Letters from Readers, November 1945

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I read with interest Anthony Phelps’s rather harsh criticism of the small car and small car enthusiast in the June issue.

I venture to suggest that Mr. Phelps has a slightly mistaken idea of what an enthusiast is. Surely no true, and knowledgeable, enthusiast will over-stress an engine unless he is competing in some form of competition from a more or less professional point of view.

I have known several very hot Austin Sevens which have given their owners little or no trouble, but at the same time have given their owners a great deal of pleasure.

Mr. Phelps goes on to say: “no one really prefers a small car, do they?” Surely again the answer depends on what part of the country you live in, your own stature, what the bulk of your motoring consists of. Personally I’m short, do much of my motoring in the Yorkshire dales and in Cumberland, and I find a big car far less pleasant to use under these conditions than a small one. And what a nuisance a big car is in large busy cities and in market towns on market day.

I have owned and driven small cars for ten years now and have had very little trouble, and I’m never very far behind my friends in big cars on long runs, and frequently find myself leading in hilly districts such as I mentioned earlier.

Mr. Phelps mentions the 2-litre Lagonda, “12/50” Alvis and old-time Lea-Francis. I agree they are wonderful cars and a joy to motor in, but where one car is kept hardly practical. I had a “12/50” some years ago, and whilst I loved her stability and solid feeling and her excellent workmanship, I found her very tiring on long runs, both because she was rather heavy to drive and because of the noise. She was no faster than my old 1932 Riley Nine and far more tiring, yet I found the Riley much more pleasant to drive.

I’m hoping, when I return from this distant land, to get another 1932 Riley Nine “Gamecock” with which to enjoy my post-war motoring.

As a regular reader for more than ten years may I say that Motor Sport to-day is better than ever.

Wishing all your readers a happy “basic” motoring.

I am, Yours, etc.,

A Canadian reader, Mr. A.C. Oldman, asked for details of b.h.p.and compression ratio of various European cars. I cannot give you any compression ratios, but the following output figures may be of interest: –

Alvis, 4.3-litre: 123h.p. at 3,600 r.p.m.; Delage, Model D8,120, 4.7-litre: 120 h.p. at 4,000 r.p.m.: Darracq, 4-litre: 115 h.p., at 4,000 r.p.m.: Darracq “Lago Special,” 4-litre: 140 h.p. at 4,000 r.p.m.: Delahaye “Coupe des Alpes,” 3.3-litre: 120 h.p. at 4,000 r.p.m.

I am afraid I have no figures for the 12-cylinder Delahaye, nor the Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Hispano cars, but I give below some data on a few other high-performance Europeans: –

Mercédès-Benz, 540K, 5.4-litre, supercharged: 180 h.p.; Alta, 2-litre, supercharged: 165 h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m.; S.S. Jaguar 3 1/2-litre: 120 h.p. at 4,500 r.p.m. Bugatti, Type 55, 2.3-litre, supercharged: 135 h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m.; Alfa-Romeo, 2.0-litre, supercharged: 180 h.p. at 5,000 r.p.m.; Lagonda V12, 4.5-litre: 180 h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m.; Lagonda 6-cylinder, 4.5-litre: 140 h.p. at 3,800 r.p.m.; Hotchkiss, Paris-Nice Model, 3.5-litre: 120 h.p. at 3,800 r.p.m.

I hope these figures will be of interest to Mr. Oldman. Most of them were taken from the weekly motoring Press.

I would like to express my appreciation of the high standard of interest which Motor Sport maintains.

I am, Yours, etc.,
M. Vaughan
Esher, Surrey.

Regarding the proposal to institute periodical driving tests for all drivers, I would record my dismay at the lack of action on the part of motoring bodies to stem the ever-rising flood of rules, regulations and anti-motoring feeling that is choking the life out of the British motor industry.

I suggest all motorists write their M.P.s; a really large protest would have some effect,

I am, Yours, etc.,
“Clean Licence”
London, E. 18.

I see in the September Motor Sport a very interesting article on the ubiquitous Jeep by Capt. John Moon. Like may others, I can endorse a great deal of what Capt. Moon writes, though I have had less experience with them. Anyone who has ridden any distance in a Jeep wll recognise the authentic touch in his reference to the flapping hood hitting one’s head and his heartfelt(?) comments on the unyielding cushions. Personally, for leg relief, I used to hitch the side safety belt on when not driving, and hung my leg over it or rested it on the front mudguards. It was cooler that way, too.

I do not know what inside reason, if any, there was for choosing the Willys engine in preference to the Ford or Bantam. But may I suggest that the Willys “4” has been substantially the same since it was introduced in the Willys-Overland model named the “Whippet,” about 1926. This car sold in quite large numbers in Australia, and was well ahead of its competitors in design at the time. Both Ford and Chevrolet were still 4-cylinder cars then and, though very reliable steady engines, had not such items of design as force-feed lubrication to big-ends, Ricardo cylinder heads, etc. Apart from minor improvements, the engine was unchanged form that time on. It was certainly beyond its teething troubles, and possibly this had something to do with its choice.

I would certainly agree with Capt. Moon that the Jeep is not likely to menace the better type trials cars. It would need a great deal of alteration, in my opinion, even to be adapted for general use. Nevertheless, there was one Overland “Whippet” with the Willys “4” engine which did some remarkably fast road record-breaking over New South Wales country roads. At the time, road records between Sydney and various country towns up to approximately 500 miles away were a recognised form of publicity, and Ford cars and Willys cars were both competing. Unfortunately, I have no figures with me, but from memory I believe the average speed rose from 50 m.p.h to over 60 m.p.h. This speed over the distance and roads concerned was quite creditable. I am again speaking form memory, but I believe the engine was hotted up only by high compression, special valves and springs, and pistons. I believe a higher back axle ratio was also fitted.

I drove the car for hack work myself at odd times, and she was quite pleasant to handle.

Nevertheless, as the engine is only one portion of the Jeep, I believe, with Capt. Moon, that the “tailwaggers” and “grasshoppers” types of car are in no danger,

I am, Yours, etc.,
W. L. Harbutt (F/Lt)

I have been fortunate to obtain a 1939 D.W.K. saloon, a “Meisterklasse” of 648 c.c. In spite of the redoubtable Mr. Bolster’s vituperous attack on these little cars, I am more than pleased with it. However, it has at present one fault, namely, slight play in the big-end roller bearings, and I am anxious to know whether any of your readers can tell me the size of these bearings, and also whether replacements are obtainable.

In conclusion, may I wish Motor Sport the continued success (and more pages) which it deserves.

I am, Yours, etc.,
P.G Mobsby
[A handbook is requested. – Ed.]

May I crave your kind assistance in the following matters? I have my 1934 J2 M.G. laid up in Salisbury, Wilts., at present, but hope to put it on the road when I am demobilised about the end of November. I would like to have some repairs and a minor overhaul carried out on it before I come back to U.K. Since my home is in Kent, and I know no suitable garage in or around Salisbury, could you give me the address, or put me in touch with a competent firm who could undertake the work for me if I advise them exactly what I want done?

Though deprived of my beloved Midget here, you may be interested to know that one obtains a variety of motoring on Service affairs over here in the Ruhr in spite of the appalling roads.

I have been using the V8 Horsch and Maybach, both very fine motors, 1 1/2 and 2.3-litre Mercédès, several Adlers (all very heavy on the hands) and the inevitable Opels, “Cadets” and “Kapitan.”

Up to date I have not encountered anything of a very sporting nature, though several “38/250” Mercédès, and odd B.M.W.s have their being around Dusseldorf.

Tyres seem to be the chief trouble over here, both on Service requisitioned and German-owned cars. I saw recently two German-owned and driven T model M.G. Midgets, both making very heavy weather on the bomb-battered roads. Long stretches of Autobahn are now available, and I find the Horsch cruises very happily at about 75 m.p.h. as long as the surface permits.

In spite of numerous enquiries I have no information concerning the present location of the Auto-Union and Grand Prix Mercédès, but assume they are tucked away somewhere in the South or East.

I should be interested to know whether any other enthusiasts over here have discovered them.

I should be most grateful if you can help me concerning the garage at Salisbury.

I am, Yours, etc.,
D.A. Hewitt (Capt., R.A.).
[Letters will be forwarded. – Ed.]

As an American reader May I express my great interest in your publication and the ideas set forth therein.

In the June issue, Capt. Moon describing his 1 1/2-litre formula racing design, mentions front-wheel-drive cars made by Harry Miller in this country, and adds that full details of this type would be of interest. As I was once employed by the Miller-Hibbard Co. (1935) and owned and drove a front-drive Cord for two years, it may be possible for me to “shed a ray or two of light” on the subject.

The best-known example of front-dirve car marketed in the U.S.A. during 1929 – 1932 was the “Straight-Eight” Cord, built by the Auburn Motor Car Co, (makers of the Auburn, Cord and Dusenburg cars).

The 1931 Cord was intended to reach 100 m.p.h after the usual 500 mile running-in period. My particular car had been acquired secondhand, and the former owner had “given it the works.” Even so, it was able to touch 80 m.p.h. with no strain at all, the front wheels driving steadily and evenly, and with the best roadholding qualities I have ever been able to find in any car. It was some-what heavy. The convertible sedan weighed 4,400 lb; make of engine was Lycoming, Model F.D.; bore 3 1/4-in. and stroke 4 1/2-in., and total displacement for eight cylinders was 298.6 cu.in.; 33.8 h.p. at 3,000 r.p.m. Regular 6-volt Delco-Remy ignition, using a single coil and double contact-arm distributor; five main bearings, babbit lined and shimless.

The front axle load-carrying member is bent forward so as to pass around the differential housing (which is bolted solidly to the transmission and engine).

The dead member of the front axle carries the weight of the car, and transmits it through the wheels to the usual spindle-body mounting designed to receive the universal joint. Spring suspension is four short 1/4 elliptic springs rigidly clamped to the forward end of the frame and running fore-and-aft. The rear axle is dead and is designed to carry the load only. It does, of course, absorb the torque reaction of setting the brakes. It rides on the usual semi-elliptic for-and-aft leaf springs.

In 1936 and 1937 an 8-cylinder V-type engine in a shorter chassis was manufactured. This design was short-lived and although I had no experience with the V8, personally, I heard drivers who had say the performance was not nearly as fine as that of the earlier models.

At present I drive a 1930 Auburn with a Mercédès-Benz radiator and sports hood. I hope to add a Centric supercharger soon.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Landreth King Worley
New York,

Now that we have got the war finished out here I find that I have time to write you a few lines and to thank you for sending the Motor Sport each month.

It is impossible to tell you how much pleasure it has brought to dozens of fellows and I can assure you that each copy is read from cover to cover by some hundreds.

Now that things are getting settled, I hope we shall soon be able to continue with the Sport, and I (and dozens more) wish you and your staff every success in the years of peace.

I shall be leaving India in another four months, but I hope you will be able to continue with Motor Sport until I leave, and when home I hope to be able to call in and see you. Again, many, many thanks.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Peter M. Threlfall (Major)
India Command.

My head is bloody but unbowed, and I still think that the D.K.W. is best described as “the little blunder.” in spite of Charles M. Dunn’s spirited defence of it.

The suggestion that the 2-stroke engine is “at least as quiet as its contemporaries” can be disproved, because a D.K.W. engine has been tested in a modern, pressed-steel motor-car in place of the standard engine. The increase in noise was such that the car was quite intolerable to ride in, and that is why the thing has to have a “cardboard” body. The great advantage of this type of coachwork is that you do not have to wash it, because it looks just as scruffy whether it is clean or dirty.

I am glad that Lt. Dunn and I agree about the brakes, though how he has the “sheer nerve” (his phrase) to suggest that a car is properly designed which is virtually minus those useful accessories I am at a loss to understand. I am sorry that he regards my “Specials” as some of the most awful contrivances on four wheels, and can only plead that extreme poverty and lack of workshop equipment dictated their method of construction. Nevertheless, they made a large number of fastest times and course records, some of which still stand, though the total cost of my best car was less than the price of a new front axle for a well-known make of racing car. Why I am censured for employing a chain drive, whereas the “properly designed” D.K.W. is also chain driven, I cannot see. Not being an engineer, I do not know what a “snaking chain” is, though I have heard of worm drive.

Lt. Dunn mentions Delage cars, and I agree that certain models are very pleasant to drive. I have, however, exchanged mine for a British car, largely because spares and service ceased to be available.

I enjoyed Mr. Stuart Best’s article on the early Lanchesters, which were very fine cars indeed. The 40-h.p. model had only one failing, which was the clatter which the drives to the camshaft and auxiliaries made when the engine was ticking over in neutral. As soon as the car was on the move it became beautifully silent, and it was a great pity that the makers could not cure this slight fault. I once thought about buying a 21-h.p. Lanchester, but they seem to be very hard to find these days.

I am, Yours, etc.,
J.V. Bolster.
Wrotham, Kent.
[There used to be a 21-h.p. Lanchester on A.R.P. duties in Ripley, Surrey, if Mr. Bolster still craves on; there was also another, in 100 per cent. order reported in the Midlands some while ago. – Ed.]


I could hardly disagree more cordially with John Bolster’s strictures upon the D.K.W.

It is, of course, a matter of opinion, but I have heard no one else complain that the steering is unresponsive. It certainly has the rather dead feel common to i.f.s. and f.w.d., but it is perfectly accurate and quite outstandingly good on snow and grease. The springing appears to be no worse than on equivalent British cars, and it at least affords a remarkable measure of stability, which no one could say of most British Eights. The brakes are admittedly poor, though I believe that this was remedied in the latest models. I am prepared to believe what Mr. Bolster says about the electrical arrangements. The gear-shifting arrangements are strangely vague, but luckily the indirect ratios are seldom required owing to the characteristic 2-stroke, low-speed torque. The lack of any means of hand-starting is another bad fault. These are, in my view, the sum total of the D.K.W.’s shortcomings.

The engine is a 2-stroke, but what of it? Decarbonisation, if frequently required, is accomplished in half-an-hour. There are only five moving parts in the engine and, after 65,000 miles, Laurence Pomeroy’s showed no signs of needing a rebore; 45 m.p.h. cruising gives 45 m.p.g. fuel consumption, and 50 m.p.g. can be bettered, even on “Pool.” The free wheel removes the objectionable characteristics of a 2-stroke on the over-run, and the funny exhaust note is only rather obtrusive when pulling hard at low speeds.

The body was certainly fabric-covered, but beyond that its only apparent shoddiness lay in its lack of chromium plate and allied bathroom fittings. As against that, four people can sit in it in comfort; there is none of that tiresome sensation of being insecurely poised on a roller-skate. Small cars are apt to be most exhausting and temper fraying on a long run, but I found this by no means applied to a D.K.W., which feels like quite a large car.

And, after all, it was designed by Porsche, so that it would be rather surprising if it was not quite a sensible motor-car.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Cecil Clutton(F/0.).