Around and About, April 1974

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Tow new coupes

Lancia Beta: We have yet to road test a Lancia Beta saloon so find it difficult to analyse the road behaviour differences between the saloon and the newly announced coupe version which we tested in the South of France recently. What this writer is positive about is that the elegant body shape of the four-seater coupe has refreshed his views of the Turin firm who have managed to produce what in his opinion is a particularly ugly saloon. The attractive shape of the coupe is matched by excellent performance from the transverse, Fiat twin overhead camshaft engine (a choice of the 108 b.h.p. DIN 1592 unit or the 120 b.h.p. DIN 1756 c.c. unit), driving the front wheels through a fivespeed gearbox, while handling, roadholding and braking are quite brilliant.

The coupe is 105 kg. lighter than the saloon, has a wheelbase 190 mm. shorter, and 295 mm. less length, is 115 mm. lower and 40 mm. narrower. Mechanically it is similar to the saloon except a slight power increase has been obtained by raising the compression ratio (at a time when every other manufacturer seems to be lowering them to suit low-lead fuel) to 9.8 to 1 from 8.9 to 1. Either Solex or Weber twin-choke downdraught carburetters are fitted to the transverse engine, which is canted 20 deg. rearward. The clutch, gearbox and differential are housed in a single unit coaxial with the crankshaft. A 200 mm. diameter clutch is fitted to the 1600 and 215 mm. to the 1800. Unlike the Beta saloon, which has unequal length driveshafts, the coupe has equal length driveshafts, with constant velocity joints at each end, the inboard joints also sliding axially to allow for suspension travel. The 1600 and 1800 are identical in all respects other than the engines, the use of a lower final drive ratio with the small engine and the fitting of pressed steel 5½J x 14 in. wheels to the 1600 instead of the same size alloy wheels of the 1800, fitted with .175/70 Pirelli CN 57 tyres. Independent suspension features McPherson struts and anti-roll bars front and rear. As for the all-round discbrakes, servo-assisted and with a split hydraulic system, they are quite superb, warranting no criticism whatsoever except an initial feel of over-sensitivity at low speeds. Our route took us over many of the famous Monte Carlo Rally cols in the Alpes-Maritimes, driving with the sort of spirit expected of that event, yet the brakes remained completely fade-free, something we would not have expected of production equipment. The same could not be said of the shock-absorbers, which faded completely after one long, very fast, hair-pinned descent to the acute detriment of the handling.

This interesting coupe handles very much in the famous Fulvia fashion and indeed takes the place of the 1600 Fulvia. It is extremely well-balanced, has excellent traction and can be slung around with gusto. The 1800 felt slightly heavier on the steering and presented more torque reaction to overcome at the wheel when accelerating hard out of hairpins. The 1.6 accelerates from rest to 100 k.m. in 10.2 sec., reduced to 9.5 sec. by the 1800, and top speeds are 112 m.p.h. and 118 m.p.h. respectively. Autoroute stability is excellent as is the lack of windroar while engine noise is well subdued unless a window is opened to allow the sporty Exhaust note to intrude.

The comfortable nylon cloth-trimmed front reclining bucket scats, complete with built-in headrests are matched by identical separate buckets for the rear seat passengers. Rear seat headroom and knee-room are somewhat restricted, as one might expect, but not impossible. Too much use is made of plastic trim, while the segmented orange and white faces of the speedometer and tachometer are impossible to read in a hurry—and the engine revs, so freely that the consultation of the second instrument is essential—and quite unacceptable. After the journalists’ protests it is likely these may be changed.

This new Lancia is a most enjoyable car to drive and should present an attractive proposition when it reaches the UK market in the Autumn, priced at roughly £2,700 to £2,800.

The Volkswagen Scirocco: From Lancia’s hospitality in the famous Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo the writer journeyed via the BMW Competitions Department and the Hotel Continental in Munich to Volkswagen hospitality and the plastic Holiday Inn in Wolfsburg, where room service proved to be infinitely better than the gloomy-corridored Hotel de Paris. The occasion, the announcement of the Volkswagen Scirocco, a sporting coupe with which VW aim to find another niche in the market and which will replace the long-in-the-tooth Karmann-Ghia.

The overhead camshaft 1500 c.c. power unit is borrowed from the Passat (a new 1100 pushrod engine will be available on the continent but not in the UK), but differs in that it is transversely mounted, though of course still driving the front wheels. The stubby coupe body has a third door at the rear which, when lifted, raises the rear parcel shelf to reveal a deep boot and the parcel shelf can be removed and the rear seat folded down to provide a really commodious luggage area. Considerable wind-tunnel work has gone into the Scirocco to reduce wind-noise and keep the side and rear windows clear of road dirt.

Two versions of the 1471 c.c., 76.5 mm. bore and 80 mm. stroke engine are available. The Scirocco S and LS have the 70 b.h.p. version with a single-choke carburetter and 8.2 to I compression ratio, while the TS has an 85 b.h.p. version, with a twin-choke carburetter and 9.7 to 1 compression ratio, available as an option in the LS.

McPherson strut front suspension is utilised while the rear has a unique torsion beam axle consisting of a transverse beam acting as a stabiliser with welded trailing arms. The S and LS carry 155 x 13 tyres and the TS 175/70 x 13 tyres on 5J rims. Brakes are discs and drum, with servo assistance and a diagonally split, dual circuit system on all models.

To avoid the speed-restricted public roads, VW opened their incredible test track to us, one of the largest in the world, covering 2,620 acres 15 miles north of Wolfsburg and containing 60 miles of test tracks. Possibly because such an artificial terrain does not compare with public road driving, the Scirocco felt uninspiring. The engine sounded unnecessarily noisy and buzzy and while wind noise had been kept down, body resonance had not. Stability down the goodnessknows-how-long straights and banked corners was excellent, the ride reasonable, slightly choppier on the more stiffly damped TS, which otherwise didn’t feel much different in the handling department and there was some loss of traction with consequent judder through the steering on the hairpin bends of the test hill. The brakes were not all that reassuring, though braking stability was because of the negative rolling radius geometry, but what made them more noticeable was the diabolical pedal arrangement, which totally precluded heel-and-toeing; the throttle pedal was so far away from the brake pedal to make a third, longer leg, necessary and potentially dangerous in an emergency.

The reclining front seats are hard, possibly slightly more so in the tartan-trimmed TS, instrumentation is limited to speedometer, clock, fuel gauge and water-temperature gauge on the cheaper models, joined by a tachometer and voltmeter at the top of the range. Rear seats are positively for children only.

This new VW is pretty (more so in the flesh than photographs) and practical for a family with young children, but it certainly doesn’t feel very sporting. Its performance is deceptive, however: the digital read-out clock on the main straight timed the 70 b.h.p. car at 105 m.p.h. and the 85 b.p.h. car at 109 m.p.h., while 0-100 k.p.h. (62 m.p.h.) claimed times are 12.5 sec. and 11.0 sec. respectively.

When the Scirocco reaches the UK in the middle of the year it is likely to cost £2,000, which should make the Ford Capri a good buy.

Granada Ghia

Ford continue to attempt to justify their expensive acquisition of the design firm of Ghia Operations in Turin. First the Capri II and now the Granada have received their attentions. Ford are aiming at the man who is coming down the market, because of the present economic climate, from Mercedes and Jaguar status. To this end the Granada Ghia has luxurious Beaumont (synthetic) cloth seats, deep carpeting, sliding steel sun-roof in the vinyl-covered roof, twin-speaker radio and many other “extras”. There is extensive use of real wood in the interior, but the entire effect is spoilt by the retention of the nasty plastic facia surround and centre console. The new grille appears to be cribbed from the Opel Commodore, mechanically the car is identical to the ordinary Granada and whilst it is attractive and remains value for money at an estimated £2,700 it is hard to understand why an expensive design studio should be brought, in to achieve something a first-year design student could have achieved equally well. Incidentally, as a low-production “European” car, the Ghia will be assembled in Germany.

Revised XJs

Jaguar have announced a number of changes to the XJ Jaguar/Daimlers, notably the fitting of four-piston front brake calipers and modified ventilated front discs to give better uniformity in operation, which should eradicate the roughness and fade which could be prompted in the old system. The changes give a greater pad-to-disc contact area, should give longer pad life and with the help of a new master cylinder are said to reduce pedal effort.

All models now feature equipment to meet the ECE exhaust emission regulations. The XJ engine relies on maintaining the carburetter air-intake temperature at a constant level, hot air being taken from a shroud over the exhaust manifold. Full-throttle performance is said to be unaffected. The XJ 12 solution is more complex, utilising the air injection system fitted to North American cars. This must suggest a reduction in performance, firstly because of the power consumed to drive the air-pump, but secondly and more significantly, the camshafts have a re-designed profile to reduce valve-timing overlap.

The lighter, more compact and easier to service Borg-Warner Model 65 three-speed automatic gearbox is to be fitted to the six-cylinder automatic cars.

“Lofty” England Retires

On the subject of Jaguar it is sad to relate that F. R. W. “Lofty” England has retired as Chairman and Chief Executive, a post in which he succeeded Sir William Lyons. It was “Lofty” of course, who as Service and Competitions Manager from 1948, inspired Jaguar’s domination of sports car racing for the next ten years and assured Jaguar’s position as one of the World’s leading marques. He is succeeded by Mr. Geoffrey Robinson, an “outsider” appointed by British Leyland. We hope that this won’t mark the end of Jaguar’s autonomy in the British Leyland empire. Motor Sport wishes “Lofty” England a happy retirement.

Safari Entries

April is Safari month, and Kenya must be one of the few places in the world where the government enthuses about rallying in general and the country’s premier event in particular. At the beginning of March the draw for starting order within the various seeding groups took place in Nairobi, and present during the occasion was none other than Kenya’s Attorney-General, Mr. Charles Njonjo.

The entry list was numbered to 104 at the time of the draw, 27 of those from outside East Africa and 18 of them FIA graded drivers, indicating that the event still represents an enormous attraction to rallying people the world over.

Factory teams taking part this year are Peugeot (six cars), Alpine-Renault (two Alpines and two Renault R17s), Fiat (three cars), Polski-Fiat (three cars) and Lancia (two cars); works prepared and supported cars are present from Porsche (four cars), Ford (one car), Datsun (two cars), and indirect entries have been made representing such factories as Mitsubishi and even Opel and Alfa Romeo.

The entry list begins as follows:

1. Mikkola/Todt . . Peugeot 504

2. Darniche/Mahe . . Alpine

3. Bardasio/Sodano . . Fiat 124 Abarth

4. Andersson/Hertz . . Peugeot 504

5. Mäkinen/Liddon . . Peugeot 504

6. Fall/Wood . . Peugeot 504

7. Mehta/Doughty . . Lancia Fulvia

8. Russling/Weiss . . Porsche

9. Piot/Jaubert . . Renault R17

10. Munari/Drews . . Lancia Fulvia

11. Stawowiak/Czyzyk . . Polski-Fiat

12. Dolk/de Jong . . Opel Ascona

14. Källström/Billstam . . Datsun

15. Therier/Vial . . Alpine

16. Aaltonen/Karlsson . . Opel Ascona

17. Nicolas/Delferrier . . Renault R17

18. Preston/Barnard . . Ford Escort RS

19. Waldegård/Thorszelius . . Porsche

20. Paganelli/Russo . . Fiat 124 Abarth

21. Huth/Hechle . . Peugeot 504

Further down the list, Davinder Singh will be driving a Mitsubishi Colt Galant prepared by his brother, former Safari winner Joginder Singh, Viscount Kim Mandeville will be driving an Audi, Rosemary Smith will be at the wheel of a Datsun, Irish champion Arnie Poole his own BMW 2002, Bill Fritschy (another former winner and now resident in London) a works Porsche, Robin Ulyate one of the works Fiats, Jack Simonian, Kenya Rally Champion, in an Alfa Romeo, Joginder himself in a Mitsubishi Lancer, Pat Neylan in a Mazda Rotary and Bert Shankland, another former winner, in another of the works Peugeots but prepared at his own workshops.

260Z 2+2

Since the road test of the Datsun 260Z was written (page 344), Datsun UK Ltd. have announced a four-seater version of this impressive sports car. It is mechanically identical to the 260Z, but has a wheelbase increased from 90.7 in. to 102.6 in. to accommodate two extra passengers “in comfort”. Gearing and top speed is the same as the 260Z, weight is increased from 2,425 lb. to 2,557 lb. and the price is £3,498.

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