Rumblings, December 1959
Another Guild Day at Goodwood
It’s simply incredible how the Guild of Motoring Writers manages to lay on good weather for its annual Motor Show Test Day at Goodwood — a sort, of return party to the Montlhery test day — which was held this year on October 25th. Admittedly we have had a record summer, but the golden autumn Sunday in Sussex which the Guild placed at the disposal of its guests, the foreign motor journalists, was quite superb.
Moreover, on this 12th occasion they provided 94 British cars for sampling, of which only the Bentley Continental Park Ward drophead coupe and the Fairthorpe Zeta were deemed by their makers to be too delicate to be driven by the pick of Europe’s motoring writers — these you had to ride in with a works driver at the wheel. The Rolls-Royce V8 Phantom V was a static exhibit, but at least this prevented Robert Glenton from worrying about the labour involved in changing a plug or replenishing the sump, about which he had written deprecatory words in the current Sunday Express.
Otherwise, there were all those cars to be driven for three laps, including such desirable ones as the Aston Martin DB4, two Daimler SP250 sports cars and a Lotus Elite. In fact, queues formed for such delectable motor cars and we contented ourselves with obtaining less exciting vehicles in quick succession — roughly one every 20 minutes for the 4½ hours we spent at Goodwood — rather than hang about for the “racers.”
This day of intense motoring passed off almost without incident until someone rolled a Sunbeam Rapier at Woodcote, giving it an even lower roofline than is customary on the lowest of today’s cars. We heard that a steering-box had succumbed on an Alexander Minx and that the Rover 100’s engine fell out when encouraged by an inopportune change-down at an inappropriate speed. Otherwise, all was well, and if we didn’t manage to drive them we heard Paul Frere eulogise over the wonderful road-holding of the Elite and others remark on the remarkable performance of the V8 sports Daimler, which was said to be almost too powerful for its chassis.
Brief impressions by the Editor, as far as it is possible to form any in three hard laps, of the cars tried are as follows:-
The 3-litre Alvis had steering, heavy but accurate, and the gearchange of a real motor car, powerful front disc brakes, went happily to 4,500-5,000 r.p.m. in third, but possessed an irritating rattle from a back window. The Armstrong Siddeley Star Sapphire had that useful hold-selector for third gear, cornered remarkably well for such a heavy car, was silent, smooth and superbly braked.
The Citroen ID19 was outstandingly comfortable, needs more power, 75 in third taking a long time to come up, understeers its corners without ever letting go however hard you try, and has a driver’s seat out of which you slide under this sort of cornering. The gear-lever, going down from top to third gear, confuses at first.
The Ford New Anglia has lots of “life,” is somewhat skittish on corners, but has a crude unrolled sharp edge to its facia shelf. It is about as fast in third as in top gear and the new gearbox is a honey.
I used a Hillman Minx to “play myself in” — it is recalled as undistinguished but extremely comfortable and well appointed. The Twin-Cam M.G. two-seater was fun, handling well, really fast in third, with 95 m.p.h. child’s play along the straight, and enough power to bring the tail round on the corners. A rattle in the engine at idling speed apparently didn’t matter and there was no running-on when the ignition was cut. In contrast, the M.G. Magnette Mk. III saloon was big, lush, uninspiring as to performance (barely 70 in third), handled reasonably, and, with the driving seat fairly close to the wheel, had a gear-lever set too far back. The Humber Super Snipe has lost nothing of its wonderful engine smoothness with the increase in size to 3-litres; direct-top took it all round the circuit, with insufficient power to break the tail away, quite good steering, and a driving seat which provided no sort of support at all at extreme angles of roll. Spaciousness and luxury abounded, and the quick-lift windows were appreciated.
The Morris Mini-Minor went round all the corners flat-out, understeering phenomenally but refusing to let go, all-out on this car being about 60 m.p.h. on the speedometer — I can’t praise the gearchange. I always have a go in a Morgan Plus Four, for old times’ sake, and the car tried this year was extremely comfortable in spite of its fixed bench seat, and provided the best fun of the afternnon, reaching on indicated 105 m.p.h. at the end of Levant Straight, the whole car feeling beautifully taut, and the crisp exhaust note a joy. The bonnet seems longer than ever from the low seat and disc front brakes and a rev.-counter of sorts represent worthwhile additions.
The Rover 3-litre is remembered for a silent engine and refined appointments, but as a heavy car with unpredictable sponginess in its steering. A Sunbeam Rapier saloon provided very forgiving roadholding characteristics when the car was provoked to catch a Sprite, the flick-switch overdrive switch is splendidly placed, and altogether I awarded high marks to this Rootes Group saloon.
The single-carburetter Triumph Herald saloon was a great disappointment — it would barely reach an indicated 57 m.p.h. in third gear, was no faster in top, seemed to suffer from tail-end lightness, and had a quick gear-change but indifferent steering, while considerable vibration was felt through the gear-lever and on the Paddock road tremors were transmitted from the chassis to the body. The Triumph TR3 was refreshing, that really stubby gear-lever a delight, but a smell of hot rubber intruded and after I came in the rear tyres were changed for Durabands.
Congratulations to the Guild for an instructive and enjoyable day’s “lappery.”
There should be jubilation that the Birmingham Motorway — M 1 — opened on time, all 66 miles of it. A great motorway rolling across the land gives a sense of prosperity to a country, besides having other more practical advantages. M 1 is a start in the right direction and its sensible designation implies other great British Motorways to follow.
In order to gauge what our first decent motor road is like under normal conditions the Editor eschewed the special Press previews when the road was virtually devoid of traffic. Instead, he allowed the Continental Correspondent, who has had wide experience of the European motorways, to drive him the full length of M 1 about half an hour after it was opened on November 2nd. The car used was the Porsche 1600 Super, and the run made a charming contrast to the motoring the Editor had done the day previously, when he drove from London to Brighton in a 1904 Brushmobile.
The Motorway was more crowded than we expected but everyone was on their best behaviour and devouring the fast lane at 4,000 r.p.m., equal to a genuine 80 m.p.h., was entirely safe. Incidentally it kept the A.A. D.H. Rapide that was patrolling overhead in sight.
The Continental Correspondent thought that, compared to Continental motor roads, the surface was nothing to rave about and he noticed the Porsche being deflected by side winds which the cuttings seemed to generate. He considered the road-side signs almostly childishly too large but gave full marks to the markers indicating the approach of junctions where cars may leave the Motorway for lesser roads. The bends are slight, so that there was absolutely no need to lift off at 80 m.p.h. for any of them and the road is ideally wide, even on the two-track stretches. An eyebrow was raised at the presence of “cat’s-eyes” between the traffic lanes but not along the outer edge of the carriageway. Some fine bridges cross this imposing new road.
There were still some loose stones on the surface on opening day, which cost one elderly Standard Eight its windscreen, and much mud where work was still going on by the Dunchurch Service Area. At first the surroundings are urban and many pylons intrude but further north rolling English countryside flanks M 1. Some of the link roads to the fly-overs rise and fall rather sharply, which could cause trouble, even danger, under icy conditions.
We were encouraged to see suitable cars really using the Motorway — in the first four miles an Aston Martin DB Mk. III, two Mercedes-Benz 300SLs, Jaguar 150S and XK and an Austin-Healey 100 were noticed, going fast. Only two cars passed the Porsche at its 80 m.p.h. cruising speed — a drophead Aston Martin which soon turned off and a Sunbeam Rapier proceeding at some 85 m.p.h., presumably making good use of its overdrive. Incidentally that the Porsche was well within itself was indicated by the oil thermometer, which showed the Castrol XL to be at 120 deg. C., whereas this oil is safe to considerably higher temperatures.
The Editor had expected to sometime see a major “blow-up” on the Motorway but he hadn’t expected the road to take such a big toll on the first day. First car to be seen in trouble was an Austin A40 Farina with its bonnet up. This was followed by a broken-down Ford Consul or Zephyr, an M.G.-A with bonnet open, a Rover with tyre trouble, a Ford Anglia and an old M.G. both stationary, bonnets up on an Austin A55 and Jaguar Mk. IX, a Ford Anglia with a flat front tyre and an emergency flare burning to warn of a van with mechanical failure, while later a lighter van, and a Sunbeam Rapier, was seen to have stopped — and stopping, unless unavoidable, is not allowed on M 1.
At one point a big van appeared to have fallen on its side after driving off the road, the hard-shoulder apparently being too soft, but otherwise no accidents of any sort were encountered, although the fact that one of the disc-braked Motorway express buses experienced a tyre burst later in the day is regrettable, being a design error which reflects no credit on the company which supplied the tyres.
It is sincerely to be hoped that Mr. Marples will not be too hasty and impose a speed limit on this splendid road which the initiative of his predecessor in office, Mr. Watkinson, brought about.
In Coventry, after the run up, we took lunch with Victor Bridgen’s party, which included Italian, Dutch, German and American representatives and journalists who had come up in various cars, including a Ford New Anglia driven by Nancy Mitchell, a Triumph Herald, a Hillman Minx Easidrive, driven by Alan Brinton with Advanced Driver Isles as passenger, Mr. Bridgen’s Jaguar Mk. IX, etc. All were warm in their praise of M 1. Incidentally, Victor Britain’s hire cars are now equipped with wing mirrors and button-style direction-indicators as a contribution to safety on and off the Motorway.
Anglia versus VW
It will be recalled that when the Ford Motor Company of Dagenham released the Ford New Anglia to British journalists at the Crystal Palace (Motor Sport last month, page 886) they saw fit to poke fun at Volkswagen, comparing this famous vehicle with their latest 997-c.c. saloon. We promised to watch this line of thought, so here are our findings.
Ignoring the Ford criticisms of lack of luggage and leg room, a flimsy bonnet lid, and odd weight-distribution of the VW and concentrating on something more definite, we have the figures, as under, quoted on the occasion in question.
Item / Ford claims for the Anglia / Their figures for the VW
M.P.G. / 43 m.p.g. / 38 m.p.g.
0-60 m.p.h. / 30.5 sec. / 32.4 sec.
30-50 m.p.h. / 16.0 sec. / 22.0 sec.
Now since these claims by the Ford publicity boys were made two independent road-test reports of the Ford New Anglia have been published and Motor Sport’s own road-test report appears in this issue. Averaging the former’s figures we find things work out as follows, with our own figures added for good measure: —
Item / Average of two independent tests / ‘Motor Sport’ test (best run)
M.P.G. / 37.7 m.p.g. / 36.4 m.p.g. [38-45 m.p.g.]
0-60 m.p.h. / 28.1 sec. / 31.0 sec. [33.1 sec.]
30-50 m.p.h. / 15.8 sec. / 20.0 sec. [ — ]
(The figures within brackets refer to a three-year-old VW.)
From these figures it appears that the car we had was out of condition but that otherwise the Ford claim to have at last beaten the VW on performance is justified, even if Dagenham exaggerated the petrol economy of the New Anglia.
To be fair, however, let us look at the s.s.¼-mile acceleration figures for the two cars. These read: —
Item / Average of two independent tests / ‘Motor Sport’ test
s.s.¼-mile /22.9 sec. / 23.0 sec. (23.7 sec.)
(The figures within brackets refer to a three-year-old VW.)
Here the Anglia does not walk away from the high-geared beetle quite so rapidly. Ford claimed 46 in. head-room against 42½ in. in the VW but omitted to mention that the New Anglia has a back-seat width of 47 in. compared to the VW’s 52-in. wide seat. Study of the figures in general, however, makes us crave a new Ford — after all, we could always retain a Volkswagen for use on wet days to ensure that our feet keep dry . . .
The English branch of the great Regie Renault organisation threw an ambitious party at their Acton factory on October 26th last, to celebrate the opening of a 48,000 ft. factory extension at Western Avenue which has cost some £250,000. This comprises a two-storey office block, a repair bay, and car delivery and storage bays, together with a fine showroom. M. Pierre Dreyfus, Director-General of Renault, performed the opening ceremony, having run the gauntlet of pickets without, the company being in the midst of a strike. M. Dreyfus spoke in a large hall, gaily decorated with lights and magnificent colour posters of French scenes, while Dauphines with their winkers permanently winking added to the gaiety of the room. A splendid buffet lunch was served, the Renault film of the Daily Mail Air Race was shown continuously, with exciting shots of Dauphines weaving in and out of the London and Paris traffic, and five charming model-girls — Caroline, Sara, Jill, Nesta and Maureen — all dressed alike in white costumes and shoes, gave each visitor a Ronson gas-lighter and a Corgi miniature Renault Floride. Here we may remark on the splendid colour-printing being put out by Renault these days, matched, perhaps, by Citroen’s delightful DS19 colour catalogue.
In the showroom stood a 1912 Renault, while Victor Bridgen’s well-known 1910 Renault landaulette awaited its owner without. Guests at the ceremony included His Excellency the French Ambassador and Air Marshal Sir Philip Wigglesworth, C.B., K.B.E., D.F.C., President of Renault in this country. The Renault-Dauphine is now the top-selling imported car in the U.K. and next year sales are expected to exceed 20,000, a ten-fold increase since 1957.