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Bill Vatter
Posted on Saturday, 13 October, 2001 - 07:06:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP

What constitutes driveability? To me, the following are elements of drivability, listed in order of importance to me. (Opinion)

1 Safety
2 Reliability
3 Durability
4 Comfort
5 Convenience
6 Economy
7 Performance (speed, acceleration, cornering, etc.)
8 Ease of Maintenance

In my opinion, antique Rolls-Royce and Bentley motor cars do very well on the first four but not so well on the last.

Some might argue that reliability is not on par with modern cars. This might be true to some extent, but I believe a well maintained Rolls-Royce is highly reliable. Thoes who suffer from reliability problems have some overhauling to do to bring their car back up to standard.

To what extent should we sacrifice originality for the sake of drivability? Some comments in the technical forum regarding repair methods and/or materials suggest a wide variation of opinion exists. What do you think?
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Martin Cutler
Posted on Monday, 15 October, 2001 - 10:14:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP

Safety is the obvious area where a 50 year old car comes nowhere close to a modern car.

Seat belts? Radial tyres? Modern shock absorbers? These are 3 areas I WILL be changing on my car, as the cross plys don't track as well as a radial, and the original rear shocks just don't cut it. Lap belts only, as there is no strength in the turret for sash belts. With these 3 changes I would consider putting my family in the car for a trip. Drilling holes in the floor to accept seat belts won't be reversable though, and neither will be welding brackets to the chassis to accespt modern shocks.

The brakes I feel are well up to modern day driving.
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Bill Vatter
Posted on Wednesday, 17 October, 2001 - 01:00:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP

Seat belts I agree are an important safety improvement.

In the RROC (US), the judging rules stress originality, as they should because an important objective of our club is preservation of the cars. However, RROC judging rules allow "performance improvements" without penalty if they are carried out to lengthen the life or safety of the car and providing the judges decide the changes meet Rolls-Royce standards of workmanship and are concealed to the greatest extent practical.

Seat belts, sealed-beam headlamps, and modern oil filters are commonly seen "improvements" that are routinely smiled upon by RROC judges.

You speak of radial tyres. I don't disagree with you in principle that radial tyres are superior to byas ply tyres, but where can you find radial tyres that have anywhere near the correct profile? I cannot get a radial tyre that will even fit my wheels. Perhaps it is the profile you want to change, but for this you will need to also change the wheels. Most likely this would be a little funny-looking when completed.

Regarding tracking, my car tracks very well, and certainly as well or better as any car I know of that has a worm and roller type of steering gear. At high speed (70) mph, I can take my hand off the wheel and he goes straight down the road (flat, interstate pavement). Certainly there is no shimmy, wander, or unsteadiness. I find his steering very light and pleasant. Variations in cross wind and road camber will cause him to head in one direction or the other, but I think this is more a charistic of the worm and roller steering rather than the bias-ply tyres. I agree that modern rack and pinion steering tracks better. I have heard that some cars track best with certain tread patterns. I have rib-tread Firestone 6.00/6.50X17 tires. Perhaps there is looseness in your front suspension or steering linkage, or perhaps it needs alignment.

I cannot agree with you on shock absorbers. The original shocks, when working as the factory intended, are very good, and incidently are a good match for the high profile tyres that are correct for these cars. If you want a stiffer ride, there are internal modifications to the valving possible or you could just use a heavier oil. I find the ride control feature one of the charming features of the car, and the ride control can make it quite stiff enough for me. If your ride control doesn't work, maybe you need to bleed the oil line from the gearbox (at each rear shock). I note you recently had your gearbox out, and bleeding air from the ride control lines is necessary following a gearbox R&R. Ride control is a feature you could not retain with a modern shock absorber.

These cars cannot be driven in the same style as a modern car, but it seems that this is what you are trying to do. I do not drive my Silver Wraith in the same manner I drive my MG TD or my Saab 900, nor do I want to drive it like that. When driven in an appropriately conservative manner befitting the type of car, an early-post-war RR or Bentley I feel is on par with modern cars concerning safety, ie. brakes and crash protection for the occupants.
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Bill Coburn
Posted on Wednesday, 17 October, 2001 - 08:22:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP

Originality is governed by the intention of the owner. Does he want a car that looks like a 1950 model for instance but performs comparably with a 2000 model? Some do I find and seem to wreck perfectly good examples of original cars to satisfy that requirement. I have for instance a 1950 Armstrong Siddeley with narrow cross ply tyres, lever shock absorbers torsion bars and a weight distribution that produces some very interesting pitch patterns. Some owners of similar cars strengthen the chassis, fit telescopic shocks and modify suspensions, switch to radial tyres and install ant-roll bars to overcome these problems/idiosyncrasies which is their right but to my mind it seems to defeat the object of the movement generally, to maintain and/or restore the cars to their original standard. If the car becomes positively exciting to the point of bowel loosening as my Siddeley does at high speed on a bumpy road, slow down or don't use it on those roads. Your wouldn't dream of wandering down a modern high speed highway in a single cylinder tiller steering Daimler or tearing down a steep mountain road in a Silver Ghost - they are just not designed for it so why change them? What strange pride is there in saying that you have the ultimate brakes fitted to your 1911 Ghost and a Cadillac 8 litre front wheel drive unit that enables you to keep up/ surpass anything else on today's road. All you have really succeeded in doing is destroying a fine old car!

There is one exception I did enjoy. Years ago there was a farmer who fiddled with cars and he modified a common 1930's something or other from the American stables so that it was quite able in reasonable safety to do over 100 miles an hour.

In times of boredom he used to take great pleasure in puttering down the middle of the road in the Albury area and wait for a high speed Mercedes to come up behind him and toot! Down would go his foot leaving a very startled Mercedes driver behind him!

Its a personal decision what you do to your car. Certainly do not compromise on saftey but at the same time don't try changing the nature of the cars to suit your personal modern concepts.
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Martin Cutler
Posted on Wednesday, 17 October, 2001 - 10:56:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP

My everday car is the MG Magnette sedan, it is standard except for radial tyres, oil filter upgrade, seat belts. The original shocks are still fitted to the car, and work well. I drive the Bentley within it's limits, and restrict myself to 55-60 mph on the highway, which is a comfortable cruising speed. The car behaves very well at this speed on smooth pavement. The biggest change I found from the fitment of radial tyres to the Magnette was that it didn't "track" as badly on ruts and joints in the road. I find the Bentley does this quite badly. Sure, on the interstate highway, the car is brilliant, the perfect all day cruising car to take you long distances, but getting around suburban Sydney streets is a different matter! The roads are generally in very poor condition, and I find the car "wallows" quite considerably. I take you point on the possibility of air in the pump lines from the gearbox to the rear shocks, and will check this out. I will possibly look at thicker oil as well. Apart from the missing petrol sender and a set of blinkers, the car is as it left the factory. I have been thinking of an upgraded air filter, "unifilter" in Hornsby do custom one off filters, one of which is fitted to the Magnette, which fits inside the oil bath filter body, so looks totally original.

I have no desire to make the car perform any faster, as the stately nature of the car demands it is driven in this style, however, I think my car is heavier than a standard bodied MK VI, which has an adverse effect on the rear damping. (It is definitely much larger than a standard MK VI).

WHat viscosity oil did you use in your dampers Bill?
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Bill Vatter
Posted on Friday, 19 October, 2001 - 10:24:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP

I use SAE 20W-50 in the shocks. The factory recommends SAE 20, and I perceive this is roughly equivalent as the shocks don't really get very hot.

I also have a set of blinkers, another common RROC approved modification for safety reasons. I think very few people would recognize what is meant by a trafficator signal without thinking on it awhile, and then it would be too late. However, my trafficators also work, and I think maintaining them in good working order is a responsibility of mine as custodian of this car. In my case the blinkers are separate lights, but I have seen several cars that incorporated the blinkers into the brake light circuit with a configuration of relays. I put a relay-operated system into a P-II a couple of years ago. It flashed the brake light in the rear-- it flashed when the brakes were both on or off, which required a relay to change the circuit when the brake lights were energized. Also the front side lights flashed with side lights both on and off controlled in a similar manner. The owner of this car wanted safety, but he also wanted it to appear completely original. The relays were all in a control box mounted out of sight behind the facia panel.

On rutted road with poor pavement I also feel the force of the road against the steering wheel. Even so, I do not consider the car at all unstable under these conditions. It seems to me that you may have some looseness in your steering parts up front.

I had forgotten you have a F&W coachbuilt car. This would be a very rare example, and as such, the desirability of keeping it original is greatly enhanced, particularly if the wood body frame is still sound. However, your car is surely heavier than a standard car. F&W put a lot of heavy materials in their bodies. It may well be that you need more shock stiffness than the standard car. I do not know if the Silver Wraith shocks are the same as used on the standard body cars. There are some very heavy Silver Wraiths, and if the shocks are the same, yours are probably not working correctly.

In the US there is an old car enthusiast sector called hot-rodding. I am sure you have heard of this, and perhaps there is also a following in Australia. Since these people make their own uniqueness for their cars, they have no need for a rare car, and generally would not seek to significantly alter a rare car. They come up with some very interesting and well engineered machines, and I have respect for them. However, they are a distinctly different group from the originality-centered clubs like RROC.

In the US, the value of rare cars is reflected in the marketplace, but generally only when the coachwork is particularly attractive and the car is very original. I imagine your F&W car is attractive, as most of the cars from this coachbuilder are quite lovely, so here is additional motive for you to keep the car original. Perhaps you have a digital photo you could clip to an e-mail. I would like to see your car.
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Posted on Sunday, 21 October, 2001 - 22:24:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP


What is the body design number of your car ? Do you have a photo ? I saw one at an R-R show in Lucerne today ("Greasy Finger Session": all our cars were put on the hoist for a full inspection), an early 1948 C series Mk VI, B424CF. I'll mail you the body type tomorrow: it is a beautiful 4 door saloon, one of only 4 regisetered with the RREC, and is located in Birrwil, Kanton Argau, Switzerland. The owner is a very friendly young man, and I had quite a discussion with him.

Would you like to exchange notes on these very rare cars ? By the way, his fuel gauge doesn't work...

Also at the show was the very last Freestone and Web car ever produced, a Silver Cloud Empress Line. What a magnificent car.

I look forward to your reply.


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Martin Cutler
Posted on Monday, 22 October, 2001 - 11:03:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP

Hi guys,

You can see a shot of the lovely lines of my Freestone & Webb at www.weddingcars.com.au.

I got a new camera last week, and actually remembered to take it with me on Saturday, so I should be able to scan some new photos of "Chloe" soon. She was originally 2 tone grey with red interior. The darker grey was really ugly - a real battleship grey. I almost painted her 2 tone silver and grey, but went with Ivory at the last minute.

Yes Bill, having driven standard R types and MK VI's, I feel my car is appreciably heavier than a standard MK VI. Haven't played with higher viscosity oils yet, but will try that first.
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Bill Vatter
Posted on Sunday, 28 October, 2001 - 12:59:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP


Regarding your tracking or stability issue, let me suggest you look at your cross-steering tubes. Associated with the ball joints on the ends there are heavy springs inside the tubes for the purpose of absorbing road shocks. A friend who owns a Mk. VI had trouble similar to what you describe. He finally took the cross steering tubes apart to check these springs. He found several broken springs. After replacing the springs and resetting the toe-in, the car drove VERY much better.