Rumblings, September 1947
Calling in at the Phoenix Green Garage recently we came upon the Becke-Powerplus, in for a minor repair. This famous little car has been successfully driven in sprint events by Major Vaughan since the war and repays close study. The Becke was originally evolved by Von de Becke and was later rebuilt by S. H. Newsome, whose business plate still adorns the facia. The chassis has straight side-members tapering appreciably at the front dumb-irons, and the flat-set front springs are half-elliptics, outrigged above the chassis. A straight tubular front axle is carried above these springs, so that the front of the car is very low, lower, indeed, than the back end, where a G.N.-type rear axle is carried on 1/4-elliptic springs mounted above brackets extending from the frame. The front axle carries unribbed Rubery-Owen brakes and Rudge 42 hubs, while Hartford shock-absorbers directly above the springs locate the axle. At the rear, G.N. torque members are mounted above the springs and the Hartfords are incorporated therein. The rear brake drums are ribbed.
The engine is none other than one of the 65 by 95 mm. (1,261 c.c.) units which Capt. A. G. Miller evolved when he was Competition Manager of Wolseleys in 1921 and which enabled the (unsupercharged) Wolseley “Moths” to lap Brooklands at over 87 m.p.h. twenty-four years ago. Today, it is linered down to 1,100 c.c., and a special Laystall crankshaft is used. In a cradle at the off side of the crankcase is accommodated a No. 9A Powerplus supercharger, driven at just above engine speed by twin-roller chains from the nose of the crankshaft. This blower delivers, at 15 lb./sq. in., through a very big bore, external Y-shape manifold immediately above it, a blow-off valve being neatly incorporated and the manifold attached to the two horizontal inlet stubs by big-bore hoses. Below the supercharger is the large S.U. carburetter, its inlet protected by a gauze shield, for its location brings it very close to the ground. The engine runs on straight Methanol, carried in a 2-gallon tank in the tail and fed by air pressure, the handpump being placed inside the scuttle for actuation by the driver’s left hand. The blower is lubricated by Castrol “R” carried in an old S.U. float chamber mounted down by the pedal cross-shafts. Ignition is by a B.T.H. magneto on the near side of the crankcase and on this side of the engine emerge three separate exhaust pipes.
The drive passes via a racing Alvis clutch to the G.N. chain-and-dog transmission, duplex chains being used for 3rd and top speeds. The steering is centralised and the long bonnet is held down by studs; when removed, the under-scuttle equipment is exposed, in addition to the engine. A Wolseley-shape radiator is mounted on brackets between the chassis side-members, ahead of the front axle. The rear wheels carry twin 4.00 in. by 19 in. tyres, the front wheels 4.75 in. by 17 in. covers. The facia carries the usual dials and a tiny plate detailing the Becke’s better runs at famous sprint venues, and is dominated by a Speedometer Supply Co. rev.-counter reading to 7,000 r.p.m. Major Vaughan is considering disposing of the Becke Powerplus in order to concentrate on the Fane-Nash which he has recently acquired, but he will sell only to a driver capable of continuing to do justice to what is, after all, a very remarkable and potent small racing car.
Shortly after peering at the Becke we called in at Pat Whittet & Co.’s Whinlands Works, where Lance Macklin’s “Fuzzi,” with its new Mercury V8 engine and Mercédès-like body was nearing completion. With its decidedly ingenious four-wheel-drive, this will be an interesting car to watch at sprint venues. The long layshaft which takes the drive fore and aft lives in, a tunnel along the near side of the chassis and is driven from behind the gearbox at more than twice engine speed by duplex chain drive, further duplex chains taking the drive across to the normal transmission line. A centre steady bearing is used and the chain drives are now automatically tensioned by jacket sprockets, manufactured in the Whinlands Works, the earlier idea of swivelling the shaft to effect chain adjustment having been scrapped. A free-wheel is incorporated in such a manner that if the wheels on one axle commence to spin, drive is momentarily transferred entirely to the other axle. The steering column is somewhat reminiscent of that of the Steyr-Allard, in that it runs to the nose of the car over the top of the engine, but two mechanical universals are used and an old connecting rod supports the steering-wheel-end of the column.
This country is in a pretty pickle and consequently increasing British prestige abroad is, or should be, a most vital matter in the minds of those who govern us. We know that Italy and Germany effectively used motor-racing as a means of propaganda before the war and that Germany’s export trade in D.K.W. cars derived appreciable benefit therefrom.
With things as they are at present, Britain should do all she can to secure good publicity for her exportable commodities in the field of International competition. It is no idle statement that men like Parnell, Abecassis, Brooke and Ashmore, when they get placed in aged E.R.A.s in International road races, do their country a great deal of good. We know that, after successes in International rallies and Continental hill-climbs on the part of cars like the Allard and H.R.G., the manufacturers of these cars receive a really surprisingly large volume of correspondence from interested persons and would-be owners in all parts of the world.
Certainly the successful and so-effectively accomplished record attempts of Lt.-Col. “Goldie” Gardner are of absolutely incalculable value to our prestige. For this reason, every good wish accompanied John Cobb when he left for America to try to further raise his own land speed record with that magnificently British piece of machinery, the Thomson and Taylor-prepared Napier-engined Railton.
In case anyone feels at all envious that racing drivers and their staff can escape from this unhappy little island to places where they can race, eat, motor and generally let themselves go without restraint, let us emphasise that, however much these drivers may be enjoying themselves, certainly they are also working hard and spending much personal finance in such a way that any successes they achieve benefit their country enormously.
That we do not always seem to appreciate this fact is borne out by the following true anecdote. A wellknown T.T. motor-cycle rider trying out a megaphone exhaust on a lonely road in the Isle of Man, was laboriously traced to his garage by the police and informed that legal proceedings would be taken against him. He then left for the Continent and found that he could ride about the roads and through the towns of France and Belgium with this self-same exhaust, and displaying racing numbers, without experiencing the least suspicion of hostility. He proceeded to win two Grand Prix races on his British motor-cycle against strong foreign opposition and then returned to England. Leaving Charing Cross Station he pushed his machine, still proudly bearing its racing numbers and other visual evidence of its recent important victories, down the Strand in search of a garage. In a quiet side street he paused for a moment, leaning the bicycle against a wall. Almost at once an interfering Londoner advised him to get it into the gutter before a policeman found it on the pavement; which is hardly the correct welcome for someone who, although he would be the last to make the point, had recently upheld National prestige in no mean manner and who deserved well of his country.
Abecassis is disposing of his E.R.A. in order to concentrate on racing his new G.P. Alta next season. His Bugatti he will retain for sprint events.
The Ace Service Station has been responsible for preparing some notable cars this season, including Rowley’s ex-Mathieson ex-Rayson 2-litre G.P. Bugatti with E.N.V. gearbox, which was converted to supercharged form by Gale, who is now with the Ace. This garage also service Heal’s G.P. Sunbeam and are converting Mathieson’s 3-litre Maserati into a road car.
Windsor-Richards has been seen driving a Healey chassis with the very minimum of bodywork.
Raymond Mays used Dunlop tyres at Bouley Bay.