Rumblings, November 1949
The announcement of a new tubular-chassis high-performance version of the well-established Jowett Javelin, to be built by E.R.A. and powered and serviced by Jowett, was one of September’s greater excitements. The new car, rightly called the E.R.A. Javelin, was displayed to a gathering of Pressmen at Jowett’s Albemarle Street showrooms on September 27th, after which a cheery luncheon celebration was staged at Brown’s Restaurant. The show-finished chassis which we were able to inspect on that occasion was impressive to a degree. Constructed of 3 in. diameter 16-gauge chrome molybdenum steel tubes, braced by a welded structure of 2 in. diameter 18-gauge tubes, the frame can be likened in principle to a much-simplified version of that of the Hill-designed Aston-Martin. Axles and suspension units are standard Javelin, the power unit, likewise Javelin, being hung ahead of the front hubs. This forward location of the compact flat-four engine is one reason why the saloon Javelin is such a spacious car. On the E.R.A.-Javelin the steering column has been lowered and the pedals set farther back. The low side-members, torsion bars of modified rate, and anti-roll bars at each end of the chassis, together with heavy-duty Woodhead-Monroe dampers and a new rack-and-pinion steering gear, promise good roadholding and controllability. At the rear the frame ends ahead of the axle in a clever upswept formation of the chassis tubes, carrying the transverse torsion bars and anti-roll bar.
Increase in performance, apart from the car’s low weight, has been looked to by increasing the engine’s compression-ratio from 7.1 to 7.2-to-1, and by giving it a new camshaft and modified carburetters. Durability is sought by using copper-lead main and big-end bearings and a finned-tube oil-cooler set before the base of the behind-engine water radiator.
This E.R.A.-Javelin interested us very much indeed, for at last Motor Sport’s plea for a lightweight British tubular-chassis high-performance car seemed to have been answered, although the engine is of 1,500 c.c., whereas 1,100 c.c. is effectively employed in such chassis on the Continent.
Indeed, this new Jowett seemed so promising at this preview that we were led to remark that at Earls Court it ought to be labelled clearly: “THIS IS A BRITISH CAR,” in case foreign visitors glanced at it and passed it by, as something they must have seen at Turin and Paris! But our interest was more keenly aroused when we discovered that, far from E.R.A. Ltd. merely contracting to design and build the chassis for Jowett, the car is a personal interest of Leslie Johnson himself. He told us he is determined to produce a British car capable of competing with modern high-performance small Continentals and that, as far as chassis-testing can tell, he thought his objective had been achieved. The E.R.A.-Javelin’s chassis-weight, Johnson told us, is 9 1/4 cwt. in running trim, and, while the body programme was still unsettled, he thought another 4 cwt. would suffice for a fully-equipped closed body suited to the car. Lighter tubing may be used for the chassis of production cars, resulting in a further weight reduction. So far as engine power is concerned, Johnson said that this would depend on what is found to be desirable after further testing and on the type of bodywork decided upon, but that 60 or even 70 b.h.p. can easily be obtained. As we were discussing this brilliant new chassis with Johnson, the prototype coupé made its entry on the showroom lift, amongst the assembled journalists. It had been sprayed only the night before, but so trim, so refreshingly different did the car look, prompting thoughts of Simca, Cisitalia, F.I.A.T., that those privileged to set eyes on the first complete E.R.A.-Javelin were captivated. We asked Johnson who was responsible for the body styling and he said that no one person had designed it but that some years ago he brought from Italy the drawings of a F.I.A.T. coupé that had taken his fancy, declaring that one day he would build just such a body. The prototype E.R.A.-Javelin three-seater coupé is the result. It is daring in conception, with its all-enveloping style, sunk lamps, low air-entry, and high, rounded roof, terminating in a comparatively low tail incorporating a shallow luggage boot.
No plans have been announced in respect of production bodies but it is possible that the coupé may be offered in somewhat modified form, with a rather lower roof-line. At all events, this newest Jowett looks like offering a maximum speed of 90 to 95 m.p.h. or more, with excellent controllability and comfort, and a modest fuel consumption in keeping with the 30 or so m.p.g. regularly enjoyed by owners of normal Javelin cars. Its chassis price of £495 seems modest in the extreme and, while we prefer to reserve judgment until we have driven this exciting new car, Leslie Johnson’s interest in its well-being suggests that Britain now has a car able to compete on level terms with the best of the small, high-performance Continentals, incidentally, thanks to a German engineer. For we owe the E.R.A.-Javelin’s design to Prof. Dr./Ing. Eberan von Eberhorst, late of Auto-Union and today Chief Engineer to E.R.A. Ltd.
Next year promises to be one of the most successful motor-racing seasons ever. In this country more people are attending races than ever before and the newspapers and the B.B.C. are aware of the fact. Abroad racing always has been popular, and it looks as if Alfa-Romeo will return to do battle against Maserati, Ferrari and Milano.
The Daily Express apparently fully intends to hold its International Meeting with the help of the B.R.D.C. in 1950, and would use Donington if it were available — the War Office released it recently, of course — but will probably be obliged to go to Silverstone. One suspects that short, very fast heats and a final will be repeated, and hopes that the Production Car Race, perhaps confined to strictly “works” cars and of rather longer duration, will also be repeated.
The R.A.C. is to hold the Grand Prix d’Europe, the most important date in the International calendar, at Silverstone on May 13th, presumably over the full 300 miles. Moreover, it has expressed its intention of running the Tourist Trophy sports-car race next year, and that really is news. It will be held in Ireland at the new Dundrod circuit by invitation of the Antrim County Council. The race is to be held on September 16th, which allows ample time. Interest in sports-car racing is so great, and manufacturers so well aware of the valuable publicity they gain by entering, that to get sufficient starters should be the least of the R.A.C.’s worries. A really long race over a road circuit would be ideal and how nice to see pre-war regulations regarding modifications from standard enforced, thus providing just the contrast required to the Daily Express Production Car Race, which is for almost completely “catalogue” cars.
The Irish have high hopes of Dundrod, while the B.A.R.C. already has most of its plans completed for the first of its meetings at Goodwood, composed of those popular short races and scheduled for Easter Monday, 1950. How nice, incidentally, if the B.A.R.C. could precede this with a Members’ Meeting in February or March, as it used to do at Brooklands before the war. There is debate, too, as to whether or not a long-distance Classic, or at all events a shorter International race of repute, might not be staged at Goodwood.
All in all, and providing you write to your M.P. to insist on the “standard” petrol ration being continued, 1950 should be a season for motor-racing enthusiasts to remember.
Earls Court Flashes
Last month inadvertently we credited present-day Alvis cars with an independence of their front wheels which, so far, their designer has denied them. The cars at Earls Court which had rigid front axles, termed by rabid vintage-car-enthusiasts that “so sensible, easy to service and eminently satisfactory method of carrying the front wheels,” but dismissed by modernists as “cart-spring suspension,” were: A.C., Alvis, Ford, M.G. Midget, Singer Nine, and Sunbeam-Talbot. As an aside, cars still “cart-sprung” not at Earls Court number the Connaught, H.R.G., and Land Rover. After all, what was good enough for Ettore Bugatti is good enough. . . or is it? At all events, that absorbing annual analysis which the Autocar makes of world specifications shows that 88 per cent. of the 1950 cars have i.f.s., whereas only 12 per cent. use leaf-sprung rigid front axles.
Due to publishing our Show Number on the day the Show opened and not receiving full details of their exhibits, we captioned our picture of the Austin A90 sports saloon as having its electrically-actuated hood erect; actually, the new sports saloon we illustrated has a fixed roof and it is the Convertible that has the electrically-operated roof.
Of the Continental cars, the Alfa-Romeos were absentees, Delahaye exhibited very palatial automobiles, the frontal aspect of Delage we thought less attractive than formerly, and for sheer honest-to-goodness unadorned motor cars there were the fine Hotchkiss exhibits. The “bonnet-full of engine possessed by the excellent Citroën Six was also very pleasing. The Farina F.I.A.T. 1,100 aerodynamic saloon was a great attraction, but we rather shuddered at its ornamental two-spoke steering wheel and “frozen milk” gearlever knob and facia controls. Its wheels appeared to be of bolt-on type with “dishplates” secured by a sunk hexagon centre-nut.
The Frazer-Nash trio were perhaps the most attractive of the Earls Court exhibits. The spare wheel on the all-enveloping “Mille Miglia” two-seater is stowed at an angle beneath a panel on the near side, yet it in no way intrudes into the cockpit. The “Le Mans Replica” model was shown with two external exhaust pipes. The low, all-enveloping cabriolet, priced at over £3,500, was exceedingly attractive but, in spite of having a reverse-crabtrack, the steering lock would appear to be considerably restricted by enclosure of the front wheels.
The Morgan exhibits stood on the floor instead of on a stand. In contrast, the Bristols were enclosed by an elaborate system of fencing.
It was rather amusing to note that the wheel-covers of the Aston-Martin coupé were cut-away to allow the hub caps of the centre-lock wheels to revolve. Frazer-Nash had dispensed with centre-lock hubs on their cabriolet model.
Kaiser, exhibited their “Traveler,” which can be either saloon or “utility” at will, merely by a little adjusting of rear panels and back-seat squab.
The Bentley on H. J. Mulliner’s stand we thought looked rather shamefaced with its dignified radiator partially hidden by a cowl, while the Saoutchik Lago-Talbots displayed a lot of chrome and the coupé seemed to have slightly too long a tail for its comparatively short wheelbase.
There was a long traffic hold-up amongst the model vehicles on a modern road system with “fly-over” junction, which formed the British Road Federation exhibit, due to the mechanism breaking down. This led. a visitor to observe dryly: “I knew there was a snag with these new-fangled roadways. Give me the by-ways, everytime!”
Excellent value, with very low purchase tax (on fittings only) in the case of the latter, again characterised the boat and caravan exhibits.
A car which still looks like a car is the Ford “Pilot,” but it is a matter of opinion whether the 1950 bonnet louvres are smarter than the 1949 horizontal strips of chromium.
A keen “chain-gangster” was observed at the Frazer-Nash stand showing the salesmen what chain-driven Frazer-Nashes used to look like !
Exploring the gallery it became evident how much of the modern car is “proprietary.” Frames from Rubery Owen, springs from Jonas Woodhead, a radiator cowl from someone else, a ready-made facia-board and so on. Our big manufacturers scarcely deserve the name, for they now merely assemble their cars. Which perhaps explains the big interest which the specialist cars arouse!
Pleasing exhibit — demonstration of a screen-wiper, labelled “In England, even in summer, it rains on two days out of five.” And, outside, a hot October sun blazed from a bronze sky as newsvendors proclaimed steps to defeat a countrywide drought!
Overheard: “The Triumph ‘Mayflower’ reminds me of one of those fussy little tank locos that run up and down at model engineering exhibitions.”
Also overheard: Adverse comments about two-door bodies on economy saloons. Renault and Panhard were proud of their four-door bodies.
Last year’s rumour that Hotchkiss would appear with a “false front” this year were unfounded and happily these fine cars still looked like motor cars.
Mr. Rankin was modest about the speed of the “XK120” Jaguar. “You should get 115 m.p.h. or so with the hood and sidescreens up,” he explained.