THE MODERN CAR AND THE OWNER-DRIVER

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THE MODERN CAR AND THE OWNER-DRIVER

IN the October journal of the Institution of Automobile Engineers appears G. Geoffrey Smith’s paper on “The Modern Car—A General Survey from the Viewpoint of tlie OwnerDriver.” Below we survey very briefly this interesting, but, like many recent I.A.E. papers, only semi-technical review. Editorial comments appear within brackets. The author states that he attempts to give the user’s viewpoint rather than a detailed technical analysis from an engineering angle. The paper constitutes ideas and impressions based upon ownership of some thirty cars covering a period of many years [of late years the author has owned 31 and 41-litre Bentleys] and experience of many other cars of several different nationalities. Engines should be silent, smooth, powerful, reliable and require a minimum of attention. They should be’Compact, to improve drivervisibility and ease of garaging and handling. Four-cylinder engines are returning. From 74 per cent. of the types on the British Market in 1924 the four-cylinder fell to 21.3 per cent. in 1932, but now represents 32.5 per cent. of the whole. Larger cylinders seem to provide longer working life. Rear engines may come into vogue. Riley, G.W.K. and De Dion produced small cars of this type many years ago, and in 1922 Lord Austin patented a rear-engined front-drive car. Successful American and German rear-engined cars are in use and many such buses run regularly in New York. The spare wheel and luggage may offer a buffer more efficacious and much softer than an engine in the event of a crash [surely a high-speed crash in which we have to consider the relative efficacy of the engine or auntie’s hat-box as a safety buffer will, in any case, find us thrown into the screen and/or punctured by the steeringcolumn ?]. Tail swing can occur with rear-engine mounting, but fog and ordinary driving is simplified [the latter advantage depends on the size of the nosepiece to hold luggage and act as a buffer, if only a pyschological one. And do we not get sick and giddy if we sit right over the road ?]. The author feels confident

that air-conditioning as •a standard feature is a development of the future. [Here, here ! Otherwise half the weight of saloon top and windows, etc., is wasted weight.] A lightweight” V,” horizontally

opposed, or radial engine is indicated for a rear-engined car [the North-Lucas of 1922 had a five-cylinder radial at the rear ; Mr. North is an enthusiastic LA .E. speaker to this day]. Cooling and controls present problems. Returning to the present, the author wants automatic carburation control, more rapid warming up from cold, selfadjusting tappets f one difficulty with which is that they can be too self-adjusting and unable to cope with machining inaccuracies in the base-circles of production-car camshafts], the development of sleeve-valves, and universal use of oilfilters. On the subject Of excessive fuel consumption the author says acceleration costs petrol. [That is true, but does not excuse the wide variation in m.p.g. between similar types—H.R.G. and Laneia both amused us, yet both did approximately :30 to 31 m.p.g., whereas a 1,100 c.c. car of lesser performance did 21 to 22 m.p.g.] The author refers to the past ideal of the torque converter [the -Constantinesco car was actually shown at Olympia ; a 5 h.p. water-cooled two-cylinder vertical two-stroke with the converter-unit between the cylinders], believing such mechanism to rob the driver of his feeling of mastery of a powerful mechanism. Synchromesh gearboxes are almost ideal, ousting even pre-selector boxes. Clutch judder is not unknown and is bound up with a number of design factors throughout the vehicle. Clutches have come in for more criticism since soft-engine mountings became the rule. [A fef ling of floppiness in the pedal .connections is highly unpleasant, and we have known of cases where connections actually came adrift in new cars.] The ordinary driver would welcome synchro-mesh cones for bottom gear, to simplify the most difficult change of all, namely on a steep hill. [Is the “ordinary driver” really so ham-handed and web-footed ? If so, will he be able to put on his brakes or steer backwards into the bank, when he has missed a change ? If not, he should avoid 1 in 4 hills, or buy a Talbot or an Alvis.] Pedals should all be on the same level and equally spaced fin MOTOR SPORT road-tests we devote much space to such details, dull as these may seem to non-prospective purchasers of the tested car. To an owner they are of vast importance]. The author goes on to demand powerful braking right down to zero m.p.h., easier brake adjustment, stable rather than soft suspension, shock absorbers not sensitive to temperature changes, lightweight construction, more body space, elimination of foot-wells, development of convertible bodies, separate dashboard instruments, adjustable seats and steering wheels [we still recall an adjustable steering column which unlocked itself on a fast corner on the way to Donington], better salooncar ventilation, ratiOnal streamlining, better visibility, and many detail improvements. [He has of recent times met his needs with special-bodied 4+-litre Bentleys.] Front brakes, large section tyres, and projecting bumpers, widened turning circles, yet in the Alps a maximum turning circle of 44 ft., including overhanging bumpers and wings, is all important. The author remarks that driver-controlled shock-absorbers and automatic chassis-lubrication both cost money. [Buyers of extras, and designers alike, must consequently use a little common sense. For instance, drivercontrolled shock-absorbers will be used every few miles, the chassis lubricator once in 100 or 150 miles. A batterymaster switch will be used once a day, a radiator thermometer glanced at several times a day. Bumpers prevent some damage in a smash that may never come, whereas easy brake adjustment will assist in avoiding accident on more than isolated occasions. Four wheel jacks may be needed twice a year or so, whereas a sunshine roof will be opened several times a week—and so on. Add to this receipt the comparative cost of luxury items and you will find out which are essential and which only desirable.]