By ” BALADEUR “
Wanted—A chain-driven Monster.
THE other day an enthusiastic reader of MOTOR SPORT wrote to ask me if I could put him in the way of a chain-driven racing car, not of the modern Shelsley Walsh G.N. x what the B.P. advertisements say type, but a real monster of the past. I do not know quite what he intends to do with his monster as I presume that it would be banned from Brooklands nowadays, and certainly it would not be the most convenient machine for the Portsmouth Road on Sunday. At all events when I came to think of it I was rather surprised at the number of such machines which I knew of and which are for sale or have been recently.
In the first place I was told the other day of a 1902 40 h.p. Panhard et Levassor racer which was for sale in Paris, and which I think should certainly be got hold of by some member of the Veteran Car Club. 1902, it may be remembered, was the first year when the 1,000 kilo weight limit for racing cars was introduced, and as the Panhards had engines of 130 x 140 mm. their designer had to economise weight everywhere where he could. He already used an armoured wood frame, and to cut out the weight of the dumbirons in front he finished the frame off square and used a transverse spring. This, as it proved, was rather apt to break and the whole car is not, I should think, what would now be regarded as a safety first measure. But if the one for sale in Paris is for instance the actual machine with which Maurice Farman won the Circuit du Nord Race, it ought to be rescued from oblivion.
The 60 h.p. Mercedes which does appear at most of the Veteran Car Club’s affairs is not of course a real racing car, but it is n.everthelss of the same type with which the one and only Camille Jenatzy won the Gordon Bennett Cup in Ireland in 1903. In that year three special 90 h.p. MercedCs had been built for the race, but shortly before they were to have left Gerniany they were all destroyed in the famous fire at the Cannstadt works. Nothing daunted the German firm sent three standard model 60 h.p. chassis to Ireland, and the English team, holders of the cup, and the French team, who considered that no one else ought to hold it anyway, both had to admit defeat at the hands of a touring car.
“Vieux Charles M.”
Among the real relics which form the stock of Veteran Cars Ltd., at Brooklands, there is a much more juvenile machine in the form of “Vieux Charles III,” alias a 1912 Grand Prix Lorraine-Dietrich ; • while somewhere in Hampshire I believe reposes a 200 h.p. Fiat which took part in the same race. Stand these two cars side by side, and you have one of the great tragedies of motor racing. That 1912 race was, to those who appreciate it, the most dramatic of all time. For three years, a long time during the earlier development of the motor car, there had been no Grand Prix, and for this revival in 1912 there lined up the champions of the old school, Fiat and Lorraine-Dietrich, with huge racers like the monsters of the past, only bigger, matched against the
representatives of modernity, Peugeot and Sunbeam with their racing voiturettes. Of course the latter pair won, and the automobile progressed, but all my sympathies have always been with the vanquished, in the same way that nearly everyone sides with the King in the Civil War, although mighty few of them would have if they had been going at the time !
Well, in addition, I believe there is a 1908 4-inch Tourist Trophy Metallurgique about somewhere ; the 200 h.p. Benz known so well to Brooklands habitues, and one if not two Chitty-Bang-Bangs. So our enthusiast, if he is serious, should be able to take his choice.
Why “Baladeur ” ?
Another reader of MOTOR SPORT, who perused at least the title and signature of last month’s “Sideslips,” wants to know the meaning of” Baladeur.” Well, according to my French dictionary it means “strolling,” and in the feminine, “a coster-monger’s barrow,” neither of which has got anything to do with us. However, if one reads a bit further you find, ” Mech. a gear for changing speeds,” in other words a selector-rod. It may be argued that having decided to call the thing “Sideslips,” it was illogical to drag in anything suggestive of conscious selection (at least this was what the driver was arguing as he slipped in first by mistake for top). And, anyhow, why drag in French words ? Well, thereby hangs a tale, which explains why the word is so familiar to me. There is published annually in Paris a book called “Le Catalogue des Catalogues” (commonly known, through cussedness, as the Dogalogue des Dogalogues), which gives the specification of every car on the French market since 1903 or so, and is in fact the corresponding French production to the “Motor Car Index,” published by Messrs. Fletcher & Son of Norwich. Now what the Dogalogue tells you about a chassis is as follows :Year of manufacture, type, series, H.P., number of cylinders, bore and stroke, number of speeds—and lumber of ” baladeurs ” ! No further details about the engine, you see, nothing about the clutch, transmission, brakes, wheelbase, track, etc., at all. “And what,” asked the driver, as he tried to get from neutral to reverse on his 2-baladeur 4-speed box, with the car running backwards, “what does one want to know how many selector rods a box has for, anyway ? ” Well, I suppose that the answer is that in the days when the gate change was replacing the quadrant, it was one of the things one really did. want to know about a chassis, and the Dogalogue, having decided to include this piece of information in about 1903, has stuck to it ever since. Personally I have always treasured it as a charming link with the past ; and that is about enough about baladeurs for the present. As one who has had in his time to report a good many motor races, I am full of admiration for the account in last month’s MOTOR SPORT Of the French Grand Prix
(for which I am snot responsible). Instead of sitting in the Press Box and absorbing just the stuff which is served out to all the journalists the writer of this report has succeeded in giving one the tout ensemble of a big French race, the scene the night before the start, the people round the course, etc., which is always so hard to imagine if you have not been present at one of these affairs. But the unwary should not be led into believing that things are always the same as at a classic French race. I remember well how some years ago a party of us motored down to San Sebastian for the Spanish Grand Prix, arriving on the afternoon before the race. Having done our journalistic duty by motoring round the course, we drove to a café in San Sebastian itself and sat down to refuel. The early discovery that beer cost about 5s. a pint rather put the wind up us, and we began to search for that cheerful and impecunious crowd which is always to be found in a French town before a race. The whole of San Sebastian, however, looked as if it did not realise that there was going to be a race on the morrow, and bent on economy we motored out to Lasarte, where at the local shops we purchased some very remarkable food for dinner. The lesson of the beer had warned us not even to seek for accommodation in a hotel, but confident in our experience of French races, we sought out a pleasant meadow on a mountain side in which to pass the night. We had spread out our rugs and were arranging our overcoats as pillows, when four peasants appeared on the scene. Seeing us they stopped, and gaped, and stopped.
After about five minutes we began to find their scrutiny somewhat embarassing. Unfortunately no one of us could speak
Spanish, and although the French frontier was only a few kilometres away, there is. very little bilingualism even on the borders of Spain. “Goodnight,” I said at last, in Italian, with what firmness I could muster. The four peasants, however, only gaped the broader. At last one of our party attracted the attention( of their leader, lay down on a rug and snored loudly. This broke their reserve,. and the leader volunteered that there was. an inn in the village. This I understood, but I was unable to reply and he repeated his information several times, and each time more loudly. Exasperated, at last I remarked in Italian that we did not want
to go to his inn. This had not the slightest effect and the three continued to gape while the leader remarked at intervals that there was an inn in the village.
After about a quarter of an hour of this I decided on diplomacy. ” Contenti,”‘ I remarked, indicating my companions. and assuming as bland a smile as possible. I had hit on a Spanish word, and the effect was magical. Broad smiles suffused the faces of our four tormentors, they bowed profoundly, wished us good night and retired down the mountain, repeating to each other at intervals, ” contenti, contenti ” and laughing heartily at our obvious madness. The local inhabitants were evidently unfamiliar with the idea of spending the night before a race in the open air.
It seems to me that a good deal of rot is talked about the national colours for racing cars. “From the earliest times,” one reads, “each country has had its national colour, blue for France, green for England, red for Italy, etc., and this custom adds greatly to the glamour of motor racing.” In actual fact, national colours did not come in at all until the first Gordon Bennett Cup race in 1900, some five years after the start of racing. Before that the famous Panhard trio, Girardot, Charron and de Knyff, used to paint their cars red, white and blue respectively, though none of them had any thought of representing any country but France. When the Gordon Bennett Cup did come along, colours were indeed chose.n for the various countries, but when one goes into it one finds that they have not since possessed that immutability necessary for the establishment of a real tradition. Thus the French cars have always been blue, the German white, the English green and the Belgians yellow. But the Americans whose colours are now white with a blue chassis, and, usually, the Stars and Stripes somewhere on the car, were originally red ; and the Italian cars when they first appeared were painted black, a colour which has now disappeared, while the Austrians, who are now supposed to be white with a black chassis, were originally black and yellow.
These colours lasted until the final Gordon Bennett race in 1905, but they were only really regarded as applying to that race, and in the first Grand Prix in 1906 they, were disregarded, Szisz’ winning Renault being painted red. There is one other point about these national colours. Apparently our own
colour is not generally popular, as green is regarded as an unlucky colour. I must confess that I had never heard of this superstition personally, but I do recollect that Charles Jarrott, in his famous book, “Ten Years of Motors and Motor Racing,” records how the number 13 having been allotted to his Panhard et Levassor for the Paris-Berlin race, the works had it painted green, “the French lucky colour.” There is nothing very surprising in this apparent anomaly—one of the first things that one has to learn if one wants to understand American comic films is that n*****s regard black cats as unlucky. But, seeing that less tradition attaches to these racing colours than is frequently supposed, I suggest that England and France might swap, when apparently everyone would be happy.
I wonder how many of those hardy individuals who ran their veteran cars in the “Daily Sketch” race at Brooklands on August Bank Holiday over a course of 21. miles, would have cared to set out on a race where the distance involved was nearly 730 miles longer. Yet this was the feat which was performed by Emile Levassor and others in 1895, nine years before some of the veterans which we saw last month, made their appearance. Levassor, the winner of the ParisBordeaux Race, drove his 4 h.p. Panhard et Levassor single-handed practically throughout, and the comments on this performance made by the Marquis de Chasseloup-Laubat, are, I think, well worthy of reproduction. “M. Levassor,” writes the Marquis, “returned to Paris, Porte Maillot, June 13th, 1895, at 12.57,30, thus accomplish
ing the formidable course of 732 miles in 48 hours 48 minutes. He supervised the machine himself constantly, except when ascending an occasional incline, when the rate of speed was comparatively slow, and he had entrusted the lever to his mechanic. M. Levai.sor remained on his machine about 53 hours, and nearly 49 of these on the run. Yet he did not appear to be over fatigued ; he wrote his signature at the finish with a firm hand ; we lunched together at Gillet’s, at the Porte Maillot ; he was quite calm ; he took with great relish a cup of bouillon, a couple of poached eggs, and two glasses of champagne; but he said that racing at night was dangerous, adding that having won he had the right to say such a race was not to be run another time at night. The general mean of his velocity was
14.91 m p h the Levassor carriage, like all the swift carriages engaged in this race, was mounted on solid rubber tyres.” Evidently the automobile had advanced greatly during the three years preceding this event, or else such performances were only possible for professionals like M. Levassor, for this is what the Panhard catalogue of 1892 (probably the first motor catalogue ever issued) says about speed
The vehicles possess three speeds, low, middle and high.
The high speed is generally arranged for 17 kilometres an hour, but in flat or only slightly hilly districts, and particularly in the case of 2-seater vehicles, one can go faster, and attain 20 kilometres an hour ; but these high speeds demand great attention on the part of the driver, and are not always to be recommended.”
Continental notes, June 1960
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