Some time has now elapsed since I wrote to you, and as you were good enough to give me space for two of my letters, I thought you may be interested to know how the Sport is carrying on out here. Being a constant reader of all English car magazines, I have a fair idea how things are with you.
Motoring of a fashion still continues for the private owner, who is allowed 1-5 gallons per month depending on the size of car—this gives about 80-100 miles per month.
Motorists are given a priority, of 1 to 12, but as only 1 to 6 carry any weight, the private owner with 12 is well left out. No tyres, or tyre repairs, car parts or service can be had without a 1-6 priority, therefore as soon as you run out of tyres, or have a mechanical breakdown, the car has to be laid up.
From what I read of conditions in England, tyres have to be returned when they are ready for retreading, but out here that condition does not exist, and the saying is that “as long as the tyre holds air it is a good one.” A 30 mph limit has been imposed, and in view of some of the tyres, it is just as well. Tyres are worth up to £25 and over, and a car like a 1925 Dodge, worth £15 prewar, is now bringing £100 with a good set of tyres.
The Sport is still going on in the spirit anyway, and three very unofficial events have been held during the last 12 months, the turn-up being quite up to pre-war standards, even though the events were supposed to be a secret. The last event drew about 400 spectators one hour before it was due to start ; this large crowd brought about the undesirable attentions of six police patrol cars. The gentlemen in blue were amazed at so many people looking at the same piece of scenery at the same time, particularly the lad in the leather suit with an old car that had a dirt-track JAP draped over each mudguard and a midget car on a towbar behind. Things in this direction look bright at the moment, as the Army have decided that, the soldiers stationed locally having lost interest in stage shows and concerts, a few events by bikes and cars around the camp might brighten things up a bit, and by the enthusiastic response of the soldiers in making a track with bulldozers, etc, it looks like a step in the right direction.
I notice that most of the articles at present in Motor Sport are centred round the ideal sports car. The well known Yank versus English car argument has been going on for 12 months at the local club and shows no sign of abating or a decision being reached. To me a car has to be either one thing or the other, and it seems to be useless to try to make a racehorse out of a good carthorse. In my last letter (August, 1941) I said I was looking for a good Bentley ; since then I have acquired the best 3-litre “Blue Label” in Melbourne, it being just as new, even down to the original tyres. In two years’ running nothing whatever has been done in repairs, and the car shows no signs of having done any work.
Just to run around the city I bought my wife a Square Rad, Morris in really good order, it not having been used for years. This is the third Morris I have owned, and as I have never had the head or sump off any of them, I often wonder why they are rarely mentioned in England, while cars like Gwynnes, Humbers, etc, often mentioned, are not in the same street as far as reliability is concerned.
At the other extreme I have the rebuilt 5-litre Ballot. Owing to races out here being run on the handicap system, speed alone does not win the races, a slow, reliable car being a better proposition, as one does not have to trouble about passing. In one race I had to give the limit man 36 min start in 150 miles. This state of affairs develops “specials” of various sizes, and is the reason for so many American-engined cars with MG, Bugatti, etc, chassis, but taking it all round most of these cars are fast and very reliable, my own car being a good example. A few figures on what we call a “racing car,” but what to you is a sports car, would not be amiss.
In 1933, I completely rebuilt the Ballot and fitted a Ford V8 motor. This seems to horrify some people, but as it was the only motor I could get at the time, I was not in a position to pick and choose.
When first tried out the car did 97 mph, and this was gradually worked up to 114 unblown, which appeared to be the limit. The fastest standing 1/4-mile was done in 16.6 sec (official) and about 15 sec with blower (unofficial). In four years no replacements whatsoever have been made to the motor and gearbox, except a Scintilla in place of the coil ignition. In fact, the only trouble I have had was with the Ford universal on the tailshaft, which evidently could not cope with the extra horses. The sump has been off once and the heads three times in 15,000 fast miles.
Since 1940 the car has been further lightened and streamlined (weight is 18 cwt fully loaded), and the original 8 to 1 axle ratio has been retained. With the s/c the fuel consumption goes up to about 45 mpg, and unblown the best I have had is 40 mpg. To back up this statement I will add I won the last petrol-consumption trial held here with 36.6 mpg, averaging nearly 50 mph, the next competitor doing 24 mpg. All cars ran on second-grade petrol and bonnets and tanks were sealed, the distance run was over 190 miles of varying country. The worst I have ever had was 14 mpg in a race where I had to use 2nd gear most of the time.
As far as engine speed goes it does not seem possible to blow the motor up, and although I never take it up over 5,000 rpm, I once had it up to 6,000 rpm in second in the excitement of passing a bunch of cars in a race. I nearly passed out when I glanced at the rev-counter.
As far as handling goes it is as good as, if not better than, anything else I have driven, but seeing it is an ex-GP car and cost about £5,000, it should handle well. A lap at Lobethal at an average of 88 mph, and 150 miles in 105 min through 102 corners and bends will testify to its steering and brakes. Trips of 500 miles in a day have been taken without any trouble ; 23 miles in 16 min was done on the way home from Adelaide. When official racing ceased I looked for still more horses, and decided a blower was the only thing left ; on looking at a McCullough I was not very struck with the design, and decided to build my own as, after all, it looked only a fan in a case. Having access to the library of an aircraft company I was able to gain some information on centrifugal blowers, and after 12 months’ hard work I had a blower that frightened everyone that looked under the bonnet. I spent many hours before I got the two Ford dual carburetters on their manifold to sit under the bonnet, but this was eventually achieved. The fan was mounted vertically across the motor with the 11-in casing and carburetters facing towards the rear of the engine and the gearbox was fitted on the other side of the fan and was driven by V belts from the crankshaft. The bhp has gone up to 148 and the blower turns over at 6.3 times engine speed. Although the blower has been up to the 30,000 rpm mark, it shows no sign of wear in 50 hours’ running. As it gives almost double the boost the McCullough gives at the same speed it seems to be doing a good job. Top speed should now be about 125 mph, but up to date have not had a chance to get it over about 115 on the rev-counter.
Well, I suppose someone will now tell me that the 750-cc blown whatsit will do all my car will, but I still remember the late Colin Dunne paying £80 for a fuel bill for his ex-“Bira” K3 MG, while mine for the same time was 80s, apart from any other expense.
Just to cheer you up the registration for 12 months on the Ballot is £5 10s.
I am, Yours, etc.,
James Gullan, St. Kilda, Melbourne, Australia.
[American mph and mpg figures fill us with envy—and wonder ! -Ed]