For the benefit of newcomers to the vintage (pre-1931) cult, a few matters require clearing up. There is a mistaken idea in some quarters that cars lacking front wheel brakes are illegal. This is not so. The law merely demands two independent braking systems (i.e., hand and foot), and with more important matters troubling the Government, and remembering the numbers of old cars that must continue to serve farmers and others for many years to come, no change in this legislation is to be expected. Another matter concerns difficulty in insuring old cars. Some companies refuse them, others provide minimum third-party cover only, sometimes requiring the owner to bear the first £5 or even £10 of any claim, but firms can be found who make no distinction between old and less-aged cars, providing a satisfactory engineer’s report is submitted. The latter can consist of a letter from your local garage, providing they find the car mechanically sound—and it is only common sense to put a vintage or any other car in safe order before using it. Third-party cover only need not be as grim as it sounds, because, if an accident happens which you can prove to be the other driver’s fault, his company pays for your repairs. While on this subject, safety glass in the windscreen is required by law, but several firms can fit such glass for a reasonable fee, either while you wait or in a few days to screen frames delivered to them. Incidentally, the rebate in tax on pre-1915 engines was abandoned when the h.p. tax was reduced some years ago and, although this tax has since been increased, the rebate has never been re-introduced. At present pre-1940 cars pay 25s. a h.p., or half that if on “basic” petrol only; in the latter case you can at least tax a car of up to 16 R.A.C.-h.p. for the same “fee” as your businessman pays on his 40-h.p. new car! But, my oh my, what a lot of things we must bring to the notice of our M.P.s before the next General Election—especially if we are vintage-folk!
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Lunching the other day with someone very well versed in vintage affairs, he expressed the opinion that the vintage sports-cars on the market to-day are mostly rather worn-out and prices asked far too high. Perhaps, he said, the time has come for those who see good in old machinery to look for the more touring specimens amongst motor cars made prior to 1931. These, usually having been driven sedately by paterfamilias or the chauffeur, should be less tired than sports models which, even when they were new, were doubtless driven hard by the young bloods of the day. Moreover, the tourers have less outward allure, so prices should be reasonable in comparison, yet such cars offer all the vintage appeal of mechanical individuality, honest construction, comfort and, to those with a truly vintage eye, fine lines, when related to the “tin-bulldozers” that pass as cars in A.D. 1950. This is primarily a sporting paper, but, nevertheless, with editorial head unbowed, we pass this idea on to those seeking interesting inexpensive transport.
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Coming out of the Lansdowne Club the other evening, we encountered an old friend parked in Bruton Place—an aluminium-bonneted Charron-Laycock two-seater of about 1923 vintage, which used to run about South London during and before the war.
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And now here are some more letters from vintage-car addicts:
As I was the original owner of the Salmson (ML 2243) used in the film “The Happiest Days of Your Life,” I can confirm that it started life in February, 1927, as a “10.4-h.p.” open four-seater.
The engine at that time was, as you suggest, a twin o.h.c. four-cylinder of just under 1,200 c.c., and incorporated the two features you mention, namely a positively-driven fan and a large dynamotor on the front of the crankshaft. It is a mystery how these two features should remain if the capacity has now been increased to 2,668 c.c.
I recognise from the photograph you published the front end of the chassis and the self-locking knock-on hubs, known, I believe, as “R.A.F.”-type and very similar to those used by Rolls-Royce. The rear suspension was remarkable for having normal ¼-elliptic springs and also small auxiliary reversed ¼-ellipties, a la Bugatti. The radiator has certainly been lowered since I owned the car, which carried a boat-decked open four-seater body, with two spare wheels mounted on either side of the bonnet, a rear trunk with fitted suitcases, and a second windscreen for the rear seat. All this, unfortunately, weighed so much (just over 20 cwt.) that the performance was very mediocre in spite of an excellent four-speed gearbox and outstandingly good brakes (Perrot four-wheel), steering, and roadholding.
It was for this reason alone that I parted with it after about 18 months, having been passed by a bull-nosed Morris on a long hill near Dorchester! Apart from that, it was one of the most interesting and best-built cars I have ever owned.
I am, Yours, etc.,
W. G. Battersby.
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I read and am very interested in your paper, so I thought I would like to send you a few particulars of my 1923 Delage, D.I., Series 1, 13.9 h.p. I am very proud to state that I have owned this car for 20 years.
It is fitted with the Zenith 26 K.G. triple diffuser downdraught carburetter. On long runs I get 32 m.p.g. Oil consumption is about half-pint in 2,000 miles.
I am, Yours, etc.,
C. T. R. Smith.
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I have read your Editorial in the March issue commenting on the magnificent performance of the Hotchkiss make in winning the Monte Carlo Rally outright no less than six times.
However, for the sake of accuracy, I must point out that the 3-litre (80 by 100) AM80 Hotchkiss six-cylinder car appeared in 1929 and not in 1981. We still have in regular use the eleventh of this series to have been imported into this country, which car I collected from London, new, on June 1st, 1929.
At its then price of £600 these cars justified the firm’s slogan, “Le juste milieu,” by giving excellent service over all these years.
Incidentally, if any of your readers can help me in obtaining single-contact Marcehal headlamp bulbs, I shall be more than grateful. The types I require are the 12115 and 1280—single filament.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Send, M. W. B. May.
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The letter from John J. Wombrock in “Vintage Veerings” last month prompts me to write to you again about my vintage Humber.
I have been since cradle a Bentley addict. For many years only as a distant admirer, but since 1945 an owner. I now have two 3-litres and a 4½-litre. When two years ago I left the army and became an advisor in farm machinery I tried at first, to use a 3-litre Bentley for my job. This entails real punishment to any motor car. An average of 1,200 miles per month, all in short runs, mostly over secondary roads and lanes, always in a mild hurry and quite 25 per cent. of this mileage is over farm tracks and across country. I regularly carry tools, spares, measuring tackle and heavy jagged bits of oily metal, as well as sacks and general farming clutter. Now a Bentley is a car second to none, but this treatment is outside its realm. I soon found this out.
Then I was lucky enough to come on “Emett” (with apologies to the artist) in a farm sale and bought him for £10. He is a 1923 Humber two-seater 11.4-h.p. overhead inlet side exhaust. All I had to do to get him going was to find a suitable set of well-based wheels and tyres. After experiment I use 19 by 5.25 in front and 19 by 700 on the back. He uses no oil between charges, having, I suspect, cast-iron pistons. His total mileage is a mystery, but must be astronomical. His performance is quite adequate for what I require and he has a bottom gear in which you can plough. I regularly tow a really heavy trailer without any fuss. The back axle is huge. I frequently tow machines across country.
I have now used him continuously for 18 months and only failed to get home once, when a back universal joint broke.
Five points I like about this car are: 1. A high comfortable driving seat upholstered in everlasting leather. I like looking over hedges as I drive; 2. A hood you can put up or down without getting out; 3. Mechanical simplicity. For example, I stopped at a garage the other day and had the foot-brake relined and was away in 25 minutes (transmission brake); 4. Rubber covered floor board which doesn’t mind mud or muck and is easily pulled out and cleaned, together with a dickey which will hold anything; 5. Four widely spaced useful gears with a real man-size right-hand gear lever.
The external-contracting rear brakes cause much ribaldry, but are smooth and effective. They don’t. squeak, and contrary to expectation are quite unaffected by wet. When I bought this car I had no idea of its excellence, but now I should be very sorry to part with it. I hope I never shall.
I await with great interest an article on these cars. More recently I have bought a 1929 16-h.p. for a friend who is also a Bentley owner. He uses this car for towing a four-wheeled two-horse trailer of vast proportions and weight, which it does without effort. J. B. Jesty, of the W. H. & D. C.C., who drives an Allard, has a very beautiful 16-h.p. tourer which I remember opened the course at the Poole speed trials two years ago. This car is a year younger than mine.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Long Bredy. M. J. Matthews (Major).
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I was most interested by the letter in “Vintage Veerings” from Mr. John J. Woodcock regarding the 1928 “14/40” Humber tourer.
In the spring of 1935 I was fortunate enough to purchase one of these cars for £22 10s.!! Yes, £22 10s., and the Government has the impudence to tell its that we are better off now than in those happy days.
I thought the car was well designed, beautifully made, and the detail work excellently done. Nothing ever worked or broke loose, the body was entirely free from rattles and was of solid construction, a very great contrast from some present day bodies, which give the impression of having been stamped out of old biscuit tins.
I am rather surprised that Mr. Woodcock is able to average 49 m.p.h. as the model is definitely not a sports car, acceleration being limited by the rather high weight, and I don’t think he can reasonably expect more than 24 m.p.g. My Humber gave me many thousands of miles of happy, trouble-free motoring, and I only sold it when I acquired a 1932 Talbot 75 two-seater. This was a superlative motor car and I often wonder if it is still running. Its registration number was GY 2272.
While writing, may I also express my agreement with Mr. E. A. Weil regarding the TD-type M.G. I think that this car has been completely spoilt. With its utility wheels, increased weight, and complete lack of luggage accommodation, it has now joined the ranks of the “sea-front” specials.
With best wishes to all at Motor Sport.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Leon R. Blewett.
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Can any of your vintage-minded readers suggest why the “23/60” Vauxhall engine was put into production concurrently with the highly successful “30/98” power unit?
It is easy to understand the “23/60’s” heavier chassis to carry more spacious bodywork, but what could be the reason for the dismally de-tuned engine. This is especially puzzling to me because externally the two engines are almost indistinguishable. The “30/98” was famed for smoothness and low-speed torque with petrol and oil economy, none of which was offered to a noticeably greater extent by the lesser engine, and since really only internal dimensions differ, cost could hardly have been a factor.
Unfortunately for South African vintagents, the local agent for Vauxhalls, for reasons best known to himself, sold prodigious numbers of “23/60” models retaining the only “30/98” for his own use. This meant that he could win all the early motoring events without fear of real competition. As a result a few “23/60’s” are still running about but have little enthusiast-value because of their uninspiring performance.
I owned a 1925 Kington tourer for three years and covered 20,000 trouble-free but unspectacular miles, often speculating what an excellent car it would have been had the “39/98” engine been fitted.
Presumably the modern habit of utilising one power unit from tractor to sports model was not the policy at Luton.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Johannesburg. R. H. Johnston.
[We submitted this letter to Laurence Pomeroy, M.S.A.E., who replies: “Before the first World War Vauxhall made the D-type and “Prince Henry” 25-h.p. cars, of 95 by 140 mm. and 10 ft. 6 in. wheelbase. The former gave 45-50 b.h.p., the “Prince Henry,” by reason of higher lift cams, bigger valves, etc., about 75 b.h.p. The E-type “80/98” gave 95 b.h.p. Now after the war the “Prince Henry” and D-type were discontinued. The D-type became the o.h.v. “OD,” with o.h.v. engine, but gained only about 10 h.p. because the “soft” camshaft was retained. The “80/98” was also given o.h.v., becoming the “OE,” and giving about 110 b.h.p. The “Prince Henry” would have been the intermediary between the touring “OD” and sporting “OE” had it been continued, with o.h.v., but as it wasn’t, the gulf between “OD” and “OE” is a noticeable one.”—Ed.]