Letters from Readers, November 1949

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Public Entertainment

Sir,
What a marvellous commentary was carried out by John Bolster at the September Goodwood. meeting — full of wit, humour and accurate reporting. B.B.C. please take note.
I am, Yours, etc.,
A. H. Davies-Holmes.
Wembley.

The ’08 Austin Mystery

Sir,
With reference to both articles and correspondence regarding the Grand Prix Austins — in or about 1923 a firm of Wimbledon motor dealers had for sale one of these cars.

It was most definitely shaft-driven, and was fitted with an all white four-seater sports-type body; its most distinguishing feature was an immense figure of-eight copper induction pipe — the vapour supply being controlled by a foot accelerator — I drove it myself!

The salesman assured me that his firm had personally purchased this car from Jack Johnson himself, prior to the 1914 war, and added several unnecessary reminiscences about Johnson’s white wives, morals, and driving abilities!
I am, Yours, etc.,
John K. Dick-Cleland.
Lewes, Sussex.

Sir,
I have been very interested in the history of the 1908 G.P. Austins and enclose some postcards of the cars which I bought when attending the race. In comparing these with the Jack Johnson car the most notable differences are: Dunlop rims on the postcard photographs and Michelin on “J.J.’s” car, apparently quite different change-speed and brake levers, the difference in carrying the spare tyres and seating position. So far as I remember the cars ran in the race as shown on the postcards. However, I am not in a position to express any further comment on the cars and leave this to others better qualified. I do remember Jack Johnson roaring round the West End with open exhaust, etc., and one day saw him cornered in Berkeley Square by the police. His car then was a Thomas (60-h.p. Thdrnas Flyer?) with a huge searchlight mounted on the dash.
I am, Yours, etc.,
H. L. Bunbury. (Capt.)
Bury St. Edmunds.
[The postcards referred to are most interesting and depict not only the ’08 Austins, but Brasier, Thomas, Renault, Porthos, Opel, Mors, Motobloc, Itala, and Bayard-Clement cars of that race, and even earlier F.I.A.T., Corré, and Lorraine-Dietrich, as well as Delage, Peugeot and Schneider racers of 1913. The famous drivers include Bablot, Boillot, Nazzaro, Duray, Gabriel, Rigal, Thery, d’Hespel, Fournier, Jenatzy, Simon, Caillois, Dimitri, Barras, and others. Note, however, the pitfalls which await the motoring historian — one picture of the 1908 Austin is captioned G.P. de l’A.C.F., 1913, Joerns sur voiture Opel,” while another shows three views of the Austin, apparently all taken from the same negative, one being transposed so that this car appears to have l.h. steering and control levers, while the captions as to drivers are also incorrect! — Ed.]

Sir,
After reading “Veteran Types — XXXIV: A Flashback” and Mr. W. A. Taylor’s letter on the same subject, both published in the October issue, it seems to me distinctly likely that the shaft-drive car now in the maker’s possession is that described in the Autocar of October 10th, 1908, as having been fitted with a “Roi des Belges” body for Sir Hickman Bacon, Bart. This gentleman lived at Gainsborough in the Lindsey division of Lincolnshire, and the first registration letters used by the Lindsey County Council were BE. The car now owned by Austins is stated to be BE 3. The late Sir Hickman Bacon, as a pioneer motorist in the district, may well have had this number attached to an earlier car in 1904 and had it transferred to the Austin when it came into his possession, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he or a subsequent owner refitted the original body, or had a replica made.

Or, as the other shaft-drive car, vide Mr. Lamballe, was never rebuilt after being crashed in practice, did the body survive at Longbridge, and perhaps replace the “Roi des Belges” body when BE 3 returned there?
I am, Yours, etc.,
N. H. Fowler.
Lincoln.
[Yes, my dear Watson, a pretty problem indeed. Yet I believe I have the solution. You see, after sifting all the readily-available evidence I decided the issue might have been confused through memories getting a little rusty, which is possible, after 40 years. Let us suppose, then, that it was Resta’s chain-drive car which crashed irreparably and, with all deference to Mr. Lambelle (or what the Editor made Mr. Lambelle say, for I understand his manuscript was difficult to decipher), that Resta drove a shaft-drive Austin in the Grand Prix. I hope to confirm this supposition after consulting my good-friends Iliffe and Temple Press, but at the moment it must suffice. You will allow, Watson, that the wording of Mr. Heal’s article does nothing to deny it, nor does Mr. Karslake’s excellent book on the race throw any light on the matter. Good! We know that Austin built two chain and two shaft-drive cars for the race. By studying some old newspaper cuttings under my magnifying-glass, I am satisfied that two chain-drive and one shaft-drive cars were registered in Worcester, presumably by Austins. These cars we find competing in a demonstration race at Brooklands before they left for France, driven by Resta, Brabazon and Wright, respectively. The fourth car was absent. Why, Watson? I suggest because it wasn’t registered; it was the spare car and would not necessarily be much driven on the road.

Now Mr. Lambelle recalls Resta taking over the spare car after overturning his chain-drive car and he tells us of a panic after the race to evade the police on the run to Dieppe. I suggest because they were interested in a car which had practised and crashed on the public highway without a registration number.

So we have back at the works after the race, Brabazon’s car, Resta’s unregistered shaft-drive car, Wright’s car with “melted bearings” and a wrecked chain-drive car. Splendid, Watson!

Brabazon’s chain-drive car has never been seen since and the other was never rebuilt. Of the shaft-drive cars, one is at the works with an early BE number and one was sold to Jack Johnson.

What we have to establish, my dear Watson, is which car was which.

Now Mr. Lambelle recalls giving Johnson a trial run in Resta’s car and that he bought it and took it on a tour of Europe. If we allow that a larger petrol tank would be a likely fitting for such a tour and that Johnson may have either run the car unlicensed or on foreign plates, this confirms that Johnson had the spare car driven in the race by Resta. I have already discovered that in the photograph the car has a 1910 registration plate and this was probably that issued when Johnson taxed the car on his return to England, or perhaps that of a London dealer who was trying to sell the car and distributed the picture to this end.

It is thus obvious that the car now at Austins is either the Warwick Wright or the Brabazon machine. The Autocar caption implies Brabazon’s, but Mr. Lambelle recalls Brabazon driving a chain-drive car, so, if he is correct, we have found Warwick Wright’s car, allowing that my deduction up to this point is sound.

The early BE registration is explained by Mr. Fowler, for it was issued about 1904 by the Lincolnshire County Council, very likely in Lindsey, and was doubtless put on the car when Sir Francis Hickman, Bt., bought it. The racing body, slightly modified, was either replaced when the car returned to Austins at some later date, or Sir Francis may have used the car with both two and four-seater bodies, which was by no means uncommon in those days. The extra carburetter, lighting generator, and use of larger front wheels to obviate carrying two sizes of spare tyre, all point to the car having been converted for road use. The lower steering column? Why, how slow you are, Watson! Clearly, the original column would have been removed to allow the four-seater body to be fitted and someone was a little careless in refitting it when the car was a two-seater.

All this fits together perfectly, yet may be completely erroneous. I confess I should have expected Sir Francis to choose the car which finished the race, rather than the one which ran its bearings. Call me a cab, Watson, and tell the driver to take me to King’s Cross. If catch, the 10.15 I can reach the Lincoln taxation offices before they shut, – S.H.]

The “Over-Rated” H.R.G.

Sir,
If I may again be permitted to trespass upon your space and the patience of your readers, I should like to enlarge upon my comments in your July issue. The point which I then tried to make was that, in my opinion, the extra price of the H.R.G. over the “TC” M.G. was justified by its consistency and longevity when used for competitions.

Since that issue, H.R.G.s and M.G.s have, been in direct competition in three major events, the Twelfth International Alpine Rally, the Daily Express Production Car Race and Brighton International Speed Trials: the results provide an interesting comparison.

Seven M..G.s and seven H.R.G.s started in Class F of the International Alpine Rally, now generally rated as the toughest event held this year in Europe for standard cars; two cars only finished the 1,800 mile course from each marque, a finishing starting ratio which may appear low, but which compares favourably with the ratio of 31 finishers to 92 starters: “TC” M.G.s were first and second in the class, the H.R.G.s were third and fourth. The H.R.G.s were consistently faster in the three timed runs, 5 km. on the Milan-Bergamo Autostrada, where the fastest H.R.G. returned 77.8 m.p.h. as against the fastest M.G.’s 71.8 m.p.h., and 7 km. on the Col di Stelvio and the Col de Vars, but the brilliant driving of Miss Haig won the class for the Abingdon (M.G.) factory.

However, whilst this was the first “Alpine” for the finishing M.G.s, both H.R.G.s successfully completed the Rally in 1948: it will be interesting to see whether the same successful M.G.s will repeat their magnificent performance in 1950.

In the Silverstone event, H.R.G.s reversed the “Alpine” result, as, although both marques produced a 100 per cent. finishing starting ratio in the 1,500-c.c. class, H.R.G.s were first, second and fourth, the M.G.s were fifth, sixth and seventh, the best H.R.G. finishing 11th in the general classification, as compared to the best M.G.’s 18th place. Further, in. order to produce these results, the H.R.G.s did not have to be driven in a manner calling for “special observation” around the course.

The M.G.s were, however, entered by an executive of the M.G. Car Company, and had had very little road use, if one could judge from their lack of Index plates, whilst the privately-owned H.R.G.s had had a strenuous competition life; one, indeed, had started in the Alpine Rally, and had been raced at Goodwood the previous week-end.

At Brighton, Class 2 was contested by 27 entrants, of which, if logically considered, only six entrants, driving various “heated” motors, could be considered as having a real chance of the prize money: the remaining 21, which included the “Alpine” prize-winning M.G. and an “Aerodynamic” H.R.G. which was third to it, were probably out for a good morning’s fun. The H.R.G. which, with a fixed screen and heavy coachwork, is unsuitable for sprinting on a straight course, returned 39.76 sec., to the Alpine M.G.’s 41.20 sec., this time being bettered by only one of the seven “TC” M.G.s engaged. The H.R.G. had had little attention since returning from the “Alpine,” the only preparation for Brighton consisting of a careful greasing changing of oils, replacing a leaking petrol tank and lowering the axle-ratio to 4.55-to-1.

I was greatly interested by Mr. Fitzgerald’s comparison bet ween the “blown” “TC” M.G. and the “Aerodynamic” H.R.G.: the figures quoted by Mr. Fitzgerald for the latter car are superior to those quoted by me in the July issue for the two-seater H.R.G., which weighs some 2 cwt. less than the “Aerodynamic” model. The best figure I know of for an “Aerodynamic” in standard trim, is 0 to 80 m.p.h. in 39.76 sec., but that was attained on a 4.55-to-1 axle. Mr. Fitzgerald says nothing of axle ratios but, assuming a normal axle ratio, I would reckon that the r.p.m. figure for his astounding parkway run should be nearer 5,000 than 5,200.

I know of no “blown” 1,500-c.c. H.R.G. in this country, but there is one on the Continent, about which, however, I have no exact figures.
I am, Yours, etc.,
J. Gott.

Sir,

After reading Mr. Day’s letter published in the October issue of your journal, I feel bound to say a few words in defence of the H.R.G.

I am at present running a “1,500” H.R.G., and a 1,250-c.c. “TB” M.G., and from experience gained would assure Mr. Day that faults can easily be found in both types.

The H.R.G. is used daily for business purposes and in addition I have participated in trials, also hill-climbs. Mileage covered to date is over 16,000, without any major trouble in bodywork or electrical components.

Referring to ineffective exclusion of water from the braking system, I have to ford a river twice daily, and at no time during the past two years has the efficiency of the system been impaired by this.

The 4-to-1 rear axle ratio gives effortless cruising, though this is obtained at the expense of absolute maximum: however, as stated by H.R.G.’s in previous correspondence optional ratios are available which give a very good all round performance.

In my opinion the extra cost of the H.R.G. can be confined to the following:
1. Ability to purchase off the peg.
2. That little extra, apparent from M.C.C. awards.
3. Enthusiastic and personal service from the works.
4. Accessibility.
5. Light aluminium body.
I am, Yours, etc.,
E. D. Scobey.
St. Buryan, Cornwall.

Sir,
I had hoped to keep well clear of the H.R.G.–M.G. controversy, since I feel that in 1949 argument over the relative merits of two cars coming into the “springless-wonder” category carrying built-in-headwind coachwork should, like the persisting Bentley — “30/98” controversy, be left to historians. However, the quotation by Mr. Eric Day of one-sided extracts from an article I wrote for the Motor forces me to supplement your entirely accurate editorial footnote.

My “1,100” model H.R.G. was purchased new, at the list price of £289, many years before I had any connection with motoring journalism, and was one of the first half dozen examples of the type. No car is perfect — even Rolls-Royce, Ltd., do not make any such claim for their products — but the H.R.G. has served me so pleasingly, economically and reliably that only now, after more than ten years and 65,000 miles, have I come to consider the possibility of selling it.

I have had no comparable amount of experience of the M.G. Midget series “TC,” but did have the driving of a demonstration model for rather more than 1,000 miles early in 1947. I know the models to be reliable and excellent value for money, but finished that distance well content to continue as an H.R.G. owner.
I am, Yours, etc.,
J. Lowrey.
Farnborough,
Hants.
[This correspondence is now closed. — Ed.]

Straw Bales

Sir,
May I first congratulate you on the Show number of Motor Sport and the excellent and attractive cover. I have been a reader and still have almost all my copies since 1933, with the exception of the six years when I was in the R.A.F., and I consider that the views expressed and the reports of events are the best and the most accurate of all the technical Press. May I be allowed to question the statements made by Mr. J. C. Wright. of Derby in the Show issue, regarding the use of straw bales at Silverstone. The remarks in your Editorial deal with the case, ref. BIandford. It is the racing driver’s duty to stay on the road — now that sums up the whole question. Silverstone is laid out as a road circuit, not as a track; now just suppose it was a pukka road circuit, houses, shops, and buildings of all descriptions, to say nothing of a raised pavement, would take the place of those straw bales and would most likely be right on the very edge of the road and drivers would just have to avoid them. Surely on a circuit which is supposed to represent a road circuit it is quite wrong to encourage the idea that if a driver does get into a difficult spot he has ample margins of flat grass to take to on either side of the road to regain. control of the car; such conditions are rarely found on real road circuits, the Ards circuit for example.
I regret that the accidents mentioned by Mr. Wright should have happened as much as any enthusiast because for one thing they have an adverse effect on the sport, being much elaborated in the popular Press. I feel, however, that the answer lies in more intensive practice under road racing conditions by the new generation of racing drivers that are coming on. The practice periods being organised at Goodwood by the B.A.R.C. are a most excellent answer to this problem. That road racing technique can be quickly mastered if approached in the proper manner is being ably shown to-day by Stirling Moss who has become a most polished and consistent driver.

And to conclude, two corrections to Mr. Wright’s letter: he states that the speed of the racing at Silverstone is no greater than that at Donington, this is incorrect. The Donington lap record is shared by M. von Brauchitsch (Mercédès) and B. Rosemeyer (Auto-Union) at a speed of 85.62 m.p.h. While the Silverstone lap record is shared by A. Ascari (Ferrari) and B. Bira (Maserati), at a speed of 93.35 m.p.h.

Mr. Wright also goes on to say that no driver was ever killed at Donington, (motor-cycles excepted). Unfortunately I have records (thanks to Motor Sport) of at least two fatal accidents at Donington and I believe there was a third. In the Twelve-Hour Sports Car Race held on July 24th, 1937, M. K. Bilney crashed and received fatal injuries, and on August 12th, 1989. Sir John Bowen, driving a 1 1/2-litre Maserati at the Vintage S.C.C. meeting, crashed with fatal results.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Dennis B. Cooke.
Malvern, Worcs.

Alfa-Romeo Facts

Sir,
With reference to the letter from Mr. H. E. Rohll, may I point out, in connection with his Alfa-Romeo, that if his car is in fact the car that finished second in the 1931 T.T., then it was driven by Kaye Don in the Isle of Man, not by Rose-Richards. In any case the I.O.M. race was in 1933, no race being held there in 1932. Rose-Richards drove a “2.3” Bugatti. Don’s car was rushed back to London for new bearings. The Reg. No. of this car was, I think, GP 6075, and an extra fuel tank was fitted in the rear of the body.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Harold Pratley.
London, E.18.

“BELATED BOOK REVIEW”

Sir,
The car used by A. Rawlinson when O.C. London Mobile Gun Defences, 1915-18 was his special T.T. Hudson, and the following may interest you — Sir Alfred Rawlinson, Bart, succeeded his brother, General Sir H. Rawlinson who commanded the Fourth Army 1916-18. Known as “Toby” to his friends, he held the Darracq agency in the early days, and was very instrumental in getting the three Darracqs built by Weirs of Glasgow for the 1904 G.B. Eliminating Trials, I.O.M., driving No. 3 car himself. A broken cardan shaft put him out soon after the start. I don’t remember him driving in anything important again until 1908 when he drove a Darracq in the fourth I.O.M. race, finishing third I think. On giving up Darracqs he took over the Hudson agency, entering a special for the 1914 I.O.M. T.T. I remember before the race the flywheel burst and I think he substituted a touring engine, but cannot remember whether he started or not. He rebuilt the Hudson after the race as a two-seater touring car and used it, as I have said, throughout the war — I can’t remember any technical details of the car, but in the I.O.M. it looked fairly reasonable, and I only saw it once again during the war.
I am, Yours, etc.,
H. L. Bunbury. (Capt.)
Bury St. Edmunds.

Dusenberg and Stutz Data.

Sir,
The paragraph on the Stutz in “Vintage Veerings” of your last number prompts me to voice my admiration for this magnificent vintage American car. The accompanying photograph [not published — Ed.] shows a 1929 Black Hawk model which, despite its considerable weight (well over two tons), I shall ever remember for its very impressive performance, which could only be appreciated on an open road of some length. The fabric body was by Weymann, and the straight-eight o.h.c. engine was rated at 34 h.p. There were two 18-mm. plugs per cylinder, with twin coils. Although the compression ratio was high — 8 to 1 — the engine was extremely flexible and the top gear performance was 5-85 m.p.h., with a veritable rush of power in the forties and fifties, when the engine was almost silent. Use of high revs, in the indirect ratios resulted in a quite unpardonable waste of petrol, however, and the Stutz was consequently used only on long runs to town with a full load of passengers willing to help with petrol!

The 1928 model referred to by Gordon Fairbanks was, I believe, the one now owned by Mrs. Darbishire and has done noble work hauling a trailer full of Bugatti to meetings.

What a great pity such motor cars as the Mercer, Duesenberg or Stutz are not made now in America.

Incidentally, was there really a Duesenberg running at a recent meeting?
[Yes, Ford-powered, at Weston. — Ed.]
I am, Yours, etc.,
David Holland.
Lancaster.

Sir,
In connection with Mr. Jack Carmody’s interesting remarks about the Duesenberg Model A, perhaps the following observations are of interest.

(1) The Model A Duesenberg no doubt resembled Duesenberg racing cars mechanically, but certainly not in performance — 88 b.h.p. from 4.3 litres, plus 4,000 lb. of car, hardly makes for thrilling performance. This model engine was also known as “the travelling oil leak.”

(2) The twin-cam Model J was introduced at the New York Salon of December, 1928, not “about 1927.” This car was a fantastic example of taking advantage of the technical ignorance of the American motorist. Its 420 cubic inch engine, with 5.5-to-1 compression ratio, was claimed to develop 265 b.h.p. at 4,200 r.p.m.., unblown. By actual dynamometer test, it never quite developed 200 h.p. — as one would expect, there being nothing unusual about the engine, its compression, or its timing. As a matter of fact, due to its great weight (over 7,500 lb. in some wheelbases and with some limousine coachwork), its road performance was noticeably less lively than that of several more conservative American cars.

In “Vintage Veerings” for October, you quote a correspondent in regard to the Stutz DV-32, but evidently he was a bit confused. Stutz adopted o.h.c. engines in 1926, their first such engine (Series AA) being of eight cylinders with single camshaft and the usual two valves per cylinder, arranged vertically along the longitudinal axis of the engine. Valve gear was of the well known Hispano direct-actuated type. This basic design was retained for the rest of the make’s existence, but the bore was gradually increased from the original 3 3/16 inches to 3 1/4 in 1928, and finally to 3 3/8 in 1929. With the bore increases and ether minor changes, the power increased from the original 92-h.p. at 3,200 to 115 at 3,600, and finally to 115 at 3,400. In 1929, however, at Le Mans, Stutz experimented with a twin-cam, dual valve, head on the standard cylinder block. This engine, introduced on production cars late in 1931, became known as the DV-32, and always had the 3 3/8 bore, with the 4 1/2-inch stroke which had been common to all their Stutz engines since 1926. The taxable h.p. was 36.4, and the brake h.p. was 155.8 at 3,900 r.p.m. The valve gear of the DV-32 is of the same type as that in single o.h.c. Stutz engines, except that with two camshafts; they are inclined at an included angle of slightly less than 90°, with single central sparking plug. The single o.h.c. engines had two plugs per cylinder, on opposite sides. All of the above information is derived from Stutz literature.

As for the “Super Bearcat,” the wheelbase was 9 ft. 8 in. as stated (made by cutting down a standard frame). The coachwork was by American Weymann Body Co., of Indianapolis, and all were aluminium-panelled except one car. All had DV-32 engines, except for another solitary exception which had the single o.h.c. engine. Approximately 25 of these cars were built, and I know of five which survive, including mine. The 115-h.p. at 3,400 r.p.m. single camshaft o.h.c. Stutz engine was continued in parallel with the DV-32 undo. the Model name SV-16, i.e., DV-32= Dual valve 32 (valves); SV-16 = Single valve 16 (valves).

While the “Bearcat” is guaranteed for 100 m.p.h. in the 1932 catalogue, the “Super Bearcat ” is merely captioned “over 100 miles per hour.” Typical of catalogues of the day, one finds the following in the text: “It combines sweet, slow speed performance with a better than 100-mile gait on the open road. Yes, it should even do 107 to 110 miles per hour by the stop watch.” The 1933 catalogue does not specify the speed of either the “Bearcat” or the “Super Bearcat,” doubtless because in those depression days it was best to emphasize the more practical aspects I have never heard of any speed guarantee being given with the “Super Bearcat” as was done for the “Bearcat,” although the only reason for any difference in speed would lay in the relative aerodynamics of the bodies, the chassis being identical except for wheelbase.
I am, Yours, etc.,
P.S. De Beaumont.
Connecticut, U.S.A.

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