Letters from Readers, April 1969

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

More Experiences with Remoulds

Sir,

My one and only experience of remoulds was like Mr. Ridley, with a van where performance was negligible and a good safe tread was all that was required.

The set in question, “fit to rally a Corsair on”, got me approximately 1,000 miles to a car park in Swanich, where in the heat of a summer’s day both front tyres developed rubber-from-canvas symptoms.

I took them to a local garage, who fitted two Dunlop remoulds at five guineas each, and advised me to return the faulty remoulds to the supplier.

This I did, and, after two weeks, received 70% of the purchase price from the firm who continued to advertise their tyres as fit for rallying.

A sequel to this “remould-saga” was that the Dunlops needed replacing after 5,000 miles with exactly the same symptoms. Since, of course, for peace of mind motoring has been “brand new” or nothing. Usual disclaimer.

Blyth. B. Putson.

———

Sir,

Mr. Ridley’s comments on the subject of remould tyres, while by no means unfounded, call for some added perspective.

Firstly, I have yet to encounter a brand of remould tyre which is recommended for use over 60 mph. The dangerous aspect of the matter is that the buyer is often not told this unless he asks. This is not an unreasonable limitation on a £3 tyre. One would not expect a brand-new tyre to be reliable in excess of the speeds encountered in the market it caters for. See how much sympathy you get if you have a misfortune at 130 m.p.h. on C41s. Surely, therefore, all that is needed is a legal requirement for buyers of remould tyres to be informed of limitations as to use, in much the same way as one is warned against doing the wrong thing with radials.

Secondly, I do not think remoulds are all that unreliable. I have recently done about 20,000 miles on this type of tyre, as I simply could not afford new ones. The speeds over much of this mileage were in excess of 80 m.p.h., a risk that I was aware of, leading me to inspect the tyres daily. Out of about 10 or 12 tyres consumed in this period only one separated and I received a 75% rebate in spite of its being well over half-worn. This was all before the 70 limit was introduced, of course, or on the Continent, or something.

By and large I feel that remould tyres are reasonable value for money. If they were as good as brand-new tyres there would be no price differential, in any case. In fact, you get what you pay for, and so long as you are told what you are getting this is not unreasonable. Nonetheless it is pleasant to have proper tyres on now!

On a very different subject, I read with interest the article on advertising by D.S.J. The level of integrity in advertising carried by Motor Sport does seem fairly high, as it should be in such a publication. I am reminded, however, of tales heard from friends who have seen cars advertised by garages and travelled great distances to see them only to find that the price has been pushed up by about £50, meaning that the journey has been wasted. Presumably the idea is to tempt people on to the premises in the hope of selling some other car. Not a very nice practice, leading to much time-wasting and frustration. Perhaps readers will endeavour to bring down your wrath on the perpetrators of such tricks.

Devizes. R.L. Straw.

———

One cannot help thinking that Mr. N. P. Ridley is getting a little over excited and hysterical over his experiences with remould tyres, because from my own experiences I would say that remoulds are a fine investment, if a reliable make is purchased.

First let us take Mr. Ridley’s points. He states that people are making fantastic profits; well, I don’t know what the profit margin is on a remould, but at £4 it can’t be that fantastic when one considers manufacture, distribution, retail outlets, etc., and on top of this Mr. Ridley’s boiling blood seems to have obscured the fact that they did allow him 70% refund on the tyres he took back to the supplier: therefore £4—70%=£1 4s., and he did have five months’ wear for his 24s. Secondly, and most important, don’t let’s encourage or give any more ammunition to the Government or the insurance companies to slap any further restrictions or premiums on the already grossly overtaxed and restricted motorist.

My own experiences with remoulds have been very good. I have had a total of eight Barwell remoulds on my Mini over the last two years, and I had one bulge at the side wall. This did not explode of anything spectacular like that. I just had an out of balance type of vibration which, when I investigated, I found to be a wall-casing failure. The supplier renewed this, giving me 25% allowance, which was reasonable considering I had had the tyre about eleven months, and it was three-quarters worn. The supplier said he thought I had struck a kerb causing the damage, but as Barwell give an unconditional guarantee, this was of purely academic interest.

I about 17,000 miles from a set of Barwell tyres, which is not bad for a Mini, and the grip, whilst not up to radial standards, is comparable with any other cross-ply. I am now using these remoulds on my B.M.C. 1100, but it is too early to comment. Certainly, my experiences with new tyres have not convinced me of any extra reliability to be obtained with them, as I have five Dunlop C41 tyres bulge at walls within two months; admittedly these were about half-worn, but I did not get one penny refunded.

I do feel that Mr. Ridley is judging all remoulds rather harshly, basing this on his own bad experience. It should be realised that a remould has had one life already, which may have been a harsh or poorly cared-for existence. I am convinced that a reputable remould can give a long and useful life if properly cared for. Needless to say, I have no connection with Barwell other than as a satisfied customer. Indeed, I have no connection with any tyre manufacturer or supplier other than where my car meets the road.

Watford. W. G. Graham.

———

Sir,

It is a pity Mr. Ridley does not name the brand of remould tyres that gave him such unsatisfactory service, and which prompt him to wonder whether all users of them are outside the law, among other things.

It seems to me that remoulds from reputable manufacturers will be as safe as a new tyre for normal use. During work with Dunlop a few years ago I have seen the searching tests that casings undergo before remoulding and the large number that are thrown aside. Where these rejected casings end up I do not know, however. But no good manufacturer would put his name on a remould and stake his reputation on it lightly.

My own experiences with them are happier than Mr. Ridley’s. Four on a VW gave 100% trouble-free service for 15 months till I sold it. It is difficult to stress anything on a VW, however! A more severe test was a pair of tubeless remoulds on the rear of a Thames 15-cwt. truck, which were similarly trouble free. This, in spite of their being 4-ply instead of the recommended 6-ply rating, of loading the truck to its recommended maximum and cruising it in that state at 65-70 m.p.h. (abroad naturally), of suffering a puncture from a 5-in. tommy bar and repairing it satisfactorily with a standard tubeless plug, and of their running so hot that they used to steam in the rain.

All this indicates to me a good safety margin, at least with reputable remoulds; the penalties of their lower cost compared to new tyres being lower mileage, lower maximum speed, and mediocre road-holding in some cases. But breaking the law? Nonsense.

Ford. H. L. Tippet.

[There are but a small selection from a heavy correspondence on this subject. The general opinion is that remoulds of reputable make are satisfactory and safe, at moderate speeds, but should be avoided for high-speed driving, although Sylvia Kay writes of satisfactory service from remould tyres in the London-Sydney Marathon, which included cruising at 85 to 90 m.p.h. for more than eight hours at a stretch through Afghanistan, and of similar results in recent Scottish and R.A.C. Rallies. The R.A.C. has banned retreaded tyres from racing, except for those of approved make, in V.S.C.C. events, at the scrutineers’ discretion where cars will not exceed 100 m.p.h.

This correspondence is now closed.—Ed.]

* * *

How Long do Lotus Elans Last?

Sir,

While speaking to a salesman from a certain sports car garage he informed me that Lotus twin-cam engines “just don’t do 40,000 miles without a rebuild”.

My 1965 848 c.c. Mini and I have just covered 76,000 trouble-free miles together (all pretty hairy ones, too) with only a decoke at 60,000 miles. I would be very interested to hear from your readers who have covered high mileages in their Elans, as I had intended to buy a second-hand example which would probably have covered around 30,000 miles, but now I’m not so sure!

Sidcup. J. Holmes.

* * *

Aston Martin Advocates

Sir,

As a long time admirer of your magazine, and a person who tries to practise tolerance in all things, even motoring matters, I simply must reply to Mr. G. Cowell.

Surely the availability of spares, etc., should have been considered before purchase; indeed, to buy a car (any car) which needs month’s work before one can go to work in it is, as he says, “a moment of madness”.

Cars being my hobby, I have owned to date 23, three of them being Aston Martins, two 2/4s and a Mk. III, and they left an impression of real cars, superb road manners, gearboxes; there is nothing to match the sound and “feel” of the Aston Martin car.

Above remarks endorsed by a friend who has a DB5. I am at present exchanging my Lotus Cortina for a 1960 DB4 without a qualm in the world. Unreliable and temperamental; oh dear me, no

Hanley. T. Williams.

———

Sir,

Perhaps your correspondent is comparing an old tired Aston Martin with a new M.G.-B?

Rochdale. J. C. Brierley.

* * *

Jaguar Mascots

Sir,

Jaguar’s excellent new model, the XJ6 saloon, has not been graced with the famous leaping Jaguar emblem.

A cheap-looking plastic sign has taken its place, donating the c.c. capacity; as a Jaguar owner for many years I think this is sacrilege and I wonder why the designer has felt fit to leave this well-known symbol off the new model? After all, you would never let a copy of your truly excellent magazine leave your office without your traditional frontispiece.

Halifax. Ashley N. Walker.

[Times change! Perhaps this denoted Jaguar’s change, on the older models, from leather to plastic upholstery—Ed.]

* * *

The Puff of Bacchus

Sir,

I eagerly await your comments on the road accident figures after the first year of the “breath test”, which seems to be a long time in forth-coming.

I had got the impression that you were very interested in this innovation in view of the copious comment and correspondence that appeared in Motor Sport before and immediately after the inception of the law. In particular, I really must take you up on an article entitled “The Puff of Bacchus”, which appeared in December 1967, in which you were congratulating yourself on the support received for a previous editorial on this subject. In this article you made some cynical comments about Mrs. Castle’s claims that the law might save 18,000-32,000 casualties per year. Well, as you know, the overall drop in casualties was 40,000 and the drop in serious casualties was over 12,000. Could it be that you don’t want any “specially prepared” figures from the R.R.L.?

No, sir. If you have a credible interest in saving lives and preventing accidents you really ought to offer some comments on these figures. It’s all very well to shout the odds, but you should stand up and be counted at the moment of truth, just as you would expect your Government to do.

Frimley. P. J. Jacobs.

[Of course I am delighted about any reduction of accident casualties and fatalities, and look forward to reductions in insurance premiums, following the glad news. I have, many times, paid tribute to the skill, care or good luck of road users, who really contrive to negotiate our out-dated, congested roads, on which traffic can range from a wobbly bicycle doing 5 m.p.h. to a 150 m.p.h. high performance car, with so many vehicles in between, including pedestrians, and which flows virtually non-stop every 24 hours. Traffic experts gave their reasons for doubting the R.R.L. findings at the time of the introduction of the 70 m.p.h. speed limit, and, as Gordon Wiklins has said, there are many more recent safety introductions, besides the breath-test, that have contributed to safer roads. What, for instance, of tyre regulations, a million more cars coming into the annual test scheme, and increasing enforcement of the speed limit? In its first year of some 42,000 breath tests approximately 20,000 immediately proved negative and a further 14% were negative by a blood test. Verb sap, or something?—Ed.]

* * *

The Triumph Vitesse Road-Test Report

Sir,

In your March issue of your excellent magazine you have a road-test report on the latest Triumph Vitesse with the 2-litre engine.

In the interests of accuracy may I point out that at 70 m.p.h. (British legal maximum) the engine r.p.m. of the Vitesse is not 4,700 as stated, nut is nearer 3,250 in overdrive at this speed.

This is probably why the car lasts so long and gives such an excellent fuel consumption coupled with really good accelerations

I have a 1963 1,596 c.c. Vitesse which has now done nearly 73,000 miles and still uses very little oil. Furthermore the oil pressure is still 70 p.s.i. when hot. I have only decarbonised it twice. I can assure you that my next car will be another Vitesse, plus overdrive. I agree with your remarks about the spongy feel of the breaks. I think this is due to the very small rear breaks which tend to get hot when heavy breaking is employed.

Duffield. John Sherrard.

[We stand corrected—by other correspondents as well as Mr. Sherrard.—Ed.]

* * *

Horse Power

Sir,

You refer in “Cars and Books” to Angela du Maurier’s reminiscences concerning horse traffic in London. It may interest you to know that my great aunt, Mrs. Henry Thompson, who lived in Portman Square, kept a carriage and pair in London up to the outbreak of the Second World War. I understand that latterly she was only allowed to drive in those main throughfares, i.e., Oxford Street, during certain hours of the day.

Malvern. (Mrs.) Elizabeth Lloyd.

* * *

Come to Ulster

Sir,

How typical of the ill-informed Englishman are the comments made after the letter by A. P. Brown, of Belfast.

Does the Editor seriously suggest that because of recent outbreaks of violence in Ulster that visitors should stay away? If he does, then I am very surprised that he makes so many trips to Wales to test cars. Does he not know that someone may plant a bomb in one of his radiator hoses?

Come on, when are you going to get your head out of the sand and realise that Merry England has had more than its fair share of violence in recent months. Do you suggest that people should stay away from Grosvenor Square because of the riots there? Do you suggest that people should stay away from the soccer matches because a minority of louts throw steel darts at goalkeepers and rip the trains to pieces on the way home?

The answers to these questions must be a no, so I endorse A. P. Brown’s invitation to come over to Ulster where cars can be tested for absolute performance without rearward glances whenever the 70 m.p.h. mark is passed.

Portstewart, Co. Londonderry. Brian Mehoffey.

[I apologise for being taken too seriously by so many of my good friends, the Irish. I have never been to a football match since I was compelled to play in them and I would not deliberately get involved in a riot, whether in Grosvenor Square or Belfast, and I never travel by train. Nevertheless, point taken, and no offence intended to law-abiding Irish citizens.—Ed.]

* * *

Impolite Panda

Having read the letters published about the friendly Northern Police, although surprised I refrained from writing about my own experiences as I was sure that your readers must have heard similar experiences before. However, something happened the other day which made me decide to write to you.

I was driving down a main shopping street with my girl friend, in her car, when it stopped suddenly for no apparent reason. There were cars parked on either side of the road so that the busy thoroughfare was then restricted to one lane. The road was thick with packed snow and ice which made my efforts to push the car out of the way pretty futile. Meanwhile a Panda car pulled up behind me and watched whilst a gentleman in his very late middle age helped me and as soon as the way was clear drove off. So much for the friendly Panda that the new Chief of Police of our super police force in Lancashire wants us to stop for a chat! However, as friends have since remarked, I was probably lucky because if he had stopped I just might have been booked for obstruction.

[Name and address supplied; and that this reader requests that his letter be anonymous shows the serious rift which has so unhappily developed between car owners and our policemen.—Ed.]

* * *

The First Power-Top?

Sir,

I read in your March issue that the Aston Martin Volante is the first European car to have a power-operated soft-top as standard equipment. Are you sure this is correct? The Austin A90 drophead coupé produced around 1950/51 was equipped with a power-operated soft-top, and I can vouch from extended use of one of these cars that the power operation of the roof of this relatively inexpensive car was most reliable.

Alderley Edge. C. G. H. Simon.

[Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. made this claim for their Volante. It does seem, however, that they may have overlooked the Austin A90’s optional power-operated hood, unless they class this is an “extra”, whereas all Volantes are so endowed?—Ed.]

* * *

Netherlands-Built?

Sir,

As I have always read your excellent magazine, I thought perhaps you could throw some light on an interesting point.

I recently took delivery of a new Ford Cortina 1600 and was surprised to find that it was being supplied from Stratford. Whilst checking under the bonnet I came across a metal plaque stating: “Constructed in the Netherlands.”

I wonder now how many other British cars are Foreign Made?

Sydenham. C. L. Farrant.

A Ford spokesman comments: “Thank you very much for forwarding the letter about our Netherlands-built Cortinas. This, indeed, was the case in October/November of last year when, as you will recall, we were in the midst of some supply difficulties at the time and were unable to furnish our Dutch colleagues with the new items for the 1969 Cortina. We felt that we could not see them lay people off since we had not supplied the items, and suggested that they continue to build the 1968 model Cortina in their plant, and we agreed to reimport them to sell on the domestic market, thereby allowing them to run out their stocks of 1968 Cortinas; remain in production and move on to the 1969 specification as the materials became available.

“Naturally, the metal plaque that Mr. Farrant refers to is one which we put on to establish the plant of construction and comply with Board of Trade regulations. In round figures there are something like 2,500 of these Dutch-built Cortinas on the domestic market.

“May I say, finally, that this is a good example of the lengths to which we go to maintain our sister companies overseas in production, at great cost to ourselves, so that they are not directly affected by industrial disruption in this country.”

* * *

“We Must Progress”

Sir,

D.S.J. is, of course, right in predicting the increasing use of mid-engined cars. The conflicting requirements of more passenger space and shorter overall length have forced us into the dumbbell type of weight distribution with its high polar moment of inertia and characteristically sluggish response to the steering wheel. A central engine position will get us back to the responsive (and therefore safer) characteristics of the best vintage handling, added to the advantages of the best modern independent suspension. As D.S.J. also correctly points out, about the craziest place for the engine is to hang it out at the back of the car. By clever geometry you may postpone the day of judgment, but when it does come, it does so with extreme violence. From the moment when wheel adhesion is lost, no one will convince me that anything counts but weight distribution. The dumbbell then is bad enough, but if one end is heavily loaded it will irresistibly insist on coming to the front. This can be very embarrassing.

Westminster, S.W.1. Cecil Clutton.

* * *

Steering Column Changes

Sir,

Having read and enjoyed Motor Sport for some 15 years, I was rather surprised by part of D.S.J.’s article in last month’s edition.

He says: “Will we ever forget those abortions schemed up by designers described as steering column gear-change mechanisms?”

I fail to see why he assumes that we all detest them.

I would like to point out that we are not all of the same opinion. I am a keen sporting motorist myself and I prefer steering column gear-change, but quite realise that on the tracks where one can open up one’s car a floor change is preferable. I think that a steering column gear-change is a luxury that has many advantages in normal road driving. Recently I decided against buying a certain car because, for one thing, it hadn’t a steering column gear-change.

Fakenham, Norfolk. Christopher Green.

* * *

VW 411 L—Screen Washer

Sir,

I am surprised that you were given a demonstration car which had not had its screen-wash water (as advised in the 1200 and 1500 beetle handbooks) treated with “denatured alcohol” (methylated spirit).

This is not necessary when the bottle lives with the engine and, anyway, would be driven off by the heat before it could be much use. When methylated is added to the water, the washers should be operated to fill the pipes with treated liquid before leaving it in the cold.

I have used methylated and Fairy liquid with the water for some years. It doesn’t freeze or smear, nor does it harm VW paint. It is also cheap.

Beaminster, Dorset. D. T. Harrison-Sleap.

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