Rumblings, May 1943

Expert Opinions

The Second Motor-Racing Brains Trust is reported elsewhere in this issue, but it is interesting to consider in greater detail some of the points raised. Let us take the vexed topic of under- and over-steering. Roesch thought that neither mattered much if the effects were negligible, but that, if excessive, either characteristic resulted in a bad feeling of instability. Berthon said that the later E.R.A. had decided understeering, the rear axle tending to give negative steering. He thought that for touring cars the need to provide this was less acute, while Raymond Mays felt that it was all a matter of individual driving tastes, remarking that the effects, either way, are greatly accentuated on light cars. Pomeroy virtually seconded this view and Berthon said understeering is very desirable on a racing car because wheel spin already exists to swing the back of the car round on corners. It is interesting that Raymond Mays feels that racing should undergo a radical change after the war, and would like to see entry fees waived and encouragement given to people to build racing cars and find drivers to drive them. He wanted to see an organisation set going after the war to educate the public to appreciate motor-racing’s possibilities and thought the daily press should be persuaded to assist. Klemantaski voted for T.T. racing to aid these ends, whereas Berthon wanted to gain the day with faster stuff. Just how big the problem of post-war race organisation is going to be is nicely instanced by the diverse views of these experts on the matter of the “next” formula. Thus, Pomeroy evolved a truly Pomeranion blower capacity limit; Berthon backed the 1.5-litre formula, while Roesch hoped to see contests for fully-equipped 4-seaters, carrying a large tank of fuel and limited in weight. In actual fact, it seems likely that international racing and the construction of racing cars will not quickly revive with the peace, and so we shall expect racing at Brooklands, Donington and the Crystal Palace around 1945-7 to be contested by quite fast, if old, Maseratis, E.R.A.s, Bugattis and Altas; which will suit lots of people very well indeed, thank you!

Odds and ends

First of all, that sad, bad “brick” over last month’s cover picture—perhaps partially excusable as the Editor never gets time to pay so much as a brief visit to City Road these difficult days, all liaison being done via the G.P.O. However, Borzacchini does his stuff for you on the Alfa at Rheims this time; the April cover picture showed in error the 3.5-litre Delahaye which won the Three Hour Sports Car Race at Brooklands in 1938 at 63.46 m.p.h. Then we blundered badly over Battersby’s Type 57 Tatra, which is a push-rod o.h.v. 4-stroke and not a 2-stroke.

A visit to the pleasant-sounding village of Fiddler’s Hamlet resulted in intense worship of J. V. Bowles’s recently-acquired Type 37 Bugatti, which was bought from Rayner and sent to its new home by train. Rayner, of course, drove it from Bristol to the Zoo rally at Regents Park, last year. Already the new owner has worked very hard on the car, and not only is its Molsheim-blue paintwork spotless, but the engine positively shines in the sunlight. After four suck-ins, partially choked, off it goes every time with one pull-up on the handle, and it appears able to tick-over indefinitely at a fantastically low speed without oiling-up. The single brass-bodied Solex carburetter is retained on the off side and ignition is by a Scintilla Vertex magneto. The cylinder block has provision for two plugs per cylinder. One refinement that Bowles has added is a clutch stop comprising a band-brake which closes down on the clutch shaft when a tiny bronze lever in the centre of the cockpit is operated, obviating any noise in getting into bottom gear which no amount of skill can otherwise overcome. The little lever is no more than 6 in. long and operates via a short Bowden cable. The brake is sufficiently powerful to stop the engine altogether if it is ticking over really slowly and the workmanship is fully in keeping with the car to which it is fitted. Mr. Bowles has kindly given us a blue-print of the whole rig to pass on to any other Bugatti owner who is interested. He intends to race this car after the war and hopes to get some steady racing at rather over 90 m.p.h., running it stripped. His partner, who used to run a 4.5-litre Bentley and who, just before the war, bought a B.M.W. motor-cycle, equipped it very fully and ran it in the International Six Days’ Trial by way of a holiday, has also acquired a Bugatti. This is a Type 40, with a heavy Jarvis touring body. It was located in Manchester and ran a big-end, the resultant protest being a very mild noise indeed for such a severe malady. It came home by train and Bowles already had the engine stripped down. His little workshop, which constitutes his business and his hobby combined, is by way of being an enthusiast’s dream, with very full equipment, including some excellent high-speed Desoutter pneumatic drills. He retains his 6-cylinder Marendaz-Special and is also engaged in supercharging his “Ulster” Austin Seven. Further visits resulted in an appreciation of H. L. Biggs’s very extensive library of motor-racing books and scrap albums, an appreciation from him of his Fiat 500, which is in daily use, painted Alfa red and still displaying a tattered B.A.R.C. pass on its screen— Biggs has hopes of making it a practical 70 m.p.h. car after the war—and inspection of his trials Austin Seven. The latter has a 2-seater body made from a cut-down coupe, an L.M.B. front axle, a “Speedy” engine with down-draught inlet manifold to which a Marshall supercharger is being added, and a 4-speed gearbox. As G. H. Symonds has an ex-works blown trials Austin, post-war competition should be keen.

We met Geoffrey Taylor, of Altas, now a very busy man with little time for visitors, but still hoping to go back to car production, although probably not to racing, unless conditions improve. H. R. Godfrey, too, is very busy, and does his share of factory fire-watching into the bargain—he has got together the parts to build up “Kim”, but that’s all, so far. Curtis has left H.R.G.’s to look after his Grand Union Canal and Halford is now an Army Captain; but Robins is still there. A.C. Cars, Ltd., proved another hive of activity and a little uncertain whether car production will even be resumed “afterwards”.

Then we were able to lunch one day with the Monkhouse family, all 100 per cent. enthusiasts. Peter has no great outlet for his mania for motor-racing now, engaged as he is on important production work, but he gets along in Standard Eights, S.S., M.G. and such-like and hopes to relax by constructing model railways. Definitely he has ideas for after the blitz and is amongst those who would like to see real road-racing happen in this country. Peter Clark had Klemantaski with him when we impinged on his very pleasant retreat in the country, where his garage is, if anything, bigger than his house. The 1914 G.P. Mercedes was duly admired and we noted that the Le Mans H.R.G. is now thoroughly stripped down. Peter also preserves the ex-Lanfranchi “22/90” Alfa-Romeo, a Home Guard M.G. Magnette, his Fiat “500” with new engine and Wyer-ised carburetter “for the afterwards”, and a Brough-Superior for a friend. Certain superchargers lying around suggest that the M.G. and Peter’s own H.R.G. may go faster yet, one of these days. The ex-Fry Bentley is also in use on Home Guard duties, as is Peter’s ex-gas fed Ford Eight—his gas-producer trailer with Lancia suspenders being for disposal due to lack of fuel, if anyone is in need of such.

Later still we paid a brief visit to Anthony Heal’s stable, perhaps the finest of all. Just to see the two Ballots, the 1924 G.P. Sunbeam, his 1910 Fiat, the 1921 T.T. Sunbeam, with that immensely long straight-eight twin o.h.c. engine, the stately Hutton, and the 1914 T.T. Sunbeam chassis keeping company with the well-known “30/98” Vauxhall, is a sight for the gods. We were intrigued to learn that the 2-litre G.P. Sunbeam was driven down from Birmingham on “Pool”, and, although being carefully nursed, nevertheless achieved a cool 100 m.p.h. Apparently it is surprisingly tractable in spite of being super-charged. A 3-litre Sunbeam chassis and a solo Scott complete the picture. Heal’s great collection of early motor-racing photographs is no less absorbing.

Then, as to letters, they provide a very pleasing background to the task of getting this paper to bed each month. Amongst recent ones, ten closely-written pages from L.A.C. Hull, R.A.F., Middle East Forces, stand out. Hull is a 100 per cent. Frazer-Nash advocate, but tells of adventures in the desert with an R.A.F. tractor, recalls happy peace-time runs in Austin and Morris Eight cars, to spectate at events with his mother and sister, also great enthusiasts, and, indeed, generally exudes the usual keenness. He asks whether we really anoint the pages of Motor Sport with “R” and describes it as a real oasis in the desert. He ends up a “just another irnpecunia” and admits his greatest ambition is to enter for an “Exeter” with a Frazer-Nash, the passenger’s seat of which is reserved for his sister. May his wish come true! Then “Sam” Gibbons writes from Auckland, on the notepaper of the New Zealand Military Forces. He owned his first car in 1904 and for ten years ran a 1923 3-litre Bentley modified to 1925 “Speed Model” specification, until he bought his present possession, a 4.5-litre low-chassis Invicta. This latter is the car built for Fontes and driven by him in the 1934 T.T. and at Southport. She was discovered by Douglas Hawkes and only arrived in New Zealand a few months before the war. The chassis is No. S 163, believed to be one of the last to leave the works, and the Meadows engine is No. 8021. The owner would be pleased to learn more of the car’s history and to hear of Meadows and Invicta spares.