Letters from readers, October 1940




Some people seem to think that a large part of life in the Services consists, after the preliminary training, of Waiting. Since most of the real experts on motoring matters are in one uniform or other, hopes have been expressed that some of them may while away the time by committing their motoring knowledge to paper. It is most essential that the author should check and re-check every fact even when he thinks he is sure of it.

I recently picked up Lonsdale Library’s ”Motor Racing” again in a more intensely critical mood than on previous occasions. Of course, it is always terribly easy to pull a book to pieces if you set about it, and the last man you can blame is the editor, who cannot be expected to know more about all of a diversity of subjects than his individual expert Contributors. Without having actually checked up ourselves, I venture to say that in each of the following instances the contributor made a mistake which, by more careful reference work, could have been avoided.

(i) In reporting the 1921 French Grand Prix, it is neither fair nor accurate to say that the Duesenbergs were “the only cars fit for the test” and that Ballots were “not at their best,” for in point of fact Chassagne led on a Ballot until a stone went through the fuel tank.

(ii) There was no 4½ litre Peugeot built in 1913, so that the car illustrated must be either the 1913 5.6 litre job or the 1912 7.6 litre. Nor is it time to say that the 4½ litre was Peugeot’s most famous type, since it was defeated at Lyons in 1914, whereas both the 1912 and 1913 models were unbeatable. Its valves, incidentally, were not driven by inverted pistons, as stated.

(iii) The 1924 Bugattis did not have alloy plates bolted to the cylinder block to form the outer walls of the water jacket. Furthermore, it was not until 1926 that blowers were added, the cars running unblown in the 1925 French Grand Prix.

(iv) The 1937 G.P. Mercédès was 5 litres (not 4 or 4½) and developed 500 b.h.p. (not 400). The De Dion rear axle was split (not solid), suspension was not by transverse leaf spring but by torsion bar, the frame was not box section but tubular, the shockers were not friction but hydraulic, and finally the blower was not traditional Mercédès but sucked from the carburetter in the more usual manner. I pause for breath.

(v) The 1938 Auto-Union was certainly not their most famous or successful model, in fact it only had two wins in the whole year, at Donington and Monza. The brakes were admittedly of the “all-leading shoe” variety, but were also interesting in that there were four shoes per wheel. The weight formula for 1938 stipulated that cars must weigh not less than 880 kg., whereas the contributor, getting it wrong way up, states that they had to weigh not more than 750!

(vi) As the De Dion axles on both Mercédès and Auto-Union were split tubes, it is silly to speak of their being in torsion.

To continue would be tedious, but I hope I have made my point. Being misinformed about them is not going to help our budding experts, after the war, to better the pre-war German racing cars.

I am, Yours etc.,


London, W.2.

[Very worthwhile corrections, for we confess that these points largely escape the notice of even expert readers, who accordingly go ill-informed.—Ed.]

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I am writing to congratulate MOTOR SPORT on continuing publication hi these times of stress.

I have been a regular reader for about three years and appreciate it more than ever nowadays as the paper is now the only thing which keeps enthusiasm alive.

Like thousands more, I’m longing for the re-opening of Donington, Southport, Shelsley and Wetherby, where I spent many happy days before the war.

As an item of interest; I remember about 18 months ago going up to Bradford from Glossop to view a weird and wonderful car—a 3 litre Sunbeam of 1918 vintage. It was a really tough job with a huge 5 in. diameter outside exhaust, round 50 gallon fuel tank at the rear and a truly impressive “cockpit” with a steel grating floor and numerous taps, pipes and oil drip-feeds.

There was of course an outside handbrake and gate gear-lever, flat wings over the front wheels and none on the rear. The car had actually been on the road up to 1925 and was reported to have been raced by Segrave at one time.

A friend of mine has a 1927 Amilcar “Surbaisse” model, but I think it’s laid up for the duration. It is a really smart little car, and although it’s lost most of its guts it is still very enjoyable to have a run in. The outside exhaust is home made and devoid of any silencer except a fishtail. We once went round Woodhead on a Sunday afternoon with the back half of the exhaust removed. The effect was very pleasing. For several weeks before the Dunkirk evacuation I drove a 15 cwt. Bedford truck which had a really sporting appearance with aero screens and “knobbly” tyres. The acceleration was very good and I was sorry to have to part with it. With so many enthusiasts in the Forces and so few sports cars on the road there is not much to keep one’s interest in the sport alive; but I think most old readers will continue with MOTOR SPORT. I always enjoy “Rumblings” and “General Notes.”

Good luck to the paper and the Sport,

I am, Yours etc.,



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I am writing to ask you if anyone can put me in touch with the whereabouts of a 1924-25 Grand Prix 2-litre Sunbeam? These cars were raced very intensively, as you know, at Brooklands by Kaye Don, Jack Dunfee and others from about 1927 to 1933. I believe one car went to Ireland as I remember the Ulster Trophy being won by one of them, I think in 1934.

I should be most grateful for any information as I am anxious to acquire one of these cars.

I would like to say how much I admire your war effort, as it must be very hard to get any racing information these days. Keep it up!

With best wishes,

I am, Yours etc.,




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I am only 15 but I am a car catalogue collector and I have got all the 1938 and 1939 catalogues but only a few prior to 1938. Catalogues of the 3 and 4½-litre Bentleys, “30/98” Vauxhall, Alfa-Romeo and Bugatti, and other high-grade cars I would like to buy if possible. I have genuinely read MOTOR SPORT for 4 years. In passing, I would welcome anyone who would like to come and “talk cars” for an evening. If any soldier genuinely interested in sporting motoring and racing would like to come, he would be made welcome. Hoping you can help me and wishing you the best of luck.

I am, Yours etc.,


134, Heaton Moor Rd.,

Heaton Moor,

Nr. Stockport.

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I consider your idea for the meeting of enthusiasts in the Services an excellent one, and would like to say that any who happen to be in this district will be very welcome. I can always be found at the address given below.

Actually I am more of a motor-cycle fanatic, partly through inclination, and partly owing to a sad lack of the necessary wherewithal with which to run the, to me, ideal car, i.e. either a short chassis “Red-label” Bentley or an O.E. “30/98” Vauxhall. At the moment I’m in the process of building up a racing side-car outfit, basically Rudge but largely Burton in design, with which I hope eventually to frighten all and sundry, including, in all probability, myself. When this is finished, I intend carving about my 1934 Riley with the possible addition of a blower, during the intervals in which it is laid up owing to the lack of further petrol coupons—a sadly frequent state of affairs, I fear.

I am, Yours etc.,




Nr. Oswestry,


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Congratulations on the excellent August number of MOTOR SPORT and especially on Mr. Clutton’s “The Vintage-Modern Axis” which is perhaps the most interesting motoring article I have read for several years.

Perhaps the contrast drawn between the really modern 12-cylinder Lagonda and the almost anonymous outdated, but nevertheless very expensive, competitors, will give serious food for thought to the producers and clients of the marque concerned, with eventual good results.

I was glad to see that Mr. Clutton did not this time condemn that remarkably good value-for-money car, the S.S.100, which has all the attributes of the vintage cars so near to Mr. Clutton’s heart; i.e., high power-to-weight ratio, high gear ratios and small frontal area. Is Mr. Clutton’s previously expressed dislike due to the low price of this car?

I cannot help feeling that if the S.S.100 hailed from the Continent Mr. Clutton would have held it up as an object lesson to our own sports car manufacturers.

As an owner of a Type 328 Frazer-Nash B.M.W. and also a Type 34 of the same make I was glad to read Mr. Clutton’s appreciation of these marvellous cars. As a Jew in a Ford alongside my 328 in a traffic block the other day said, “What a pity THEY make such very fine cars!” Whilst agreeing that the finish of my Type 34 is not superior, I cannot agree that the transmission is not all that it should be. Certainly my clutch is now in need of attention, but then it has done 70,000 miles! Transmission trouble is only suffered by owners who rocket their tuned Type S.S.’s over trials courses. What car does not suffer under these conditions? Sensible “non-trial” owners have no trouble.

I am, Yours etc.,


London, S.W.2.

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I wonder whether you could give me some information about the little Amilcar “6” which P. Courtney drove up till the war? These cars have always interested me, and as his is one of the few which are (or were) still running, some details of the motor, both mechanical and historical, would be of great interest.

Wishing MOTOR SPORT all the best.

I am, Yours etc.,



[Can anyone who knows the twin o.h.c. Amilcar Six send some details?—Ed..]

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Many thanks for keeping the good book going; its arrival is eagerly awaited every month.

The vintage articles especially are very welcome, as the writer has happy memories of a very clean 3-litre Bentley parked ignominiously away in a garage near home, on blocks with all wheels removed for painting, and with engine oil squirted carefully through each plug hole . . . .

We can only hope that Mr. Hitler’s demands for our scrap will not be too exorbitant, or a carefully nurtured plan for replacing the existing engine with a “4½” after the war will probably go haywire . . . .

The real object of this letter is to disagree in part with Mr. Clutton, whose article in the August issue was very welcome—I enjoyed it very much.

It would, however, seem to be the beginning of a controversy, because although I believe that very few real motors are produced these days (in terms of pre-war production) I should like Mr. Clutton to explain why he thinks that modern Alfas are only to be used by “Jew boys to take their—anyway to go to Brighton for the weekend.”

Also why does the 540 K Mercédès come in for a bad handout?

To be truthful, I must state that I have had very little experience of expensive cars beyond Bentleys, but I fail to see why a very expensive and well-turned-out automobile should not be value for money, and “fit for the purpose intended.” Or is it that the reviewers of the aforesaid automobiles had their tongues in their cheeks when they wrote out the report?

By the same token, are we to believe that the V12 Lagonda is not a most excellent car of its type, and that, according to its figures, it is the fastest standard closed car on the road?

Surely a properly shortened version of the Le Mans model would be more or less unbeatable on the road, indeed I hope to see the day when these motors are sufficiently aged to come within range of my humble pocket . . . .

Anything that Mr. Bentley does is certainly OK by me, for I am also a very nostalgic enthusiast, possessing quite a lot of affection for the cars which have gone before, not necessarily of Mr. Bentley’s design, either.

I hope this letter is not too long, but I certainly believe in credit where it is due, so I hope Mr. Clutton will tell me why some of the “real” modem cars do not rate quite so high in his estimation.

I am, Yours etc.,



[Well, well, pick up the gauntlet, Sam! But did Mr. Clutton say anything against the V12 Lagonda except that it is a big car and its steering is low-geared? It is one of the fastest and greatest of the moderns.–Ed.]

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Herewith are details of a Special which may prove of interest to readers of MOTOR SPORT.

The chassis began life as the basis of a 1924 “De Luxe” Morgan, which after many years of faithful service was consigned to retirement in the corner of a local coal yard. The coal merchant had tried to dispose of the vehicle, but his powers of salesmanship failed to convince even the most credulous of intending purchasers that the tent-like object beneath a coal heap was actually a motor car with erected hood.

I acquired the car for the mere cost of the energy expended in heaving aside the coal, and the Morgan was towed away amid howls of derision from juvenile members of the local populace.

At this stage much credit must go to my good friend, Mr. E. J. W. Kay, who spent many tedious hours in the stripping and cleaning of engine and chassis.

The brakeless front wheels were scrapped, new stub axles being turned to accommodate Austin Seven wheels. The Blackburn engine was completely rebuilt and “hotted up.”

The body is unusual and interesting, inasmuch as although possessing somewhat pleasing contours, no panel beating was employed, the tail and fin being made in three sections, each folded at the rear. The top section or fin is readily detachable to gain access to the rear wheel and transmission.

Extensive use of aluminium and plywood has resulted in a useful power-weight ratio—careless handling of the throttle producing tail slide on a dry concrete road.

Steering reduction is through a model T Ford box, the spindle of which is keyed to a light Amilcar wheel.

The gear change lever is outside, the quadrant being a Sturmey-Archer motorcycle type, and is within comfortable reach of the driver’s hand.

A very attractive instrument panel was made from blue and silver “Laminoid” (a material used for the manufacture of fancy combs, etc.), and with its attendant chromium-plated 6-inch rev. counter and gauges, etc., looks very businesslike. A good use was made of a spare drip feed pump, this component now serving as a dash controlled lubricator for the driving chains.

In conclusion, I must add that any aeroplane influence in the design may be due to the fact that both Mr. Kay and myself are actively interested in aviation.

I am, Yours etc.,


London, N.21.

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Your road test article on Mark II Aston-Martin was very interesting, but you appear to be in error on the maximum r.p.m. of this engine. Mark II engines have a safety limit of 4,750, not 5,500 as stated, and even the “Ulster” engine only runs up to 5,250. The oil pressure also seems on the low side as minimum pressure should be 15 lbs. up to 2,000 r.p.m., and approximately 39 lbs. over that point. This seems to point to a certain amount of wear on the engine under test.

It is very pleasant to see a very fine car given a little publicity, and one hears so little of the Aston-Martin as a rule that it occurs to me that an article by someone well acquainted with these cars would be very welcome to a lot of your readers.

I am, Yours etc.,




[Diluted oil may have resulted in the low oil pressure reading, as when fresh oil was added, things improved.—Ed.]

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I have always admired the Frazer-Nash, so I purchased a chassis from a Hampshire breaker’s yard in March.

For the very reasonable figure of 30/- got a chassis, with wheels and axles, also transmission, but less engine or radiator. There was a rather ugly home-made body from the scuttle backwards, which was later modified considerably.

After a week of scheming and searching, the only suitable engine seemed to be a six-cylinder Riley, 1933 vintage, and with only one owner since new, as shown by the registration book. In spite of having heard bad reports about this particular model, I bought the engine—which had to be removed from the chassis single-handed, an energetic afternoon’s Work—and had just time to install it in the frame, by the addition of a cross member, when I moved to Dorset, the car on tow behind a Ford V8. After a hectic tow, 120 miles of it, the next two months were spent in coupling up the transmission— very simple, because the Riley box was left on, being pushed into top gear—and finding a radiator—very difficult, but eventually an old s.v. S.S. was used. After impromptu trials, it was towed back to Hampshire, this time behind an A.C.

Once back in Hampshire, a Hornet D.H. coupe petrol tank was fitted, the back altered to fit, the wiring installed and the car was painted dark green. Further trials followed, and eventually it was taxed and insured, not without difficulty, and tried out on the road.

The engine was fairly woolly, so a decoke and new plugs followed; which made an enormous difference. After a month’s motoring, which covered a couple of hundred miles, it was driven up to Yorkshire, which trip was accomplished with a 31 m.p.g. consumption. Speeds as tested by a Riley “Sprite” pacemaker were in the middle 80’s, and still accelerating gently, which I consider quite satisfactory for a very much standard engine. No attempt has been made to depart from the standard engine details, even down to the original single S.U. and thick gasket. Acceleration is adequate, though not startling, but she will pull away from 15 m.p.h. in top quite happily if I feel lazy.

There is one unusual Frazer-Nash feature—an extra radius rod in the centre of the rear axle from the bevel box, which I have not seen before and only heard of once, in one of Mr. H. L. Biggs’s articles, I think.

The chassis was originally an s.v. Anzani, but seems very much lower than the normal s.v. job, which appears to be due to the front axle shape.

The car was first registered in 1933 as APK 808, apparently called the G.P. model. I would be interested to hear from any previous owners of the chassis.

I rather suspect 1932 as the date of birth, as some, if not all, of the Frazer-Nash portion would appear to be considerably older, even late type G.N. is not out of the picture, I imagine.

The fact that a Talbot radiator shell covers the S.S. block causes considerable speculation, judging by the puzzled faces I have seen.

MOTOR SPORT is eagerly awaited by quite a number of people I know.

I am, Yours etc.,


4th Bn. R.T.R.