LONG DISTANCE DRIVING
THE subject of average speed on the open road is one which must date back to the time when highways were first built, but the advent of motoring has brought it into prominence in a manner never before known.
Travellers tales and the angler’s claims in regard to his catch have become models of accuracy in comparison with the stories one sometimes hears of both maximum and average speeds of motor cars. Everyone has met the individual who claims to have averaged 60 m.p.h. from town to town on a vehicle which is well known to be incapable of such a speed for a single mile, let alone a considerable distance over indifferent roads. He is, of course, merely amusing.
There is also the ” running-time” fiend, who has just averaged 45 m.p.h. from London to Plymouth “allowing for stops naturally ! ” The said allowances for stops are usually calculated on a remarkably liberal scale, such as ten minutes to stop and look at the map, fifteen minutes to change a wheel (having taken perhaps five) and so on. His story usually includes one or two hairraising averages over about I0-mile intervals between villages—the distance being taken from the nearest sign post and the times at the respective villages from any local timepiece of doubtful accuracy. A few minutes error in one of these in the right direction will give an average speed calculated to make Divo or Campari mere dawdlers.
However, in spite of these and other distressing examples of motorists’ exaggeration, there are some drivers who really do get from place to place in a remarkably short time, without any inconvenience to anyone, and without attracting attention.
The latter point is one of the most important of all, and there is nothing which so increases one’s apparent speed as a noisy car. With it, every town and village means careful use of the throttle to avoid the unwelcome attentions of the local police, apart from the very bad impression given to the general public..
On the other hand a quiet car can slip through the towns (when traffic permits) at 40 m.p.h. or so without anyone even turning to look, and the power of acceleration can be used to the full without causing trouble.
If the appearance of the car is also unobtrusive, avoiding loud colours or exotic design, one’s passage is likely to be more peaceful to all concerned. This business of “fast touring,” as it is so often termed, is best carried on in a fairly normal vehicle, both from the driver’s point of view and those whom he is likely to encounter. So far as the vehicle is concerned it must be fairly fast if large distances are to be covered, in fact it must have a sports car performance, in every respect such as roadholding, good steering, high cruising speed, reasonable comfort and perfect reliability. MAINTAINING HIGH AVERAGE SPEEDS WITH SAFETY
All these points are obvious enough, and there are a number of suitable cars of various sizes capable of putting up high speeds.
There are not nearly so many drivers capable of getting the best out of the car, and it is in the driving that the greatest variations in average speeds occur. The best training is, of course, ample practice at covering daily mileages of 300 or over, as this soon shows where time is being wasted, apart from the improvement in all round driving skill which is bound to result.
Although some drivers can put up a great burst of speed over a few miles, the majority find that they cannot keep going hour after hour without slacking off. Continuous fast driving means sustained concentration on the job, which in turn requires the actual control of the car to be as natural as walking.
Most drivers, apart from the dangerous few who maintain a high speed regardless of whether they have full control or not, tend to reduce their cruising speed unconsciously to a point where their normal powers of concentration are sufficient to look out for the usual obstacles without effort, and only when they have been running quite slowly for a time realise the fact and make another effort to keep going.
This type of driver is very trying to travel with, as the alternate violent bursts with time-wasting intervals is very hard on the passenger’s nerves, apart from giving a poor average speed. Another similar type is the Aver who goes fast but is always stopping either for food Or to do something quite unnecessary to the car. Here the reason is the same, that he is not capable of keeping going at the rate he has set.
Anything in the way of a ” narrow shave, ‘ such as a corner taken too fast, or a momentary neglect to make due allowance for emergencies, is a sure sign that the driver is keeping up a higher speed than that of which he is really capable, and he should at once ease off till he is sufficiently practiced to increase it, which may not be for many thousands of miles.
Just as a car has a natural speed at which it will run on the level without appreciable effort, so various drivers have natural speeds at which they drive neatly and safely, and above which they are uncertain, losing their judgment and ceasing to have complete control.
Only practice and experience will increase this natural driving speed, and therefore in many cases we find drivers with cars which are faster than they need, the extra speed only being used on occasions to “let off steam,” and not actually enabling them to cover a long journey any quicker than they would in a slightly slower car of equal steadiness on the road.
I have not touched to any extend on the type of car most suited to fast touring, though I have very definite opinions on the matter, as I realise that others have equally definite opinions,—probably different !
Whatever the size, or type, the essential qualities, some of which are mentioned above, include smooth running and high cruising speed without fuss. This can only be obtained by a car pulling a fairly high gear, so that when running within, say, ten miles an hour of its maximum it is working with plenty of revs, in reserve and not ” tearing itself to pieces.”
The maximum speed, which he may or may not be capable of using to its best advantage, will be chiefly decided by the depth of the owner’s pocket, and good acceleration is much more important than a maximum which takes miles to reach.
The road holding and steering of the car will depend entirely on. his commonsense in buying something which he has tried and found good, instead of a car which he has only fallen for because it “looks nice.”
Reliability under really hard conditions is best ascertained in the absence of firsthand experience, by getting that of friends who really cover big annual mileages fast, not those who merely say they do.
Real motoring of this type has a definite fascination of its own, besides giving an owner with little time to spare a chance of getting to the farthest corners of Great Britain. I have driven 600 miles with stops only for lunch, tea and petrol, and have no doubt that some drivers cover greater distances in a day.
One last essential point, prepare your car properly before a long run and not on the way, and once started keep at it,—a day is not very long.—B.
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