. was made by Anthony Cook Motors, Ltd., of Caterham Hill, who not only overhauled the steering and the chassis generally, but – and here is the interesting thing – installed a Bristol 85B engine and gearbox unit. This engine, with triple S. U. carburetters and a high-lift camshaft of a sort no longer made, gave a very good output, so good, indeed, that a Bristol propeller-shaft and back axle were installed, putting up the final-drive ratio from 4.8 to 1 to the pleasantly high ratio of 3.9 to 1. As a matter of fact, the overall final-drive ratio was really raised to the equivalent of 3.72 to 1, because the B.M.W.’s 16 by 5.50 wheels were replaced by 17 by 5.50s.
The B.M.W. engine probably gave around 50 b.h.p. when removed from the car. The Bristol 85B gave a very decent slice more, and the car performed extremely well in spite of its high ratios. However, below 3,500 r.p.m. this engine was somewhat rough, so a change was made to a Bristol 85A engine, which had a “quieter” camshaft. Even this wasn’t the last word, however, for Mr. Babani finally obtained new one of the latest Bristol 85C engines, with triple Solex carburetters, and had it installed by A.F.N., Ltd. It went in very snugly, after part of the bulkhead was cut away, this being done to obviate removing the vibration damper, which would have been necessary had the engine been moved forward.
The result is rather electrifying. This engine develops rather over 80 b.h.p. on a compression-ratio of 7.5 to 1 and runs not too complainingly on “Pool,” better still on a 75/25 petrol/benzole mixture. When it is next taken down 8.0 to 1 pistons are to be installed, incidentally. The car itself weighs some 1Â½ cwt. less than a Type 400/85 Bristol saloon, i.e., about 22 cwt. Consequently, acceleration is improved, and imposing speeds are obtainable on the raised gear ratios.
We did not have an opportunity of checking the performance but the owner claims acceleration figures from a standstill to 50, 60 and 70 m.p.h. of 9.2, 12.0 and 17.1 sec., respectively. Those to 50 and 60 m.p.h. represent an improvement of 8.3 and 14 sec., respectively, over the figures published pre-war for the Type 320 B.M.W. So comparatively low-geared was the standard B.M.W. in comparison with the Anglo-German alliance we are now studying, that it could only reach about 32 m.p.h. in second gear and 50 m.p.h. in third gear, whereas nearly 50 m.p.h. in second and over 80 m.p.h. in third gear are now available when pressing hard. So far as maximum speed is concerned the owner puts the absolute gait at 96 m.p.h., but, believes that with his two vast Lucas P 100 headlamps removed just over 100 m.p.h. has been reached. On French roads over 90 m.p.h. has been held for mile after mile. In this respect it must be remembered that the m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. in top gear is now 20.41, compared with 19.8 of a Type 400/85 Bristol. These achievements are distinctly useful, coupled with very effortless cruising at 70-75 m.p.h., the more so as the 66 by 96 mm., 1,971-c.c., six-cylinder o.h.v. engine retains its well-known economy, giving 18 m.p.g. in town but up to 27 m.p.g. on long runs.
The conversion to Bristol engine and transmission, carried out very ably 15,000 miles ago by Anthony Crook, has entailed some interesting subsidiary modifications. All the electrics have been converted to 12 volt, for example, using a Lucas battery on the accessible shelf beneath the bonnet. A new-type Delco-Remy distributor has been fitted, slightly reducing the punch below 2,500 r.p.m., but improving it noticeably thereafter.
Lodge L80 plugs are used and, apart from the distributor, all electrics are Lucas. At the front the B.M.W. brakes are retained, but those at the back are Bristol. The fuel tank capacity is greater than that of a Bristol. Bristol shock-absorbers are used all round and the rev.-counter and speedometer are Bristol, backed up by the old B.M.W. instruments, together with a Smith’s stop-watch-cum-clock. The single bulkhead between engine and front compartment is retained at present but will be replaced eventually by a double bulkhead to deaden the very subdued engine noises which now intrude. The entire car is due for re-spraying, probably in black. The Tecalemit full-flow oil filter fitted as standard by Bristol is retained and the B.M.W., like the Bristol, has automatic chassis lubrication. The 85C engine, incidentally, has been in use for 3,000 miles.
Other equipment worth mentioning which figures on this carefully thought-out car includes an American interior-heater, Radiomobile radio and a Trico Folbath vacuum-operated wind horn with its “suction reservoir” on the off side of the engine. Lighting is looked after by the afore-mentioned high-set Lucas P 100 headlamps, with twin Notek lamps below, all 60 watt. The twin windscreen wipers could not be fitted at the base of the sloping screen and it was found that at high speed the blades refused to work against the upward rush of air over the screen. This has been overcome by the use of a C.A.V. wiper motor as fitted to London Transport omnibuses. All the tyres have been Wyresoled.
Taking the wheel of this interesting car, I was impressed by its “friendly” response to the controls. The stiff central gear-lever shifts in definite manner from gear to gear, the clutch is smooth, the brakes progressiveâ€”and powerful if given a strong push. The steering, accurate and quite high-geared, is pleasant to use, although neither quite so smooth nor so light as that on smaller B.M.W.s I drove pre-war. There is a fair amount of column movement, and kick over bad surfaces, yet I liked the handling qualities, the more so because from a comfortable bucket seat both lamps and the near-side wing are visible and the wheel is thin-rimmed and nicely placed. There is no question but that the performance was there in plenty. Opportunities for real speed did not arise, but the rev.-counter went round to 4,000 r.p.m. in the lower gears with notable rapidity, even accelerating up hills, and I was struck both by the smoothness and freedom from hesitation and by the silence of the power delivery. The revs. went up instantly when one wished to double declutch. This Bristol-engined B.M.W. wasn’t a noisy car, engine noise and wind roar being of a low order and exhaust blare entirely absent. The manner in which the car cruised at 70-75 m.p.h. and went up to 80 m.p.h. along short bits of clear going was very creditable from a 2-litre engine in a roomy five-seater saloon. The engine started promptly from cold and entirely declined to “run-on,” while fast driving did not put the oil temperature above 65 degrees C., or the water temperature over 60 degrees C. The suspension struck me as a trifle sloppy over tram-lines arid the rough road surfaces of S.E. London, but did not spoil fast cornering on de-restricted thoroughfares. The bottom-end acceleration was decidedly useful as an antidote to traffic, congested town routes, while the engine was quite happy at low speeds in top gear despite the high-compression ratio and high axle ratio.
I handed this more than usually interesting car back to its owner confident that after prolonged acquaintance with it I should like it very much indeed.