Opinion from Paris

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64

Sir,

I was most interested in the letter from Bois-Colombes about British sales in Europe, and I endorse all that Mr Holdsworth said. But I have more to add.

The British manufacturers’ policy of dictating what the purchaser shall have rather than that of giving him what he wants is disastrous; and the manufacturers are so complacent about it. I have, on two occasions, translated road-test reports from the French motoring papers and have sent them to the respective manufacturers, pointing out the things which are shortcomings in Continental eyes. In each case I got a polite little note saying that they were quite satisfied with their sales.

From the point of view of a British resident in France. I should say that their sales here aren’t worth the trouble. The agents certainly don’t have a good name for competence (I’m talking about the “production” type of car—not Rolls, Bentley, Daimler, Bristol, etc). The French criticisms of British cars are roughly these :

(1) Cars too heavy for the size of the engine, with resultant lack of acceleration.

(2) Poor brakes, which heat up too quickly when driven by French men in hilly country. (The English driver will often slip into neutral and roll down a long grade at, say, 40 mph. The French driver in the same circumstances will put his foot down in top in order to see if he can get the car up to 80. Consequently, with a succession of bends, such as one finds on the Col de la Schlucht in Alsace, the brakes have a lot of work to do !)

(3) What they generally describe as “the ridiculous contents of the reservoir.” (The MG Y-type, for example, has an “autonomic” of about 200 miles. If one starts off from Paris at 1 am, to go for a weekend of skiing in Switzerland—which even our typists do !—one runs dry at about 4 am, when there is little hope of finding a pump. And so many of our cars have fillers designed to prevent the use of a Jerrican—eg the Austin A30.)

(4) The appearance of a car counts a lot in France. The general comment is that the cars are probably all right for the pere tranquil so characteristic of England, but that one day they will wake up to what a modern motor car really is.

Now, I’m well past the half-century myself, but as one who used to get all the joy in the world out of a chain-drive Frazer-Nash, I want something which goes as well, but with a rather less spartan ensemble more suited to my greying hairs. The Panhard-Levassor comes very near the mark, with only 850 cc. And, as a side line, I suppose that Paris must be the only city in the world with 850-cc six-seater taxi-cabs capable of over 80 mph, and where the drivers do their best to achieve it. I came down the Champs-Elysees in a Panhard taxi the other day and we got up to 115 kph, when I asked the driver what it would do; he said it would do more if he was using high-grade essence, but that as he was using commercial spirit, he couldn’t really show off the car’s paces.

I think that the British motor-car industry did a magnificent job of getting into the export market immediately after the war, but it was done by selling pre-war cars : some are as old in design as the valiant Citroen. But they should now realise that the honeymoon is over, and that if they want to continue to export they’ve got to produce a car that people will want to buy. Their rejection of the chance to produce the VW should have taught them a lesson : they thought that it was a car not worth producing, but over a million buyers thought it was a car well worth owning, which proves my point that “the gentleman in Coventry” doesn’t know best.

I am, Yours. etc,

Robert Peaty, Paris.

Vehicles I have driven

Sir,

As an old Daimler apprentice I was interested to read Ron Sutton’s “Vehicles I Have Driven,” having enjoyed many fast runs with him. I am sorry he did not, possibly through lack of space, mention the quite outstanding roadholding of the 18-hp (DB18) and the considerable urge of the prototype, reg CVC 32. Prototypes always perform better than production models and perhaps this is why until recent years CVC 32 was the personal transport of the Chief Engineer, Mr CM Simpson.

It was always the ambition of other testers to equal Sutton’s average speeds but they were invariably about 2-3 mph slower notwithstanding taking chances, which he never did. He is quite the finest driver with whom I have ever ridden and I can, for instance, recall his entering a normal 40-mph bend at 65 to be confronted by an oncoming car well on the wrong side, setting me thinking in quite a detached manner, “Ha! I wonder how old Ron’s going to get out of this.”

Nor did he mention one night run down near Porlock when a drain plug dropped out at 85 mph, followed by instant engine seizure. Even with an epicyclic box Sutton kept the car on the road.

On another occasion, in his report of a night run he rather shattered the Experimental Department in writing : ” Valve bounce sets in at over 95.”

A tale generally believed was that in the Triumph which be mentioned, Sutton never exceeded 30 mph.

Dare I, after a total repair bill of 4s 6d in 20,000 miles, including rallies, endorse your good opinion of the VW?

I am, Yours, etc,

WG Stevenson, Purley.

Sir,

I very much enjoyed reading the article “Vehicles I Have Driven” by RNV Sutton. I was an apprentice at the Daimler Co Ltd during Mr. Sutton’s time and I feel that I must protest at some of his descriptions of the cars he drove.

The Lanchester Ten never did have ifs (the 11-hp did) and it cost nearer £300 than the stated £900.

The “straight-eight” Daimler consisted of two models with integral head, the 31/2 and 4-litre, and one with detachable head, the 41/2-litre. It is possible, but doubtful, that any 41/2-litre model ever weighed 31/2 tons; it certainly would not have done 103 mph down a mountain with a hurricane behind it. The 4-litre was fairly fast: I have had a speedometer reading of over 90 mph with a rather special model that the company provided for Press road tests (!—Ed). This was a sports saloon that I should have thought weighed leas than two tons.

I well remember Mr Sutton’s Triumph; it was a pale blue affair which I greatly admired when he first parked it inside the works. As he says, he greatly neglected it and for a considerable time before it was blitzed it was sans hood. I think £75 must have been very adequate compensation; he had parked it near the Experimental Shop for so long that I should have thought that no bomb would have been powerful enough to uproot it. It was, however, blown up in the manner stated.

Incidentally, I have never seen a Mk VII Jaguar with a push-rod engine. I had one registered in 1951 which was an early one. Perhaps Mr Sutton, or other knowledgeable reader, will be able to tell us how many of these were produced; all I have seen have been “double. knockers.”

I am sorry to be critical. It was a most interesting and excellent account, and perhaps these apparent errors can be explained ?

I am, Yours, etc,

AJ Rigby-Jones, Ebworth Park.