Rumblings, October 1972

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• 75 years of the RAC.—To celebrate its 75th Anniversary the Royal Automobile Club has been holding a series of exhibitions round the country. We went to the one staged at Jeremy’s Garage, Tenby, late in August, coping with the congestion in this popular Welsh seaside resort with its fine views and vast sandy beaches, with the willing assistance of a Ford Granada Automatic. The opening ceremony was performed by Nicholas Edwards, Conservative MP for Pembrokeshire, who arrived in Chester Smith’s 1903 Oldsmobile, which had started from a near-by Country Club, and had only just made the intervening gradient, due to oil causing the clutch to slip. But the quietness and docility of this single-cylinder tiller-steered veteran was most noticeable.

The Exhibition has many fine paintings of early motor-races and some of the RAC’s models, of which the writer coveted most the Duesenberg which won the 1921 French GP and the one of a 1922 TT Vauxhall. There was a bigger model of the Golden Arrow LSR car and an even larger one of Cugnot’s steam vehicle of 1858, beside which the RAC’s model of the 1907 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost was quite dwarfed. A real motor vehicle was included, in the form of a recently-restored Arielette tricar, now owned by the Pembrokeshire Motor Museum, Chester Smith having bought it from the Williams collection at Bromyard.

A number of very early accessories were shown, but the Editor’s collection of sparking plugs, display-cased by Champion, was absent, although requested, because the best the RAC in Cardiff could find in which to transport them was a Minivan, which was far too small! The Oldsmobile which transported the MP was appropriate, as this make also celebrates its 75th Anniversary this year.

The guests had lunch at the Imperial Hotel, in the very pleasant Cliffhanger restaurant, from which a fine view of the beach and sea is available. It was a pleasant gathering, compered efficiently by Phil Drackett.

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• A new Borg-Warner automatic gearbox.—We went down to Port Talbot, braving the distinct possibility of getting irretrievably lost in Swansea on the way home, to see the impressive factory which Borg-Warner have erected on the new Kenfig Industrial Estate just off the A48 (M) road, where they are introducing new methods of production of their automatic transmissions in a fine new building of some one-million square foot floor space.

The main purpose of this move to Wales is manufacture of the new Type 45 four-speed Borg-Warner automatic gearbox, for cars of up to 2-litres, which will eventually supersede the well-known Type 35 three-speed box. We were able to sample the Type 45 transmission in a fuel-injection Volvo 144 which, together with a 1.3-litre Morris Marina, are being used for development and demonstration purposes, and the smoothness of the changes in this closer-ratio gearbox was most apparent. It marks a notable step forward in using plate clutches instead of the difficult to keep in adjustment band brakes of the earlier gearbox and it is significant that pressings replace castings for many of its components. The design, it is pleasing to note, stemmed from this country rather than from America and the new Type 45 box will also be made as a three-speed Type 55, which Toyota are using at present, the casing being sent to them from the Welsh factory.

The production methods at this impressively spacious factory, where 1,500 operatives work, a number to be doubled when the full production of 1,000 Type 45 and 500 Type 55 gearboxes per day is achieved, are most interesting. For instance, there will be an 83-stage transfer machine, supplied by Lamb of Ontario, for machining the aluminium gearbox casings, which needs but three operatives to oversee it. Two 1,000-ton Wilkie & Mitchell presses stamp out clutch cylinders, to a ready-to-use state, with no subsequent machining involved. There are nine stations per press. In contrast to this automation, women operatives fit the rotor blades by hand. Components will be conveyed about the factory on roller-coasters, and J-pattern travelling jigs will facilitate assembly, right up to the dispatch stage. Completed gearboxes are all tested on A. T. & T. dynamometers, having been balanced electronically while revolving at 1,100 r.p.m., their heavy-point marked with a blue spot for the guidance of the car manufacturer fitting the box to his engine.

The gear assemblies are electron-beam welded, each being completed in 4½ seconds, the weld being made in a vacuum, using Scieky apparatus, which obviates any distortion or interference with the heat treatment of the gear pressings. Before welding, the components pass through a Raydne washing vat.

Even a brief inspection of the new Borg-Warner plant shows that the company plans a big expansion. Apart from the new gearbox, it supplies BMW, Saab and Citroen with automatic transmissions, while the applications of the Type 35 B-W box to British cars are too well known to need enumeration. B-W claim to have well over 5-million units in use and to serve more than 80 manufacturers in eight countries. They are seeking customers for the new Type 45 transmission, which has ratios of 3:1, 1.94:1, 1.35:1 and direct-drive, against those of 2.39:1, 1.45:1 and direct drive of the Type 35 box. Aluminium is now used for all automatic gearboxes intended for cars of up to 4-litres, although cast-iron casings are found in the XJ6 and XJ12 Jaguar transmissions.

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• During mid-September Austin Morris announced an estate version of the Morris Marina with very attractive styling. The estate bodywork provides a payload of 8 cwt and a load space of 58.4 cu. ft. The Marina Estate will only be available with the 1.8-litre engine. Austin Morris division of British Leyland feel this new model will replace the gap left in their range by the Morris Oxford and Austin Cambridge Estate cars. A brief run in the car served to illustrate that the Marina handling is now all sorted and, if anything, the Estate handles better than the saloon. The top speed is 95 m.p.h. with good acceleration. The vehicle should appeal to Estate car buyers.

• The Motorists Discount Club recently held a pleasant function on a barge in the Regent’s Canal to announce their latest 120 page catalogue. This mail order firm now has 130,000 members and a members’ shop in Hammersmith. Details of membership from Box 162, Hendon, London, NW4.

• Trojan Ltd. of Croydon, Surrey, who have been UK concessionaires for the past 6½ years for the specialist Italian marque Iso have decided to drop the agency. The Company will continue to carry out Iso servicing until such time as a new concession is appointed. Trojan, naturally, continue to operate as concessionaires for Lambretta and other products and to manufacture McLaren racing cars.

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Morgan registers

Formed under the auspices of the Morgan Sports Car Club are two new registers. One is for Morgan 4/4 Series 1 (1936-1950) cars and the other for Plus 4 Morgans from 1950. The registers will provide information, advice, help with spares and so on. The Registrar, Mr. T. H. L. Cree of 3 Ashendon Close, Droitwich, Worcs. would like to hear from anyone owning these cars at present, together with a note of the chassis number.

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