This year’s show of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders at Olympia certainly surpasses its predecessors in excellence of workmanship as well as in the number of exhibits.
The whole of the huge hall is insufficient to accommodate the demands for space which were made, and the annexe was also unable to cope with the overflow, notwithstanding that the entries are, for the first time, restricted to pleasure cars.
So much opposition was raised to the proposed uniform scheme of decoration that the old system was retained, and as a spectacle no doubt the whole suffers accordingly, for the wealthy firms, who spend a large amount of the decoration and lighting of their exhibits, rather cast shadows on the more modest brethren, whose excellence of design may, however, be as great.
Whilst the show is thoroughly representative both of English and Continental makes, it may be said that there seems no very revolutionary trend in design observable anywhere. The car of to-day seems to be settling down on more or less conventional lines, as one would expect as the outcome of ten years of trial and experience.
Improvements will come and are coming slowly and surely, but they are being introduced along sound and safe lines; greater attention is being given, for instance, to the composition of the various metals and to the improvement of carburation and oil foil. The multiplication of cylinders, if one may judge by the exhibits, seems to have stopped at six, and most of the important makers are now adopting this number for their high-powered cars. In these cars the practice of casting the cylinders in threes (as in the Rolls Royce) instead of in pairs is being largely followed.
A feature of the show is the increased use of high-tension magneto ignition. Even on small cars where it is not a standard fitting provision is usually made for it, and it is not infrequently relied on as the sole form, though in many cases the dual system, with accumulator and coil, is also used.
The live-axle drive seems to be ousting the chain drive, except with the very large cars, though many of the firms (eg the FIAT) state that they are altering their practice in this respect rather as a concession to public opinion than as a change in their belief in the efficiency of the chain drive. If the chain drive is to survive, except for racing cars, it will only do so by more general attention being given to the quiet-running chains and to the protection of the chain, for an effective chain-case and an oil-bath like that which the Sunbeam Company provide enable a well-made chain to run sweetly and smoothly and wear almost indefinitely.
There has been some reduction in prices generally, but it has only been substantial in the case of the large cars supplied by the few firms at the top of the tree, who have been able so far to get what may be termed fancy prices; in smaller cars the reduction is not very noticeable, if we except the Coventry Humbers, though in most cases it will be found that improvements are introduced and better value is thus given even if there be no actual reduction in price.
The Darracq Company show one of the most interesting novelties on a 18h-p model with live-axle drive. The speed gears, bevel and differential gears, are all brought together and combined in one unit, the box being mounted on the rear axle. This gives a neat appearance, and its practical merits have been most thoroughly tested on the high-powered Darracq racers for some years. In this model the four cylinders are cast en bloc.
The Berliet firm exhibit for the first time live-axle models of 14 and 22hp. They have the reputation of being economical in petrol, and being lightly built they should not be heavy on tyres. The 22 hp, with chain drive only, weight 15cwt.
The Clement Talbot Company devote the centre of their exhibit to a splendid collection of cups and medals (about 90 in all) won during the past season, principally with their celebrated 15-hp car. This car will only be altered in minor details. A new model, 25-hp four cylinder cars, is being introduced with cylinders cast in pairs and a brake horse-power of over 50.
The Daimler Company have adopted the live axle, and show a 30-hp landaulette with four cylinders 110mm by 130mm. No anxiety need be felt as to this innovation, for the Company have for some time been manufacturing live-axle cars for italian use and for a few private users at home.
Their other new live-axle model of 38 hp (cylinders 124 by 130) is not shown, but the cam shaft is now enclosed in the crank chamber and the distributor has been redesigned. Gearcases are being fitted to the chain-driven models.
Messrs Horsfall and Bickham, of Manchester, show their well-known six-cylinder and four-cylinder Horbick models, both of which have the excellent White and Poppe engine. The former is now provided with a new disc clutch; the foot brake operates on the back wheels and the side brake on the propeller shaft, and a transverse spring has been introduced at the back.
Two interesting exhibits are the Itala and De Dion cars, of Pekin and Paris fame. They are shown with what may be the dust of Asia still upon them, and are a striking contrast to some of th epolished chassis beside them.
The Silver Ghost, of 15,000 miles renown, is also shown by Messrs Rolls-Royce, with the parts taken to pieces for inspection. The marks of the tools are still evident, and in no case is any wear appreciable to any but the most expert eye. The exhibit is a splendid advertisement both to the designer of the car and to the staff who turn out such conscientious work.
In this year’s models, a three-quarter elliptical spring is introduced at the rear, and the frame is slightly dropped. A two-jetterd carburetter is now used with control from the dashboard.
The Lanchester Company, not content with their excellent reputation for moderate-powered cars, show an interesting 50-hp six-cylinder engine. This model breaks away in some respects from Lanchester practice, being wheel-steered and foot-controlled. A cross shaft drives both magneto and water-circulating pump, and there is a positive drive for the fan. The car still retains, however, the Lanchester system of suspension, the worm drive, and also the wick carburetter which as been so successfully used for the past ten years.
The Napier cars, as usual, form one of the finest exhibits in the show, and their new model, a 30-hp six-cylinder, fitted with the “Ideal” Cape hood, at once attracts attention. The chassis is of the famous six-cylinder type, with synchronised ignition, forced lubrication, a live-axle drive, transverse backspring and other Napier refinements, and the price is £575. It is claimed that the patent hood can be raised single-handed in about one minute, and lowered in half that tie.
The FIAT cars make another fine stand, but show no great divergence from the previous patterns, except that they have adopted the live-axle drive for their 20-hp as a concession to demand. The lubrication is forced from the exhaust, and high-tension magneto ignition has replaced the low-tension.