Motor SportAugust 1933
MOTORING WITH A DIFFERENCE.
THE VALE SPECIAL PROVIDES ALL THE PLEASURES OF A HAND-MADE SPORTS CAR AT THE REMARKABLE COST OF UNDER £200.
4 cyl.. 56.6 mm. x 85 mm.,
capacity 832 c.c.
3 bearing crankshaft,
S.U. down-draught carburetter,
6 to 1 compression ratio,
forced feed lubrication.
Single plate clutch,
4 speed gear box,
top gear ratio alternative 5.25 or 5.75 to 1.
Worm drive back axle.
Lockheed hydraulic system on all four wheels.
Underslung halfelliptics, front and rear,
Andre friction shock-absorbers.
Ignition and Lighting :
6 volt battery, coil ignition.
Crab track, front 3ft. 10½ins., rear 3ft. 7½ins.
Overall length 11ft., overall width 4ft. 7ins.
Scuttle height 2ft. 11ins.
Magna wire wheels with Dunlop 4.50 x 19 tyres.
S.S. 6in, dial speedometer and rev. counter.
Lancegaye safety glass screen.
Fuel Supply :
S.U. Petrolift Pump from 11½ gallon rear tank.
Price : 2 seater, as tested £192 10s.
For £5 extra, the following additions will be supplied:
Ashby Brooklands Steering Wheel,
Lucas Biflex Headlamps,
Chromium plate finish to front axle,
bumper, and headlamps.
TO those capable of appreciating the real pleasures of motoring as a hobby, cars are divided into two categories, mass produced and hand-made. The former, while providing a reliable and comfortable means of transport, lack those finer points of control and handling which comprise the distinctive characteristics of individually produced motor-cars. For discerning motorists of moderate means, at any rate, this perception of the subtleties of motoring is handicapped by the fact that hand-made methods of automobile construction generally result in an expensive selling-price.
The Vale Special, however, is the proverbial exception to this rule, and all motorists who want that "difference" in their motoring which is generally so expensive to obtain, should make a point of investigating this distinctive little car. We ourselves recently enjoyed a weekend of real motoring with a Vale Special, but before recounting our experiences on the road some notes of what we saw at the works at Portsdown Road, Maida Vale, will give the reader some inkling of the secret of the Vale Special's distinctive personality.
The design of the car—of which more anon—is the work of Mr. P. I. E. Pellew, while the man responsible for the production of the machine is Mr. R. O. Wilcoxson. Both are enthusiastic motorists who have put into actual practice their ideas of what a car should be, down to the very last detail. Speaking from personal experience of the Vale Special, we are bound to say that we are in complete agreement with their ideas.
We were shown round the premises by Mr. Wilcoxson, and if a manufacturer's personal enthusiasm counts for anything—and we are sure it does—then the success of the Vale Special is assured. A batch of cars were being worked on quietly and methodically by a group of fitters who reflected their chief's own pride in their work. The cars were in various stages of development, and we were able to form an accurate opinion of the care with which the sturdy chassis is assembled. Nothing is left to chance. Parts are measured, modified if necessary, assembled, re-measured and adjusted until perfect construction is obtained. To do this requires time, and therefore money, but in spite of this thorough workmanship the Vale Special costs only £192 10s.
The chassis has some very original features in its design. The frame is a rigid piece of work, the four-inch side members being parallel from the rear of the car as far as the scuttle, where they taper inwards until the dumb-irons are reached. The frame is very near the ground level, and the low build of the car is carried out by means of under-slung half-elliptic springs fore and aft, together with an under-slung worm-drive back axle. This latter method eliminates a high propellor shaft, which so often tends to interfere with a low floor level to the cockpit. The springs are fixed at the front end, while at the rear they slide over. Silentbloc bushes, a system which does away with lubrication. The front axle is tubular, of thick section, and is very slightly upswept from the centre. Finally, the extraordinary road holding qualities of the car are completed by an original form of steering layout, in which the box is carried ahead of the front axle, alongside the dumb-iron. The twofold benefits of this design are that the steering wheel is raked to an unusual degree, and that the rearward pull of the two track rods give a direct action to the steering.
From the above it will be seen that the Vale Special is full of interest to students of design, and this originality is still further apparent in the construction of the body. This is composed of a strong aluminium shell mounted on an all steel subframe, no wood work being used at all. This method, by means of careful bracing, gives an extremely rigid body which will not develop squeaks or rattles no matter how roughly the car may be used. In addition, it is a simple matter for a new owner to have the body made to suit his individual stature. In fact, all owners are measured on ordering their cars, and the body is "tailor-made" from these dimensions.
The Vale Special on White Downs.
The power unit of the car is the Triumph Super Eight, modified in various respects. The compression ratio is 6 to 1, so that there is no need to use special fuels. An S.U. manifolding system is used in conjunction with a down-draught S.U. carburetter, and the exhaust manifold allows a free passage for the gases. The engine has four cylinders of 56.5 mm. by 85 mm., giving a capacity of 832 c.c., and has a three-bearing crankshaft. The rest of the transmission is normal Triumph practice, and includes a four-speed gear-box with "silent" third. The brakes are Lockheed Hydraulic, and the rear tank holds 11 gallons of petrol which is fed to the carburetter by an S.U. Petrolift pump.
So much for details. On the road the Vale Special lives fully up to the promise conveyed by its unusual design. Before taking the car over, Mr. Wilcoxson gave us a short demonstration of the car in order to make us acquainted with the cornering abilities of the car. This demonstration consisted of approaching a central lamp standard in a wide road at about 30 m.p.h. in 3rd gear, yanking the wheel over sharply, and making a complete revolution round the lamp standard—all without reduction of speed. The car did not slide, it merely clung to the ground with grim tenacity, and never gave a hint of lifting its inside wheels.
Later on, we ourselves found considerable amusement in taking one-way roundabouts on arterial roads at ridiculous speeds, three sharp squeals coming from the tyres as the car was steered first to the left, then to the right, and again to the left. Most exhilarating.
This good behaviour of the Vale Special under freak conditions results in perfect handling for more normal usage. Traffic driving is rendered extraordinarily quick by this ability to round right-angle bends without reduction of speed, while on the open road fast curves can be taken in complete security at much higher speeds than usual. In fact, the steering and springing could not be better, no matter what the cost of the complete car. The steering is light, positive, and really sensitive, and the car as a whole gave the impression that it would be perfectly safe at far higher speeds than those of which it is at present capable.
On Surrey hills. Approaching the Ranmore
The engine is very smooth, and revs. up without fuss to 5,000 r.p.m. on the indirect gears. The maxima on the gears we found to be about 17, 30, 50, and 65 m.p.h. respectively. The two large dials for the S.S. rev, counter and speedometer are easily read, well placed, and as accurate as one could wish. Cruising speed is really more important than maximum, and on main roads we found the Vale Special automatically settling down to an effortless 50 m.p.h. gait.
The Lockheed brakes were well up to their usual standard, and had no effect on the steering even when fiercely applied for the 30 m.p.h. test, from which speed the car was pulled up in 27 feet. The clutch is light and smooth, and the gear change free from any tricks.
The driving position was fully in keeping with the careful design of the rest of the car, all the controls coming easily to hand or foot. The passenger's seat gave plenty of leg room, and the cockpit was altogether very snug. The hood is of the two-piece kind, a cover being stretched over a frame-work of rods. It was easily erected, and gave adequate head room and visibility—owing to the large windscreen of Lancegaye safety glass.
Summing up, then, we found the Vale Special a most pleasant car to handle, It possesses all the attributes of a handmade car, in that it is responsive and sensitive to the driver's touch, and withal it costs only £192 10s. Discerning motorists will like it.