THE 2,000-MILE INTERNATIONAL TOURING CAR TRIAL OF 1908
Cecil Clutton writes comprehensively of an important event RELIABILITY. trials have altered so much in the last few years that it is not without interest to look back and see what a serious trial was like over 30 years ago. A good example to review is the famous R.A.C. 2,000-mile trial of 1908, which also incorporated the Scottish A.C. six-day trial. Very complete in formation about the event is available in the official R.A.C. report, which runs to
109 pages, including the regulations, specifications of the ears entered, particulars of their performance, and contour sections of the more important hills. There had, of course, been reliability trials from the beginning of time, including the no less fatnous R.A.C. 1,000 mile trial of 1901, but it was not until about 1908 that the motor-car had become an entirely reliable means of transport, and it was necessary to exercise ingenuity to search out its weaknesses. Thus, despite the length of the trial and the inclusion of several famous hills, the organisers felt it necessary to finish up with a 200-mile race
at Brooklands. In passing, one cannot help feeling that if some modern trials had finished up at the track there would have been fewer freak ” trials specials ” seen in our midst. Slime-storming had not yet been invented (narrow section tyres put it out of the question, and anyway, the trial was run during June) and the principal hills were : Mary I lilt, Cairn tralount, Trinalour, Rest and Be Thankful, IStutmail Raise Pass, Nirkstone
Pass, Shap, Alston, Harley and Broadway Hill ; and the steepest gradient encountered was 1 in 5.4. The regulations divided the entry into eleven classes, by R.A.C. rating, and the body regulations. made certain that, to outward appearance at least, the cars should be normal touring vehicles of the period. All except the two smallest classes were to he four-seaters, and to carry four passengers, including an official observer, who was to be provided vial’
” comfortable seat. ” but at Brooklands, all except the observcr were to be dropped, and ballast. substit iitel for them. It was also provided that the axle ratio should not be changed during the trial, and that the curs should be effectively silenced. All parts (except batteries and tyres) replamd durina t he trial were to be carried on the competina ears, and travelling workshops ” were forbidden. Minimum weights were laid down for each class, and one or two taken at random show how commendably light were the ears of the period. Thus, the 9.4-h.p. class had to weigh not less than 121 cwt. ;
the 13-h.p., 141 -cwt. ; the 16-h.p., 16 cwt.; the 20-11.p., 20 cwt. ; the 46.4-h.p., 30 cwt., and the 60-h.p., 35 cwt. The system of marking is highly ingenimsi though it, could only have worked
satisetorilv with a small entry (there Were but ta starters) since it is all done on a time basis. .Minimum and maximum times were laid down for the different sect ions of the trial, and any competitor arriving outside those times was penalised hy one mark per minute. There were also timed bill climbs, and a similar penalty was allotted for each minute by which any competitor
was slower than the fastest car in his class. Three minutes were allowed for starting first thing in the morning, :Ind one minute for each subsequent start. The operations which might be included in ” starting ” are laid down, doubtless with a view to preventing this period being used for making other adjustments. Self-starters are mentioned, though it is not clear if any were, in fact, carried. In view of its
universality at that time, it is peculiar that priming was not allowed. Any car taking more than the permitted time to start was docked one mark per minute. Petrol used was charged at the rate of one mark per gallon, thus bringing petrolconsumption into the time,formula in a most ingenious manner. Lubrieational operations also lost one mark per minute. If one or more passengers was dropped on a hill it counted ten marks per passenger (apart, of course, from the inevitable addi
tional loss of time waiting for them to catch up) but a car which received actual assistance on an observed section was disqualified from the whole trial.
Each day’s rim had to be completed by 5 p.m., the trial being spread Over 13 days with a maximum day’s mileage of 1721 miles. On arrival at Brooklands for the 200mile race (the 200 Miles were additional to
the 2,000 of the trial) each car was handicapped one minute per mark lost during the road section, and the first past the post was the winner of his class.
There are other minor regulations about marking, but those given are the important ones. It would really be difficult to devise a fairer or more comprehensive test of a
genuine touring car, and although it should not inconvenience any modern car it might, nevertheless, be pleased with itself if it completed, without loss of marks for anything except petrol-consumption.
The section deviated to the specifications of the competing ears contains much of interest, but a few quotations from it must suffice for this resume of the event. It is surprising that a considerable proportion of the cars had forced feed lubrica tion at this early date, though splash, drip, gravity and air-pressure are all represented. Dual ignition, by accumu
lator and coil, and bigh-tensicm magneto, was by far the most popular system of sparking.
The smallest car running was a 6.2-11.p. de Dion and the largest, a 59.5-h.p. Arid. The de Dion hat’ one cylinder measming 100 by 120: 750 by 85 tyres and gear
ratios of 5.7, 9.3 and 20 to 1 (a ” trials ” bottom with a vengeance). It sold for £241. The Vauxhall, which was to perform with such dist ination, had four cylinders
of 91 by 120.6, dual ignition, 8 ft. 10 in. wheelbase, forced lubrication, metal clutch, detachable wheels (these were almost universal), 870 by 100 tyres, ratios of 13.3, 7.7, 3.05 and 3.3 to one and a selling-price of £1.60. These ratios are
interesting, since, apart from a rather higher bottom, the 30/98 carded almost identical ratios to the day of its death, 20 years later, and suffered acutely for it. They are, indeed, admirably suited for a reliability trial, but much too widely spaced for ordinary touring use.
The 20-h.p. Talbot’s engine was a trifle smaller-90 by 117, and it had the quite nicely-spaced ratios of 3.4, 4.7, 7.3 and 12.8 in conjunction with 815 by 105 tyres. It also had forced lubrication and dual ignition, and sold for £495.
A car which performed with some distinction in this class, and was runner-up to the Vauxhall, was a de Luca-Daimler, which was apparently of Italian origin, although entered by the English Daimler Company. This car had the very high top gear, for its size, of 2.6 to I , which may have been done with a view to the Brooklands event, though, in point of fact, it was not so fast as the Vauxhall.
Panhards entered two cars, one with chain and one with live-axle transmission, and although the marque was by then losing its premier position, its specification may be noted with interest. The engine measured 91 by 130, and H.T. mageeto was the sole means of ignition. Drip-feed is a sign of obsolescence. The detachable wheels were of wood. The ratios comprise a very close third, and wider lower ratios, which is a very good compromise for touring purposes, the figures being 4, 5, 9 and 14 to I, and the selling-price was as much a.s £642.
In the larger classes interest naturally centres upon the important English entries of Daimler and Roils Royce. Daimlers entered two cars of 38.1-h.p., selling at £775. The engines had four cylinders, 124 by 130, dual ignition, gravity oil-feed and leather clutch. The detachable wire wheels carried 880 by 120 tyres, and the wheelbase was 9 ft. 7 in. The gear ratios were 2.2, 2.7, 4.1 and 8.5 to 1 with direct drive on third.
Rolls Royce entered two cars, of 48.6 h.p., and they were the only six-cylinder machines in the competition. The cylinder dimensions are given in inches, as is the annoying habit of Rolls Royce to this day—namely, 44 in. by 42 in. (about 112 by 118) and they had dual ignition and forced feed lubrication. One of the cars had 895 by 1:35 wheels—a very wide section for the time—but the other had 895 by 105. The wheels were wire detachables. The wheelbase was 11 ft. 2 in. and the ratios the apparently ill-assorted cnes of 2.7, 4.2, 5.9 and 8.5 to 1, giving three close lower ratios, and an immense gap between third and top ; an arrangement which was later abandoned by Rolls, but has found favour to this day with several continental brands ; notably Delahaye. The Rolls sold for £1,184.
The big Arid, 59.6 h.p., 155 by 150 (giving 111 -litres) had dual ignition, forced feed lubrication, 880 by 120 tyres, ratios of 1.8, 2.25, 3.1, and 5.8 to 1 (a nice selection) and sold for the moderate figure of £750. Next in the programme comes the analysis of performance, which is also of
engrossing interest, and no less detailed than the specifications. Again, however, a few excerpts must suffice.
In general, one is struck with the fact that, although the better cars in 1908 were very reliable, the less good ones were still astonishingly bad. As is to be expected, tyres gave a good deal of trouble, arid some 44 seem to have been changed during the course of the trial, exclusive of a compulsory change before the Brooklands race. One is also reminded that the sparking plug was still a very frail fitment by the fact that some three dozen were changed during the trial. Quite a number of cars, however, never changed one at all, so it may he that some less knowledgeable drivers regarded them as the root of all evil, and automatically changed them whatever the real trouble-a thing not unknown in present-day racing circles.
The small de Dion had very little trouble beyond tyres, but it had difficulty in competing with its time-schedules.
One Rolls Royce had to stop and adjust its carburetter, which took one minute ; lubricator union tightened, 7 minutes ; withdrawn on the sixth day with a seized piston. The other had to adjust its carburetter on two occasions, fill its radiator, and adjust its coil and tappets on different occasions.
One of the Daimlers ran well, except that it had to fill its radiator no less than eighteen times, and many other competitors had this trouble in lesser degree. The other Daimler withdrew at 13rooklands with a broken ball-race. In fact, most of the involuntary stops were short and of a fairly trivial nature,
but of the Belsize we read the laconic entry, ” withdrawn fourth day. Water in cylinders,” and the Benz, “withdrawn eleventh day. Broken crankshaft.” Some of the entries read quaintly, such as the Star, which “stopped engine when
clutching, 2 minutes,” and the Lorraine Dietrich, which “stopped engine going round corner.” But to show what dreadful things could still happen to motor-cars in 1908, here is the full tale of woe of the 15.4-h.p. Straker-Squire. On the first day all went well, but, taking the successive days by number :
2. Near front wheel came off, 10 min.
3. Cutting away dust cover, 20 min.
4. Flooded carburetter, 8 min. Filling radiator on road, 3 min. Engine stopped, 1 min.
5. Filling radiator on rank, 1 min.
6. Tyres, 4 min. Filling radiator on rank, 1 min. Clutch trouble, 1 min.
7. Fitting new detachable Wheel, 8 min. Various stoppages on hills, 27 min. 3 passengers dropped, 30 min.
Penalty for over maxirmun tittle, 11 min. Filling radiator on rank, 1 min.
8. Carburetter choked, 19 min. Bevel pinion stripped, 244 miii. Engine stopped when changing speed, 1 min.
9. Broken front springs, 210 min. Adjusting clutch, 35 min.
10. Changing wire wheels, 5 min. Adjusting carburetter float, 3 min. Tightening fan belt, 1 min.
11. Pumping up tyre, 2 min. Filling radiator on rank, 1 Min. Broken differential cage, removing broken part, 47 min.
12. Changing detachable wheel, 5 min. Filling radiator On rank, 1 min.
13. Filling radiator on rank, 1 mill. Engine stopped, 1 min. Differential trouble, 142 min.
It also used a lot of petrol for its size98 gallons, equivalent to 20 m.p.g.-and lost nearly 37 minutes behind the fastest car on timed bits, and altogether, it had mislaid 1,008 minutes 53.2 seconds when it reached Brooklands.
This may not speak very highly of the 1908 Straker-Squire, but it certainly speaks volumes for its crew that they nevertheless presented the car in running order at Brooklands at the end of the road section.
The Vauxhall sheet makes a staggering comparison : ” NO time occupied under headings Lubrication, Tyres, Other stops, Other penalties.” It also only lost 1 minute 22.4 seconds in all on tinted hills and used 76 gallons of petrol, equivalent to exactly 26 m.p.g., which is a very line performance for a 3-litre motor-car under competition conditions. Even the little de Di( uk only did 28!, m.p.g. One of the Daimlers did 22-? m.p.g., which was good for its size, and the other, and the one Rolls to complete the course did 20., which is an amazing figure for a 49-h.p. car. The 111-litre, Aria, the biggest
competitor, show c51 121,which again, a very ereditable figure, but the most extravagant competitor was the 52/-h.p. Lorraine-Dietrich, which only did 10 m.p.g. Reverting to the Vauxhall, this performance is really phenomenal, especially recollecting that. it was a brand-new
design, hardly tested at all it made instant success for its manufacturers, and the late Mr. L. H. Pomeroy, its then youthful designer. The only other car to complete the course without mechanical trouble was one of’ the Beeston Humbers, but it had two tyre-Stops, and sundry halts for lubrication. This put it at the
top of Class F until the ram when the Talbot got in front of it, by averaging 51.8 m.p.h. as against 48.1 of the Humber. The total losses or the Vauxhall were only 77 minutes 22.4 seconds, and the
next best performance, regardless of class, was a Rolls Royce which lost 115 minutes 6 seconds. Other good records were the Beeston Humber, 131 minutes 9.6 secends; Daimler, 139 minutes 35.8 seconds. Of the 46 starters only 10 were withdrawn or disqualified on the road section, leaving 36 to compete at Brooldands ; but here the organisers found themselves a good deal embarrassed, because some cars (notably the Straker-Squire) had amassed such a formidable handicap that they would have had to reserve the track for
two days before they could have started. Cars which were ebvioust?.; (la of the running in this way were therefore sent out. to complete three laps at high speed,
just to show they were capable of running. Of the rest, there was not nuieh competition in the smallest and largest classes, but the de Dion did 80 miles at the respec table speed of 27.6 m.p.h. The Vauxhall completed its 200 miles at 46.1 m.p.h. (its
maximum was about. 58 m.p.h.) the only faster car in the class being the Talbot, which averaged 53.4. In the 25-32-h.p. class the Adler pulled up from third to first place hy averaging
62.7 m.p.h., and was thus the only car to complete the 200 miles at more than 60 m.p.h.
Rolls Royce averaged 53.4 nr.p.h., and the big Arid l only 50.7. The biggest entries were in Classes E, and G, ranging from 16 to 32-h.p., and outside these classes it cannot be said that the honour and glory of victory was very su hstai However, to complete this retrospeet of an historic event, here are the final results :