Matters of moment, April 1963

Horse, or horseless, age?

Motor Sport’s suggestion that to combat the increasing persecution of motorists a powerful protection society is to be welcomed has met with an enthusiastic response and a further announcement of our intentions will be made, probably next month. We must stress very strongly that we do not seek to protect careless, foolish or criminal road users but simply to secure justice for those citizens who are as law-abiding as it is possible to be once one is in charge of a mechanically-propelled vehicle.

There is growing evidence of unrest in that section of the community which last year was taxed to the extent of £402-million in fuel tax alone, and which is reluctant much longer to tolerate fresh parking restrictions, savage fines for minor offences and the frequent endorsement of licences for purely technical, non-criminal misdemeanours.

We cannot condone suggestions for blocking Parliament Square with locked cars or using cars without payment of the Road Fund tax, by way of protest. But there is nothing illegal in motorists refraining from voting at the next General Election until politicians promise a fair deal for road users—a disappointing poll would bring home to M.P.s of all parties how serious the situation has become. Nor need anyone do business in those towns where one is greeted with blue notices proclaiming “Radar Speed Check Operating.”

Obviously, if lax parking were tolerated cars soon wouldn’t be able to move at all; charging for or prosecuting drivers for leaving vehicles in deserted side streets and culs-de-sac is stupid and an unnecessary interference with the liberty of one of the most heavily-taxed sections of a normally law-respecting Society. Nor can anyone seriously argue that lives are endangered because modern cars exceed by a few m.p.h. out-dated speed-limits on straight roads. It is petty and vicious persecutions we hope to fight.

Britain should make up her mind to face up to the motoring age. Otherwise (conveniently overlooking the fact that, according to the Parliamentary Secretary, some 1,570 people were killed in 1900 in traffic accidents averaging 8 m.p.h.) perhaps it would be better to return to the horse, leaving these dangerous new-fangled mechanical road vehicles (useful, obviously, only in times of crisis or when rushing doctor to patient, patient to hospital, fire appliances to a fire, etc., etc.) to Europe, America and the U.S.S.R.

Muffled hooves

We sympathise with Keith Schellenberg and R. B. Ropner who want to build a race circuit at Croft Aerodrome, near Darlington, a distressed area where one would have expected any scheme giving employment to be welcomed, but whose plans have been turned down by the N. Riding C.C. on account of noise.

Observers raised no objection, after 8-litre and 3-litre Bentleys, a C-type Jaguar and a 500-c.c. motorcycle had been demonstrated on the site, but after a public enquiry on March 8th the fate of Croft Circuit is in the hands of the Minister of Housing and Local Government.

No doubt primitive man in his cave dwelling found the night noises of monsters out of pre-history annoying. But the monsters, unlike the Schellenbergs, were permitted their innocent pursuits, no Minister of Housing having been thought of to whom the cavemen could air their dislike of the grunts and scratchings in the forests.

Recently a go-kart proprietor was fined because of objections to the noise of these machines at Donington Park, which seems to have put paid to any hope of a revival of real motor racing at this fine pre-war venue.

What seems so droll is that householders who object so strongly to occasional mechanical noises make so much noise themselves. In the new towns and estates, lit all night like prison compounds, radios and televisions blare, car doors slam, engines are revved (usually from stone cold), trains whistle and shunt in sidings, juke-boxes play in cafés and revellers sing their way home, jet aircraft scream overhead, lorries grind under their loads and circular saws run unsilenced, engaged in the Englishman’s prolific post-war hobby of felling fine old trees, noises never heard when the areas were forest and marshland. No-one objects, they scarcely notice. But attempt to race cars or fly light aeroplanes and in steps the Ministry of Housing! Brooklands, opened in 1907, was nearly closed the same year because of this noise complex, and 18 years later those who built houses near the Track, knowing it was there, succeeded in enforcing official silencers on everything that raced and researched thereon. It is ironical that cars raced at Goodwood must have TV suppressors but need not have silencers! The blare of TV may well drown distant exhausts, however.

While sympathising with Schellenberg we wonder whether it wouldn’t be better to revert to horses—with muffled hooves, of course.

Congratulations Castrol!

The makers of Castrol, that excellent lubricant, showed commendable initiative in setting a 3.8 Jaguar Mk. II saloon to run for a week at Monza in pursuit of the 1952 Johnson/Moss records (7 days at 100.3 m.p.h. at Montlhéry with an XK120) mainly as a research project into the performance of lubricants at sustained high speed.

The run stopped when the car’s axle-tubes broke, but subsequently Sargent, Bekaert, Duke, Lumsden and Hedges, under Jimmy Hill, broke the 3-day, 4-day, 15,000-kilometre and 10,000-mile International Class C records at speeds of from 106.5 to 107 m.p.h. The Jaguar consumed 18 Dunlop RS5s, 28 pints of water, 21 pints of Castrol XL and gave about 14 m.p.g. Congratulations, Castrol—and chidings to Henlys, Bracknell Motors and Jaguar who have advertised these as World’s records, which they are not.

Safeguard yourselves

Judging by our own experiences, readers’ letters and the findings of CA Ltd., new cars are delivered with a shockingly high proportion of faults, apart from others that develop early in their life. Purchasers of new cars should make a very thorough examination of their expensive new possessions, and perhaps insist on a 500-mile trial run, before handing their money to the dealers.