Vintage Postbag, October 1957

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Sir,

I am astounded to see that your “Vintage Postbagers” are considering the old Rover Nine as a motor car. Perhaps, if you will permit me (for professional reasons) to be anonymous, my personal experiences of this beast may be of interest.

In 1926 my unfortunate father bought a nice new Rover Nine (also called 9/20) four-seater tourer, mid blue, registration number PF 2240, for the list price of £225. This was one of the most unsatisfactory models of car from a well-known British manufacturer that I have ever heard of in the post-1918 period. The engine was all right — barring a loosened core plug — but the transmission was of almost incredible badness. In four years and about 20,000 miles there occurred two differential failures, one breakage in the gearbox (mainshaft), one shearing of the propeller-shaft, one interesting crack in a (solid) disc wheel threatening to encircle the hub, one front-brake plate casting cracked across (I remember the parent crawling back from Bristol to London with the hand-brake only!); all this with careful driving by a driver who was certainly not out to get the utmost from the car. Petrol consumption started at about 42 m.p.g. but at one point the engine got the habit of spitting back through the carburetter when an attempt was made to exceed 30 m.p.h., and a richened mixture giving about 35 m.p.g. was then resorted to.

It was, by the way, when we were bowling along A 23 at Coulsdon, Surrey, at a steady 28 m.p.h., waiting for the engine to start its tricks, that a number of “gentlemen in blue” halted us and, waving stopwatches, affirmed that we had covered the last quarter-mile at 35 rn.p.h. — a feat which at that point was quite beyond us! This was, of course, in the old 20-m.p.h. limit days, and Papa knew better than to argue. The fine, pleading “guilty,” was £3. and the demonstration of the honesty and reliability of the British policeman has been a most useful object lesson to his son ever since.

I think the 9/20-h.p. rating was a fair one. One or two tests along the Reigate-Dorking road, then just reconstructed, showed that, given time, a speed of 50 m.p.h. could be attained on the level. The present writer was only a passenger while the Rover was in the family. It was only in 1930, when Papa saw the light, traded the Rover to a Hampstead motor shark for £35 and bought a 1929 Jowett that I attained the age of 17. It goes without saying that the 1929 Jowett never gave the slightest trouble!

My impression is that the thorough badness of the Rover Nine gave to the reputation of the Rover people a knock from which they took a long time to recover. That anyone who is not totally ignorant of the matter should seek to maintain one as a specimen of Fine Old Motor Car is absolutely beyond me. I can understand a liking for the Rover Eight — a useful car with is flat-twin engine — which preceded it; but a Rover Nine, definitely no.

Since writing the above, I have come across the log of petrol purchases between 13,955 and 17,385 miles, in the covers of an old route book, and find that 15,421 miles was reached on July 26th, 1929. The sufferings with the vehicle — which are, let me emphasise, typical and not peculiar to this particular specimen — probably therefore totalled 17,450 all told.

I am, Yours, etc., “Experientia Docet.” Gateshead.

 

Sir,

Whilst in Czechoslovakia a week or two back, at a place called Mlada Boleslav, in connection with one of our World Championship Model Flying Meetings, I encountered a Czechoslovakian car rally. The vintage specimen shown in the enclosed photograph may be of interest to you. It is apparently one of the first sports cars made in the Skoda factory in the days it was known as Laurin and Klement — I was given a date for this vehicle of 1890 to 1900, but I consider this extremely doubtful.

I am, Yours, etc., H. G. Hundleby. Watford.

[Photograph reproduced at foot of previous column.—Ed.]

*

Sir,

I was most surprised when my son showed me some correspondence in your magazine concerning the Butler-Lacey car. As I owned one of these cars back in England in about 1926, I may be able to shed some light on the matter.

The car was made by a firm of light engineers at Hendon, and on a business visit to their works in 1925 I learnt that they had recently recommenced car production (about twelve cars had been made between 1918 and 1920). Mr. Ironside, the works manager, took me for a demonstration run in one of the new cars, and, attracted by the solid and commodious body, I bought the car on the spot. I remember that the open four-seater coachwork was very similar to the small Humber (or was it the Bean?) of the same year.

We used the Butler-Lacey for about two years, and perhaps readers will be interested in this photograph of my wife preparing for our holiday in 1926. I found this in our family album, and will try to find a better one showing the whole car.

As this car was a great success, I tried to buy another in 1929 or 1930, but found that the firm had already succumbed to the depression. I don’t believe I ever saw another Butler-Lacey on the road and as far as I know the car never went into serious production. I doubt if the whole output can have amounted to more than 24 cars, which is a pity because it was a beautifully-made, though expensive, car and had a fair turn of speed — one could cruise all day, five up, at fifty miles an hour.

I am, Yours, etc., Humphrey Lushington. Montreal.

*

Sir,

Perhaps a few facts about the Nazzaro car may interest your readers. This make was the unsuccessful venture of that famous Fiat driver Felice Nazzaro in the realm of industry. As far as I know the following successes were scored:

1913 Targa Florio … Nazzaro

1914 Coppa Florio … Nazzaro

1920 Targa Florio …  Meregallis

In the French Grand Prix of 1914 three Nazzaro cars were entered, driven by Porporato, de Moraes and Nazzaro. These cars had four-cylinder long-stroke engines (94 by 160 mm.), a single overhead camshaft, V-pointed radiator and stubby tails. They did not figure prominently in that famous race. As F. Nazzaro won the French Grand Prix of 1922, driving a Fiat, I suppose he wound up his factory during 1921.

Enlarging on the Steiger car, this make won the Eifel race in 1922, driven by Volkhardt, In the Avus race of the same year Kaufmann finished sixth in the 10-p.k. class.

A full team, Kolb, Mayer and Kaufmann, participated in the Targa Florio of 1924. Mayer was fourth in the 3-litre class and 15th in the general category. During 1925 Kaufmann was second in the Eifel race and had the fastest lap to his credit. In the Solitude race the same driver won the 3-litre class. During the years 1923-1926 Steiger scored a good many wins in hill-climbs driven by Kappler. I believe the factory ceased to produce after 1926.

I am, Yours, etc., J. C. Korthals Altes. Blomendaal.

*

Sir,

I can tell you a little about the Short-Ashby light car. Only a little I regret, as I was a small boy in the early nineteen-twenties when my brother and I, on holiday at Heacham on the Wash, met a King’s Lynn grocer, a Mr. Ashby, and his son, who were associated with the venture.

The works was at Towcester, Northants. The friction drive was through a leather-edged sliding wheel on a countershaft. This wheel was in contact, spring-loaded I assume, with the rear face of the flywheel. Bottom gear was when this wheel was gripping near the centre of the flywheel, and the higher gears were obtained by moving the wheel along the countershaft away from the flywheel centre. A great many ratios were therefore possible, but slip and excessive wear was, I think, the “bugbear.”

The car had a radiator like a scaled-down Rolls-Royce.

I think Mr. Ashby, senior, put up money; his son was active in the actual production.

I am, Yours, etc., J. W. Ramm. London N.W.3.

*

Sir,

Mrs. Allan’s article (” Cars I Have Owned,” Motor Sport, May, 1957, pages 227-228) was more than interesting to me, as I can just remember my father’s Douglas, which is referred to in the article. I enclose a picture of the machine in all its beauty. Besides racing it solo and with a sidecar, my father used it as his everyday machine in connection with the small motor-cycle garage he had in Brighton in the ‘twenties. What wonderful memories those days hold! Every bike that came into the garage had a character of its own and the riders were individual personalities. The glorious summers, the Christmases with deep snow, the lovely unspoilt Sussex countryside with its blackberrying end mushrooming, the trips on the paddle steamers (Brighton Belle, Devonia and Waveley), the hill-climbs and treasure hunts, and the speed trials on Madeira Drive!

I am, Yours. etc., A. R. Vole. Wilmslow.

*

Sir,

I think perhaps your readers might be interested in the photograph (See above. — Ed.) of a Model-T Ford lorry, which I came across while on holiday in Paisley. The owner, sitting in the passenger seat, told me that he bought it new 38 years ago, and he uses it regularly every day.

The only deviation from original is a magneto to replace the trembler coils, although the box that used to contain them is still fitted to the dash.

I wonder if many modern vehicles will be running as well in 38 years’ time?

I am, Yours, etc., E. Smith. Kenton.

*

Sir,

I would be very grateful if any readers could help me with information regarding two Edwardian cars which I am starting to renovate.

One is a 1905 Rexette 8-h.p. V-twin three-wheeler. My only query here is regarding the back half of the body. In advertisements of the times that I have seen the driver’s seat is a single one with the radiator wrapped round it. On my car it is a double seat, and the radiator in right out in front of the car. I would like to know if this was also a standard design as it does not appear to be an amateur’s modification.

The other car is a 1910/12 Bedelia. In all the literature that I can find about the Bedelia the driver sat behind the passenger. In my car the driver sits in front, the body being, of course, single width. Here again this does not look like a conversion and I cannot imagine anyone ever going to such lengths to move the driving position and all that it entails. It is possibly a prototype or a later model, but it is certainly a Bedelia although fitted with an English engine — a Blumfield. This, I believe, was not uncommon.

Any information, however slight, that anyone can pass on to me will be very much appreciated.

I am, Yours, etc., E. D. Woolley. Northampton.

[Letters will be forwarded. It seems possible that Mr. Woolley’s Bedelia may, in fact, be a Super, in which the passenger sat behind the driver. — Ed.]

*

Sir,

I have read in your July issue an article on “Cars I Have Owned” containing an account of the unfortunate experiences which Mr. I. S. Ross had when he owned an Albert. I was fortunate in obtaining a “demonstration” Albert car from my local agents in 1918 when it had only 2,000 miles registered on the dial.

My experience with this car was extremely satisfactory — I used it about 12 years before selling it, and clocked between 120,000 and 130,000 miles. I had none of the troubles scheduled by Mr. Ross and have very pleasant recollections of 12 years of trouble-free motoring. Of course. I had punctures and other minor inconveniences but have nothing but praise for the Albert.

As I have owned and driven bikes and cars since 1907, and up to now have not had an accident, I feel I am justified in expressing my opinion in praise of my Albert.

I am, Yours, etc., Henry A. Ellis. Swansea.

P.S. — As wife of the above, may I add my tribute. We filled our Albert to capacity and over often. I have often “thanked” Albert at the end of a long run for another trouble-free day. We feel we had to write in defence of our old and trusted friend. — M. C. Ellis.