Rumblings, May 1948
Perhaps it was the advent of spring, but early in April we decided to leave our city office and go motoring door-to-door in and around London looking at this and that. First, we went off to Gatwick Airport to visit the Wade Engineering Co. and found Densham and Sqdn.-Ldr. B. H. Moir Winslett engaged in moving-in to their useful ex-R.A.F. premises. Their business is the manufacture of superchargers, not only for motor-cars that you and we wish to endow with sub-standard urge, but for aircraft and diesel engines as well. Something new in four-lobe Roots blowers is favoured, but by reason of special patented porting these will give an efficiency and low-speed boost usually associated only with a vane supercharger, while retaining the simplicity and durability factor inherent in the Roots-type. Using special oil-seals and helical gearing, these blowers looked to us about the best thing yet in small-size superchargers. We gathered that they will be made in sizes to suit 500-c.c., 750.c.c. and 1,000 c.c. engines, etc., and that eventually it is hoped to develop installations for the more popular cars, these being available through an agency. Apart from these small blowers, Wade have ideas about exhaust-driven turbo blowers and very high-pressure installations for high-altitude aircraft about which we can say nothing at present, interesting as are the projects we were shown.
The Wade premises include a useful drawing-office, machine shop, and a suitably-isolated test-house, where blowers will be tested for boost, efficiency and fuel consumption while being driven by a Ford V8 engine. Air Ministry contracts have already been secured and Densham has the backing of many who worked with him at the North Downs Engineering Co. Leaving these weighty matters, we were introduced to the cheeky 1913 Calcott 2-seater which had been serving as the works hack while Densham’s “14/40” Sunbeam was acquiring new big-ends. All complete as to equipment and its imposing radiator beautifully polished, this example of the once New-Motoring took us for a short but spirited ride. It was bought without tyres or carburetter, but motor-cycle covers fitted the rims and a Smith’s multi-jet instrument bolted on to the manifold, since when the little car has taken three people to and from the works and back and fore to lunch without protest, giving 27 m.p.g. under these not altogether favourable conditions. “She has no real vices,” observed Densham, “and I’m very fond of her. Gearchanging is a bit tricky from cold, however, because there is a real clutch stop and you mustn’t tread too hard on the otherwise efficient brakes or things go over-centre.” On that note we turned our attention to Densham’s “14/40” Sunbeam, a car we had never previously sampled, and rejoiced in a nice 3-speed gearbox, solidity, effective four-wheel brakes and surprisingly light steering for a vintage car. It cruises all day at 55-60 m.p.h. and gives a regular 20-22 m.p.g.
Driving in our product of Luton out of Gatwick, past various charter aircraft that made one think of expeditions to Continental motor races, we ran up to London. A call at Toulmin Motors showed most of this firm’s stock sold out, but promise of more cars on the way, and modern lathe, Black and Decker equipment and a wide range of stocks, dies and hand tools awaiting the service of those whose cars are destined for overhaul.
Alton Garage produced some intriguing “12/50” Alvis. cars and a number of “Speed Twenty” and “Speed Twenty-five” models of the same make, including an example offered by the manufacturers to Motor Sport for road-test in 1935.
Along the Clapham Road the showrooms of the Allard Motor Co., Ltd., arrested us, for few could resist the very fine display of Allard models, gleaming new cars, some blue, some red, one grey; alas, all bearing the inevitable indictment FOR EXPORT ONLY. Sydney Allard could hardly have guessed, when he built his first Ford V8 Specials for trials, that one day he would be the Director of a successful car manufacturing business; today he has the satisfaction of knowing not only that this is the case, but that his cars are bringing home the dollars in a big way.
The other day we were able to renew acquaintance with the f.w.d. Citroën Light Fifteen, and consequently to enjoy the exceptionally good steering and road-holding of this quite outstanding family saloon. For the modern front-drive Citroën not only corners accurately and effortlessly on the open road, but it is the kind of car that threads its way through congested areas in a manner that makes for the maximum of safety and peace of mind. A car, in short, that is a real pleasure for the expert to handle, while humouring the not-so skilful to an exceptional degree. The steering, if not the lightest to handle, is completely free from lost motion and distressing tricks; it transmits return motion only over the roughest surfaces, is devoid of steering-column judder and is not possessed of too violent castor-action. The suspension gives one of the most even-keel rides we have experienced. Unfortunately there isn’t space to continue this analysis of the modern Citroën, but it must be said that the car we tried, by courtesy of the Ace Service Station, was fitted with their two-carburetter conversion, and that this just about puts the finishing touch to what is undoubtedly a very desirable car.
D. B. Tubbs has run his Citroën with a D.B. twin-carburetter layout for some time, and Mr. Edenborough, of the Ace Service Station, rightly felt that such a conversion should be available to British Citroën owners. Accordingly, he has evolved a very neat manifold with two of the latest-type 32 B.I.P. Solex downdraught carburetters, which replaces the standard single downdraught layout. Ready to fit, with throttle controls, choke linkage to the front carburetter and petrol pipes, the cost is £27 10s. and, if required, Ace can fit the conversion in a day at their premises on the North Circular Road for a small extra charge. No alterations to the fuel pump arrangements are necessary. We found the Citroën, endowed with this Ace conversion, to possess excellent acceleration, particularly between the 40-60 m.p.h. range in top gear, extremely good top-gear hill-climbing powers, and an ability to cruise effortlessly all day at 70 to 75 m.p.h. A not-so-long straight piece of road enabled 85 m.p.h. to be wound up on the speedometer, and appreciably over 50 m.p.h. was available on second gear and 30 m.p.h. in the lowest ratio of the three-speed box, with strong pick-up on these lower ratios. These are speedometer readings, because it is not easy to time cars over measured distances these days, but we called in at Slough to ask Citroëns what they thought the car really did, and they said the speedometer was probably 6 per cent. fast, so you can work things out for yourselves. Actually we believe a genuine speed of well over 80 m.p.h. will come up on a standard Light Fifteen, given time..
Incidentally, while at the Citroën factory we were shown two saloons, one of which had been involved in a bad crash and another which had had a large packing case dropped on it. In both cases the extreme strength of the all-steel body was evident, for not a window was broken and the doors would still open and shut.
The Ace twin-carburetters in no way detract from the docility of the Citroen; it will pull away cleanly from 15 m.p.h. in top and idle happily in neutral. Nor does fuel consumption suffer, 22 m.p.g. being obtainable when pressing along really hard, and far better figures when you are not in quite such a hurry. Ace do not bother with a hot-spot or with air-silencers, nor do these appear to be required, for the Philco played the B.B.C. programme to us undisturbed by mechanical interventions, while starting from cold caused no troubles. The linkages are neat and look really durable, and altogether we were not surprised to learn that the keener Citroën owners have been almost lining-up at the Ace Service Station for their cars to be endowed with this untemperamental extra urge. The conversion fits any Citroën from 1936 onwards and is well worth investigating. Ace not only sell good quality cars but also service them; while we were there Charles Gale had in his care an impressive number of Type 57 Bugattis for overhaul and two Type 37s for rebuilding.
Butterworth tells us that his four-wheel-drive G.P. car is shelved until 1949, but that a sprint and short distance racing version will appear this season. This car shows decided originality, for its chassis uses the centre-section and front cross-members of a Jeep, with the remainder fabricated as fully-boxed members, two feet having been added to give a 7 ft. 6 in. wheelbase. Jeep axles are also used, but in conjunction with redesigned springs comprising 1/2-elliptics working in slide blocks and damped by Newton shock-absorbers front and back, with additional Hartford shock-absorbers coupled to torque arms extending from the front axle.
The Steyr air-cooled 87.5 by 92 mm., 4-1/2-litre V8 engine is to have smaller valves and a less ambitious camshaft than that schemed out for Butterworth’s proposed G.P. car, and eight 289R. Amal carburetters in place of 10 T.T. Amals, with a view to good medium-speed torque rather than maximum power. Engine and body are off-set somewhat in the chassis, as the designer says, “to allow the rather gangling transmission to get out of its own way.” The three top ratios of the standard all-indirect Steyr gearbox will be used, in conjunction with a straight-spur transfer box of Butterworth’s own conception, having facilities for a quick change of transfer ratio. All of which sounds most interesting, and we shall study this new “special” intently; it is due to appear at Prescott on May 9th and in the British Empire Trophy Race on May 25th.
A plot is afoot whereby teams entered by Britain and France in the Paris 12-hour Sports Car Race, scheduled for September 12th, at Montlhéry, shall compete on an aggregate mileage basis.