Any Sage ideas?

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The accompanying photograph is of a racing car with a Sage engine, but I do not know much about the car. In fact, I do not know much about Sage engines either, except that Frederick Sage & Co of Grays Inn Road, London, and Peterborough manufactured shop fittings before they decided to go in for proprietary engine manufacture, presumably installing more machine-tools to do so. This is understandable, with the post-WW1 motoring boom, because there were very large numbers of new car manufacturers coming into being, who were really car assemblers, and they could not, any more than can the smaller car companies of today, make engines.

Sage obviously hoped to be able to run with people like Anzani, Meadows, Hotchkiss, Coventry-Simplex, Coventry-Climax, Tyler, Coventry-Victor, Dorman, Powerplus, MAG and others, in this field. The interesting thing is that, quite early on, from at least 1920 I believe, Sage was offering neatly-designed overhead-camshaft power units, when others were mainly content with side-by-side or push-rod ohv engines. Sage’s designer, A. Graham Forsyth, had a preference for vertical-shaft-and-bevels drive at the front of his engines for the oh camshaft, and quickly substituted a rotary for the earlier plunger oil pump. The larger Sage engines, like that illustrated, had the rather primitive feature of separate cylinders and used a low-set transverse drive at the front for the water pump and magneto. Sage supplied their engines complete with gearbox, and in some cases a Lucas Magdyno.

As using separate cylinders was a comparatively costly form of manufacture, Fred Sage presumably did not skimp on his engines and therefore it is not surprising that some found their way into racing cars. In 1921, for instance, A. Boorer, Jr, drove a Bora at the Brooklands August Meeting that had a six-cylinder 65 x 90 mm (1,792 cc) Sage engine. It was singularly unsuccessful but returned at the Autumn races, now with the Type 5a 65 x 95 mm Sage 15.6 hp engine announced in 1920, when it lapped at 73.78 mph, probably driven by the boy’s father. That proved too much for the Indian Red car, and it failed to start in its next race . . . They tried again the following year, with a six-cylinder 73 x 100 mm (2,511 cc) engine, which sounds like a long-stroke version of the Type 5c, but failed to complete a race lap.

“If at first you don’t succeed”, however, and with commendable perseverance Boorer was out again in 1923, now using an engine of 65 x 100 mm (1,990 cc), which produced a lap speed of 80.33 mph, although no race placings. Indeed, it could be said that the only claim to fame of the Bora was that its picture was used for a Quiz Competition in Motor Sport some years later!

The 2-litre Bora Six did eventually reward its driver, when Boorer came home third behind Malcolm Campbell’s Star and Dingle’s Austin 7 in the 75 mph Short Handicap at the very last BARC Meeting of 1924, after lapping at 82.31 mph. Sir Ronald Gunter, Bt, who later drove for Bentley, ran the Bora in 1925, getting it to lap at 83 mph and sharing it with Boorer. Another Brooklands driver to use a Sage engine was Felix Scriven from Bradford, until he invested in a Parry Thomas power unit. When his Felix Special first appeared it had a Type 5a Sage six-cylinder engine, bored out by a millimetre (best lap = 75.46 mph). The car was called “Mother Goose” — because, you see, it was stuffed with sage . . ! Also at this time (1925) a Mr R. L. Barnett appeared at the Track with a grey car actually entered as a Sage. It used the four-cylinder 73 x 82 mm (1,373 cc) Type 5f Sage engine, but only managed a ss lap at 52.97 mph before it disappeared, never to be seen again.

As I remarked last month, in the vintage years enthusiasts were apt to build their own cars for road use or competition motoring. One of this breed, built by a Mr D. Brown of Huddersfield in 1925, which was surely the beginning of Sir David Brown’s intense interest in sports-cars, was a neat little two-seater using a 13.3 hp Type 5f Sage engine, this power unit having the four cylinders in a normal cylinder block, unlike the bigger Sage engines. It drove via a cone clutch to a Meadows four-speed gearbox, with final drive by open shaft to a Timken back axle. There was an outsize exhaust pipe provided with a butterfly cut-out in lieu of a silencer and 45 bhp was claimed at 2,300 rpm, the gearing said to give a speed of 90 mph at 3,000 rpm The little car weighed 13 cwt and was sprung on 1/4-elliptic springs all round. It cost £450 to build.

Resorting to the car illustrated, this appears to have had the original Sage engine, of aero-type construction, not perhaps surprising, as such a Company would be likely to have attracted the attention of the aeroplane industry in its shop-fitting days and, indeed, they were listed by 1920 as aircraft constructors. Each of the six cylinders was cast separately, with two slightly inclined oh-valves in the integral head, operated by rockers from the aforesaid overhead-camshaft. The drilled nickel-steel drop-forged crankshaft ran in seven plain bearings and 45 bhp at 2,000 rpm was claimed. Clearly the car in the picture was intended for racing, not only by reason of its bodywork, but in new of the separate exhaust pipes from each cylinder, which replaced the two ci exhaust manifolds with central drop-pipes of the standard Sage engine. From another photograph in my possession it can be seen that on the o/s of the engine an updraught Zenith dual carburetter fed into a large water-jacket embossed with the word “Sage”, from which two pipes led into the two separate cast-aluminium inlet manifolds.

Apart from that, I know nothing of this interesting racing car and wonder whether anyone has any Sage ideas on the subject? — W.B.

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