“Motor Sport” Samples the Prototype Targa Florio Turismo Model with 100-b.h.p. Bristol Engine
Patiently waiting for the great freeze to thaw, by mid-February I was able to borrow the prototype Targa Florio Turismo Frazer-Nash two-seater from A.F.N. Ltd. and drive it over quite an appreciable amount of England before returning this long-suffering example of the renowned breed to Isleworth.
I write “long-suffering” because this prototype Targa Florio car was built some three years ago and has acted as works hack, Aldington’s demonstration car and occasional Press car ever since. Indeed, a few days before I took it over it had returned from a fast winter journey on the Continent and last year it was taken abroad by a contemporary and timed at a maximum speed of 116 m.p.h. and a mean speed of 114 m.p.h.
Consequently it would be unfair to write a full and detailed road-test report on “XMC 2,” because naturally a few rattles and minor blemishes have intruded with the passage of time and miles, which would not be found in the sleek nearly-new Press cars kept by the big manufacturers. Moreover, as before the war, so today, the makers of the Frazer-Nash can materially alter the details of their cars to suit their customers, and criticism of detail, especially of a 1951 model, is thereby rendered pointless.
I propose, therefore, to confine myself to general impressions of this exceedingly safe and satisfying sports car. The “taking over” was accomplished on a dark, wet night, in London, when I was completely unaccustomed to the controls and handling characteristics. The rush-hour West End was negotiated without anxiety, once I had learnt to tread with fairy foot on the brake pedal of the immensely powerful 11-in. Girling 2LS brakes. The hood was up, but as it is sufficiently high and provided with large areas of transparency it did not impede visibility, a direct contrast with that on the sports car I normally drive. Admittedly I made beginner’s mistakes, such as driving at what I thought the speedometer, which is over on the left-hand side of the facia, said was 30 m.p.h., only to find I had been holding 50, and of travelling some miles with the flashing turn-indicators winking permanently, because their switch is mounted at an angle and they are not self-cancelling. But along A30, in spray-clouds, there appeared to be a great many hooting and swaying vehicles going backwards on my near side whenever I engaged third gear and trod on the accelerator!
The next morning dawned wet, an we kept the hood up until lunch-time; it provides very adequate protection and the 100-b.h.p. triple-Solex Bristol power unit acts as an efficient cockpit warmer. To say that even in its comparatively sober Targa Florio Turismo form the Frazer-Nash possesses high performance is to state the obvious. This performance can be interpreted as an effortless cruising speed of anything up to 90 m.p.h., acceleration in the order of 0-60 m.p.h. in under 11 sec., 0-80 m.p.h. in 18 sec., and a maximum of over 100 m.p.h. even with the big, full-width, very protective windscreen in place. 100 m.p.h. can be attained frequently along reasonably straight roads without an abnormally long run in which to work up to it; indeed, without accelerating hard in the lower gears to build up the speed.
Five thousand r.p.m. equals 103 m.p.h. in top gear, at which speed the Bristol engine is smooth and carefree. In the gears this crankshaft speed is equivalent to 35, 55 and 90 m.p.h., respectively. The gear ratios, as will be appreciated from these speeds, are high, although on the Oulton Park Circuit peak engine speed was reached all too soon in the 6.67 to 1 second gear — reminder that we were testing a Turismo and not a “Competition” Frazer-Nash. There are no flat-spots, vibration periods or other “horrors” about the power unit from its idling speed of 900 r.p.m. to its maximum, nor does it “run on.” In nearly 800 miles driving I added no oil or water and the only trouble experienced was a mysterious misfiring, traced eventually to one set of ignition points not opening properly, the effect of wear occasioned by lack of lubrication of the distributor cam. Once located the trouble was speedily put right and it says much for the 10-mm. K.L.G. ML80 plugs that they did not oil-up during this three-cylinder motoring. Oil pressure remained at 50 lb./sq. in. throughout, oil temperature fluctuating between 60 and 70 deg. C. and the water temperature climbing from about 75 deg. C. towards boiling point only after some fast “lappery” of the new Oulton Park Road Circuit. The engine calls for no adjustment of advance or retard, save that it is kinder to the starter to retard it for starting. It does not “pink” on Premium fuels, of which it seemed to prefer Shell, which the Aldingtons recommend.
Useful power is developed at upwards of 1,.500 r.p.m. and, while the acceleration is brisk thereafter, from 3,200 r.p.m. the horses really begin to gallop, the exhaust noise rising from a yowl to a raucous crackle. In built-up areas it is only polite to keep engine speed below 3,200 r.p.m.
The handling characteristics of the Frazer-Nash embrace high-geared, very light rack-and-pinion steering, tending to over-steer but chiefly an excellent balance between over and under-steer, great stability with absence of roll, and rather hard suspension which permits some up-and-down motion but absorbs road shocks effectively and is very firmly damped.
On the car tested the seat, while offering good support, was set for a very tall person and consequently the driver tended to bear too heavily on the steering wheel, which, with a rather flexible column, could result in snaking out of corners under extreme conditions, because slight wheel movements have too great an effect with a steering ratio asking only two turns lock to lock. The correct method is to let the wheel play easily through the hands, which calls for a better, adjustable, seating position. The steering transmits only slight front-wheel movements, the column only judders mildly, and there is gentle castor action. No lost play was evident.
Another criticism concerns the fact that because the steering column is set at an angle the clutch pedal comes on the right of the column and is most inconvenient to operate, at all events, by the average driver sitting in the unadjustable seat. This is the more unfortunate because the clutch has a long travel and requires to be fully depressed for easy engagement of the gears.
The gear change is good if not rapid, with synchromesh for those who require it, but it would be improved by a remote-control lever. The present lever is rigid and well placed but has rather a long travel and the change from third to second can be missed if hurried, because one tends to push the lever too far to the left, which has happened to me before on a Bristol gearbox.
The brakes were vice-free and able to retard the car with a minimum of effort, but they lacked sensitivity and squeaked, perhaps because new linings had not fully bedded down. It was rather too easy to lock the wheels, which more progressive braking would have avoided. Yet the retardation from 100 m.p.h. to a crawl was really outstanding in relation to the light pedal pressure required.
The Michelin “X” tyres protested only under the roost extreme cornering methods and to get the tail to break away, even in the wet, was almost impossible.
Apart from consideration of the handling qualities under fast touring conditions, which is where this car excels, the extremely safe characteristics of the Frazer-Nash when negotiating heavy traffic deserve emphasis, for acceleration, even in top gear, from 30 to 50 m.p.h. is excellent, and the light steering, calling for a mere flick of the wrists to pass a wobbling bicycle or similar hazard, together with the light and powerful brakes and a fine view of both sides of the car through the big screen complete the traffic amenities.
It is hardly fair, as I explained at the commencement of this article, to criticise details, but it is only natural that on a car costing nearly £3,000 they will be regarded critically.
Let me content myself by remarking that I would specify dual electric fuel pumps with separate switches, pull-out ignition and lamps switches instead of the ordinary Lucas combined switch, a hand-throttle which could be set in a given position instead of being spring-loaded to shut automatically, and means of identifying the various control knobs, which all look alike. I would also like a speedometer with a steadier hand, a less inconveniently placed headlamp dimmer, a proper hand-brake in place or the right-hand “umbrella handle” affair set too close to a grab-rail which is of no use to the driver in any case, and a bonnet rather more easy to open. The combined ammeter, water thermometer and oil gauge, the latter having only three readings, hardly befits so expensive a car, and I did not like a reserve-fuel warning light which shone in my eyes while the reserve switch (operating a solenoid for the reserve tap) was in operation. I could have forgiven the absence of a fuel gauge had not the reserve supply taken me less than 10 miles before the tank ran dry. I found the boot adequate, although the luggage. sidescreens, hood and tonneau cover (the latter in a bag) share this compartment with the spare wheel, and the lid, opened with a carriage key, does not lock. The doors, which have inadequate locks, one of which we rebuilt, have useful elastic-topped pockets but there are no facia cubby-holes. I noticed that curved number plates are apparently permissible on a £2,700 automobile — or perhaps the owner can afford the fine in the rare event of being apprehended on this point of law! I did not check fuel consumption but it seemed to work out at about 20 m.p.g., and what is a few miles per gallon either way to the owner of a car in this price-class?
The Type 700 Lucas Le Mans 24 headlamps gave an excellent beam for inbuilt lights, both full-beam and dipped, and would probably have been better still with ordinary instead of yellow bulbs. Pass-lamps and side parking-lamps (one of the latter was missing) were provided. The sidescreens, in conjunction with the huge curved windscreen and its side glasses, and rigid sidescreens, give excellent protection from the winds that blow, even at 100 m.p.h., and hood and two-piece tonneau covers are well carried out, while the doors are of ample size. It is not possible to refuel with the hood up, as it covers the filler flap, and to erect the hood is a complicated business. A third, child’s, seat is provided between the two main bucket seats.
If I have been critical of certain details it is from force of habit, because the Frazer-Nash can be altered to suit the requirements of individual clients and in any case my remarks apply to a prototype car. Many of the suggested improvements have been made to the present Targa Florio model, including a normal, central hand-brake lever, better door handles. etc.
Reverting to the performance of this, the least-powerful of the Frazer-Nash range, it comes in the exclusive category of cars with which 60-m.p.h. averages are not difficult of attainment on winding English roads.
In the wet and driving like granny, before I was accustomed to the car, I averaged 56 m.p.h., including negotiation of several villages. Later, on a week-day afternoon with lots of “heavies” strewn about the roads (including two fantastic, unaccompanied, overhanging R.A.F. loads on two “Queen Marys” behind which we crawled for miles in Gloucestershire), I drove from Clyro in Wales to Phoenix Green in Hampshire, via Hereford, Ross, Gloucester, Cirencester, Newbury and Basingstoke, with plenty in hand so far as safety was concerned and some of the journey in the dusk, in a time of 2 hours 36 minutes, which is just a very normal piece of motoring in the Targa Florio Turismo Frazer-Nash.
The combination of vivid acceleration all the way up the scale, the ability to get up to over 90 m.p.h. along any decently straight road, a very high level of cornering stability and adequate braking, make these ” interesting” average speeds possible.
Over and above such useful touring adjuncts, the modern Frazer-Nash is great fun to drive. The late Brian Twist once remarked, after testing a “T.T. Replica” Alpine Rally Frazer-Nash in pre-war days, that it was just like a motor-bicycle. That applies just as much to the present-day ‘Nash — and I can add that we lost no chains. – W. B.
The Frazer-Nash Targa Florio Two-Seater
Engine: Six cylinders, 66 by 96 mm. (1,971 c.c.). Overhead valves, operated by vertical and transverse push-rods. 7.5 to 1 compression ratio. 100 b.h.p. at 5,250 r.p.m.
Gear ratios: First, 10.7 to 1; second, 6.67 to 1; third, 4.72 to 1; top, 3.66 to 1.
Tyres: 165 by 400 Michelin “X” on bolt-on disc wheels.
Weight: 17 1/2 cwt. (less occupants but with three gallons of fuel).
Steering ratio: Two turns, lock-to-lock.
Fuel capacity: 12 gallons. Range approx. 240 miles.
Wheelbase: 8 ft.
Track: Front, 4 ft.; rear, 4 ft. 1 1/2 in.
Overall dimensions: 12 ft. 6 in. by 4 ft. 10 in. by 4 ft. 3 in. (high).
Price: £1,950 (£2,763 12s. 6d. with purchase tax).
Makers: A.F.N. Ltd., Falcon Works, London Road, Isleworth, Middlesex.
Speeds in gears at 5.000 r. p.m.:
1st … 35 m.p.h.
2nd … 55 m.p.h.
3rd … 90 m.p.h.
Top … 103 m.p.h.