A Little Road Work
Like the majority of readers, I have been doing a fair amount of holiday motoring this month, and have been noticing the effect of the 30 m.p.h. speed limit. In counties like Devon and Cornwall, which are still happily almost free from ” built-up areas ” the limits only operate in the towns and villages, where one would seldom care to exceed 30 m.p.h. in any case, but further east in the Bournemouth area and again from Southampton practically all the way along to Dover the dreadful red sign was much in evidence. Actually on the Portsmouth-Chichester road on a Sunday afternoon with a good scattering of motorcoaches 20 m.p.h. was nearer the mark, a state of affairs which may or may not be pleasing to our Minister of Transport, but which was tiring to the driver and highly dangerous I should imagine for the local inhabitants who might want to cross the road. If the money spent in maintaining police patrols could be devoted instead to widening the roads, and a slightly larger proportion of the Road Fund be put to the use for which it was originally intended, the ” toll of the roads ” could be reduced without slowing down unnecessarily traffic which is equipped and suited for rapid movement.
In Higher Latitudes
It is good to see that the limits on a number of roads out of London, such as the Bath Road from the end of the Colnbrook Bye-Pass, and the Hounslow-Staines road have been moved to positions where few people can take exception to them, but in the Midlands and in Lancashire, Cheshire, and Yorkshire there is very little fun in motoring anywhere near the industrial towns. One of the unfortunates in the former district is my friend Frank Ashby, whose ingenious and practical spring steering-wheels are fitted to a great many English sports cars. At one time he ran a 11-litre G.P. Bugatti fitted with the usual nominal mudguards and aero windscreens, but with the 30 m.p.h. limits stretching for twenty miles on every side of his house he has more or less given up the ” Bug.” Half an hour on Bugatti ” indirects,” never the quietest part of the car you may remember, before
reaching unrestricted country is too much for his nerves, and he DOW takes refuge reluctantly in a trans-atlantic top-gear motor-car.
Using the Loud Pedal
One of the few roads in England which has kept pace with modern transport is Watling Street, which runs from London to Coventry and Birmingham. Heavy lorries thunder up and down it day and night, and many stretches have been widened to the dimensions of a bye-pass. Traffic is not so heavy during the day, and even if your car is good for a “hundred” or more you can keep it flat out along there without annoying anyone. Driving on that route by night used to be rather an ordeal. Lorry drivers, whose vehicles were fitted with flickering oil lamps seemed to resent anything more powerful, and I have several times been almost forced off the road by some of the more dangerous ones. Nowadays electric lighting seems general on all the “heavy-weights,” and on many of them the lamps are more powerful than those of touring cars. With this has come a change in the manners of the drivers, who are almost always ready to dim their headlamps and to give way to faster-moving traffic.
A Night Journey
Having occasion to travel to Liverpool the other day I tried the old road, leaving London at 8.30
p.m. Lorry traffic was fairly heavy for the first fifty miles, but the car I was driving, though only capable of some 65 m.p.h. all out, had quite a pretty turn of acceleration and we maintained the prelimit average of 45 m.p.h. without much difficulty. The old Holyhead road which branches off at Weedon, and which is incidentally the most convenient way of reaching Donington from the South, avoids Coventry and Birmingham and has only one built-up area. Through from Lichfield there is little obstruction and on the final forty miles from Holmes Chapel to Liverpool I did not see more than half a dozen people. At two o’clock in the morning you get back to that happy state of affairs of ten years ago, when traffic seemed immeasurably less. There is a real delight in driving fast behind powerful headlamps, with the advantage over journeying by day that other cars can be detected before they come into sight by the loom of their lamps on the hedges.
The R.A.C. are to be congratulated on the thorough way in which they tackled, dissected and denounced the Anti-Dazzle regulations proposed by the Ministry of Transport. As in the case of most of the M.O.T. regulations there was no precise definition of dazzle (no easy matter in any case) while the only form of lamp approved for meeting other traffic was
one in which the rays were deflected downwards, leaving no loophole, for instance for a lamp giving a permanent non-dazzle beam and which would therefore not require to be deflected. All cars would be required to have lamps throwing a downward beam, but the great joke about the regulations is that there is nothing in them to compel drivers to use them. This rather reminds me of the delightful paragraph in the Highway Code which treats of pedestrian crossings and says that the words “Cross now” are to be taken as an invitation to cross the road, while the legend ” Don’t cross ” suggests that they should not. The only invitation
ever made to motorists is that they should pay up and look pleasant, and I was disappointed not to find a list of the various things for which motorists can be fined. No doubt the authorities were so ashamed when they saw the list that this part of the book was deleted.
Incidentally it was interesting to notice that here was no proposal to limit the consumption of headlamp bulbs to 36 watts, as was once suggested. Long may the 60 watt lamp in the P.100 headlamp flourish, in conjunction of course with common-sense antidazzle lamps.
Finesse v. Brute Force
Though it is nearly three weeks ago now, and becoming ” vieux jeu ” in a crowded racing season, I still have not quite got over Nuvolari’s victory in the German Grand Prix. Amongst the notes published on the race in this issue is a paragraph which gives Tazio’s own explanation of how he corners, letting the car take its own course. It works wonders on the Alfas certainly, and with the M.G. Magnette the year he won the Ulster T.T., but I could guarantee to produce one or two English sports cars which if allowed to take their own course on corners would be out in the fields ploughing up potatoes.
I watched the Flying Mantovano at the “Chicanes” in the French Grand Prix and here certainly he followed a style of his own. He seemed to come up to the first straw hale with his car in a slide, checking it just in time to come out straight round the second one. I rather doubt whether he learnt this trick from his motor-cycling days. At one time he was Champion of Italy, riding a Bianchi motor-cycle, and had great ideas on tackling the Isle of Man T.T. races. However his directors sent sconts over to the Island, and when these returned they reported that the course was so difficult that no one could possibly win on it at their first attempt. Knowing that ” win or die ” was Nuvolari’s motto at the time, the Bianchi directors refused to let their champion run the risk of the latter alternative.
A Sports-Car French Grand Prix
Losing the German Grand Prix was after all merely a piece of bad luck for the German nation in the shape of von Brauchitsch and his MercedesBenz, but the complete failure of the French motorindustry to put up a show in their own national event was much more crushing, and the A.C.F. is now actually debating whether or not the next French G.P. shall be for sports cars only, as being the only type of event in which France can adequately be represented.
A change of this sort will be lamented by most racing enthusiasts, who had considered the French event as always having been the premier racing car race on the calendar. Actually of course this is not so; on two occasions, in 1928, when the race was held at Comminges, and in 1930, when it took place at Pau, the French Grand Prix was a sports-car event. Pau will always be remembered as being the race in which Sir Henry Birkin, driving a large four-seater supercharged Bentley finished second to Williams on what was virtually a two-litre blown G.P. Bugatti with wings and lamps.
If the French Grand Prix does become a sports-car event it will be another field for English cars and drivers racing abroad, and judging by our successes at Le Mans we ought to make a good showing against the Bugattis, the Hotchkisses, the Delahayes and the Talbots which nowadays dominate the other sports-car races held in France.
All Set For Ulster
All over the country team chiefs and drivers are assembling and running-in cars, collecting spares and debating over the claims of the various sea-sick remedies in preparation for our own sports-car race. (To talk of sea-sick remedies on the luxurious boats which sail to Belfast is almost slanderous, but some of our strongest drivers just shrivel up at the mere mention of the word ” sea-passage.”) The only car so far reported as unlikely to run is the Railton Terraplane, which will probably not be ready in time. Tim Rose-Richards will be driving one of the Aston-Martin team cars, and the other three will be handled by C. E. C. Martin, Charles Brackenbury and C. Penn-Hughes. The official Rileys will be driven by von der Becke, Maclure and Paul.
Cars Of The Past
My remarks on the old racing Sunbeams seem to have created a good deal of interest, though no one has given a clue to the elusive 1923 G.P. cars, and I think I must get our ” Racing Marques ” specialist to do something about it.
W. T. McCalla writes to me about his 2-litre G.P. Sunbeam with which he has been successful in Irish road races. This is not the type I was referring to, but was built a year later, although it also had a 2-litre 6-cylinder engine. Quite a number of readers have remarked on the 1914 T.T. car, which is to be seen driving about London, and which I think must be the one described in Veteran Types some years ago. It is fitted with
a four-seater body and a modern radiator with shut7 ters but otherWise is little changed.
I have at any rate traced the second of the Indiana.. polis 4i-litre cars. The original engine has been removed, and a 26 h.p. Rolls-Royce engine installed instead. A peculiar idea, but I think the original one probably blew up. The owner, who lives in Byfleet, now uses the car for tootling backwards and forwards to work.
Another racing Sunbeam. I encountered, of all places, in Christchurch, New Zealand. I Saw it , for a moment in a garage, and had a look under the bonnet, but can only remember the exposed rocker gear operated from a single overhead camshaft I left the garage for a few minutes but the car had gone when I came back and I never had a chance of learn-: ing its history, but I think it must have been of about 1913 or 1914 vintage.
Strangely enough when doing a bit of rallying at the beginning of this year, I found that one of my passengers had also been to New Zealand and knew the car, though not its history. Apparently the old car was used by the owner on his sheep-station during the busy season, carrying potatoes and hay round the homestead. Then in the summer the box body would be taken off, the old racing body lowered from the roof of the woolshed and once more set in place, and the car dispatched to Muruwai Beach, that famous stretch of sand on which ” Wizard ” Smith made his attempts on the World’s Speed Record. The old car had lost nothing of its early speed and its amateur owner never failed to secure a first in his class.
I hear that Bartlett’s famous Salmson has now been sold abroad, to Australia or New Zealand. Perhaps it will also be used to carry potatoes in its spare time.
A Rare Bugatti
At one time quite a well-known car, Black Bess, the old 41-litre Bugatti which Miss Ivy Cummings used to race at Southport, is once more in the news. It has been bought by Colonel G. M. Giles, the Chairman of the Bugatti Owners’ Club, who has
had it completely overhauled, including rebuilding the gear-box and fitting specially-made driving chains. It may be ready in time to appear at the Club’s HillClimb at Lewes on September 7, and is well worth seeing.
At one time it was thought to have been one of a pair of special cars built at Molsheim for hill-climbs, but M. Le Patron has now made it clear that it was actually a standard sports-car built at the factory a year or two before the war. The design, which was evolved in 1908, embodied such modern features as a single overhead camshaft and dry sump lubrication. A second of these cars is still running about in Switzerland, and Colonel Giles is trying to track it down.
Diversities Of Taste
Two of the second-hand cars in greatest demand just now, for obviously different reasons, are the old-series Bentleys and the spidery G.N.s. I looked in the other day at ‘Windrum and Garstin’s of Kensington, who specialise in the former, and learnt amongst other things that all the parts made for the 3-litre cars were interchangeable, so that frontwheel-brakes can be fitted even to the earliest ones, and so that modernised cars are ,available at very reasonable prices. The 41-litre, which I personally consider the equal of many of the sports cars on the road to-day, still
commands between two and three hundred pounds and with its 85 m.p.h. and 15 m.p.g. is still a fine investment for the man who wants to travel fast over long distances. A really snappy car incidentally can be constructed from a 3-litre chassis fitted with a 4litre engine, and I noticed one of these in process of building up.
The G.N. fans are for the most part not concerned with touring cars, but are enthusiasts who are engaged in building up sprint cars for Shelsley and Lewes. Judging by the number of letters we receive asking for old chassis the supply is hardly equal to the demand; one of the most rapid G.N.s of course was Davenport’s 1,500 c.c. car, which is still said to be in existence, in bits.
John Bolster of Bloody Mary fame still remains, I think, the prize ” special ” enthusiast and an unusually successful one. Not content with his present two-engined coffin, he plans to build one with three twin-cylinder motor-cycle engines as before, with a total capacity of three litres. The new device, which is to be constructed during the winter, will be a little more scientific than the present model, and may have torsion-bar springing a la Porsche-Wagen.
THE GRAND PRIX OF ALGIERS.
TUT CLAMP [DUI% CIF Bugattis fill First Three Places. Results of the final handicap : 1. Etancelin (2,300 c.c. Bugatti) (4m. 20s.), 171.71 miles). 2. Lehoux (2,300 tc.c. Bugatti) (scratch),…
The Great Race
Sir, As a club official who missed out on his annual pilgrimage to “The Mount” for the first time in 13 years, (playing tourist on this side of the Equator)…
Letters from Readers, June 1977
Sir, In view of the recent comments in your columns on the subject of unmarked police cars, I feel my own experience might be of interest to readers. Though I…