Rumblings, May 1940

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charge of aero-engine repair during the 1914-18 War, recalls those rather fantastic days at Brooklands when aero-engined cars were the chief attraction at B.A.R.C. meetings. For instance, you will probably remember the eight-cylinder 11¾-litre Wolseley-Viper, which Kaye Don used to race. It was a Capt. Miller creation, when he was head of the Wolseley Competition Department that later evolved the 200 Mile Race “Moths.” The chassis was an old shaft-drive Napier and the motor a Wolseley-built Hispano. This particular engine, Major Hirtzel recalls, was the best engine we had for our S.E. 5a, until the advent of the Coatalen-designed Sunbeam “Arab,” modified later by George Lanchester. Even so, the French edition had an average life before complete overhaul of only twenty hours, and if the oil-pressure fell below 100 lbs. per square inch, the centre bearing, which was loaded to 90 lbs. per square inch at 2,000 r.p.m., promptly failed. The oil-pump was located in the alloy crankcase and if the engine was run-up too enthusiastically from cold, a pressure of 250-300 lbs. per square inch would build up, resulting in distortion of the crankcase wall and, when the oil warmed up, loss of that centre bearing. Wolseley engineers largely redesigned and modified this Hispano unit and turned it into a splendid job.

The 400 h.p. twelve-cylinder Ford-built Liberty motor caused much excitement early in 1918 and was very “hush-hush” as introduced into our Service. Actually, the Germans had had complete specifications some months before, and a full description, with drawings, had appeared in the Journal of the S.A.E., including details of Henry Ford’s method of cutting off a drawn tube at an angle and pulling out the ears, to form valve-pockets and guides above the cylinder. It was one of these motors which Zborowski, tiring of his “Chittys,” put into a chain-drive chassis in 1923, to create the Higham-Special. The 27-litre motor ran too hot and the frame flexed, but a lap-speed of just over 116 m.p.h. was realised. It was left to Parry Thomas to get a lap speed of nearly 126 m.p.h. from it, and, known as “Babs,” it was this car with which he set the Land Speed Record to 171.09 m.p.h. at Pendine in 1926, before his fatal accident at this very spot. The big engine did about 1,200 r.p.m. at 100 m.p.h., which is not unexpected, but what is surprising is that the weight, in Higham-Special form, was quoted as only 33 cwt., and it was disposed almost 50/50, with an excess of a mere 8 lbs. on the rear axle. During the last war, Lanchesters made R.A.F. 1a and Sunbeam “Arab” motors, Clement-Talbot repaired Rolls-Royce motors under R.R. experts, Allen’s of Bedford built Monosoupape rotary engines, Humber and Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies the Clerget rotary, Renault repaired the tricky French Hispanos, while Gordon Watney’s famous racing-car stables at Weybridge repaired R.A.F. 1a, R.A.F. 4a, Beardmore and other engines. Crossley later built six-cylinder Beardmore motors, one of our best light bomber units in 1915, and Sunbeam and Wolseley did their own repairs. Incidentally, Leonard Williams, now of Packards, was one of Major Hirtzel’s able assistants. We may well congratulate ourselves that modern aero engines have a life nearing three times that of the best 1917 motors, in spite of much raised outputs. Certainly we should congratulate Rolls-Royce Ltd. on the new 1,250 h.p. rating of the “Merlin” running on 100-octane fuel, which gives our Supermarine “Spitfire II” fighter a maximum speed of around 387 m.p.h. at 18,500 feet.

News of Dicers

Some more news concerning the whereabouts and doings of folk who were formerly very much of our world has come to hand during recent conversations. Most startling of all is the rumour that Sammy Davis is in the Army; Eddie Wrigley, the popular Lea-Francis exponent, has been with the B.E.F. since the early days of the war, as a corporal in the R.E.s. He recently came upon a French breaker’s yard, and such places being irresistible no matter where your enthusiast may be, he went within and duly discovered an authentic G.N. H. R. Godfrey says that between 1919 and 1921 the French Salmson Company produced several thousand G.N.s under licence. The V-twin tourers had cast-iron heads and i.o.e. valve positioning, but Salmson’s brought out a push-rod o.h.v. job with bronze heads, hairpin valve springs and a body having a boat-shaped tail. If Eddie has discovered one of the latter, let’s get it over here somehow!

Then Jack Fry’s house has been burned to the ground, so it will come as a relief to mention that his stable is intact. His 4½-litre truck-tailed Bentley was pushed clear just in time and the rest of the cars were a safe distance away. They comprise the 1908 T.T. Hutton, which is owned by a syndicate of 50/- shareholders, John Lander’s “Double-Twelve” 4½-litre Bentley, Peter Clark’s 3-litre Red Label-with-mods trials Bentley, John Gamble’s ex-Evans M.G. Magnette, a 1906 or thereabout De Dion, a 1924 Targa Alfa-Romeo, a Lancia “Lambda,” two Fiat 500s and a hack Morris Eight. Lander is in the R.E.s and Gamble in Tanks, while Marcus Chambers, who shares this establishment with Fry, is doing coastal patrol with the R.N.V.R., and Jack daily awaits his commission in the R.A.S.C. Roddie Seys is in the Service and ran a J2 M.G. Midget and a 4½-litre T.T. Bentley until recently, though expecting to go overseas any moment. Down at Frazer-Nash’s several well-known motoring personalities are Instructors in Automobile Engineering to the R.A.O.C., including picture-catcher Klemantaski, who runs an N.S.U. Fiat 1,100 cabriolet, Tett, Bourne of “The Motor Cycle,” and Lush, while amongst their pupils is Stuart-Wilton, who still contrives to motor in a variety of cars, including a fine 3-litre Bentley. Gordon Wilkins, “The Motor” journalist, was there as an Instructor for a time, but is now with the Experimental Dept. of the Bristol Aeroplane Co. Boddy, deciding that stretcher-party depots are too much like concentration camps, is now in the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service.

Odd Spots

Prince Chula is working on a biography of the late Richard Seaman.

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Congratulations to Reggie Tongue on his recent engagement to Mrs. Erica Seaman.

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Fitt’s twin Centric-blown Hudson is laid up until the Armistice.