THE history of the motor industry contains many records of makes which have failed to stay the pace in the pioneer years, and given way to others who have grown up in the later stages of development. There
are, however, some firms who have held on from the very beginning, and proving their products in open competition in the early days, have increased in experience and efficiency to hold a place to-day which enforces the respect and admiration of their competitors.
The firm of Clement-Talbot Ltd. started building cars in the last years of last century, and their present product has provided one of the surprises of the modern competition world. The wonderful team of white, silent cars which was such an outstanding feature of last season's racing were, in spite of their wonderful performance, remarkably normal vehicles. They were, in point of fact, the logical development of the extraordinarily efficient "14-45," which is the first car for which Mr.. Roesch, many years designer for Talbots, was given an entirely free hand. And he has every reason to be pleased with his handiwork.
The concern has a fine record of originality and quality of design and construction, and it is this feature of always being ahead and never copying others that marked out Talbot cars from the early days. They always pass over their previous successful history as being of very minor importance compared with the all-important task of preparing for the future. But there are some things which will never be forgotten. These go a long way towards building up a tradition which makes the employees of a firm keen to make the car as well as it can possibly be done.
No mention of the name of Talbot can be made without some thought of the achievement of the late Percy Lambert, who set up one of the milestones of motor racing when, on February 15th, 1913, he covered over 100 miles in the hour for the first time in history. The car was one of the famous 25 h.p. Talbots, of which there are still plenty of specimens giving good service on the roads to-day.
The actual speed of the hour record on this occasion was put up to 103.84 m.p.h., and it will always stand as one of the greatest motoring performances of all time.
In pre-War days there were many other notable Talbot successes in hill climbs and races, but this pioneer firm have now no time to sit back and consider what they once did, as under the able guidance of Mr. Roesch and his colleagues they are far too busy turning out cars for the public of to-day and to-morrow.
Experience and past records are only valuable when they are coupled with enterprise and new ideas, and although the firm are old in deeds and successes, they are essentially young and enthusiastic in their policy.
It is always a pleasure to meet people who are really keen on their product, and who are anxious for one to see and try it, and so enable one to judge for oneself of its merit.
On a recent visit to the works we were able to go round and inspect every detail of the manufacture and realise once again the myriad details which go to make the difference between a good and a mediocre car. Many of these are unseen, and the ordinary owner is never aware of their existence, but they are none the less important, as he will be very soon aware if they are lacking in the tout ensemble.
The machinery used in the works at Barlby Road, Kensington, is, of course, of the latest pattern, but it is the details and the finish that are of the greatest interest, as being distinct from the general run ef manufacturing methods. The engine is of particular interest to the motorist who is concerned in performance, as it represents one of the few examples where full tuning operations are carried out as a part of the manufacture.
The crankshaft is turned from a solid billet and is carried on seven bearings in the crankcase. It is carefully tested on a dynamic balancer, and then the counterweights are fitted and the whole is finally balanced once more. One has only to inspect the " 90 " crankshaft and its mounting to realise to a great extent the reason for the silken sweetness of running of this engine.
The same care in detail covers a multitude of features that space prevents us from dealing with, but it is worthy of note that after the cylinder barrels are bored out and ground, they are then lapped on a special machine to ensure a really good working surface. The gearbox is also full of clever ideas which explain the easy changing and quiet running which we noticed in a test of the car.
Anyone who has tried one of the new Talbots will have noted the quality of the brakes, and an examination of the front axle assembly is well repaid. The adjustment of the brake shoes is extremely simple and quick, and in the latest models the whole lubrication of the track rod and swivel pins is automatic.
The thermostatically controlled radiator shutters, to which the average owner would never give a moment's thought, form a particularly ingenious example of design. As the shutters themselves, consisting of vertical metal slats, are rotated to the closed or open position as required by the thermostat, to be satisfactory, they must be free from any possibility of sticking. To ensure this, stainless steel pins are used at the top and bottom, and these have their bearings in a special aluminium casting bolted to the radiator.
The radiator itself is mounted in an unusual manner, as instead of having flexible connections to the cylinder block and being carried on the frame, it is mounted on the engine itself and is absolutely rigid with it. The connections are by steel pipes, and by this means the delicate structure of the radiator itself is entirely insulated from any strains due to slight distortion.
To whatever part of the car one turns one's attention, quality and care in conception and manufacture at once become evident.
Some manufacturers, it must be admitted, are guilty of spoiling their ship for a ha'porth of tar—they make a good chassis, but equip it with accessories and auxiliaries of inferior quality. Clement Talbot Ltd. most certainly do not come into this category, and before standardising any component or fitting even of seemingly insignificant importance, they subject it to a scrutiny and test which rules out all the "just-as-goods." We were, therefore, not surprised to find that the engine is fitted with Wellworthy piston rings (long known to racing men as a" good thing "), while Zenith, Jaeger, Smith and Sons, Luvax, Price's, C. C. Wakefield, and other famous names figure amongst the list of suppliers, whose products assist in making the Talbot a first-rate motor car.
THE days have definitely passed when a sports car was a fierce, noisy, intractable vehicle, which gained its speed and power by means of a rough engine. The modern counterpart of the old fire-eating monster is a smooth, well behaved car, with more speed and more acceleration than its forerunners ever dreamt of, but in spite of this, having wonderful qualities of flexibility and slow running, and, above all, silence. One of the outstanding examples of this type is the " 90 " Talbot, which in its racing debut in 1930 showed up as one of the most reliable racing cars ever built.
Everyone who watched any of the big races in which they took such an impressive part commented on their silence of running, and our first impressions of the car, which was put at our disposal by Warwick Wright Ltd., was this same quality.
The actual " 90 " which we tested had the regulation Brooklands body with which spectators of last year's events had become so familiar. This body is not, however, to our mind the most desirable type except for actual competition work, and the standard body supplied by the makers is the more likely selection of the man who wants a car for high speed touring and general use. This is extremely well designed, neat, roomy, and of good appearance, and the fact that the performance is not seriously interfered with by the less spartan bodywork is shown by the car which Vernon Balls was running at the opening B.A.R.C. meeting this season, which put in some laps of the track at 97 m.p.h.
However, the test of the Brooklands type car was interesting in being similar to the successful racers of last year, of which the latest model of slightly larger capacity looks like being a worthy descendant in the forthcoming season.
It is a noticeable fact that various models of a particular make, although having different characteristics, often possess some indefinable " feel " which at once shows their ancestry. This is particularly manifest in the case of firms with racing associations, as they possess invaluable first hand knowledge which enables them to get those all important details of steering and road holding correct. In describing the behaviour and handling of the Talbot on the road it would be hard to pay it any greater compliment than to say that it feels like a Talbot. The chassis is, of course, a logical development of the famous 14-45 h.p. Talbot, which has come as a revelation to many as to what an engine of just over 1½-litres can do. Exactly why it does it could probably be answered only by Mr. Roesch, the designer of all these cars, but the chief fact is the result. The " 75 " and " 90 " engines are of 2,276 c.c., the " 90 " having a higher compression and other modifications to attain the increased performance.
In the engine itself can be found many reasons for the remarkable smoothness and life, the crankshaft being a particularly fine piece of work. This is carried in seven bearings, is machined from the solid billet, and finally balanced and counterweighted. A composite piston of cast-iron and aluminium is used ; owing to the ingenious construction it is very simple, and cannot suffer any of the troubles of the older forms of composite piston which have been tried in the past.
In merely looking at the external view of the engine it is indeed difficult to realise how such power is developed, as it is a very neat and simple design. But as soon as one gets on the open road one realises that the power is there in abundance, and in a particularly pleasant form. Acceleration is snappy without being harsh, giving an increase of 10 to 30 m.p.h. on second in 4 2/5 seconds, which is a very good figure on a chassis of such large dimensions in proportion to the engine capacity.
The gear change is easy and quick, enabling high speeds to be attained on very short stretches of road, and the brakes are more than able to cope with this. In these days of good brakes it is not often that one finds any particular make which stands out prominently in this respect, but the Talbot does so very definitely. The very great size of the brake drums accounts largely for their power, which pushes one forward off the seat if applied hard. There is more, however, in braking than sheer power, and it is in the smoothness and accuracy of operation that the braking system of this car is chiefly notable. A braking distance of 45ft. from 40 m.p.h. is possible on a dry road.
A maximum speed on the level of 86 m.p.h. seemed a fair representation of the capabilities of the standard production model, though it has been shown that this can easily be improved upon by tuning, once the car is fully run in. 45 m.p.h. and 65 m.p.h. on 2nd and 3rd gears can also be attained, while the gear-box is pleasantly silent apart from the quiet singing noise which is characteristic of this make at high speeds on the indirect ratios. It is, however, not at all an unpleasant sound, and tells of accuracy in manufacture and rigidity of the shafts.
Our only real criticism of the Brooklands model is the fact that the somewhat low seating position makes it difficult to see what is happening in traffic, but the standard 4-seater on this chassis does not suffer from this fault, and as most owners would prefer this model in any case, the point is hardly likely to arise.
Altogether a remarkable car, which for really fast road work or competitions would be very hard to beat at anywhere near the price.Motor Sport