Matters of moment, April 1975

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Hope Springs Eternal

This issue of Motor Sport comes out at Easter-time, when it used to be said that the ladies bought new hats and clothes to cheer themselves up. In much the same way the Motor Industry has brought out new models, at a time of crisis, presumably for the same reason, hoping that someone will buy them while a blind eye is turned to motionless production lines that betoken Industrial unrest.

A correspondent wrote last month that we have been knocking the British Motor Industry for a long time. This is quite untrue, although we do adopt the attitude that a motor journal should be non-political when discussing the merits of cars, and only enter the political rat-race to defend car owners and vehicle drivers against injustice. Far from being anti-British, we have published much in praise of British cars and British achievements from the black days of the Hitler War onwards and this month we devote much space to the BLMC’s ADO 71 Austin/Morris/Wolseley range of new models, which the Corporation says is probably the most significant car they have yet made. As we have said, the Industry has just lately been bringing out new models regardless, hoping for sales while the Stock Market smoulders. The ADO 71 has been joined in Britain by Ford’s New Escort, Vauxhall’s Chevette, the sporting Triumph TR7, and the Rolls-Royce Camargue. All, except for Rolls-Royce, who have buyers among the Middle East oil-well owners, will need to fight for sales, unless we are greatly mistaken.

We commend the Industry for making progress in such depressing times. It is to be hoped that it will not be stabbed in the back by further Government intervention, like the proposed fuel-economy rating (a product of Lord Rothschild’s “think-tank”), which could exert more control over the sort of cars we shall be allowed to buy and drive in the future than the Nader fuss and the anti-smog stir-up.

It is most unfortunate that at a time when the Industry is attempting to throw off its multiple anxieties by putting brave new models on the market, all manner of retrograde obstacles are either in existence or in the offing, like exhaust-gas purifiers, air bags, and this latest m.p.g.-index, to hamper its efforts.

Apart from the bad effect that this must have on car evolution, the car user is forever faced with threats of further persecution. Doubling of the car-tax and another 10p-a-gallon on petrol is forecast for Mr. Healey’s budget later in April, fines for motoring offences have been doubled, and still we face the imposition of the licence-endorsement totting-up penalty, for speeding “crimes” that are likely to be quadrupled in liability because of the new speed-limits that do next to nothing to conserve any useful quantity of fuel. The Courts net enormous sums of money in fines paid by non-criminal drivers for doing speeds that, by their very repetition, and accident immunity, cry out that Justice be done by upping the limits instead of by summonsing those who slightly exceed them. Cannot the Magistrates see that the tear-away reckless drivers they should be seeking to apprehend do not break the law by a few m.p.h. here, and ten or so m.p.h. there, but double or thereabouts the permitted pace ? They should be so easy to bring to book, instead of wasting time (and energy) over thousands of cases of mild speeding misdemeanours. The motorist has put up with it all very meekly and without protest, while hundreds of new requirements are thrust upon him every year (tyre-pressure stipulations, compulsory windscreen-squirts, and now fines if lights are not put on in the daylight hours if a policeman thinks visibility requires this–we feel sure however that the HVCJC will look after the interests of those who drive lightless heirlooms or who rely on gas or oil for their very infrequent after-dark outings). We have an idea, though, that things may soon change, with many millions of driving-licence holders deciding to unite and fight more actively for at least a modicum of Justice.

Economy Gone Mad

Saving petrol has been in the news for long enough to make it tedious, at all events to those who know that smooth driving and safe coasting are the best methods to use to produce good results. Very impressive m.p.g. figures have been obtained during special stunts, such as on those Fiat 126 runs last year led by Graham Hill (a driver no longer of FIA-Graded distinction for F1 or long-distance racing, incidentally, though there cannot be any connection). In ordinary driving, however, we seem no nearer the 60 m.p.h./60 m.p.g. ideal Motor Sport has so often pleaded for. By this we imply a car that will do a genuine timed 60 m.p.h. and also return a minimum of 60 m.p.g. day in day out on a checked odometer.

Now comes news of a quite farcical economy stunt, in which a Ford New Escort achieved a petrol consumption of 118.7 m.p.g. It did this at an average speed of 11 m.p.h., being driven in cycles of 3 to 18 m.p.h. at full throttle and then coasting down to 3 m.p.h. (which at least proves our advocacy of coasting to conserve fuel!), after which the car was virtually worn out, as it had been run sans oil and other lubricants. The weight had also been reduced by stripping trim and glass, the crankshaft bearings were reduced from five to two, all gears except top removed, and the wheel bearings altered to reduce rolling friction. In spite of an 11 1/2 c.r. the 1300 Escort had a top speed of 28 m.p.h. Pirelli were rightly proud that their steel-braced Cinturato CN54 tyres were chosen for this stunt but even these were doctored.

What a nonsensical stunt! We shall be far more concerned as to whether a normal Ford New Escort will give ordinary drivers the 47 m.p.g. claimed by Ford on a fast Continental test-run. Another silly economy stunt was that of 376 miles travelled on one US gallon by Ben Visser in an even more freakish Opel. Visser may not be a fisser (he did not exceed about 12 m.p.h. in getting this freak 451 m.p. UK-gallon) but he is another to endorse our belief in coasting for economy.

Meanwhile, where is that elusive 60 m.p.h./ 60 m.p.g. ? Even the tiny-engined cars won’t do it, day in, day out. However, we applaud the move towards the satisfactory burning of lower-octane fuel, which the anti-lead USA laws may one day thrust on all. Whereas the Ford New Escort demands 97-octane (4-star) petrol, and the Fiat 126 needs 3-star, the Citroen 2CV6 happily burns 91-octane (Regular 2-star) gas and so does the VW Golf, which gives a highly commendable 36/37 m.p.g. from the 1 1/2-litre engine. Which saves a few pence per gallon.

So far as the Opel/Ford type of gimmickry is concerned, it goes back to years before the war, when that special, equally-fake side-valve Morris Minor did 100 m.p.g. But that car also did 100 m.p.h. and it looked quite a nice little racing car, into the bargain.

Far more to the point, if you are m.p.g. conscious, is to study the outcome of the Total Economy Run held at the end of last month, which followed in the useful tradition of the late-lamented Mobil Economy Run invented by the Hants & Berks. MC.

Miscellany

According to a local paper, there has been ill-feeling over the sale of the 1965 Rolls-Royce Phantom V limousine formerly used as the Mayoral car by the Mayor of Derby—a most appropriate choice. When it was offered for sale only four people were attracted by the tender, the report says, the highest bid being £4,000. The Vauxhall Ventura that replaced it is described as equally heavy, or heavier, on petrol and as it is smaller, two cars are sometimes required now on mayoral occasions.

When we reviewed the Lodgemark book of Brighton Run pictures we said that it contained 112 of them. In fact, there are more than 200, working out at less than 1p per illustration—very good value!

The new Chief Executive of Volkswagen is 53-year-old Toni Schmucker, who was formerly with Ford in Germany for nearly 30 years.

The result of the Public Enquiry instituted by Bernard Wheatcroft Ltd. as an appeal against refusal of planning permission for modernising and developing the Donington circuit is expected, hopefuly, by mid-summer.

We have dropped a clanger in the caption at the top of page 352 in this issue (an earlier printed section). In describing Leila Lombardi as “the first woman to compete in a World Championship Grand Prix”, we forgot about Maria Teresa de Filipis, who competed in several Grands Prix with a Maserati in the late ’50s.

Peter Waymark, writing the motoring column for The Times, showed himself to be in favour of the 50 m.p.h. speed-limit, but Paul Frere, speaking in Paris, pointed out that the reduction in fatal accidents was greater last year in West Germany than in any other European country, yet it was the only one that had removed Motorway speed limits when the fuel shortage eased.

The new Membership Secretary of the National Traction Engine Club is Mrs. F.E. Wood, Windrush, Hail Weston, Huntingdon, Cambs., PEI9 4JY.

Bernard Kain, the well-known Bugatti exponent, has been elected the new President of the VSCC.

The Bugatti/Ferrari O.C. plans to move its offices from Henley-on-Thames to the site of its Prescott Hill Climb course near Cheltenham.

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