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1914 G.P. VAUXHALL—ANALYZING A FATHER’S WORK PART 1

IN 1913, ENGLISH engineer L.H. Pomeroy designed an innovative racing car for the 1914 Tourist Trophy race as well as the internationally important, and highly popular, French Grand Prix. In 1966, his son, motor sports authority Laurence “Pom” Pomeroy, analyzed his father’s achievements in Classic Cars Profile Num. 21, the 1914 G.P. Vauxhall. Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits gleaned from this article, together with my usual Internet sleuthing. It’s a tale of fascinating technical advances that got more appreciated with age.

The 1914 G.P. Vauxhall is part of Classic Cars Profile Nos. 1-24, general editor Anthony Harding, Profile Publications, 1966.

L.H.P., as his son calls him, was 30 years old in 1913. Pom wrote, “… with an inbred audacity not yet tempered by long experience (he had designed his first and dramatically successful car at the age of 24…) he discarded all but a few minor components of existing designs. The result was a genuinely novel car from stem to stern.”

Laurence Henry Pomeroy, 1883–1941, English automotive engineer, Vauxhall Chief Designer, father of motor sports authority Laurence “Pom” Pomeroy. This and following images from Classic Car Profiles 1–24.

Predating Bugatti by a Decade. “For the first time,” Pom noted, “semi-elliptic front springs passed through opened-up rectangular spaces in the front axle beam….” It would be ten years later that Bugatti incorporated the idea in his Type 35 design. 

L.H.P. enhanced his front axle design with a streamlined wooden fairing.

Rear Suspension. “Cantilever springs were employed,” Pom noted, “for the first time on a G.P. car, with the double motive of reducing unsprung weight (consisting only of that part of the spring behind the middle pivot point) and also lowering all-up weight by having an unstressed frame, for behind the pivot points it had only to support the weight of the bolster fuel tank, the fuel it contained, and the two spare wheels mounted across the back of it.” 

The car’s rear suspension, with cantilever spring and Houdaille lever shock absorber.

A Multi-tasking Torque Tube. “Ruthlessly pursuing weight reduction,” Pom wrote, “L.H.P. decided to substitute a torque tube with a spherical joint on its nose for the radius rods and trunnion rear axle used in his 1912–13 Coupe de l’Auto racers and, having the torque tube, in effect to enlarge its front end to contain the gears.” 

A Gordon Crosby drawing shows the general arrangement of the 1914 G.P. Vauxhall. Note the spherical-joint-anchored gearbox/torque tube and rear axle.

Pom continued: “He thus saved much of the weight of a normal gearbox, but as the rear axle rose and fell the gearbox would move through a small arc on the nose of the torque tube.” This called for a complex gearshift linkage, as the lever was fixed to the chassis. 

A Braking Challenge. Front brakes were rarely fitted to cars in 1914; it was thought that steering alone provided enough design challenge. Instead, a pedal-operated transmission brake did most of the retardation, supplemented by hand-lever-actuated rear drums. Thus, L.H.P.’s integrated gearbox/torque tube contained yet other multi-tasking: a transmission brake.

Pom observed, “In view of the car’s subsequent history, it is impossible to judge whether this arrangement was as bad as it looked, but it must be remembered that the narrow-section tyres of the times limited the braking which could be used anywhere, and that soon after a race had started the road surface approaching any corner became so cut up and stony that it was very doubtful if rear braked cars could be slowed at more than 0.3g, of which 0.1g would be contributed by the engine.”

“In other words,” Pom suggested, “up till 1914, road racing cars were stopped from 100 m.p.h. and over at a rate which can be equalled to-day using an umbrella-type handbrake in rather poor order!”

Oversteer too! John Hancock’s car on the first day of the 1914 Tourist Trophy, June 10, 1914. Cantilever rear springs and high roll center contributed to inherent oversteer.

These were brave drivers indeed. Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll continue Pom’s analyses of his father’s design. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021

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