An aero-engined flyer

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The Aero-Engined CC, of which I was once told I was president, seems to have died without trace. A pity! But VSCC racing continues to be enlivened by a goodly number of such cars. One of the worthy ones is the Hall-Scott Peugeot built by Richard Black, a Special made up of vintage components, and certainly not a replica.

When I saw a picture of it in the VS CC Bulletin, I thought for a moment that one of the 1912/13 all-conquering 5.6-litre GP Peugeots had been found, or perhaps the 1913 Coupe de L’Auto 3-litre Peugeot which the son of French chocolate-maker Menier had bought. He refused FF60,000 for it when it came back to France after Arthur Duray had won the 1914 Indy 500 in it; alas, young Menier joined the Air Force as soon as war broke out and was shot down and reported missing. He came home three years later to find his prized possession had been sold for FF5000. But it turned out to be neither of these cars. Black built this car because he admired those pre-WW1 Peugeot racing cars which the great Georges Boillot drove so effectively.

Haifa dozen or so years ago, Richard Black had acquired enough period pieces, mostly from France, to build a similar car, such as an original 1913 Type 148 Peugeot chassis with springs, radiator, gearbox, axles and some steering, brake and wheel components. This chassis was narrowed and shortened to match the GP cars, and the front axle reduced to comply. As none of the evolutionary twin-cam racing Peugeot engines was available, Richard installed a 1917 nine-litre four-cylinder Hall-Scott aero-engine.

The San Francisco manufacturer was early in the field of four-in-line water-cooled engines before concentrating more on six-cylinder and ohc V8 types. Introduced in 1912, the latter was then developed into the famous V12 Liberty engine.

I had wondered whether the engine in Black’s Peugeot Special could have come from the same Hall-Scott which Giulio Foresti built, before Chitty-Bang-Bang, for Count Lou Zborowski and which Lord Donegal, while he was at Oxford, found at Brooklands and used as an exciting road-going car. But presumably its crankshaft would have been altered to take a car-type clutch, whereas the engine in the Peugeot had not been altered. To obtain the higher gearing such a power unit prefers an ‘over-drive’ top gear, which was contrived by re-engineering the gearbox’to drive through the layshaft and back through the output shaft.

This allows this desirable vintage Special to tramp on at more than 100mph with the engine turning at a mere 1000rpm. As Richard says, only for the foolhardy or very brave, as only rear-wheel brakes are available; which should warm Sadie Wigglesworth’s heart. So, a fine fun-car, built from period parts and looking right, but never intended to be a ‘grand prix original’.

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