The LVT Special

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Sir,

Mr Allan Fogg has asked questions about the “LVT Special”, and I think my old friend the late Mr Lionel Thomas would have liked me to answer some of the points for him.

Lionel was a great enthusiast pre-war, and was quite famous for his efforts, particularly at Pendine, with art incredibly to 35000 “Sprint” Sunbeam bike of ’23 vintage, which surprised many professional riders in the thirties with its capabilities, beating “Works” Nortons in the mile sprints. He had altered the cams and converted it to alcohol with about the necessary 14 to 1 Comp Ratio, and he could get it up to 100 m.p.h. in faster time than anyone expected. The crankcase bolts would pull out, and his expedient was to drive a steel wedge between tho rocker supports and the frame tube beneath the tank! But it then held.

After the war he decided to get practical about an idea he had played with for at least ten years; to design and build his own car. He was a modest chap of great ability and was never afraid to ask anyone for ideas and then thrash them out over a beer until only what would stand his critical argument survived. Anyway, in about ’47 he started mustering suitable bits to build what he had sketched as an ideal, and soon he had (If I remember correctly) a Brooklands Riley Nine engine bought either directly or otherwise from its “Modifier”, a Mr Ashby who had raced it there. Its special feature was the reversal of the two middle ports’ flow so that two carbs (Amals) were on one side and two the other, and of course camshafts to match. It was an alcohol engine so the pistons needed changing for the road and the carbs jetting, or needling, down. He then built around this, producing a parallel tube chassis, underslung at the rear with a Morris ‘M’ ten axle, and the Lancia suspension built in at the front coupled with a Bishop cam steering box also from the Morris.

I believe he finally got the end product panelled in locally, which was about all he couldn’t do himself, and it became mobile somewhere around ’50. I called to see it then and we went for a run, for he wanted me to confirm what he had suspected that the performance was hopelessly down. It was, and this was firstly because it suffered the usual defect of any one-off prototype it was far too heavy. I believe about 21 cwt. whereas the Brooklands Riley was about 12 cwt. Secondly, that engine detuned for Pool petrol only pulled a probable 45 b.h.p. at best at 5,500, where in Brooklands tune it had pulled about 90 b.h.p. at 6,500. He asked my advice about a unit and I agreed with his suggestion that a 1750 Lea-Francis which he thought available and was roughly suitable for the chassis space would be better bet. He bought and fitted this, and next time I was in England I called and went out in it again. It had quite a reasonable performance, but he was wary of using it as it had “run” big-ends two or three times and he hadn’t found out why they went. He was talking of going the whole hog and looking round for something less highly stressed. I don’t remember the XK engine being mentioned, but he was toying with a 2 1/2-litre Riley as an idea, but a bit worried about an excessively high “power-bulge” in the bonnet top as it was a high engine. After this I lost touch as I was mostly abroad until ’61, when although I went to see him a few times the subject of “LVT 1” did not crop up as it was languishing under repair in his garage and I don’t now remember just what state it was in. His health was waning and I don’t know whether he still owned it when he died in ’66.

Helmersham, Beds. DUDLEY C. GERSHON