Letters from readers, April 1943

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Sir,

Recent conditions here, chiefly sub-Arctic, have led to quite a lot of fun. For the last three weeks the mercury had been hovering around 20-24° “below”, and we were all shocked one Sunday morning to discover that nobody’s car would start—the engines were so stiff with treacly oil that the starters gave up as a bad job.

It seems that even J.A.E. No. 10 is not equal to a surprise drop in temperature like that; and a great time was had by all towing various people: the observations therefrom are that very few people know how to keep a tow-rope taut. Broken bumpers and snapped towropes added to the misery somewhat; while it was a common sight to see a car being towed with top gear engaged, with the rear wheels not moving at all.

Nightfall brought us an entirely fresh crop of people, who seemed to be attracted as by magnets to the ditches which abound here, since we also had to contend with four inches of snow, and cars were tilted all over the place at the most alarming angles.

A more recent snowfall has increased the depth to nearly a foot, and our motoring (which in these days is done chiefly in the official station wagon) has developed in the best Monte Carlo style, spades and all. The best technique seems to be to keep one’s speed as high as possible, so that sufficient velocity is available to charge all offending snowdrifts; if one happens to stop in a drift, one has, in the best R.A.F. parlance, definitely “had it”, chains or no chains.

None of the foregoing is, of course, operative when the vehicle can be induced to keep on its forward course— not always simple when the coefficient of adhesion is practically nil; nor is one helped by the excessive wheelspin of which a “V8” is capable, nor by the fact that the steering (vague and four turns from lock to lock) provides a wake somewhat similar to that of a battleship dodging a torpedo; in fact, life can be one damn slide after another.

However, we are still grateful for what motoring there is here, no matter how precarious.

Perhaps our most unruffled motorist is our snow-plough driver, who pilots a most weird caterpillar machine which seems fully capable of climbing the side of a house.

A much-appreciated run to Chicago was accomplished in perfect October weather, the journey taking 21 hours dead. The first half, over Canadian territory as far as Detroit, was done in a varied collection of cars, upwards from the inevitable farmer’s model “T.”

Detroit is a hive of industry, more so than ever, and I can well believe that they have more cars per cent. than anywhere else on earth. The traffic is much more terrifying than even New York, and all jay walkers get a “ticket”, so one is compelled to watch the “lights”.

One is impressed by the number of Ford buses there, with a wonderfully compact V8 unit at the rear. A short ride in one gives one the odd sensation of being pushed by another vehicle, due to all the noise being at the back.

A five-mile street car ride (free to Service men) brought me to the highway, and here it was a “cinch “—the average private cars were not much use because their gas was rationed and their speed limited to 35 m.p.h.

I flagged the first “heavy”, and an enormous articulated truck groaned and creaked to a stop. The driver was on his way to Chicago, which was certainly a spot of luck. The load weighed in all some 28 tons; but this did not prevent a speed (occasioned by a power unit of approximately 5 litres) of 55-60 m.p.h. The engine seemed to be turning at astonishing r.p.m., but, according to the driver, these units cover 100,000 miles or more before being exchanged, which seemed pretty good to me.

. The extremely short chassis of the fore half gave a very “pitchy” ride, which made me wonder how it was that the driver could stand the strain for 11 to 12 hours. He appeared quite happy, however. The hospitality here is certainly something, and was enjoyed in the shape of hamburgers and coffee every three hours, and finally being dropped off in the negro section of Chicago about 9 o’clock in the morning.

Chicago is a very beautiful city, and I spent many hours in the Museum of Science and Industry, which had as decoration stainless steel and brass walls, bronze doors, 17 ft. high, and a copper roof. What a happy dream for the vandals of the salvage drive!

This museum contained many examples of historical aircraft and engines, and also some very weird early American cars.

The journey back here was accomplished in the same fashion, taking only twenty hours and I returned with a very high opinion of our American cousins, and a firm resolve to return at the earliest opportunity.

Have just received from home the December issue of Motor Sport, and am very pleased with the amount of technical articles which you print these days. Please don’t discontinue publication if you can help it.

Now all you “gen men” and other technical experts, let’s have some articles to keep the front and rear covers a reasonable distance apart; I can’t do much more than help to fill the “gossip” columns.

It is a great treat, anyway, and does while away some idle hours, and helps to recall memories of happy days. Should miss Motor Sport very much if it stopped.

I am, Yours etc.,

R. Bawden, L.A.C. Canada.