Letters from readers, April 1980

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Historic car authenticity

Sir, 

You certainly started something with your article on Historic Car Authenticity and I have followed the subsequent correspondence with much interest. It appears we are all agreed that to “manufacture” an old car out of components and then to offer it for sale as an original is fraudulent, especially if it is attached to a chassis plate which really belongs to another vehicle. The trouble seems to arise mainly when it is a competition car and it comes to be raced. Then the question of safety cannot be ignored. Clearly a car which has been used for racing for 20, 30 or even 50 years can hardly be expected to go on racing safely with the original parts if only from the metal fatigue viewpoint. The difference between a racing car and a road car is that the former when being used properly is under considerable stress. Components must be expected to break, through stress or accident, while other parts will wear out and must be scrapped.

A car is, after all, only a collection of parts, each of which has a finite life. With a racing car that life may be only one long race for its tyres or plugs; for example, while parts like brake linings, shock absorbers, bearings and so on may need replacement after a season. Sooner or later a valve drops or a con-rod lets go and another head or block needs fitting, while gears eventually wear out. Bodywork deteriorates with age and accidents (not unknown even in historic racing!) demand replacement panels, even suspensions or complete chassis.

The situation is not dissimilar to one I find in my job as a surveyor, e.g. how much of a 400 year old cottage is original? Certainly not the thatch, or the wiring, or the plumbing or a lot else! 

I don’t pretend to know the answer when it comes to racing Historic cars but to me they are so enjoyable to watch in action that I hope as long as they comply with the general specification of their period, cars that have been “used up” but are still running with replacement parts will continue to be allowed to take part.

Brian Joscelyne 
Braintree 

[It has never been suggested that such cars as described by Brian joscelyne should be discouraged. — D.S.J.] 

Tax on possession 

Sir, 

You printed in your February issue a letter from Mr. D. F. Fletcher of Adderbury drawing attention to a report in the Northampton Mercury & Herald that the Minister of Transport “is considering scrapping the vehicle road tax and introducing instead a tax on the possession of a car”.

If this crazy idea were implemented, it would not only hit particularly hard those collectors who never use some of their cars on the public roads, but also, by taxing possession as such, run completely contrary to basic Conservative philosophy. 

Accordingly, I wrote to Mr. Fowler to complain in the strongest possible terms, and your readers may be interested to read his Department’s very unsatisfactory reply. “The idea of taxing vehicles on possession rather than cause emerged during the course of a full review of the operation of VED as one way of simplifying enforcement and reducing evasion. The Minister is having a full study made. This will include such questions as whether there could be breaks in licensing or refunds in particular circumstances and whether special arrangements could be made for vehicles which are not used regularly or not at all on the public roads. The Minister has stressed that he has reached no conclusions about whether or not such a change should be made and has indicated that if the proposal seems feasible he will consult with interested organisations before taking any decisions”.

Martin Pulbrook 
Port Erin, loM 

A Raymond Mays appeal 

Sir, 

As you know Raymond Mays died at his lifetime home in Bourne on January 6th after devoting a great part of his life to efforts to see that Britain was represented at the top in international motor racing. I believe that his efforts to this end, his long and successful career as a racing driver and the ERA and BRM cars he inspired should not be forgotten.

With this in mind I have opened a public appeal with the view of establishing here in Bourne some form of permanent reminder of Raymond Mays, his achievements and the cars that were built in the workshops at the rear of his home, Eastgate House. I am certain that many of the readers of Motor Sport, a good number of whom I have little doubt will have become interested in motor racing through first hearing of Raymond Mays’ efforts to put Britain on the map with the BRM, will wish to be associated with this aim.

If any appeal is to succeed, and I believe your appreciation of Raymond Mays’ life and long involvement in motor racing in February’s Motor Sport shows just how well it deserves to, then it will need the wide support of all those who have an interest in the sport. With this in mind I shall be most grateful if you will find the space in Motor Sport to draw its readers’ attention to the appeal. 

Donations to the Raymond Mays Memorial Fund can be sent to me at Wake House, North Street, Bourne.

Clr. Mrs. S. B. Cliffe 
Town Mayor 
Bourne, Lincs 

Raymond Mays 

Sir, 

I have just read your tribute to Raymond Mays and your recollections of Shelsley Walsh reminded me of a photo I took in, I think, 1953 or 1954 when Mays was giving a demonstration run. I think it matches very well your description of “the black ERA” in which “he would blast away, to the shattering note of the exhaust, skilfully controlling the spinning of the twin rear wheels.”

In the background over Mays’ right shoulder you can also see Ken Wharton who, if I remember rightly, was driving the car in the competition proper at that time.

D. C. Steele 
Farnham 

Quick change 

Sir, 

As a relatively new reader to your magazine, may I say how much I enjoy reading it. I’m eighteen, and have been interested in cars ever since I sat in an “old” single seater which a past neighbour, a Mr. John Ward, owned when I was about six years old (I wish I knew what car it was!), and living near Coventry. 

Anyway, the point of this letter is related to the “Pit Equipment” article in your March issue. In it you say that “it is now possible to change a Cosworth or Ferrari engine in less than one and a half hours”. It was by pure chance that the previous day I had noticed in the Guinness Book of Records that “The fastest time recorded for taking out a car engine, and replacing it is 52 secs. for a mini-car by an RAF team of 5 from Wattisham, Suffolk at Colchester Essex on 3 August 1974”. This seems remarkably quick to me, and I was wondering if any of your readers had any more information about this “quick change”, for example, were all the water hoses still connected, etc. . . . 

Thank you once again for a very informative magazine.

David Larkins 
Badminton, Avon 

A two-tier system

Sir, 

We, the Classic and Historic Motor Club, would like to add our support to Mr. Rivers-Fletcher’s proposal that the administration of amateur and professional motorsport should be separated. This would, hopefully, lead to a better understanding of the range of amateur sport now taking place and eventually reduce the proliferation of unnecessary rules and regulations.

This club exists to encourage the use of vehicles manufactured before 1959 by putting on a variety of motoring activities such as Gymkhanas, Concours, Treasure Hunts, Rallies and Social meetings. Few of our members have any desire to do anything more competitive, or anti-social, than, for example, to drive from Weston-Super-Mare to Wells at an average speed of 24 m.p.h. Far from causing a nuisance, it is our experience that the general public find events for “old” cars interesting, or even entertaining. The imposition of an ever increasing collection of regulations is not only unjustified, but tends to discourage competitors and organisers alike from participation in legitimate sport. 

The recent proposal to introduce universal licensing is but one example of unnecessary bureaucratic regulations on the grass roots end of amateur motor sport. Whatever justification there may be for taking a further £4 from each competitor, it surely cannot include any need to force upon them a 309 page rule book (last year’s was 283 pages!) containing Formula Ford camshaft profiles, definition of FIA authority, 22 pages of Kart regulations and similar superfluous information. Many newcomers are already frightened off organised competitions merely by the legal clauses on the entry form. 

At this end of the sport it’s not big business; we aren’t in it for the money, and often not even for the silver cups; we do it for fun!

Gerald Burridge 
Vice-Chairman, C&HMC
Bristol

[We couldn’t agree more. — Ed.] 

Derogation of modern cars 

Sir, 

I note Mn. Jules’ comments (February 1980) on the naivety of my remarks on old and new cars. I confess I do not quite grasp the purport of his own letter. In his statements regarding his 16 year old TR4 and 15 year old BSA he seems in part to be supporting my derogation of modern cars. What is your message, Mr. Jules? In my simple homespun way you have me confused. 

He asks how could private owners afford pre-war cars, when he must know they did so. The £100 Morris Minor and Ford Popular were realities just as the £185 MG, whilst the Riley I instanced sold in large numbers. Perhaps he should have used the present tense.

He asks how long would modern manufacturers survive if their products weren’t such rubbish, and here again he seems to support me. In my rustic North country simplicity I was brought up to think that the customer was the more important of the contractual parties. Not so any more; he gets what the makers dish out and an average load of junk must of it is. Practically all terminal MOT failures are caused by body corrosion because they are stressed-skin without a chassis. The daily morning and evening Grand Prix drivers who pass my door are all members of the no-hope brigade flogging their plastic and paper thin horrors, hell bent on saving useless seconds. They drive these potential hazards because there’s nothing much else available because honesty, quality and longevity are thing of the past. 

Please don’t let Mr. Jules think that I am some lowland Scots communist shouting down the moneyed deadlegs, but like most Scotsmen I want to see value for money, and in these modern times that is something rarely seen.

John McGowen 
Liverpool 

Buying British 

Sir, 

It is sad that C.R. has been forced to point out in your March issue that “it is no good bleating ‘Buy British’ if the goods won’t stand comparison”. He is, unfortunately, quite right.

Three months ago I was looking for a family car in the £5,000 to £5,500 price range which had 4 or 5 doors, a good-sized boot, good looks and which was fun to drive. I arrived at a short-list of an Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.8, a Lancia Beta 2000 and a Talbot Alpine GLS. Two Italian jobs and one which, although built in Britain, can best be described as an EEC model. 

British cars in the same price range simply did not “stand comparison”. When will the British motor industry wake up to the fact that some people need more room than a Fiesta or a Talbot Sunbeam has to offer, that a lot of people would appreciate a car that has some character and some “go” about it, which is more than can be said about British cars in the afore-mentioned price range? Are they totally incapable of making a car which can match the performance — and the price — of the Giulietta? 

In the end I postponed the idea of a new car altogether. The Talbot’s performance simply wasn’t good enough and I heard too many horrendous stories about unreliability, rust and expensive after-sales service from people who had owned Alfas and Lancias.

So until my wallet expands I shall stick to my six-year-old Dolomite 1850 Automatic. It may be, in C.R.’s words, “ageing, unsophisticated and almost antiquated”; but it has never let me down it is totally rust-free, it is quite nippy enough for London where I do 90% of my motoring — and it has a real wood facia! 

John Dorman 
Wimbledon

[Pressures on space have forced a reduction in the number of Letters pages this month. Our apologies. — Ed.]