Letters From Readers, April 1957

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N.B. – Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them. – Ed.

A British Sprint Veloce?

If anyone is wondering if there is a British equivalent to the Alfa-Romeo Giulietta Sprint coupe, there isn’t!

However, I venture to suggest that a car of comparable size and performance could, with some initiative and drive, be prepared from components in this country.

The simple recipe would be a Sunbeam Rapier body-chassis (minus, of course, all that revolting and unnecessary chrome and two-tone paintwork) with modified suspension (as appears necessary from past experience), a twin overhead camshaft Coventry-Climax engine, and the latest B.M.C. gearbox as used on the M.G. and Morris Minor 1,000 with floor-mounted gear-lever. Wire wheels and bucket-seats, leather upholstered, would put the finishing touches, leaving a very potent, attractive and, with disc brakes on the front wheels (they aren’t too expensive nowadays), safe four-seater sports saloon.

The price of such a vehicle would probably still be well below the Alfa’s two-and-a-half thousand pounds, and as a cheaper version the car could be fitted with the present Rapier engine and wheels as supplied by Rootes.

Unfortunately, being built from components of Britain’s popular-car manufacturers, the exception being the Coventry-Climax engine, the car would probably lack, like nearly all Britain’s popular cars, the one thing that really makes a car sell (e.g., V—-n) — reliability coupled with after-sales service. You only need to witness our car sales as compared with our competitors. And don’t give petrol rationing as an excuse, anyone who disagrees! Oh, well, I suppose we will just have to keep on saving up for an Alfa-Romeo!

Incidentally, may I take this opportunity to say how much I enjoy reading the only magazine which is of any real value to the reader owing to its frank truthfulness.

I am, Yours, etc., O. M. F. Horsfield. Heald Green.

[For heaven’s sake don’t let’s encourage the British Motor Industry to embark on the building of “specials.” Such hybrids seldom come up to expectations. The Alfa-Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce is the outcome of many years’ experience of building high-speed competition cars and of developing the twin-cam engine used therein, culminating in 114 m.p.h. from a 1.390-c.c. engine. — Ed.]

 

Sir,

I would like, through the medium of your columns, to record a recent instance of the kind of service which is all too rare these days.

Some time ago I rebuilt a 2-litre M.G., including a complete engine overhaul, on completion of which it was fitted with a set of K.LG. F.70 plugs. In use these were not entirely satisfactory and were replaced at about 4,300 miles with a set of K.L.G. F.80s, which ended the trouble.

The original plugs were returned to the manufacturers for inspection. Within a post or two I received their report (enclosed), indicating that the plugs had been overheated … but enclosing a complete new set of F.80s. This, you will note, was entirely without quibble about mixture strength (the engine was tuned by S.U.’s agents) and/or other factors which might have contributed to the failure of the plugs.

In view of the mileage covered on the original plugs before I returned them, I consider this to have been extremely generous service.

In conclusion I would like to add that in twenty-seven years I have used K.L.G.s fairly consistently and this was the first occasion on which I have ever had cause to complain. I shall certainly continue to use them!

As you will note, I have no connection whatever with Messrs. K.L.G. Ltd. or any associated concern.

I am, Yours, etc., D. Weston Burgess. Wellesbourne-Mountford. 

 

A 1932 B.M.W.

Sir,

Perhaps some of your readers would be interested in a seemingly unusual B.M.W. which I have recently acquired.

It is a Model 300 or “Dixie” of about 1932-3. Apparently the first “Dixies” were made in Germany, under licence to the Austin Motor Company and were almost exact replicas of the original Austin Seven.

In 1932 or thereabouts, however, an entirely new model was introduced, of which mine is one. It is a roomy two-seater tourer with a snub nose, wide doors, and a shapely curved tail end, incorporating a dickey, a quickly dropped hood, very good quality upholstery, and pressed steel wheels, all fairly conventional.

In mechanical details, however, it must have been very advanced for its day, as it has single centre-tube (box section) chassis, front and rear, employing a de Dion-type final drive, synchromesh gearbox and a 0.8-litre o.h.v. engine, which although original is still very lively.

Although complete and in running order, it is in desperate need of an overhaul, which I hope to undertake, so am wondering whether you have any owners, ex-owners or interested persons amongst your readers who would be willing to give any information.

Thanking you for “the most looked-forward-to” magazine of the month.

I am, Yours, etc., Tilden F. Eldridge. Kirdgord.

 

“Fellow Mentally-Defectives . . .”

Sir,

Since I last wrote to you suggesting that you might be a little over-enthusiastic about the VW, I have had time to readjust my feelings. I have recently purchased a new 1957 De Luxe VW and find that I was unjust on all my points of criticism.

It was suggested by Viscount Bury that the VW has at last a rival in the Morris Minor 1000. Your correspondent suggests that the Minor has more luggage space then the VW, which he will find is quite incorrect if he tries a practical test with the two vehicles. The VW is most certainly a good deal more comfortable than the Minor both as regards space inside and suspension. As far as styling goes, well that is a personal matter, but for myself the VW scores again here. The VW finish in every respect is highly superior to that of any British small car.

Anyone criticising the VW as noisy can never have ridden in a recent model at an effortless, whispering 60 m.p.h. All British small cars boom like a drum when driven over rough surfaces, which brings up another aspect of the noise problem; surely it’s the overall noise level that matters and not the hum of a gear or the hiss of a fan.

A small point but still worthy of note is that, try as I may, I am unable to find even one screw, washer, fastener, bit of wire, etc., lying around on the floor of my V W. I have a tin full of such articles collected from British post-war cars which I have owned.

I agree with Viscount Bury that the rearward vision of the Minor has the VW licked, and that possibly four doors are better than two, if they allow easy access, but I would also say that having been fooled into a false sense of security when an empty fuel tank registered quarter-full on the gauge, I’ll stick to the reserve tap of my VW.

The first five gallons of National Benzole in my VW gave me 51 m.p.g. exactly wth the car cruising at 45 m.p.h. I do not expect this as a regular thing but it shows what can be done.

Finally, after-sales service. Factory-trained engineers (not mechanics), working with equipment that is the best in the world and with a knowledge of the car from A to Z, such is VW service (in my experience at least), and this tied to the utmost courtesy. Compare all the foregoing with the average British after-sales service.

Why are people buying VW? I think that complacency on the part of British manufacturers is one of the very good reasons why VW sales are the world’s best.

To the gentlemen who dictate policy to the British Motor Industry I would say: Give the public something mechanically equal to the VW (rear engine and all-round independent suspension are musts) with contemporary lines and you’re back in the world market in the small-car field.

I am sure that several thousand people like myself would really like to buy British because it’s best.

I am, Yours, etc., R. Smith. Unsworth.

[We were glad to receive this assurance that we are not alone in liking the VW, especially after Mr. C. Pannell’s statement in the Commons that “If anyone bought a VW to drive here he should have his head tested”!  Come to think of it, the VW is a very honest car – with the Porsche it refuses to attempt to disguise its rear-engine location by means of a false grille or motif on the nose; and Wolfsburg does not slang other makes in its catalogues, unlike a big British combine which has recently issued a brochure containing several headlines which proclaim in various ways that its recent new model is “beating the Volkswagen.” — Ed.]

 

New (?) British Cars

Sir,

Three of our leading motor-car manufacturers have recently announced “new” models. I suggest that in the eyes of the sophisticated Continental and American buyer, not to mention the equally sophisticated reader of Motor Sport, they are not new enough.

Jaguars, who never lack courage whether it be in international racing or when dealing with a domestic disaster, have nevertheless produced a car which on analysis proves to be the result of mating an engine designed seven years ago with a chassis that first saw the light of day as recently as 1955. No doubt a good car but not a new car.

Austin have redesigned the front and back ends of the rather uninspired A50, shrunk the wheels and increased the area of glass and chromium, while Vauxhall have indeed produced a new car in so far as they themselves did not produce a similar model before.

In none of these three cars is there any real technical advance whatsoever, and yet they hope to compete abroad with such cars as Volkswagen (an advanced and beautifully-finished car designed twenty years ago), Borgward TS (a 100-m.p.h. family saloon giving 28 m.p.g.), and the really new DS19 Citroen, etc., etc., etc.

Let us hope that they will be successful!

I am, Yours, etc., Cdr. A. Dunhill, M.V.O., M.I.E.E., R.N. Alverstoke.

 

VW versus MINOR 1000

Sir,

Being a regular reader of your excellent journal and gaining much enjoyment therein, I feel I should like to make myself known and write on a subject that has taken my particular interest.

In your January issue was published a letter by the Viscount Bury, discussing the merits of Volkswagen versus Morris Minor 1000.

I should like to defend the attitude of many of us in Kenya that for value and long life on our pot-holed and muddy roads Continental cars are the answer long before Morris Minor or other similar small British cars.

Viscount Bury gives the Minor his vote on grounds of greater comfort and he is probably right. He goes on to mention that the Volkswagen has slightly better suspension and then omits to mention the rear-placed VW engine.

Now it is these two essential points that mark the VW’s supremacy over similar-sized British cars in Kenya. The suspension carrying us well over atrocious roads and the weight of the engine over the rear wheels getting us through the worst mud.

The point of my letter is to show that one make of car excels in certain conditions where another may not shine so brightly, thus making a comparison of the two makes of little value.

I should be very pleased if you publish my letter as I feel that many of us have an accusing finger pointed to us when we arrive on Home leave with our Continental cars. I am sure that anyone with experience of our Kenya roads and the use of small British cars on them will realise that we are not being unpatriotic by buying foreign.

I am, Yours, etc., R. S. Besant. Kenya.

 

The Fair-Sex Speaks Up

Sir,

March “Rumblings” certainly caused more than a rumble here. After the customary fight to gain first possession of Motor Sport I was surprised to see the popsie-petrol-prohibition plan proposed for this season’s lamentably few meetings. Frankly, the poor male enthusiast could not do without us!

Who reads the maps ‘twixt home and circuit? — although HE takes no notice. Fights the vagaries of a paraffin stove at 6 a.m. to cook a breakfast — whilst HE inspects the circuit and tries “to get YOU a programme, dear!”? Keeps all-comers at bay whilst HE spends two hours in vain attempts to reach the prize machinery in the Paddock?

During the racing my lap charts are always more complete than his, although he will not admit it — because I’m only the co-spectator.

When the racing’s over I relax while he drives home. But no! We’ve watched all the drivers and now HE attempts to emulate the best in our “heap,” which couldn’t aspire to the worst we’ve seen. And soon I’m pushing the gloating monster whilst he sits and does “the hardest part, dear” — steering the thing.

At home is it that “warm settee” for me? Oh no, not yet! Another male has just happened to come round and then ensues one of those interminable arguments about “just who did take that corner best.” Although, of course, I could explain the whole thing to them I deal with that other craving in a man — his FOOD.

At last a wash and change to turn this stinky-popsie back to a slinky-popsie — “My, that perfume seems flat after the tang of methanol!”

Thank you for the most interesting monthly reading between the covers of Motor Sport.

I am, Yours, etc., Angela Spence. Stanstead Abbotts.

[Good for you, Angela. We hoped someone would state a case for the fair-sex. And we hope you are not still eating those meals you cook for HIM standing up, which seems probable when HE reads your letter! — Ed.]

 

Aintree Circuit Club

Sir,

Your “Rumblings” comment in the March issue devoted half a page to the Cooper School for Racing Drivers, and amongst other matters you mention that someone once had the bright idea of hiring out a Cooper-J.A.P. at Brands Hatch. As it would appear that you, and maybe your readers, are not aware that this is being done very successfully in the North of England, may I bring to your notice that there is at Aintree a body of enthusiasts who, over the past two years, have built up a very flourishing club of 100 or so members, and are all set to embark on what they hope will be a successful season?

This is the Aintree Circuit Club, formed originally by a Southport business man, Mr. W. Blundell, who once made the long trek down to Brands Hatch to sample 500-c.c. motoring in the shape of the aforementioned Cooper-J.A.P.

Upon his return be enlisted the aid of that northern patron of motor racing, Mrs. Topham, with the idea of doing the same sort of thing in this part of the country. Mrs. Topham co-operated very ably, and the Aintree Circuit Club was born. The Club Circuit of 1¾ miles was made available once a week in the season (April-October), and a Cooper-J.A.P. was purchased and put at the disposal of members at 5s. 6d. per lap — plus an insurance cover charge.

While the club at present cannot claim to give instruction of the type offered by the Cooper concern, it does, however, offer the opportunity for those who are interested to drive a racing car at a famous circuit. It is also hoped to purchase another car in the near future.

The club also offers facilities to members with their own cars (racing or sports) for practising, and this has been responsible for one or two members returning surprising times at B.A.R.C. Club meetings.

A Marshalling Section is being formed for the purpose of training members in all duties of marshalling, observing, etc., and it is hoped that eventually this section will be made available to the organisers of motor racing in this area. Like Cooper, we also are looking for driver talent, though on a lesser scale, and it is hoped that as the club grows these drivers will be sponsored by the club at various 500-c.c. events.

At the moment we cannot boast a blessing of great names like the late-lamented Junior Racing Drivers’ Club, but Stirling Moss has consented to become our first honorary member, and whilst we cannot hope to see very much of that extremely busy personality, he has expressed his intention of seeing us whenever he can.

For those interested, it costs £5 5s. to join the club — £2 2s. entrance fee plus £3 3s. subscription, renewable annually. Associate membership is available at £1 1s., which offers all the club facilities without driving. This is supported by those interested in marshalling, timekeeping, etc.

Any of your readers who would like further information regarding the Aintree Circuit Club are asked to please write, either to the undersigned at 397, Leasowe Road, Moreton, Wirral, Cheshire, or to the Hon. Secretary, Mr. T. G. Peacock, The Three Ways Garage, Clatterbridge, Wirral, Cheshire.

I am, Yours, etc., S. J. Burton, Hon. Treasurer, Aintree Circuit Club.  Clatterbridge.

 

A Belgian Census

Sir,

In recent months your correspondence columns have given the results of car census carried out in several European countries. A few months ago I carried out a similar census in Belgium, which is a particularly interesting country for this type of observation, because there are no import restrictions whatsoever in this country.

My census was conducted until one hundred Volkswagens had been recorded, the idea being that the number of other individual makes would then represent a percentage of Volkswagen sales. The interesting thing was that on the morning that the census was taken, one hundred Opels were recorded before one hundred Volkswagens, but only just, and a Volkswagen soon came along to make it a tie.

The figures which I give below include the products of eight countries. Forty-two makes are represented, nine of them British. The total number of cars recorded was 718, and the totals by countries of origin, in descending order of magnitude, were as follows :

See tables. (Page 49).

The Commons Debate on the British Motor Industry

Sir,

Enclosed is a newspaper cutting giving various “facts” about our mass-production Motor Industry.

(1) Can it not be suggested that the men determined to lead it out of its present difficulties be allowed to replace the type of men at the top who say such things as “The British car is a fine product whatever our competitors say”?

(2) Is, or has, there ever been any short-time working due to sales difficulty at Volkswagen?

(3) It should be pointed out to Mr. William Shepherd that if everybody who bought a Volkswagen instead of a Morris Minor went for medical attention the Health Service (like the Motor Industry) would have an even bigger crisis on its hands than it has at present.

I’m unbiased in this letter as I run an H.R.G.

I am, Yours, etc., A. L. Miller. Cheshire.

 

Sir,

Your leader on the “out-of-date-ness” of British design was very much to the point.

It is interesting, if peculiar, to find the motoring correspondent of the Sunday Express dropping such clangers when the same paper’s editorial did such a fine job on Ken Wharton’s sad death.

However, when it comes to championing the cause of obsolescence, our National papers must take second place to our rulers, as the attached cutting, taken from the Daily Telegraph a couple of weeks ago, will show; the occasion was a debate on the state of the Motor Industry.

“Mr. Shepherd (C., Cheadle) dismissed the Volkswagen as ‘very old-fashioned,’ and undistinguished. It was first designed by an Englishman, who could not get it produced. Anyone in this country who bought a Volkswagen instead of a Morris Minor needed medical attention.”

To my mind, the really alarming thing about this is not that one isolated M.P. should exhibit such ignorance of the facts (this in itself is not surprising) but that in all that august body there exists not one member with sufficient knowledge to correct him.

It may perhaps be rubbing it in unduly to suggest that the medical attention referred to may not be available anyway, if Government mismanagement in another obvious direction goes on much longer!

I am, Yours, etc., H. P. Powell. Horam.

 

Taking Stock

Sir,

I note that you call attention in your March issue to the grossly inaccurate and misleading information published by the motoring correspondent of the Sunday Express regarding British design vis a vis foreign cars. The inaccuracies are so blatant that the author is either deliberately trying to mislead the British motoring public, or he is not competent to write on motoring matters in a paper which takes an active interest in motor racing in this country.

Secondly, your interesting article “Taking Stock” makes rather depressing reading. In an age when it is commonplace for any American six-seater saloon to be capable of well over 100 m.p.h. and Packard able to do 115, one can hardly call the 105 m.p.h. of the cheaper British sports cars inspiring. True the Americans have no brakes and cannot corner, but on Continental roads it is not satisfactory that a sports car can be passed by a leviathan carrying six people and quantities of luggage.

I agree with you that at least 110 m.p.h. should be a “must” for British sports cars, even when they sell at a low figure. Surely if Jaguar can market a small saloon capable of 120 m.p.h. in the medium-price range, it is not an impossible task.

I am, Yours, etc., W. M. Graham (Col). Rye.

 

A Cure For Gear Noise

Sir,

The remarks made by Mr. W. Bancroft regarding Ford’s attitude to gear-lever noise on his Prefect de Luxe prompt me to pass on my own cure, though in my case the car was the Anglia de Luxe, my wife’s property, until she saw the light and bought a Renault Dauphine.

The noise was very reminiscent of that made by the gear-lever of an old 14-h.p. Vauxhall I once owned, when I was so misguided as to fit a heavy metal knob in place of the original, lighter, rubber one. I therefore removed the Ford knob, replacing it with a smaller, much lighter one made of wood. The noise completely disappeared!

The cure being so absurdly simple, one wonders why Ford’s have not adopted it? Which leads me to wonder, not for the first time, whether the higher management of so many of our British motor-manufacturing firms ever take one of their own cars from the line in order to try it out for themselves? Or, again, whether they have ever driven one of the foreign cars, such as Fiat or Renault, which bid fair to oust them from the Export and even the Home market? I shall probably be sticking my neck out when I suggest to Mr. Bancroft that the Dauphine would fit all his summarised “bests,” with the exception of “best-heated” and, of course, the “biggest nerve-irritant”!

I am, Yours, etc., Stanley W. Fisher. Bewdley.