A one-make enthusiast

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THE six-cylinder 23.8 h.p. Straker-Squire is worthy of the closest study on the part of vintage enthusiasts, but it is a car which many people will have forgotten. During the 1914-18 war, the Straker-Squire Company of Edmonton built quantities of Rolls-Royce “Falcon” aero engines and the car which they produced after the close of hostilities owed something to this activity. No less a person that H. Kensington-Moir, whose uncle was at Straker-Squire’s, was given the job of developing this 4-litre o.h.c. touring car into something really fast, and, before he started racing Aston-Martin and Bentley cars, he persuaded the black-and-white striped two-seater Straker-Squire, which he ran at B.A.R.C. meetings from 1920-22, to lap Brooklands at 104 m.p.h. The Straker-Squire had an engine of very advanced design, with six separate cylinders, exposed o.h.c. valve gear and two inclined valves per cylinder. A Brixton motor engineer is still regularly using one of these cars, beautifully kept, and frequently used to average 45 m.p.h. between London and Cornwall at night, before the war. The maximum of this particular example is about 90 m.p.h. and fuel consumption averages 20 m.p.g. Twin carburetters were used until recently. This car has front brakes and retains the old high pressure tyres. Mr. G. F. Lomas, of Dundee, is another great advocate of this marque, and has owned seven Straker-Squires in all, including one of the 23.8 h.p. cars; his comments follow.

My introduction to Straker-Squires was in 1914, when the father of a boyhood friend bought a 15/20 h.p. cabriolet, but it was not until 1924 that I owned my first of this make, when two of us bought and learned to drive on a 1910 (?) model. This was a grey two-seater with its four cylinders in two pairs, detachable rims on non-detachable wooden wheels, and two little glazed portholes in the dash. After that came a 1912 tourer which had been the property of a doctor and was well kept. The Bosch impulse starter and perfect tickover rendered a starter, as we now know it, unnecessary. This model had Riley detachable wheels.

Our next venture was a 1915 tourer in good condition, complete with electric lighting, sloping scuttle, rear screen, etc. Its maximum was 48 m.p.h.

Then I had a 1913 19 h.p. primrose two-seater with about 150,000 miles to its credit, and it proved to be one of the nicest cars I have ever owned. It had been fitted with huge Michelin balloons and disc wheels, and gave many years trouble-free service after I parted with it.

I then bought a 1914 two-seater, which had a plated Show chassis, from a very good friend of mine and used this for business for a year or two. It would just touch 60 m.p.h., but was never as smooth as the 1913 model.

In 1930 I purchased a 1924 tourer which, though very good externally, required a thorough engine overhaul. It must have had a head-on biff at some time as the crankshaft was slightly bent at the first journal. This car had a maximum of 62 m.p.h., and did a day’s journey of 456 miles from London to Perthshire with case.

I had, however, been waiting for a suitable 23.8 h.p. o.h.c. six-cylinder to come into the market, and though several were inspected, it was not until 1932 that I was able to procure what I wanted, a two-seater.

This was picked up in a London mews in poor condition, but with the kindly assistance of the Beckenham Motor Co. was turned into a very fine car. It had appeared at the 1922 Show. By writing to its original owner, Mr. John Lloyd of West Kirby, it was found that the car had been chauffeur-kept for nine years and had a pretty good record, including 97 m.p.h. when sand-racing. Fuel consumption was 19-20 m.p.g., not bad for a 23.8 h.p. high-performance 4-litre machine. The agents in Birkenhead who had always serviced it very kindly gave me the best valve and ignition timings, etc. Unfortunately, it had spent a year in the hands of a naval officer—whose name I shall forbear to mention. However, when new pistons, big ends, main bearings, valve guides, Terry springs, and radiator core had been fitted, and dynamo windings and wire wheels repaired, it soon became evident that the car was worth a coat of paint over its aluminium exterior, so it was sprayed Le Mans green with black wheels and headlamps. The car was always a joy to drive, being comfortable and faster than anything one normally met in a day’s run—including 3-litre Bentleys and big Chryslers. I never removed the compression plates from under the cylinders, all cast separately, but performance was all one could ordinarily use or desire, maximum being about 85 m.p.h. Sixty m.p.h. was possible in third, acceleration and hill climbing were very vivid. Kirkstone old road from Ambleside was ascended in second. When touring on main roads milestones slipped by at the rate of one per 55 secs. Mechanical features included: thermostatically controlled radiator shutters, keeping water at 78° C.; hollow big ends with oil escape hole on centre radius, thus acting as centrifugal sludge traps; three-toothed starting handle; geared up vertical bevel drive for the o.h.c. with odd numbers of teeth; spring universal joints and micrometer mesh adjustments, making for silent operation; bus type dynamo 12v, 20 amps. and starter; cantilever rear springs; torque tube, and powerful rear brakes. Whitehead f.w.b. had been fitted, but were not much use until the cams and leverages were altered. Front and rear brakes were then coupled, the fork at the bottom of the hand lever being slotted, which system gave excellent results. This car was sold in January, 1936, and on its final run gave an M.G. Magnette something to think about on the Barnet By-Pass. It is a great pity that the makers of a car of such advanced and promising design should have gone out of production, and it will always be a matter of pride to have owned cars of this make, particularly the last one.

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