THE ESSEX TERRA PLANE EIGHT. Sweeping Acceleration and Silent High Speed Travel.
IN the June 1932 issue of MOTOR SPORT there appeared an article entitled “The American Way,” which among other things mentioned that American straight-eight cars capable of 75 m.p.h. with a closed body could be obtained for £300. The new Essex Terraplane Eight, which incidently is built in Canada, costs little more than this figure, exceeds 80 m.p.h. and moreover is sporting both in handling and outline. So the English motorist also can now afford to indulge In big-car travel. There is undoubtedly something very fascinating in driving a large-engined sports car, as is shown by the continued popularity of the old 4i Bentley. The Essex gives a somewhat similar feeling, but is immeasurably better as regards acceleration and braking. In view of the light chassis, one might expect a certain amount of whip when cornering, but actually the car conveys an impression of
The acceleration is outstanding, and as it is carried Out silently and without vibration, it can constantly be called into play. Furthermore, as one expects with an American straight-eight, the power-unit is flexible throughout the range and really gives a kick in the back whenever the accelerator is put hard down. A good point is that the engine warms quickly and holds an even temperattire. The hydraulic shockabsorbers were supplemented on the car we tested by Andre friction dampers, and the suspension was excellent at all speeds both on the road and at Brooklands. Over a timed half-mile the car put up a speed of 81 m.p.h., and about 4 m.p.h. less with the top panel of the screen closed. Personally we art,
all in favour of large screens, particularly when the hood is up, and the slight loss of speed is more than balanced by the extra comfort which one gets.
On the indirect gears comfortable maxima of 34 and 52 were obtained at 4,500 r.p.m. The gear box is equally quiet on both gears, and the only sound heard being a rather exhilarating whistle from the carburetter intake. The exhaust note is quiet but crisp at low speed and is not heard when going fast. The brakes are very powerful, and were adjusted up so that they came on with only slight pedal movement. Sitting close to the wheel, it was difficult to avoid locking them in an emergency. From 40 miles per hour the car actually came
Engine .* Eight cylinder (in line).
Bore 75 mm, Stroke 114 rem. Capacity 4,010 c.c. Tax £28. Side-by-side valves. Down-draught carburetter. Coil ignition.
Gears . Three speed and reverse. Constant mesh second. Ratios 4.11, 6.4 and 10.0 to I.
Back Axle : Semi-floating. Spiral bevel final drive.
Suspension : Half elliptic. Dimensions. Wheelbase 9f1. Sim. Track 4ft. 8in.
Price with 4 seater body £365. to rest in the very short space of 48 feet on dry concrete, all wheels locking. For ordinary uses especially in wet weather one would have preferred them adjusted
so that the full effect only came on at the bottom of the pedal travel, or it might even have been better to reduce the leverage. The seating position and layout of controls was exactly right, the steering wheel coming into the lap and the pedals oper ating at a comfortable angle. The hand brake is on the right, out of the way but
within easy reach. It operates on the rear brakes and is powerful. The gear-lever is long and rather whippy.
A stiffer lever would have made for more definite operation, but as the change is not at all critical, this is only a minor point.
As is usual on American cars, the steering is low-geared and has hardly any selfcentering action. By means of wedges it should be possible to increase the caster angle, bringing the car into line with English sports car practise. None of these criticisms are serious,
and in the course of a 250 mile road-test they ceased to be noticed. The acceleration and steadiness of the car, however, continued to impress us. The gearchange is really quick on both gears, and the lever could be pulled across almost instantaneously from second to third even when changing up at maximum revs. The charm of the large-engined car lies, however, in the effortless way in which it will cruise along, and with the Essex, 70 m.p.h. could be maintained as long as one wished. It cornered without a trace of roll, up to the point where the rear tyres started protesting, and then the tail would slide a little, showing correct weight distribu tion and a stiff chassis. The steering was light but very definite, and an accurate path could be held. on fast bends at 70 m.p.h. The brakes enabled one to maintain a high average speed in safety. Part of the road test was carried out on the fast CheltenhamOxford road, and the time
between these two centres, even with the delay caused by summer traffic, was very little behind that achieved on a 4i Bentley under favourable conditions.
The further we drove the car the more we liked it, and even the return crawl through London traffic was made pleasant by the car’s willingness to pull evenly on all gears down to stalling-point (it starts on top gear if required), while on depressing the accelerator pedal the car darts through any gap which may present itself. The only trouble revealed by the road
test, which was carried out in almost tropical weather, was that the front compartment became rather warm. Ventilators in the scuttle would overcome this. Lucas Biflex headlamps are fitted, but do not give quite their usual light, as
6 volt equipment is standard on cars of transatlantic origin. They were quite satisfactory up to 60 m.p.h. The dipping switch is mounted on the floor beside the left foot, out of the way but easily reached when needed.
The Cooper-Stewart speedometer and the rev. counter are six inches in diameter. They have translucent dials which are lit up when the lamps are switched on. These instruments and the petrol gauge and heat indicator are therefore easily read at night, but one would welcome a switch to put out the dash lights when not required. Tell-tale lamps are provided for the ignition and the oil systems.
The operating costs of a big car are nowadays of great importance to most owners. With hard driving and a good deal of acceleration on second gear, the fuel consumption worked out at about 14 miles per gallon. To get the final snap which one needs for competition, Pratt’s Ethyl is required, but for ordinary use No. 3 petrol is quite satisfactory, so that the Essex costs little more to run than the average 18 horse power “six.” It also has a small bore engine, so the tax is moderate for an eight-cylinder car of its capacity. Finally the chassis is made in Canada, and the body by the R.E.A.L. Coachcraft Co., of London, so the car can be bought by the” Buy British” enthusiast without hurting his conscience. The engine is of course a straight-eight with side-by-side valves and a detachable head. 14 mm. plugs are used with coil ignition and twin-blade distributor, and a large Carter down-draught carburet
ter with an air-cleaner ad silencer.
Alloy pistons and steel connecting rods are standardised and the balanced crankshaft is carried in five bearings. The engine is rated to give 94 brake horse power at 3,600 r.p.m. A large radiator is fitted, likewise a water-pump and a fan. The sump holds two gallons and the oil is cooled by
forcing it along passages in the side.
The gear-box is unit-mounted with the engine, and the unit is carried on three rubber-insulated mountings. The single plate clutch is made of aluminium alloy and runs in oil. Three speeds are provided and second is a constant mesh ratio. The cardan-shaft is tubular with Spicer joints and a spiral-bevel back axle is fitted. Semi-elliptic springs are fitted all round
seems very tame in comparison.
At £365 the Essex provides a performance superior to that of most cars, other than racing chassis carrying touring coachwork. This alone gives it a unique place in the sports car market. The low initial cost of the car and its fuel consumption of 14 m.p.g. on No. 3 petrol would more than counter-balance its 228 tax and corresponding insurance rate.
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