Letters from Readers, December 1952



N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our correspondents and “Motor Sport” does not necessarily associate itself with them—Ed.

Mr. M. D. Hendry on Rolls-Royce

[In August we quoted from a letter in the American magazine True by Mr. M. D. Hendry, who was commenting on an article about Rolls-Royce cars which appeared in that magazine. Mr. Hendry has seen this quotation and subsequent correspondence in Motor Sport and returns to the subject as follows.—Ed.]

It is indeed an honour to be Editorially booted into the columns of Motor Sport, although I have a suspicion you are doing it as a favour for Mr. Purdy, who was unable to rake up a reply to that letter to True, although he was responsible for starting the argument in the first place. Undoubtedly, by the time this letter reaches you I will have been vigorously attacked by indignant colonels and those se-called “enthusiasts” whose peculiar mentality was in evidence in the recent “hot rod” controversy, so here is a reply to their familiar excuses, which I am sick and tired of hearing. Furthermore, “amusement” and sarcasm are not very efficient arguments.

Mr. Middlleton’s well-reasoned letter deserves these comments. We are all well aware that performance is considered of no great importance in the Rolls-Royce, but it’s about time it was! The spectacle of a £6,000 car incapable of holding its own with non-sports vehicles of one-tenth the price and just as comfortable, is utterly ludicrous. I knew that I would be accused of “heresy” and that the Merlin and Bentley would be brought in although they have nothing to do with a Cadillac versus Rolls discussion.

First the Merlin, then. This engine was a washout in aerobatics until fitted with an American carburetter, and is rustproofed by an American process used by R.R. under licence. These facts are never mentioned by those who point out that the Merlin was used in American fighters. The civil Merlins have an unrivalled reputation for noise, vibration and comparatively short periods between overhauls (about 800 hours).

The Bentley standard saloon is completely outclassed in performance by the Cadillac, which Mr. Middleton doesn’t regard as high-powered (only 190 h.p.), Motor Trend, using an electric fifth-wheel speedometer and six stopwatches, clocked the 1952 Cadillac at an average of 109.6 m.p.h. for an average of four runs in opposite directions, with a fastest run at 115.4. The standing quarter-mile was covered in 18.4 seconds. This was with Hydramatic and power steering, both of which add weight and siphon off a little power, though they are worth it. The car was a full six-seater sedan weighing 4,510 lb., had no special tuning, and, unlike the cars used in British road tests, was not supplied by the manufacturer.

The Continental Bentley looks a very nice vehicle mainly because it has copied the body lines of American coupes of ten years ago, but I doubt whether it could out-perform a Cadillac coupe, which makes no claim to be a sports car.

The Cadillac engine was”high-powered” enough to drive Sydney Allard into third place at 88 m.p.h. at Le Mans three years ago, and win innumerable races in the U.S.A., which a Rolls-Bentley power plant has yet to do. The Hydramatic transmission is “almost perfect and more reliable than the one it replaces,” according to Reid Railton. Rolls-Royce will eventually have to adopt it [They now have!—Ed], just as they adopted Cadillac’s synchromesh and i.f.s. design, and will some day have to get rid of that ridiculous. outdated, gable-shaped radiator. (Sir Henry Royce’s own opinion.)

Over the last two decades R.R. has almost invariably been several years behind Cadillac design and apparently inspired by much of it. Cadillac introduced their V12 and V16 models in 1930 and they continned in production for seven and ten years, respectively. Rolls’ reply, the Phantom III, came six years later and was only in production for three years. Before somebody mentions the R.R. V8 which preceded the Cadillac V8, let him consider which one was the success and which was the failure.

Those who prefer hand-polished walnut and naked fairies on a motor car instead of in a museum or on a drawing-room, where they really belong, are welcome to spend the extra two or three thousand pounds which these things seem to cost on a Rolls-Royce. The proverbial fool and his money are soon parted. More level-headed and less snobbish motorists are likely to prefer the Cadillac, which, though of equal quality and more advanced design, is still able to justify itself as an economic proposition. Rolls-Royce themselves are beginning to acknowledge this, otherwise why do we hear of standardised-steel-bodied Silver Dawns, and Bentleys being “mass-produced” at the rate of 50 a month, and of Rolls engines being built for use in fire-engines and bulldozers? A blow to their pride, and done reluctantly no doubt, but it was either that or else go out of the automotive business.

Although I couldn’t care less, it may be a good idea for you to “publish this letter fearlessly,” for it is the only one from me that you’re going to get. Except that a friend and I have just been looking at a 1925 Cadillac V8. If we buy it and if any Rolls passes us going the same way, I’ll let you know.

I am, Yours, etc., M. D. Hendry, Christchurch. N.Z.



I should like to add my humble support to Mr. Alan H. Middleton concerning the ridiculous statements made against the Rolls-Royce Company and their products, which appeared in the August issue. Though I have not the advantage of Mr. Middleton’s knowledge of figures on the subject, I cannot hesitate to repeat that the RollsRoyce is not a car that claims high performance, but has a standard of craftsmanship never reached by any other firm. However, if high speed is the aim of a car manufacturer, look at the Bentley Continental, merely a modification of the Rolls-Royce! Hazy rumour has it that Mr. Eric Thompson, driving an Aston-Martin DB2 on Le Mans circuit while the Bentley was undergoing tests, stated that his car was unable to hold the Bentley on the straight. Could this be correct? If so, surely this speaks for performance and speed far ahead of that of Chrysler or Cadillac, which, in view of their high litreage, do not develop very great power.

As to the price, £6,000 is a lot of money, but if people are willing to pay for such an old-established and widely-respected name, as well as for craftsmanship—that, surely, is good advertisement for the firm!

I am, Yours, etc., J. Philip Turner Jones, Eyam.


An Injustice to Every Road User


It was stated last week, at the Road Haulage Association’s annual conference, that of the £280,000,000 paid in Road Fund taxation during the past year, only £29,000,000, or approximately 10 per cent., was spent on road construction and improvement. It was also claimed that an expenditure of £146,000,000 would enable all the notorious “black spots” on our roads to be eliminated. On the evening of that same day the Minister for the Co-ordination of Transport, Fuel and Power, speaking in Parliament, said that the Government were dealing with the matter of road accident reduction “with a great sense or urgency,” adding that, “Altogether, £3,000,000 would be spent on black spots this year and next, £2,000,000 of which would come from Government funds.”

What an amazing and disgraceful state of affairs these figures reveal. Following a single railway accident in which 112 people unfortunately lost their lives, the nationalised railways are prepared to spend £15,000,000 on improved signalling arrangements, without further hesitation, but for the improvement of the roads in Britain (the main cause of more than 5.000 fatalities annually) the Government are prepared to spend £2,000,000 with an additional £1,000,000 provided by local authorities!

Bearing in mind the “great sense of urgency” claimed by the politician, it will take nearly one hundred years to eliminate the existing black spots responsible for the great toll of death every year.

I am, Yours, etc., John M. Flounders, Colchester.


A Team Talbot 105


I was very interested to read your article in this month’s Motor Sport about the Roesch Talbots. I am the present owner of GO54, one of the 1931 “105” team cars, which in that year, driven by H. E. Symons, was joint winner of the Alpine Rally, and it was, I believe, the fastest car up some of the timed passes. I enclose a picture of her, taken at a speed trial near here on October 19th this year. I intended to race her this year but was abroad and did not have the opportunity.

Of the team of four. 1 believe all are still extant. GO 51 is being rebuilt by Fuggle, GO 52 I saw in London last year, and GL 53 was seen in Bristol last year.

In 1931 these cars were a very successful team and, for instance. in the B.R.D.C. 500-mile race, Brian Lewis finished second at 112.92 m.p.h., the Colt/Wolfe Talbot averaged 104.7, and Rose Richards 104.23 m.p.h.—the latter two cars were four-seaters.

GO 54 still gives a good account of herself, with acceleration sufficient for most challengers. She will just top 100 m.p.h., and has a delightful gearbox, doing approximately 35, 62, 85 and 100 m.p.h. in her present form. Her previous owner claims that he was able to do 103 in third, but due to faulty hydraulic shock-absorbers I have never tried to exceed the ” ton.”

It is a delightful car to drive, full lock being one turn of the steering wheel! (but the lock is almost non-existent). The brakes are self-servo front and extremely powerful, so much so that to use the foot brake on a wet road locks all wheels and the car therefore goes straight on regardless of where the wheels are pointing. The hand brake works on the rear wheels only, and even on a dry road these can be locked with finger pressure on the brake.

The car is a four-seater, although I would not care to ride in the back. Even so an enormous amount of luggage may be carried. My brother and myself went in her to the north of Scotland this year, taking two guns, four holdalls, two suitcases, four fishing rods and fishing tackle. On the way home we left Helmsdale at 9.10 a.m. and arrived home in Norfolk at 1.20 a.m. the next day–610 miles in 16 hours and 10 minutes, including stops for petrol, lunch and dinner. There are not many cars today which are capable of that, carrying two persons’ luggage for a fortnight’s shooting and fishing.

I have written this letter in case you might be pleased to hear that a Talbot still gives such service and pleasure. I would like to heartily recommend John Bland for all Talbot work—he takes a great deal of trouble and is not unduly expensive.

I am, Yours, etc., Michael Parker, Cambridge.