Letters from Readers., March 1966

Vauxhall Coachwork

I was interested in Bill Ward’s paragraph in the February issue concerning the Vauxhall “Wensum” and the other Vauxhall body types of the 1920s, but I am surprised that he does not mention the 23/60 Malvern tourer, which was longer than the Kington (not Kingston surely ?) and which was fitted with two extra occasional tip-up seats.

I well recall, as a schoolboy in 1923, accompanying my father to the Luton works to collect a Malvern, and how thrilled I was at the beautiful running of this car, and how I admired its finish. The “click” of the doors on a Vauxhall body was something to marvel at, and the doors retained their perfect fit for years afterwards.

As we travelled north that sunny April day, I remember we met dozens of charabancs filled with Bolton Wanderers’ supporters heading south for Wembley and the Cup Final the next day.

After that visit to Luton in 1923 I became a confirmed Vauxhall fan and in later years I was able to achieve a schoolboy ambition and personally owned first a 14/40 Princeton tourer and some time afterwards a 1924 30/98 Velox—chassis No. OE 80 and registration No. ER 2838. I often wonder if this particular 30/98 is still in existence.

Falkirk. John Young.

Forced Beans

My apprenticeship with Harper-Bean Limited commenced May 18th 1923, my employment continuing under Bean Cars Limited, terminating when car production ceased during 1930. I actually completed seven years before redundancy notices were issued in a big way.

Your most interesting “Fragments on Forgotten Makes” dealing with the Bean naturally caused me to virtually relive those happy first years of my working life. I remember a number of interesting matters not mentioned by you, and was pleased to find Mr. Jonathan Wood had made further factual additions. There are a few more which I may be permitted to make. After some two years’ grounding in general engineering matters, I managed to obtain a transfer to a small Competition Department which was attached to final test at Dudley Works. This was controlled by Harold Goodwin, then well-known in trials’ circles as a constant winner of top awards in long and short-distance events, such as the “London-Edinburgh” and “Colmore Cup”.

The Birtles “Sundowner” I remember so well for no other reason than that I had a hand in its building and final preparation. The chassis was as you say, much lightened, but the engine tune had to be such that all grades of fuel were acceptable to it. The outside all-copper exhaust system naturally provided an attractive sporty note, but it was so arranged as to give better ground clearance. The body, finished brilliant scarlet, Was specially built by Cross & Ellis Ltd., of Coventry. It was quite a thrill for many of us the day Harold Goodwin put the car through her final paces prior to the handing over ceremony.

I think it must have been 1926 when Goodwin decided he would build a sprint car for speed hill climbs. A 12-h.p. chassis was selected and considerably lightened, the suspension stiffened and lowered as much as possible. The 14-h.p. engine was stripped and carefully assembled after the lightening and balancing of all reciprocating parts. The compression ratio, we were told, must be as high as possible, and on starting the engine for the first time, a mild knocking noise was traced to the pistons lightly touching the cylinder head. The carburetter was a non-standard large bore Memini, a make popular in racing circles at that time. The exhaust system was made up from 3 in. bore steel. pipe producing an car-shattering noise which by no means gave a false impression of the cars accelerative powers.

It was, however, quite a problem to eliminate wheel-spin and Goodwin had entered the car to run at Shelsley Walsh in a few days time. I remember that particular Shelsley for another reason —it was the only one at which H.O.D. Segrave appeared driving his 2-litre G.P. Sunbeam when he managed fastest time of the day in 52 sec.-odd. Our Bean special, even though Goodwin was having trouble with his gear shift, which was non-standard central, put up a resounding 56-sec. and a bit, which we all thought well worth the effort.

Around this period the late R.H. Rose (no relation) joined the company and proceeded to do some work on an o.h.v. engine. I believe the push-rod operation was similar to that later employed by B.M.W. and he certainly proposed to eliminate all those feet of whirring timing chain. Alas, nothing came of this exercise, and Mr. Rose soon moved on elsewhere.

The Hadfield 14/45 and 14/70 models both shared alarming mechanical defects which were to develop very early in the life of the cars. At this time I was a technical assistant at the London Service Department at North Road, and was therefore in the best possible position to observe customer reaction. The main faults concerned the ultra flexibly mounted engines which resulted in the breaking away of the top radiator header pipes, resulting in complete loss of coolant. I shall never forget one all-night winter run from Manchester when I was compelled to continually replenish the radiator from roadside ditches by means of a headlamp rim and glass! Severe crankshaft end-float would develop at quite a small mileage. This in turn caused damage to the timing gears and clutch. The overhead worm driven rear axle was another shocking piece of work. It appeared there was misalignment of the worm and wheel centres which caused complete failure within the warranty period. There were many who wondered how the designer managed to commit just about every obvious error in the. book. It is small wonder sales melted for the company had frittered away a splendid opportunity which may well have placed it in the forefront today.

The 14/70 bore a striking likeness to the recently-introduced Lagonda 2-litre. The reason was simple. One day examples of the open and closed Lagonda models appeared at the works where profile templates, etc., were taken. It was a pity the Bean mechanical parts did not match those of the Lagonda! No mention has been made of an attractive sporting version of the 18/50 model produced for and sold by Tom Knowles of Regent Street. This model carried both open and closed fabric covered coachwork rather like that of the 3-litre Sunbeam, even as far as its radiator, which had a vee-shaped wire mesh stoneguard.

Earlswood. W. Rose.