I’m pleased that you remember the Startix: I always thought that Wheatley and Morgan were a trifle unfair when they suggested that it would appeal only to a collector of electrical phonomena.
I had personal experience of the system in the late 1950s, when a roughly 1936 Rover Twelve belonging to my long-suffering was the Mess hack when my Regiment was stationed near Swindon. This was a most excellent car: it always started, went, and stopped as required, and could put up better cross-country averages than one might have expected. Above all, it did these things with a very reasonable fuel consumption and surprising refinement.
The Rover boasted both Startix and a free wheel: it was also run decidedly weak the interests of economy, and the tickover was set no faster than was strictly necessary. These factors added up.
For starting, one had the choice of turning the key one way, after which a little black button would set things going, or the other, when the Startix had its will. I normally used conventional button starting, partly out of inherent conservatism and partly because I once got a nasty fright through Startixing the beast while it was in reverse. However, if the Startix was used, it had an odd trick which it played quite often.
In normal running, we always used the free wheel: economy again. This meant that if the engine, running weak as ever, died on a downhill stretch, the electrical gremlins would do their best IO set the whole plot in action again. But, the deliberately slow tickover meant that they couldn’t quite make it unless there was slight pressure on the accelerator. The result was a succession of very odd noises, as the starter ground, the engine tried and failed to get going, and the cycle was repeated. At least one worried young man abandoned the car and hitched a lift home, convinced that the underbonnet happenings meant imminent catastrophe.
The answer was, of course, very simple. Leave the damn thing alone, and start the motor on the button, as nature intended.
London, W. Sandy Skinner
[These are but a few of the Startix recollections received.—ED.1]