Letters from Readers, March 1950

H.R.G. v. M.G.
From Miss Haig’s letter it is obvious that she has a very poorly prepared H.R.G. if it won’t rev. over 4,500 r.p.m.; my own very worn out specimen, 30,000 miles, 20 races and numerous hill-climbs, sprints, etc., will easily rev. to 5,500 r.p.m. if allowed, in top gear with the 4.55 rear end, and I have seen 5,300 r.p.m. at Bathurst with the 4 to 1 ratio. It is on 8.4 to 1 compression ratio and runs on 20-40-40 Alcohol-Benzol-Av. Petrol. The engine number is H.R.G./5/3, quite an early model. I use 5.00 by 17 rear tyres. The other cars out here also seem to rev. quite freely.
As for brakes, I quite agree that the pedal pressures are ridiculous for normal driving, especially for a woman, but during a race, when the sight of a corner approaching at a terrifying velocity never fails to provide plenty of muscle power to the right foot, they do stop the car very well, and very much better than a normal M.G., once the ” TC’s ” drums get hot, and perhaps a little better than those with special ribbed alloy drums, and axles tied back with hefty cables, which abound out here.
The expense of running three competition cars has forced me to part with the H.R.G., and the sports and racing 2-litre Altas will have to follow, as I am out to get a new G.P. Alta by hook or crook. Nevertheless I don’t think anyone could have had more fun at such comparatively little expense as I have had from the 1½-litre H.R.G.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Victoria, Australia. Tony Gaze.
[We have allowed this letter to go in as it has come from afar—this correspondence is now definitely closed.—Ed.]
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“Sunbeams Between the Wars”
I have read with great interest the historical records of the Sunbeam Co. Some years ago I purchased and still have a 1922 (?) 3-litre, the purchase being made to save the car from the breaker’s yard. The particulars are:—
Chassis 2253 CB. Engine 2543 B., bore 80 mm., stroke 150 mm. The engine has a very heavy flywheel, separate gearbox, cone clutch, aluminium crankcase, overhead valves, push-rod operated, magneto ignition, Autovac petrol feed, foot brake on drive shaft, ½-elliptic springs front and rear, handbrake on rear wheel drums, Sankey-type detachable wheels on quick detachable hubs, etc.
The car had been idle in an outhouse for many years but had excellent compression and after a little cleaning of the Autovac, magneto, plugs, etc., filling with fresh oil, and fitting a battery, it started on the electric starter. The only thing missing is the clock. I store the car as a curio. Luckily it has five perfect b.e. tyres.
Prior to the war I drove a 16-h.p. Sunbeam coupé (chassis 5846 LK) with 67.5 by 95 mm., 2,040-c.c. engine. It was rather underpowered but a nice car to handle. Before I purchased this car three owners disposed of it owing to brake trouble. The torque tube was anchored to the rear axle by clamp bolts and cotter bolt. The former had been left slack and the latter had sheered. Thus the axle moved rearwards from the tube in reverse gear and applied the brakes dead hard, and similarly in forward gear, if the brake was touched, the axle moved back and locked the wheels. Once the tube was securely fixed in the axle the brake trouble was cured. I drove this car until early in the war, when, owing to shortage of petrol, I ran a smaller one and sold the Sunbeam to a doctor. He got very good value until he also lead to economise on petrol and sold it to a firm of millers for their traveller. This, firm lead already had a similar open two-seater Sunbeam running on producer-gas. The engine had “blown up” and the engine from my former car replaced it. This also collapsed eventually, owing to the use of producer-gas and the car was, I believe, scrapped.
In the early days Sunbeam cars were popular in South Ireland and had a great reputation for standing up to the bad roads of those days.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Cork. L. Dobbin.
* * *
Gerald Rose on Lancia’s Temperament.
I have been reading with great interest “Baladeur’s” article in your December issue on the subject of Lancia, who though a brilliant driver never won a classic race. “Baladeur” analyses Lancia’s known performances, and very naturally wonders why so much brilliance never produced a win.
I think the answer is that Lancia lacked just that element of judgment which is indispensable in the character of a successful racing-car driver. He was always spectacular in his performance—witness “Baladeur’s” quotation of Massac Buist’s remark “that France had no driver to put in the field comparable with him, nor perhaps a car that could stand such handling.” Speaking from old memories, my impression is that one used to feel sure that Lancia would do something brilliant, but probably not win.
I personally witnessed an error of judgment on his part in the Targa-Florio race in 1908. I was at Bonfornello all through the race; the service stations—not pits in those days—were just in front of the grandstand. The Sicilian circuit, about 90 miles round, was a particularly rough one and hard on tyres, but when Lancia finished his second lap he drove straight on without stopping, much to everyone’s surprise. Trucco on the Isotta-Fraschini, when he came in, changed all his tyres for the last lap, and of course the inevitable happened—Lancia had tyre trouble and Trucco won the race.
On my way back to England I called at the F.I.A.T. works in Turin, hoping to see the vast 200-h.p. machine that was then building for record-breaking purposes. I well remember the fury of the F.I.A.T. director who entertained me, when he heard that Lancia had not changed his tyres for the last lap of the race.
There was then, and presumably there will always be, a large element of luck in road racing; but my impression is that Lancia took more chances than other drivers of his calibre and suffered for it.
I am, Yours, etc.,
London, N.W.8. Gerald T. Rose.
* * *
An Appeal
Messrs. E. H. Bentall & Co., an old-established agricultural engineering firm at Maldon, Essex, who formerly made cars and commercial vehicles, are anxious to obtain an example, of each preferably, for exhibition among all the other products of the firm, when Messrs. Bentall’s celebrate their one hundred and fiftieth anniversary.
The manufacture of these cars began about 1903, and ended at the outbreak of the 1914-18 war. I have in my possession an advertisement for a Bentall car of 1908, which shows it to have an oval radiator similar to a Delaunay-Belleville.
I should be grateful, therefore, if I might make an appeal through the medium of Motor Sport to any of your readers who might know the whereabouts of one of these cars, in any condition?
Incidentally, Mr. E. E. Bentall, who was the director at that time responsible for the venture, was, I believe, one of the earliest pioneer motorists and a founder member of the R.A.C.
If successful in unearthing a car the firm would also like to enter it in the “Brighton” run.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Runwell. J. C. Elkins.
[We heard of a Bentall some years before the war, but believe it was broken up in Devon.—Ed.]
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U.S. Praise for the B.R.M.
I would like to congratulate the British motor industry, Raymond Mays and all concerned with the building of the B.R.M., on their fine work.
We over here have also been waiting anxiously for the first report and pictures of this new Formula I car, and can sincerely say that it is far superior to anything I had anticipated. The future certainly looks bright for England in Grand Prix racing, and I hope that all the dreams set forth with this car become realised in this year’s racing season.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Indiana. Arthur J. Robert
Drivers for B.R.M.
Mr. H. Wyatt, in his letter published in your February number, would appear to show a somewhat limited knowledge of the facts governing the choice of drivers for the B.R.M. team.
Reg. Parnell is nowhere near the Ascari, Fangio and Farina class; before the war he was almost unknown, whereas Peter Walker was in the front rank of British drivers as far back as 1936, and Tony Rolt as far back as 1938. Parnell’s successes since the war, which hardly compare with those of the really first-class continental drivers, are in my opinion solely due to his being able to afford the latest types of cars; on the other hand, Rolt’s Alfa-Romeo is little more than a makeshift G.P. car, and Walker has until recently relied solely on his 1936 B-type E.R.A. Bob Gerard’s successes have been on a similar car, in which he is a match for Parnell in a 4CLT/48 Maserati—as drivers, therefore, they can hardly be described as “equally” outstanding.
Admittedly, Parnell has had more experience since the war of continental road-circuits than any other British driver, but this does not make him the best. British driver. It merely proves that he has an almost unlimited purse; and wealth is hardly the criterion for judging a racing driver, nor experience for judging natural ability. Walker and Rolt have shown themselves capable of putting up a good show on any circuit, even on first acquaintance with it; and it must be remembered that Walker’s shattering climbs of Shelsley and Prescott last year were made when he was a comparative newcomer to both hills. The absurdity of Mr. Wyatt’s case is made apparent, when one considers that Parnell has probably more experience than Ascari, and certainly more than Fangio, whose first season of Grand Prix racing was 1949!
I agree with Mr. Wyatt about Whitehead, though, in my opinion, there is little to choose between him, Walker, and Rolt. Gerard is in a class on his own among British drivers at present; our only driver who is undoubtedly up to the very highest continental standard. For the first season, at any rate, we can do without “Bira,” splendid driver though he is; our triumph will not be complete without British drivers as well as British cars.
Peter Romaine has yet to prove himself in racing, before earning himself a plate in the B.R.M. team; and for a “coming man” also deserving of B.R.M. patronage, what about Stirling Moss?
I am, Yours, etc.,
Patrick Kelly, Burton-on-Trent.
Regarding the suggested drivers for the B.R.M. team, I am rather surprised that up to the present I have seen no mention anywhere of Peter Walker as being suitable for consideration.
I agree with Mr. Wyatt up to a point that aerodrome racing and hill-climbs are no yardstick of ability, generally speaking, for the Ascari, Fangio and Farina class. All the same, even these events do reveal outstanding style and skill. I think most people who have seen Peter Walker’s driving in these events would class his style and general ability as outstanding.
One example was his fine effort with the E-type E.R.A. at the Daily Express meeting at Silverstone. I believe he was the first British driver to finish behind the Continental aces, and, although this was in fifth position, I should say this was the fault of the machine and not the man. He certainly appeared to be “tanning out” all the E-type had in it, in spite of having to be continually wiping his face and goggles, due to some fault on the car.
He may not have had as much experience of Grand Prix racing as some of the drivers mentioned, but I think his general style and skill suggest he is of the calibre required. I hope we may eventually see him included among the drivers taking care of our racing prestige—with the right “tools” for the job.
Every success to the B.R.M. and all drivers concerned.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Frank H. Smith. Thame.
* * *
Paris to Biarritz
It should not be difficult for a resolute driver with a suitable car to take M. Luis de Ortuzar’s million francs. And what, repeat, what, a party he could have in Biarritz on his winnings.
About twenty years ago I thought would attempt to make a record from Paris to Cannes (900 km.) and to Biarritz on a “Boulogne” Hispano-Suiza, with a slightly too heavy body by Hooper, which made its maximum speed nearer to 90 m.p.h. than 100 m.p.h. On both runs I achieved an average in the high forties and thought that I had been rather clever although I am, today, quite certain that I had been extremely dangerous. My ego, however, was more than somewhat deflated when I learned that the late “Babe” Barnata had already put up an average of just over 60 m.p.h. on both courses with an 8-litre Bentley.
I heard subsequently that Barnato’s figure had been improved on by a “4.9” double-cam, blown Bugatti, and still later again by a Bugatti Type 57S, or possibly 57SC.
Even allowing for the fact that Monsieur de Ortuzar presumably knows the road like a homing pigeon, although a great deal of the road is long fast straights that don’t really need knowing so much, it does look as if one of the boys with suitable cars is almost bound to hit the jackpot.
I am, Yours, etc.,
David Scott-Moncrieff. Forfar.
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Racing Javelins
In your excellent and very full account of the Production Car Race at Silverstone, I feel that perhaps hardly sufficient credit was given to the truly magnificent performance put up by the two standard Jowett Javelin saloons.
The vast majority of the enormous crowd watching the race were owners of normal four/five-seater saloons or sports/saloon-type motor cars, and for such the sports two-seaters, most of which were with the exception of the M.G.s and Morgan, expensive models costing well over £1,000, had only an academic interest.
Only one other maker, Riley, decided to advertise their products with a saloon car as used by the majority of the public. The published results for the saloons entered and finishing are, I contend, very significant.
Three four-seater 2½-litre Riley saloon cars, with engines delivering 100 b.h.p. (as per maker’s catalogue) were entered.
One retired, presumably with engine failure, as reported by the Autocar, as clouds of smoke were pouring from the bonnet on every corner before it finally left on the 19th lap, and the other two finished at 65.94 and 65.87 m.p.h. respectively.
The two Jowetts, which were also production six-seater saloons, powered with 1½-litre engines of 50 b.h.p. finished without incident at 65.08 and 63.61 m.p.h.
The faster car finished immediately behind, and at practically the same speed as the two Rileys, and the second car could not have had its speed improved by being involved in a slight nose-to-tail accident with the winning Jaguar.
Without wishing to detract in any way from the performance of the Riley saloons, whose two finishers ran well and steadily throughout, I do feel that the performance put up by these 1½-litre six-seater family saloons merits greater notice than has been accorded them by contemporary reports of the race.
That successes by touring cars in long-distance sporting events are well worth while and appreciated by the public is borne out by remarks I overheard from several sources during the race to the effect that, had the contest been for twenty-four hours instead of one, there might have been some considerable changes in the final results, to the advantage of those who had already proved their stamina in that type of event.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Preston. E. O. Wanliss, Major.
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Another 8-Litre
I have read the article on the 8-litre Bentley with interest and enjoyment, the more so because I have recently bought one. As it does not appear in the list given of those whose whereabouts are known, I thought it might be of interest, particularly as it is in regular use.
The engine and chassis number is YM 5030, the registered number EV 8275, and it bears a very beautiful Thrupp & Maberley saloon body. In fact, with all respect, it has far better lines than the three cars whose photographs were published.
The car is quite perfect, having had only one previous owner and it had not done 25,000 miles when I bought it. It was first registered in November, 1932, and I got a complete set of tools and instruction book with it. I had my first Bentley, a 8-litre, in 1934, and no other make of car gives me real satisfaction. Thank God they were built to last!
I am, Yours, etc.,
A. R. N. Carter. London, N.W.7.