Racing car evolution part III: 1919-1921
We have great pleasure in presenting herewith a continuation of the "Evolution of the Racing…
THE LANCIA ” ASTURA “
A REFINED AND WELL BUILT CONTINENTAL CHASSIS WITH A LUXURIOUS ENGLISH BODY.
IT is a well known fact that once a man has owned a Lancia, he becomes a lifelong devotee of the marque. When he vaults a change, if he is well off, he merely exchanges his used car for a new model ; if he is not so well off (like most of us nowadays) he is content to carry on with his old car, knowing full well that for sheer pleasurable handling it can leave most modern cars in the shade. And what wonderful service these Lancias give ! Near the MOTOR SPORT office an old 1915 30/35 h.p. car can be seen, which is still giving trouble-free daily service for its owner, travelling all over London as well as long distances into the country, where it produces a surprising turn of speed. Visitors to Brooklan.ds will have probably noticed an old ” Trikappa ” model which is generally down there on race-days, while the 13.9 h.p.
Lambdas” and their larger 15.9 and 16.9 brothers are as popular as ever with those who require that “little something the others haven’t got.” Finally, the 8 cylinder ” Dilambda ” caused something of a sensation when it first appeared two years ago, and we duly recorded our appre
ciation of the car’s performance on the road in our issue of December, 1930.
The Lancia range now consists of the 32 h.p. 8-cyl. Dilatubda,” the 20 h.p. 8-cyl. ” Astura,” the 15
11,E.p. 4 -cyl. Artena ” and the new 11.9 h.p.model, and our enthusiasm for the make was recently revived by a long week-end’s otonng with an
Astura ” saloon, Which was placed at our disposal by Lancia (Lingland) Ltd. , Lanci a Works, Alperton, Wembley. First impressions count for a lot in
taking over a car for a test. Some cars have a strange feel about them from the start, and although this may wear off in time the result can never be entirely satisfactory. How often does one hear an owner excuse some inadequacy or difficulty in the handling of his car by the remark “Oh, you get used to it in time, you know ” I But there is nothing like this about the Lancia. ” Astura.” From the very first moment when we let in the clutch and slid quietly out of the gates of the Works, we were completely at home with the car, and indeed after a few
VI BRATIONLE SS 8-cyl. ENGINE AND REMARKABLE SUSPENSION PROVIDE SILENT HIGH SPEED TRAVEL.
minutes we felt as though we had owned the car personally for years. Lancia owners will, of course, require no description and explanation of this extraordinary confidence, which, is due to perfect chassis layout, and to the famous Lancia independent front springing. But for the sake of those people who have never driven a Lancia (and “what do they know of motoring, who only ‘other’ cars know ” !) we will attempt to describe the unique steering and road-holding qualities of the
car. To begin with, the steering wheel is raked to an uncannily perfect degree, and one’s vision embraces both the front mudguards. Then the steering is completely positive, high-geared, and by very slightly transmitting road shocks gives the driver a sense of delicate control. In town, one feels delightfully neat, as one winds in and out of the traffic ; in the country, cruising at any speed up to its maximum, the car can be steered accurately to an inch in a bumpy gutter. As a general rule, high geared steering is very heavy at low speeds, but the Lancia engineers have in some way got over
this difficulty cornpletely. The selfcentering action makes the car easy to manoeuvre in town, and at the same time gives one complete confidence for fast cornering, a process which is accomplished not so much by steering the car round a curve as by pulling to the right degree against the straight line progress of the car. The front suspensi on contributes largely to this accurate control. An interesting test of a car’s front suspension is to watch the movement of
the radiator cap while traversing a bumpy road. With a normally sprung front axle the movement is bound to be considerable, but the Lancia radiator hardly gave a tremor when we took it over a really bad unmade lane, while on ordinary main roads it was as steady as a rock. Finally the lock, as an accompanying photograph shows, is astounding and makes the car almost equal to a London taxi at turning round in a busy thoroughfare, and unrivalled for negotiating hairpin bends of the Alpine Pass nature.
This high standard of chassis design is worthily supported by the power unit. The Lancia is definitely a dual purpose car, for it can be driven at walking pace on top gear in the best “town carriage” manner, from which speed it will surge quickly away, without a sign of flat-spot in the carburation system, or it can be driven like a sports car, using the gears at every possible opportunity. In the course of our long mileage (we covered 650 miles in the week-end) we enjoyed varying these two methods, following a fast run over winding roads, using the gears at every corner, by slowly gliding through a crowded town, and rounding acute corners, all on top gear. The 8 cylinder engine is dead silent when ticking over, and the passengers in the rear seats can only tell that the engine is running by a glance at the oilgauge. When accelerating quickly, however, with a wide throttle opening, there is a pronounced “power roar,” from the carburettor, which is rather pleasant, but this disappears completely when the required cruising speed is reached. Incidentally, we found that on main roads the car automatically settled down to a steady 60 m.p.h. at which speed the only sound was the swish of the tyres on the tarmac, and normal conversation could be carried on as easily as in a Pullman car of an express train. Indeed, cruising in the Lancia at high speed is modern road travel at its best, both for the driver and the passengers, for the car is as steady as if it were on rails. At the end of a 250 miles run, the driver is as fresh as paint, and it would be difficult
to find a car more ideally constructed for a business man who has to cover long distances with the assurance of being fit and ready to carry out a difficult transaction on reaching his destination. The gear change is positive and easy, and is very quick, only a momentary pause being necessary. On the silent third a comfortable maximum is 60 m.p.h. and on top the maximum on the level is 74 m.p.h. (timed). The back axle ratio, however, is fairly high and allows the car to exceed this figure without fuss under
favourable conditions, 80 m.p.h. being easily attainable, while on one occasion we touched 85 m.p.h. The brakes are well up to Lancia standard, and are smoothly progressive in action. So much for the performance of the car on the road. Now as to the mechanical aspect of the car, and its coachwork. The engine is an 8 cylinder of 2,604 c.c. capacity, and in accordance with usual Lancia practice the cylinders are set in two banks, in staggered ” V ” formation. The pistons are made of
specially treated aluminium alloy, and the connecting rods of high tensile steel. The five-bearing crankshaft is counter weighted and statically and dynamically balanced, which accounts for the marked smoothness of the engine throughout its range. The camshaft which operates the overhead valves is driven by a silent chain with an automatic spring tensioner, and the cylinder head is detachable.
Petrol is supplied to the Zenith dual down-draught carburettor from a 14 gallon rear tank by means of an electric pump. Cooling is by pump, and the correct engine temperature is maintained by automatically operated radiator shutters. Engine lubrication is effected by a geardriven pump, which forces oil to all bearings, and a useful feature is the ” Autoclean ” oil filter which is automatically cleaned every time the starter button is depressed. Ease of upkeep has been studied carefully, and one-shot chassis lubrication from a plunger on the dash eliminates the messy business of a grease gun and nipples.
Bosch electrical equipment is standardised throughout, with coil ignition and automatic advance and retard. The drive is carried by means of a single dry plate clutch to a four-speed gear box with silent third. The propellor shaft is in two sections, with a centre steady ball-bearing which is automatically lubricated, while the cardan shaft joints are carried in rollers. The back axle is of normal design, with Hypoid gears. The chassis frame is made of the usual Lancia welded steel pressings, and with a deep section crudform bracing in the centre, is immensely strong.
The suspension in front is by means of the famous Lancia independent springing with coil springs, a system which has given complete satisfaction for many years. In the rear, normal semi-elliptic springs are used, with automatically lubricated shackles and shock absorbers. The brakes are directly operated by cables, without any servo system, and the adjustment can be made from the driver’s seat.
The body of the car we tested was a beautiful piece of work, and came from the works of Messrs. James Young & Co., Ltd., of Bromley, Kent. Finished in blue and grey, with chromium plated fittings, the car looked exceedingly handsome, and was upholstered in soft grey leather. Two bucket seats were used in front, with Leveroll adjustment, and there was plenty of leg room in both compartments. Behind the rear seats was a really capacious luggage-locker, large enough to hold two or three suit-cases, and the spare wheel was vertically mounted at the rear.
The equipment of the car is extraordinarily complete, including a Jaeger clock and speedometer, oil and petrol gauges, choke control, one-shot lubrication plunger-lever, dash lamp, a switch board operating the various lighting points, two illuminated direction indicators fitted flush into the rear panels of the body, and which remain at the danger signal for 10 seconds, when they drop automatically, two sun-visors, and twin screen-wipers. Night driving is made as comfortable as possible by an excellent system of deflecting the headlamp beams to the side of the road, or alternatively by cutting off the top of the beams by means of the Bosch double filament bulbs, both methods being operated by means of a lever on the steering wheel boss.
Considering the high standard of workmanship, the comfort of the body, the effortless performance of the car on the road, and the completeness of the equipment, the Lancia ” Astura ” is sound value at £875.
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