CONTINUING THE STORY 0111 IL MILLIONAIRE WHO COULD
buy any car he fancied and was influenced by race results, as portrayed by the highly talented motoring historian and writer E K H Karslake, in MaroR SPORT, how did the fortunate if fictitious enthusiast fare after WW1? He was still in possession of his Alpine Eagle Rolls Royce but went to 1920 Motor Show, which had overflowed from Olympia to the White City to accommodate the 510 car exhibits. He would no doubt have gone to watch the 1914 Lyons GP, where he would have noted that Peugeot and Delage had fourwheel brakes but that the winning Mercedes did not. So his choice of a replacement for his ageing R-R did not have to be so braked. Prior to this our millionaire, now aged nearly 50, had attended the 1919 Paris Salon. There the new 37.2hp Hispano-Suiza would have attracted his attention, and on the strength of the good showing in the 1910
Coupe de /Auto, the acclaim the subsequent Alfonso model had had and the use of Hispano aero-engines in the war, an order would have placed and the arrival of the fine six-cylinder oh-camshaft, servo-4WB car awaited with impatience until the spring of 1920. If the OHC gear seemed somewhat noisy after the quietness of the R-R, the liveliness and stopping power of the French car would have been more than adequate compensation. Anyway, the Hispano was the most elegant possession you could have wished for at the time, but a visit to the 1921 French GP at Le Mans had made our man aware of the straight-eight engine in the winning Duesenberg and the Ballot and Talbot-Darracq entries, and this prompted him to buy a Leyland Eight at the 1922 show, convinced after seeing its creator, Parry Thomas, lapping Brooklands in one at over 110mph. He now had a very advanced car, with single oh-camshaft prodding inclined valves closed by leaf springs. Its triple eccentric drive ensured quiet functioning, the electric starter only operable by putting the gear lever into the neutral gear-slot for safety, and the coil ignition being cut off by suction as the engine was stopped, to obviate an owner not used to battery sparks running it down. With its torsion-bar suspension and other clever technicalities, and headlamps shaped like Thomas’ watchcase, it was wonderful indeed, but our chap was only just
in time, as manufacture of Britain’s first production straight-eight had practically ceased. Nevertheless, the Leyland, even if a reminder that it was a luxury car sold by a lorry maker, was a make the successes of which its owner could enjoy seeing almost every time he went to Brooklands. But the big car, fast as it was, was not exactly handy on the road. It was kept for 2X years. But in 1924 Hispano-Suizas won at Boulogne and Monza, and a journey to Sicily in the Leyland
produced a profound impression when Andre Dubonnet had kept up with the proper racing cars in his 8-litre Hispano in the Targa Florio, coming home fifth. So as soon as the new 45hp model was available, the Leyland was exchanged for one. Our millionaire had now forsaken his habit of going to the South of France for the English winter and instead was enjoying magnificent runs in early spring in the big Hispano to Sicily, to see the Targa Florio. Costantini’s Bugatti performance impressed, and when the Royale was announced our man motored to Molsheim to see it. He did not admire the Packard body on the prototype chassis, which fitted where it touched, but was inspired
by the Stock Market of 1926 to have one of this “golden product”; he may have gritted his teeth when presented with the bill, although hoping the 12,763cc of the eight huge cylinders would loosen his jaded palate.
When the grandeur had palled a bit and something smaller seemed a good idea, the rise of supercharging in racing prompted the purchase of 36/220 Mercedes-Benz in the autumn of 1928. A year later our car-keen millionaire could have had a 38/250, but the lebensraum of such motoring was sufficient, after the giant Bugatti. However, stopwatch figures had been a trifle disappointing, regardless of the thrill the Mercedes-Benz gave. So the Le Mans successes of the Bentleys year after year made our man ‘Buy British’, influenced by the defeat of the Mercedes there and the Speed Sixes’ showing in 1930. That autumn the 8-litre was announced, and WO got an order.
The new possession would have had an engine the same size as that of the 45hp Hispano-Suiza of a dozen years ago but would probably have been quieter, and it had a four-speed gearbox. Only the memory of the lighter gear change of the HS from that of Mercedes and Bentley prompted our friend to invest in a 9X-1itre V12 HispanoSuiza at the 1931 Show, the gear lever on the right in the early ones. This great car, feeling much smaller to drive, sufficed for four years before it was changed in Autumn 1935 for a Rolls-Royce Phantom Ill. The chassis cost almost £1000 less than that of the HS, but the engine was over two litres smaller. But with a millionaire’s foresight it was a car that would hold its value, and with trouble already on the horizon, this would apply when peace returned. If You had been in this happy situation I wonder what you would have bought? Vintage Postbag is no more but given sufficient answers we could summarise them.