GREAT RACING MARQUES. XIII.—ASTON-MARTIN.
By E. K. H. KARSLAKE.
THE small sports car which to-day is so universally popular is a comparatively recent phenomenon in the history of the motor car. In the early days, if one wanted a fast car, one selected the highestpowered machine which was made by the firm which one favoured. If a millionaire, one probably succeeded in obtaining something of even greater engine size in the form of a successful ex-racing car and proudly exhibited the result of 120 h.p. on the road to those who bad only got ” 90’s ” or “70’s.” The small fast car was practically non-existent. It was the anticipation that something of this latter type could supply a demand in this country which led to the production of one of the first British sports small
cars. In the years immediately preceding the war Mr. Lionel Martin had been engaged on the improvement of the performance of a ro h.p. Singer, and the result of these investigations was that he decided to manufacture a 1500 c.c. sports car under the name of the Aston-Martin. This car, which was destined to become so well-known, had four cylinders of 66.5 x 107 mms. bore and stroke (1487 c.c.) with side valves, a four-speed gearbox and semi-elliptic springs all round.
In 1921 the Grand Prix des Voiturettes was run at le Mans and was for cars under 1500 c.c. One AstonMartin was entered for the race, and was driven by B. S. Marshall. This was the occasion of the first appearance of the famous ” invincible ” Talbot-Darracqs, which opened their career by carrying all before them ; but Marshall ran with extreme regularity and finally finished sixth. During the same year was run the first 200 Miles Race, and four Aston-Martins were entered in the event. But
again the predominance of the Talbot-Darracqs prevented any of the other cars figuring very prominently. The next year, however, the Aston-Martin had an opportunity of showing its capability for sustained high speed, when a car driven by Clive Gallop, H. Kensington Moir and S. C. H. Davis broke the records in the lightcar class from 800-1,200 miles and for 12 hours. In 1922 the R.A.C. revived its Tourist Trophy race, and organised an event in the Isle of Man for 3-litre and 1500 c.c. cars. Aston-Martin decided to take part in the smaller class, and three cars were entered. Of these two, which had Count Zborowski and Kensington Moir as their drivers,were standard 1487 c.c. side valve models, but the third, which was to be handled by R. C. Gallop
had an engine of entirely new design. It had four cylinders with a bore and stroke of 66 x 112 MMS. (1486 c.c.) with four valves per cylinder operated by two overhead camshafts driven by a vertical shaft. Unfortunately, however, neither this car nor Zborowsld’s was ready in time for the race, with the result that Kensington Moir started alone on the veteran Brooklands racer, ” Bunny.” It was obvious, however, that he could have no chance in the race, for he started with a broken valve-spring and valve trouble soon put him out of the running. Although not ready in time for the T.T., however, two of the overhead valve Aston-Martins were completed shortly afterwards and were entered for the French Grand Prix at Strasbourg. This race was for 2-litre cars, but Aston-Martin proved that they were enter prising enough, not only to be one of the very few English firms who have entered for this event since the war, but to do so with 1500 c.c. cars. The two cars were driven
by Count Zborowski and R. C. Gallop, and they soon proceeded to show that what they lost to the bigger cars in maximum speed they were very nearly able to make up by the speed at which their little cars, with their short stub tails, could corner. As a result of this, they were able for a long time to hold seventh and eighth positions in a field of eighteen, until, when about a third of the distance had been covered, Zborowski was forced to retire with magneto trouble. Gallop, however, managed to get his car into sixth place, and stayed there until half-distance, when magneto trouble put him out of the race also. This was extremely bad luck to reward a very gallant effort.
The two cars, with Zborowski and Kensington Moir as their drivers, were entered for the 200 Miles Race, which was the next great event of the year, and with them G. C. Stead started on the veteran “Bunny.” The famous ” invincible ” Talbot-Darracqs, of course, started hot favourites in the 1500 c.c. class, but at the end of the first lap it was Moir who held the lead, with Zborowski fourth and Stead fifth. For five laps Moir was first, and then on the sixth he dropped out, once more with a burnt-out armature, to be followed almost immediately by Zborowski.
This left only Stead still in the race to uphold the Aston-Martin prestige with his side-valve car. But in spite of its age, ” Bunny” was lying second, and there, after only an occasional drop to third place, it still was at the end of the race, having beaten all the speciallybuilt and most up-to-date racing cars with the exception of one Talbot-Darracq, and having averaged 86.33 m.p.h. for 200 miles.
Before the year was out, the two Aston-Martin racers appeared once more in a Continental road race. They were entered for the Grand Prix de la Penya Rhin in Spain, and once more had to meet the redoubtable Talbot-Darracqs. The two Aston-Martins were driven by Count Zborowski and Douglas Hawkes, and although Hawkes was put out by a broken valve, Zborowski drove a fine race, and finished a good second, averaging over 64 m.p.h.
The Grand Prix de Boulogne in 1923 provided another opportunity for Aston-Martin activities. Two cars were entered by their owners, G. E. T. Eyston and R. C. Morgan, and although only standard side-valve engined cars, set out to compete against the new Talbot-Darracq racers. At the end of the first three of the twelve laps of the race, the two Aston-Martins were lying third and fourth and running with complete regularity. For ten out of the twelve laps they stayed there, and then one of the leaders dropped out, and Morgan and Eyston finished the race second and third respectively, beating, as in the 200 Miles Race of the year before, everything but one Darracq.
In the meantime, a new Aston-Martin attack took place in the field of records. A special car was constructed with the overhead valve engine, a very narrow chassis, a crab track and no differential. The car was fitted with an extremely narrow single-seater body and was very carefully streamlined. In August, 1923, this car made an attack on the standing start records in the light car class, and in the hands of F. B. Halford annexed those for the half-mile, kilometre and mile at 62.8, 66.5 and 74.12 m.p.h.
For the 200 Miles Race in 1923, no fewer than six cars were entered, four by the makers and two by their owners. In the end, however, Zborowski decided to go to Barcelona instead, and as one of the new cars could not be completed in time only four machines were projected for the race. Of these J. McCulloch’s overhead valve model could not face the starter, and so only G. E. T. Eyston was left to start on the other overhead valve car, with E. R. Hall on” Bunny” and R. C. Morgan on another side-valve machine. The fastest cars in the race were the two 1500 c.c. Fiats, but when they fell out it was Eyston on the AstonMartin who held the lead. From the thirteenth to the thirty-ninth lap he held it unchallenged, and then his engine began to misfire and he stopped at the pits, which cost him two places. The misfiring continued, and for sixteen laps Eyston continued, convinced that a valvespring was broken, while the pit displayed a board which told him to stop and which he was unable to see. At last, however, he did so ; the plugs were changed, and the car had its speed once more, but the race was lost for good, and he had to be content with fourth
place. The two other Aston-Martins, driven by Morgan and Hall, finished sixth and ninth respectively, and were thus the only team in the race to finish complete.
In the meantime, Count Zborowski had taken his Aston-Martin over to Spain to compete in the Grand Prix de la Penya Rhin against the famous Darracqs, which had not appeared in the 200 Miles Race. As usual, it was soon apparent that they were the only serious rivals of the Aston-Martins, and after lying third behind them for the greater part of the race, Zborowski finally managed to pass Resta and finish second. He thus succeeded in repeating his performance of the year before and earning for himself in Spain the name of the Eternal Second, which Girardot was dubbed in earlier times. The Penya Rhin race, near Barcelona, was followed by another event for 1500 c.c. cars on the occasion of the opening of the new Spanish track at Sitges. Once again Zborowski started, and after a magnificent race finally finished third behind his two great adversaries.
G. E. T. Eyston and R. C. Morgan again entered their cars for the Boulogne Grand Prix in 1924. The latter was afflicted with magneto trouble, but Eyston took the lead at once and proceeded to hold it for the first few laps. Then, however, a most unfortunate event occurred ; while trying to pass one of the French cars, the latter hit a heap of stones, the tail flew up into the air and the machine landed almost broadside on, with the result that Eyston had to take the ditch to avoid a collision, entirely deranging his steering gear and involving his retirement.
1924 200 Miles Race.
Three Aston-Martins started in the 200 Miles Race of that year, of which two, driven by G. E. T. Eyston and E. R. Hall, were overhead-valve models, while the third was a side-valve car, entered and driven by H. S. Eaton, and fitted with a 3-seater touring body. The race proved a triumph for the new supercharged Darracqs, but at the end of thirty laps E. R. Hall was running fifth. On the fortieth lap, however, a most extraordinary incident occurred. The engine sudderly stopped with an ominous clanking noise, and the conclusion having been reached that it had a broken con-rod, the car was withdrawn. On being examined after the race, it was found that there was nothing wrong with it. In the meantime, Eyston had also retired, a loose oilunion having allowed all the lubricant to leak away and the engine to seize. This left only Eaton’s ” touring ” car in the race, which continued very steadily and finished twelfth. As well as this, J. C. Morgan’s car, which had an Aston-Martin engine in an Eric Campbell chassis, ran remarkably well and finished ninth. In the next year’s race three Aston-Martins were entered, the two O.H.V. ones being driven by H. W. Cook and G. E. T. Eyston, while H. S. Eaton again
entered his side-valve car. As well as this, however, a car was entered by F. B. Halford, which was called the A. M. Halford and which consisted of an engine with three overhead-valves per cylinder, of the entrant’s own design, in an Aston-Martin chassis ; while J. C. Morgan entered an Aston-Martin chassis with a Thomasdesigned O.H.V. engine. The Aston-Martin were early in trouble, for on the first bend Cook’s car got out of control and crashed the railings. Thirty laps later Eyston had also to retire with clutch trouble, and was followed by Eaton. Both these cars were fitted with touring bodies, and the hopes of the marque had materially faded after Cook’s crash. Halford, in spite of running out of petrol and having to push his car a long way to the pits, finished fourth in the 1500 C.C. class.
This car was entered for the British Grand Prix in 1926, and G. E. T. Eyston also entered an Astc n-Martin with an Anzani engine. In the race, however, the latter retired with engine trouble, and Halford, having been running third and fourth for a great deal of the race, was put out with a broken universal joint. The Anzani-engined Aston-Martin appeared once more in the Boulogne Grand Prix in the hands of B. Eyston, but was put out by magneto trouble.
Just latterly Aston-Martins have not been so much seen in the big races ; but the entry of three of the new overhead camshaft models in this year’s Grand Prix d’Endurance at le Mans marks the appearance of this enterprising English firm in a new field of activity.
GEORGE BROUGH RETURNS TO RACING.
Most motor-cyclists remember the many racing successes of George Brough, the maker of BroughSuperior machines. Five years ago Brough was one of the foremost of our racing men, but he has not figured in speed events since his serious accident in 1923.
Now, however, he has returned to the racing game. This is largely due to the fact that F. W. Dixon, who rode a B.S. in several speed events last year, has joined another concern. Brough, therefore, will himself ride the machine he made for Dixon, and will probably attempt to break the world’s motor-cycle speed record —a real example of a manufacturer who puts his trust in his own goods!