b) ” BALADEUR “
THE importance of the Paris Exposition of 1900 may be judged from the fact that certain people who won gold medals at it, and who in this context shall be nameless, have not Stopped talking about it yet. Small wonder, therefore, that the constructors of automobiles were somewhat offended when they found that at the exhibition proper they were allowed only three exhibits, consisting of 4 steam tricycle of 1885, a petrol tricycle by MM. de Dion and Bouton, and a steam diligence constructed by M. Bake pare of le Mans for the Marquis de 13roc. These exhibits, taoreover, were lumped in with the section comprising carriages, harness and saddlery, arranged by M. Bixio, ” the leading authority on hippoinobilism.”
‘rite only concession that the exhibition authorities would make in response to their complaints was to allot them space in the annexe at Virli;CJIlles. ” There were,” says M. Souvestre rather bitterly, ” some automobiles in the lumexe at Vincennes, but nobody knew it because nobody went to Vincennes.” As a matter of fact, however, this was not quite true, because, while the general public, deterred by the inconvenience of getting to the annexe, may well have stayed away, Vincennes was visited by a Military Commission. The exhibitors, nevertheless, would probably have been just as well pleased if the soldiery had stayed away ; while the public might have come to buy, the military gentlemen merely came to see whether, in the event of war, these new automobiles were worth commandeering. One gathers that the decision was favourable, but anyone who saw what the army driver could do to the motor vehicle of 1940 may well shudder at the thought of the effect of service handling on the automobile of forty years earlier. Ilaving Made their inspection, the Ciannission proceeded to issue a report, choosing as one of its co-authors no less UR authority on motor ears than Captain Genty, better known as ” de la Too loubre,” who, when he started two years later in the Paris-Viema race on his 18-h.p. Decauville, was seen off from the Fourche at Cluunpigny by his men who had by then been formed into the Vincennes Motor Corps and who, as Gerald Rose recalls,” enlivened the proceedings
by songs whilst waiting for the start.” This report was published in 1903 by MM. Berger-Levrault of Paris and Nancy, a fact which might have permanently escaped my attention had I not happened to notice the title among a list of recent
publications on the back of an almost contemporary volume on quite a different subject front the Salm house. chances of obtaining a copy in England nearly fifty years later seemed rather remote, but the efforts on lay behalf of a friendly bookseller were crowned with success within a few weeks, and there presented itself on my writing table a most delectable volume of 353 pages with 336 illustrations. This just shows what you can do when you tiy, but even in my most optimistic moments I could hardly I ave hoped to find stamped on the title page ” Bibliotheque de M. Barbi-Woo.” :My copy of this book, in filet, evidently belonged at one time to Marina Barbaron, who himself exhibited a voiturette of his own construction at this Paris Exposition of 1900 ; who drove Clement light-ears in Paris-Berlin and Paris Vienna ; designed t he Benz-Parsilal which he drove in Paris-Madrid ; and was finally responsible for the Lorraine Dietrichs which were such worthy rivals to the Bentleys at le Mans. [For further details of which I would refer anyone who may be interested to the instalment Of ” Sideslips ” which appeared in the
number of Moron SPORT for March, 1049.] I sincerely hope that Monsieur Barbaron’s book came to England by legitimate means. In any ease, the Report is a Most enthralling document, It starts off with a
general description of the parts of a motor car, which tells you all the sort of things that everybody else assumes you know when on don’t, and goes on to give details of the cars exhibited at Vincennes in 1900, which nobody else tells you because they don’t know either. It also has some very nice pictures, some of which are mechanical drawings and others of which include a beautiful photograph of two very large French soldiers sitting in a very’ small Baby Renault. But what perhaps intrigued me more than anything else were the authors’ historical footnotes.
In one they state most categorically that, whatever the Germans may say, the automobile is a French invention, relying. on the findings of the A.C.F. Committee of 1899 that the first steam PUP was mole by Cognot in 1770 and the first ” hydrocarburet automobile” by Lenoir in 1862. On the famous controversy about Beau de Rochas, Otto and their cycle, however, they are much less didactic than are most Frenchmen. ” The four-stroke cycle,” they say, ” was invented in 1862 by the French engineer Beau de Roehas, but it remained unknown and unapplied until it was rescued from oblivion by the German Otto in 1878. Otto, who does not appear to have known of the previous work of Beau de Rochas, arrived at the same conclusions as the latter so far as the necessity for compression is concerned, but he had the merit 14′ putting his conclusions into practice. The ideas of Beau de Itochas are set out in an autographed brochure of 53 pages, published in 1862 at Paris, chez Lacroix. This brochure is nowadays very rare .. .” So I suppose it is not much use my trying to pick up a copy of that also. While, however, they thus give inure credit than do most Frenchmen to the German Otto for his cycle, they take away most of the glory for the ” folding axle ” which usually attaches to Rudolph Ackermann, who was, I believe, an Englishman or at least lived in London. This device, they say, was invented in 11316 by Lankeosperger, a mechanic of
Munich, and was merely introduced into France by Ackermann, who took out a French patent for it on January 27th, 1818. In its original form it was somewluxt imperfect, as the front wheels remained parallel when they turned, with the result that the vehicle pivotted about two points and one or other front wheel was forced to skid. This difficulty was seen by M. Jeantaud, who was, I believe, a coachboilder, and who in 1878 effected improvements to the Lankensperger-Ackermann system which allowed the wheels to be turned without undue ill-effects through angles of up to 30. The Jeantaud system used a track-rod behind the axle, and an improvement, at least as far as ” lock ” was concerned, was affected by the Panhard system, with the track-rod in front of the axle. In this matter, incidentally, time has its revenges. I remember being told when I was a boy that this trackrod in front of the axle system, hailed as an improvement in 1890 or thereabouts, was most undesirable owing to the vulnerability of the track-rod in collisions, and that the removal of the latter behind the axle represented a most constructive move. I have now lived to see tra.ekrods reappear in front, and I am only waiting to tell somebody else what a good thing it is when they go back again.
To return to the Nineteenth Century, however, Jenatzy improved on Jeantaud by using a divided track-rod giving a separate parallelogram for each front wheel, and I think that I am right in assuming that this was used on ” La .lamas Contente ” with which in 1899 he challenged the Count de Chasseloup Laubat, the holder of the flying kilometre record at 39.3 m.p.h. on his Jeantaud, ‘Bing, presumably, its maker’s steering system. Jenatzy did 41.4 m.p.h. ; the Count did 43.7 m.p.h. ; Jenatzy did 50 m.p.h. ; the Count 57.0 m.p.h. ; and Jenatzy finally took the record at 05.75 m.p.h. All of which proved that electric ears could go very fast in 1899— for a kilometre ; but as presumably they went as nearly as possible in a straight line, it did not, perhaps, prove very much about steering gears. All the same they knew a good deal about steering geometry by the time of the Military Commission’s report, which describes the Bourlet device, which used sliding pivots and ” is all the more curious in that it results from purely theoretical research, based on polar theory.” But as I am by now well and truly out of my depth I propose to pass on to the much easier subject of differentials. The differential, says the Report, was invented by Onesiphore Pecqueur, and although I believe that, a few patriotic Englishmen have made a half-hearted attempt to claim its authorship for James Staley, even they could hardly succeed in dismissing a man with a name like Onesiphore. M. Pecqueur, as a matter of fact, was the foreman of the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, and as such he was employed by Professor Pouillet to make a working model of Cugnot’s steam trolley. This he did most successfully, and not only did he provide an adequate boiler, which Cugnot had not, but he also realised that, unless lie did something about it when his ” Steam chariot “departed from a straight
line, “the driving wheel which has the greater distance to cover will drag on the ground and absorb the motive power.” On April 25th, 1828, therefore, he patented the differential, remarking, as if his invention was the simplest thing in the world, “it is, I am persuaded, for lack of knowledge of this mechanism that the English have incurred so great expense in laying out their railways in a straight line.’
One of the most curious features of the Report is that the authors, in common with so many other people at different times and places, failed to take any interest in what appears to posterity to be the most interesting feature of what they saw. When, some years later, the racing engine was developing first overhead valves operated by push-rods, next vertical overhead valves operated by an overhead camshaft and finally inclined overhead valves operated by two overhead camshafts, contemporary observers were apparently so little impressed by these developments, which to us appear so significent, that, as often as not, they do not mention the valve gear at all when describing these engines. Similarly, the military observers of 1900 inspected cars such as the Panhard et Levassor with final drive by side-chains ; others such as the Renault with live backaxles ; and even the de Dion Bouton with its own peculiar form of transmission, without, apparently, the idea of discussing the relative merits of these various systems—about which so much controversy was soon to rage—ever occurring to them. Indeed, they virtually Ignore the subject. Under the section entitled “Organs of Transmission” they state that ” these various organs comprise: the clutch gear ; the change speed sear ; the reverse gear ; and differentials.” What later commentators would call “the transmission system” is in fact not mentioned.
As a result of this omission, there is no footnote to say that the cardan shaft was invented by Girolamo Cardano. Nevertheless, I believe this to be a fact, and mention of it allows me to take the story back to the Sixteenth Century, as, in 1501, Cardano, according to a biographer of a hundred years ago, “was born apparently dead, but restored on being immersed in a bath of hot wine.” This treatment was apparently so effective that he lived to be a very famous physician and astrologer, while “the writings of Cardan,” declares his biographer, “are so numerous and so voluminous that . . . both Leibnitz and Nandi suspect him of madness.” I cannot pretend that I have read any of them. On the other hand I have dipped into several biographies of him without anywhere finding any mention of a card= shaft. All the same I believe he invented the thing. wish I knew as much about Carter. Carter, the French tell me, was an Englishman who invented the crankcase, which accordingly they write ” carter ” and pronounce cartere, in celebration of the fact. But Carter, it seems, is a prophet without honour in his own country. Nobody in England ever seems to have heard of him, and if I asked someone at a garage to put some more oil in the carter, he would probably think I
was mad, even if he did not know about my “so numerous and so voluminous” writings. Sage authorities on motoring matters can tell me nothing about Carter, and the sagest of them can only suggest that perhaps what he really invented was a chain ease for bicycles. This is getting too difficult for me, and I can only hope that one of my more erudite readers will enlighten me on the life of this neglected inventor, so that I can place him in the gallery of fame alongside Lankensperger, Bourlet and Onesiphore Pecqueur.
Having given a general description of a motor car, the military observers of 1900 went on to describe in detail the various cars that they saw at Vincennes, and finished up in each case with some succinct instructions on how th drive the model in question. These are all charming and I should like to quote extensively from them. Since space is limited, however, I will confine myself to the instructions for operating a Panhard, which are at least as good as any of the others.
“The tanks having been filled,” we are told, “move the ignition lever to retard (electric ignition) or light the burners with the customary precautions (ignition by incandescence).
“Move the clutch lever forward, the change direction lever to dead centre (the upper notch gives the forward gear, the middle one dead centre and the lower one the reverse gear). Place the changespeed lever in the neutral notch . . .” I should perhaps explain that the Panhard of 1900 had three levers, one of which operated the train baladeur of the change-speed gear ; a second which engaged or disengaged the reversing gear in such a manner that all the speeds in the gearbox could be used either for going forwards or backwards ; and a third which, when pushed forwards, not only applied the “side brakes” but also disengaged the clutch, a feature on which early designers were most insistent.
“This done,” continues the Report, “start the engine by means of the handle at the front of the car, which remains continually in place.
“The engine having started, regulate the carburation.
“Take your place on the seat, the steering column between the legs, and the feet opposite the pedals.
“With the right hand, grasp the change-speed lever and move it into the first-speed notch.” (Do not be alarmed, the brake lever is holding the clutch out.) “Press the left-hand pedal and at the same time move the clutch lever backwards. Then raise the left foot gently to engage the clutch and set the car going.
“Once the car is moving, change speed by declutching completely with the left foot (left-hand pedal) and at the same time move the change-speed lever with the right hand to the required notch.
“To increase speed, press with the foot on the accelerator so as to cut out the effect of the governor.
“In order to stop, declutch by moving the declutching lever forward and release the accelerator so as to stop the engine. Cut oft the current if running on electricity. “If the stop is to be of long duration,
or final, put out the burners, taking the necessary precautions not to burn the wicks.”
One hopes that the army driver”‘ of 1900 would have found that sufficient. Perhaps it was as well that he was not really called upon to put the matter to the test for another fourteen years.