A 7.5-M.P.H. Standard Eight
The enthusiast these days is very fortunate, because if the dictates of business or family life make an open two-seater sports car unpractical he can turn to a saloon without serious loss of performance, whereas, in olden days, the performance-gap between sports car and family car was a wide one. That even the smallest-capacity and least-expensive saloons can be endowed with such lively performance that they are a pleasure to drive, and usable within limits for competition work, was brought home to us during an extended test of Michael Christie's personal Standard Eight.
This car had certain of the modifications for which the Alexander Engineering Co. Ltd., of Haddenham, is well known. The cylinder head had been altered to provide free gas flow and an increase in compression ratio from 7.25 to 8.1 to 1, twin S.U. carburetters were fitted on a special inlet manifold, and a special exhaust manifold and silencer were fitted. The manifolds were designed by George Boyle, of Mollington, who is the Northern supplier of this conversion. Although a higher back-axle ratio (4.55 in place of 4.875 to 1) is available, together with a suitably corrected speedometer, Christie, whose car is used mainly us his wife's daily hack, did not deem this necessary, consequently the cost of the modifications incorporated is only £35. On customers' cars this includes decoking, hand-grinding of the valves, tuning and road-testing.
We have in the past struck a note of caution in respect of the "hotting-up" of mass-produced family cars, in case reduced reliability and/or a heavy increase in fuel consumption should be the result. Therefore, the first thing to establish was how this special Standard fared in these respects. In all we drove it 731 miles without the slightest trouble intruding. Mostly it was driven hard, full play being made of the useful increase in acceleration, often it was fully laden, and a lot of running was in heavy traffic. Short of competition work it would be difficult to devise conditions having a more adverse effect on petrol consumption. That this worked out at 40.3 m.p.g., using a variety of No. 1 brands, shows that economy is not greatly sacrificed to speed, the figure for a normal Standard Eight being in the region of 43 m.p.g. Very little B.P. Visco-Static oil had to be added to that already in the sump, and no water was consumed, although hot weather prevailed throughout the week's test.
On the road the performance of this Standard really was impressive, from the viewpoint of speed, acceleration and ability to pull up hills in a high gear. Top speed is approx. 82 m.p.h. under favourable conditions and 70 m.p.h. is always within the car's compass, with 60 as a very natural cruising pace. 18 m.p.h. in first gear, 33 m.p.h. in second gear and 56 m.p.h. in third are obtainable, whereas the normal Eight does not greatly better 60 m.p.h. in top gear. How the acceleration has improved is best set out in tabular form: —
In spite of this very appreciable and effective gain in performance, the car remains docile and foolproof, the engine, which was using Champion NA8 plugs, having no tendency to "pink" or to run-on when switched off. It started easily from cold and although noisy, was certainly not offensively so.
The Alexander Engineering Co. has worked in conjunction with the Standard Motor Company and the S.U. carburetter people in evolving these modifications; it is to their credit that the manufacturer's guarantee remains valid after they have been carried out, and to the credit of the Standard Motor Company that this little car, which sells for a basic price of £379, remains safe and pleasant at the increased speed obtainable. (The car tested was the de luxe version with winding windows, Vynide upholstery, hub caps, pushbutton door handles and conventional seats.)
The Girling brakes are entirely adequate and fast cornering, aided, by an Alexander anti-roll bar (which costs £2 10s.), was both safe and pleasant. Impressions of the car itself are that it is roomy for an Eight, that its lidless luggage-boot, accessible from within by folding forward the backs of the back seats, is no bad thing and will carry a surprising amount of luggage (for instance, a Bottogas cylinder filled less than half of it), and that four doors are worth having.
As habitual user of a well-known German family car, the writer raised his eyebrows at the rattles, the rather stiff gear-change, the rubber gear-lever knob which is unpleasant to the ungloved hand, an interior lamp requiring manual switching on and off, squealing brakes, the heavier steering, and the tiny fuel-filler which calls for a funnel if a can is used. (There are also 21 chassis points requiring lubrication every 1,000 miles compared with 12, needing attention every 1,500 miles, on the German car.) The affinity of the 803-c.c. engine for high revs, offsets the low gear ratios, and if the clutch called for care in engagement it showed no sign of slip, and although the back axle "clanked" it did not expire. The suspension is rather lively, the car tending to dart about, but the comfort factor is high. The driver's deep cubbyhole and almost full-width dash shelf, together with roomy door pockets, are an excellent feature found also on the Standard Ten, of which a Motor Sport test report was published last June.
Alexander supply similar modifications for the Ten, at the same cost, and claim a maximum speed of 82 m.p.h. in this case. The popularity of both these small Standards is evident if you count them on the road, and owners who seek greater performance without incurring the wrath of the manufacturer (or whose wives want to embellish the car with extras) should telephone Haddenharn 345/6 for full details. They can also fit the Gefarator attachment for £4 4s. plus fitting charge.
* * *
When we called at Lockhart's Service Depot at Dunstable to take over their Peugeot 203 demonstrator for test we found there a pleasing assortment of unusual motor cars. Frank Lockhart is well known for his interest in vintage small cars and, although he has disposed of his flat-twin Rover Eight with which he won the last V.S.C.C. Light Car Trial and is converting his 1923 Baby Peugeot into a vintage sprint special, he has acquired a 1926 6.4-h.p. Peugeot 172R fabric-bodied four-seater in order to remain faithful to a marque for which he is an enthusiastic agent.
The "Special," composed of vintage components, consists of the 1923 Peugeot chassis with its wide side members, transverse front and ¼-elliptic back springs, across which is installed a 1929 990-c.c. air-cooled V-twin o.h.v. J.A.P. engine, hidden beneath the original bonnet and radiator shell. This engine is mated to a gearbox from an old F.N. motor-cycle and from this emerges a transverse shaft carrying the sprocket of the long primary chain which drives to a countershaft, from whence another chain takes the drive to a Raleigh back axle. Lockhart points out that he had no compunction in thus converting his Peugeot because the two-seater body was non-original anyway, but he has used vintage components as far as possible throughout. Such replica vintage sprint cars, or in this case road-car [Or Early Morning Special! — Ed.) are great fun, and next year the V.S.C.C. really should organise a straight-course speed trial in the tradition of the gay 'twenties, confining entries to pre-1931 cars and perhaps insisting that spectators only be admitted if driving also true vintage cars. What about it, Mr. Carson? If announced for late next summer no doubt others would build cars to compete against Nigel Arnold-Forster's Anzani-G.N., Winder's Humber Special, Grice's G.N., Thirlby's G.N.-J.A.P., the Caesar-Special, etc.
In a different category was Dr. G. E. Pinkerton's ex-Page Cadillac-H.W.M., which has two twin-choke Rochester carburetters to its 5.4-litre V8 engine, a C-type Jaguar gearbox, and pulls easily in top on a 3.3 to 1 rear axle, besides displaying extraordinary step-off and speed. Beside it was the same enthusiast's Cadillac-Allard. Before we left Lockhart's partner, Arthur Rusling, took us out and let us drive a Peugeot 403, which is a more urgeful and roomy version of the 203, having a 1½-litre instead of a 1¼-litre engine. It has square rather than the tapering lines of the 203 and a crash-pad is fitted along the dash. Besides being Peugeot agents these two enthusiasts handle VW and Messerschmidt, the latter not unexpected in view of Lockhart's liking for unusual and effective small vehicles.
* * *
What The Say
Of the A30 : "This is the car that can shrug off traffic — and average a mile a minute on the open road." — An advertisement of the Austin Motor Company Limited in Reader's Digest.
Of Ford Spares " . . . the telephone is one of the means by which they ensure that your future needs will be met — from a fleet of new cars, trucks or tractors to a tiny spare part for a veteran model." — An advertisement of the Ford Motor Company Limited in Punch.
Of the VW: " . . . the Volkswagen represents an extremely shrewdly planned balance of just those things which an immense number of people require in the present-day world . . . If we are to understand the VW success in North America we should also recognise that allied to the superficial simplicity of the car is a first-class basic design, excellent detail finish throughout, and a service organisation which maintains the highest standard wherever the car is sold." — An editorial in the Motor. "There has been a disposition to pooh-pooh the Volkswagen as a rough little product that has achieved an ephemeral popularity because of its curiosity value. Not a bit of it the VW is as significant as Henry Ford's model-T and Herbert Austin's Seven." — The Autocar.
Of the new M.G. EX182 : "On this particular car, waves of heat (it was uninsulated) and a strong smell of Castrol R beat up from the engine and drove out the cool morning airs . . ." — "The Scribe" in the Autocar.