Rumblings, December 1958

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76

Two New Shell Films

During the London Motor Show Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd. held their eagerly-awaited party at Shell-Mex House, which was attended by many celebrities, amongst whom were noticed Hawthorn. Moss, and many other racing drivers. The ample refreshment was punctuated to show two new Shell films.The first of these was a brief but entertaining quiz film, conducted by Nevil Lloyd, in which excerpts from post-war Shell films covering races, sprints and rallies, were shown and the viewers asked to name drivers, cars and venues, the answers being given as the “shots” were run through for the second time. This one should provide much fun at motor club parties, especially if the answers are written down by the audience before the second part of the film is shown.

The more important film was of this year’s R.A.C. British Grand Prix, which the late Peter Collins won so brilliantly at Silverstone for Ferrari, This is an excellent colour film, not too long, yet catching the atmosphere and story of the race admirably. Pre-race interviews of Hawthorn and Moss are conducted in close-up by the commentator, Nevil Lloyd, and the spectators are seen arriving and the cars going out to the starting-grid. Cornering and pit-stops get good coverage, nor do the cameras miss Moss’ dramatic retirement, when he drove his sick Vanwall past the pits and into the dead-car area before stopping, his race over. Tears must have come to many eyes when Peter Collins’ jubilant acknowledgement of his victory, the trophy held on high to please the Press photographers, was seen at the end of the film. As Nevi! Lloyd says: “Tomorrow was yet to come.”

These films are fully up to Shell standard and Club Secretaries should borrow them just as soon as they are available.

***

“Guild Day” at Goodwood

The Guild of Motoring Writers held its popular annual Motor Show Test Day at Goodwood circuit on October 26th, this party on for the benefit of its members and Overseas’ visitors having been instituted in 1947. This year more than 95 cars were available for the assembled journalists to drive for three laps of the course; all were British, with the exception of Citroën and Renault, which get in because they are assembled in this country. This is a splendid tribute to the Guild and a measure of the assistance they give to the World’s Pressmen in assessing British cars, while the manner in which they ensure fine weather every year is little short of miraculous!

With the proviso that in three short, fast laps it is impossible accurately to assess a car and that the bad rather than the good points are, indeed, likely to intrude, here are our impressions of those cars we drove on this happy and auspicious occasion.

We “played ourselves in” with a Hillman Minx saloon which handled nicely and did the entire lap in top gear. We next took out a Ford Consul powered with a 1.6-litre Perkins four-99 diesel engine. This was noisy when idling but indistinguishable from a petrol engine as speed rose and virtually inaudible at a speedometer 65 m.p.h. There is not overmuch acceleration and a lag is apparent when the accelerator is depressed after lifting off, but no fumes entered the interior and the low fuel-oil consumption and long life of these engines makes them an attractive proposition to fleet users.

After the Minx a Sunbeam Rapier felt unduly heavy to handle and its brakes did not feel anything like so reassuring, but this car was fun to drive fast, its engine not seeming to mind being held at a habitual 5,500 r.p.m. The M.G.-A coupe was noisy, the clutch pedal has an inconveniently long travel, the gear lever is too high in relation to the low seating position and, with the driver’s seat adjusted as we like it, exit is almost impossible. The steering also felt a bit odd, as if attention to the tyre pressures might have been required. As a contrast to the M.G. we took out a Rover 60, which is an exceedingly pleasant car because it is so refined and so individualistic. Its handling is soggy but so forgiving and the smoothness of the 2-litre four-cylinder engine a revelation.

Each year the writer has a go in a Morgan Plus Four, for old times’ sake—he used to drive one daily. This year’s specimen seemed longer in the bonnet than previously, had bags of poke, and hurried sufficiently to keep a Jaguar at bay.

In contrast, the Austin-Healey Sprite had exceedingly light steering, delightful in the Paddock but almost too light on the track. an engine which could just about reach maximum revs. in the space available, and a tendency to skittishness of the rear-end, with a suspicion of oversteer. Remembering all the pre-Motor Show “hoo-hah” about the new Austin A40 we had a go in one of these, noting that the side windows are of sliding, not wind-up, type, wondering whether the recesses on the doors are intended as ash-receptacles or “pulls,” and disliking the painted “tin” facia with crude loud-speaker slots. The little car goes, and is light to handle, while forward visibility is excellent and the bonnet length implies a larger engine. The pleated upholstery is amusing. But on the whole the appearance, particularly from full-astern, is nothing to prate about, the clutch action was horrid and first gear really troublesome to engage. The courtesy interior light is under the facia, which isn’t really adequate.

Triumph had sent down a TR3 hard-top with 2.2-litre engine. This one really motored and the disc brakes on the front wheels revised previous ideas of cut-off points; this at the expense of a good deal of noise and something faintly uncertain about the steering. Anxious to try another new one, we selected a Humber Super Snipe but got the automatic transmission version. The upholstery, instrumentation and polished wood facia and fillets are all mightily impressive, but you can keep the lot in exchange for less sponge in the steering, less roll on corners and a gearbox which will hold a low gear long enough to provide some real acceleration (did we overlook a “hold” knob?). The brakes, too, could have been more convincing in view of the fact that the gearbox takes you in emergencies into a high ratio that gives the sensation of free-wheeling. On Goodwood impressions we shall continue to admire the Super Snipe on paper while avoiding it on the road—but, as has been said, 7½ miles is an inadequate distance in which to judge a car.

Having wasted some time looking for the Alexander Vauxhall Victor which was absent because it had been involved in an.accident, and waiting to try a Peerless which had been withdrawn from circulation, we got a drive in an Alexander-tuned Hillman Minx with floor gear lever and bucket seats. This proved a bit lively on its suspension but with plenty of power, top and overdrive top (Lay-cock), selected by a very convenient flick-switch, being adequate for fast Goodwood lappery, the noise considerable in the one, absent in the higher (3.45 to 1) of these ratios. Moreover, this Minx had the Alexander power brake conversion and, although we did not have occasion to do more than caress the brake pedal while keeping the M.G.-A in our sights, these are clearly very sensitive and powerful brakes and an excellent adjunct to a “hotted-up” family car. They cost a mere £19, incidentally, and operate on the vacuum-servo system.

So an amusing day came to an end, without untoward incident. although someone did spin the Aston Martin DB Mk3, which required a tyre change, and the Berkeley two-seater went round emitting some non-standard noises from its engine. Otherwise, the cars, ranging from the comic, toy-like 324-c.c. Friskys to a long-wheelbase Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, seemed to stand up to their collective thrashings better than in previous years. Last driver to “have a go” before a flood of Trade drivers were allowed on the course was the very keen Paul Frere—he dodged the advent of’ this “heavy traffic” with his usual skill in the Jaguar C-engined Allard Gran Turismo de Dion axle coupé. During the day the Citroëns, ID and DS, attracted much attention and were in continual demand. Three Lotus Elites had been promised but of them there was neither sight nor sound.

***

Lower Prices

The campaign for more realistic prices for used cars, which was made last month in Motor Sport, seems to be bearing fruit. According to The Times a 1938 Wolseley saloon was sold last month in running order, by a dealer, for 1/3d. The car was taxed to the end the year, had three gallons of petrol in the tank and the price included a 6d. stamp on the bill of sale and postage for the receipt.

***

A B.B.C. Clanger

A Press handout front the B.B.C., relating to a television play You Take Over,” mentions actor David Stuart as being the grandson of A. Huntley Walker, the well known racing driver. The handout continues: “David Stuart recalls that his grandfather raced at Brooklands and Paris in the days when it was obligatory to carry a red flag on English roads.” Now the very last time when a red flag was carried in front of a motor-car was 1896, and many authorities consider that the law was amended to make this requirement unnecessary many years before that. Only last year the B.B.C. put on a television programme about Brooklands Track in which it was stated that Brooldands was built in 1906/07. So someone in the B.B.C. Press department has boobed rather badly.

***

Future V.S.C.C. Fixtures include the Heston Driving Tests at Heston Airport, Heston, Middlesex, on December 14th, commencing at noon, and the Measham Trophy Rally, on January 3rd/4th, 1959, starting and finishing from the Longmynd Hotel, Church Stretton, Salop. Entries for the former close on December 6th, to T. W. Carson, address above.

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