A Matter of Moment

In the last issue of the Sports Car, official organ of the Sports Car Club of America, published in 1946, is an editorial by T. F. Robertson depreciating the new British sports cars. America is a great potential market for our specialised cars, so this attack is a matter of some moment. The attitude of our industry is described as “smug,” due to praise lavished on out-of-date cars by our Press — we leave it to readers to decide whether or not Motor Sport is guilty in this respect! Our 1946-7 utility cars are said to resemble American cars of ten years ago; our sports models are attacked by Mr. Robertson as basically eight years old with new or altered bodywork. Our racing cars, he says, have been hopelessly outclassed by the Italians in all major events. Geoffrey Taylor’s suggestion that Italian drivers should be barred from British races is quoted as one way of ensuring that Britain shall win. We do not propose to write much in reply to Mr. Robertson — we might be accused of contributing to the smugness of the British industry! But a few observations must be made. In the first place, our utility cars do not resemble American cars of ten years ago, most of them are too primitive for that. But they are the only kind of vehicles we can use in large numbers because of our taxation system — they also export strongly to impoverished countries for like reasons. Today about the cheapest car you can buy in England secondhand is the ten-year-old American, for obvious reasons. The attack on our 1947 sports models is to a degree deserved, but Mr. Robertson admits he has not heard of the new Lagonda, Healey, or the pedals-to-push Invicta. He does not seem to have any valid objection to the new Frazer-Nash, or to the “Aerodynamic” H.R.G. The Allard, he says, quoting from the Motor Sport road-test report, has the speed of a Chevrolet, the acceleration of a Mercury, and the fuel consumption of a Cadillac. Whether this is really the case could, of course, only be proved by putting these particular automobiles through the self-same test. The Allard is, however, an outstandingly successful trials car. Whether the o.h.v. Fiat “500,” the 6-cylinder sports Maserati, the new tubular-frame Lancia, the 6-cylinder Fiat, the D.B., the Ferrari flat-twelve, the supercharged Bugatti, the “6C” Alfa-Romeo and the Delage “Olympic,” which Mr. Robertson thinks will see-off most of our 1947 sports cars, will be so readily available as even British products for the next few years, remains to be seen. So far as racing is concerned, Parnell and Abecassis did beat Sommer and Chiron in Sweden, and Taylor’s views had a political or ethical basis having no reference to racing victories.

Mr. Robertson concludes with some praise for British motor-cycles, of which he says nine different makes are now distributed in the U.S.A., over 1,000 B.S.A.s being sold in 1946, and Lucas and Smith’s service stations being in course of establishment. The conclusion drawn is that these motor-cycles are better finished, and have a better international reputation, than our sports cars. The curious thing is that on the front cover of the issue of the Sports Car which contains this anti-British car article is a magnificent photograph of a 3-litre Bentley with American registration, and a note relating to it draws attention to “the radiator . . . not as yet developed to the point where it looked like a jukebox, but for some reason which is no longer clear, still looked pretty much like a radiator.” Yet Mr. Robertson decries our old-fashioned sports cars! Well, well. Perhaps, looking at this Bentley cover-picture, he shall be forgiven!