Rumblings, October 1943

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How to get rich

If you do not object to commercialising your enthusiasm for fast motor-cars, there is an infallible method awaiting you of entering a business which requires little capital and aims at an immense turn-over. There is really no need to know much about cars. All you require is a backyard, or two or three lock-up garages, a regular order for the motoring weeklies and a regular supply of this paper. When a private owner advertises a sports car at a reasonable and fair sum, either you or an accomplice call on him, enthuse over the car, and purchase it. The next step is to tow it to your premises and plaster it with paint, preferably Italian racing red. All that now remains is to advertise the vehicle in the motoring papers as “recently overhauled and resprayed, very fast, owner joining up,” at the same time putting up the price to about six times what you paid for it. You then sit at your telephone awaiting some young sucker who is desperately keen to acquire a car of the make concerned. If your glib exaggeration of its condition, its past owners and its racing career fail to sell it, you can be sure that, sooner or later, another vendor will grow jealous of your stock and will buy it up – admittedly not at six times its value. but making you a fiver or a tenner on each car. If this doesn’t happen you can always dispose of the remains to a breaker after trying your luck with it for a couple of years, at the price it will then be worth, and still you have only lost a tenner or so.

Actually, trading on the growing desire on the part of those now in the Services and other organisations (who are winning the war for you) to own sports machinery, you should do very much better than that. Youngsters without experience will fairly easily believe your fantastic claims for m.p.h. and r.p.m., and it is surprising how new paint and some judicious polishing of visible parts attracts attention away from worn gears and spent engines. In any case, if you do not always manage to sell that elderly Frazer-Nash you bought for £15, for a round £90, or get rid of that Bugatti you got in pieces for £35 and somehow threw together, for £150, you will still have a fairly pleasant existence out of the Army, with petrol to burn, and a chance to unload your more unsaleable “bargains” on to your fellow vendors and then “sink-their-ship” by telling as many clients as possible just what fearful cars these were.

Moreover, to safeguard yourself from complete insolvency, you can, if you wish, go to work in the ordinary way and run your business from your office and in the evenings. Of course, by asking such stupidly high prices for old or spent cars you keep them away from the real enthusiast who would like to rebuild them, until they are so aged or soiled as to be all but worthless. But what price the enthusiast, if you catch your sucker? There is just a possibility that after the war things may not be so easy for you. Authority, they do say, will frown on unskilled folk who seek to possess trade plates and garage businesses. Owners of cars such as the Bugatti may tumble to your little game and take great care that they sell only to bona fide private owners when they decide to dispose of their cars at a fair price. Genuine enthusiasts, while having no compunction about getting the highest reasonable sum of money when selling a personal car in order that it may make way for another, may grow suspicious of club members whose cars always look far smarter when they are for sale than when they are on the road and who change such cars with considerable frequency, almost always at a nice profit. They may decide not to have dealings with vendors who patently know very little, historically or mechanically, about the cars they have to sell. After all, they can always get a fair deal from those in the Trade who race their own cars against those of their clients, so that they make a name for themselves in a world hard enough in all conscience to enter, and because, in any case, they enjoy doing so. However, until that day dawns you should do quite well if you decide to become an amateur motor-car vendor and you stand a chance of becoming quite rich.

The Future

The Motor has been publishing a valuable series of interviews with leaders of the Industry in an attempt to collect, their views about the future. Let us see how the results of some of these interviews seem to the enthusiast. H.F.S. Morgan’s keynote is economy, with emphasis on engines capable of running 80,000 miles without a rebore, automatic chassis lubrication to obviate early wear of chassis parts, a 4-speed gearbox with a high top ratio to reduce fuel consumption, and so on. He stated, however, that he would hate to see the roads crowded with cars of very low power and performance, regarding them as more dangerous than fast cars. He hoped that, if the horse-power tax has to remain, it may be considerably reduced. G. van Vestraut hopes for better accessibility, smaller engines achieving a m.e.p. of anything up to 180-200 lb./sq. in. with sleeve valves, using 100 octane fuel, a reversion to separate gearboxes, and increased employment of i.f.s. W.R. Turner, of Standards, dislikes the idea of standardisation, and very much dislikes the horse-power tax. He hopes for a combined tax on fuel and engine capacity. He is interested in plastics and believes that design has not yet reached anything like finality. C.M. van Eugen, of Wolseleys, considers that future design will be governed by political and economic conditions, and recognises that each country builds a different sort of car. He thinks in terms of typically British cars, rendered inexpensive by increasing standardisation. Edward Turner, of B.S.A.s, thinks mainly along lines of engineering progression, embracing integral construction, smaller wheels, air-cooling and fluid flywheels. He would like to see taxation based on fuel and on the area occupied by the car. Tom Brown, of the Nuffield Organisation, seeks stronger, lighter cars, economical operation, and a new tax that will encourage these things. He deplores suggestions for rationalisation of the Industry and hopes to see 90-100 octane fuels normally available.

These ambitious interviews, of which the above extracts are taken from only a few, clearly indicate that the British Motor Industry intends to enter the peace with plenty of fighting spirit. However, regarded solely from the viewpoint of the enthusiast, the findings are a little disappointing, sensible though they are to those seeking to purchase better transportation. No one seems to have thought in terms of complete designs, such as those outlined last month in this paper by Capt. Moon, and this month by Cecil Clutton. If cars of this calibre do not become available to the sporting motorists after the war, they will probably prefer to buy and recondition existing and vintage high-performance cars rather than speculate in the new-car market.

Auction Sale

Auction sales at breakers’ yards are a sufficiently rare happening to warrant a little attention. At Ash Vale, near the military town of Aldershot, such a sale was held last month and the first shock was the extreme tidiness of the yard. So neatly were the various components laid out that the enthusiast had no great difficulty in spotting rare items like a Kissle front axle and Bianchi front and rear axles, and radiators that once graced “12/50” Alvis, “30/98” Vauxhall, “18/80” and 2-litre M.G. and 2-litre Lagonda amongst a staggeringly large stack of utility spares. Engines there were in plenty, including Bayliss-Thomas, o.h.c. Chater-Lea, etc. A. 21-h.p. Talbot engine went for 3s., Lea-Francis, Wolseley Hornet and M.G. back axles fetched 2s. apiece, a Riley pre-selector gearbox £1, a 1936 Morris Ten engine 2s., while a complete Morris Ten Series M body and chassis unit fell under the hammer for a mere half-crown. A Riley Six radiator cost the buyer 5s. and 4- or 6-cylinder engines of this make went for 2s. a time. More expensive were a single-cylinder de Dion of about 1910 vintage, in poor condition, and a 4-cylinder pre-1914 Metallurgique 2-seater; Goodey, the Twyford breaker, got these for 29s. and 67s., respectively.

A Useful Book

Readers who amuse themselves with solid-scale models of aircraft – incidentally, why not of cars? – will find “Camouflage, 1914-1918” most interesting on the subject of last-war aircraft and their correct markings and colouring. It is available from the Aero Modeller offices, price 3s. 6d., and contains photographs and colour plates of most of the 1914-18 types – aircraft which Dick Nash and Richard Shuttleworth, of our world, took considerable trouble to preserve.

Odd Spot

From the Evening Standard: – “Early the next morning we heard the rumbling of heavy motor-cars. They were British!” The exclamation mark is theirs.