Letters from Readers, April 1959

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

British quality


Surely the logical conclusion of the sentiments expressed in Mr. Boneham’s letter (March issue) is that if it is “obvious and patriotic” for the German to buy German products, and that the Englishman should buy British for the same reason, the same should apply to Americans and all the other various nationals.

Mr. Boneham should be duly thankful that they do not, otherwise, having positively no export markets, one might justifiably expect our major industries, car manufacturers included, to fall rather flat; indeed, it would not be long before the whole country found itself “flat broke.”

Apparently, some of us — mostly those who have first-hand experience — think that certain foreign products are worth owning, in spite of adverse duty (one direction in which our own car industry receives protection, if not direct encouragement), and also in spite of the very natural patriotic instincts which all of us have to some degree or other, while others, who, for the most part, have failed to prove the pudding in the proverbial manner, think otherwise.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Malcolm A. Woodward

Brookmans Park



So, Mr. Boneham, you think we ought to buy British cars because we are British subjects. Do you also think we should buy British cameras, motor scooters, etc., for the same reason? Good design should sell motor cars, and for that matter all the other things mentioned, not patriotism.

I cannot speak for everyone but personally, I buy that which, after careful consideration, I consider to be the best value for hard cash.

In my opinion, and I have experienced them all, there is no small British car that, is even worthy of comparison in the same class as the Volkswagen. An unbiased country’s opinion is surely made clear by sales figures in America.

I hate to think of myself as anti-British, but I have a German camera also. I do hope you haven’t, Mr. Boneham!

A friend of mine has an Italian motor-scooter. Why ? Because British scooters couldn’t hold a candle to it.

No, Mr. Boneham, it’s not because it’s fashionable, not lack of patriotism either. The plain hard fact is that much Continental merchandise is far superior to its British counterpart. Rule Britannia!

I am, Yours, etc.,

D.J. Melhuish


(We hold the view that a motor journal must disregard politics and consequently we praise foreign cars impartially when such praise is justified. When Britain produces something really new and durable we shall be truly thankful and do our utmost to publicise it as we have publicised, for example, that best-seller, the Volkswagen. So far as all Germans buying German cars is concerned, this is not entirely true; the Renault Dauphine is reported as having got a firm footing in the German market. —Ed.)


Good service


It is with considerable satisfaction that I write acknowledging after-sales service par excellence, and trust you may find space in your valuable magazine to inform others of my very pleasant experience.

I had a Laycock overdrive fitted to my Ford Anglia but was dissatisfied with its operation under certain conditions. On Monday, February 23rd, at 10.10 a.m.. I telephoned the Laycock Engineering Company and complained. By 2 o’clock in the afternoon of the same day a service representative of the company had inspected the overdrive, located the fault, rectified it, tested the unit, and left it in a fully serviceable state.

No doubt you will agree this is the type of service which gives confidence in the product.

I am, Yours, etc,.

H.J. Pepper



Comments on valve gear


Your article on valve gear layout in the March issue is most interesting.

It prompts mention of the present trend towards direct actuation of the valves without the use of rockers between valve and camshaft, as exemplified in the hemispherical head o.h.c. engines in the present Jaguar, Lagoada, Coventry-Climax, twin-cam M.G., etc. These bear a direct descent from the 1920 Ballot racing engine designed by Ernest Henri, who, as you mention, was responsible for the successful Peugeot.

In this connection some recognition should be given to the Salmson marque, British Salmson in this country, which was the only engine to retain the original Henri design of valve actuation through the years until it was again popularised by “W. O.” in the design for the 2-1/2-litre Lagonda. The design allows for very low reciprocating weights, and freedom from oil passing the valve stems.

The fact that the manufacturers listed above have adopted it proves its efficiency both for racing and touring. 

I am, Yours, etc.,

E. Jennings




In your very interesting article on inclined o.h. valves one important example was omitted: the Citroen DS19, where Maurice Sainturat’s classic push-rod engine was given a new inclined-valve head. Moreover, if I understand you right, any direct influence of the Sunbeam ‘bus engine on other designs has not actually been proved. The later English examples have much in common with it, but the 1936 Lago-Talbot, with its unequal-length rockers, is different enough to be an original design as M. Lago also states. It is naturally more probable that the similar Peugeot system was inspired from this engine than from the Sunbeam. Consequently, even if the Wolverhampton firm must have full credit for its original achievement, I do not think it correct to talk about all the others being “indebted” to it. But it is always interesting to know who was first with an idea, even if the successors are not consciously copying. In later years we have seen an amusing revival of forgotten veteran car details like the steering-column gear-lever or the speed governor (called “Cruise Control” on the new Cadillac). I wonder how much of this comes from historical studies, and how much is just coincidence?

I am, Yours, etc.,

Bjorn Linn

Bromma, Sweden.


The new Citroëns — where they succeed


Reader “W. A. R.” of Saxmundham (February issue, page 118) expresses nearly word for word what I would say about the Citroën DS19, particularly in his answer to Mr. Scarr, who should use a Land Rover on the type of road he travels.

Although I have not measured it, I believe the DS19, on the second notch from normal, has more ground clearance than most touring cars, and the suspension is so stiff in that position that clearance should be maintained within an inch of maximum in any case.

Have you tested the ID19 (now Monte Carlo famous) ? I think that comparison between the two cars, DS19 and ID19, is rather intriguing.

The engines are identical, but the ID19 with single 32-mm. carburetter is rated at 66 h.p., while the DS19 with 24-30-mm. compound carburetter is rated at 75 h.p., yet the maximum speed of both cars is identical (and the ID beats the DS by 0.2 sec. on the standing kilometre, owing to faster gear change). Where do those extra 9 h.p. vanish ? It is hard to believe they are absorbed by the second compressor actuating the brakes, steering and gear-change. What do you think ? Also, the ID gives a 10 per cent. better m.p.g. return than the DS in identical road and speed conditions.

Apart from the DS19, I know of no car using a  “compound” carburetter, i.e.. 24-mm., small venturi to “get away” and, after the 24-mm. is “wide open” the 30-mm. “takes over” for high revs and free breathing of the engine from a big venturi. I find it very satisfying in use and more logical than the usual compromise of a “medium” venturi.

I am, Yours, etc.,

C. Jorrand

Blessac, France



Ever since Citroën announced the ID19 in 1955, I intended owning one some time. The opportunity occurred last June, when I regretfully turned in a 1954 Light Fifteen for a 1956 DS that showed 8,000 miles on the clock.

Prior to this (and, indeed, since), I read all the literature, handouts, road tests, etc., that I could beg, borrow or steal, and in consequence expected to come into possession of a dream car.

Indeed, this is just what did happen to me, except that I prefer to be awake to appreciate all the qualities that the car has.

The 1954 model is a car that is in the tradition. Good driving position, nice big wheel, dashboard within easy reach, safe at a high cruising average, and very comfortable. It also needs that little bit extra of proud driving ability to make it perform to its best.

These qualities put it head and shoulders above all similar priced contemporaries. What a pity that this model has not been retained to bridge the gap between the 2 c.v. and the ID.

The DS is indeed a revelation. Appreciative as I was about the Light Fifteen (real pangs of regret when I saw her being driven away for the last time), the “goddess” is as chalk is to cheese, in the balance. I will not compare them, on principle.

Since June, I have done 10,000 miles (my yearly average used to be 12,000!) and each mile is a pleasure. With all the hydraulic automation, the car is a one-hand, one-foot vehicle to drive, and the controls are arranged so. The only point that I would raise here is that I would like the foot-brake button to be further over to the left to allow two-foot control to save an awkward crick in the left ankle when driving fast “at the ready.”

Not being a fully automatic gear-change type, I appreciate the fact of being able to change the gears myself, and I must agree with your correspondent “W.A..R” that whereas anyone can change gears, one must become very much more subtle to change these properly. But the satisfaction in a clean downward change (assisted by a whiff of “double-declutch” is as great as a similar one on a 1923 Bentley … but rather quicker !

This is the only suitable car designed for this country that I have driven in 25 years, and in most everything, for its ability to corner is impeccable. Acceleration on the turn, brake on the apex, swing out, and in again to avoid a pothole, she keeps the line you were thinking about, when most other cars would take charge. In fact. so stable is the car that on the one or two occasions that I have been in trouble she seemed to think out the solution for me.

Rear-seat passengers seem to travel more comfortably than those in front, judging by their relaxed conversation. Whilst you may not catch all that they are talking about up to 40-45, due to airstream and engine noise, over that quietness prevails… provided the windows are properly shut!

From here to there is accomplished in a lot less time than you realise. Forty-five miles in the hour is usual, my best to date being 200 miles in four hours. One very valid reason for a fast average is the giant’s hand that holds you back at the dab of a little foot button, and in a comfortng straight line.

Consumption is at 25 m.p.g. locally and getting up to 31/32 on a long run. Servicing is a problem, but my local garage are very good and very interested. I trust that Messrs. Rapsons of Glastonbury do not find anything so seriously wrong that they will advise me to go to Slough, for I do not like to be denied use of any car for very long. I feel that Servicing Departments are in existence for my benefit and not me for theirs.

Unlike “W.A.R.,” the only other make that has really made me settle down to serious motoring has been the Mercedes-Benz 220. I have not had the pleasure of coming up against the Borgward, yet.

But I must get alongside him and finish my letter with the same sentence that he finished his with… !

I am, Yours, etc.,

C.P. Cleator



Insurance companies’ losses


Hardly a week passes without some insurance spokesman telling us how unfortunate is the companies’ experience in the motor market.

I agree that there is a large number of motor accidents each year. However, having a friend who makes a large portion of his living by buying and re-building  “write-offs”  I have little sympathy for the companies. One of his latest acquisitions is a convertible that had been rolled, with damage to the windscreen supports and hood. This car, having been bought as a write-off was driven away under its own power and will probably profit him about £200 as well. I saw a 4-1/2-litre close-coupled Lagonda saloon declared a write-off after one front wheel had been pushed back about two feet in an accident. This car was rebuilt in less than a week with very few spares, so that allowing at least £250 as the write-off value, the company must have parted with an unnecessary £75 or so, since the car was sold as a wreck for about £100.

If the companies are concerned about their losses, why do they not either employ surveyors who know what they are talking about, or else run their own workshops?  If the companies then took in each others’ repairs, we might see some tangible proof that knock-for-knock is good for us!

I am, Yours, etc.,

J.A. Heath Thompson

Hill End


The performance of the Berkeley


It was most interesting to read about the trouble Mr. Batten has had with his Berkeley. I can sympathise with him, for, in a period of ten months of loving care and attention, my own Berkeley has repaid me thus:

The front suspension collapsed totally, as luck would have it, when I was moving slowly. Four hundred, or so, miles later the clutch and gearbox seized up. Then, in February, the king-pins, wheel bearings and other pieces of the transmission had to be replaced — and they were all greased with the utmost regularity.

One more thing—the windscreen wipers survived one thunderstorm an hour in length, and then fused.

Thank heavens for the Morris Minor!

I am, Yours, etc.,

N.G. Eggleton





Last month you referred to our product in a short editorial. As a result of this many of our postal customers have inquired about the matter of removing the Plastigauge from the bearing.

The fact is that it usually comes away quite easily on a piece a rag, but, in any event, the material is completely soluble in oil and, being non-abrasive, it is perfectly satisfactory to leave it.

Many people have also asked if 2-1/2 thou. is the correct big-end clearance, as that was the figure that you stated you found on a re-ground and re-metalled assembly.

We have made numerous tests on reconditioned crankshaft assemblies and have often noted, particularly on the bigger sizes, that around 2 thou. exists. This is with white metal.

Normally 1 to 1-1/2 thou. is the preferred clearance on a big-end or main bearing where the size is around 1-3/4 in. for the big-end and 2 in, for the mains, in the case of white metal. When using lead-bronze the clearance should be about 1 thou. more.

I am, Yours, etc.,

“D. P”, p.p. Plastiguage Mfg. Co.

South Croydon



Rolls-Royce mythology


Apropos your letter regarding “The ticking of the clock” perhaps you would like to hear some further examples of “Rolls mythology” which I have gathered since becoming the owner of a vintage Rolls. I have been told, in all seriousness, the following stories :

“The bonnet is sealed and the breaking of these seals breaks also the guarantee.”

“No person is allowed to drive a Rolls (under what Act of Parliament I cannot imagine) unless he has been trained at the Rolls Driving School.”

“The tappets have fibre inserts for the sake of silence.”

“The Silver Lady mascot is made of pure silver.”

Then there is the story of the chap in the South of France who broke a half-shaft. A new one, together with fitters, was flown out to him, and, subsequently, on requesting the bill he was told that such an incident never took place and he owed nothing as Rolls half-shafts do not break!

These are but a few examples of the nonsense that is talked about the R-R, and I am certain that other readers could add to then,. Nevertheless, my 1927 Rolls-Royce compares very favourably in all respects with most modern cars, and although the price of spares is pretty high, I (touch wood !) have never had to buy any.

I am, Yours, etc.,

P. Salter

London, N.21


That Lancia Astura


It was a great pleasure to me to see a photograph of the ex-Bruno Mussolini Mille Miglia Lancia Astura that I so painstakingly restored from an almost total wreck in 1956.

I can tell Mr. Scully quite a good deal of the history of this car, Reg. No. DXU 577. I purchased it from Ron Barker in February 1956, for the sum of £85. Those lovely wings were all ripped and crumpled, the body dented and battered, a hole in the radiator, second gear unserviceable, one silencer gone, windows missing, the interior a complete shambles. Mr. Barker was very frank and told me all the faults. He also said that she was rumoured to be a Mille Miglia car. I fell in love with her, and determined to rescue her.

Then followed months of restoration work, skilfully aided by “Bunny” Prideaux of Rex Engineering. She was stripped down to the chassis and rebuilt. Another complete gearbox was obtained from Lancias, the radiator was removed and repaired, the radiator shutters restored, wings and bodywork rebuilt, glass fitted, interior refurbished, etc., etc.

All this time there was much searching for her history. At last success, in the form of a letter from Mr. R. V. Bird, now out in Switzerland, who owned the car from 1946-1954, and had her out there. (I enclose photograph of Mr. Bird, with car and Swiss registration plates). He had taken the car to Italy and gleaned her history from the works.

I am afraid she’s a bastard! She has a 1932 standard Astura chassis, chopped in half and shortened, and fitted with the late series 3-litre 1936 engine, mated to a 1932 rear axle. The body, though by Castagna, came off an Alfa Romeo — look at those wings! She was specially constructed at the Lancia works to Bruno’s orders for the 1936 Mille Miglia. However, he didn’t drive the car (windy ?) but his chauffeuse practised in it. I don’t think she competed in the race.

Mr. Bird also spent much time and money on the car when he first brought her in England. Mr. West, the Lancia agent of South Kensington, officiated at that time, when the Morris Eight grille was fitted, the previous owner having wrapped the car round a telegraph pole, at the outset of the 1939 war.

She was a car of great character, and no comfort! My wife detested her, and in the end financial difficulties, coupled with the car’s great thirst, 12 m.p.g.!, forced me to sell her, for the princely sum of £80, fully restored. What a sad thing it is to have to sell a car !

As regards performance, I used to reckon 60 m.p.h. in third and 80 in top, and I don’t think she was ever capable of very much more. I found the brakes inadequate, in spite of their great diameter.

Having weathered the storm, I eventually achieved my ambition, and now own a 4-1/4-litre Bentley, which gives a much better performance using almost half the petrol, and is very comfortable. The servo-assisted brakes are more than adequate!

I shall always have a soft spot for the dear old Lancia, and am glad that she is in the hands of an enthusiast again. I would very much like to see the car again, and if Mr. Scully would like to contact me perhaps a meeting could be arranged.

Although I lost such a great deal of money in the restoration, I am glad that I did the work. I feel it is the duty of every enthusiast to rescue cars of character wherever possible. Incidentally I greatly appreciated the recent series of articles on the Armstrong Siddeley, and heartily endorse all the good things said of those cars. The 1940 16-h.p. saloon I owned was one of the best cars I’ve ever had, and I’ve owned a very large number of different makes, including a 1921 Morris Cowley with alloy discs on the wheels, which I sold for £4 before the war! Might be worth a bit more now!

I have recollected a few more points concerning the Lancia. The wheels are very special, and very beautiful, having been specially made in Switzerland. She houses twin in spares in the tail, also a 37gallon tank! The lamps are Zeiss, with glass mirror reflectors. The sidelamps are ex-Ford V8! The side windows were beautifully streamlined double curvature efforts. Most remarkable! The 110-m.p.h. speedometer is ex-Bentley, the other instruments are Bosch, as are the winking indicators set above each door (time switch operated). The steering wheel is ex-Lancia Lambda, which Bird raced before the war.

When I moved down here from London two years ago, I left the old gearbox (stripped down) with my good friend Andre Archer, of Clapham Park. Mr. Scully is welcome to it if he would like it.

Needless to say, I, sold the car to the “trade.”  I deemed it unnecessary to throw, in the spare gearbox at that price!

Every success to you and your excellent journal.

I am, Yours, etc.,

T.A. Rogers



Regrets over the Railton


Your correspondent. Derek Woolcock, whose letter on the subject of his Railton car you published in the March issue, brought immediately to mind the exchange of correspondence some time back with opinions for and against the Railton being considered a post-vintage sports car with thoroughbred classification.

There is little doubt that this correspondence was appreciated by many readers. I received letters from many parts of the world for months after, making comments on the controversy.

All the opinions expressed in the correspondence were fair and reasonable and whilst I personally, and naturally other owners of Railtons as well as many unbiased people, could not see eye to eye with the V.S.C.C.’s lack of recognition of this car, it was accepted that the Club’s committee had apparently a majority backing of its three thousand members to support the exclusion, and the matter was allowed to drop.

To my utter amazement I received from the V.S.C.C. a publication dated February 1959 stating that the following were now considered to be post-vintage thoroughbred sports cars: Cadillac, Lincoln, Packard and front-wheel-drive Citroën! (This last one should at least please the Paris taxi-drivers.)

Nothing will convince me that these cars have been approved by the Club membership; they have nothing whatsoever to do with the V.S.C.C., unless a new section called the ‘Thirties Club has been added.

There may be two schools of thought about the Railton but it is surely not denied that every model produced, be it saloon or open, was a sports car and an individual effort.

I know that Tim Carson has always considered (for some extraordinary reason for such an otherwise sensible chap) that his Citroën should be approved. He has in fact, written me to this effect. I now wonder who on the committee owns the American vehicles.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Antony Hyde-East


(Could it be that pre-1940 Cadillac, Lincoln and Packard cars are considered to be “classics” and that the old f.w.d. Citroën gets by on account of its vintage gear ratios and good road-holding ? Whereas the V.S.C.C. probably regard the Railton as an Anglo-American hybrid. — Ed.)