SCAT sequel

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My “Forgotten Makes” piece about SCAT/Ceirano in the January issue has brought a letter from Nick Sloan who owns a Newton Ceirano, a 1925 S105 ohv version of those nice little sportscars, which he thinks must be one of the first produced, from its chassis serial number and differences between it and later models. It is significant that his car’s gearbox oil-level plug has “SCAT” stamped on it and is fitted with “Palf” telescopic shock-absorbers, which were made in Italy, and of which the much-publicised Newton-Bennett ones were either these renamed, or direct copies. This seems to confirm the supposed close connection between Newton & Bennett and SCAT/Ceirano, in which the Manchester company had a large, if not a controlling, financial interest.

What Nick Sloan was really drawing my attention to was that when I referred to the SCAT self-starters I was writing of their well-established compressed-air engine starter, which also acted as a tyre-inflator. In this he is perfectly correct, and I was mistaken in describing the 15 hp pre-1914 SCATs as having electric starters, although I believe that at first the compressed-air starter was fitted only to the larger models. Scat themselves termed both simply self-starter, so confusion arose. But it was the latter system which sometimes required an owner of a SCAT to turn the engine over a half-turn or so before the starter would function. In 1910 N & B got the RAC to carry out an officially observed test of such a starter on a 25.6 hp SCAT, with a Bosch magneto as its only ignition equipment.

This starter was made under Harper patents. It consisted of a 50 x 40mm cylinder, the piston in which was driven by an eccentric from the front of the engine’s crankshaft. This air-compressor fed a 28 x 8-1/2in weldless reservoir which stored air at up to 400Ib/sq in pressure, fed to the engine cylinders when required through a non-return valve in each exhaust-valve cap, a rotary valve, driven by bevel gearing from the camshaft, ensuring a correct feed sequence. When the engine had been started this valve was lifted from its seat, to save wear. The air-compressor also served as the car’s petrol feed until the engine was running. Apparently the SCAT system was made in Italy but assembled in England.

The RAC-observed trial confirmed that this engine-starter performed impeccably. The engine was stopped and re-started 67 times during a drive of 185 miles, 57 of them in London traffic, at intervals varying from 91 seconds up to 55 minutes. Each time the engine restarted perfectly, without the carburettor being flooded, even after standing for three nights in the open. A 32 x 4 tyre was inflated to 80Ib/sq in in 93 seconds, but when the feed-pipe was held an inch from a sheet of blotting-paper some oil was deposited thereon. The engine could be started 24 times before the reservoir emptied, with the compressor not running, and the engine turned 51 times at a pressure of 350 lb/sq in before the reservoir became exhausted. The RAC even took the car to Brooklands Track and drove it for two hours at 49.39mph (presumably the comfortable cruising-speed of a 25.6hp SCAT) finding that the compressor didn’t get warm; but for a time it was not compressing because dirt had obstructed the feed; this took only 39 seconds to remove, but reservoir pressure had dropped from 350 to 220Ib. Good old RAC — so very thorough!

The Delaunay-Belleville also used compressed-air starting before WW1 but when electric starters became dependable the complexity was too much and such systems became defunct. Back briefly to those shock-absorbers, a relief perhaps after all that (hot?) air. Although the instruction-book for the early Newton Ceiranos refers to “Palf” dampers, N & B supplied what they called Newton Hydro-Pneumatic dampers, in four sizes, those for cars of 7/10 and 10/18hp at 8gns and 10gns per set of four — there were also dampers for motorcycles and big cars and lorries. N & B claimed that theirs was the only shock-absorber that was truly progressive in both directions and didn’t work at slow speeds, so that it was claimed that the car would “glide like a gondola”. Many testimonials were published in 1926, from Daimler and Humber owners as well as Newton Ceirano users and these dampers were said to have helped win the 1926 GP of Rome; although in my book an Austro-Daimler won, from Cattaneo’s Ceirano. There is a 1913 N & B in the NMM at Beaulieu and the compressed-air self-starter is still on at least two of the surviving SCATs. W B