Veteran types-XXV

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Hutton-Stott’s 1903 de Dietrich Paris-Vienna Replica, described by Cecil Clutton

When Motor Sport recently published a list of antique cars which had been seen in different places, the mention of a 1906 de Dietrich did not seem very exciting; but Francis Hutton-Stott had the initiative to go and look for himself, and immediately recognised the car as being much older. It is, in fact, a 1903 model, closely following the lines of the car which competed in the Paris-Vienna Race of 1902. The de Dietrich had not performed with any prominence in the race, but as Farman’s winning Panhard was one of the new 13-litre 70-h.p. machines and the de Dietrich was only a 4-litre 16-h.p. machine this was hardly surprising. Their respective speeds were 38.4 and 25.4 m.p.h.

This Paris-Vienna Race was of great interest in several ways. To begin with, the exceptional severity of the 615.4 mile course proved the undoing of most of the heavy cars, leaving Marcel Renault, running in the light car class, to make fastest time of all the competitors On a 120 x 120 mm., 5 1/2-litre, three-speed Renault, averaging 38.9 m.p.h. – half a mile per hour faster than Farman. It seems remarkable that this did not awaken people to the disadvantages of the Giants, but it was not until 1912 that they finally died. The Renault was also notable for possessing a tubular frame and axles.

The race was the first run to the 1,000 kgs. maximum weight formula, and also incorporated the Gordon Bennett Race for the year. This was run over a shorter course, ending at Innsbruck. France anticipated an easy victory, but one by one their representatives dropped out, until at last only de Knyff, on a “70” Panhard, was left, and he had a cracked differential casing. Finally, the outraged pinion gave way, and S.F. Edge was left to win on his Napier. The French were furious and complained loudly, but Edge kept his victory.

The race included many steep gradients and not a few of the cars received manual assistance. A spectator timed the competitors up one 1 in 6 acclivity, the fastest being Teste and de Knyff, on Panhards, who made the grade at 23 m.p.h. But if the motors were reluctant to pull up the hills, the brakes were even less calculated to maintain a controlled descent, and many anxious moments were enjoyed. In particular, one motor-cyclist passed beyond all hope of salvation and sped down one hill, faster and ever faster, crying loudly for help. An English competitor heard him coming, seized him by the coat collar as he passed and miraculously plucked him from the saddle of his careering bicycle into safety.

In 1903 de Dietrich’s put a basically similar machine on the market as part of their range of four-cylinder machines of 12, 16 and 24 h.p. respectively, and they achieved considerable popularity by virtue of the reliability, smoothness and silence of the Turcat-Mery-type engine.

The cylinder dimensions were 104 x 120 mm., giving a capacity of a fraction under 4 litres. The cylinders were cast in pairs, with the then usual very long centre bearing. Ignition was by low tension magneto, the interruptors being operated by an external camshaft. Automatic inlet valves were in cages recessed flush into the cylinders, from which thev must have been remarkably difficult to dislodge. It may be assumed that the engine ran at about 800 r.p.m., with a terminal velocity of 1,200 r.p.m., and speed was governed by a device which operated the piston-type throttle. Cooling was effected by pump and a gilled tube radiator, the water tank being disposed at the rear of the engine. From the engine the drive passed via a leather cone clutch to a gearbox supported by a separate sub-frame. Final drive was by chain, but, contrary to usual practice, the differential and bevel housing was not integral with the gearbox casing. The chassis was armoured wood.

This particular car was bought when new by Lord Iveagh, and its handsome lines and brightly polished emerald green finish were much remarked upon. The body consists of two front bucket seats and a rear compartment with seats in each of the back corners, facing inwards at an angle of 45°. To this was subsequently added a roof upon four pillars, and attached to the roof were front and back windscreens and canvas side flaps, all of which could be let down at will. Lord Iveagh was married from the car in 1903, and it continued in use until 1912. when it was driven into the garage and blocked up. There it stood until 1940, when a bomb descended upon the garage, after which it stood in the open. Children found it a happy playground and it soon lost the rim of its steering wheel and the gear lever. The coachwork also suffered. It was in this state when seen by Francis Hutton-Stott, and, to be brief, the vehicle shortly changed hands.

Shortly afterwards Laurence Pomeroy, Bunny Tubbs, John Bolster and I attended upon Hutton-Stott to do homage to this latest addition to his already extensive and unique stable of veterans, and the first sight of the de Dietrich, with its gilled tube radiator, was certainly inspiring. Mechanically, the machinery appeared to be in excellent condition and had rusted surprisingly little. Certain modifications had been made for Lord Iveagh, the most important being the substitution of an h.t. for the old l.t. magneto. The governor had also been disconnected. John and I worked out the final ratios, and with the sprocket fitted they were approximately 2 1/2. 3 1/2, 6 and 10 to 1. This would give a top speed of roughly 45 m.p.h. The tyres are 815 x 105 mm., fitted to detachable rims, evidently another modernisation.

Fired with a desire to see if the engine could be made to work, and Hutton-Stott not objecting, we fixed the much perished h.t. leads to the beautiful blue sparking plugs, primed the cylinders and turned the handle. The engine was perfectly free and the automatic inlet valves emulated a Frenchman drinking soup to perfection. With less than half-a-dozen turns of the handle the engine broke into life for the first time in exactly 30 years; it was a great moment. To begin with there were a good many squeaks and clatters, but as the oil got circulating it smoothed out marvellously, running perfectly evenly and with amazing silence. It even throttled down to an entirely funereal tickover.

The next move was to set the vehicle in motion, but this was not so easy, owing to a jammed clutch and the lack of a gear lever. However, the stub of the lever was fixed into second gear notch on the quadrant, the writer installed in the seat of driving and a push start executed. Rapidly the speed rose down the gradient of the Hutton-Stott drive, approaching the very small turning circle at the end. The minute spokes of the steering wheel proving quite insufficient to operate the much stiffened steering joints a disaster seemed somewhat imminent, but at the last moment the clutch freed, the circle was negotiated and the hill reascended in fine style.

The motor certainly gives very good value for its accredited 16 h.p. and should be a most potent performer in the veteran or Edwardian fields in due course.

In the meantime Hutton-Stott can be relied upon to get the de Dietrich back into first-class contemporary condition; so another worthy veteran is saved.