Historical Conundrum

In a beautifully-produced publication issued in 1976 to commemorate 80 years of Leyland commercial vehicle and ‘bus production, the claim is made for Parry Thomas’ ill-fated Leyland Fight car that it was “probably the first to use a single-plate clutch”. This is a nice conundrum for erudite historians! It is a fact that before the First World War most cars had either cone or multi-plate clutches. So it could well be that Thomas evolved the very first singleplate clutch, as he certainly did the first production straight-eight engine. If so, the fact that it was prone to slip, liar the reason given in the article about this great engineer/racing driver which appears elsewhere in this issue, is excusable. But I would have thought the 40/50 Napier ran it close, or may even have been the first car with such a clutch, at a time when Rolls Royce and Hispano Suiza still had cone clutches. Over to the historians…. later, of course, Parry Thomas designed a small-diameter multi-plate clutch which he used on his 1+-litre Thomas Specials and on the 27 litre Thomas Special “Babs”. W.B.