Rumblings, December 1957



The Guild at Goodwood

This year’s Test Day at Goodwood circuit, organised for the edification of its members and foreign guests by the Guild of Motoring Writers, was an unqualified success. A great variety of British-built cars was available for the journalists to fling round the course for three uninhibited laps and many famous personalities in the overseas motoring journalistic firmament, some wearing crash-hats, were present. Uhlenhaut and von Struck (sic) were interested visitors. Probably fastest round the course — not that the scribes were meant to race! — was Paul Frere, who made excellent use of his brief encounter with a Lotus Le Mans, which an over-enterprising Sporting Editor afterwards spun off and damaged at Madgwick. Alan Brinton, driving the record-breaking Austin A35 saloon, “got the bird,” a small partridge breaking the windscreen; the bird was given to its rightful owner, H.R.H. the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, who generously presented it to Mr. Brinton.

This pounding round by the elite of the motoring journalists took sad toll of some of the Earls Court demonstration cars. The Morgan Plus Four spent the gloriously sunny Sunday bogged down beyond Levant Corner, where it had come to rest after shedding one of its new wire wheels, the Allard refused to present itself for “tourismo,” being in trouble soon after the course was opened, the little Meadows Frisky sport was retired for a time with brake trouble, the Alexander Ford Zephyr with carburation maladies, while the 2.6 Riley emphasised the much-criticised employment of an Austin power unit by ending the day emitting a loud tapping sound from its engine.

Such was the demand for the faster cars that we got many bread-and-butter rides, all of them enjoyable, however.

The Alvis TC 108/G saloon proved to be luxuriously upholstered, with somewhat spongy and heavy but very smooth, accurate steering, surprisingly good roadholding for its class and with a very nice gear-change from a short, central gear-lever. Its rev.-counter hovered around “4,500” without any under-bonnet protest, but at 70 m.p.h. a pronounced judder came from the front of the chassis. The window winders are the lowest-geared we have ever experienced!

The Austin A105 rolled round with spirit and the Princess was like a very luxurious boat, rolling excessively, its power steering smooth as oiled-silk but requiring correction to combat over-steer. The transmission is automatic, with gear-lever to provide normal second and third gears if required. The brake pedal is enormous and prodding it puts the dowager off the rear seat onto the floor. A good mark for the lever which quickly opens the driver’s window and another for the restrained dignity of this car’s appearance.

The Austin-Healey 100 Six juddered its scuttle and hadn’t enough poke for a 2.6-litre sports car. The Alexander-conversion Ford Zephyr, with triple S.U.s, really went, and handled suprisingly well into the bargain, its suspension unmodified, but aided by Michelin “X” tyres front and back. It was possible to use middle cog to quite high r.p.m. without the engine becoming distressed.

The Alexander-conversion Hillman Minx would do a very noisy 60 m.p.h. indicated in third gear and cruise very quietly in o/d top gear. The speedometer indicated 90 m.p.h. on the straight, from which speed the brakes, lined with hard Mintex, didn’t inspire complete confidence, and the steering was unhappily heavy. The Meadows Frisky sport is a joke, but a good one. The positive-stop gear-change, operated by a tiny r.h. lever, couldn’t be easier, the brakes were said to be fierce but we didn’t need them, and if you let the 325-c.c. Villiers engine wind itself up in third gear imposing speed is obtainable. But we are self-conscious about being seen in a Frisksport!

The M.G. Magnette coupe was superbly comfortable, with rather a ‘bus-driver’s driving position, and just did an indicated 60 m.p.h. in third gear but was inclined to wallow round the corners. The Morris Minor 1000 saloon was fun and handled splendidly. The Wolseley 1500 saloon handled less outstandingly and just about did an indicated 58 m.p.h. in third cog. A little Renault Dauphine went round smoothly and quietly and on an even keel; the anti-dazzle built into the windscreen was interesting, the day changing from set fair to mid-summer merely by moving one’s head! The new Vauxhall Velox saloon seemed a big comfortable motor car with bags of urge, and that we can recall nothing of how it handled is probably as good a recommendation as any, The Aston Martin DB Mark III, into which we were inserted by Roy Parnell, is sheer delight, its brakes (disc at the front) a bit spongy but entirely effective, the handling and roadholding a delight and bags of performance available without exceeding the limit of 5,000 r.p.m.

You cannot judge a car in eight care-free miles, but those are the impressions we carried away after having fun at Goodwood. Incidentally, manufacturers who did not present cars for test this year included A.C., Armstrong-Siddeley, Bristol, Bentley, Citroen, Lagonda and Jensen — not, we hope, evidence of decline? A diesel Land  Rover could be tested over a special cross-country course and Sir William Lyons was present, riding in the back of a Jaguar saloon for some fast laps with the Duke of Richmond and Gordon at the wheel. It is no doubt partly Sir William’s practical interest in his cars which maintains Jaguar excellence.

Congratulations to the Guild of Motoring Writers for organising a useful day’s sampling.– W.B.

Earls Court Flashback

Although the last issue was largely devoted to the London Motor Show, a few comments on that Exhibition remain to be made.

Austin-Healey showed a 100-Six hard-top on a banked dais, inscribed beneath which was the statement that this car holds all records in its class from one mile to 3,000 miles — and there must have been many gullible visitors who imagined that it was the actual standard car exhibited which secured these. On the Meadows Stand, apart from the Frisky, were pictures of past Meadows-engined cars. These included a Chic (which we had never heard of previously), Donald Healey’s 100 m.p.h. low-chassis Invicta and a Hyper Lea-Francis. Other makes listed which were new to us were Du Cros, Excelsior (no connection, presumably, with the Belgian marque), Morgan Hastings, Streamline and Stroud (could the last two be Burney and Hampton ?).

Up in the Gallery Benton & Stone showed quick-action filler caps as used on the D-type Jaguar, Lodge had big pictures of Moss, Brabham, Behra, Scott-Brown and other drivers winning laurels on Lodge plugs in B.M.C. record-car, Jaguar, Cooper, B.R.M., Lister-Jaguar and Maserati, and an Indianapolis picture to remind its that Lodge also won there.

I.C.I. showed coloured pictures of a veteran car and the B.M.C. record-car as evidence of the versatility of their upholstery, and Lucas exhibited a Lucas fuel-injection layout as used on the Le Mans-winning Jaguar, although we believe the injection nozzles may have been differently positioned on the racing car.

Marston Excelsior showed dramatic pictures of Moss’ accident at Monaco and, above them, immersed in a glass aquarium, the battered radiator from the Vanwall, a pressure-gauge and the absence of bubbles proving it to be leak-proof in spite of its ordeal. They also exhibited the flexible fuel tanks used on modern racing cars and acknowledged history with some photographic enlargements of cars from the past which used Marston radiators, unfortunately getting an Austin Seven Swallow saloon confused with the Standard Swallow Nine. We were intrigued to see a big Dagenite battery full of tropical fish, because we have so often wondered what batteries contain and ours which had gone “flat” and refused to start a cold engine could, on reflection, quite likely have been afflicted with flat fish. The Owen Organisation was responsible for the Shorrock supercharger exhibit, which included a shorrock-blown B.M.C. engine as used in the successful B.M.C. EX-179 record car. On the Mintex Stand the employment of Mintex brake linings on the winning cars at Le Mans in 1924, 27, 29, 37, 51, 53, 55, 56 and this year was celebrated, a modern Dunlop disc brake being compared with a rear brake as used on the 3-litre Bentley that won in 1924, this latter exhibit being on loan from Bradford Technical College.

Publicity is a curious thing — its value and longevity is difficult to assess. For example, when the late S. F. Edge drove his Napier for 24 hours round Brooklands Track in 1907 he undoubtedly intended that this should publicise the Napier six-cylinder car. But who would have expected the classic picture of the Napiers setting off on this historic record to appear in so many publications fifty years later? Yet due to the Jubilee of Brooklands this is what has happened, and thus D. Napier & Son Ltd., who, although they no longer manufacture motor cars, did some vital designing and manufacture of engine and gearbox parts for the victorious Vanwall, obtained some free publicity this year stemming from an ambitious idea of 50 years ago!

To conclude, our leading article last month on the subject of the Motor Show contained the observation that, although the outward appearance of great cars has changed, their character sometimes remains deeply embedded in the past. Thus it is interesting to note that today’s Wolseleys, including the 1500, retain the illuminated radiator badge which has been an embellishment of the make since pre-war days.

Earls Court Postscript:

Attendance in 1956: 494,912

Attendance this year: 483,427