Vintage postbag, March 1980

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Type 38A Bugattis 

Sir, 

In his letter in your January issue, Mr. V. L. Seyd asks if his Type 38A Bugatti still exists. 

Happily it does, and some years ago it was as the hands of Mr. W. Greenwald of California, who may still be its owner. Its chassis and engine number’s are 38471 and 364SC.

There are at least 34 Type 38 Bugattis in existence throughout the world, and probably 37 or 38, of which at least seven are, or were, supercharged (Type 38A). 

It is interesting to see in the photograph, the Type 43 registered GJ53. This car seems to have gone to earth since 1939 when a Mr. S. F. J. Reynolds, who had run it for about a year, passed it back to Jack Lemon Burton. I have been unable to trace the car since, as I have no reference to its chassis number. It is probably still about, either re-registered, or abroad, or in hiding. 

The other Type 43 shown is in good hands with Mirrey in Redhill. It had a very distinguished history (Campbell, Eyston, etc.). 

I have a very comprehensive cross-reference of British registration numbers to Bugatti chassis numbers, and I am in process of making the list available to the ROC Secretary, to whom application should be made in writing, for the whereabouts of any particular Bugatti. 

David Skinner 
Chandlers Ford 

* * * 

An unusual Star 

Sir, 

Having read your article about Star cars in the January issue of your excellent magazine, I thought you might care to see the enclosed photograph of a Star which was used to demonstrate a peculiar “spring wheel”. 

This car was driven about the country to motor dealers in the period before WWI by a cousin of mine, the late Donald Wood, prior to his joining the Forces and being posted to South Africa. 

I would welcome your comments regarding the year of manufacture of the old car in the photograph, as the surviving brother of D. Wood cannot claim to have this information.

Beeman Howess 
Marden

* * * 

A rare Star

Sir,

May I, as a sequel to your Star report, appeal through your columns for any information readers may have regarding the McEvoy-Zoller-Star which I am at present restoring?

RB7013 was built to special order by Gilbert Inglefield of Derby some time in 1932. It incorporates a Star Comet 14 chassis and basic engine, with one or two minor modifications to enable it to be fitted with a Zoller compressor, which is driven from the front end of the crankshaft. 

The coachwork, part aluminium, part steel over an ash frame, was designed and fitted by Jensen Motors at West Bromwich. The original colour scheme seems to have been white with black chassis and wings — all bright parts being chromium-plated.

I understand that both Michael McEvoy and Laurence Pomeroy had a hand in development of this car; the former most certainly fitted and tested the Zoller which was originally a Type 5. 

The late Freddie Hatton is reputed to have raced this car at Donington in about 1932/33 in conjunction with a Mr. T. E. Killeen, latterly of Jensen’s, who remembered the car, but felt that it was not fast enough by 1934 to compete successfully. Some time before he died Freddie Hatton told me that when he drove the car it was known as “The Split Banana” on account of it being painted in yellow, brown and green stripes. 

Still later the car appeared for sale and was advertised as being in two-tone brown; later still it was painted all green, then black. 

When I found the car in 1965 it was very run down and almost fit for the breaker’s yard. The paint scheme was now off-white and rust! The Zoller was missing, the upholstery vandalised, and all instruments missing. One front wing had been replaced with a piece of sheet aluminium. The whole ensemble gave a very sad impression. She did not run, either.

However, we are now pressing ahead with restoration, but I would dearly love to find some race report or record of the car’s participation at Donington or wherever. Perhaps someone somewhere can help, especially when one takes into account D.S.J.’s excellent article on the rebuild of historic or “pretend-historic” vehicles.

Jeremy P. Collins 
Marcham 

[Letters can be forwarded. — Ed.] 

* * * 

60 m.p.h./60 m.p.g. in 1924

Sir, 

You have been good enough to reproduce during the past two years photographs of my 1924 Mathis and 1927 Bugatti. Here is one to satisfy your demand for 60 m.p.g. and 60 m.p.h.: my 1925 7.5, 4-speed, Mathis. A delight to handle but with none of the weighty extras young men seem to want today. Working my way up via father’s 1910 Bradbury and 1915 Triumph, my own 7.9 single-speed Indian and a 1923 Morgan, I found the Mathis answered all my needs. In my 80th year with 70 years of motoring experience behind me I agree with you about the silly prices being paid for cars which even in their hey-day were nothing to write home about. During the last 12 years I have been running a 1957 2.4 Jaguar for which I have nothing but praise. The paint, chrome and leather are as good as new and it shows what British cars can be like.

C. G. Knight 
Verwood 

* * * 

Why do they do it? 

Sir,

I think you are over-sweeping in what you say about the handling effect of non-original tyres. On the front wheels the effect is naturally great, but my experience is that on the back wheels it is negligible. I know you have it in for the 600 x 20 tyres we use at the back of the Itala, but whatever you may think, they have made absolutely no difference to the handling. Braking is more predictable, especially in the wet, but step-off is not so good, because it is impossible to spin the wheels, which is desirable on the 5.3 to 1 bottom gear. However, it was not for improved performance that the change was made; it was forced upon us by the weakness of post-war beaded-edge tyres. If you had had bursts when taking Copse at Silverstone or Paddock (or whatever it’s called) at Brands at full chat, I think you might have had second thoughts about the sanctity of complete authenticity. However, even on the score of authenticity, as you must know from early Brooklands pictures, the Itala always raced on fat rear tyres; what section they were I should love to know. 

What has improved the handling markedly is fitting the replica 1908 GP body; cornering is now much better balanced. 

As to why people race fun, old cars, it surely is simply because they enjoy it. These cars have enormous personality; they are superbly made; they mostly handle extremely well; there is no cut-throat element in the competition. I enjoy driving good cars of every era; my RS2000 better than most (all-round, undoubtedly the best car I ever owned) but even after 45 racing years on the Itala, every time I drive or race it is an experience of pure joy.

Sam Clutton 
Lezayre, IOM 

* * * 

A Rolls-Royce 40/50 h.p.

Dear Sir, 

I am at present trying to trace a Rolls-Royce 40/50 h.p. c 1912 that my grandfather owned during 1919/1920. The enclosed photograph of the car taken at about that time shows it in use as a private hire car, it remained in his ownership for about 18 months until he returned to Yorkshire. The car was run in and around Deal, with the help of an army friend whose identity is unknown, this friend is believed to have bought the car when my grandfather ended his stay in Deal. 

The car was purchased after receiving his release payment, when he left the Army Motor Corps about 1918/1919, he lived in Deal for some time staying with this friend while recovering from illness, the car being used to provide an income. 

As I have no information about the car itself, I am very interested in obtaining any details of what happened to the car after it left my grandfather’s ownership — perhaps your readers might be able to help?

A. Calvert 

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