Letters from Readers, December 1969

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

The Future of Bluebird

Sir,

I would like to offset some of the dismay shown by A. J. Hurdley in your November issue. It is indeed sad that “Bluebird” is going to be driven by an American. According to Leo Villa, though, it was Donald’s wish that “Bluebird” be taken out again if he should die.

Things are not standing still Mr. Hurdley—you can be assured of that.

Ken Norris, who designed CN7, has given me the task of designing and raising finance for a new “Bluebird”. However, it is not easy to raise £500,000, but we have some cards up our sleeves. It will be British, too.

For those interested, it will travel at 1,100 m.p.h., reaching this speed in 31 seconds. The power will be provided by two liquid fuel rocket motors developing 7,700 lb. of thrust. Braking is by parachute and disc brakes (the vehicle itself provides most of the force necessary). The suspension system is quite novel in that it is provided by a rubber block. There will be no tyres—just a solid-shaped metal disc in four places. Wind-tunnel tests have shown the car to be extremely stable.

You can now see that British cars might hold both Land Speed Records, even though one will have been driven by an American. As admitted by Leo Villa himself, CN7 will provide good publicity for the new car.

We are trying very hard Mr. Hurdley.

Leeds. G. K. Dawson.
[So it seems!—Ed.]

* * *

Triumph TR—The Last Real Sports Car?

Sir,

I can explain to Mr. Thomson why the Triumph TR3A is so unloved but, in so doing, will probably unleash more comments from “experts” than Motor Sport can or will be willing to, handle.

The TR3A invokes such uncomplimentary remarks because it is the last of the real sports cars. One must be able to drive to release the potential of 2, 3, 3A. Compared with, say, the MG-B, which is the most forgiving car I have ever driven, the TR is lethal in the wrong hands. Find a wrong line in a bend with a “B” and, within reason, the car will find its way round; while making the same mistake with the TR (unless you know, really know, how to drive) provides one with the academic exercise of working out not, will she go through the hedge, but, in which direction will she go through said greenery.

To me, the TR is the pons asinorum of sports cars, the best mechanical sporting machine ever! I derive more pleasure from driving my ’58 TR3A than from other, more exotic, machinery. Perhaps I am “old fashioned” though, because I like to have to drive, not just sit back and be taken to my destination.

As to the question of observing the red line, Mr. Thomson is fortunate with his problem of piston rings as I broke the crankshaft, though this was probably assisted by the fact that two weeks prior to the crankshaft developing the “ooh nasties” some goon punted the TR up the boot, while in gear, and knocked it forward 15 yards.

Finally, my advice to Mr. Thomson is, stick to the TR. Try my dodge of taking it up to 2.2-litres—using 87 mm. pistons—and you can blow off anything from a standing start—that includes E-types and Elans, although one has to pay them the compliment of using 1st gear.

Stewarton. David A. Adams.

———

Sir,

Like Mr. D. Thomson I, too, am at a loss to see why there is not an enthusiastic following for the Triumph TR. My interest in these started in 1964 when I purchased a 1955 TR2 for £210. In the TR 1 I found a car that was exciting to drive, especially with the top down. It was a car that never needed to be driven with the “foot to the floor” but it did like to be put through its paces on an open road, and seemed all the better for a good burst up to about 4,500 in 2nd and 3rd gears in order to obtain the notorious T-R “roar” from its straight-through silencer. This car I kept for about three years until my marriage, in that time replacing only the plugs at 10,000-mile intervals, the rear springs (not such a hard job!) and the water pump.

Once bitten by the hug I just had to obtain another TR and so early this year I purchased a 1960 TR3A. This car had done 68,000 miles but still had plenty of power under the bonnet. In my 10,000 miles since then I have replaced only the rear springs and the plugs. Other than that I have had a very enjoyable year’s motoring and am looking forward to more to come. If there are any other TR enthusiasts around I would be only too pleased to hear from them. Regrettably, it seems that Mr. Thomson is the only other TR owner who shares my enthusiasm.

Redhourn. Terrance J. Simpson.

———

Sir,

Bravo Motor Sport, at last you have led the field by printing a reader’s letter on TR2s-TR3As. In reply to Mr. Thomson’s article, I believe that, to their owners, the TR is a much-loved and respected sports car retaining the cameraderie of bygone years.

I have owned TRs since 1966 and my present TR3A has covered 45,000 miles since 1967 without any serious trouble. There is ample torque to keep the revs within the 5,000 limit and I find that with overdrive 4,700 is a very competitive limit. The TR is also good to my pocket: 30-32 m.p.g. and 600+ to the pint plus minimal tyre wear. It is a dynamic machine and although it weighs over a ton my wife has no difficulty in driving it, though on one occasion she drove through our double gates when they were shut. (I had permission to write that!) I can go on ignoring the draughts but not the road-holding in the wet which is the only unloved thing about it; one has to be very careful not to do anything violent! Thereby hang the tales!

Personally I find the TR an exciting car with much character. A “TR” Register perhaps?

Sunbury-on-Thames. Darryl K. Uprichard.

* * *

Experiences with a Fiat 125

Sir,

In your road impressions of the Fiat 125S you stated that you would be interested to hear readers’ impressions of these attractive cars.

I do not own a 125S, which, I might add, are almost impossible to obtain, but I have now completed some 20,000 miles in twelve months in an original 125, This mileage has been made up of both short trips of around 50 to 70 miles per day in the course of my business as Director of a timber merchants locally and substantially longer runs to the motor racing circuits at Silverstone, Oulton Park, Thruxton etc., in the course of my hobby as a motor racing commentator.

It is fair to say that one easily adjusts to the irregularities of the headlamp switch as you suggest, although some electrical malfunctions have appeared and disappeared from time to time, such as the odd fuse-blowing and the same interior lamp troubles as you experienced with the test car. These have in fact avoided detection and the troubles have not been repeated.

Mechanically the car has been extremely reliable until at just over 18,000 miles, after the introduction of anti freeze, a cylinder head gasket failed. Since replacement was necessary the opportunity was taken to decarbonise the engine as excessive deposits of carbon were present and there was every indication that there had been some exhaust valve sticking, as all four were badly pined and required replacement. I have written to Fiat about this and am awaiting their reply since other owners with whom I have spoken have not experienced this trouble. I should point out that it was only on the failure of the head gasket that there was any noticeable drop in performance, the other replacements during this time being confined to one bulb and a small “bakelite collar” which cracked in the throttle linkage.

The general performance of the car leaves very little to be desired. It is at its best on a long journey and the lack of roll has immediately been noticed by many people travelling in it for the first time. While the car has never been taken into the red, as have some 125s of which I have knowledge, its performance is quite surprising over long distances and one can easily hold much more powerful machinery. A new set of Pirelli Cinturato tyres (175 x 13) was fitted at about 15½ thousand miles and have proved superior to the original Italian 170 x 13s. The steering is lighter and the initial understeer much less.

Quite frankly, I have been delighted with my 125. I came to it from Triumph 2000s and in spite of the inferiority of the ride of the 125 I consider it to be a far better car. It has certainly been more reliable. Some time ago I was asked to compare the handling of the two and I could only state that the 125 remains vice-free right to its limit although perhaps a little less “chuckable” than the 2000 which, pressed really hard, can have some disconcerting habits. I look forward to several more thousand miles of motoring in my 125 and at the moment can think of nothing better to replace it than a 125S.

Kidderminster. J. Neville R. Hay.

* * *

Exeter Airport versus W.B.

Sir,

Your article by W.B. concerning the road-test on the BMW 2800, when it deviates into matters other than the comforts of luxury motor cars, has prompted me to take tip pen, in defence of Devon, and the catering trade.

Whilst wishing I, too, could share the joys of meandering [?—E.d.], at my leisure, along our maligned but beautiful countryside, I regret my own motoring is concerned with transporting staff to and from Exeter Airport; a utilitarian necessity, without which there would be no way of staffing the establishment.

Before I am faced with the reply that staff shortages and SET are just old familiar excuses, let W.B. just stop and think what these actually mean. We can only get staff from a radius near the airport, there being plenty of work in Exeter itself and, having advertised, with no success all summer, we have all “pushed on” to the best of our ability.

We are, primarily, here to serve passengers, and our timetable is geared to this so that having spent seven hours preparing sandwiches, getting passengers’ lunches and feeding airport staff, and the last flight having departed, the catering staff dare to think of perhaps grabbing a ten-minute break before clearing up for the next flight.

When motoring from Cornwall to London I have given some thought to lunch at the normal hours of from noon to 2 p.m. I see no reason to wait until afternoon tea-time. [Necessitated because of my inability to get served on the Brixham-Exeter road.—Ed.]

Had W.B. arrived in a Rolls we would have been unaware of it, having no time to look, and the only seats available on a Bristol Freighter that work out of Exeter Airport are reserved exclusively for cattle. Regarding the old, old story about the service on the Continent, I was able to view “their” lives, with a professional eye, and find that on average they work an 18-hour day. Does W.B. want us to return to the Victorian era? [If in Europe, why not here?—Ed.]

I know that allowances are made in any English establishment for married staff; mine leave as soon as the last flight departs.

With reference to “hazards of aviation”, mercifully the pilots take to the air in a better frame of mind than W.B. when driving. [Oh!—Ed.]

To close with reference to the blind T-junction, it is far from blind, and not many miles away a £1,000,000 improvements scheme is nearing completion; however, an overburdened county like Devon can only tackle a limited road improvement. We all hope that now the airport is sub-regional eventually there will be improvements all round.

R. Knight (Mrs.),
Catering Manageress, Exeter Airport.
Sampford-Peverell.

[Well said! I am always delighted when criticism draws a reply, instead of grievances caused being nursed in sulking silence. So I am delighted to let Mrs. Knight explain why I and my passenger went hungry from Exeter Airport.—Ed.]

* * *

“Shopping for a Daimler.” Another Warning—

Sir,

I would like to endorse warnings given in the October issue of Motor Sport by your correspondent J. Tonks. But also I would ask for his problems of rust and wood-rot to be looked on from a different viewpoint—that of the overall economy of running an old car of better-than-average quality.

If, as in his lamentable case, your past experience has been limited to ownership of Zodiac Mk. I (Or Mk. X for that matter), and you wish to graduate to a decent car, don’t for heaven’s sake attempt to choose a used Daimler without some care. Assuming that you are unable to recognise the early symptoms of rust in the body sills (Consort, costing some £2,000) or the dreaded death watch beetle (Empress, £4,400), take on your tour of inspection an expert who has remembered his specs. and his little penknife. And weigh-up carefully the kind of ownership the vehicle has had in the past. A Daimler with the faults described by Mr. Tonks must indeed have been very sadly neglected and could be expected to be in poor condition generally, i.e., not at all a good investment. However, it must be admitted that in the quality of bodywork, and in several other details, the Consort was not the equal of the pre-war and early post-war DB 18s, and of course the Conquest series which followed showed much evidence of being built down to a price.

If you do want to get 25,000 miles of cheap, trouble-free motoring with the utmost enjoyment which stems from ownership of a fine motor carriage, be prepared to pay rather more than rock-bottom scrap value. And what shall I say to the person who has spent, say, £300-£500 of hard-earned cash on a better example of the Daimler marque, only to find a major fault appearing after 12 months of all-night parking on the local slag heap? Don’t resent the expenditure of a few pounds on the employment of a professional coachbuilder if you are lucky enough to find one. Glass-fibre kits are all right for minor faults in steel and for repairing glass-fibre bodies, but for major rebuilds they can be an expensive luxury, as Mr. Tonks evidently found.

There is no need to be laid up for four months with a faulty gearbox either. New ones are available ex-stock. But the classic combination of Vulcan-Sinclair fluid coupling and Wilson epicyclic gearbox is practically indestructible. Usually nothing more is needed than an adjustment to the gear pedal rod or replacement of a bush in the selector control bell-crank lever. Both these items are external to the box. The Daimler Company and their agents have in the past upheld an exceedingly high standard of service and spares supply and I would be sorry to learn that the same no longer applies.

One of the worst faults is a leaking gland in the fluid coupling and there is a knack in replacing this small packing successfully. But, in common with the rest of the mechanical parts, if skilfully assembled it will last for many years of really hard driving. Trouble may be experienced with gasket leakage on the aluminium head model. A complete and permanent cure is effected by surface grinding the head, the use of a laminated aluminium gasket (not copper, because of electrolytic action), Hermetite non-setting cement, Bluecol “AA” antifreeze all the year round, and infinite care in tightening progressively the cylinder head nuts. The latter should be checked (26-41 lb. ft. torque) with the engine warm after only about 100 miles. Gasket leakage at exhaust down-pipe connections can result from distortion of the brass nuts fitted originally. Stainless steel nuts should be used.

Maximum speed is not an outstanding feature of the 2½-litre Daimler’s performance. Although the Special Sports (in Barker drophead or Hooper Empress saloon form) is geared in overdrive ratio to allow 106 m.p.h. without doing itself an injury, the engine with only 7:1 compression ratio does not give enough power for much more than 90 m.p.h. on the level. The characteristic which I value most is the car’s ability to cruise at 70-80 m.p.h. in uncanny silence (relative). As 70 m.p.h. it is normal to obtain 25-27 m.p.g. but, at 80 m.p.h. continuously, consumption increases to 19-21 m.p.g. This performance is surely better than most small Rolls-Royces. Acceleration is deceptively fast and I have proved that Daimler times from A to B with safety on winding lanes take some beating even when employing a new GT car of American parentage. One explanation for this is, I believe, good vision from a viewpoint which is high in relation to hedges and other vehicles. Another is high torque from a relatively low-revving engine, so that less gear-shifting is needed, tractive effort is continuous even during changes, and two hands are always on the steering wheel.

Road-holding and cornering is superb by any standard. Yes, Laurence Pomeroy Senior knew what he was doing when he first produced this chassis design with i.f.s. in 1937 and it was good enough (in somewhat enlarged form) for the 130 m.p.h. disc-braked 4½-litre V8 Majestic Major on which such high praise is lavished by the sporting motor press.

I maintain that a good used Daimler of the DR 18 type and its derivatives can be a good investment. Its Jekyll and Hyde characteristics add enormously to the pleasure of car ownership and driving today.

Heaton Mersey. Philip Blackham.

* * *

—And a Reply

Sir,

I was very distressed to read in your October issue that Mr. Tonks. was unsatisfied with his experiences of the marque. He must have been unlucky.

My own experience in shopping for, and running, a Daimler has, I am happy to say, been Utopian. For many years I had admired Daimlers, but knew next to nothing about them, and three years ago decided to acquire one. I remember my father’s advice: “Where in doubt fly to the experts,” so I addressed a letter to the General Secretary of the Daimler and Lanchester Owners’ Club (Mr. Duncan Saunders). By return I received a very informative and helpful letter, giving me advice and details as to models, prices, etc.

Further correspondence followed, and I joined the Club as an Associate member, and read the Club literature, attended meetings, and the National Rally, where my wife and I were able to see a representative range of Models. Through membership of the Club I was able to talk with experts and others with wide experience of the marque (including Daintier engineers).

At my request, the General Secretary furnished me with the name and address of a Club member reputed to sell “Very fine Daimlers”. I contacted this gentleman, told him how much I could afford, and the type of model I required. Later on he telephoned me to say he had what he thought would interest me. My wife and I went along and gave the car a close inspection, and after a drive in it settled the deal over a glass (or two) of very good sherry.

The car was a 1955 Conquest, with 38,000 miles on the “clock” and in most original condition. I have used the car daily (in connection with my job) and in May last it won the overall Concours d’Elegance at the Daimler and Lanchester Owners’ Club National Rally at Woburn—it has won other prizes.

I have been so enamoured with the marques that I now have a stable consisting of a 1955 Conquest, a 1953 Lanchester 14, a 1951 Daimler Consort, and my wife has acquired a 1935 Lanchester 12/6 and all cars are in very fine condition, all acquired through contacts within the Club, and all obtained with the cost realised on the sale of a 1966 Morris 1000, plus additional outlay of £50.

My advice, to anyone who sets out to shop for a Daimler, is to join the appropriate Club, and to avail yourself of the advice of experts and the privileges of membership.

Haverhill. P. A. Hewitt.

* * *

Triumph TR6 Problems

Sir,

As the owner of a two-month-old Triumph TR6 P I, I wonder if any of your readers have experienced any of the following problems:

Firstly, if the fuel level in the tank falls below one-quarter (approximately 2½ gallons), then on any sharp left-hand bend, or whilst overtaking, the engine cuts out and only cuts in again if the car is on level ground. Finding this out for the first time when overtaking proved rather frightening. This in effect reduces the car’s range by some 50 miles if you take safety into account.

Secondly, whilst touring in Europe during July, negotiating Swiss passes with an altitude of 4,000 ft.+ proved quite a problem! Once above this height the car would: (a) misfire; (b) emit a great deal of black smoke from the exhaust; and (c) refuse to tick over. Once below this altitude the trouble cleared.

Surely these problems of petrol surge and petrol/air mixture could have been foreseen?

However, under normal conditions the TR6 has turned out to be an excellent car.

Thanking you for a most interesting and informative magazine.

Anglesey. Maldwyn Jones.

* * *

AA Service

Sir,

No doubt the AA patrol about whom your correspondent complains was keeping his can of petrol in case a member, who had contributed to the cost of running the AA was in need. There seems no end to the number of people who expect to cash in on what others have provided. Some need a free nursemaid.

I hope they don’t wait for their house to burn down before insuring it.

Coggeshall. P. F. Clark.

* * *

The Accident Decrease

Sir,

How I agree with J. C. Armstrong (Motor Sport Oct. 1969) when he refers to road accident publicity.

As one who is permanently lame through a motor cycling accident on military service twenty years ago I can sympathise with sufferers but I am unable to understand the value of the futile statistical reports which are issued, especially at Bank Holidays.

When an accident occurs it is a matter of luck whether death, injury, or only a wrecked vehicle results. Accidents without the first two go unreported so evidence about highway “black spots” is incomplete.

The most sickening part of the Bank Holiday reports are the unisoned comments approving or disapproving the trend which are usually issued by the two Motoring Organisations.

Instead they should boldly tell the Press, TV and Public the truth which is that, in proportion to the traffic increase the road toll has been ENORMOUSLY REDUCED. Credit must be given to improvements in the construction of Highways and Vehicles but in my view by far the greatest credit is due to the improved skill and patience shown by all classes of driver’s in overcoming congestion on an inadequate and outdated road system.

The following figures from the British Road Federation’s handbook “Basic Road Statistics 1969” proves my point and I have used fuel consumption figures to illustrate traffic growth more accurately than registration figures which do not take mileage into account.

In 1928 there were 171,000 casualties and fuel consumption was 806 million gallons.

In 1968 4,944 million gallons were consumed and if accidents had increased pro rata there would have been 1,050,000 casualties whereas in fact there were only 349,000 or a theoretical drop of 701,000 per year.

Speed is said to be a cause of accidents, yet most occur in towns where speeds are low. The Police seem to favour speed prosecutions only because simple arithmetic can prove their case (easier than booking a robber).

In my view speed is dictated by traffic conditions and speed limits can only be effectively enforced on straight and open stretches of road where the particular limit is probably not needed.

Inattention is probably the greatest cause of accidents and the lower the speed the lower the degree of concentration.

Bridport. J. Strickland.