Anthony Phelps, ex-test pilot, introduces the 1-1/2 litre Gordano — an entirely new British sports car
The problems besetting aircraft and motor-car designers are not always analogous in practice, but they are by no means fundamentally dissimilar, and it must have occurred to many enthusiasts who, through choice or circumstance, have also spent much time playing with aeroplanes, that in the aircraft designer’s book there are many pages which the motor-car makers might usefully borrow, steal or otherwise acquire.
Page one, of course, would be that classic clue to success from the book of aircraft designer Bill Stout, of Vultee — “simplificate and add more lightness.” I suspect, therefore, that it is no coincidence that several of the Gordano people have been as much and as actively connected with aircraft as with motor-car production, because this new 1-1/2-litre sports-car incorporates many details of design and construction which flying types will find familiar, and others refreshing, and both will wonder why they have not been embodied in a motorcar before.
The designers have appropriated Mr. Stout’s maxim as their very own. They have simplified to the “nth” degree and in the process “added” so much lightness that there is only 14 cwt. left.
The major components constituting this lack of weight are a conventional frame in conjunction with independent suspension all round, Girling hydraulic brakes with two leading shoes in front and 11-in. drums, Bishop cam-steering giving 1-5/8 turns from lock to lock and a turning circle of only thirty feet, easily changeable gear-ratios, centre-lock wheels, sufficient fuel for 800 miles, and, finally, a propulsive force of over 90 b.h.p.
All this tends to add up to a very desirable driving device, and at a tentative price of £900 (ex. P.T.) I feel that the Gordano more nearly approaches the enthusiast’s ideal in practice than anything we have seen for many a long year.
The basic conception of the design has been that of derating a modern racing car, and there can be no questioning that this is a much more satisfactory way of achieving high performance than by boosting up a standard production; also it offers the most likely prospect of satisfying the Panglossian instincts of the enthusiast, that Voltarian type who is ever seeking the best of all possible worlds in one motoring machine.
The satisfying of these must also necessarily influence design factors, and thus the choice of a conventional frame was almost “a natural,” which means, among other advantages, that “chassis only” can be offered to those who have their own ideas on what a car should look like.
The frame itself is formed from very deep box-section side-members tubularly cross-braced, and, in conjunction with the full independent suspension, should provide an unusually rigid platform for any form of coachwork.
In view of the high power/weight ratio and low all-up weight, independent suspension all round was another almost inevitable choice. The front end is sprung on the well-proven pillar system, which gives a large range of movement in return for a minimum of unsprung weight. The independence of the rear is provided by swing axles and rubber suspension units, the torque being taken by radius arms running outside the chassis frame. This is undoubtedly the lightest and least complicated form of i.r.s. yet devised, and in addition there is provision for adjustment of the rear suspension to accommodate variations in load, which is operated from the cockpit, exactly as the trimming of an aeroplane.
There are other refinements which draw inspiration from aviation sources. One is the grouping of all instruments with flexible connections on a single panel, which is hinged for ease of inspection.
Another is the mounting of all the pedals on a single assembly unit which is immediately adjustable for length (as is the steering column). Thus, all shapes of driver — midget, giant or stock-bod — are positioned in correct relation to the controls, instruments and screen, without the necessity for that thoroughly unsatisfactory compromise — a sliding seat.
Although the layout of the Gordano chassis makes it ideally suitable for any form of light coachwork, the car is initially being offered only in open two-seater form as illustrated, because the Directors feel that this type of coachwork — equally suitable for sports-car racing and social occasions — is the type which appeals to the majority of enthusiasts. Few, I think, will quarrel with the appearance, which is a strictly functional adaptation of the “new look,” and the use of light-alloy throughout has been made possible by once again successfully applying the principles of modern aircraft construction — resulting in greater rigidity and less weight.
A noteworthy advance in design is that the wings are cycle-type, turning with the lock, and yet constitute part of the sprung weight of the car.
Conventional wire-spoked, centre-lock wheels have been retained as being considered essential for racing. So indeed they are, but why, why, in this day and age, should they constitute the same excessive amount of unsprung weight as they did thirty years ago ?
If the wheel makers would follow the example of the Gordano people and study aircraft design, they would find that it is not even difficult to make an 18-in. centre-lock wheel which will take all the stress required, in return for a weight of only 5 or 6 lb. Furthermore, it would be easier to keep clean and, in quantity, cheaper to produce.
Housed in the same unit as the differential, the gearbox is of constant-mesh type with plain dog-engagement on all speeds.
The design makes it a simple matter to change any ratio to choice, but the standard ones are very sensibly chosen, being 12.5, 8.6, 6.0 and 4.5 to 1. Spiral-bevel copes with the final drive.
Full details of the engine are not being published until final tests are completed, but from the very high output of 60 b.h.p. per litre (which I understand is no mere pious hope), it is quite obvious that it must be of very advanced design. It is known that it has four cylinders in line, with a bore and stroke of 77 by 80 mm. (1,490 c.c.), and is of light-alloy construction throughout, including the head. It has dry-sump lubrication, air and full-flow oil filters, with provision for rapid warming-up.
One can deduce from these figures (and the standard gear-ratios) that the power curve will be almost straight, and that it should rev. comfortably between 6,000 and 7,000 r.p.m. — which, if you waggle your slide rule, gives some quite nice answers in terms of performance.
I understand that, in view of the new Voiturette Formula, the possibility of producing a 2-litre edition is under consideration—but 1-1/2- litres will be the initial production size.
Deliveries will begin in 1949, which year may well prove to be that marking the debut of a great new marque.