VINTAGE POSTBAG, November 1961
VINTAGE POSTBAG Motor Vehicles in the 19i4,48 War
I was very interested to read Our review of ” Fights and Flights,” by Air-Commodore Samson, on page 830 of the October issue and, in particular, your thought that it would be nice to write a book on the motor vehicles of the 1914-18 War. As a matter of fact a letter appeared in The Motor of February lith last from a Mr. F. Brian Jewell, of Seventjaks, to the effect that he proposed to produce such a book, and in this letter he asked for any information which would be of ase for this purpose.
As I had the pleasure( ?) of serving throughout the 1914-18 show and, also, the 1939-45 affair—until my repatriation from a German prison camp in 1944—in the first spot of bother as an M.T., A.S.C., officer from November 1915 to February r920, and as a Workshop officer R.A.S,C. in the second one until taken prisoner, I wrote to Mr. Jewell, telling him that I had several photographs of 1914-18 vehicles, also blueprints of the American F.W.D. truck used by the British Army as well as details of two makes used in the French forces. I had a very courteous reply but since then have heard nothing more so, I suppose, the project has died.
My object in writing to you, however, is to be able to give you a little of the subsequent history of the London ‘buses you mention in ypur review. From January 1917 to April 1919 I was in charge of a section of the .fleadquarters Company of the Omnibus Park. My section consisted, originally, of 25 B-type doubledeckers and it was attached to the British 1st Army, with whom it operated, to all intents and purposes, as a self-contained unit. Another ‘bus company in the same Army area was the 16th Auxiliary (Omnibus) Coy., which was the original unit sent to Antwerp. If my memory serves me right their vehicles were originally all type CC Daimlers, similar to those operated on the No. 24 route in London by British Automobile Traction before the formation of the L.P,T.B. The Company sign was the reverse side of a 1914 penny and the slogan below the sign read ” Penny. All the Way.” This Company carried on right through to the disbanding of the Omnibus Park in April 1919. In addition to this unit the following comprised the Auxiliary Omnibus Park when it was formed in January 1917 :—
Ist Auxiliary Omnibus Company : Sign, the I..G.D.C. wheel and wings: 5o B-types and either 30 or 40 Swiss-Berna lorries with ;:eatS intikk.
znd Auxiliary Omnibus Company : Sign, a black arrow: composition as above.
15th Auxiliary Omnibus Company : Sigma Bulldog; composition 50 Peerless char-a-hancs„ 3o or 40 Swisslterna lorries.
t6th Auxiliary Omnibus t’:ompany : Sign as already described; so CC Daimlers, 3o (Sr 40 Swiss-llerna lorries. 0111 Auxiliary (Minibus Company : The Headovarters Company. sign a black elephant in a red circle with the Army Number underneath in the ease of
thedetached Army sections: composiiinn 70, Daimler Y-type lorries with seats inside arid 5o Swiss-Berna lorries, each Army section 25 double-deckers. B types in the case Of four sections and one section Of CC Daimlers. 52st Anxiliary Omnibus Conipany Sign, a disc of alternate red and whim stripes; composition as for the 15th Company,
As you will appreciate, casualties brought about some variations in the original composition of the units. In the case of my own section we finished up with three A.E.C. 3-ton lorries with seats inside, one CC Daimler with a chara. body, three CC Daimler double-deckers and IS 13-types on ten of which the doubledecker bodies had been replaced by char-a-bancs bodies.
Other makes of vehicles in use during that war, which I, personally, came across included the following commercial vehicles : Albion, A.E.C., Daimler, British-Bema, Swiss-Berna, Sauter, F.W.D., Leyland, Maudslay, Straker-Squire, Thornycroft, Dennis, Commer, Dennis-Stevens (petrol-electric), Hanford, Halley, Karrier, PagefieId, and in the steam range FOden. Cars included Sunbeam—both genuine and those built by the Rover Company about which I will not say too much—Singer, Wolseley, Vauxhall, and Rolls-Royce. Among the Americans, in addition to the F.W.D., there were Peerless, Locomobile, Ryker, G.M.C., and the Liberty truck. Of French vehicles my main recollections are of the Berliet and the Latil gun tractor. Motorcycles included Douglas, Clyno, Triumph and Scott in our Forces and Sunbeams with the French.
With all good wishes to yourself and the journal.
Harrow-on-the-PI ill B. W. HuSsEv.
Granville Bradshaw on Benzol
The ” Early flat-twin light aeroplane engine bought for to shillings ” and illustrated on page 742 of your September issue, 1961, was one of the first A.B.C. motorcycle engines that I designed. It is a 5912 model and may be either 350 or 500 C.C. in capacity.
It has an ” exhaust-over-inlet ” valve system—not the inletover-exhaust suggested, and there was a sound reasonfor this change.
I believe that this engine was the cause Of octane fuel being invented, unless one Of your readers has a longer memory of the earliest Brooklands racing days than I have.
Brooklands Track was the main advertising ground for the motorcycle world and there were always a dozen or more racing motOrcyclists attempting to earn a living by breaking records. They were paid little or nothing by the manufacturers but they gained monetary awards from the petrol, oil, tyre, magneto, sparking plug, chain and other Manufacturers every time they produced a record. I never inquired what my rider, the late Jack Emerson, got, but it was always something big for the Hour record—which was the ” Blue Ribbon ” of the track and which Emerson broke several times.
The War Office had already told us that there was no future in the aeroplane for war purposes, therefore, for want of orders in our Btooklands factory, I decided to turn to motorcycle engines and I felt that there was a future in the flat-twin Douglas type.
This engine was, of course, in line with the frame and all engines of those days were of the side-valve type—but the rear cylinder of the ” flat-twin ” overheated, causing piston seizure after a few laps. My aim in placing the exhaust she and its hot exhaust port overhead was to keep the heat as far away as possible front the cylinder barrel. All these engines had steel cylinders with tins machined from the solid (as will be seen in the photograph) and the exhaust port could be bolted down on an insulating washer, which at the back frequently had to be thicker than that at the
front in order to slightly reduce the compression ratio to avoid pinking. But with this system we could run a higher compressionratio than any of the side-valve engines.
After Emerson had won about a dozen races and records a representative from the prominent petrol firm came to see me to complain that my rider was not using petrol at all but had changed to a new commodity that had turned up at the Track called Benzol. They had offered Emerson the same amount of money as the Benzol people; there could be no better fuel than their ” Pure Aviation Spirit ” as it was called in those early days, but Emerson had refused to change back to it. If there was any technical reason for this I certainly wanted to know it so I called Emerson in for a private talk, and his reply was to the effect that if he changed back to the Pure Aviation Spirit or to any of the petrols offered he would not be able to do the lap speeds he was now doing. Gradually he had been increasing the compressionratio and had been gaining some three or four miles an hour, by using Benzol. I had the engine out and back on the test-bed. We tried all kinds of mixtures and different cans of Benzol–and I told him not to tell any of our competitors. With one drum of Benzol we were able to raise the compression very considerably, so I thought I would let the Petrol Representative know the reason. He-would certainly not tell our competitors. When he came back the following day I told hint that I would demonstrate something that would surprise him. I instructed Emerson to drive round and round the sheds in top gear and to accelerate after every corner—which he did without a single pink. Then I told him to drain the tank and to fill up with petrol supplied by the petrol company and to repeat the performance. The engine pinked audibly all the time as it went round and the Petrol Representative was dumbfounded. He got on the ‘phone to the London Office and then asked if their Chairman and technicians could come and see the same demonstration on the following day—to which agreed. They were equally astounded and hurried back to get on to America. I do not know what effect this had but it was not long before we heard of experiments with additives to prevent pinking and I well remember that several of their staff died from poisoning in the mixing.
Ryde, I.O.W. GRANVILLE BRADSHAW.
Sir A Star
have recently come into possession of a 1929 Weyntannbodied Star saloon. At present I am restoring the car and find that there are a few small parts missing. Could I appeal for information ?
The car, which was manufactured by the Star Engineering Company of Wolverhampton, was first registered on June 5th, 1929, and was last registered in 1949, and has since then been lying in a garage in Dudley rotting away. The engine is a 6-cylinder o.h.v. having a stroke of Ito mm. and a bore of 69 mm., giving 17.9 h.p. Ignition is by magneto, which is mounted in line with the water pump and the dynamo on the near side of the engine and connected with Vernier couplers. The leads from the magneto pass through a hole in the engine block to the plugs on the other side of the engine. Petrol is supplied by means of an AutoVac mounted on the dash and fed into the engine by a ” straight-through ” carburetter which is bolted onto the side of the engine. The gearbox is of the crash box variety having four forward and one reverse, the gear-lever is mounted on the righthand side of the driver, normally the gear-lever was mounted in the middle of the car but could be supplied on the right-hand side as an optional extra at L15. The body is of Weymann construction, being black fabric stretched over a metal body covered with wadding, dummy hood irons being fitted at the rear. The interior is trimmed with red cloth and matching hide upholstery and edged with red and white lace. Other points of interest include vacuumoperated headlamps, twin sets of brakes fitted to the rear wheels, one set worked by the footbrake and the other by the handbrake. When this car was new it cost 4:675 and could be obtained in either Home or Colonial styles, the difference, being that the Colonial model had three windows along the side whereas the Iome model had two, the spate occupied by the third window being used to hold the dummy hood irons.
I have been informed that the car is in fact a 1927 car with _a 1929 engine, but at present have not beets able to cheek the reliability of this. If this does turn out to be true the car could well be similar to the cars ordered by King lbd Ben Saud as Harem wagons. ‘[‘lie previous owner, who is now dead, has On oceasion carried ten people, all seated, in the car. thid,lek D. E. A. rs can be forwarded.—Eol F.VA0s: lle
With reference to letter from Mr. R. McGildowney concerning his Buckingham-eyelecar. Surely this engine was ‘a Buckingham and not a Blackburne. I do not think the o.h.v. Blackburne was made in 1915, but Buckingham engines certainly were, and also offered to manufacturers around 1914 for fitting to cyclecars. Buckingham also made his own cyclecars in two Models, a singlecylinder and a twin.
The single was a 746-c.c., 89 trim. X 120 nun., and the tWin a vett 1,005-c.c., 89 MM. <88 Mm., and both had o.h.y. valves.
These engine’s were, I believe, made by Messrs. Alvis of Coventry and were to Buckingham design, the first Buckingham cyclecars were made in 1912 but were both air-cooled, and I do not remember a water-cooled Buckingham, but of course may be wrong on that point. The transmission was as your correspondent states : two primary chains to a cross shaft and then belts to the rear wheels. Gears were changed by two small cone clutches, therefore quick changes could be made.
I read with interest Mr. I. J. Dussek’s letter in September’s MOTOR SPORT regarding the II.R.G. car. Though I appreciate the sentiments conveyed in his letter, I was shocked to learn that the H.R.G. is thought to be the successor to the Chain Frazer Nash—there isn’t one! As to our yearly race at Oulton Park, if Mr. Dussek were to read the programme he would see that the race is headed ” For Chain-driven G.N. and Frazer Nash Cars ” surely the H.R.G. has a rather dull Meadows or Singer gearbox ? Hoping I have not offended Hurg owners as I still find their cars interesting and maintained in the best vintage tradition.
honey. A. IL CUNDEY. * *
Sir, seven years’ ownership of a Willys-Knight (apparently unique in the V.S.C.C.,-apart from two ephemeral East Africans) I have seen only two other W.K.s on the road : one that has towed me in Cardiff (some consolation) and my own second car, acquired last year. Arc there others running; also any Falcon Knights?
Newbury. R. J. BEALE. *
Vintage in Majorca
I read with great interest correspondence concerning vintage transport in Spain. My holiday in Majorca was very much enlivened by the variety and quantity of these vehicles.
As regards condition, observations are of course related to the climate, which seems to preserve them, three weeks of English November probably finishing them off, although the dusty conditions have played havoc with chassis, and I saw king-pins and brake rods literally hanging on by clogged sand, grease being seemingly unheard of.
However, the 1.5 Citroens drawing gaily-painted ice-cream trailers, the array of old delivery lorries, Delage, Delahaye, Ford, Hispano—all with that indefinable Continental look, memories of private Fords of all shapes and sizes, 1.a Licorne, Mathis Six, coal-scuttle Renaults, a beautiful early FIAT driven by an enormous multi-Coloured hat, and the piive-de-re’sistanee, -a de Dion BOuton lorry travelling quite fast on a dusty, open road, spells most welcome enjoyment for an enthusiast in the sunshine.
Woodford. R. M. Cot:cut:R.
A Liberty Lorry
The photograph shows a Liberty lorry, of which I cannot recall mention in your columns.
It was an ex-First World War veteran, used for bulk delivery of paraffin from a tank at the front of the vehicle, and cans of petrol from the rear.
This Liberty was kit-baud drive, being of American origin., and did local journeys supplying garages and -shops.
Watford, R. A. CAIN.
Corrections and Opinions
Knowing your passion for accuracy in reporting I am sure that you will not mind my pointing out that my 21.8-litre Benz which ran at Brighton is not ex-John Norris but ex-John Morris. The history of its ownership to date is roughly—Field Marshal von Hindenburg, Alastair Miller, Cyril Paul, John Morris, Eric Milner. Also in the same report it was Stanley Sedgwick’s 1951 Bentley that ran against his own Speed Six not Stanley Sears’. This Speed Six is by coincidence ex-John Norris and ex-John Morris.
Turning now to other things historic, I can’t help feeling that Cecil Clutton is being a bit harsh in calling the model-J Duesenberg silly. One must remember that it was designed by a man Who had already designed a car that won the French Grand Prix— more than anyone in this country could do at the time. One must also remember that it was designed for American owners in America where conditions were entirely different to those in this Continent, a state of affairs that continues to this day. No one in their senses wants to buy an American car to use in this country now, but go to their native land and they seem perfectly practical and in place. I stand to be shot down by Cecil Clutwn as I have never driven a Duesenberg but I can say from first-hand experience of the engine that it was technically miles ahead of anything built in this country in 1927. The example which I once owned and put into an 8-litre Bentley chassis was put on a roller dynanometer to get the carburation right. Unfortunately this dyna.noMeter was only capable of absorbing 180 b.h.p. at the back wheels and my Car was giving this at 3,10.0 r.p.m. and full throttle. Peak revs were 4,200 and I do not think it unreasonable to assume that the extra 1,roo r.p.m. would have given at least another forty horse-power. The breathing was ‘very good with very large ports and four valves per cylinder and it had quite respectable valve timing. This gets us to 220 b.h.p. at the wheels and reckoning a conservative to% transmission loss would give 242 b.h.p. at the flywheel.
A lot of hot air has been talked about the Duesenberg, just as it has about Bentley, Rolls and Vauxhall, but it did represent the ultimate achievement of a man who must rank high in the history of motor-car design and I cannot agree that it can be dismissed as silly. B Birm h
ingam. RIAN MoRGAN. ‘The rendering of Morris as Norris was tt caption writer’s error. I cannot understand how I Came to write Sears when I was thinking of Sedgwick, having been talking to Stanley on the starting-line at Brighton—perhaps I should have taken a summer holiday _after all. Apologies to all concerned.—En.]
That Early A.B.C. Engine
Regarding the illustration on page 742 of the September issue, this is not, as the title suggests, a light aeroplane engine but a motor to drive a water pump, designed by Granville Bradshaw and made by A.B.C. Motors Limited of Walton-on-Thames.
It has turned Steel cylinders, 6o mm. bore-43 mm. stroke, and is cheaply constructed; the crankshaft is not forged but machined from 21 in. x in. bar stock. This motor was produced during the 1914-18 war and thereby hangs a tale. These portable pumps were made specially for use in France, to pump out flooded trenches, but were not a success .because, when operating, they gave away the British positions.
Tommy took an instant dislike to them, spiking them well and truly by removing an unessential nut and dropping it through the spark plug hole. On replacing the plug and starting up, the engine would run until an across-the-flat position was reached and a hole pushed through the piston crown, thus stopping the motor. With the silence came a halt in the mortar-bombing as Jerry’s advance listening posts had nothing to fix on. Knee-deep water was, in fact, to be preferred to mortar bombs!
From this design, after the war, came Nhe ” before its time ” A.B.C. motorcycle and the little-known t,100-c.c. flat-twin aircooled car. I have a similar engine (No. 1480) which I am rebuilding, and would like to know how these looked when originally manufactured.
S. Ruislip. CHARLES T. ROBSON.
Another Vintage Mower
I am afraid that your correspondent David Griffin is likely to find that his 1926 Atco lawn mower is practically new !
My own machine, in constant use, is a to-in. Greens Silent Messor which I bought for 30s. in 1931. It was without a grass box and when I contacted Greens for a box and also to have the cutting cylinder ground they informed me that the machine was then around 45 years old, so it has now probably passed its 75th birthday. I have not had the cutting cylinder resharpened since, as it is reversible and self-sharpening, and cuts aswell as ever.
I am fairly certain that Greens made Motor mowers—with a water-cooled Greens engine—for some years prior to the 1914-18 war and possibly some of these are still in use.
Wallington. H. GODDARD.
A Vintage Sewing Machine
May I follow up your correspondence on veteran typewriters with a mention of my wife’s septuagenarian sewing machine ? This has been passed down by successive mothers and slaughters, and still possesses its original instruction book, printed in fanciful type faces and illustrated with engravings. ” If properly used,”
it says, ” the machine will last a very long time. A list of TO medals covers the it years up to 1889, so I imagine that this particular machine dates from about 1890. It is a Frister Rossman ” With Silent Cam Action,” and even in 1961 this remains.a just claim. The only noticeable sounds are the clicking of the shuttle and the whirr of the square-cut gearing from the driving handle. With attachments for a dozen operations, it is up-to-date in all but styling and means of propulsion. Needles have been the only replacements during the nine years it has been with us, there is not a speck of corrosion, and it is currently Making up 15 yards of curtaining. How many 1961 models will be running smoothly in 2032?
A glance at the back cover of the instruction book reveals a bird’s-eye view of the Berlin factory where this worthy example of modern engineering was produced. Outside are two trams, a wagon and a landau—all horse-drawn!
Wimbledon. PETER DFiVENiTSH. [And now this sort of thing MUST stop! But the V.S.C.C., which already has many sub-divisions, may care to enrol owners of ancient typewriters, trams, lawn-mowers, fountain-pens, w.c.’s and sewing Machines.—Eol
A Lady’s Reminiscences
My son-in-lay.’ suggests that some of the tales I tell him of motoring forty years ago might amuse your vintage readers. In 1919 England was motor Mad; Father, just home from the Army, was as mad as any, lie had a 1914 Singer, a stark-looking 2-seater. He was the representative for a farm machinery company and he visited farms all over the North of England. During the -school holidays Mother and I would tour with birm I an
excited 13-year-old child sitting on cushions on the floor.
Once on a desolate Welsh moorland road we broke a spring; Father hunted unsuccessfully for fence wire for repairs. We sat disconsolate on the heather as the sun set. Suddenly Father shouted with delight and pointed to our feet. Mother and I were wearing identical styles of boots which were all the rage at that period, Father had brought them from Paris for us as ” Demob. presents.” They had long legs laced from toe to knee, with high curved French heels, and were considered chic for smart occasions. I recall mine were light brown and Mother’s were black!
We were puzzled till Father explained he wanted the laces. We reluctantly handed them over. Soon, with some things from the tool-kit, he made a splint and lashed it tightly in position over the break with our laces! We travelled very Slowly to Gwytherin, where the blacksmith repaired the spring Whilst Mother and I patiently re-threaded the frayed laces in the myriad ‘eyelets of our cherished boots!
Later we had a red 2-seater Rover Eight. Part of the engine stuck out of both sides of the bonnet! It used to get terribly hot on the Yorkshire hills. It disgraced itself by nearly running off the road on Shap Fell during a terrific gale. Father said the cross-wind affected the steering by blowing on the disc wheels, which seemed large for so little a car! About 1925 we had a French Citroen which was called a “
Cloverleaf” because it had three seats laid out in that shape. I liked it because I had a seat to myself and I learned to drive on this car. But the brakes were peculiar because the footbrake was on the transmission and Father said it cost him £2 tos. to slam on the brakes in an emergency! It used to do something in the back axle!
For sport in those days we used to watch the motor-racing on the beach at Southport. Looking back now it must have been a risky business for only a sketchy rope and wooden posts separated us from the cars, and even that frail barrier was generally trampled underfoot before the meeting ended! I recall my secret passion for a young man called Conan Doyle who drove a big white Mercedes, which screamed in a most blood-chilling way as it sent the sand flying! And it was at Southport too that we saw the total eclipse of the sun in 1927, after trundling overnight in the Citroen. Never up to that time had I seen so many motor vehicles ‘together at one time! Surely that must have been the first real traffic jam!
Later we had a bigger car called a Bean, which we never took to, though it gave no trouble. Then we had a nearly new Austin Twelve. This was a staid, reliable vehicle that would climb anywhere. The only complaint Father ever made was about the water pump. Father lent me this car for my honeymoon! My main recollection is that the petrol tank was under the driver’s scat, and oh! the smell of every fill-up, how it lived on, and on!
Those happy motoring days seem so long ago now, and so amateurish, yet, when I accompany my daughter and son-in-law to Silverstone and Oulton Park in their Ford Zodiac, and see the massed cars in the car-parks, aglitter with chrome and club badges, I wonder if their owners enjoy their motoring as much as we used to do, forty years ago—do they ? And can some reader tell me what has happened to the smell at the races ? Father used to sniff it like a war-horse! It was exciting!
Bridgwater. JANET Ross (Mrs.). [Ah yes, that smell, of burnt castor oil!—Eo.]
What is all this rot that C. Ciutton has written on the Duesen berg ? He states he knows of ” no competition successes to . hear out its maker’s claims ” (” Vintage Postbag,” October). Please let me help you, Mr. C. C. In 1919 Tommy Milton won the 300-mile Elgin race—this race
rivalled Indianapolis, and in 1920. they came third and fourth at Inch; in the same year Milton took the world’s record in a 16-cylinder car at 158 m.p.h.
Murphy won the French Grand Prix in 1921, Duesenbergs won at Indianapolis in 1924, 1925 and 1927.
Ab Jenkins, of Salt Lake City, drove an SJ for 24 hours at an average. of 135.47 m.p.h.; it did 160 at times.
The model-J was, anyway, only a lead on to the SJ and that, my dear chaps, would do from .o to too m.p.h. it) 17 sec. and had 320 horses at 4,750 r.p.m.
B. F. P .0. 29. Sgt. K. IL. LLOYD.