THE D.8.120 DELAGE
EXCELLENT PERFORMANCE OF AN EXTREMELY COMFORTABLE CAR
MONSIF,UR Louis Delage has probably turned his long and distinguished racing experience to better account in his production motors than most people. Ever since the war the name of Delage has been synonymous with refined speed, and, indeed, the matt who could design the 14-litre 1925 Grand Prix
machine might be expected to make a touring or sports-car that would do its job without a lot of fuss and clatter. This characteristic has persisted throughout the years ; whether in the
just-post-war 24 h.p. six-cylinder that was ten years ahead of its time ; the famous DISS and DMS series of the later ’20s, or the present models. The biggest of the latter is the D.8.120 of which there are as yet only a few in this country. When the opportunity of a
short rim in one recently presented itself It was therefore thought that readers of MOTOR SPORT might like to hear something about its performance. The particular car in question had. had a somewhat chequered career. It was originally fitted with one of those par ticularly spicy streamlined saloons which the French seem to like, but which none but a trained contortionist can leave or enter. On arrival in England, where it was destined for use as one of the demonstration cars of University Motors Ltd.,
who are the sole concessionaires in England and the British Isles, the body was therefore removed, and a drophead foursome coupe by Coachcraft Ltd. put in its place. In this form it had travelled nearly 11,000 very hard miles when I drove it,
during which time there had been little opportunity to attend to it, so that its performance may be taken as being probably not quite as good as might be expected in private ownership. On the road, I have not come across a really fast car that can inspire con fidence more quickly. After being driven for a few miles by Mr. John Bradstock, a Director of University Motors and one of the best drivers of my acquaintance, I took over and found myself exceeding 90 m.p.h. within the first mile without exciting any signs of marked agitation on the part of my passenger. The performance, indeed, is formidable, but I think the roadholding and steering are even more remarkable. At whatever speed, the car can be put right in the
gutter without any shock reaching the passengers or the stability of the car being affected, and there is absolutely no rolling, even when it is forced round a traffic island with all four tyres squealing. Equally, on the Faversham Margate Coastal road, the many fast bends were negotiated with complete stability and comfort between 80 and 90 m.p.h. The steering is finger light at all speeds and yet requires only 21 turns of the steering wheel to move the road wheels through a really wide lock. That this should be possible with 7 in. section tyres
is indeed an unflattering reflection on those manufacturers who cannot apparently produce light steering that requires less than 4f to 5 turns from lock to lock.
The man who pretends that it is possible to corner fast and safely with low-geared steering is either a fool or a salesman. Another characteristic of the Delage steering is that it is completely devoid of “feel,” and how it has been possible to combine this with such extraordinary accuracy and high-geared operation is obscure to me. To anyone used to normal sports-car steering, especially of the more ” Vintage” types, this seems very strange at first, but the feeling rapidly passes. To begin with, one is apt to ` jaggle ” with the steering wheel in an attempt to ” feel ” the front wheels, but the temptation should be sternly resisted, as the best results are achieved
amount of 33 b.h.p, per litre. The fivebearing crankshaft seems to he absolutely rigid as there is no trace of period or vibration at any point in the whole range. I do not know what the recommended maximum revs. are, but about 4,500 seems to be comfortable and gives maxima in the gears of roughly 33, 48, 76 and 106. Why, in view of this, the calibrations on the rev, counter begin to assume a most menacing expression at 3,800 and disappear altogether at 4,200 is not entirely clear to me ! The performance is vastly assisted by the Cotal electrical `I cog-swopping ” arrangements, and to my mind this device is the only serious improvement on
by a steady even movement of the wheel, when the car will, go round bends as though on the traditional rails.
This lack of reaction in the steering is met elsewhere with..similar types of independent front suspension, and white I—purely as a matter of personal preference—like to be kept rather more closely informed of what the front wheels are doing, there is no doubt that the Delage steering would be far less tiring on a long run than the more “live ” variety, and also does everything that can be required of it. Turning to the engine, it has eight cylinders in line with coil ignition, a downdraught carburetter and push-rod operated overhead valves. The dimensions of the cylinders are 80 min. x 107 mm., giving an overall capacity of 4,302 c.c. and an R.A.C. rating of 32 h.p. Only 120 b.h.p. is claimed in the maker’s catalogue, but in view of the weight (35 cwt.) and the performance I should think this is conservative, and the figure of 142 b.h.p. recently quoted in the ” Motor” sounds more probable. This would be equivalent to the respectable
a good crash box with a clutch stop. At least two other types of easy-change gearboxes now popular are practically as large and as heavy as the rest of the car put together, and waste a shocking amount of power overcoming incidental friction. The Cotal box, on the other hand, is small, light and efficient and has given absolutely trouble free service in the hands of countlesss private owners.
This particular one, however, was temporarily out of adjustment owing to a dirty contact, which was apt to give a delayed action when Changing gear. This, nevertheless, is quite an exceptional occurrence. To a lazy driver, the Cotal box is just pleasantly fool-proof, while to the con noisseur it is full of new possibilities. It is operated by a tiny lever working in a visible gate at the end of an extension arm, projecting from the steering column, which brings the lever within easy reach of the fingers of the left hand without moving it off the rim of the Steering wheel. Ease of selection is assisted by the lever being spring-loaded towards the lefthand side of the gate, where top and third
are situated. The actual direction of the car, fore or aft, is decided by a short central lever of conventional type that is placed well under the dash and does not get in the way. When this is in neutral the Cotal box can be left in gear. The ratios are fairly close, but in view of the adequate Power put out at moderate revs, there is no need for them to be any closer. On the other hand, it struck me that, for really fast getaways, bottom might well be a little lower. The fear that a dead battery would make the Cotal box rather a white elephant is not really very serious, since, if there is enough current to start and run the engine, there will certainly be enough to provide the 31 amps. necessary to operate the ratios. It will be remembered, incidentally, that the Delage,
that it is a genuine 100 miles-an-hour conveyance, with a little more in hand besides.
Acceleration up to 85 m.p.h. is really rapid, and only after that does one have to “wait for it” to any extent. Eighty-five is about the best cruising speed, at which the car will waft along in almost complete silence, at a very moderate throttle opening. As this only requires an engine speed of 3,600 r.p.m., there should certainly be no reason why it should not be able to maintain it indefinitely, while with such a moderate stroke the piston speed is quite reasonable. The following acceleration figures can only be taken as approximate, since they were read with an ordinary pocket watch and by uncorrected speedometer readings. As against this, the gearbox
which ran so impressively at Le Mans last year, was fitted with a Cotal box.
Upward and downward changes are usually made in the normal manner, speeding up the engine or allowing. it to slow down while the gear is in neutral, before engaging the noxt one. Given even the most moderate judgment, there is then no need whatever to use the clutch. Alternatively, lightning snap changes can be made, both up and down, keeping the throttle open throughout, but in this case it is essential that the clutch should be used to take up the drive. Changes of this kind neither should nor need be done as a habit !
As to actual performance, this is really astonishing, considering the very considerable weight and frontal area of the car, while the Coacheraft body makes no very sensational concessions to considerations of streamlining. On this actual machine the speedometer is 5 per cent. fast at the top end, and it had been timed at 105 m.p.h. with the speedometer showing HO. On my run it never passed 102 (97 to 98 actual) but I had stupidly left a window open which, of course, completely upset the air-flow. There can be no doubt, however,
being out of -adjustment was no possible sort of help so that, all things considered, they are probably not far from the truth. At worst, they show the very marked address with which speed is accumulated. to 50 m.p.h. took 11 seconds, to 70 17i seconds and 30 to 70 in third
throughout, 12 seconds. The car will run smoothly at (and pull away from less than) 10 m.p.h. in top gear.
The brakes were badly out of adjustment and no figures were taken, but, judging by the smaller D.6.70 model, which I have also driven, they should be very powerful when in proper order. It is gratifying that a proper handbrake is provided ; with modern traffic conditions one is more essential to-day than ever before.
The Marchal starter sets the engine going from stone cold in two revolutions at most. The Coachcraft body was free from rattles and the wide doors still closed easily. The hood can be raised and lowered by one person in a few seconds and when up does not drum at any speed. Ingress and egress are easy and the driving position excellent, while after the rather lurid advertisement pictures I was surprised
to find that both mudguards were visible, so that I had no difficulty in placing the car at speed within two or three inches of the near-side kerb. The front passenger’s seat is lower and does not provide such good support for the small of the back. The rear seats are exceedingly well contoured, but are too high off the floor, so that the legs of an average person are left dangling in mid-air. The back passengers feel more road shocks than the people in front, though even so they still ride in more than usual comfort, and much could doubtless be done by careful adjustment of the shock-absorbers. There is ample elbow room, both in front and at the back. Under the bonnet the engine itself has all the expected Delage neatness, but in the change-over of bodywork the electric wiring had got moved about and presented rather a confused appearance. On this particular car the exhaust is taken through outside pipes and, owing to a somewhat faulty layout (provided, as I understand, against M. Delage’s better judgment to special requirements, in the days of the original streamline body), a peculiar and not very pleasant beat is introduced into the otherwise unobtrusive exhaust note, when acceler
ating hard. This would not be perpetuated on ordinary models. The front axle assembly is quite usual for this type of suspension—i.e., independent transverse leaf spring—and the castor angle is maintained by radius rods. The rear suspension is by normal
semi-elliptic springs. The price of the model tested is 0,370, which is certainly good value for money.
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