Letters from readers, August 1973

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N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our correspondents and MOTOR SPORT does not necessarily associate itself with them—Ed.

Quartic!

Sir,

I was surprised to read in Motor Sport‘s brief review of the Allegro some commendation, admittedly lukewarm, for the “quartic” steering device, one can hardly call it a wheel which must, by definition, be circular, on the grounds that “it may well teach people to drive correctly”. That is, it may force drivers to adopt the recommended position for the hands; but this should be a matter of individual choice within fairly wide limits. I do not defend the chap who twiddles the wheel with one finger whilst holding the roof on with his free hand, and we should be very wary of trilby-hatted paterfamilias with both hands rigidly clamped to the top-most point of the rim. People are people and no one position can be divinely (or Ministerially) ordained as “correct”. . . Indeed, what is correct for one driver in one car is not correct for the same person in a different car. On my everyday motor car the “natural”, and therefore “best”, position for me is with my hands at about twenty-past-seven, but on my vintage car the relationship of steering wheel to seat, angle of column, position of spokes etc., make it feel “right” to adopt a quarter past nine position.

If we are going to advocate square “wheels” on the grounds your writer puts forward, it will be but a step for some do-gooder to bring forward legislation to enforce the use of steering wheels deliberately made uncomfortable to hold, by spikes or something, except in the supposedly “correct” place.

Finally your reviewer says the Allegro arrangement does not encourage the use of the car’s good self-centring action which, he says rather loftily, “we should not condone in any case”. The use of the word “condone” in this context suggests that it is almost immoral to make use of the self-centring action the designs have carefully provided. I know that pupil drivers are nowadays, alas, taught that they must laboriously shuffle the wheel rim through their hands when reverting to a straight course, and presumably this clumsy technique is liked by the Driving Test Examiners, but surely it should be regarded as a bad habit to be discarded as soon as instinct takes over from rule-of-thumb driving?

The explanation that BLMC provide this “Quartic” affair in order to make it easier to look at the instruments seems to me as daft as anything said or done in the motor industry, but the stylists can always be relied upon to make us laugh—or cry—and the steering wheel has been a focal point for their attentions for seventy-five years, as witness the single-spoke Humberette wheel, re-invented by Citroën fifty years later, or the spokeless pudding basin on the Brooke car which, said the makers, provided the driver with a convenient place to put his gloves or tobacco pouch. Alas, contemporary photographs suggest Messrs. Brooke feared that those who drove their cars might be seized by nausea, which is the effect the Quartic device has upon me.

Anthony Bird – Odiharn.

[I agree entirely with Mr. Bird. No doubt our tester was more concerned with throwing the unhappy Allegro at corners like a rally driver or the more determined racing driver than in using the castor return as an aid to less hectic cornering. Whatever driving schools teach and driving instructors criticise, I shall continue to let steering wheels slip through my fingers on the slower corners when they will do so, which the hideous Quartic of BL’s much publicised entirely new car (certainly it is this in respect of its steering controller!) will not.—Ed]