Two Excellent Cars

The Editor Reports on Extended Tests of a BMW 520i and a Ford Consul 3000 CT

Having, in my annual “Showtime Soliloquy” last month, described the BMW and Ford as “two excellent cars”, I feel I should qualify this remark. Both were submitted for extended road-tests by a confident Concessionaire, and a confident Manufacturer respectively, and the Ford was reported on in the issue for July last, the BMW in that for August. I said at the time that if there was anything more to say I would return to the subject. In fact, so dependable have both cars proved, that there is very little to add. I say this after the BMW has notched up over 8,000 miles and the Ford 10,350 miles in my care and mostly in my hands although a few other drivers have begged them from me or helped me out when they have had to go in for routine servicing and I have been testing other cars.

In those mileages, mostly driven pretty hard, reliability has been outstanding. The Ford had a shake in the steering caused, I was told, by the ventilated front brake discs going out of true — apparently holes are drilled in them to improve cooling, which weakens them — and as no replacements were at first available, I put up with this for a long time, as it was neither really unpleasant nor dangerous. The good Alf Belsen has since changed them and all is serene in that department. The fierce clutch, which one comes to live with, remains, so it is difficult to disguise clunks from the transmission as the drive takes up. There have been no actual failures of anything apart from a turn-indicator bulb and fuel-gauge — the latter quite a good ploy, because if you lent the Ford to anyone, they immediately assumed that you had given them very little fuel with it or it had been milked overnight, so, of course, being nice people, they topped it up!

One such friend carried extremely heavy machinery in the boot, which did not seem to distress the suspension in any lasting way. I like this 3-litre Consul very much. It is a great load carrier, its upholstery puts up well with dogs and it is a nice car on long or short runs, when you do not need to do more gear-changing than you want to. A contrast to the more sporting BMW. The Consul, indeed, has been favourably commented on by everyone who has sampled it, from these aspects, and I miss very much its openable roof, when in other cars.

I have carelessly kept no log of the quantity of fuel used but it gave 22-24 m.p.g. over a big mileage, depending on driving conditions, and its rugged V6 engine never needs oil between its infrequent servicing, which has tended to run over the specified 6,000 miles. It is a car which, although obviously far more refined, much better at fast cornering and so on, reminds me of those excellent pre-war Ford V8s which brought high-performance within the reach of family-car customers.

The one irritating thing this Consul did was to refuse to keep its broad bonnet shut, and that shortly after leaving a Model-T occasion organised by Fords at their new Droitwich Spares Department, for all the world as if it was jealous that I had deserted it that day for a flivver. I cured this by brutally flexing the bonnet panel and thought no more of it. Then, after it had been serviced, I drove from Brentford to the Office at ECZ, and was feeling happy to have this easy-running, comfortable car to drive the 180 miles home in, when after a few miles, up flew that bonnet. This time nothing would induce it to stay shut. I had a miserable, slow drive, not trusting the safety catch at high speeds. A local Ford dealer was defeated, as I had been after so adjusting the catch that I thought Alf would need a flame-cutter to get inside the engine compartment afterwards. A friend who knows about ships rigged up a secure system of straps using some bungee rubber and binder twine. For weeks I drove happily about, the power unit requiring no oil or to be looked at. Finally, at the next opportunity, Alf Belsen look at it, found a stretched cable, replaced it, and that shortcoming has never recurred. And that is really all I have to add about some very enjoyable usage of the big V6 Ford, except that my eldest daughter, although fortunately no Amazon, has never complained about the lack of power steering, and is as pleased as I am with the Consul/Granada Fords.

The BMW is a different sort of car. You feel a clown not to drive it hard, using the gearbox as it should be used and the truly splendid road-clinging to the full. The urge, even in top gear, from the fuel-injection 2-litre engine, is most impressive and very fine average speeds can be set up, in comfort and security. If there is a point I failed to make in the original report, it is that the car is rather noisy at Motorway cruising speeds, but it is after all, a sporting saloon — very much so.
Te only trouble, and that is a harsh term, to have occurred has been a tendency for the engine to idle roughly and tend to stall in traffic, approaching the 4,000 servicing periods. I used to get this with the BMW 2500 and then it was the plugs fluffing after too much slow running. With the 520i it is apparently a question of adjustment to the fuel injection system. Again I have kept no careful record of the consumption of liquids — good intentions are so seldom maintained! — but the petrol thirst is quite exceptionally economic — over 30 mpg. being noted quite frequently, and about 27 m.p.g. overall. Again, oil consumption is negligible.

One rather odd fault, for a £3,700 car, was the advent of a piece of metal under the cushion of the driver’s cloth-upholstered seat. I hardly noticed this but Raymond Playfoot, who is a 100% efficient PRO once you have forgiven him his Motor Show lion cub lapse, said he found it most uncomfortable and it would be fixed when next I could spare the car. They are doing that now, but I have not found very apparent what is causing the protrusion, nor has it troubled my shape of posterior. So there you have it. Two very excellent, dependable, enjoyable cars, complementary one to the other, because they have such different characteristics.

The BMW makes almost every other car which comes to me for appraisal seem inferior in several or a great many aspects. The Ford is a most accommodating car when you don’t want to drive quite so thrustfully or you need even more space. The BMW has extra-special instrumentation whereas the Ford’s is better not discussed and I think the 520 is the least impressive BMW to look at, whereas the Ford styling appeals. But really it is a fact that I have been very satisfied with both and could be happy to personally own either. Incidentally, both are Michelin shod and I have had absolutely no tyre trouble and all eight tyres have a useful life left on them.