Vintage Postbag, October 1972

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Bean Factory Methods

Sir,

I was interested to read your article on Bean production methods. I enclose a photograph, taken in 1920, just after Harper Bean’s moving track assembly line had been laid down. This picture is a bit of a fraud, as it shows “fully-fledged” Beans complete with bodies, in the Tipton assembly shop. As you rightly point out, the cars were only produced in chassis form there and then driven up the Tipton Road to the Dudley works for bodywork and finishing.

Unfortunately, the Company’s high hopes of 50,000 cars a year were never realised, despite this sophisticated production technique. None the less 1920 was Bean’s best year so far as output was concerned, their peak month being July, when 505 chassis were said to have been made. This level of output was regrettably never maintained, and by November of that year production ceased due to the Company getting into financial hot water.

This respite lasted for most of 1921, but production perked up again towards the end of that year, and, as you mention, chassis were being churned out at a rate of some 80 a week in 1922. This state of affairs (with production often touching the 100 a week figure) continued until the spring of 1924, when the 11.9 model ceased manufacture.

In fact this car, based as it was on the pre-war Perry, was the Company’s best seller, and although the subsequent 12 and 14 h.p. models were manufactured in this same Tipton factory, the “moving track” became a very static affair, the chassis being pushed along manually.

It would be interesting to know how this layout compared with the production techniques of Bean’s contemporaries, namely, Austin and Morris ?

Farnham. Jonathan Wood.

Historian, Bean CC.

* * *

That 25/30 Maudslay

Sir,

I like your Maudslay piece very much. Incidentally; did you know that the first o.h.c. Maudslay engines had atmospheric inlet valves, and that the chief merit of the o.h.c. was thought to be its accessibility ? The Maudlsay silent-chain constant-mesh gearbox was an absolutely splendid device and was taken up by the LGOC for the X and B type buses. Transmission trouble had been a great source of weakness on early motor buses (hence the Fischer and Tilling petrol-electrics and the considerable success of National Road Car steamers, etc.), but the silent chain gear proved so successful at standing up to stop-start traffic work that the cost of motor traction at last fell below horse traction. It wasn’t the only factor, of course (reduced tyre costs had a lot to do with it), but it was an important one and in 1913 the LGOC B-type buses covered 55½ million route-miles and lost only 0.02% of scheduled time from mechanical defects. As a schoolboy I remember going over the LGOC works at Chiswick about 1927 and they were still making these Maudslay silent chain constant-mesh boxes for the then current series of buses. I would like to have seen that Maudslay paddle engine at work in the Great Eastern. There can have been no substitute for litres with four cylinders of five feet three inches bore and fourteen feet stroke.

I notice a passage in your September Editorial, which implies that the epicyclic transmission of the Lanchester Forty was a “new” feature. You will recall, I am sure, that all pre-Kaiser-War Lanchester models had the patented compound epicyclic gear with pre-selector control (no “clutch pedal”) up to 1909, when they fitted a conventional-seeming gate change gear lever and “clutch” pedal to suit what Fred Lanchester called “the standardised chauffeur”. The small Lanchester Twenty One was the first model with conventional sliding gear change-speed; but, as you say, the Forties had the epicyclic box until the end.

There was a difference, and elsewhere you have referred to the “epicyclic whine” of the Lanchester Forties; but the pre-war Lanchester cars do not have this characteristic sound when idling in neutral. This was made possible by arranging the gearbox with the direct-drive clutch for top gear at the back end of the business with the epicyclic trains between the engine and the direct drive clutch; this necessitated having the “tail end” of the crankshaft elongated to pass right through the hollow first motion shaft of the epicyclic gears. This made for considerable expense in manufacture as the cranks were not forged but machined from the solid and the 38 h.p. crankshaft started life as a seven foot long billet. Without going into several thousand words and a lot of illustrations I cannot explain the whole arrangement but it gave the advantage that in neutral, with engine ticking over, the planet pinions revolved very slowly whereas with the usual layout they turn very fast and set up the characteristic whine; and furthermore the arrangement allowed the cars to coast in neutral downhill, or to be towed without damage to the gearbox. Again with the normal layout the effect of coasting or towing at more than a walking pace is to cause the planet pinions to turn at anything up to a hundred times their normal pace when transmitting power and this will bust the transmission up most expensively. This is why Daimlers, Armstrong Siddeleys and other cars with Wilson boxes always had to have their propeller shafts removed if they were to be towed any distance at more than walking pace.

George Lanchester adopted the “normal” epicyclic layout on the Forties partly to reduce costs but largely to make the gearbox-cum-clutch-cum-brake unit shorter. On the pre-war cars, which had multi-plate direct-drive clutches and multi-disc-brakes all in unit the complete housing was very long. George wanted to shorten it in order to lengthen the propeller shaft so as to reduce angular movements to the point where it was proper to use a torque tube. Though theoretically inferior to the original parallel-motion links the torque tube was necessary on the Forties as the old arrangement of links interfered with the new body styles. So, all this long spiel to say why pre-war Lanchesters did not “moan”, but post-war Forties did.

Potbridge. Anthony Bird.

* * *

Buying for Investment

Sir,

The letter from Mr. Anthony Bird is of great interest to all who love old and rare things but I feel I must express my disapproval of his reference to the antique trade when he refers “to what the antique trade (in its honest moods) would call the construction of a fake”.

The members of my Association have for many years taken very positive (and successful) steps to improve the image of the dealer in antiques by fighting malpractices such as “faking”, the illegal “ring”, knockers and misrepresentation of goods as to period, original condition and restoration. To a very large extent we have succeeded in eliminating a great majority of the sharp practices of the past, yet every barrow-boy convicted of a crime is described as an antique-dealer by the popular press. Why this term should be treated with such approbrium, even malice, when one considers some of the highly illegal actions of some car dealers, is beyond comprehension and I would urge Mr. Bird to attempt to put the latters’ house in order before maligning the former.

It may be of interest to Mr. Bird to know that “buying for investment” has always been thoroughly discouraged by our members who have always urged collectors to buy the things they love rather than those which may or may not appreciate in value.

Finally may I add that we believe that the true “craftsman made” antique more or less finished at the beginning of the machine-age, which is why the date line for goods at many of the premier fairs such as Grosvenor House, is 1830 and that they do not therefore consider Stevengraphs to qualify as proper antiques!

London, SW7. Geoffrey Moss, President,

The British Antique Dealers’ Association Ltd.

* * *

Puzzling!

Sir.

Suppose a motorist has travelled several hundred miles front the West Riding of Yorkshire (and who wouldn’t ?) and suppose he has edged through Abingdon on his way to the Beaulieu Museum, it would then be reasonable to suppose that his thoughts should turn to the splendid.early days of the MG car, when William Morris first established a separate factory for their production.

Suppose then that the motorist is suddenly faced by a sight such as that depicted in the enclosed pictures, he would have just cause for being thoroughly startled.

Regrettably, the motorists’s camera was a Brownie, and it was at the time for which reason he will be grateful if you will refrain from sending his pictures back to him.

Ilkley. George Scott.

[Wilson McComb’s great new book on MG History has arrived at an opportune moment, for checking up on this puzzling notice. It will reviewed next month. — Ed.]