A Couple of Small Fast Saloons

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The Ford Escort Twin-Cam

Last year, when the Ford Escort was an exciting new model, I tried it in 1300GT form, which is about the best all-round version of this useful two-door-1,100 size car. I have since been able to enjoy the experience of driving the Twin-Cam Escort. There have been suggestions that this is a rorty “boy-racer” kind of small saloon. Certainly any car in this category which gives a top speed of some 112 m.p.h. and will go from rest to 60 m.p.h. through the gears in less than ten seconds is worthwhile to drive and very fast about the place if it also has adequate road-clinging and handleability, which this Escort has.

The Ford Escort is not really a small car in this form, I suppose, because the swept volume is 1,558 c.c. and it packs 115 b.h.p. under the bonnet (or 40 more than the push-rod Escort GT). Incidentally, as a sort of yardstick, I remember that before the war I regarded 0 to 50 m.p.h. in under ten seconds as very good going, this being what you could achieve in a Meadows-H.R.G., which was a pretty representative 1½-litre sports car. It is a nice reflection on progress that here is a very compact closed car able to get to the mile-a-minute gait as quickly as a 1937 sports two-seater reached a mere 50 m.p.h. Moreover, it never fails to impress me how effectively such a production saloon, with all this poke in it, can be made to cling to the corners . . . But to class this as a rallymen-only, startling kind of vehicle is absurd. It is as docile as in recent times Ford Motor Company has intended the Cortina-Lotus with the same double-knocker power unit to be, only being lighter it is that much quicker. Indeed, some eight m.p.h. quicker and a second or so faster from 0 to 60 m.p.h. Yet it is a car no novice need fear. At times it fluffed a bit in traffic, but the plugs cleared immediately the engine was run fast—no necessity to drive all the way through the Metropolis in second gear or else foul the “candles” so that they had to be changed, as with a Brescia Bugatti; plugs have improved, along with engines, since those days.

This is just as well, because all but No. 2 Autolite on the Escort is beneath the big air-cleaner.

Of course, you keep the machinery turning at above 2,000 r.p.m. most of the time. It is then very docile, as well as willing. Unlike the Escort 1300GT it is not fussy at our top Motorway cruising speed of 70 m.p.h., which holds at 4,000 r.p.m. Moreover, in normal driving there is not much need to push it beyond 5,000 in the lower gears, which gives indicated speeds of 29, 43 and 61 m.p.h. and leaves 1,500 r.p.m. in hand, the red sector of the tachometer being from 6,500 to 8,000. At 6,500 r.p.m. the ignition cuts out, the car then doing 37, 55 and 80 m.p.h. in the lower gears, which will see off most things in this country.

The step-off really is impressive, the back axle properly tied down to cope with the extra urge, and the eager crisp manner in which this fast Escort runs makes driving even over dull routes tolerable. The gear-change, with a splendidly placed short central lever, is excellent, being quick and very smooth, like that on all the smaller Fords, a flick change from 3rd to 2nd being especially pleasing. The lever knob is substantially pleasant to hold, too.

Tachometer and 140 m.p.h. speedometer (with total plus decimal mileage recorder), have very clear steady-reading white needles, but the four small dials to the right of them, fuel, oil (normally 40 lb/sq. in. whatever the engine speed), temperature and volts gauges, are casually calibrated and somewhat blanked by the small steering wheel. The unhappily placed switches for lamps and two-speed wipers remain, set too low on an under-facia panel for convenient l.h. actuation and rendered worse because the panel “gives” as you press them and because the more frequently-used wipers’ switch is below the lamps’ switch. The r.h. universal stalk control did not always cancel the indicators after a corner and, as with all the smaller Fords, the ride is good for shaking up the liver but for little else. Vision is rather restricted and some rain came in round the screen. Otherwise, very few complaints. The Escort has especially good cornering and efficient rack-and-pinion steering. The former is particularly true of the Twin-Cam, the 165 x 13 India Super Autoband tyres being notably good on wet roads, but the steering, while high geared (3½ turns, lock-to-lock), accurate and quick, transmitted mild kick-back at the wheel rim. The car slides corners splendidly, with a minimum of roll and sensible initial understeer. The brakes I would call adequate rather than powerful and there is a good deal of noise, engine roar, axle hum on drive, rattles from the region of the gearbox on the overrun, and a few squeaks and creaks. The clutch is tricky to engage smoothly but the resultant tendency to slip it with the revs well up, causing judder, didn’t seem to bother it. Quite a load of luggage can be lost in the self-locking boot in spite of having to share it with spare wheel, o/s nine-gallon fuel tank and battery. Starting is prompt, with a minimum of choke (good old Webers!) and although I fed the impressive Lotus power unit with five-star fuel, it should manage on four-star, on its 9.5 to 1 c.r.

The shaped and ventilated front seats, held down until seat release buttons are operated, are reasonably comfortable. Oddments stowage is confined, apart from the back shelf, to a deep l.h. under-facia shelf, awkward for the driver to reach into. The Escort body dispenses with ¼-lights or opening side windows and very high marks must be awarded to the excellent heating and fresh-air ventilation, with the most simple of controls. Road dirt gets carried by the wide tyres up behind the base of the doors, which can soil clothes and might be a source of rusting. The test car had a Triplex laminated screen, radio, and Wingard safety-belts with Teleflex reels, labelled “Wear at all times”.

The overall impression of this ermine-white Escort was of a most entertaining little saloon which really motors yet is easy to drive. I got 26.4 m.p.g. of petrol but after 825 miles, the dip-stick, easy to remove from the o/s. rear of the engine but difficult to replace because it catches up in its tube, showed the sump to be empty, although the oil pressure remained constant. A quart (5s. 9d.-worth) of Castrol brought the level to “full”. At about this distance the exhaust note became “Edwardian racer,” a bolt having come out of No. 1 exhaust-pipe flange, causing the flange gasket to blow. As the brakes tended to squeal loudly, rapid progress towards Oulton Park became embarrassing and I would gladly have exchanged this Twin-Cam for an Escort GT and a cup of tea . . . At £1,195 the car is expensive entertainment, but I rate it with the Cortina GT and Cortina-Lotus as the greatest possible fun to drive among outwardly-utility saloons.

Incidentally, as the Twin-Cam Escort has its type description only on the bonnet sides (and facia) I think many people may invest in ordinary Escorts, impressed by the speed at which I drew away from them, and then wonder why they are not getting like performance from the ordinary 1,098 c.c. and 1,298 c.c. models!—W. B.

The Toyota Corolla

It is useless to deny that the Japanese Motor Industry is quickly catching up with Europe—indeed, has in some respects caught up. That would be like the ostrich burying its head in the sand, which the British Industry must not emulate. So, although publishing special issues boosting Japanese cars is one thing, maybe we shall be excused for describing the Model KE 10, 1,077-c.c. Toyota Corolla as a very nice little car of outstanding economy with a sporting performance—a top speed of 85 m.p.h. and 0-60 m.p.h. acceleration in under 16½ sec. from a 1,100 saloon merits the adjective “sporting”, in addition to which this Toyota is remarkably sparing on fuel.

Apart from that, this Japanese 1,100 is very nicely finished within, Toyota make much of their rust-proofing, and the lines are smart with a touch of Escort about the rear, but that ugly radiator grille is retained. I have little use for two-door bodies, in which form the car was tested, but no matter—Toyota make a four-door version, and also supply “Toyoglide” automatic transmission for those who require it. Mark you, the ordinary gear change, with a long central lever, is smooth and rapid, in a non-sports manner. The clutch is the unfortunate aspect—very sudden, so those not brought up on pre-war Austin Sevens (I suppose many of us were) are going to make undignified leaps and bounds and even stall the engine, until they get used to it; but excusable perhaps, because there is pre-war Austin Seven economy. The steering takes three turns, lock-to-lock, plus some spring back.

The type K 75 x 61 mm. engine is inclined at 20 deg., and its o.h. valves are operated by a high-set camshaft and short push-rods. It has a dual downdraught carburetter, alloy head, five-bearing crankshaft and a c.r. of 9 to 1. The power output is quoted as 60 b.h.p. S.A.E. at 6,000 r.p.m., which does not mean very much. But there is the aforesaid performance to corroborate that this is a powerful unit, rather noisy, but well able to maintain a cruising speed of 75 to 80 indicated m.p.h. Moreover, when the self-propping bonnet is raised dip-stick, distributor, and GS battery by the Japanese Storage Battery Co. are all extremely accessible, as is the Nippondenso coil. The radiator is by the same make as the coil.

Driven with verve, as the Corolla begs to be, the road-holding is good, with a sense of understeer (the test car was on 155 x 12 Michelin ZX tyres) but the ride is too bouncy. The disc/drum brakes made odd noises at times but were effective; the car had survived a Total Foreign Car Test Day at Silverstone, so Toyota were lucky to lose only some brake lining and not the car! A conventional between-seats handbrake is well placed, the seats are fairly good, with adjustable squabs on de luxe models, and the black trim on doors and facia-sill is very neat. There are quality floor carpets and two deeply-recessed instruments, a 100 m.p.h. speedometer with total (decimal) distance recorder and a combined fuel-gauge/temperature gauge in which a warning light comes on when the sump-oil is due to be changed, as on B.M.C. cars. A recessed choke lever occupies the facia centre, flanked by big knobs for cigarette lighter and two-speed washers, turning the latter knob bringing in efficient screen washers. Lights are selected with a similar knob on the right, to the left of the ignition lock.

Neatly labelled, as are all the controls, the heater controls live below the radio. De luxe versions have electric release for the antenna and white-wall tyres. There is a good under-facia shelf, a big but not lockable cubby, sill interior door locks and the usual safety features of recessed door handles, soft window winders, etc. The back side windows open to form extractor vents, there are big ¼-lights which cause wind noise, the spare wheel is below the boot floor, the fuel tank holds nearly eight gallons and has a lockable flap over the secured filler cap, and there are single sealed-beam headlamps, dipped from a right-hand stalk which also signals turns. Incidentally, there was a small aerofoil on the o/s wiper blade. When I referred to this on the N.S.U. Ro80 as a “bug deflector” a reader said I was wrong and it was to hold the blade on the glass at high speeds. However, here it is again, on an 85 m.p.h. car this time and only on the driver’s side. So what now?

Altogether the Toyota Corolla is a notable little car, obviously well made and free from body shake and rattles, but with “tinny” doors. It gave 40.8 m.p.g. of four-star petrol, needed no oil in 950 miles, and covered the ground indecently quickly for its size. It is tiring on a long run due to excitable suspension and noise, by non-sporting standards. It costs £799 6s. 8d., or £848 18s. 11d. in de luxe form, in this country.—W. B.

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