Vintage Postbag, September 1975

Pre-War Cars in Belgium


I must correct the statement by Mr. S. J. Brown of the Morris Register published in these columns concerning the use of pre-war vehicles in Belgium.

It is simply not correct to say that a pre-war car may only be used on certain days in this country. Provided it has passed the equivalent of the annual MoT test, such a car may be used just as freely as in the UK. However, the idea of actually using a pre-war car does meet with some incredulity in Belgium (as elsewhere outside the UK), and this is reflected in the legislation, which allows cars of over thirty years of age to be used for specific manifestations without having passed any test of roadworthiness. Many such cars are thus kept, sadly, taxed-but-not-tested, for the sole purpose of taking part in these events.

I enjoy motoring in Belgium, when I please, in a 1936 Citroën Light Twelve which meets all the legal requirements. It also benefits from the “over 25 years old” road tax concession (which I mentioned in my letter on page 773, July issue) and costs only £2.50 per year!

So far from suffering from “an appalling loss of freedom”, the pre-war car owner in Belgium in fact gets a better deal than he does in the UK . . .

Kapelle, Belgium ANDREW MACLAGAN

Crossley Matters


Although a little slow in writing, I hope that I will be allowed to comment on the letter from Ian Howell which appeared in the June issue of MOTOR SPORT.

The radiator on the Crossley pictured in the October 1974 issue of your magazine does confirm the chassis to be a “Shelsley”, a model based on the 15 h.p. Crossley, although the same pattern of radiator (“Peaked” in Crossley literature) was also available as an option on the 20/25 model running concurrently with the 15 h.p., and Shelsley models. The serial number on the chassis in the photograph is from the 15 h.p./Shelsley series, precluding the possibility of it being a 20/25.

It appears that by 1914, and definitely by 1915, the 15 h.p. had been completely superseded by the Shelsley development after both had been produced alongside one another as a standard model and a sporting derivitive.

The main difference between the two, apart from the radiator and sundry fashionable changes in the sporting idiom, was an increase in stroke on the Shelsley to 130 mm. from the 120 mm. of the standard 15 h.p. To answer the query of Mr. Howell, the flat radiator was never used on the Shelsley as far as I know, although some of the modified 15 h.p. models first used at Shelsley and other speed events, and giving the sports model its name undoubtedly had the standard flat radiator. The peaked radiator was promoted by Crossley’s as a recognition feature of the Shelsley, and a line drawing appears in the front of the April 1915 catalogue with a caption stating it to be a Shelsley type radiator to reg. design 623, 411.

I agree on the dating of the car in the photograph as being 1913, although the precise time of production during this year is difficult to estimate without having some idea of the production rate at the Crossley factory which I do not.

It is also difficult to date with any certainty the 15 h.p. of Mr. Howell, as with the original dumb-irons missing, the chassis serial number is also missing, being stamped on the top face of the frame flange at this point. The serial number quoted by Mr. Howell is from the cast aluminium scuttle which seemed to be the next best thing, usually being fairly close to the chassis number on other cars.

In closing I must say I am all in favour of this method of corresponding with Antipodean Crossley owners, the cost of dropping a line to MOTOR SPORT being satisfyingly less than an Aerogramme.

Ideal, I think, for all but the most private of communications!


Assistant Crossley Registrar

A Question of Formulae


In the 1924 Spanish GP at San Sebastian Alfieri Maserati drove a Diatto about which Ernesto Maserati writes: “The chassis of the car was Diatto type 20S; the engine had four cylinders of over three litres displacement without supercharger, with single camshaft head. It was a special engine hybrid manufactured in our Maserati factory”. Raffaello Coda, the son of Giuiseppe Coda, the Diatto designer, writes: “In 1923 Alfieri Maserati built with the assistance of my father a racing car with a Diatto chassis. It was fitted with a motor based on half an Hispano-Suiza V8 aero engine—with that car A. Maserati was winner of the Susa-Moncenisio”. Probably the same car was used in the 1924 Spanish GP as a photograph taken before the race shows it to have had exhaust pipes spaced as those from one bank of an Hispano V8 engine. The capacity would have been about 5½-litres.

Can anbody tell me what regulations governed the 1924 Spanish GP, as it seems clear that it was not only for 2-litre formula cars?

Chelmsford FRANK W. LUGG

[The Spanish GP was run under the 2-litre formula. The big Maserati was presumably used only as a hill-climb car.—Ed.]

Packard Spares


You under-estimated the availability of spares for “Bab’s” 50-year-old Liberty (Packard) aero engine. Having rebuilt two classic Packards (1929 and 1934) the availability of parts either original or repro, from the USA will amaze anyone brought up to believe that America means “planned obsolesence”. Considering that Packard production ceased in 1956 and that all pre-war spares ran out some time before then, I can obtain pistons, valves, guides, timing chains, virtually all bearings, water jacket plates, etc., by return. Original North East distributor caps and covers are being produced, as are hub caps, mascots, radiator badges etc., and even the correct colour of engine enamel has been available for years. An enquiry for assistance with the Bijur one-shot chassis lubricating system (used by Rolls-Royce until recently) brought drawings, instructions and prices for most parts immediately and the subsequent order was dealt with by return; similarly, windscreen wiper and thermostat manufacturers replied by return. Entire wiring harnesses, complete, tagged ready to fit for every model 1927-1939 are available ex stock.

I suppose the fact that Packard exported more cars in 1929 (5% of their production) than Rolls-Royce made in the 10 years to 1939, meaning there are more of these cars left than any other make worthy of preservation, has something to do with this helpful state of affairs; is certainly makes life happy for the enthusiast.

Stevenage H. EDWARDS

The Type 51 Bugattis


Could I put the record straight concerning the two Type 51 Bugattis at Oulton Park? My car is a Type 35B chassis fitted with a made up Type 51 engine. The chassis was a works 1926 Targa car, when it ran unblown. Since then its history is obscure, except that it is known to have had a coupé body at some time.

Geoffrey St. John’s car is a genuine Type 51. It is probably the last made, for Adrian Conan Doyle. However, like all Type 51s, it is built on an earlier Type 35 chassis by the works in the late 1930s. All Grand Prix Bugattis have a build number on their rear cross-members. This has no direct relationship with their chassis numbers but it is possible to give an approximate date to their manufacture from this number.

Neither car has any connection with Esson-Scott except that my car is painted black. My children used to call my T37A—The Bluegatti. This one is, needless to say— The Blackgatti.


Out of the Past


I had many happy days at Brooklands and Donington and am glad you recall them in your various articles. We were lucky to enjoy good sport and also empty roads for our youthful exuberances behind the wheel. Before my 16th birthday, in 1933, I acquired for £6 a Rover 10 with home-made sporting body, and drove it from London to Felixstowe to join the family for “hols”— without driving licence, tax, insurance or much know-how. My mother gave me a frightful rocket but there were no other dramas. Would not care to do it today!

Colchester A. STRANGE

Those British Salmsons


I refer to the recent correspondence on British Salmsons, and in particular to the car I own, Reg. No. ANT 310. I still have this car, which at present is undergoing a certain amount of restoration work. This car was a 21st birthday present to Miss Williams, of Styche Hall in Shropshire, and was supplied by Wallace Arnold of Manchester. Chassis number being A6ZS 105 and was first registered in June 1937. Miss Williams told me that Salmson allowed her to borrow their demonstration car for a few days before she decided to purchase. She owned the car until the early 1950s. The car then passed through six or seven people’s hands until I purchased it in 1960.

I well remember Mr. Freeman stopping to photograph the cars and the interesting conversations we had on Salmsons.

My appreciation for the engineering qualities of the Salmson started when I was taught to drive on an S40 saloon, DKA 775, which my grandfather owned. The steering (rack-and-pinion), brakes and general handling are all excellent with many features that were in advance of their time.

The Austin Seven David Lloyd mentions was sold for £7. Grandfather also had several other cars behind the garage just after the war that I can remember playing in. One of them was a staggered-seat racing car.

I believe there is one other two-seater with a body similar to mine, and that the other two have a different style body with full-length wings and running-boards, slab petrol tanks with twin spare wheels mounted on them.

St. Peter Port, Guernsey DAVID BERESFORD