These remarkable tank locomotives were designed for the broad-gauge Bristol & Exeter Railway by Locomotive Superintendent James Pearson and eight (running numbers 39 to 46) were built by Rothwell & Co of Bolton in 1853 and 1854. They were intended specially for working the B & ER’s section of the London to Exeter express route, including the “Flying Dutchman”, at that time the fastest train in the world. They had the largest driving wheels ever successfully used on a locomotive and no one has come up with an authentic recording of any higher speed previous to one of 130kmh (81mph) made behind a Pearson single while descending the Wellington incline south of Taunton.
The engines were guided by a four-wheel bogie at each end, and they were propelled along by the huge flangeless set of driving wheels located more or less centrally between the two bogies. As with all locomotives that ran on Isador Brunel’s broad-gauge lines, the cylinders and motion were located inside the frames. Water was carried in the tank at the rear as well as in a well-tank between the frames. Pearson’s singles were untypical , thought, in that they carried no names, only numbers.
After 14 years of service four of the engines (39-42) were rebuilt, with the 9-foot driving wheels replaced by wheels measuring 8 feet 10 inches. On the 29th of July 1876, 39 derailed with loss of life near Long Ashton near Bristol, and had to be scrapped. As a consequence, the remaining three locomotives were completely rebuilt on more conventional lines as 4-2-2 singles, which were regarded by many as the most handsome locomotive ever to run on the broad-gauge track, with the last engine being withdrawn from service in 1890.
“The Great Book of Trains” by Brian Hollingsworth and Arthur Cook – Salamander Books, NY, 1987. pp 44-45 was used as the basis of this blog post.
The Abbott-Detroit was a conventional car, initially powered by a 30hp 4-cylinder Continental engine, and with one body style, a 5-seater tourer priced at $1500. Founder Charles Abbott left his company in 1910, but by 1912 the range had been expanded to five styles on two wheelbases, 2972 and 3046mm (110 and 120inch), priced from $1275 for a 4-door roadster to $3000 for a 7-passenger limousine. That year the company built 1817 cars, its best output as it turned out, and the slogan was ‘Built for Permanence’.
Abbot-Detroits were of very conventional appearance, apart from the 1913 Battleship Roadster which had a striking vee radiator. A 6-cylinder engine, also by Continental, joined the range in 1914 when the company was reorganised. New owner Edward F Gerber left in 1915 and was replaced by RA Palmer, who had formerly managed Cartercar. He changed the name to Consolidated Car Co, and expanded the range to include the Model 8-80, powered by a Herschell-Spillman V8. The four was dropped after 1915. In order to increase production Palmer relocated the company to Cleveland in April 1917, a few days before America entered World War 1, changing the name of both company and car to Abbott. He acquired a large factory taken on a ten-year lease, but sales never justified the move and were lower than they had been in Detroit.
Very few of the 8-80 were made and none at Cleveland, where a small number of sizes were built before Abbott went bankrupt in January 1918. Just 312 cars were made that year, with total production of Abbott-Detroit and Abbott cars over a nine-year period being just over 12,000 units. The Cleveland plant was acquired by the National Electric Lamp Works, and it is believed that a few cars were assembled by them with leftover parts.
The source for this blog entry was Nick Georgano’s book “The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile”, Stationery Office, London, 2000, p. 5
In 1967, one of Germany’s smaller but progressive car makers, NSU, caused a sensation at the Frankfurt Motor Show when it unveiled the front-wheel-drive rotary engined Ro80. This car was similar in size to an early nineties Holden Commodore VN or Opel/Vauxhall Senator, but it was a four-door, front-wheel drive car powered by a twin rotor Wankel engine, virtually the same unit used in the Mazda RX7 sportscar.
At that time, the innovative engineers at NSU also started development work on a smaller, medium-sized version of this car, the Ro70, but because of teething problems with the Ro80’s rotary engine, they developed the new car to take a more conventional 1600cc in-line piston engine derived from smaller 1100cc and 1200cc NSU cars. Without a rotary engine, the design code was changed to K70. ‘K’ stood for Kolben or piston, whereas ‘Ro’ was the abbreviation for rotary.
The K70 was, nevertheless, quite an advanced and innovative car, with an all-alloy overhead camshaft engine driving the front wheels, all-independent suspension with McPherson struts at the front and trailing links and coil springs at the rear, and in-board front disc brakes. It also conformed to the toughest crash test safety regulations of the day. Several prototypes were shown to the press and public throughout development and the world waited with great expectation of the eventual production release of the NSU K70.
This was not to be, however. The launch of the K70 was to have been the 1969 Geneva Motor Show, but shortly before the show Volkswagen bought out NSU. The new Volkswagen management of NSU believed that production facilities at the NSU Neckarsulm factory would not be able to cope with the projected demand for the car. As a result, production was delayed until August 1970, with the K70 being produced at the newly-built VW factory at Salzgitter. Volkswagen decided to introduce the new car at all without any change from the NSU K70 except for a VW logo on the radiator grille, the only place on the entire car where the VW badge could be found.
So, in mid-1970, much to the dismay of the air-cooled VW purist, the company started production of its first front-engined car, its first water-cooled car and its first front-wheel-drive car. Would the K70 be a success due to its innovative design, or would that new design be a bridge too far for possible buyers who were familiar only with the VW Beetle?
Only 211,127 K70s were built before production ended in February 1975. It seems that the K70 sound design was overlooked due to the innovations that came with that design. VW had to wait until the introduction of the Passat in 1974 with a similar layout before the car was accepted by the motoring public.
The Volkswagen K70 was a well-proportioned car with pretty styling a good ten years ahead of its time, and more akin to that of the square and angular cars of the late 70’s and early 80’s. The K70 was available in three different models (K70, K70L and K70LS). The K70 and K70L used a 1605cc engine, while the K70LS used a 1807cc engine. From August 1972 the LS models were sold with four round headlights in place of the original square ones.
The 1807cc engined K70LS could reach a top speed of 165 km/h, and an acceleration to 100 km/h of just over 12 seconds. The only transmission offered was a 4-speed manual.
Production of the K70 was concentrated totally at the Salzgitter plat, with both RHD and LHD versions built. The majority of cars were built with LHD, for the European and African markets. The K70 is now a rare car, with many Volkswagen enthusiasts not even aware of the existence of the car.
The source for this blog post was the book “Volkswagens of the World – A comprehensive international guide to Volkswagens not built in Germany…and the unusual ones that were” by Simon Glen, Veloce Publishing, UK, 1999, pp. 34-35.
There were several attempts in Australia in the 1970’s and 1980’s to produce limited edition GT coupe/sports cars, but nearly all of them foundered before serious production could occur. While the persons responsible were able to build a prototype, they were unable to find the capital required to undertake production, as well as creating a mechanism to sell the car to the public, along with advertising to create awareness as well.
One of the more obscure examples that I know about wass the Clancy Mirabella, created by a Melbourne doctor in the early 1980’s. The car was displayed at the 1982 Melbourne Motor Show, which is probably the reason why “The Age” newspaper dated the 4th of March gave it some publicity:
“Hand-built Clancy will draw the eyes
One of the most unusual and exciting vehicles on display at the motor show will be a car that you can’t buy and that has no name. Simply known as the Clancy Project Car, until a suitable name can be decided on by its owner/builder, the exotic vehicle is the brainchild of Dr Michael Clancy, of Toorak.
Built for the pleasure of designing, constructing and devising the type of vehicle that most car buffs would love to own, the Clancy Project Car is not juts a one-off ‘special’. With a body designed by Clive Potter, one of Australia’s few automotive designers, the hand-built car is professionally engineered and constructed to Dr Clancy’s own specifications. The body design is in keeping with the motor show;s Winds of Change theme. Dr Clancy expects it will have a drag co-efficient of around 0.28, although it has not been tested in a wind tunnel.
It has an attractive fibreglass body painted Monza red over dove grey and is similar to a Ford Laser, but lower and wider. It features fully independent suspension with a disc front, drums rear brake combination and is powered by a turbocharged 2.25 litre six-cylinder engine that produces around 200bhp.
Dr Clancy took two years to complete this, the latest in a long line of vehicles he has designed and constructed in his well-equipped garage at home. The third vehicle, a fibreglass-bodied sports car named Mirella, after his wife, has been his means of transport for some time but he found its Chrysler E49 engine was using too much petrol. After two years of work with his friend, Clive Potter, the latest project is an attempt to build a vehicle that combines excitement, performance and economy.”
The original turbocharged engine in the red/grey car was from an Austin Tasman, and was replaced in 1985 by a Mazda rotary driving through a Lancia Beta 5-speed transaxle. I am unaware of the location of the two cars, assuming that they are still intact.
As the need for more powerful steam locomotives became obvious, engineers looked at various ways to improve the design and layout of locomotives to gain that extra power.
As with all forms of design and experimentation, there were several designers who looked “outside the square” for more power. One of these was Eugene Fontaine of Detroit, who came up with a very novel way of trying to increase the power of a steam locomotive.
As can be seen from the above illustration, Fontaine’s answer was the arrangement of the driving wheels. Instead of having driving wheels driving in unison via coupling rods, Fontaine’s design featured driving wheels on top, resting on a smaller set of treads below, driving these by friction. These treads were an outward extension of a wheel, larger in diameter, which actually made contact with the track.
Track conditions were part of the reason for this unusual design. European designs, with large driving wheels and a high centre of gravity, were unstable on American tracks. Safe operation required a lower centre of gravity and smaller driving wheels. While compensation for the smaller driving wheels could be gained by increasing the revolutions of the engine, this put extra stress on the cylinders, pistons, wheels and valve gear.
Two prototype Fontaine locomotives were built in 1881 by the Grant Locomotive Works of Paterson, New Jersey for the Canada Southern Railway. A top speed of 90 mph was claimed, but it seems that this figure was never achieved. The Fontaine locomotive was tried on a wide range of passenger and freight trains, but the expected power advantages over conventional locomotives never materialised. After many modifications, the Fontaine locomotive was rebuilt as a standard 4-4-0 locomotive.
The main source for this entry was “World Railways of the Nineteenth Century – A Pictorial History in Victorian Engravings” by Jim Harter, JHU Press, Baltimore, Maryland, 2005, pp. 78-79
Baron Charles Petiet founded the Sociètè Anonyme Ariès at the age of 24 in 1903, having worked briefly for Panhard et Levassor. Ariès had a capital of 500,000 francs, increased to 1 million by 1905, and a small factory at Villeneuve-la-Garenne, not far from the Aster factory at St Denis which supplied many of its engines.
It employed about 100 men and was best known for commercial vehicles, although cars of good quality were made in small numbers, some sold in England by Sydney Begbie as Asters while others were sold by a firm in Beccles from 1904 to 1906 as Anglians. Initially most had chain drive, although Cardan drive and separate drive shafts above a dead axle were soon adopted. Chain drive persisted on the largest commercials into the 1930’s. Six-cylinder and V4 engined cars were available by 1908 and were joined by the world’s smallest six in 1910.
The firm opened an additional factory at Courbevoie and up to World War 1 made consistent, albeit modest, profits averaging about 100,000 francs a year. Production in 1913 totalled 350 vehicles. Shortly before the war Aster-engined lorries were approved for government subsidy and the company produced 3,000 of these plus searchlight vehicles for the armed services. Hispano-Suiza aeroplane engines were also built.
Cars were promoted with the slogan “Made with the precision of an aero engine and the strength of a lorry”. They continued to play only a small part in the affairs of Ariès. Models produced in the 1920’s included the 5/8, 8/10, 12/15 and 15/20 CV, and in 1931 a new range was designed by H Toutèe, who had been responsible for mid-1920’s Chenard-Walckers.
The company was in severe financial difficulties by 1932 and gave up heavy commercials soon afterwards, although a 10hp chassis, for car or van use and with the unusual feature of a two-speed back axle, remained in production until 1938. The Ariès founder, Baron Petiet, died in 1958.
The source for this blog post is “The World Guide to Automobiles – The Makers and Their Marques”, by Nick Baldwin, Macdonald Orbis Publishing, London, 1987, p. 36.
One of the earliest posts in this was blog was about the stillborn “Aussi-Also” motorcycle, which was a failed attempt to manufacture an “Australian” motorcycle. This post is about the other end of the spectrum – the G.C.S., one of the more successful motorcycles manufactured in Australia in the first quarter of the 20th century.
The G.C.S was named after George Cyril Stillwell, who commenced his business career as George Stillwell & Co at 392 Post Office Place, Melbourne, Victoria in September 1912. In early 1913 Stillwell had moved to larger premises at 378 Lonsdale Street, and by the end of the year the first G.C.S motorcycle appeared. They featured Chater Lea frames and either J.A.P or Precision engines. After the initial advertising for the bikes, it appears that the J.A.P engine was preferred, although there was evidence of Precision and Blumfield engines also being used. The J.A.P engine was used by many motorcycle manufacturers in Australia during this period, so there were probably times when the demand for engines by manufacturers exceeded supply, so hence the need to find an alternative engine. The GCS was finished with a black frame and had a dark red petrol tank with gold lettering, and was a very handsome motorcycle.
Until December 1916 George Stillwell ran the business as a partnership with his father Walter, but when Walter retired Leslie Parry became the new partner in the business. The name of the company was changed to Stillwell & Parry, and in 1918 the firm moved premises again, this time to 307-311 Elizabeth Street, on the corner with Little Lonsdale Street. By this time, G.C.S has established a reputation as being in the upper class of Australian built motorcycles, being more expensive than most, though still enjoying good sales.
The G.C.S design had become more Australian as George started buying his frame components from A.G. Healing & Co from 1916 onwards. Healing & Co built frames between 1912 until and 1923, and supplied them to other manufacturers as either completed frames or individual components to be assembled. The G.C.S became well known for its “pong box” exhaust, which was a highly-polished copper silencer, with foot-operated cutout. Its delightful sound led to the name. Around 1918 the colour scheme changed to green and black. All enamelling and plating was done by outside firms, and in the early post-WW1 period, Healing & Co fully assembled some G.C.S bikes, as Stillwell & Parry were busy expanding their agencies for various British motorcycles.
J.A.P engines were difficult to obtain in the latter years of WW1, so De Luxe and MAG V-twins were used until a regular supply of J.A.P engines was guaranteed. A few MAG and Reading-Standard engines were used on occasion though. Sturmey Archer gearboxes were also in short supply, so many G.C.S motorcycles of the period used a fixed belt drive, or the use of Reading-Standard gearboxes. Buyers had the choice of 28 x 3 or 26 x 3 inch wheels and 2 or 3 gallon petrol tanks.
By 1920 the G.C.S was still the aristocrat of local makes, and was updated with a one-piece saddle-style petrol tank and the option of all chain drive with either Sturmey Archer or Burman gearboxes being used. The last batch of G.C.S motorcycles was built by Healing & Co in 1923, although the company built one-off bikes until 1926, if the prospective buyer pre-paid for the bike. Stillwell and Parry continued as a motorcycle dealer until 1941.
Only a handful of G.C.S motorcycles survive, and are highly sought after by collectors. A 1919 750cc V-twin sold for nearly AUS$75,00 at an auction at Las Vegas in 2011.
The main source for this blog post was Robert Saward’s authoritative book “A-Z of Australian-Made Motorcycles: 1893-1942”, published by Turton & Armstrong in 1996.