Rolls-Royce investigates its rivals

Last month I described how Rolls-Royce investigated two Delage cars, and had been unimpressed. However, Royce and his engineers were also trying 'used' cars of other makes, including a 1912 38hp Lanchester, vintage Chryslers, a 1938 3.5-litre SS-Jaguar, Humber Super Snipe, Essex Terraplane, V16 and V8 Cadillacs, a 1939 Buick Eight, a Hotchkiss, the FWD Citroen and a V12 Lagonda, even the post-war Austin 8. I have told in Motor Sport how Royce also had a 37.2hp Hispano Suiza on trial and knew of such cars as the Lorraine-Dietrich and T35 Bugatti (indeed, he had used a small Bugatti long before that), and how during the 1914/18 war he had owned a Calcott light car.

In the matter of Delage cars, in November 1934 Rolls-Royce tried for a short distance a 4-litre '100mph' Dotage with a Figoni drophead coupe body. It was reported as being very noisy and very rough, with a loud exhaust boom and body rattles everywhere. The brakes were spongy and ineffective, failing to lock the wheels, and they eventually seized up, while the ride was described as very harsh and the gearbox noisy, "with no easy-change devices". Summing up, the report said "10 years ago this might have been a good car, but it bought home what a good car the 3-litre Bentley is!" Dotage enthusiasts must remember, however that the car was probably a well-used one driven only for a short distance, and that a Bentley could not attain 100mph at this time.

Another car sampled by the Rolls-Royce technical staff was a 5-litre supercharged Mercedes, which must have been a Type 500K. They were impressed with the performance of this coupe-bodied Merc when using the blower, "which enabled 90 to 1000mph to be attained in London before Bignall's Corner on the by-pass was reached". The accelerator control of the supercharger was approved of, even though the blower was very noisy, "a feature apparently liked by most German owners". The suspension was "good for a sports-car but not for a town-carriage", the steering was light, selective and entirely free from road shocks, and "fast cornering gave no feeling of insecurity or jumping out on the corner". In an emergency stop there was a violent front-end judder, which the German driver said was because "the brake linings were unsuited to English conditions"; but RR attributed this to the rubber-mounted independent front suspension. Knocks came from the rear independent suspension "no excuse was given". The car was very tractable in the direct third gear but the other gears seemed "too wide" and the syncromesh hardly worked. Thus the attempts to sustain the supremacy of ‘The Best Car In The World’.