SPORTING CARS ON TEST. THE 3-LITRE SUNBEAM. By THE EDITOR.
FOR so many months have we reviewed high powered continental cars in these pages that we had indeed begun to doubt the existence of British Cars in this class. We feel sure that our readers must have shared this view.
Awaking suddenly to this realization therefore, we cast the editorial eye around in search of a worthy representative of high grade British production in the sports category.
After some deliberation, during which we were again struck by the paucity of choice presented by British marques, our choice fell upon the 3-litre Sunbeam, a truly worthy representative of British engineering.
By the courtesy of the Sunbeam Motor Car Company we were enabled to take out a 3-litre car fitted with fabric saloon body. At first sight we thought this luxury bodywork would detract greatly from the sporting performance of the car. That we were wrong, the following report will reveal in due course, while the weather, on the day of our trial, was such that closed car comfort was very welcome. Taking the wheel at the outset, in an atmosphere of extreme gloom and a steady drizzle of rain, we proceeded
through thick London traffic, on roads which glistened with that evil sheen which denotes wheel spin, side slip and absence of stopping power. Our first impression was that we did not fit the driving position very well, being shorter in the leg than the previous driver. This did not conduce to a feeling of confidence or to ease of control, but happily we discovered that the independent front seats were easily adjustable—an advantage of which we immediately made good use, setting the seat so that the steering wheel almost touched the driver’s chest.
This done, we felt better and were more able to take notice of other features of the car and its behaviour.
First impressions are difficult to eradicate, whether they be favourable or otherwise, and we must confess, that in a sporting car, we distinctly feared the effect, in a saloon body, of windage.
That the fabric four door saloon was comfortable to the point of luxury was amply proved on our journey, the body being almost uncanny in its complete silence, and absence of creaks and groans. The upholstery was that deep, capacious and yielding kind which is so conducive to somnolence.
As-.we took over the steering wheel of the Sunbeam, a steady drizzle set in, and the streets were rapidly covered by the viscous slime peculiar to the metropolis. However; the ” feel ” of the car inspired us with confidence, and we steadily forged our way through the dense traffic with perfect ease.
Once, however, on turning into a quiet square, we somewhat incautiously trod on the gas. The instant result was the car’s turning broadside on. Then, to our astonishment, we felt the steering-wheel correcting itself, and we promptly took our hands off. The wheel gradually came round, and we were out of our skid, automatically corrected by the steering of the car.
After this, going was easy, and should there appear a tendency to tail wag, we simply left the wheel alone, whereupon the car would straighten itself!
In accordance with the invariable practice of Motor Sport, our route lay to Weybridge, for the purpose of carrying out high speed tests on the track. The route we chose was via Kingston and the “Seven Hills” near Cobham.
Here, as usual, we opened out over the switch-back road, and were extremely impressed by the road holding qualities of the low-built saloon.
At one critical point in this section, when we were travelling at some seventy miles an hour, a particularly vicious hump caused all four passengers to hit the roof, which was fortunately flexible.
The car became naturally, a trifle restive, but on the driver regaining his seat, we returned to a less hectic rnode of progress.
Comparing the behaviour of the car on this stretch with others we have tried, we concluded that the Simbeam was actually as steady as any car we have tested. But we are under the impression that we were travelling on the Sunbeam at least five miles an hour faster than ever on this road before. On arriving at the track, we found that in accordance with our usual luck, a howling wind was roaring up the
track from Byfieet. mingled with a fine rain, which was most trying. Nothing daunted, we took the saloon on to the track, and accomplished a preliminary lap in the neighbourhood of seventy, four up. Then, two up, a fast lap was put in,
during which the car touched 86 and never fell below 76. However, for the sake of accuracy, a lap was done against two stop watches, the lap time working out at 77i miles per hour. This speed seems to us extremely creditable, particularly in view of the appalling weather and the coachwork of the car, but the representative of the Sunbeam Motor car Company who was with us, appeared highly disappointed that the car was incapable of a lap speed in
excess of eighty miles an hour. He explained to us that the car was fitted with a special low back-axle ratio for use at the annual Shelsley Walsh Hill-Climb, in which event this chassis, with an open body was driven by Mr. W. R. Perkins.
In our estimation this enhanced our already high opinion of the car, and we feel certain there are few saloon cars capable of approaching this performance.
On our journey down to Brooklands, we were inclined to think that the shock absorber setting was slightly on the tight side. But actually at speed on the track, we reaped the full benefit of this adjustment, the car proving remarkably steady and controllable, even over the more notorious bumps. The steering was finger light and absolutely positive, which together with the road-holding qualities of the saloon eliminated any impression of high speed.
Our next diversion was an ascent of the Test Hill from a standing start between the posts at the foot.
The distance from this point to the summit was covered in bottom gear in 14 secs., our speed at the top was over twenty-five miles an hour—a performance which is interesting if not spectacular. On the road we had already gleaned the impression that the brakes were of superlative merit, but feeling that definite statistics are of greater value than glowing
eulogy, we resolved to measure accurately the stopping distance in conjunction with registered speeds.
At forty miles an hour on the wet track the foot-brake, assisted by the Dewandre vacuum-servo mechanism, halted the car in thirty yards. The efficiency of the front brakes may be judged when it is known that for the entire distance the rear wheels were locked, and therefore not exerting their maximum retarding effect. It is interesting to note that during this performance the Sunbeam slid in a perfectly straight line, without any tendency to tail-wag.
After being long accustomed to ordinary braking efficiency, the extremely delicate operation of the servo brakes was apt to be a little startling, causing us inadvertently to leave the seats in the direction of the wind-screen, on more than one occasion !
Satisfied with our performance on the track, we turned our bonnet Londonwards, and, recollecting that we had omitted to secure acceleration figures, we adjourned to a quiet stretch of road. Here, results of our tests showed that, on top gear, the time required to accelerate from ten to forty miles an hour, was’only 12 seconds ! Making use of the gear-box, the:same change of speed was effected in 81 seconds.
Little more remains to be said of this noteworthy British car save to emphasise our impression of the entire ease of control of the whole car, whether of gears, brakes or steering.
We feel that this British production is definitely up to the high standard of the finest continental marques, and is a car wherein British engineering skill is exampled as second to none in the whole world.