CARS I HAVE OWNED
[G. A. Browne, serving with N.M. Forces in a very lonely spot, recalls scrre of the cars he drove and cared for in happier times. Ed.]
MY first car was an old bull-nose Morris Cowley with Hotchkiss engine. It was bought for .1;15 and sold for £15, after I had learnt to drive on it, when it tit once broke its gettrbox layshaft ! The main memory of it is a. constant smell of petrol tind an incredible consumption of oil. A 2-Seater Morris Minor followed, ‘and this car was not. very outstanding. It Wt’llt NMI, but was rather nondescript. It always had a rather erablike tendency. especially on wet roads, and this mystery MS not solved until I met its previous owner, who told me that he had crashed it good and proper, which explained its low price. It was very reliable and would do about 55 m.p.h. quite happily, .although the brakes were bad at high speeds. I then ventured into the more exciting fields and bought a super-eta-aged -11vper ” Lea-Francis with the ” Le Mans ” body. It was bought very cheaply !wet:Luse of an ominous rattle in the (Italie.. When we stripped the engine dwelt we found that all the bores were oval and badly worn and that the rattle was coming from a bearing in the superellarger drive, -which as a bearing was practically non-existent. The car was given a rebore and this bearing was renewed, a cracked engine mounting was weitled and after running-in we found that site ‘was now in really good condition. Petrol consumption was 15-20 m.p.g. and oil consumption about 1,200 m.p.g., while oil required by the supercharger was not by any means excessive. This Lea-Franca would do
about 85 In. P• quite happily. I covered a number of miles in it and found no basis for the rumour that the ” Leaf ” is a tricky car. I never broke a half shaft and she never let me down onee. Certainly her braking system was bad, but We removed the vacuum servo and altered the leverages slightly and the brakes were then quite good. I can not recall her year of birth, but I think that it was i929. The Lea-Francis was followed hy a 1932 F-type M. G. Magna. She was in very good condition, hut had a rather unpleasant body. Fortunately. I had a had skid in her which practically wrote-off the body, SO I had a imich nicer one made by a local firm of coachimilders. This put up the appearance so mud’ that after about 10,000 miles in six months I got more than I paid for her. The gearbox on this car was very good, but I thought the chassis was too light for the bad roads I used to drive over in Wales. Again, the brakes Were bad. as oil persisted in getting through to the rear drums. hut after this was (aired they were good, although so senOoth in net ion as to suggest that the car was never stopping quickly enough In an emergency. The driving eompartMent got very hot on long runs, but this was cured fry moving the horn In am the crossbar and bv cutting extra louvres in the dumb-iron apron. I was !sinning entirely on Diseol and another ;tleoliol Petrol and found that by careful attention to the carburetters and ignition setting I Could get 35 m.p.g., with very good
acceleration and a maximum somewhere IT) the region of 75 m.p.h. If one tried any other petrol with the Sante settings the consumption fell to about 28 m.p.g., although the performance did not surrcr so Very Innen. I Was never very happy with this car, although I had no real complaints ; but the smooth braking action used to suggest loss of power (which was tett the (ase) told until the body was rebuilt the driving, position was a shade too low for comfort. Still, it was a good car.
A 1934 17-h.p. Essex Terraplane followed the M.G. This car, although not a sports car, was very satisfactory. At the time when I had it I was doing a number of long runs and she Was very comfortable to drive, with good brakes and road-holding, so that one could put up very glatd times. thi tine oceasion, going to Dortington from Lincolnshire, we caught a Speed Six Bentley in Newark and tailed it to the outskirts of Nottingham, where it went straight on. The only time the Terraplane let us down was due to a faulty condenser, which kindly got us up to Donington and theu petered out. The one real fault was that iii cold we (her the engine would never start in the morning unless the car was pushed for about a yard, NOR”’, le, matter how slowly the car was pushed, off it went at once. We never got to the bottom of this ; all the heaters in the world, different brands of petrol, I nitteros multv ,li:),rgc(1 made not the slightest difference to her. This car was siteccet led hy a 2-litre Type 3.5.1 Modilied G.P. Bugatti, When I bought her this car was in really good tomtit bit and my local garaee looked :dna. her very well for me. The hotly was of semi-racing type, with cut-away driver’s skit: and a low thstr for the passenger. ‘Me spare wi teel was carried in true thigatti style in statps on the near side and there was a led passed for it hood behind the squab. One could just get a suitcase on the p:!ssenger’s seat, sa time luggage problem Wit!: not tao had. The only real fault of the hotly Nvas that it necessitated a cylindrical fuel tank in the tail, which hell only 10 12 gallons. I always felt that it would be worth while to alter this in some way, but I never did. When I gt it the car the mechanical air-pressare pump was out of order and I had te keep the pressure in the fuel tank up ia hand-pump. The meahanical pump it or it piston driven till tire tam,ti:at and returned after each stroke by means or a spring. This spring was found to have broken and had vround down inside itself. After repairing it by inverting the spring so that what. were the t wo outside ends now canw together, I had no further trouble w ith the fuel feed, One just gave one 1r two initial strokes with the hand-pomp and then went over to the mechanical ‘Isom!), which, by some magic of Ettore’s, never built up too high a pressure or let it drop too low. The acceleration of ttu Bugatti was very good and the roadholding and controllability were, of course, excellent—that goes without saying. I finind her most reliable ; providing the plugs n’t’ re kept clean, no trouble Was experienced on the mut. In the coldest veather she started at mac after you had flooded the two Solex earburetters, poinping-up pressure, switched on the coil ignitian anti pulled up once on the handle, 1 ti varialtly site started witlt t ttull lip unless she was really hot, when you had to pull up and o’er. brakes were good, providing Austin Seven pattern tensitmers were used on the cables_ Petrol ettnsumption was about 17 IS m.p.g. I never worked ma la,. oil emes-oe tion,
which. anyway, was very low. I did not approve: of the single level tap used to ascertain the quantity of oil in the sump, as it would tell one if the level was correct, I ut ;1 .1 how much below the correct level the oil was. I never took the engine above 3,500 r.p.m. in first and second gears, but occasionally took it up at 1.,000 r.p.m. ill third, Three-five ” was indicatod In a change in the exhaust note from a quite sharp drone into the authentic lImettti bark, so that decent self-control w;ts required to keoP to the self-htiPosed rev.-limit, In top gear 1 got 1.500 rp.m. and over scv( ral times (lon( easily ; I am not too sure of the speetl. in m.p.h., Limit I worked out that 1,01)0 ratan in top gear was equivalent to 21 nap h. and it) third to 17 m.p.h. and in second to 12 in ph. We one day eheeked this with a Hover and found it Pt Ix rly so that the car was capahle of about 95 m.p.h. and was taken up to about 40 m.p.h. in second and to ttluatt 15 m.p.h. inthird. I pot up same very good averages iii her, including one run, vouched for by Vc peOpil., Or 220 Miles ill t hr. 10 min. over wet Mulls, This wd.s from South Wales ti Linvolnshirc. vi Varwick, 1,cieester and Lincoln. iier !….00dish roads. She would cruise all day at a,500 and never overheat. The itil pressure was very low (about 10 Ile sq, in. when converted to English readings), the lubrication toTangements being rather like those of the Austin Seven and equally dependable. I used to let her warm up from cold until the oil pressure ea n le down to normal before starting out, which took about live minutes at, the tiotsl to this precaution and strict observance a the safe rev.limit I attribute my trouble-free mileage. The lighting system. fitted was poor and the inellivient Marshal headlamps were replaced by two Lucas 11.80 from an old Lagonda. The battery Was a sitecial flat llugatti type living under the driver’s seat and this was replaced Liv a Lucas, accom in( al:ite, I behind the seat squab. The dynamo funetioned well of itself, bill ‘as mounted on the dash and driven by belt, front the camshaft extension to the makeand-break. This belt. was about 2 in, wide and flat, and it was always giving trouble as it was On the exhaust side of the engine, so that the leather got very dry and the fasteners polled out. I serapped it aod had a chain drive made up, which was very s:itkfitetory, especially as a flat spring steel tensioncr was fitted to keep the chain tight. I also removed the old exhaust system, consisting of two branches running into a box silencer, and replaced it by two straight-through Burgess silencers and fishtails, which made the engine run about 5° cooler. I am afraid that I renioved these extras before I sold the car
Next I had a 3-litre Invieta, alleged to be Miss Violet Cowdray’s ” Round-theWorld ” car. It certainly possessed a lot of extras, but I never really liked it, although it was very reliable. The gearbox had rather badly chosen ratios and the touring body seemed far too big. It also had the world’s worst lamps, which were dimmed by a rheostat, so that on-coming drivers did not believe one had taken any anti-dazzle action at all ! I did only 11,000 miles with this car. The maximum speed was about 65 m.p.h., after which the chassis did not really want to At y on the road. Later I had two 4i-litre Invictas of the “low chassis 100-m.p.h.” type and found them really good cars, with the exception of rather hard springing, which resulted in the front wheels dancing a lot on badlysurfaced corners. They were perfect in traffic, as, if one wished, one could dawdle along in top gear at about 12 m.p.h. and pull away quite happily without changing down. I believe that one was a 1930 model and the other a 1931, but both were practically identical, with very minor exceptions. The Meadows engine looked really impressive and they gave 12 m.p.g. of petrol and about 900 m.p.g. of oil. They never let me down on the road ; in fact, this would have been almost an impossibility, as everything vital was duplicated—dual ignition, electric and air feeds from the 30-gallon rear tank and a 2-gallon reserve fuel tank under the bonnet. Both front wings were visible from the driving seat, in spite of the long bonnet. One had to be careful where one took them, as the ground clearance was only about 6 in. ; fortunately, the silencer always grounded first. They were perfectly all right on slippery roads unless one played the silly fool with them. They were nicely geared and up to 60 m.p.h. the engine never seemed to be working. I should say their all-out speed would be about 85-90 m.p.h. in top and 65 m.p.h. in third gear. On the second car I had oversize rear tyres fitted, but this did not appear to make any difference except to render the engine speed even lower for a given road speed ; on the other car 1,000 r.p.m. equalled about 28 m.p.h. in top gear. They were very good so far as starting from cold was concerned, having twin S.U. carburetters with a starting carburetter tapped into the manifold. When cold they were prone to spit back through the carburetters, which were right up against the bonnet louvres, and at night the flames 3aused sonic consternation amongst unknowledgable spectators. I was very satisfied with these two cars and very sorry to let them go to other hands. The only mechanical troubles I had were a broken Bendix spring on one car, due to starting with advanced ignition setting when using the magneto instead of the coil, and a broken casting in the rear axle of the other car, which was
quickly replaced by a gun-metal casting through Anglia Motors.
I also had a Ford V8 drop-head coupe, and that, too, was good. The body was light, with not so Much overhang as on the saloon version, so the car was infinitely more stable. I put on Hartford shockabsorbers and the result was quite good ; one could power-slide the car round bends on a suitable road quite safely, and the brakes were good provided they were frequently adjusted. Needless to say, the car never gave any bother at all, and although with fast driving the fuel consumption was only 15 m.p.g. or so, if one ambled along one could get 25 m.p.g. (really !). I cannot give any speed figures as the speedometer needle used to fluctuate between ” 30 ” and ” 90 ” according to the bumpiness of the road.
A Lancia ” Dialambda ” coupe also gave me a lot of fun, although third gear was too low. This car, again, was most reiable, and although it could never get above about 120 k.p.h. (approximately 75 m.p.h.), it would put up very good averages owing to its really .exceptional cornering qualities and good serve brakes. It had, of course, independent front suspension and it was very comfortable, while it could be flung round corners far faster than at first seemed possible. It had, at one time, a queer fault in the electrical system, when everything just went dead. The first time this happened I was towed about 5 miles home behind a friend’s Bentley. We started off at a .good pace and I did not realise, until we got to the first corner, that without the assistance of the servo the brake pedal would not hold the car. [We have met the same scare on the Big Six Bentley.— Ed.] I couldn’t blow the horn and two hectic miles were covered before the passengers looked round to see if I was still there and we slowed to a more reasonable gait. The trouble was eventually traced to a most unobtrusive failing in the main fuse holder. I also liked my 1).6.11 six-cylinder
Delage„ with Us. and very good brakes and cornering abilities. But it was geared about one gear too low throughout, as top would have made a very good third, etc. The maximum was only about 65 m.p.h. with the engine doing 4,000 r.p.m. Still, it was a very nice car, with a pansy cream two-door saloon body. It really felt” light,” except that one always wanted to change up. I cannot recall the fuel consumption, but it was reason:Ode, and oil consumption was about 1,500 m.p.g. This Delage was a very good car on twisting or hilly roads, but on a long journey it got very hot in front. After this I had a Talbot ” 105 ” 4-seater, which had a maximum speed of about 95 m.p.h. and very good brakes and self-change gearbox. 1 had no trouble except for a split silencer, which I left as it was because it gave the exhaust just enough note to be fun when driving fast, while in towns it was not at all noisy. I found that it paid to balance the front wheels very carefully. I followed this car up with a Talbot “95 “coupe, which was equally as good but not so fast. It developed a habit of pre-selecting top gear to the exclusion of the indirects, due
to a bent selector plate in the self-change gearbox, which is rather a bother to cure. One tip about these ears may be worth passing on. If you close the choke with the throttle pedal or lever at the slowrunning position you find that you come to what appears to be the full travel of the choke control and the car is very hard to start from cold. If, 110N4 ever, you open the throttle and then open the choke the latter has a further movement, which makes all the difference to starting. This is clue to the fact that the choke is designed to open the throttle on the last portion of its travel, but the throttle spring is too strong to allow the full opening, unless aided by the throttle control. The Talbot gave about 15 m.p.g. of petrol and 1,000 m.p.g. of oil.
A Fiat ” 500 ” gave very good results, provided the gearbox was used as much as possible. This little car stands up to hard driving and can be slung round corners like a Bugatti. I did over 9,000 miles very quickly and had no trouble. Flat-out she would do nearly 60 m.p.h. and would cruise all day at 50-55 m.p.h., which she would hold up hill and down dale. On could put up very creditable averages and the fuel consumption was never below 45 m.p.g. and oil was never needed at all.
A 1938 Hilhnan Ten was run for about six months and turned out very well once one realised one should not corner too fast or put the brakes on too hard at speed. She, too, would cruise at 50 m.p.h., and with a slight help from gradients get up to ” 70,” whit.li was quite exciting. Acceleration was good provided one “wished ” the change from third to top. Fuel consumption was never better than 25 m.p.g. and oil consumption was about 1,700 m.p.g.
I also ran a 1931 A.C. saloon and a 1935 Riley Twelve-Six saloon, but as these were owned under war conditions I cannot really give many facts about them. The A.C. was very satisfactory, except that she was rather low-geared. She ran very well on ” Pool ” and would do about 75 m.p.h. and 22 m.p.g. The Riley had about the same performance and fuel consumption, but as I never had time to play about with either of them I cannot give very exact impressions or figures.
I have always had second-hand cars except for the Fiat, and while I have been lucky, possibly, in the actual models and cars I bought, I think the real reason why I have had trouble-free motoring is that I have never taken my cars beyond 75 per cent. of their limits in the gears until it has been obvious that they would stana it, and because I have :ilways been gentle with the transmission in getting away from rest. I have also changed the engine oil every 2,000 miles. The amount of fun and knowledge gained has by far exceeded the money I have spent (which was not really excessive), and I heartily agree with those who buy second-hand good cars. A car is the same as a horse, remember—it wants care and attention and, above all, hands.
If anyone would like further information about my cars I am sure that Mr. Roddy will send on any letters addressed to me c/o MoToa SPORT, and I will certainly answer.