Vintage Postbag, October 1965



The Vintage Renaults
The reference to “abominable brakes” in M. Jorrand’s letter in your September issue prompts me to mention the magnificent brakes on the 13.9-h.p. (2,121 c.c.) “semi-sports torpedo” Renault, which my father bought new about 1923 or 1924. This was one of the first cars available in England with 4-wheel brakes (Perrot system, I believe), and my recollection is that they were extremely efficient; incautious use could be highly inconvenient to following traffic. The engine was of rather antiquated sidevalve design, with cast-iron pistons, which my father had replaced with aluminium pistons; the maximum speed was, even then, well under 60 m.p.h.

This was one of the first Renaults on which the “coal scuttle ” bonnet was streamlined into the body sides. The result was a handsome example of the contemporary French style, being. in fact, a scaled-down version of the famous “45.”
Leek. J.N.H. Pursaill

Not Mine!
I should be grateful if you would publish a correction to your report of the V.S.C.C. Meeting at Silverstone on July 31st, wherein it is stated that “Brown’s Cooper-Bristol caught fire but he drove it to a marshalling post where extinguishers are kept.”

My car did not catch fire, and has probably been confused with Begley’s B.M.W. single-seater. The Cooper-Bristol finished sixth in each of its races, the first being enlivened by a race-long scrap with Bertie Brown’s E.R.A. and the second by a similar struggle with Waller’s car, just gaining the advantage at the finish in each case.
Burnley. John R. Brown
[Our information came from an experienced observer but we gladly correct it.—Ed]

The Chaffley Airship
The night this airship was brought down was very foggy and, as a schoolboy living at Tottenham, I saw the glow in the sky. My father, a railwayman on night duty, came home and we went that morning to see the site.

The ground was covered with little bits and pieces, nuts and bolts and charred wood, and a tremendous mound of coiled and tangled wire. These airships had a wooden frame of sorts, wire braced.

Conversely, I had a never forgotten view of the destruction of the Potters Bar Zeppelin, again my father, a signalman at Finsbury Park, was on night duty and again we went to the site the following morning.

This time armed troops kept the mob at some distance from the pile of dural girders draped over an oak tree. This was a Zeppelin, commanded, I think, by one of the ace captains, but I have no reference by me of which one it was.

So there is no doubt that the Cuffley airship was not a Zeppelin but a semi-rigid with a consumable frame and a few miles of wire.
Potters Bar. W. R. Finch

Morgan Memories
My husband and I have been very interested in “The Vintage Years of the Morgan 3-Wheeler.” I am enclosing a small snapshot of a friend’s 3-wheeler Morgan, and wonder if this is the only one of its kind. [Other saloon models were built, as my article conveyed.—Ed.]

It is, as you can see, a saloon, and was designed by a Mr. Russell of City and Guilds in 1927, when my husband was also a student there. Mr. Russell sold it to a friend of my husband, and we used to ride in it.
Harpenden. Neil Bentley (Mrs.).

A Phoenix Still Extant
I was most interested in your article in MOTOR SPORT for August on fragments on forgotten makes, No. 32, ” The Phoenix,” since I have one of these cars.

This is the 11.9 model, 69 x 120, 1,790 C.C. (maker’s rating 12.25 h.p.). There are, however, one or two technical differences. This has an early S.U. carburetter with leather bellows cast iron pistons, and only one oil filler and breather pipe, which is at the front of the engine.

There is also a starter ring on the flywheel and a C.A.V. co-axial starter is fitted. The C.A.V. dynamo is belt driven from a pulley just in front of the flywheel. The dynamo incorporates a freewheel device which allows it to run on at low discharge rate after the engine has stopped. This can be switched off when the car is left for any lengthy period. The clicking of the freewheel is quite audible with engine stopped.

I understand from C.A.V.’s that this lighting set was supplied as an optional extra from the early 1900s to 1922.

A photograph of the car supplied by the Autocar shows torpedo scuttle mounted sidelamps on the oil lamp type brackets and the headlamps fork-mounted down on the dumb irons. The crank-shaft seems rather slender for the hefty flywheel and is carried in three main bearings, oil for the centre and front bearing being retained in pockets as it is thrown up. The rear main is pressure fed from the external oil pipe from front-mounted oil pump (fitted with priming cock). Tile oil to the rear main is restricted by a felt plug. Two leads running from this pipe into the crankcase appear to keep the big-end troughs supplied, the connecting-rods being fitted with dippers.

Closer inspection since reading your article reveals drilling round the circumference of the flywheel and the clutch rotor has some bolts fitted, presumably for balancing.

I have the engine ready now for final assembly, the ” Conner” magneto having been reconditioned (this has no manual advance and retard). The S.U. carburetter was overhauled by S.U.s of Birmingham, who replaced missing and worn parts, returning it to me as new and kindly explaining that it was set to give the best results.

The right-hand change 3-speed and reverse gearbox is, as you say, robust and has a delightful selector action. The worm-drive rear axle is a massive affair and the propeller shaft (enclosed) and half-shafts are extremely simple, being round bar with squared ends to take the drive. The car has also non-detachable wooden wheels, the tyre size being 765 x 105.

The valve adjustment is ingenious, incorporating split collets threaded on the valve stems, the valve spring locking them when released.

It would be nice to know the correct tappet clearance. I have not been able to obtain very much information so far. There is an oil-pressure button, but I do not know what oil pressure may be expected. Also, what sort of oil would be used on the clutch?

During the eight or nine years that I have owned the car I’m afraid the restoration has been pretty slow (I have kept a log on the work carried out). I’m afraid that this, is mainly due to the fact that whilst running a garage the customer’s work must come first.

Your article has been so invigorating that we shall now move the car to a more suitable place in the workshop where we hope work can proceed.

The remains of the original 2/3-seater body still bears evidence of royal blue paint and the wings appear to have been galvanised before painting, which has preserved them quite well. The large rear-mounted radiator does not leak.

I had somehow assumed that Mr. Van Hooydonk was responsible for the engine design. How nice to read that Mr. A. E. Bowyer-Lowe, the designer, is still with us. I would very much like to get in touch with him!

I was apprenticed to the Motor Trade at a garage in Cambridge from 1932 and, although a little vague maybe, about 1934/5 assisted my foreman Mr. J. Hart on an extensive overhaul on a Wolseley Hornet saloon for a very discerning gentleman by the name of Bowyer-Lowe, who was connected with the radio business. We were told he had invented some new radio valve. Could this be a coincidence?

Thank you for the very illuminating article.
Cambridge. R. Walker.

The Prescott Vintage Record
In your September issue you state that the V.S.C.C. Prescott record was set up in 1959 by Peter Hull in an E.R.A. (page 755). May I remind you that it was, of course, Douglas Hull who achieved this record (now six years old) in E.R.A. R.11B.
Cleeve. C. S. R. Owen

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Discoveries—Parts of a Trojan have turned up in Cyprus, the engine from which is serial number XL.8725 and the body made by Falcon. A reader has for disposal a Lucas F.37 fog-lamp, believed to have come from a Rolls-Royce. In a pottery works in Yorkshire a 1929 Morris Commercial is derelict, but intact except for the starter motor, and a 1,750 Alfa Romeo d.h.c. was towed into a garage near the M.1 over three years ago with a broken half-shaft and is still there, in sorry condition. A reader reports that a 1921/22 G.N. can be bought in France for 10,000 new-francs. Information is wanted about French Talbot, Darracq and Lago-Talbot cars. Letters can be forwarded.