Letters from Readers, October 1949
The “Over-Rated” H.R.G.
Mr. John B. Owen, in his letter to you last month, says that the H.R.G. is “hand-made, built by craftsmen,” and seems to regard this as a great point in favour of the car. But I suggest that he is on dangerous ground here, for when it comes to making things to high-precision standards, the only difference between parts made by machine and those made by hand is that the latter take much, much longer to make — presuming that the craftsman is absolutely first-rate. If he is not, the hand-made parts will not approach the machine-made ones for accuracy. In any case I should be interested to learn in just what way more hand labour goes into the making of the H.R.G. than into the “TC” M.G. An H.R.G. bought by one of the editors of a big weekly motoring paper, when delivered showed, to quote his words, “no great desire either to go or to stop, for two reasons, which the makers discovered and rectified after . . . about 4,000 miles. Fault number one was pistons of incorrect compression length, which sadly curtailed power output; fault number two, an unsatisfactory type of brake water-excluder.” This car also suffered from “petty but irritating electrical short-circuits, which quite often called for temporary disconnection of circuits to permit punctual completion of a journey.” A car sold to a prominent motoring journalist is hardly likely to be sub-standard, but “some details of the rather lightly-built body succumbed to the shaking of a stiffly sprung and flexible chassis, the windscreen frame having needed repair and the front wings being given extra stays to brace them against French roads.” On the Continent, “the radiator bracket cracked.” Taking all these things together, they do not, to me, quite seem to add up to the “beautiful workmanship” mentioned by Mr. Owen.
When the performance of the 1 1/2-litre H.R.G. is compared to that of the “TC” M.G., road-test figures show that the H.R.G. is slightly superior on acceleration, much inferior on braking, and slightly superior on mean maximum speed, although the fastest runs of the two cars were of identical speed. But it seems from the figures given by Mr. Fitzgerald in his letter to you last month, that the fitting of a Marshall-Nordec blower enables the “TC” to equal or excel the H.R.G. performance. What constitutes value for money is, of course, a matter of opinion, but if I personally were paying £400 or £500 more for a car than the price of a “TC,” that is to say nearly twice its price, which is what an H.R.G. costs, I should want a performance which was greatly, not slightly, superior to that of the “TC.”
I am, Yours, etc.,
Eric F. Day.
[We believe the H.R.G. to which Mr. Owen refers was purchased privately by the gentleman concerned before he had any regular connection with the Motoring Press. To extract the bad points from a lengthy review on a car’s behaviour over a big mileage is one way of proving a point, but not, in our opinion, a fair one. — Ed.}
Regarding the recent correspondence concerning the relative merits of M.G. and H.R.G. cars, as the present owner of both, may I add a few comments? It seems to me that previous writers have not taken sufficient note of the fact that the “TC” engine is 250 c.c. smaller than that of the H.R.G.; this is a point against it, but it is also a lot of power to give away on an engine this size. In my opinion, given this extra capacity and a close-ratio gearbox, there is not much doubt which would be the faster car. The engine revs freely up to 6,000 and, given the extra size, should have plenty of power lower down as well. With an M.G. there always seem to be those few extra revs. available for an emergency! The Singer engine of my H.R.G. peaks at 4,500 and nothing is available above this.
Unquestionably, the M.G. does not corner as well as the H.R.G. That is to say, the M.G. will corner fast, but it requires much more careful placing, while the H.R.G. can be banged round at any old angle — though possibly goes round faster if the correct angle is taken! The standard M.G. steering box is, of course, an affliction to all owners, while the H.R.G.’s seems to be excellent and easily adjustable, like most other parts of the chassis. The M.G. wins on brakes, which are incomparably better than the H.R.G.s The weather equipment of my M.G. is also superior — an important point for rallys as well as touring. In fact, as correspondence shows, they both have their good and bad points. I prefer the M.G. engine for competitions, while for general driving, handling and maintenance the H.R.G. wins. The suspension on both cars is equally shattering!
Incidentally, my “TC” ran at Brighton Speed Trials without having had the head lifted for decarbonising after the Alpine Trial. With Barbara Marshall driving it against my H.R.G. there was not very much between them; the M.G. got off the line faster with a 17-to-1 first gear against the 11-to-1 on the H.R.G., the H.R.G. then pulled away on its high close-ratios, but at maximum speed the two cars held a more or less even distance. Not too bad, for a low-priced car coming straight from what the Autocar called “a trial to destruction.”!
I am, Yours, etc.,
Betty Haig (Miss).
A Vintage Veering — The Other Side of the Picture
On reading, and re-reading, Mr. W. J. White’s letter, “A Vintage Veering,” in your September issue, I feel I must write to you in order that, should you print my letter, my compliments may be passed on to him for stating so completely, and also so succinctly, the purpose of a touring car in paragraph two of his letter. But I am in disagreement with other of his statements. Many of his notions concerning the modern car must surely be held to be fallacious.
Mr. White is at a loss to know why the “horror of a heavy rear axle bouncing up and down” is still tolerated. Surely because the extra cost involved in installing a de Dion type of back axle in the frame of the moderately-priced, non-specialised modern car, sports or otherwise, would not be justified by the advantages to be gained through the reduction in unsprung weight. And I for one, as a car owner who likes to carry out his own simple maintenance work, could not tolerate inaccessible rear brake assemblies.
Paragraph five of Mr. White’s letter is pithily put together and one chuckles on coming to the end of it. Read it again, however, and you find that the mind of the person who thus pokes fun at the modern car cannot be entirely from free impartial thought in passing these divertingly phrased strictures. “The mass of bent wires” which serve as throttle links do their job in a thoroughly satisfactory and unobtrusive manner; at least that is my experience. They do not tend to become loose and get tangled up in anything, they do not wrap themselves round the bonnet struts or poke themselves into the air cleaner — and the presence of this latter component is surely not really considered undesirable by Mr. White? And if a “lift-up” bonnet is fitted, then most will concede that the omission on the part of the manufacturers to provide a simple strut to support it while the plugs are changed or the oil level checked would be a serious one. But what is inherently wrong with with this type of bonnet, anyway? A glance into the engine compartment of a new Morris-Oxford or Minor will reveal quite adequately both engine and accessories. I must also defend the underbonnet position of the battery: it is the best on the score of accessibility and remoteness from the influence of road dirt and water flung from the wheels — abuse which it is liable to receive if situated beneath the seats.
Turning to paragraph six, I am of the opinion that the menace of bad visibility from the new cars is exaggerated. One becomes accustomed to the size and feel of one’s car. It is not, I think, necessary to be able to see, the front wings when normally seated. When driving at any speed at all the eyes are fixed on the road many yards ahead, and the car is guided safely past stationary objects and moving vehicles alike, adequate clearance being allowed automatically, a sort of instinctive judgment being brought to bear. This is so, is it not? One has to be careful in car parks, but who minds craning his neck for a moment or two if this be necessary to edge one’s vehicle slowly through a confined opening? Having driven modern saloons without, I consider, any danger to myself or to my car, to my passengers or to other people’s cars or passengers, I reiterate my view that the visibility bogey, often quoted by members of the “Vintage Brigade” when talking of modern cars, is largely a fictitious one.
I should now like to say a very few words concerning paragraph nine of Mr. White’s letter. I would not for one moment animadvert against the performance of the 1932 Lea-Francis; but if it is reasonable to estimate that £425 when this model was current would buy what, say, £750 would in 1949 — I am sure I am not misrepresenting the present sad state of affairs — then I should like to remind Mr. White that the price of the Austin A90 is £615. (One must, in fairness, disregard the purchase tax in making this comparison.) In spite of — on no account because of, needless to say! — its up-to-date suspension and steering characteristics, I submit that this moderately priced modern car would have no difficulty in equalling the performance of the no-doubt-admirable example of a “vintage,” or “near-vintage,” specimen instanced by Mr. White, in averaging 45 m.p.h. over two hundred miles.
The Jaguar’s “record” impresses me very much indeed. The fact of a car of such calibre being put on the market at less than £1,000 in these days represents a great achievement by the makers. Furthermore, if one of these cars were to be tended with the loving care that most real “vintage” types have lavished upon them, and were to cover only the infinitesimal annual milage that is all most of their owners seem to require from them, then I have no doubt whatever that an example of the “XK” Jaguar would retain its roadworthiness and pristine appearance until 1969 and after.
I am, Yours, etc.,
East Sheen, S.W.14.
The Mystery Deepens
In their excellent article last December on the 1908 G.P. Austin, A. S. Heal and Kent Karslake state that they were unable to establish the identity of this (shaft-drive) car.
When it was shown at the Racing Car Exhibition in 1948 I seem to remember that it was labelled as Lord Brabazon’s car, but, on the following evidence, I venture to suggest that it might have been the car driven by Rests.
1. There were originally four cars — two chain and two shaft-driven.
2. Heal and Karslake state that Resta crashed one of the chain-driven cars in practice, and drove a shaft-driven car in the race.
3. In the Autocar for October 10th, 1908 on page 574 there is a photograph of a G.P. Austin fitted with a four-seater “Roi des Belges” body. The caption is as follows: “A Grand Prix Austin. The car driven by Mr. Moore-Brabazon has been stripped of its racing body and fitted up to the order of Sir Hickman Bacon, Bart.”
The photograph clearly shows the car to be shaft-driven.
4. Unless the Moore-Brabazon car was later re-converted to its original form (which seems unlikely) it would appear that the existing car is the other shaft-driven car — i.e., the car driven by Rests. Until I discovered this photograph yesterday I had no idea that “Brab’s” car, like Clutton’s Itala, had been converted to a touring body. Is this generally known, or have I unearthed something?
I am, Yours, etc.,
W. A. Taylor
(See also page 431. — Ed.]
As one of the “interested parties” in Mr. Kent Karslake’s article entitled “Two Single-Cylinder de Dion Boutons,” perhaps I will be excused for writing a few words. I would like first of all to say that I think all your readers will agree he has made the most of the material with which he was provided, in his usual inimitable manner. Also, the photographer must be complimented for the excellent results he has achieved.
Holley’s performance in the Paris-Madrid race of 1903 has always interested me as, knowing nothing to the contrary, I would assume that the 9-h.p. de Dion motor he used was the standard single-cylinder 110 by 130-mm. with an automatic inlet valve. I actually have one of these motors in my possession. Those who have had experience with this simple method of aspiration will remember its trickiness and faults, and I think it nothing short of miraculous, assuming such an engine was used, that Holley succeeded in averaging almost 41 m.p.h. for nearly 350 miles.
Louis Renault and his team-mates had also a wonderful record with their early de Dion-engined Renaults, especially in the 1902 Paris-Berlin race, Louis Renault averaging 36.9 m.p.h. for 687 miles.
Without wishing to detract one iota from these performances (in my mind it is more a matter of complimenting the manufacturers), these voiturettes were really lightweight cars, as they had to weigh not more than 400 kilogrammes, i.e., 7 cwt. 8 qrs. 12 lb., to obtain entry into their class, and to my disappointment my 1911 de Dion, “Type de Sport,” tops the scale at 12.5 cwt., which is a very different story.
Kent Karslake is quite correct in that de Dion’s never countenanced road-racing to any extent except in their earlier days, when they most vigorously competed in many long-distance races on their own-made motor tricycles, eventually with 8-h.p., single-cylinder, air-cooled engines, very highly geared, of the one-explosion-per-county type. De Dions, however, were represented, although not officially, in the two first Targa Florio races in the Voiturette class by enthusiastic Italian amateurs, including Cav. Florio, who drove his own de Dion of 8 h.p. These cars were bodied, as copied by me, with a bolster petrol tank at the back and much-raked steering columns. They finished this most trying of all races very creditably behind the specially-built and prepared Lion Peugeot voiturettes driven by the famous trio, Guippone, Boillot and Goux.
I am, Yours, etc.,
C. R. Abbott.
Holland Park, W.11.
I should like to make a small correction to Kent Karslake’s article on the de Dions. K.K. states that “in 1908 the stroke had reached 160 mm.” This is not quite accurate. The first de Dion with a stroke of 160 mm. was the model B.V., introduced in 1909. It was a 12-h.p. job, single cylinder, with three speeds and had a pressed-steel frame.
I am, Yours, etc.,
A. B. Coleman.
While attending the “Daily Express” International Trophy Race at Silverstone on August 20th, was horrified to see Mr. St. John Horsfall lose his life by hitting the straw bales and turning over.
This is not the first accident of its kind at Silverstone. Mr. Geoffrey Ansell did likewise in the British G.P. there in October last year, but was fortunate enough to be thrown clear. Mr. John Bolster was also a victim of a straw bale in the British G.P. in May this year, and suffered severe injuries, from which he is only just recovering.
These three incidents surely show that the placing of straw bales so near to the track is extremely dangerous. Donington Park pre-war (which Silverstone can never equal) had straw bales and sandbags around the track, but never so close as the Silverstone ones. The speed of the racing at Silverstone I am sure is no greater than Donington, and not one driver was killed there (motor-cycles excepted).
I hope that through your excellent journal this information will reach the appropriate authorities, who will deal with the matter and prevent another tragedy.
I am, Yours, etc.,
J. C. Wright.
The notes on the cars which ran in the Production Car race at Silverstone are rather enlightening. According to the official regulations only four alterations from standard were permitted — tyres, ignition, carburation, and sleeving.
The M.G.s had plugs screwed to the floor on the passenger’s side; the Javelins replaced the normal bench-type seat with bucket seats; the Aston-Martin employed Girling dampers (one assumes they were dampers as the name Girling has never been associated with shock-absorbers); one Lagonda used twin magnetos, whereas the regulations only permitted alteration to method of ignition control. Now all these are probably alterations from standard of a minor nature, but I am wondering how many other non-standard modifications were made to these and other cars?
Incidentally, whilst some of the slower cars were handled in exemplary fashion when given the blue flag, overtaking on the right was all too frequent, making it difficult at times for a slower car to give way to the really fast stuff without becoming the “meat in the sandwich,” particularly on corners.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Winchmore Hill, N.21.
[The scrutineers can doubtless answer these points to everyone’s satisfaction, but we would observe that the Javelin bucket seats made the cars safer to handle when they rolled on corners, and were permissible, surely, on that score, while the “Rapide” Lagonda was fitted as standard with two magnetos — see Motor Sport, Vol XV, page 274. — Ed.)
With regard to Peter L. Maples’ query on brass radiators. A smear of thin machine oil is about the best remedy, applied after polishing with a clean soft cloth. This invariably keeps out the elements and normally lusts a week or so. Clear lacquer usually peels in places when hot and looks very poor.
He could, however, try a solution of 1 part shellac to 10 parts methylated spirit. Allow to dissolve for 12 hours before use.
I am, Yours, etc.,
C. G. Bond.
An Aldington Letter
We do not know what the author of “Rumblings” means to infer when he says all the post-war Silverstone sports cars were “virtually works entries,” but we wish to make a flat denial of this statement in-as-far as the Frazer-Nashes are concerned. It would be more accurate to say that of all the post-war cars running, only the Frazer-Nashes were privately owned, although in the absence of any personal information to the contrary, I should think the H.R.G.s were probably also privately owned. N. R. Culpan was certainly the first owner-driver to finish in the first three, and of the first ten cars, I should think it is possible that the three Frazer-Nashes are the only privately-owned cars. All said and done, this is only a continuance of our pre-war traditions where our private owners’ successes established the reputation of our cars, and It was not achieved by a “works” team of special cars.
Mr. Patrick Hall, who was down to drive his own car but was unable to get to Silverstone in time for practice, very sportingly asked me to find a driver, so as to avoid scratching, and I may add we had many offers. Bob Gerard had turned down an offer to drive a manufacturer’s entry in the hope of driving a Bristol or a Frazer-Nash and we were able, therefore, to give him this car. Your correspondent should be more careful what he says about these and other matters — gossip is notoriously unrelated to fact, and can also do harm — albeit unintentionally.
In our opinion, this race should have been restricted to genuinely privately owned and driven cars, or, alternatively, only “works” entries — with the resultant rush on ace drivers! In either case the entry, particularly if restricted as to number, should be thrown open to as many makes of car as possible, even by restricting the number of cars of any one make. Moreover, any make of car should be accepted if the manufacturers produce reasonable evidence that the car is going into genuine production, and it is catalogued. This would not only make the race much more interesting, but would remove any suggestion of discrimination or unfairness in refusing entries.
The “Le Mans” start, of course, apart from its appeal to the grandstands, is silly, somewhat dangerous, and unfair to faster cars lower down on its basis of priority on engine size. This for a one-hour race should be on practice times.
I am, Yours etc.,
For A. F. N. Limited,>
[We gladly publish the above letter. Mr. Hall can, perhaps, congratulate himself in missing the practice, for it was Bob Gerard and not he who had that unpleasant experience of losing a back wheel at speed! — Ed.]
I was interested to read in your September issue the comments on Le Mans of your correspondent, F. Fitzgerald, New York, U.S.A., and to note that he would be interested to know what internal changes were found in Mr. Laurie’s Aston-Martin when examined after the race.
I believe, as a matter of fact, that the car was used for a while by Mr. Laurie exactly as raced, after which it was returned to us to have the body converted from its racing form to the standard drophead coupé. We took the opportunity to examine the car thoroughly and it was found to be in excellent condition. About the only thing we did was to put on a low-compression cylinder head and standard carburetters, in place of the high-compression cylinder head necessary for racing purposes.
I am, Yours, etc.,