Although there was a question mark following the title “Final Fling” to Mr Boyle’s letter in the June issue of MOTOR SPORT I think it somewhat of a pessimistic heading. Why? because I too, over three score and ten am soon to start looking for a replacement for the car I purchased when I was over 70.
Mr Boyle made the same choice of a vehicle for use in retirement as I did, a good second-hand Alfa Sprint. I found one, agreed the price but the seller changed her mind afterwards. However a car with similar performance and power, a Datsun 160J SSS with 11,000 miles on the clock at a few hundred less than the price Mr Boyle paid for his Alfa was offered and this I purchased. I can’t find anything wrong with it, 105 bhp capable of nicely over 100 mph and the only spares needed in the next 14,000 miles, rear silencer, brake pads and oil filter. As a safety measure I replaced the battery, the original transferred to a Daimler 2½-litre Century will still swing that into life but there is a starting handle in the event of failure.
I was first introduced to the steering wheel by courtesy of the local laundry-van driver when I was nine (it was a Unic), but was taught to drive by my brother in his T Ford, the one car that you could sometimes start, after switching on, by moving the ignition control.
After some five years owning open cars, my mother, now over seventy, suggested it was time for a closed car. I must have mentioned this to a salesman at a Motor-cycle Show because I received a phone call from a dealer in Redhill that he had just the car to suit. I made the journey and found a crowd admiring a pale blue Morris Series II fixed-head coupé with Ace wheel discs. I bought it on sight before I noticed that the registration No. was 1. I drove off in the car never visiting Redhill for twenty years until for a bit of a joke I called on the dealer for the car’s first service.
In something under 100,000 repairs needed were: reline to bores “Chromard”, new king-pins, pinion to differential, one halfshaft. This shaft broke in Tottenham Court Road in my lunch break. A Morris agent behind Goodge St Station towed it in to his works and asked me when would like it. I replied “5.15 this afternoon.” His response was if I had a shaft he could do it by then. I surprised him by taking a spare from the boot, he was as good as his word and at 5.15 pm I parted with a pound or two and motored home. Two or three cork clutch plates were fitted. The Morris gave me many a fine holiday including trips to the Med. As it was the car used when I attended at the resting place of my mother I never sold it, but recently, in meeting a request by a party interested in older Morris cars I sold the engine and gearbox. You do have to watch these enthusiasts because after I said cheerio I found the horn-push missing. However, being a helpful type I will let a younger person have the axles with built-in jacks, six wire wheels and five 4.75 by 18 tyres and tubes.
It so happened one day that a colleague was offered an overland car that had just been driven from Scotland that had burnt up a piston on the journey. He said you can have the car if you pay the bill. I did, it was 19/10d. It was taxed, I drove it for a month or two and traded it to the scrap merchant behind the Bentley works in Cricklewood for £1 , a jack, a battery and an Austin seven radiator. This was before WW2 and thc radiator is still in one piece. It must be brass as I’ve had it in the garden. Is someone somewhere wanting this?
Early in 1958, glancing through a motoring periodical one day I noticed an advert for a Daimler Conquest for just over £500. I dashed off and agreed purchase just before the boys from Warren Street arrived. It proved a good buy and I still have it but it will have to go as I now concentrate on a Century of the same make. I also have one of the few automatics but this has been idle for a few years. Fitting new exhaust systems and changing engines is not so much fun in the mid-seventies but I will fit a replacement master cylinder soon.
All my cars, except the Datsun, have a chassis and two spare wheels and I think that Mr Langley (letter July issue) will accept that modern cars will not last as the chassis types we drove years ago.
I think Mr Boyle chose well but my Alfa owning friend changes every four years. We older types will have to change too but, in spite of one adverse criticism in this month’s issue of my favourite motoring monthly, if anyone knows of a Datsun Silvia for £5,000 please lead me to it!
Hendon. H. FLETCHER GEE
In Defence of BL
The letter from Peter Kerr in the July issue, added to an aside by D.S.J. in his item on the new Nürburgring in the June issue, prompts me to write to defend the present-day MG cars.
When William Morris, rather than Cecil Kimber, conceived the original idea of the MG it was a tuned version of the Bullnose Morris, intended to give sporting motoring at reasonable cost. Every production MG from then on has been based to a greater or lesser degree on production components from the parent company, successively Morris, Nuffield, BMC and now Leyland. There have, of course, been the one-off record breakers and low volume competition cars, but the production cars have always been what they are today — sporting versions of the bread and butter production cars.
I am in general as opposed to badge engineering as most MOTOR SPORT readers, but as the MG was conceived in this context the criticism does not apply, and the present Metro, Maestro and Montego versions are valid holders of an honourable name.
If I may close with a question: “Why does nobody complain today about the Bentley as a badge-engineered Rolls-Royce?” A much more relevant question, surely.
Morecambe W. G. BRITTON