Vintage postbag

Sir,

It was very interesting to me to read in your May issue of Motor Sport, "Fragments on Forgotten Makes: The Be!size Bradshaw" and Mr. Bradshaw's letter in your last issue. I started with the Belsize Motor Co in January 1908, and it was then that they brought out the 14/16-hp four-cylinder en bloc engine. What a headache it was working on that original model. The bolts holding down the cylinders also secured the front middle, and back main bearings, so the base chamber had to be taken down when decarbonising otherwise the bearings fell into the base chamber. This was rectified the following year when the cylinders were cast in pairs and studs fitted to the upper half of the base chamber. This engine was more efficient. A White and Poppe carburetter was fitted, but this, though very economical, caused some trouble in starting until the engine was thoroughly warmed up. Zeniths were fitted later and with the Bosch magneto this engine was exceedingly easy to start.

Another headache was the oiling system. A double plunger pump was fitted to the upper half of the aluminium base chamber which drew oil from the sump and pumped it to a glass container similar to a jam jar, fitted to the dashboard. The oil pipe from the sump to the pump would continually get blocked by carbon breaking off from underneath the pistons, and it was not unusual to stop on the road and clean out the pipe. In bad cases the bottom half of the base chamber would have to be removed, cleaned out, and replenished with fresh oil. This was rectified by fitting small baffle plates on the top of the base chamber and A small sieve in the sump.

The brakes were not as good as one could wish. The foot-brake, steel shoes operating on a steel drum at the rear of the gearbox, were often ineffective through grease leaking from the rear of the gearbox.

The original 14/16 was fitted with wooden artillery wheels with a Stepney wheel as spare. Riley wire wheels were fitted to later models and these at first caused trouble, either screwed up too tight and unable to remove, which meant taking off the tyre when punctured; or, if not, they worked loose and came off on the road.

I well remember the company supplying large numbers of this model for taxi work in London. One firm, Miller-Lancaster, had their initials on the door panel and these taxis were affectionately known as Marie Lloyds.

The taxis were, of course, subject to a strict test by the Public Carriage Branch at Scotland Yard, before being licensed. The first one submitted for test had to have considerable alterations made before being passed. The steering arm had to be altered to allow a turning circle of 25 ft, petrol feed to the carburetter altered, and various alterations made to the bodywork.

I left the firm in 1919 and was very sorry when the company went into liquidation as they were one of the original motor-car manufacturers in this country.

It may be of interest to know that one of the directors was Mr JH Adams, a holder of records riding the old penny-farthing cycle, whose adversaries were SF Edge, later of Napiers, and Frank Shorland, later of the Raleigh Cycle Co.

I am, yours, etc, FH White, Ferndown.

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Sir.

I venerate Mr. Glutton for his books "The Vintage Motor Car" and "The Vintage Pocket Book."

He is no less to be venerated for his truthfulness in his recent letter in stating that he never drove a Hippopotamus.

In this same truthful vein, may we ask Mr. Clutton to reply to the following question, namely : Sir, before writing the above two books had you driven a Duesenberg model-J ?

I am, yours, etc, Bill Coverdale, Ohio.

Sir.

Whilst I have the-greatest confidence in Mr, Cecil Clutton's views on vintage motor cars, I must. take him to task for his remarks in a letter in the July "Vintage Postbag," page 531. I quote, " . . . merits are quite discounted by lethal understeer and the handling qualities of a hippopotamus (well. I've never driven at hippo to be truthful, but that's my guess)." I think if Mr. Clutton was to handle a variety of six-wheeled lorries he would be much impressed by the handling qualities of the "Hippo" (Leyland Motors Ltd version), and would doubtless not choose this unfortunate comparison again ! If you wish to discredit a car's handling in the future by comparing it to a six-wheeled lorry—please, Mr. Clutten don't compare it with the Leyland "Hippo" ! !

I am, yours, etc. Leo Le Fevre, Halifax.

Sir,

We hasten to straighten Mr. Clutton out. He states that "The model-J Duesenberg has the handling qualities of a hippopotamus." Surely it is common knowledge that a well-serviced and adjusted Hippopotamus, if not handled improperly, offers a staggering performance; any breakaway is limited to the rear end. Carelessness in driving such a powerful vehicle is of course bound to result in imbalance which will lead to a sense of "ango anirni."

We are, yours, etc., E Martin Allen, AM Bastin Bennett, FRCS. Aboard the Lord Churchill.

From Sir Clive Edwards Bt.

Sir,

The picture of the Rolls-Royce on page 528 of the July issue of Motor Sport is interesting, as I have a similar car pictured in 1921 as having been exhibited at the Calcutta Motor Show. My view is a side view, but it is undoubtedly the same car; at least the same body. In my picture the registration number is not visible. Could there have been more than one built, or did this car come back from Calcutta ? At one time Padden Bros designed some sporty coachwork for these cars. I wonder if they had a hand in It? (This firm was, of course, sold when Phil Paddon died some years ago.)

I am, Yours, etc. Clive Edwards. Bicester

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Sir,

I thought you would be interested to see a photograph of my Vitesse GN, taken recently in Richmond Park after two years of reconstruction. I am delighted with the result.

The car has splendid acceleration, rather better than a modern small car up to 50 mph, top speed in untuned condition with tall screen is 60 mph, and fuel consumption 50 mpg. General handling is first rate, just like it used to be. If you want any further information on what a Vitesse GN is like when used for everyday transport in 1960, I should be delighted to supply it.

I am, yours, etc, Edward Riddle. Kingston-on-Thames.

Sir,

In his letter outlining the present policy of the Alvis Register, Mr. Norman Johnson implies that the recently introduced regulations of the Vintage Sports Car Club follow the same lines. This is not correct, since these regulations permit a wide range of modifications provided that they do not, in principle, depart from what is typical of vintage and pvt eras. VSCC policy, which has been consistent for a number of years, may be briefly outlined as follows :

1. To provide competitions in which the "as made" car has a reasonable chance of success.

2. To allow such modifications or rebuilds as are typical of the period.

3. In the interests of road safety, to allow modifications to braking systems without penalty.

4. To encourage owners to keep their cars in clean and workmanlike condition.

Within these limits, owners of Alvis or other vintage or pvt cars, original or modified, are welcome in the ranks of the VSCC.

I am, yours, etc., HP Bowler. Heronsgate.

[Let us hope that (2) and (4) are always complied with !—ED.]

Sir,

I wonder if the ABC Dragonfly radial aircraft engine which Granville Bradshaw mentions in his letter is the same engine which so disgusted WO Bentley (page 88 of his autobiography) ? If this is not coincidence and they are one and the same, then who does one trust, Bradshaw or Bentley ? My inclinations are towards Bentley, because :

(a) Bradshaw exaggerates so much—the RAF rating for the Dragonfly was 320 bhp, not 360, and he can't seriously expect anyone to believe that it improved the performance of the plane in which it was fitted by 100 mph over the Bentley rotary. At the end of the war the most modern operational aircraft with a Bentley rotary was the Sopwith Snipe with a BR2, which would do 120 mph at 10,000 feet. With a Dragonfly Bradshaw would have us believe it did 220 mph! I know he doesn't say it was fitted in a Snipe, but I can't think of any other aircraft to which he might be referring, because he says it was operational at the end of the war. In fact, no RAF fighter had a speed of over 200 mph until the Hawker Fury was introduced in 1931.

(b) The Dragonfly was removed from the few aircraft to which it was fitted as original equipment (I can think of only the Siskin and the Nighthawk) and replaced by, I think, an Armstrong Siddeley radial as soon as this became available. That is, the Dragonfly was no good. This was in the early 'twenties, but I expect you know that. In view of this, one cannot help wondering at the £40,000 Bradshaw was paid, and comparing it with the £8,000 given to Bentley.

I am, yours, etc, "MP", Walthamstow.

[Wasn't it an ABC Dragonfly engine which caught fire in the air over Hendon and caused the death of the late Harry Hawker ?—ED.]

Sir,

Mr Granville Bradshaw's letter in the August issue makes interesting reading. I was interested to hear that he earned, after the first war, an award of £40,000—probably from the Government!—but failed to read about the reason for the failure of the ABC motorcycle. Although I am a foreigner, it is well known to me that—while already in liquidation—the Sopwith Aviation Co Ltd, tried desperately to sell these machines for £98 (original price £125) in 1921-22 . . . a fact which is contrary to Mr. Bradshaw's statements that they sold thousands of machines in advance without being able to produce this quantity. 

The late Harry Collier, of Matchless fame, said once that a good designer is a man who produces a better thing for less money, and, while I regard Mr. Granville Bradshaw as a superb technician, I feel that the ABC wasn't a better thing for less money . . . it was a design with a lot of very advanced and good ideas, but it was put on the market in an undeveloped form and that should never have happened.

Regarding the oil-cooled motorcycle engine which Mr. Bradshaw designed first for a firm in Preston (it was, I think, for Bert Houlding's Matador motorcycles), I think it was too expensive in production compared with the JAP and Blackburne products. Still, I disagree when Mr. Bradshaw claims that JAP ever sold a new 350-cc engine for £3 5s only, and I disagree that machines equipped with Bradshaw engines were quoted some £8 more. Examples: DOT quoted for JAP and Bradshaw-engined 350-cc machines, £78 in 1922; Matador quoted in 1924 for Blackburne and Bradshaw engined 350-cc models, £59 15s, and it should be well known to Mr. Bradshaw that even in his home town, Preston, the Toreador Engineering Co produced, in 1926, motorcycles of 350-cc capacity with JAP and with Bradshaw "oil-boilers" . . . the price for the machine with the cheapest engine from Tottenham was £58, while the Bradshaw-engined model was sold, even cheaper—for £56 10s !

I agree that the 350-cc Bradshaw was a good engine, but circling at a comparatively low speed around the Isle of Man doesn't mean— as Mr. Bradshaw mentions in his letter—a great success in the TT! First I would like to know from Mr .Bradshaw who finished behind the late Harry Reed in the sidecar TT he mentions ? Secondly, I beg Mr. Bradshaw to name me a single machine in this race which had a cubic capacity of 1,000 cc; .according to his letter all other 21 competitors had such big engines. I suppose Mr. Bradshaw thinks of the 1924,Sidecar TT, which was won by George Tucker on a 600-cc Norton at 51.31 mph, in front of Harry Reed on the DOT with 43;80 mph, and Bert Tinkler on a Matador with 42.90 mph. Like Harry Reed's DOT also, the Matador had only a 350-cc engine and, according to the times, Reed needed exactly half an hour more to finish the race than Tucker. The fact is, that the late Freddy Dixon, with the fastest machine in the race—a 600-cc Douglas— set such a pace that nearly all the leading riders, with the exception of Tucker, burst their engines, while the chanceless smaller 350-cc sidecar outfits circled at their limited speed quietly around the circuit. There was never a 1,000-cc machine in a Sidecar TT race and in these years-1923-25—never 22 riders at once in such an event.

What interests me also about the 1924 TT race is, why so many riders in the Junior TT who entered and practised on Bradshaw engined machines, switched over for the race to JAP or Blackburne power units ? Frankly speaking, I remember four riders who had, during practice, seized big-ends on Bradshaw-engined machines: W Barr, T Cordiner, Bert Tinkler, and even Harry Reed himself, and what about the DOT riders P Bell and S Ollerhead who switched for the race to JAP engines, and also Jack Watson Bourne and Claude Temple on Montgomery-Bradshaws decided to use JAPs instead for the actual event. What is Mr. Bradshaw's opinion about this fact ?

Everyone agrees that his 600-cc P & M (Panther) engine is a good and reliable one, while his 250-cc "Panthette Twin," designed for the same firm in 1927, was just a designer's dream. but couldn't be a commercial success . . . and without success no firm can produce a motorcycle and stay in the trade.

I regard Mr. Bradshaw as a genial and clever designer but again and again I come to the conclusion that he makes the mistake of entering into the open with creations which are in need of more development. Isn't his much-heralded "Omega" engine the best proof for this statement ?

I am, yours, etc, Erwin Tragatsch, London, S.E.18.

Sir,

Not long ago I completed the restoration of a 1924 Studebaker Light Six tourer model EM. In an attempt to find as much as I could about the car, I asked Studebaker-Packard Corporation in the U.S.A. to give me what details they could about the vehicle.

Very generously they posted me, amongst other things, an original sales brochure. This contains information about all the 13 models made by Studebaker in that year, from the Big Six seven-passenger sedan down to the Light Six tourer. All the cars are illustrated, and detail engine specifications and each car's full equipment are listed.

In the blurb on the brochure the most interesting claim is made. It reads: "The first six-cylinder motor cast en bloc was made by Studebaker and cord tires as standard equipment were first adopted on Studebaker cars."

I would not know anything about the accuracy of that claim. However, it is interesting and might interest fellow readers of your fine magazine.

My restored Studebaker, last used some years ago to take duck-shooters through swampy country, now looks very smart. The only non-original item on this 36-year-old car is the colour scheme, which is off-white instead of black. The 3-litre side-valve motor, with its Stromberg carburetter whistling, allows the 11-ton car to romp along without fuss.

I note in your April issue your criticism of the Daily Mail's dislike of old cars. You get these types all over the world. I have a suspision the people who don't like old cars are the sort of people who don't care to be seen with the wrong kind of people or in the wrong part of town. Most owners of vintage cars keep them in mechanical order. The critics probably pour water in the sumps and petrol in the radiators of their new cars and wonder where all the gas and hot air comes from.

As you no doubt know. We have fitness checks in New Zealand once every six months. They are strict and cost 5s a lime. My vintage Studebaker. with its back wheel brakes, has burnt off rubber and gouged the gravel of the testing station. Had a hard white light glaring out of its ancient headlight lenses. Had no play in the direct steering, no wobbly wheels. Tyres were as new, horn, handbrake, wiper, mirror, door handles, auxiliary lights and the rest all passed the test.

If it came to a head-on collision with a modern heap driven by the Editor of the Daily Mail he would be picking himself up off the back seat of his car, spitting chromium, plastic and tin out with his teeth.

I find it neccesary to drive a modern(?) car too, a Ford Prefect. A total of 70,000 miles in one of these, the latest with ohv motor, in four years over Northern Hawke's Bay roads only proves that the British small car needs daily nursing to stay together. Flapping bodies and disintegrating aceessories are so common no-one cares any more.

When willll British manufacturers stop hoo-haaing and catch up with the rest of the world, we will be waiting.

I am, yours, etc, JW Ruxton. Wairoa, N.Z.

Sir,

After the first World War the old Meux's brewery ran a fleet of wooden three and  five-ton steam brewers' drays. These had horizontal boilers, and were chain driven. Unfortunately the last or these grand old vehicles was disposed of some years ago and I am unable to trace any existing example. I feel it is a pity that such interesting transport should be lost for ever and I am keenly interested in putting one back on the road.

Perhaps I could ask the courtesy of your correspondence columns to request information from those of your readers who  still remember these steam drays or from those who have any knowledge of the whereabouts of any of these vehicles today.

I am, yours, etc, P Padley-Smith, Amersham.

[I share Mr Padley-Smith's liking for old steam wagons as distinct from traction engines and would be glad to hear of any that still exist. There was, I believe a Clayton still working in the North at least up to a few years ago.-Ed]

Sir.

I was interested to read your footnote to the letter headed "Motor Trader with a Halo," page 574 of the July 1960 issue.

On page 594 of the same issue you will find a 1912 Daimler for sale at £1,500 ono, under a box number. Some three years this same vehicle, or an identical one, was offered for sale, in Motor Sport at £473. Unfortunately, I do not have tlw exact date of publication though I do have the advert showing the photo. Interest in the vehicle being that my grandfather had one of a similar type in that year.

It would therefore appear that one could expect a more than fat profit from the sale of the old Bentley in America!

I am, yours. etc. HM Stanley, Kenton.

[But not so high in future. perhaps? At the Beaulieu Auction Sale this Daimler was unsold. Ed]