VETERAN TYPES XX VII A 1908 “FOUR INCH” HUTTON The actual winner of the Tourist Trophy Race of 1908.
By Anthony S. Heal
ANYONE who knows the “Mountain” course used for the motor-cycle T.T. races in the Isle of Man may be surprised to learn that 36 years ago a side-valve-engined car, with only rearwheel brakes and narrow section (105 mm.) high-pressure tyres, covered nine laps (3:37 miles) of this circuit at an average speed of 50.3 m.p.h. Driven by W. Watson, of Liverpool, the Napier-built Hutton won a very close race by just over two minutes from Algernon Guinness’s Darracq. This article is not the place to give a detailed description of the race, but it can be said that, although the two overhead-valve Darracqs, driven by A. E. George and Guinness, were a good deal lighter and slightly faster than the side-valve Hutton, Watson drove very steadily and doggedly, gradually climbing from sixth place at the end of the first lap to third position on the fifth. Expecting the course to be wet he had fitted a set of new steel-studded tyres before the start, and as a result the car skidded a good deal on the dry metalled roads until the studs had worn down. This, and his determination not to over-rev, the longstroke engine, accounted for his lap times being slower than the Darracqs’ during the opening stages of the race. He even coasted down the Hillberry Straight to avoid risking a blow-up. Feeling he had the measure of the Darracqs he was content to keep within striking distance, ready for a final burst on the last lap should it prove necessary.
By dint of two pretty quick laps, each in 43i minutes, he managed to pass Guinness and to gain some three minutes on the leading Darracq, which speeded up a bit on the eighth lap, thus staving off the challenge. Although A. E. George still had a lead of over two minutes and only one lap to go, he had the misfortune to break a petrol pipe, and as a result his car caught fire. By the time the conflagration had been mastered and the fuel feed patched up again, both Watson and Guinness had passed him. The Hutton won comfortably in spite of a gallant effort by Guinness to avenge his team-mate’s misfortune. Before it ran in the Isle of Man, Watson’s car had achieved a good deal of success at Brooklands, where it was well known as “Little Dorritt.” • It was the oldest of the three Huttons in the T.T. Although entered by S. F. Edge, the winning car actually belonged to Watson, who had acquired it from Napier’s some time prior to the race. The two new “works cars’ were driven by J. E. Hutton and P. D. Stirling, the latter being similar to the eventual winner, but it was the former that really carried the team’s main hopes, as it had been developed from the experience gained at Brooklands with Watson’s car. It is worth digressing a moment to say something about J. E. Hutton’s car. Under the regulations for the race the bore (for 4-cylinder engines) was limited to four inches, but designers were free to use any length of stroke they fancied. In consequence long-stroke engines were encouraged and a good deal of secrecy surrounded the actual stroke/bore ratios used by many manufacturers. “Little Dorritt” had a stroke of seven inches, but on J. E. Hutton’s car it was increased to eight inches. This engine, with its higher compression and extra capacity, gave a good deal more power than its two team mates, and it was confidently expected that J. E. Hutton would win the race. On the last day of the practice he decided to advance the ignition another tooth, in spite of all the Napier engineers’ advice to the contrary. When the engine was started and the throttle opened, the cylinder blocks just parted company from the holding-down flanges. The broken pieces were duly collected together and taken to a shipyard in Douglas, where the jigsaw puzzle was reassembled with red lead and tape. The compression was reduced by 10 lb./sq. in. by packing up the valve caps. A piece of boiler plate was put on the top of the engine and by means of four long bolts passing through the plates and under the sump, the cylinder blocks were clamped to the crankcase. The work was completed half an hour before the start of the race and the car was pushed to the
line. J. E. Hutton started well and drove with a good deal of bravura for four laps in eighth position, but excess of zeal on a corner at Ramsay was his undoing, and he retired with a buckled wheel and bent front axle after hitting a wall. The third Hutton was even more unlucky, having to retire on its first lap in a rather battered condition after its driver, P. D. Stirling, had driven it into the wall of the Ballacraine Hotel. It may seem odd that a well-established concern like Napier’s should build three cars for the Tourist Trophy Race and then enter them under another name. The reason for this manceuvre was apparently that the firm had become so much connected in the public eye with 6-cylinder engines that they were somewhat selfconscious about appearing in a race with cars that had only four pots. Much of’ the point of this nominal camouflage was lost, as everyone seems to have been fully aware that the Huttons were only Napiers by another name. If people did not know they could hardly have failed to guess, because the Huttons had all the typical Napier characteristics as will be seen from the illustrations accompanying this article. The car with which we are now concerned is “Little Dorritt,” the actual winner of the 1908 T.T. race. It is now owned jointly by Marcus Chambers and the writer. When they acquired it in 1939 it had had only three previous owners in 31 years. “Little Dorritt” first appeared at Brooklands in the early part of the 1908 season. In June, J. E. Hutton set up ” Long ” (10 laps) and ” Short ” (/ mile) records in the 26-h.p. class, at 76.5 m.p.h. and 80 m.p.h., respectively. At the August meeting in the same year the car ran second in the O’Gorman Trophy. Shortly before the T.T. race in September “Little Dorritt ” was sold to W. Watson. and after his success in the Isle of Man he disposed of the car to Col. E. Hoyle, of Huddersfield, who retained it until May, 1919. While in the latter’s possession the Hutton was a frequent and successful competitor at Pateley Bridge Hill Climb (where it achieved fastest time of the day in 1909 and 1910), Saltburn Speed Trials (where it won its class in 1910), Meltham Hill Climb (fastest time in Amateur Class, 1911), Rivington Pike Hill Climb (best
performance on formula, 1912), and Heyden Bridge Hill Climb (first on formula, 1912). In these events it was driven by both Col. Hoyle and W.Bradwell. In 1914 it was laid up, and it was not used again until May, 1919, when the engine was started up without any difficulty after standing for nearly live years. “Little Dorritt ” was then acquired by Mr. C. T. Allen, of Cardiff, who used it for many years and who kept it until 1039, when he disposed of it to Chambers and Heal.
The Hutton’s present appearance (as shown in the photographs reproduced herewith) is not unlike its T.T. winning trim, and it is the intention of the present owners to restore it to its original Isle of Man form. For the race the stripped chassis was encumbered only with the barest necessities. A one-piece bonnet enclosed the engine, two bucket seats and a large cylindrical bolster tank were fitted just forward of the rear axle and the spare wheel was carried vertically just behind the rear cross-member. The four cylinders (101.5 x 180 mm.) are east in pairs, and have copper water jackets, formed by electrical deposition on wax moulds. The process took about three weeks to build up the necessary thickness of metal. The valves are all on the near side and bronze valve caps are screwed into the cylinder head. Each valve cap is tapped to take a sparking plug, and an alternative position is provided in the centre of the cylinder head. It would seem that some experiments were made to determine the most effective place for the two plugs which were provided for each cylinder. Dual ignition was attended to by a ninfrrieto and trembler coil, the distributor for II latter being shaft-driven at 45, from the rear end of the crankshaft. From its front end a chain is taken to drive both the magneto and the water pump. Twin water outlets are provided on the top of each block, one being taken off between the two inlet-valve caps. Two Memini carburetters are now fitted, but the original Polyroe is available, and it is intended to restore it to the engine. The oil pump is driven by a vertical shaft
off the tail end of the camshaft, while near its forward end there is a small air pump for maintaining pressure in the petrol tank. An orthodox multi-plate clutch transmits the drive to a four-speed gearbox, which is unusual in that all the gears are indirect, the propeller shaft being taken off the rear end of the layshaft. No advantage was taken of this arrangement to provide an overdrive geared-up top gear, although it would have been an easy matter to have done so. Two gear levers are provided ; one controls the forward speeds and the second engages reverse, an interlocking device preventing the former being moved while reverse gear is in use. Behind the gearbox is a transmission brake, the drum of which is extended to carry ratchet teeth of a sprag. The bevel-driven rear axle is located by a tubular radius arm of triangular form. An axle ratio of 3 to
is at present provided, the intermediate gears being : third 4, second 5.5, and bottom 7.25 to 1. Four 1-elliptic springs, damped by Trion hydraulic shockabsorbers, provide the suspension. Originally friction dampers were fitted, but the existing hydraulic type must have replaced them while the car was still quite young. The car is slightly erabtracked, being 5 ft. 2 in. in front and 4 ft. 8 in. at the rear. For negotiating the downhill bend at the end of the Hillberry straight the 12-in, brake drums on the rear wheels look rather inadequate for a car capable of travelling at 80 m.p.h. An early type of Rudge-Whitworth wire wheel is fitted, and the hubs are provided with fewer and coarser splines than is usually associated with this make of wheel. When the Hutton was first received by its new owners it had not been rim for some years, and the ribbed Palmer cord tyres could not be persuaded to hold air for any length of time. Ignition was another doubtful factor, investigation showing that although the trembler coil on the dashboard still functioned the distributor had many cracks in its insulation, which caused sparks to occur at irregular intervals and in improper places. The old Bosch magneto, after drying, was found to be in first-class condition. The leads were connected to the sparking plugs fitted above the exhaust valves after some deliberation as to which of the three positions offered the best possibilities. After liberal priming and a short tow the engine broke into life and the air and oil pressure gauges revived from their long sleep. Even the water-pump pressure showed 2 lb./sq. in. After some slight adjustment to the twin Memini carburetters the tick-over was soon regulated. Some difficulty was experienced in getting the clutch to free, and even when it did the engagement of
bottom gear was still noisy, due to clutch drag. On moving off one is struck with the liveliness of the engine, the getaway being very similar to the E-type, sidevalve ” 30/98 ” Vauxhall. Laurence Pomeroy, in his “Milestones of Speed ” series, in the Motor, said that the engine gave 70 b.h.p. The maximum speed is stated by the previous owner to be about 2,300 r.p.m. The gear changes were quite easy, third gear seemed very high, and top gear could only be used for a very short distance. The maximum speed reached was only about 50 m.p.h., and there was a good reserve of power. There seems little reason why a cruising speed of 55 m.p.h. to 60 m.p.h. should not be maintained and a top speed of over 70 m.p.h. achieved. The engine is very sensitive to ignition advance, and no doubt with the dual ignition functioning properly and correctly timed, the car’s performance could be improved. Sitting in the driving seat the small steering wheel is sufficiently far away to allow perfect freedom of movement to the driver’s elbows. The controls of thoroughbred cars always have a certain charm, and the Hutton is no exception. The brake and gear levers come readily to hand, although the latter has a fairly long travel by present-day standards. On the dashboard is the box containing the trembler coil, and facing the driver are the three pressure gauges for air, oil and water. The object of the latter is presumably
to give due warning of water pump failure, which might result in damaging the copper water-jackets. The steering is high-geared and very light. There is a slight tendency to oversteer. Engine and gearbox run quietly, and the exhaust note with the existing silencer is pleasing. The brakes are more powerful than one might expect, and the combined use of foot pedal and hand lever can be very effective. Wartime conditions precluded an extensive test, but the short trial run was sufficient to show that the 1908 Hutton should be a worthy addition to the ranks of the competitors in the ” Edwardian ” class of post-war hill-climbs and speed trials.