Vintage Veerings



“Vintage Enthusiast? — Come and have, a drink chum!” This is one of five 30-h.p. 6-cylinder sleeve-valve Daimlers with bodies in the form of beer bottles which were put on the road in 1922 to advertise Bass and Worthington. It is particularly pleasing that three survive to this day, and have, in fact, been on the road continuously since they were purchased, except during the war years. Our photograph shows the Daimler which advertises Bass; long may it and the beer it represents be with us !

Having read the Editor’s reminiscences in the August issue I realised that for twelve months I had been the eleventh owner of ER 6960, a 1927 Humber 9/20 tourer. Although registered in March 1927, it is a 1926 model, lacking front-wheel brakes and having the spare wheel on the off side.

When I took over the car the “hodo”-meter read 77071.

My Humber emerged from Coventry in grey. Ten years later, the colour was changed to fawn. Then, from 1939 to 1949 (untaxed 1942-47) it paraded as “ivory, blue wings.” The present colour, although officially recorded as “brown,” could more accurately be described as milk chocolate; in places the milk shows through.

When I took over ownership, the only foreign components were the windscreen, which appears to be ex-Morris Eight (success!—an original has since been found) the hood and the wheels, which are probably five-stud Morris-Cowley, obviating the need for beaded-edge tyres. Almost immediately a Hillman Minx silencer was added to the list. The original silencer was intact except for a small leak at the intake end. Hopefully, I applied “Gum-Gum.” Another leak appeared aft of the repair. More “Gum-Gum” with copper-gauze reinforcement was applied. Thus started a race between hole and poultice, which the hole won in magnificent style by blowing off a poultice the size of my palm. Hence, the Hillman Minx silencer.

At the last time of checking, the petrol consumption over ten gallons was 31.2 m.p.g. and the highest speed to have been seen on the speedometer is 57 m.p.h. The previous owner quoted 65 m.p.h. downhill with the wind, but I have been unable to attain this and, in fact, have seldom thought of doing so, finding that the joys of vintage light-car motoring are not to be found in sheer speed. Most of my driving is done through winding lanes, where light steering, stability in cornering, and an above-the-hedge-top view give more pleasure. And into what modern car can you pile three adults, two children, one Alsatian and the luggage, and still enjoy a comfortable drive from Essex to the Midlands?

However, the correspondence columns have borne sufficient eulogies of the Humber. So, what of the tribulations of vintage motoring?

After 3,295 miles the near-side front spring broke a leaf. A trip to the local breaker’s yard (by 1927 500-c.c. Ariel) produced a bundle of leaves of assorted sizes for five bob, and two hours’ work remedied the damage.

At 5,766 miles I hit a foot-cube chunk of concrete at 35 m.p.h. with the off-side front wheel. Bang went the top leaf of that spring. This time, a local garage produced one for 5/-, and made another as a spare for a further 15/-. Soon after this, at 6,402 miles, one of the keys of the gearbox mainshaft broke and permanently engaged top gear. Fortunately, this occurred outside a garage, and owing to the accessibility of the gearbox, new keys were fitted the same day.

At 7,200 miles, after a successful Humber Register Rally at Aylesbury, the back-axle noises became unbearable. A collapsed rear pinion bearing was the cause. The original bearings had at some time been replaced by light duty type combined journal and thrust bearings, and it was the latter which had failed. They were replaced by medium duty type, and these are still performing well.

With over 9,000 miles added, the clutch became more and more difficult to disengage. Finally, the ribald comments, when engaging gear to move off, became too frequent to be borne. On removing the gearbox and splitting the flywheel, I found that the cone of the clutch moved away from the cone of the flywheel, only to engage with a thick pudding of oil and dirt trapped in the hollow flywheel. Lubrication of clutch-thrust races normally takes place through small holes from the gearbox, and I can only assume that wear is allowing excessive gear oil to enter the clutch. However, the stripping, cleaning and reassembly can be done in three hours flat, making this not too horrible a task.

The only time the car has really disgraced itself was after 10,760 miles, when, loaded with friends and food, we set off for a rally at Beaconsfield. We had barely reached the boundary of our home village when with dubious noises the engine died. Examination revealed a stripped timing gear.

Fortunately, the title of this article does not state “A Year’s Motoring” for it was just over two months before we motored again. This sounds worse than it was in fact, for I had been planning a general engine overhaul, and was able to fit it in with the gear replacement. Timing gears, crankshaft and connecting-rods, all acquired as spares with the car, were fitted, and the pistons were re-ringed. Then 320 gentle miles were squeezed into the remainder of my first twelve months of ownership.

Although the foregoing may seem to be a tale of woe, it was a small price to pay for 11,000 miles of extremely enjoyable motoring. The friends we have met and made! The Humber has introduced us to many vintage enthusiasts, and how often has my wife tried vainly to break into such serious talk with a reminder that dinner is ready— was ready–and is no longer what it might have been. And those other friendly souls, to whom it seems to bring back memories, always pleasant—”I had an Eight in 1923, a ‘Chummy’ I think it was”or “Thought it was a Clyno at first, that was a good car.”

Two highlights stand out from the year, one, the Cockney voice from a group of youths on the pavement “Cor look! ‘Erry Tite.” And the other occasion, while parked near a junction in Tottenham, when a trolley-bus was about to pass. The driver changed his mind, halted alongside, lifted his cap and bowed low over his steering wheel. Then, without a smile, he replaced his cap and drove on.

I have previously run cars of 1930 to 1939 vintage but not one has given me so much pleasure and so little trouble as the 9/20 Humber.

I do enjoy small ads., and sympathise with those whom Cupid has wounded, but monthly I wait to see “WANTED, wife willing to have family in open sports car.” Why should the young always travel in saloons?

To return to the Humber; only one puncture in the year, and then there was the time when, running parallel to a railway line, we had a wave and three long blasts on the whistle in salute from the driver of the train. And so, the memories of friendly motoring go on, and all for £75.—S. ALDRIDGE.

A very pleasant interlude one afternoon at the end of September was a run with Dr. G. A. Ewen, who at the time of writing is leading in this year’s V.S.C.C. Edwardian Trophy contest, in his 1908 G.P. Itala. There was nothing startling about this ride, for along the narrow ways between Richmond and Chertsey Dr. Ewen demonstrated the docility of the big car in top gear to a greater extent than its very shattering performance when unleashed. Yet, as he pointed out before we tried our hand at the controls, you need to watch your step, for very soon, from idling along in built-up areas with the rev.-counter as yet inoperative, so slowly is the 12-litre engine running, you very rapidly accelerate up to 60 m.p.h. without realising that much increase of speed has taken place! From the mile-a-minute gait to 75 and more m.p.h. also takes very little time, so it is as well to be forewarned, for although the outside handbrake working on the back wheels is reasonably effective (in the dry!), the Itala does not lose speed quite like hydraulically-anchored moderns.

The multi-plate clutch has a very strong spring but the gears are lenient to a beginner, providing he remembers that the gate, like that of a Bugatti, is “about face.” The big engine, still using low-tension magneto ignition, possesses enormous bite yet transmits surprisingly little vibration through the floorboards. You sit “on top of the world,” the massive steering wheel juddering excitingly in your hands, and steering round fast bends is best accomplished by controlled application of the accelerator. Fuel consumption has been as moderate as 16 m.p.g., “but,” observed Dr. Ewen, “today, on roads of this sort, we are probably doing 6-7 m.p.g.” The ’08 Itala is out of this world and it is splendid that it is so carefully preserved and freely appreciated.