Highlights of the 2014 CARnivale Vintage and Classic Car Display, Australia Day, Sydney

2014 Highlights of the CARnivale, Australia Day, Sydney

Inclement weather may have dampened some automotive spirits sufficiently to stay away. There were slightly fewer cars on display but the day was fine and mostly dry, though overcast.

1908 Renault AX Roadster

A 1908 Renault AX roadster was new to the event, though made up for its novelty by its popularity with kids who wanted to be photographed in the driver’s seat. Actually a 1909 model, they were introduced at the Paris Salon in November 1908 and this is an early example from 1908.

1908 Renault AX roadster1

A gallant little Gallic runabout – 1908 Renault AX roadster.

Once again, I was introduced to the peculiar merits of the Renault cooling system. Though water cooled, the engine bay is sealed off so as to be one massive air plenum. Fresh air is introduced through the firewall-mounted radiator then funneled out of the engine bay via a combination flywheel and fan at the rear of the engine. It works remarkably well.

1908 Renault AX roadster engine

Two cylinders, a rear flywheel / fan and an efficient plenum for cooling air – 1908 Renault AX roadster.

A more retrograde feature is the total loss oil lubrication system. An oil tank is necessary to carry the supply of fresh oil. The passage of fresh oil to various parts of the motor is monitored through three glass sights mounted on the dashboard. The oil passes through the engine only once. Every 200 miles or so, the driver pulls over to the side of the road (unsealed of course) and empties out the ‘stale’ oil from a special waste reservoir.

The Renault uses a special gear selector whose brass lever that snicks into a series of detentes in a line, not in a gate. A button on top of the lever is used to move into neutral between the three-speed gearbox cogs. Double-declutching is necessary of course, though a small friction brake between gears helps with the changes up. It was a successful system that was widely built under licence by other manufacturers and made Louis Renault a lot of money.

The foot brake pedal operates a transmission-mounted drum, though the hand-lever-operated rear brakes are the preferred option for slowing down.

1908 Renault AX roadster controls

Oil feeders sights, are just about everything on the dashboard. Small lever on the right is the hand throttle. 1908 Renault AX roadster controls

Spritely for its two cylinders, this little roadster can do up to 57 mph – a surprising rate of knots for a 1-litre, low-compression, slow-revving side-valve of the pre-World War I era.

This vivacious little car has only passed through four hands in its century-plus existence, one owner keeping it for almost fifty years! It was restored in the early 1950s and requires a cosmetic freshening today.

The mechanicals needed rebuilding, particularly the cylinders, which required reboring as a previous elderly owner had forgotten to top up the oil reservoir and the engine had run dry, scoring the cylinders.

The finer points of using acetylene gas for lighting were discussed, and though a hot, white flame provides plenty of light, the dangers of such a volatile substance have led to the hidden adoption of electrics. The quartz halogen bulbs of yesteryear are being replaced by penlight-sized LED lamps. The light is bright and uses little power, so that modest dry cell batteries are sufficient for most journeys.

When required, the little gas jet burners are removed from the headlamps and the LED bulbs substituted.

There is little body work, but what there is comes from an English contract body-builder. Due to British Empire tariffs, it was best to import chassis from Renault’s Billancourt factory in France and bolt on a British body for export to the Colonies.

1911 Talbot 4M Touring Car

Large and white, this Talbot sported large, wooden spoke artillery wheels and an elegant, 4-door touring body. Exterior levers, horn and acetylene gas generator on the driver’s side make this automobile a three-door, practically speaking. Button-pleated upholstery in a maroon hide is the interior keynote, together with polished alloy floors and a dashboard in natural wood grain.

1911 Talbot 4M tourer

Polished Englishness – 1911 Talbot 4M tourer.

Polished brass highlights throughout highlights the charm of a veteran car and the simple pleasure the sight of one brings to the many people, particularly the young.

1911 Talbot 4M tourer

Dashboard of delight – 1911 Talbot 4M tourer.

The 4-cylinder engine was hidden beneath a bonnet which was never opened while your correspondent was present. Nevertheless, the three-quarter elliptic springing at the rear could be seen; the semis being linked with a lateral leaf at the chassis’ rear.

1911 Talbot 4M tourer controls

Levers, lamps and a gas producer – 1911 Talbot 4M tourer.

1911 Talbot 4M tourer rear suspension

Three-quarter leaf rear suspension – 1911 Talbot 4M tourer


1908 Schacht Model K Runabout

Seen now and again is this example of that peculiar breed of the first years of the twentieth century – the motor buggy. Of course, the first American cars – built by the Duryea brothers – were motorised buckboard carriages. But in 1910, the usual automobile had already left its carriage origins behind. Not so the motor buggies.

1908 Schacht Model K runabout

For the farmer – 1908 Schacht Model K runabout.

These, like the Schacht and the McIntyre, were marketed for the use of farmers, who lived in rural areas practically without roads. If a horse-drawn carriage could slog through mud and rutted wagon tracks, then so could the motor buggy. After all it used the same large, spindly wooden wheels and solid rubber tyres.

The Schacht Model K enjoyed chain drive just like a ‘real’ automobile, which was better than the leather belt drives of some of its competitors. Engines were usually a flat twin, mounted within the chassis under the seat. Some were air-cooled, though the Schacht has a proper radiator for water cooling. Other motor buggies used tillers, though Schacht used a wheel, then the obvious method for car control (apart from some holdouts among the electric cars).

The suspension spring leaves are pivoted at the centre of the chassis and extend out to both axles, the entire chassis length. Obviously, country goat tracks could be rough – especially in those days!

1924 Ford Model T touring car

Here’s another ubiquitous Model T – the car that brought motoring to the masses in America and all over the world. This 1924 model is quite late in the T’s life span. The radiator shell is now chromed (or should it be nickel-plated?) and the body lines are mid-1920s modern.

1924 Ford Model T tourer

Transport for all – 1924 Ford Model T tourer.

An electric starter motor was available as an optional extra from the factory and a plethora of after-market improvements were available for the T from a variety of makers: four-wheel brakes, overhead valve heads, two-speed differentials and less exotic accessories like motometers and luggage racks.

The basic mechanicals stayed the same though, and by this time, the two-speed epicyclic gearbox with its quirky control (see the article ‘How to Drive a T’ and ‘How to Start a T’ on this site) was becoming obsolete. The Model A was only three years away – but it was still three years, and this allowed Chevrolet to gain ground against Ford.

1924 Morris Cowley tourer

The famous ‘bullnose’ comes from the same year as the Model T above. Both are mass-produced, low-cost cars. The Model T’s mechanical specifications were largely frozen, though the Morris Cowley was evolving.

1924 Morris Cowley tourer

Agatha Christie’s car? 1924 Morris Cowley tourer

The first MGs were already emerging from William Morris’ empire at this time and larger Morris models were soon to follow. This example sports the usual Sankey steel artillery wheels and an optional set of hydraulic lever-action shock absorbers.

As a side note, the famous crime writer Agatha Christie bought herself a Cowley tourer just like this one at about this time.

1927 Franklin Sedan by DeCausse

Seen before is this handsome Franklin sedan, whose bonnet and false grille were styled by Frank DeCausse, who came with a wealth of custom body experience from Locomobile. The actual factory body styles were designed and refined further by Ray Dietrich and built by Walker of Amesbury, Massachusetts.

1927 Franklin sedan by DeCausse

Round the arid continent for charity – 1927 Franklin sedan by DeCausse.

Since I last saw this car, it has been driven right around Australia in a charity run for CareFlight. The circumnavigation of the planet’s smallest continent is quite an achievement, though air-cooled Franklins have always been known for successful endurance runs through parched deserts where their water-cooled contemporaries boiled helplessly.

A close look at the six-cylinder engine shows something of the cooling fins round each cylinder and the air plenum chamber above, looking like an upside-down sump. Fan-forced at the front, the plenum surrounds the heads cooling them with its forced draught. Note that the exhaust pipe runs round the front of the engine, removing heat from the passengers and placing it near the cooler nose of the car.

Franklins were quality cars, almost unique in the American market for their rejection of the ‘bigger is better’ principle. Of modest dimensions, Franklins could boast of light weight and fuel efficiency, qualities less sought after by fine car buyers in those days.

The leather glove deliberately placed next to the carburettor presents something of a puzzle: what is it hiding? Does it protect the carby air intake?

1927 Franklin air-cooled engine

Wave hello to the ‘upside down sump’ – 1927 Franklin air-cooled engine.

The leather glove deliberately placed next to the carburettor presents something of a puzzle: what is it hiding? Does it protect the carby air intake?

1927 Lancia Lambda tourer

Vincenzo Lancia’s vintage era masterpiece was the culmination of his efforts to innovate the automobile into something both practical, efficient, sporty and reliable.

Though not a sports car, the Lambda enjoyed remarkable roadholding, through its use of a sliding-pillar and coil spring independent front suspension. After observing the benefits and strength of a ship’s hull during a sea cruise, Vincenzo Lancia determined to design a uni-body structure for his car bodies. The Lambda was perhaps the first mass-produced example of such a structure.

1927 Lancia Lambda tourer

Revolutionary vintage design – 1927 Lancia Lambda tourer.

This touring car is a popular example of this body structure, which was also adaptable into a closed sedan or a sleek roadster. The body is narrow, with only a pair of passengers per seat.

1927 Lancia Lambda engine

The narrowest V4 engine – 1927 Lancia Lambda.

No less remarkable is the V4 engine, a narrow Vee with its banks a mere 13° apart. Compactness in length and in width was achieved, as a look in the engine bay reveals. No long straight-eights for Lancia!  Initially displacing 2.1 litres, the engine boasted overhead valves actuated by a single overhead camshaft. Output of 49 horses later grew to almost 70 bhp @ 3000 rpm as the engine also grew to 2.57 litres.

1927 Lancia Lambda tourer

Independent front suspension and a face you don’t forget – 1927 Lancia Lambda tourer.

A top speed from this larger engine was 80 mph, though a 3-speed gearbox and long, 10’ wheelbase underscored the fact that the Lambda was not intended as a sports car.

Introduced in November 1922, the Lambda was produced for ten highly successful years. In any vintage sporting car club of any merit, there should be at least one Bentley 3-litre – and a Lancia Lambda!

1933 Austin Seven saloon

Here we have a grandmother explaining the progress of the Austin 7 to her grandson. From the first 1922 motorised prams the Austin 7 evolved into examples like this elegant closed car.

1933 Austin 7 saloon

Closed car for the masses – 1933 Austin 7 saloon.

Tourers, saloons, even sporty specials like the Meteor all underscored the affordability and the popularity of the Seven. The little Austin was designed to be run for a similar budget as a motorbike and sidecar. Like the Morris Cowley, the Austin Seven brought motoring affordability into the reach of the lower middle classes.

1936 Mercedes-Benz 500K (Replica)

At first glance, I thought that I had come upon one of those multi-million dollar collector’s pieces, a flamboyant red Mercedes-Benz 500K or 540 K from the Thirties, the plaything of an industrialist working closely with the Nazi Party’s reconstruction and re-arming programmes.

1936 Mercedes- Benz 500K replica

Look at me! (Yes, I am a replica.) 1936 Mercedes- Benz 500K

And that’s how good this replica is. At second glance, the bonnet line is too low, and the wheels and tyres too small. Once you see the interior, the modern conveniences are a complete give-away.  It’s not a neo-classic like an Excalibur but rather a more faithful copy. It fooled a lot of people on the day, which is perhaps the point of the car.

1938 Chevrolet Standard Roadster

By the mid 1930s, open cars were in definite retreat among American car buyers. A small number of convertible coupes and sedans remained. The open tourer and roadster with their clip-in side curtains endured for several more years on the Australian market, due to their lower price and the generally mild, warm climate.

No wind-up windows yet - the Aussie 1938 Chevrolet Standard Roadster.

No wind-up windows yet – the Aussie 1938 Chevrolet Standard Roadster.

One such late-comer is this 1938 Chevrolet Standard Roadster. Less expensive than the Master series, the lack of ornamentation shows. Of cars without wind-up windows, General Motors Holden assembled roadsters, tourers and the roadster utility, a uni-bodied pickup design then exclusive to Australia, up until World War II.

1938 Rolls-Royce Phantom III Limousine by Hooper

Resplendent in a sort of milky caramel and ivory livery, this Phantom III represents Rolls-Royce’s pinnacle of prestige before World War II. Introduced in 1935, the chassis employed a V12 engine with hydraulic valves, placed in overhead arrangement.

Independent front suspension made a welcome and belated appearance on the senior Rolls product. The company had chosen to copy the General Motors knee-action system as its choice of the best available.

1938 Rolls-Royce Phantom III limousine by Hooper.

Elegance and V12 power – Rolls-Royce’s Packard fighter – the 1938 Phantom III limousine by Hooper.

This formal but elegant limousine was built by Hooper and contains all the mod-cons – modern for 1938 initially. The rear compartment’s cocktail cabinets contain the required crystal goblets and decanters, as well as a radio and other thoughtful amenities. A pair of jump seats allows two extra passengers to enjoy the ambience. Privacy can be assured through raising the glass divider separating the chauffer’s compartment. Rebuilt to carry a compact television set, the cabinet has been modified again to replace said set with a modern DVD player and screen.

1938 Rolls-Royce Phantom III limousine by Hooper

Old style cabinetwork with new style electronics – 1938 Rolls-Royce Phantom III limousine by Hooper.

The coachbuilder’s name is engraved on a sliver plaque at the doorstep to the rear compartment. Hooper also listed its most illustrious clients in a plaque beside the coachbuilder’s nameplate, boasting members of the British royal family as Hooper customers.

1938 Rolls-Royce Phantom III limousine by Hooper

Upright and formal bustleback – 1938 Rolls-Royce Phantom III limousine by Hooper.

1946 – 52 Bentley Mark VI utility

We’ll sneak this one in even if it’s a post-war example. The quintessential Australian body style is the utility – affectionately known as a ‘ute’. It is usually a single body structure with no division between the cab and the cargo bed. This is more of a flatbed pickup admittedly, with timber slats for holding cargo.

But oh! That such a fate as a pickup truck conversion should be foisted on a fine Bentley Mark VI! The story of how this came about is unknown, but perhaps a body rusty and rotten was considered beyond saving. This practical workhorse is the result. Perhaps it was built for a country gentleman?

1946-52 Bentley Mk VI ute

Oh, the indignity of hauling like a commoner! 1946-52 Bentley Mk VI pickup.

High grade utes were not unknown in Australia – Armstrong-Siddeley made one as part of their catalogued model line-up in the 1940s.

by Igor Spajic

VCH correspondent



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