Matters of Moment, August 1962

Cars and Their Owners

The MOTOR SPORT Readers’ Survey, the last instalment of which is due next month, has aroused widespread interest and must rank as a unique means of deciding which cars, petrols, oils and accessories to buy or avoid.

This turns our thoughts to a survey on a smaller scale, but of interest nevertheless, commissioned by Associated-Rediffusion to assess what sort of people use which makes of motor car and what they think of them. This survey covers London motorists and its sponsors admit that it is only a sketch, but some of the findings are worth quoting. For example, London’s motorists average about 10,700 miles each per annum. Nearly every car owner interviewed drove a saloon – eight in ten. One in ten drove a station-wagon, 1 in 25 an open or convertible.

Eight in ten used “family” -type cars, only 1 in 25 having a fast tourer or sports-car. It is amusing to learn from Associated-Rediffusion’s findings that “Owners of family cars tended to be more sociable than sports car owners,” but that those “higher on activity and impulsiveness” were more likely than others to own sports-cars, while the more neurotic were slightly more inclined to own such a car. “The sports-car owner,” we are told, “also tended to exhibit more extroversion, be more flexible and nearer to the comfort than the striving end of that dimension.”

Then “On the dimension of thoughtfulness the sports-car owner tends to be further from the thoughtful end than the family-car owner, although of higher intelligence.” This is qualified by the statement that “the total picture of the sports-car owner’s tendencies suggest that there is something in the stereotype of him as a rather dashing individual, not given much to intellectual activity but intelligent nevertheless,” which is enough to make a man discard his ancient Austin Ten for a TR4, M.G. 1600 or Austin-Healey right away! Apparently “do-it-yourself” activities are of more interest to sports-car owners; we recall being that way when we owned an early Morgan Plus Four. . . .

Londoners’ cars are 25% black, 15% grey, 11% green, 11% blue, the remainder made up of minor colours or two-tone finishes.

Coming to make preferences, 3 in 10 were Fords, half belonging to working-class households; one-third of the working-class households who had a car had a Ford. Of professional families, only one-quarter had a Ford. In other words, the Ford is twice as frequent in working-class households as any other make – surely a legacy of the model-T?

Overall, London motorists of all social grades favoured a Ford, although Morris and Austin run them close. However, the B.M.C. group, as a whole, dominates the market, over 4 in 10 car owning households having a B.M.C. product. Of these, say A.- R., the Riley, Wolseley and M.G. all seem slanted towards the upper end of the social scale. Of the ” also-rans,” Vauxhall was found in approximately 8%, Standard in aproximately 7%, Hillman in 5%, Humber in 2%, Triumph in 2% and Singer in 1% of car-owning households. So Vauxhall and Rootes tie with 8% each, Standard-Triumph leading with 9% – no doubt due to Herald’s popularity. Vauxhall and Standard cars appeal to all classes, Humber and Singer to “top people,” Triumphs to the lower orders. It should be remembered that this does not apply only to current models, although 9 in 10 were no more than ten years old. Less than 1 in 10 were pre-war models.

Reading this remarkable “People and Motor Cars” (Associated Rediffusion Ltd., Television House, London, W.C.2 – free), we learn that Ford owners, “tend towards introversion, are rather low on activity and impulsiveness but are good in respect self-control.” Ford owners are, says A.-R., radically inclined, have below average interest in instructional and improving activities and sport, a decidedly above-average interest in ” do-it-yourself,” and are not interested in jobs involving people, preferring scientific or mechanical employment. Morris owners tend to be similar to Ford owners, but are not interested in sport, being keen on artistic and literary activities. Austin owners are high on activity and impulsiveness, low on self-control, but quicker, more impulsive and more inclined to neuroticism than Ford owners. Wolseley owners were found to be ‘extroverted, well-balanced, easy-going people, and Humber owners active, flexible and stable.

Of these motorists who were interviewed 1 in 5 were very much against “high speed” and only 1 in 10 very much in favour of it, but “rapid acceleration” had 3 in 10 very much in favour and over half generally so. We like the comment (our italics) that of those who had any idea what it meant most were pretty pro a “high power to weight ratio.” “Cornering qualities” were thought very important by 7 in 10, 9 in 10 of all groups said both ”road-holding” and “all-round safety” were very important, while “with the exception of the customary 2% lunatic fringe,” all informants wanted “efficient brakes.” The make most popular with all sex, class and age groups was Ford. This make scored 20% choice to about 12% each for Austin and Morris.

The London public, asked to name makes spontaneously, most frequently quotes Ford (8 in 10), then Morris and Austin (6 in 10), while Rolls-Royce, Vauxhall and Jaguar are named by around 4/5 in 10 – some P.R.O.s can now have a preening session, which in other companies could be a pruning session! Thinking of P.R.O.s again, or the impact of a make’s evident sales-success, whereas only 3% Londoners named Aston Martin, 4% Armstrong-Siddeley, and 11% Daimler and Rover, 17% spontaneously named Renault, 13% Volkswagen, 11% Fiat and 6% Mercedes-Benz. As for opinions on the merits of actual cars owned, the Morris 1000 topped the bill under almost every heading except appearance, where the Wolseley 1500 headed the list.

All this is absorbing but does not embrace motorists who love vintage and veteran cars for their individuality and idiosyncrasies, can appreciate the practical virtues and “character” of modern cyclecars like the Citroen Ami 6, D.A.F. and B.M.W. 700, respond to the power and speed of cars such as the Jaguar, Ferrari and Maserati and admire cars of individual design and construction. Which is where we come in. . . .