British Quality Cars
A very interesting feature of this year’s release of new models is the attention now being paid to really expensive chassis, which indicates that the automobile designer, at any rate, considers that wealth is returning to this island. Time was when a luxury car had a very staid performance, but the coming of the 6-Hitre six-cylinder Bentley changed all that. The 1937 luxury cars possess sufficient performance to render them a source of covetous interest to sporting drivers. We have a fine selection over which to break that tenth commandment. There is the Autovia with a V8 engine of efficient design, enabling spacious coachwork to be fitted without involving a very large power-unit. Indeed, the capacity does not exceed 8-litres, and the chassis costs £685. The new 4.3-litre Alvis ranks amongst the finest of the world’s large sports-cars, and will probably prove the only unsupercharged job capable of exceeding one hundred miles per
hour with closed bodywork. The standard saloon model involves signing away 6995, but it cannot be considered really expensive. Daimler offers the straight-eight and the poppet-valve Double SixFifty and Hispano are continuing their V12. The new Jensen, with modified Ford V8 engine and truly English lines, is amongst the finest sports models, priced at £645, and also following up the lead set by Railton, the’ Lammas supercharged 3i-litre represents the British version of the popular trans-atlantic Graham. The Siddeley-Special, with its light-alloy construction, 5-litre push-rod engine and dignified external outline, is continued for the coming year, priced at £1,050 with sports saloon bodywork. If the V8 engine, pioneered in this country by RollsRoyce and Guy, amongst others, is reviving, the straight-eight is not in the background. The famous Leyland Eight, Beverley-Barnes, and 30 h.p. and 35 h.p. Sunbeams were apparently before their time as English eight-in-lines, but George Roesch has returned to the straight-eight in designing the new 44-litre Sunbeam. At the time of writing I do not know the valve arrangement of the new Sunbeam, but Roesch has produced some of the most efficient push-rod o.h.v. units ever built, and a big engine with compact combustion chambers in a 10′ 4″ wheelbase chassis ensures that this motor will be an interesting
performer. Of course, I have not forgotten our V12 Phantom III Rolls-Royce, nor the 34-litre and 4i-litre sports Bentleys, nor the “W.0 “-designed 44-litre Lagonda. Big engines are always charming, and some people are going to motor very luxuriously indeed next year.
Brooklands Must Remain
We badly need additional road-racing circuits in this country and if anything comes of the Crystal Palace venture—and I understand work has commenced on the circuit and the club has certainly been formed—I suppose it will be all to the good. But I wonder if some people are rather losing sight of the advantages which the old Brooklands course has to offer in certain directions.
In the first place, for research purposes a road-circuit is not ideal. Brooklands can be lapped for hours on end at a certain lap speed or at a given r.p.m. figure, but on a road course different drivers’ cornering methods and weakening brakes or even a shower of rain will adversely affect matters and render the collection of comparative data very difficult. Moreover, far fewer cars can safely be let loose over a road course at the same time. At Brooklands, with the hundred-foot-wide *mile track, the motor-scribe can potter about getting his acceleration figures, the carburetter-tester can commit
steady lappery at sixty miles per hour, hordes of wouldbe racing drivers can go round as fast as their varied motors can manage, and still Mr. Cann has no qualms beneath his waistcoat as he opens the paddock gate to allow Oliver Bertram to try his prowess with 8-litres of 140 miles per hour Barnato-Hassan. I believe that not a single fatal accident has occurred amongst the hundreds of ordinary mortals who have paid their ten shillings for a run round Brooklands. Allowing inexperienced drivers of fast cars out on a road-circuit might not be conducive to such a happy record. Brooklands, an hour’s run from town, is used very frequently as a testing ground by sprint and Donington exponents. One weekly motoring paper takes something like ninety different cars to the track every year in the course of road-testing and in our humble way we, too, always make use of the track facilities. An experimental engineer to a very famous and old-established London motor works told me that tests had usually been made on the North Arterial road
but now that the police have politely intervened, the directors have decided that Brooklands is the only possible place. Of course, people say that driving round the wide concrete course is just too dull, but personally I must claim a weakness for thoroughly enjoying a spin round in anything capable of exceeding eighty miles per hour that has a folding screen. And how many of these critics have been round at 110 miles per hour ? Much of Parry Thomas’s success was attributed to his thorough knowledge of the Weybridge course. Those who sneer at the idea may be interested to know that recently I cut my lap time down by 8 seconds in three consecutive laps, :3 seconds on the second lap by holding the car low round the Byfieet and another 5 seconds the next round by using the same tactics round the Members’ Banking, until finally climbing to get
a good dive down into the Railway Straight. And that was made with a car incapable of lapping at over seventy miles per hour.
Brooklands racing may be comparatively dull, but the old track retains its value as a testing ground, as well as representing a vastly intriguing spot to all real enthusiasts.
The 1936 season saw a great increase in speed-trial and hill-climbing activity, with some quite healthy prizes offered for this sort of motoring—which reminds me that sprint motoring is something of an art. The other day a friend was quoting acceleration figures for his car from fifty to sixty miles per hour. ” Why from fifty to sixty ? ” I asked. He explained that he had been making careful stop-watch tests to ascertain the best speeds at which to change up before driving at Lewes. Correct getaway is a problem that can concern carburetion as well as tyre pressures, a matter to which interesting reference is made in a back-number of ” Bugantics ” in an article on the special Bugatti which F. J. Fielding used to race at Shelsley. Tyres present a pretty problem in this split-second motoring. John Bolster has found that ” Bloody Mary ” spins her wheels far worse with competition covers than with normal or. road-racing tyres at Shelsley. but has found
comps.” useful for speed work on the loose-surface of Dancer’s End Hill. Esson-Scott has used twin ordinary covers on his Bugatti, finding them preferable to single low-pressure tyres of very large section. A big area of tread in contact with a wet road surface is more liable to cause skidding than a smaller area of considerably broken tread.
John considers that twin rear covers would increase the unsprung weight of his ” Mary ” unduly. He believes in the Tecalemit ” Pneugrippa “process. Also he believes in independent suspension and ” Mary ” may appear with such suspension next year, when she is likely to have sprouted yet another engine. Incidentally, twin rear tyres are not worn at Shelsley in case one tyre punctures, as a certain fair onlooker would have it.
The entry for the last 5:00-Mile Race showed only too plainly how few cars there are in existence really suited to prolonged circuits of Brooklands at high speed. This calls to mind some interesting theories which were put forward to me last year by a Scottish enthusiast. At the time this driver had just competed
in a spced trial with a very curious car, in the form of the historic 1907 sixty-horse-power Napier with which S. F. Edge established his 24-hour record at Brooklands, making the first run there after the opening ceremony, into which had subsequently been installed a 250-horse-power Rolls-Royce Falcon aero-engine. The work had been carried out originally for the late Col. Henderson, who used to run the flying school at Brooklands in the Avro days, and who wanted an exciting touring car. A photograph shows the Napier, which has a radiator from a Rolls-Royce, to look more like an armoured car than a “sportswagon,” but nevertheless its owner claimed 112 miles per hour in spite of the inadequate chassis and twin rear covers, and eleven miles per gallon.
He went on to discuss his ideas on the subject of a cheap and reliable Brooklands car. The ” Falcon ” R.R. motor was easy to maintain and cheap to acquire. It could be dropped into a 3-litre Bentley chassis, he assured me, with no difficulty at all. Naturally, a new front axle, and entirely new transmission giving the desirable high-gear ratios would be needed. I have mislaid his figures but remember that the estimated cost was not excessive. Indeed, for quite a reasonable figure my informant pointed out that he would have a car capable of 145 miles per hour, weighing about 30 cwt. and capable of being steered and braked in safety up to this speed. It should lap Brooklands at 125 miles per hour on a very moderate throttle-opening and be reasonable with tyres. The sort of motor, it seems, with which an outer-circuit enthusiast might recapture something of the glamour of the Parry Thomas days, running in all the short and long handicaps, the Relay Race and the ” 500 ” every year, for an outlay far short of that necessary to create and maintain cars of the Barnato-Hassan and Napier-Railton calibre. I have sometimes thought that the older large sports chassis would develop into exciting outer-circuit cars and was interested to see a six-cylinder o.h.c. Straker-Squire chassis in Granville Grenfell’s shed. However, I gather this engine will be put into a modern frame of small dimensions in time for the 1937 Shelsleys.
A Vintage Day
Cecil Clutton invited me to Brooklands one Saturday recently to see how members of the Vintage Sports Car Club amuse themselves. I was met at the entrance and driven to the paddock in a 1908 Rolls-Royce breakdown lorry towing Clutton’s 12-litre 1908 Itala. The authorities objected to the war-cry of the big four-seater, so we were reduced to taking rides in the Itala along the aerodrome road. Dick Nash was invited to drive and was absolutely in his element. In the afternoon I was given a run in a beautifullypreserved 1910 16 h.p. Fafnir that Clutton’s father regularly uses during the summer months. Then back to the track in Clutton’s 1921 side-valve 80/98 Vauxhall, which can still manage about ninety miles per hour. Here we found Robertson-Roger going round with the ex-Birkin blower Bentley 4i-litre four-seater, so I was taken round for a lap at 99.4 miles per hour. Then C. S. Burney, who will be running a New Orleans in the Veteran’s Brighton Run, took me round in his 1927 3-litre red-label
Bentley, which in spite of being an exceptionally smooth and quiet example, held its 2,800 r.p.m. (eighty miles per hour) down the Railway Straight. A short run in a Brescia Bugatti and then back to town in the tonneau of the blower Bentley. Incidentally it was quite a Bentley gathering, for two ” Sixes ” and James Allason’s short-chassis Windrum and Garstins 4i-litre were also circulating, as was a small Mercedes of mysterious aspect, beautifully finished in blue and silver, looking for all the world like a miniature ” 38-250 ” and with quite as potent a siren-scream when the blower cut in.
By the way, Marcus Chambers has established a tuning depot of his own.
30 98 Lure
A few notes from a letter just to hand from Clutton, keen 30/98 Vauxhall enthusiast. The side-valve E type develops 98 b.h.p. and weighs 25 cwt. roughly. Maximum revs. around 3,200. Steel con-rods. Axleratio 3 to 1. Straight tooth drive, four-star differential. Gear-ratios 3, 4.5, 7 and 11 to 1. Equals about
100, 66, 42 and 27 m.p.h. Snags—ratios rather too wide. Compression-ratio can be raised but not by a great deal. Lightening the flywheel improves acceleration. Dual ignition can be arranged and is a great improvement. The O.E. o.h.v. model normally developed 108-112 b.h.p. and weighed around 26-27i cwt. Maximum revs. about 3,600 and this can be improved upon as rods are of duralumin, but these same rods then give trouble. Big-ends also a limiting factor. ” R “
lubricant should always be used. Top-gear ratio 8.3 to 1. Spiral drive and only two-star differential, which needs watching. The fast O.E. models now frequently use S.V. axles. Head has to be tapped for dual ignition. T. H. Plowman’s 80/98 was attaining 103-104 m.p.h. during the M.C.C. One-Hour High Speed Trial and is said to have lapped at 93-94 m.p.h. John Bolster is another keen 80./98 user. He writes that on a Scottish tour, cruising at 80 m.p.h. wherever possible, the petrol consumption of his mildy-hottedup O.E. model worked out at 17-19 m.p.g., and driven gently the car does 28 m.p.g.
The speed range is 5-90 m.p.h. on top gear and the Vaux. is able to leave a well-known modern straighteight sports-car standing in the matter of acceleration. It is also lighter to steer ; John says it is the least tiring car to drive he knows, with the possible exception of the 8-litre Bentley.
The 3.8-litre Alfa-Romeo with which Hans Ruesch and Richard Seaman won the Donington Grand Prix so very easily, was credited with a record lap in practice at 75i m.p.h. Round the Donington Park circuit top gear sufficed, save for about two corners each lap. The b.h.p. is around 400 and the suspension independent.
The other really fast Alfas in this country now comprise C. E. C. Martin’s .8.2-litre monoposto which has normal springing, Austin Dobson’s 2.9-litre with Dubonnet front suspension, and the Ferrari 8.2-litre which Ashby ran at Brighton, also with Dubonnet suspension.
In the course of his address on “Speed,” given after he had been elected president of the I.A.E., Capt. J. S. Irving stressed the need for roads adequate to the needs of fast motor traffic, saying that to-day 100 m.p.h. on Brooklands is often less hazardous than half that speed on the road. He foresaw a time when speeds of 100 m.p.h. would be common on arterial roads. He emphasised the value of streamlining, mentioned tests which showed a saving in fuel consumption of 80 per cent., as between a Ford V8 saloon and a streamlined Dubonnet saloon, though the Ford’s figure was very creditable. In the slides was a picture of the 230 m.p.h. “Golden Arrow,” but though he designed that famous car, Irving made no reference to it. These I.A.E. meetings are held at the Society of Arts, John Street, W.C., and visitors are usually
welcome on signing the visitors’ book. The next lecture will be delivered on November 3rd. The subject is ” Rear-engined cars.”
The Real Thing
I make no excuse for using this title after a drive in Robertson-Roger’s ex-Birkin blower 4i-litre Bentley. This fine car surely represents sports motoring in its highest form, and save for the SSK Mere. or, perhaps, Bachelier’s supercharged ” 4.9 ” sports Bugatti, there is nothing to rival it. I will not assert that it is the fastest car in use on the road, because Conan Doyle’s views on the matter appear elsewhere in this issue. But it has a maximum of about 130 m.p.h. in full touring rig. On the road it cruises effortlessly up to 80 m.p.h. at very moderate engine speeds, on the 3 to 1 top gear, and its acceleration is definitely of the hit-in-the-back variety. On Brooklands we lapped
at nearly 100, holding 3,100 r.p.m. (about 105 m.p.h.) all along the Railway Straight and reaching about 110 off the Members’ Banking. The revs, were purposely kept down to humour new pistons and shockabsorbers and plugs were not touched. The big car rides very steadily, though it liked to go quite high round the Byfleet and the tail wagged to some extent. The instrument board is a sight to enthral— full of dials, though no speedometer could be
squeezed in. A small hand pump maintains fuel pressure-1i lb. per square inch for road work, 2 lb. on Brooklands—and two drip feeds before the passenger look after the lubrication of the Villiers blower. The passenger’s door has racks containing an assortment of tools and the driver’s pipes and a small plate on the dash still bears the name of the Hon. Dorothy Paget. Before one are two tiny aero screens and a big mirror. The heavily louvred bonnet with its big straps and the immense quick-action cap on the radiator are immensely satisfying. The t t mechanic” is provided with a leather hand-grip, the pedals are drilled and the big steering-wheel is nicely corded. On the indirect ratios the noise from the huge fan-tail becomes excessive as the revs, mount, but cuts out sharply as the driver lifts his foot, and I found the howl of the wide-tooth gear-box pinions quite exhilarating.
Asking what sort of averages he can put up, I was told that the Bentley put 120 miles into about two hours going up the Great North Road early one morning. Robertson-Roger asks me to appeal to owners of oldschool Bentleys to join the Bentley Owners’ Club, which is now a limited concern. The club is holding a race for its members at the closing B.A.R.C. meeting, a thing I imagine few other clubs could arrange.