Letters from Readers, August 1970

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Alfa Romeo Affairs

Sir,

I was most interested in your article on the Alfa 1750 written in the April issue and in your Belgian correspondent’s letter on the same subject in the May issue.

About three months ago I bought a new 1750 for mostly the same reasons as those expressed in the letter from Belgium, despite a short but disastrous ownership of a 1600 Giulia four years ago. Before this purchase I tried out a BMW 2002, with which I was much impressed, but the Alfa has just about the same performance, is a nicer-looking motor and has four doors. Its reliability is a more unknown quantity. Judged on the first 3,000 miles I do not regret my choice.

I wish the very poor turning circle of the Alfa could be improved upon, and I wish they would put checks on the doors to keep them open. On my particular car there is a pronounced whine in 5th gear at between 58 and 63 m.p.h. I feel this should not be, but do not know what can be done about it. The agents assure me it is nothing to worry about. I look forward to your next installment in the Alfa 1750 saga.

Glendalough, Eire. A. C. P. Wynne.

Sir,

Mr. Sear asks for informed comment about Alfa cruising speeds. I don’t know if my experience could be called informed comment but for what it is worth it has been as follows :-

1. 1300 Sprint Veloce with Speciale engine timing was habitually taken up to 7,500 r.p.m. (1,000 r.p.m. above the safe limit in the instruction book). A set of rings lasted 40,000 miles. I once called in at via Gattamelata with this car and the mechanic pronounced the motore to be molto buona, this was at about 30,000 miles. I asked him what revs. it was safe to maintain on the Autostrada and he pointed at 110 degrees C. on the oil temperature gauge and said buona and then flicked his hand above this figure and said non buona. Where possible abroad, this car was habitually cruised at 6,500 revs. and I never had an oil temperature reading of over 100 degrees C.

2. 2600 Sprint, always taken up to 7,000 r.p.m. (900 r.p.m. over instruction book limit), rings again broken at about 40,000 miles, cruised abroad at 5,500 r.p.m.

3. 1750 saloon, always kept below 6,000 r.p.m., mileage to date 39,000, oil consumption negligible. This car has always been cruised at over 5,000 r.p.m. where conditions have been possible abroad with no ill-effects. Coming back from Italy last year it covered 192 miles in two hours, including a petrol stop.

To sum up, my impression is that if the engine is kept within the prescribed limits it is unburstable and practically everlasting but, if abused, breaks its rings eventually. No other mechanical damage seems to result. As far as the gearbox is concerned, it has been my experience that when the instructions about warming-up are followed synchro. on 2nd gear lasts well but if continually used from cold 20,000 miles is about time for renewal.

If I may also just add my impressions of these three Alfa Romeos, the Veloce was a beautiful, genuine GT car with a range of over 500 miles between petrol stops; the 2600 smooth but rather Aston-like, and for my money the 1750 is the best four-seater saloon under £2,000.

Who could be satisfied with a Rover TC or V8 after a long continental journey in a 1750? Before you give your 1750 back drive to the bottom of Italy and back in it and then repeat the journey with your Rover or a V8. [Ah-hem! – Ed]

Lyonshall. R. C. Green.

Sir,

Like Carole Landen, I, too, am an enthusiast for not-so-new Alfa Romeos, in particular the Giulietta Sprint. I still feel that this is one of the most elegant of all post-war cars and if the dreaded rust can be suppressed (what a pity no fibreglass body parts are available) it will surely qualify as a neo-vintage model in years to come. Its specification and performance are still modern – just imagine the cries of excitement if an MG with a reliable alloy twin-cam engine and sophisticated rear suspension was introduced in 1970.

With reference to the unwanted percussion noises in Carole Landen’s Spider, may I suggest the speedometer as being a possible cause of the facia noises, and weak engine mountings allowing the exhaust system to bang the chassis near the left front toe-board?

My Giulietta Sprint, which I recently repurchased, is an 11-year old, which also fails to awaken a glimmer of candlelight from more modern Alfa drivers on the road and I would attribute this largely to snobbery, together with unawareness by some Giulia and 1750 owners of what a pre-1964 Alfa looks like.

Witcombe. D. E. Pither.

Sir,

I read with great interest the letter written by Carole Landen regarding her Alfa Romeo. I remember her last letter when she was having trouble obtaining spares for her Giulietta Spider. (Actually that letter put me off buying an Alfa Romeo at that time.)

I bought a Giulietta Sprint about 18 months ago and I must say what a wonderful car it has been. The combination of a very lively engine and fantastic road-holding make it a car to enjoy, especially on continental roads. In its day the shape must have been very advanced; even today it is still appealing.

The only fault worth mentioning is the terrible rust problem, the bodywork and chrome seem more susceptible to it than British cars. As for spares – no problem at all, thanks to Messrs. E. B. Spares, of Seend, who have supplied everything that I have needed.

I hope to return to England again next year and then, perhaps, a Sprint GT?

Thanks for an excellent magazine. I wish they were easier to obtain back home.

Timaru, NZ. D. Williams.

* * *

YA/YB MG Enthusiasm

Sir,

I was both surprised and gratified to read Mr. Michael Green’s letter (Motor Sport, June) regarding that fine little car, the MG YA and YB. Having just purchased an almost totally original example, complete with University Motors’ dealer transfer and MG registration, for the princely sum of £12, I was on the point of raising the car’s banner myself when the June Motor Sport came to hand. I must agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Green in his commendation of this model, which seems to be very much the “dark horse” of post-war MG cars: the vehicle which succeeded it – which was really a Wolseley and should have stayed that way – being the ZA Magnette, achieved a far wider recognition.

Exactly why this should have occurred I cannot fathom. Above all else, the car has character – MG character, which is apparent in everything from the light switches to the dipstick! It also has considerable powers of longevity, for I was astounded to discover that my example has rear wings and valance which are quite rust-free, and absolutely solid door bottoms on three out of the four doors. The interior woodwork, though in need of a re-varnish, is perfectly sound, and the cream hide seats are intact but filthy. The front buckets are a lesson to any seat producer, offering almost perfect lateral support in great comfort. I need not, of course, dwell on the perfect state of the radiator chrome, sunshine roof and Jackall system. . .

I think the charm of the car stems basically from the fact that here one has what is undoubtedly a vintage specification in a car which is only about 20 years old, having been produced at a time when nearly every other manufacturer was attempting to reduce the technological lag of Britain behind the USA imposed by the Second World War. Apparently the only concessions Abingdon considered necessary to the march of progress were independent front suspension and pressed-steel bumpers, which latter would have been better left as sprung-steel strips anyway, since the “modern” bumpers look rather incongruous against an unabashedly pre-war body style. However, pre-war standards of plating were certainly retained throughout; I could find no fault, or corrosion, which marred the chromework anywhere on the body. The radiator was perfect: no loose slats, nothing bent or rusty, the octagonal filler cap and MG badge intact (amazing how many filler caps seem to have disappeared from real MG radiators!) cliché or not, they don’t make them like that any more.

I am at present preparing to give UMG 366 a complete engine overhaul, after which a respray is in line, but I cannot grumble at the fact that an expected total outlay in the region of £40 will give me a mechanically- and bodily-sound carriage of distinction, in better general order than yer actual five-year-old Ford Cortina or 1100 (what rear sub-frame?). I shall also be the proud owner of one of the last real MG saloons, which at the present rate of deterioration should last until about AD 3000! Minis may commit hari-kari on my (unblemished) overriders, while their cramped owners visit orthopaedic surgeons for treatment of spinal trouble, kidney malfunction and other dire complaints; the rest of the crossflow cowboys can admire my wheel-hub emblems from their side windows, and I can use the occasionally-passing Beach Buggy for emptying the ashtrays. What more can I ask? This is a car you won’t spend hours looking for in car parks: the crowd of breathless admirers will identify it miles away. I look forward to many pleasant miles in a style of travel almost extinct today. Long may the MG Y-types perpetuate it for the fortunate few!

Horsham. Timothy J. Griggs (age 17).

Sir,

I was most interested to see correspondence relating to the MG YA and YB saloon cars. My first car was a nine-year-old YA model which gave faithful service during the four and a half years in which I owned it. The engine was an instant starter (although it had the tendency to be self-anointing with oil) and this, coupled with a heavy, solid chassis and suspension, provided the basis for a reliable car. Both the gearbox and rear axle were fitted with dipstick/breather/tiller holes which could be reached from inside the car (no filling through side level plugs). Also both the propeller shaft greasing points could be reached by removing blanking plates fitted to the tunnel inside the car.

I found the braking system adequate and not too heavy for normal motoring. The cable hand-brake provided a system independent of the hydraulic foot-brake, and could give a retardation of 0.45 G – much better than most modern cars!

The interior was neatly finished in leather with a wood dashboard and window frames. The sunshine roof and opening windscreen were most welcome under current weather conditions. As with most cars there was a tendency for some body rot to occur—the spare wheel and boot doors in particular were vulnerable due to their being located by sponge rubber strip which acted as a water reservoir during wet weather. I also experienced trouble with the drain tubes of the sunshine roof which had perished and allowed water to drain into the bottom of the body. This had produced some corrosion but was readily repaired.

The previous owner informed me that this model had a tendency to break half-shafts, but whilst I always carried a spare (obtained from a Morris 10 in a breaker’s yard) I never needed it. However, the subsequent owner broke one soon after purchase.

It is now nearly six years since I sold my YA (and purchased a more potent and exotic machine in the form of an “R”-type Jensen) and whilst it has had a miscellany of owners, it is still running around the Hull area and outwardly appears quite respectable.

Hull. J. Raddings.

[These are but two of the many letters we have received in support of YA/YB MGs. – Ed.]

* * *

The Grand Cup Trial

Sir,

We have read with interest the article which referred to the Grand Cup Trial. “On Sports Cars” shows a good picture of the Editor of Motor Sport of the day,1926, taking part, on Box Hill.

We thought it would be of interest to you to know that this event is still run by this club, whose ancestors were the Surbiton MC. It has, of course, a somewhat different format from the “good old days”, in that it cannot be run on public roads, but it does have a good following at Pirbright on Defence Land, and has the status of RAC and ACSMC Championship rounds.

Banstead. G. W. Henning

(Hon. Sec., Mid-Surrey AC).

* * *

TV and Motor Racing

Sir,

Having read the correspondence in recent issues of Motor Sport concerning the televising of motor racing, I was interested to see what sort of a job the BBC would make of Le Mans.

Two programmes were set aside for recorded reports and the finish was to be shown during the cricketers’ break for tea. This looked too good to be true, apart from the fact that it was only to be shown on BBC-2.

Sure enough, the actual finish was not even shown, but cut off, barely a minute short, a typical BBC trick. Surely we motor racing enthusiasts must get together, as suggested by Mr. Fox, and tell the BBC and ITV just how to televise a motor racing event.

Thank you for a magazine that covers the sport superbly.

Orpington. Stephen Irons.

* * *

A Tip for Sunbeam Alpine Fanciers

Sir,

The April issue of Motor Sport has just arrived in this part of the world and I have been reading the correspondence on the subject of Sunbeam Talbot 90s and Alpines. I have a 1953 Alpine at present stored in England. When I bought this car in 1968 it was fitted with an assortment of almost bald tyres. As I prefer to use radials replacements proved impossible in the 16 in. size. After a couple of hours wandering around the yard of a friendly breaker I discovered that Rover 75 (and presumably also 60 and 90) wheels had the same stud spacing as the Alpine hub. A few shillings changed hands, and I went home to try my luck with clearance on lock, etc. Three of the wheels fitted straight on, and the other two needed only a few seconds with a file to clean up the hole. Stud diameters are the same on both cars, so the difference must be caused by slightly differing threads.

The Rover rims are 5 1/2 J x 15; and when fitted with 185 x 15 Cinturatos have almost the same diameter as the original 16 in. wheels.

These very fat tyres do not foul the body. Perhaps this is because sufficient of the body has rusted away to give clearance.

I hope to rebuild the Alpine when I return to England. Perhaps by then someone will be making replacement glass fibre body panels, as these are the weakest point on an otherwise excellent car.

At present I am running a Honda N600, which I hope to change for a 1300 model 99 when these become available later in the year. The 1300 Honda does not seem to be mentioned often in British magazines. Last year I had a short drive in the single-carb. “77”, this was the quietest air-cooled car that I have ever heard, and had excellent performance for 1,300 c.c., although I am not quite convinced that it will reach 110 m.p.h. as Hondas claim. Perhaps you will be able to try one of these cars soon?

Singapore 10. Roger Matthews.

* * *

Three-Wheeler Design

Sir,

I started to read your editorial article on tricycles in July Motor Sport, prompted by the new Bond Bug, with great interest but you talk of those three-wheelers with “. . two wheels at the front and a single driving wheel . . .” and in this list include the BSA and the Berkeley. You surely must know that both these marques were powered by front-wheel-drive and so, though they did have a single rear wheel, they were propelled by the two wheels at the front. [I do, and this was an unfortunate grouping of names without sufficient differentiation. – Ed.]

This is an arrangement of wheels and drive that you do not choose to mention in your review, though I would commend to you that it is, in fact, the correct arrangement for a fast tricycle rather than the Morgan’s arrangement as you suggest.

Without going into the inherent advantages of front-wheel-drive for any car, consider the special advantages for a three-wheeler. First of all, as you suggest, to be acceptably stable a three-wheeler needs two front wheels. Also for a reasonable weight distribution it requires the engine to be mounted ahead of the driver, the 25%-75% weight distribution of the last rear-engined Bond points this out well. Obviously for a powerful sporting three-wheeler it is better to have the drive to the road through two wheels rather than one. With the size of a tricycle limited by the legal weight limit it is helpful not to have a bulky and heavy transmission passing through the cockpit. With twice the area of contact between tyre and road at the front than at the rear, a three-wheeler is bound to oversteer. If the drive is via the front wheels, however, this is not as dangerous to stability since the car can be driven out of a tail-out attitude with the front wheels. “Two driven wheels at the front of a front-engined three-wheeler” allows all these design criteria to be realised and also has additional advantages such as allowing a more pleasing esthetic line, the possibility of using a very small rear wheel without affecting gearing (thus allowing more luggage space), and facilitating exactly balanced braking (vital on a three-wheeler) by the use of a transmission brake for the front wheels.

Indirect support for my views must surely come from examining the layout of Owen Greenwood’s recent highly-successful racing three-wheeler and also the last attempt at a sporting tricycle, the Berkeley. I need hardly add that those of us who are lucky enough to own BSA three-wheelers have been enjoying all the advantages cited above since 1929, but I suppose such is progress!

London, NW8. Roy Gillett

BSA Front Wheel Drive Club.

Sir,

With reference to your article on tricycles, as a young enthusiast of 18, with little money – having just left school – I quite agree with your comments on the Bond Bug. It was a disappointment for all those who thought there was going to be a new Morgan-type three-wheeler. At the moment I am considering the purchase of a BSA, since a Morgan three-wheeler is out of my price range – for the moment at least. I heard that a mysterious new sports car on the lines of the old Aero Morgan (two at the front, one at the back) called the Mumford Musketeer was to be launched early this year. I have seen nothing about this car since. Perhaps you could investigate? I am sure that many people would be interested to hear any news of this development, including myself.

Chelmsford. John Newsome.

* * *

Explanation!

Sir,

For the benefit of “Name and address supplied”, in the July issue, I would assume that the motive of the men in blue in asking us such exquisitely embarrassing questions as “What do you do, son ?” is to facilitate the magistrate in working out what fine we can bear without resorting to crime, accordingly I generally say I am a student or male nurse; refuse collector is not recommended and antique dealer is positively lethal.

So please let us have less letters about “distressing experiences” at the hands of the police; a bit of ingenuity and improvisation and the flashing blue light can herald the start of a most pleasant encounter at the roadside, and one can’t drive a noddy car with writer’s cramp.

Brighton. B. D. Field.

* * *

The Malmedy Affair

Sir,

May I say how very much I am in agreement with “D.S.J.’s” sentiments on “L’Affaire Malmedy” as expressed on page 708 of July’s issue. Stewart’s “logic” defies comprehension. He and his clique decide a corner is dangerous, so they say “Let’s change the corner”, never once contemplating, or, more likely, ignoring the fact, that it is up to each individual driver to assess the risks and then go round any corner as fast as he feels he is capable.

This is what motor racing is all about. This is what separates the men from the boys, the dedicated from the chancers, and eventually brings the cream to the top. The retort will be, no doubt, “It’s all right for them (‘them ‘ being those who dare to criticise the GPDA demo. boys), they don’t have to drive the cars”. Well, neither do they! If they feel it is too hot in the kitchen they can always get out! There are dozens of up-and-coming drivers who would give their back teeth to be in their shoes. But no, the “stars” want to retain their privileged positions – on their terms.

This dictation of terms to race organisers is a cancer of motor racing today. One hopes that the organisers will make a stand and call the bluff of these people. By all means take all reasonable steps to make a circuit safe, but the very factors that give a circuit its individuality and character are its twists and dips – its risks if you like. And the driver who masters those risks best crosses the line first (supposing no mechanical failure).

There have been cataclysmic losses in recent years and I, for one, no longer attend motor races because of the losses the sport has suffered. Certainly encourage improvements to the cars – stronger frames and fuel tanks; improved harnesses, stop using magnesium, using alcohol instead of petrol, devise better flame-proof suits and masks – these are all advances that could, and should, be made.

But surely the answer should not be sought, and will not be found, in emasculating the great road circuits of the world. The mastery of car and driver over the circuit and the conditions is the very essence of motor racing. The race is the important thing. Forget about motor racing being a courageous pioneering adventure to develop components for the “ordinary motorist” (whoever he might be). This is becoming much less relevant (Dunlop have realised this), and it never was a factor in the mind of the present-day racing driver (unless there are advertising royalties to be gained). They race for “Number One”, for money and prestige, and there is nothing evil in this attitude at all.

But it must be remembered that they chose to be racing drivers. No one forced them into it. And the great road circuits of Europe were there before they came on the scene. What arrogance, to seek to alter circuits that were raced on by drivers who were far better than they will ever be. And the present day drivers have far better cars (faster, admittedly) but with vastly superior handling.

Where will it all end? Thank goodness for “D.S.J.” who keeps us informed of the moves of the GPDA dissidents to have circuits converted to the cotton wool standard. These nursery circuits will naturally lose appeal for the knowledgeable motor racing fan with a consequent falling off in attendance, and the drivers will have successfully killed the goose that lays the starting money eggs. Perhaps one day the British GP will be run on the No. 1 runway at Heathrow, with a hangar full of Dunlopillo at the end (drivers going off one at a time, of course).

Larkhall, Lanarkshire. J. L. M. Cotter.

Sir,

When I was a lad we had delivered at our door a weekly called John Bull and on the top was a legend, “Without Fear or Favour”.

After reading D.S.J.’s “Reflections in the Forests of the Ardennes”, I feel he should adopt this as his motto. That was certainly telling ’em! and you in your humble opinion are so right, it hurts.

When I rode (or is it drove?) at Spa I loved it. I realise that we were not happy at such high speeds, but the course was so scientific; even if you leaned out on corners you lost so many revs, it felt that the engine had seized but Malmedy corner was a joy to drive through, sidecar wheel on the grass and over to the “Hairpin” on the right; we had got to do it flat out with the passenger lying in, it was great, you felt you had clone a good job. . . .

Remember “49”, D.S.J., when I got on the grass or rubbish following you and Masuy round? and then the sight of you combing the tar out of the beard? “Happy days”, or am I getting old? Go to it, boy. You will not be a favourite with this stuff as journalist, but you are too knowledgeable for most of them, no substitute for experience, and I am sure you will have to translate your last two lines to ’em ! Many thanks for good reading.

Birmingham. W. G. Boddice.

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