Chain-Gang nostalgia

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64

Many years ago, when it was owned by T. G. Moore and edited by W. S. Braidwood, B.A. (Mech. Sc.) Cantab., Motor Sport  was known unofficially in certain quarters as “The Frazer Nash Gazette.” If rather a lot of “mentions” and “puffs” relating to the chain-drive cars, which the Aldington Brothers used to build at the Falcon Works of A.F.N. Ltd., in Isleworth, crept unblushingly into our pages, this was only to be expected when Tom Moore and Braidwood were themselves such keen addicts of the chain-gang cult.

Enthusiasm for the old-style Frazer Nash persists to such an extent today that a special section of the V.S.C.C. is devoted to them. From pure nostalgia, then, I propose to lift down the weighty tomes that line the shelf behind my desk and recall from bound volumes of our old issues just how well these chain-gang cars used to motor.

The first road-test devoted to a Frazer Nash appeared in the issue for February, 1927.  Richard Twelvetrees, who is with us yet, immersed these days in traction avant, wrote reams (for Motor Sport  as it was then constituted) about an aluminium-bodied four-seater Anzani-engined car. Chain-gangsters will not need to be reminded that the Frazer Nash was built to individual requirements and that no two cars were the same.

It was so in this case. Twelvetrees had a wider-than-standard body (he is a big man !) which necessitated a wider-than-standard back-axle and a special facia panel was fitted, every inch of available space on it being occupied by an instrument. Other “extras” were a Benjamin radiator shutter and Protectomotor air-cleaner for the Solex carburetter.

The chassis was the standard super-sports, with a top-speed ratio of 4.1 to 1 and the modified clutch, special road-springs, front brakes, new radiator-mounting and braced front mudguards and lamps of the 1927 cars. Speed was put at a very genuine 73 m.p.h., and fuel consumption at nearly 30 m.p.g. in general running, although if the carburetter was tuned for economy 35/40 m.p.g. was possible, the maximum speed then falling to 60/65 m.p.h.   Oil pressure was early reduced from 80 lb/sq. in. to 30 lb./sq. in., whereupon a regular consumption of about 1,000 m.p.g. was realised. Tyres lasted some 10,000 miles. The Brooklands-type silencer and fantail was apt to invite police attention if the driver used the throttle too ambitiously in built-up areas  —  incidentally, we present-day drivers have much to be thankful for in the scant interest in noise taken by the modern police and in the absence of 20-m.p.h. speed traps!

This excellent little car evoked few critictsms, although its owner admitted it was on the expensive side and might have been built of better materials. But he was warm in his praise of its performance, roadholding and braking.

The next road-test appeared in January, 1931 and concerned the lowest-priced Frazer Nash in the range, the o.h.v. “Interceptor” listed at £325. The car tried was a long-chassis three-seater, weighing 3 cwt more than the production two-seater. A three-speed transmission was in use, providing ratios of 4, 6 and 11 to 1 (the standard bottom ratio was 11.6 to 1).  In this high bottom ratio 10-30 m.p.h., two-up, occupied a mere 3.4 sec. and in second the ‘Nash leapt front 30 to 50 m.p.h. in 5.2 sec. Top speed was a genuine 70 m.p.h., which was also the cruising speed. The test took in such hills as Maidens Grove, Lewknor (ascended in second!) and the notorious Alms Hill off the Henley-Watlington Road, when, two-up and the Pirellis deflated, the ‘Nash passed the “Cannons” at 30 m.p.h. in a strong, non-stop climb.

In November of the same year the T.T. Model was tested. On this car the ratios were 3.7. 4.8, 7 and 10 to 1, the weight being given as approx. 13 cwt. In spite of the “rather high bottom gear,” 10 to 30 m.p.h. was achieved in a space of 4 sec. and it was explained that if the driver cared to rev-up appreciably and slip his clutch this could be reduced to a fraction over 3 sec. The mile-a-minute gait was reached in “well under half a minute.”  Speed?  Well, just under 90 m.p.h. was reached on the level and 95 m.p.h. attained easily, downhill. The particular car tested comfortably exceeded 80 m.p.h. in third and had lapped Brooklands during a race, presumably in stripped condition, at 91.72 m.p.h. As usual, the rapid “gear” change, excellent roadholding and unique steering came in for extremely enthusiatic praise. The price ?  £445, or £425 with one chain fewer.

The last Frazer Nash road-test we conducted was of the six-cylinder Blackburne-engined T.T. Replica car in July 1933. The engine capacity was given as 1,498 c.c. and if correct I believe this car, AMD 582, to have been the only 1-1/2-litre “six” built.  The chassis was like that of the four-cylinder model but with heavier side-members, an extra cross-member in front, and a 13-1/2-gallon rear tank. It weighed 18-1/2 cwt. “wet” and the engine was claimed to give 75 b.h.p. with triple carburetters, either S.U. or Zenith.  On the lower ratios of 4.8, 7 and 11.75 to 1 the maxima were, respectively,  77, 54 and 32 m.p.h. On selecting top, which was as high as 3.8 to 1, the timed half-mile was covered at just under 82 m.p.h. as the r.p.m. would not build beyond about 3,700.  It was thought that with a 4.1 to 1 ratio,  4.500 r.p.m., or 90 m.p.h. would have been possible. Acceleration from 20 m.p.h. onwards was better than that of any unsupercharged car tested by Motor Sport since acceleration-curves were published. 10-30 m.p.h. in first took less  than five sec., 10-50 in first and second a shade over ten sec.,  and 10-60, third being engaged at 55 m.p.h., occupied 17-1/2 sec., The curve only flattened after 80 m.p.h., reached in 35 sec. from 10 m.p.h.

In this instance the brakes (12 in.) were poor, 72 feet being needed to come to a standstill from 40 m.p.h. The clutch was lighter than formerly, the selection of reverse by lifting a catch on the gear-lever itself was appreciated and so was the racing-style hand-brake. The car tried was an experimental job so that the over-high top speed, harsh back springs, and tendency to soot plugs could be excused. The chassis only cost £575.

Altogether it is easy to see why the old-style Frazer Nash amused —and arouses—such enthusiasm. Certainly in its price-class the performance figures bear comparison with the cars of today and were quite outstanding over two decades ago. But my real purpose in digging out these facts was to give our photographer a chance to print some Frazer Nash pictures — let’s see what he has found!  —  W.B.