Another Wind-Wagon

Arising out of the publication of a photograph of a 1920s propeller-driven cyclecar in the March issue (page 299), a reader has sent us details, as they appeared in The Aero in 1912, of another such vehicle. This was the one used by the All British Engine Co. for testing its aeroplane engines at Brooklands. It consisted of a fairly short-wheelbase chassis on artillery wheels, equipped with mudguards and a drop-nose, with bearers at the back on which were mounted the engine undergoing test. The make of the chassis is unknown, but to Brooklands’ inmates it became the “Wind Bus”. The engine being tested could move on runners, so that the thrust developed by its propeller could be measured with a spring-balance, the idea presumably being that it was more accurate to test this while the propeller was driving a vehicle than it would be on a static test-bench.

A gravity fuel-feed, and what could have been radiators, were carried above the aero-engine on test. What is interesting is that the only control the driver of this ABC wind-wagon had was by using the ignition switch, as throttle, ignition and other settings were looked after by operatives carried in metal backward-facing bucket-seats on either side of the aero-engine itself. It should be explained that the chassis had no engine of its own, and was driven solely by the pusher-propeller attached to the aero-engine on test. This queer device was kept in the ABC sheds, on the Brooklands’ aerodrome.

The Aero’s reporter had a ride on the Track in it when a 40/50 h.p. four-cylinder in-line ABC engine was being tested. He said that the wind-wagon ran very smoothly on its half-elliptic springs, accelerated very smoothly, and that there was no draught from the suck of the two-bladed propeller. Although no engine-mechanics were carried on this occasion, it proved possible to set the engine at half-throttle, after which the test-rig ran easily up to a speed of about 60 m.p.h. Presumably the brakes held the “Wind Wagon” until its driver was ready to move. After a few enjoyable laps, however, a bump on the Members’ banking caused one tip of the extra big propeller to hit the concrete, causing a blade to disintegrate. Before the engine could be switched-off it roared away and the other blade flew to pieces. No other damage was done but as racing motorcycles were on the Track it was necessary quickly to pick up the wooden splinters, and presumably the wind-wagon had to be towed back to its shed.

This is yet another example of the versatility of Brooklands Track; even as late as the 1930s anyone who paid (10/- per car, 5/- for a motorcycle) was permitted to use it on non-race days, which is how one young enthusiast found himself circulating in a staid Armstrong-Siddeley landaulette one Bank-holiday Saturday, while things like E.L. Bouts’ fierce 5-litre racing Sunbeam thundered past at full-chat! — W.B.