Road Test

Austin Endcliffe Phaeton 1906

THE preliminary circular published by the Austin Motor Company gave details of two models, the 15-20 h.p. and the 25-30 h.p. car, which were to be offered to the public in March, 1906. The latter model, known as the ” Endcliffe ” Phaeton, was described as being a “car designed for those who like a greater speed combined with the comforts of a high-class tourer. The circular also modestly referred to it as “A very handsome and comfortable Touring car – embodies the very latest ideas for general work.”

The Phaeton weighed a ton, and was offered, with either a live axle or side chains. for £525 (£600 including all extras). The first car built at Longbridge Works ran non-stop for three days In the four-day Scottish Reliability Trials, then sheared a key on the main sprocket shaft when only 30 miles from the finish. The second car built won the 100 Guinea Dunlop Challenge Cup, covering 1,000 miles non-stop. In July of the sail. year (1906), an Austin also won both the Club and Open events in the Wolverhampton Hill Climb.

The Autocar wrote of a Phaeton tested its 1906 :— The engine ran with great smoothness and sweetness. The Austin car struck as as being exceedingly well designed and workmanlike. and an excellent example of the combination of refinement and strength. we must say we were pleased with its running. It was quiet. very quiet in fact . . . generally speaking. the whole of this vehicle conveys the impression of strength, speed and graceful lines. We must congratulate Mr. Austin on producing such a fine vehicle.

Several hundred models of the ” Encicliffe – Phaeton were built over a period of live years, 1906-11. In 1910, the weight of the car had been reduced to 19cwt. but its price increased to £.585§ and was one of 15 different models available on the 18-24 h.p. chassis. One such 1910 Phaeton is in the hands of the Company: its number plate bears the first registration in Merioneth, FF-1, where it was owned by a. farmer over a period of years..

It has been re-acquired by the Company, considerably renovated. and is now a. shining example of early Austin workmanship. Three members of the TORQUE committee recently made a trial run in it, under the auspices of the Advertising Department.

Before running the car we found some very interesting information about it, that though the engine was designated 18-24 it has a R.A.C. rating of 27 hp. and develops 25 b.h.p. at 900 r.p.m. The crankshaft has five main bearings running its phosphor-bronz bushes and the pistons are of cast-iron. Ignition is by low tension magneto. but a high tension auxiliary tremor coil and accumulator is incorporated for starting purposes.The clutch is of the standard multiple disc type; as an alternative, an Austin leather friction surface was available. Braking was effected by transmission metal to metal’ brake shoes at rear of gear box operated by the foot -pedal,

A point of interest with regard to the ignition system fitted to the Phaeton is the use of both coil or magneto for normal running with a trembler to give a self-start action. Starting by the self-start ” is always somewhat of a gamble, although, if one is feeling energetic. the engine can be started by swinging the handle.

The ” self-start ” consists merely of firing a mixture in the cylinder by a spark produced from the coil when the mag. is switched on.

The car took the road with her full complement of passengers and it was soon apparent that there was no shortage of pulling power, for we romped up Lowhill Lane quite indifferent to its gradient. The engine was perfectly happy, though we left a trail of bluish-grey vapour lingering in the sunlight. Later, we were amused to read in the 1910 Austin catalogue that the engine oil is circulated by a pump in order to prevent the tendency (peculiar to some manufacturers’ cars) of emitting smoke. Though the car travelled on smooth roads, save for a brief excursion on to the rougher parts of the flying ground, we were nonetheless very surprised at the smoothness and stability of the ride.

The catalogue, here, stated most accurately, the suspension being almost perfect, even on the roughest roads.” Another feature of the run was the noticeable effort on the part of the driver when the road called for a sharp turn. Also, although the engine had proved rather temperamental when it came to starting, only on one occasion did she “stall”; that was when starting from rest up a gradient. It has been said that the quickest way to assemble a group of people is to commence operations with a pneumatic drill in a quiet street. That may be so, though the Phaeton cruising along the quiet Cofton roads, with her speedometer reading nearer 30 than 20 m.p.h., and her passengers a little self-conscious without their side whiskers and bowlers, certainly attracted her complement of highly-amused spectators. Perhaps at times the smoke obscured the audience. though their cheers echoed long after the passage of the Phaeton.

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Works MINI Rally ‘S’

A ROUGH POT-HOLED road of the pre-war pattern led to the main hangars of the old aerodrome at Wythall. On each side stood scores of 1800’s and 1100’s – and this was before Wythall became national news. Water lay in the numerous ruts and crevices. Grass grew where it pleased. The structure of the hangar itself looked gaunt yet impressive against the background of new cars. All was quiet save for the occasional sound of water dripping from the rusty gutters. We parked the A.40 (Mk. 1) by the side of the hangar and walked in silence through the big sliding doors. Stacked in racks were spare body sections for much of B M C ‘s Commercial vehicle range. Everything was in a state of mechanical quiescence. Our attention was suddenly diverted. One object alone stood out amongst the immobile mass. For those who followed the 1965 Monte there is no point in elaborating on the details of B M C ‘s second successive win in that rally. Suffice to say that out of 237 starters only one car reached Monaco without losing a single road mark.

And that in eight out of the eleven special stages, the best time was put up by that same car (against one each by Saab, Porche 904 and Sunbeam Tiger). In some of the toughest winter conditions ever for the Monte only thirty-five cars survived, and even these owed much of their success to the use of studded tyres. And here amongst those unglamorous body panels and shiny new cars stood the car that Makinen and Easter had driven to such a convincing outright win. Somehow the car exuded power. Admittedly the red and white paintwork did not sparkle, and the cockpit looked distinctly tatty. But one does not expect a Monte winner to look like a showroom model. Perhaps it was that reassuring grin of those chunky SP 3’s that betrayed the real worth of the car. Or else that hefty sump guard which must have taken such a pounding on those snow-bound roads to Monaco. Or was it that array of lights, which made the front of the car look rather like the illuminations on a Christmas tree? What-ever the underlying factor, AJB 44B certainly looked something special. Underneath the light alloy bonnet rested a 1275 cc S unit. Or rather basically a 1275 unit, for on a rolling road dynamometer 75 bhp was being given at the wheels. Prepared by B M C Competitions Department to Appendix J Group Ill specification, AJB 44B in fact owed its Group III rating rather more to its bodywork than to its engine (in comparison the Group II Mini with which Aaltonen won the ’65 R.A.C. was giving 84 bhp at the wheels). However, a certain number of ‘mods’ had been carried out.

Peak revs. at 7,400

Twin HS 4 carburetters with air trumpets allowed the specially polished combustion chambers and gas-flowed head to breath more efficiently. Compression ratio was raised to 11.1 to 1. Mani-folding was standard for both inlet and exhaust though both were polished to improve the gas flow. A competition camshaft was fitted giving high lift and transferring all the torque to the top end. But perhaps the one factor allowing this engine to rev to 7,4 so easily and to be able to maintain these revs for so long was the attention given to detail and balancing during assembly. Obviously Vandervell and Castrol deserve much credit for letting everything rotate at this speed without ventilating the crankcase too much. And now, thanks very much to B M C Publicity torque was to have the opportunity of putting power to road for a few days. We very much doubted our ability to use all the horses at full gallop, but were determined to get some sort of idea as to how a Works Competition car went. Somewhat apprehensively we pushed the car out of the hangar. A quick toss of the coin found me having first go. The cockpit seemed a mass of instruments, and obviously not in the running for the Concours d’Elegance.

Couldn’t give much credit to Vanden Plas for those seats either – I wonder what shape Mainen is? Let’s have a go at starting. Ignition on. Now where’s the starter. Elimination of all other likely candidates left only a long stalk to the right of the steering wheel. A quick push and the engine started first time, ticking over at 1000 r.p.m. Although ticking is perhaps the wrong word, as everything sounded distinctly unhealthy. However, a quick blip on the throttle brought the engine on to the cam, and showed that the special exhaust system and silencer did not really do much silencing.

A full throated roar was obviously significant of the power available and no boy racer extra. For the Monte the car had been fitted with close ratio spur cut gears married to a 4.26:1 differential. This put the emphasis on acceleration and full use of the torque for the conditions likely to be encoun-tered. Thus top speed was less than that of a stan-dard S but, as we were to find, the acceleration was somewhat better! The instrumentation was Treaty of Rome style, but fortunately we had slide rule with us. In top gear the road speed was 20 k.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m., in third 15 k.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. and 12 k.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. in second. Thus, at 7,000 in top the road speed was 87,5 m.p.h. and just over 90 m.p.h. in the `red’ of 7.2 (what a pity about Barbara Castle) Once on the road all apprehension was soon banished, as the handling was wonderfully precise. Although all the Works rally cars are now fitted with the Hydrolastic type of suspension, in 1965 there was no time to prepare six Hydrolastic vehicles so AJB 44B had the old type suspension.

Superb handling

The ride was generally remarkably smooth, and the handling characteristics were of much less understeer than on a standard cooking Mini. We found the car to be absolutely superb on corners, and never really became unstuck (admittedly we didn’t do in for any of the tail-twitching forestry commission techniques — well not intentionally).

It was sheer joy to be able to accelerate hard out of bends in top gear and still feel the instant re-sponse of the engine. In the lower gears, of course, one had to be careful to avoid wheel spin at take-off and gear changes, especially on wet roads. The temptation to stamp the right foot hard down and accelerate past all and sundry was soon resisted after being left grinning stupidly behind spinning wheels. But when grip was found the story was somewhat different! The typical modern road test claim of the car suitable for both spinster aunt shopping and sexy apprentice sprinting could not very well apply here – it’s those seats again! With the cam being hit at around 4,2 and the engine reving to 7,4, it means that there is not a lot of flexibility in the gears. Luckily the gear change was as slick as we could possibility wish, and the clutch plate, which was the standard type, took up very gently and presented no problems. Obviously on gear changes the engine speed could not be allowed to drop below 4,2 if any sort of performance was wanted. But once in the effective rev range the tachometer needle was a mere blur as it raced up towards the ‘red’. The ability of the engine to rev up quickly meant that top speed could be obtained very quickly on the shortest of straights. Because of this, we felt that we could not in any way really appreciate the potential of the car by driving on main roads even though overtaking was effortless and road holding so good. All the time we felt the need, whenever there was a clear road ahead, to drop the car into higher gear.

However, when we ventured onto some interesting roads that did not enable a high maximum speed to be obtained, and found such natural hazards as steep gradients and roads disappearing round sharp corners, the car was very much in its element. These varying conditions meant that power and gear could be matched to give the required per-formance. Perhaps the ease with which hills could be climbed was the most astonishing attribute. The claim of wheelspin in top up Rose Hill may be taken with the contempt it deserves, but AJB 44B had the capacity to accelerate hard in top gear from 53 m.p.h. up such a slope. Time and time again we were amazed by the willingness of the little engine to pull right through its rev range with no apparent effort. Top gear acceleration On the level the car’s performance was also most impressive. From 50 m.p.h. to 90 m.p.h. took 13 seconds in top gear (consisting of 4, 4.2 and 4.8 seconds for each 1,000 rev increment from 4,000 r.p.m. up to 7,200 r.p.m.). As a matter of interest, 0-50 was accomplished in 6.2 seconds, and 0-60 in 8.2 seconds. Mentioned before has been the fact that AJB 44B owed its Group III specification more to bodywork than to engine modifications. To offset the additional weight of extra lights, full rally equipment and tools, plus eleven gallons of fuel, the doors, rear panels and bonnet were all made of light alloy.

Both driver’s and passenger’s seats were specially built. Although initially they felt distinctly uncomfortable, after a few hours one became moulded to them and appreciated the support given in all the right places. In the navigator’s seat one could lay back and even attempt to sleep. The emphasis is definitely on attempt. The noise inside the car was incredible and never subsided. How a driver and navigator can virtually live in a car throughout an International rally amidst the general hubbub defies belief. Perspex was used for the side and rear windows. In its original form the car was fitted with a laminated heated windscreen but as with other such re-usable items as fire extinguisher, Halda speed pilot, clocks and carbon dioxide tyre pump, this had been removed. Items inside the car which assisted our comfort and feeling of safety included a grab handle above the passenger door and padded door locks and floor pillars. The passenger also had the dubious advantage of a foot operated horn — used more to scare his own driver than warn other road users!

A less obvious modification was the chanelling of the battery leads and the fuel and brake pipes inside the body for protection. The floor itself was insulated from the exhaust with an asbestos blanket. The lighting was absolutely superb. The head-lights were fitted with quartz iodine bulbs which dipped to small fog lights mounted on the bonnet. Add to this the two large fog lamps and the long range driving lamp (all quartz iodine) and it is evident that the only problem in night driving is the ability to locate the correct switch at the right time. To provide the power necessary for all the extra electrical equipment an alternator was fitted. All too soon our two days with AJB 44B were over and reluctantly we had to return the car to Publicity. Certainly we had come to appreciate just how quick a Group III Works car is, and now all that remains is to be driven by a Works driver in a Works car.

That would really be something.