Basic motoring

The Evolution of the Modern Ultralight Economy car.

Chapter 11 The European Ultralights


Peugeot QuadrilettePeugeot Type 161 Quadrilette
In continental Europe a few manufacturers took up the challenge of producing a relatively low cost light car. Renault Frères had started automobile production in 1899. Louis Renault being the designer of the family team. One of his design innovations was the substitutions of a propeller shaft and live rear axle replacing the chain driven axle in all previous designs of front engined cars. The cars first produced by the company had very small capacity engines, but; by 1909 they were producing cars with engines capacities up to 7.4 litres. They also produced the Type AX 7/8 CV model with a 1060cc twin cylinder engine, an early example of a ultralight economy car.  The Peugeot “Bebe” of 1913, Made in France and designed by Ettore Bugatti. Fitted with a 856 cc water cooled inline four engine, producing 10 bhp at 2,000 rpm, it had high tension magneto ignition, a 2-speed gearbox, weighing 6 3/4 cwt and a maximum speed of 35 mph. A Bugatti design feature was the reversed quarter elliptic rear springs. The cylinder block, head and crankcase was cast in one piece, and the engine had two camshafts one each side of the engine due to the “T” cylinder head configuration. Another unusual feature was the transmission that consisted of two concentric propeller shafts each driving a bevel gear in the back axle and used to provide to two gear ratios. Costing £160, reducing to £125 in 1915, the “Babe” was made until 1916, by which time 3,095 examples had been produced.
In postwar France, Peugeot began producing the Type 161 Quadrilette in 1921 as a successor to the Babe, With a 669cc, four cylinder water-cooled engine with the gear box integral with the rear axle, and very low all up weight of 350Kg, putting it in the cycle-car tax bracket. The body was so narrow that the only passenger had in the early models to sit behind the driver. The revised Type 171 first produced in 1923 had a 720cc engine and a wider normal two seat body. A total of over twelve thousand were produced by 1924.
Andre Citroen came to automobile manufacturing via heavy engineering and munitions manufacturing. His company had built engines for Sizair and Naudin in 1905 and he became associated with the Mors Automobile company in 1908; but it wasn’t until the end  of the First World War that he decided to become an automobile manufacturer in his right.  
Utilising his redundant munitions factory at  Quai de Javal, Paris, and state of the art mass production technics. Starting in 1919 his first two models the 10Hp Type A, and the 10HP  Type B2, of 1921 were light cars, the third model the 5HP Type C2 was an ultralight car.


Tatra T11 Chassis                                                                                                                                                                         Tatra T11Chassis

Designed by Jules Saloman and Edmond Moyot, the 5CV, first produced in 1922 had a maximum speed of 38 mph, and 80,00 were sold by 1926. Fitted with a water-cooled by thermal-siphon, side valve four in line engine, of 856 cc, with coil ignition, a three speed and reverse gearbox, a spiral bevel final drive and with quarter-elliptic springs all round attached to a channel section chassis frame. Michelin disc wheels were standard, with low pressure tyres. The weight of the car was 952 pounds and it was priced in England in 1922 at £195. Renault next produced an under 1 litre car the Type KJ in 1923. It had a 950cc four cylinder engine and was conventional in most respects, except that the radiator was located behind the engine as on almost all Renault up until the 1930s. It was updated in 1925 to become the Type NN. The Type NN had a maximum of 56 Kph which was representative of the small engined cars of the period. Hans Ledwinka  was born in Austria when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. By 1906 he worked for Nesseldorfer a car manufacturer in Moravia, he left Nesseldorfer to join Steyr in Austria in 1917. After the break up of the empire Moravia became part of the new state of the Czechoslovak republic and the company changed its name to Tatra 1923. He left Steyr in 1921, to work for Nesseldorfer where he designed many ground breaking cars as diverse as the type 11 of 1923 to the rear-engined type 77 of 1937, until imprisonment by the communists in 1945.  His contribution to automobile progress began in 1905, when he restored the fortunes of the "Nesseldorf" company, he did this by introducing advanced designs. While working at "Steyr", he had been creating the design of a small car in his own time. His design had been rejected by the "Steyr" management, but he was able to develop and produce this design on his return to the by then renamed Nesseldorf. Designated the Tatra T11 it was the first of his designs Utilising a backbone chassis, a fan cooled horizontally opposed engine  and a jointless independent rear axle. The engine in this design was an overhead valve 1056cc twin, mounted in unit with the gearbox on the front of the chassis. The jointless rear axle used by Tatra consisted of a final drive unit attached to the rear of the tubular backbone chassis that had the drive shaft enclosed within it, the front beam axle being attached to the engine. The final drive unit had two crown wheels and pinions each driving a shaft to a rear wheel. The crown wheels could rotate around its pinion allowing its shaft to swing. This may seem over complicated but is still in use on Tatra truck today. It was necessary to do something like this to provide a reliable flexible drive arrangement as flexible drive joints at that time were not up to the job.

Opel 4ps-12

Opel 4PS/12  Laubfrosch
The flexible coupling commonly in use at the time was the fabric coupling it had a limited degree of deflection and working life and was not suitable for use with swing axles.This was the first of a line of design to a similar pattern that were produced until 1948. The T11 was produced from 1923 to 1927, and replaced by the T12 with a similar specification. The T12 was produced from 1926 to 1936. Opel in Germany began producing the 4PS/12  Laubfrosch in 1924. The first German car produced using mass production methods. A conventional little car originally with a water-cooled four-cylinder engine of 951cc for the first year of production, increased to 1018cc for remaining seven years of it production life, by then almost one hundred and twenty-thousand had been made. The Italian combine Fiat, as well as manufacturing locomotive and  aero engines, had been producing automobiles since 1899, mainly producing luxury cars and had been very successful in Grand prix racing. They first produced a light car in 1919 the 901 and joined the ranks of ultralight car producers with the 509, in 1925 the first in a long line of Fiat very small cars. The 509 and its 509A development; had a similar specification to most of the above mentioned cars except that the 990cc engine had overhead camshaft valve gear. The 509 was exported all over the world and ninety-two thousand were made before production ceased in 1929.  In 1928 DKW  of Zwickau, Germany, made the first in a line of inline vertical twin cylinder two-stroke cars the P15.  It differed from all the later twins in having rear wheel drive. The P15 had only two seats which was common for economy cars of the period, as the 584 cc engine only produced 15 bhp. Its layout and construction was conventional for the period with a live rear axle, a beam front axle, transverse leaf springs , a steel chassis frame with a wood panelled body. About 2000 P15 and the related PS600 sports model were produced between 1928 and 1930. Its significance is that, a two-stroke twin cylinder car in one form or another, would be in production in some part of Germany from 1928 to 1990.

Austin 7 Ruby

                                                                                                                                                                                                Austin 7 Ruby
By 1930 the sub one litre engined cars were capable of carrying a two seat saloon body at acceptable if low traffic speeds and were soon to be available with four-seater versions, making them a convenient low cost form of transport.  Renault, Citroen  and Opel had either stopped producing  their small engined cars or increasing the engine size and Peugeot would soon stop producing the latest version of the Quadrilette the 719 cc engined 190, that was in production from 1928 to 1931. Things were different in Britain where the sub one litre engined cars continued to flourish, all except the Jowett, with a four cylinder water-cooled engine. All had the engine mounted in the front of a channel section chassis frame with a beam axle at the front and the drive to a live axle at the rear.
Jowett continued to evolve their offerings with the  7HP in 1930, again with the 907cc, twin-cylinder engine, the only remaining example of the once popular type in Britain that was followed by the 8HP in 1937 with a slightly larger 946cc engine; production of the twin ending in 1940.  The Austin Seven continued to go from strength to strength with over one-hundred and twenty-three thousand examples of all versions produced by the end of 1930. In 1935 again evolution not revolution was followed, with succeeding versions from open tourers such as the two seat  Opal, Austin’s only £100 car, to four-seat saloons such as the Austin Ruby  at £120, produced to meet the purchasers needs, in production until 1939 with about twenty-thousand Sevens produced each year throughout the decade .  The Triumph Super Seven remained in production until 1932 with about seventeen thousand examples produced; but was the last of under one litre Triumphs to be produced.  As related above the Singer Junior was continuously developed until 1935; while retaining the overhead camshaft engine. After 1932, All the other small engined cars produced in Britain and as mentioned below, in Italy, had side-valve engines, this was due to Morris ceasing production of their overhead camshaft engines Minor in that year after producing thirty-nine thousand examples. They had first began production of its eventual replacement in 1931. This model based on the Minor and also name Minor was fitted with an 847cc side-valve engine and was initially offered for sale in two-seat open tourer form at £100. Later models with more expensive bodies, hydraulic brakes, hydraulic dampers and a four speed gearbox proved a better seller.

Ford Model Y

Ford Model Y advertisement
Swift had a last attempt at a small car in 1930 with the Cadet. It had an 847cc engine supplied by Coventry-Climax, a proprietary  engine manufacturer that later became famous for Grand Prix and sports car engines. With a fabric  covered body, an outdated specification and a price of £185, much higher that the mass produced cars available it was not a success and Swift went in liquidation in 1931. Another of the cars introduced in 1931 was the Fiat 508 Balilla,  again fitted with a side-valve engine, this time of 995 cc, with hydraulic brakes and a cruciform chassis the only distinguishing features, it remained in production until 1937 and was made under licence by Simca in France and NSU in Germany. Across the other of the world in Japan Nissan produced their first car the Type 10 using the Datsun name. Nissan had been producing cars since 1914. The Datsun Type 10 had 747cc four cylinder engine and was said to resemble the Austin Seven. Developed versions of the Type 10 were produced until the Second World War.
One of the big motoring event of 1932 in Britain, was the introduction of the Ford Model Y. Ford’s answer to the Austin Seven and the Morris Minor, a new direction for the company that had up until then only sold first American then British built cars originally designed for the American market.  The Model Y design was an evolved version of the model T chassis, with the same layout of transverse 1/2 elliptic springs front and rear, but with less than half the engine capacity of, previous models and the rest of the American designed car reduced in proportion. Being a simple well developed car, made using all the latest mass production methods, at a good price it was an immediate success. With a simple and reliable water-cooled, side-valve 933 cc inline four cylinder engine, cable operated four wheel brakes, a simple channel steel chassis and a stylish all steel body, it represented current conservative design philosophy. In October 1935 Ford reduced the price of the Model Y from £110 to £100 making it the £100 Saloon car to be produced in Great Britain. The model Y was assembled in plants through out Europe. By the time the ultimate version of the Model Y concept went out of production three hundred and eighty-eight thousand had been produced, By then the Popular of 1959, was an anachronism.


Moorris 8Morris Eight
Morris needed an answer to the Ford and the result was the Morris Eight. A new model with a new 918cc engine, again with side-valves. The unit consisting of the engine and three speed gearbox was mounted on the chassis by four rubber mounts, this being one of the continuing innovations alone with smaller diameter wheels and the all steel bodies for the saloon models that was part of the evolution of these otherwise conventional cars. The Eight proved up to the challenge and more than two hundred thousand had been made by 1938 and its replacement. The same cannot be said of the Singer 9HP IFS. The IFS standing for independent front suspension, part of a new braced chassis that had coil springs at the front but was conventional at the rear with a live axle and cart springs. Other innovations were an optional Floudrive coupling in the transmission for an extra £10; but with a basic price of £180 was no competition to the Ford and Morris offerings and only lasted one year. For the next couple of years Singer used a different new but cart sprung chassis, the last of the 972cc engined cars the Super Nine was produced in 1937. The price of this model was £159 and could attain 60 miles per hour and an over all fuel consumption of 33 miles per gallon and was representative of its contemporaries. Another new car with independent front suspension first produced in 1936 the Fiat 500, that became popularly known as the Topolino was a major success, Designed by Dante Giacosa and Franco Fessia, It was a two-seater and had a 569 cc side valve engine, but the chassis with independent front suspension using a transverse leaf spring and wishbones and neat packaging was a big advance, with the engine located over the front wheels and radiator behind it over the four speed synchromesh gearbox, also excellent hydraulic brakes. With fuel consumption around 50 mpg and a maximum speed of 55 mph, but with handling good enough to allow average speeds of 40 mph. Between 1936 when first introduced until the end of production in 1948, 122,000  were made of this original version. It was also made in France by Simca and in Germany by NSU. In July 1937 Austin announced a new model to be produced along side the Seven Ruby, the  Big 7, an updated Seven Ruby, with a 900 cc version of the Seven engine and a lengthened chassis frame. This was produced in 1938 and 1939, the Ruby being discontinued at the end of the 1937. The Big 7 was replaced by the Austin 8, in 1939, this also had a 900 cc side-valve engine but it was completely new design as was the rest of the car. The chassis was conventional nineteen thirties  British, with beam axles, 1/2 elliptic springs, a ladder frame and mechanical brakes.The Morris Eight series E  was the latest version on the Eight. The major change was the new body with flowing lines and the introduction of a four speed gearbox. Both the Morris Eight series E and the Austin Eight were only in production for 1939 before car production ceased for the duration of the war; but were to return to production in the second half of the nineteen forties.



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