Vintage Postbag

Sir,

While reading through my local newspaper, The Western Telegraph, I came across this extract which I thought might be of interest to you:

"Before the first World War people of Haverfordwest (Pembs.) looked upon the motor car with a certain amount of suspicion. All right on the road, but how reliable were they? This was a question often asked of a local garage owner, Mr. Eric Green. His car, a Ford model T, came in for more than its share of scorn and doubt, so Mr. Green, who first took out a driving licence in 1906, thought out this test of reliability. Not only would he drive his 'Tin Lizzie' down ten steps from High Street to Dark Street, Haverfordwest, but he would reverse up them too! So he tied rope round the rear wheels and carried out the test in the early hours of the morning watched only by a handful of passers-by who were amazed and delighted by this unusual experience."

Incidentally, Mr. Green's firm had just accepted the agency of the first Fords in Britain and he had probably driven cars longer than any other man in Pembrokeshire.

I am Yours, etc.,

J. Goddard

Pembroke Docks.

***

Sir,

The appearance of various notes on elderly commercial vehicles in the Veteran-Edwardian-Vintage columns of your excellent magazine and a subsequent letter from Mr. Brigg in "Vintage Postbag" has prompted me to mention a recent discovery. The vehicle in particular is a 1924 Morris-Commercial one-ton lorry; it has been stored for the last six years, is in good condition mechanically and has excellent bodywork.

I intend to renovate this lorry and I should be grateful to hear of any other would-be enthusiasts.

I am Yours, etc.,

R. E. Baggaley

Bleasby.

***

Sir,

Last autumn we were filming "Roonie" in Dublin. A de Dion water cart played a prominent part in the picture and there were some camera angles towards the rear end which should show the famous suspension!

There was a plate on the vehicle which indicated that it was delivered to Dublin in 1920 and it is still in everyday use.

I had intended mentioning it to you before—but when one is busy!—however being stuck out here at "Keito Ruedge " there is time to catch up on things.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Austin P.

Natal.

***

Sir,

In your December issue, Rumblings, "An Earls Court Flashback," you say that you have never heard of a Chic car. In order to correct this state of affairs, I have sent to you under separate cover photostat copies of a Chic catalogue.

The first of the 14-h.p. cars was sold to the public in September, 1924, while the first six-cylinder 18-h.p. came out in June, 1925.

At least two of the Fourteens and one Six are known to be still in existence, the two former cars being in use on the road.

Some twenty-two Fourteens were sold in South Australia and nine Sixes. What number, if any, were sold in other States, is not known.

With reference to the matter of Straker Squire Six radiator shutters, referred to in your description of the Brooklands car recently, these were not fitted until the 1921 models. The radiator on the Brooklands car at present is exactly similar to that shown in the 1919 and 1920 catalogues.

I am, Yours, etc.,

George Brooks

Tranmere, S. Australia.

[The photostats show that the Chic had a radiator rather like that of a Bentley, a winged badge incorporating a map of Australasia, and was advertised as "A Thoroughbred for the professional man, the owner-driver, the man outback, the traveller and for the man who wants an economical, trouble- and foolproof car." The designer was Clarence Chick. The 14/40 Chic had a wheelbase of 9 ft. 10 in. and weighed 21 cwt. Its o.h.v. four-cylinder Meadows engine had a bore and stroke of 75 by 120 mm. and was claimed to develop 17 b.h.p. at 1,000 r.p.m., 31 b.h.p. at 2,000 r.p.m. and 40 b.h.p. at 3,000 r.p.m. The 18/48 model had a six-cylinder 69 by 120-mm. engine which gave 22 b.h.p., 42 b.h.p. and 48 b.h.p., respectively, at these speeds. A Zenith carburetter was used on the 14/40, which was illustrated in one version only, a two-seater disc-wheeled roadster. The specification embraced nickelled honeycomb radiator, fan cooling, inverted cone clutch, 18-in. steering wheel, open propeller shaft, ½-elliptic suspension, spiral bevel back axle and 815 by 105 disc or artillery wheels. The makers, whose office was in Adelaide, were particularly proud of the frictionless cam steering gear. — Ed.]

***

Sir,

May I take advantage of your columns to say a few words in defence of that much maligned beast, the American vintage automobile? I, until quite recently, considered in my ignorance that nothing worth driving came from our overseas cousins during vintage years, but in this assumption I have proved quite wrong. This change of mind has been brought about, not by sales talk from a patriotic American, but by the acquisition of a product of the vintage years. A better built, finer quality, smoother running car of its era, and price bracket I have not encountered, and I am sure will not be able to.

The car is a Chrysler 72 roadster, circa 1928, with right-hand drive, imported and sold by Jack Smith of Great Portland Street, and registered YV 6036. (The car was, I presume, manufactured in 1927, but I have no way of establishing this.) Thirty years later—the first thing that strikes the eye is the absolute solidity of the vehicle, the body is steel on a wood frame, and is perfectly rust free, Ash spoked artillery wheels giving the body the look of massive purposefulness which deters even the more adventurous taxi drivers from risking a brush.

The engine room is well filled with a 25/35 engine developing 75 b.h.p. at 3,200 r.p.m.; this production is sparked off by six 20-mm. plugs firing from double contact breaker points into a mixture supplied by a large brass updraught Stromberg. This instrument has a splendid device called a "Fumer," which, in short, is an electrical element screwed into a well at the bottom of the carburetter which pre-heats petrol in cold weather, vaporising it for easy starting.

The crank runs in seven bearings, and has an external front impulse neutraliser, making for very smooth running, and a single camshaft operates very lone side valves through adjustable mushroom tappets. The whole assembly runs incredibly smoothly and silently, intake and exhaust being the only noticeable noises. The curb is unsilenced, and the exhaust has a push/pull muffled/straight through valve operated by cable from the cab.

The gearbox is three-speed and on this roadster model a 3.9 rear axle is fitted.

Four-wheel hydraulic brakes are of the very large external contracting type, the handbrake working in a transmission drum (one thing intrigues use here, what is the function of the plunger situated on the fluid reservoir?).

Now, having made sure that the vehicle goes and sops, what did our transatlantic friends give us in the cockpit; why, real cowhide with horse hair stuffing to sit on, a gear-lever to hand, and a large steering wheel. An advance/retard throttle lever and lights lever work on the boss, and ignition, windscreen wiper (suction from vacuum tank) at the base. On the dash is a gasoline gauge, graduated in gallons, ammeter graduated in amps, mileometer (but alas a ribbon type speedometer), an oil pressure gauge, normally reading a steady 40 lb. and a water temperature gauge. On the floor one finds a foot starter left, then clutch, accelerator and brake in that order. Outside the cab, and the protection of the cape cart hood, there is that splendid device for mothers-in-law, the rumble seat.

What then can one find wrong with such a a that gives us power and safety to use it, instruments to interpret it, and coachwork to stand it? In normal use very little, I can assure you. No my friend, we mast admit it, the Yanks have done it again, this time before I was even born. However, one word of warning before you start looking for a vintage Yank. Spares are unobtainable, and most parts have to be manufactured. My own associations with this splendid vehicle may soon end unless I find another radiator; soft soap cannot get me out of this one for much longer. So I finish with the Vintagents plea whatever he runs. "If you know a any spares!!!"

I am, Yours, etc.,

L. Thurston

Riseley.

***

Sir,

In "Vintage Postbag" of January I read a letter from Mr. J. H. Cock asking for 18/80 M.G. owners. to come out of hiding and tell of their cars.

I am now an ex-owner but I hope my comments may be suitable for publication.

My third car, purchased early in 1954, was an M.G. 18/80 Mark II d.h.c. with dickey. It was the thought of having a three-seater bench in the front and a dickey for two with air all the way round that really attracted me, as my existing car was a scant two-seater. I felt that I could transport half my office and/or hockey team at one go. Alas I was soon disillusioned; the dickey was so antisocial that I lost all my friends and the bench seat was too narrow for three plus the fact that the centre gear change, of normal M.G. extension type with short lever, was situated under the knees of the middle passenger.

After a complete rebuild and engine overhaul I took the car on the road and found after the first 200 yards that the clutch wouldn't disengage. Out came engine and gearbox again, all 2 cwt. plus. The trouble, one new clutch plate had buckled. (This car was fitted with twin wet plate clutch.) A new plate then had to be made of stronger alloy and the lot reassembled. I understand that the next owner had the same trouble about 8,000 miles later. Eventually the car was in daily use. However, the petrol consumption of 17-18 m.p.g., dropping to 12 when I burnt out the six exhaust valves at 4,700 miles, and oil leakage representing approximately one pint to 150 miles became too much and with the arrival of an enfant terrible "Gorgeous Gussie" (the car) had to go. It was a shame, as the car was invigorating to drive and some very lively motoring was enjoyed. The high seating and high bonnet made you feel very superior, and the very direct steering was a delight even though the car was weighty and needed quite a lot of muscle at times. The large exhaust pipe with which my car had been fitted emitted a very pleasant burble at the tail end when ambling at about 2,000 r.p.m. in top.

The gearbox on my present Minor 1,000 is no great improvement, in my opinion, on the change fitted on this first real M.G. (I think I am right in saying that this model was the first attempt to build an entirely new M.G., only the power unit being essentially Morris) and the noise of the cogs engaging on a fastish change was music to the ears. The engine was of 2½-litre capacity, being 69 mm. bore and 110 mm. stroke, single o.h.c. and twin S.U.s and was apparently specially tuned in its heyday. I saw a most immaculate specimen in dark blue at Goodwood V.S.C.C. meeting last year. Will the owner of this wonderful looking piece of machinery come forward!

The two annoying things about the car that I experienced were: one, the fact that I couldn't stop oil exuding from all over the power unit and gearbox, and secondly I couldn't find a strong enough coupling for the dynamo drive. This model followed what I believe was a usual M.G. design of the time and the dynamo and water pump were driven off the distributor's drive via a rubber coupling. The load on the rubber coupling at high revs with a really large dynamo and heavy water pump must have been enormous. I replaced my hose at least every 500 miles.

If any readers would like more information I will try and answer any letters.

I am, Yours, etc.,

J. B. Wilson

Barnet.

***

Sir,

I was most interested in the article by Mr. Hayward and the reference to Excelsiors. I well remember the famous yellow-and black coupé and the beautifully-made and finished body. The doors fitted like safe doors and needed no slamming, yet in spite of all the rough surfaces this car traversed, usually at high velocity, they never creaked, let alone rattled. I always felt that the body of this car needed one more accessory, namely a blow-off valve such as was fitted to supercharged induction manifolds, to protect the cars from the sudden pressure in the event of someone closing a door rather smartly, as Snutsel doors were practically air-tight!

Mr. Hayward says Snutsel never built two bodies alike; neither did I ever come across two Excelsior chassis which were exactly alike. Some of them were relatively docile, others were extremely potent vehicles.

The six-cylinder engine had a detachable head with vertical valves operated through rockers by an overhead camshaft, the drive to the camshaft being taken through a vertical shaft with bevel gears, in front of the cylinder block. The detachable cylinder block was cast-iron and the crankcase a beautiful aluminium casting. The crankshaft, like everything else on this car, was a craftsman's job and had seven main bearings and circular webs, and was, of course, machined all over. The con.-rods were tubular, so you had to see that the little-ends came equally between the piston bosses as you scraped the big-ends in. No setting them over as some so-called fitters do with the more orthodox H-section rods.

One of the unusual features of this engine was the fan, which was mounted on the casing enclosing the vertical camshaft drive shaft and was driven by a friction device which limited the torque transmitted to the fan. Thus the fan induced sufficient air flow through the radiator to cool the engine adequately when the car was stationary and the engine running light. The fan speed remained almost constant when the engine was speeded up. Even so, the fan was well shaped aerodynamically, and did not at all resemble the horrible air brakes fitted to some cars, and if any of your readers think this is rather a strong term to use, let him remove the fan blades on some small car. He will actually notice the difference in the power available to drive the car, particularly at high revs in the gears.

To return to Excelsiors, the more potent ones were fitted with three enormous carburetters, usually Zeniths. I remember one which had had the racing body replaced by what was then called a sportsman's coupé, and which, with compression plates fitted, was capable of about 110 m.p.h. without much difficulty on pump fuel. This car always carried two Pyrenes and no one would think of starting it from cold without one of them ready to hand. I think this chassis had the fuel fed to the carburetters under pressure. After a few strokes with the hand pump it was easy to over-flood the carburetters, so that fuel collected below the carburetter intakes on the flat platform which was part of the crankcase and extended to the chassis side-members and the whole length of the engine back to the rear engine bearers. On starting from cold it was quite normal for the engine to spit back violently through one or more of the carburetters, and this frequently ignited the fuel hanging around. If the engine kept running the drill was to open the throttles smartly, hoping to suck the flames in through the carburetter intakes. If this failed. and it usually did, one reached for the Pyrene and, if necessary, followed up with the other. Somehow, in those days, we seemed to accept minor hazards such as these as part of the price to pay for high performance.

The anti-roll device or stabiliser which Mr. Hayward mentions was not in fact in any sense a torsion-bar, its function being to locate the rear axle laterally in relation to the chassis, fore and aft location being taken care of by the extremely robust torque-tube located at its front end by a spherical joint on a cross-member behind the four-speed gearbox. Nevertheless, the stabiliser eliminated all roll by virtue of the height of the e.g. of the chassis being very little above the point of attachment of the axle to the chassis. Another point is that I think it was mainly the well-known press-on characteristics of Mr. Hayward's driving which "put the terrific strain on the tyres," although no doubt greatly aided and abetted by the stabiliser.

The Excelsior was fitted with cantilever rear springs, but the springs were not relied upon to locate the axle. On the contrary, provision was made to allow the axle to move in any direction in relation to the springs. The springs being "hung" from the axle by means of a dumb-bell assembly. The rear axle was connected by rods to a lever mounted on each chassis side-frame. Thus the rise and fall of the axle caused the levers to oscillate about their fulcra. The connecting-rod between the two levers ensured that the levers moved equally, but in opposite directions, so that whilst the axle was free to rise and fall, there was absolutely no sideways movement at all in relation to the chassis; whereas even with a Panhard rod the axle must move through the arc of the radius of the rod. All the bearings in the stabiliser were fitted with ball-races, and those each end of the rods attached to the axle were self-aligning, and the dumb-bell assemblies were adequately lubricated and enclosed. Thus the arrangement possessed all the advantages of the old cantilever springs, permitting large axle movement, with none of the disadvantages (shades of the 3-litre Sunbeam !), and many of the advantages of i.r.s.

I should have thought that this stabiliser would have gone well with a de Dion axle. Anyway, I have never driven any other car which was so strong, and which could be driven so rapidly over really rough surfaces, and many times, more than twenty years later in places like South America and West Africa, I could have done with the toughness and roadholding of the Excelsiors.

I am, Yours, etc.,

V. J. Relle

London, S.W.6.

***

Sir,

Could somebody help? I have been trying to locate a G.W.K. My grandfather, A. G. Grice, manufactured these before the First World War and in the 'twenties. Could somebody give me their history? What I have pieced together so far is that they were friction driven, two or four-seaters rather sporty, raced at Brooklands, ceased production circa 1929, were used by G.P.O. in Berkshire for deliveries, manufactured at Cornwallis Works, Maidenhead (W. & K. stood for Wood & Keiller.) My grandfather also brought out another car in 1923 called the Unit (not to be confused with Unic) which was not successful. Does anybody know anything about them? If they do, or know of the whereabouts of either a G.W.K. or a Unit, I would be extremely grateful if they could contact me.

I have located, with a friend, two model-T Fords at a scrap yard in Southampton and two magnificent (or were) Lagondas near 'Winchester.

I am, Yours, etc.,

P. K. Shaw

Theydon Bois.

***

Sir,

I wonder if any of your readers recall the Cubitt car ? About 1928, I bought (for a friend) a 16-hp. torpedo tourer at Birkenhead, and shipped her, unsheeted, on the hatch-top of an I.C.I. dynamite boat to Irwine. After the sea trip she started readily on the handle.

I regret to say that 15 minutes after taking delivery the owner hit a 'bus and all concerned went to pastures new. Was this the last of the Cubitts?

I am, Yours, etc.,

D. Murray-Wilson

Haywards Heath.

***

Sir,

Surely the 7-h.p. New Orleans of 1900 had two cylinders?

I am, Yours, etc.,

E. P. Sharman

[Correct. — Ed.]

***

Sir,

I should like to forward this photograph, taken in Saltburn, in August 1957. The car is a Bean.

I am, Yours, etc.,

W. E. Sowerby

Acklam.

[In fact, a well-preserved Hadfield-Bean. Photograph reproduced below. — Ed.]