The Speed of Sports Cars




In the January 1962 issue of MOTOR SPORT you reviewed “The History of the World’s Sports-Cars,” by Richard Hough. It has since been my pleasure to read this fine book, one of the most interesting parts of which is the “potted specification” section. Here Mr. Hough not only gives indisputable data such as wheelbase, cylinder dimensions, etc., but also the top speed and other performance figures for some cars. Truly he sticks his neck out, even though he covers himself by saving,’ “Performance figures … have been compiled from contemporary road-test figures . . . and are usually the means of several figures available.”

Some surprising comparisons can be made, for instance, the top-speeds quoted for some models are given below :-

Whilst agreeing that top speed is not the sole criterion by which one judges a sports car, the above are sports cars, and all have, to some degree, the characteristics which give sporty motoring. It is surprising, therefore, to see that the car boasting the highest top-speed in the above list is the little J2 M.G. Not only is it faster than some of its larger contemporaries, but also it is faster than some much more recent cars. J2 owners must be bucked to think that their under £100 car is basically faster than, say, Riley Imps and M.P.H.s, for which one might have to pay anything between £300 And £400. Another seemingly strange comparison is :-

Clearly power did not grow on trees in the ‘thirties as it seems to do for some of the tuning shops today.

Also, the quoted power of the 1949 747-c.c. Crosley Hotshot is 26 b.h.p. at 6,500 r.p.m. Bearing in mind the speed which some of these little cars could attain and the fact that M.G. obtained 44 b.h.p. from an unblown 750 in 1932, this really does not seem to be very much.

But to return to the main theme of this letter, did any readers own a J2 M.G. When new ? If so, did it really do an honest 83 m.p.h. ? And why is it that something like a Riley Imp., which is not really any better than the J2, sells for three or four times the price ? Is it simply because one is classified by the V.S.C.C. as a p.v.t., and therefore has snob value ? Or is it ? And why does one qualify as a p.v.t., and not the other ?