More about Constantinesco

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Sir,

Your reference to Constantinesco and his torque converter is presumably a mystery to most of your readers; I have some knowledge of the man. When I first met Archie Frazer-Nash in 1954 one of the first questions I asked the great man was whether the Frazer-Nash interlocker plate (to prevent the driver of a chain-drive Frazer-Nash getting two “gears” at once), was Constantinesco’s idea, as Chain-Gang legend up to that time had one believe. I received one of the great man’s rockets, for woolly thinking. But Frazer-Nash’s response had in it some element thatshowed that he was not altogether happy about his reply.

The following helps to clarify this: Frazer-Nash and Constantinesco first met in 1915 to 1916, when they were both developing their respective devices for synchronising the fire of a Vickers machine gun, so that bullets would not cut off the blades of an aircraft’s propellor. The Constantinesco device bore no relationship to the Frazer-Nash car interlocker plate, or as it is often known the wriggly monkey, of 1923. The Frazer-Nash solution depended on hydraulics but changes of temperature affecting viscosity stymied this development, but was excellent ground work for the Frazer-Nash gun turret of later years.

The friendships that Frazer-Nash made during the First World War were to stand him in good stead in later years; one of these friends was Sidney Horstmann. Reference to the Light Car and Cyelecar of January 27th 1915 shows a very similar device to the Frazer-Nash interlocker plate on the 8.9-h.p. Horstmann and the text says “the various speeds are formed by moving dog clutches interlocked in position by an ingenious device, whilst the clutches themselves slide on a key which is practically impervious to wear”. Archie Frazer-Nash repaid his debt to Sidney Horstmann in 1929 when helping to publicise the “Slow-Motion” Terry-Horstmann suspension system which endeavoured to make obsolete the conventional half, three-quarter and full-elliptic springing of the time with Terry coil springs and presumably some form of shock-absorber all contained in a cylindrical housing. Archie Frazer-Nash finished his expert written opinion with “in conclusion I look forward to seeing your suspension enjoy the success it certainly merits”.

The development work on Constantinesco’s first car was carried out in the Frazer-Nash works in Kingston. This culminated in an article which appeared in the Motor of April 22nd 1924 describing the “400 Guinea Car” equipped with a single-cyclinder 350-cc. Blackburne motorcycle engine and chain to the rear axle. The car an be seen from the photographs to have a GN chassis, as the article acknowledged.

Hartford D. A. THIRLBY

[The Paris-built Constantinesco was presumably the 5-h.p. vertical-twin model. The Meccano model referred to was of the Constantinesco torque-convertor installed in the original model of a big luxury-car chassis of the 1920s.—Ed.]

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