RUMBLINGS, October 1956
Those of you who remember Brooklands will remember Douglas and Gwenda Hawkes, who were closely associated with the Derby car, had a shed in the Paddock, and ran the A BOOK TO READ Derby-Maserati and Derby-Special cars. In
the slim single-seater supercharged straighteight Derby-Special Gwenda lapped at 135.95 m.p.h., no mean feat, especially as the engine capacity was only 1,660 c.c., yet this speed constituted both the ladies’ and the Class E lap records.
At Montlhary Gwenda went even faster, setting a lap record of 149 m.p.h. and taking several world’s records at very high speeds. She drove the Duller Duesenberg at Brooklands and took longdistance records at Montlbiiry in all manner of cars, including a Morgan three-wheeler, while in the dim ages she did tough things on racing motor-cycles. Tall, mechanically-minded, physicallystrong Gwenda married Douglas Hawkes, a little man with a face like a monkey, a great mechanical genius, who, when the Track re-opened after the 1914118 war, raced a special Morgan threewheeler and the venerable 1912 Lorraine-Dietrich ” Vieux Charles Troia.”
Then, after the fall of Paris in World War II, the Derby concern folded-up and Gwenda and Douglas disappeared from the motoring aattle.
What became of them ? We got the anSwer quite by chance when picking up a book called “Isabel and the Sea,” by George Millar, which was published by William Heinemann in 1948. This hook is about a voyage in the 3I-ton ketch ” Traant ” with twin Commodore engines from England to Greece, which the Editor read as a change from writing and reading about cars. Yet before long he -was to encounter therein the Bawl:Cs—as in so many books he has come upon unexpected references to cars and motor-racing personalities. In Chapter 7, then, we read : ” In the afternoon a small blue British yacht came up the reach from Corbel This Was the last sight that we expected to see; and we were not altogether pleased. However, we shouted to the man and woman who were visible . . . They introduced themselves as Douglas and Gwenda Hawkes . . . both had -been drivers of racing motor cars.” So we meet again this famous couple and read much about them, for the Millers struck up a warm friendship with them and ” Elpis ” and ” Truant ” sailed some of the way in company.
There is a splendid word-picture of Douglas Ilawkes “Douglas spent all the afternoon doctoring our charging motor. He did to it all the things that I had done myself, and I never had such a useful lesson in mechanics. He put on his spectacles and a slightly clerical expression. Ile became neither heated nor dirty, for he held his spanners as surely as a draughtsman holds his inking pen, and after each little operation he wiped his handa on a pad of cotton waste.”
So the Hawkes live out their lives sailing about the Mediterraneanas the mood takes then, finding the sun, peace and surprised friends in odd ports of call from Malta to Athens. No bad way to spend one’s retirement !
And ” Isabel and the Sea” is no bad book to read, if you can locate a copy. • This month the Berkeley caravan people at Biggleswade are entering the ranks of car manufacturers by introducing the leastexpensive sports car on the British market. A BRITISH 322se.e. The little Berkeley, which we went to their SPORTS CAR factory last month to inspect, is ingenious in
its application of glass-fibre construction and the use of a two-stroke engine of a mere 322 c.c. in conjunction with front-wheel drive. The intention is to offer a sports car which will constitute a good introduction to this kind of motoring, inasmuch as it has a high factor of safety and is obviously a better vehicle for the novice than one of the several 100.m.p.h.-plus sports models now available, and at. the same time to undercut the price of the hitherto least-expensive sports car by sonic £140 while providing exceedingly economical fuel consumption (60 m.p.g. is claimed) and probably ordinary 8-h.p. saloon insurance rates.
Since the war the one-time really small and economical British sports car, as represented by the Austin Seven, M.G. Midget, Singer Nine, Triumph Gnat and Vale Special, has been conspicuous by its entire absence from the market. The Berkeley reintroduces this once-popular class of car in an original form. The combined body/chassis comprises a three-piece glass-fibre
structure strengthened by bonded-in metal where required. The major section is a punt-like base with flat undersurface which carries the nose and tail portions. The result is a very well-proportioned, all-enveloping sports two-seater in the current fashion. The engine is a parallel-twin two-stroke 322-e.c.. British Anzani which develops 15 1..11.p. on a compression ratio of 8.5 to 1 and has an Antal 376/38 carburetter. It is mounted transversely right in the nose, ahead of the front wheels and immediately behind the nose-grille, so that cooling is effected by the air stream, hot air leaving from an aperture on the top of the bonnet panel. The engine drives yid a three-plate mutor-eyele clutch to a three-speed-and-reverse Albion motor-cycle gearbox with forward ratios of 13.85, 8.43 and 5.25 to I. From the gearbox • roller chain conveys the drive through a differential unit to half-shafts having Hardy Spicer universal joints which accommodate the independent front suspension, which is by unequallength wishbones and Girling suspension units. At the back the non-driven wheels are sprung independently by the use of swing axles again using Girling suspension units.
This is a really diminutive car, the wheelbase being 5 ft. 10 in. (the original Austin Seven had a wheelbase of 6 ft. 3m. and the Fiat 500 one of ( ft. 6i in.). and the track 3 ft. a in. The overall length is 10 ft. 3 in.. width -1 ft. 2 in., and, with a ground clearance of 5 in., the height is a mere 3 ft. 51 in. In spite of the Berkeley’s small size the extreme forward location of the power unit provides ample leg room for a tall driver. ‘rlte body has a door on each side, and a removable panel in the tail reveals a seat which could accommodate one or two infants for short journeys, with a boot behind it in which is stowed the hood, jack. tools, etc. Normally the spare Wheel occupies the “kids hole,” hut if this is needed as an extra seat the wheel can be carried nn the dashboard parcels she t’. From this it will be realised that the wheel size is in keeping with the rest of the car—Michelin 5.20 in. by 12 in. tyres are used, Michelins, incidentally, having given good service On Berkeley caravans. The glass-fibre moulding includes the dash, which normally carries just a speedometer, although a clock and petrol gauge will be offered as extras. The gears are changed by a lever working in a quedrant on the left of the steering column, and an umbrellarhandle ‘ype hand-brake is situated conveniently under the dash on the
The screen is sufficiently tall to deflect air over the occupants’ hezds and has twin wipers. Starter and horn buttons are on the dash. The headlamps are in-built, two 6-volt batteries providing for ignition, lighting and starting. The petrol tank, under the bonnet to provide gravity feed, holds 3i gallons.
This Berkeley sports car was designed by Laurie Bond, of Minicar fame, who sold the drawings to the well-known caravan makers. Art interesting feature is the use of 7-in. Girling brakes all round, their ribbed drums forming hubs to which the lugs for the wheel-rim five-stud spiders are welded. With such a light car the retardation is quite remarkable, the lining area being 65 sq. in.
Simplicity is a key-note of the Berkeley, for the engine unit is easily detachable, it is air-cooled, and petroil-lubrication suffices. Silentbloc bushes are found throughout the construction, so that only a few grease-nipples require attention. There is a plate above,. the engine through which protrude the two Champion LI1S plugs for easy removal. The lines are exceptionally clean, as no filler orifices protrude, and a high-gloss paint finish is applied to the glass-fibre body. If extra luggage beyond a toothbrush has to be carried, a grid will he supplied to fit on the tail. The Berkeley will not be at the Earls Court Shaw, because the makers are not at present members of the S.M.M.T.—nor, for that
matter, are their caravans likely to be at the Motor Show—but they claim that production will commence the third week in October, distribution for the present being done through caravan dealers. When we inquired the price we were told that this will be” approxitnately 075,” inclusive of purchase tax. If this price is realised it will undercut that of our existing lowest-priced sports car, the Morgan 4/4 Series II, by nearly £140.
At the time of our visit two prototypes existed, one red, one blue, and there was discussion about Moss having one at Goodwood for a B.B.C. television feature, and the newsreel people the other, within a matter of days.
Before lunch we were. shown a quite elaborate little assembly track which Berkeley have laid down for the production of the body/ chassis sections from the glass-fibre moulds, with infrared ovens for rapid bonding, and subsequent release of the sections from the moulds. We were told that British Anzani engines will be delivered in batches a fifty, final assembly of the mechanical units on the plastic structure being accomplished on a simple hand-propelled assembly line, after the necessary strengthening flanges and holes have been incorporated with the. frames held in vertical jigs.
After lunch we were able to drive the red prototype. The first impression was of a typically lively—and noisy—two-stroke engine and a clutch which, although the pedal is of generous dimensions, required sensitive engagement. It took a little time to discover the locations of the gears in the notched quadrant and the gear-change is rather harsh, although with the final in. movement of the lever the gears go in positively with the engine running. The change from second to top, up or down, is rapid and easy. The tiny car possesses plenty of life, but calls for sensible use of the middle gear if good acceleration is to be Achieved. The engine
seems to revel in high revs. (this 60 by 57-mm. unit has a piston speed of only 1,870 ft. per minute at 5,000 r.p.m.) and a speedometer reading of nearly 50 m.p.h. was accomplished in second gear. The top speed is said to be 70 m.p.h., but no doubt a long run or favourable conditions would be required.
The suspension on the car tried was rather hard, resulting in up and down movement and chatter from the body, and the engine produces a lot of vibration as well as noise. Over rough surfaces, however, the ride is good. The Burman worm-and-nut steering gives a 28-ft. turning circle and calls for two turns, lock-to-lock. It is almost too light but is unaffected by the front-wheel drive, the only effect of which is that a trace of oversteer on the over-run is cured by opening the throttle. The brakes are fantastically powerful, causing the tail to come round if they are applied needlessly hard on a wet road. There is very little impression of being in an unusually small or low car, until it is realised how the central rear-view mirror is blanked by one’s left shoulder. It requires considerable skill, however, to obtain good suspension on a lightweight car, and at present, although the Berkeley is impressively stable on corners, it rides in a noticeably lively manner. The seat is a rather shallow cushion on the floor and the squab is wafer-thin, but production models will have more padding. Will this new sports car provoke widespread interest on account of its low purchase price and running costs allied to essentially modern appearance, or will it be dismissed by the majority as too small, the “
toy” aspect heightened by the noise and vibration of its twostroke motor-cycle engine set before the driver ? Time, and your opinion, will provide the answer. Meanwhile, the Berkeley would be well advised to set out to prove itself in rallies and other competitive events.