Vintage Postbag, March 1981

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Hotchkiss Record Breaker

Sir,

I was recently shown references in Motor Sport of January 1981 in the article on the Eyston papers to the 2-litre record-breaking Hotchkiss, driven first by Eyston at Montlhery, in 1934 which subsequently ran in the 500 mile at Brooklands in 1935 and again at Brooklands in 1938. As I was Managing Director of the Hotchkiss Company in England beginning in the mid-thirties I know quite a bit about this car, and am probably the last living person who actually drove it, not in races but on endless circuits of Brooklands during tuning and testing. The car belonged to and was made at the Hotchkiss factory at St. Denis. It first appeared in 1934 when Eyston drove it at Montlhery when it took the 500 mile record for unblown 2-litres at 112.9 m.p.h. and numerous other class records. It first came to Brooklands in 1935 in the 500 mile, driven by Divo and Rose. It performed very creditably then, finishing in time at an average of 106 m.p.h., lapping for most of the time at 110 m.p.h., it was very reliable. It finally appeared at Brooklands in 1938 driven by Baker-Carr, it was reliable but not very successful for reasons I will explain.

The car was a 4 cylinder with two Stromberg carbs, maximum revs about 4,600 with a very long stroke, I cannot remember and have no records now of the actual bore and stroke, [80 x 99 mm., giving 1,990 c.c. — Ed.]. The engine was offset at about 40° to lower the frontal resistance which enabled the very pretty streamline to be obtained. The front veiw of the car had a slightly lopsided appearance as the oil tanks were contained in an additional fairing on the offside, I cannot trace a photograph of the direct front view showing this.

The car was rather a pig to drive at Brooklands, owing to the offset engine, the steering column and wheel was slightly offset, you quickly became used to this; at least half the cockpit was taken up by the enormous fuel tank. When Eyston drove it at Montlhery it had a very neat Perspex screen which wrapped around the driver, this is clearly shown in the Motor Sport photo (p. 51 of the January 1981 issue). The Brooklands Stewards would not let us use this as it partially closed the cockpit sides. As a result of this, the car had to be driven with no protection for the driver at all, the streamlining having been designed to take the screen (see the photo Plate 93 in “The History of Brooklands” with Divo driving). The car was thus appallingly windy and cold to drive. The exhaust pipes discharged in the hollow tail and the reverberation was pretty bad. How Divo stuck it for 500 miles I don’t know, Baker-Carr complained bitterly of it in 1938 in short races and so did I during testing laps.

Harry Ainsworth let us have the car again in 1938. We just could not make it go as it used to. Baker-Carr, Goodwin our works manager and I drove it endlessly in practice laps. Up to about 110 m.p.h., which was not good enough, all was fine, but you could not get another rev, only more exhaust noise! We spent a packet at our works and with Thomson and Taylor, everything possible was done and checked, but to no effect. We did finally discover the trouble. In 1935 for the 500 we had 2 cyl heads, one worked and the other was poor, they were almost indistinguishable, but there were very slight differences in the profiles, you had to have the two side-by-side to identify them and we had only one. We had been sent the car with the wrong head and there was nothing to be done.

I often wonder what happened to this car, it went back to Paris in 1938, the Germans took over the factory during the war and no one has ever seen the car again. Harry Ainsworth could not trace it after the war. Does anybody know?

Leyburn, Yorks

J. C. Medley

The Eldridge Papers

Sir,

I found the article about Capt. G.E.T. Eyston and Ernest Eldridge particularly interesting — the former was a boyhood hero of mine, and his connections with AEC and Riley parallel my own affinity for these makes (as former employee/historian and the proverbial “satisfied customer” respectively). He was even a director of the Thornycroft concern, for whom I was a chassis designer in 1957-61.

The AEC engine in Eyston’s record-breaking car would be an A165 variant, the reference to “A1650” would probably be a misreading of a suffix letter (most likely “D”, as “O” was avoided) signifying alternative features to suit the particular installation. The A165 was the standard 8.8-litre engine supplied to AEC’s customers for diesel vehicles in the 1932-35 period and the number of Eyston’s engine sounds about right at 132 in relation to those in service by 1933, notably in six-wheel double-deck buses for London General Omnibus Co.

However, what particularly intrigued me was the horse-power-per-litre table. I wasn’t surprised to find the AEC engine near the bottom, but multiplying up the figure of 16 by 8.85-litres (incidentally the exact capacity of this engine was always quoted as 8,850 c.c.) we arrive at about 140 b.h.p., which suggests that all that was done to the engine was to allow the governor to run up to the quoted 2,400 r.p.m. instead of the usual commercial-vehicle setting of 2,000 r.p.m. In fact early buss 8.8-litre units had run at 2,400 r.p.m. until it was found possible to obtain 130 b.h.p. (ample for the performance expected from a bus of that date) at the lower speed. AEC were quite adventurous with their early diesels — anything from 2,200 r.p.m. or so is still regarded as quite fast for a unit of this size.

Mr. G. W. Nicholson’s letter on Armstrong Siddeley memories raises another interesting subject. As he says, this concern relied on band slip to take up the drive on cars with pre-selective gearboxes, at any rate up to the mid-‘thirties, though around 1935/6 a centrifugal clutch was added to give smoother starts. So far as I recall, the only cars with fluid flywheel in combination with pre-selective boxes were those of Daimler and associated Lanchester and BSA makes. However, if buses are brought into the picture, not only Daimler but AEC (under licence from Daimler) used the fluid flywheel and pre-selection combination, which proved almost ideal for city use — which is where we came in, as it were. Armstrong Siddeley supplied the p/s boxes used by Riley from about 1935 (with centrifugal clutch) and, I think ERA (without) — earlier Riley preselectors used the ENV version.

What a small — and inventive — world the British Motor Industry was in those days!

Basingstoke, Hants

Alan Townsin

*   *   *

Sir,

Some of the engines in Ernest Eldridge’s exotic list are credited with extraordinary power outputs. One wonders how reliable his sources could have been; not very, in the cases of the Talbot 90 and 105, where his figures are quite wrong. They should read 40 b.h.p.-per-litre at 4,500 r.p.m. for the 2,276 c.c. 90, and 45 b.h.p.-per-litre at 4,800 r.p.m. for the 2,969 c.c. 105; presumably he didn’t take these engines too seriously in such company — and presumably also the 4-litre four-cylinder Bentley mentioned is a misprint for the “last gasp” 4-litre six, though I find it astonishing that such a unit could ever have been made to give 148 b.h.p., or that anyone should have thought it worth the effort to try.

There are other questions to be answered. How many of these special engines were actually built, how many actually got into a car, who built them, and who used them, and what were the results? Most important of all, on what date was the list compiled? Does the 12 b.h.p. advantage shown for the Grand Prix 1 1/2-litre straight-eight Talbot over its rival the Delage reflect the position in 1926, or later when the Talbots had been further developed by the Materassi stable in Italy? The Deluge figures are obviously pre-Ramponi and Seaman.

One thing does stand out, though: confirmation that there was no-one to touch Frank Lockhart as the foremost racing development engineer of his time.

Callington, Cornwall

Anthony Blight

[I do not think Eldridge would have regarded his b.h.p./litre figures as anything but a rough guide. I imagine the 4 1/2-litre Bentley figure was for the four-cylinder car, not for the 4-litre six, if the table was, as Mr. Blight points out, compiled in pre-Seaman Delage times, say in 1930/32. It could date from 1927 or thereabouts for engines actually tested by E.A.E./G.E.T., with later ones like the Talbot 105 added without that data. The list was undated, as available to me — Ed.].

“The Sunbeam” at Wolverhampton

Sir,

I was most interested to read your article about the Sunbeam experiences of Mr. J. L. Cozens, regarding his father and the 1929 Monte Carlo Rally. The Sunbeam entry, a 20.9 Rally Saloon, Reg. No. UK 6219, happens to be currently in my possession. I say “happens” deliberately, because I bought the car in 1974 as a jolly nice vintage Sunbeam, and only happened by chance to find out later that the car was in fact Sunbeam’s entry for the 1929 Monte Carlo Rally.

It is still largely in its original condition — original carpets and leather, still has the 1929 GB plate and registration plates with a Wolverhampton maker’s name inscribed, and perhaps most interesting of all, has chalked on the underside of the front passenger seat the name “Cozens”, as crisp and clear as the day it was written.

The car performed quite commendably in the rally, finishing 15th out of 93 starters: it was a year of freezing fog and ice so that there were only 24 finishers. I hope you will be interested to hear that the car is alive and well. I have not used it so much recently as I prefer the delights of an open car.

Ely, Cambs

Tony Hull

Saltburn

Sir,

How well I remember my first view of motor racing! As a ten-year-old my parents took me to Saltburn. We all sat in deck chairs alongside the finishing line, within a few feet of the monsters— Stewart please note!

The racing composed of members of the Yorkshire Sports Car Club — heavy Austin 12 h.p. sit-up-and-beg saloons good for at least 35 m.p.h. Touring Sunbeams, Talbots, Clynos, Rhodes, Rovers, the lot, and all having a go, and fun. Then the “heavies”; but it was the Brescia Bugattis that stole the show — the wonderful noise and speed only Ettore could produce and the smell of Castrol-R. From that moment I was sold.

Towards the end of the meeting it was announced that “a Mr. Campbell would attempt to break the world speed record” and was trying for around 150 m.p.h. and would spectators please move back behind the deck chairs! (Original Armco?) He thundered down the beach and we were all sure he had done 150 m.p.h. but alas only 134 was achieved. After the turn round we had a look at the Sunbeam — he was a very brave man.

To this day nothing compares with the Bugatti. I am glad my parents took me to Saltburn but am sad that my favourite sport has passed into the hands of the “wrong crowd and over crowding” or is it old age?

London

Joe Epworth

[Those were the days! The Bugatti was driven by Raymond Mays and the 350 h.p. Sunbeam was timed at 138 m.p.h. in one direction, averaging 134 m.p.h. — Ed.]

The 30/98 Vauxhall

Sir,

Pedestrian, my foot! In Tom Threlfall’s letter to the January Motor Sport, he implied that the 30/98 was in the same performance class as a Ford Model “A”. I really think that his Ford will need more than a few numbers after its name to improve its status. But pedestrian! — this the 30/98 certainly is not. Remember that the basic concept of this car was established well before the Kaiser war which makes the car very much an Edwardian Fast Tourer. (It was seldom referred to as a Sports car.) Any standard 30/98 would reach 85 m.p.h. and cruise all day at 70. This at a time when the current Ford would be lucky to reach 45. The owner of the 30/98 in the early twenties was in a similar position to the owner of an Aston Martin today, only he was able to use his car to its maximum potential, whereas today the poor Aston owner must stay down with the rest of us, restricted by legislation.

The analysis of the origin of the 30 in 30/98 was interesting and is probably nearer to solving the mystery than anything else we have seen — if indeed we want it solved. There has always been a degree of aura about the name and we are not sure we want to know the clinical detail. As far as we are concerned 30/98 represented the top of the Vauxhall range when their “bread and butter” cars were the 14/40 and 23/60. I have always understood that the 30 referred to the static HP (confirmed by Tom’s excellent analysis) and the 98 the developed HP. The car’s reputation has been earned by several generations of satisfied owners who have generally kept their opinions to themselves or to their close friends. Thus it is that many cars change hands without ever coming on the market, passing between friends or within the family. The hot air must be generated by those who cannot get themselves a car — it certainly does not originate from the 30/98 fraternity.

I agree about the Ford being more commercially successful, but then it was designed for and sold to the undiscerning masses who only wanted cheap transport. The 30/98 obviously did not appeal to the Americans who took charge of Vauxhall Motors in 1925 and it was the first casualty of the new regime. Perhaps they realised that, like Concorde, it was not possible to pack so much quality English engineering talent into a single package and still end up in credit.

Bakewell, Derbys

D. R. Marsh

“Buick By-Gones”

Sir,

Like Mr. Ian Pratt, I was also very interested in the above having been with Page Hunt Ltd. of Farnham (not Farnborough) in the twenties when we were building a considerable number of drophead coupes for Lendrum & Hartman.

I am surprised that the National Motor Museum has no record of the Elkington Carriage Co. as they built quite a number of bodies on Buicks amongst other chassis. They certainly exhibited at the Motor Shows from 1924 to 1930, and moved from Chelsea in about 1929 to Chiswick High Road — perhaps some ex-employee of theirs could give more details.

Churt, Surrey

Trevor R. Lloyd

*   *   *

Sir,

The “famous black Buick” CUL 421 departed to the Bulgari Collection in Rome about thirteen years ago. If I remember aright, the car assigned to Stanley Baldwin in “Edward and Mrs. Simpson” was a 1934 ASX or ASY Light Six Vauxhall, quite a possible car for the period, though my personal guess for a Whitehall “hack” of the period would be a Hillman Six, either a 1934/5 16 or 20/70, or maybe the later IFS-equipped Hawk or 16 of 1936-37 type. Neville Chamberlain, as is well known, brought “Peace and Honour” back from Heston Airport in a later seven-seater 80 model, last of this line.

The Skinner Special coupe mentioned by John Willis as living at St. Austell: a four-light coupe said to be by Jensen, with 1933 or 1934 Morris radiator shell — turned up in the last Southern Counties Veteran and Vintage Car Auction staged at Beaulieu in the summer of 1965. It was running, but tatty and minus most of the interior trim. I was told at the time that it had been T.C. Skinner’s personal transport in the mid 30s, but have no further corroborative evidence.

Finally, I’m surprised that the NMM couldn’t find any record of the Elkington Carriage Company, though possibly the older address in Chelsea floored them. Elkington were quite well known coachbuilders who exhibited at Olympia up to 1929 or possibly 1930, at which time their works were at the far west of the Chiswick High Road, on the corner of what later became the North Circular Road. From the mid 30s the premises, I seem to recall, were taken over by Vauxhall-Bedford dealers Spurling Motors, who also did a lot of “custom” work on Bedford truck chassis. I recall — though not where and when — Elkington formal coachwork on the bigger Minerva chassis like the 32/34 HP AK, and didn’t I read in David Thirlby’s first-rate marque history that goodly number of Frazer Nash bodies (TT Replicas and the like) of the mid-30s were made by Elkington?.

Midhurst, Sussex

Michael Sedgwick

The Auto-Union Vans, etc.

Sir,

The interesting “A Shelsley Walsh Memory” story in the November 1980 issue contains a photo of the pre-war Auto Union racing car transporter and the Editor questioned if it was a Wanderer, an Opel or what? It was, in fact, made by Bussing. The Auto-Union, consisting of the Horch, Audi, DKW, and Wanderer car factories and the DKW motorcycle works, never produced big vans. And Opel was a leading opponent of A-U cars. Bussing never built passenger cars, concentrating always on big lorries and vans; they had, therefore, no “enemies”.

Equipped with heavy Diesel engines, the vans were very reliable, but lacked speed. When the drivers of the vans — mainly the Auto-Union racing mechanics — had to cover long distances from one race to another, they got very tired in comparison with the drivers of the extremely fast vans of the Mercedes racing equipe, which — of course — were of Mercedes manufacture.

Incidentally, the “mechanic” who (also on page 1741) is seen reversing the Auto-Union out of the transporter was my friend Wilhelm Sebastian, who joined Mercedes racing driver Adolf Rosenberger as mechanician in 1924 and who drove afterwards with Mercedes drivers Walb, Mrs. Merck, Baron Wentzel-Mosau, Momberger, and with Caracciola with whom he won the 1931 Mille Miglia.

When Porsche designed the Auto-Union racing car, Rosenberger was closely connected with him, as were Walb and Wilhelm Sebastian; partly, because they had, since the Benz “Teardrop” days of 1922-1924, practical experience with rear-engined racing cars. In addition, Rosenberger had commercial interests in the Porsche Design Company at Stuttgart. When, in 1933, the Auto-Union decided to produce the Porsche-designed racing cars at the Horch works at Zwickau, ex-racing driver Walb became Racing Manager, i.e. the opponent of Alfred Neubauer, for whom Walb drove in his Mercedes days. Wilhelm Sebastian also joined the Auto-Union and was a racing driver in the first (1934) “works” team, together with Hans Stuck, Prince Hermann zu Leiningen, and August Momberger. Afterwards, Wilhelm Sebastian became Assistant Racing Manager and held this position until WW2 finished all racing. His younger brother, Ludwig Sebastian, was head mechanic to Bernd Roserneyer. Adolf Rosenberger, who between 1927 and 1930 drove the 1925 Ferdinand Porsche-designed Mercedes “Grandmother” to many successes, was prevented from driving Auto-Union racing cars by Adolf Hitler, as his own Grandmother did not belong to the Aryan race. He left Germany in 1934, for the USA.

As to the only ever Mercedes-built “Grandmother”, it had a modern 1924 framework from the 2-litre 8-cylinder cars (in one of which Count Zborowski was killed at Monza), with a 1914 4.5-litre Mercedes Grand Prix-engine to which Porsche had added a supercharger.

Beilefeld (Germany)

Erwin Tragatsch

Liverpool Speed Trials

Sir,

Your interview with Mr. J. L. Cozens was most interesting. Can some erudite reader tell us anything about the Liverpool Speed Trials to which reference is made? Whereabouts in the Liverpool area were they held, and in which years? I have to admit that I have never heard of this event, which must have been of some importance to attract a works entry from Sunbeams.

Guildford

John Willis

[For once we don’t have to ask the readers! The speed trials to which our correspondent refers took place on May 15th 1920 over a one-kilometre course at Storeton, a few miles south of Birkenhead. There were more than 300 entries, and Cozens won his class on form and on Formula beating two Essex. Cozens took seven awards in all that day but the 1914 Sunbeam was beaten by the 30/98 Vauxhalls, and, incidentally, a pre-war Ninety Mercedes took part. The course was a private road, but the spectators invaded it. Does this road, reported at the time to be “safe for any speed” survive, I wonder? — Ed.]

The Armstrong Siddeley OC

Sir,

I read with interest the letter, “Armstrong Siddeley Memories”. As a Manchester man and an owner of several Armstrong Siddeley cars, including a 17 h.p. Town & Country Saloon registered in Manchester, plus being involved in a thriving area in the S.W. Midlands with other members and also privileged to be the Chairman of the above Club, I thought I would put Mr. Nicholson’s mind at rest.

We have a flourishing Club of over 700 members spread out all over the world, we have an excellent library, with an excellent librarian. We attend rallies all over the country, and although Westmorland is a long way off, we did manage to get to the car show at Leeds in 1980, and attend all the other shows, including Earls Court. We have a large spares organisation, they never caught fire and our Company Secretary comes from Hull.

Finally I would personally be pleased to hear from the Vice President of the Westmorland MC, it could be to our mutual advantage. Incidentally, our last rally was held at Ragley Hall, Alcester; over 100 Armstrongs turned up with pre-war cars amongst them.

Droitwich, Worcs.

Dan Lambert, Chairman, Armstrong Siddeley O.C.

[We have frequently given publicity to the thriving ASOC, as recently as last January in a footnote to Mr. Nicholson’s letter, and we enjoy the Club’s excellent magazine — Ed.]

V-E-V Odds & Ends

The errors made in licensing documents supplied from the DVLC at Swansea are legion, and continue. Amusing as some of the entries are, it is a National disgrace that after the enormous sums of tax-payers’ money this computer centre cost, it cannot operate more efficiently. Michael Ware, Curator of the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, says that he returns many such documents to ensure that the Museum’s historic vehicles are correctly registered, one error being that the rare 1912 McCurd lorry which is on loan to Beaulieu from Tate & Lyle Ltd. was put down by Swansea as a McTurd: and we know of a 1924 Grand Prix Sunbeam quoted by them as a “Sunbeam Imp Sport Sports”! The Rotary Club of Bognor Regis is again holding a Motor Gala this year, to which veteran, vintage and later vehicles are welcome, the enclosures being roped off. The date is August 23rd and entry forms will be available in April, from: C. Sayer, 6, Wren Crescent, Bognor Regis, West Sussex. A reader has sent us the accompanying photograph of a typical 1920s propeller-driven cyclecar. A number of such vehicles was constructed in those days, this form of transmission obviating the complexity of a gearbox or other form of variable transmission and a final drive to the road wheels. The builder of this particular wind-wagon is unknown; does anyone recognise it? We like the gas lamp on the casing protecting the propeller which, incidentally, was also a protection for anyone coming into contact with the vehicle!

B.A. Crockford considers that the Austin Heavy 12/4 is ridiculously slow, but is nonetheless a delight to drive. He is contemplating the manufacture of a higher final drive ratio (4:1 instead of 5.1:1) and would be pleased to hear from other 12/4 owners who might be interested in this go-faster modification. Letters can be forwarded. Adrian Liddell tells us that he has re-painted his Straker Squire with the Zebra stripes it wore at Brooklands when raced by Kensington Moir, replacing the under-trays and radiator cowl in the process.

Alf Poyser’s sister, aged 80, is anxious to trace the present whereabouts of her brother. Mr. Poyser was selected from Rolls-Royce Limited, at Derby, to work on Sir Malcolm Campbell, Bluebird in 1935 and went to America when the car broke the LSR. He then went to the Packard Motor Company and may later have owned a hotel. His sister has not heard of him for many years and would be grateful for any information. (Letters will be forwarded.)

W. B.

 

 

 

 

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