Vintage postbag, October 1966



I disagree most violently regarding the suitability of the term “Georgian” for cars manufactured during the ‘thirties.

The. word ” Georgian ” calls to mind an age of elegance and architecturally a purity of design and line. Surely then, this term could he better applied to Vintage cars (except the pure Gothic of the Bentley radiator) and not the early attempts at mass production which I suggest would be suitably catered for under the heading of “Victoriana.”


A Glimpse of the Twenties


I was interested to read about my old friend, Group Captain Wynne, and his memories of Duxford, together with the follow-up letter from John Pole. Being stationed there from December, 1923, to October, 1925, I think I saw the best of that wonderful era of stunt flying and motor cars. I arrived from the R.A.E. Farnborough in a 1913 Indianapolis 6-litre Sunbeam (driven by Guyot in the race) which had been evolved from a 1911 Brooklands record-breaking car. Those were the days of converted racing cars for normal road use, as you could drive round Hyde Park in the Sunbeam at 20 m.p.h. in top.

I bought the Bugatti referred to about a year later. It was a Full Brescia 1922 model, long wheelbase, with the two magnetos on the dash and an aluminium two-seater body, which I painted a vivid red during a wet afternoon in one of the hangars. The car was ex Jack Barclay and came from Barclay & Wise in Great Portland Street. I had lots of trouble and never had clean hands from the day I bought it, till it was sold about nine months later.

Of the other cars at Duxford during this period, I recall a 27-80 Austro-Darmler owned by Reynolds, Woollett had a small Edwardian Benz and a G.N. nicknamed “General Nuisance” as it was always breaking down, Cairns had a Speed Model Hillman, and Alec Ryde a Clyno on which he knocked down a gas lamp on the road to Cambridge, causing great commotion as the city’s gas supply had to be shut off while repairs were being made. The C.O. of No. 19 Squadron had a Rolls-Royce Edwardian Ghost touring car and a Trojan.

The Austro-Daimler used to put on some very fast runs on the roads near Thetford, cruising at 70 plus, while the Sunbeam made some most exciting trips back from London in the early mornings, such as the R.A.F. Club in Piccadilly to Duxford in 70 min. I also remember riding in a 30-98 Vauxhall, which a dealer in Cambridge was trying to sell to Cairns in No. 111 squadron; on the Thetford road we had a speedometer reading of 88 m.p.h., quite a high speed for 1924.

Night trips, which I often took in the Bugatti, consisted of an early evening at the Rendez-Vous Dance Hall in Cambridge, followed by a quick dash up to London to the Forty-Three Club in Gerrard Street, an amazing establishment where Mrs. M., who ran the place, would often loan financially-embarrassed young officers the money to go in. Then there would be the return trip to Duxford up the Great North Road between 3-4 a.m. with no traffic to worry about and the exhaust note of the Bugatti waking up half the countryside.

The Sunbeam returned again to Duxford, as I saw it there in the Station Garage some time in 1927-28. It was then owned by a Squadron Leader Jones, who afterwards changed his name to Penderel. I cannot resist ending this letter by drawing attention to the amazing era of stunt flying which took place at Duxford at this time; some very famous names in R.A.F. history have served with the three Fighter Squadrons mentioned.

Montreal. S. T. B. CRIPPS

Klaxon Horns


It was good to see you refer to a Klaxon horn with a capital “K” in your report of the 4th National Austin Seven Rally in the August Motor Sport. As stated in our catalogue for 1928 —”Novelists and newspapers frequently spell Klaxon with a small ‘k.’ The public is reminded that KLAXON is our registered trade mark and legally may be applied only to warning signals made by us.”

I am sure your readers will be interested to know that we still manufacture the Klaxon Klaxet for six and twelve volt d.c. systems. The design has changed very little over the years, and it still produces the “original sound.” Members of our staff who have fitted Klaxets to their cars claim that they are more effective for moving “motorway mimsers ” (below 70 m.p.h. of course!) than more expensive air horns.

Birmingham. R. T. SHENTON. Sales Manager, Klaxon Ltd.

Air-Cooled American Cars


After having read reader’s letter about air-cooled American cars„ I can give some details about the air-cooled Chevrolet.

‘This car, the “Copper Cooled,” was introduced in 1922 (the first Franklin air-cooled was introduced in 1905) but had a very short life and was not as successful as the Franklin; it was withdrawn a few days after its delivery, and owners were invited to bring their cars back to the factory in order to replace the air-cooled engine by the classic water-cooled.

Only two examples were kept: one by the Ford Museum of Dearborn, and the other in Long Island.

The four cylinders (Franklin: 6) of the engine were separated and covered with copper fins, like on the Franklin, and air, helped by fans, was conducted around the cylinders by shields of metal. The engine was an 89 x 89, in-line, of 22 h.p. (Franklin: 25) at 1,750 r.p.m. The exterior shape of the radiator was the as on the water-cooled model, but the centre was occupied by air shutters.

The price, new, was $725, plus a supplement of $200 for air cooling. Mr. Brown is right when he says that cost was a reason for cessation of production of American air-cooled cars: $200 is dear only for originality. The “Copper Cooled,” with a capacity of 2.7 litres, was not a big car, but one of the smallest in the American production.

Hannebont, France. M. JACQUES DANIEL.

Morris Eight Motoring


It was good to see space in your columns given to Mr. D. Potter’s letter in praise of the joys of Morris 8 motoring. We are a much-criticised class of motorist. To the veteran and vintage boys we are total outcasts (granted, but at heart we are one of them!); to the driver of the modern doomed-to-obsolescence vehicle we have no right to be on the road, and are treated accordingly (scornful looks as he attempts to force us into the nearest ditch); and to garage proprietors we are just not worth the bother—but then who wants to employ a garage with its attendant exorbitant charges when, given a box of tools, a jack and a strong garage beam, one can do it all oneself for next to nothing?

As Mr. Potter says, we are slow, and draughty in winter (but a good thick duffle coat is cheap). I don’t pretend to be excessively hardy, but what is a little hardship and an extra hour on a journey when one considers the huge saving of expense. Insurance comes very cheap—obviously insurance companies do not regard us as a menace as do 90% of the “dolly-danglers and sticker-addicts” (if I may quote the Editor); and breakdowns, few and far between, leave the .pocket unscathed. The only trouble I have experienced with my 1939 Series “E” tourer is a broken half-shaft—spare carried, £1 from breaker’s yard, and on the road again in 20 minutes.

How about a bit more sympathy from the modern car driver? After all, with the country’s economy in its present perilous state, a lot of them may soon be joining our ranks.

London S.W.5. R. W. ISAAC.

Georges Roesch on Talbots


Having just read Mr. F. R. B. King’s letter, may I express regret at the language and misleading facts which he uses when faced with my incontrovertible letter of May on Valve Gear. May I however tell him and others like him a timely story?

Having saved Clement Talbot, then part of the first British combine Sunbeam, Talbot and Darracq, from failure in 1925, my experience may be of interest.

The remedy I used was to design a brand new car of the future capable of immediate profitable production with a machine tool equipment dating from 1902 and using ,my new drawings and specifications without any prior experimental or development work having been done on them. This was done with a first sanction of 1,000 cars and a year later the new model became a sensation at Olympia, its production rising quickly to 100 per week in those days.

In 1930 my standard 4-seater 90 touring car with a push-rod engine of 2 1/4 litres, a single updraught carburetter and a compression ratio of over 10 to 1, won at the first attempt the Le Mans 24-Hour Index of Performance Race and triumphed over all unsupercharged o.h.c. racers up to 5 1/2 litres and all supercharged o.h.c and d.o.h.c. ones up to 7.1 litres from America, England, France, Germany and Italy. In 1932 a team of three 105 Roesch Talbot first won for England an Alpine Cup without losing a single mark. Only Rolls-Royce had previously won an Alpine Cup in 1913. After another unblemished Talbot team victory in the 1934 Alpine Rally, Clement Talbot was taken over by yet another group and its cars by then famous for their efficiency and silence were superseded by side-valve-engined Sunbeam-Talbots mass produced by another factory.

It was therefore no surprise that, when Mr. Leonard Raymond, President of the Society of Automotive Engineers, delivered his lecture on “Engineering Challenges to American Automotive and Petroleum Research” at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in October, 1959, he claimed for America the development of the high-compression car engine. It was to him a milestone which opened up an entirely new era of engine and fuel development of which we had not yet seen the end.

In the large audience of automobile engineers no one even breathed of prior British art except myself, and this letter is indeed an occasion for me to pay tribute to a distinguished American who so honestly and generously wrote the following comments in reply to the communication of a British colleague. “He was grateful to Mr. Roesch for the explicit information furnished on his pioneering development of the high-compression ratio Roesch Talbot engines three decades earlier. Conjectures might be made on the reasons for the inordinately long time required for the transition from the conception and demonstration of a new and valuable engineering development to large-scale commercialisation.”

Can progress and efficiency flourish in the automobile engineering atmosphere which has hidden the facts I have cited from men of Mr. King’s standing?