Letters from readers, April 1967

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

***

157,000 miles — no rebore

I was very interested to read the article in February’s edition of Motor Sport, concerning Edward Q. Moore’s Austin A35.

I too own an Austin A35 (1957 model) which has covered a genuine 157,000 miles without having been rebored, but has had a decoke, a new set of big-end bearings and new piston rings. I maintain the reason for its long life is Duckhams 20/50 on which it has, always, run. I informed Duckhams, and they sent me a free gallon of oil.

Bognor Regis — R. S. BERESFORD.

[It is possible, of course, that A35s last so well because they are driven so slowly! This correspondence is now closed.—ED.]

***

Those “vanishing” mirrors

Sir,

It was with interest that I read Mr. Peter Wilks’ article defending the rear view mirror as fitted to the Rover 2000. At the time I read the article I wasn’t in a position to criticise as the opportunity to drive a Rover 2000 had never arisen. Since then, however, I have driven a Rover 2000 so I can air my views with some experience in hand.

Having compared the two types of mirror I would certainly never fit the convex species. Mr. Wilks suggests that a mirror should be large enough or be arranged so that all the rear window can be seen. This in theory is ideal, but in practice, as is usual in most saloon cars, the back seat is made for passengers, whose heads obstruct two thirds of the rear window. Perhaps Mr. Wilks never takes passengers in his car. The convex mirror in the Rover 2000 provides an excellent view of the interior of the car—full stop.

I want my mirror to provide a view of vehicles immediately behind and what is most important to be able to judge their speed. To have the image reversed is bad enough but perspective distortion is a killer. Give me just a plain piece of glass please, no frills, I’m just a flat fan!

Southport — D. J. WORSICK.

***

Fiat 850 oil consumption

Sir,

Regarding your article ” My Year’s Motoring ” and the table of petrol and oil consumption of cars tested by the Editor in 1966, you quoted the oil consumption as 3-1/2 pints in 750 miles for a Fiat 850 coupé. Having owned one of these models for six months and covered some 5,000 miles, I can but wonder if there was something radically wrong with the tested car. On a journey involving a total of over 700 miles in December I used approximately half-a-pint and even though the total mileage done since then is 2,300 miles, although I have checked consumption at regular intervals, I have not used any more oil since. When the vehicle is only used on local trips I find the consumption negligible—the oil used is Shell BP Super Viscostatic. Two friends also own these models and do not complain of excessive oil consumption. What seems to be the most prominent fault is rust, which appears mostly under the front wings and under the door sills.

BFPO 42 — A. WILLIAMS

***

The new car

Sir,

First Exercise. Fit Britax Belts

(a) 1st delivery: Incorrect fittings (not as ordered).

(b) 2nd delivery:1-1/2 pairs only supplied.

(c) 3rd delivery: Faulty buckle — S.O.S. from passenger to be released.

Second Exercise. Test jack.

(a) Handle immediately bends double.

(b) After much trouble wheel raised, but jack jammed solid — S.O.S. to garage to ground car.

(c) Replacement jack — -hydraulic-pin controlling air valve immediately shears — fabricate new pin.

Third Exercise. Test Horn

Not yet—please.

Finally, Triumph Heralds have been in production for six years and it is still impossible to change a rear wheel without first getting on one’s belly to locate “jack” on chassis correctly.

Bognor Regis — E. C. ROGERS

***

Unbeatable Honda

Sir,

I feel I must reply to the letter from Mr. Merton of Narrabundah. The Honda mechanical misfortunes listed, while deplorable, I suggest are freakishly unusual. For six years we, as a company, have been selling and servicing Honda motor cycles. Performance, price and general finish aside, we have learned that Honda engineering is markedly more precise and more robust than anything their competitors offer. We say this without qualification, bar none. Most Honda machines sell on these features; their most popular model has sold over five million world-wide—more of a single machine than most makers have produced over their whole range in their whole existence. The supply of parts from the Honda depot in Nottingham is faster and more comprehensive, again, than local manufacturers can manage, and their training of service staff is quite outstandingly complete.

Honda simply cannot afford lesser standards for their cars. As newcomers, they are too vulnerable. Therefore, their reliability must be as nearly absolute as skill, experience and hard work can make it. I have toured Honda factories in Japan. I have seen the uncompromising thoroughness of their design, tooling, machining and testing. I am entirely confident that the Honda S800 will match any European or American car in total roadworthiness.

For these reasons we are confident, enthusiastic indeed, that the high reputation won by Honda motor cycles will soon be joined by well deserved respect for the many virtues of the Honda S800 sports car.

Thank you for allowing us this space.

Surbiton –P. ALEXANDER, Director, Tippetts Motors (Surbiton) Ltd.

[Well, time will tell. Meanwhile, we hope the Honda Press Department will become as efficient as Tippetts Motors believe Honda construction, service and spares supplies to be, so that Motor Sport can test comprehensively the exciting new S800. We took steps some months ago to ensure this and had hoped to publish a full road-test report in this issue but so far an S800 has not been made available to us—ED.]

***

The Rover 2000 gear change

Sir,

Judging by your recent writings on Rover gearboxes, I must be fortunate with my 1966 2000, one of the smoothest boxes I ever encountered. Granted one needs a good chunk of throttle when changing from second to bottom, but so do most vehicles when on the move. Possibly double declutching assists, although no doubt this should be a thing of the past. Usual disclaimers, naturally.

Aden — M. C. D. MALONE.

[Perhaps the heat helps!—ED.]

***

Morrises do it too !

Sir,

I was interested to read, in your article “My Year’s Motoring,” the praise that you accord to your 1953 VW 1200, especially concerning its 2,200-mile run to Monte Carlo.

Without wishing to detract from that praise I thought that you might be interested to hear that last year a friend and I took a 1951 Morris Minor (side-valve) to Jordan and back.

This 7,000-mile trip was completed in temperatures far exceeding those likely to be met on the road to Monte Carlo, and included a stint of 2,000 miles in four days (a record that would flatter a modern car over similar roads). Besides tyre fatigue on two remoulds, the only trouble that we encountered was a silted horn. Perhaps, therefore, we could have a little praise for the old Morris Minor.

Loughborough — R. A. MACFARLANE.

***

Lamps for the Rover 2000

Sir,

Influenced by your road test of the Rover 2000 I have ordered one for delivery in England in May: I would however very much appreciate advice on the headlights.

Our roads in Zambia are straight with 30 feet width of tarmac, no kerbs but a gravel verge on each side. Outside the few towns street lights do not exist. High speeds are possible at night in comparative safety as long as the headlamps are not dipped. When oncoming traffic requires dipped beams a dangerous condition can arise as one invariably does not reduce speed as one should and there is a danger of ramming an unlighted vehicle which has not pulled off the tarmac.

In an attempt to give a good beam in the dipped position I propose to fit a Continental four-lamp Q.I. conversion. These, I believe, give a long asymmetrical beam with a sharp cut-off to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers. If it was your car what make of conversion would you fit?

I believe that the Notek Pass lamp gives a long narrow asymmetrical beam with some top cut-off. Do you think one of these on the near side would be worth fitting or would the normal Q.I. lamps be as good, i.e., the permanently dipped beam lamps?

Zambia — W. M. CHALMERS

[ What do readers recommend ?—ED.]

***

Another Police view of the Triumph TR4A

Sir,

I must take pen to paper over the remarks made by P.C. Hurrell on the Triumph TR4. I feel, as you pointed out, the car must be a 4 and not a 4A.

I have owned a TR4 for just over two years. I have not found it uncomfortable. Last year I drove from Le Touquet to Geneva in about 12-1/2 hours, which is more than equal to eight hours’ duty, and neither my wife nor myself were uncomfortable. I will agree that on the TR4 on rough roads, with its solid axle, does give you a bit of a pounding.

I have never had trouble with the brakes and always found them fade free even under firm braking from high speed (that is before B.C.). As to the exhaust noise. I think it is quite pleasant even at high speed, I would not even think about giving a caution for noise.

P.C. Hurrell can think himself lucky that his force chose TRs and not the Daimler Dart as my force did. After eight hours’ duty in one of these, my TR4 is like a Rolls-Royce. The Darts are uncomfortable to the extreme, draughty, you are peering out of a slit of a windscreen, and as for brakes sometimes you wonder if you are ever going to stop the car’s forward progress at all. The steering gear is very heavy, akin to a heavy goods, the only good thing about the Dart is the V8 engine, even after 88,000 miles it is still good for the ton.

As to the 70 m.p.h speed-limit, most of my colleagues and myself agree it is a waste of time and has certainly not reduced the accident rate. It is my experience, as a traffic patrol police officer for a number of years, that the sports car and high-performance car drivers are above average and drive well within their own and their vehicles’ capabilities. The great menace is the weekend driver who has no idea of road sense or safety and gaily wanders from lane to lane at a steady 35/40 m.p.h. no matter what the limit may be, 30, 40, 50 or 70

By far the worse menace is the “cowboy ” usually between 18/23 years of age in a worn out car or van, usually with a big bore exhaust who has no thought at all for anyone else on the road, which he considers is his own personal race track. Usually no insurance and brake pedal on the floorboards; then bleats like a stuck pig when he is caught.

These two types of drivers are, in my opinion, the prime cause of more accidents (usually they are not involved but due to their stupid driving cause other road users to take evasive action and in so doing are themselves involved). But there, I could go on for ever about the bad driving of these species.

So. W.B., keep up the good work towards ending this silly and small-minded 70 m.p.h. restriction, for more people are involved in fatal accidents in the 30 m.p.h. areas than on the motorways; but I suppose no one has told the M.O.T. about that.

Mottingham — C. W. G. RUSSELL.

***

Sir,

May I correct two misstatements by recent correspondents concerning the Triumph TR4A?

The seats are adjustable for rake. The back of each runner rests on a rubber pad under which there are a number of spacers. I have removed pads and spacers and find the seats most comfortable even on all-day drives.

As the Editor points out, Policeman Hurrell must have been writing of the old TR4 and not the TR4A. The brakes are 100% fade-free and give retardation in excess of 1g; they need a firm foot but for lady drivers Triumphs provide a recess in the offside wing for the fitting of a servo.

The exhaust of the TR4A is quieter than many family cars, having a very deep burble free from any crackle, resonance or snarl on the overrun. I believe Triumphs gained some 4 b.h.p. when they designed the three-silencer, twin-pipe system which proves that an efficient exhaust need not create a din. Inside the car with the engine ticking over at under 2,500 r.p.m. in overdrive at 60 m.p.h. the noise again is less than some good family saloons. In gear, with over 100 b.h.p. on the move some noise may be expected.

The finest point in design is the hard-top with detachable roof panel. Triumphs are the first firm to realise that the draught in in open car comes from the rear; a girl’s hair blows towards the windscreen. [And boy’s hair these days!—ED.] The fixed rear window cures this, there is little buffeting by winds up to 70 m.p.h., and it is possible to read a guide book at this speed.

Many say the car is too heavy. If you ever get the chance to see one on a hoist you will find a rigid double chassis with massive castings for the i.r.s. This may add weight but explains why the car goes exactly where it is pointed in spite of bad road conditions and cross winds. These cars take up to 5,000 miles to free up, in engine, gearbox and suspension, and are then a treat to drive, as nothing feels as though it will bend or break for years. Triumph service under guarantee at Park Royal is first class, they do the jobs you ask for and a few other adjustments as well.

High Barnet — S. H. CARRINGTON

***

Sir,

I find myself unable to resist the temptation to take up the gauntlet thrown down by W. S. Hurrell. The fact that, and I quote, “practically all the Southend police force loathed it,” unquote, serves, to confirm my opinion that Police drivers are perhaps not all they are cracked up to be.

I owned a Triumph TR3A from 1958 to 1963 and during that period clocked over 135,000 miles. Part of that mileage in-competition.

The TR4 was at least acoustically a more refined motor car and although I have not driven the latest TR4A I believe it to be even more improved.

My TR3A had been slightly modified by Mr. Hurrell’s namesake, the famous Sid Hurrell of S.A.H. It was never an embarrassment to drive in town. The decibel level was very reasonable and we had no difficulty in listening to the radio even at the more realistic pre-Castle speeds.

My wife and I have, on trips to the Scottish Highlands or on the Continent, spent 11 hours and more in the car, stopping only for re-fuelling. We suffered no discomfort during these trips and had no sign of cramp at journey’s end.

The brakes were completely standard but proved to be quite adequate for both circuit and normal road use.

I admit that the TR’s handling in the wet could be “interesting” but surely this adds to the fun. Anyone can drive a tram.

The hood on the TR3A was simple and quick to erect. The TR4’s is probably easier.

Mr. Hyatt’s, letter contained a fair and objective appraisal of an excellent and good value for money sports car. Certainly the best in its price class.

Thank you for the premier motoring magazine.

London, EC — C. H. CAMPBELL.

***

A “Hot” Austin A35

Sir,

I was very interested to read my fellow reader’s favourable comments regarding the Austin A35. Prompted by this revival of interest in these fine little machines, I thought you may be interested to hear of my own experiences with one.

The car was purchased in July, 1965, with 73,000 miles on the clock. It was a two-door model, and I paid £170 for it. It was mechanically and bodily perfect. I had only been behind the wheel of the car for a few weeks when I began to realise that here was the basis for a potential high-performance car. I therefore set about a programme of development. First of all, the suspension was lowered by 2 in. front and rear. Stronger shock-absorbers and a Speedwell anti-roll bar were fitted. This combination gave remarkably good handling, and when the transformation was complemented by the addition of Pirelli Cinturato tyres on Sprite Mk. 3 wheels, the car could hold its own easily with the best.

I then began work on the engine. The c.r. was raised from 7.2 to 10.0 to 1, by the simple process of machining 0.080 in. from the cylinder head surface. The inlet ports were opened out, and everything was polished. Extra strong double valve springs were fitted, although the standard forged-steel rockers were retained. Finally, a single twin-choke Weber 40DCOE. carburetter was fitted, together with a three-branch exhaust manifold. The only other modifications were finned alloy drums on the front wheels, and a rev-counter. In spite of a virtually standard camshaft, and an untouched bottom-end, the car would accelerate from to 60 m.p.h. in 14.2 sec. with a top speed of 70 m.p.h. in third gear, and an overall top speed well in excess of 80 m.p.h. by speedometer.

The car was always driven at high speed, and was used for several minor competitive events, with some success. It gave 100% reliability, and other than routine servicing and plugs, my total expenditure in 17,000 miles was 5s. 6d. for a new radiator top hose. The car returned 36 m.p.g., and consumed one pint of Duckham’s every 900 miles.

Why ever B.M.C., in their wisdom, discontinued this fine little car I will never understand. I would certainly have purchased a new one, had one been available. Not being greatly enamoured with “traction avant,” or rubber and water suspension systems, I changed my allegiance from Birmingham to Dagenham, and now run a Ford Anglia.

Wisbech — RICHARD TUNSTALL

***

A family Jaguar E-type

Sir,

Mr. Voses E-type experiences were of interest to me, bearing out my own conclusions that, for a family man, the Jaguar E-type 2+2 is not really necessary.

My car is an unmodified (save for Abarth exhausts) late 1962 coupe, and my two elder boys (aged nine and ten) lie on a padded mat in the back in company, more often than not, of the motoring mongrel. All three heartily endorse the comfort of this arrangement, which they definitely prefer to the rear seats of the previous transport, a Jaguar XK140 coupe. My little girl, aged six, sits astride the transmission tunnel on a cushion.

When going on our last long trip, a hundred-and-thirty-mile hop into County Donegal, I suggested to the family that a hire car of more ample dimensions would be more conducive to their comfort but was howled down, they prefer the status of E-type motoring!

On this trip, there was not one single grouse of discomfort from any (save the dog). He, a pup at the time, was sick every thirty miles, with great regularity and thoroughness, though he has now, fortunately, grown out of that and greatly enjoys his motoring.

Here in Northern Ireland we can still enjoy motoring in such a car. On our two-lane M1 (Belfast-Dungannon) cruising speed is a steady 130 m.p.h. dropping only occasionally when baulked in the passing lane. Then, after the end of the motorway is a magnificent road to Omagh, almost empty of traffic, where similar speeds may be maintained and in fact higher speeds could often be employed. I would say that on this and other such roads here, you could effectively use 160-170 m.p.h.

Fuel consumption on that trip was 23.4 m.p.g. My average, used for commuting and a bit of city driving, has worked out, so far, at 22.6 overall. On frequent occasions, limiting top speed to 80 m.p.h., I have done over 260 miles on a ten-gallon fill, so that it is safe to say that fuel economy on this engine is nothing short of remarkable.

On UN12Y plugs I have never, ever, fluffed a plug in traflic, even in a half-hour traffic jam. My thermostatic fan has only cut into action once since I have had the car (on the above occasion) so its noise is incidental.

So far, I have had no trouble with the rear transmission, or indeed with anything, other than clutch renewal (due to the previous owner’s dragstrip tendencies) and a set of bearings put in at that time. Mind you there was a minor item of a new bonnet and radiator necessitated after a heading into a grass bank at some 70 m.p.h. on Craigantlet (going down, not up!) but that’s another story.

Finally, my opinion of the handling is that it is ideal for good roads, but less good on B-roads, and I intend to follow Mr. Vose’s example later and fit Konis and the competition rear springs. As an all round touring car it will stay with me for a good while yet because the only cars I would change it for cost £6,600-odd. I still derive a thrill from flooring the accelerator at 100 m.p.h. and seeing the nose come up. It is akin to the sensation of a Trident taking off, and never palls!

Seahill, Co. Down — John R. Lees

***

A girl and her Alfa Romeo

Sir,

I was pleased to see and read your article on the new Alfa Romeo 1600 Spider. In November last year, I bought my first Alfa Romeo, a 1961/62 l.h.d. 1300 Giulietta Spider. I had many replies to my advert. in your magazine, and settled for the first. I’m thrilled with the car itself, but must add that due to lack of time, the deal was settled without enough serious “haggling” — to quote a popular expression. If the gentlemen who sold me their car read this, I hope their consciences are pricking. I was assured that the starter trouble did not involve the starter-ring gear. Many tedious hours of welding and grinding worn teeth on the ring were, however, necessary in an attempt to cure the source of a sometimes very embarrassing fault!

Referring back to your article — the last sentence commenting on poor service by the British concessionaires is to a certain extent true. I find local agents not worthy of consultation on any queries, except for obtaining leaflets and addresses of suppliers. During five frustrating weeks whilst the car has been laid up for renewal of piston rings, liner seals, and starter ring gear, I ‘phoned a London agent for these spares. I was informed, at the expense of two trunk day-calls, that they did not hold Giulietta parts! But another ‘phone call to London confirmed that only piston rings were unavailable. But when the time came for fitting the starter ring, it was found to be too small on the outer diameter. I got the impression of a somewhat disinterested, carefree attitude!

Again, another 200-mile trip to London, prior to a ‘phone call pointing out the mistake. This was successful after once more being presented with the small ring. Being on the spot, a frantic hunt at closing time found the right one, using the old ring as a pattern, ignoring all part numbers.

At the time of writing the engine is not assembled, but the spares are. I can only conclude that if all bits necessary are collected for about two months beforehand, repair time could be greatly reduced!

Nevertheless, I’d like to express my pleasure with the car itself. The novelty of the screen-wiper-cum-washers fascinated me, but I do now agree that it’s necessary to use the wipers-only switch for clearer vision. I very much like the relaxed driving position, and my passengers like the long horizontal adjustment, for stretching right out. (!—ED.) The headlights are a little weak, but that’s not a real grumble. By the way, I don’t dislike the sprayed facia — I prefer the more business-like straightforward appearance, to that of an ultra-modern dining-room-cum-woodwork exhibition-type interior.

Newton Abbot — CAROLE FORDHAM

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