1950s technology impresses

| 29 Jul 2011

Went to Melksham near Chippenham to do a photo shoot with the one and only Armstrong Siddely Star Sapphire MKII, which is owned by my friend Jon Giacobi. Nice car with a fascinating history but I have to say the surprise of the day was the Armstrong 236, one of those gawky looking saloons that was an attempt to go into the volume car business by A-S before they realised there was more money in making military death machinery. Not only had the 236 been beautifully restored but it also had a manumatic gearbox. What this amounts to is a clutch less (i.e. no actual clutch pedal) manual where movement of a switch in the top of the conventional gear lever operates the clutch by means of vacuum (I think). It worked perfectly and what amazed me was the way it automatically blipped the throttle when you changed down – this in 1955. The Fulvia Zagato has finally come home to roost but not with its engine in one piece. I’m not clear what the guy who was supposed to be putting the car together for the last eighteen months has actually been doing but nothing he’s told me seems to add up. Anyway we are well on the way to getting it running with new gaskets from Omicron (very efficient next day delivery) and having checked the flatness of the head and block with an engineer’s straight edge – something the guy who was attempting to put the unit together before didn’t possess. It turns out the Daimler Dart needs new tyres. The ones it is shod with are 20 years old and the rubber is parting company with carcass – hence the wobbly feeling at speed. I drove home to Swindon in the XJS last night (I’m not sure why just felt the need) and within an hour of filing this blog I will be attempting a return mission. Keeps you on your toes.