Vintage Postbag, October 1958

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76

Sir,
In your March issue Mr. P. K. Shaw asked for information on C.W.K. and Unit cars. The G.W.K. was made between 1911 and 1931, first at Home Works, Dachet, Bucks, and then, as Mr. Shaw states, at Cornwallis Works, Maidenhead. I have two photographs of late G.W.K. cars, one a 1924 10 R.A.C. h.p. “all-weather” and the other a 1926 10.8 R.A.C. h.p. saloon. From these it appears that the later G.W.K.s were not very sporty.

If Mr. Shaw and I are thinking about the same Unit, it appears that Mr. Shaw’s dating of the car is three years out, as Doyles’ “The World’s Automobiles” gives the dates of the marque as 1920 to 1923. It was made by Rotary Unit Co, Ltd., Woburn, Bucks. and had a horizontal engine and no clutch or gearbox.

Unfortunately, I have never seen either of the two makes.
I am, Yours, etc..
Ely. B. M. White (aged 13).
[The Unit was developed from the G.W.K. and haul a similar friction transmission.–Ed)

Sir,
I read with interest the letters about the Cubitt, as my father owned one in the ‘twenties. Unfortunately, he remembers little about it, except that his car was very large—” like a charabanc “— compared with a previously-owned G.N., but I unearthed the enclosed photograph which shows the radiator very clearly. The Cubitt radiator badge can be made out as being a diamond shape with a very large capital “C” more or less devouring the other letters. The lattice-work below the radiator is also clearly visible, as mentioned in your article.
I am, Yours, etc.,
West Byfleet. (Dr.) J. C. Twomey

Sir,
Isn’t your quibble about the admissibility of the Bass Daimler motor bottle into H.C.V.C. events taking the cult of le par sang a little too far? A commercial vehicle is a commercial vehicle whether it is on a car chassis or not.

I understand that a sister vehicle to the one owned by Lord Montagu is still in service with the brewery’s London agency, delivering in the King’s Cross area. This is surely proof that its claim to be called a commercial vehicle is a valid one ?

Incidentally I have seen photographs of an even older motor bottle, also thought to be on a Daimler chassis, and commissioned by Worthington & Co. around 1908 or 1909. Unfortunately, Daimler’s records were destroyed in the blitz on Coventry during the war and they are unable to throw any light on this.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Watford. John Erikson.
[We think that if a private-car chassis was endowed with a commercial body in vintage times, i.e., prior to 1931, then it should perhaps qualify for H.C.V.C. events. What we want the organisers to avoid is old cars, discovered as chassis, and converted into bogus historic commercial vehicles by the addition of recently-built truck or platform bodies.—Ed

Sir,
It was sad to see the old Salmson referred to by Mr. W. H. Dobbs as”the worst thing on wheels, etc.” Perhaps he was unlucky, for I have many happy memories of this little car. With its pointed tail, two-seater body, and thin, high-pressure tyres, I suppose that it did look rather like a black submarine on yellow bicycle wheels, but to the impecunious medical student it was the beau ideal of sporting motors. The cockpit was padded round the edges with red leather in contemporary aero fashion, and the vee-screen and scanty, flared wings contributed to the slightly raffish, but so Continental and sportif decor. The centre gear-lever and hand-brake were rather close together, but I recall no difficulty in changing gear, apart from a reluctance for first to engage. This was cured by relining the clutch—cost £3.

The motor was certainly strange in that there were only four push-rods to four cylinders. As far as I can remember, each rocker operated the exhaust valve in normal fashion, and then on its return flicked open the inlet, which had a very weak spring. I believe this principle was used by Messrs. Salmson in their aero engines at that time. A push-rod would occasionally jump out, but otherwise the unit gave no trouble and propelled the light little car quite briskly.

Perhaps she was a bit skittish on wet tram-lines, due to lack of differential, and once the crown-wheel came adrift, resulting in an unexpected lack of forward motion. However, Gruzelier of Purley (he ran a lovely 3-litre Sunbeam at that time) riveted the axle, wheel and flange together, and then welded the assembly so that no further trouble occurred.

The brakes, rear wheels only, were admittedly poor, due to the elasticity of the cables. These did not run in copper tubes in my car, but hung under the car, unsupported front pedal to cam lever. Nevertheless, I only hit one vehicle in the rear.

Come to think of it, perhaps these are rather a lot of troubles, but what a lot of fun we would miss if our old cars did not have their foibles. Despite them,” Sammy” and I made many a long, pleasant run down those lovely uncluttered roads of the dear, dead nineteen’ twenties.
I am. Yours, etc.,
Glasgow. H. D. Brown Kelly

Sir,
Mr. W. H. Dobbs states that a 1926 Samson was “about the worst thing on wheels I have ever touched.” I, too, owned a Salmson—of 1925 vintage—and my experience with that prompts me to suggest that Mr. Dobbs must have captured a very poor specimen.

In 1931, still in my ‘teens, I bought a stripped-down chassis less body for £4, and rebuilt it, fitting a two-seater body of ash framing and plywood (see picture).

The four-cylinder engine had a Treasury rating of 10 h.p. and the ” revolting ” type of valve operation mentioned by Mr. Dobbs was, in fact, a novel o.h.v. gear which had previously been used on aircraft engines. A single rocker arm opened both inlet and exhaust valves for each cylinder, and was itself operated by a push-rod working on a cam with a “kink” in it. The lift of the cam opened the exhaust valve, and when the push-rod was in the recess, the inlet valve opened by the pull of two tension springs on the rocker acting against the normal valve spring (a sort of power-assisted automatic inlet !).

This type of valve gear, although rather noisy, was simple, and in my Salmson seemed to function very well. One fault I remember was that “float” occurred at speed(?) and some of the small valve tension springs were occasionally shed, but I always carried spares. and they took but a minute to fix.

The clutch, being of the cone type lined with leather, was rather fierce, but this, and the gear-change, one got used to.

Brakes were fitted to all four wheels and were of the standard expected in light cars of that era.

There was no differential, and the solid back axle made cornering a little lively; this, and the beaded-edge tyres, which if not inflated hard readily left the rims when cornering, ensured that there was never a dull moment!

All things considered, the car had a reasonable performance, and satisfied my youthful motoring ambitions for many thousands of miles.

Later, I acquired a 1926 10-h.p twin o.h.c. Salmson. This had a similar specification to the 1925 model (apart from the engine), and, with a greatly improved performance, also gave me satisfactory service.
I am, Yours. etc.,
Nantmel, Rhayader. C. P. Lewis

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