Vintage post-bag

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The “Chain Gang” replies

Sir,

First I would like to say there is no way the Chain Drive Frazer Nash devotee is going to shun either you or Motor Sport — there is no other magazine which does so much for the Vintage and Pre War racing scene; and long may you carry on the good work. However, I was very sad that your remarks about Frazer Nashes in the last issue of Motor Sport should have been under the heading “Bogus Sports Cars”. I cannot believe for one minute that you feel the chain drive Nash was, and is, anything but an out and out sports car. A car that one week can win the Boulogne GP, perhaps next week win a Gold on the Land’s End Trial and then proceed to a first in a driving test meeting or go on to win its class at Shelsley Walsh and during all this competition be used as hack transport to go to the office, had no peer as the ultimate sports car. Of course all of this was done by the Anzani engined Frazer Nash during the 1920s.

I find the eccentric remarks concerning Nashes attributed to the very well known VSCC personality very amusing. I too will not mention the name of this 30/98 Vauxhall enthusiast because I have too much respect for him, and value his friendship. However it is not true that the owner of the 3 or 4½-litre Bentley tended to look down on and dismiss the desirable and pleasant 30/98 as not being a real sports car, not having much competition history etc.? Shades of the alleged attitude that Alvis and Lea Francis owners used to have towards ‘Nashes perhaps? Could it be that the owners of these fine but somewhat orthodox cars couldn’t understand the true extrovert who ran a Nash and perhaps envied the noisy fun and camaraderie that the Chain Gang has always enjoyed.

As far as long distance sports car events are concerned you forgot to mention the Frazer Nash win in the 230-mile long 1925 Boulogne GP, though you did mention the class win in the Production car race at Brooklands. Of course, in the ’30s the Nürburg Nash MV 2303 which I have the pleasure of owning, ran in the 1932 German’ GP but had to retire halfway through due to its bent chassis caused by a collision with a tram in Brussels, as it was being driven to the Nürburgring. Only a real sports car would be driven across the Continent to compete in a GP! This same car finished the 1933 BRDC 500 mile race at Brooklands at an average of 88.8 m.p.h. Also the outstanding performances of the Frazer Nashes in the long and arduous Alpine Trials of the ’30s shows they had tough stamina and were proper sports cars.

I look forward to seeing you again at this season’s VSCC races.

Captain Dick Smith
Frazer Nash Section, VSCC
Rogerscale

[I am sure the Frazer Nash folk are sufficiently extrovert not to mind what people think of them, and do not need a publicist — but criticism of their cars is something else! So I am glad I was but quoting a contemporary opinion — and, I hope, made amends last month! As for the Boulogne GP win, it happened before the British had discovered the joys of the Boulogne Speed Week, so Clive Gallop’s fine drive may not have influenced public opinion. — ED.]

* * *

Mystery photo

Sir,

Re David M. Landerss photograph, January issue 1983, “An Edwardian Accident”. The vehicle appears to he a Commer Luton 3-4 ton 24-26 seater with a Linsey epicyclic pre-selective gearbox, column change.

The chain guards were leather and contained oil.

A. E. Harrison
W. Hallam

* * *

“Samson”

Sir,

I was interested in the picture of the Napier “Samson” in the January issue of Motor Sport.

Why are headlamps and a 50 gallon petrol tank fitted? They would not be necessary for the short races at Brooklands in which this car usually took part.

After his 24 Hour Record, Edge said to the Press that an 80 m.p.h. average ought to be possible (his 60 h.p. Napier had averaged 65.9 m.p.h.). Did he prepare to make such an attempt with “Samson”?

Headlamps would be needed only for a record attempt in excess of 12 Hours.

Anthony S. Heal
Knotty Green

[Or was it used on the road? — Ed.]

* * *

Maserati: FGC 412

Sir,

Following my letter of January 5th, I have today had an interesting phone conversation with Mr. Peter Shaw who was apparently responsible for the Cameron Millar conversion. He told we that they found several Maserati parts at the premises in South London once owned by Roland Dutt, including a back axle which was positively identified as belonging to Chassis No. 3004; there was also a badly patched crankcase which was discarded and many other vital parts, but no chassis frame.

It would therefore seem probable that FGC 412 was broken up for spares, some of which may have found their way into Cameron Millar’s or even the Crampton car, or at least held as spares.

Mention of Roland Dutt “rang a bell” and I am now certain that it was he that ran the car at Goodwood not Dan Margulies, my memory was at fault. If that was the Torin car, and I think it must have been, then it had been reassembled. From Mr. Shaw’s description of the crankcase they found, it must have had another expensive blow-up.

I have doubts now whether we shall hear any further news of its existence as a complete car, which makes me very sad. I am wondering whether there was something fundamentally wrong with the engine. We had planned to have the crankshaft and con-rods checked for flaws and distortion but this was not done prior to the War.

Richard Winby
Truro

* * *

Sir,

I found the letter from Mr. Winby concerning the Maserati, in your January issue most interesting, because by an amazing coincidence, I purchased a 2.9 Maserati which was only partially assembled from Messrs. Fox’s Garage of Mortlake in August 1946. I subsequently sold the Maserati to Robert Arbuthnot. I wonder whether this could be the same car? The only thing that seems doubtful is when Mr. Winby says that “It was sold for a giveaway price”. I paid around £400 for the car which in 1946 for an elderly racing car which consisted of many boxes of “bits and pieces” with very little future seems, even today, a fair price.

Brian Finglass
Ferring-by-Sea

* * *

Sir,

I was very interested to read your comments on p. 40 of the January issue concerning Lt. Torin’s 2.9-litre road equipped Maserati and the letter from Richard Winby therein detailing all the events leading up the sad demise of the great car as a result of the war years.

There must be many other stories, which may now never be told detailing the loss of tether famous and historic cars resulting from the intervention of the war.

Regarding the revival of the Torin Maserati post war this was almost certainly the car raced by Roland Dutt in the VSCC Seaman Trophies Race on July 12th, 1952 and which is well illustrated on page 374 of the August 1952 Motor Sport. I think the car may also have been entered in some other small club events around this time and was I recollect also being offered for sale by Roland Dutt around these times.

By its rather mediocre performance it would appear that it was not very well screwed together again after Mr. Winby’s father disposed of the bits!

I cannot recollect having heard of the car at all since the mid 1950’s and it would indeed be interesting to know what became of it.

Congratulations on the continued high standard of Motor Sport.

Patrick Green
Amersham

* * *

Jowett flat-twins

Sir,

Your reference to the “Sports” Jowett in your article on “Bogus Sports Cars” is not quite accurate in respect of the engine modifications. The detachable heads were used in an effort to produce a more efficient combustion chamber shape which was not possible with the production “monobloc” cylinder barrels. This modification was, in the event, self defeating as during the record attempt the radiator core became choked with wasps, causing a cylinder head gasket to blow. The overheating caused the cylinder heads to warp and the gaskets had to be replaced twice more before the 12 hours were completed.

It could be argued, therefore, that as the standard engine had no gaskets to blow, the record could have been broken by a larger margin despite a slight reduction in maximum speed available.

As a matter of interest, the subsequent engine design carried out by Steve Poole, ex-Singer Motors, bore no relationship to the earlier design other than the disposition of the cylinders, the method of obtaining crankshaft balance, and similar manifold design. It is fair to say that this engine was as close to maximum efficiency that a side-valve design could be with its inclined valves and excellent porting. Pity the valves were not a little lighter. Even the brothers Jowett could not get everything right!

John Box
Old Hutton

* * *

Vintage v Replicar!

Sir,

Your article on “Bogus Sports-Cars” was interesting and amusing.

The comments on Replicars reminded me of an incident when ascending a winding hill at a brisk pace in my 2-litre Lagonda (which has given me 21 years of enjoyable motoring). In the opposite direction came a Panther J72 (SS100 lookalike) and we were greeted by its flamboyant driver with wild hand waving (no, the Lagonda was not boiling), and in the second or so before we met, thoughts did pass through my mind, such as you mention, about the tribulations of maintaining and driving a Vintage Car.

We did not wish to appear unfriendly and so I did manage a nod of the head. Looking back this action does appear to have been the correct British compromise, but was really due to the fact that my left hand was holding the steering-rim tight and my right was making certain the gear-lever did not jump out of third!

Please keep up the good work.

Richard Hayes
Studham

* * *

The TT Vauxhalls

Sir,

You may still depend on your readers to supply the correct information! The three cars were registered as follows:

No. 1 NM 1795.

No. 2 NM 1875.

No. 3 XU 5155.

Since numbers 1 and 2 bear Luton registration numbers and number 3 a London one it seems fair to assume that number 3 was registered for read use by Mr. Peter Gurney and not by the works. The car, number 3, was certainly licensed for road use at the time of the 1924 Holme Moss hill climb when it made f.t.d. driven by Raymond Mays. It bore the above number at that event.

J. E. Hallas
Castletown, IoM

[Well, well! — Ed.]