Campbell’s “Blue Birds”
“People in glass houses,” etc. ! In spite of your caustic comment, the 59.6 Vanderbilt Cup Darracq was the first car Campbell named “Blue Bird”, if one is to believe his own statement in his book “My 30 Years of Speed”, published in 1935 and which, by the way, does not read as if it were ghosted.
His first Darracq, a Four-Inch-Race car, appears to have had no name. He then had a Peugeot which he named “The Flapper”. He had no luck with this car and changed it for another Darracq, and this he named “Flapper II”. He had endless trouble with it, sold it, and bought the Vanderbilt Cup car, which he was about to name “Flapper III” when a friend suggested that, as the name seemed unlucky, why not call it “Blue Bird”, after the Maeterlinck play which was having such a successful run in London. He did so, and this, as you know, was the car in which he had the famous accident at Brooklands during the 1912 August Bank Holiday Meeting. I was there and remember it quite well.
Crowhorough. R. BAILLIE.
[I am prepared to accept this, but would add that my “caustic comment” was directed at the unnecessary mystery over age and type of the big Darracq rather than its name, which was, in fact, “The Blue Bird”. Nor can I find any reference to “Flapper II” being registered by Campbell with the BARC. His 34 h.p. Darracq of 1911 was simply “The Flapper”. Incidentally, when was Maeterlinck’s play last performed and is it possible to see it today ?—ED.]
* * *
Crossleys and Rapsons
Your recent article prompts this letter; you may be interested in the connections between the enterprising Mr. Rapson’s products and Crossley Motors Ltd., Gorton, in the early vintage period.
The fleet of 25/30 Crossleys supplied for the Prince of Wales’ Indian Tour (1922) was shod with Dunlop “Magnum” Cord Tyres, although when, later that year, the Prince himself ordered a 19.6 Crossley (the post-war-introduced model) cabriolet he specified Rapsons. Interestingly, the bodywork was by Barker & Co. and a Rapson dipping headlight system was incorporated—is there a connection here ? This car was exhibited on the Crossley Stand at the 1922 Olympia Show.
In April, 1924, another Crossley was delivered to the Prince of Wales, this time a seven-seater 25/30 saloon-limousine with Gorton body, and Rapsons again were specified, also a second clock and speedometer in the rear compartment. In addition Rapsons were fitted (920 x 120) to the six 25/30 Manchester tourers prepared for the Prince and his staff for his South African visit, but by this time a “perfectly standard” 19.6 Crossley tourer (similar to the RAC Technical Department’s own car purchased in May the previous year for testing fuels, tyres, accessories, etc.) had completed its 20,000 miles RAC-Observed trial, claimed as a World’s mileage record, again Rapson equipped and with no mechanical or tyre trouble. Apparently early in the trial, running in company with a Napier saloon, one of the Rapsons sustained a nasty cut but the patent deflector-tube prevented deflation and it was vulcanised and refitted.
The test was then extended for a further 5,000 miles on April 21st, which the car completed with a speed check at Brooklands and with only routine adjustments throughout, by early the following month, three of the Rapson tyres running the full distance-25,035 miles— the fourth having survived till 23,473 maximum wear being quoted as 4.9 mm. We should then be able to expect at least similar performance on today’s Dunlop equivalent, surely ?
Amongst others by this time “converted” to the superiority of these Rapson Cords was “Owen John”, to whom reference has been made before in MOTOR SPORT, regularly enthusing over his own large Crossley in “On the Road” in a weekly journal until a front wheel came off ! But Mr. Lionel Rapson had gained also the confidence of the Court-Treatt’s who stipulated his tyres for their Cape Tciwn to Cairo expedition in September, 1924, two specially equipped 25/30 vehicles being supplied with twin rears.
The journey lasted till June, 1926, comprising 13,000 miles, the first ever lengthwise traverse of the African Continent as documented by Mr. Nicholson and amazingly only eight punctures were sustained, one tyre completing the whole trip with no attention at all. Uncharacteristically Mr. Rapson appears not to have exploited this, his product’s greatest achievement, as he might, but you suggest the Company were by this time in financial difficulties.
Finally, can I take this opportunity to announce the re-establishment of the Crossley Register and request that all existing and new owners of Crossley models contact the undersigned. In return they will receive a copy of our “as complete as practicable” Register of all existing cars. An example of the Sports 20/70 h.p. has been located, although we are anxious to hear from Owners of the smaller pre, RFC 12-20 cars in particular.
Ruislip. G. LEE, Crossley Register
* * *
Big Mileages in Austin 7s
This is a letter putting in a word for people who really do use Austin 7s, and certainly do far in excess of 8,500 and even 12,200 Miles a year, as quoted in last month’s “Cars In Books”.
My own 1929 saloon has been in use daily for the last 12 years (yes, it does show) and in the last six years has covered 122,400 miles, consuming three engines and four half-shafts, three sets of king-pins and four Dunlop Sidecar Mayor 350 x 19 tyres, the last of which is now on the spare, with approximately 3 mm. of tread left and 92,000 miles under its belt.
Petrol consumption has varied between 32 m.p.g. to 62 m.p.g., according to how well I’ve been able to keep the tank fuel tight. Oil consumption from 30 m.p.p.to -700 m.p.p.
So for this year the Bristol Austin Seven Club organised two runs (as opposed to rallies), one to the Brecon Beacons, where the snow was cold, especially on Sunday morning, when it was discovered that another three or four inches had fallen on our tents during the night. Eight cars turned out and we covered 246 miles in the weekend.
The second was somewhat more ambitious and consisted of a run to the Lake District over Easter. Fourteen Austin 7s made the trip north (only two the same, incidentally) and all traversed the ghastly slopes of the Wrynose and Hard Knott passes in a fairly stiff blizzard, also the Honister and Kirkstone, and any other rockfaces that appeared to threaten the mountaineering ability of our lightly underpowered machines. Total mechanical failures amounted to two broken half-shaft keys, one blown head gasket, one burst radiator (which thoughtfully sealed itself up after it stopped boiling) and one non-charging dynamo, all of which were corrected in a maximum of 30 minutes.
The oldest car was a 1926 Chummy, and three other vintage, and ten post-vintage 7s made up the numbers : 710 miles were covered in the four days. Most of the participants own and use no other cars (except perhaps another A.7).
Believe it or not, most of our members enjoy using these cars, more than winning cattle market rosettes at Concours, although some of them manage to keep their cars looking prettier than mine, and have cups to prove it.
Frampton Cotterell. IAN DUNFORD.
* * *
“A Day With a Silver Ghost”
I read with interest your article “A Day With a Silver Ghost”. Perhaps you would permit me to make one or two comments. You refer to a petrol gauge on the dashboard marked 0.1.2.3. This does not represent quarters of the petrol tank but refers to pounds pressure in the fuel-feed system. Before starting the car it is desirable to work up 1 1/2 to 2 lb. pressure by the fuel pressure air pump to which your article referred. No further pumping by hand is necessary as soon as the engine is running. The petrol gauge, which I think you will find reads to a maximum of 18 gallons, is mounted on the tank itself and can be seen in the last photograph of the article. Incidentally, these gauges are calibrated in gallons and litres. Assuming it to have been overhauled, the inaccuracy of the speedometer is difficult to explain because I believe the AT instruments to be extremely accurate. Perhaps it is something to do with the fact that the car is now fitted with 21-in. wheels and 700 x 21 tyres when originally it would have been fitted with 23-in, wheels shod with 33 x 5 straight-sided tyres. No doubt the mathematicians will shoot me down in flames on this point.
Woodstock. Section Hon. Sec., R-REC.
[The tank gauge was blanked off on the Triplex car. Otherwise I Stand corrected.—ED.]
* * *
I was pleased to read your article about a day out with the Triplex Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. You obviously had an enjoyable time, and the rebuild is a credit to all concerned.
As the part owner of a very close relative of the subject of the at tide, chassis No. 107F-M, I would like to make a number of comments on points of detail.
EM series Ghosts were not in fact originally fitted with FWB. I believe that they were all recalled in about 1925 to have FWB fitted, as I believe that R-R had not got them completely sorted out at the beginning of 1924. I may be maligning R-R here, and if so I apologise. Earlier cars were also fitted with FWB at the owner’s request. This was an extensive and expensive Modification, £200 or so. The work entailed the fitting of a new gearbox with servo drive, complete new front axle, new exhaust system and a lot of other bits.
The hand-brake shoes should be lined with cast iron, not Ferodo, but I don’t know if c.i. linings are still available. In any ease I expect Ferodo works better!
I believe new king-pins are still available from R-R. I fitted a new pair to 107 EM about six years ago. I think they were £9 each. I hope Triplex have not left out the Woodruff key which prevents the kingpins turning in the axle eyes.
My preference is to have the battery box by the driver’s door, where it provides a convenient springboard for leaping into the driver’s seat over the side, when making a rapid getaway.
The dashboard-mounted petrol gauge is unusual. Normally one had to make do with the gauge mounted on the tank. This is just discernible in the photograph on page 248. This gauge, incidentally, is calibrated in quarts(!), and also in litres.
The starting procedure is unnecessarily complicated by the mucking about with the power pump selector, which is in fact known as a four-way cock. This should normally be left in the “Both pumps” position. The tank can safely be left under pressure provided the petrol is turned off when the car is not being used. The only time I release the pressure is if I have to park the car in a position where the sun can shine on the petrol tank. The sun’s warmth causes a considerable rise in tank pressure.
I am glad to know someone has successfully counted the oiling points. I have made a number of abortive attempts at this. It should he noted that these are oiling, and not greasing points. Enots make the correct type of screw-on oil gun for the nipples fitted to the Ghost.
An oil pressure of 24 lb./sq. in. is a little on the high side. The handbook recommends not less than 3 and not more than 20. The handbook also states, in the event of failure of oil pressure, “So long as some pressure is showing on the gauge occasionally, the journey maybe continued (but at slow speed) if absolutely necessary.
It may be that the governor is out of adjustment. I don’t profess to be able to perform all the tricks which are claimed for it, but I do know that it does work as a governor. Try this on a stretch of clear and hilly open road: Having got the car moving, and in top gear, put the governor to “Fast”. This should accelerate the car to about 45 m.p.h., and the car will then continue at this speed up hill and down dale without any human intervention. The throttle will open automatically when ascending hills, and close again when the top is reached. One word of warning: put the governor back to slow before you attempt to stop the car; otherwise the throttle will open wider and wider in an attempt to overcome the effect of the brakes.
The governor is also useful in low-speed manoeuvring as it renders the use of the accelerator unnecessary, and provided the operation of the clutch is delicate the engine will not stall, even at idling speeds. Gear-changing can be done smoothly, with practice. I manage it nine times out of ten anyway, though I must admit that I found the gearbox a bit of a pig at first.
The Midland R-R Club can muster a number of members who would be willing to demonstrate, including myself, our President, P. J. Taylor, and our Technical Adviser, L. Fisher, who was employed by R-R at Derby, and probably worked on the car when it was new.
Other details apparent from the illustrations are: spring gaiters should be black rather than tan, the horn should be a klaxon, mounted on the three studs visible on the aluminium casting which is in the centre of the bulkhead, the starting handle should be strapped to the off-side and not the near-side. (Aren’t we finicky!)
Has the rake of the steering column been checked? Many Ghosts were converted from owner-driver to chauffeur’s rake when they were fitted with hearse bodies. This happened to 107 EM, and also to my other Ghost, 49 HG, which still sports its hearse body, though this is due to come off shortly.
The original rake is stamped on the flange where the steering column enters the steering box. The rake is indicated by a letter. “A”or “B” were chauffeur’s rake, “C” or “D” were owner-driver. “D” is the most desirable one to have.
The speedometer probably reads slow because I think that the outside diameter of 7.00-21 tyres is slightly greater than the 33 x 5 straight-sided tyres which were originally fitted.
I trust that you and Messrs. Triplex will accept these comments in the spirit in which they are intended. Midland R-R Club members would be glad to give any help and advice they can, and we would, of course, be pleased to welcome them into membership! Let me once again express my congratulations to Triplex for a magnificent piece of work.
Moseley. DONALD PAYNE.
* * *
I read with interest your reference to the book ‘”The Lakes”; by W. Heaton-Cooper, especially the bit about the salvaged steam launch.
I’m afraid I know nothing about this particular boat but I do recollect there being, two steam launches at Bowness on Lake Windermere. One of these had been salvaged from the bottom of the lake and was similar in shape, though not in size, to the steam tea-boats which ran from lndia to England in the middle and late nineteenth century. The older one was a magnificent oil-heated launch that was about 3-5 feet in length and had a large copper boiler and funnel. I’m afraid my recollection is only vague because I was quite young at the time, but one thing that has remained very firmly is that there was a kettle-heating ring through which hot water from the boiler would run. This ring was reputed to bring a full kettle of water to the boil in no more than 10 seconds! The hull of this boat was heavily varnished wood, and even in the dim light of the boat-house it was a magnificent sight.
I believe the owner has some more of these fascinating boats and he could well be the owner of the afore-mentioned boat that was salvaged from the bottom of Lake Ullswater. The Bowness boats are, I believe, to be seen skimming across the lake in blissful silence during the summer months.
Lastly, I would like to thank you and the editorial staff for producing such an interesting magazine; which I have read since the age of six.
Bruton. R. A. INGRAM (17).
* * *
The Late “Nobby” Spero
It was with nostalgic regret that I read your obituary on “Nobby” Spero, whom I knew so many, many years ago.
In the 1925-6 era there existed a little coterie of teenagers (I was 16) who used to meet at the side of the Grange Cinema, Kilburn, of an evening. I had one of the latest EW Douggies, Nobby an OEC Temple; we both bought them from C. F. Temple of record-breaking fame, who had a shop in the Edgware Road near Marble Arch (did you ever know his Jap mechanic, Kato ?). There was also a New Enfield, Norton, AJS, Moggie and a Rudge, and over the road from the Grange was a Triumph dealer whose son, Reg Bounds, used to join us and extol his father’s bikes.
Our usual dress, Bedford cords, trench boots, Fair Isle pullover and goggles slung round our necks, in the winter a leather coat from Lewis’s of Carburton Street (I wonder if that shop exists today ?). We must have looked a crowd!
We used to meet of an evening and once there was a few of us off we used to go, Nobby usually leading, and promenade Kilburn High Road down to the Maida Vale Cinema, prospecting the talent. If it was a quiet night we’d stay round the side of the Grange until the law eventually turned up and told us to shove off; one policeman actually showed us his little list that had been given him with all our numbers on it; mine, YN 3455, being well to the fore.
Anyhow, we then used to clear off through the back doubles of Kilburn to the Finchley Road, up Netherhall Gardens (last one up a cissie) and on to the Heath, where we joined the Monkey Parade of the Spaniards, up and down until we got a popsie and then it was usually off to Brockley Hill, Stanmore, where we used to hold our own little speed trials from Canons Park, end of the tramways, to the top of Brockley Hill. In those days (unlike later in life) Nobbv never used to make full use of his gears, and after my well-tuned EW had, to his surprise, passed him on Brockley Hill we changed over bikes and had another go. We used to have to make sure the boys in blue weren’t lurking behind the bushes with their clean hankies in their ever-ready hands. Anyhow, I changed down very early and that bike, it really was a beauty, swept up the hill at such a bat that when I heeled over at the top to avoid that dangerous stone water trough (I wonder if that is still there ?) I shaved the welt of my trench boot off. My dear old mother never could understand how it wore like that!
Then Nobby started to turn up in the old man’s car (I believe he was an antique dealer in a big way). There was a Rolls open tourer, then an early MG; it was a bull-nosed Oxford with a four-seater body, finished in stippled silver and a couple of motor-boat type ventilators on the scuttle.
Then one evening Nobby pipped us all in the eye, he appeared in a Gordon England “Boy-racer” Austin Seven; there used to be a showroom of them in Oxford Street. This was to our eyes a lovely car, “all” body, huge strap over the bonnet, cycle-type guards, and the passenger seat was offset to the back (Nobby said it was very useful!). Of course we spent that night all having rides in it until the law stepped in again; only snag was that before Nobby had it a fortnight the crankshaft went, whether due to the previous owner or Nobby we knew not. He’d got it from a firm at Highgate and I know there was quite a fuss before they compromised.
Soon we went our different ways and I never saw Nobby again, but I can well remember that in those far-off days we had many a good run together and some good times. I can just dimly remember his mother.
I later started with an Austin Seven fabric-bodied Wydoor, bought from that gentleman who seemed to have cornered every second-hand Austin Seven in London and who operated from a mews at the back of Maida Vale. I believe he later moved to Brondesbury and went in for boats.
When I retire in a few years’ time and if I am still alive and you still Editor of mv favourite journal, I’ll write you a “Cars I have Owned”. It should interest you and a lot more of your elderly readers.
Cheam. LEONARD FREWER.