Letters from Readers
I should like to thank Mr. Crowley Milling for his correction to my article on the point of the effect of gyroscopic action on tilting wheels. His figures strongly reinforce my conclusion that the swing-axle system is quite unsuitable for front suspension on fast cars, but dispose of what I had believed was a major objection to its use at the rear, and so help to explain why the extremely successful small Alfa-Romeos adhered to this layout.
I should also like to congratulate Capt. Moon on his latest article, which has provided me with a lot of food for thought.
I am Yours, etc.,
C. W. Marris (Sqd./Ldr.).
Enthusiastus Extinctus, indeed! Having seen fit to allocate more than a page of precious space in the February Motor Sport to an article accusing the fair sex of being responsible for the decline and fall of the automobile, perhaps you will be good enough to spare a mere column or so to a "preening popsie" that she may "prattle."
Being blessed with a little more courage than your contributor, I admit to there being some truth in what he says, but feel that quite a lot has been left unsaid, and the viewpoint expressed is, to say the least, biased and unfair. Certainly more often than not the more desirable a motor car as a car the less favour it finds in feminine eyes, but is this not equally true of the male lounge-lizard? And certainly more than one woman has been known to declare, "You'd rather have your wretched motor car than any woman in the world." But not, please note, because she was unable or unwilling to share his enthusiasm, but because he would simply not give her the chance. Man with his inherent vanity still looks upon things mechanical as being his own particular domain and, ostrich fashion, refuses to visualise Eve taking an intelligent interest, so that if she does try to take an interest she is brusquely swept aside with a lordly air and told, "You wouldn't understand, my pet."
How foolish and stubborn you men are at times! Hasn't it ever struck you that with a little broader vision and a deal more patience you could all — all of you who wish, that is — have an enthusiastic and knowledgeable girl friend sitting behind you near side aero-screen? All you vintage fans form a very small minority of motorists, anyway, and I am confident that there is at least an equal proportion of the fair sex keen enough to be educated in the art of appreciation if only you men would have sufficient patience to carry out this education, an occupation which could be quite thrilling and amusing for both parties.
Permit me to relate my own experience. During the past three or four months I have had the pleasure of showing a visiting Englishman the sights of Sydney; he in turn has been imparting the knowledge necessary for my anticipated qualification as a true vintagent. As yet I cannot claim to be very learned regarding technicalities, but I have grasped the glory that is the real motor car, and because my instructor has patience and is wise enough not to be scornful should I make a faux pas, I am able to ask every kind of question with impunity, knowing that I shall not be pounced upon should my query appear naive or silly. And it all provides a great deal of fun for us both. He, with masculine vanity, fairly relishes turning up at club meetings and rallies with that rare (quite unnecessarily so) phenomenon, a sincerely enthusiastic female, whereas I, with feminine coyness, simply adore watching his expression out of the corner of my eye, when at a post mortem on a f.w.d. Alvis, I whisper in his ear: "Why are the springs cross-way instead of the other way?" or at the screening of a Shell film at a club cinema show, ask: "Is that what they call the crown wheel?" when a cut-away rear axle reveals its private parts.
There have, of course, been times when a suspicion of a frown has crossed his brow, such as the occasion of my enthusing over an S.S., but his reaction on making the discovery that I was studying "The Motor Manual" made up for that.
So you men, do please get rid of that "Blonde or Bentley" complex. It is all of your own making. Have patience and confidence in your popsie's ability to learn what is and what is not a motor car, and how and why. It may be a little slow at first and even a little trying, but with perseverance and understanding, you will eventually reach the stage of love my car, love me.
I am, Yours, etc.
It's a long time ago since I last wrote to you, and a lot has happened in those five years. I do hope you are still there. I managed to survive the war quite well. I still have my cars and bikes, viz., an 1,100-c.c. "Brooklands" Riley in good state, and a 350-c.c. s.v. twin Douglas, a 500 o.h.c. Norton of 1929 vintage, a beautiful o.h.v. big-twin of 500 c.c. (to go in a heavy frame), etc. The Huns did not get a single one of my things, so I am quite content. Then there is the 4 1/2-litre Bentley on which I had already paid a small sum to the owner. The S.S. took it away in April, but I am trying to track it down, and if it is still intact, I shall find it.
We're going to revive our N.A.R.C., but my chief work of this war and thereafter is the Road Racing Circuit Co. I founded it in 1943 after endless difficulties, and we bought a site near Zeist, and have now enough money to build the circuit. Building will probably start this autumn. The circuit will be 5 1/2 kms. long and 11 yards wide. We intend to organise a Formula Grand Prix, 1 1/2-litre race, international sports car race, and national motor-cycle race and, of course, some smaller events (team race, England-Holland, an old-style Grand Prix with old Alfas, Bugattis and Maseratis, up to 1934 models, etc.). You will like that last idea, I know. English money can be put into it. We should like to have some £10,000 British interest in it. We have already got some £30,000 in Dutch money together.
Let me know how you all are. I have written to Howe and Kay Petre.
I hope to be able to come over to England this autumn, or sooner if possible, and then we can talk things over.
I am, Yours, etc.,
[If Holland can build a road circuit in time of war and raise £30,000 towards it, surely we should be able to re-open Donington and save Brooklands. This is an issue which might usefully be raised in the House. — Ed.]
It will not be necessary to detail to readers of Motor Sport the present difficulties in the supply of synthetic tubes.
On behalf of the manufacturers, may I briefly stress the need to ease these difficulties by getting the greatest possible service from such tubes as are available?
Users are aware by this time that synthetic is a very different thing from natural rubber: they should not forget that this very difference demands different treatment.
Both the packages containing synthetic tubes and flaps, and the tubes and flaps themselves, are clearly marked — the latter with a coloured disc, or, alternatively, in the case of the tube with a coloured strip running round it. Attached to each flap are detailed instructions on exactly how to use the soap solution which is the main departure in fitting both.
May we appeal to users who want to get the maximum mileage to see that these simple instructions are followed with care? If they do, they cannot go wrong; nor will the synthetic.
I am, Yours, etc.,
For Tyre Manufacturers' Conference,
W. B. Stokes.
While fully appreciating that Motor Sport is not, and should not be, interested in the problems of domestic and international social arrangements, I feel space should be available for news and views in so far as these affect the British Motor Industry, upon which our Sport depends so much.
May I express the hope that all concerned undertake to employ only British men and women, thus making as great a contribution to the peace as they made to the war.
I am, Yours, etc.,
As a Canadian reader of your estimable paper I have become very interested in European motor cars. Motor Sport certainly has a most enthusiastic way of presenting technical information. Very regrettably we have no such magazine in Canada, and therefore I hope to continue as one of your fans when I return home. I also think that it is a sad state of affairs that British cars are not more popular in Canada. Perhaps that will change after the war.
Having so aroused my interest, I am now wondering whether you can satisfy my curiosity on some points. Would it be possible to find out the brake-horsepower, the revolutions at which it is developed, and the compression ratio of the following cars: 6 1/2 litre Bentley, 8-litre Bentley, Rolls-Royce Phantom III, 4 1/4-litre Bentley, 4.3-litre Alvis, V12 Hispano-Suiza, Delage Eight, 4-litre Darracq, 4-litre Delahaye?
Any information will be gratefully received.
I am, Yours, etc.,
A. C. Oldman (L.A.C.).
[Can anyone oblige with this data ?Ed.]
Captain Moon raises an interesting and far-reaching argument when he doubts the advisability of increasing too far the polar moment of inertia of a vehicle intended for high-speed cornering.
The more the weight is concentrated around the axles, the greater becomes the flywheel effect about a vertical axis. This means that, while the car will be slower to go into a skid (and, incidentally, slower to answer the steering), it will also be slower and more difficult to get out of a skid once one has started. It is, therefore, particularly necessary that any perceptible oversteer should be avoided in a car of modern layout, with the bulk of the weight disposed dumb-bell fashion. At the same time, the ultimate breakaway must come at the back-end. It therefore appears that the weight distribution, spring rate, and other relevant factors of chassis design on a modern car are far more critical, and call for more exact calculation than was the case in vintage types, where the driver had a much greater "dicing margin."
With the characteristically vintage layout, which perhaps found its most pronounced exemplification in the Anzani Frazer-Nash, nearly all the weight was amidships and skids of all kinds might occur with great suddenness. But by dint of high-geared steering, and the complete lack of flywheel effect, almost any skid could be quickly corrected. While I have no scientific knowledge of the subject, my observation of the differing handling characteristics of vintage and modern motor cars has led me to the following two conclusions, with which, I wonder, if Captain Moon will agree:
(1) The modern layout may, at best, get round a corner quicker than the vintage type, but the margin of control remaining after the moment of breakaway will not be so great. Maximum speed cornering with a modern layout therefore calls for much greater judgment than on a vintage car.
(2) Whereas high-geared steering was necessary to control the "lively" cornering characteristics of the vintage machine, it is no longer called for with the high polar moment of inertia of a modern layout. This is borne out by the remarkably low-geared steering of the German G.P. machines. I believe that an experimental high ratio steering gear was tried by Seaman, but he soon returned to the standard ratio.
Turning to another subject, may I say how cordially I agree with Peter Monkhouse's remarks in connection with "utility" sports cars. It is, I believe, a complete waste of time to mess about with Ford Tens and similar appliances. An altogether admirable machine, which may even be induced to go quite quickly, the Ford can never begin to represent a sports car. A true sports car has other characteristics than mere speed. The steering must be sensitive, accurate and free from excessive over- or under-steer. The gear ratios must be such as to enable the most to be made of the power available. By the time a Ford has been made to conform with these requirements, more will have been spent on it, or any similar machine, than the cheap, mass-produced groundwork merits.
By starting with a characteristically vintage machine such as the T.B. type M.G., Mr. Monkhouse has the makings of something in which a purchaser can feel some pride of ownership. But who could feel any pride of ownership under the bonnet of a Ford?
The performance figures quoted by Mr. Monkhouse (13 1/2 cwts. and 13 1/2 sec. from 0-60 m.p.h.) suggest that he has put the b.h.p. up to some 55 b.h.p., equal to the creditable figure of 40 b.h.p. per litre. Even as easily obtained an output as 45 b.h.p. should give 0-60 in 15 sec., and a standing 1/4 mile in about 22 sec., which is not to be despised.
For a car of this kind, where frontal area may be kept remarkably low (probably less than 10 sq. ft.) I think Mr. Monkhouse is wise in eschewing completely streamlined coachwork, even though he may lose a little in timed performance.
As Mr. Monkhouse says, performance costs money, and I believe that any attempt to produce a car immediately suitable for sports-car racing, cheaper than he proposes, could only hope, at best, to attract the white-helmet brigade. People who cannot afford this much, must have their sport in one of the many cheaper, but none the less enjoyable ways that club membership affords.
Even those who are condemned to a "family" type of car can enjoy sportscar handling, even if they must do without sports-car performance. Such machines as the 1,100-c.c. Fiat or the D.K.W. give points to few, if any, sports cars in matters of handling, and one wonders if their example may at last be followed by manufacturers of small British family cars. Graham Dix is certainly right in praising the D.K.W. as probably the finest economy car, from every point of view, that anyone has so far taken the trouble to make.
I am, Yours, etc.,
After reading with considerable interest the article of Graham C. Dix in praise of the D.K.W., I should like to point out that f.w.d. is not entirely unrepresented in this country.
I refer, of course, to the B.S.A. "Scout." At present I am running a 2-seater 1935 model which, when it came into my possession, had covered 29,000 miles, and some notes on its performance, etc., may not come amiss. Maximum speed on the level is 60 m.p.h. on the speedometer which, I believe to be accurate, 43 in second and 18 in bottom. The car weighs 11 1/2 cwt. in road trim, and the sidevalve engine develops 28 b.h.p. at 4,000 r.p.m. There is a 10-gallon rear tank, and over 400 miles recently the consumption was 40 m.p.g., cruising at 50 m.p.h. whenever road conditions permitted. Braking, although not outstanding, is adequate, and the front brakes are automatically balanced through the differential. Steering is light and high geared, and cornering and roadholding really first class. Cornering in particular is a long way ahead of any car I have yet owned.
From the maintenance point of view accessibility is very good, all the "works" being housed under the bonnet and radiator. The general standard of workmanship is high, and I think I am correct in saying that high-tensile nuts and bolts are used throughout.
For anyone who requires a small car of good performance with low first cost and economical running, the 9-h.p. "Scout" seems to me to be a very attractive proposition.
I am, Yours, etc.,
In an article in your August issue, Mr. G. C. Dix asks why the British public did not go crazy about the D.K.W. car.
Might I suggest that the British public are too sensible to waste their money on a shoddy, poverty-stricken contraption that makes a noise like a worn-out motor mower?
If anybody wants a car with poor springing, unresponsive steering, and virtually no brakes, then the D.K.W. is "just the job." The amateur electrician can have hours of fun trying to make the Heath-Robinson electrical system work, and, provided that he is a skilled contortionist, he has only to remove one front wheel and take some rusty screws out of a piece of tin, and he will be able to catch a glimpse of the contact breakers. Those who have struggled against the general beastliness and messiness of two-stroke engines in auto-cycles, mowers, lighting plants, etc., will, no doubt, be charmed to know that they can buy a two-stroke car. The gearshift is a good joke. It evidently was not made for rough typeslike Bolster. But what have I said? The D.K.W. is a foreign car, and everybody knows that all foreign cars are perfect, and no British cars are any good at all!
I am, Yours, etc.,
J. V. Bolster