THE 20/60 VAUXHALL VELOX SALOON ON THE ROAD. By R. L. W.
S INCE the famous Luton firm of Vauxhall’s made a radical change in its policy,
it had not fallen to my lot to drive one of the productions resulting from the revised methods of manufacture, for none of the new models falls into the category of ” sports cars,” and indeed, the rumour was well broadcast that the Vauxhall had become ” Americanised ” in all but name. From time to time I had been a passenger in these cars, and I must admit that such performance as I saw inclined me to a suspicion that the rumours had a certain amount of truth in them. With my memory full of the celebrated 30/98 sports model, which was a genuine fast motor, I felt nothing but disappointment in the 1928 productions of Vauxhall Motors, Ltd.
However, shortly before the show it was whispered abroad that although the firm were still producing one type of chassis only, it had succeeded in making that chassis something worth looking at, and it was with some pleasurable expectation that I called at the factory to take away a 1929 model Velox Saloon for a week end, to see what I thought about it.
The Velox Saloon does not claim to be a sports model, but it is the nearest approach to that type in the range of 1929 models, and at the exceptionally moderate price of £555 it is indeed worthy of more than a cursory inspection. It does not need a prophet to foretell that at this figure the Velox Saloon is going to find a ready sale.
In company with Mr. Dean, the Service Manager, I went round to inspect the test car, and I may say at once that the appearance of the Velox is most imposing. There is not a trace of Americanism about any part of the car, from the new deepened radiator to the handsome badge on the off side rear wing. The fabric body, built on a new principle in the firm’s own works is a first class example of this type of construction, which with the red Belco finish and cream wire wheels combine to lend the car an air more becoming to an £800 production than a car priced at £555.
Since there are one or two alterations in the chassis which have yielded a performance considerably advanced over that of last year’s models, a word or two of description will not be misplaced.
To begin with the engine has been made slightly larger in the bore, the six cylinders now having a capacity of 2,916 c.c. This increase is fully justified in the increased power output at low engine speeds, which last year was a point to be criticised. The yearly tax is therefore £21. The overhead valves are operated by push rods in a detachable head of cast iron. The pistons are of special aluminium alloy which permits of less clearance in fitting than in the old days, and are fitted with three rings above the gudgeon.
The crankshaft is specially balanced, and runs in nine bearings, which accounts for the total absence of appreciable pei iodic vibration anywhere in the range of revolutions, again a great advance over the older models. The camshaft runs on three bearings and is driven by silent chain. Mixture is delivered by Claudel Hobson carburettor fitted with an air cleaner, and is vacuum fed from a fourteen gallon tank at the rear of the chassis. Delco Remy coil and battery is the ignition employed.
Regarding the transmission, the clutch is of the single plate variety with a four speed gear box. The rear axle is semi-floating with spiral bevels. Springing is semi-eliptic front and rear; steering is by Manes cam and roller, giving turning circles of 41 feet left, and 45 feet right, and the result is very light steering free from any vibration.
So much for technicalities.
As soon as I pressed the starter switch and the engine pulsed to life I felt that the new 20/60 is an improvement indeed. The tick over was absolutely silent; by listening carefully one could just hear the hiss of the air intake and a faint tremor denoted the firing of the six cylinders. I felt that I could expect something in the nature of well bred performance from this car, and throughout the 400 miles I covered in the week end, from one Saturday afternoon to the following Monday I had no cause to revise my opinion.
DISPOSITION OF CONTROLS.
Seated in the driving seat, which was adjusted— on the Leveraoll principle—to accommodate my six feet three, I found that all controls came readily to hand. The ignition and hand throttle levers fell con
veniently beneath one’s thumbs, and the very long central gear lever was particularly well placed, and was so designed that even when three up in the front seat the lever could be operated with perfect freedom. The transmission hand brake, on the right side was rather a parking device than a service brake. The accelerator pedal, of the roller pattern, was between the other two pedals, and was adjusted to a nice stiffness. The instrument board was satisfactorily arranged, with the exception that the Jaeger speedometer could with advantage be transferred to the position occupied by the clock—directly under the driver’s eye. In addition to the usual ammeter and oil gauge
there was a fuel gauge, and the instruments could be lit by concealed lamps in an adequate manner at night. Another useful adjunct to night driving was the Lucas dimmer placed conveniently to hand.
A mile from the works my route led down a slight incline, barely distinguishable to the casual glance, and it was with some astonishment that I saw on glancing at the speedometer that I was exceeding seventy miles per hour. On the top gear of 4.73 to 1, on the level the Velox was capable, without fuss, of a maximum of 68 m.p.h., while the slightest suspicion of down gradient
was sufficient to send the needle flickering over the 70 mark. At these speeds the car rode in a most easy and comfortable manner, being free from pitching or bounce, while the engine displayed no signs of distress, only a faintly increased humming from beneath the bonnet denoting the higher revs.
Cruising between 40 and 45 m.p.h. with one’s foot hardly depressing the throttle pedal, the engine was absolutely silent, and there was no sound other than the whirr of tyres over tarmac. At all speeds and over all surfaces I was unable to detect any rattle or wheeze in the fabric body.
The road holding of the car was distinctly good. Cornering at high speeds was free from roll, the steering being positive and light. As a matter of personal taste I disliked the low geared steering which seems to me to provoke more wheel winding than is desirable should a skid develop, although it makes for ease in negotiating dense traffic, or for a lady when manoeuvering in a small space.
From the high performance point of view I would suggest a rearrangement of gear ratios. The high 4th makes for silent running and fuel economy, but 3rd was to my mind too low. On this ratio of 7-25 maximum speed seemed about 45 mp.h.., too great a drop for really fast getting about, although the car displayed any amount of pep on this speed.
Brockley Hill, Middlesex, was ascended with a clear run, the summit being crested at 45 m.p.h. on 4th; there would have been no point in a change down. This same hill was descended after midnight, again with a deserted road, and on the lowest stretches the speedometer touched the 80 mark. It was at this point that the road holding of the car left much to be desired. The front wheels tramped and bounced in a most disconcerting manner, while the low geared steering made control a matter of some hectic wrist work. The surface of this hill is admittedly rather bad and bumpy, and 80 is a respectable gait, but I encountered the same symptons over the Seven Hills at Cobham, which I took at speeds varying from 60 to 70 m.p.h.
In discussion afterwards with the Vauvhall people I learnt that this tramp and bounce is purely a matter of shock absorber adjustments and tyre pressures, with which I am inclined to agree.
HIGH A V ER A G ES POSSIBLE. To give some idea of the performance of the Velox Saloon over ordinary main roads, I made a fast run late at night from Marble Arch to a village 25 miles north, via Edgware and Brockley, and using the gear box on every beneficial occasion, and with a wonderfully clear run, aided by the excellent headlights, I arrived at my destination 32 minutes after setting out —an average not to be despised by a definitely sporting car. While on the subject of fast travelling, the gear box lies open to criticism in that the change up is about the slowest I have encountered for some time. Double declutching is essential, but even so the wait is far too long. Probably a clutch stop would go far to ameliorate this fault,
Much of the high averaging which can be done on the Velox is due to the truly excellent brakes. It is not often that one can really honestly praise mechanical brakes, but as fitted, to the Velox, without Servo assistance, the four wheel brakes—which have a clever method of quick adjustment—were definitely the finest I have tried in years. It was impossible to lock the wheels, but the car came to rest in a remarkably short distance. The only brakes I can think of to compare with them are the elaborate hydraulics fitted to a high priced American car.
A critique of the Velox Saloon would be incomplete without a word about the excellent coachwork. The interior of the saloon was upholstered in real hide, to seat five with ease. The fitments were of the best, and included a wireless cigar lighter and a ladies’ companion. The four doors with winding windows—which did not rattle—had quick opening straps, and the blind to the extremely wide rear light could be operated from the driving seat. The windscreen was in one piece with the wiper at the bottom, while over the screen were two small ventilators, in addition to the one in the scuttle. There was a parcel rack overhead and capacious pockets behind the front seats. Altogether the interior suggested an expensive car. The trunk fitted with two suit cases can be obtained at £15 extra, and is well worth the money to the man who travels far, although to my mind the trunk does nothing to enhance the car’s lines.
In all I covered 400 rather fast miles in my test, and when I returned the car the engine was as silky and silent as when I first let in the clutch, but the btakes needed a little adjustment.
Working out the consumption of fuel I was agreeably surprised to find I had averaged 18 m.p.g. in spite of the somewhat blue driving over the whole test. The 20 m.p.g. claimed in the catalogue should be easily possible to the ordinary user. I have nothing but admiration for the Velox Saloon, and I am astonished at the value for the money provided. Although one is sorry to have seen the last of the 30/98 sports model, one is glad to find that the latest production takes after its famous ancestor in good breeding, to the exclusion of those traits of American methods so abhorrent to the majority of
itish sporting drivers.