RUMBLINGS, March 1956
Before the war Leslie Bellamy was well known wherever specialbuilders gathered to discuss their art, because not only had he built several specials of his own conception, but I.F.S. FOR THE he supplied independent front suspension for
FORD POPULAR Austin Seven and Ford cars. This L.M.B.
suspension, which achieved independence very simply by cutting the axle-beam in two and pivoting the separate half-axles which resulted, was -widely discussed in its relationship to the more professional i.f.s. systems then appearing on popular makes of British cars.
It was simple, but it worked, this L.M.B. i.f.s. and, although intended for ears with transverse leaf-spring front suspension, Bellamy adapted his system to a G.P. Bugatti, to the 2-litre VI2 G.P. Delege owned by the Conan Doyles, to a 3-litre Bentley and ether cars. It came to be used, after expiry of the original patent, by Sydney Allard on his Allard cars and is employed today by Colin Chapman for the front end of his amazing Lotus.
The writer remembers well those pioneering days at the L.M.B. establishment at Clapham, when a eine-film of an Austin Seven fabric saloon—a vehicle ancient even then—scuttling up and down the pavement of a London square was used to demonstrate the flexibility and stability imparted by its split front axle, and of how Bellamy built himself a neat Austin Seven road-equipped Special with an airship tail, its body composed cunningly of papier-mache, made by pasting layers of discarded weekly motor journals over a wire-inesh frame.
Dick Seaman, then at the height of his fame, had a Ford V8 coupe fitted with a Bellamy suspension and Columbia two-speed back-axle, and Bellamy tuned a number of different Ford models, supercharging them in some cases, which he drove in M.C.C. trials and at B.O.C. speed trials, etc. These researches culminated in a compact and efficient L.M.B. trials-special, forerunner of the trials cars of today.
The war saw Bellamy devoting his restless energy to research away from the motor-vehicle field, but he has now returned, as it were, to his first love.
On January 31st he threw a party for the Press at Ottershaw to announce a new L.M.B. ” Supersprung ” suspension primarily intended for the Ford Popular, but also applicable to small Fords back to about 1938.
The conversion unit consists of a standard Ford axle-beam which is divided in the centre, the halves being provided at their inner ends with housings which carry Silentbloc bushes.
These bushes are hinged on a bracket situated under the main spring and secured in place by the spring clips. The bracket virtually forms part of the chassis, on which the axles swing, providing a track width of 48 in., instead of the standard width of 45 in.
The radius rod is similarly divided at the rear end, and hinged by Silentbloc bearings from a bracket which replaces the normal radius rod ball housing. Thus each half of the axle and its corresponding half radius rod forms an independent wishbone swinging about a fore-and-aft horizontal axis.
The main transverse leaf spring, 3 in. longer than the normal front spring, is secured at its ends by the standard Ford shackles and bushes. Hangers extending above and forward of the main spring carry shackles which support a very flexible auxiliary inverted transverse leaf spring pivoted at its centre under the main bracket. From the rear of the bracket extend two slave arms, hinged on hardened pins carried in self-oiling bushes. At their outer ends these arms support a steerina’ link to which are secured the inner ends of a divided track rod. These ends take the form of a special ball joint, the centres of which lie on t he axes of the axle-radius-rod wishbones, to secure correct steering geometry.
The suspension has an effective periodicity of 89, compared with 123 for the standard spring.
The drag link is connected to the steering link through a special Silentbloc bush at one end, and to the steering box by a ball joint at. the other end.
The brake cables, which are of equal length, are connected to a special compensator assembly carried in a protected position behind the main bracket, and are operated by a lever through the normal brake rod.
The new rear spring is 2 in. longer than standard and has a periodicity of 110, compared with 130 for the standard spring. The l’anhard rod, which is 36 in. long between centres, i8 mounted between the rear spring hanger on the near side, and a special bracket
secured by the main spring clips which extends to the off side. Silentbloc bushes are employed.
No alteration is made to the Ford stub-axles or hubs as it is considered that the materials employed are adequate to resist the forces set up by the gyroscopic precession which is inherent in swing-axle i.f.s. Moreover, the Ford Motor Company apparently approves, having no reason to frown at an improvement on their suspension, which is adequate in standard form when it is remembered that the Popular is the least-expensive car on the market.
There is no doubt that this suspension system has softened the ride of the Ford Popular quite noticeably, so that no longer will auntie, riding on the back seat, be advised to remove her teeth before the ride begins, while increased stability when cornering will appeal to the enthusiast. The price of this ” Supersprung, ” suspension conversion is £37 10s., providing the existing axle, spring and radiusarms are returned at the time of ordering. The ” Supersprung ” set bolts up in place of the original suspension components and any Ford agent should be able to make the change-over in a couple of hours, for a matter of a few pounds. The makers are L.M.II. Components, 5, Albury Road, Guildford, Surrey. (Guildford 66584.) In my article “My Year’s Motoring,” in the January issue I recounted how the Bosch windscreen-wiper on my Volkswagen ceased to function at a very inopportune CLEARING THE moment. Bosch Ltd. have since suggested GOOD NAME OF that a mistake may have been made, as BOSCH later VWs were not equipped with wipers of
their manufacture. I am delighted to be told this, because I had previously held Bosch electries in the highest esteem, recalling the infallible reliability of Bosch magnetos on Edwardian Hispano-Striza and vintage 12/50 Alvis cars, for example, so that my disillusionment when the wiper motor of the Editorial hack failed to respond to the switch was not a pleasant thing. Now my esteem is restored in full, especially as the replacement S.W.S. wiper motor has never faltered.—W. B. It was only about a couple of years ago that Michael Christie found his Morris Minor too ” flat ” for his taste and got his firm of Alexander Engineering Co. Ltd. to instil into ALEXANDERit greater urge. The result was so satisfactory LAYSTALL TEST that Mr. Christie decided to put this con DAY version into production; he has since con
verted or sold conversion-kits for 700 Morris Minors and Austin A30s. Today his company can supply and fit conversions for Austin A40, A50 and A90 six-cylinder, all the Dagenham Ford range, M.G. types ZIA, Y, XPAG and XPEG, Morris Cowley, Oxford Series II and Isis, Standard Eight and Ten, Wolseley 4/44 and Nash Metropolitan. It is likely that a conversion for the Hillman Minx will soon be available.
In the past MOTOR SPORT has sampled Morris Minor and Standard Eight cars converted for increased performance by the Alexander Engineering Co. Ltd. and we are satisfied that a very reasonable improvement in acceleration and speed is obtained with very little deterioration in fuel consumption, and with full retention of reliability. This last-named aspect, not always evident when massproduced vehicles are subjected to specialist tuning, is emphasised by the notable fact that the Standard Motor Co. Ltd. fully approves of Christie’s modifications, so that fitting thent in no way impairs the customer’s guarantee. Before granting this, the manufacturers covered a considerable mileage with the conversion, even to experimenting with compression-ratios of almost 10 to 1 when no abnormal bearing wear was discovered over a distance of 15,000 miles, although this compression-ratio is appreciably higher than that used for customers’ conversions. The test day arranged at Chalgrove Aerodrome, Oxon, on February 1st, proved enlightening to journalists able to think clearly and drive quickly in the prevailing Siberian conditions, because Alexander and Laystall had placed at our disposal eight representative converted cars for driving flat out round the circuit.. These vehicles were thrashed round by the assembled company for a couple of hours and only one gave trouble—a Morris Oxford suffering frozen brakes as Gordon Wilkins was about to rush away in it. On the longest straight along which a standard Volkswagen reached 55 m.p.h. (2,700 r.p.m. in top) we assisted a fellow scribe to take engine-speed readings with a Crypton electric r.p.m. recorder working off the ignition system. The converted Nash Metropolitan with 4.2 to 1 back axle reached 4.500 r.p.m. in top gear, equal to 69
m.p.h., a eonverted Ford Zephyr laden with every conceivable item of rally equipment 4,400 r.p.m. in overdrive (90,5 m.p.h.), a twin S.U. A30 with 8.25 to 1 compresaiou-ratio, modified head, special valve springs and 4.625 to 1 axle ratio managed 4,300 r.p.m. (60.5 m.p.h.) and a Standard Eight with the two-carburetter conversion and normal back-axle ratio clocked 4,850 r.p.m. (64.5 m.p.h.). It was impressive to see over 5,000 r.p.m. come up easily in the indirect gears on some of the cars, the Standard revving happily to some 6,000 r.p.m. Time did not permit of taking acceleration figures, but the following are those claimed for various cars :
At the lunch at the Shillingford Bridge Hotel which followed this Test Day, Mr. J. R. T. Gibson Jarvie explained the AlexanderLayst all link-up. Laystall, he said, had for a long time been wellknown specialists in tuning popular makes of cars and supplying special components for competition work. Some time ago he found that he required space at the Ewer Street works for other purposes and consequently it was decided to marry Alexander Engineering Co. Ltd. and Laystall Ltd. so that this side of the Laystall business would not be lost. In future Alexander will sell and supply conversion sets, which comprise the engine modifications, changed axle ratios
and some chassis specialities such as anti-roll bars for the small Standards and suspension modifications for the BIC series of B.M.C. cars, and Laystall will undertake the machining work. Michael Christie said his aim was to provide maximum performance improvement for minimum cost, an example being the Standard Ten conversion which was used on the ” works” cars in the 1955 Monte Carlo Rally and enabled Standard to win last year’s R.A.C. Rally outright and collect the Team Prize, the conversion being exactly the same as that which he fits for £40. He believes in somewhat over-gearing converted cars, to sustain low engine wear, although low axle ratios undoubtedly provide more impressive “
paper” performance figures and better fun on the road. In this respect one B.M.C. model was found to develop valve-bounce at a mere 1-throttle in standard trim ! He uses genuine B.M.C. parts for Alexander conversions to B.M.C. cars, only non-moving parts such as manifolds, pipes and connections being of other than B.M.C. manufacture. Christie said he has found the brakes of standard models quite satisfactory with the increased urge, unless the customer takes daily trips down an Alp, when special brake linings may be desirable.
Christie likes his clients to run their converted cars on B.P. Super or Shell I.C.A. petrol and to use B.P. Special Energol Visco-Static or Shell X-100 10W/30 oil, remarking that it is only since the advent of good-quality petrols, post-war, that the tuning of mass-production engines has been given full scope. He can provide at Haddenham a 24 or 48-hour fitting service of his engine conversions, which range in price from £35 to £75. Kits are available for owner-fitting or Export and besides the Banda overdrive which Alexander-Laystall fit to B-series B.M.C. cars Christie hopes soon to apply the small Laycock de Normanville overdrive unit to other popular ears.
Alexander-Laystall certainly offer much of interest to those who. as Mr. Gibson-Jarvie put it, require more distinction in their ears than is provided “by having bug-scarers front and back” or tuning conversions which increase little more than exhaust noise. They quote as a typical example their conversion of the o.h.v. Morris Minor, which, it is claimed, improves acceleration to the extent of 10 see. off the 0-50 m.p.h. time whik improving fuel consumption by 10 m.p.g. at a steady 40 m.p.h. (not that customers are likely to want to keep to n steady 40 !-En.], for an outlay of £57 10s.
Details are available from Alexander Engineering Co. Ltd.. Fladdenham, near Aylesbury, Bucks. (Haddenbazu 345). The phenomenal success of the Volkswagen is not a topic which MOTOR SPORT is alone in emphasising; many other papers have realised the import of the car from Wolfsburg OFFICIAL SERVICE including the Daily Telegraph, which, in a FOR THE VW leading article on February 2nd, showed that
“on the road” figures in Belgium, Holland. Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland alone, during 1955, added up to 63,700 VWs, the best-selling comparable car from this country being Ford, with under 20,000 sales.
One reason for this epoch-making sales success of the German car is the availability of spare parts and the after-sales service. An American friend of ours, who is plum-crazy about his VW. tells Us that in an outback town in the States, of about 6,000 inhabitants, they had their VW service and spares depot before they got a main post office. It has, indeed, been VW policy to send the spares out ahead of the cars.
In this country dealers are encouraged to stock n full supply of spares and to send their mechanics to the VW mechanics school to study the specialised art of administering to this unconventional car. As in all things, however, the ultimate result depends on the conscientiousness of the garage concerned. and consequently Volkswagen owners are met who speak of good, indifferent and downright bad service, as the case may be. We have asked for such a simple spare as the key which locks the fan pulley to the dynamo spindle at a VW distributor’s, only to find the part not in stock, SO that an outsize woodruff key had to be filed down to suit.
Recently VW Motors Ltd., in this country, who, incidentally, are independent of the manufaeturers at Wolfsburg, undertook an ambitious step to iron out any existing irregularities in the spares system and to provide first-class servicing facilities for owners of this popular car in the London area.
A disused toy factory at Plaistow, near West Ham, which one associates with football, greyhound racing and gasometers, has been turned into an up-to-the-minute servicing and spares depot which would not shame a racing-car factory.
The buildings have a fleet space of 50,000 sq. ft and the main hall is in two parts, a spates store of some 8,500 sq. ft. and a vast, well-lit. spotlessly-clean servicing bay. Spares to the value of £100,000 are stocked, the smaller items contained in racks which extend as far as the eye can see on the ground floor, while on the floor above are housed the larger components such as doors, hootpanels, chassis trays. etc., an electric hoist being used to handle them from ground level.
The se.rvicing hall is imposing in the extreme. Lubrication is looked after by Weaver pressure-lubricating equipment delivering Shell oil and grease, ears being lifted on Becker hoists as used at Wolfsburg. Behind this six-car lubrication bay are two large framed lubrication charts, one for the private car, the other for the Microcommercial vehicles, which can be illuminated at the touch of a switch, enabling the operatives to check exactly the location of all lubrication points and the correct grade of oil or grease to use.
Beyond this bay, along the wall, is the servicing equipment. Matra engine and axle stands are used, adjacent to which are trays to receive dismantled parts, thus obviating the plating of any parts, large or finial’, on the floor, which remains thereby as clean as that in any racing-car assembly shop. Matra tool-kits are used, brought by the mechanics to the job, so that the correct VW tools are always at hand, other tools and equipment being contained in specially. fitted cabinets along the well. Complete cars are wheeled about on tubular four-wheel, rubber-tyred trolleys, enabling them to be packed close for storage and to be moved without recourse to the engine. A Crypton battery-charger, Black and Decker electric grinding-wheels and multiple electric drill, etc.. complete the workshop equipment. Dirty components are immersed for cleansing in a Layeock air-speed detergent washing bath, the mechanic, who wears rubber gloves, placing his arms through holes in the top of the easing for the purpose of cleaning axles, crankcases and similar components. In this way a high standard of cleanliness is ensured and dermatitis is safeguarded against.
The emphasis, iudeed„ is on cleanliness aml the lofty hall is lit largely by natural light., augmented by neon lighting, and heated effectively by overhead heaters.
Four mechanics from Germany instruct their English counterparts —who are essentially skilled fitters as distinct from assemblers—in the mysteries of VW servicing and it is the intention later to form an instructional school where dealers’ mechanics can be trained—up to now a mobile instructional van in charge of factory personnel has toured the British Isles for this purpose.
Another aspect of the Plaistow servicing depot is a two-car Teealernit water-detergent car washer, on which VWs are raised on Becker Ma for efficient pressure-cleaning of the undertray, etc. A paint shop is to be added, in which a proper factory respray will be possible, with a drying-room to accommodate four cars, so that a capacity of fear resprays an hour should be achieved.
The system is that Plaistow supplies main distributors with spares and they in turn feed their area dealers, but this new depot is open to the public for servicing and the supply of any VW spare over the counter, and is open up to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. As Plaistow station is only 20 minutes’ journey by rail from the West End, London Volkswagen owners will find the facilities offered convenient to them, while access from the East of England is easy and front the South is via Blackwell Tunnel or Woolwich Free Ferry.
It is to Plaistow that imposing train-loads of brand-new Volkswagens for distribution throughout the country arrive at a siding. Here they are unloaded down a sloping ramp and cleaned and polished, and the Exide batteries fitted, ready for collection by the distributors’ agents. For this purpose two petrol pumps, supplying Shell and 13.P. Super, have been installed adjacent to the siding. A huge illuminated sign lights the side of the main building, the doors of which have electrically-controlled roller-shutters, a emaller building contains spacious newly-decorated offices, and Flexiglass VW badges enhance the outer walls.
Some people, seeing these long train-loads arriving from the docks and the new illuminated sign shining from the Plaistow depot may regard Volkswagens as invaders, damaging to British track. Mr. J. J. Graydon, Managing Director of VW Motors Ltd. in this country, states, however. that Volkswagen imports will not exceed 2 per cent. of the total annual British car registrations. Thus, this year, he aims to bring in about 6.000 vehicles, of which one-sixth will be commercials. Incidentally, the favourite VW colour is strato!silver. 60 per cent, of the orders being for cars so finished. Mr. Graydon expects to have the Karmann coupe over here by the summer. In the meantime, as this new servicing and parts depot gets into its stride, under the management of Mr. F. Welborn, Volkswagen dealers, distributors and owners can still any qualms they may have had about spares and repairs.
” Unquestionably. the impact of German and Italian cars, such as the Volkswagen and Fiat, has attracted overseas sales away from the more conventionally-designed British pro. THEY SAY:duets. Buyers abroad complain that our
manufacturers seem content merely to give their cars a face-lift in appearance year by year instead of tackling fundamental features, such as improved springing, traction, rear engine location, and the elimination of unnecessary gadgets to promote better day-to-day dependability.”—The Motoring Correspondent of The Sunday Times, January 8th, 1956.
” . . . long-shot punters are trying to decide which of the motor companies will eventually throw in it6 lot with Harry Ferguson and his new peasant’s car.”—” Mammon,” writing in Punch December 7th, 1955.
“Remembering the chief engineers around the industry who once built their own cars and ran them in competitions, before going on to produce such vehicles as the model-T Ford, the Morris Minor or the Javelin, it would be dangerous to predict for the marque the long future it deserves.”— Joseph Lowrey, 13.Sc., writing of the Lotus in The Motor, February 1st, 1956.
” I like the Series S Bentley because it represents the utmost that automobile engineers can do in providing superlative travel in the light of contemporary knowledge. 1 use the word ” travel” as opposed to ” motoring” because I do not find that the two coincide in my mind. It seems to use that the Bentley is moving back again towards chauffeur-driven motoring and that is not for me—yet.”—” The Scribe,” writing in The Autocar, January 27th, 1956.
” Many of us know Salisbury Plain only too well. Surely there are bits of it—I am thinking of an empty space to the east a the cathedral town as I write—that would, without any real disturbance of vested interests, without real annoyance to anybody, make a circular or triangular course with the expenditure of but a trifle of money that would test all the good in cars and tyres and drivers. and that would keep in England money which otherwise is certain to go elsewhere or not be spent at all. I want to see an International series of motor races take place on Salisbury Plain, for I cannot think of a fairer or more suitable spot. This is a very little thing to ask. Just a fortnight’s permission to practise before breakfast on a restricted course, and one morning’s total occupation of a comparatively deserted highway, heave to erect stands, with an undertaking to compensate local authorities for damage done. Let us obtain this permission. and not only keep British motor road-racing alive, but galvanise it into a prominence hitherto unknown?— ” Owen John” writing in The Anwar July 14th, 1922.