SHOW-TIME REFLECTIONS

SHOW-TIME REFLECTIONS

THE Motor Slum is a time for letting one's enthushemls for the latest in automobile engitt cring and styling run riot and for taking stock of the technical progress made since the previous exhibition—held, in this instance, ten years ago. But as the highlights of the individual exhibits are dealt with at some length elsewhere in this Special Show Number of MOTOR SPORT, we can afford now to look at the Show from a reminiscent angle. Scanning the list of exhibitors, what rich memories and fragmentary nostalgia are aroused.

The A.C.'s present specification reminds one of that remarkable " Six " sponsored so avidly by the late S. F. Edge and the current Anzani-engined four-cylinder cars. How " S.F." wrote to the papers about them ! He explained in great detail, again and again, with considerable emphasis (I almost wrote violence), just how f-elliptic springing kept unsprung weight to a minimum, how a rear-axle gearbox reduced the loading on the long propeller-shaft and why with so light a car four forward speeds were entirely unnecessary. Masses of racing versions left the Thames Ditton factory en route for Weybridge, and so many successes did the Amazing A.C. gain that Edge need hardly have pressed home his salespoints so strongly. It was the first light car to exceed 100 m.p.h. in various spheres, as I have shown in "The Story of Brooklands." These were good ears and some of them are still running. Yet, on a winter's evening, with all the standard ration gone, a club gathering might have a lot of fun taking sides about certain aspects of these S. F. Edge A.C.s. They were expensive cars, at all events in the De Luxe versions, yet I am not sure that their simple springing, three-speed gearbox formed in one with the rear axle (destroying much of the proclaimed low unsprung weight ?) and the simple body contours—the front and back mudguards were surely one and the same pressing, and the much-publicised foot-scraper in the running-boards one

of the simplest of " sales additions" ?were not sops to reduced production cost rather than examples of the absolute in technical perfection. An amusing debate could be held on the matter, especially if an owner of one of the vintage models could be persuaded to take part. Which is not to say that I wouldn't like an aged A.C. myself, and certainly casts no reflection whatsoever on the very different modern A.C. from the Thames Ditton factory, which retains the brilliant features of the light-alloy, wet-liner o.h.c. sixcylinder engine.

The Alfa-Romeo always was one of the cars respected by enthusiasts, even before it broke away from the push-rod valve actuation of the "21/70," " 22/90" and other models and adopted that efficient twin o.h. camshaft valve-gear that characterises the latest 6C engine. Almost my last pre-war recollection is of being flung out of an overturning Allard in which I had been passengering Sydney Allard at the last pre-war Horndean hill-climb. Nevertheless, I retain my respect for all Allards ! Indeed, I had many enjoyable runs in them, including an exciting Experts' trial as navigator to K. N. Hutchison, now better known as a racing-driver. These " specials " were right from the time their creator gave up Morgans, and four-wheeled horrors derived from same, in favour of Ford. Round Brooklands in a Relay Race he discovered what so many Ford exponents have learned since, that the exhaust arrangements of the standard V8 preclude long spells of full-throttle work. But even in those high-speed days Sydney Allard was remarkably successful. I recall his victory in a long race at Southport and the embrace it earned from his blonde wife—at least, I hope it is his wife who figured in the Press photographs of that occasion ! The production Allards were always far and away more smooth and refined, and handled far better than the average run of V8-base conversions, and today that is as true as ever it was. A very fine high-performance car, in great

demand in America and elsewhere, has emerged from prolonged competition work with Allard Specials.

The Alvis I regard with especial affection, if only because I have owned no fewer than five " 12/50s." That clever car combined smooth running, genuine reliability and liveliness to a surprising degree, and practically all the Alvis models that have followed, right up to the present good-looking " Fourteen," have done likewise. Somehow this Coventry firm, which took such a real interest in racing, managed to make cars possessing just that " little something " right from the days when the triangle-badge was t'other way up to what it is now.

Armstrong-Siddeley made cars to last and last they have, for the massive 30-h.p. and later 18s, 15s and 14s are with us still. They did pioneer work with the really small six-cylinder engine and, later, with the light-alloy motor car, but primarily they endeared themselves to our mothers and our aunts by the adoption of the Wilson gearbox, which, if not really "self-change," at all events was foolproof in the hands of—well, the ham-handed, or very inexperienced.

The enthusiast feels a real warmth of affection for the Aston-Martin, and always has done so, from the days when Lionel Martin made his beautiful little side-valve cars, through the intriguing dry-sump o.h.c. Bertelli productions, to Claud Hill's present, very clever push-rod, coil spring-suspended 2-litre. Only a few weeks ago I sceptically rocked Hill's experimental test chassis up and down on those incredibly supple springs, then got into the driving seat and was confounded by the extreme stability of this wonderful car, only the comfortable riding over Sunningdale's notorious levelcrossing reminding me of the flexibility of its suspension. The gearbox, too, is a delight to handle and the "Spa Replica" model should truly uphold the reputation held by the "Le Mans" and " Ulster" Aston-Martins of former years. Austin is a make which must bring pleasant memories to almost all of us. My earliest motoring, as an avid schoolboy passenger, was done in one of the grand old four-cylinder Twenties, which the French could enjoy and trust as the Sizaire-Berwick. I didn't actually commence personal motoring with a Seven, but a sports version was my third acquisition, after I had blown-up an A.B.C. and worn out a Rhode. And a four-speed edition of the old " Chummy " would have been one of a team of three in tiials (the "Tram-fare Team "—motoring for tram fare !) had not that childish ambition petered out with the coming of war. When the present Government restored " basic " in 1945 I acquired another Austin Seven and I blush to admit that it had its last de-coke and a superficial valve-grind over 30,000 miles ago. The valves must now be mere stalks and the theoretical compression-ratio quite diesellike, yet the engine starts on the starter from cold as easily as when I bought it. The Exide battery, new over three years ago, still holds its charge for a week or more and the Pirelli synthetic tyres averaged 28,000 miles each, without receiving over-loving care in either case. The British People's Car has been with us for many years ! From both the trans port aspect and because it has given countless impecunious enthusiasts so much fun, and, indeed, continues to do so, I rate the Austin Seven one of the world's great cars. No one believes that the late Sir Herbert Austin really massacred his billiards-table with sudden inspiration and the full-size drawings for the first Seven, and let it be whispered that at the time the even-smaller " 7/12 " Type 172 Peugeot had some things in common— transverse front spring, ball main-bearings, divided propeller-shaft with torque tube-enclosed rear portion, and the like— but, whatever the true story, the Seven

was a success beyond dreams. It has worthy successors in the A40, A70 and A90, but then Longbridge, in its long career, has produced very few disappointing cars.

The Bentley brings many vintage memories, but it is with its Derby-bred form that we are now concerned. That recalls a fast journey from London to John o' Groats in a pre-overdrive 4i-litre, in my opinion the best of the earlier models, and a fast run in winter, the roads treacherous with ice, from London to Cheltenham, in company with an H.R.D. motor-cycle, to test the performance and no less the roadability of the Mk. V—the car was the faster but as the intrepid motor-cyclist fell off at least twice we could take little credit. We did, I recall, average over 50 m.p.h. under these conditions, and if the Mk. VI handles as well it must be a first-rate motor car. The Citroen has come a long way since an uncle of mine had an 11.4-h.p. tourer in which the rear seat was too wide for two persons but decidedly too narrow to accommodate three ! Contemporary with that rather noisy but somehow stylish and staunch car, was the little "7.5," still seen about in fair quantities in France, to remind us that even economy cars, well made, do not easily fade away, although the modest speed of this particular example may have assisted towards longevity. I approve heartily of the wonderful front-drive car and look forward to trying the new 3-litre

" Si3C."

Daimler conjures up visions and remembrances too numerous to depict them all. Always an ambitious firm, responsible not only for the adoption of the Knight double-sleeve-valve engine, and the use of steel in place of cast-iron sleeves to endow it with signs of life, but of such things as magnetic brakes, V-12 engines and other advancements—its culminating genius was fluid-flywheel transmission in conjunction with a Wilson gearbox. Of recent years I have felt that Daimler's chief engineer must be an enthusiast as we know enthusiasts, for his cars are about the only really dignified luxury cars remaining, but they perform and, more notably handle, in the manner expected of a pedigree sports car. Delahaye means to us really exciting high performance from ears you find on the racing circuits of the Continent. It wasn't always so, although the products of this very old company have always won respect, even if the "12/25s,"

" 13/30s " and " 26/45s " were not particularly fast. If we have forgotten them we can be excused, for I doubt if any exist here today, although Parisian vintage fans could possibly show you a few. The Ford will be seen at Earls Court in all the expanse and glitter of the modern American product. But our respect for its performance abilities goes right back to the days of the first 80-h.p. V8, with which, for example, Norton, Koppen 'lager' and Loader achieved notable competition successes with their team of

yellow Model-18 " Jabberwock " coupes. Dependability, not to mention service facilities, is a Ford keynote, and you can, I suppose, motor as unconcernedly in one of the old Fourteen or Twenty-four four-cylinder Fords that pass almost

unnoticed along our roads, as in an Austin Seven. just as, indeed, you could in a Model-T in its heyday. The Frazer-Nash is a very different proposition today from what it was to "chain-gangsters," and if I dispose of it as an improved version of the "328" B.M.W. I shall, I feel, do it no injustice,

even if this is a not altogether accurate comparison. Just how rapidly the "High Speed" aerodynamic version with highoutput 2-litre Bristol engine can go I leave to your imagination ! The Healey is the personification of the modern fast car and it was no fault of its makers that, when I went to Warwick to sample one, a carburetter fell off before I could do so. However, Cecil Clutton went with me and was able to have his ride before the calamity, and he has told you what he thinks of a lightweight, flexibly-sprung chassis encased in winddefeating bodywork and propelled by that

wonderful 2.4-litre Riley "Big Four" engine.

The Hillman Minx Magnificent is one of the new British cars which is going to set magnificent problems in identification, which is another way of saying that it follows an absolutely up-to-theminute appearance-trend. It possesses that well-tried, smooth-running, and not unduly thirsty, s.v. four-cylinder engine, i.f.s., and the very latest " lets-all-bemerry-in-the-front " lack of obstruction from such things as mere gear levers and brake handles. A promising car indeed.

The Hotchkiss has always ranked as a first-rate automobile, even when it was a rather bulky 2i-litre in the middletwenties, and a "Paris-Nice," or the present equivalent thereof, will show its luggage truck (I hope the cars at Earls Court still have them !) to most things on the road. The Humber has long been a fine car— time was when to own a " 16/50 " and not to have a carriage-drive and servants was to rank as something of an impostor— and the newest Super Snipe" ably carries on the tradition. However, times are such that we mustn't be surprised to see them parked outside " pre-fabs," and who can get menials these days ? I proved recently to my complete satisfaction that the 3i-litre Jaguar, as

a dignified saloon, is a genuine 90-m.p.h. car, and a very nice one in every way into the bargain. It is sufficient to observe

that it has since been endowed with independent springing of its front wheels, more powerful brakes and a cleaner exterior. " Straight-eight " has ever had allure, from the days of the Isotta-Fraschini

onwards, and Jensen offers this cylinder arrangement, by Meadows, in an imposing and good-looking car. But I am supposed to be reminiscing, and Jowett gives me my chance ! Very early—if not the earliest tiller-steeredversions of the little cars from Bradford still " tuff-tuff " amongst us ; I encountered one only the other day. It recalled a boring war-time Whitsun holiday which I terminated drastically by purchasing, for 60s., a 1923 short two-seater in which to motor home. How many different radiators the Jowett has had since that model is a poser I wouldn't mind betting even Bradford couldn't answer, but certainly examples of all the different models are encountered, seemingly as hale and hearty today as when they left the works. Indeed, a year or two back, the makers offered prizes for photographs of early models, and I sent them a picture of my 60s. bit of nonsense and never saw it again— so I suspect they were swamped by the quantity of pictorial evidence they received of old Jowetts still in use. If the "Javelin " lasts as long it will most

decidedly be one of our greatest ears, for of its outstanding performance, refinement, roadholding and comfort, MOTOR SPORT has already given you evidence. The compactness of its flatfour engine will, I understand, be emphasised by a sectioned saloon on Stand 174, and it is worth remembering that this horizontal-opposition, as a friend of mine refers to this engine, has always been a feature of Jowett design, and that, before the war, the four-cylinder followed the famous twin, the latter still used in Bradford commercials—incidentally, my friend's tag isn't very bright, for there is less opposition between the moving parts of a horizontally-opposed engine than there is in the equivalent in-line layout. Lagonda might almost adapt a slogan, worn proudly by a now defunct make at the 1921 Show, of "The Lion of Earls Court," for its design is essentially advanced and exciting, and, so those who have ridden in it tell me, the comfort it offers, in front seats or back seats, is quite outstanding. I was taken, as an enthralled youngster more years .ago than I care to remember, at speed along sunlit, undulating Surrey by-roads in a blown

2-litre, afterwards meeting its designer, and there and then I ranked that car as second only to the unapproachable 3-litre Bentley amongst vehicles of its particular kind. That W. 0. Bentley designed the present 21-litre Lagonda suggests that it is indeed a car of merit.

I have a very soft spot in my heart for the Lanchester, because not only did a modern " Ten " serve me well during some hurried travelling in the worst of last winter's weather, but because the highly ingenious design of the pre-1914 Lanchesters of the sort so beautifully preserved by Hutton-Stott appeals to me, and because, a few years ago, I was able to find a very nice specimen of the 1924 23-h.p. tourer for a modest but very keen vintage-car enthusiast. The Lea-Francis, no matter how it develops in the future, will for ever be linked with Kaye Don's victory in the very first of those great Ards Tourist Trophy races. That car, with its Cozettesupercharged two-port Meadows engine, shapely inclined radiator and light fabric two-seater body, remains the epitome of British if vintage sports cars. There

have been, too, the Meadows twin-cam and the "Ace of Spades" six-cylinder versions of the marque, and some of the single-port " 12)22 " Meadows-endowed cars still serve. Today, far more practical, and, I suspect, far more powerful, engines are used but, in essence, the Lea-Francis remains a sports car and can be had in open form for those young enough not to fear fresh air.

We owe an immense debt to the late Cecil Kimber, who met his end so ironically in a railway disaster, for putting sports cars within the reach of, if not the multitude, at all events a very large section of the motoring public. His "14/40 "—one day I must discourse on the many famous cars that were given this brave designation !—his original" Midget," his" 18/80" and his if and 2-litre models were winners all. At the present time we owe the M.G. Car Company Ltd. an equal debt for selling so many cars to America in return for dollars. The 11-litre and the " TC " will doubtless continue to be best-sellers, and the new tourer on the former chassis is just the sportsman's cup-of-tea. Morris—is there anyone who has never driven the famous " bull-nose " ? We

have come far since then, as you will perceive when you see the latest Morris cars at Earls Court, cars kept secret until the very eve of the Show. To many people Riley's oldest remem berable model is the " Nine," another of the world's great cars and an immense attraction when it was announced, late in 1926, as a not-too-heavy 9-h.p. using the valve-gear still employed today, a four-speed, silent-third gearbox, big brakes on all wheels, and a very imposing four-door fabric saloon body. Actually, many Rlleys appeared prior to the " Nine's " debut, for the maker's slogan was "As old as the industry, as modern as the hour," and I, for one, wax sentimental over the side-valve 12-h.p. "Red

wing." Variants in great profusion followed the original " Nine " and their ancestry can be seen in the 1949 11-litre and 2/-litre cars.

Rolls-Royce brings a flood of memories, chiefly of models which, at their introduction, prompted one to say they were better than their predecessors, only to feel at once that the remark was ambiguous. For what car could surpass the early "Silver Ghost" in all its glory— John Bolster likens the balance and grace of these cars to that of a ballerina—or match a " Continental " Phantom I for high performance allied to silence and. perfection of detail ? Yet time marches on, and at Earls Court the "Silver Wraith" keeps the Rolls-Royce name abreast of the times.

Renault has, through a long career, been admirably adaptable, catering for the almost-poor with the little "8.3," or the millionaire with the magnificent Forty-Five, producing with equal facility the first Grand Prix winner and a recordbreaking saloon, and placing the radiator aft of the machinery, then bringing it to the conventional position only to canceal it behind shutters, with no concern for public opinion. Producing four-, sixand eight-in-line engines in the past, Renault thinks nothing of setting the engine at the rear of the present car. The little 760-c.c. Renault is more than just an economy vehicle and lots of us would buy one today if that were possible. In the same breath one speaks of the Dyna-Panhard and wonders why our own industry is forsaking the economy car, surely one of the most necessitous types, with petrol rationed, perhaps running short, and the cost of living ever rising I" Spare a moment, however, for a glimpse of more spacious times, when to own a Panhard was to be able to scorn the jokes. with which Punch poked fun at theuncertainty of the new-fangled horselesscarriages, or when a few minutes in the Champs d'Elysees would encompass more than one elegant Panhard-et-Levassoreaupe-de-uille proceeding in a faint haze of oil-smoke from its poppet-less engine, individuality evident even to its dash board layout, gear-change and the five spokes of its wood-rimmed steering wheel. As with Renault, so have diverse models. emanated from the Rover works in this country. Even between the two wars we had the air-cooled flat-twin "Eight," a fine s.v. " Twelve " rated at 18.9 h.p., the highly-ingenious " 14/45 " with itsclever valve-gear, the "9/20," and divers other " fours " and some "sixes." This. old concern is just as much out otthe rut

today, as you will understand after studying the valve-gear of the " 60 " and "75," or the hosts of clever things with which that rival of the Jeep, the Land Rover, abounds.

Singer was another firm, like M.G., to give the sports car to the man of modest means, first with the " Porlock " twoseater, later with the effective "Nine," " Six " and lf-litre four-cylinder competition cars. They grappled with streamlining in the comparatively dark ages {with their "Airline ") and come back to it today, with the S.M. 1500 saloon. The prototype has been tested abroad and apparently glues itself commendably to the road. To write of all the Sunbeam models that come to mind would fill an issue, but the twin o.h.c. 3-litre is well remembered, and if files of the Autocar for 1923 are at your disposal you can read Louis Coatalen's dressing-down of W. 0. Bentley when the latter dared to suggest that his 3-litre, possessing only one camshaft and a multiplicity of vertical valves, was developed from racingcar practice. The fact is that the 3-litre Sunbeam was a complex design and appealed to a limited market, unlike other Sunbeam models, such as the big side-valve Sixteen-of which, for a while just after the war, I owned a 1919 example, now in the Science Museumthe " 14/40," "24/60," "20/60," the straight-eights and the later range of o.h.v. six-cylinder cars. The modern Sunbeam-rLilialts are very different

machines, in keeping with motorists' changed requirements.

At one time, now long ago, Standards bade you "Count them on the road," for, following the success of their 9.5-h.p. four-cylinder water-cooled light car, their 11-h.p. and 14-h.p. models, in all-weather tourer and rather box-like saloon forms, were amongst this country's best sellers. The " Vanguard " is all set for Standard history to repeat itself.

Vauxhall cast off the tradition of those truly great cars, the "Prince Henry," the 25-h.p. and the 30/98," when General Motors took over and introduced the " 20/60 " Six, that had only its radiator flutes in common with the cars of old Luton. Since that day a series of remarkably good non-sporting cars has emanated from this factory, offering brisk performance, comfort and notable economy of fuel. The "Ten" was a scientifically-conceived car, from its early employment of (Dubonnet) i.f.s. to its wide plug gaps to promote the aforementioned economy, as all who have read Maurice Platt's little work, "The Elements of Automobile Engineering," will appreciate. I have been using one recently and, if wallow and wander it does, certainly it is a brisk 35 m.p.g.-plus mode of transport. The new Vauxhalls have the good qualities of the older models much developed, and new suspension to look after the roadholding. I look forward to trying them. Wolseley has tried most things since it made single-cylinder ears with gilled

tubes all round the bonnet-the late Capt. Wylie, of the V.C.C., used to run one in his Club's veteran-car events.

A moderately-priced straight-eight, the first small six-cylinder engine in utility and sports forms, the flat-twin "small car in miniature" and the o.h. camshaft engine all come easily to the technicians and craftsmen at Wolseleys, and, don't forget, a competition department was operated in the nineteen-twenties. It is pleasing to find that there is an Eight in Wolseley's present range, one of our few remaining Eights, and a quality one at that, besides the more ambitious models which in the past have served the police and others very well indeed.

The American makes leave me less nostalgic, because I have encountered them less frequently, although Buick recalls my first experience of front brakes, contracting-type but most efficient, and Lincoln and Chrysler faster-than-most cars of an era now past, while the Packard, an elderly example of which graces a garage in our village to this day, provoked comparisons with British forms of luxury motoring even before the war. Go then, to Earls Court, and admire and probe the latest models, but, as you do so, spare a thought for the great ears of the past and of happy experiences you have had with makes and types long since

extinct. For it is the experience gained in designing and developing former products that has made possible the fine cars that are exhibited at our first Motor 1,',xhibition since the 'war.--W. B.