An idea for the impecunious
IT seems an almost universal failing of the enthusiast that he is possessed of a burning passion to enjoy competition motoring and never has the means to achieve what he most desires to do. It would probably not be insulting such folk to express the opinion that the average motoring sportsman is invariably quite broke. This being the case, it seems worthwhile to devote some space to a consideration of how one's ambitions can be satisfied in the most inexpensive manner possible, which must be the only excuse for the mixture of amateur economies and confused mechanics which follow.
One condition is essential to the working of the plot, and that is the co-operation of two enthusiasts in a common endeavour; otherwise, the thing is fairly flexible. It is also desirable that these two gentlemen (or, maybe, one gentleman and one sports-girl, though this is highly unlikely, as "Sedan Fairy" will readily confirm) hunt around to find a garage, shed, shack, outhouse, barn or what-not, able to hold three cars, although that isn't altogether essential. The scheme is based on something which was toyed with and was, in fact, almost complete before war upset two persons' plans, but otherwise it has nothing to recommend it. That's all the preface you are going to get and we will get down to business. It may be fairly safely assumed that the "average enthusiast" wishes his motoring to embrace roughly the following factors:—
(a) The ability to compete in club speed trials, speed hill-climbs, and race-meetings with a fairly rapid motor, with a chance of winning at least an odd pot or two. The possession of a sports-car which will prove good fun on long journeys by reason of good handling qualities and ample performance, while not being over-temperamental or unreliable.
(b) The ability to enter for winter mud-trials with a car which, even if it does not take pots, will not give its entrant a bad name by failing with dismal regularity on sticky hills and one, moreover, stout enough to get through a "Land's End" if need be.
(c) A vehicle of 100 per cent. dependability, weatherproof, comfortable, and in consequence amply suited either to business runs, or taking auntie to the station or the girlfriend of the moment to a show, and, incidentally, for night-marshalling at trials.
Big bags of gold are most unlikely to be available and so the possibility of all these requirements being met by ownership of a single car can be ruled out, for only B.M.Ws., Allards, Frazer-Nashes, H.R.Gs., and the like combine the essential qualities—suggestions to the contrary, of course, will be thankfully received. This is where the plot begins to shape and it is based on the ownership of three cars by two owners. Further, it is based on the three cars being of the same make. Finally, it is suggested that the aforesaid requirements, desires or soul-searings can actually be met, providing these stipulations and some more that follow are carefully regarded, for quite a small out lay. There is surely nothing very fantastic or impossible of fulfilment about the plot, as unfolded up to this point, unless it be the accomplishments to be realised? Friendships are usually based on like hobbies and interests, so the amalgamation of two persons for the purpose of establishing the proposed scuderia is perfectly reasonable. As joint ownership of one car very seldom works smoothly amongst the best of friends, it can quite well be suggested that both members should possess a taxed car, sharing the third between them. The only aspects in which the plot is unusual, indeed, the only things that make it a plot at all, rest with the inter-loan of the cars between the persons concerned and the one-make aspect of these cars. Let us, as we wish to keep the expenses of the project down to as low a figure as possible, take the irrepressible Austin Seven as our chosen make and see how the plan comes out. The scheme would seem to be broadly applicable to any small-car one-make stable, i.e., Riley and Singer, a blend of Morris Minor and early M.G. Midget, etc., but especially does it suit an Austin trio. The stable, ecurie, scuderia or what-have-you is formed to a carefully pre-arranged formula, and in the Austin instance looks like this:—
(i) An "Ulster" or "Nippy" 2-seater, in good condition, with sound tyres and relined brakes. The engine may be mildly tuned, but should not depart too far from standard. Any extras bought for the car should be of the more essential sports-racing-equipment variety.
(ii) A quite early chassis modified to possess a 4-speed gearbox and low-ratio rear axle. The engine may be given more urge by reason of a horizontal or downdraught carburetter, or possibly by the fitting of twin gas-works and Terry double valve springs and the like, but experimental hotting-up is strictly taboo. Suspension can well be stiffened up, but must be standard in respect of ground clearance. The body can be anything giving ample weight over the back axle, providing it doesn't easily crack-up or rip open. The old "Chummy" carriage-work should do nicely and the petrol-tank can be put at the back if desired and suitably protected. Running-boards should be removed and light wings fitted to get the weight down.
(iii) A saloon, with as clean upholstery and clear glasswork as the remaining pennies allow. It should be decarbonized, possibly rebored, and be in quite standard, but sound, form. One of the old 3-speed examples would pass, but they are rather cramped inside and the first of the longer-wheelbase 4-speed examples, or, better still, a "Ruby," is desirable. An open car can be quite weatherproof, but this is not usually the case with small cars in which passengers' elbows are in close proximity to the side-screens, which is why a glasshouse is specified. Its utility may be offset by a triplicated set of club badges.
Those, then, are the cars, and very likely criticism will at once be forthcoming that ownership of such a stable will not make a racing driver. That it should was not, however, the intention, and the confirmed pot-hunter should either put his all into one car or take up ludo. As offering some opportunity to two persons of tasting something of motoring sport in quite a few of its forms, for the smallest possible expenditure, it has something to commend it. The amount of success that the sports Austin would have at venues like Lewes, Prescott, Brighton, Dancer's End, etc., would depend on tuning and driving ability, but at least no one will deny that such a car should give ample measure of enjoyment in ordinary driving. The mud-storming Austin might very well fall down badly in timed tests, but getting up the hills is quite fun in itself, and the fact remains that early Sevens endowed with a low bottom gear-ratio will go up some quite unexpectedly impossible places. So far as the saloon is concerned, at least it will carry four adult persons and not a little baggage in complete insulation from the elements at an average of 30 m.p.h. and 40 m.p.g. over most main-road journeys, no matter how lengthy. We can think of a good many uses for it. It should not be necessary to waste space and paper in discussing the reason for specifying cars all of the same make, which, incidentally, is not that of having one registration number for all three! Interchangeability of parts, especially wheels and tyres and tools, and knowledge applicable to all three, will prove invaluable divers ways, divers times, in practice.
It only remains to emphasise the mode of operation, which is really very simple. One car is taxed throughout the year, the others are taxed for six months only. For example, in the winter the trials car will be kept running by the more keen trials' driver of the two owners, the other man keeping the saloon in action. Insurance, however, will be arranged to permit each to drive either car. When one man is running in a trial the other has the saloon in which to bring the fairies along to spectate or in which to go off on his lawful occasions. And again, vice versa. If both members of this mutual scuderia ride in one car on occasion, the extra convenience of taxing two cars will compensate for the idleness of the remaining one. In the summer, the sports car will be taxed and the trials car laid up. The possibilities of the plot should now begin to dawn on the most feeble intellects. If the competition car ever gives trouble, there is always the utility job to tow it home, or salve it at a later date. Always there is a car with interchangeable engine and chassis parts idle, from which to draw spares in an emergency. Both the sports and trials cars are not unduly non-standard, nor is there any reason at all why they should not be provided with quite efficient element-excluding equipment, so that wives or girl-friends, although they have their little ways, should not object to riding in them. Consequently, the idea that the utility car has to be shared by two friends and the other taxed car be used only for fun and larks does not arise and, given decent understanding and reasonable give-and-take amongst the owners, each car should be in about equal service. The more you ponder it, the happier the plot seems, so let us draw up another little table to see what it might cost. First of all, static expenses:—
Cost of" Nippy " or " Ulster," say ... ...
Putting it straight, say ... ...
Taxing it for six months ... ...
Cost of trials' special, say ... ...
Taxing it for six months ... ...
Cost of saloon, say ... ...
Putting it straight, say ... ...
Taxing it for twelve months ... ...
Mutual insurance of two cars in common Service, say
Total ... ...
Whether these figures can be reduced will naturally depend on the ambitions, abilities and good or bad fortune of the scuderia participants. They do not seem unreasonable. Fuel, oil and incidental expenses are only likely to be those common to normal one-car ownership. Garage should be possible at a slight saving over a lock-up for one vehicle. Let us suggest that fifteen trials and six speed events are indulged in at an average entry fee of 15s. per event. Club fees must not be forgotten. Even here a saving should result, for a driver who is not a member of the organising club is sometimes permissible, while it certainly should not be overlooked that by jointly preparing a car for events, and taking turns at passengering in those events, both persons are deriving enjoyment which could normally only be had by separate entries of separate cars. Setting out our variable expenses we get:—
Fuel, oil and odds and ends pre-blitz rates, 10,000 miles per car for two cars, say ... ...
Garage for three cars for one year, say ... ...
Trial and speed event entry fees, say ... ...
Club subscriptions (six clubs), say ... ...
Total ... ...
The project has now cost £343 11s, but this figure is immediately divisible by two, for every outlay, from purchase cost of cars to running expenses, has covered the operation of two cars all the time, either of which, quite apart from other functions, offers dependable, comfortable transport to the occupants. That means spending about three guineas a week on one of the finest pastimes that has ever happened, inclusive of car purchase. With your income tax bonus and your savings to reclaim after the war is won, is not that a happy proposition? An orgy of mud-storming with quite a chance of capturing an odd cup or two, a car to get you through an M.C.C. trial and home again without unfortunate incident, something that will make owners of modern cars amusingly surprised, a genuine sports car for fine days, able to run in a Stanley Cup Contest or a High Speed Trial with some prospect of a Standard Award and without expensive noises if you are lucky, and, all the while, a car as serviceable, dependable and comfortable as any small car used for social, as distinct from sporting, purposes. . . . One ventures to suggest that by no other means can such objectives be so satisfactorily and inexpensively achieved.