Letters from readers, May 1939

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36

Sir,

As a California motor-sport enthusiast, I resent the spirit of your article on American specials. It has the same tone as the article by Mr. Grey, of “The Aeroplane”, attacking the quality of American aircraft on the occasion of your Air Ministry’s order for 200-odd bombers from Lockheed. I consider it hardly in the tradition of British sportsmanship, at least as we understand that term on this side of the Atlantic.

These cars are used on the road all year round. They do not look queer. They are standard roadster bodies with the wings and windscreens removed, and the headlights moved to the dumb-irons. Smaller V8 wheels with large-section tires are usually fitted.

The cars, on the whole, are owned by youths in their late teens or early twenties. As you indicate, the owners are usually of modest circumstances. As to mechanical alterations: 3 to 1 rear axle ratios are usually fitted, cams ground, hotter ignition coils and high-compression heads fitted. O.H.V. (pushrod) conversions are available for about £18. Usually Stromberg or Winfield carburetters and friction-type shockers are fitted.

The engines are, for the most part, four-cylinder A or B Ford, circa 1929-32, although O.H.V. heads may be had for V8s.

These ears would have to be reliable to carry their owners to school and work daily.

As to the names of the various clubs: As I have said the cars are mostly Fords. The individual clubs are small, and there may be three or four of such in each community. So you see, you cannot compare them with your English one-make clubs. At any rate, some of the English Motor-cycle and Cycle clubs have some pretty silly names. In closing, I should like to make the observation that we consider our hotted-up motors much more sporting than the standard article used in a number of British cars, some of them called “sportscars”, whose makers often haven’t the guts (American term meaning “courage”) to admit that the power plants they use are 100 per cent American. The use of such engines should confute the oft-heard British contention that America has no real sportscars.

I am, Yours etc., John Stowe Barker. California, USA