Vintage Postbag, May 1972

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Rolls-Royce Armoured Cars

Sir,

Noting the interest in Vintage Postbag of First War vehicles, I am enclosing a photograph taken by a captured German Officer, showing one of our Rolls-Royce armoured cars in the hands of the Turks on the Palestine front in 1917.

This may have been one of the Duke of Westminster’s squadron that made the 150-mile dash to Siwa in the Libyan desert to rescue some of the crew who were prisoners of the Senussi tribe after their ship the “Tara” was torpedoed by an Austrian submarine in 1916.

Much Birch. Percy Pritchard, A.R.P.S.

——

Sir,

In 1942 whilst serving in the R.A.F. at Kilo 8 just outside Heliopolis we found an armoured Rolls-Royce covered with an old tarpaulin in the desert. After uncovering it and having to retreat from thousands of ladybirds we got it going and had lots of fun until the powers that be found out. I well remember driving it and as it had no floorboards it was quite a thrill to see the sand flashing. past one’s feet. Thank you for the only real motor magazine published and let’s have more articles, like “Cars I Have Owned”, etc.

Newbury. Anthony E. Aldworth.

* * *

What is it?

Sir,

While reading through the March Motor Sport one particular photograph caught my eye. The reason for this being it was taken outside my house, a now disused fire station. I showed this to my father, who had recently taken a copy of the picture from an original print and also one other.

The other picture shows that the machine was designed and built in 1906 at a cost of £3,000 by J. Zwicky of Tottenham with a 100-h.p. engine. As far as we can find out the machine was supplied in that year to the Tottenham Borough Council.

Tottenham. M. R. Gray.

* * *
Crossley Bugattis

Sir,

I was very interested in Mr. Greaves’ letter in the March issue, Although I cannot add any information on the Willys-Overland “kit car”, I am prompted to write about the Bugattis which he mentions were made in the same works.

Automobiles Bugatti (Molsheim) gave sanction for 500 standard Type 22, 16-valve Bugattis to be built by Crossley Motors under licence. Contemporary accounts have it that the cars were produced in two bays set aside in the Crossley works at Gorton. As Stockport and Gorton are very near each other I take this to be works referred to by Mr. Greaves.

Due to demand for their own cars, Crossley never went into full production on the Bugattis. In fact only 25 are reputed to have been completed, their chassis numbers ranging from 1600 to 1625. The cars were asembled from parts imported from France, some of which were in the rough state. It is interesting to note that the castings were machined to Imperial dimensions and BSF threads were substituted for metric sizes.

Three Crossley/Bugattis competed successfully in the “Fifteen Hundred” trophy race at the 1922 TT event on the Isle of Man, finishing third, fourth and sixth in the hands of Maury, Vizcaya and Marshall. Photographs of these cars show them to be of the short wheelbase Type-13 variety.

I have a shortened Bugatti chassis bearing chassis No. 1622, which falls within the range reputed to have been assembled by Crossley. The front right-hand dumb iron bears the stamping BC 23 which, much as I would like to believe means the car is 1,985 years old, I can only interpret as indicating “Bugatti/Crossley” Type-23. Type-23 is the number allocated to the long-chassis 16-valve Bugatti.

If my interpretation is correct then Crossley must have produced the full range of chains from T13, T22 and T23 of 2.0, 2.4 and 2.55 metres wheelbase respectively.

I would be interested to learn if any other readers could shed any more light on these obscure cars, particularly on the body styles fitted.

Thank you for maintaining the high quality of Motor Sport.

Minety. Rodney Manners.

* * *
The Sheffield-Simplex

Sir,

Further to your article on the Sheffield-Simplex, the Works are unaltered today, but for the name over the door. Fitzwilliam Works is owned by Balfour Darwin Ltd. and they have recently acquired a late-model Ner-a-Car, now displayed in the Reception office. This vehicle has a 350-cc. engine and chain drive to the rear wheel, not a friction drive as stated in your article. [It could have both.—Ep.] Mr. Stanley, the Works Director, told me that those who have ridden the Ner-a-car say it handles very badly due to the length and the “drag link” steering. There is in the Chairman’s office a painting of a 1913 30-h.p. car outside the works; this was done from a photo, of which Balfour have a number. Are there any Sheffield-Simplex cars in this country? I gather Bailouts traced one in Australia and another in the States.

The present Earl Fitzwilliam lives near Peterborough at Milton Park.

Sheffield, R. Chapman.

* * *
Douglas Memories

Sir,

My father has unearthed a photograph of his parents in their 1913 Douglas car, AE 5636. This was in no sense a cyclecar but was fully equipped in every way. The specification included a three-speed and reverse gearbox, shaft drive and a live rear axle with differential. The engine derived front the well-known Douglas motorcycle; it was a horizontally opposed two-cylinder rated at 10 h.p., the bore and stroke were 88 mm, and it was fixed transversely across the frame. It had a Zenith carburetter, Bosch magneto and a starting handle working through a hole in the middle of the radiator.

The original cost was £200 and it gave very satisfactory service until my grandfather sold it in 1919. It was replaced by another Douglas costing £500 which was not so satisfactory and gave continuous mechanical trouble, repeatedly breaking the tie rods connecting the back axle to the frame. This car had a slightly larger engine (92-mm. bore and stroke, 10.5 h.p.) and had the radiator raised so that the starting handle could pass below it. A self-starter was introduced in 1920, as Percy Douglas put it, “for lazy people”. The rear-suspension was unusual, it consisted of transverse coil springs operating through bell-crank levers.

At about this time Douglas experimented with racing cars, Wing the 10.5-h.p. engine as a basis but employing push-rod-operated overhead valves and a raised compression ratio.

A watercooled version of the 8-h.p. engine was used in the Williamson three-wheel cyclecar. This engine was fitted longitudinally with the flywheel on the off-side so that it “ran backwards”. It drove the single rear wheel via a three-speed gearbox using chains to transmit the power both to and from the gearbox. However these chains were too long and noisy and gave constant trouble, being later replaced by a JAP V-twin engine and shaft and bevel drive.

Orpington. John Spoor (Dr.).

* * *
“On Top—Napier or Rolls-Royce”

Sir,

In your well-argued piece in the April number, “On Top—Napier or Rolls-Royce”, you suggest that I was “less than fair” to Napier in “The Rolls-Royce Motor Car”. If the book gives this impression it certainly was not intentional, and I started from a slightly anti-Rolls-Royce position believing the marque to have been very much over-praised from time to time. I suppose, however, that the effect of reading reams (as it seems) of Edge’s questionable and tendentious Napier-boosting effusions may have brought on slight Napier-nausea. which showed.

On the question of which was “on top”, I think neither was. Both Napier and Rolls-Royce produced outstandingly good motor cars by the standards of their time, and their less good models, the first six-cylinder Napiers and the 30-h.p. Rolls-Royce (both bedevilled by torsional crankshaft vibration) were still better than most of their contemporaries. Both firms also dropped similar clangers with their “bonnetless town carriage” types, which were non-starters commercially.

Judgement is influenced by one’s personal tastes. For example, very broadly, I find Napiers have a pleasanter gear-change than Rolls-Royces (though the top-gear-anywhere caper makes the question a bit academic), but I found the steering of the 40 h.p. 1907 Napier very much less acceptable than that of a Silver Ghost. It would be possible to advance other pros and cons. Napiers were probably the more adventurous firm both in technical innovations and, as you say, in their attitude to racing and speed trials. This doubtless reflects the personal tastes of S. F. Edge, the sportsman, and Claude Johnson, who was primarily interested in reliability and refinement. For the reason you quote I find the big Napiers less pleasing aesthetically than Rolls-Royces, and I think no one will deny that the Silver Ghost wins over its nearest counterpart from Acton for quietness and refinement, and possibly for longevity.

On the specific question of Rolls-Royce versus Napier in the RAC-observed top-gear-only-cum-fuel-consumption-cum-maximum-speed demonstration I hope there is no unfair inference in my book. I quoted the figures there which are repeated in your article, so the reader can seen how small was the difference between the two cars.

Certainly, on the 1911 occasion the Rolls-Royce showed a remarkably large margin over the Napier’s remarkably economical fuel consumption: 24.32 m.p.g. against 19.35. A New Zealand correspondent has recently questioned this figure and writes that he, and some others, find it so remarkable as to make them suspicious of jiggery-pokery. The RAC observation of these trials was so strict that I am sure the figures must be accepted without reservation, but there is no doubt the cars were driven very carefully, not exceeding the legal maximum pace of 20 m.p.h., with the drivers using every trick in the book to conserve petrol. My New Zealand correspondent suggests that “tyres pumped up iron hard” were part of the repertoire, but I am able to refute this as far as R-R are concerned. Nevertheless, the fuel consumption figures are a little unrealistic as far as the ordinary driver is concerned.

I suppose it could be argued that the relatively lesser commercial success of Napier Ltd., reflected in their production figures, arose from the common mistake of trying to make too many models. Conversely one could say they were wrong to eschew four-cylinder cars for so long whilst Edge was conducting the “battle of the cylinders” with such bombastic fervour from so wide a variety of wrong premises. I am sure you are right to conclude that it was fear of a resurgent Napier which drove Rolls-Royce Ltd. to snatch Bentley Motors away from them.

Potbridge. Anthony Bird.

V-E-V Miscellany.—

A Morris Commercial platform truck, apparently in restorable condition, is reported from Scotland. The popular Andover Traction Engine Rally takes place this year on June 3rd and 4th, at a new venue, Church Farm, Longparish, six miles East of Andover, half-a-mile from the A303. There is usually support from vintage cars and events commence on both days at 2 p.m. The organiser is J. Field, 2 Lansdowne Avenue, Andover, Hants. “Alvis Days” this year comprises National Alvis Day at the Crystal Palace, London, on May 7th, Midland Alvis Day at the Alvis factory in Coventry on July 2nd, with driving tests at Fort Dunlop, the Scottish fixture at Bush House, Peniouik on September 3rd and the Northern event at the Mooreside Hotel, High Disley, Cheshire on September 17th. Details from R. A. Cox, Alvis OC, 23 Westgate Terrace, London, SW10.

A restored 1925 Dennis pneumatic-tyred, open-top omnibus, ex-Dominion and LGOC, is scheduled to undertake a 1,500-mile round England tour on behalf of the English Tourist Board, vide the newsworthy News-Letter of the HCVC, whose Brighton Run happens on May 7th. The Triple-M Register of the MGCC, which concentrates on o.h.c. MG Midgets, Magnas and Magnettes of the 1929-1936 period, tells us, arising out of the Motor Sport interview with George Harvey Noble (March issue) that his famous R-type is now. in S. F. Beer’s collection and that the 1933 TT-winning K3 Magnette, and the Hamilton J4 which it narrowly beat in that race, are both being rebuilt and should be running again next year. The Secretary of the Triple-M Register is now Colin Butchers, 21 Hill Farm Way, Southwick, Sussex and the former Secretary, M. Allison, has become the Register’s Historian.

On the subject of ancient boats, an Austin 7-engined launch is reported to he in a London boatyard, an Austin 7 marine engine is for sale, and a vintage river launch, once Coventry-Simplex-powered, a 1924 Gaines marine engine and an old lifeboat once powered by a converted Model-B Ford engine and Joes marine gearbox are reported from Surrey.. A circa-1914 Sunbeam 12/16 tourer, laid up from 1930 until 1942, but stranded at Leyburn, in the floods of 1947 when being towed to a new owner for restoration, should soon be on the road again. It is now in Yorkshire and its owner had his first motorcycle in 1923; his first family car was a chain-drive Sunbeam, followed by a 1913 Rover and his grandfather had “a very delightful” 1911 Arrol Johnston landaulette. Incidentally, Wilkinson of Derby “were apparently the only People with the drawings and ability to make a hood frame” for the Sunbeam being rebuilt and they also upholstered it and made it a hood. D. B. Tubbs hopes to have his Bamford and Martin Aston Martin on the road this summer using a 12/50 Alvis engine and a replica body. A derelict chassis, probably a Rolls-Royce, has been found in a Hampshire scrapyard.