On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
THE DELLOW sports car is so English, it makes one’s teeth ache. Built between 1949 and 1956 in tiny numbers (perhaps 300 total), it was designed for the uniquely British motorsport of “trials.” That is, wait until grassy meadows, dales and hillocks become slick with English weather, then compete for quickest time on a flag-defined course up, down and through. The more up, the more down, the more slick, the better. Then, once appropriately muddy, regroup to the nearest pub.
The Dellow evolved out of Ken Delingpole’s engineering firm in Alvechurch, near Birmingham. Ron Lowe fabricated his boss’s trials special using an Austin 7 chassis. Others asked for similar examples. Before long, the supply of pre-war Austin 7s was depleted—and this is where the story gets really good.
Steel was in short supply in post-WWII England. However, there were government surplus chrome-molybdenum tubes left over from RP3 rocket launchers, and these could be used to fabricate a tubular chassis along Austin 7 lines. Indeed, it was not unknown for a Dellow to retain the government mil. spec. details stenciled on its chassis.
Also, what with aircraft production dwindled, there was a post-war glut of aluminum. Your family probably had a set of brightly colored drinking glasses made of the stuff; everyone did. And, when asked to supply Dellow coachwork, Radpanels of Kidderminster used this readily available material. In those days, elements of an MG were steel—and wood; a Dellow’s were aluminum—atop that chrome-moly rocket-launching-tube chassis. This is one reason a goodly number of them have survived. (By the way, check out A Bit of Aluminum and some Energy Economics nearby.)
If you squint a bit, you may agree that Dellow paid homage to the original BMW 328, only on a smaller scale. (The Dellow’s overall length was 136 in., some 10 in. shorter than a modern Mini.) And it certainly was lightweight, around 1300 lb.
A good thing too, as its mildly tuned 1172-cc Ford 4-cylinder produced around 35 bhp at 4200 rpm. The engine’s compression ratio was typical of the era, 6.2:1. However, it did sport twin S.U. carburetors mounted on a cast manifold of Dellow manufacture. There was also the option of a Wade-Ventor supercharger of Roots type.
The Dellow’s Ford beam axle up front was Panhard-rod-stabilized and rode on a transverse spring. Originally, quarter-elliptic springs held the live rear axle and friction shocks—known for sticking, then yielding—resided at all four corners. From the Mk II on, coil springs replaced the quarter-elliptics and telescopic dampers were fitted back there.
A delicious bit of Dellow lore: Four of them were bought as company cars for salesmen covering really rural terrain. Fords (Finsbury) of Bedford made milk-bottling equipment used by small dairies; its literature advertised “The Fellow in the Dellow.”
I’ve driven a Dellow Mk II, albeit briefly. The car is clearly dedicated to its trials role, softly suspended with something of a baby-buggy composure on ordinary roads. It’s not very quick, but you wouldn’t want it to be. Yet, carrying as it does His Majesty’s mil. spec., it is utterly English. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2012