Road test impressions of–

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New cars from Britain, Germany, Holland and Japan

The Austin Allegro

After the troubles we experienced with the first road-test Allegro, BL were very prompt in sending us another, a 1750SS, to try. It was some time before I was able to take it over but when I did I was soon driving it along the M4, bound for Wales, feeling a ripe old square behind its Quartic four-sided steering-control, which dictionary users say is not a wheel. It was a white four-door with vinyl roof covering and upholstery in two shades of yellow, which some people variously and unprintably referred to in other terms. The new Hydragas suspension gives a generally comfortable ride but there was more float and lateral movement than I liked and this tended to mar the otherwise very high cornering power. I was also surprised at the amount of body shake transmitted, but when a wheel fell noisily into a pot-hole, the hardness of the damping was apparent.

The single-o.h.c. biggest-engined Sport Special version of the Allegro will go to over 70 m.p.h. in normal top gear but it is evident that the fifth speed is provided to kill mechanical cacophony. When this is engaged the Allegro runs smoothly, flexibly and drops revs by some 500 r.p.m. compared to normal top, at our top legal cruising speed. The Allegro is then a lively, comfortable and not too noisy car, handling very much like any other BL f.w.d. model, but with less pronounced change in steering characteristics if the throttle is backed off and not quite so much transverse-engine torque-frenzy if the throttle is opened suddenly from low speeds.

The SS does 96 m.p.h. and accelerates from 0-60 m.p.h. in 13-1/2 sec., the engine running safely to 6,000 r.p.m. It has much imitation wood about its decor but the m.p.h./k.p.h. speedometer and tachometer are very easy to read indeed. There is, however, no trip odometer, only a tenth’s reading on the total counter. A fuel gauge, which has the bad habit of fluctuating between nearly empty and the red warning sector and then showing below empty for a ridiculous mileage, is matched by the heat gauge.

The five-speed gearbox baulks badly in first gear and is none too nice to use for rapid changes, but the clutch is light and the brakes adequate. The steering gave a high frequency vibration through a “wheel” which is very odd to handle, especially when the castor-return spins it through the fingers.

The 64-thousand dollar question is whether BL found the size of circular wheel they wanted to use too small to give a view of the instruments or whether the violent understeer, which very fast and tight cornering involves with the Allegro, caused them to offer a means of clamping onto the steering control? Whichever the reason, I do not like it. The chunky appearance of the car is acceptable but the wheel trims of the SS, in my opinion, look terrible.

Apart from better equipment and perhaps décor, and greater interior space, I can see no reason to buy an Allegro instead of the likeable Maxi HL, unless you want a somewhat better ride. I got 32.3 m.p.g. of 4-star, and a tankful of fuel took me 248 miles. I was surprised to find the dip-stick reading below the minimum mark when I eventually took the car over, in this age when so many new cars require no oil between servicing. Three pints of Castro! GTX restored things, a consumption in the region of 500 m.p.p. A considerable mileage was covered with no trouble and the new front-mounted radiator ensures excellent accessibility beneath the bonnet. There is a manual choke. Things which irritated were the coarse front-seat-squab adjustment and the need to assist the squabs by hand to take up a new forward setting, the readiness with which the stowage-well lock could rip one’s wrist (the well itself is obstructed by a big ventilator hose), and the placing of the Smiths clock down on the console before the gear lever—I wonder how many accidents that will cause? More detailed comment on the range appeared in the June Motor Sport. Allegro may well represent as big a Stokes’ surprise as Marina, from the viewpoint of sales but technically, the suspension excepted, it is not the great new BL car I had hoped for—the valve gear of the Triumph Dolomite Sprint shows more ingenuity than a brace of quartic-controlled Allegros.—W.B.

The Audi-NSU 80GL

Audi cars have improved impressively over the years and the Audi-NSU 100 is a quite praiseworthy motor car. The smaller Audi-NSU 80 on which the latest VW models are based has earned rave notices, so I was interested to drive one. I took over the GL version, a four-door saloon which has the new 1,470-c.c. overhead camshaft slant engine developing 85(DIN) b.h.p. at 5,850 r.p.m. As this engine, which by the way has a slightly greater stroke than bore (76-1/2 x 80 mm.), is more powerful than the LS version by ten DIN brake horses but appears to be identical, even to the high 9.7 to 1 c.r., this is apparently due to the two-stage Solex 32 in. 35 TDID carburetter. It is canted 45º to the o/s and the camshaft is belt-driven.

First impressions were of light controls and a very eager power unit, and of a smooth gear change from a long, slender floor lever. The car appears to be of high quality finish, and has plenty of interior space and fully-fitted carpets. The Audi 80 has an ingenious front suspension geometry which gives straightline, hands-off braking on slippery roads. Whatever will we be given next?—Saab heat the driving seat for you, Audi keep you on a straight path. I suppose it shouldn’t be difficult to choose between a painful complaint or a shunt . . . There was no evidence of pampering about the Audi I took over. A wiper blade had flown off and scratched the screen, and fast cornering produced curious noises like pebbles rolling along a beach, which was caused by glass particles in the heater ducts from a previously-shattered windscreen. I had a short spell from Dunstable, where the Concessionaires have their offices, mostly on the M1, to the office, feeling immediately that I was going to like the car. I then had to leave this much-publicised German car, to try the Austin Allegro. On my return, I discovered that colleagues had driven it to Rouen-Les Essarts and back, which implies it had been well and truly tested! I felt this from the brakes, which were now a bit less effective and inclined to squeal, and something was rattling under the car. Under this treatment the oil consumption was approx. 900 m.p.p. The dip-stick is badly placed beneath a hot water hose running to the off-set frontal radiator, but the rest of the machinery is very accessible, including a transparent box of 17 electrical fuses.

The most striking aspect of the Audi 80 is its sense of being “alive”; it is a responsive, and thus an enjoyable car. The light steering, clutch and gear change enhance this impression although the lever has short lateral movements, heavily spring-loaded. The engine revs, willingly to 30 and 50 m.p.h. in first and second gears. Eighty m.p.h. is possible in third gear, with a top gear maximum of 105 m.p.h. Acceleration is in the order of 0-60 m.p.h. in 12.1 sec. Although the power pack is ahead of the driven front wheels and there is this keep-straight steering layout, the impression is that of controlling a rear-drive car, for the steering is light once on the move, but inconsistent, and free from pull, kick, or other f.w.d. characteristics. Cornering, however, is safe in the tradition of f.w.d. cars, but feeling a bit ragged if one has to lift off in mid-corner or when bad surfaces make the suspension, which is by negative-camber McPherson struts at the front, with anti-roll bar, and by a coil-sprung dead axle at the rear, lively. I was not 100% impressed by the handling. The wheel, with a horn-sounding cross-spoke bearing the famous four-ring Auto-Union motif, needs around 3-3/4 turns, lock-to-lock, and slightly higher gearing would cope that much better with what understeer there is. Normally the noise-level is low for a small car but the engine zizzes towards peak revs. I missed the fifth speed of the Allegro for killing this and I think the British car corners that much better. The Audi 80’s pedals are too small, close together, and with nowhere to put the left foot. There was a flat-spot from the two-stage carburation.

However, this Audi-NSU is very nicely made, with excellent finger-tip door locks, good seats with reclining front squabs, a useful, unobstructed boot but no interior stowages apart from an unlockable under-facia well and an under-facia lipped shelf for the driver. The 110 m.p.h. speedometer with single odometer is easy to read but the fuel gauge needle almost impossible to see, either in the daytime or at night. The flashers are inaudible and their indicator light also invisible. Nor can the designer have ever driven this car at night, for a very big blue light shines in one’s eyes if the four HeIla circular halogen headlamps are on full-beam. Their switches are neat but confusing to Englishmen, German law requiring the headlamps to be instantly available, so that to obtain sidelamps one has to get the headlamps on and then switch them off again! The floor hand brake has an abnormally long travel. There is a heat gauge but no oil gauge. Convenient twin multiple control stalks are fitted. The fuel tank holds ten gallons and from full it took me 323 miles. Overall, the figure was 34.0 m.p.g. The test car had Toric reel-type safety-belts, an Audi-NSU battery, and a Radiomobile radio. The heating and ventilation are governed with two quadrant levers, with a knob for heat volume. There is provision for window demisting, and fresh air venting.

I was interested to find the Audi to be yet another car shod with those excellent Michelin tyres, ZX 155 x 13s. The styling is crisp, with large window areas, and it is easy to get into and out of this medium-sized family car. The ride is commendable and so are the 9,000-mile intervals between servicing. The Ingolstadt engineers are obviously proud of the in-built safety factors, such as the diagonally-connected twin-circuit system for the disc/drum brakes. A 1,296-c.c. engine is available, and automatic transmission. Germany is introducing smaller cars, Opel having recently announced theirs, and the Audi-NSU fills this market very effectively, although the 80 GL now costs £1,653.—W.B.

The DAF 66SL

With congestion, shortage of parking facilities and a growing panic, whether justified or false, over a world petrol shortage, perhaps eventually we are going to be obliged to choose smaller cars as our regular transport. Certainly, there is currently great competition between manufacturers in the small car market, and the latest Daf 66SL which we have recently had the chance to drive seems to be a thoroughly worthwhile, if rather expensive, proposition at its tax paid price of £1,180 in the United Kingdom.

Over the years, Daf’s sales in Great Britain have moved steadily forward along with the reliability of the rubber-belt automatic drive which has always been fitted to the small cars from Holland. The system has the great advantage of not having many complicated moving parts to go wrong like a conventional automatic, but it does mean that there is no manual over-ride with which to affect one’s rate of acceleration. But with the Daf’s 4-cylinder-in-line-motor producing 55 b.h.p. at 5,600 r.p.m., progress is quite brisk for this sort of car up to a claimed maximum speed of 88 m.p.h.

In terms of styling, the original Daf dumpy profile is repeated on the new 66SL, although the standard of finish is quite good and the interior fittings well laid out. The individual front seats are cloth covered and slightly contoured, notably good for a small car, while the steering wheel is well positioned and the instruments clear and legible. A 100 m.p.h. speedometer without trip is flanked by a matching circular instrument containing water temperature and fuel contents; as well as warning lights for ignition and low oil pressure.

Our model fired up only with reluctance and we found that the central “direction selector” on the floor between the seats needed some gentle encouragement to select a “ratio” without an objecting crunching of gears. Once selected, the engine tends to flutter slightly and, on a couple of occasions, stalled in traffic whilst waiting in a queue. Once on the move, the motor revs willingly, although the noise level at over 70 m.p.h. is pretty high with the unit buzzing over merrily at 5,000 plus r.p.m. allied to a slight whirring which we thought was coming from the Variornatic belts.

Handling is very good for a small car such as this, with the rack and pinion steering giving good directional control and a turning circle of 31 ft. 5 in. Disc brakes at the front and drums at the rear are hydraulicallyoperated and pulled the car up smoothly in all circumstances, while the independent suspension by torsion bars with anti-roll bars and hydraulic shock-absorbers, give a smooth, if rather spongy ride over the bumps.

The brightwork is of stainless steel, there are two-speed windscreen wipers and screen washers as standard and details include courtesy lights with switches on both doors, hazard warning lights, fully reclining seats, reversing light and driving mirror on the driver’s door all in the basic price. The Daf 66SI, returned just over 36 m.p.g. during its stay with us and consumed virtually no oil at all.—A.H.

Toyota’s Corona

Japanese manufacturers have steadily been making inroads onto the British market over the last six or seven years, Toyota in particular now offering a wide range of cars varying from the 1,166-cc. Corolla to the 2,563-c.c. Crown. Falling mid-way between these two models is the 1,968-c.c. Corona saloon, two of which spent some days at Standard House, one with automatic transmission and one with a manual gearbox.

At a total of £1,673 tax paid for the manual version and £1,773 for the automatic machine, we acknowledged that the cars are spacious and quite well finished, although not quite in the idiom which British customers will expect. The four-cylinder o.h.c. engine is of aluminium alloy throughout, developing 113 b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m., but we didn’t feel it was either particularly smooth or particularly flexible. The manual four-speed box was rather on the slow side, with a long throw to the lever and the automatic jerky in operation, actually breaking down and stranding one of our staff members in Geneva although the local dealer obligingly effected a reliable repair.

Suspension, by means of coil springs and wishbones at the front, with a live rear axle with a four link location, coil springs and a Panhard rod, endows the car with a rather soft ride although it was found that long distances on motorways were covered in a comfortable and relaxed fashion, the car cruising comfortably at or around the 95 m.p.h. mark for hour after hour.

Interior fittings are comprehensive, although the style is rather ornate and feels as though too much plastic has been used. The square instruments are quite legibile, although at night we found some difficulty reading them. The substantial front seats give quite good lateral support and have built-in backrests while the ventilation system was particularly capable in dealing with the heat of Italy and Southern France in the height of the summer. Quarter-lights have been eliminated from the side windows. One novel system is the provision of a microswitch on the brake pedal which automatically activates the brake lights before the brakes themselves are operated, giving some extra warning to the cars in front that the Toyota is about to slow.

Braking is catered for by servo-assisted discs on the front and drums on the rear, the turning circle is 31 ft. 6 in. and the full specification includes hazard warning lights, tinted glass, a heated rear screen, cigarette lighter, clock, lockable petrol cap and electric screen washers allied to a two-speed wiper system. The Toyota will take four people quite comfortably, five at a pinch, while the boot is generous for a car of this size. Wide section British Dunlop radial tyres are standard equipment.

The styling of the car is pleasing, but we felt the car as a whole rather dull although its accommodation should ensure that it finds a niche on the UK market for those who want something a bit different. Overall fuel consumption worked out at around 25.1 mpg.—A.H.
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Dragster models

Those who are interested in dragsters and funny-cars should note that Revell have some fine model kits of these types. For instance, there is a 1/16-scale model of California Charger, the champion Fuel Rail dragster, which makes up into a realistic model 15-1/2 in. long, and the Rodfather classic TT-Bucket Street Roadster, to a scale of 1/25. This latter ready-to-assemble plastic kit includes a detailed Chevy 327 engine.

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Racing at Phoenix Park

Those who remember the thrilling two-day race meetings at Phoenix Park before the war should be interested to know that much the same circuit, the cars racing round Mountjoy corner in the famous park will be used on September 8th-9th, when the Irish MRC’s Grand Player’s Grand Prix, to formulae libre takes place. There are supporting Formula Ford, Clubman’s Formula, Production and Modified sports-car and standard saloon-car races, some with a handicap attached. The Player’s GP is a scratch race over 125 km., run in two parts of 29 laps each, on the Saturday and Sunday. It might even attract some historic cars. Entries close on August 13th, late entries on September 3rd. Details from the Irish Motor Racing Club, 15 South William Street, Dublin 2.

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Miniatures news

Corgi have sent us a sample of their effective Ferrari Daytona miniature, which is in the colours and carries the symbols of the JCB racing organisation and the competition number 33 which, in full size, this impressive coupé presumably wore in this year’s Le Mans race, from which it retired with transmission failure.

Grand Prix Models, 173/175 Watling Street, Radlett, Herts, have imported specially a fine kit for building a very large and extremely detailed model of Jackie Stewart’s F1 Tyrrell. It goes together well and the body can be removed to reveal the mechanics. The price is £5.99, plus 30p postage and insurance. This dealer can supply most of the world’s plastics and die-cast model kits, from 20p up to £55 for completed Pocher model cars. Recent letters about pre-war models has led to correspondence relating to March Models’ GP Mercedes-Benz, one of which is still owned by J. Coulburn of Blackpool, whose father gave it to him 35 years ago, while J. Armitage of Mirfield writes of his models, which include a 6 in.-long model-T Ford two-seater by Bing of Nurenburg. which was one of a series.—W.B.
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V-E-V Odds and Ends.— A Roesch Talbot, probably a 75 saloon, has gone to ground in a small Welsh garage until a sufficiently high offer is obtained. There will be classes for pre-1941 and Historic cars, and awards for VSCC members, at the Doune hill-climb on September 23rd. Details from: G. Holdstock, 40 Auchinloch Road, Lenzie, Glasgow G66 5HA. The Goodyear Tyre & Rubber Co. (Great Britain) Limited are hoping to put on permanent display at their Wolverhampton headquarters as many historic Goodyear items as possible, such as tyres, wheels, old promotional material, etc. and they would be glad to hear of any such items. A vee-radiator Mathis with truck body and a late-model Salmson have been seen at a French garage and may be for sale. At the Bentley DC annual speed trials in Belgium, fastest time over the two-way flying kilo. was made by Bob Gooda’s Maserati Bora at 158 m.p.h., Barry Eastick’s Bentley Mk. VI/S1 Continental did 132 m.p.h., Nutter’s 6-1/2/8-litre Bentley 97 m.p.h., and Harvey Hine’s bull-nose Morris-Cowley exactly 50 m.p.h.

For the record, in the June Daimler-Lanchester OC Stratford Rally the “vintage” award went to G. Broomfield’s 1932 Mulliner-bodied Daimler sleeve-valve Q16/20 saloon. The Pre-50 American AC has its Rally of the Giants at Dyrham Park, Bath, on August 26th and Dunbar Town Council is sponsoring the HCVC’s Dunbar commercial vehicle rally on August 25th/26th. Hamilton-Gould points out that his Austin 7 did not retire from the VSCC High Speed Trial, as we stated. We are glad to note that the Armstrong Siddeley OC magazine Sphinx and the A7CA’s Magazine of the Austin Seven have resumed publication. Some vintage motorcycles, including an Ariel, a Sunbeam, and a Norton have been found in a country barn.

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