Veteran-Edwardian-Vintage, May 1966

A Section devoted to old-car matters

Pomeroy Trophy Analysis

The 1966 V.S.C.C. Pomeroy Memorial Trophy Contest to decide the best all-round touring car of over 2 1/2-litres, won by J.A.F. Blight’s 1934 Talbot 105, with the Cup in the opposite class going to R.A. Hutchings’ 1937 328 B.M.W. both p:v.t. pre-war cars, note !-was reported in last month’s issue.

However, we have to return to this event again, because, in the provisional results we appended to our report last month, G. Daniels’ 1930 4 1/2-litre Bentley was not accorded a Second Class Award and due to lethargy on the part of the G.P.O., by the time the V.S.C.C. had notified us of this omission, the flatbeds were churning out pages and it was too late to insert this additional award-winner.

The event is worthy of detailed analysis, in any case. The steering test can, perhaps, be ignored, because to some extent a driver’s vision and reactions apply as well as car stability, “swervability” and perfection or otherwise of its steering characteristics. It may or may not be significant that best time through the zig-zag course was made by Black’s 1935 Monza Alfa Romeo (21.06 sec.), slowest time by Gue’s 1931 S-type Invicta, while the ultimate Pomeroy Trophy-winning Talbot was well up, in 21.81 sec., and those who went the wrong way were driving Invicta, Bentley and DB3S Aston Martin cars.

What is much more informative is the s.s. I/4-mile, done in the dry, slightly uphill, electrically-timed. I am assured by Peter Hull, the V.S.C.C. Press Secretary, that the distance was conscientiously measured, so the figures, quoted below in order of merit, are worth studying.

No doubt Blight was delighted to beat so many famous vintage sports cars. He modestly gives all the praise to the car, saying that he was 10% below his best in every test and even botched his start of the s.s. 1/4-mile. “But,” remarks Blight, “as the World’s fastest pre-war touring car, the Roesch Talbot could hardly fail to win a competition designed more or less to prove this.” His success will please advocates of the p.v.t. car, although his other Talbot 105, with “natural” engine capacity, driven by Michael Bowler, was much slower, but then it carried 27 gallons of petrol, equal to about 1 1/2 cwt. surplus weight, whereas Blight had a mere two gallons in his 8-gallon tank.

Outstanding is the excellent sprinting of the Monza Alfa Romeo. Mrs. Shoosmith’s open 3 1/2-litre Derby-built Bentley is disappointing, especially if you take the modern Volvo saloons as a convenient yardstick (and recalling that when I timed the 3 1/2-litre Bentley Press car at Brooklands in 1934 it covered the s.s. 1/4-mile in 21.8 sec.), but Barry Clarke’s Edwardian side-valve Talbot can be proud of going better than a 30/98 and 4 1/2-litre Bentley. Anyway, study the figures yourself!

The cars continued for a flying 1/4-mile and, as would be expected, Leo’s and Crocker’s Le Mans-type Lagondas, Corner’s Ferrari, the sports Cooper-Bristol, and the blown Studebaker Avanti increased their speed best, but again the Monza Alfa Romeo was well up, although Williamson’s 3-carburetter, 4-cylinder 5.7-litre Bentley got away from it, as did 8 1/2-litres of Barraclough’s big Bentley.

The timed brake test defeated Hefford’s 1929 3/4 1/2-litre Bentley, which retired. Very efficiently anchored were the Bentley engined Frazer Nash and Leo’s Lagonda V12, closely followed by the M.G.-B, Bowler’s vintage Bentley and Crocker’s Lagonda V12, and the 328 B.M.W., with Clutton’s Bugatti, Gue’s Invicta, Blight’s invincible Talbot, le Sage’s Aston Martin DB3S, Harding’s Volvo and the Cooper-Bristol next in merit. Not much slower to pull up were the Ferrari, Langton’s Invicta, Jones’ 30/98 Vauxhall, Shoosmith’s Bentley, Mahony’s Invicta, Daniels’ Bentley, Bickerton’s Frazer Nash, Court’s Porsche and Skirrow’s Frazer Nash. But best of all was Saunders’ A.C. Ace. So old and new cars alike proved themselves safe in this respect. Incidentally, the three back-braked cars averaged a time four seconds longer than the average of those cars aforesaid, picked out because they stopped so well, and Marsh’s 1920 Talbot took only 2.2 sec. longer than they did collectively.

There were, also, the high-speed trials, and eleven cars either did not start or retired, the former including Conway’s Type 43 Bugatti which we believe had piston trouble on the way to Silverstone.

Altogether a most interesting contest in which p.v.t. and vintage cars showed up very well, and of which the Roesch Talbot was a true and worthy winner.—W.B.

The Great Leaver Mystery

In reviewing “From Horse to Horsepower,” by S.A. Cheney on the Book Reviews page last month I quoted the author’s reference to the excitement which the introduction, in 1914, of the new Dodge Brothers car caused amongst dealers throughout the World, and how the only, temporary, fly in the ointment was rumour of a deadly rival in the form of the Leaver car, which well-timed double-page advertisements described as a 6-cylinder, whereas Dodge, who had received 72,000 orders with deposits for their car on the day it was announced, were relying on a 4-cylinder engine. The Dodge was, according to Cheney, “… very much like the 4-cylinder Buick of the period, and both were priced at the same figure.” (The Ford was then about 500-dollars, the Dodge 785-dollars.) “The outstanding thing about the Dodge was its sound engineering—its strength, solidity, and real worth. It was exceptionally well engineered, and built to last. The most interesting feature from the public’s point of view was the self-starter. As far as I know the Dodge was the first car to be fitted with an electric generator and starter motor as standard equipment. (Before Cadillac ?—Ed.] It was manufactured by the North East Electric Company, and was a 12-volt single unit combining a starting motor and electric generator charging a battery; which supplied the power for starting and current for the lights. It proved wonderfully reliable.”

Mr. Cheney states that “the principal competitor of the new car would be the 4-cylinder Buick.” What then of this Leaver, which by timely advertisements for it, caused Dodge “near panic in the sales department” ? Mr. Cheney says that efforts to discover the production programme for this car were fruitless, until he managed to get into the factory and, although not invited to see it, managed to get into the private showroom and saw that it’s engine was Continental. He then went to the Continental engine factory in Detroit and was able to learn that they had a contract to supply 5,000 special 6-cylinder engines to Leaver, in five months’ time. So the Dodge brothers breathed freely again! We are told that some cars were produced later but the company failed.

Now the last edition of Doyle’s, to which historians turn to get on course, does not list a Leaver—there is a Lever Eight, which was a 1933 venture of Kissel, but this is obviously not the same car. Nor is this make to be found in a list, described as the most complete one of American cars yet accumulated, published in the April issue of Floyd Clymer’s Auto Topics. In the book the name Leaver is in quotes and Cheney says, “from memory, I think that was its name.” Could he have meant Leader ? There are three cars of that name listed by Doyle, two of which might fit, one made in Toronto from 1901, the other in Indiana from 1906 to 1911 to 1912. However, apart from the dates and localities being suspect, I think the latter was an electric car. Can American historians throw any light on this perplexing matter ?—W.B.

The motor vehicles of H.L. Callendar

Through the kindness of Mr. Kenneth Ball of Autobooks of Brighton we have been able to read an article on the life of Prof. H.L. Callendar, C.B.E., instrument engineer, which appeared in the February issue of The Chartered Mechanical Engineer. This refers to the 1 1/4-h.p. Clement-Gerrard motorcycle which the Professor bought in 1902 and fitted with an 8-speed gearbox, “a cooling system” and a forecar. Apparently Callendar covered hundreds of miles in this vehicle with his wife, climbing hills like Porlock, etc., but when a horse knocked the tricar over he changed it for an 8-h.p. De Dion Bouton car.

There is a reference to a Stanley steam car setting a World record of 127 m.p.h. at Brooklands Track in 1907—in fact, this was a record recognised only in the U.S.A., the speed was 127.66 m.p.h., the place Ormond Beach, Florida, and the year 1906 —as a result of which Prof. Callendar bought a Stanley steamer, which blew out one of its 760 boiler tubes on a family outing to Hindhead.

Callendar is reported as having converted this Stanley steamer into a hot-air car, using a petrol engine to drive a compressor and using the original double-acting pistons and cylinders. There is a picture of the car (Reg. No. AJ 361) but the statement needs elaboration, because a small hot-air engine would surely not be powerful enough to propel a heavy car ?

Prof. Callendar was Director of Engine Research at the Air Ministry from 1924 and in that year he gave the first explanation of knocking or “pinking” in internal-combustion engines and its cure by the employment of anti-knock fuels. Callendar lived in a 22-roomed house at Ealing, with separate garages for his two cars, equipped with lathes, pit and a crane, etc., and according to this tribute to him in the I.Mech.E. Journal, he did practically all the repair work himself, although keeping a chauffeur and gardener amongst the eight servants.—W.B.