Motor Sport - Reader's Car Survey (Part 5)



With this issue we conclude the detailed analysis of individual cars with the Vauxhall Victor and the Morris Minor. Next month the series will be concluded with a generalised survey of the many other cars owned by readers. It has been found impossible to accede to the many requests from readers for detailed surveys on their particular car owing, in some cases, to the small numbers involved, and more often due to obsolescence. However, the majority of cars not dealt with so far in the survey will be tabulated next month.

Vauxhall Victor

Is service satisfactory? 78% of Victor owners find service facilities satisfactory, 12.2% do not, 3.4% carry out their own servicing, and 6.8% did not answer this part of the questionnaire.

If car is modified give brief details: It would not be unfair to say that the Vauxhall Victor has not attracted the enthusiast with sporting inclinations, and this seems to be borne out in the number of modifications carried out. The most popular modification and the only one carried out in any quantity is the raising of the compression ratio, which has been made to 5.4% of the Survey cars. Few proprietary conversions have been fitted to the Victor; mainly because few are available, only 3.4% fitting a particular conversion such as those supplied by Alexander and Peco. Modified exhaust systems have been fitted by 2.7% but other modifications are mainly concerned with extra instruments, sunshine roofs and the fitting of overdrive.

ENGINE Few serious troubles seem to have affected the 1 1/2-litre 4-cylinder Victor unit, 71% reporting no engine troubles at all. The greatest number of replacements concern the timing chain, 8.9% having a new timing chain fitted, while 3.4% have required a new tensioner. As 9% complain of excessive engine noise it may well be that a percentage of those who have changed timing chains have done so because of the noise factor rather than failure. Broken engine mountings have affected 6.1%, the front mounting being the main culprit. The cylinder-head gasket has been changed by 4.7%, valves by 4.1%, main and big-end bearings by 4%. Silencers have been replaced by 6.1%, fan belts by 4.7%, one or more tappets by 3.4%, throttle linkage by 2.7%. Oil leaks are reported by 3%, broken dynamo mounting brackets by 2%, and replacements pistons by 2.7%.

CLUTCH 84.5% Victor owners have suffered no clutch bothers. Relining has been carried out by 5.4% at relatively low mileages (below 35,000), and 2.7% have had complete clutch overhauls below 26,000 miles. Of other complaints, 3.4% mention judder and 2% report clutch slip.

GEARBOX No gearbox trouble has been encountered by 82%. The most common complaint, that of poor synchromesh, is mentioned by 10.2%, several people having the synchro. cones changed under guarantee. Complete replacement gearboxes have been required by 2.7%. Failure to select second gear has affected 3.4% resulting in attention to the linkages. In addition 2.7% complain of the poor column change and 2%, remark on the lack of facilities for lubrication of the linkages of the column change, while 1.3% have suffered broken gear-levers. A number of people remarked that they would prefer a 4-speed gearbox, a situation which has been rectified on the latest Victor, although it is only an optional extra.

BRAKES 76% have suffered no braking troubles. 25.8% of Victor owners have changed linings at an average mileage of 25,000 but other troubles have been few and far between. Failure of the rubber master-cylinder seals is reported by 2.7%, while axle oil seal failures reported by 3.4% has resulted in linings being renewed. Of common complaints against the Victor brakes, 7.5% report excessive squealing and 4.7% report brake fade.

STEERING With 86% of Victor owners having no steering troubles there are obviously few failures to report. Replacement of bushes at the front end have been made by 5.4% and tie-rod ends have been replaced by 2.7%. Changes of steering boxes and king-pins are restricted to very small percentages and of general comments: 2% remark that the steering tends to pull to one side, others comment that the steering is too light, while still more remark that it is too stiff!

SUSPENSION No suspension trouble has been experienced by 84.5%. As usual, shock-absorbers have been the most troublesome item, 5.4% having them changed, while 2.7% remark on excessive noise from dampers. Wheel bearings have been replaced by 5.4%, while broken leaf-springs have been encountered by 3.4%: Broken anti-roll bars have occurred on 1.3%, while 0.7% have had trouble with the nylon friction interleaves in the rear leaf-springs.

INSTRUMENTS No instrument trouble has been experienced by 71%. As usual, the speedometer gave most trouble, 10.2% requiring replacement cables. The water-temperature gauge has been replaced on 8.9% and the oil-pressure switch on 4.1%. Of other complaints, 5.4% mentioned that the speedometer is very inaccurate or too noisy, 7.5% report that the fuel contents gauge is inaccurate, while a further 4.7% complain of the lack of an ammeter or oil-pressure gauge.

ELECTRICAL A variety of electrical troubles has afflicted the Victor, resulting in only 58% of owners having no electrical trouble. Battery replacements have been made by 14.3%, many people remarking that the life was far too short and that the battery fitted as standard seemed incapable of standing up to the work demanded of it. Dynamos have failed on 7.5% of the Survey cars, a number of people having more than one replacement, one owner getting through six dynamos! The trouble with broken dynamos brackets already listed under engine troubles was also reiterated. The starter motor was replaced on 4.7%, the ignition/starter switch on 4.7%, the lamps switch on 4.1%, the windscreen-wiper motor on 4.1%, the direction indicators switch on 3.4% and the A.V.C. on 3.4%. The lead to the starter has broken on 2.7%, while 2% complain of poor headlights.

REAR AXLE 82% had no failures on the Victor rear axle. The main complaint against the Victor axle is of excessive noise, 18.4% reporting this trouble, and 8.9% have changed axle units in the hope of obtaining a quieter example. Oil seal failures have been experienced by 6.8%, pinion bearings have been changed by 2.7%, and crown-wheel and pinion by 3.4%.

BODYWORK The bodywork of the Victor was soundly criticised by many owners, only 41.5% reporting no serious bodywork defects. Rusting paintwork is reported by 23.1%, poor quality of paintwork by 14.3%, water leaks in various places by 14.3%, rusting of chrome-plated parts by 11.6%, various body rattles by 6.8%, poor door sealing by 3.4%, and defective door handles by 2%. Complete respray jobs have been carried out by 8.2% as a result of blistering or fading paintwork.

OTHER SERIOUS DEFECTS Few troubles of a serious nature were reported under this heading. 3.4% mentioned the poor windscreen-wiper linkage, 2% remarked on water leaks through the heater, 2.7% felt that silencer life could be improved, while 2% felt that the car lacked power compared with its class rivals.

TYRES A fair selection of tyres are supplied by Vauxhall and, being American controlled, a number of American-made tyres figure more prominently than they do with most British makes. Avon are fitted to 24.4%, Firestone to 18.4%, Goodyear to 15.7%, Michelin to 10.2%, U.S. Royal to 10.2%, Dunlop to 4.1% and India to 1.3%.

Would you buy this car again? Yes, 72%. No, 28%. Of those who said they would not buy the Victor again the following cars were listed :

Not yet certain  5.4%

Volkswagen .. .. 3.4%

Ford (various models) 4.1%

Vauxhall (other models) 1.3%

Hillman Minx .. 3.4%

Morris .. .. .. 1.3%

Comments from the manufacturers of the Jaguar 2.4, 3.4 and 3.8, Triumph Herald and Fiat 600 follow. The Morris Minor survey is on page 612.


At the Jaguar factory we discussed the Survey with Mr. W. M. Heynes, who is Vice-Chairman Engineering and designer of the XK series of engines, and Bob Berry, the Jaguar Press Officer. Mr. Heynes remarked that the Survey seemed quite fair to him, the results confirming their own findings in many cases, although some of the percentages were far higher than they had obtained, which is understandable due to the smaller numbers involved. He also felt that our readers, having more sporting inclinations, would drive harder than the average owner. He felt that the percentage of owners satisfied with Jaguar service would be higher than 72.4% but noted that this compared favourably with other makes.

With regard to the 11.9% who have fitted Koni shock-absorbers, Mr. Heynes felt that the true percentage of all Jaguar owners is less than 1% as the harder ride given by the Koni adjustable shock-absorber is completely unacceptable to the majority. The heavier anti-roll bar which was originally offered as an optional extra is now fitted as standard equipment.

On the engine the timing-chain tensioner failures are usually due to a fracture of the tensioner bracket, which has now been strengthened, or if the engine oil is very dirty this will sometimes affect the tensioner despite the fitting of a filter. Engine-oil leaks have been a problem from time to time and improvements have been made to the front and rear crankshaft oil seals, changing from the scroll type to an interference fit fabric type, and the sump gasket material has also been changed. Complaints against oil consumption invariably occur during the early life of the car before the piston rings are fully bedded-in. If a car is driven gently this running-in period will be prolonged, but once the rings are fully bedded-in oil consumption should drop appreciably. Jaguars use chrome-plated top rings and high bore finish, which gives extremely long life and extremely low bore wear. It has been found that if a 3.8 Jaguar is driven at or near its maximum speed for long distances, such as along the M1, oil consumption will rise, but oil consumption generally is not considered a problem. The carburetter problems, which seemed to be mainly due to incorrect balancing of S.U.s, should not be a problem as Mr. Heynes feels the S.U. carburetter is one of the easiest to adjust.

Jaguar agree that the clutch is generally reliable, the flexible hydraulic hoses being changed for a metal-guarded type early in the life of the 2.4 model. Clutch judder most frequently occurs with the type of owner who uses the clutch as a form of disc brake when changing down!

Although Mr. Heynes admits that the synchromesh of the Jaguar gearbox is not powerful by current standards and requires precision in operation, it is extremely robust and reliable.

Complaints of high noise level in gearboxes are largely confined to early models in which sound insulation of the body was not very complete. This need for insulation results from the positioning of the gearbox inside the passenger compartment which, in turn, is the result of moving forward the passenger compartment relative to the engine position in order to provide the maximum amount of passenger space.

Jaguar claim that their gears and gearboxes are manufactured to a very high standard. They are all manufactured by Jaguar –  hitherto a certain percentage were produced by an outside supplier. The gears are shaved, and surface finish is held between 10 – 15 micro inches. The gears are then paired into sets and the maximum backlash allowed is held between 4-7 thou. All boxes are individually assembled and a 100% inspection and test is carried out in a silence room.

With regard to brakes, Mr. Heynes also remarked that the reason few braking problems were revealed by the Survey is due to the fact that the Jaguar/Dunlop combination, which led the introduction of disc brakes to the Motor Industry, has given them a lead in production techniques and service experience under widely varying operating conditions. The need for frequent adjustment of the early handbrake was largely overcome by the use of a more efficient linkage and, more recently, the problem has been completely solved with the introduction of the self-adjusting hand brake.

The high rate of wear of pads in certain cases reflects the driving habits of the owners concerned. In the experience of Jaguar disc brake pads have a life equal to the shoes in drum brakes and are, of course, much easier and quicker to replace. It must be remembered that disc brakes tend to be used much more severely due to their vastly greater efficiency. In fact, a drum brake used in the same way as a disc brake would have a very short life indeed. The pads of the Dunlop disc brake are not in constant contact with the disc as on some designs, which assists in keeping temperatures down.

Jaguar feel that the standard steering box with 4.7 turns lock-to-lock is suitable for most owners, although the optional box for the Mk. II with 3.9 turns is popular with sporting owners, although the turning circle is identical. Like most suspension systems the Jaguar suspension is a compromise and is designed to give a comfortable ride at all speeds. The shock-absorbers have to be soft enough to control the springs without interfering with the ride. Mr. Heynes feels that the Girling dampers currently fitted maintain their settings better than competitive units, improvements being related to consistency of action and improved sealing, particularly around the piston rod.

Of faults mentioned, rear-spring failures usually occur due to fatigue resulting from prolonged use with ineffective dampers. Anti-roll bar faults are normally confined to rubber bush failures.

The introduction, on the Mark II and, subsequently, on the E-type and Mark X, of electrically operated instruments –  except the speedometer – proved to be a major step forward in instrument reliability. Speedometer failures occurred largely during the early life of the original 2.4 model due to oil entering the speedometer head via the cable. This was partly due to batch of cables being supplied with reverse windings which acted as oil pumps, pumping oil into the speedo. head. As this change was made without informing Jaguars this took a long while to cure. An improved speedo. drive and seal at the gearbox end overcame this problem. Improved cable life was achieved by greater attention to cable runs and mounting points. In addition the instruments themselves incorporate improved mechanisms.

Mr. Heynes has strong views on batteries, although he feels that the majority of failures are due entirely to inattention and lack of topping-up. He feels that a sealed unit is needed which requires no topping-up throughout its life. Fuel pumps now incorporate a protective membrane on the diaphragm to protect them against the action of high aromatic fuels. Improved contact breaker equipment is also fitted, and the horns, which were originally of the high-frequency type, are now windtones, which have proved to be very reliable. The problem of the poor headlamp system has been met by the introduction of a sealed-beam system which Jaguars claim is one of the best two-headlamp systems on the road.

The axle noise problem has been thoroughly investigated and improvements are constantly being made. However, improvements are also being made in the standards of body silence and thus the axle noise is accentuated once more.

On the bodywork water leakage has been dealt with by the use of a neoprene-based compound which is applied with a special gun to all joints. When the body is baked the compound contracts into the joints, filling, them completely, yet remaining flexible.

With regard to paintwork, early 2.4 and 3.4 models were cellulose sprayed. More recently a completely new paint shop and phosphating plant has been installed to produce bodies with a synthetic enamel baked finish. Jaguar claim that this is giving extremely good results. Two years ago Jaguar installed a modern fully automatic chromium-plating plant and all chrome parts are plated above the B.S. standard. The B.S. standard for nickel is 0.0001 in. and Jaguar use 0.0015 in., and for chrome the standard is 0.00001 in. and Jaguar use 0.00004 in. A 100% inspection is carried out on all major items and sample checks are made on small items such as cylinder-head studs, etc. It is felt that lack of attention is the main cause of the deterioration of chrome-plated parts.

Of other complaints on the bodywork, an improved action door lock has been fitted for some time and the complaints registered are almost certainly referring to pre Mark II cars. The integral construction body has proved to be very rigid and detail improvements in body manufacture and car assembly are constantly being made. Window glasses now have radiused corners to prevent them fouling the guide felts. A new type of rubber-based window guide felt is now fitted to the window frames which is waterproof and completely prevents the glasses from touching the frames.


On the engine Standard/Triumph recommend in their handbooks that the engine be decarbonised and the valves lightly ground in during the early life of the car. This should be done during the 3,000 to 6,000-mile period and Standard/Triumph engineers feel that valve life will be improved. However, the valve material is improved on the Herald 1200 engine conversion kit. Many items criticised on the 948-c.c. Herald unit have been improved on the 1200 model, and sometimes these improvements have been put into production on the normal Herald although this has not always been possible. For instance, the 1200 has lead indium bearings and a full flow filter, which the 948-c.c. does not possess, while the crankshaft has strengthened flying webs on the 1200 as well as an improved surface finish on crankpins and journals.

The problem of fracturing exhaust systems has been dealt with by repositioning the front mounting, giving improved support, and strengthening the silencer end plates. Likewise the throttle linkage trouble has been eliminated by providing a new linkage which eliminates the offset loading. A new cable has also been fitted incorporating an improved quality outer casing. Improved production methods which include a higher test pressure have been instituted to deal with loose core plugs, and a more robust dynamo pedestal and new attachment bracket to the engine plate have been designed to eliminate broken dynamo brackets.

3.5% mentioned broken radiator mountings and 2.3%, split radiators, and Standard/Triumph have now introduced a new radiator with retooled top and bottom tanks and new side plates giving improved soldering conditions. The side plates now use four fixing holes instead of eight, the fixings at the corners being deleted, thus eliminating stress concentrations in these areas. The radiator hoses have now been given an improved rubber specification.

A new Solex 30PSEI pump-type carburetter has been introduced which eliminates many of the carburetter problems mentioned by readers, although many troubles undoubtedly stem from incorrectly balanced twin carburetters.

On the clutch no real problems have been encountered but a new 9-spring clutch was introduced on the Herald 1200 model. With regard to gearbox noise, which is the major complaint of Herald owners, Standard/Triumph claim to be the first British factory to install a new type of electronic test machine which checks on gearbox and differential noises, enabling the source of each particular noise to be traced and dealt with individually, an almost impossible task before this machine came into use. The benefits of this machine are only just becoming evident, but future Standard/Triumph models should have greater standards of mechanical silence. The problem of excessive noise in 3rd gear on the overrun has been met by fitting a rubber-mounted tie rod between the gearbox and frame. The 1200 model has a closer ratio gearbox than the 948 model.

Despite the criticisms of short lining life it is not intended to introduce a harder lining on the Herald, although of course a disc brake kit is now available for the really hard driver. Additional handbrake cable pull-off springs have been introduced which, it is claimed, give improved lining life and a consequent reduction in the frequency of adjustment. Sticking brake cables have led to rear wheel lining wear and this modification should prevent this.

On the steering rack, bedding-down can take place in the early mileage, giving the impression of wear, and a rack adjustment operation is now included in the first service check in which a shim can now be removed to compensate for any bedding-down which may have taken place. The steering-column universal joint is now being manufactured to closer tolerances to eliminate any tendency to knock or looseness.

Trouble with suspension bushes is mentioned by 11.3%. The upper wishbone inner pivot is fitted with rubber bushes and the lower, inner pivot, which initially was fitted with nylon bushes, is now fitted with rubber bushes The outer pivots retain nylon bushes which now have improved sealing with rubber rings located by steel washers. On the independent rear suspension system the dampers are fitted with a bump stop which can make a noise on the rebound when the car bumps over kerbs or other large projections but otherwise the suspension is not considered unduly noisy.

On instruments, an improved odometer movement is to be introduced shortly for the speedometer which will improve accuracy and reliability. Of the electrical troubles, the flasher and light switches are now of a more robust design with larger fulcrum pins. The erratic flashers now have an improved self-cancelling mechanism.

The final drive troubles which occurred fairly frequently on early models have been eliminated with a number of modifications.

The inner half-shaft has been progressively improved; modifications are a semi-circular circlip groove eliminating stress raiser, controlled shot blowing to improve fatigue life and higher tensile strength by modified heat treatment. The outer half-shaft has been modified as follows: The oil seal for the needle roller bearing is a double-lip leather seal instead of felt and rubber, and the seal is now protected by a revolving metal flinger. Improved surface finish of shaft, induction hardening extended inboard of needle roller bearing to give increased fatigue life. Improved corrosion resistance has been achieved by using an etch primer before final paint process.

On the Herald 1200 a larger crown-wheel and pinion with larger attachment bolts for the crown-wheel is in production.

The original bodywork water test system has been scrapped and a new and more efficient one installed. Every car is now thoroughly checked for water leaks and resealed where necessary. This was instituted on the 1200 series.

Redesigned door seals were fitted some time ago and it is claimed that they are completely satisfactory.

Inspection and quality on paintwork, chrome, door and bonnet fittings has steadily improved and the quality of cars leaving the factory in recent months is excellent.

Improvements have been carried out on the window-winding mechanism and attachments which were originally self-tapping screws have been replaced by nuts and bolts. A new and more robust door lock was introduced early in 1962 and has given complete satisfaction. A revised boot lid lock striker has replaced the original striker. This has eliminated complaints of this lock. The boot lid prop bracket has been redesigned and is now satisfactory.

Rusting of roof gutter was due to the operators fitting the chrome finisher attachment clips the reverse way, but unfortunately a number of cars left the factory before the fault was discovered. The chrome finisher and clips were deleted with the introduction of the T.1200 model and the possibility of recurrence of this complaint eliminated.

FIAT 600

At the Wembley headquarters of Fiat (England) Ltd., we talked to Mr. F. Don and the Service Manager, and Alfred Woolf, Fiat’s Publicity Agent. A short tour was made of the premises at Water Road, Wembley, which is mainly devoted to servicing and the storage of large quantities of spares. It is claimed that spares for all models back to 1937 are either available at Wembley or from the factory at short notice. Although the Fiat dealer network is not, and cannot be, as large as that of most British manufacturers, distributors have a chain of dealers in their area and few Fiat owners should be very far from a Fiat agent. Fiat are also British Concessionaires for the Weber carburetter and dozens of these exciting looking carburetters are stacked on the shelves waiting to go to power hungry enthusiasts.

A recent innovation by Fiat is the erection of a new-car processing plant which deals with all new Fiats coming into this country. At this depot in Coronation Road, all cars are degreased and given a complete pre-delivery check-over.

Of the Survey results, the Service Manager felt that there was little comment he could make as in his opinion the Survey had shown up few faults which were peculiar to the 600, the majority being normal replacements due to wear. The shaft handbrake was discontinued in 1957 and the gearbox oil seal strengthened at the same time and braking troubles have therefore been eliminated. The only other trouble of note with bodywork complaints has been traced to a batch of cars which took a long time to reach this country due to various strikes and some of the cars with light coloured paintwork have tended to fade. Fiat now have a new paint plant at Wembley using synthetic enamel which is baked and it is claimed that this is giving good results.