Letters from Readers, August 1968

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N.B.—Opinions expressed are those al our Correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them.—Ed.

You Just Can’t Win!

Sir,

While driving my Lotus Elan, I was recently stopped and reported for allegedly driving at 42 m.p.h. through a radar beam in a restricted area. I had been warned of the trap by another Elan coming the opposite way about half a mile before the trap and had seen it myself about 200 yards before it, so I had plenty of time to check that my speed was not in excess of the limit. My passenger is also willing to testify to the speedometer reading.

On being stopped I naturally expressed surprise and the Police somewhat grudgingly agreed to check my speed if I drove through the beam again. In fact, they broke the law themselves by telling me to drive through at 40 m.p.h. so they could check at that speed. On each occasion their radar read 8-to-10 m.p.h. faster than my speedometer.

I later had my speedometer checked by Smiths, who certified it to be 1 m.p.h. fast at 30 m.p.h., but accurate to within manufacturing tolerances at all other speeds.

The next weekend my passenger was talking to a friend of his who has worked with radar all his life. He said that because the refractive index of fibreglass is totally different from that of steel any reading obtained from a fibreglass car was bound to be completely inaccurate.

The only possibility that I can see is that when the car is moving at 30 m.p.h. the outer edge of the wheel knock-off ears will he moving forward at approximately 9 m.p.h. faster, which could account for a reading of about 40 m.p.h.

My solicitor has suggested that I write to you to see if you have heard of any similar cases or know of an expert witness able to testify to the inaccuracy of radar on fibreglass cars.

Kingston-upon-Thames. C. C. Walker.

[Interesting that the Police permitted 40 m.p.h. in a 30 mph. speed limit area. It is obvious to anyone but the Establishment that if a great many drivers are brought to court for doing around 40 in a 30 area the road in question is overdue for promotion to a 40 m.p.h. speed limit; because the vast majority of drivers have self-preservation foremost in their minds and do not go at speeds which in the circumstances might end in instant snuff-out. What a farce the whole thing is! Readers’ comments on the last paragraph of this letter would be appreciated .—Ed. ]

* * *

Honda Horror

Sir,

At a time when the powers that be are trying to persuade the man in the street to buy British in order that our extremely poor economic circumstances may improve, it is perhaps encouraging to note that at least one well-known overseas competitor in the Motor Trade is helping us as much as he can.

I was looking at a Honda S800 coupé in a well-known London garage recently and, having done all the usual things to determine whether the vehicle was capable of taking me and mine in comparative comfort, I opened the bonnet to examine what is perhaps the most important part of this vehicle. I was extremely surprised to observe on one of the cylinder heads severe cracking in two places, one of which was the housing around the distributor drive. I pointed this out to the salesman, who was amazed, and said that this must be a bad one and would arrange to get it changed forthwith. Still partially interested in this make of vehicle, I took with me a brochure, and to my absolute astonishment observed a photograph of the engine of a Honda S800 showing the cracking exactly as it had been on the vehicle on show. I enclose this brochure and have ringed the area which shows the cracking very clearly and have arrowed the area in which I observed cracking on the demonstration vehicle.

Maidstone. M. W. J. Spencer.

* * *

Editor’s Nightmare

Sir,

I wish I had a pound note for each time I have seen the Austin Seven “Opal” 2-seater called an Opel, but I never expected to see it in the well-respected Motor Sport—or perhaps it was a printer’s error . . . ?

Wray. J. E. Meadowcroft.

[I have checked the copy and I wrote this very clearly as OPAL.—Ed.]

* * *

Answering Criticism of the Rolls-Royce Convertible

Sir,

Let me, for one, hasten to inform Penthouse that when Rolls-Royce do something, it is usually right—not automatically because it’s Rolls-Royce, but because of the trouble which R.-R. go to, to ensure that what is done by them is right. The convertible top in question (I have no experience of the Silver Shadow, unfortunately), which does not disappear completely, has, however, the virtue that howling gales around one’s ears (and around milady’s hair-do—shall we say coiffure), in the rear seat, with the top down, are considerably reduced, because the bulging cover tends to discourage air flowing straight across the top of the rear seat, to one’s neck and ears, etc. The less said of the way the Lincoln, or Cadillac for that matter, protect these parts, the better. No, sir—even in dropheads, Rolls-Royce have sound reasons for claiming that theirs is “The Best Car in the World”.

Johannesburg. R. A. Eliason.

* * *

Rover 2000 Tyres

Sir,

I was surprised to note the uneven tyre-wear characteristics found on Rover 2000 near-side front wheels by the Editor and Mr. Wareing.

Having now done 15,000 miles in a secondhand 1964 SC, I have been amazed at the even tyre-wear on all wheels, especially when the high cornering speed potential is realised, and used when traffic conditions permit.

I ran a P4 “60” for 45,000 miles, and with much lower cornering and cruising speeds I found much more wear on the outside edges of both front tyres; by comparison, the 2000 tyres could well be cut down with a precision grinder rather than on uneven roads with constantly varying cornering loads.

However, I have found another phenomenon which perhaps indicates the precision with which the suspension is tuned. Due to a temporary size shortage, I was forced to fit Pirelli 155 x 14 instead of 165 x 14 tyres.

Although no appreciable loss of adhesion was noted, violent vibration of the whole body structure came in over 65 m.p.h. and increased with speed. This was not “Barbara’s conscience”, as I have now changed back to the correct size and the trouble immediately vanished.

Koni dampers all round seem to improve the ride; not that it was bad previously. I cannot praise the car without repeating what many people have said before me, except to say that I doubt if a better four-seat saloon has yet been produced in the world, at under £2,000.

Usual disclaimer and congratulations on the continuing high standard of your publication.

Bridport. J. Stickland.

* * *

Road-Test Peugeot 404KF2

Sir,

For the record, it is now three years since you road-tested Peugeot 404KF2, 998EBY, in your issue of June, 1965. That “hard-used test car”, having been put through its paces as a demonstrator for two years, was acquired by me as an act of faith and after 18 months in a country doctor’s practice, charging along the unmade lanes of rural Hampshire, shows no signs of falling apart. It was pleasing to have one’s thoughts confirmed by your correspondent, Mike Jackson, in the June, 1968, issue under Another “Short List”. By an oversight he had two glaring omissions in his specifications. I refer, of course, to (21) stainless steel bumpers, and (22) a starting handle. I had cause to be thankful that the last-named allegedly obsolete tool was readily to hand, when, with my stop-and-start motoring last winter, the original battery died on me. One pull and we were quickly on our way to Alton, where Kerridge’s had a replacement fitted within the hour.

My patriotic son sums it up—”If the French can make a car like this, why can’t we?”

Your monthly tonic is very much appreciated. I was sorry to hear about your painful thumb joint. A spell behind the wheel of a 504 would probably cure it!

Bordon. Sam Macilwain.

* * *

Fiat 124 and 125 Comparisons

Sir,

As the owner of a l.h.d. Fiat 125, and a late Fiat 124 owner, I was very interested to read your road impressions. I certainly agree with most of them—it is a very good motor car, but could possibly be better in some respects.

The 124 was, in my opinion, a more balanced car to look at and had less woolly (or rubbery) steering—one could hurl it about in the Alps. The 125 I feel does not take quite so kindly to this treatment—at least it is harder work! In some ways a plusher 124 with 125 silence and comforts and the d.o.h.c. engine, which is beautifully smooth, would suit me better, with, of course, the 125 gear change, too.

Unless r.h.d. cars are different I do not agree with your note about the foot-operated screenwasher—the wipers operate for as long as the foot plunger is held down.

At its average Continental price of about £800 devalued pounds sterling, or less, I think that Torino are again to be congratulated for having produced a car which is exceptional value for money as well as an excellent performer, and, like almost every Fiat, great fun to drive. An achievement to add to all Fiat’s others, as their simple Italian advertisement beside the roads says, in Terra, Mare, Cielo!

St. Cloud, France. C. W. Fensome.

* * *

Headlamp Signalling

Sir,

Without wishing in any way to get any further personal editorial, thought you would like to see a copy of the Croydon Advertiser which highlights one of the points I made in a speech at the East Surrey Motor Club dinner and dance, which was held on Friday, May 31st. My actual words were, in fact:

“The use of headlamp flashers is growing and a large number of new cars have this device fitted as standard equipment. On the Continent it is quite clear when the headlamp flasher is used what the Continental driver means. He means ‘I’m here and I’m coming’, it isn’t a signal for you to come on. For example, in these dangerous three-lane roads, if you are overtaking and use the headlamp flasher, it clearly means that you are coming through and that you are committed, and therefore the other drivers should stay in a single lane. It doesn’t mean that you are a bully, but means that you have a motor car weighing 1½ tons travelling at 70 m.p.h. which you probably cannot alter in the space of a few yards.

“All of us who drive see headlamp flashers being used in beckoning across zebra crossings, to beckon somebody to pass in front of you. Our own Ministry of Transport have so far been reluctant to include the use of headlamp flashers and give a definite procedure in the Highway Code, but all of us who are enthusiastic Motorists and probably, in competence, a little ahead of some road users (even if not in courtesy), should use a flashing headlamp signal as a warning and not as a ‘Come On’.”

These words have been slightly added to by the journalist in question, but quite definitely make the point that we really cannot continue the present chaotic situation where flashing headlights mean “come on” to one man and “go back” to another.

Purley. Gordon H. Procter.

[In general, we agree. But would it be sensible to suggest that headlamp flashing on a stationary vehicle might mean “come on” (what other easily seen signal is there?), but that the same signal on a moving vehicle means just what Mr. Procter so clearly describes?—Ed.]

* * *

Insurance “Caution” Again!

Sir,

I feel I must write concerning the inexplicable panic of British insurance companies at the initials “GT”.

Africa has been my home for the last two years, but I had to make an unexpected departure due to illness and brought my GT Cortina to the United Kingdom with me. Having been satisfied with the insurance company in Africa, I contacted their associate company in the United Kingdom. In due course the proposal form was completed and returned. The full premium required annually is £81 for a car worth only about £600. (Actually I would only pay £43 10s, because of a 50 per cent N.C.B.) In spite of this premium the company were at pains to point out that the policy would be restricted for (quote) “such high-performance vehicles” (unquote). The restrictions were as follows: (i) only my wife and I can drive the car; (ii) no cover for me when I am driving another vehicle—my comment is that it is very unreasonable and illogical that I cannot drive my friend’s clapped-out Ford 100E; (iii) no cover outside the United Kingdom—my comment: it is only outside the United Kingdom that I can use the “high performance” which the insurers speak of.

(iv) I must pay £25 excess or, if my wife is driving, £50.

I shudder to think of the conditions which might operate if and when I buy a Lamborghini GT. The premium will be over £1,000 and by a logical extrapolation one could assume that no one will be covered to drive it and the car will only be covered if it remains in the garage.

I hasten to add I will probably change companies.

Apperley Bridge. J. Ford.

* * *

Limousines

Sir,

Your article on the new Daimler limousine contained an interesting cross-wire. Surely the “600” Mercedes-Benz is a Vee-eight and not a Vee-twelve? [Correction accepted!—Ed.]

I also feel that twin-cam limousines are not quite as rare as you imply. A good many of the long-chassis Model-J Duesenbergs of the 1929-1937 period carried immense formal coachwork which was catalogued by the makers. I also seem to recall having seen examples of the DV-32 Stutz of circa 1931 in limousine form.

Midhurst. Michael Sedgwick.

* * *

The Modern Car

Sir,

Many of today’s motor cars are fabricated from steel so thin as to be laughable, and as to their fastening, cans of peaches have far superior welds. We buy (without a murmur) fake woodwork which melts in warm weather or which emits a “ping” when tapped and is measured in s.w.g. We are invited to lower our posteriors into plastic seats and hold a steering wheel which bends in our grasp, and suffer the dictates of motor fashion which render so many drivers over six feet tall as uncomfortable as trussed chickens in a baking tin.

The passable mechanicals of volume production units are not given full justice by the uninspired and inadequate design of their bodies, which range from the frumpish to the vulgar. It is only lack of sufficient funds and a good lawyer which precludes me from mentioning specific brand names.

Devotees to the cult of more, more, more, the motor giants in their breathless haste offer insufficient paintwork, an inadequate range of colours and still adorn cars with stainless-steel “styling” strips whose iron fastenings rust away after only a couple of years. Progress has given us gimmicks that try and deceive us into thinking that even our most mundane of saloons has at least caught a whiff of the coach-builder’s paintbrush, chisel and Connolly. These days chromium plate is so thin that one needs a jolly good micrometer to measure it.

In the British volume car industry honesty is clearly not the best policy, and the cry of “planned obsolescence” (to be said with a laconic mid-western drawl) echoes tinnily in the showrooms.

Rover’s, Jaguar’s and Daimler’s have all sold their souls to the devil, and I have no doubt that when all the constituents of the new dinosauric B.L.M.C. combine have been homogenised, the suburban niceties that will tumble from the production lines will be but mere compromises to join the ranks of anonymous Fords, Rootes and Vauxhalls.

Chaque homme à son auto.

Chesterfield. Peter L. Ullathorne.

* * *

Radio v. TV

Sir,

With regard to the television advertising row that still seems to be on the boil in your excellent magazine I endorse Sir Max Aitken’s message to the TV companies at Silverstone earlier this year, namely—”Get lost.”

Who needs a deadly dull monochrome picture usually accompanied by monolithic commentary? No, as long as we have Robin Richards’ radio reports for the Continental Grands Prix and our own get-up and-go for the British races who needs television? ,

Benfleet. S. J. Lawrence.

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