Veteran Edwardian Vintage, March 1979

A section devoted to old-car matters

A Distinguished Chummy Austin

Last September we a note a reader who had to restore a Chummy Austin 7 and sought information about the one actually driven by Charles Metchim at Le Mans in 1933 – it retired from that race with a broken steering drag-link but the important thing was that its very enthusiastic young owner had competed in this classic International 24-hour race. I knew about this because I, too, thought the appearance of a Chummy Austin at Le Mans something that ought to be investigated. I tried hard to locate Hilton Paul (Charles) Metchim after the war, and eventually was successful. This led to one of the most fascinating motor-racing stories I have ever read, which I was very glad to publish in the issues of Motor Sport for November and December 1956. It proved that Metchim was not only a very keen motor-racing enthusiast but that he had the ability to write extremely well, about how, as a completely inexperienced youngster, he had started racing with this cut-about Chummy. Finding a picture of the car was more difficult, that is, in its 1933 guise, for it was rebuilt for 1934 with an Ulster body and run again at Le Mans that year, where the coil ignition let it down. The only photograph I could locate was found in The Times’ archives, and was not a very good one; they had at this time a small number of motor-racing photographs, mostly unidentified, but some of which I was delighted to avail myself.

I have now heard from Mr. J. S. Bevington, a cousin of Mr. Metchim who has all the Metchim racing records of this particular Austin 7, which ran in trials, high-speed blinds at the Track, the Dancer’s End hill-climb, etc., as well as making those auspicious appearances at Le Mans. He kindly sent us the picture which heads this page. I have also been bombarded with pictures of the cars raced by Stanley and Donald Barnes, by the present Mr. Barnes, and as this modified Chummy was originally the idea of the Barnes brothers, I have seen more pictures of it now than when I was in receipt of Metchim’s splendid article, thirty years ago. Incidentally, if the restorer of that Chummy still wants it, I will gladly send him a copy of the above picture. Charles Metchim’s aforesaid article, which is such enjoyable reading, can be obtained from Motor Sport‘s Photostat Department. It was also reproduced in full in that book “The Austin Seven” which Grenville (same address as Motor Sport) published in 1972, for a modest 75p.

The Barnes/Metchim Austin had a big Solex carburetter, an alloy sump holding a gallon of oil, a large-capacity radiator, and it used the 4.4 to 1 back-axle ratio. The Barnes brothers had cut and hammered the Chummy body about so as to accommodate a 9-gallon petrol tank in the scuttle, with an external filler, the original under-scuttle 4-gallon tank and the battery being accommodated where the Chummy’s back seat used to be. The doors were given cut-aways and an external exhaust system and a fold-flat windscreen fitted. The car, which incidentally had started life as the Barnes’ single-seater, was then painted orange. Metchim observed that there may have been uglier cars in competition, but he doubted it! In his possession it was always known as “The Earthquake”. But you can read all about it, if you get hold of those articles, or the Austin 7 book. … At Le Mans in 1933, by the way, it ran for 16 hours before the drag-link broke, Metchim sharing it with Cecil Masters. But an MG was the first under-750 c.c. car to finish at Le Mans. …

What a distinguished Chummy Austin this was, not to be confused with those which George Chaplin had run rather earlier and which were called “Mr. Flea” and Mrs. Flea”, the latter being prone to periods, of crankshaft vibration. They, too, are described in that Austin 7 book, if you can locate a copy. … – W. B.

“They Believed in Ghosts”

The comments, under this heading last month, seem to have aroused some interest and this may justify rounding off my findings. The intention was to show that whatever the technical and performance merits of other luxury cars that came on the British market soon after the Armistice of 1918, the 40/50 h.p. Rolls-Royce reigned supreme. I set about recalling the notable service which the so-called Silver Ghost model from Derby gave to many high-ranking Generals and others on the Western Front and elsewhere during the recently-concluded war, and it does seem as if this, the reputation of the Rolls-Royce Armoured-Car divisions, and the very satisfactory service given by the Rolls-Royce “Eagle” aero-engines to pilots in the RFC, all had an influence on those who were shopping for new luxury motor-carriages in 1918/20. (Incidentally, the Rolls-Royce “Eagle” engine, a V12 power unit of 20.3-litres, was developed during the war from an output of 225 b.h.p. at 1,800 r.p.m. to an eventual 360 b.h.p. at 2,000 r.p.m. by February 1918. These and the Rolls-Royce engines, which someone will now tell us owed something to the Mercedes, were used for the Bristol Fighter, the DH4, the DH9A, the Handley Page 0/400, the Handley Page V/1500, the FE2b, the Spad, the Vickers Vimy and the Felixstowe flying boats, etc.) These things, coupled to the reputation of the Rolls-Royce as “The Best Car in the World” certainly put it ahead of all rivals in the period under consideration. As I have said, this is endorsed by the number of 40/50 h.p. Rolls-Royce cars that were sold. The total from Derby was an impressive 6,173, in the years 1907 to 1925, together with a further 1,703 made in the American Springfield factory from 1921 to 1926, a grand total of 7,876. That must indicate convincingly the superiority of the Silver Ghost, at all events in terms of cars manufactured.

However, to compare these figures with those for other luxury cars in the period after the First World War it is necessary to know how many of the rival makes were made and how the production of the Rolls-Royce 40/50 h.p. model was split up, pre-war and post-war. Figures are not particularly easy to come by, but it can be said that from the end of war up to 1925 Rolls-Royce built 3,360 of their Ghost-type car. If we concede that some chassis were produced during the period of hostilities, the Admiralty taking 20, for instance, in 1914, when production was at the rate of six chassis-a-week, then the pre-war total can be estimated as about 1,313, at a conservative estimate, as it is probable that output was not maintained, at the rate quoted above, for the whole of the war. If it is assumed that production of the Silver Ghost would not have got into its stride until 1908, the average annual output of the 40/50 was some 340 a year, which even allowing for a reduced output of chassis during the war, is not far away from the post-war target of around 500 40/50s per annum. Lacking a year-by-year breakdown this is as near as I can get, but the fact that, in 1914, 750 chassis were made, of which 150 were exported, has to be taken into account.

It is rather interesting to see what happened after the Armistice. The Rolls-Royce Company had been thinking in terms of 1,000 chassis a year, after the war, but probably of both 40/50 and the new 20 h.p. cars. It is significant, remembering the comparatively small influence of the Unions on workers’ welfare in 1919, that the Rolls-Royce Works Committee was conscious of its responsibilities. When it was proposed to cut-back on this 1,000 chassis a year figure (say 20 cars a week, against the one-time six), that Committee pointed out that this would mean a cessation of the night-shift and the laying-off of 200 day-shift employees, causing 250 machines to remain idle. It was considered that new markets should be sought, to maintain output.

It is only fair to say that much of what is quoted here, and some of the facts and figures used last month, have been taken from Ian Lloyd’s new books about the Rolls-Royce Company, published by Macmillan. I was unable to attend the party held for their debut and Motor Sport has not received review copies, which is why these three books have not been referred to in detail. But much fascinating material is to be found in these volumes “Rolls-Royce – The Growth of a Firm”, “Rolls-Royce – The Years of Endeavour”, and “Rolls-Royce – The Merlin at War”, total price £30.00.

I mentioned last month how, just after the Armistice, Rolls-Royce Ltd. experienced cancellations of orders for the 40/50 h.p. car which encouraged them to persuade Henry Royce to design the new push-rod-overhead-valve, three-speed, central-change, uni-tconstruction (of engine and gearbox) Twenty. At this juncture, although the Derby works had a capacity for 2,000 40/50 chassis a year, it was decided that the target should be 500 a year of these and 700 a year of the “Kite”, as the 20 h.p. chassis was then named at respective chassis-prices of £3,000 and £1,800. (The New Phantom was mooted as early as 1922, by the way, and the cost to the Company of converting the Ghost to front-wheel-brakes was to be nearly £14,000 or some £240 per car.)

So, what happened? Well, the R-R Twenty was introduced to a critical public in October 1922, priced at only £960, and by the 21st of that month orders for 223 had come in. This rate of demand for the smaller Rolls-Royce, which had resulted in batches of 250 being planned, against 50 of the 40/50, was not maintained. In 1923 the Twenty sold 562 chassis, against 415 Ghosts. By November 1923 the output of the Twenty was down to eight chassis a week, and production of the 40/50 was therefore increased. From then until the demise of the Ghost, production was maintained at an average of just over 500 40/50s a year, a total of 700 to 800 chassis a year if the Twenty is included. The totals after the war were 3,360 Ghosts, 2,940 Twenties, but it has to be remembered that the Twenty, which grew up into the 20/25, ran until 1929, whereas the 40/50 became the o.h.v. New Phantom by 1925 – more details in the aforesaid Ian Lloyd books.

Now, we have a firm figure of 6,173 British Ghosts, of which 3,360 were made after the war. My intention now is to show that this completely outclasses other luxury cars. As I have observed, figures are by no means so easy to come by as they are for the R-R products. But I have them for some of the more notable of the Ghost’s challengers. The technically-advanced Leyland Eight just isn’t in the running. I am prepared to accept the figure given to me for it by Sir Henry Spurrier of the Leyland Company in 1931-18. The overhead-camshaft 40/50 Napier, which lasted just about as long as the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, is quoted by Lord Montagu, in his “Lost Causes of Motoring” book, as having a production-run of 187, which ties in well enough with the total of 200 quoted by the Napier Company itself. The Lanchester Forty, another overhead-camshaft six-cylinder motor-carriage in the R-R class, was in production some four years longer than the Silver Ghost. Although its chronicler, the late Anthony Bird, avoids any output figure for it, Lord Montagu, in the aforesaid book, puts the total at 500. Of the straight-eight o.h.v. lsotta-Fraschini, the Tipo 8, which was concurrent with the Ghost, sold 400, according to its makers and even if we include the Tipo 8A, which was not in production until the Ghost had given way to the New Phantom, the I-F total rises to only 1,350. The entire output of these ungainly Italian cars was only 1,400. Only the splendid H6 Hispano Suiza of Marc Birkigt comes anywhere near the Ghost output, with 2,661 built at the French factory from 1919 to 1938 (note the far longer life of this great overhead-camshaft six-cylinder car) if we believe Michael Frostick, or 2,614 if we take the figure quoted by Jabby Crombac. I regret that I have no figures for the Daimler, but, that apart, the Rolls-Royce has all the advantage in terms of sales-successes, whatever snide critics or calculating engineers may say. In fact, the customers believed in Ghosts. …

Contrastingly, American Luxury cars sold in comparatively vast numbers. Using Heasley’s computations, I find that Cadillac made 140,390 V8s (Types 57, 59, 61 and V-63) from 1918 to 1925, that Packard turned out 27,215 Twin-Sixes and Eights between 1920 and early 1926, and that Lincoln produced 28,820 V8s from 1922 to 1925. This makes the Rolls-Royce output look like peanuts; but therein lay the Derby make’s “exclusivity.” Today the used-car dealers’ advertisements show how well pre-war models of this make have survived, even to the extent when I sometimes think someone must be making them!

These figures are becoming an obsession! Did you know that in the first four weeks after the Rolls-Royce Phantom II had been announced in 1929 only 113 were ordered, whereas in the same period in 1925, after the New Phantom had been released, R-R received 145 orders for it? This trend is seen in the way in which the R-R chassis turnover for 1929 only just exceeded that of 1926, although a slightly greater number of chassis had been built. By 1930 the market for the big Rolls-Royce had virtually collapsed, with only 423 being sold, compared to 648 in the 1929 period. The average output from 1924 to 1929 was 546 40/50 R-R chassis per annum, however. By 1931 only 440 chassis in all were built by R-R, these including 76 l.h.d. cars made without profit for the American R-R Company. By 1933, however, the market had picked up, Rolls-Royce sales consisting of 890 20/25 h.p. cars, 540 3½-litre Bentleys, and 239 40/50 Phantom IIs. Incidentally, the total number of chassis made by the real Bentley Company from 1926 to 1931 inclusive was only 1,835, an average output of only just over 300 a year. The 8-litre Bentley which Rolls-Royce so feared at this later period of luxury-car manufacture sold at the rate of six a month from its introduction, the often-denigrated i.o.e. 4-litre Bentley at the rate of 19 a month. … These figures I again owe to Mr. Ian Lloyd, who wrote his Rolls-Royce trilogy as the central theme of his work for a post-graduate course while he was at Cambridge. He was given full access to all R-R confidential documents and to their personnel by Lord Hives and completed the work in 1949. He was not permitted, for political reasons, to publish until the original Rolls-Royce Company had ceased to exist, but was granted permission to do so by Sir Kenneth Keith, Chairman of Rolls-Royce (1971) Ltd., in 1976. His books will tell you many intriguing things, such as how the Rolls-Royce Company was nearly engulfed by a Pierce-Arrow take-over, the true facts of the unsuccessful American Springfield R-R venture, and how Straker Squire sniffed round the cam-profiles and other details of the R-R Hawk and Condor aero-engines they were sub-contracting, before producing their new post-war car, the engine of which had much similarity with that of a R-R Hawk engine –

W. B.

The R-R Chauffeurs’ School

We have referred from time to time to the Rolls-Royce Chauffeurs’ School, which is still in being. Through the kindness of a reader we have seen recently a notebook compiled by a chauffeur, Leonard Hester, who took this course of instruction in driving and maintaining a Rolls-Royce in 1933. (I think he drove GN193.) Much of what he brought away with him will be well known to many R-R followers but a few items seem worth setting down. The notes obviously apply to the Phantom II. The engine speed is given as 150 to 2,750 r.p.m. and it was to be decarbonised every 10,000 miles and its tappets adjusted every 2,000 miles, first pressing each rocker hard down onto its push-rod to exclude oil. The sump oil-level was to be checked daily, the minimum safe quantity of oil being a gallon, and every 2,000 miles fresh oil was required. Those recommended were Wakefield’s (Castrol) XL, Price’s Motorine-C, or Tonneline HCR. Oil-pressure was 25 lb./sq. in., with a safe minimum of 10 lb./sq. in., circulated by a half-engine-speed oil-pump at this pressure to the main, big-end and gudgeon-pin bearings and to the ignition-control relay, and at 3½ lb. to the valve rockers, at 1¾ lb. to the timing gears and fuel-feed vacuum pump. The engine was never to be washed out and the triple oil relief valve required no attention, being non-adjustable. The filter for the ignition control needed cleaning out every 1,000 miles. The cooling system held approx. 7½ gallons and had to be filled to within halfway up the top return tube. You had to screw down the water-pump gland lubricator a few turns every 2,000 miles with the engine hot and running, and lubricate the fan bearing every 5,000 miles. Heaven help you if the pump gland leaked – you had to repack it with single-ply asbestos yarn, using 15′ for the inner, 9′ for the outer packing, winding it clockwise, viewed from the driving end. For an anti-freeze R-R were recommending adding 2¼ gallons of trimethylene glycol, glycerine, or ethylene glycol.

The fuel system held 20 gallons, with three in reserve, and R-R thoughtfully provided a ½-gallon gravity tank for priming a dry Autovac suction for which was supplied by a valveless, ported vacuum pump. Even here there was work for the chauffeur to do – cleaning the extra air valve with a dry rag every 250 miles, cleaning the dashboard fuel filter every 1,000 miles, and releasing sediment from the petrol tank every 5,000 miles, at the same time cleaning the tank and Autovac filters and draining and washing-out the carburetter float chamber. The crankcase-breather gauze needed cleaning every 10,000 miles. And so it went on – clutch lubrication, to various orifices, every 2,000 miles (the dry single-plate Ferodo-lined clutch had a total spring-load of 1,760 lb. and a minimum of 40 lb., and these pressures were non-adjustable), check gearbox oil every 5,000 miles, using only Price’s Amber-A gear oil (the brake servo was driven at half road speed from the 3rd motion shaft), use oil-gun on brake lubricators every 500 miles, every 1,000 miles ditto to prop.-shaft sliding joint, every 2,000 miles remove balance-weight caps and lubricate universal joints, every 5,000 miles check axle oil (when hot), using only Whitmore’s compound oil, every 500 miles lubricate front axle cups, every 2,000 miles top up steering box with Amber-A gear oil, and so on. And to think that I was complaining the other day that the Editorial Rover 3500 requires servicing at 3,000-mile intervals.

The Royce’s centralised chassis lubricator was to be given a shot twice while starting a cold engine and then one every 100 miles, or every 50 miles on wet roads, and it had to be filled every 2,000 miles, with Motorine-C in winter, Amber-A in summer. Even the Klaxon needed oiling sparingly every 2,000 miles and the magneto looking to at 5,000-mile intervals. After 50,000 miles the car was expected back at the R-R Service Station. … To start up from cold the chauffeur “closed” the governor lever, retarded the ignition, moved the main carburation lever to “Strong”, turned on the starting carburetter, closed the radiator shutters, switched on to both magneto and coil, and pressed the starter-switch. As soon as the engine fired he advanced the ignition to normal, checked the oil-pressure, then after about 30 seconds, slowly raised the governor lever to the slow-running position and turned off the starting carburetter. He then had to remember to operate that chassis lubricator, allowing an interval between strokes, and as the engine grew warm he moved the main carburetter lever to “Normal” and, with 70 deg. on the water thermometer, opened the radiator shutters halfway. “Yes, your Grace; we are now ready for the Park. …” (I wonder whether a word-code covered this starting-up procedure, as used in the cockpits of the more complicated aeroplanes?) With so many old Rolls-Royces still in use I hope these notes may be of interest but we cannot take responsibility for their accuracy.

The R-R School operated from 9 a.m. to 12.30 p.m., then from 1.30 p.m. to 5.15 p.m., with a ten minute break in the morning a 15-minute pause in the afternoon. Lost time was entered on the pupil’s report and leave was only granted against an employee’s written request. Smoking was strictly prohibited in class rooms and garage and only allowed in “road work” at the discretion of the Instructor and “never whilst at the driving wheel”. Lunch was available in the R-R canteen for 1/6, but anyone consuming intoxicating liquor was not allowed to continue the course. – W.B.


V-E-V Miscellany.- A reader in New Zealand is trying to piece together and restore a 1911-12 18/24 h.p. Siddeley-Deasy and would appreciate any information anyone can provide. The Vauxhall OC is to be congratulated on having published a Register Edition of its magazine Flutenews which lists all known surviving Vauxhall cars, except the 30/98s which are covered in a separate register of the 30/98 Association to which we have referred previously. The present Register was compiled by John Price and Vauxhall Motors helped with the publication costs. It lists Vauxhalls from 1903 to 1957 under types, with owner’s name and location, body type and Reg. No. and it also contains an article by Michael Sedgwick on coachbuilt Vauxhalls of the 1930s. The person to whom information for inclusion in future editions of this Register should be sent is Ron Shier, 41, Oxleys Cottages, Haynes West End, Bedford. A reader who also hails from Bedford has sent us cuttings from The Bedford Record, a paper which has been reprinting pages from its 1928 issues. One of these refers to a 16-year-old boy who was fined to/by the Bench, consisting of a Col., a Capt., and a lady magistrate, because his Morgan tricar had been found in Barker’s Lane, Goldington, at 10.30 at night without lights. The schoolboy, Eric Curtis, explained that the lamps would only light if the engine was running and that a garage had supplied him with a faulty replacement accumulator. He drove away with dim lamps. The Bench was surprised to learn that the youth was just old enough to drive a Morgan. In fairness they fined a cyclist riding a push-cycle after dark without a red rear reflector the same sum. … Another cutting contains a picture of the Bromham Garage as it was in 1928, serving BP and Shell petrol from hand-operated pumps, to a petrol-company rep. with a Morris-Cowley two-seater, to a gentleman using a jug and funnel to replenish his Royal Enfield combination, another car in the picture being captioned as a Clyno, although it looks more like a Cluley or Hillman two-seater – the point of this period illustration being that Mr. R. H. Southam, who founded the business fifty years ago, had just celebrated his golden jubilee.

Another reference to the Leyland Eight comes from George Milligan, who noticed an advertisement in The Autocar in April 1926 for one of these cars, owned by Lady Apsley. It is described as “One of the fastest and smartest cars on the road, recently overhauled and tuned by Mr. J. G. Parry Thomas, fitted streamlined cabriolet body, enclosed-drive with partition, painted battleship grey with black wings, lined blue leather, in excellent condition throughout, done 120 m.p.h. on the Track stripped, perfect for fast touring abroad, flexible, silent, one of the nicest cars to drive, seen by appointment”, at Buckingham Gate. Mr. Milligan wonders if this was the Howey car and says the thought of Lady Apsley being chauffeured in her streamlined enclosed-drive cabriolet with partition at over 100 m.p.h. down the Routes Nationales to the South of France is quite something. Does anyone remember this car? Mr. Le Fanu of Repton recalls that when at Cambridge in the late-1920s he part-owned a S.L.I.M. fabric four-seater, which was of advanced design but had uncertain four-wheel-brakes. He wonders if anyone else can recall ownership of this make of car? Last summer Shooting Times & Country Magazine carried an interesting item by Terry Davies about the 1931 8-litre Bentley shooting brake used by A. J. McAlpine of Gerwyn Hall, Wrexham, which has been equipped with a 12,000-BTU Webasto central-heating system supplied by Smiths. Although Mr. McAlpine also has a special Range Rover and an Amphicat, it is believed that his Bentley is still in use at his shooting parties. An American reader is researching the Franklin car in this country and would like to hear from anyone who has photographs and memories of this make. Letters can be forwarded. The Salmson Register thrives and contains encouraging items about these and similar French sporting small cars. Group Capt. J. B. Altham, Rtd. sends us the nostalgic photograph reproduced on this page, of the late Richard Marker’s Bentley after it had failed on an observed-section during a London-Scarborough Trial in the 1930s, because the twin SU pumps could not feed the engine sufficiently when it was revving hard in bottom gear and Altham overlooked the dashboard pressure-pump. He says that during this trial an astonished 4½-litre Invicta driver chased them up the then Great North Road, thinking this was a 3-litre Bentley, whereas it was the first 4½-litre (“Old Mother Gun”), that won Le Mans in 1928 and after many changes became the 6½-litre Bentley-Jackson. Our correspondent says that Richard Marker, with whom he did an outer-circuit race and many hundreds of miles on the road, had a Hudson Eight with electric gear-change just before the war. – W. B.


How Fast Did They Go?

In considering how fast or how pedestrian were vintage cars, depending on your preferences and outlook, there are all too few yardsticks we can use. Contemporary road-test reports did not contain performance figures until fairly well on in what we now call the vintage period, although I have used previously, such as are available, in these columns, to demonstrate that most of the older cars were really rather slow. The other day it occurred to me that there is another yardstick to investigate, namely, those one-hour High Speed Trials at Brooklands organised by the still active MCC. The JCC also ran such events but as they liked to enliven theirs with corners or by employing some of the entrance and exit roads within the Brooklands estate, they are useless for direct speeed comparisons.

The MCC events started quite early in the between-wars period and in the p.v.t. era they attracted those who sought to put up some very spectacular speeds, aiming at 100 or more miles round the outer-circuit within the hour, from a standing-start. One day it might be interesting to dissect these performances. For the present I propose to look only at the last of the “vintage” MCC one-hour “blinds”.

Now it has to be accepted that there was no compunction on entrants in these enjoyable events to drive their luckless motor cars flat-out. Medals of varying value were awarded for exceeding certain stipulated average speeds and the more wily competitors presumably tried to lap at just above the highest of these. However, with the expanse of the Track before them, I do not think that many of the drivers held much in reserve, especially as friendly battles would ensue between cars of like make and size. As the cars were ordinary ones, road-equipped, let us look at how the faster ones fared, in the 1930 MCC event, which was so well supported that it was run in two sections. Incidentally, the speeds set for winning gold medals were 52.57 m.p.h. for cars up to 850 c.c., 60.87 m.p.h. in the 1,100 c.c. class, 63.63 m.p.h. for the up-to-1,600 c.c. cars, and 66.4 m.p.h. for anything bigger.

In this 1930 “dice”, the fastest 850 was Elwes’ blown Ulster Austin, at 73.29 m.p.h. This is interesting, because that same year a similar car won the BRDC 500-Mile Race at 83.42 m.p.h, admittedly in stripped form; but this perhaps shows how much faster a works-prepared car usually is, always assuming that Elwes was driving flat-out. In the 1,100 c.c. division of the High Speed Trial the best speed was 67.39 m.p.h. by Chinnery’s Riley. Of the 1½-litres Westbrook’s 12/50 Alvis did 75.57 m.p.h., and the quickest of the big stuff was Wood’s Speed Six Bentley, with an average of 91.38 m.p.h. I wonder whether you will find these speeds impressive or depressing and how, were the same facilities available to amateur speedmen today, the 1970s sports cars would fare? – W. B.