In these days of toil and salvage, when petrol and tyres are only obtainable by the lucky few, most of whom don’t really appreciate them, we, who call ourselves enthusiasts, have to be content with memories and dreams.
So far Motor Sport has given us countless memories of cars and of adventures, but few have dealt with dreams. Dreams of the future, dreams which we hope will one day come at least partially true.
I claim to be one of the many who love cars because they are a delicate piece of machinery which requires skill to handle. Most of my cars have been of a very ordinary type, but they have given me the freedom of the road and many hours of pleasure.
Looking back on the past, the most noticeable fact that stands out above anything else is the pleasure I get from my “old crocks.” Up to 1936 I never paid more than £22 for a car, whilst my best car (not the most expensive one by any means) was a 1932 Riley Nine saloon which cost me £59.
When the war is over and I am demobilised from the Army, what do I look for? First, petrol and tyres and a reduction, if not total abolition, of the h.p. tax. What sort of car do I want? One that is a joy to drive whether in a hurry or dawdling; one that is at home in a garden party or taking my boss out, and at the same time capable of putting up a reasonable show in my inexperienced hands; one that will take me to work at 9 a.m. every morning. I know what you will all say! Unless I pay something about £1,000 for my car, “I’ve had it,” to use an Army expression. My answer is that one car won’t do. Anyway, here are my dreams for what they are worth, and I hope they amuse my unfortunate readers as much as they have me.
Firstly, I am looking for a long-distance car. I think a 14-h.p. DIS or DISS open Delage will fill the bill. A ” 12/50″ Alvis, “14/40” M.G. or “12/40” Lea-Francis are all suitable. Cruising speed of 50-55, reasonably economical on fuel, an interesting gearbox, that unknown quality which we call “feel” and yet, when in good condition and properly maintained, reliable. What more can an impecunious enthusiast ask? For short runs and taking me to work, etc., I am thinking in terms of 11-h.p. Windsor, two examples of which I still know and on which I have first refusal. A “10/23,” or even “8/18,” Talbot also jumps to my mind, and many others completely forgotten but for the enthusiasts who save them from the breaker’s hammer and rebuild them. These cars are interesting to drive, not very fast perhaps, but reliable enough in their day. I always maintain that there is no earthly reason to be ashamed of an old car, provided it is in good condition, well cared for, and behaves in exemplary manner in the way of starting and ability to get to its destination in a proper way.
Now all my requirements are met save trials. Obviously the aforementioned cars cannot be used if their general appearance is not going to suffer. I think a mild special will fill the bill. A 1929 Morris-Cowley 2-seater with “14/40” M.G. engine is my dream. Not very ambitious, I hear my reader murmur; but think a moment. We know that quite a reasonable performance can be expected, it would have a good ground-clearance, plenty of guts, any amount of cheap spares, and would have the advantage of being untimed and ready at short notice to take the place of any of the other cars. Such a “fleet” could be run comparatively cheaply provided there was no standing tax, such as the h.p. tax, to contend with. There are, of course, plenty of other approaches to my problem. This is simply my own idea of a solution and, I might add, not my only idea by any means.
A problem which immediately arises is the question of tax. What tax should we have, if any? Some suggest a complete abolition of the h.p. tax and no additions, but I can hardly see a fatherly Chancellor agreeing to that, in spite of the increased yield from indirect sources. Others suggest a petrol tax, and no h.p. tax. What about a tax on tyres? I feel that there is much to be said for a tyre tax. The car manufacturers will be encouraged to pay particular attention to weight distribution and brakes. The standard of driving in the country might be expected to improve, as violent acceleration and braking would be avoided. The vintage owner would be at an advantage, since his car hasn’t, usually, terrific acceleration; its btakes are frequently doubtful but its weight distribution is often first-class.
May I end on a different note. I should like to take this opportunity of publicly thanking Mr. Boddy and staff of Motor Sport for their magnificent work. Without their labours the vintage cause would be in a bad way and the Sport would be almost dead. As it is, as soon as petrol and tyres are available, the Sport will burst into action stronger than it ever was, with everybody knowing everybody else. Thank you, Mr. Boddy, and all your collaborators, for my monthly ray of sunshine and for all you are doing. May the day be not too distant when I can offer you a nice, pre-war strength pint of good ale.
I am, Yours, etc.,
[This is typical of how so many impecunious enthusiasts see the peace. Let us hope officialdom – and vintage car vendors – will not impair their brave new world. – Ed.]
I rush to the assistance of your correspondent, Mr. Ansell, and hope you will excuse any inaccuracies or omissions in my reply, as I am writing from memory.
His “12/50″ Alvis is an S.C. model, of 1925 vintage; this was the standard sports model of that year. I thought the wheelbase of that type was 9′ 4 1/2″, but if his is 9′ I stand corrected. The standard tyre size was 4.95″ x 21”. The cone clutch was standard in all models up to the end of 1925; his car has no connection with that owned by Mr. Swain.
The port sizes of the standard smallport head are: inlet 32 mm., front and rear exhaust 35 mm., centre exhaust 37.5 mm. The inlet ports may, of course, have been ground out to 35 mm. The exhaust system is standard for the model, as is the updraught Solex carburetter, though I was not aware that the type fitted as standard possessed a barrel throttle. The pistons, steel connecting rods, belt-driven dynamo, timing gears, starting-handle and axle ratio are all standard pattern. The depth of the combustion chamber was 16.5 mm. on the sports models, and it would seem that some metal has been removed! I am surprised that (a) the water jacket has not been broken into; (b) that the valves do not do violence to the pistons. In any case I should have thought that the compression ratio is now too high, and reducing it might prove beneficial.
The crankshaft is standard; all Alvis crankshafts are marked “Ambrosia,” which merely certifies that they were made by Ambrose Shardlow & Sons, Sheffield. Without details of the valve timing I cannot, of course, say much about the camshaft, but I believe at that date all those parts were made by E.N.V., the Alvis Co. not possessing the necessary cam-grinding machinery till a year or two later.
Tubular connecting rods have never been fitted; the later sports “12/50” engines had H-section duralumin rods with fully-floating gudgeon-pins.
Mr. Ansell appears to be very fortunate in possessing an example of these motor-cars in such perfect condition. If he will write to the manufacturers, quoting the number 8621, they will be pleased to inform him of the exact date of manufacture.
I am, Yours, etc.,
J.A. Cooper. Leicester.
I was very interested in the letter from Mr. A. E. Ansell regarding his Alvis. While I do not claim to be an Alvis expert, I have a “12/50” chassis and a “12/60” saloon at present. I think that I can shed a little light on this car.
The 9′ 0 1/2 wheelbase was used on the first “12/50” in 1924 on the S.A. chassis. The rest of the car seems to be an S.C. chassis of 1925. The chassis number is about right for this; the cone clutch is 1924 or 25. I am not sure what the “dastardly form of split rim” is, but the S.A. was originally fitted with 28″ x 3 1/2″ S.S. cord tyres on wire spoke detachable rims. The S.C. was fitted with 29″ x 4.95″ on steel detachable wheels.
The outside exhaust and brass manifold seem to be S.C. as far as I can remember. The other engine details I leave to the Alvis experts, but I feel that this car was either made as a special for fast motoring or else it was made during 1925 for some other special reason.
With regard to the Sequeville-Hoyau, the car you have seen was made in 1920, in fact it was the second car made that year. The cylinder bore was 60 mm., stroke 110 mm. The price is given as £595. The clutch is single plate. Top gear ratio 4.55 to 1, this is a very rare bird.
I wonder if anyone knows where there is a Phoenix car of pre-war vintage. My father was designer for this firm for many years and I would like to find one of them. I had my first car ride in one and I can vividly remember the smell of real petrol coming from the tank filler in the middle of the dashboard, the Cape cart hood with wide straps down to the equally wide front mudguards, the joys of motoring in wet weather with the screen wide open in the pre-windsereen wiper days, and worst of all, trying to navigate in a fog with paraffin side-lamps on lamp irons alongside the screen, and no other illuminant.
I am, Yours, etc.,
N. J. Bowyer-Lowe, M.J.Inst.E.
Up to the age of about ten I was mad about trams; what I saw in the Carlisle trams I can’t think, but there you are. Then taxis took my fancy, inevitably leading to motor-cars.
My earliest motoring days were spent in a 1924 Morris-Oxford, 1912 Morris Cowley, and a 1926 “10/15” Fiat 4-seater tourer, with occasional runs in a 1923 Buick 2-seater and 1912 12-h.p. Sunbeam. I shall never forget doing 60 m.p.h. in a 1927 “20” Sunbeam. We were racing one of the new, and very little heard of, Straight-Eight Wolseleys of about 1928. The Wolseley won, I regret to say.
My family didn’t own a car until 1929, when a Morris-Cowley 4-seater, 1927 vintage, joined the home. This was followed, in December, 1930, by a 1931 Morris-Cowley tourer. This car served us nobly until July, 1937, by which time we all owned our own cars. Thanks to my brother’s care and common sense, the old Cowley did 72,000 miles without a major overhaul of any sort. She frequently towed the local beagles in a trailer over many of the Cumberland hills, but she never missed a beat all the time we had her.
My first car was a 1927 Fiat 2-Seater bought for £10 in 1934. It was incredibly slow, due no doubt to its considerable weight, but it was at least reliable. However, its clutch finally decided to die at an inconvenient moment, so it was sold at a slight loss and replaced by a 1929 Austin Seven. This Austin was just about dead when I got her; I killed her. A twin-overhead camshaft G.P. (?) Salmson followed. I realise now that it was the solid rear end which scared me, but at the time I had her she completely put the wind up me by sliding and skidding wherever she went. Needless to say she didn’t last long. My next motor-car was a 1926 Bull-nose Morris-Cowley, with a 4-seater touring body. The finest looking part of the car was the hood, which was new. The remainder rather resembled a scrap-yard on wheels. In this state we set off from Leeds to Donington for the first meeting of 1936. Apart from a few choked jets (Smith’s 5-jet carburetter) which had to be cleared, we got there in reasonable time. However, the float level had been upset and it was only after hours of work did I succeed in getting home, amid loud explosions. As a result I scrapped the Smith’s 5-jet and fitted an S.U. carburetter from a 1929 Morris-Cowley in its place. After some fiddling about I found the old car could hold a Ford Eight everywhere, would do about 58 m.p.h. (speedometer reading), and 35 m.p.g. She once managed Leeds to Carlisle, via Great North Road, in three hours, and on another occasion climbed Shap Fell in top gear. We didn’t miss one car meeting at Donington that year. Alas, the Law frowned on her and my cash was low.
In August, 1937, having been a curse to all my friends all the year by making them take me to all possible race meetings, I was presented with an almost new 1937 Morris Eight tourer. If only this little car had had a 4-speed box! I once managed to drive from Leeds to Carlisle (Leeds Chapel-Town Corner to Carlisle Railway Station) in 2 hours 45 minutes by my watch. A 1932 Riley Nine “Monaco” saloon with single carburetter was my next choice. While her performance was not exciting, I always look on this car as my best, and the one of which I was most fond. Her steering was just right, brake pretty good, suspension a little hard, but acceleration was almost non-existent without using the gearbox, which was, in itself, a joy. It was in this car that I took to hill climbing. Whenever I saw a climb that looked interesting, up I went. There was only one method possible with this car: bottom gear and give her the gun. It never failed, although many good Yorkshire hills were tackled. I tried an S.U. carburetter on the Riley, but my old magneto, which had done 80,000 miles at the time, seemed unable to give a fat enough spark for the engine. As it was, the acceleration was vastly improved, but the engine was horribly rough. A 1939 Austin Eight followed the Riley for a short time, to be followed by a 1937 B.S.A. “Scout” (Series II or III). I found the B.S.A. a first-class war-time car. Acceleration was fair, road-holding incredibly good, and the car generally has a solid “feel” on the road. The body and accessories need tightening up periodically, and the brakes are slightly affected by the F.W.D. at times but not seriously. The engine has proved very reliable and economical. Petrol consumption worked out at about 40-45 m.p.g. running about on H.G. work, and very little oil was being used when she was laid-up at 33,000 miles. Tyres lasted only 5,000 to 10,000 miles on the front wheels, but were as new after 10,000 miles at the rear, even though half-worn when I got the car at 22,000 miles.
So much for the past. What of the future, to which we all look and plan so longingly?
The B.S.A. is to be replaced by something larger. I am thinking in terms of “12/50” Alvis, Lancia “Lambda,” or “14/40” Delage, etc. Then I hope to add an Austin “65” or a similar car for trials, and maybe a few local speed-trials. Finally, although I have never owned one before, and have had little experience of riding, I crave a motor-cycle of about 250 c.c. for short-distance work.
A word about the Sport. As I’ve been moving about the country a good deal in the last year or two, I have had very little chance of contacting any motoring enthusiasts, but thanks almost entirely to Motor Sport I feel that, should I meet any of these enthusiasts, I shall be thoroughly up to date with everything. I would like to take this opportunity of thanking you from the bottom of my heart for the grand job you are doing. Best of luck.
I am, Yours, etc.,
I was most surprised, upon opening July copy of Motor Sport, to see one of my own photographs appearing in same.
The photograph I refer to is of Peter Neale’s A.C.N., and just to make sure that my eyes were not deceiving me, I compared it with the actual photograph I have in my possession here. Incidentally I have also another similar to the one published, that I took at the same time, but it shows the car from the exhaust side.
I was privileged to see quite a lot of the car during the course of its construction, and have many amusing memories of same. Every week-end the owner was to be found working upon the car, and often the peace of Stamford Bridge was shattered as it was tested in the drive and grounds of the owner’s house. The sound of the engine could be heard from afar, and as soon as it got cracking one would invariably remark, “Ah, Peter got the car going again!” Then there was a mad dash to his house to see how things were going, and invariably upon arrival the A.C.N. would misbehave itself and catch fire. Hastily the car was stopped and hessian, sacking or any other suitable and handy material rammed up the intakes of the S.U.s to prevent the whole car going up in flames! Naturally I followed the appearance of this car with great interest, and well remember its first appearance at Shelsley with a long single-seater fabric body, which proved most unsuitable for this type of event, whilst the steering wasn’t all it should be. Its next appearance was minus a body altogether, the chassis being painted a rather vivid “water-can” green, which I can well remember hastily assisting in applying the week-end before the actual event. However, its teething troubles were eventually overcome, and in 1939 it got cracking to advantage, with the results that Peter mentioned in his letter and, needless to say, I am eagerly looking forward to the day when it is to be seen on the starting line at Shelsley or Prescott again.
Let’s hope that that day won’t be too long in dawning; meanwhile, until then, keep up the good work.
I would also like to take this opportunity of sending my kindest regards via you to Peter Neale, whom I have not seen for a considerable time.
I am, Yours, etc., I, ll
L.A/C. M.M. Usher
think it is possible that there may be readers who, like myself, are wondering what type of car will be available post-war to provide the sort of motoring that they enjoy.
You publish, from time to time, extremely interesting articles and letters from people who have reconditioned comparatively old but high-grade cars, and I think it might be very interesting to have the views of some of your readers with experience of this sort, in regard to the post-war possibilities.
I will first of all set out the characteristics of a car that would interest me and, whilst other people’s requirements may very probably be different, I do think there is likely to be a substantial similarity.
Horse-power: This should, for taxation purposes, not exceed about 15.
Number of Cylinders: Four: this condition is due partly to the fact that the petrol consumption of 6-cylinder engines is usually poor; also it is my personal opinion that a fairly large “four” is more pleasant than a “six.”
Body: Open 2- or 4-seater, with the possibility of fitting effective and convenient weather protection.
Steering: This must be absolutely beyond reasonable criticism.
Brakes: Obviously these must be good, and should not require frequent adjustment.
Springing: This must be fairly good, but a reasonable degree of hardness can be tolerated.
Reliability: This is an extremely important point. In my case the car would be used for driving to business and for pleasure runs, Mostly at week-ends. I should not, expect to be continually troubled by minor failures such as defective electrical equipment, oiling plugs, etc.
Performance: A speed of not less than 80 m.p.h. to be obtainable without difficulty, at all times, on the level. The top gear ratio should be high, something like that of the Lancia “Lambda”; in fact, if it were possible to obtain the type of performance given by the Seventh Series “Lambda,” but with the maximum speed extended, it would be just about ideal.
The car would usually be driven at fairly low speeds, that is to say, a cruising speed of about 50 to 55, and the maximum performance would generally be demanded only on hills and but very occasionally on the level. The acceleration must be good in order that one can, if desired, quickly pass other fairly fast traffic, when, of course, there would be no objection to using the gearbox. A speed of not less than 60 should be available in third.
What really interests me now is the question as to whether there are available any old cars which, if thoroughly reconditioned, would give the above performance. I would not mind spending a good deal of time and a certain amount of money in the process, but I should want to feel quite sure that when the work had been done I should have a car that would satisfy me.
It is extremely annoying and wasteful to spend a lot of time and Money only to find, in the end, that the particular vehicle never was, and never could be, satisfactory.
I know one of the difficulties is likely to be the question of spares, and any information on this point would be helpful.
It seems to me that it is likely to be a long time after the end of the war before any interesting car is available at a reasonable price – certainly British-made. For years before the war the only British car that one could seriously consider was the Rolls-Bentley and, of course, the price was far too high for what I have in mind.
I am hoping that the matter will be of sufficient interest for you to publish my letter and that comments may be made by some of your readers, which will either make it clear that I must abandon my idea, or else indicate the lines on which to go ahead.
I am, Yours, etc.,
I must thank Mr. B. FitzPatrick for taking up the torch I have been bearing, for a number of years, and Mr. C.W.P. Hampton for so ably following him. I was beginning to despair of ever arousing any feeling in the motor industry, or even among enthusiasts themselves. Before the war the population of this country grabbed what they could get and rushed somewhere in it in an endeavour to prevent themselves having time to think. Those who saw the trash being dished out, avoided it by buying vintage Continental machines, a form of escapism which was so bad as to prevent those involved concerning themselves about the ultimate fate of the British automobile industry if such a state of affairs were allowed to continue. When the war called a halt to any active decay the escapism continued, as witness the multitude of nostalgic memories in the columns of this paper. In an effort to wake up the motoring population I have attempted to start constructive arguments, or to seek information. I have suggested a renaissance of design by fewer and larger pots with higher gear ratios, combined with modern improvement such as i.f.s., forced induction, etc. I have attempted to make racing enthusiasts turn their faces to the light by seeking information upon the possibilities of four-wheel-drive. I have tried to “snap ’em out of it” by publishing a controversial design for post-war cars. I have set out the plain, distasteful truth in regard to the present position of automobilism, and I have related the parallel example of what happened in the cycle industry. All this has had no effect at all, and one was beginning to wonder whether motorists had reached the final comatose stage, or if perhaps a course of psychological treatment…. One is, therefore, more than grateful to Mr. FitzPatrick for his strong support, and to Mr. Hampton for his continued and unwavering allegiance to the truth; but it is a little discouraging, even to the most steadfast, to find so eminent a “professional” as Mr. Metcalfe ignoring the technical modernity of the Continentals while admitting that during the last decade no British factory was able to build a car to meet with his requirements. As for spot-welding, he should examine a D.K.W. to see just what the moderns can do with nuts and bolts.
I think Mr. FitzPatrick is a little hard upon many vintage enthusiasts, for they do realise the true worth of Alfa, Lancia, B.M.W., etc., but, unfortunately, although the Continental has nearly all the aesthetic qualities of the vintage machine, one has to pay hard cash for the technical improvements. There are other difficulties, too, such as the length of time taken to obtain spares, and their high cost, while it is not easy to get parts made to metric measurements. Elderly Continentals with brothers on scrap-heaps to be robbed for spares are few and far between; the many unfortunates have to buy British, and they have the choice of (a) models which in their day had been among the best in the world, and had cups to prove it, or (b) their degenerate offspring, reared in the hothouse atmosphere of the 1930s when manufacturers thought that export did not matter, and that the imports question was effectively sewn up by retention of our unique legislation, taxation and regulations. Their chassis were puny, their engines were undersized, their springs were flabby, and their steering about as steady as the hands of degenerates always are. For ten years these designs were basically unchanged, the manufacturer occasionally giving them a new, well-padded 50s. overcoat to hide their shame – changing the radiator grille, the shape of the boot, or even the name, creating a larger market by psychological play upon suburban mentality. They cared nothing that their products retained all their old faults and added some new ones. due to altered disposition and augmentation of loads, etc. That was the position, and our enthusiasts in their apathy were content to leave it so, giving no heed to the time when the new cars of to-day will be the vintage models of to-morrow, and when the continued replacement of worn parts for to-day’s examples will exceed the bounds of hunan ingenuity.
For the first five years of the decade all was well in the manufacturers’ world, and they did not see the “cloud no bigger than a man’s hand.” But people were going abroad, and one soon encountered an occasional Citroen, Fiat or Chrysler. The clouds gathered rapidly until, in 1939, these and others were here in large and growing numbers, proving that the man in the street, despite all that has been said of him, is learning to appreciate good vehicles. American motors catered for the commerce section completely, and towards the end the most loyal of the sportsmen, began to feel that the denial of a modern motor at a reasonable cost was too big a price to pay for the patriotism which inspired their own passe machines.
This war has given our motor industry a second chance, one which, in the opinion of many, they ill deserve. Be that as it may, every motorist in this country would wish British Cars to be “tops” in the post-war era. Mr. FitzPatrick appears to suggest that we must learn from the Continent how to make real cars. That is not so; we have made them in the past, and even now our designers could teach the Continentals plenty. It is our trade and finance sections which are lacking. If we are to keep our industry alive after the war our designers will have to be allowed a free hand once again, and to permit this the financiers must drop their parsimonious attitude; old models must be scrapped, technical improvements must be incorporated as they arise, and the practice of using the Continental factories as experimental shops must cease. In addition, the industry must give its full support to all endeavours to abolish restrictive legislation, and then the only remaining obstacle to be overcome will be popular prejudice abroad, engendered by a decade of bad products.
Our home consumption of automobiles is but a small part of the world’s needs; if we can capture the foreign trade in our own sizes of vehicle, we shall have good, cheap cars. But if the foreign trade remains foreign, then it is too much to demand unmerited patriotism, and it would be a good thing for motorists, though probably calamitous for the nation’s finances, if the motor industry in these islands got what it has been so assiduously asking for. We, practically its only customers, its only friends, ask it to change its selfish and ultimately suicidal attitude. For ten years motorists have borne the burden of its miserly thrift and insular isolation. Now it is up to the industry to save itself before it is too late.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Graham C. Dix.
[Much of what Mr. Dix says is an enlargement of recent arguements to which reference is made in “Subjects for Debate” elsewhere in this issue. He, too, makes the error of thinking that the cars encouraged by the Vintage S.C.C. around 1935 were chiefly meritorious because they were old but, as we have attempted to show in the aforementioned article, they were favoured because of their superiority to sports cars of early thirties, or because of their low cost. Old cars, in themselves, are not necessarily “vintage.” – Ed.]
I enclose herewith a slightly-edited copy of a letter, one of many I have received recently from a friend of mine and great enthusiast, whom you know, Capt. J.R.A. Green, now in the Middle East. I feel his chatty writings, typical of a man exiled from his beloved cars, deserve circulation amongst those who appreciate such things.
We who love the Sport await Motor Sport eagerly, wherever we may be, so keep up the good work, and here’s hoping for the rapid return to happier times.
I am, Yours, etc.,
W. Hamilton Ellis.
[We publish Capt. Green’s remarks below, as received from Mr. Hamilton Ellis. – Ed.]
I’ve found two enthusiastic fellow officers, one a Riley fan, t’other Lancia.
The Lancia boy has owned several interesting motors, notably a “24/100” Mercédès (12-ft. wheelbase), sort of smaller edition of the “33/180.” He could leave V8s from the lights with this motor. He has also driven the Duke of Grafton’s “36/220” 4-seater, now owned by R.Arbuthnot – it is rumoured it is now fitted with the “elephant” blower off the Conan Doyle 2-seater. I very much doubt this, as in my opinion there is not a genuine “elephant” blower in England. I will admit it may be the larger type as banned at Ulster when Caracciola turned up with what seemed to be a non-standard motor. The genuine “elephant” blown job is surely the S.S.K.L., of which only five were made. Von Brauchitsch had one which he retained as his personal property, as also did Von Stuck; a Norwegian had one which, I gather, went to his home country. Of course “Caratch” raced his, and there was, I understand, a works car used for experimenting on. These cars did about 150 m.p.h. when stripped, and could show a clean “pair of heels” to any Bentley blower 4 1/2 or speed 6. They had all possible chassis members drilled and were very short wheelbase, 9′ 9″ I believe, with 7′ of bonnet! The nearest approach to one I have ever seen is the ex-Campbell car at Arbuthnot’s, in fine condition and finished metallescence blue. A desirable property! I think one of these cars, could contest the world’s fastest sports-car challenge.
Earl Howe’s open 2-seater Bugatti, Type 57 S.C., could do 130 m.p.h., I should say, flat out, as would Hugh Hunter’s Alfa, or the other one owned by Capt. Cook, I think. Lycett’s Bentley is not standard and therefore would not be eligible. [It is, however, a “road-equipped car.” – Ed.]
I cannot think of any Maseratis, other than the T.T. and “Double-Twelve” cars, produced as sports cars. Of course, there are several built to special order in Italy and some found their way to Eritrea, two having been bought by two of our officers serving out there. The Lancia laddie I mentioned saw them; also a “2.6” Alfa, a “racer” with wings and some sort of lamps, rather tied-on affairs, such as we are rather familiar with!
A friend of his bought a genuine 1 1/2-litre Straight-8 Bugatti for £5 and a spare chassis for 20 cigarettes! It had a 3-speed Chevrolet box fitted, as presumably its ham-fisted Italian owner had been unable to cope with the original, which isn’t altogether surprising as most of the boxes up to 1933 were distinctly tricky. Jack Hyslop’s (now possessed by Ian Metcalf?) is a specimen; those of 37 and 37A were, I fancy, among the trickiest.
These lads used to average 77 m.p.h. for 16 miles of twisty roads from the works to their billets in the Bugatti, after the 4-speed box out of the spare chassis had been fitted.
One night one of the lovely alloy wheels disappeared, because it had a new tyre on it, so the back axle was changed, as the spare chassis was from the 4-cylinder 1 1/2-litre model. This car, too, was red, but with an Italian owner I suppose this was almost allowable. Most of these cars are to be seen in Asmara, and an old 1 1/2-litre Alfa crept down to Massowa while I was there.
I’ve told you about the 1 1/2-litre G.P. Bugatti in Cairo; it was probably the Straight-8 job originally, as it has the integral brake drum-alloy wheels and 4-cylinder engine (I looked).
It’s nice to think that 1930/31 saw the production of the world’s fastest sports car and I’m sure the Delahaye and Darracq and Deluge could not beat a Mercedes, fast though they are. I’ll admit the S.S.K.L. would take much more handling, and on a tricky course would possibly be outclassed, but I do not think much would pass one on the run down to our place in Norfolk, for instance!
You must try to get one, Tony! I suggest you volunteer for the Army of Occupation and clean up France’s fine Bugattis, an “1,100” Amilcar, a nice “2.3” Le Mans Alfa, or the S.S.K.L. Mercedes. Try them all out on an Autobahn to see if they can hit the high spots!
Another Bentley fan came along the other day to our mess as my guest, a Major Tule, owner of a special 4 1/2 built up by Speed Models. Incidentally, he was the previous owner of the 3-litre Jack Norris owned [now also owned by Ian Metcalf. – W.H.E.].
Look at Motor Sport containing Peter Hampton’s “Cars I Have Owned.” I’m sure the 3-seater fabric-bodied Amilcar is our original one! I note he considered the S.S.K.L. had a performance second to none, so it’s up to you, Tony; a genuine S.S.K.L., please! After all, they were your favourite motors; even if you cannot afford to run it, it will look very nice beside a blower 4 1/2 (we hope) and a “2.3” Bugatti twin-cam; a “2.3” Le Mans Alfa would complete the picture.
I am looking forward to notes by Peck on the “22/100” Austro-Daimler; I am pretty sure it is the “19/100” T.T. car fitted with a 2-seater body. The T.P. car had, of course, a 4-seater body very like a Van den Plas Bentley, fabric, and rather square in appearance and with big rear tank. Two types of wings were fitted, one like the 4 1/2 Le Mans Bentley’s and the other like the 3-litre Le Mans Bentley.
There is an Isotta-Fraschini sports torpedo 4-seater in Cairo. Major Tule has seen the 3-litre Le Mans Bentley and the 4 1/2, and when he was in Baghdad saw a 6 1/2-litre 2-seater Barker-bodied Bentley, polished-wood body and green bonnet, etc. He believes it had a smash, and an Indian officer bought it as it was, for rebuilding and use for pukka purposes, pig sticking, by Gad, sir! after this show.
To see the two vintage Bentleys at Cairo, and in that setting with their Army owners, made me feel that the 1926 era was again being lived. No matter what motors are built there will never be another Bentley!
You know, all four Birkin cars seem to be different. I’m certain that Mavrogordato’s is the 9′ 4 1/2″ wheelbase job as well as Robertson Roger’s, in spite of the notes I saw to the contrary that two 10′ and one 9′ 10″. Only were built. “Mavro’s” was second in a 500-mile race. Now this one is the car Roy Slater and I fell upon in Great Portland Street one day outside Jack Smith’s about 1933, when, if I remember correctly, we came about one foot unstuck in our previous calculations and were told that it was shorter than standard! This car we have seen at Brooklands and it has a very hacked-about bonnet as opposed to Peter’s, which is made with, I think, one proper hole in the bonnet, not hacked! Also “Mavro’s” has, I am sure, the usual Bentley cut-away for the driver’s arm, whereas Birkin’s car had a curved cut-away the same as on Mr. Emmons’s “300” car. The one Lt. Winstanley has is a full 4-seater Van den Plas body, pretty standard in appearance apart from the cut-away to accommodate the hand-brake at the bottom of the body. Both “Mavro’s” and Winstanley’s have full-length scuttle, whereas Birkin’s car has a short scuttle, the bonnet coming over half of it, to give access to the instruments, presumably. Then, of course, there is Lt.-Comdr. McGregors presumed team car; if this is the ex-Dr. Appergis car it has all the features of Laurie’s car (L.E. Dalton’s ex-W.B. Scott 1929 “500” and “Double-12” car, UU5580), i.e., the beam behind front seats, tool-box position, etc., and a 45-gallon tank and cover for the blower. I do wish I had seen it at Barnet, as I should have liked to have been able to check this point. The 4 1/2 unblown car I saw at Bentleys when Laurie was buying his 4 1/2 also had this beam, and the same aeroplane-like seats as has Laurie’s and Dr. Appergis’s cars, the only other two Bentleys I have seen with these seats, although the late Roddy Seys’s 4 1/2 replica had them, but no beam and no tool-box at rear. The one I saw at Bentley’s, then, is, I reckon, the ex-Birkin 4 1/2 that Peter Ward sold in 1942 and for which he asked £350, I think. It was road-tested by Motor Sport, but its fuel line was duff and only 75-80 m.p.h. could be obtained.
Incidentally, I believe this car and Laurie’s were finished green originally, with red leather upholstery, as has the Le Mans 3-litre in Australia. Dr. Appergis had green leather, however. That car had definitely been through Birkin’s hands and was reported to have been practised with at Phoenix Park, but did it bear the Dorothy Paget plaque on the facia?
I would so like a genuine blower car under my garage roof, if only to look at! Here’s to “The Day.”