Napier Gordon Bennett 40 HP, 1902
First British car to win a big international race, in the hands of S. F. Edge, this Napier was a powerful lightweight, simple in design but somewhat crudely made.
For instance, the chassis frame was of wood, reinforced by steel flitch-plates. Yet it had two outstanding distinctions lacking in the Mercedes - shaft drive to a live axle with enclosed bevel-and-pinion, and a monobloc casting in aluminium for its four cylinders.
Although the inlet valves were opened by atmospheric pressure, each cylinder contained a cage of four. Bore and stroke were both 5 in. (127 mm) and the swept volume 6,436 cc. The quadrant-change gearbox provided three speeds.
Locomobile "Old 16", 1906
"Old 16" was the first American car to challenge and in one race to defeat the road-racing supremacy of the European manufacturers.
Designed by A. L. Riker and built in Bridgeport, Connecticut, it was beset by tyre troubles in the Vanderbilt Cup Race of 1906; but in October 1908 G. Robertson drove it to victory over 258 miles on the Long Island circuit.
The four huge cylinders (185 x 159 mm, 16,850 cc) are cast in pairs and have copper water jackets. Two camshafts, driven by exposed gears at the rear of the engine operate overhead valves through linked pushrods and rockers, and ignition was originally by low tension coil.
Initially, too, the engine oil sump was made of leather to save weight. The gearbox has four speeds with sliding engagement, and final drive is by side chains. Maximum speed in its heyday was about 108 mph.
Mercedes 70 HP, 1908
Introduced in 1906, this was the first production Mercedes to have six cylinders, the bore and stroke being 120 x 140 mm (9.5 litres). The cylinders were cast in pairs, with non-detachable T-heads, side valves being operated by individual camshafts for inlet and exhaust. It delivered about 70 bhp.
A scroll clutch transmitted the drive to a four-speed gearbox and live axle. Backed by a successful competition schedule, the make had become accepted already as a world standard in automobile engineering.
The gargantuan example illustrated was equipped as a road-going equivalent of a luxurious Pullman express for long-distance touring; like an engine-driver, however, the paid chauffeur had to brave the natural elements.
Renault 50 HP, 1908
Antecedent of the famous 45, this first six-cylinder Renault had a 9.5-litre (120 x 140 mm) engine with side valves in an L-head, placed ahead of the radiator in the style that remained Renault practice for many years thereafter. Obvious advantages were that the engine was very accessible and kept clean.
An innovation was compressed-air starting, with a camshaft-driven pump and steel reservoir. It had a leather-faced cone clutch, three-speed gearbox with difficult quadrant change and a live axle.
The 13 ft wheelbase was then the longest of any production car; this body, a triple phaeton, left the third row uncovered in rough weather - the servants' quarters, presumably. Detachable rims on "fixed" wheels were still most common.
Rolls-Royce 40/50 HP Silver Ghost, 1908–1909
Today's Rolls-Royce is scarcely quieter or smoother-running than the great Silver Ghost of 1906-1925. Near-silence and high power output were incompatible in 1906, so the original 7-litre (114 x 114 mm) engine developed only 48 bhp at 1200 rpm.
But in 1908 the stroke was increased to 121 mm, the swept volume to 7.4 litres. The astonishing proportion of Silver Ghosts that have survived, and the current demand for them, are proof of supreme quality of manufacture and of road behaviour.
The technical specification was quite orthodox - indeed, cynics have even described the RR as a "triumph of development over design". Early models had an overdrive fourth gear which was later abandoned because one could hear it. This cabrio-landaulet body, its panels resplendent with ornate mouldings, is by Barker, for many years among the finest British coachbuilders.
Mercer Raceabout, 1913
At a time when most American sporting two-seaters tended to be brutish and clumsy, the Mercer was renowned for excellent road-holding and a special delicacy of control. It had the usual side-valve T-head four-cylinder engine (111 x 127 mm, 4.9 litres) developing about 60 bhp at 2,000 rpm and a four-speed transmission and live axle.
Mechanical detail work and materials were top quality, and the monocle windshield supported on the steering column outer tube was a dainty affectation. Top speed was around 75 mph. Designer was Finlay Robertson Porter.
Vauxhall Prince Henry, 1913–1914
The first Vauxhall Prince Henry (built for the Prince Henry Tour in 1910) was a 3-litre, but in 1913 the bore and stroke were increased from 90 x 120 mm to 95 x 140 (3,969 cc).
For its day this simple, long-stroke four-cylinder engine with side valves gave extraordinary power - 75 bhp at only 2,500 rpm; this endowed it with not only a high maximum - about 75 mph - but also a long stride.
Surviving examples can still cruise along all day at 60-65 mph; moreover, superb steering and stability put it among the most rewarding of all Edwardian touring cars. Designer L.H. Pomeroy gave it a Hele-Shaw multi-plate clutch, a splendid four- speed gearbox, and a bevel-drive axle with open propeller shaft and a long torque arm.
The simple, lightweight body included a polished aluminium bonnet behind a vee-radiator, both with the once-familiar horizontal flutes; Rudge Whitworth wire-spoked wheels with centre-lock hubs completed the ensemble.
Panhard & Levassor Sport, 1914
Commissioned for the Chevalier Ren de Knyff, a P&L director, this nautical-looking "skiff" body was the work of the "carrossier" Labourdette. It seems almost unimaginable that it was made half a century ago, and the grace and harmony of the whole are beyond argument. The carvel-built hull was partly decked and fastened by copper rivets.
The 25 hp (British RAC rating) four-cylinder engine had bore and stroke of 100 x 140 mm (4,400 cc) and double-sleeve valves on the Knight principle. There was a four-speed gearbox, and the live rear axle was attached by three-quarter-elliptic springs.
Packard Twin Six, 1916
Designer Jesse Vincent's response to Kettering's vee-eight Cadillac of 1914 was the Packard Twin Six introduced the following year - the world's first real production car with 12 cylinders. The 6.9-litre side valve narrow angle engine had two banks cylinders inclined at 60 deg.
It developed about 75 bhp - rather more than the contemporary Rolls-Royce. The footbrake incidentally, operated contracting shoes around the same rear-wheel drums within which were expanding shoes controlled by the hand-brake lever.
A dry, multi-disc clutch transmitted the drive to a three-speed gearbox, and spiral bevel final drive. Electric starting and lighting were provided. In 1923 the Twin Six was dropped, and the vee-type engine's special bene compactness and rigidity were overlooked until 1932, when the company introduced a new vee-12.
Crane-Simplex 46 HP, 1918
With a wheelbase fractionally under 12 ft America's mighty Crane-Simplex was second in size only to the largest Pierce-Arrows. Designed in 1914 by chief engineer Henry M. Crane, it was built to such high standards that the first owner of a Crane-Simplex was given an unconditional guarantee "for life"; but in 1919 or thereabouts, after an abortive take-over by a Wall Street syndicate, the company itself expired before most of its customers.
Crane's engine was a massive 9.9-litre L-head six, with its cylinders cast in two blocks of three. Transmission was effected through a single-plate wet clutch, four-speed gearbox and spiral bevel final drive. There were contracting shoes on a drum behind the gearbox and at the back wheels for the foot and handbrake controls. This rather forbidding limousine had a three-piece screen as its only claim to distinction.
Elizalde 50/60 HP, 1921
In its report of the Paris Salon of 1921, "The Autocar" called the great Elizalde Type 48 "the largest touring car ever produced" and added: The bonnet covering a huge eight-cylinder engine is so high that ordinary persons cannot see over it - fact!"
Presumably this is the very car that Pierre Dumont has run to earth. I have discovered only these further facts about this giant - that its engine had a bore and stroke of 90 x 160 mm (7,970 cc) and that in 1924 (when cars had become much cheaper than in 1921) it cost 60,000 pesetas. The Barcelona factory ceased production in 1930.
Cadillac Series 63 Vee-Eight, 1923
A pioneer American make dating from 1903, Cadillac established their name with a simple, reliable single-cylinder car. In 1912 the company pioneered the fitting as standard of electric engine starting and lighting, and two years later introduced their first vee-eight. A silky-smooth 5.2-litre side-valve unit, it developed about 76.5 bhp at 2,400 rpm and was little changed until 1926.
But with the Series 63 came a two-plane crankshaft with 90 deg. throws (hitherto single-plane) and power increase to 83 bhp. This car was the work of Charles Kettering. The American body stylist, it seems, had not yet made his mark.
Alfa Romeo P2 Grand Prix, 1924
One of the greatest racing cars of all time, the P2 was designed by engineer Romeo, and Vittorio Jano. The latter joined Alfa Romeo in September 1923, finished the project in January 1924, and the car won its first race five months later. Its career continued six years.
The straight-eight engine (61 x 85 mm, 1,987 cc) had two cylinder blocks with twin overhead camshafts and two opposed valves per cylinder. Compression ratio was 6 to 1, and a Roots supercharger blew at about 10 psi (0.75 kg/cm2
The crankshaft was carried in 10 roller bearings, and transmission was through a multi-plate dry clutch, four-speed gearbox and torque tube axle. Power output progressed from 140 to 165 bhp at 5,500 rpm, and the machine’s potential maximum speed from about 125 to 140 mph.
Bugatti Type 35, 1924–1930
Ettore Bugatti's most successful racing car, winner of countless races including many full Grands Prix, the Type 35 appeared in several forms with engine capacities of 1.5, 2 and 2.3 litres, some supercharged.
The first was an unblown 2-litre developed from the very mediocre Type 30, the best probably the 35B blown 2.3-litre first raced in 1927. In each case the straight-eight engine had a single overhead camshaft and three valves per cylinder (one inlet, two exhausts) in non-detachable heads, and all except the unblown 35A 2-litre had five crankshaft main bearings - three self-aligning ball-races and two split roller-races. The connecting-rods also ran on caged rollers.
A Roots-type supercharger, gear-driven from the front of the crankshaft, was mounted low on the right of the engine. But it was probably the car's superlative balance and roadholding (by the standards of those days), coupled with mechanical reliability that won it races, for the power output was not exceptional.
Bugatti traditions maintained included a multi-plate wet clutch, cable-operated brakes, reversed quarter-elliptic rear springs, and axle location by a central torque arm and tubular radius arms each side. Cast light alloy wheels complemented the aesthetic beauty.
Hispano-Suiza 45 HP Boulogne, 1924
Built for Andre Dubonnet and driven by him in the 1924 Targa Florio race in Sicily, this unique car now belongs to a wealthy young Englishman. Beneath that unashamedly extrovert, copper-rivetted, tulipwood body, made by the Nieuport aircraft people, is the famous 45 hp Boulogne chassis designed by the Swiss, Marc Birkigt.
Its big six-cylinder engine (110 x 140 mm, 7,983 cc) resembles the standard version, and the chassis specification is likewise similar. In standard tune the Boulogne engine was said to give 144 bhp at only 2,600 rpm, but this car has a 200 bhp version with higher compression ratio. Top speed is 110 mph plus.
Lorraine-Dietrich Le Mans, 1924–1926
In 1924 two new six-cylinder Lorraine-Dietrichs took 2nd and 3rd places at Le Mans; the following year a similar car won, and in 1926 they pulled the hat-trick - 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
Marius Barbarou, ex-Delaunay Belleville, designed the 75 x 130 mm (3,446 cc) engine, which had a fixed cylinder head and exposed pushrods. It was fed by two Zenith carburettors, and twin oil coolers (seen here each side of the radiator) assisted the lubrication system. The gearbox had only three speeds, and the torque-tube axle was carried on cantilever springs. Maximum speed was about 95 mph.
Panhard 40/50 HP, 1924
French coachbuilder Henri Labourdette, who before the war had introduced the carvel-built skiff body, produced this exotic masterpiece on a big Panhard chassis for the Paris Salon of 1924.
He called it a skiff-cab. To enter the little house at the back you had first to fold the windscreen forward on the hinged decking, then to raise it before opening the door. Inside it was trimmed with Scotch tartan plaid.
This, the biggest of the Panhard range, had a powerful straight-eight engine (85 x 140 mm, 6,355 cc) with double sleeves, built under licence from the American Knight. For transmission it had a four speed box and propeller shaft enclosed in a torque tube.
Riley 11/40 HP Redwing, 1924
This dashing two-seater with body panels of polished aluminium, streamlined red mudguards and polished copper exhaust pipe was the progenitor of a famous sporting line. Its engine was a simple side-valve four-cylinder (65.8 x 110 mm) developed from a five-year-old touring car design. It developed about 40 hp, but being very light (14 cwt) the Redwing was quite fast - 70 mph being guaranteed by the makers.
This car gained a healthy reputation that helped to pave the way for the famous Nine which was to succeed it in 1926.
Cadillac Vee-Eight, 1925
This intriguing body on a Cadillac vee-eight chassis, by Don Lee Coachworks, California, follows a trend that enjoyed quite a vogue in the 1920s. The back passengers enjoyed extra protection, as compared with most touring bodies, by virtue of a hinged deck that also carried their windshield. A perambulator top, however, would not have sealed them completely. The affectation of those vestigial mudguards amidships, however, drastically limited front door width "Wanted: Smart chauffeur for Cadillac torpedo... corpulent bodies need not apply".
Voisin 22/30 HP, 1925
A blend of old and new characterises this weird body, with its impractical "Roi-des-Belges" hood for the back passengers only. Also to be noted are the bulb horn, monster spotlight by the screen frame and luggage box beside the bonnet.
Under the latter was a big four with double-sleeve valves (95 x 140 mm, 3,969 cc) developing around 70-75 bhp, the mechanical specification being otherwise perfectly straightforward apart from Gabriel Voisins detail eccentricities. The winged radiator mascot was one of these.
Lancia Lambda, 1926
In 1922 Vincenzo Lancia long-jumped into the future with a brave project that should have shaken his competitors to the core. It didn't - but fortunately for them the public is always slow to react to novelty.
His Lambda had a composite frame structure which also supported the body panels; independent front suspension by enclosed coil springs; a narrow-angle vee-four engine with single overhead camshaft; a remote-control gear-change; and detachable hardtop.
Engine size progressed from 2.1 to 2.5 litres, and a three-speed gearbox was soon replaced by a four-speed one. The last two series (8th and 9th) had separate chassis frames, and the type remained in production until 1931. Lambdas are still treasured for their roadholding, steering and brakes. This is a 7th series.
Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Spinto, 1927
For sheer visual magnificence Italy's lsotta-Fraschini of the between-wars era were unexcelled, this great chassis inspiring some of the most elegant coachwork ever seen. Customers ranged from the Pope to heavyweight boxers and film stars. Yet for all the extravagance of engineering perfection in construction it was never a very good car dynamically.
Until the 8B arrived in 1934 the big straight-eight engine, designed by Cattaneo, was always short of power, and by repute the Isotta was as heavy as a lorry to handle. Initially - from 1919 to 1924 - the engine was just under 6 litres, but with the Tipo BA of 1925 this grew to 7,372 cc (95 x 130 mm), the output thereby rising from 80 to 120 bhp at 2,400 rpm.
The short-chassis Tipo Spinto shown above, with two carburettors, gave 135 bhp at 2,600 rpm, and the later 8Bs perhaps 160. A straightforward pushrod overhead valve unit with a nine-bearing crankshaft, it drove through a multi-plate clutch, three-speed gearbox with very widely spaced ratios, and torque tube axle.
lsotta-Fraschini were among the pioneers of four-wheel brakes. Castagna of Milan fashioned this dashing sports two-seater.
Minerva 32 HP, 1927
When one recalls such names as Metallurgique, Excelsior, Minerva and Imperia, it is sad that no Belgian makes have survived.
Minerva began by manufacturing bicycles and motor-cycles. Cars followed in 1904, and from 1908 until World War II they staunchly retained the Knight-type double sleeve valve engine.
Beautifully made machines, they were fitting foundations for such elegant bodies as this phaeton by Hibbard and Darrin The engine in this case would have been a 90 x 140 mm (5.4-litre) six, very smooth and quiet.
Mercedes Benz SS 38/250 HP, 1928
Mechanically the 38/250 was the work of Dr Ferdinand Porsche, its immediate predecessor being the 36/220 of 1927. But the engine size was increased from 6.8 to just over 7 litres (100 x 150 mm, 7,069 cc). The six-cylinder engine had a single overhead camshaft and, in the Mercedes-Benz tradition already well-established, a clutch-operated Roots-type blower.
This was engaged by pressing the accelerator to the floor-boards, and was not supposed to be used continuously. Without it, maximum power was about 140 bhp, and with it some 200 bhp at 3,200 rpm. Higher figures often quoted seem highly imaginative.
Top speed would be 110-115 mph in this form. Real he-man cars in looks and character, the 36/220 and 38/250 had considerable success in competition, and will forever be coupled with the memory of that great German ace Rudolf Caracciola. The type was also raced by the British drivers Lord Howe and Sir Malcolm Campbell.
This striking convertible by Hibbard and Darrin, emphasising the length of engine room required for great power in those days, is as perfectly matched to the chassis and balanced in line and proportion as any modern work.
Packard Model 443, 1928
In 1928 Packard dropped their six and produced only straight-eights, and in this year sold some 50,000 of them. These 89 x 127 mm, 6.2-litre engines were simple in design, with orthodox side valves, but very beautifully engineered. Power output was a modest 106 bhp for, like Royce, the Packard designers valued running refinement above high performance.
This jazzy touring body, with screens and side deflectors for front and rear passengers and a separate, detachable luggage trunk, was termed a Torpedo Phaeton.
Bentley 4½-Litre Supercharged, 1929-1931
Last of the Vintage big fours, the 4½-litre four-cylinder Bentley was produced from 1927 until the firm went out of business in 1931.
Among its many epic competition successes were a win at Le Mans in 1928, and 2nd, 3rd and 4th places (behind a 6½-litre Bentley) in 1929. Although much faster, the supercharged type was also less reliable and won no major races; but it was used effectively to strech the opposition to bursting point and let the unblown team cars through.
The long-stroke (100 x 140 mm) overhead camshaft engine had four valves per cylinder in non-detachable heads. Power output of this competition version was 240 bhp at 4,200 rpm. The Roots-type supercharger was driven from the nose of the crankshaft. Rather unkindly, Ettore Bugatti is alleged to have referred to the Bentley as "le camion le plus vite du monde!"
But it is a tribute to the marque's robust construction, aesthetic magnetism and sheer character that an altogether exceptional number have survived, to be treasured by Vintage enthusiasts. About 50 examples of the production version Blower 4½ were made. Most famous success was Sir Henry Birkin's second place in the 1930 French Grand Prix.
Mercedes-Benz 38/250 SSK, 1929
The K stands for “kurz" or short, this adjective referring to the wheelbase, as can be appreciated by comparing this car with the SS opposite. The SSK’s similar 7.1 litre engine was credited with 170-225 bhp, depending on whether the blower was "out" or "in". Current opinions on the merits or otherwise of these cars are very conflicting. They appear not to have been so fast in standard guise as tradition would lead us to believe.
Alfa Romeo Tipo 6C-1750 Supercharged, 1930/1931
From the moment it appeared in 1929, the 1,752cc version of the Alfa Romeo 6C (which started as a 1500 in 1928) began winning races. Later it grew two more cylinders (the 2.3-litre 8C) and the successes continued.
Designed by Vittorio Jano and built with a watchmaker's precision, it was a jewel among sports cars. The engine was a supercharged straight-six (65 x 88 mm) developing 85 bhp at 4,500 rpm. Twin overhead camshafts were driven by a vertical shaft and bevel gears, and two valves per cylinder were opposed at 100 deg. in hemispherical combustion chambers.
The Roots-type blower was fed by a double-choke Memini carburettor, and the crankshaft was carried in five plain bearings. Transmission was through a dry two-plate clutch, four-speed gearbox with straight-cut pinions, and torque tube axle. Springs were somewhat short and unresilient half-elliptics all round, and the 17/95 (as this supercharged version was sometimes called) was less manageable than, say, a Bugatti of the day.
The production version could reach about 100 mph. This "gran sport" body by Zagato has a timeless perfection of form and fitness for purpose.
Minerva 40 HP, 1930
With their Knight double-sleeve valve engines, Minervas were jealous of their reputation for quiet running and mechanical refinement the Belgian equivalent of the British Daimler. For this reason both makes were favourites for the undertaking business between the wars.
But in 1930 Minerva brought out a huge and heavy car with straight-eight Knight-type engine of 6,616 cc (90 x 130 mm) with a comparatively high performance. Power output was said to be 150 bhp. It had a four-speed gearbox and very long cantilever rear springs. This splendid boatdecked touring body had vee-screens for separate front and rear cockpits.
Packard Model 734 Speedster, 1930
Now a rare collector's piece, the 734 had a guaranteed top speed of 100 mph. Its engine was a tuned version of the familiar 6.2-litre straight-eight, reputedly delivering about 145 bhp at 3,200 rpm, and a wide-ratio four-speed gearbox was featured, at a time when three speeds were almost universal in the USA.
This car was made for one year only. The sporting boat-tailed body, common in Europe at that time, becomes it well.
Pierce Arrow Model B, 1930
Since well before World War I Pierce-Arrow had stood for full-blooded aristocracy among American makes. But aristocrats are not always progressive, and only when this firm was on its last legs did a spark of originality ignite - with the Silver-Arrow of 1933.
This stately touring car, with the headlamps faired into the wings (a Pierce-Arrow tradition for a dozen years or more) was built two years after Studebaker had taken control.
It had a 6-litre straight-eight engine with side valves which developed 125 bhp.
Bucciali Vee-16, 1931
Schoolboys of the early 30s used to draw cars like this on the backs of exercise books. Although the make was exhibited at the Paris Show year after year, it never seemed to reach the production stage; yet the author has a 1932 Bucciali catalogue written in English.
This splendid example shown in 1932 was probably never completed and run. Only a mock-up chassis, also exhibited there, survives. The specification was fascinating: two American Lycoming straight-eight cylinder blocks mounted in a narrow vee on a common crankcase formed the 7.5-litre sixteen-cylinder engine; there was front-wheel drive with the gearbox beneath two radiators, these being in series with fans between and behind them; all-independent suspension and huge light-alloy wheels with cast-in brake drums were other highlights.
Mercedes-Benz SSKL 7.1 Litres, 1931
Developed from the six-cylinder 38-250 SSK, the SSKL was really a sports-racer parallel in purpose to the fabulous 300 SLR of a few years ago - except that private owners could buy the SSKL. With its pierced chassis and spartan bodywork it was comparatively light, and a giant "elephant" blower boosted the power to perhaps 300 bhp. With a high axle ratio about 140 mph was within its capabilities, and it helped to win several great victories for the late Rudolf Caracciola, including the Italian Mille Miglia in 1931.
Hispano-Suiza Vee-12, 1934
These super cars of the early 1930s display typical body styles adopted for Marc Birkigt's last and largest creation, the 9.4 litre Type 68 Hispano-Suiza he introduced in 1932.
Above is a 1934 "coupe de ville" with exaggerated tail defying Carparkinson's Law from the Malartre collection near Lyons.
Under the bonnet the black, stove-enamelled engine was a masterpiece of order and simplicity. A pushrod design with equal bore and stroke of 100 mm, it concealed some diabolical surprises for the repair man; for instance, connecting-rods and big-end caps tongued, grooved and riveted together.
Power output of 220 bhp at 3,000 rpm was less significant than the strong torque delivery from a walking-pace in top, although this was not sufficient to compensate for a second-rate clutch and a ridiculously high first gear.
A longstroke alternative totalling 11.3 litres (100 x 120 mm and 250 bhp) provided added acceleration but not top speed - this being usually just over 100 mph. The chassis was somewhat archaic; but one could love the car only for its engine, its brakes. and its regal bearing under those glittering follies of the great "carrossiers".
Riley MPH, 1934
For all the suggestion in its racy name, that seductive ladybird tail and those ravishing flared wings, the MPH had a somewhat short and barren career. Perhaps it should have been called the OOMPH! For like many a feminine film star it is remembered more for its shape than its performance.
Commercial derivative of a six-cylinder 1.5-litre Riley racing car used with great success in 1933 (of which the engine design inspired that of the immortal ERA), it could be had with cylinder capacities of 1,458,1,666 and 1,726 cc. In all these the stroke was constant at 95.2 mm, the bore being 57, 60.3 or 62 mm. Power output of the smallest was 70 bhp, which provided a top speed around 85 mph.
Like all the Riley engines from the Nine to those of the late '50s, it had two high camshafts, short pushrods and rockers for opposed valves in hemispherical combustion chambers. There were only three main bearings. One could specify a close-ratio normal gearbox with constant mesh 3rd and 4th, or a Wilson self-change epicyclic. The MPH had torque-tube drive for the live axle, the frame side members passing beneath this, and the brakes, with narrow drums of enormous diameter, were cable-operated.
The 1100 cc Imp, a similar car on a reduced scale, is better remembered and much prized by collectors.
Rolls-Royce Phantom III, 1935–1939
In 1935 Rolls-Royce at last took as bold a step as they had in 1906, in presenting a new model which was perhaps "The Best Car in the World" for that era.
The Phantom Ill had an all-aluminium vee-12 engine of 7,340 cc with central camshaft and pushrods, initially developing about 165 bhp at 3,000 rpm, later around 180 bhp. At first hydraulic tappets were fitted, but difficulties with oil filtration soon led to their replacement by the mechanical type.
Advantage was taken of the engine's compactness by reducing the wheelbase 8 inches, compared with the Phantom II, and this was the first Rolls-Royce to have independent front wheel suspension. Based on a General Motors design, it had the refinement of enclosing the coil springs and dampers in an oil bath.
With lightweight bodywork the Phantom Ill could reach the magic hundred, and recaptured the early Ghost's near-silence and smoothness.
This example is a sedanca-de-ville by the French company Franay and was built in 1938.
Auburn Speedster, 1936
There was a bit of engineers E. L. Cord, Fred and Augie Duesenberg, Harry Stutz and body stylist Gordon Buehrig in the racy Auburn Speedster. It sold astonishingly cheaply in relation to its specification and performance, and naturally appealed mostly to playboys, stage stars and "nouveau-riche" extroverts.
The vee-12 engine was a simple side-valve job by Lycoming (79.3 x 107.9 mm, 6,395 cc) developing 160 bhp. A three-speed gearbox was supplemented by a dual-ratio Columbia axle. The Speedster was more familiar in its alternative guise with a 4.6-litre side-valve straight-eight engine boosted by a centrifugal supercharger.
Either type was good for 100 mph or more - which one imagines was sufficient for its road-holding qualities.
Duesenberg SJ Supercharged Roadster, 1936
With its 6.9-litre straight-eight engine boosted to 8 psi by a centrifugal blower to give 320 bhp, the short-chassis Duesenberg SJ was said to reach 100 mph from rest in 17 sec, to run to 104 mph in middle gear and rocket up to 130 mph or so in top.
Of the 478 chassis completed in the nine years 1929-37, only about three dozen were SJs. This 125 in. wheelbase version -- 17½ in shorter than standard -- was very rare.
Although these cars were not used in competition, a special SJ built for and driven by Ab Jenkins of Utah, put 152.14 miles into an hour and averaged 135.47 for 24 hours in 1935.
The history of the Duesenberg is closely linked with those of the Auburn and Cord cars, E. L. Cord having bought Duesenberg in 1928; the three makes went out of business simultaneously in 1937.
While the Model J engine was designed by Fred Duesenberg, assisted by his younger brother August, it was entirely manufactured for them by the Lycoming Company.
Cord Model 812, 1937
Absolutely unique in style and mechanical design, the Cord was an American phenomenon. Powered by a side-valve vee-eight Lycoming engine of 4.7 litres, supercharged in this case to produce 170 bhp at 4,250 rpm, it could top 100 mph.
Front-wheel drive with independent suspension was its most interesting mechanical feature, and the four-speed transmission had vacuum-operated preselection.
Gordon Buehrigs styling, with Venetian blind effect around the engine cover and retractable headlamps, was a brilliant "chef d'oeuvre."
Lagonda LG 45 Rapide, 1937
In 1935 a 4.5-litre Lagonda Rapide won the Le Mans 24-hour race - but too late to save the factory from a financial collapse. New money was poured in by A. P. Good, who also acquired the services of the famous W.O. Bentley as chief designer.
This car was the result of his development of the Rapide. Like its predecessors it had an excellent Meadows pushrod engine, simple and robust, and with Bentley's modifications it could deliver about 150 bhp at 4,000 rpm. It was good for just over 100 mph.
Chassis details were orthodox and traditional, including a right-hand change for the four-speed gearbox, which had synchromesh on all but first. The sporting open body shown here was a catalogue one built in the Lagonda factory. Bentley's vee-12 4.5-litre Lagonda with overhead camshafts was also in full production by this time.
Mercedes-Benz 540 K, 1937
For all its extrovert flash and dash, the vast 540 K was but a pale shadow of such hairy antecedents as the 36/220, 38/250 and SSK.
Its 5.4-litre straight-eight engine had an overhead camshaft and clutch-engaged supercharger, but was bulky, heavy and not powerful enough (180 bhp) to propel so much metal very briskly. The speed was little over 100 mph.
But it had all-independent suspension, with coilspring swing axles at the back, and was thus a comfortable touring car.
Delahaye Type 165 V-12, 1938
Unsuccessful as a racing-car (it first appeared in the 1937 French GP), this big Delahaye inevitably created quite a sensation at the 1938 Paris Salon with this extrovert envelope by the distinguished French firm Figoni & Falaschi.
Billy Butlin, the British holiday camp king, was among the first customers. The enclosed front and rear wheels and a disappearing windscreen were special attractions.
Under the bonnet was a 4,490 cc vee-engine developing about 160 bhp. Its overhead valves were opened by pushrods and rockers from two camshafts between the cylinder blocks.
The gearbox was a Cotal epicyclic with electro-magnetic selection. Front suspension was independent, using a transverse leaf spring, but it had a normal live rear axle. One can guess a top speed of, say, 110 mph.
Packard Type 180 V8, 1939
One of the USA's pioneer manufacturers, Packard produced the world's first luxury car to be powered by a vee-12 engine, the astonishing Twin Six of 1915-1923.
This sporting "сoupé de ville" by Darrin was the apogee of their range at the outbreak of World War II. It had a very refined side-valve vee-eight engine of 5.3 litres developing some 130 bhp.
Quelle: berkofinepaintings.com; Ronald Barker, Douglas B. Tubbs "In the age of motoring" (1971)