Sales of Surplus Service Vehicles.
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THE DISPOSAL by auction of surplus Government property in the shape of motor vehicles has commenced, and we believe we are right in saying that the occasion is quite an experiment on the part of the authorities. Sales by private treaty of vehicles for which the Services have no further use have, naturally, been taking place for some time, but the auction sale which will be held at Aldridge's rooms in London on Wednesday of next week isthe first of its kind, and it opens up quite a new vein of thought.
So far, the question of the disposal of returned Army vehicles has been considered and discussed by the makers and users of such or similar vehicles as pertaining to large quantities and, as it were, to wholesale transactions, and as taking place some time after the termination of hostilities, but some of the ill effects upon the industry, which have been foreshadowed as being possible if the situation be handled with a total disregard of the consequences to the commercial vehicle industry, can still occur, even if the sales should take place in small doses.
The disposal of these stores is under the control of the "Surplus Government Property Council and Disposal Board," with offices at 6, St. James's Square, London, S.W., and the director of the section which looks after the disposal of motor vehicles is Lt.-Col. Holbrook. The vehicles are handed to the Board for disposal, and the Board then decides upon the best way in which to dispose of them. We believe that the Board is fully cognisant of the harm that could be done to the industry by injudicious handling of the transaction, but we are not convinced that anything has been done to mitigate that harm, for the vehicles have simply been placed in the hands of auctioneers, and will be offered without reserve, and just as they stand with all their faults.
Obviously, they have some faults, as the names of the vehicles do not suggest that they are being disposed of because they are, for instance, of types for which it is difficult to get spare parts, or which unnecessarily multiply the number of different kinds of spare parts. Vehicles with undisclosed faults will be suspect, and the cautious buyer will make the best examination possible in the time (they will only be available for inspection for two days prior to the sale) and will then materially reduce the price he would be prepared to pay for the vehicle he wants, if it had more or less of a guarantee. 'Hence, the country would suffer some loss in the sale, a loss which could be avoided by an overhaul sufficient to permit of a certificate to the effect that the vehicle was in fair running order. Yet, even the canny buyer of a vehicle which he has secured at 250 less than its value and with that amount in hand as insurance against cost of repair or part replacement, will still be dissatisfied if the vehicle should prove defective and, forgetting that he had bought the vehicle cheaply, will blame the makers when the fault discloses itself.
The sale of thirty vehicles is a small matter, but %these sales may now be expected frequently and all over the country, and we think that the users, represented by the Commercial Motor Users Association, and the makers represented by their associations, should consult together on the matter in order to secure that the vehicles sold out of the Services. should be disposed of at a fair price, and in fair condition, the interests of users and makers being fully considered.
More About the Slough Depot.
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS with regard to what is commonly known as the Slough Depot Scheme are interesting and somewhat illuminating in certain respects.
A leader entitled " Gippenham Again," in the "Times" of 13th September, puts the matter •very fairly. The Select Committee on National Expenditure, while giving general approval to the scheme for the erection of this depot at Cippenham, near Slough, did not do so without reservation. Particularly, it was pointed out that any material change in the war situation might make all the difference to a decision as to whether it would be justifiable to proceed with the War Department's proposals. Consequently,. the Committee advocated that the work of constructing the depot should be undertaken in sections. . • Evidently, the idea was that by this method of procedure the first section of moderate size could be completed and equipped promptly, so that the work of repairing vehicles could be begun Without undue delay. Meanwhile, if the circumstances changed materially, the whole scheme could be reconsidered and subsequent sections might possibly not be put in hand at all.
There seems to be fairly general agreement that something in the way of a depot is needed to meet war conditions for the reason that therepair of foreign-built vehicles cannot very conveniently be entrusted either to British manufacturers or to the actual makers of the vehicles in question. The first section of the depot should, therefore, be on .a scale merely adequate to deal with this particular branch of the problem, assuming always that. it cannot be dealt with satisfactorily at some more convenient point in France. The Select Conarnittee pointed out that the greatest possible use should be made of the facilities pos sessed by manufacturers to undertake the repairs of their own vehicles. So far as it is necessary for such repairs to -be carried out. in this country, we be lieve that the home industry could deal quite satisfactorily with the problem, at any rate if only a very reasonable amount of assistance in respect of plant and labour were lent by the Government. Further, the Select Committee particularly stated that it did not consider the scheme to be justified solely on the grounds of post-war considerations. Altogether, then, both the recommendations of the Committee and also the circumstances that have arisen since those recommendations were made point in the direction of proceeding with c;aution and not starting upon the whole immense proposition that may never be justified. The entire position in France has changed very much since the Select Committee made its recommendations. The need of a home depot as a war measure is immensely decreased. Nobody seems to know why any immense depot, should be needed after he war.
Despite all these facts, it appears that those who wish to see the original scheme carried out in its entirety are proceeding exactly as if the whole of the proposition had been authorized and commended without any reservation at all. Work is going on at Cippenham on a scale which indicates no intention of building the depot in seetions as the Select Com mittee advised. Very heavy expenditure is being incurred by the payment of excessive wages to un skilled labour, which is causing serious unrest in a district where the men employed in railway establishments are not similarly favoured. Thus, while the circumstances, which may have justified the Select Committee in going as far as they did, have changed very muCh in a direction which would probably have made them still more cautious, it is by no means clear that the actual operations are not going forward with a complete disregard for moderation of any kind. In fact, the advocates of the scheme having been given an inch are apparently taking an ell, without seeking any further permission and in the hope that no serious questions will be raised until the depot is an accomplished fact. We sincerely hope that the warnings published in our own columns and now powerfully supported by the "Times" will not pass unheeded, and that the whole matter will be thoroughly reviewed again by an independent body before the country is involved in an expenditure, the principal result of which may very well be an extremely serious handicap to the British motor industry.
Motorless and Horseless Sundays.
THE DIFFERENCE between war and peace conditions is illustrated in a rather amusing way by the movement recently ihaugurated in the United States resulting in a motorless Sunday. It will be remembered that a little time before the war, a proposal was fully discussed for the organization of a horseless Sunday in London. The idea was never actually carried out owing to various difficulties -which stood in the way, but the fact that it was nearly, if not quite, practicable, showed how far we had even then gone in making ourselves independent of the services of the horse in our big centres of population. Now we have what appears to be a complete reversal of the position brought about by the urgent need for making the population of the United States realize that petrol must be economized. The motor 02 less Sunday, of course, does not mean that we have gone back at all as regards the general principle that horsed traction must be superseded by the mechanical vehicle. • It has no permanent significance. It illustrates merely a passing phase, but if anybody had told us five years ago that it was possible for a day to pass without an automobile using the streets • of New York, we should have regarded it as a joke.
Nowadays, in normal circumstances, well over 95 per cent. Of the passenger traffic of our towns is power-propelled, and if the alai' had not intervened, the displacement of horse-drawn goods-carrying vehicles would also have made considerable though slower progress. In present circumstances wo must all use what we can get, so that statistics from year to year lose their value and cease to indicate natural tendencies. The horseless Sunday is the extreme example of this fact, since it represents an. absolutely retrograde movement brought about by an entirely artificial state of conditions.
The High Grading of Modern Lorries.
IN AN ARTICLE entitled "A New Third Speed Every Week" our regular contributor, "The Inspector," supplements the remarks of another writer who in our columns has drawn attention to some of the shortcomings of early chassis design. "The Inspector". is, to our knowledge fully ac quainted at first hand with the extreme knowledge, of operation of the commercial vehicle in the early days of the industry. In the course of his present writing," ' he briefly discusses one of the principal troubles which engineers in those days experienced, and that was in connection with the silencing of certain units of the mechanism, particularly the gearbox and the back axle of the petrol-driven chassis. It is, perhaps. not realized What remarkable strides have been made in silencing these huge machines. The modern lorry, if not•subjected to too barbarous active service treatment, is a remarkable achievement of the' designer's and constructor's art in this respect. Leylands, Thornycrofts, Hallfords, Karriers, Wolseleys, Commer Cars Albions and other war lorries are indeed remarkably quiet, and need yield but little in this respect to the best types of touring car -chassis. The old days of noisy third, speed gears and grinding back axles are no more. This in itself is testimony enough to the advance which a few short years have brought in respect of the design and manufacture of commercial chassis. It used to be claimed only a few years ago that one of the outstanding advantages of the electric-battery vehicle was its silence. It is a remarkable fact that, by persistent care over details, designers of petrol-driven+ chassis can now produce machines of the heaviest types which can travel quite as quietly as an electrical-driven truck. Every day, in London traffic, lorries pass us by making no more engine or transmission noise than is made by a Rolls-Royce, and often the only sound one hears which draws a distinction between the lorry and the premier pleasure car is the dull "bump" when a wheel drops into a hole in the roadway. To ' the average man in the street all this means nothing: there is no more marvel about it to him than the flying machine presents to every small boy or the railway or telephone to any of us. But there are many among us to wham the flying machine seemed an impossibility and a trouble-free motor vehicle almost equally so who to-day stop when they see an aeroplane or a Rolls-Royce kind of.rnotor lorry and whose thoughts for a moment run riot over the marvels effected by the present generation of engineers. We cannot help it.