Letters from readers, September 1942
Intense joy has been caused recently by the delivery of the April and May issues of Motor Sport, and my delight at establishing touch with things motoring again compels me to rush into print.
There is very little scope for the vintage enthusiast over here, indeed most motorists seem to be completely soulless. There are, of course, innumerable varieties of early Model “T” Fords, circa 1920-24, but it is extremely doubtful if the owners realise the “vintage” value of same.
My enthusiasm must be expended in a few lines to your excellent magazine. Have certainly been very homesick for all the motoring papers since I began my enforced exile over here. Have not discovered any parallel publications in this country; indeed, interest in cars is at such low ebb that the editors would have a devil of a job finding material for same.
Still, I manage to exist on the memories of great doings which happened before I left home.
Our green 3-litre Bentley has been overhauled since last summer. Almost under our very noses we discovered a 3-litre Bentley 2-seater, body and chassis of which would serve admirably for our 4 1/2-litre. All other mechanical parts were taken out, the gearbox, engine and propeller shaft installed in our own 3-litre; thus we now have a good mechanically quiet engine with 3 mm. off the block, a dead quiet gearbox and a back-lash-free propeller shaft. (The bronze blocks were almost new.)
There followed, of course, lots of hard labour, and the usual profanity, but a major achievement was the lowering of the cylinder block, entirely single handed, and using one pulley, a rope, a girder and the garage doors, in one afternoon. Pardon me if I commit the banality of asking if this is a record? Or do Bentley experts always replace blocks single-handed? We also had the carburetters done up at Burgess’s place at Acton, and now she is doing a regular 20 m.p.g. on “Pool.”
The general performance was much improved, including acceleration, because the new gearbox had the B ratios. One misses the high third of the “A,” but the getaway from a standstill repays any loss.
Needless to say, our speedometer is now 6 per cent. slow owing to the speedometer drive being geared for the 4.16 to 1 axle and, to save us working out mathematical problems in transit, we installed a rev.-counter, pinched from the 4 1/2-litre. Thus we know that 1,050 r.p.m. or so keeps us within the law…. One aspect of the rev.-counter reminds me how seldom it is necessary to go up to the peak. Even now I cannot remember ever exceeding 2,900 r.p.m. in the gears.
Thus our bare frame was scraped and cleaned and painted, and it did not take long to fit up the springs with the new bushes and shackle pins which had already been made, with the consumption of much midnight oil. This job also included the steering gear and aluminium bulkhead. We could not at first decide whether to use a 3-litre bulkhead and a new bonnet to fit the 4 1/2-litre radiator, or use a 4 1/2-litre bulkhead and have the scuttle of the body rebeaten. We eventually decided on the latter, because we imagined that the narrow 3-litre bulkhead would not match very well with the square 4 1/2-litre radiator.
After this we were brought to a stop by the condition of the engine, which had been full of water and needed new bearings (as mentioned in a previous letter), and we were restricted to fitting the axles and renewing the wiring. We managed, after gentle persuasion, to find a kindly soul who would grind the crankshaft and re-metal the bearings, and that’s how it stood when I left home.
Letters from home, however, have informed me that my brother, after diligent search, had discovered a fitter who would scrape up the bearings for us.
Electric drills must be worth their weight in gold. All attempts to procure one have so far been fruitless. Maybe the owners are scared of the toughness of the steel in a Bentley chassis.
An episode which caused a lot of harmless amusement occurred last November, when we heard of a 1926-7 “Blue Label,” sans tyres, out at Harlington, on the Great West Road.
Accordingly we set out one sunny morning, in the 3-litre, loaded with spare wheels and a nice strong rope.
En route we encountered a very nice green 3-litre in dire trouble; it was rather a hybrid, with a smart speed model body, “Blue Label” single carburetter engine and a stone-guarded “Red Label” radiator. It was piloted by an army major and a naval officer. Cause of bother was total absence of sparks, and inspection revealed one contact breaker rusted up and the other with a broken spring. We broke the news gently and said that there was nothing to be done, thereby preventing the exhaustion of an excellent battery and the waste of lots of petrol through the Smith carburetter. We left them to it, and sincerely hope that they got the necessary assistance.
It is to my regret that it never occurred to me to pinch one of the mags from our own car; if I had thought of it I should have certainly done so. If those good folk see this article I should like them to note said regrets. Our arrival at the breaker’s yard was unheralded, because all except one had gone to lunch. We were able to inspect the chassis, which had a cab and doors, but no petrol tank, water jacket pipe, carburetter or tyres. However, its main raison d’etre was 1926-7 engine, as mentioned, with big sump and alloy rockers. Unable to resist the possibilities of our 3-litre with a late bottom half, we bought it and got to work on the wheels. Three wheels were changed quite rapidly, but the nearside front refused to budge. No attempts with crowbars would move it and we were forced to fit up its decrepit cover with one of our tubes.
We attached rope and set off in fine style, with my brother in the rear, sitting on a pile of tyres. From the very first he seemed to be having slight difficulties, and a stop along the road confirmed that the brakes were non-existent. When he let the steering go to pull the hand brake on with two hands the car showed a regrettable tendency to mount the nearside kerb.
However, we got home with no mishap, except for one or two anxious moments up Hanger Hill, where we followed an enormous motor launch, on the back of a lorry; there was a queue of traffic behind, but since visibility over the hill was nonexistent we took no notice of the tootings of the ignorant ones. There was also one occasion when I could have sworn the “Blue” was trying to pass me; maybe I was mistaken.
We dumped her at the back of the house and have been raiding her for spares ever since. We had to blush one day when it was discovered that the wheel we had left on was smaller than the ones we fitted, hence awkward steering!
Our latest exploits have been concerned with a nephew; he had seen a 1926 Salmson for sale. I knew nothing of this marque, and on inspection it proved to possess a double-cam engine and four-speed gearbox. Performance seemed quite reasonable and on our first corner a scuffling noise told us of the presence of a solid rear axle. The body had the longtailed G.P. style, all complete with number space. The nephew was completely captivated and looked upon it with loving eyes. Needless to say we upheld his enthusiasm, to the utter despair of sundry relatives….
Several odd spots of bother were removed, including a set of mixed spark plugs which had gaps as wide as the Grand Canyon and carbon deposits of years and years. A set of “K1s” snaffled from the 3-litre worked wonders, and we had her ticking like a clock.
Petrol consumption seemed to be around 30-35 m.p.g. I made a clock reading of 63 m.p.h. one day on our local autobahnen, but since it was an S.S. speedometer, the internal gearing may have been wrong, giving a false reading. I fear I have taken more space than I should have done, so will now close with my usual gratitude (more profound than ever) at being able to read a really interesting magazine in these difficult days.
I am, Yours etc.,
I was much interested in the mention of the Norton W.D. combination met on the Ox Drove, as I know the road and we have a great deal of fun on those same machines out here.
Regarding the 500-c.c. class, I shall certainly be interested in this as soon as I return. I was proceeding, very amateurly, with making a 600-c.c. touring machine (Scott-powered), but that was hoped to be merely the starting point.
So roll on the finishing lap of war and let us get on with something useful! As regards Berlin “Victory Parade” (if deemed at all necessary), surely a demonstration of our successful fighting vehicles would he more in keeping with the occasion. Anyway, is any “circus” desirable?
I am, Yours etc.,
M. Mansbridge, Sgmn.
By Air Mail from the Middle East.