Letters from Readers, April 1964

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

Rover’s Reply


My attention has been drawn to the Editorial of the February issue. As you pointed out, we were of course mistaken in claiming that for the first time in history a motor magazine has elected “The Car of the Year,” and I enclose a revised copy of our Press Release. However, the rest of the Press Release is a straight translation by the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce of the article which appeared in Auto-Visie. The Rover Company has no desire to overstate the case but as it had no hand in the preparation of the Auto-Visie article it did not seem to us to be immodest to quote it in full as a statement of someone else’s opinion.

While on the subject of the 2000, may I refer to your article “Rover Re-cap” in the January issue, and point out that the reserve tap is operated by an orthodox pull-push cable without any electrical nonsense.

William Martin-Hurst, Managing Director,

Solihull. The Rover Company Ltd.

[I am delighted to publish Rover’s explanation of what appeared to us rather unnecessarily blatant publicity for a widely-acclaimed new car. But I am sorry to know that I should have had to repair a cable, not merely replace a fuse, to make the 2000’s petrol-reserve work.—Ed.]

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Three Mercedes and a Lancia


For 20 years, in India, I drove a succession of large Americans; after the last war a pre-war 6-cylinder Hillman, in 1948 a Citroën Light 15, 1951 a Zephyr, 1955 an Austin 90, and in 1959 a used (16,000 miles) Mercedes 220S in lovely condition. The Mercedes’ seats, having softened, were very comfortable, it handled beautifully and, after the Austin—admittedly half its price— was a real delight. I did 90 miles on the Milan-Venice autostrada at over 100 m.p.h., when the engine temperature never shifted a point, and on the appalling surfaces in North France could hold 70-75 comfortably. Its forte was its 3rd gear and its balance over all road conditions.

After two years I traded it for the, then, new Mercedes-Benz 220SE. I was very proud of it, its looks, extra power, etc., but I was never happy with it. The seats were board hard and they always gave me cramp. The car was too big . . I don’t say in inches, but it drove much bigger than the 220S. I was still running it in, when after 3,000 miles I swapped it for a 190 Mercedes SL, soft-top. I was delighted with this. It drove beautifully in one piece, was as handy as a cat, and for me (5 ft. 8 in.) the epitome of comfort. The top, when up, was completely draught and noise-proof. The engine was too noisy but had a sparkling performance, and on the Munich-Salzburg autobahn reached 120 m.p.h. . . . when we were having a dust-up with another exactly similar white, red trim job. So far so good. Where the car failed was if she was fully loaded for touring, on the aforesaid surfaces in, say, North France she lost her form completely. She pitched into every pot-hole, the steering became erratic and the ride so uncomfortable that one had to pull back to 50 m.p.h. or so. We drove it abroad for two years and finally I had a strike on my hands. . . I loved to drive it with the top down and my wife hated the gale down her neck, and, true to say, whenever one topped 70 this was considerable. My wife is a mad keen motorist, but “fair dos” . . . she does a lot for me and I had had it!

We were in Rome in 1962, and there I saw the Lancia Flavia coupé. A friend of mine had a saloon. Prior to this he had owned a Rover, Bentley, Bristol, etc., and he maintained that getting him to and from his race meetings (he is a trainer) the Lancia did the journeys quicker and with less effort than any of his previous cars. Further, he had a friend who had a Flaminia. Each drove the other’s car and both, he told me, agreed that the Flavia was the better car of the two. He drives like the devil, and I was impressed. I was further impressed when I drove and saw the lines of the coupé. I traded in the 190 for the coupé in March last year and I could not be better pleased. I have never heard of a bad Lancia and this one is a corker. It is on the noisy side, but don’t all GT makers let through that extra Bruuuumph to underline that it is GT? I think so.

Its performance matches that of the 190SL; it is as comfortable; it corners better by some 5 m.p.h.; and it pulls better at low revs, and, here is the point, one can load it fully and drive it over any surface at any speed. Last year, through Spain and back through France, the car floated effortlessly over the worst of roads and held a perfect line at 80 m.p.h. or more. Only a 300 Merc, passed us. It isn’t that it is faster than my Mercs. but its springing, road-holding, steering and brakes are so perfect that one does in fact drive faster than in the other cars, and of course it takes up very little room on the roads. Its only superior, I would say, for my purpose is the Flavia fitted with the 1800 engine. As our roads get more and more congested, nothing would induce me to own a large car. With its ability to carry touring luggage this small superlative quality car seems to me to stand alone.

What else? Porsche . . . you can only pack a toothbrush; E-type . . . ditto; Alfa 2600, Healey, Rover 2000, M.G. . . . not the quality and less luggage room. Jags generally. . . well, I just don’t trust them; my owner friends have had too many “experiences” with them for my peace of mind. As a member of a motoring journal test staff said to me: “Well, you see, they really offer too much for too little money.”

I expect that enthusiasts, having read this, will be licking their pens.

Newmarket. Denzil Holder (Lieut. Colonel).

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The Other Side of the R8 Coin


Having driven a Renault R8 for nearly 12,000 miles now, I was very interested to read Mr. Dixon’s letter in your February edition. However, there is one very important point he omitted to mention and that is the handling at high speeds.

The weight distribution is nearly 70% rear-30% front, so it is hardly surprising that directional stability suffers. Progress down the M 1 in a strong cross-wind is alarming, and even with 1 cwt. of solid weight in the front boot matters are not greatly improved.

If only Renault would put the engine and transmission where they belong! With the superb 5-bearing engine and now 1,100 c.c., plus those front seats, it really would be a world beater.

As for me, it will have to be Issigonis next time!

Chesham. G. H. Arkell.

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Armstrong Siddeley Service


So often I have read about the poor service British car makers give that I felt I must place on record the “after sales service” which Messrs. Armstrong Siddeley Motor Cars give to members of the public. Finding myself in need of spares for a motor car which is no longer in production, I was amazed at the attention and the great detail given to my request for assistance.

Being a regular reader of your splendid magazine and for some long time taking note of the disappointed owners of English products, I felt it only fair to point out that English manufacturers can be efficient and courteous; regrettable that few of us ever bother to admit this, or, show our appreciation.

Stretford. J. E. Taylor.

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Rally Advertising


The Reliant advertisement on page 73 and the results of the Welsh Rally on page 81 of the February issue prompt me to comment on the rather doubtful value of class wins as advertising material.

Reliant are probably justly proud of their achievement, but the fact remains that their cars were beaten by at least ten others (how many were there?), all of smaller engine size and one being only one third as big.

This is not a personal attack on the company in question; other manufacturers adopt the same methods; but if they choose to do so, let us get their claims, true though they are, into the right perspective.

Workington. D. W. Blacklock.

[And not long ago we saw the Skoda advertised as the car that won the Monte Carlo Rally.—Ed.]

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Citroën Comments


I have just received my copy of Motor Sport for March, and I am delighted to see that you are the first to test the Citroën DW, and that you liked it so much.

After that truly dreadful road test of the DS last year by you-know-who, it is so refreshing to find someone who really appreciates our lovely motor cars.

I notice that you mention in particular the wind roar at speed caused by the frameless windows. There is a low-pressure area at the rear of the car, and if the near-side rear window is left open about 5/8 to 1 in. it will be found that the car becomes almost completely silent and the annoying wind whistle you complained of entirely disappears. There is no draught. It is a complete cure.

May I say how much I enjoy your journal, which I have read without a break for over thirty years.

Please use your influence with M. Garbé to persuade the inscrutable Quai Javel to introduce all-in-a-line gear selection on the DS, with a foolproof synchromesh between 1st and 2nd. Perhaps a 5-bearing crankshaft for good measure, set below a modern over-square motor, keeping the same cylinder-head design and twin-choke Weber.

Beyond these modest requests I have nothing to ask, the car is so near perfection.

Lytham. E. O. Wanliss.

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A Matter of Finance


In case you and your readers have recently seen in the daily papers that the insurance companies have “lost” nearly £6 million on motor insurance, and you are feeling less bitter about paying increased premiums, may I prompt second thoughts?

The published loss does not take into account interest earned on the £345½-million premiums collected in advance. This interest, although received by the insurance companies, does not have to be disclosed to conform with Board of Trade requirements. I do not know the figure but I would venture to suggest that it practically offsets their alleged loss.

Potters Bar. Brian L. Hill.

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As one blessed with the good fortune of having owned several Rolls-Royces and destined, I hope, to sit behind a few more “Parthenon radiators” in the years to come, it is with great distress that I must reveal a design fault, that all may know and be warned.

For the public good and without fear of the consequences I must expose this mistake for the sake of truth. It is this: that the bonnet clouts the “Silver Lady” sharply on the behind when you open it!

True worshippers, of course, have come to accept the ritual of turning her into a respectable sideways position before inspecting “the masterpiece,” but one can’t help wondering whether any other manufacturer could have got away with it.

Manchester. Peter D. Harper.

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The Water-Cooled VW Model


Having been an enthusiastic beetle owner for some 10 years, and 150,000 miles, covered in two cars, I felt that the time had arrived when I could profitably carry out certain maintenance and servicing functions myself. I therefore obtained a copy of P. Olyslager’s manual on the Volkswagen, published by the Sunday Times and revised in 1963. This manual is, let me make it quite clear, devoted only to the Volkswagen, and mentions no other make or type of car.

Imagine then, my surprise, on turning to page 137, which is devoted to engine faults and rectification, and reading the following:

K. Engine leaks

Cooling system:

Lack of water: Top-up and check for leaks.

Radiator clogged by insects: Clean.

Cooling system clogged internally: Clean with a cooling system cleaner of a reputable make and flush out according to maker’s instructions. Inspect radiator hoses and replace if in bad condition.

In the preface, on page 1, I am told that “the manuals were described, after considerable research by the International Commission on Automobile Documentation as the ‘best automobile documentation so far in the world’ and can therefore be confidently recommended for accuracy, precision and thoroughness.”

Is any further comment necessary? I think not, save to warn other readers of the folly of following too slavishly such misleading rubbish!

Hertford. Michael Hart.

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The Growth of Motoring


The record for the smallest number of vehicles to be registered by any one authority in England and Wales is held at present by the Borough of Bootle (12,900), followed by Rutland (13,550). These figures are approximate and apply to the turn of this year. Both these authorities, for some unaccountable reason have started issuing the new system of numerals with the suffix B, denoting 1964.

Radnorshire and the Borough of Merthyr Tydfil follow with 14,000 and just over 14,000, respectively. The next Welsh authority (I believe this includes England too) is Merioneth with approximately 17,900. They too have now started the new numeral system (the only example from Wales I have seen). There is a 1910 Maudslay automobile on show in Coventry Art Gallery, EJ 79. Only 79 vehicles registered in Cardiganshire up to 1910!

Nailsea. Hugh E. M. Johnson.


Your correspondent A. G. Richardson (February 1964, page 515) brings out a number of interesting points in his letter but where oh where, did he get his information about Leith registrations? This registration (WS) did not have 30 years of use prior to being adopted by Edinburgh but rather less than 17. It was in abeyance between 1920, when the Edinburgh Boundaries Extension Act brought about the amalgamation of city and burgh, and June 1934, when Edinburgh’s then existing two-letter registrations became exhausted.

To the nearest whole number Leith registrations averaged 146—not 16—per year, the last issued number being 2401. WS 2402 to WS 9999 were issued as Edinburgh numbers between June 1934 and July 1936, in which year the total registrations were over the 4,000 mark. Last year there were some 11,000 registrations and there is every sign of the 1964 figure topping 52,000. Contrasting the figure of 4,000 with 12,000 gives perhaps as accurate an indication of the growth of motoring over the last 30 years as is likely to be arrived at along the notoriously unreliable road of statistics.

If Mr. Richardson is interested in the slowest rate of registration—which certainly never belonged to the Port of Leith—he might care to explore the situation in Bute County (SJ) where the 3,000th registration seems likely to be recorded only during 1964. I do not want to dispute his total figure of registrations in Scotland and Ireland up to 1932, but I believe he may have a surprise in store when he investigates this question further. Total Edinburgh registrations up to this time were around 43,000.

C. S. Minto, Edinburgh.

City Librarian, Edinburgh.

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I was extremely interested to read your comments on car safety harnesses in both the February and March issues of your excellent journal. The remark which interested me most was your comment on being burnt alive.

I heard an experienced motorist tell me once how he had crashed his Lotus Elite. He himself was knocked unconscious and thrown clear, but the Lotus was burnt out. Now, had he been wearing a safety belt he would have most certainly been burnt alive.

This story may only illustrate a very weak example for an argument, but I feel that many people who daily risk their lives by, say, smoking, ought not to criticise people who slightly risk their lives by not wearing safety harnesses in motor cars.

Sheffield. Michael A. Faulkner.


May I, as one who appreciates both wit and a sense of humour, congratulate you on your comments regarding the use, or otherwise, of seat-belts.

In this modem world of motoring, the wearing of these harnesses is one of the few things left to the motorist’s own discretion. My husband and I prefer driving our car in the “old-fashioned” way, and accepting our fate without the restraining influence of straps, etc., as so many others have done since the era of the motor vehicle began.

Alloway. Patricia H. Dickie (Mrs.).

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The Cost of Race Spectating


Regarding the high prices referred to by Mr. Huddleston (March issue), it is interesting to reflect that Brands Hatch is owned by the same company that owns Oulton Park, Mallory Park and Snetterton. Let’s hope that higher prices will not be charged at these circuits too.

I, for one, find that the prices for Aintree/Silverstone G.P. meetings are high enough, and many others agree. This results in an ever increasing number of people leaving the big meetings to those who can pay the high prices, whilst themselves enjoying the unchanging atmosphere of the small club meetings.

Finally, keep up the good work as outspoken editor. I have taken your magazine for 15 years and I would hate to find it changed, either now or in the future.

Fillongley. John Ward.


I am somewhat surprised at the letters concerning admission prices at Brands Hatch. I am only surprised in that the letters come from motor-racing enthusiasts. Had they come from ordinary folk, well it’s quite understandable, as it seems to be the modern trend of the general public to expect everything to be priced at what they would like to pay.

One nearly always finds that the biggest moaners will drink and smoke the price of anything they are complaining about, often whilst they are telling you about it.

The fact is that the Grand Prix at Brands Hatch is well on the way to being sold out as far as grandstand tickets are concerned, and that surely is undisputable proof that prices are right.

Even a student can save the price of a grandstand ticket at less than a bob a week from one year to another, and a bob a week is less than one cigarette a day or one fluid ounce of beer!

If Brands Hatch is more money than Silverstone, what of it? Silverstone must be the worst spectator circuit in the country. The best circuit for spectators is without doubt Oulton Park, though stand accommodation is so limited that I suppose it would not make enough money for a Grand Prix. Aintree is not bad; far and away better than Silverstone.

Let us remember that Grand Prix racing is very expensive to put on, and let us be thankful that only by us paying (and not by moaning) will it continue in the healthy state that it is in at the moment.

Perhaps your correspondents do not remember the first British Grand Prix when the entry consisted of three invincible Delages (with the rest nowhere) and odd British entries that could only have been accepted in order to make the starting line look like a race.

Harrogate. John Hardy.

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Lancia History


Mr. Foeman’s “History of the Lancia,” published in your March issue, is so breathtaking in its scope, detail, and general accuracy, that any criticism seems churlish. Nevertheless, because of its excellence and because it has been published in Motor Sport, the article is bound to be quoted as an authority for many years to come, and so I hope that the following observations will be accepted in this spirit.

Mr. Foeman says that Vincenzo Lancia set up on his own as a car manufacturer in 1908. In fact the company of Lancia & C. was legally incorporated on November 29th, 1906, in the office of a Turin notary, Ernesto Torreta. The capital was 100,000 lire, half of which was put up by Lancia’s partner, Claudio Fogolin, who managed the commercial side of the business. They rented the old Itala workshops on the corner of Via Ormea and Via Donizetti, and spent the next year developing prototypes and dealing with the results of a serious fire in the workshops. The first cars were shown at the Turin Motor Show in January 1908: three Alfas and one Di-Alfa (the latter, with a black limousine body by Locati and Torretta, was bought by Felice Nazarro).

Mr. Foeman passes over the years 1908-1913 rather superficially but in fact the following models were produced in this period:

1909, Beta; 1910, Gamma; 1911, Delta and Di-Delta (racing model); 1912, Epsilon and Zeta; 1913, Eta; 1914, Theta.

In 1908, a Lancia Alfa won the International Light Car Race, at Savannah, Georgia, and in 1909 a Lancia Beta, driven by Guido Arroldi, came third in the Fourth Targa Florio. In 1910, a Lancia Gamma, driven by Vincenzo Lancia, established a class record at the Modena Speed Trials, covering the measured mile in both directions at an average speed of 113.576 k.p.h. This, in fact, was Vincenzo’s last appearance in competitive motoring. In the same year a Lancia Gamma won the 305-km. “Tiedeman Trophy” race at Savannah, Georgia, at an average of 58.48 m.p.h.

I can add to the price information of the Edwardian models. The 1912 catalogue prices the Epsilon at £495 (chassis), the 1913 Eta chassis sold at £380, whilst in 1914 the Theta chassis sold for £575.

Mr. Foeman quotes the top speed of the Di-Lambda as slightly under 80 m.p.h. In fact, the advertising slogan for this remarkably flexible car was “From 9 to 90 in top,” and the car could be started and run at a walking pace in top gear and do well over 90 in this ratio in favourable conditions.

In his description of Lancias of the nineteen-thirties, Mr. Foeman omits any reference to the Ardea. Produced in 1939, this model looked like a miniature Aprilia, but had semi-elliptic “cart springing” at the rear. The engine, of 903 c.c., developed 28.5 b.h.p. at 4,600 r.p.m. The Ardea was never well known in Britain but continued in production until 1953, when it was replaced by the Appia. Later models of the Ardea had a 5-speed gearbox.

Mr. Foeman refers to the abortive V12 Lancia of 1919. He says that a few engines were produced, but in fact a complete chassis and engine were exhibited at the Paris Salon in that year The chassis was remarkable for a most complicated and ingenious rear suspension system consisting of a combination of cantilever and semi-elliptic springs with cable connections between the axle and the end of the cantilever. If Mr. Foeman is interested, I have a detailed description of this car and photos of the engine, as well as a good deal of detailed information about the Edwardian models, which I should be glad to show him.

Finally, congratulations to Mr. Foeman and to Motor Sport for a massive and valuable contribution to the bibliography of one of the world’s most consistently advanced and successful motor cars.

Send. John Borthwick,

Editor, The Lancia Motor Club Journal.