Letters From Readers, August 1954

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66

The Triumph At Le Mans
Sir,

As one of the pit staff for the Triumph TR2 entry at Le Mans, it is felt that your comments in the report of the event do injustice to one of the few private entries, and certainly the most standard car, in the race.

As this was our first run in the event, and we could entertain no hopes of a class win against the Maseratis and the works Bristols, all costing several times the price of our car, we set ourselves the target of finishing at all costs, and if possible of achieving the qualification speed of approximately 76 m.p.h.

This speed was maintained with a satisfactory margin throughout the night, and without stressing the car in any way. With better light, if every thing appeared favourable, it was our intention to increase speed. At this time, however, the driver reported that clutch slip was becoming evident, thus having the effect of limiting revs on all gears, but particularly on overdrive, thus reducing the indicated maximum from in the region of 118 m.p.h. to little over 100 m.p.h., and bringing the lap speed below that required far qualification. It was decided, however, to keep the car running rather than have a lengthy pit stop to permit our purely amateur crew to investigate the trouble.

The result is now well known. Our car averaged over 75 m.p.h., and it is felt that this is by no means discreditable. A careful watch was maintained by both drivers, and no grounds for complaints of baulking were given. In view of the foregoing, it will be seen that the car was at all times run well under its potential performance, and your remarks suggesting that the organisers reject entries, of this type, which surely present an accurate indication of a production car’s capabilities, can only serve to give an unfortunate impression. It is not cars like the Triumph which should be refused, but rather the disguised centre-seating racing cars with whom your grossly unfair comparison is made.

Incidentally, the car finished in first-class order; and on examination after its return the clutch slip was found to be due merely to excess grease from the thrust-race having fouled the clutch plate.

I am, Yours, etc.,
J. R. Brown.

Burnley.

[Due tribute was paid to the TR2’s performance in various references in Motor Sport, but our Continental Correspondent obviously has fellow-feeling for drivers of cars which lap slower vehicles many times, passing them at speeds higher than 150 m.p.h. — Ed.]

* * *

Small British Sports Cars

Sir,
Bravo for your article “The Decline of the Small British Sports Car.” Where indeed are our small open cars capable of providing interesting motoring?

One solution, as you suggest, is to build your own. This offers great scope for individual taste and boundless possibilities for these of sufficient talent and inclination — but what of the cost? In order to compare the cost of a home-built car with one of the production models you mention (i.e., a new car), we can in all fairness only consider a car in which new and unused components are used. What will t he cost be then? I wish someone would work this out. I am sure the result would be quite interesting.

Incidentally, one gets so used to relying on the correctness of Motor Sport’s information, and backing it against all comers, that the details of the Singer you gave came as rather a shock. Surely the model you have quoted is the 4AB.

We have now a 4AD (the 4AC existed only in prototype form and never went into production) in which the SM1500 engine is used. This is a 1,506-c.c. unit stroked down from 90 mm. to 89.4 mm. to bring the capacity down to 1,497 c.c.

This engine is quoted as giving 48 b.h.p. at 4,200 r.p.m. with one carburetter, and 58 b.h.p. at 4,600 r.p.m. with two carburetters (export oniy?). I see you quote the H. R. G. (with the same engine) at 61 b.h.p. at 4,800 r.p.m., which seems to follow on pretty reasonably.

Now let us look at your chart : 851-1,100 c.c. — nil. No cars under 1.100 c.c. at all. What a fatal gap, especially when we see what these little cars were capable of at Le Mans.

Keep up the good work, Motor Sport. Stir up the manufacturers. We are all for you. Boddy and soul.

I am, Yours, ,etc..
R. G. Pye.
Bristol.

Sir,

I have enjoyed immensely the stimulating series of articles in Motor Sport, such as “Gran Turismo” and the “Decline of the Small British Sports Car.”

While agreeing with you on the need for a small sports car that is cheap to buy, run and maintain, I disagree on the adoption of an 1,100-c.c.-or-under engine. To me you seem to have contradicted yourself in several ways. First, however, it must be clearly understood what we want. So I will list, the requirements, not necessarily in order of preference. These are: low first cost — cheaper than those offered at present. e.g., Jowett, M.G., TR2 and Austin-Healey (not forgetting Morgan!). Performance — acceleration better than family saloons with much better braking. General handling qualities — definitely of a sporting character so that the enjoyment of driving is uppermost. Economy — 30 m.p.g. at least. Long life — 60,000 miles between major overhauls.

A formidable list and one which may in certain aspects not be attained, and in others exceeded. However, I fail to see how an 1,100-c.c. engine is going to do it. Let us take our requirements again. Low first cost. There is no suitable engine in production that does not need extensive modifications before it could be used. To design and produce a new engine would need an enormous output to bring its cost anywhere near where we want it.

Performance. This ties up with the above. We need more power than in say the Ford 1,172-c.c. unit and to extract it from a small engine means that it is not likely to be very reliable if cheap. General handling qualities are a matter of design and presumably can be looked after. Economy. A small engine is not likely to be more economical than a larger one, witness the TR2, especially if the smaller one is working harder. Long life. Again a larger unit will score very heavily as it does not work so hard, and is in direct agreement with your statements on the VW and its secrets of success.

Thus the proposed machine will have an engine used in a production saloon car (in my opinion the Jowett’s standard 52-b.h.p. unit would be ideal due to its configuration, it possibly filling in a rear position a la Porsche 550, though I must admit it wouldn’t be all that cheap). A chassis of sufficient rigidity, with suspension utilising saloon-car parts, and an open body of perhaps plastic material. Interior trim being very spartan, though the provision of extra equipment an optional extra, the design allowing for this.

There is no doubt that a car such as this, with perhaps around 65 b.h.p., would sell if the price was right. Whether it could be done depends largely on who tries it. M.G. could do it with B.M.C. behind them, their retail outlets and “name,” but they seem to have their eyes across the Atlantic — how long before the B.M.C. 1.5-litre is put in the Midget?

One could go on discussing this subject till Cecil Kimber ran a big-end due to high r.p.m., and I hope to see further articles — or letters — going into the whys and wherefores more thoroughly. Also what about the need for a high-performance small saloon on the lines of the 1,100 t.v. Fiat? I would dearly like to see somebody like Jaguars attempt the idea on a more luxurious theme (Alfa-Romeo “Julietta”), though I suppose they are busy enough on their rumoured Grand Prix project(?). Motor Sport spies forward!

I am, Yours, etc.,
A. J. Turner.
Edinburgh.

* * *

German Car Longevity

Sir,
I was interested in Mr. Peach’s letter in your. June issue referring to the twenty minutes’ bench running-in period which is all the running-in Volkswagen engineers consider necessary.

I believe that the answer to this lies largely in the fact that the piston speed of those engines is so low. Assuming that your figure of 120 m.p.h. at 2,500 ft./min. is correct then the VW will do almost twice the road speed of say the A 40 or M.G. TD for any given piston speed. On this basis 35 m.p.h., which is the recommended running-in speed for the first 200 miles, for the TD corresponds to a running-in speed equal to the top speed for the VW. Of Course there are other factors, such as bearing loads, the bedding in of pistons and rings, etc., to consider, but the bench run should be sufficient to deal with these satisfactorily.

Anyway most of our manufacturers of low-priced cars don’t bench run their engines, and I, for one, would feel happier if they did when I see new cars being delivered from the factory at 50 m.p.h.!

I believe that the Germans give much more attention to longevity than British manufacturers. This is probably because our cars only average perhaps 10,000 miles per year whereas on the Continent, and more especially in America and the Dominions, the figure must be much greater. By spending a little more money on such things as alloy cylinder liners I’m sure we could increase the life of our engines (the motor repair trade won’t like this!). It is about time we had more originality in our designs too. Perhaps when Continental competition becomes really hot, our manufacturers will sit up and take notice.

Incidentally, I’m rather surprised to read that the top speed of the VW is only 68; I have driven behind these cars in Germany on the autobahn and I certainly had to drive hard to pass them in my TD, which has a true maximum of 75 plus.

May I say how much I enjoy reading Motor Sport, especially for its outspoken comment.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Peter J. Bell.
Prescot, Lancs.

* * *

English User Praises 2 c.v.

Sir,
Englishman Banks’ letter amused me more than somewhat! As one of the few 2 c.v. owners in this country at the moment, I cannot allow him to get away with such nonsense. Sixty-seven thousand miles in a much-loved Lancia Aprilia and previous ownership of a Boulogne Frazer-Nash, E-type Vauxhall and many other vintage cars have left me with very clear ideas of what I do and do not like in a motor car.

I must say I had my doubts, in spite of the glowing reports of two contemporaries, that I might not like the car, but subscription to Motor Sport for over twenty years has convinced me that when Mr. Boddy is enthusiastic about a motor car I practically always am too!

So when the Motor Sport report appeared I finally took the plunge. And now I can only say that I agree with every word he says; in fact, he almost errs on the side of understatement! The 2 c.v. is an extremely tough motor car of great charm, and is the greatest fun to drive. I find that I am getting as much fun out of driving it as I did from my Aprilia — and for the same reasons!

The points I like are, in order: —
The amazing suspension — I have never met anything quite like it.
The steering, typical good Continental rack and pinion; quite a vintage feel.
The gearbox, positive and smooth.
The effortless cruising on overdrive.
The extraordinary economy, over 60 m.p.g. with hard driving.

The factory tell me that over 120,000 of these cars have been sold, and there is a waiting list of six months for these cars in France. It is the only car that now sells at a premium. I can well believe it. The French as a nation drive their cars very hard, and I am certain that there would not be the demand for these little cars unless they were very good motor cars indeed.

In this country it is, I feel, a machine to appeal to the more knowledgeable and enthusiastic motorist. It is a pity about the price (it sells for £340 in France), but even so I would far rather have it than any of its British contemporaries in its price class. They are all so characterless that it is sometimes hard to remember which particular brand of little tin box you are driving and their steering feels as if it was connected to the road wheels by rubber bands. Every Man to his taste!

I am, Yours, etc.,
E. O. Wanless
Lytham, Lancs,

* * *

A Vale In Use

Sir,
Being the owner for nearly 20 years of a Vale Special two-seater, may I add to the remarks of Mr. Gaspar. I have owned a number of motor cars of various makes but none so trouble-free as my old faithful Vale Special. One touch of the starter and she comes to life — never fails; always reliable, and built as only a master car maker knew how. What! I could afford a Rolls but “old faithful” can never be replaced and is still as firm as a rock and as good as new.

It is to be regretted that a car of this quality did not sell better; probably it was too good for the small cost; and the design is smart, even for these days. To lose my Vale would be like losing a dear friend.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Edward G. West.
Farnborough Park, Kent.

* * *

Correction

Sir,
Quite a Iot of people agree with you regarding the, revival of the 1,100-c.c. engine; among them being Cyril Kieft and myself.

When one of the oldest, and best-known, names in the engineering world. Messrs. Coventry Climax, Ltd., are helping with experiment and research, you will agree that a step nearer to our hopes is being taken.

Therefore your caption to the very good Le Mans Kieft picture is a little unfortunate — for we failed in the early hours of Sunday morning with back-axle trouble. The engine was still running like the usual clock.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Alan Rippon.
Chelmsford.

* * *

Sir,
We would be glad if you would please correct the comment given on pages 356 and 357 in the current issue of Motor Sport, wherein the Coventry Climax engine is blamed for the failure of Mr. Rippon’s Kieft at Le Mans.

The fact is that the engine ran extremely well, and it was due to the drive axle failure at eleven hours that the car had to withdraw.

It is also a fact that after the axle was changed, and without any attention to the engine, the car gained second place at Snetterton the following week in the half-hour high-speed trial 1,100-c.c. class.

The engine has since been examined and was found to be in perfect condition.

It has since been re-assembled and is now re-installed in the car for the Silverstone meeting in July.

We cannot claim to be disinterested! Far from it, but we would appreciate it if you would put us right with your readers.

I am, Yours, etc.,
W. T. F. Hassan, Chief Engineer.
p.p. Coventry Climax Engines, Ltd.
Coventry.

* * *

Solex Take Donald Healey To Task — British Carbuetters As Good As Foreign Ones, Says Their Mr. Richards

Sir,
Our attention has been drawn to Mr. Donald Healey’s open letter of June 1st, published in the Motoring Press.

We wish to refrain from commenting on the main portions of his letter, but in particular Mr. Healey states that if he were to keep pace with his competitors, he would, among other things, have to have multiple non-British carburetters.

We would like it to be known equally widely that this particular qualification is demonstrably incorrect.

I am, Yours, etc.,
J. D. Richards.
p.p. Solex Limited.
London, N W.1.

* * *

A Satisfied Minor Owner

Sir,
Britain is traditionally the home of free speech, and certainly the correspondence columns of Motor Sport have borne this out during the twenty-odd years I have been a reader! I wonder, however, if it is really necessary for some contributors, after praising the car of their choice, to be quite so violently disparaging about those of other people? Sweeping generalities, full of personal prejudice (which is all right if not overdone) and usually without much foundation in fact, are neither useful nor do they make good reading, and certainly don’t show any spirit of “give-and-take” to be existing in the writers — unfortunately, this is also symptomatic of far too many drivers at the wheel nowadays as well, as any motorist of experience can testify.

I know some people regard it as hardly the “done thing” to run a British car — a foreign name is so much more impressive, as witness the jealously-preserved Continental hotel labels to be seen on so many suitcases at this time of year — but after owning or driving a good many cars, large and small, during the past quarter-century, I seem to recall that the most pleasant vehicles for reliable daily travel were British, whilst the least enjoyable of them all was a foreign one of famous make! However, on that limited experience I don’t propose to decry all foreign products, because I know full well that all car-manufacturing countries have their good products and their, well, not-so-good, though for reasons I don’t propose to justify, my favourite of them all was an E-type 30/98 Vauxhall tourer:

The appearance of two separate criticisms of the Morris Minor in the July issue happened to coincide with my completion of 47,000 miles in three years motoring in one of these “grossly-under-powered” side-valve cars — and the 15 3/4-cwt. four-door one at that, pulling the “abysmally low gear” of 4.5 to 1. During that time (Mr. Halion from Eire) I have suffered very few “beatings-up” from 750 Renaults, which is rather strange because I have a friend who happens to own one, and is as keen a supporter of the rear-engine school as I am of Mr. Issigonis’ brain child.

To date, apart from being decarbonised three times, including the initial check-over, my engine remains untouched, the only necessary mechanical replacement consisted of one handbrake cable, seized up with snow, though one universal joint and several races in the back axle were recently replaced for little more than sheer “faddiness,” being good for another 10,000 miles or more before replacement would have been really necessary. The car is used for daily hack-work in town and country, including fastish main-road runs on which 40-m.p.h. averages are normal, my annual average petrol consumption for 15,000 miles or more has been (first year) 42.8 m.p.g.; second year. 43.9 m.p.g.; and third year, 43.7 m.p.g., whilst oil consumption, originally 400 miles to the pint when new (to my great delight, oil costing less than bores) has now reduced to 200 miles for the same quantity, but with no smoke or fumes, and slight piston-slap when cold only. After three years the car, internally and externally, is 95 per cent. as new, the chrome is perfect, it will just reach a level (timed) 60 in top and 46 in third, and cruises normally at 45/48 miles per hour, which compares favourably with my friend’s contemporary 750 Renault after roughly half that mileage, and is rather far removed from Mr. Denys Session’s two new engines and brake systems, and new suspension as well, in 17,000 miles. So many people have obviously had the same good service from the Morris Minor as myself that it is rather difficult to believe that such quantities of trouble could have been experienced except through trying to extract a large car’s performance from a modest 900 c.c. or less. I am quite sure I could have “burst” my Minor in the first two thousand miles if I had really tried, and judging by the behaviour of some drivers I have come across, some could do it in much less!

Seriously, though, almost all post-war cars of the “bread-and-butter” variety (I am not going to join in the Editor’s sports-car controversy!) will do so much more than their pre-war equivalents, that in my opinion most of their drivers expect far too much from them, and then grouse to high heaven because their “eights” won’t do the work of a 1 1/2-litre car, or else, if they meet success in their efforts, revile the makers for the trouble which inevitably follows. I think it is a tribute that ALL post-war “babies,” of whatever nationality, will do so much so well (and if given reasonable treatment for so long).

I am, Yours, etc.,
N. H. Fowler.
Lincoln.

[We have always thought of the Morris Minor as one of Britain’s outstanding cars, but personal comment is difficult as we have never succeeded in obtaining the standard 800-cc. o.h.v. model for full road test. The last Morris Minor lent by the publicity dept. of Cowley was tested in 1949 and now we are under the Bishop ban! See page 366, column one, of last issue. — Ed.)

* * *

By Way Of Apology

Sir,
I am enclosing a rather disgraceful effort which came from Motor Racing last week. You have probably by now seen many other examples of this second-rate circular, which has no doubt been sent to other advertisers in your columns. [The circular has attached to it a small advertisement clipped from Motor Sport and touts for support for its own columns — Ed.]

They, like myself, have probably formed a rather low opinion of the business methods employed by Motor Racing.

I am, Yours, etc:,
M. T. Jenvey.
West Horsley.

[This is one of many letters on this subject and we publish it by way of an apology to other readers who have received from Motor Racing a similar circular cutting of their advertisement in Motor Sport. Representation to Motor Racing to stop this form of touting has failed and we ask our readers to suffer this annoyance in sorrow rather than anger and to appreciate the compliment to our journal.

— Advert. Manager.]