RECALLING THE ROAD-TESTS
No. 2.—The 1926 period of MOTOR SPORT road-tests THE year 1926 was a full and prolific time for those engaged in trying and commenting on fast cars for readers of this paper. We commenced with a ” 13/50 ” Th. Schneider in January, Capt. Twelvetrees wearing leather coat and leather flying hat in order to combat the elements in this interesting boat-tailed 4-seater. The car had some 18,000 miles to its credit when taken over, but it nevertheless reached 72 m.p.h. from a staralstill in 34.4 sees., and achieved 52 m.p.h. in third gear, equal to 3,600 r.p.m. It was taken over some choice colonial going and run fast up to Cambridge, where the Editor was delivering a lecture to the C.U.A.C., and it returned wholly favourable impressions. The four-wheel brakes were progressive and very smooth in action and pulled the car up in 66 yards from 60 m.p.h. without locking the wheels, and the quite striking bodywork, leather eoverecl, with a rather contrasting aluminium bonnet and scuttle, provided ample room and protection. The hood was erectable in five minutes. An interesting feature was the absence of control levers on the steering-wheel boss, these being accommodated on the facia, while a lever was provided by means of which extra oil could be fed to the valve gear. The instruments included rev.-counter and clock, and all were easily visible. In spite of the car’s hard life, no measurable amount of oil vanished in 250 miles and fuel consumption was 28 M.p.g. The 12.9-h.p. 72 x 120-nun. engine had oh. valves and pulled a top gear of 4.8 to 1. Third speed was 6.8 to 1, and the drive to the separate gearbox was through a leather cone clutch. Then, as now, we were critical, disliking the increased attention called for by the steering at 60 rn.p,h. and a tendency for top gear to stick in at 55 m.p.h. The indirect ratios were somewhat harsh and over 40 m.p.h. the exhaust note became embarrassing, as a very young constable discovered
outside Baldoek. Hill climbing and suspension were liberally praised. This Th. Schneider cost /580 and would reach just about 75 m.p.h. Occasionally you see one still in service, though usually (or always ?) the ” 16/60 ” model. In the same issue we reported the London-Gloucester trial with a “Grand Sports” Salmson and made a sort of road-test of it. Frankly, first impressions were not too good. The steering was heavy at low speeds, the gear change tricky, the side-brake flimsy and the absence of differential noticeable, while the suspension was a trifle harsh. This, incidentally, was the 11-speed “Sammy,” with uneowled radiator bearing the ” X ” symbol, Amilear-like combined wings and running boards and a V screen. In the course of the trial it climbed Quarry Hill, Beacon Hill, Stancombe and Birdlip, the last-named in second gear, the lefthand bend being taken at 32 m.p.h. A speed of about 73 m.p.h. was reached on the road and no oiling-up or other plug trouble was experienced. The Salmon went quietly through Oxford in top gear, not drawing so much as a frown from the
point-duty policeman at Carfax, and it consumed less than a pint of water. The next day Leith Hill was successfully ascended in spite of appalling conditions, while from a standing start Pebblecombc was climbed at 33 m.p.h. in second gear. Next on the list of cars to be tried was a Super Sports air-cooled A.B.C. 2-seater. This was the 11-h.p. 96.1 x 91.5-mm. 1,326-c.c. model, with light pistons and twin carburetters, which gave 40 b.h.p. at 3,500 r.p.m. The gearbox, with vertical gate (the writer uses one at the present time and finds it very good), gave four speeds, and in bottom 30 m.p.h. was reached, while 40 was attained in second, 50 in third and a good 65 in top gear ; 0-55 m.p.h. occupied only 14.2 secs. The car was not particularly silent, but it had excellent sporting lines, being the pointedtail job with flowing wings and V screen, and the rapid gear-change was well praised. Just for a change a lady driver featured in two of the three pictures published, which may or may not have been why the major portion of the test comprised catalogue technicalities
An A.C. Six aluminium ” Montlhery ” 2-seater was tried next, with engine like the modern A.C. and the gearbox integral with the rear axle. After 11 months of demonstration work the car tried had 22,856 miles to its credit. Smooth tyres resulted in some pretty skids in town, but the A.C. was found to be really controllable. It was also docile, smooth and quiet, with an excellent top gear performance. Second gear was noisy, the clutch did not release instantaneously after a rapid change and the gear-lever asked rather a long movement. Otherwise this A.C. went well, although the four-wheel brakes, while being smooth, were out of adjustment. Box Hill Zig-Zag was made as a timed climb from the main road to the stone parapet at the top. The first bend was entered at over 40 m.p.h. and taken in first gear. A change up was made at 30 m.p.h. and the second and third hairpins were taken in as for the first, the total time being 3 mins. 30.4 secs. This was later reduced to 3 nuns. 28 secs. ; 0-40 m.p.h. took 14 secs. in first gear and 0-50 m.p.h. through the gears 15 sees., while 65 m.p.h. was reached in 18.6 sees. Pebblecombe was ascended at 30 m.p.h., finishing in first, and the A.C. made light of Leith Hill and rode remarkably well over the heath down to Coldharbour. The maximum seemed to be a little over 75 m.p.h. ; Brooklands was not yet open. Actually, a certificate for 85 m.p.h. was issued with these cars, if desired. A long main road run served to emphasise the tireless control, Light steering and the flexibility of the sixcylinder engine. This 2-litre unit gave 66 b.h.p. and the chassis weight was little more than 9 cwt. The gear ratios were 11.7, 6.3 and 4.0 to ‘1. Are any sports A.C. Sixes of this type running now ? In the same issue we reported a week-end road-test of the ” Brooklands ” Austin Seven, but the most technical description only was published.
Another trial in the Salmson followed ; this time the ” Colmore Cup,” using the same car as before. It proved a brute to start, even after Rex Mundy had dived into his Riley and produced from it a set of new K.L.G. J1’s. This was to prove the Salmson’s undoing in the trial, although it got up such acclivities as Bucklands (at 4,500 r.p.m. in bottom), Gypsy Lane, Sta,nway and Gambles Lane nicely, in spite of severe spin, and made light of the Bushcombe stop-andrestart. Security bolts were used this time, whereas in the ” Gloucester ” they were badly missed.
Happy, happy times ! Oh, and a weighbridge had to be visited, where the Sahnson tipped the beam at 14 cwt. 2 qr.
7 lb., minus 24 stone 9 lb. for the occupants. Another small French sports car was sampled next, in the form of a Type T.S.3 3-seater Senechal, which went along to the Victory Cup trial. For a preliminary canter it was taken to Leith Hill and the Box Hill Zig-Zag. A mysterious fuel starvation upset things at first and a tyre punctured, but at last, with full tank, Leith Hill was stormed successfully, three up, and a fine photograph secured after another run embracing a restart on the worst section—this artistic study graced the agent’s advertisement in the same issue. The ” colonial ” going from Leith to Coldharbour was taken satisfactorily, and although the engine was not run-in and had phosphor-bronze big-ends, 0-50 m.p.h. was attained in a matter of 21 secs. The maximum was kept down to rather more than 67 m.p.h. Still, with a crew of three, the Seneehal took Pebblecombo at over 30 m.p.h., although petrol starvation came in again as the summit was reached. The suspension, body construction, steering, clutch and gear-change were all highly praised. The four-wheel brakes were excellent, but the transmission handbrake was more suited to emergency than to regular use. The fourcylinder 59 x 100-mm. (1,094-c.c.) engine had a unit gearbox with ratios of 4.5,
8 and 13 to 1, and a cone clutch was used. The wheelbase was 8′ 2*, track 3′ 6 and suspension was by transverse front spring and double quarter elliptics to the solid rear axle. Once again it was notable that the French made fast small cars that looked fast, the general body lines following those of the Sahnson and Amilc-ar. The price was £255, or £15 less without front brakes— it is only 1926, remember ! After this, the ” Grand Sport ” Amilcar just hz‘ti to be tested, which was done in the May issue, after covering the SurbitAm Grand Cup trial in one. It was the sort with one-piece 1)-section flowing wings and running boards and straight-sided radiator cowl, and because it was spring the Editor now drove it in overcoat and cap. Trials were trials in those days and there was a whole lot of slime. The Arnilcar wore chains with its differentialless axle and went very well. Indeed, it was only once badly troubled with spin and it was one of only two cars to get up Slippery Sam. It came to rest on its sump at Leith, but this was an unobserved acclivity, presumably put in to tire, or break, things. The Goat Track, Ranmorc, Netley and Lovers’ Lane were accounted for successfully and hectic work remedied a jammed starter and loose wheel-chains before they could spoil an excellent
record. No general impressions were quoted, but a caption to an excellent photograph (where the background looks like Croydon Aerodrome from the Bypass) suggests a maximum of 75 m.p.h.
A Gordon England Austin Seven “Cup ” 2-seater was taken through the M.C.C. Lands End trial, but this was hardly a road-test report, although the 64-m.p.g. fuel consumption achieved between Slough and Taunton on the road section makes one’s mouth water. Before the Roost the fulcrum pin of the brake pedal came adrift from the steering column and locked the brakes partially on, but the other hills were climbed clean. Ivi-vo months went by without a testreport appearing, and then the Assistant Editor wrote-up a six-cylinder G.M. for the August issue. Apparently it was necessary to visit Brooklands to buy some ” potted speed” for a personal motor, and there was practice for the J.C.C. Production Car Race to watch, so Weybridge was the objective. In traffic this ‘2-litre Italian car was very pleasant, a rapid gear-change and good pick-up at low speeds being combined with slightly heavy but very smooth braking. The brakes had a distinctive note, by reason of unlined cast-iron shoes in the back drums, the front shoes alone bearing Mr. Ferodo. Third gear had a very slight
hum. Commencing in this ratio at 25 m.p.h. Putney Hill was breasted at 42 m.p.h. ; 55 was later reached in this ratio, and still a quick upward change could be made. Springing was slightly harsh at low speeds and a shade flexible at high speeds, being best at 40-60 m.p.h. This gave rise to an expressed desire for driver-controlled damping, nowadays so admirably provided by Messrs. Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Lagonda. r1lC O.M. rolled a little when cornering, as it was shod with medium-pressure balloon tyres. At Brooklands the first lap was done at 65-66 m.p.h., holding 68 down the Railway Straight, and on the second lap the speed was worked up to 72 m.p.h. Major Oates happened to be trying out his 14-litre G.M. for the Production Car Race, and it held 72 m.p.h. for the lap and 75 m.p.h. after a (arbitration improvement. The touring !six-cylinder s.v. 0.M., as tested, sold at £695. No less a car than a 14-litre Grand Prix Type 37 Bugatti was tested next, exercised for us by Capt. J. C. Douglas. It is .significant of the period that it was sans wings, with an :Lem screen for the passenger only, yet was taxed for the road. This was the unsupercha.rged fourcylinder 69 x 100 mm. (1,496-c.c.) job. It was the car used equally well by Mrs. Douglas for West End shopping excursions and her husband in winning the “Evening News” 100-Mile Handicap at the B.A.R.C. August Meeting, at 94.75 m.p.h. It proved quite a comfortable car, the clutch and gearbox discreetly concealed beneath a leather flap. Certainly the rear wheel came close to the passenger’s elbow and weather protection was slight. The Bugatti proved very tractable and smooth in traffic, did 85 m.p.h. on the open road and, of course, had admirable road-holding qualities. Succombe Hill was climbed easily in second gear (6.5 to 1) and three flat-out ascents in bottom gear (7.5 to 1) failed to overheat the engine. Top gear was 4.0 to 1 ; third, 5.0 to 1. Braking was extremely stable, even from 70
The next car tested was one ofthe most imposing that MOTOR SPORT has ever tried—a 45-h .p. straight-eight IsottaFraschini 4-seater. John Bolster cares for one to this day. Performing in silence, the ‘sotta nevertheless cruised at 55 m.p.h. and easily went up to 86i m.p.h. Fortunately, it also pulled up from 80 m.p.h. in 62 yards, with very light pedal pressure. The three-speed gearbox had well-chosen ratios and gave a very easy change. So far as acceleration is concerned, 0-80 m.p.h. took 251 secs., 0-35 m.p.h. in first gear, 7.0 secs., and 35-85 m.p.h. in top gear, 17.8 secs. Compare with figures for the moderns ! The two-bearing 7-litre o.h.v. engine would pull down to 9 m.p.h. and had no vibration periods. Steering and hill-climbing were praised highly.
About this time an aluminium-bodied Anzani Frazer-Nash was put through its paces. The rapidity of de-dogging and re-dogging as against normal ratioshifting was emphasised, and with it the use of a high top gear ; the ratios were 3.8, 5.4 and 11.6 to 1. Fuel consumption was given as 38-40 m.p.g.
An unusual car was tried next, in the form of a Windsor ” Special.” It had a clean-looking four-cylinder, two-bearing push-rod o.h.v, engine, of 65 x 102 mm. (1,350 c.c.), said to give 30 b.h.p., although rated at 10.4. Lubrication was by plungerpump to splash troughs, and there were separate water passages between head and block. A single-plate clutch took the drive to a four-speed gearbox, with ratios of 17.7, 10.4, 7.5 and 4,44 to 1. The fourwheel brakes pulled the car up in 25 yards from 45 m.p.h. ; 10-30 m.p.h. occupied 6.8 sees. in second, 9.0 sees. in third and 18.0 sees. in top gear. The engine pulled down to 6 m.p.h. and the Windsor could do 60 m.p.h. without becoming forced, as it felt at any higher pace. Suspension was judged to be particularly good by the standards prevailing at that tune, and handling, gear-changing included, likewise. The Goat Track was ascended rapidly in first gear and without overheating, and at Box Hill Zig-Zag the first bend was taken in second, first put in quickly,
whereupon second could soon be regained and the second bend taken at well over ’23 m.p.h., the car accelerating to 38 m.p.h. before being braked for the severe corner near the simunit. The car -tested was the
boat-tailed 2-3-seater, priced at £345, with wire wheels, V-screen and send-Haired wings. The Windsor has not entirely disappeared from the road, incidentally. The year concluded with another test of a ‘ Grand Sports ” Salmson, this time
with cycle-type wings and cowled radiator. Pouring rain did its best to mar the run, but the photographer’s Morgan was soon outpaced, the improved steering and less noticeable effect of the solid axle being appreciated. Except over bad going, the
suspension, too, was better and the new mudguards decidedly -so. Gear-changing called for brutal movements of the lever unless slow swops were tolerated, but it was pointed Out that the racing-car boxes had needed no renewals in three seaSons ! The ratios were 1.3.5, 7.5, 4.5 and 3.75 to 1. The speed in first was 30 m.p.h. and over 4,500 r.p.m. was purposely held for at least a quarter of a mile without ill effect ; 49 m.p.h. was attained in second and 65 in third gear. The speedometer registered in kilos., but the timed maximum, under unfavourable conditions, was 84.12 m.p.h. over half a mile—the Tellums of this world, please note ! An efficient twin oh.e. engine and real streamlining doubtless had much to do with such excellent speed abilities from 1,100 c.c. fifteen summers ago. The braking and roadholding were fully in keeping, and the construction appeared to be very sturdy, in spite of an unladen weight in the region of 10 cwt. Succombe was climbed in 60 sees., using first and second, the speed before the hairpin rising to 48 m.p.h. on the latter ratio.
One other car was tested in 1926 and that was the funny little £99 Nomad (or Gnome), which had a rear-placed 350-c.c. Villiers ‘2-stroke engine, friction-drive, onepiece body and chassis, and Dunlop 27″ x4.5″ balloon tyres in lieu of springs. It used tO eat its cooling fan and get indigestion. We took the test car over a trials course, did the 20 miles from Tunnel Slide to Dunstable in rain and black-out (pardon, darkness !) at a 30-m.p.h. average, climbed the afore-named hill several times with a 12-stone passenger, did 45 m.p.h., and liked the brakes, the direct, non-castoring steering and the four-speed gate, which could be made to give any desired ratio by finding intermediate locations for the lever. We only criticised the horrible noise of the Bendix drive and the proximity of the brake lever to the side of the body ; on which note we will close.
This interesting series of cars was loaned by the following concerns (we quote registration numbers where possible, as it may interest someone to find that they own, or have owned, a vintage demonstration model) :L–Th. Schneider, Wel beck Agency (XX 5415) ; Salinson, Armand Bouvier (YM 7842) ; A.B.C., Ward & Co. (PD 4887) ; A.C., A.C. Cars (PE 1844) ; Seneehal, Automobile Service Co. (YM 8009) ; Amilcar, Boon & Porter (PE 4667) ; Austin Seven, Austin Motor Co., Ltd. (YM 7374) ; 0.M., L. Q. Rawlence & Co. (—) ; Bugatti, Capt. Douglas (YM 2838) ; Isotta-Frasehini, IsottaFraschini (Gt. Britain) Ltd. (QQ5159) ; Frazer-Nash, A.k’.N., Ltd. (PE 5955) ; Windsor, James Bartle & Co., Ltd. (YN 1201) ; Schnson, George Newman, Ltd. (VP 5057) ; and Nomad, Nomad Cars, Ltd. (trade plates).
Happy days I Small sports ears which would perform quite well if you handled them aright, some very good bigger ones, heaps of the right sort of enthusiasm at the countless trials and down at the track. . . . 90-m.p.h. Midgets had not been invented, leather coats were universal,
the police caught you for noise, chains were worn in trials, veteran cars were used regularly without causing comment.