FUN AND GAMES AT GOODWOOD
The Guild of Motoring Writers held its annual Test Day at Goodwood on October 25th. It is to be congratulated on the excellent organisation, aided by B.A.R.C. officials and members, and for having something like three-score new cars for test round the Goodwood circuit. This excellent institution is primarily for the edification of overseas journalists but British motoring writers have a very good time as well – to schoolboys this Goodwood Test Day would seem like a dream come true, which is not to suggest that because our leading motoring correspondents relished the fare provided they are unimaginative ! The plot was to try as many cars as possible, as fast or as slowly as inclination and prowess dictated, over three laps, which included the notorious chicane. Crash-hats were not called for, but we did spot racing gloves.
It would be unfair to publish general comments on the cars sampled from this brief, flurried acquaintance of them, but three fast laps of Goodwood do bring to light the good and bad points of controllability quite vividly. We managed to sample eleven cars, as follows :-
Sunbeam Alpine team car: Rather surprisingly soggy for its speed and reputation. More roadster than sports, was our impression.
Singer 1,500 saloon: Much more stable than expected, possessing understeer characteristics which enable it to corner fast without anxiety, and suspension that does not permit it to lean over onto its nave-plates. A good car of its kind. The o.h.c engine wound up unconcernedly to around 60 in third.
Singer Roadster: Very cramped driving position. No room for clutch foot. Wallows at the front and hops about at the back.
Austin-Healey 100 Le Mans two-seater: We were enormously impressed by the very safe handling of this car. It felt essentially safe even when taken through a corner on a “clueless” line with its tyres howling defiance. The steering is very light but accurate, the seating position rather low. The bucket seats are appreciated. This version had the central gear-lever protruding normally from the propeller-shaft tunnel and the overdrive switch on one of the steering wheel spokes. Overdrive second and top sufficed for Goodwood, changes up being made at about 5,000 r.p.m., with 90 m.p.h. in second coming up at Woodcote.
Austin-Healey 100 production two-seater: The same excellent handling was evident. On this version overdrive second was used for the entire lap, the automatic shift being a slight embarrassment out of the chicane. The gear-lever is set farther to the left than on the Le Mans car, and the overdrive switch is on the facia. The beauty of this 100 plus m.p.h. sports car is that its chassis is as fast as its engine, making it very safe and enjoyable up to its maximum. At the price it is a sensible, eminently satisfactory purchase. We certainly crave one.
Triumph TR2 Sports two-seater: Very impressive urge, a nice taut feel about the engine and a pleasant gear-change, the tiny lever absolutely rigid and calling for very short movements. The roadholding is very good, although under violent change of direction the steering becomes a little soggy. The brakes tended to be fierce unless a light application was used.
M.G. Magnette saloon: Smooth riding, stable chassis. Engine rather evidently a busy four-cylinder, transmission noisy, and back axle distinctly audible. Rather high seat and “bus-driver’s” driving position.
M.G. TF Midget: Very soggy suspension, so that the near-side front wheel seemed to have decreased in size going round Goodwood’s continual right-hand bends. Engine busy towards 60 m.p.h. in third gear. Central mirror obscures view of road when cornering. A little blue light, winked at us all the way round.
Morgan Plus Four two-seater: We tried the “new look” car, and although it is virtually last year’s chassis with stiffer track-rod, round Goodwood it was as good as anything we drove. The lack of roll due to rigid suspension and high-geared steering was a delight, the gear-change splendid, with speedometer 70 m.p.h. available in the price of speed and the very demeanour of those few cars in which third gear with no apparent distress from the twin-carburetter engine. The brakes were entirely adequate and this “dice,” during which we overtook a fast 2 1/2-litre car, endorsed our previous opinion that when all is screwed and soldered together correctly the Morgan is a fine car. (Recent “unsoldering” of the Editorial version has included breaking-up of a front-wheel thrust race, inability of the clutch pedal to free the clutch, and furious transmission vibration at over 50 m.p.h. – Ed.)
Bristol 404: This was an enormously pleasing car, by reason of its very safe high-speed handling characteristics allied to the sheer luxury of its high-speed performance. The view from the driving seat, of low bonnet flanked by long mudguards reminiscent of aeroplane-engine nacelles, is truly impressive. Our observations were rather hazed because a Dutch journalist sat on our tail in a Jaguar XK120 coupé, sometimes vanishing out of sight in our blindspot, and coming by along the straight, although we closed up on it through Woodcote, only to miss engaging second gear out of the chicane. This was due to pressing the lever too far over to the left, but when in a hurry can cause consternation. Third gear also jumped out on one occasion and the revs, rushed upwards – not, we hoped, above the permissible 5,100 r.p.m. This may be due to the new remote lever being closer to the knees than the adequate long lever of the Bristol 403. The handling is superb. the brakes showed no fade tendency, but there was some wind-noise.
Allard Palm Beach three-seater: This Zephyr-engined version had lots of performance and a chassis about on a par with it. Cornering was accomplished without undue roll, so that the driver is not unduly embarrassed by the full-width seat. This seat would not adjust close to the controls without making it impossible to engage top gear; the remote gear-change is more positive than on the Palm Beach we drove last year. The driver’s door was difficult to open. The well-known Allard exhaust note persists in spite of six instead of eight cylinders.
That concluded our fun and games; it should be emphasised that these impressions are of a general nature only, for three flurried laps, 7.2 miles in all, is too brief a distance in which to assess a car’s qualities in detail. – W. B.