Two Interesting 1 1/2 -Litre Sports Cars

Author

D.S.J

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Quite early in the season mention was made of the new 1½-litre Maserati sports car, and even last April the first car was completed. Due to a full programme of events with Formula 1 cars and the new 3-litre sports cars, as well as the continual production of the popular 2-litre sports model, there was little time left for the perfection of the new 1½-litre. In addition, there were not many races for this category alone and an outright win with the 3-litre was more important than a possible class win with the new model. When the Nurburgring race was limited to 1½-litre sports cars the Maserati firm concentrated on the new car and entered it, with the satisfying result chronicled elsewhere in this issue.

At first glance this new 1½-litre car seemed an enormous size, being of the same proportions outwardly as the production 2-litre A6G, though the bodywork was not so gracefully contoured as the larger model. The general lines of the 1½-litre car were obviously derived from the 3-litre sports car, with fairly flat sides and only gentle curvatures over the wheels, while the radiator air entry was very near the ground at the front. The new four-cylinder engine seemed rather lost in the space under the bonnet and it did not seem possible that it could propel such a large car very fast. Maserati soon showed this impression to be false and the car proved to be faster than any of its contemporaries from Germany.

The four-cylinder engine followed normal Maserati appearance, having twin-overhead camshafts, two valves per cylinder and two double-choke Weber carburetters. From the timing gears, at the front of the engine, were driven two contact-breaker units, ignition being by coil, with two sparking plugs per cylinder. Normal Maserati practice of dry-sump lubrication was used, with a rear-mounted oil tank. The engine had a bore and stroke of 81 mm. by 72 mm., giving a capacity of 1,497 c.c.. and due to the very short stroke it ran at 8,000 r.p.m., while nothing had flown apart at 8,500 r.p.m. during testing. The maximum power output was claimed to be anything from 135 to 142 b.h.p., depending on what grade of petrol was used, and the performance of the car would seem to indicate that these figures were reasonable. The chassis frame for this new car consisted of two large-diameter tubes forming the main members, with smaller tubing used to form a complete space frame. Front suspension was by the regular Maserati practice of double wishbones and interspersed coil-springs, with large vane-type hydraulic shock absorbers and an anti-roll bar. At the rear the suspension was of the de Dion layout, the tube itself being located by a central sliding pivot mounted below the level of the tube itself, as used on the Grand Prix Lancia. The connection between the tube and pivot point was by a welded structure attached underneath the centre of the tube. The springing medium for this rear suspension was by a thin transverse leaf-spring, and vane-type shock-absorbers were again used.

The four-speed gearbox was in unit with the final drive assembly and mounted on the rear of the frame, double universally-jointed drive shafts transmitting the power to the wheels. Due to the arrangement of the input shaft of the gearbox at the rear of the chassis, the engine was set slightly to the left of the centre line of the car. An enormous, riveted aluminium fuel tank occupied the tail of the car, and for the long Nurburgring race an extra tank was fitted in the shape of the passenger’s seat, covered with a thin layer of rubber sheet to comply with the regulations. Following the fashion set by the 3-litre Maserati for this Italian firm, the steering position of this new car was on the right-hand side, with a central gear-lever. As described, the all-enveloping bodywork also had the 3-litre as its origin and looks functional rather than attractive. The four exhaust pipes merge into twin tail pipes and silencers and run outside the body on the left-hand aide, terminating just in front of the rear wheel.

* * *

The name E.M.W., standing for Eisenach Motoren Werke of Eisenach, a town a few kilometres from the border of East and West Germany, has been well known at the Nurburgring and Avus tracks for four years now. Starting with modified Type 328 B.M.W. cars, the firm gradually evolved its own car and last year produced their first completely new car, described in Motor Sport at the time. This half been steadily developed and for the recent 1½-litre race at the Nurburgring the firm entered four cars and brought along a fifth as spare. Just as the Maserati gave an impression of large size, the E.M.W. gave an impression of remarkable smallness, being very low and very light, the quoted weight being 570 kilogrammes (11.2 cwt., dry). The chassis frame consisted of two large-diameter tubes, strong enough to take the full weight of the car, there being no additional small tubes as is popular these days. Front suspension was by double wishbones, with long, thin torsion-bars running rearwards from the top wishbones; shock-absorbers being telescopic hydraulic. At the rear a de Dion layout was used, again with torsion-bars, the location of the tube being by a triangular member from the centre. Normal two-shoe brakes are used with wire-spoke knock-or wheels.

The engine was a very small and compact six-cylinder of 66 mm. bore and 73 mm. stroke, an unusual arrangement for these days, the capacity being quoted as 1,500 c.c. Twin o.h.c. are used with a magneto driven off the rear of each camshaft, there being two plugs per cylinder. Running on normal high-octane commercial petrol, with a 10:1 compression ratio, and using three double-choke Weber carburetters, the power output is over 130 b.h.p. at 7,000 r.p.m. A four-speed gearbox was attached directly to the rear of the engine and a long, spindly lever operated it, an open propeller-shaft taking the drive to the rear axle unit mounted on a rear cross-member. The steering was on the left of the car and the driver’s seat very low. The tiny water radiator was completely ducted from the air entry at the front of the car, while almost every component on the chassis that did not undergo strain was profusely drilled. Such items as the flooring of the cockpit the prop.-shaft tunnel, seat frame, pedals and so on, all being like Meccano. The body panelling was in a number of units and attached with cheese-headed screws all beautifully rounded off at the edges. Attached to the chassis frame and covering the front wheels were large aluminium covers like mudguards, which in fact they are, but the main bodywork covers all this, the idea being to keep road dirt and stones from the mechanical parts, the main bodywork merely being a streamlined shell.

It was the body of the Type R3/55 E.M.W. that was the most impressive part of the car. While being all-enveloping, it contrived to follow the contours of the chassis components, so that there was no waste space under it, nor any unnecessary frontal area. Of welded aluminium sheet, the body had a hand finish that was not highly polished but had been grained along the air-flow lines of the car, a great deal of wind-tunnel testing being made with a model, and also air-flow tests on the actual car. Every detail with regard to air-flow had been studied, the headlamps completely recessed and the covers over the glass flush-fitting to the bodywork, while the attachment screws were countersunk; a tiny hole in the centre of this aluminium cover allows scrutineers to see that the lights work. All four wheels are totally closed and the Perspex cockpit fairing surrounds the driver’s head and shoulders. On the left of the engine compartment a beautifully faired opening allows the egress of under-bonnet air, and on the opposite side three small exhaust stubs are situated in a similar opening, the pipes being flush with the body sides. Still with an eye to air-flow, the rear-view mirrors are mounted inside the cockpit fairing and the rear lights are flush fitting in the rear wings again with countersunk smooth screws. The whole aspect of the car was one of a record-breaker, but at the same time complied with all sports-car regulations. By comparison the well-known 300SLR Mercedes-Benz sports cars have a poor air-flow over the bodywork, with their numerous louvres, scoops and bulges.

The E.M.W. definitely sets a new standard of streamlining, and its speed with second-class drivers at the wheel proved surprising. The factory quoted the maximum as around 240 k.p.h. (148 m.p.h.), and they spoke of a specially-prepared model that set up some East Zone records at 256 k.p.h. (nearly 160 m.p.h.). The cars at Nurburgring were using Continental tyres, 5.00 by 16 in. at the front and 5.50 by 16 in. at the rear, and in spite of no air ducts leading to the tyres they did not experience trouble, no doubt due to the very light weight of the car. The engineers of the racing department of E.M.W. show very keen interest in racing, being surprisingly knowledgeable about all that is happening in the Western racing world, and said that they hoped soon to run their team outside of Germany. They had hoped to send cars to both the Lisbon race and the Oulton Park meeting but certain travel difficulties existed, such as a visa for crossing France, and so far they have only been able to attend Nurburgring and Avus meetings, apart, of course, from races in their own country. The question of drivers arose and they professed great difficulties, their best being Edgar Barth, but he was not in the top class compared with other European Grand Prix drivers. They had other young drivers coming-along, but they would need at least three years’ training to become suitable for the team. The intention for 1956 is to run a full team of four or even five cars, depending on drivers, and eventually it was hoped that these interesting and fast 1½-litre racing/sports cars would be built for sale.

With four cars for the race and a training car, the personnel that attended the Nurburgring race was impressive, the mechanics all wearing blue overalls bearing the E.M.W. badge, similar to a B.M.W. badge but being red and white instead of blue and white. This affinity to B.M.W. is not surprising when it is realised that pre-war the racing department of B.M.W. was situated in the factory at Eisenach, and though the engineers of that firm later moved to Munich many of the factory workers remained behind. The organisation of the team showed thoroughness, not so lavish perhaps as Mercedes-Benz, but impressive nevertheless, the four cars entering the track for practice in correct number sequence and the drivers parking the cars in a tidy row without having to be told. One is often tempted to refer to “typical German thoroughness and orderliness,” but this is never possible while the Porsche firm continues to be successful at racing, for they have the slap-happy sporting attitude of most English teams; their set-up being anything but “typical German.” The E.M.W. factory is clearly making rapid progress with its racing programme and it is to be hoped that other European countries will soon accept entries from them, for their 1½-1itre racing/sports cars are a worthy addition to the ranks. — D.S.J.

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