Matters of moment, December 1966

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A MOTORING POLITICIAN

When Edward Heath, Leader of the Opposition, opened the London Motor Show at Earls Court he told an attentive audience that he was an avid reader of motor journals as a boy, took out his first driving licence at the age of 17, and added : “I have been driving myself ever since.” What a contrast to Minister of Transport Mrs. Barbara Castle, who does not know how to drive a car.

While it may not be an entirely valid criticism of the Minister of Transport that she does not possess a driving licence, certainly she should be advised by practical motorists who understand what modern motoring and road conditions are all about. That this does not happen is evident in the muddled thinking that emanates from the Castle of Transport. Such as putting a 70-m.p.h. brake on Britain’s costly Motorways, erecting signs to tell drivers at what speed they should take a coming bend (as if the cornering power of a Mini on a dry surface bears any relation to that of an overloaded articulated truck on sheet ice), blithely estimating in advance how many accidents the new drink regulations will prevent, and taking three years to introduce the “give way” rule at all roundabouts.

But there is a glimmer of hope! Barbara Castle does not turn a completely deaf car to pleas for fair play. She has climbed down over “breathaliser” tests, seems to be rescinding her attitude towards banning private cars from big cities, and has even stated that “no sane Minister of Transport could be anti-motorist.” So keep on applying the pressure. In this way we may yet see the speed-limit removed from our motor roads, stupid signs pulled down, and even, one day, find a practical driver and road user appointed to advise the M.o.T.

CARS AND THE CUSTOMER

Since the war complaints of badly-made and casually-inspected cars which are a disappointment to the customer and, by giving continual trouble, an exceedingly bad advertisement for their manufacturers, have been far too frequent. However, it would be a mistake to assume that only British cars possess these shocking shortcomings. To prove this, there is the November editorial in Road & Track whien reads : “There have been times when we thought we’d never have something good to say about automotive service. But now we do have something good to say about service as practised by Pontiac. They’ve faced up to a problem that affects the whole automobile industry. More than that, they’ve done something about it. . . What they’re trying to do is deliver cars that are as good as the cuqomer has the right to expect. Pretty revolutionary, eh? It is for American cars, as you very well know if you’ve ever bought a new one. Half the dealer prep. not done and the other half only half done. A list of detects as long as your arm when you come in for your 1,000-mile check. Everything from burned-out light bulbs to greasy thumbprints on the headliner. Arguments with service managers. No satisfaction from the factory rep. You’re lucky if you’ve never been through it.”

So it isn’t only in Britain that “tea-break- and “Monday-morning” cars have been sullying reputations! Moreover, criticism comes naturally to many people who are sparing in their praise of good products. We recall seeing the efforts Vauxhall make to follow up customer complaints and eradicate vehicle defects. Recently B.M.C. products have suffered a bombardment of criticism, yet we have completed nearly 10,000 very enjoyable miles with an M.G.1100 without Much trouble. Next year Motor Sport will continue to publish readers’ experiences, and criticisms where justified. But we hope a sense of proportion will prevail. Every British product isn’t bad! All pre-war £30 cars are not paragons of virtue!

DONINGTON REGAINED

Soon, they tell us, Donington Park really will he used again for motor racing. Having spent many happy hours there before the War, and having seen at Donington the great 1937 and 1938 contests between Auto-Union and Mercedes-Benz which caught public imagination and put motor racing firmly to the forefront of National sports in this country, we hope this will come true. We shall believe it when we attend the first 196? meeting at this venue.

Let us not forget, in this context, that pre-war, Britain, was far from established in International Motor Racing—when the German teams arrived to do battle before incredulous crowds at Donington We felt that cycle-paths beside the main course to accommodate the E.R.A.s and Altas would have been expedient! Today Jack Brabham is World Champion, feted at banquets by Champion, Esso, the B.A.R.C., etc., and the green cars are supreme on the G.P. circuits. Let us strive to keep it thus, against the red and the white and red. And, circuitwise, let us remember that Oulton Park has been a very fair substitute for Donington Park. Splendid racing has been seen there, with the fastest cars contesting the Gold Cup and pre-war G.P. Mercedes-Benz demonstrated by Brooks and Collins. But Oulton has yet to stage the British G.P. This is something that could well be rectified, come back Donington or not.

KYALAMI 9-HOUR RACE—JOHANNESBURG (Nov. 5th)

David Piper drove his Ferrari P2/3 prototype Group 6 car to a resounding victory in the S. African 9-hour race, partnered by Richard Attwood. Opposition was not strong, coming from the Belgian Ecurie Francorchamps Ferraris of “Fide”/Ickx (275LM) and Mairessef” Beurlys ” (P2/3), the Bernard White Ford GT40 (Hobbs/Spence), and the Porsche Cars (G.B.) Ltd. Carrera Six of de Udy/de Klerk, the Lola 70 Chevrolet of Pierpoint/Serrurier and the open Ford GT40 of Sutcliffe/Love.

The Piper/Attwood Ferrari won by 33 laps, the well-organised and efficient Piper Racing, which excels in these long-distance races, really having most people beaten before the start.

Results:

1st: D. Piper/R. Attwood (Ferrari 4.4-litre) 291 laps-740.304 miles (132.385 k.p.h.) 2
2nd: P. Clarke/R. Fielding (Ferrari 275LM)  258 laps
3rd: C. van Buuren/S. Matt (Porsche RS) 254 laps
4th: J. Holme/B. Wheble (Lotus Elan) 253 laps

THE CARS NOBODY WANTS

About a year ago we offered free a pre-war 17-h.p. s.v. Armstrong Siddeley saloon which was suffering from minor engine derangements to David Goode, Secretary of the Armstrong Siddeley O.C. On two occasions he has been to look at the old car, having expressed himself keen to restore it, but it has still not been collected and looks like languishing for another winter in the open.

About a year ago we were told of a Siddeley Special with completely overhauled engine and another of these cars, which the V.S.C.C. recognises as p.v.t.s for disposal in London, due to the death of their owner. The fatter car was clearly the prototype Siddeley Special, consisting virtually of a 30-h.p. Armstrong Siddeley chassis with the hiduminium engine and a fine Burlington limousine body.

About six months ago we heard of a 1935 o.h.v. Armstrong Siddeley saloon, with minor engine derangement, offered for a token 30s.

All these cars were referred to in these columns;. no inquiries came in. Obviously, nobody wants them. A vintage Armstrong Siddeley sometimes excites a little sympathy and post-war models are still quite popular, if only for utilitarian reasons. But it seems that nobody wants Armstrong Siddeleys of the 1930s, at all events if they are non-runners, even when they can be had for nothing.

One supposes there must be one make and period of car that is the most unpopular of all. This seems to be it! The Editor had hoped to save the first of the examples quoted, but lack of dynamo-Charge, a seized water-pump and “difficult” Bendix brakes defeated him, a colleague who normally wields the spanners saying, in effect, ” No go; it’s only an Armstrong Siddeley.” This car is now getting past redemption.

The Siddeley Specials were presumably scrapped, another of these great cars, which nobody wanted some years ago, now stands in the open exposed to the elements. The A. S. that forms our third example will probably have been towed away, for a charge, by the local council and scrapped before these words are read.

Verily, the later pre-war Armstrong Siddeleys are the unwanted cars. Even Trojans, which are slower, are better loved!

David Goode used to lead the Daimler-Lanchester O.C. but, for some reason, left this enthusiastic Club and re-formed the A.S.O.C. In this he could be regarded as misguided.

CHAMPION EMBARRASSED

Jack Brabham has been presented by Esso with a splendidly detailed scale model of his Brabham-Repco Championship-winning Formula 1 car. At the luncheon party he recalled his most embarrassing moment the day before when he was invested with the O.B.E. at Buckingham Palace, “all decked out” in morning dress. After the ceremony he returned to his car, parked in the forecourt, to find the starter jammed solid. A search in the boot revealed an instruction book but no tools, but he was able to borrow a short spanner from another honoured gentleman. Some minutes later he emerged from the engine compartment, ” greased from one end to the other,” to find two policemen anxiously waiting for him to leave the now-empty forecourt . . . he left, rapidly.

THE V.S.C.C. NORTHERN TRIAL (Nov. 15th)

Results :

First Class Awards : B. Clarke (1929/33 Austin Ulster), W. S. May (1926 Frazer Nash), S. D. Harper (1928 Austin Chummy) and T. Oldham (1928 Austin Chummy).

Second Class Awards : R. J. Clarke (1937 H.R.G.) and G. R. Footitt (1930 Jewett Black Prince).

Third Class Awards : F. H. Y. Green (1933 Austin Nippy) and J. I. Phillips (1925 Jowett 7/17).

Production of the Fiat 124, which was announced in March, has already exceeded the 100,000-mark and is now running at 1,000 a day—the Turin company looks all set for a “quick million” with the car, which we described in September. When the 124 was introduced to Britain at the Motor Show its price was announced as £553 basic, £774 including tax.

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