Letters from readers, December 1972

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

MG versus Ginetta

Sir,

I am at last forced to put pen to paper in response to A. R. M.’s short piece on the MG Midget and the paragraph where he compares it to the Ginetta 915. I am more fortunate than most in that I can afford to, and, indeed do, own both a Midget and a Ginetta, So I feel I can write with some experience. My own view is that the Midget is by far the better car, for a number of reasons.

The Ginetta I bought through your magazine last February—a dream come true I thought; after 5 years of waiting, hoping, wishing, here I was with the one thing I had wanted more than anything else. The very day after I picked it up things started to go wrong and even now as I write, the wheel bearings on the from have just packed up. All this on a car barely a year old. The pros are that it will go round corners without so much as batting an eyelid, and laughs at petrol pumps, but that’s as far as it goes. The cons can be condensed into that well-worn saying “this car will self destruct in five seconds”. Honestly, the rattles, the bangs, the shakes, the vibration and above all, the noise—it’s incredible that such a car could ever be launched on to the market. On a smooth race track then yes, no trouble, but on British roads . . . you’ve got to be joking, Don’t write me off by saying “silly . . ., why doesn’t he do something about it?”, I have. I’ve sweated buckets taking it to bits and rebuilding it, but no joy.

Other Ginetta owners I’ve spoken to have all agreed with me, so can any conclusion be drawn? (Just as an aside, woe betide should the speedo cable pack up. Mine has four times, and replacements can only be had from the factory at £5 a time; the last one they sent me was duff even before the car had moved 100 yards—what a joy to own a kit car! And what’s more, the factory didn’t even reply to my letter asking why they send out faulty bits. And they’re fitted by our Chrysler main agents so don’t blame me for fitting them on the wrong way.

The Midget on the other hand is bliss in every respect—admittedly not as quick off the mark, but on the move one has time to turn round and make rude gestures at the rapidly disappearing Ginetta. (Thought: as there’s a 70 m.p.h. limit, why don’t they lower the fourth gear ratio and give it some acceleration to catch up the Midget?).

No, A. R. M., I sadly have to disagree: for the same money I have a Midget and a Ginetta, and believe you me, I’d plump for the Midget anytime.

A Stick in the Mud.

[Name and address supplied.—Ed.]

* * *

The MG-C

Sir,

Well said, Mr. Robinson (October issue)—the MG-C GT was a terribly underrated car, almost to the point of being BMC’s Edsel in many people’s minds.

I owned one for a year and did 17,500 trouble-free miles in it. It was two years old when I bought it. It was a true GT car in my mind, capable of travelling all day long at high speeds in comfort. The suspension wasn’t harsh, the brakes were superb, the steering heavy at walking pace but fine, otherwise, it ran `straight as a die” at all speeds and, all in all, gave me superb motoring. That lusty three-litre engine, if heavy and dated, was nevertheless a delight to ride behind. Maybe the roadholding wasn’t as good as a ‘B’, by which it was obviously judged, but it was still above average.

I kept an accurate record of running costs which may interest you. It returned 21.76 m.p.g.; 484 m.p.p. and cost me 2.44 (new) pence per mile to run, although allowing a higher rate of depreciation (I bought mine reasonably and therefore lost little) I estimate a figure closer to 3.12p per mile—still economocial in any circumstances and even more so when you consider the performance, which I used as much as possible within the context of motoring in this country.

Altogether a delightful car, allied to good looks, a well-built body and a good spares situation. The overdrive added a lot.

You may also be interested to know the costs of running a couple of other cars I have had recently.

A four-year-old Vitesse 1600 (without overdrive) returned 26.85 m.p.g. over 7,300 miles, cost 1.96p per mile to run and used only one pint of oil in that time, even though it had 45,000 miles on the clock. A car that was never quite right in any department design wise and missed out completely with the suspension.

A six-year-old Sunbeam Alpine Series 4 GT with overdrive returned 27.47 m.p.g. over 8,000 miles, cost 2.07p per mile and used oil at a high rate. This made quite a good GT car but for rot problems to which they seem particularly prone. I lost a lot on the Alpine and reckon a truer figure would be about 1.86p per mile, whereas I did well with the Vitesse and reckon 2.28p per mile would be more accurate. Maybe with overdrive it would have got closer to the Alpine.

Not all of us can afford new cars, nor even expensive secondhand ones—but motoring can be enjoyed at figures far less than those quoted as being “typical” (I believe a new Mini costs about twice as much as the MG per mile to run!).

Old Bursledon. John Clark.

* * *

Peco Service

Sir,

May I find space in your excellent magazine to mention the service I have received from Peco Silencer Ltd. of Birkenhead who have replaced for me to date, four silencers and two brackets all under guarantee without any question whatever? Usual disclaimers.

Aberdare. A. H. Griffiths.

* * *

Oil price spiral

Sir,

Can anyone tell me what has happened to the cheaper oils? Perhaps they are still available in large centres of population, but out here in a rural county the oils that were available, no more than a year ago, at prices 50p to 75p per gallon seem to have disappeared.

A few days ago I was offered a one pint can of nondescript oil at a small country garage for 20p, the proprietor apologetically admitting that he bought his oil at a city “cash and carry” store, but was not allowed to sell it in a tied garage, even though it was still cheaper than his wholesale price from the petrol company.

Like the Editor, I lament the passing of real values, be it cars or car essentials. I recall the Castrol Oil dispenser with pint or quart jug. The 30 sae for winter, 40 for summer, all for the price of coppers. I too have hammered pre-war Riley cars all over the country in days gone by. The fact that some of these cars are still fetching fantastic prices seems to suggest that the oil used in them, even without additives, was adequate. Don’t anyone mention faster revving engines, for a Riley Brooklands 9 h.p. doing upwards of 70 m.p.h. was knocking hell out of any oil, hearing in mind the length of the stroke and moving area of the crankshaft.

Kington. Eric Speak.

* * *

Daimler matters

Sir,

I would like to endorse the comments regarding the possible demise of the Daimler name made by R. W. Ramage (Motor Sport, September 1972). I, too, do not consider the V8-250 to be a true Daimler; no more than the Lanchester Leda is a true Lanchester.

The Daimler Century Mk. II (and it predecessors, the Conquest and Conquest Century) must be the most popular Daimler saloon ever made judging by the relatively large numbers still seen on the roads. My own Conquest Century has nearly 300,000 miles to its name and, apart from burning oil at engine speeds in excess of 4,000 r.p.m., still manages to go well. General bodywork condition is good—this is probably attributable to the previous owner—The Daimler Co. Ltd.

I have only driven a V8-250 once and my impression was that the power unit was far too good for the Mk. II Jaguar body. From the actual driving point of view, I much prefer the Century; its fluid flywheel and pre-selector gearbox have a quaintness that can never be equalled by a torque converter and automatic transmission.

Solihull. David I. Scott.

* * *

Group 1 Saloons

Sir,

Since the inception of Group 1 saloon car racing it has become, once more, obvious that the competitor or entrant with the most cash has the best chance of success.

By all means use racing rubber, but the likes of blue printing engines etc. should be stopped. One does occasionally see Group 1 cars for sale at anything up to 50% more that the same model ex-works.

I think this could be avoided and deterred quite simply. First of all ensure that all Gp. 1 cars are registered and taxed for the road, then make each owner or entrant sign an indemnity that he will be prepared to sell his Group One car to any person that offers “Glass’s Guide” price for the month, somewhere between retail, and trade, for that particular model.

If the RAC were to institute this rule, and I personally see no reason why they could not. I feel sure that we would see GENUINE Group One racing (i.e. BMWs really thrashing 3000 Capris). I am not anti-Ford as, in fact I run a 3000 Capri.

Kingsbridge. David Holliss.

* * *

Alvis Service

Sir,

In these days of poor service and bad relations between the “trade” and the motorist, it is with pleasure that I feel bound to record the excellent spares service technical aid and advice I have received from The Red Triangle Auto Services Ltd. of Kenilworth. RTA have been most prompt in sending me any item I have asked for by phone, on account and never longer that four days. On one occasion I omitted to mention which “hand” I required of a certain item and they sent me both, with a request to return the item not required.

Recently I had brake trouble with my Alvis TD21 drop-head and in writing for advice received a letter of advice and their Lockheed instruction book from their technical Director, Mr. Michie, with a request to return the book when I had solved the trouble and an offer of a new master cylinder for trial purposes.

When one considers that RTA did not supply the car in the first place and have no obligation to Alvis owners except to keep these wonderful cars in good condition I think that their consideration for the customer is quite unique.

I have no connection with the Company whatsoever, apart from being a very satisfied customer.

Norwich. A. G. Williams.

———

Sir,

I read with great interest the story of your interview with Mr, Charles Follett. You may like to know that his 1,496 c.c. 12/50 Alvis is maintained and owned by me and is in good running order and in original condition. I have a letter from Mr. Follett in which he says of the Alvis—”. . . maximum lap speeds were in the region of 105, standing lap from memory about 95-98, and all I can tell you is that it was a most reliable car and ran very consistently for several years.”

Boscombe. P. S. Corner.

[The photograph, I am assured, is of the ex-Follett Alvis before it was put back onto 19 in. wheels. Incidentally, writing of Mr. Follett reminds me that the proof-readers federation (of which I am a member) made him say of the front mudguards of pre-war quality cars that “they were so expensive”, whereas what he really said to me was that he considered them “so expressive” that he tried to get them right on those Speed 25 and other Alvis models for which he styled the coachwork.—Ed.]

* * *

Hispano Suiza versus Stutz

Sir,

Your critical analysis of the smokescreen created around the crushing defeat of the Stutz by the Hispano leaves one point in doubt, and one clear question unanswered. The point, was the Hispano a 37.2 h.p., 6.6-litre, or a 45 h.p. 8-litre? And the question, what on earth made Moskovics, who by all accounts knew what he was talking about, think for one moment that a relatively small engined and substantially undergeared Stutz could beat either?

A recent book devotes a chapter to the incident. After admitting that “the Black Hawk was beaten and bloodied to the maximum possible extent” the author proceeds to cry “Foul”, saying that Moskovics expected a Boulogne and was faced with a well-prepared Monza. He appears to base this conclusion on an analysis of performance and wheelbase, rather than on a clear statement of engine dimensions, so there still seems to be room for doubt. A comparison of the caption on page 1252 with the comments of other authors on page 1254 suggests, that this lack of certainty extends to your August pages! [We did the decent thing and allowed the American commentator his 8-litres, Sir. Weymann did not contradict this but I thought that a 37.2 h.p. car was used, which made the Indianapolis win all the more meritorious.—Ed.].

So, which car was it? I understand that in road-equipped form there wasn’t much in it for top speed between the 37.2 and 45 Hissos: however, this may well have been, as in the case of 3½ and 4¼ Derby Bentleys, because the larger car was expected to carry more coachwork. The short-chassis Monza Hispano, as run by Dubonnet in the Tarp Florio, would appear to have been a different story, and could certainly be expected to tan the hide off any roadgoing Surtz ever built.

But does it matter? One can disregard canards about handscraped bearings: surely no responsible authority has ever queried the staying power of the Hispano. Moskovics would appear to have thought that gearing the Stutz for a lap speed in the mid-seventies would give him victory. This suggests an extraordinary ignorance of the performances of the 37.2 which you list, achieved well before 1928, to say nothing of the speeds at which Hispanos were habitually driven over relatively tough roads from Paris to the French Riviera.

Perhaps, as can happen in supposedly sporting contests where commercial interests are involved, Moskovics simply made a rash remark, and found himself obliged to go through with an ill-advised venture. Undergearing may have been the root of the problem: remember that the Stutz had an underslung worm drive back axle, which is not only an expensive proposition if non-standard ratios are required, but also imposes very definite limits on the highest ratios which can be used efficiently. If Moskovics was in fact stuck with a low ratio axle, he can have had no alternative but to allow the engine to rev its head off, literally as well as metaphorically.

London, W.11. Sandy Skinner.

[The rules prohibited non-standard parts. So Stutz apparently used their highest optional axle-ratio of 3.6 to 1; the Hispano Suiza had a 3.19 axle. Thus the interesting Skinner theory does not hold water. Kent Kerslake said that the Hispano Suiza was a Monza of either 6.9 or 7.3-litres.—Ed.].

———

Sir,

I must rise to my own defence. In the excellent piece on the Hispano-Stutz wager match you query my price comparisons. If, of course, you base your comparison on the prices ruling in London you are, of course, 100 per cent right, but as the match took place in the USA we worked in terms of US figures. In 1928 the list price of a “two-passenger Stutz Black Hawk speedster” was $4,895 f.o.b. Indianapolis, according to the National Automotive Chamber of Commerce’s Handbook. A “sports model de luxe” Hispano-Suiza, which sounds like the H6C, retailed in New York at around $19,500, though the type of body is not specific. In fact I wasn’t right, largely because Señor de la Vina and myself probably allowed a bit too much extra on the Franco-Spanish car, but I think you’ll agree the differential for an American buyer was far more dramatic.

Midhurst. Michael Sedgwick.

* * *

Computer Accuracy

Sir,

I must take up arms against you for a remark in the September “Letters” section; Mr. L. R. Blewitt complained of inefficiency at the AA and your reply was simply “Computers?”

Please, do not join in the popular cry “The computer did it.” In the vast majority of cases where computer output is faulty it is because the input, or the systems and programming work, is faulty. For instance, if you wish to subtract 79 from 122 and key into an adding machine 122-78, you cannot blame the machine for the error. Similarly, if the AA makes no provision for termination of membership, or does not provide the necessary information to the computer, to suggest that the computer is at fault is akin to blaming a car for dangerous driving.

An oft-repeated phrase in the computer world is GIGO—Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Northolt. D. J. Hyde.

* * *

Desirable Nipples

Sir,

The 1936 Ford Model Y—8 h.p.; grease nipples; yes thousands of them! but let’s face it: I only replaced a pair of track-rod ball joints at 98,000 miles and they were perfect when the car was sold at 126,724 miles.

But, and here is the crunch: I always greased-up every 1,000 miles in the summer and every 500 in the winter; and who can afford to have that done at today’s garage labour charges of around £2.20 per hour?

But I should suggest to Mr. Davey that ½-an-hour’s examination every three months may in the long run save his life.

Rainham. Ian G. Tubby.

T.ENG (CEI) M.I.PLANT.E; M.INST.B.E.

* * *

Motoring Legislation

Sir,

With regard to stopping on the hard shoulder of the Motorway in order to aid another motorist this is illegal as it may only be used in an “emergency”. This does in fact seem quite reasonable considering the highly hazardous situations which would be created if the law were otherwise.

However, the new legislation concerning the positioning of headlights and supplementary lights certainly does not appear to be reasonable. Such cars as split windscreen Minors with their headlights set in the grille would now appear to be illegal, and I am sure that veteran and vintage cars will nearly all be at odds with these regulations. It will certainly be interesting to see how the situation develops as to the enforcement of these laws and I myself believe it would have been of more benefit to Road Safety if instead of bothering with piffling spotlights out by inches, sorry, centimetres on private cars, strict legislation with regard to the lighting of large commercial vehicles had been introduced.

Poulton-le-Fylde. S. C. Lester.

———

Sir,

The next time you see a Phantom Rolls-Royce, bonnet up, on the motorway you may stop and assist quite legally.

Motorway Traffic Regulations 1959, Regulation 7. Restriction on stopping states:—

(2) Where it is necessary for a vehicle which is being driven on a carriageway to be stopped while it is on a motorway—

(a) by reason of a breakdown or mechanical defect or lack of fuel, oil, or water required for the vehicle; or,

(b) to permit any person carried in or on the vehicle to give help which is required by any other person in any circumstances specified in the foregoing provisions of this paragraph, the vehicle shall, as soon as and in so far as is reasonably practicable, be driven or moved off the carriageway on to, and may stop and remain at rest on, the verge (hard shoulder)

The above is the relevant legislation to your question, paragraphs (b) and (c) not applying in the circumstances you mention.

You may however, only remain long enough to give the necessary assistance.

Wombwell. T. G. Stoker.

[Thank you, sir! Ask a Motor Sport reader and you usually get a sensible answer.— Ed.].

* * *

Why the Healey 3000?

Sir,

I was most interested and surprised to see how many secondhand Austin-Healey 3000s there are for sale in your columns.

I own a 1960 Healey 3000 Mk. I, which although a considerable handful and fairly expensive to run must fall into the well worn cliché category of “last of the real sports cars.”

I would be interested to hear from other readers as to why there are so many Healeys for sale when they are supposed to be such a great investment and appreciating so much in value. Thanks for an extremely good, competitively priced magazine.

Clifton. Patrick D. Jefferson.

[Yes, why? The cliché Last of the Real Sports Cars could equally apply to Bentley and Morgan, at opposite extremes of the rugged build scale!.—Ed.].

* * *

VW versus Fiat sales

Sir,

I have read your excellent write up on the Fiat 130 coupé. In the introduction you compare import figures of Fiat and Volkswagen and state about the latter “who perhaps have some semi-commercial models” hence I think misleading some of your readers. As I read it you mean light vans by semi-commercial vehicles and I write to point out that whilst Volkswagen produce only one model with different bodywork styles, Fiat manufacture at least three, the 238, 616NZ and the excellent 850T which is becoming very popular in this country.

Thanks for an excellent magazine with a very sensible approach to subject matter.

Highgate. G. P. Woodbridge.