Rumblings, April 1956



The Three Graces

The introduction of a new model by Ford is always a notable event, with the tradition of the model-A’s historic release at Holland Park skating-rink as a powerful shadow.

On February 20th we went over ice, literally, to see the new Consuls, Zephyr and Zodiac on ice, metaphorically, at Harringay Arena. In introducing these three new Fords, Sir Patrick Hennesy said a few words to the assembled writers, journalists and cameramen, chiefly to explain that ‘appy ‘arringay had been transformed into a Ford super-showroom so that dealers and distributors from all parts of the world could see the new models in comfort and to tell us of glee-parties in town for the distributors’ ladies later that evening and a dinner for V.I.P.s the following night. For us, the improvised bar . . .

Sir Hennesy was followed by Mr. J. M. A. Smith, whose privilege it was, he said, to introduce the new Consul, new Zephyr and new Zodiac, known collectively as “The Three Graces.” Their distinguished predecessors, Mr. Smith said, had sold over 400,000, but these were “entirely new cars, bigger, better, more powerful yet more economical, more comfortable and more beautiful,” in the styling “not of today but of years ahead, and altogether more easy on the eye than any other car remotely within their class.”

Well, there you are, and staunch followers of Ford can hardly ask for more! The new cars, grouped about the arena, brightly coloured in a new rainbow range of colours, looked to us like scaled-down typical American automobiles, All four wings can be seen from the driving seat for ease of parking and safety factors include the smooth receding facia panel, “dished” steering wheel (as someone said, “like the first Austin Seven”) and a full-circle horn-ring. It is claimed that an “eager, athletic look gives them an impression of motion even when stationary,” which may or may not constitute another safety aspect! These new Fords are full six-seaters, wider but lower than the old models, travelling on Ford “Glide-Ride” ½-elliptic back springs, and they are described as a new concept of volume-production car.

Only last January, while the Monte Carlo Rally was in progress, they were being tested “under similar conditions of snow and ice” on a journey through Holland to test routes in Germany, and supplementary testing was carried out in Kenya, and at Ford’s own proving ground.

What of these new cars, technically? Dagenham is conservative, as witness the fact that side-valve engines are still used for the small Fords, and in general the new Consul, new Zephyr and new Zodiac follow this trend. They have forward-placed water-cooled o.h.v. engines driving through three-speed gearboxes to normal, cart-sprung back axles and i.f.s. of the sliding-pillar type. The main components have been redesigned and the engine size of both Consul and Zephyr increased — from 79.37 by 76.2 mm. (1,503 c.c.) to 82.55 by 79.5 nim. (1,703 c.c.) and from 79.37 by 76.2 mm. (2,263 c.c.) to 83.5 by 79.5 mm. (2,553 c.c.). respectively. These new “over square” power units develop, respectively, 59 b.h.p. at 4,200 r.p.m. and 83 b.h.p. at 4,200 r.p.m., using compression-ratios of 7,8 to 1. According to the catalogue even the six-cylinder unit has but three main bearings. The three-speed transmission is offset by an optional over-drive for all models. The wheelbase of the new, lower frame has been increased, by 4½ in. in the case of the new Consul, to 8 ft. 8½ in. and by 3 in. in the case of the new Zephyr and Zodiac, to 8 ft. 11 in., the brakes being modified to cope with increased weight. The bodies, for the styling of which Colin Neale was largely responsible, contain 20 cu. ft. luggage boots, in which the spare wheel is accommodated. Convertible versions, with option of manual or electric hood-actuation, will be available. In spite of the appreciably increased power output, fuel economy is claimed to be better than in the previous cars, using a new type of Zenith carburetter. The prices, with p.t., are us under (former prices in brackets):–

New Consul:  £781 7s.  £706 7s.)

New Zephyr:  £871 7s. (£799 7s.)

New Zodiac:  £968 17s. (£901 7s.)

Sir Patrick Hennesy told his Press audience that he is unconcerned about the present trade recession, for he looks ahead 20 years and Ford’s have a £65,000,000 programme in hand. He is confident the new Fords will compete with any cars of their class made anywhere in the world and will “beat German, American and other competition.” He appealed to British writers to praise British cars, saying that if we say our cars are out of date, too expensive, etc., we shall be believed in other countries. Mr. Smith, introducing his three graces — “a lovely trio” — said that their predecessors were very good, but the new cars are perfect, and, thinking of foreign competition, he is confident the new body colours, etc., will compete successfully, these new models being “way out ahead in styling and lightness.” “With longer wheelbase, improved springing and wonderful steering,” he said, “they are glued to the road on corners.” Claiming the new Fords to be “away out ahead — in their whole conception, in their strength with lightness, in their power with economy, in their styling with comfort and in their value for money,” Mr. Smith concluded by saying, “I have the fullest confidence that, when you road-test these cars, you will bear out all that I say.” So we await this happy day . . .


300SL Psychology

The motoring which had to be done to enable us to compile the road-test report on the Mercedes-Benz 300SL which appears elsewhere in this issue was sufficiently memorable to justify some additional comments, for never before have we had in our possession a car of such speed, acceleration and compelling appearance. The immense pick-up of this remarkable motor car, which continues right up the speed range from 700 to 6,000 r.p.m. without tailing off, is invaluable for coping with the shocking congestion on our inadequate main roads. In overtaking the inevitable strings of scarcely-moving vehicles that constitute British traffic the 300SL is without equal, especially as it is not particularly noisy when thus pressing-on

In view of the car’s tremendous performance it is a sad reflection on the state of our main thoroughfares that we needed all but eight hours to drive from the centre of Glasgow to the North Circular Road round London. Never have there been more lorries on this notorious route, not to mention “abnormal loads” which now form an increasing part of the hazards to be met in everyday driving. Perhaps the reports of snow-blocks on the East Coast route had deflected Edinburgh and farther north starters onto the Glasgow-Scotch Corner road as well as down A1. The fact is that even a Mercedes-Benz 300SL couldn’t better an average speed of 50 m.p.h. or accomplish more than 58 miles in its “finest hour.” How Mr. Quiverfull in his pre-war 10-h.p. saloon endures, we know not!

Lorries, lorries and more lorries, torrential rain, hasty braking outside Glasgow to allow No. 8 N.C.B. 0-4-0 tank loco and its train to pursue their unhurried way across the road, and over a quarter-of-an-hour to get through Doncaster in the rush-hour, took their toll. It seems that congestion is getting worse, because before the war the writer drove a 4¼-litre Bentley from Strathaven to the West End of London one evening in 7 hr. 32½ min., and we have done Abington to the City in a Bristol 404 on a weekday in 6 hr. 52 min., whereas the much-higher-performance Mercedes-Benz required 7 hr. 6 min. from Abington to the North Circular Road, in the hands of the same driver.

Such journeys usually bring out points of interest, but on this occasion our three-day excursion as far west as Land’s End and up as far north as Fort William produced very little. The only vintage car we noticed was a late-Model Swift Ten saloon, but there were one or two back-brake Albion commercials in the precincts of Glasgow, and Pickford’s were moving an “abnormal load” down A1 behind a solid-trod Scammell tractor. A helicopter was seen at Truro and the A.A. weather-service caravans were stationed outside Preston and at Scotch Corner.

At one time it was possible to motor far afield and never see any evidence of the toll of the road, but it is unfortunate to have to record that on the occasion under review we encountered two accidents, in each case Ford Zephyrs which had collided with lorries.

To indulge in races with other cars in a 300SL, done deliberately, is perhaps not to be recommended, but on our way north, after averaging less than 40 m.p.h. amongst the “heavies” near the Black Country, we came up with a Mk. VII Jaguar saloon which tried to take us on. It was soon far, far behind, without the Mercedes exceeding 110 m.p.h., and that is no reflection on Jaguar, rather, in fact, a compliment that this bulky British saloon, winner of the Monte Carlo Rally and still bringing the dollars into Britain, should possess performance sufficient for it to keep a 300SL in sight for several miles.

Other memories of a memorable bit of motoring are the nightmare of Glasgow’s trams and pedestrians, the Editor’s apoplexy on seeing (at 120 m.p.h.) kerb-laying in progress at the top of Bowes Moor, and the knowledgeable garage mechanics we encountered when refuelling, particularly the one at “The home of Jimmy Stewart.” We spent one comfortable night in the Bell Hotel, Gloucester, and another at the “Alexandra” at Fort William, crossing Loch Leven on the two-car turntable-ferry “Mamore.” After this we ran alongside the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond, encountering no fewer than six bonny Rovers along this stretch of road, proof that this make’s popularity in Scotland continues. And, finally, on the subject of the 300SL, when the writer was a schoolboy he was taken for a ride in a 36/220, driven by a Mercedes-Benz chauffeur, which reached a fraction under 100 m.p.h. along the then-new Barnet By-Pass. For weeks afterwards he walked with the gods . . . Twenty-eight years later, after driving the present-day 300SL, he feels much the same.


Your Favourite Brand

The big petrol firms spend vast sums of money on specialised and carefully-worded advertisements. Yet petrol sales, thus gained, can be lost if supplies are not readily available. Our readers, being enthusiastic motorists, no doubt have a preference for a particular brand of petrol, as we have ourselves. Yet today’s motorist is spoilt and dislikes driving even a mile out of his way to get what he wants. Or so it seems to us. For instance, in our small country town we can count no fewer than eight petrol stations. But of these, only two are at “our” end of the town and the others are apt to shut early and stay shut on Sundays. Until recently we bought from a pleasant “free” station at a strategic location, where various brands, including National Benzole and Shell, were available, served by an amiable Irish ex-Army man who whistled as he served you, tapping the hose to ensure that the last drop got to your tank. Some time ago, however, this “free” station became ” tied” to Mobilgas, who also controlled the only other nearby garage, a quarter of a mile away. This meant that we had to drive 1 miles in the “wrong” direction of our daily journey to get National Benzole and farther still to get our other favourite brand, Clevecol, and both these garages shut on Sundays.

The other day, determined to remain faithful to benzole, although on “reserve,” we drove across the common knowing a “free” station to be on our route. When we pulled in it was to be told that they were out of stock of National Benzole and most of the better brands. There was no alternative but to cross the fingers and continue towards the Metropolis. Luckily within a mile another petrol station appeared and we were able to tank up with Clevecol Special.

It seems that “tied” petrol stations are all very well if those near your home and on your route are tied to the fuels you wish to use Otherwise, not so good, and another aspect of the matter is that Castrol, Filtrate and others who market lubricating oil but not fuel have formed a mutual-help organisation to combat enforced sales of other oils at “tied” petrol stations.


They Say:

“Now is the time to scrap hidebound traditions and lay plans to make the British car the most advanced in the world. Now is the time for manufacturers to stop thinking that a new shade of paint or a strip of chromium plate is a satisfactory advance from one year’s models to the next year’s. Now is the time for the British car to be drastically redesigned.” — From an editorial in the Sunday Express of March 4th.


Goodwood at Easter

Racing will commence at 1.30 p.m. at Goodwood on Easter Monday, April 2nd — we may safely add “promptly,” for the B.A.R.C. has a fine record for race-punctuality. The premier event will be the Richmond Formula 1 Trophy Race, for a first prize of 200 guineas, over 76 miles (32 laps) from scratch. The half-litres will race for the Earl of March Trophy (7 laps), and there will be a 7-lap race, the Levant Cup, for 2-litre racing cars. The rest of the typically Goodwood programme is made up of a 13-lap scratch race for production sports cars, a 15-lap race for sports cars exceeding 1,500 c.c. (with an over-2,000-c.c. award), a 7-lap race for sports cars up to 1,500 c.c., and a series of Easter racing-car handicaps, over 7 laps. It is too late now to book stand seats but the usual enclosures will be open and trains and coaches run to the course, or near it. Moss and Behra may have works Maseratis for this occasion.

British Empire Trophy Race — April 14th

The B.R.D.C. will run the 18th B.E. Trophy Race at the excellent, and now further improved, Oulton Park circuit on April 14th. This is a sports-car race under National Open permit, although in the past the B.E. Trophy has been a racing-car event. Foreign participation is expected and the race will be run in three 16-lap heats (approximately 44.17 miles each), and a final of 25 laps (approximately 69.03 miles) on handicap. There will be three classes, up to 1,500c.c., 1,501-2,700 c.c., and over 2,700 c.c., on which will be based the final handicap of two credit laps minus 1 min. 40 sec., one credit lap minus 1 min. 40 sec., and scratch, respectively. This should result in a close race, but makes the final rather difficult to follow. Prize money totals more than £430 (prizes being offered to entrants of all competing cars) and details of this important sports-car race, for which entries have closed, are available from the B.R.D.C., 9, Down Street, W.1. This year’s race should see an exceedingly interesting race between classic examples of that most interesting breed of motor car, the modern sports/racing machine. Past winners of the B.E. Trophy race have been:–

See table

Aintree International Meeting — April 21st

The B.A.R.C. International Race Meeting at Aintree on April 21st will commence at 11 a.m., with a 24-mile (8-lap) saloon-car race. At 11.45 a.m., sports cars, divided into classes of up to 1,100 c.c. and 1,101-2,000 c.c., will race over 24 miles. The 500-c.c. race will follow at 12.30 p.m., over 30 miles (10 laps), and at 2 p.m. the 30-mile unlimited sports-car race will commence, followed at 3 p.m. by the “Aintree 200” Formula 1 race over 67 laps, or 201 miles. Details from the B.A.R.C., 55, Park Lane, W.1.