American cars are of considerable interest here on account of their comparative rarity and their fabulous size and power. Some of them are unwieldly to drive on our narrow roads and some there are which suffer dangerously severe brake fade if they have to be stopped quickly from the high speeds they so readily attain. Consequently it was with mixed feelings that the Editor borrowed one of the most eyeable of these great American automobiles, a Ford Galaxie “Sunliner” convertible. He probably wouldn’t have borrowed it at all but for a recurrence of the carnival-queen lark, for which a car which can be used open or shut up at will is a near-essential.
It didn’t take long to discover that the Ford Galaxie is not in any way an embarrassment in this country if you ignore the really narrow country lanes; indeed, it is a huge car that merely seems big to the driver. He does not really require the “gun sights” on the front wings to place and park it accurately, while truck brakes give adequate retardation from very high speeds and very powerful braking under normal conditions. Moreover, there is nothing over-ornate or fussily complicated about the Galaxie’s controls. The minor controls take the form not of press-buttons but ordinary knobs along the facia, each one labelled. The car tested had a very smooth fully-automatic transmission with the usual steering-column stalk to select R, P, N, D1, D2 and L, the only mild complaint being that it wasn’t very easy to see at a glance which service had been selected. A matching stalk works the very bright flashers and although there is a foot parking brake instead of a hand-lever, this is easy to find with the right foot, even in the dark, and is released simply by pulling out the extreme right-hand facia knob. An amusing detail is the way in which the golden “S” of “Sunliner” on the boot lid swivels to reveal the key-hole.
The usual wide brake pedal is provided and the accelerator works rather heavily, which prevents inadvertent surging forward as the 225 bhp from the 5.4-litre V8 engine begins to be unleashed. There is power steering, very light at all times naturally, devoid of “feel” during its four turns lock-to-lock, but not at all unpleasant in action. And, on the subject of steering, this big Galaxie has usefully stiff suspension, so that it can be cornered quickly without roll or tyre howl. This is one quality which gives the driver confidence and diminishes the width and length of this Ford (6.7 ft X 17.8 ft) in his eyes.
Obviously the Ford Galaxie has as much performance as anyone can use—the acceleration is such that, without bothering to go into D2 from D1 or “kicking down,” the driver can project the car easily past slower vehicles, which helps in taking the great bulk of the eye-catching “Sunliner” through the traffic. On a congested A30 the speedometer read 100 mph several times in a mere 20 miles and with slightly less traffic on A303 110 mph came up on the steady speedometer with more in hand—and Ford speedometers are usually accurate, or nearly so. At night the dual headlamps give a tremendous beam and the foot-dipper cuts out two of them. Control simplification is seen in the lamps switch, one knob selecting side or headlamps as required, while turning it controls the rheostatic facia illumination. At the opposite end of the performance scale the “Sunliner” rolled past carnival crowds in Andover at 2 mph without the faintest sign of embarrassment apart from an elevated needle on the water-temperature gauge.
One of the best things about this fine example of Ford engineering is the power-top. Move an under-facia switch and the hood goes up or conceals itself in a well behind the broad back seat. It does this without anyone having to fold or furl anything, so that you can go from coupe to open car, or vice versa, on the move. The catches are not difficult to operate and the one-way operation takes probably under 30 seconds. The hood is well made, with overlapping at the seams, and does not drum when erect.
Although we had the car for only twelve hours we contrived to cover nearly 200 miles and in that distance became Galaxie fans. About one-third of the petrol remained, so the fuel-range is useful and consumption in the order of 16/17 mpg, which isn’t extravagant from the very powerful. over-square engine. It is easy to see why Rob Walker ordered a Ford Galaxie station-wagon from Lincoln Cars, and we hope to publish a full road-test on one of these commodious cars later in the year.
Power for Bluebird
The Proteus engine for Donald Campbell’s Bluebird, which may soon be the fastest car in the world, was supplied by Bristol Siddeley. The Proteus, which has built up a fine reputation as the power-plant of the Britannia airliner, is also used for electrical power generation and to propel the Royal Navy’s Brave class Fast Patrol Boats, the fastest warships in the world. Its use in Donald Campbell’s record car is a further example of the adaptability of gas turbines of this type.
All gas turbines have the advantage of delivering high power for a small bulk and weight. The Proteus, 8 ft 3/4-in. long and 40 in. in diameter, produces 4,250 hp for a weight of about 3,000 lb. No piston engine or combination of piston engines could compete with these figures and, moreover, the Proteus requires no cooling system, no clutch because it incorporates the equivalent of a fluid torque converter, and no gearbox because it can produce its power over a wide range of rpm. The output shaft is simply coupled directly and permanently to bevel gears in the front and rear axles.
The engine for the Campbell car is in no way a tuned unit, as were the piston engines in earlier record breakers. The normal power output of the Protein is sufficient for the purpose and it is designed to run for long periods at full speed with complete reliability. There is nothing temperamental about it and it does not even require to be warmed up—full power is available immediately and the shut down can be equally quick.
The Proteus is a free turbine engine; that is to say the power turbine is mechanically separate from the compressor and its turbine. The speed of the output shaft can thus be varied over a wide range of rpm while the compressor system continues to run at its optimum speed. It is this arrangement, working in much the same manner as a fluid torque converter, which gives the engine its great flexibility and makes the gearbox and clutch unnecessary. Power is regulated by the amount of fuel admitted to the combustion chambers.
Air enters radially through passages in a light alloy casing just to the rear of the mid-length of the engine. It then passes forward through the compressor, which has twelve axial stages and a final centrifugal stage. On leaving the compressor the air is turned rearward into the eight tubular combustion chambers which are compactly arranged round the compressor casing.
Behind the combustion chambers there are two two-stage turbines. The first drives the compressor through a hollow shaft, the second drives the output shaft which runs forward through the tubular compressor shaft and normally terminates in a reduction gear at the front of the engine.
In the Campbell car there is no reduction gear. The output shaft is continued forward to the bevel gears which drive the front wheels. At the rear the engine has been modified to allow the output shaft to be extended backward to the bevel gears for the rear wheels. The main change entailed is the division of the exhaust pipe into four branches which are carried round the rear bevel casing. The jet thrust provided by the exhaust will be negligible at maximum speed.
At the beginning of each run the car will be held on the brakes while the compressor system is run up to a predetermined rpm. The brakes will then be released and the car will accelerate as the power turbine gathers speed. To avoid excessive wheelspin the throttle will be opened gradually as speed is gained. In some respects the engine will be operating under conditions not previously experienced. During acceleration it will be exerting greater torque than ever before, but trials on the test bed have shown that it is well able to withstand the increased loads.
In the Britannia airliner the Proteus does not exceed a sea level speed of 350 mph. The Campbell car is designed for a maximum speed approaching 500 mph, at which the intake pressure would naturally be considerably higher at sea level. However, Bonneville Salt Lake is at an altitude of 4,300 ft and this is sufficient largely to offset the increase in intake pressure due to increased speed.
At low speeds the Proteus will offer no overrun braking effect similar to that provided by the compression and internal friction of a piston engine—the propellers of a Britannia can easily be rotated by one finger ! At speeds around 400 mph it would provide about 500 hp for braking if the throttle were cut completely. but it is not likely that it will, in fact, be cut completely at such a speed.
An overrun braking effort of 500 hp is comparable with that which would be exerted by the two Napier “Lion” piston engines, of half the Proteus total power fitted to the late John Cobb’s Railton, which set up the present record in 1947. This is a reatively small contribution to the effort needed to stop the car from maximum speed.
The fuel consumption of this 3.1-ton, 4,250-hp car is not as heavy as might be expected—probably about 11/2 mpg at maximum speed.
It cannot be said that the Campbell car will provide lessons which can be applied directly to the development of a gas turbine driven family saloon, but its success could add impetus to this idea and its design, which dispenses with gearbox, clutch and cooling system, illustrates the remarkable adaptability of the free turbine engine.