Rumblings, May 1959

Racing in Scotland

Although Scotland has its own racing teams in Ecurie Ecosse and Border Reivers, it is badly accommodated in respect of racing circuits. Crimond has been abandoned and Charterhall is not ideal, being badly surfaced and far from civilisation. With the nearest circuit in England, Aintree, over 200 miles from Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland needs urgently a good motor race course in the Forth-Clyde valley. Meanwhile, there is hope that a new airfield circuit at Edzell will partly fill the gap, although it is still too far from populous centres, being over 30 miles from Dundee. However, the Aberdeen & Dist. M.C. are organising races at Edzell and report that it has an exceedingly smooth surface, thanks to the Air Ministry, who re-laid the runways and perimeter tracks at taxpayers’ expense some short time ago. The first meeting there is scheduled for June 20th and Scottish enthusiasts should make a note of the date and support this project, for that will help to ensure bigger events there in 1960.

Other Scottish race meetings will be held at Charterhall on June 28th, this being a closed members’ meeting of the Winfield Joint Committee, and Border M.R.C. at Charterhall on July 5th, when a restricted meeting is, due; at Edzell on August 15th, and at Charterhall on September 27th. In addition, speed hill-climbs will be held at Rest-And-Be-Thankful on June 27th (S.S.C.C.) and July 4th (R.S.A.C.), while Bo’ness will be used again for the Lothian C.C.’s restricted hill-climb on July 11th.


Development of the Minx

Bernard Winter, Director of Engineering, and A. G. Booth, Chief Consultant Engineer, of Rootes Motors Limited, recently read a paper before the American Society of Automotive Engineers dealing with the Design and Development of the Hillman Light Car.

This paper is of interest because the Hillman Minx is closely related to the sports Sunbeam Rapier.

The paper covers Minx development from 1931 to the present day. The authors emphasise that in spite of vastly improved seating and luggage accommodation and much additional equipment, the modern Minx has a wheelbase only 4 in. longer and is but 10 per cent, heavier than the 1932 model. Throughout the past 28 years the Hillman Minx has been in continuous volume production in saloon, convertible, station wagon and light commercial forms, over one million having been built.

It is perhaps significant that very early in their paper the authors go to considerable pains to de-rate the advantages of the rear-engined car. They concede that there have been one or two notable exceptions in Europe of successful rear-engined cars of over 1-litre engine capacity but they are adamant that satisfactory front/rear weight distribution can only be achieved with a rear engine location by keeping engine size below a litre or venturing into “an entirely fresh approach to the design of these (engine and transmission) units and the type of materials used.”  What they are really saying is that a rear-engine in-line water-cooled car presents problems easily solved by using a boxer motor and no radiator, particularly if power unit weight is reduced by generous use of light alloys!

Indeed, Messrs. Winter and Booth would seem almost to fear competition from rear-engined vehicles, judging by the space they devote to decrying them. For instance, they refer to the undesirable influence on road-holding and steering of excessive rear-end weight, the need with this layout for “articulated rear wheels” which call for “a number of compromises and extra complication of universal drives and joints.”  Warming to the theme they condemn the limited luggage accommodation of rear-engined cars,  the difficulty of introducing station wagon bodywork on rear-engined chassis, restriction of foot and leg-room, problems of adequate heating with air-cooled engines, the danger in head-on collisions, and the “difficulties in obtaining smooth and positive controls into the engine compartment of rear-engined vehicles, resulting from their length and disposition.” (Have the Rootes’ engineers never handled the VW gear-change?  —  Ed). Thus it seems that Coventry intends to continue with water-cooling, prop.-shafts and non-articulated back axles, which will disappoint those who consider that in 1959 such designs are archaic.

When they come to engine development,  the authors paint a much brighter picture. In 1954 the original L-head long-stroke Hillman Minx engine was replaced by an o.h.v. over-square engine, while over the years compression-ratio has risen from 5.6 to 1 to 8.5 to 1. Engine capacity has risen by 27 per cent. but weight by only 10 per cent. Efficiency has improved by some 38 per cent, and power output by 66 per cent., the 1932 Minx giving 32 b.h.p. compared to 53 developed by the modern Minx. Moreover, the design is rationalised for use in Singer Gazelle, Commer Commercial and Sunbeam Rapier, the two-carburetter Rapier version giving 72.8 b.h.p. at 5,200 r.p.m.

As to gearbox development, the original Minx three-speed box was replaced in 1934 by a four-speed box with optional free-wheel. Rootes found the adoption of the more expensive four-speed box fully justified  —  Dagenham please note!  In 1935 synchromesh of the constant-load type was used and the free-wheel abandoned. This was followed by a gearbox incorporating inertia-load baulk-ring synchromesh in 1946, this being applied to all save bottom gear and making possible the steering-column gear change which Rootes were amongst the first to fit to volume-produced four-speed cars in Europe. They retain it, of course, with a floor-lever on the Hillman Minx Special. It is interesting that Messrs. Winter and Booth admit that at present there is no effective fully-automatic transmission suitable for small European cars and they are content with two-pedal control and an electrically-activated vacuum,operated clutch as “a good half-way stage.” 

Independent front suspension was adopted for the Hillman in 1949, based on experience of this form of springing on larger Rootes cars from 1935 onwards. It is emphasised that not until 1949 had the very high degree of stiffness needed with i.f.s, been achieved in the Minx construction. The Rootes layout consists of a separate and complete assembly, which assists manufacture and servicing. In designing the current Minx a 50/50 weight distribution was aimed at and in practice distribution varies from 55/45 unladen to 48/52 with four up and 100 lb. of luggage, the ideal being achieved with four persons in the car. Again an attempt is made to show up unfavourably the rear-engined vehicle, apparently, however, with a Minx in-line engine in the boot, when respective figures of 38/62, 44/56 and 40/60 are quoted.

Steering gear developed from the low-efficiency worm and nut with two-piece track rod to the present recirculating ball and rather unusual three-piece track rod. The authors emphasise the effect aerodynamics have on stability and in view of certain trends towards “smart” Continental styling it is pleasing to find that they advocate bodywork which is modern in conception but also functional, and styled with road stability and petrol economy in mind.

Integral construction for the Minx was introduced in 1939, after a two years’ design and development programme.  The first integral structure weighed 75 lb. less than the former separate chassis and all-steel body. With minor modifications this design lasted until 1949, when an entirely re-tooled integral body was introduced. In 1956 another completely redesigned and re-tooled unitary structure was introduced. Wheelbase was increased by 3 in., the power unit was moved forward, overall height was reduced by 1-1/2 in., and luggage space increased by almost one-third. When the stressed skin roof panel is removed to make a convertible body some 75 per cent, of torsional stiffness is lost. After much experimenting Rootes use an X-brace across the understructure for the Minx convertible.

The paper discusses improvements in anti-corrosion treatment and dust-sealing, the latter achieved by sponge rubber door seals with a thin live skin in addition to the inner seal, and remarks on early troubles from drumming of the unitary structure, not apparent when testing hand-built prototypes.

On the subject of testing, former road tests in Britain have been supplemented by testing in overseas territories such as North America, Africa, Europe, Norway and Northern Canada. The authors describe the facilities available at the M.I.R.A. Proving Ground but one wonders whether this impressed the Detroit audience, in view of the elaborate research stations operated by individual manufacturers in the States. It was emphasised that Rootes expect their vehicles to withstand at least 1,000 continuous miles on pavé and the recent Hillman Minx destruction test referred to Editorially last month proves that this popular and handsome British family car will, indeed, stand up to over 15,000 miles at high speed on Belgian roads of this kind without undue dismay.


“Pur Sang”

A very sensible observation of considerable interest and significance to those concerned with the preservation and restoration of historic motor vehicles has been made by an American enthusiast, Eri Richardson, in the inter edition of the Bugatti O.C. magazine Bugantics. Mr. Richardson is concerned with how few genuine 100 per cent. restorations of Bugatti cars are now in progress. He puts this down to lack of knowledge or perhaps lack of incentive.

What is true of the Bugatti is true, also, of other famous makes. Mr. Richardson emphasises his concern by reminding us that American magazines frequently go to great lengths to publicise and illustrate Bugatti models which contain many non-original parts. He reminds us that the coloured wrapper of a leading book on sports cars depicts a Bugatti that was not assembled until the factory had ceased production, that a certain much-publicised Type 59 has several primary components of non-Bugatti origin and that of four Bugattis seen in magazine cover illustrations not one is to catalogue specification in all respects. The only truly unmodified Type 59, according to Mr. Richardson, is the 4.7-litre monoposto owned by the Bugatti family.

Consequently, Eri Richardson, who has owned various Bugattis over a period exceeding 25 years, has drawn up a code or criteria for the proper restoration of these cars. This contains seven points for those working on these cars, and those who judge such vehicles at Concours d’Elegance, to bear in mind. They range from the obvious one of never applying aluminium paint anywhere, to throwing away all parts which are not 100 per cent. original as installed at Molsheim, and replacing them. If the latter is truly impossible in the case of perishable items, then at least a similar type by the same maker i.e., Bosch coil or Scintilla lamps—should be fitted.

Mr. Richardson’s criteria contains such pearls of wisdom as  “an all-polished or plated car is about as drab as a woman without make-up” and “all cam-cases and crankcases were done with diagonal scraper strokes and should be lightly polished or restored to original finish. A full rotary-turned engine no longer looks like Le Patron’s workmanship and a considerable element of the conservative elegance is sacrificed for a Hollywood garishness.”  He even abhors the use of new castings and forgings, and machining of new parts, preferring the use of original parts obtained from the few remaining sources of supply.

The Bugatti O.C. is prepared to go most of the way with this conscientious American and everyone entrusted with restoring fine and historic vehicles should give his views careful thought. Finally, as last month we had something to say concerning the price you should pay for a Rolls-Royce Phantom III, here are Mr. Richardson’s views on Bugatti values. His findings can be summarised thus :—

(a) Bugatti cars in restorable order, in remote parts of Europe: £100 or so.

(b) Bugatti cars in restorable order, in U.K. or U.S.A.: £200 or

(c) Bugatti cars in original trim and running order, but unrestored: from: £500.

(d) Bugatti cars restored to “Concours”  condition: At least £1,000 (plus freight if in U.S.A.).

(e) Cost of restoration of (c): Minimum of £500 ; usually to £1,000 to £1,500.


Speedwell-Weston Rev-Counter

A British-made electronic rev-counter is now on the market for the first time. Designed and developed by Speedwell Conversions, this highly accurate instrument is now being manufactured in conjunction with Sangamo-Westott and initial demand is reported to have outstripped production. Main advantages of an electronic unit are the absolute “dead beat” indication, with no over running or lagging of the pointer, a rock steady needle reading, and ease of fitting, which involves only three wires.

Variations of voltage in the battery, temperature or condition of the ignition points have no effect on the accuracy of the instrument, and the clear full-scale dial reads up to 8,000 r.p.m.  Illumination is of the red indirect long wave-length type, which has ideal night vision characteristics. The complete Speedwell-Weston rev-counter is priced at £18. It is obtainable from Speedwell Performance Conversions Ltd., 763, Finchley Road. London. N.W.11.


Honour for Jaguar’s Chief Designer

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has informed Mr. W. M. Heynes, M.I.Mech. E (A.D.), M.S.A.E., Director and Chief Engineer of Jaguar Cars Ltd., that the 1958 James Clayton Prize Award has been awarded to him jointly with Sir Ewart Smith, M.A., M.I.Mech. E., F.R.S., the distinguished electrical engineer.

The citation states that the award is made to Mr. Heynes for his outstanding contribution to the design and development of the modern automobile. Thus, within the space of seven years, Jaguar Cars Ltd, have four times been accorded honoured recognition, for in 1951 they were awarded the Dewar Trophy for outstanding engineering and technical achievement, whilst in 1954 Sir William Lyons, Jaguar’s chairman and managing director, was elected a Royal Designer for Industry by the Royal Society of Arts. In 1957 America paid tribute by the award of the American Artist Medal of Honour for excellence of design. Mr. Heynes joined the Jaguar Organisation as Chief Engineer from the Humber Company, where he had been in charge of the Technical Department, and was appointed a member of the board of directors in 1946.

Apart from his lengthy association with the general technical development of his Company’s products, Mr. Heynes will for long be remembered also for the part he played in the design and development of those famous “C” type and “D” type Jaguars which scored such outstanding victories for Britain in no less than five Le Mans 24-hour races against powerful opposition from the cream of foreign cars. Amongst past recipients of the award are:  Air-Commodore Whittle, Sir Christopher Hinton, Professor Sir Richard Vynne Southwell, and many other distinguished personages in the world of science and engineering covering such diverse fields as jet propulsion, nuclear research, turbine development, etc.