Letters from readers, December 1966

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itselfwith them.—Ed.

AUCTION SALE PROCEDURE

Sir,

My Lagonda V12 was entered in the July Sotheby auction sale at a reserve price of £100. I heard the auctioneer declare the bidding had reached £240, and assumed my car sold at that price. However, I was later informed by the auctioneers that the car was unsold at £240, and that there was in fact no genuine bidding. The auctioneers then informed me that a private buyer, whose name they would not disclose, was prepared to offer £100, which I reluctantly accepted.

I was later informed that, “in such an event or where the bidding might fall short of the agreed reserve, it is not their practice to reveal the item is unsold and, in such cases, a nom de vente is normally used; in this instance the name of ‘Rattemberg’ was used for this and other items which failed to reach their reserve.” Later a list of prices and buyers’ names was published and my Lagonda was listed as having been sold to “Rattemberg” for £240. The Lagonda now appears to be in the hands of a well-known dealer, who is advertising it for sale at a price of £225. I wonder how many others were never really sold by Sotheby’s?

Enfield. D. W. NEILSON.

IN DEFENCE OF THE ROVER 3-LITRE

Sir,

Just over ten years ago, when new cars were a little more difficult to obtain “off the shelf” than they have become in more recent times, I was urgently in need of new transport. The only vehicle which was immediately available was a Rover “90.” I sneered at the suggestion that this should be my means of transportation, because (a) I had no matching bowler and brown boots, (b) I was not yet at the sere and yellow stage of life, (c) the opposite sex did still return my glimmers of interest, and (d) I couldn’t afford it anyway.

To my horror, circumstances were such as made it unavoidable that I should trundle sedately around the country in this very vehicle, but before taking it away from the vendors I arranged that as soon as something more nearly to my specification became available, I should be allowed to exchange on very special terms.

These events were vividly recalled to me when I read the Motor Sport report on the current Mark III Rover 3-litre coupe. The simple fact is that Mr. Boddy has not handled a Rover for long enough—or driven it hard enough—for the car to show him just what it can do.

Within 2,000 miles—then just two weeks’ motoring for me I realised just how excellent that old “90” was. It was mercilessly thrashed under all conditions of service for two-and-a-half years-120,000 miles of travel—and never once did it bite back. The more it was pushed the better it became. It was as if it needed a strenuous life to become run-in.

Since then, I have had three more Rovers—the 3-litre saloon (110,000 miles), the 3-litre coupe (88,000 miles) and since February of this year the Mark III coupe—now at 18,000 miles. I can assure Mr. Boddy that not only is it superbly comfortable, but its road-holding and performance is the envy of my colleagues lumbering about in their heavy fashion in “220” and “250”—well, I forget the make, but they come from somewhere in Western Europe. With reference to brakes— made by the same specialists and of the same system as are supplied to Mr. Boddy’s beloved Mercedes, I can think only that perhaps someone had inadvertently inserted the wrong type of pad. The brakes are among the best I have ever been comforted with and assured by. The road-holding and general suspension is of the highest order, and no punishment is given to the vehicle by travelling in 90 m.p.h. convoy across France with DS19s and 21s. There can be no higher praise yet, so far as suspension is concerned. Long distance cross-country average speeds are unbelievably high, without attracting the slightest attention from the law or the public.

With regard to steering, I wonder whether the test-car had been thoroughly checked for wheel alignment, camber, etc? For the first three thousand miles I too was unhappy with the steering. After the third attempt, the good people who service for me at last got things just right, and steering is now a joy—not perhaps quite as good as the best of non-power-assisted jobs—but excellent nevertheless, and it is a small price to pay for sweat-free parking in small spaces in Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and other such crowded conurbations. Maximum speed is of the order of 110 m.p.h. and perhaps the one disappointment is that 100 m.p.h. is as quiet, as uneventful, as unnoticeable as 50 m.p.h.

Criticisms? Yes. I wish bottom gear had synchromesh. It is not always easy to move into it from rest without first selecting second, and mud-flaps behind the front wheels should be a standard fitment. Mud is immediately flung along the lower body panels without them.

So far as appearance is concerned, I feel that if Solihull were situated in Italy (or West Germany) Mr. Boddy would find no criticism. My friends never have. Why not get one for a year, Mr. Boddy, and see how well a first class British car can stand up to, and improve under, a lifetime of thrashing without murmuring.

Roston. D. B. HAIGH

A STUDENT’S MK. VI BENTLEY

Sir,

I would just like to relate my experience with a Bentley, after reading W.B.’s article on “shopping for a Rolls-Royce (or Bentley).”

Although I am only 21 years of age and a poor student, I have been fortunate enough to have owned several cars during the last four years, amongst them: Fiat 600, Lagonda, Lea-Francis, Morgan 3-wheeler, etc. I have enjoyed all the cars, but I believe I have reached the ultimate since I have owned a 1947 Mk. VI Bentley (MXF34), for the last 18 months. I agree with all W.B. has said, particularly ease of maintenance. I have a little knowledge of cars and, with the excellent service and advice from Rolls-Royce of Crewe, I have been able to carry out various jobs on the Bentley successfully. Many of my friends think me either mad or a status seeker; of course, they have never owned a Bentley.

I get 18 m.p.g. on average and oil consumption is negligible. To give an example of Bentley’s superiority I changed the separate front seats as they were becoming shabby and replaced them with the front seats from a Mk. IX Jaguar.

In conclusion, there is no car in which I have felt so elated and confident as when “sitting comfortably ” behind the long, shapely bonnet, beyond which the “winged B ” etc. . . .

London, N.22. W. G. WALMSLEY.

OIL FILTERS—ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

Sir,

I was interested to read Mr. Michael Payne’s letter on oil and air filters. I have myself always wondered how it is that Citroen engines have such a reputation for long life, but do not have an oil filter. Mr. Payne’s remarks perhaps explain the fact that the traction avant engine was fitted with successively more efficient air filters on the carburetter between 1934 and 1956, whilst not even the ID and DS models, for all their avant-garde features, are equipped with oil filters. Equally remarkable perhaps is that the very hard-worked and long-service 2c.v. engine has an oil cooler, but no oil filter.

Besides, apart from the inconvenience of changing the oil filter, does not the cost of the new element, plus that of the labour involved in fitting it, amount to a fair proportion of a sumpful of fresh oil? On this basis its function would appear to be more psychological than economical—witness the numerous advertisements for “fresh, clean oil” and the corresponding (subconscious) disgust invoked therein for sapped, dirty sludge. Ugh! The Frenchman, whose toilet-training is so vastly different from our own, remains sceptical about oil filters. . . .

Blaricum, Holland. A. J. MACLAGAN.

BREW IT YOURSELF!

Sir,

I note Mr. Piggin’s comments on the price of Two-stroke mixture and think he might be interested in the following. I own a Saab 96, 1963, and, like Mr. Piggin, I found 6/4d. per gallon lucrative larceny! After various experiments I find that the car “prefers” a mixture of 1 pint Gamages 40 oil to 4 gallons cheaper-the-better petrol. Bought in a 5-gallon drum at £2 12s. 6d. (delivered price) the oil works out at 1/4d. per pint bringing down the price of a gallon to 5/6d., so there you are, all you need is a 1 pint bottle!

This mixture together with 3/9d. tin of Graphite Compound every 5,000 miles has given me 40,000 Saab trouble-free miles including a recent 4,000-mile round trip to Moscow (with our own oil of course!).

The head was lifted at approximately 32,000 miles to see if a decoke was necessary but this was in fact a complete waste of time.

Anyway, I prefer to add my own oil to the petrol as I at least know that the car is getting its 30% mixture. Is Mr. Piggin even sure of this nowadays?

Hullbridge. BRYAN HUMPHREY.

MOTORING IN A £30 MORRIS EIGHT

Sir,

In view of the recent correspondence regarding trips abroad in old cars, I feel I must write to you of the journey of my wife and myself and our 1935 Morris 8 tourer, from England to India, in 1964.

The route followed was through France, Switzerland, Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India, and the journey took about three months, starting mid-September and finishing mid-December.

The car, bought for £30, was in thoroughly good condition, and performed superbly throughout the 9,000-mile journey, the only trouble occurring with broken springs, and punctures.

Having safely arrived in Bombay, we shipped the car and ourselves to Melbourne, Australia, where, for a further year and a half, this amazing Morris provided us with 16,000 miles of trouble-free motoring, before we sold her, still in very good condition, for £A25!

S. Croydon. P. J. BROWNE. 

SALESMANSHIP ?

Sir,

In a time when customers are becoming ever more scarce in the motor industry in Britain, my experiences with a British car may shed some light on why many customers are “going Continental” even though they still have enough cash left to buy British.

I bought a 1962 Triumph TR4 two months ago, in good condition and having been looked after. Two weeks after buying it the entire exhaust fell off. I took it to a local garage (not a Triumph garage) who put it back on. Two days later it fell off again. I took it back, they put it back, it fell off again. I took the car to a Triumph dealer, who expressed horror at such workmanship, told me it was corroded anyway, but he would put it back long enough for me to get to an exhaust specialist. Half a mile later it fell off again. I had a new one fitted.

I took the car to a large Triumph garage to have it serviced and the bonnet catch replaced. They charged me for a new catch, but left the old one on. Five days later another garage had the car on a ramp and told me the nipples hadn’t seen grease for at least three months. So much for the servicing!

I then ordered a sump-shield from another large Triumph agency. The shield arrived but only half the brackets, and as I write this the other half is still missing seven weeks later. The speedo. cable went and after a long row the local dealer got Triumph to admit there was such a car and cable. He fitted it on Friday and on Sunday it detached itself and was ground to pieces under the car. Oh yes, the exhaust (the new one) has fallen off again. And this is in normal road usage, not rallying.

Although a letter of complaint to S-Triumph brought the answer that I was probably to blame in these cases, I went to the Motor Show intent on ordering a new TR4 (dammit, I like the car!). I went to the TR stand, and walked around, sat in, jumped on, and crawled under a new TR. I stood there with pencil and paper taking down impressions and working out my bank balance. Yet though I was alone on the stand, the two salesmen(?) present looked me up and down frostily and turned away (and I wasn’t wearing jeans!). So that was IT! I may now buy a Honda, Alfa, or a flippin’ Mini, but I’ve owned my last Triumph.

And you know something? I don’t think they give a damn!

London, S.W.12. C. MAITLAND.

THE NEW INSURANCE DEAL

Sir,

As the Careful Driver of a big Standard Cortina I am to benefit by having my insurance premium reduced by two whole pounds as a result of the New Deal. I think it wrong that I should have this reduction when sports car owners have to pay more. Incidentally I own two Healey 3000s on which next year’s premium goes up from £65 under the old scheme to £107 under the New Deal. An interesting feature of the latter insurance is that even though I can drive but one Healey at any one time I have to pay the full premium on both. Also, since I have had one car a year longer than the other I have different no claims bonuses on the two Healeys. No doubt the Accident Offices’ Association have statistics which incontrovertibly prove that the owner of two similar sports cars is (1) twice as likely to have an accident than the man with one car and (2) more likely to have his accidents in the newer car.

Motorists beware, the New Deal is from the bottom of the pack!

Marlow. GARY BRISTOW.

TOO MANY FAULTS

Sir,

I bought a new Lotus Elan coupe in March this year and although I would not refute the statement of Mr. Chapman’s, that this was a fun car par excellence, I could not put up with the Lotus Service Organisation’s inability to put right several glaring deficiencies and sold the car two months later.

The vehicle leaked badly, the heater could not be turned off once on and vice versa and, worst of all, at more than 70/80 m.p.h. the window frames would leave the body sides, resulting in severe wind noise, especially in the slightest of side winds—in fact the worst I have ever experienced. The gear lever chattered and vibration was considerable.

All the above faults existed after three visits to Cheshunt and my impression was either the faults were inherent in the design of the vehicle or else parts to cure faults were either not available or still in the design stage.

Whilst having much admiration for the Lotus organization in their racing successes, I think Mr. Chapman still has much to learn when producing a car for use by discriminating enthusiasts.

Stevenage. H. U. P. EDWARDS.
[We now have an Elan on our strength. M.L.C. reports that at the 500-mile service water leaks were practically remedied, at any rate to an acceptable point. The heater on-off control was made to work properly. Gear lever chatter is evident under acceleration in third, but in fairness this is a Ford component and we have similar complaints about the Cortina GT. Wind noise often varies from car to car—ours, a convertible, is not too bad. There will be a full report on the car later next year.—ED.]

LOTUS SERVICE

Sir,

I read with interest your articles on the Lotus Elan and, although I don’t entirely agree with some of your comments, I should like to Say something about another aspect of Lotus ownership—Service.

Having had an enjoyable year’s driving what must have been one of the best S/E Elites around, I rather reluctantly parted with it earlier this year in favour of an Elan, as the Elite can be expensive in spares and was not the most suitable car for business use.

At last year’s Motor Show I had been convinced by Messrs. Chapman and Arnold that the Elan was very reliable, and so when they (Lotus Sales) telephoned me one day and offered what sounded like a good car with less than 5,000 miles logged, I sold my Elite and bought it, assuming that one couldn’t do better from a service point of view than buy second-hand from the manufacturer.

On checking the car over after collecting it from Waltham Cross I found the following items needing attention:

1. Frontwheel bearings needing adjustment.
2. Windscreen washers inoperative.
3. One headlamp out of position in bodywork.
4. Both beams out of adjustment.
5. Handbrake inoperative.
6. Headlamp flasher unit u/s.
7. Exhaust pipe mountings loose.
8. Footwells saturated with water.
9. Starter meshing badly.
10. Front o/s wheel arch had been crunched, but this was denied.
11. Carbs out of adjustment.
12. No guarantee was provided at the time of sale.
13. Two brake pads worn to minimum thickness (one subsequently wearing away and scoring the disc).

And this after I was assured of a 5,000-mile service before collection!

One week later the windscreen split horizontally when I rocked the car to check for fuel in the tank and after a lot of argument the salesman very ungraciously offered to pay half the cost of replacement.

The car was returned to have these faults attended to including a new starter Bendix. Six weeks later the starter ring fell off! For my convenience, and at Lotus’ suggestion, the Chequered Flag (Edgware) fitted a new flywheel under guarantee. Two-and-a-half weeks later the starter siezed and burnt out. A new one was fitted by Chequered Flag Limited who denied any responsibility for this failure. Three weeks later it seized again and at this stage I decided it should go back to Lotus to be done properly, thinking they would also make representation to Chequered Flag on my behalf. I made this clear to Chequered Flag at the time.

Another flywheel was fitted: Five weeks later seizure was imminent and the bearings in one rear wheel had collapsed (I had mentioned deterioration of these bearings twice before to no effect). The bearings were fixed after a week at Lotus and four days later the starter seized again as this part had not been touched.

I returned the car again and Mr. Arnold loaned me a VW. The same evening Mr. Standen, the Service Director, telephoned to say everything was all right as he had checked it personally, and suggesting the cause of the trouble could have been a dud battery. I was later told that the starter was found hanging loose!

On collection a loud noise was heard coming front the region of the bell-housing and the engine was vibrating like a diesel (checked personally by the Service Director?). Thrust-bearing failure was diagnosed—although it was all right the night before. To check this the starter was removed, car bump started —result, everything perfect. The third new motor was fitted and for reasons unknown to either Lotus or myself has given no further trouble.

At one stage I was given authority by Mr. Lawrence, Manager of Lotus Car (Sales) Limited, to hire a car and send them the bill. Unfortunately, he has now left and Lotus refuse to honour this arrangement, saying it is not “Company Policy.” I wonder if it is company policy to sell a car in the condition mine was in?

During. this protracted demonstration of incompetence my car was off the road for over three weeks and the cost of repairs, plus car hire and cab fares, etc., has amounted to almost £80. No one showed any concern by their actions and the “buck” was passed from one person to another, involving me in many telephone calls to try to get satisfaction.

Although Lotus have saved themselves a few quid at my expense they have lost three certain customers and incurred a bad name with the many people who have followed my misfortunes with interest and subsequently voiced their disgust at the outcome.

I heard of the “Lotus Attitude” from many people both in and out of the trade and have now had this substantiated the hard way. My next car will not now be an S3 Elan but probably a Porsche.

Having owned both Elite and Elan I should like to have made some comments on the differences between them, but as this letter is already rather lengthy, it will have to wait till some other time.

Hayes, Middlesex. ROBERT HOCKLEY.

[We forwarded this complaint to Lotus Cars for their comments, and their reply is carried below.—ED.].

Sir,

We thank you for drawing to our attention the letter from Mr. Hockley who purchased an 18-month-old Lotus Elan from Waltham Cross Service Station. As one of our employees promised that Mr. Hockley would have his hiring charges reimbursed, we have now carried out this promise, although, like all manufacturers, we insist that this is not our policy although, as you know, many of our agents lend cars to customers when rectification is being carried out and we ourselves loaned a VW to Mr. Hockley for a short period.

We did experience some trouble with the starter ring gear on a small number of our twin-cam engines, including my own, and this was quickly traced to a faulty Ford machining process.

As stated in my previous letter, which you kindly published, we are a small but rapidly expanding company and the only manufacturer to emerge since the war and survive. We appreciate the shortcomings in our service and as we are now moving to a new factory, four times the size of Cheshunt, and have appointed a senior Director to handle our Service Division we know that our service will improve. It may be some consolation to know that already Elan owners state regularly that Lotus service from the factory or our dealers is a lot better than that available for other exotic vehicles costing twice as much, and more. Your reader’s letter (last month) concerning his con-rod and flexible coupling problems indicated that we have a comprehensive European dealer network, although that also referred to a car purchased secondhand, and in his case a car with quite a successful competition history before he bought it!

We are always happy to carry out a free inspection on any used Lotus Elan or Elite where a prospective customer is in doubt, although we do ask for 48 hours’ notice.

We will never cease in our efforts to improve our product and our service but as we know that over 50% of Elans are used in some form of competition at some time or other we are at an immediate disadvantage with a customer who comes in with scrutineers’ labels on his choke knob and whitewash traces on his doors complaining of some fault or other—but the customer is always right and the car was obviously only being used to make a film!

Norwich. G. J. ARNOLD, Lotus Cars (Sales) Ltd.

You may also like

Related products