Letters from Readers, December 1968

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

Another Happy B.M.W. Owner

Sir,

I read the letter from Mrs. Sheila Galbraith in the October issue of your magazine with considerable interest, as in the midst of all the miserable tales one hears of after-sales service it is nice to be able to record satisfaction.

After over 30 years of sporting motoring I finally decided to choose a car that would offer myself and family all that about £1,500 could best purchase, and my final choice was a B.M.W. 2002. This was bought from B.M.W. Concessionaires London Ltd., after a very full and convincing demonstration from their sales manager, Mr. Alan Kiddell, who was quite prepared to let me drive the test car for as long as I wanted.

I took delivery, and ran it in for 1,000 miles, prior to going on a Continental holiday, for which we were booked to leave on a Monday; during the Friday before, a sudden ominous and expensive noise was heard, and I reported in a panic to the Service Garage of the Group, Chipstead Motors, at about 4 p.m., where their Service Manager, Mr. Russel, heard my tale of woe. The fault was diagnosed as a loose flywheel, and there and then Mr. Russel organised overtime to be put in hand immediately and arranged for me to be called at home at lunch time on Saturday for a report on the progress, with a promise that if it were humanly possible my car would be ready by the Saturday night, in order that I could have my holiday as arranged. Sure enough, the ‘phone went about 11 a.m. on the Saturday to report that it had indeed been a loose flywheel, and this in turn had damaged the crank, and that even this would not have beaten them, but they did not have a spare crank in the store, and neither did the main importers at Brighton; nevertheless, I was told not to despair but to go and see Mr. Kiddell on Monday morning and see if he could lend me a car for my holiday.

On Monday morning I was back at the showrooms in Holland Park Avenue, with no real hope of any solution to my shattered holiday, to be met by Mr. Kiddell, who apologised most profusely for the trouble I had been put to, and offered me there and then the choice of three demonstration B.M.W.s, which they had in stock, again pausing only long enough to say how sorry he was that they did not have a 2002 for me I chose a 1600, as it was the same size for all the booking arrangements I had made, and within three-quarters of an hour I was on my way, bound for my insurance brokers, Messrs. Burton, Rowe and Viner, who, with the aid of their Mr. Roper, moved every obstacle to get my Green Card and Bond changed.

I added over 2,000 miles to a car that had only done 2,000 miles when I took it over, and when I returned it there was my own 2002 all ready and waiting and fitted with a brand new engine; for all this I paid not one cent, apart front a really delightful invoice I have since received for one gallon of petrol for testing while they “Rectified noise in engine”. Not only do they give service but they also have a sense of humour!

I realise that one can say that the flywheel should not have come loose in the first place, but if one is a realist and admits that this sort of thing can and does happen to any car, then I think that the manner in which I have been treated is exemplary, and I am nothing but a very satisfied customer—both of B.M.W. and my broker. Finally, I am, of course, running in a new engine, but the thought that keeps me going is that if the 2002 is a better car than the 1600 I borrowed, then it is going to be a very good car indeed; I must also admit that my ears tend to stick out like palm leaves, while I listen to every sound, but I am quite confident that this is only transient, and as time goes by, and the flywheel stays firmly in place, I will learn to relax and enjoy it!

The usual disclaimers.

Sidcup. Robin Stelfox.

* * *

Another Satisfied Alfa Romeo User

Sir,

As a regular reader of your excellent magazine for some years I read of a correspondent’s troubles with his 1964 Alfa GT Sprint.

I can only say that, owning an identical model of similar mileage, my first 10,000 have been completely troublefree, apart from a defective silencer, which was replaced (free of charge) by Rob Walker’s Corsley Garage.

On a recent holiday abroad some rear axle “tramp” (as Mr. Dobson mentions) showed itself on French roads with the car fully loaded, but increasing the tyre pressures as recommended in the handbook virtually eliminated this. After the 2,000-mile round trip barely one pint of 20/50 was required to top up, and petrol consumption overall was 27 m.p.g.

Although sympathising with your correspondent’s unhappy experiences one certainly cannot regard this as typical, as conversation with other Alfa owners has confirmed. The superb acceleration allied to the ability to cruise quickly without effort in the 80s, together with the superb handling, satisfy this 6 ft. 2 in. reader, at any rate.

Weston. B. R. Snow.

* * *

Alfa Romeo v. Jaguar—A Sale Lost to Italy

Sir,

I recently decided to change my car and narrowed the choice of a new vehicle to a Jaguar E-type or an Alfa GT Veloce. On approaching a Jaguar Distributor and asking for a demonstration I was informed that they did not have a demonstration vehicle but could probably borrow one from the factory in 7 to 10 days. “You can’t expect us to keep demonstration vehicles of all the types we sell, sir.” Questioned on delivery, the salesman informed me: “Well, certainly not this year, sir; I should think in about six months.” The reason given for the long delivery was that nearly all E-types are exported.

An approach to an Alfa Romeo Distributor brought different results. After a short run to show me the controls, etc., I was then allowed to take the vehicle out unaccompanied, with an invitation to go as far as I wished. In fact, I covered approximately 30 miles without a salesman “bogging me down” so that I could properly rate the handling of the car—surely an essential in this type of vehicle? Delivery offered was immediate unless I wanted vomit yellow (or yellow ochre as it is officially called), when delivery would then be six weeks.

Needless to say, I chose the Alfa Romeo. Do our manufacturers ever stop to consider that by sacrificing all home supplies to export they force home buyers to purchase imported vehicles?

Braunston. W. R. Giles.

* * *

Overdrive in the Gears

Sir,

Having read the letters front readers in your November edition of Motors Sport, I noticed that Mr. Almond states that Triumph are the only manufacturers to fit overdrive to second gear. My friend’s Jaguar XK150, which he has now sold, had overdrive on the last three gears. Unfortunately Jaguars have never made a car to equal this. From my experience of this car and an E-type, owned by his brother, I find this absolutely true. The present owner of the XK150 obtained a speedometer reading of 125 m.p.h., reasonable for 3.4-litres and a 1½-ton body. Finally, many thanks for such a superb and unequalled magazine.

Harting Coombe. Bryan Lawrence (15½ years).

Sir,

Dr. Almond may be interested to know that the overdrive fitted my father’s Westminster operates in all gears. It can be cut in at any speed over 22 m.p.h., so if you like putting Wesminsters in first you can reach 35 in first overdrive, 45 in second overdrive being a more practical proposition.

Nottingham. P. H. J. Whyman.

* * *

A Honda Fan

Sir,

I drive a Honda N600, in which I have covered 4,000 miles without one single teething trouble or fault, nothing has dropped off and none of the usual rattles and vibrations which I have experienced with Vauxhall and B.M.C. vehicles. The performance is shattering for 600 c.c. (standing quarter-mile in under 20 sec.).

Orleton. John Worthing.

[We have not yet road-tested the Honda N600, but we consider that the ¼-mile time quoted is rather optimistic.—Ed.]

* * *

Motor Racing and the Colour Bar Question

Sir,

The appearance on the international racing scene of drivers from countries which have not previously contributed to the Sport (e.g., Team India) highlights the problem posed by the South African Government, for whom there is no distinct line between sport and internal politics. It is not without the bounds of possibility that a “coloured” man, holding the appropriate International competition licence, may wish to compete in, for example, a World Championship event held in South Africa. Would our sport then have to shoulder a similar damaging furore to that which has recently caused such bad blood and disappointment in the cricket world? [And in Mexico.—Ed.]

Perhaps tactful and diplomatic negotiations could be carried out by the R.A.C., on their own initiative or through the E.T.A., to ensure that when this difficult problem arises in motor racing—as surely it must arise before very long—there will be a clearly understood formula for settlement. It would be tragic if we close our eyes to this potentially damaging situation and sit back and wait complacently until an individual driver (or mechanic or entrant) is made the unwilling centre of a painful storm as in the case of poor Basil d’Olivera.

Bursledon. Michael Lawrence.

* * *

Praise for a Gilbern 1800 GT

Sir,

In the May issue of Motor Sport Mr. Gareth Floyd said how much he enjoyed his Alfa Romeos and also how he was reconciled to keeping what he felt to be an expensive luxury largely by the evocative appearance of the cars.

My Gilbern 1800 GT inspires me with much the same feelings. It is the greatest possible fun to drive and its appearance gives me a thrill every time I look at it and makes me want to be behind the wheel and off. For the ridiculously small annual mileage that I do, a Morris 1000 would probably be the most sensible car for me—but, as Mr. Floyd says, logic is not always the strongest influence in car buying! Let’s have a little caviar with the toast!

This particular Gilbern had received a little attention from the Ace Motor Co., of Kensington, having a balanced engine, Sebring cam, gas-flowed head, 11:1 compression, etc. It is a little lumpy whilst idling and needs the occasional “blip” in prolonged traffic jams, but it gets away like a scalded cat—and quietly and unobtrusively. It also has the clinging powers on corners of a cat getting away up a tree, helped in this no doubt by Pirelli Cinturatos. Overdrive on top and third give it a long-legged gait, with over a hundred coming up quite easily on overdrive third. Overdrive top is said to give 120. With quick and accurate steering goes arrow-like direction on the straight. It is most comfortable for three people, but four can be carried far more easily than in most GT.-type cars. Altogether, I think it is a pity that Gilberns stopped building the 1800.

The only snag is the “notchy” M.G.-B gearbox, which makes it difficult to get a smooth change from first to second and also from third to second. Why B.M.C., who made such a delightful gearbox for the Morris 1000, couldn’t do the same for the M.G., beats me. Anyway, mastering the gearbox gives added interest to even the shortest routine drive and altogether I find my Gilbern a joy to own.

London, S.E.5. J. Classey.

* * *

Good Service from an MG.-B

Sir,

I read D. C. J. Dobson’s letter with morbid fascination. No doubt like quite a number of Motor Sport readers, I have been plagued with the question of whether to buy a new car for about £1,000 or a more exciting second-hand one for the same amount, say, an Alvis, Aston or Alfa Romeo.

Almost four years ago I decided to play safe and bought a new M.G.-B. During this time it has been serviced regularly by the dealers—London Sports Car Centre—and has only had a new set of tyres, brake pads and a new exhaust pipe—and that’s all! It starts first time, has never once let me down, is free of rust, costs little to run, and has been thoroughly reliable and dependable—a credit to its makers.

I would be silly to get rid of it, and, though I still long for something more exotic, unfortunately it’s letters like Mr. Dobson’s and Mr. Vinning’s, in the same edition, which frighten me to death!

Perhaps some of your readers could write some nice reassuring letters (if you get any) from owners of, say, an Aston Martin DB4, who have had trouble-free reliable motoring so that I can show them to the wife before I take the plunge—they certainly seem few and far between.

S. Harrow. N. Sands.

* * *

Honda v. N.S.U.

Sir,

I would like to reply to Mr. C. J. Henry in the October edition in regard to his comment about a comparison between a 791 c.c. Honda, and a 1,177 c.c. N.S.U. 1200 T.T. How about the difference in cubic capacity?

Furthermore, his comment about me taking in sales chat about the for test under one-litre production car. May I refer him to the Motor Sport of August, 1967. I quote, “Honda engine gives 70 b.h.p. gross from 800 c.c. The highest power/capacity ratio of any car offered to the public in volume sale.”

In my letter I did not mention speed, but performance. As for N.S.U.s, the engine is a very fine one, but the handling of my father’s N.S.U.-Type 110 in a cross-wind needs two men to hold it straight.

Next, dear sir, if I may also reply to Mr. Paul B. Griffith in your November edition, I think I may best start with his second paragraph. I quote: “I have not had the opportunity of driving a Honda.” I suggest he does, or reads your August. 1967, edition.

Now to his analysis.

No. 1. Economy

My S800 coupé petrol consumption is 41 m.p.g. approximately. But I very rarely exceed 6,000 r.p.m. or need to. And on motorway runs of approximately 300 miles it returns 44 m.p.g. with constant running at 70 mph. and 6,000 r.p.m.

No. 2. Performance

Here we compare a 791 c.c. with 1,100 c.c. Not really a sporting chance on the outset, but then the Mk. Ill Midget with a 1,275 c.c. engine. Be fair!

The Honda gives 70 b.h.p. from 791 c.c. B.L.M.C. 1,275 c.c. gives 65 b.h.p. (nett). So imagine the S800 being 1,275 c.c. This would give something like 120 b.h.p. What potential!

From Motor Sport I quote: “It is only when you measure the Honda acceleration that the performance of this very willing, smallest-capacity sports car is really appreciated, the more so when it is realised that, laden, it weighs over 19 cwt. That it can give an MG.-B a very good run for its money is impressive.”

Road-holding

One must drive the S800 to appreciate this.

Reliability

The carburetters on the S800 do not go off tune as S.U.s do, and there is no need for expensive crypton tuning.

Then we have spares and service. Spares are very good, but the service is not so good. This does not really affect me as I do my own servicing.

When I bought my Honda it was £779 for the coupé with SP 3 tyres, compared with £687, including heater for the Midget, with standard tyres. So put a hard-top on the Midget and there isn’t much difference.

But, alas, the S800 is not without faults. Let’s face it, the Japanese are only human. By the way. I have no connection with the Tokyo factory, as I am a humble servant on the sales staff of a Citroën, Mercedes distributors.

Malton. T. Green.

* * *

Amon Fan

Sir,

I feel that through the medium of your excellent magazine I could perhaps express by intense disappointment at the share of luck to which Chris Amon has been subjected in 1968. I thought that after his tremendous performance in the Tasman series this experience plus the might of Ferrari’s racing experience behind him, 1968 must be his year. But, alas, the driver has led four G.P.s this season, and been cruelly robbed of a well-deserved victory for himself and Ferrari. It is very unfortunate that on most occasions of his good running positions, he has been let down by such trivial failures on the part of the car, of which more anon, for the undaunted fire of Chris Amon as a driver has surely been felt throughout the entire season, and I am sure that many people will join with me in wishing him every success in the Tasman series, and in many seasons to come.

Little does Jackie Stewart know it, but he has already found his match for 1969, and I hope we will always see Chris at the wheel of the Ferrari and not behind the wheel of a Ford-powered car; I am one who disapproves of monopolising anything.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Graham Hill, making up fractionally for the loss of Jimmy Clarke in the Lotus team, congratulations to you for Motor Sport, and good luck Chris Amon and Ferrari for 1969.

Heghworth. Andrew Wise.

* * *

Whittle History

Sir,

I’m afraid your Continental Correspondent’s memory, in “Letter from Europe” in November’s issue, has let him down regarding the first taxiing tests of the Whittle jet. These were in fact at Brockworth (Gloster’s aerodrome) on April 7th, 1941, and as a matter of interest the first flight was made from Cranwell. Sorry to spoil the memory!

Enfield. R. Eddington.

* * *

TV and Newspapers of Little Use to Motor Racing Followers

Sir,

I wonder why it is that the TV news and newspapers often act as if Motor Racing is unimportant or does not exist. For years I have listened to TV news programmes to find out the result of Grands Prix. This year, the same as last year, they did not say who won the Mexican G.P. and World Championship. This year Graham Hill won the World Championship, yet why they did not tell us I’ll never know.

The newspapers also give very poor reports, if any.

I remember when the late Jim Clark won the 1968 South African Grand Prix. The Daily Mirror gave a report 1½ in. x ¾ in. which simply said under the heading, Clark Wins Again: “Scottish driver Jim Clark, driving a Lotus, won the South African Grand Prix at Johannesburg yesterday—his 25th Grand Prix victory.”

All crammed into one sentence—it did not even say it was a World Record, which it was.

British racing drivers are becoming World Champions, making World Records, and Winning Grands Prix. What more can they do?

Stonehouse. John Fiddler.
 

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