Letters from readers
I have read Mr. Riddle's letter regarding the varied Alvis models since 1920 with interest. If my memory serves me right there are a number of mistakes in his list.
The "10/30" model was made from 1918-1922, and was followed by the "12/40" and "12/50" cars. I have no recollection of any "11/40" or of any 8.3 or 8.9 models in production, nor do I think the "12/50" needs dividing into so many categories.
The s.v. 12-h.p. cars were of 1,496 and 1,645 c.c., as were all the o.h.v. of that nominal h.p. The latter can be divided as follows:–
1924-1928: "12/50," 68 x 103 mm., 1,496 c.c.
1926-1932: "12/50" and "12/60," 69 x 110 mm., 1,645 c.c.
The side-valve cars ceased production in 1925.
In 1928 the 14.75 six-cylinder car was produced in TA form; the next year the bore was increased from 63 to 67.5 mm. with the same stroke of 100, which size continued until 1934 for the "Silver Eagle." In 1930 there was also the 2-litre of 65 x 100 mm. six cylinders. These six-cylinder cars were TA, TB, SA, SB mainly.
The year 1932 saw the first 2,511-c.c. cars with 73 x 100-mm. engines, in "Silver Eagle" form, followed by Speed Twenty. This year also marked the introduction of the "Firefly," 1,496-c.c., 69 x 100-mm. engine, of four cylinders.
By 1934 the i.f.s. was introduced, which added so much extra weight that the stroke of all models, was increased to 110 mm., and the various models since then have been: Speed Twenty, Sixteen, "Firebird," "Silver Eagle," "Crested Eagle," Seventeen, Speed Twenty-five, 3 1/2-litre, 4.3, and, lastly, the "12/70," a four-cylinder again.
The f.w.d. series are even more tricky, as the earliest racing cars were of four cylinders, followed by eight cylinders, all of 1 1/2 litres; raced from 1925 to 1926.
In 1927 or 1928 the production four-cylinder f.w.d. 1,482-c.c. cars appeared subsequently in supercharged form. These were followed by eight-cylinder supercharged cars of the same capacity, which continued until 1931 or thereabouts.
I trust that these notes may be of interest, and I would emphasise they are compiled entirely from memory, of which mine is a notoriously bad model !
I am, Yours etc.,
I was exceedingly interested in your September article, "A Thomas Special in Retirement," by Mr. Easterbrook-Smith.
I, too, am a fortunate possessor of one of these little-known racing cars, and am under the impression that four of these cars were built, but understood that only two remain. I think I am right in saying that Mr. Taylor, of the famous Thompson and Taylor firm, mentioned that the other car was somewhere in Surrey – exactly where I have never been able to ascertain. Nevertheless, it is indeed good news that a third is still in existence.
The power unit of mine appears identical to Mr. Easterbrook-Smith's, mine also having two brass plates on the aluminium camshaft cover, one, "Manufactured by Peter Hooker, Ltd., Walthamstow, London, England," and the second, "Type. 2L, Engine No. 3," as against Mr. Easterbrook-Smith's " Type 1 1/2L, Engine number 5," but does not, however, bear the legend "Hooker-Thomas Special," but only the number EC 2685.
Again, my carburetter is a Solex, as against the Zenith, but my car has a wheelbase of 8' 10" and is decidedly crab-tracked, the front track being 4' 11", as against 4' 2" at the rear, but I am under the impression that the front axle is ex-Hillman.
Unfortunately, I know nothing of this car's history or performance, although R. Walker, who used to race the ex-"Bira" Delahaye, once owned this car. Consequently I can give no idea of valve or magneto timing settings, not having had the chance yet of either being able to work or run the car.
I am forwarding to you, in the very near future, some photographs of the car, which you will see has an aluminium body with a long pointed tail – as had Mr. Easterbrook-Smith's before it met with its mishap.
I am, Yours etc.,
M.R.J. Chetwynd-Stapylton, F/O, R.A.F.V.R
[Comment on this letter appears in "Rumblings." – Ed.]
Mr. Massey-Riddle's list of Alvis cars prompts me, as an F.W.D. owner, to ask:
(a) About how many four-cylinder front drive cars were made in that period, 1928-1931? When I bought my own blown four-cylinder 18 months ago I fondly imagined that very few had been made, but I have since heard of them in all sorts of places, and Mr. Partridge knows nearly a dozen present owners.
(b) Was the eight-cylinder also made in any quantity? I have never managed to get on the track of one of these engines and would be very pleased to hear if one were available. Apart from a vague idea that they would not hold their tune I know nothing about them. Were they single or double cam, plain or roller bearing, blown or unblown? And, most important to me, would the eight-cylinder F.W.D. engine and drive unit interchange with the four-cylinder? I imagine not, and yet any further increase in overall length of the engine unit would be undesirable, surely?
Any comments, warnings, etc., Will be very gratefully received.
I am, Yours etc.,
W. Bridgford, Notts.
You might be interested in the enclosed pages from Life, the American weekly, which show that enthusiasm over here is not so rare as one would imagine.
The Stanley Steamer is notable for the effect that it indicates that the "alligator" bonnet was quite an early innovation (and abominable).
The 1908 Mercédès is interesting and looks very distinctive in its group.
Believe it or not, but the other week a couple of friends and myself accomplished a thousand miles of motoring. I hope you are not envious, but a seven days leave gave us time to hitch-hike to New York, 500 miles from here, which we covered, travelling all night, in 24 hours dead.
Our hearts were much gladdened on the Jersey highway by the sight of a 4 1/2-litre Bentley, and in New York City we saw a couple of Rolls Royce (circa 1932) and the tail end of an Aston-Martin, which dived round a corner rather smartly. Our journey was made in a wide variety of vehicles, from Ford "T's" upwards, and there is a hair-raising memory of a 15-mile ride on the back of a 6-ton lorry, hanging on to a rope and standing on a 6" ledge.
For the most part we rode in cars or all sorts, most outstanding being a 1940 Dodge, which cruised at an effortless 70 odd m.p.h. (according to clock, anyway), in which we covered 250 miles from Albany to Rochester.
New York is a wonderful place and we must go there again some time, if only to see the 50-m.p.h. taxis, which seldom appear to hit anything….
Next leave? Why, Chicago, of course! A mere 450 miles….
I am, Yours etc.,
R. Bawden, L/Ac., R.A.F.
[The veterans referred to are mentioned elsewhere in this issue. – Ed.]
I trust these few notes are of interest and may bring comments from other past or present Cord enthusiasts, with views on the success, or otherwise, in their hands of this very interesting and unique f.w.d. car; a car of no mean performance, although perhaps not editing into the class considered as "sports" by some readers of your paper.
The car was, nevertheless, produced in convertible cabriolet, and what America calls convertible phaeton, or 4-seater, form, and both supercharged and unsupercharged.
Although I haven't taken every number of Motor Sport, I don't remember ever seeing any reference to this undoubtedly interesting car, and it is certainly not on your list of road tests. I wonder why? There are quite a number about Britain, and I, at any rate, became quite attached to, and enthusiastic about – with some reservations – one of the more ordinary unsupercharged saloon models.
There was something basically right about the conception of this Cord, and in these days of the, American at least, tendency to bring the radiator ducts lower and lower into the front mudguards and fairings, and to camouflage it generally, there was the Cord, years ahead, with the radiator already completely hidden as such, and dispensing completely with grilles and chromium plate.
The front drive arrangement gave it beautifully low and flat floor and no running boards were fitted. The mudguards were perfectly faired and streamlined, and the headlamps – of which more anon – however retracted completely into these. Cars are only now beginning to have their lamps faired into the mudguards and thought of as part of the car as a whole.
Door hinges were completely submerged, the petrol filler was recessed in a trap in the rear panel, and this was lockable with the ignition key, quite a point when petrol got scarce and precious! The spare wheel was carried inside the streamlined rear-end of this altogether clean and excrescence-free body. What a pleasure to the eye, and to wash and polish!
When it comes to the mechanical side, at must be borne in mind, when considering my criticisms, that my particular ixample was bought "very second-hand" end these might not apply in the case of a perhaps less-sorely-used car. Anyhow! These headlamps of which I spoke, while beautiful for their retractive feature, were, as a means of illumination, only good as sidelights, and I added a big Bosch dipping driving light – unfortunately not retractable!
The 39.2-h.p. Lycoming V8 was entirely satisfactory, with very accessibly mounted carburetter, distributor and generator. Just as satisfactory was the four-speed gearbox, with 2.75 to 1, geared up, top gear, a joy on the open road, but, and this is, or was, the biggest "but" on this particular car, gear selection was by a small gear lever in a regular, but miniature, gate change on the steering column, beneath the steering wheel. This lever selected the gear required, or pre-selected it, if you wanted it to, electrically, and then the actual change took place pneumatically when the clutch pedal was depressed. Unfortunately, with this car this didn't always work, the most common fault being that the gear previously in use wouldn't "unselect" when the lever was moved; this fault persisted even after a quite expensive overhaul of this "box of tricks."
Another fault, to me at any rate, as a seeker after sports motoring, was that, no matter how carefully one tried to time the gear changes, even on its "good days," when everything otherwise worked nicely, there was always a distressing "cluck" as the gears engaged. The steering of this Cord was absolutely perfect; finger and thumb light at 0-100 m.p.h., and the wheel came nicely to hand on an almost horizontal column. A very workmanlike instrument board was fitted with a most comprehensive array of instruments, including a rev.counter and a "quantity-of-oil-sump" indicator, this in addition to a dipstick on the engine.
The road wheels had been reinforced by having plates welded on inside, but whether the wheels were not up to their work, or whether a previous owner had been over hard on the car, I do not know. The hydraulic brakes were very smooth and powerful.
I don't pretend that the Cord would ever have made a competition motor, but as a comfortable and fast means of covering longish distances in all weathers in Scotland it would have been hard to beat. The high gear made this sort of running reasonably economical, too.
If the war had not intervened and required my removal and the disposal of the Cord, I had fully intended to play about a bit with it. I would have liked to remove all that "electromatic" gear changing business and go back to a manual change by means of a "through the dashboard" pistol grip with a rod passing along the top of the engine and down in front of the radiator to the quite accessible mechanical part of the selector mechanism. I'm sure it would have been much more satisfying to "feel" the gears go in, and perhaps without that "cluck." I think with some attention the headlights might have been improved, too, yet still retaining the retractive feature.
There was no means of hand starting the car, and if the battery was flat one couldn't even engage a gear to get a push or tow start! With a well-charged battery, however, the car, like most Americans, was a "first time" starter.
Did anyone, by the way, ever see or hear of the six-cylinder Hupmobile which was produced with the Cord bodywork and was once illustrated? I tried to get details of it at the time, but no one seemed to know of any such car. Perhaps it never reached this country.
Up till a very sad day at the end of June, when I laid it up, I was running very happily a totally different car. A four-cylinder push-rod three-speed Frazer-Nash. Rather "spidery" compared with the Cord, but what accessibility! Every grease nipple just shouting to be attended to, and even the underside to the semicycle wings might be polished!
I am, Yours etc.,
I have been a reader of your excellent magazine for several years, and I must say I am intensely pleased to see you carrying on in such a satisfactory manner in these hard times.
As I'm not as old as I may sound I was unable to take a very active part in motoring of any sort until shortly before the war.
My first effort was a half share in the rebuilding of a 1928 Rover Ten tourer. This was fitted with a rather curious looking 2-seater body, made mainly out of bits of the old one. It gave us 2 1/2 years of faithful service, being caned around town and out to various trials, speed events, etc., at colossal r.p.m. most of the time. The only trouble we ever had was a run big-end.
Shortly before the Rover was sold to a Naval officer, who is still running it daily, I bought a 1929 Type 40 Bugatti, which had unfortunately been somewhat hashed. The engine, despite the fact that we never got the mixture quite right and burnt valves and so on, was marvellous. It would give very fine acceleration, especially in third gear, and about 78-80 m.p.h. top speed.
I intended to rebuild it, but after I'd had it a few months first and second gears were stripped when I had some clutch trouble, and as I was unable to get spares and the war was clamping down on motoring, I sold it.
Just before the war I was quite closely connected with the Alexander brothers, of Edinburgh, who used to do amazing things with hotted and rebuilt Fords. Jack Alexander had a very potent Zoller blown V8, with a plywood single-seater body, which travelled at incredible velocities in local speed events, and was once driven from Glasgow to Edinburgh in 29 minutes, without breaking any speed limits!
I now have a 1930 "Aero" Morgan with 1,100-c.c . Anzani water-cooled engine, which is quite exciting to drive, especially in the wet. My friend of the Rover is running an exceedingly non-standard Riley "Gamecock," which goes very well indeed.
One other car, except for sundry Austin Sevens, of interest. I've been told by many it was never in existence, but, still, here goes. A friend of mine produced from somewhere what he claims to be a 1931 750-c.c. Bugatti. It seemed to be a Bugatti all right, with reversed rear springs, etc., but it had a rather weird 2-seater body made by some coachbuilders, whose nameplate is illegible. The engine was typically Bugatti, with shaft-driven o.h.c. and a Zenith horizontal carburetter.
I am, Yours etc.,
[The 750-c.c. Bugatti will doubtless prove to be our old friend the Ratier! – Ed.]
Some time ago I wrote to you and suggested that you might kindly mention that there were only a few volumes of Prince Chula's "Road Racing, 1936," left, so that enthusiasts who were keen to have a collection of motor-racing books would not miss their opportunity and be disappointed. Your notes have done great service and the volume in question is now completely sold out. I wonder if you would now be kind enough to mention this fact, so that others would not waste their time and postage with further orders for the book. You may perhaps mention that "Road Star Hat Trick" are still available, though they, too, will sell out in time and will not be reprinted.
I am, Yours etc.,