Letters from Readers
N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them.—Ed.
Strength in Numbers
Some months ago I was sitting in a car which was parked at night on the correct side of the road with its sidelights on and its engine switched off, when another car containing four young people was driven into the front of it. There were no independent witnesses.
Possibly fearing that I would go to the police, they complained to the police that I had run into them. Despite the fact that I made a statement to the police setting out the true facts, they erroneously and farcically prosecuted myself, as a result of which I was fined £35 and had my licence endorsed for dangerous driving. I also had to pay £30 of the prosecution's legal costs as well as my own costs. Prior to this I had never had a previous conviction. I drive 30,000 miles a year and have driven in nearly every country in Europe under every sort of condition.
It seems to be a curious facet of the law in this country that if four people get together and tell the same lies that they can get away with any crime they wish to commit and an innocent person can be found guilty. I find this very disquieting to say the least.
Prestwich. G. M. Horsley.
[A sad reflection on the times in which we live. Incidentally, how can one be convicted of dangerous driving when stationary?—Ed.]
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"W.O." and the Birthday Honours List
Once again a Birthday Honours List is published and the motoring fraternity have been shabbily overlooked. It is high time that something was done to make Mr. W. O. Bentley—Sir W. O., and what better opportunity than in this Anniversary year. As one of Britain's greatest living engineers—the man responsible for the development of the aluminium piston and the creator of one of the greatest cars to wear the "green" the very least that a grateful industry and country should do is to see that all honour is paid to this outstanding gentleman. I ask all those of the "faith" to join me in asking those in power to see that due recognition is made to the man who has done so much for his country and made the name "Bentley" synonymous with all that is British and Best!
Portsmouth. George E. Trevett.
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The Price of Petrol
I had a similar experience to Mr. R. M. Smith at my local British Petroleum garage in Bournemouth.
Shortly after the Budget increase I discovered that the price of my usual 95 octane petrol had increased by 3d., rather than the 2d. imposed by the Chancellor. On investigation it appeared that the prices of the higher octane petrols had been rounded down to exclude the halfpenny and the prices of the lower octane petrols had been increased by an extra penny to make up the difference. Rather than pay the extra penny to British Petroleum I found it quite easy to change my allegiance.
Thank you for a most enjoyable magazine. I send an extra copy to my brother in New Guinea and even though it arrives there about three months late, it is still most welcome.
Milford-on-Sea. P. E. G. Plumbe.
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Oh Dear, Oh Dear!
I would like to relate an experience I had with one of the larger motoring organisations last summer so that readers might be aware of what to expect should they encounter difficulties whilst under the illusion that they have insured themselves from breakdown and mishap.
In August of last year I planned to take my 1964 Saab 96 with three passengers on a camping holiday to Switzerland and Italy. Making ready for this holiday included taking the car to the main Saab dealers in the North for a pre-holiday check, and in trying to cater for every possible contingency, paying for the A.A. five-star Continental Touring Service.
Ferry reservations were made, and the journey from Yorkshire to Dover, by way of Derby and London to pick up passengers, was commenced. Having just left the M1 and entering Hendon, the engine began to make loud knocking noises. With sinking heart, I took this to be the pistons—at all events something major. What to do? Obviously the first job was to contact the A.A., as I was covered by the A.A. five-star vehicle security and, quoting page six of their booklet, "a member who pays the fee for the Continent . . . is entitled to service in Great Britain and Ireland on route to the Continent." A telephone call was made—yes, someone would come right away. It was about 5 p.m. and drizzling. Whilst waiting for the A.A. I at least felt thankful that the trouble had evidenced itself in England, and that the full weight of the A.A. would be behind me in sorting out the trouble speedily. The money saving, preparation and anticipation by all of us had been considerable, and I was responsible for the position that we were now in.
After a 30-minute wait an A.A. patrol van drew up, the occupant being a lad who looked about 18-20 years of age. On hearing the engine turn over he pronounced that "it was the engine" and that the car would have to be towed in. "To which garage?" "The nearest A.A. appointed one." "Will they be able to fix the car?" "Very doubtful—its foreign, you see." "Why not to it to the nearest Saab agent? "Well, I want my tea now. I'll radio the garage. Tell the breakdown crew about your plight. They'll sort you out." He departed.
Having reasoned that it was no use having the car towed to anyone but a Saab dealer, I systematically rang up every Saab dealer in London, asking for the car to be attended to and explaining the circumstances. This was to no avail. Eventually, on ringing Saab, of Slough, they gave me some addresses that weren't in my list of Saab dealers, and I was fortunate in finding one in Tottenham who offered to have the car ready in 24 hours—before they had even looked at it.
Meanwhile, the A.A. appointed breakdown crew arrived. Having listened to the engine noise they pronounced that it was serious. "Could your garage look at it?" I asked. Well, it would be at least three weeks as they were fully booked, even if they could get the parts. I then asked them to tow the car to Tottenham. They refused. It would be against their union rules to give work to another garage.
Thus the Tottenham garage, who were not A.A. appointed, towed the car in and put in a new crankshaft in about 26 hours. Before doing this the method of payment was discussed. On the credit vouchers, which the A.A. issue to deal with such contingencies (you then reimburse the A.A., after allowances for towing, etc., are knocked off), it says "Not valid in the U.K". Elsewhere in the A.A. literature, as already mentioned, it states that a member who pays the fee for the Continent is also entitled to service in Great Britain. To clear this matter up, the proprietor's secretary, in the presence of myself and the proprietor, rang up the A.A.'s head office. They gave their reply. Yes, the vouchers were valid in the U.K. in this case—the holiday had been started.
So, having paid the garage by voucher, I set off and reached Rome after many events (ferry bookings, etc., etc.). After three weeks I returned to England and called in at Tottenham. There I was told that the A.A. vouchers had not been honoured. The attraction of the job in the first place, from the point of view of the garage (which was only a small establishment), was twofold—they were helping someone in trouble, and they were going to receive immediate payment for their work. Failure of the A.A. to honour the vouchers was a source of inconvenience to the garage, as they had to wait weeks for the payment instead of having the account immediately settled as they had anticipated, and an embarrassment to me.
To add to all this the A.A. even refused to pay the towing charge from Hendon to Tottenham, even though it was most certainly the nearest practicable garage to deal with the matter. (I, not the A.A., ascertained this at the approximate cost of £1 in telephone calls.) They did not even bother to offer to pay what would have been the towing cost from Hendon to the nearest A.A. appointed garage and for me to pay the balance of the extra mileage to Tottenham.
Thus, in summing up, the A.A. gave no help when I most anxiously wanted it—the expense of the yearly registration fee and bon voyage five-star travel service being absolutely dead money. In some respects the A.A. was positively detrimental by wasting time, raising false hopes, and giving erroneous information over the affair of the credit vouchers.
A partial explanation must be that the A.A. has grown so big that it cannot efficiently cope with all claims that come under its auspices. In all fairness I have colleagues who have derived benefit from the A.A. service, but, as regards myself, their several pounds annual membership fee is too much to pay for a bi-annual handbook and a total failure to live up to their overall aim of being a help to the motorist in distress.
Edgbaston. J. B. Kemp.
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Used Sports Cars
Perhaps Mr. Dowton May with other readers be interested in some of my experiences with used sports cars. Personally I thoroughly enjoy shopping for a change of transport and look on the purchase of a used car "sports or otherwise" as something of a challenge.
My first real sports car was a 1954 Sunbeam Alpine 2¼-litre roadster for which I parted with £65. I will always remember driving away from the smiling salesman who was trying to tell me something. I never found out what because of the noise from the almost non-existent exhaust system. Perhaps he was trying to tell me that the overdrive didn't work because there was "a wire off". Strangely enough that turned out to be the reason.
My next sports-car was a much cared for Jaguar XK 140 f.h.c. painted white over blue, which must have been a bargain at £150. My wife and I used to drive slowly round the towns and villages of Lancashire collecting many admiring stares from pedestrians and motorists alike.
I was always terrified of having to replace anything mechanical because of many discouraging reports I had heard and read about the complexity of XK engines, until after slowly but surely losing power there came the need for new valves and springs, etc. Apart from needing four hands to lift the cylinder head off, I was quite amazed at the straight forwardness of the operation, even those dreaded tappet shims did not present any great problems.
Working with the help of a good workshop manual simplified the work tremendously. The only bad point I found on this car was the total inaccessibility of the door hinges which became badly worn. The hinge pins were finally replaced by two coach bolts well greased which could be removed and re-greased or replaced without too much trouble.
Because of my love for fresh air this car was sold and a Jaguar XK 150 replaced it, drophead coupé of course. This vehicle proved much more trouble than the last due to disguised body rot and dodgy brakes which even after complete replacement of all brake pads and master cylinder were no better than at first. This car was finally sold due to high running costs and rising cost of living and replaced by a 1954 M.G. T.F. 1250 c.c. This car is my present means of transport and is certainly one of the most reliable and sturdiest sports cars I have ever come across and gains more appreciative glances than the XK 140 received, probably due to the unusual metallic silver grey colour. I feel that older sports cars if carefully chosen, from a private source preferably not a dealer, can provide many thousands of miles of interesting and exciting motoring. Obviously it helps a great deal if the owner has some mechanical knowledge and can carry out his own repairs. Quite often, as in my own experience, when the time comes for a change the value of the car will be the same or even higher than when purchased.
Finally I must thank you for a marvellous magazine and please lets have more articles like 'Shopping for a Daimler'.
I would like to point out that all my sports cars except the first have been purchased through advertisements in Motor Sport and very satisfied I have been with them all.
Bolton. Trevor Goodwin.
In May 1968, I purchased a 1965 MG.-B. with five-bearing engine. The car had done 36,000 miles under two owners, and was in very good order.
When I sold it, six months and 9,000 miles later, the only parts which had needed replacing were thermostat, rear silencer, and three tubes (those Cinturatos!). In my ownership, the car was never serviced, and tuned only once.
Nevertheless, it gave reliable and quick, though a trifle uncomfortable service, and was sold for £10 more than it cost.
Mr. Dowton's car was obviously a 1963/4 model, and it is perhaps hardly surprising it is making "worrying noises".
Larkhall. A. M. Beveridge.
I must be one of your most ardent fans having read your most educational magazine for the past seven years (since the age of fourteen). However, until now I have had insufficient material to write to you.
On June 7th I drove my 1954 Triumph TR 2 (it cost £70 with four months tax) to Dover from N. Wales to join the Ostende ferry. During the following two days I cruised at a steady 60 m.p.h. through Belgium and Germany, till finally reaching the Austrian Border.
En route the car used one pint of oil and averaged 35 m.p.g., and if that is not cheap and reliable motoring I don't know what is.
Saltzburg. David Cooper.
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Memories of Donington
Thought you might like to see a very recent photograph of the Yellowstone Bridge, Donington Park. You will remember that this came between the Hairpin Bend and McLean's Corner. At the bridge there is only room for one car; what would the G.P.D.A make of that? Indeed what would they make of the rest of the circuit with its rough surface, adverse cambers, assorted bends, 170 m.p.h. straight and literally hundreds of trees! Yet it was to this circuit that the Germans brought their racing cars in 1937. Not cars of 420 b.h.p. but Mercedes and Auto Unions of 646 b.h.p. and 520 b.h.p. respectively.
One can not help thinking that perhaps we are all a little too comfortable in this Welfare State world.
Shepshed. Michael Worthley.
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The letter appearing over the Signature of A. P. Willmer in the June issue of "Motor Sport" has been brought to the notice of the "T" Register Committee of the M.G. Car Club.
It is unfortunate that Paddy Willmer, whilst serving on that Committee, having written to you to express an opinion of the current F.1. scene, should somehow manage to introduce the subject of club racing and "T" Types in particular.
The "T" Register Committee have therefore instructed me to write to you to say that, whilst "T" type racing may be keenly fought out on the track, there is a complete club feeling and outlook, giving free help and assistance between all competitors—of which Paddy Willmer over the years has received his share in large amounts. It is with rather more than annoyance that the Committee learns for the first time, through the columns of "Motor Sport", that he considers there is a "PONG" in "T" Type racing.
We can assure you that this is not so—as the regulations and conditions under which Paddy races his "T"-Type are determined by the drivers (including himself) each year. This has always been carried out with a friendly and relaxed discussion and we trust that all those who may watch "T"-Types race, or even think of taking part, will not be influenced by one member of the club sounding off without cause.
Abingdon. M. Vincent.
"T"-Type Register Committee.
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The 2½-Litre Daimlers
Having 13 years' experience of 2½-litre Daimlers I should like to comment on your article "Shopping for a Daimler" (July issue). My father owned a 1953 Consort saloon from 1956 to 1968 and I have owned a 1951 Barker Special Sports from 1962 to date.
First model history: The Barker-bodied DB18 was supplemented by the Mulliner-(not Barker) bodied Consort saloon at the 1949 Motor Show (i.e., 1950 model). Differences between these models were not only the radiator grille but also the design of the tail, front wings, front doors, bonnet, headlamps, wheels, bumpers, dashboard, seating (front and rear), body construction (light alloy frame instead of ash), the substitution of a hypoid back axle in lieu of the traditional worm-gear, and the provision of hydraulic front brakes.
The DB18 Barker d.h. coupé shared many body components with its saloon counterpart—e.g., bonnet, wings, dashboard and seating (full 4/5-seater) but the Barker Special Sports coupé borrowed virtually nothing from the body of the Consort saloon other than the "new" radiator grille and headlamps; the modernised radiator grille was in fact introduced on certain larger Daimlers with Hooper coachwork some two years earlier. The price of the Special Sports coupé was about 30% higher than that of the Consort saloon and this differential has widened in the used-car market; £300 would be a high price for even a good Consort but the price of the coupé rises steeply with condition.
I purchased my own BSS privately front its original owner in 1962—complete with service history from new. A well-known and very successful author, he had spared no expense in maintaining the car, having replaced half-shafts, brake drums and gearbox, as well as the engine. I understand several owners exchanged engines having modified camshafts—the serial number of my replacement engine is only four different from the original!
The condition of the body—inside as well as out—is first class, being finished in Shannon green over ivory (the colour scheme shown in the brochure) with beige hood and interior. The hood, of course, has a headlining like a saloon—there are no visible irons and sound-deadening felt in the hood prevents the loudspeaker effect present in many dropheads. With the occasional rear seat and matching footrest removed a couple of cabin trunks can be stowed (one on top of the other) in addition to the several suitcases and grips which the boot swallows up. All Daimlers of this vintage had a flat floor, there being no transmission tunnel.
My experience suggests that 6-ply tyres and tyre pressures 2 lb. higher than recommended improve the handling. Your references to play in the steering, steering shake and (earlier in the article) shimmy all suggest that the test car required some attention in this department. My own car suffered similarly but since Daimler House in Manchester fitted a new steering box and king-pins, these faults have been eliminated. Your test car had been fitted with modern replacements for the original "King of the Road" auxiliary lights (which have stepped reflectors) and I suspect the headlamp circuits were connected up wrongly. When set up correctly with auxiliary lights switched on the open-road one has two full beams (which outshine four headlamps of a Vitesse), switching down to double-dip when passing an on-coming vehicle, but when coming behind a vehicle travelling in the same direction a flick of the main lights switch both extinguishes the headlights and simultaneously turns on the auxiliaries to prevent dazzle in the other fellow's mirrors; there are thus three levels of road lights.
You rightly drew attention to the smoothness and silence of this model. The character of the car leads to a style of motoring which has now almost vanished from our roads. May I quote from The Motor road test :
". . . the engineers responsible for designing and making Royal cars have produced in this medium-sized model a car of almost unique character . . . . the car retains the individual charm of the handsome, easy-running touring cars of a past age . . . proudly carrying a fluted Daimler radiator devoid of name or mock heraldry, the Barker drophead body is outstandingly handsome . . . . Inconspicuously as it may travel the car nevertheless attracts unceasing favourable comment from passers-by, comment which mechanical silence renders almost embarrassingly audible to driver and passenger . . . . The whole essence of the car is that no single shortcoming mars the overall standard of excellence."
Four years ago in Ireland the British owner of an immaculate Railton d.h.c. waved his cheque book at me and invited me to name my price. MGU III was not for sale, however. She still isn't.
Poynton. R. F. Riding.