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What did an 1940’s race car feel like?

Discussion in 'British' started by Metastable, Jan 10, 2019.

  1. Metastable

    Metastable Karting

    May 4, 2018
    214
    Canada
    #1 Metastable, Jan 10, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2019
    So what does it feel like to drive a 1940s Ferrari race car? I do not know, and realistically chances are I never will. However yesterday an opportunity presented itself to drive what might be the closest modern car relative to those early Ferrari machines.

    Check the picture of the 125s below (https://www.topspeed.com/cars/ferrari/1947-ferrari-125-s-ar78774.html) It is a small cockpit, skinny front tires, probably a wooden steering wheel, driver tilting head such that his eyes are outside the car. Power, website says 118hp..... weight ? Dunno say 1400 lbs? Manual transmission I am guessing..... no power anything.


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    Well yesterday it was a first.... got to take a spin up Haleakala in Maui. Had rented a Cayman R at www.mauiminigo.com earlier during my stay.... but let’s not talk about that great little German car. While renting the Porsche I learned they also had a Morgan 3 wheeler for rent..... hmmmmm.

    Safety elements are minimal, no power anything, 5 speed transmission... goes from a Cush drive to all the way to a belt drive to the rear wheel with some interesting connections in between. Small engine block, tiny front tires, tiny cockpit.... need to remove steering wheel when entering and exiting..... wooden steering wheel too. Take your shoes off or bring your ballet slippers..... it is TIGHT two stepping between the pedals. Power comes from a fuel injected S&S engine (think powerful Harley engine) with less power than the 125s, but I would guess, way more torque. It weighs in at around 1200 lbs.... shall we call it comparable?

    After a detailed briefing about the car, you go for a quick drive with one of the owners. First they drive, then you drive. It is not your Dodge Caravan..... apparently some folks freak out a little, so the owners want to make sure you can handle the vehicle.

    Left the warehouse on a late afternoon..... heading up to a volcano crater..... clouds were thick roughly half way up..... would we encounter fog and rain, then possibly punch through the cloud deck? That was the plan. Yes ..... open cockpit remember?

    It was textbook..... dry, sunny and warm at the bottom, light rain turned into heavy fog, punched through the clouds into a cool air with stunning late afternoon sun. Took some pics and repeated everything in reverse.... thankfully only fog and no rain on the way down.

    You feel everything..... you hear and smell everything..... you see the front tire placement. Shoulder check...... no blind spots. Wooden wheel in your hands and you muscle the beast around the tight, but wide and well paved mountain road..... the S&S is RAW and loud. The clutch is heavy... pedals allow for blipping while braking..... speaking of which, going down hill, with the engine in a really forward position..... it is in front of the front axle.... the Morgan really likes to be trail braked deep into the corners.... especially in wet conditions, this became very reassuring.

    Some of you guys have some decent collections..... you may have a driver’s car..... that Cayman R was a great driver’s car, but the Morgan is like nothing else. The Porsche is sanitized awesome machine, but the Morgan entices your driving senses in a completely different way! It is like NOTHING I have ever driven. Get your butts in one! Make sure you have access to a good road..... and drive one. I have 0 affiliation with the rental company, but will say they do an excellent job. Look, Maui is a nice place to visit..... if you make it here, Rent the Morgan!

    During the entire drive ..... kept thinking ..... this is what it must have been like to drive a 40s race car..... those dudes had some brass cojones.
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  2. Smiles

    Smiles Moderator
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    Nov 20, 2003
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    Why is the clutch heavy when the same engine in a motorcycle can be squeezed with your left hand?

    Great write-up!

    Matt
     
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  3. F612

    F612 Karting

    Feb 5, 2018
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    David D. Hood
  4. Metastable

    Metastable Karting

    May 4, 2018
    214
    Canada
    Not sure to be honest. Yes, a hydraulic clutch on a motorcycle is super light. Maybe it has to do with the way the power is transferred from the engine all the way back to belt drive? Dunno.
     
  5. 53ford

    53ford Karting

    Nov 13, 2009
    92
    interesting coincidence...I just watched an episode of "how it's made dream cars" that featured this car. It's built the old school way. I would love one and might just look into it.
     
  6. G. Pepper

    G. Pepper F1 World Champ
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    Looks like a fun ride, but the heavy clutch is puzzling.
     
  7. Kevin Rev'n

    Kevin Rev'n F1 World Champ
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    Did you notice any change in the engine response when the air filter got wet in the rain? I have always been curious about that on these.
     
  8. Metastable

    Metastable Karting

    May 4, 2018
    214
    Canada
    I cannot say I noticed a difference after the rain; however, there are two caveats:
    - I was stuck behind two slow pokes going up the hill, until just before punching through the clouds.... however once they finally pulled over the 3 wheeler still had lots of torque.
    - It was not raining very hard. We stayed fairly dry inside the cockpit..... although we had to clean off the tiny wind shield with our hands and I also had to clean off my glasses. Not sure if the air filter was wet..... don’t you guys love the face on the center of the air filter housing? :D
     
  9. Smiles

    Smiles Moderator
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    The clutch on my Bug is very light, and certainly not hydraulic.

    It’s a 1920s pre-war experience, though. Not 1940s!

    Matt

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  10. G. Pepper

    G. Pepper F1 World Champ
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    I remain fascinated by your Bugatti. I hope I get to see it one of these days.
     
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  11. Metastable

    Metastable Karting

    May 4, 2018
    214
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    Oh that is a cool looking Bug. Is that rear wheel a spare? The pedals on the Morgan are all floor mounted and I am not familiar with that on the brake and clutch, so I do know at times my feet were not in the best place to get full leverage, which made it worse. However, it was still a heavy clutch. My GTi has a very light clutch, the Morgan was much heavier.
     
  12. Geflackt

    Geflackt Karting

    Jul 13, 2015
    52
    Eastern PA.
    Image Unavailable, Please Login Image Unavailable, Please Login Here's my 1930's pre-war car that raced and won a lot of events in the 1940's, including an Ulster race, several Prescott hillclimbs, and a bunch of speed trials.

    1935 MG P-Type Special that was one of Lester's first race cars. He built the car in ~1945. I continue to run it in vintage races, but we also use it for local tours, dinner drives, and local errands(it's been to Lowes).

    Very nimble handling. Has a wider track in the front by almost 6". Lightweight - around 1200 pounds. Small 939cc overhead cam engine, but I bumped the compression to 9:1 with custom pistons. Race components on the internals and vintage "tricks" on the outside.

    Brakes are terrible, but I think it's down to the linings needing to be replaced and the bushings on brake cams are getting worn. It's steel cables basically from the pedal to the wheel.

    Clutch is very easy and is a direct link to the throwout bearing - no mechanical rods or hydraulics. The shifting pattern is 1(up to the right), 2(down to the right), 3(up to the left), 4(down to the left). No synchros and a huge gap between 2nd and 3rd.

    No heater. Reach your hand over to the exhaust wrap on the left if you need warmth. No top, just a tonneau. No windshield, just 2 Brooklands screens. We typically wear earplugs when driving, which makes it a little difficult to do rallies.

    Next up with it is an MG gathering at the Simeone museum in April, then the Hershey Hillclimb in June!

    Pics are from the VSCCA Fall Finale in Sept 2018.
     
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  13. Geflackt

    Geflackt Karting

    Jul 13, 2015
    52
    Eastern PA.
    Pics of the engine with the lid and sides off. Wood floors aren't installed, either.

    Was in the process of rebuilding the engine and making a new wiring harness from scratch. Cloth wrapped color coded wire, then I sent the "harness" out to be fully cloth-wrapped so it looks period.

    Going with that 1930's/1940's feel: visible are the SU carbs and Vertex magneto. Pedal placement is extremely close - very narrow shoes are necessary. Matt's Bugatti is probably fairly tight - the Morgan's are going to be downright cavernous!
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  14. G. Pepper

    G. Pepper F1 World Champ
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    Super fantastic, thanks for sharing! :)
     
  15. Smiles

    Smiles Moderator
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    It is indeed the spare. Not really rear, right by the riding engineer, my son.

    The Bug pedals are extremely tight. Shaft mounted clutch and brake, hung accelerator with a roller pedal. No room for a dead pedal.

    Matt

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  16. Metastable

    Metastable Karting

    May 4, 2018
    214
    Canada
    Nice pics! Those pedals ARE tight! Does he black rectangular piece help you rest your heel? Also is that a wr450 against the wall?:D
     
  17. Smiles

    Smiles Moderator
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    Yes and yes.

    The motorcycle isn’t mine. This picture was taken by John Bothwell, the Pur Sang Bugatti American agent, in SoCal.

    Matt
     
  18. Metastable

    Metastable Karting

    May 4, 2018
    214
    Canada
    When I was driving the Morgan barefooted, I brought flip flops on purpose, spun them 180 degrees and used them to reduce pressure on my heel. The rubber they have in the Morgan is ok for a few minutes, but if barefoot, it starts to hurt after a while.
     
  19. Metastable

    Metastable Karting

    May 4, 2018
    214
    Canada
    #19 Metastable, Jan 13, 2019 at 12:55 AM
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019 at 1:01 AM
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  20. Geflackt

    Geflackt Karting

    Jul 13, 2015
    52
    Eastern PA.
    While on the subject of pedals.... Standard layout: clutch/brake/throttle. Brake and throttle are VERY close and on one of the turns at the Hershey Hillclimb as I was trying to stop, I mashed both pedals and put the car through the haybales - at about the only spot on the hill that doesn't have trees!
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