Matters of moment, April 1976

Motoring Easter-eggs

Readers of our “Veteran-Edwardian-Vintage” pages may have noticed that these hardly ever cover post-war vehicles. This implies no boycott of the better 1950s’ cars such as Mk. VI Bentleys, Rolls-Royce Wraiths, Alvis Grey Ladies, David Brown Aston Martins and Lagondas, Jensens and so on. It simply arises because a wealth of pre-war material fills the alloted space—indeed, a separate “Vintage Motor Sport” would be welcome to accommodate the overflow which has to he withheld each month …!

However, the older the vehicle the more it costs, perhaps because pre-war examples have a greater historical, driving, aesthetic, and rarity appeal than post-war confections. The demand for anything old that runs has brought about a situation where even the 1950s’ top-makes are prohibitively expensive, a situation the used-car Trade and the Auctioneers have bolstered-up with accolades such as “collectors’ pieces”, “appreciating assets”, etc., which are meaningless where venerable machinery intended to be used is concerned. Nevertheless, anything labelled Rolls-Royce, Bentley., Alvis or suchlike is likely to be either expensive, or rusty, or both of these things. And although a certain Daimler dealer quotes us in his advertisement each month as saying Rolls-Royces fetch appreciably higher prices than the Coventry make he sells, and this may still be true, it is not so true as when we wrote this nearly seven years ago! Incidentally, it is not always clear what value is put on old cars, for far too many advertisers, with disarming modesty, omit any reference in prices.

So how can those who crave a dignified, thoroughbred, carriage-trade type of car, or a low-cost fun-car, shop economically for a decent motoring Easter-egg? Well, in the first place, there are those Rover 60s, 75s, 80s, 90s, 105s, affectionately known as “aunties”, which possess the rather charming characteristic of looking outwardly all the same but coming with four or six “pots”, different valve locations, And varied purposes and performance (the 3-litre Sixes are, of course, Great Aunts). When we were moved to publish a Monograph on these prosaic perpendicular motor-carriages in 1967* we remarked that so many had survived that these solid Solihull luxury cars would be about for another decade, at least, This prophesy has been fulfilled, for until quite recently there were still so many Rover P4s in everyday service that motoring children can be kept quiet by being set to counting them, instead of playing complex games involving other people’s number-plates. There is even a club catering for these P4s, along with other Rover models, but as it is about the only one-make club that does not send us a copy of its magazine, we cannot tell you anything about it … Come to think of it, it is surprising that the “nephews and nieces” have not formed a separate club for these prolific old-timers . Although there are a few garages specialising in selling such Rovers, which pushes prices up, sound specimens are still available at quite modest sums. So if you fancy that kind of motoring, in lofty dignity, on leather seats, surrounded by walnut wood, here is one suggestion for a possible Easter-egg. And before you question what such a car is doing in a Motor Sport Editorial, let us remind you that the 105s were good for nearly 100 m.p.h., which we all know is 30 m.p.h. faster than it is now safe to travel, even on a deserted, sun-lit Motorway!

Another Easter-egg, though harder to find, might he an Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire. The Star version would exceed 100 m.p.h., had a nice driving position, automatic transmission, and a hemi-head engine with cross-push-rod valve gear of the kind drooled over in other makes of competition cars. Before he quit racing, Tommy Sopwith used an Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire power unit in his special, so there should be some know,how about it.

Or what about a Daimler Majestic Major? When Motor Sport tested one in 1963, what was expected to be a dreary hulk of a car turned out to be a luxurious 120 m.p.h. saloon with all-round disc brakes, able to do 0-60 in 9.6 sec and with such good handling that we had the utmost difficulty in getting the photographer from behind the wheel! That big Daimler cost £2,500 then. We are told that the Trade now buys them in for £50 to £100, so you should he able to acquire one for around £150 to £250. Admittedly, although all three cars we have recommended as Easter-eggs have separate chassis frames, the Demon Rust may have attacked them. In which case, couldn’t one of them be converted into a special?

We have never been able to understand why someone has not produced a cut-and-shut Major, if only to take the mickey out of those costly chopped MK VI Bentleys. Or shortened Sapphire, for that matter. Are there insuperable technical snags or do the wide ratios and weight of the automatic gearboxes form a deterrent? Even if uncompetitive on the circuits, we would have imagined that an open Majestic would be fun, and a justifiable extension of life for a decayed saloon, and that special-builders would have found the splendid Edward Turner-designed, 4 1/2-litre alloy-head, short-push-rod V8 engine, giving 220 b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m. in standard form (Majestic Major chauffeurs were even provided with a tachometer) hard to resist.

There may be other cars we should include (the Assistant Editor can be heard murmuring “Jaguar”). But enough is enough. Our reasons for suggesting P4 Rover, AS Sapphire and Daimler Majestic Major are that these Rovers are numerous enough to defeat rising-price sharks, that the Armstrong Siddeley OC can supply new spares for many AS models, and that the big Daimler comes out at a bargain price. And should you not believe any of it, may we remind you that this Editorial is scheduled to appear on April Fool’s Day?

VSCC Silverstone race meeting

Since writing the announcement on page 370 we have been informed that this meeting will commence at approx. 13.30 hours on May 1st with the usual High Speed Trial and that it will include the 10-lap (Club circuit) Itala and Napier Trophies Race for vintage and Edwardian racing cars, the 15-lap Allcomers’ Scratch Race, and numerous 5-lap handicaps in the best Brooklands tradition. So it is appropriate that points will be scored in these races towards the 1976 Motor Sportt Brooklands Memorial Trophy Contest. Entries close first post on April 8th, to the VSCC offices.

Apart front VSCC concessions, the public will be admitted to the grandstands and enclosures for £1.20 per person; transfer to the Paddock 50p extra. No dogs are allowed, whether or not they intend to watch the racing.

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The Tunbridge Wells Centre of the 750 MC, with help front other Centres, is holding another Austin 7 Easter Marathon, from London to Edinburgh, starting on April 16th. Details from: B. Martin, Park Gate Oast, Cranbrook Road, Tenterden, Kent.

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Contrary to what was said in “Book Reviews”, the Secretary and Treasurer of the Maserati Club is M. J. Miles, The Paddock, Salisbury Road, Abbotts Ann, Andover, Hampshire.