Matters of moment, August 1973

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Triumph’s triumph

Last month we wrote enthusiastically about the new Triumph Dolomite Sprint. This new British Leyland model has a 16-valve engine, thus taking the monopoly of this classic racing-type cylinder head away from Ford and Jensen-Healey. Much more significant, however, is the ingenious manner in which the multiple valves of the Sprint are actuated by a single o.h.-camshaft and eight rockers. When Henri introduced his famous Peugeot, 16-valve GP engine over 60 years ago he used twin o.h.-camshafts to prod the poppets, thereby obtaining optimum breathing, efficient valve operation, and correct firing from a sparking-plug placed vertically in the head. True, Mercedes did very well in 1914 with a single o.h.c. 16-valve engine, but they provided for three plugs, set horizontally. The 16-valve head has now come back into use for power in top-class racing engines and to reduce emission problems in production cars. But it is the Triumph engineers who have contrived to retain a central sparking-plug without the use of push-rods or the complexity of twin o.h.-camshafts.

When one remembers the many methods adopted in the past to simplify the actuation of inclined o.h, valves it would be excusable to imagine that there is nothing more to be done. For instance, Sunbeam with a ‘bus engine, Peugeot, Lago-Talbot, Humber and Armstrong Siddeley had angled push-rods from a “below stairs” camshaft. The 328 BMW used a clever cross-push-rod head, cribbed by Bristol, which Rover had pioneered in a clumsy form years earlier, about the time Dorman and others led Riley to the famous high-camshafts/short push-rods system, later adopted by ERA and Lago. Lancia copied the motorcycle push-rod layout for some of their car engines. Lagonda placed twin camshafts beside instead of above the head and Opel have it beside the valves today. If you wish to pursue the matter, Motor Sport published a long discourse on the subject, in March 1959. Now Triumph have come up with another simple means of obtaining twin-cam efficiency without the complexity. Quite apart from the high-performance, flexibility, low fuel thirst and good emission factors with which this clever design has endowed the Triumph Sprint, we think that, although theoretically if the desired end is attained it shouldn’t matter a hoot what is under the bonnet, there will be many people who will like the idea of motoring behind a 16-valve engine. So, on all counts, this new Triumph should do well for British Leyland. Which to some extent makes up for disappointment over the Allegro not being quite the great new car we had hoped it would be.

The astonishing thing is that BL have just announced what could well have been their brave new British car. This is the Leyland P76, a strikingly-styled rear-drive car with a 2.6-litre o.h.c. six-cylinder or a light-alloy 4.4-litre V8 engine. It is claimed to be lighter, more spacious, to turn tighter and have a better ground clearance than others in its class. But it is made by Leyland-Australia. It is all very well to tell us that its power-packs stem from those of the Wolseley 2200 and Rover 3500 and that it will be imported next year at the rate of 3,500 per annum. This P76 is apparently so good that one well-known motoring journalist seems to have jumped the release-date and why it cannot be made in Longbridge or Cowley is beyond us. Clearly, it has been introduced to combat the 60% grip which Holden, Ford and Chrysler have on the Australian market. But it would seem that such a loudly-proclaimed, nice-looking, big-engined car would have been acceptable as a home-built product. Why they can do “down under” what BL should be doing here, is something Lord Stokes presumably understands. He proudly points out that this P76 is the first car to be called a Leyland since the great Parry Thomas Leyland Eight of 1920—but who in history’s name told him that one of those cars ever held the World’s Land Speed Record? And why, with Leyland-Australia taking this bold step forward, cannot British Leyland get new bodies onto the E-type Jaguar and XJ12, rework the great Land Rover so that it will not be blotted-out by the Jeep CJ-5 and Toyota Land Cruiser, and even restyle and modernise in detail the Dolomite Sprint, which is where we came in with our praise, if that could be done without increasing the price above the present competitive £1,740.

• Join the Gestapo!

Last month we deplored the suggestion of a Kent police inspector that drivers should be encouraged to report on those they think are transgressing the rules and to jot down the numbers of any cars they think might contain witnesses who would assist them in Gestapo intentions. Now the thing has spread to Liverpool where, vide the Liverpool Echo, Mr. Lionel Piper’s Road Safety Observer Corps, recruited by the City’s Road Safety Liaison Committee, were out and about last month reporting to the Police anything they thought was unsafe driving. Mr. Piper, who compares bad driving with “being in charge of a loaded gun”, is recruiting between 50 and 100 of these snoops and giving them badges of authority.

In the past we have expressed the idea that members of recognised motor clubs might usefully aid the police, as Special Constables do in other spheres. But we meant in cases of freak weather, extra heavy traffic, etc., to help vehicles to keep moving or aid those in trouble, not as “simulated informers”, which is how Liverpool’s Road Safety Officer sees his band of number-takers.

To his credit the Chief Constable, Mr. James Houghton, is quoted as saying that the police had not been informed and that there are snags, such as careless driving being a matter of opinion, and the number of witnesses who would have to attend court. Clearly he is not in favour—perhaps, like us, he remembers from what small acorns the Nazi movement grew . . . .

• Dispelling depression

In the face of the dwindling dollar, the downwards-floating pound, the little Hitlers (see above), the scare about fuel supplies running dry, Anthony Blight wanting the VSCC to take in 1950s cars because he thinks, the older cars are, the more difficult it is to get any pleasure out of driving them on the road (Lord Montagu, too, is seeking to uplift, but thereby inflate the prices of, the 1945-1960 cars, by forming them into an English “Milestone Group”) and similar pessimisms, it is good to note that real enthusiasm is far from dead.

There was our Gordon Bennett commemoration, involving over 300 miles in an easy day’s driving, largely on traffic-busy roads, in a 1903 motor-car, about which you can read on pages 894-899. Then we hear that the Munster MC & CC has an annual Speed Week in Cork with a flying kilo. contest over the very road where Joe Wright once took the World’s Motorcycle Speed Record and that they close public roads for a hill-climb. And we learn that six motorcyclists rode their machines, ranging from a 1920 vee-twin BSA to a 1930 Rudge, over the End-to-End route last May, just for the pleasure of seeing what it must have been like in the early days, and that the previous month ten cars of the Frazer Nash Section of the VSCC set out to repeat the 1,000 miles in 24 hours runs of 1936 and 1963 accomplished in similar Chain-Gang cars. Moreover, six of them made it, including two Anzani ‘Nashes. You, too, will no doubt be making the most of your motoring, in what remains of the summer . . .

Sixty years of Morris

To celebrate the sixtieth year of Morris cars the Morris Register has published a fascinating and well illustrated “Story of Morris”, a 48-page booklet covering the full history of this so-British of cars, details of the accessories sold for it, pictures of typical scenes at recent Morris Register rallies, the different Morris radiators, and a fine collection of Morris models down the years, contemporary photographs mixed with recent ones. The foreword is by Michael Sedgwick. It is available for 60p from the Registrar, F. Ashley, 99 Martin Lane, Bilton Park, Rugby, Warwicks. Other celebrations included the Morris convoy which went to a Belgian Rally in June, the Stanford Hall Rally last month, and, also last month, a 12-hour demonstration of the reliability of old Morris cars at Silverstone, when five of them set out to cover 500 miles each, within 12 hours.

Cars and canals

There might seem little connection, but in a book “The Canals of Britain” by D. D. Gladwin, published by B.T. Batsford at £2.95, we learn that on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal a very early 2-1/2 h.p. De Dion engine, procured from the car of a local schoolmaster, was adapted to drive a pump for sucking water from the lock chambers. Later an Aster engine from another old car was used in this way, to be followed by a BSA car engine. Veteran car folk had better investigate, to see what remains! The book also refers to Petter, Lister and Armstrong Siddeley diesel engines found in canal craft and there is a fine picture of a traction engine launching on the River Lea about the year 1924.

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VMCC Silver Jubilee Banbury Run
Results:
Feridax Trophy: S. Greenway (1912 Scott).

Sheldon Trophy: D. French (1900 Singer).

Percy Wheeler Trophy: A. J. Targett (1911 Rudge).

Joe Tite Trophy: M. I. Wills (1914 Bradbury).

Rotherham Cup: Miss Hyatt (1901 Dart).

Scott Trophy: D. Harris (1930 Scott).

Brough Trophy: J. Wallis (1924 Brough Superior).

Twycross Trophy: J. Gaunt (1914 New Hudson).

Best Overseas Rider: P. Holm (1923 HarleyDavidson).