LMB and some IFS incidents

I have seen something of the development of cars since WWI, and recall how feelings were mixed on the arrival of independent front suspension, forced on designers perhaps rather more to combat the gyroscopic effect of front brake drums on steering than to improve ride comfort.

However, I have been impressed by the late Anthony Blight’s theory that the second-coming of French sportscar racing was forecast by Peugeot’s adoption of IFS springing on a small family saloon. There was certainly an increase in IFS towards WW2, and the inventive Leslie Ballamy met this with his LMB system, for those cars not previously so-endowed. It was simply the front axle cut in half to give two swing-axles, with suitable locating and damping parts. Fine for A7s and Ford V8s, but I thought a bit of a sacrilege when applied to a GP Bugatti and a 3-litre Bentley.

However, LMB independence did improve cornering of cars not otherwise noted for this, and Leslie had some satisfied customers, including Dick Seaman. In fact, a Ford V8 coupe ‘Ballamyised’ with split front axle, a Columbia two-speed back axle, and maybe low-pressure supercharging, could constitute a good motor in its clay. Ballamy publicised this by driving in competitions with an A7 with body made of papier-mache, then a Ford Ten-powered I…MB Special and those V8 Fords. It was in one of these Fords that we did an MCC Edinburgh Trial, ran a big-end before the finish, but still got back to London and to Brooklands on the Monday to see Seaman drive the LMB-Bugatti without doing anything to the Ford’s engine.

All this had to be advertised. I recall a Land’s End when competitors were told not to chive on the footpath going up Lynmouth hill. Now one of Leslie’s favourite demo stunts was to drive up and down any convenient kerb. Here was the ideal occasion, with plenty of onlookers; I had the utmost difficulty in restraining him… Even more embarrassing was when I went with LMB in his IFS A7 to an IAE lecture by Frank Lanchester, who was to read a paper by his brother, the great George Lanchester, on independent suspension. Seeing Mr Lanchester in the hotel foyer, LMB went up and suggested that he might like a pre-lecture IFS demonstration, as his car was outside and, I realised, an abundance of kerbs! Need I add that Lanchester refused?