Vintage postbag, October 1962

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Touche

Sir,

In your report of the recent V.S.C.C. Prescott meeting you ask a question that I cannot allow to remain unanswered. Having reported the fact that Robert Ashley’s Frazer-Nash arrived at the venue on a trailer, you ask “How ‘professional’ can you get ?”

There is nothing “professional ” in obviating the burden of road-tax and costly insurance cover by investing in a simple inexpensively fabricated trailer. If you will insist in printing pointed asides (and as a regular reader I know that you will) please reserve them for the current crop of alleged enthusiasts who endeavour to form these unnecessary equipes and whose entries have lately infiltrated even restricted driving test events.

Bordon. A. S. Gosnell.

The Drewery Rail Cars

Sir,

In the September issue of the ever interesting Motor Sport, was a letter and picture from Mr. Cossons, asking if anybody could identify the peculiar little motor shown on the railway.

It was a Drewery Rail Car. These were made by the Drewery Rail Car Co., in London, from 1906 to about 1914. They were used by railway officials, engineers, etc., especially on railways where there were long distances between stations, and infrequent trains.

They had ten, and sixteen horsepower petrol engines, and three speeds forward, and special gearbox with three speeds reverse. Transmission was by roller chain.

They were grand little motors; some could seat six, some only one, and they could do up to 40 m.p.h. Many of them were exported, especially to India, where they were very popular. A six-h.p. two-speed car was later manufactured. The models varied as to the class of railway to be used on, and also the type of foreign country where they were used. They were very popular where railways were being built or extended.

Knaresborough. G. A. Shaw.

Two rare commercials

Sir,

As a keen reader of your excellent publication and particularly vintage matters I would like to add my small contribution.

As an apprentice with the Laystall Engineering Company, of Gravel Lane, Southwark, in the very early ’20s I was involved in the overhaul of some heavy lorries, which I have never seen mentioned in your commercial section.

These were Bethlehem 5-tonners which were operated by The Premier Fish Meal Company, of Stratford, London.

Apparently their resident mechanic had dismantled all these vehicles and had then got the sack and out of spite had distributed all the bits and pieces over a wide area of marshland. It was the task of my mate and myself to collect all the bits, overhaul and reassemble. All this was carried out in the winter of 1924 on the Stratford marshes and out in the open. This was my first introduction to the motor industry and almost cured me of matters mechanical.

In later years when employed in my father’s garage at Chingford in Essex we maintained the local fire engine, also of a very rare make; this was an Archangel, which struck me as something of a coincidence after my previous experience with Bethlehems. I wonder if any of your older readers have come across these two unusual makes ?

Pevensey Bay. Stuart Taylor.

Why multi-cylinders?

Sir,

Referring to the letter by A. Skinner in your July 1962 issue, I should like to comment on it as follows :—

1. I suggest Mr. Skinner will get more sense out of his study of racing engine design if he uses the following criteria for engine speed and potential horsepower: mean piston speed divided by the square root of the stroke/bore ratio (corrected piston speed) and bore area times the square root of the stroke/bore ratio (corrected bore area). The late Dr. F. W. Lanchester, in effect, proposed these criteria as far back as 1905 and they are still as valid to-day as they were then. Unfortunately most writers on engine design and development have, even now, not yet caught up with Lanchester.

2. Using the Salmson engines as examples one obtains the following figures :—

It will be noted that on the basis of corrected bore area, doubling the number of cylinders is likely to be a much better paying proposition than equalising the bore and stroke and sticking to four cylinders. This is the main reason for the “multi-cylinders.” As might be expected, the resulting engines were not always successful any more than they are today (e.g. Porsche flat eight at the time of writing). In the case of Salmson, lack of development and the attempt to use desdromonic valve gear may have had something to do with the lack of success. However, multi-cylinder-engined cars won most of the races and this is what counts. If one uses the corrected bore area as a basis of comparison it becomes understandable.

3. The leading position of the multi-cylinder engine was consolidated by the introduction of the supercharger. The problems involved in supercharging a piston engine are much simplified if the engine takes its fuel/air mixture in a lot of little gulps rather than in a few big ones.

4. On the basis of corrected piston speed and corrected bore area, the disadvantages of long stroke proportions are nothing like so great as they are popularly supposed to be and this partly explains the long innings of the long-stroke engine. Not so long ago the Alfa Romeo 159 and works Jaguars did not do so badly in their respective classes in spite of their comparatively long stroke proportions.

5. The use of the corrected piston speed as a criterion makes the high piston speeds (4,000 feet/min.) reliably attained by such cars as the 1908 Sizaire-Naudin understandable, (bore and stroke ioo x 250 mm.).

6. Pre-1914, i.e. the days of the light steel or cast-iron pistons and racing fuels of probably not more than 70 octane, and may be much less, long stroke proportions can be expected to have given superior performance to short stroke ones. It is suggested that the active realisation of this, was one of the keys to the lead in racing car design established by Peugeot at the time.

It took a long time for designers to unlearn the lessons concerned and appreciate what could be done with aluminium pistons and high octane fuels. Furthermore, a high stroke/bore ratio was not such a mechanical disadvantage anyway.

7. Bugatti made straight-eight engines of the following nominal capacities 1100, 1500, 2000, and 2300 c.c apart of course, from larger capacity engines as well. It is difficult to see how any of these can be “explicable as the logical extension of the corresponding four” assuming this phrase means just doubling the number of cylinders.

8. It is also difficult to see why the straight-eight G.P. Delage should be discounted. To say that a successful car is ahead of its time tends to be contradictory. In fact, surely the design features of the Delage engine were typical of the time it was built, e.g. multi-cylinders, long stroke proportions, two wide-angled valves per cylinder, gear-driven camshafts and auxiliaries, lots of roller and or ball bearings, single stage Roots blower, etc.

The myth of the Delage being ahead of its time has arisen because about 10 years after it was first raced, it completed successfully, in significantly modified form, against such “poormen’s racing cars” as one using a modified touring engine of fewer cylinders and push-rod-operated valves and another using an engine with still fewer cylinders designed for sale to the racing private owner. If someone like Mercedes-Benz had bothered to produce a 1½-litre racing car at the time in question, i.e. when the Delage was 10 years old, it is extremely doubtful whether the Delage would have had much chance against it.

9. The simple piston or bore area cum mean piston speed concept fails to explain why limited bore area racing car formula and taxation based on the R.A.C. horsepower rating promoted the development of long-stroke engines. These practical results are, however, fully understandable on the basis of the Lanchester concept.

On board S.S. Duke of York. F. R. B. King.

Quill pens

Dear Sir

On page 686 of the current issue, you ask “Anyone got a quill pen?” Both the question and its context, would seem to infer that the quill is a ‘veteran’ – a thing of the past!

This, of course, is not so! For, with all our vaunted in engineering etc., no one has yet devised, a better instrument, for the calligrapher, than a well cut quill, and they are still used, wherever really good writing is called for. Any good Artist’s supply shop still stocks them! Goose, Turkey, or Crow!

No other pen can be easily & speedily, cut to the individual writer’s requirements, and no other pen can give the sharpness of line & delicate hairlines, produced by the quill. A metal pen, sharpened to the same degree, would cut the paper, parchment, or vellum, and be most difficult to control! The quill, however sharp, does’nt ‘cut’, and correctly used, is delightful to use!

No sir! The well cut quill if 1962 is every bit as up to date as its predecessors! There are no restored models! Each one is a brand spanking new Rolls Royce – of writing tools.

Yours sincerely
George Miller.

[This correspondence is now closed, in case we receive letters relating to ancient privies, suits of armour and such like. But I hope to have my own quill pen, as soon as I can decide between goose or porcupine.—Ed.]

V.S.C.C. admission charges

Sir,

After being denounced by the V.S.C.C. spokesman as a possible ghoul, one of its members now conscripts me into the Something-for-Nothing Brigade. Abuse however is a poor substitute for logic.

Rising charges to offset rising costs and prevent financial loss, would have received my support not criticism. No such reasons were given. The published motive was to reduce crowds by discouraging the morbid element. Does the spectacular failure of this experiment prove the popularity of the 10-bob accident ?

The suggestion that I join the V.S.C.C. is irrelevant, indicating only that the real point of my protest has been missed. I do not object to justifiable increases, only those occasioned by the reasons given. If I were a club member I would not endorse slander on non-members.

If the relief of paddock congestion and not financial gain is the V.S.C.C.’s real aim, surely the simplest way of achieving this would be to limit admission here to club members.

I fully appreciate that these races are run primarily for the benefit of members, Spectators being permitted as a favour. Public explanation for any action is therefore unnecessary. Nevertheless, if given, it should be accurate.

Coventry. H. W. Green.

The Burton-Ashby Tramway

Sir,

You ask whether anything remains of the Burton-on-Trent to Ashby-de-la-Zouch tramway.

I had occasion to go to Ashby about three years ago and on arrival at the railway station noticed tram tracks in the station forecourt! As far as I could remember there were double tracks and a set of points. They seemed standard gauge, and I remember no evidence of overhead wires, except the standards which now support (or did) street lighting. These have probably been replaced by some modern concrete work of art! I gather that the tramway closed as the result of a nasty accident, when a tram ran loose down a hill just outside the town and killed many on board (a school outing).

Chippenham. J. P. Fisher.

Good service from a 1928 Austin 12/4

Sir,

I thought you might be interested in a recent trip I made in my 1928 Austin 12/4 tourer.

Together with four friends I have just returned from a four-week, 4,500-mile Continental tour, travelling as far south as Athens and including travelling through the following countries : France, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Greece, Italy and Switzerland. The only major fault which developed was a burnt-out dynamo, which was rewound in Belgrade.

I think you would agree that this is a very good achievement for a car which is 34 years old and has had no money spent on mechanical repairs in the last three years (approximately 40,000 miles). I would also add that this car is used every day and has toured southern Germany in 1960 and Denmark in 1961 with complete success.

Birmingham. R. V. Lawrence.

Bits and Pieces.—A reader wants a manual or data for a 1933 Standard Swallow with Little Nine engine. An Essex chassis with axles and wooden wheels lies in a field by the Kennet and Avon Canal aqueduct at Avon Cliff, near Bath. A reader in Australia who has a 1920 8/15 Mathis wants data, and would like to contact other Mathis owners. A garage in Kent has a 1931 Sunbeam 16 less one con.-rod and piston and a 1927 Austin 12 fabric saloon for sale, and a Hereford garage has some engines and gearboxes, etc., from veteran cars.

It is encouraging to hear that old cars are still being discovered in France, even near Nice, where garages specialising in such cars could have been expected to have combed the area. For instance, a reader found recently in a disused factory near Nice two very early Paris lorries based on the circular radiator de Dion design, a circa 1920 Dodge tourer and a war-time Clerget rotary aeroengine. Two other interesting French cars that are being rebuilt and for which data is sought are a 1926 Derby in Warwick and a B.N.C., imported from France and thought to be Duval’s 1935 Le Mans car, in Liverpool. Letters can be forwarded. It is reported a yard halfway between Cheltenham and Gloucester contains a London taxi, two large Daimlers, several Rolls-Royces, a Dennis fire-engine and a horse-drawn steam fire-engine.

For your information. That Straker-Squire Six tourer is still running about the Brixton area of London. An Austin 12/4 saloon, circa 1928, is standing in a field at Great Witley, Worcs., and there is an old car, apparently restored, at a filling station nearer Worcester itself. A large Armstrong Siddeley saloon in clean condition, of the p.v.t. era, was for sale at a Surrey dealers. The price asked was £85.

An interesting and rare car tlmi in a Montagu Motor Museum car-park last month was a 1928 26/60 Vauxhall Hurlingham type-T sports car, complete with vee-screen before the “rumbleseat ” in its streamlined tail. It was bought in Hampshire with a hole in the cylinder block and subsequently restored. Lord Montagu of Beaulieu attended the recent Sword auction Sale of old vehicles and bought a 1923/4 o.h.v. La Buire. Prices generally were low, but a Rolls-Royce fetched £3,100. Comdr. Bush is running a VI2 Lagonda saloon when not steaming his Stanley. A successor to the Stanley has been found somewhere in London.

Phoenix Night. There was the usual assembly of assorted vintage, p.v.t. and modern cars at “The Phoenix,” Hartley Wintney on the first Thursday evening of last month. One of the most striking cars present was the ex-Ellis vintage sleeve-valve Mors with a large truck behind its spacious tourer body. There were at least two unspoiled 3-litre Bentley tourers, one of them anchored by the back wheels only, a couple of chain-propelled ‘Nashes, a very early 14-h.p. Sunbeam coupe, and many other enthralling machines lurking in the twilight of the hotel car-park. Jenkinson and Boddy arrived in a 1938 Siddeley Special close-coupled sports saloon boasting vacuum-servo actuation of brakes and pre-selector gear-change, a “white elephant” that does an easy 75 m.p.h„ and Harry Bowler came in a discreet Bentley.

More bits and pieces. Whose was the small traction engine seen steaming happily through Barnes not long ago ? Mr. Rixon Bucknall, signing his letter with the quill pen used by Queen Victoria, tells us that petrol rationing did not come into force until August 1916; he and a cousin had a 7.9 Indian and used the coupons from their first ration book for a return run to Haywards Heath from Worthing in the third week of that month. The City Museum and Art Gallery, Newhall Street, Birmingham 3, is holding a Steam Week-End from October 20th-21st, when eight engines will be in steam; admission is free. Someone imported a rough de Dion Bouton by air charter to Southend Airport recently. The Minerva mentioned in these columns recently has been bought for £18 10s. Parts required to aid its restoration are an o/s running board, radiator cap and mascot, radiator badge, and data generally. Walter Hunter intends to leave Australia this month for England with his wife and a friend in a 1928 model-A Ford “Tudor ” saloon bought for £16A and subsequently restored. The route will be via India and Europe, with arrival about next spring. Mr. Hunter’s daily transport is a 1928 Chevrolet “National,” his brother has a de luxe version of one of these cars, and friends own a 1927 model-A Ford converted to a utility and a 5931 model-A Ford roadster. Someone rebuilding a 1928 Austin 12/4 “Burnham” saloon needs a pair of metal surrounds that used to locate the running board mats and which had bootscrapers on their outside edges. Can anyone assist ? A sleevevalve Daimler languishes at the Stockport Metal Company. Information is sought concerning a 1927 10-h.p. Rally which is being restored in Manchester.

V.C.C. VETERAN & VINTAGE RALLY
Burnham-on-sea (August 12th)

Best Performance, Class 1: H. Rose (1004 Talbot).

Best Performance, Class 2: J. Buncombe (1912 Clement Bayard).

Best Performance, Class 3: K. Warren ([925 Bentley).

Best Performance, Organising Club Member: D. Hasell (1923 Wolseley).

Test Winners, Class 1: H. Timmis (1903 Gladiator).

Test Winners, Class 2: J. Buncombe (1912 Clement Bayard).

Test Winners, Class 3: E. James (1923 Rolls-Royce).

First-Class Awards: J. Dennis (1902 Dennis); R. Milton (1912 Ford); V. Tucker (1923 Rolls-Royce) and J. Hobsons (1929 Standard).

Second-Class Awards: D. Gough (1913 Enfield); J. Timrnis (1913 Scout); G. Giblett (1925 Swift) and E. James (1923 Rolls-Royce).

At the time of going to press the results of the Madresfield Rally are not to hand but will be published next month.

Mr. D. E. A. Evans, of 99, Blackacre Road, Dudley, Worcs., is anxious to form a list of all cars made by the Star Engineering Co., of Wolverhampton, the idea being to form a register. He can also give details of a G.W.K. engine which is going cheaply and two vintage motorcycles.

B.D.C. Firle Hill-climb (Sept. 16th)

Bentley Handicap: 1st: W. F J. Brogden (3-litre), 24.72 sec. 2nd: Mrs. C. Mountfort (4½-litre), 26.87 sec.; 3rd; J, L.. Goddard (8-litre), 27.53 sec.

3-litre Bentleys: W. F. J. Brogden, 32.42 sec.

4½-litre: G. H. G. Burton, 28.96 sec.

4½-litre (long chassis): H. Rose, 32.58 sec.

4½, 6½ and 8-litres:  J. L. Goddard (8-litre). 30.53 scc.

Post 1931: B. M. Russ-Turner (4½-litre), 29.17 sec.

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