SPORTING CARS ON TEST.
THE SUPER SPORTS EXCELSIOR.
By THE EDITOR.
AMILD fuiore of interest was recently aroused in the motoring press by the appearance of a very fast “yellow and black coupe” on Southport Sands, several persons having seen this mystery vehicle travelling at a high speed, without being able to identify its marque.
Eventually it transpired that the car was the Excelsior illustrated herewith—actually a demonstration model belonging to Messrs. Hayward Automobiles, Ltd., who handle this well known Belgian car in Great Britain. The car illustrated, and the car seen at Southport is actually a standard chassis, which differs from the supersports mcdel in various engine details, such as the number and distribution of carburettors etc., and our test run actually took place on one of the latter chassis,
devoid of any bodywork whatsoever, if we except the bonnet, canvas wings, and the bucket seats.
Readers will remember that a super sports Excelsior, driven by Caerels and Senechal won the recent 24-hour Belgian Grand Prix, incidently running throughout the race without having its bonnet opened, while the identical car appeared in the Essex Club 6-hour race but was eliminated by mechanical trouble due to a choked oil pipe.
By reason of its Belgian performance, the Excelsior is evidently a sports car of the first water, and a description of its capabilities cannot fail to interest our readers, while an idea of the imposing lines of the car may be gleaned from the illustrations. Referring to the view of the engine it will be seen that this is a 5346 c.c. 6-cylinder unit of up-to-date and con
ventional design, having inclined overhead valves operated by a shaft and bevel driven overhead camshaft. The mixture is supplied by three Zenith carburettors, and in spite of the rather large amount of” machinery” to be accommodated, the layout beneath the bonnet is extremely neat and accessibility is in no way impaired. Pour speeds forward and reverse gears are operated by a centrally disposed lever, moving in a gate and not on a ball joint as is more usual with continental cars. Both hand (central) and foot brake controls operate on the same set of shoes on all four wheels, an arrangement which is satisfactory, but which we were driven to comment upon in an earlier issue. Having thus acquainted ourselves with the salient features of the big Excelsior we clambered up 012 to the
box (to use a coaching expression) and set out from St. James Street. Owing to the large size of the motor and the absence of body the coaching analogy is not altogether inappropriate, but there the similarity ends, for no horse hauled vehicle ever slid through the London traffic in such effortless silence, nor leapt through the gaps with such eager acceleration as our Excelsior. The big car is inclined to breed the” gear lazy” driver, but unluckily the writer seldom has more than twelve nominal horse power under his toe so that he habitually uses the gears for traffic, hill and corner work whatever vehicle he may be driving. The Excelsior, having a large and efficient engine did not call for much gear changing in traffic, as flexibility, slow running, and acceleration were all excellent on top gear, but such changes as we made showed that the operation could be performed
quite snappily almost at the first attempt, though if by chance a gear was missed it seemed impossible to rearrange any ratio without bringing the car to rest.
, With a car of the speed and size of the Excelsior there are few regions in the neighbourhood of London where one may safely try out its capabilities without endangering life and driving license ; accordingly our test route was once more to Brooklands, via Kingston and Esher. Once past Esher we had a little amusement round the twists of the Hersh= road, when the car handled in a manner altogether out of keeping with its proportions. Provided one could get over the impression of ” loftiness” due to the height of the seats one had the impression of being at the wheel of a nippy ” voiturette.” The steering was extremely light, while the chassis evinced no desire to roll, even when wrenched round sharp corners in a thoroughly brutal manner ; after a few minutes of this treatment a glance at our passenger showed us that the problem of ” seat maintenance” was troubling him severely, and indeed it was only the presence of the steering wheel that prevented the driver from parting company with the chassis !
Brakes and acceleration (or their lack) are always demonstrated when a frolic of this kind is indulged in, and the Excelsior seemed to possess both to a marked degree. The brakes were extremely powerful and smooth though faulty adjustment caused a sharp swerv. e to the right if they were applied with violence ; this swerve was easily guarded against, once we discovered it, but it might have been troublesome had the roads been wet.
The gear ratios were well chosen and together with an easy gear change enabled rapid acceleration—a feature which was aimed at by Messrs. Haywards when tuning this particular demonstration car. For the same reason the top gear ratio was somewhat lower than that required for racing purposes, either on road or track so that we did not expect anything phenomenal in the way of all out speed. Before going to the track we made a short detour over the Seven Hills—towards Cobham, a piece of road reminiscent of some continental Grand Prix Course—
dead straight, bumpy and with violent undulations. This stretch is always exciting on a car, and we never feel particularly safe when traversing it at speed—however the Excelsior was more controllable over the switchback than any other car which we have driven here, in spite of not having the steadying influence of a body.
On arrival at the track we found a blustering gale in progress, which for once converted the Railway Straight into the slowest portion of the circuit and allowed far higher speeds to be attained up the slope on to the Members’ Banking—usually the slowest part of the track.
In discussing maximum speed it must be remembered that besides being geared rather low (about 4 to 1), the engine was comparatively new and stiff as it had only done a very few hundred miles in its life.
Under the circumstances the speed of 87 m.p.h. which was held all round the track, except on the straight, was extremely creditable, and was a very fair indication that the makers are not exaggerating when they claim a speed of 1(X) m.p.h. under the right conditions. At the maximum speed the lowness of the gear ratio made itself felt by a slight vibration, which however was not detectable when the speed dropped to about 82 m.p.h. on the Railway Straight, nor at any other point in the range. At these speeds the car sat the track extremely well and in spite of the writer’s inexperience required little effort to hold to its correct course on the banking, and there was little or no tendency for driver and passenger to leave their seats, even at the most notorious bumps.
Tests were then carried out to find the speeds obtainable on the various indirect gears ; in each case we proceeded until engine vibration set in before noting the speed, with the following results, 1st gear 28 m.p.h., 2nd gear 44 ni.p.h. and 3rd gear 65 m.p.h.—the performance on the two lower ratios being particularly creditable. Climbs of the test hill on various gears showed that the 1 in 4 gradient possessed no terrors for the engine,
while the speed of the climb depended entirely on the amount of run taken and the gear used. In each case an extremely creditable climb was accomplished. Needless to say the brakes would stop and hold the car on any part of the hill without undue effort. After its running on the track the engine seemed livelier than ever, no doubt it was rapidly getting ” less new” and on our return journey, made without incident of note, its behaviour was even more pleasant than before. We understand from* Messrs. Hayward’s that in view of the low
gearing the speed obtained was very good and incidently represents the maximum speed which has been obtained on the ‘yellow and black coupe,” with only one carburettor.
Such are our impressions of what is undoubtedly a high class car, unostentatious, yet capable of a performance equal to anything except a racing car, and selling in chassis form at £1,250, or :C1,150 for the standard model.
The sole concessionaires are Hayward Automobile, Ltd., King Street, St. James, S.W.1.