Letters from readers, December 1974

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NB.—Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them.—ED.

Design Logic

Sir,

Considering the vast amount of effort which has gone into designing cars over the last 80 years, it is remarkable how many mechanical abortions still persist, such as fan belts and contact breakers.

However it is not only in such traditional items that nonsense rears its ugly head.

A week or so ago I discovered, purely by accident, that the brake fluid in the reservoir on my Rover 2000 was disappearing overnight, although there was no sign of leakage on the clean garage floor. After this happened twice, investigation showed that the lost fluid had found a new home in the brake servo, with the possibility of a further move into the engine inlet manifold. The design of the servo is such that one end of the slave cylinder is contained within the vacuum chamber, so that a leaking gland allows the fluid to be sucked in whilst one sleeps! Hardly an example of “failing to safety”.

I contend that the design should have embodied the slave cylinder on the atmospheric side of the servo, in such a manner that any leakage would be plainly visible — or would this cost a few pence more? In any event, this leaking gland, at 28,000 miles, has cost me a new servo unit, at a price, I am told, of approximately £20.

I should be interested to know the logic behind the present design.

Canterbury — R.G. ROBINSON

***

The Battle of the Babies

Sir,

I have now calmed down sufficiently to reply to Mr. Ramage’s letter (October issue). Before giving you any specific details, I must state that I enjoy driving, and feel sure that Mr. Ramage looks upon motoring as an unfortunate necessity.

I drive a Fiat 500L regularly, having covered nearly 60,000 miles in one in the last few years. I drive approximately 45 miles a day on country roads, dual carriageway and within a city, all in comfort and without noise problems. As far as comfort is concerned, the car has well-designed reclining seats, and suspension which soaks up bumps so well that it is difficult to detect a puncture at the rear. I do not say that it is a quiet car, but the quality of sound is easy to live with, and also to converse over, unlike some cars I could name. I have averaged about 53 miles per gallon over the life of the car. I have also driven the car to Yorkshire and back on several occasions—a journey of over 200 miles each way. On the last occasion I completed 437 miles on 6.6 gallons of petrol (full to full from same pump at start and finish). I do not know whether odometer correction is necessary, but without correction this works out at 65 m.p.g. I cannot give a precise average speed as I do not consider this to be of great importance, especially as small capacity cars are affected by traffic densities to a much greater extent than larger-engined cars; however, my average was certainly of the same order as Mr. Ramage’s.

Honda 600s have a reputation for suffering from “cooked” generators, chewed-up piston rings, over-heated batteries and oil consumption which gladdens the hearts of all oil company shareholders. The 500 has none of these problems. I still get 2,000 m.p.g. oil consumption, and still have a very healthy original battery after nearly 5 years (the car was 7 months old when I purchased it).

The only replacements which have been made are (1) a new silencer at 39,000 miles, (2) tyres (ZX) last about 40,000 miles, (3) one new set of brake linings—rear ones still original, and (4) at 55,000 miles, the clutch spring (diaphragm) mysteriously untempered itself and had to be replaced though the driven plate was less than half worn.

I would not change this car for any model under £2,000 as it not only gives me a lot of fun with its excellent road-holding, but is also a good work-horse. It tows a 16 ft. plus boat! and has carried some surprising loads, often with the help of the sunroof! The heater is good though lacks fine control.

Anyway, a few months’ ownership of a Honda motorbike by my husband has been quite enough to put us off Japanese transport for life—roll on the day when we can change it for a Ducati or a Gilera— i.e. one made by Italians who really understand the dynamics of driving.

Just in case any of your readers suggest that I might not appreciate good road-holding etc., we also own a Lancia Fulvia coupe I.6HFS, which replaced a Lotus Elan (and that’s another story!).

West Challow — ELIZABETH M. BRAIDEN (Mrs.)

***

Good Service

Sir,

We only occasionally read in your columns of good service given by the garage trade, but I would like to put on record what must surely be outstanding service.

When driving my 4-year-old Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV from Canterbury to London, the engine started to misfire and lose power. I was directed to the nearest Alfa Romeo Agents — Motorway Sports Cars Limited of Boughton (I now observe that they advertise in your excellent magazine). However it was after 8.30 pm as I pulled into the forecourt and the garage appeared closed. I was about to struggle on my way when somebody came out and asked if he could help. The garage was indeed closed, but this was one of the directors who had been catching up with some office work. My wife was becoming rather agitated about being late and he offered to take her to Faversham station where she would be just in time to catch a London train. He returned shortly afterwards and in the absence of any staff started to inspect the engine himself. The fault turned out to be electrical and was eventually repaired.

No parts were used, but he had spent a total of about an hour and of course some petrol. When I asked the cost he absolutely refused to accept any money but merely said “Just tell your friends about us.” If you will be kind enough to publish this letter I will consider my debt paid.

May I add that the 1750 GTV has given 50,000 miles of excellent and hard-driven service and would only be replaced by a 2000 or Alfetta.

Ramsgate — J. BEECHING

***

LSR Horsepower

Sir,

Mr. Skinner’s letter in your November issue quotes certain figures apparently taken from a book by Mr. Setright, and in your editorial footnote to that letter, reference is made to another book, by Mr. Posthumus. I am not familiar with either of these works, but it would appear that Posthumus gives 2,350 b.h.p. as the output of the 36.7-litre Rolls-Royce “R”-type engine while Setright credits it with 2,530 b.h.p. running on methanol-based fuel. The difference, amounting to rather less than 5 b.h.p per litre, is of no great significance as the fuel used to obtain the Posthumus figure is not in fact specified.

From notes in my possession it is possible to trace the development of the 27-litre Merlin through its range of standard service variants, all running on aviation petrol of appropriate Octane ratings from 87 to 100/150, as follows:

Mk I and Mk III …. 1,030 b.h.p.

Mk XII …. 1,050 b.h.p.

Mk XX … 1,260 b.h.p.

Mks 45,46,50,55 and 56 …. 1,300 b.h.p.

Mks 61,63,64,66 and 70 …. 1,600 b.h.p

(Packard Merlin 266 …. 1,600 b.h.p.)

The Setright figure for the “Merlin RM 17” as quoted by Mr. Skinner is therefore surprising. Admittedly I have no recollection of this particular variant but I would certainly regard 2,640 b.h.p. from any Merlin running on 100/150 Octane petrol as improbable, to say the least. As far as I am aware, the highest output ever obtained from a Merlin was 2,150 b.h.p.: this was claimed for the Mk II Special which powered the “Speed Spitfire” in 1938. While I cannot vouch for the fuel employed it was almost certainly methanol-based.

It is perhaps significant to note that the Rolls-Royce Griffon replaced the Merlin in all later marks of Spitfire and Seafire from 1944 onwards. Like the “R”-Type engine the Griffon had a cubic capacity of 36.7-litres; and, in its IIB form, developed 1,770 b.h.p. on 100/150 Octane petrol, although the output was increased for later series engines.

The following summary may help clarify matters, and highlights the anomaly of the “RM 17”:

Merlin Mk I (27-litre): 87-oc. petrol; max. b.h.p. 1,030; 38.14 b.h.p./litre

Merlin Mk 70 (27-litre): 100/150-oc. petrol; max. b.h.p. 1,600 ; 59.25 b.h.p./litre

Griffon IIB (36.7-litre): 100/150-oc. petrol; max. bhp. 1,770; 48.22 b.h.p./litre

Griffon 65 (36.7-litre): 100/150-oc. petrol; max. b.h.p. 2,050; 55.85 b.h.p./litre

Merlin Mk IIS (27-litre): Methanol (?); max. b.h.p. 2,150; 79.63 b.h.p./litre

“R”-Type (36.7-litre): Fuel ?; max b.h.p 2,350; 64.03 b.h.p./litre

“R”-Type (36.7-litre): Methanol 60%; max. b.h.p. 2,530: 68.93 b.h.p./litre

(?) “Merlin RM 17” (27-litre): 100/150 -oc. petrol; max. b.h.p. 2,640; 97.77 b.h.p./litre.

As to what would have happened had George Eyston or John Cobb used Napier Sabre engines in their LSR cars, I suggest the short answer is that they would have been sadly disappointed. The Sabre did not prove to be a successful engine, and failed to justify the extravagant claims made in respect of its power output.

Figheldean — G.P. La T. SHEA-SIMONDS (Graduate No. 1 Course Empire Test Pilots’ School).

***

The MG-A

Sir,

In reply to Mr. J. B. Castle’s letter in the November issue asking for MG-A owners’ comments, here is a brief history of my 1961 MG-A 1600 coupe NMY 51. The car was bought for £375 in 1967 with about 85,000 miles on the clock. Since then it has covered about 80,000 miles most of which were very enjoyable. Mechanical failures have only prevented me from completing my journey three times, twice with head gasket failure and once when the top came off a piston—no damage but the smoke screen was magnificent! A bottom swivel housing failure necessitated a short walk to my garage and a quick replacement by the roadside and a broken crankshaft provided a gentle tour home via the country lanes, under power, but somewhat noisy. [Really? Ed.]

About two years ago a Rover 2000 TC became mine so I decided to give the MG a major engine and suspension overhaul. This took about a year as cash and spare time were in short supply but the MG is now mobile again and the effort was definitely worthwhile.

When the engine was removed the picture was a bit depressing. All the top rings were broken and the land between the top ring groove and the piston top was deformed or breaking up on every piston. The camshaft was badly worn on three lobes and heavily scuffed on the remainder. The rocker bushes were oval and the rocker shaft looked more like a camshaft. The valve seats were tulip shaped and the crankshaft journals were oval. The starter ring teeth were deformed and the clutch thrust bearing on its last legs.

The first job was a rebore and as the block had been originally sleeved to standard size, a .020 in. rebore removed the lip and gave me a steel linered block with an excellent finish. The crankshaft was reground and a new ring fitted to the flywheel; I used the gas oven to heat the ring and it worked very satisfactorily!

The cylinder head was fitted with new valve seats and was skimmed off slightly to ensure better gasket sealing. A new rocker shaft, re-bushed rockers and a new camshaft restored much of the lost power. All new clutch parts completed the engine overhaul. The front suspension was rebuilt using new swivel pins and housings and new disc brakes. The steering rack and ball joints were still in very good condition even after 11 years; how different to Minis and 1100s.

All the parts needed for the engine and suspension overhaul were easily obtained from my local MG agent in Basingstoke and the total cost was approximately £100, my labour being one of love! Since engine replacement the car has covered some 12,000 miles. Starting is instant with minimal choke. My daily average is 85 miles and the car returns a steady 32-33 m.p.g. using the standard SU needles and jets for the model. Oil consumption is in the region of 350 m.p.p. My daily journey to work is 37 miles each way covering country lanes, A-class roads and M3 conditions and in deference to its age I try not to exceed 4,000 r.p.m. and cruise at 3,000 to 3,500 r.p.m.; this is with a top gear of 17 m.p.h./ 1,000 revs. The general handling is very good, but the ride and noise level is a little tiring after the Rover 2000 TC. The Rover is now only used for highdays and holidays and towing a 16 ft. caravan. A great shame but at 21 m.p.g., cost of replacement parts and simple jobs being quite time consuming, rather necessary.

All the work on the MG apart from reboring and crankshaft grinding was carried out unaided. In the main the car is easy to work on but lack of ground clearance can be a nuisance. The body is generally tidy having no fibreglass panels and I try to keep it as original as possible. The next project is to recarpet the interior, quite daunting at first look as some of the contours are very complicated. I hope you find this of some interest and thank you for an excellent magazine.

Heckfield — DAVID M. JONES

***

Sir,

In response to the letter in your November issue regarding the MG-A and its acceptable fuel economy, I too should like to praise the overall economies of my 1961 version.

The 1600 c.c. engine has now covered a known 122,000 miles and has required nothing more than a “decoke.” Fuel consumption averages between 30 and 35 m.p.g. and oil usage is minimal. Being a virtually standard “B” series engine everyday running parts are cheap and available.

What was intended purely as a stopgap whilst I rebuilt my 1961 Lotus Elite has now encouraged me to slow down the rebuild and enjoy the inexpensive and delightful motoring that BMC was offering near one-and-a-half decades ago.

However, one word of warning to economy-minded potential buyers—front grilles are very expensive and exceedingly vulnerable.

Pilton — STEPHEN BARRETT

***

Help from Dunlop

Sir,

I am the owner of a 1959 MG-A 1500. At the moment I am in the process of renovating it, and I would like to relate to you the helpful assistance of Dunlop Co. Ltd., Dunlopillo Division. After 150,000 miles of reliable service, I decided to take the vehicle off the road to refurbish it. I took the leather covers off the seats to reveal somewhat the worse for wear Dunlopillo cushions. I telephoned Dunlops to enquire about the possibility of replacing them. The sales administrator informed me that the cushions I required were no longer in production, but if I gave him my name and address, he would make some enquiries. A few days later I received a letter telling me that if I sent one of the cushions to him he would have two made up and returned free of charge. Two weeks later the cushions were delivered to me carriage paid.

Just consider how many older cars would be renovated if other major companies were as helpful and generous as Dunlops.

S. Croydon — D. PARSONS

***

Blow-Out ?

Sir,

Reading the Avon Safety Wheel advertisement concerning the possible digging in of the conventional wheel-rim when a blow-out occurs, reminded me of the day in July when I met an Opel Commodore saloon being driven at speed on three tyres only, with a vast sheet of sparks coming from the front nearside.

Marks in the hedge and on the road at Monkton A30 indicated that the loss of air occurred here and the journey finished at Marsh A303 (about seven miles east) when the driver pulled in fearing, it is said, he had a puncture on his way to Cornwall!

Examination of the car showed that the wheel had quickly seized and was literally ground away almost to the studs along with its brake, steering and suspension parts.

Occasionally the car had left its own side of the road, but this was due to the driver, rather than instability, and it safely negotiated a notorious downhill 90° right-hander.

Need drivers with power-steering worry about having a blow-out?

Honiton — A. R. PALMER

***

Seat Belts

Sir,

I am used to reading highly personal views in your magazine. However, I cannot let the misleading comments in the October 1974 issue of Motor Sport regarding seat belts pass uncriticised.

Firstly, it is most certainly not a matter of opinion whether it is “simple common sense” or not to wear a seat belt in normal driving. There is absolutely no doubt that it is indeed simple common sense to do so.

The statistics involved are irrefutably conclusive in terms of probability of reducing casualties. Only yesterday The Times reported that judgement was delivered in the case of Chapman v. Ward on October 7th. During the case, regarding the level of damages for injury sustained by a passengers “road safety statistics put in evidence showed the casualty rate of front seat passengers not wearing a belt to be twice as high as that of those who did wear them”.

Of course there will be exceptions. The occupants of an open-top car involved in a roll-over may well be better off without belts. But I would hazard a guess that the great majority of accidents in which soft-top cars are involved, which resulted in injury to occupants, occurred without the car rolling over. This is true of all types of cars involved in such accidents anyway (there are several sources of relevant statistics), and should be even more true for soft-top cars which tend to fall into the sports car category with its implication of lower centre of gravity, wider track etc. tending to prevent overturning. Thus in the majority of accidents even the occupants of a soft-top car will be safer wearing belts.

Unlike yourself, Sir, most of us do not spend our motoring lives driving pre-war AIlards in speed hill climbs. Such references are irrelevant. This also applies to “Satisfied Reader’s” comments since most of us are unlikely to be involved in a roll-over at 70 m.p.h. in an MG Midget.

Furthermore this particular reader clearly does not meet a very representative cross-section of motorists. Presumably because the people he talks to don’t appear to wear belts, those who might have been saved are not alive to tell us about it! Such highly subjective comments are statistically meaningless.

But the letter that really shook me was written by Mr. Steve Hamilton. “Natural responsibility towards and respect for his fellow human beings” is an ideal found mostly in Paradise. The logical extension of Mr. Hamilton’s argument could be that the drop in casualties in Australia following the introduction of compulsory wearing of belts, and the drop in casualties in Britain after the introduction of the breath test legislation, were the results of motorists having less of this “responsibility and respect” as a result of legislation. If this is the case, then let us have a lot less respect and responsibility!

Legislation, unfortunately, does seem necessary. Mr. Hamilton’s statement “I do believe that a person’s life is his own and his conduct his own responsibility” caused me to doubt the quality of my eyesight. Does Mr. Hamilton really think that people are free to kill or injure themselves? Possibly as a sole survivor living on a desert island, but not in Britain, mingling on a small island with 55 million other people. The responsibility is to avoid upsetting, and interfering with, other people against their wishes. Being injured or killed in a motor accident upsets and interferes with a lot of people, directly and indirectly. And costs a lot of money.

My appeal is not for compulsory belting-up, but the application of a little more logic, and a lot less emotion, to the question of seat belts.

Reigate — E. J. RATTUE

[To show our impartiality, we publish this letter—use safety-belts by all means if you agree with it but—NO COMPULSION —ED.]

***

Sir,

With reference to the September issue on the subject of seat belts.

I agree, ED: “It is not the belts—it’s the compulsion”. Grahame O’Reilly is so misguided and D. F. Lees hopes to make his point by signing in his full professional title. Their arguments serve only as a cloud over the real issue “Personal Freedom”.

An individual ought to be free to dictate personal safety as he thinks fit (providing a level of maturity is reached).

The laws relating to third party insurance, DOE tests, tyres, lights, ability to drive, etc., etc. are of communal responsibility, but compulsive seat-belt and crash-helmet wearing is a step near dictatorship.

Beware, the thin end of the compulsive wedge is already in and so many people are so unindividual, they don’t even notice.

Rotherham, Yorkshire — R. A. BOREHAM

***

Austin Vanden Plas

Sir,

What a pleasure to read Major Schreiber’s letter mentioning the Austin A135 Vanden Plas. I own a 1951 Princess Saloon and am now resigned to the fact that I will never see an article featuring this marque or indeed little more than barely referring to it in print.

This car with its aluminium sports saloon coachwork and 4-litre engine which later graced the Jensen 541 with comparatively little modification (as well as Austin lorries) must not be confused with its funereal seven-seater steel brother favoured by undertakers and diplomats, which although most serviceable and a beneficent perpetuator of mechanical spares because of its continued production to the late sixties, is not of much practical interest to the enthusiast.

The reasonable price of the Princess allows every devotee of the larger animal a chance to purchase—good examples which, with a “B” instead of an “A” on the bonnet, would fetch in excess of a £1,000, can be had for a quarter of that price, and I can assure you will give as much driving pleasure.

Kingswood — M. A. N. ALDEN

***

A Club’s Fast Pick-Up

Sir,

We thought you might like a photograph of our rebuilt Armstrong Siddeley pick-up, based on the limousine car chassis. It is our intention to use it every day as general delivery vehicle for the spares organisation. In spite of its looks, and the belief of most people who stop me and say “how many coffins does it carry?”—it is not transport for the dead! In fact it will reach 100 m.p.h. quite easily and with large disc front brakes it will stop quicker than most vehicles of its size—not bad for something designed and built in 1959.

If seen on the roads please pat its bottom and put 20 gallons in the tank!

Bournemouth — J. D. HUBBUCK Secretary, Armstrong Siddeley O.C.

***

Horrid New MG’s

Sir,

As well as writing to the club’s magazine Safety Fast , I thought I would voice my opinion in your magazine also. The opinion is about the new hideous-looking MG’s (not to mention the poor Midget’s new engine). If this is what the United States Federal Laws are going to do to our famous and much loved marque then I say to Lord Stokes kill the MG now before it suffers any more. In fact, I shudder to think what might appear next. I had hoped the MG sports car would have gone out in classic style but, alas, this now will never happen.

Mickledover — D. ELLIOTT

***

Sir,

If the consequences weren’t so tragic, the latest offerings from British Leyland in the form of the “revised” MG range could be dismissed as a hurried design error.

But it is not. Let us look at the facts. The last completely new MG was the “B” and that was 12 years ago, the present “B” being virtually the same apart from engine rods and minor details.

Now look at the Triumph division. We’ve had numerous TRs, four versions of the Spitfire (although to be fair it’s taken up to series 4 before they got the suspension sorted out). To conclude, my own personal view is that Lord Stokes is achieving his aims of closing down the MG division. After all, he did his apprenticeship at Triumphs didn’t he? and we all know what MG men thought of Triumph sports cars.

As one worker at Abingdon when asked the question “would it help if Lord Stokes went?” replied “it couldn’t do any harm could it?”

Boston — JOHN LAWRENCE

***

How Do You Replace An Alfa Romeo ?

Sir,

I wonder if any of your readers can help?

Next spring I shall be returning to the UK after having lived in South Africa for almost six years. Half of that time I ran a Triumph 2000 which was not really suitable for the hot dry conditions out here. The rest of the time I have been running an Alfa 1750 sedan. My problem is what British make of car can I buy which will measure up to the Alfa? I won’t mention all the Alfa virtues since they have been pretty well documented in your past reviews. Suffice to say I am looking for a car for everyday use which has the urge, the anchors and the roadholding of the Alfa. I am tempted to mention the five gears, so smooth I swear they are made of brass but then the field of choice is impossibly narrowed. Oh, by the way, the Alfa is made in South Africa or at least its successor, the Alfetta, is and costs just under R4,000 (say £2,450), so no cars over £2,500 please.

Johannesburg — ANTHONY G. HASSALL

***

Sprinzel Throws a Fit

Sir,

I know I have only been a keen reader for half of the time MS has been published, but generally your opinions—even the more provocative ones—make good sense.

However, having just read that “The lovely little gearbox which accompanied the A series engine has been replaced” (on the Spridget) I began a fit which needed high-octane treatment.

Having spent a great deal of my life squeezed in behind the wheel of these magnificent vintage sports cars, often driving them in competitive anger and occasionally with success, I cannot imagine whoever thought the standard Midget box to be anything but a weak, horrid, nasty and badly-ratio’d item. In my younger “conversions” days, our workshops were generally littered with broken first and reverse clusters, and the floor looked like an Australian dentist’s surgery—while Paul Hawkins and I tried to placate Spridget customers who were on their umpteenth gearbox overhaul.

I’ll admit that we, and our customers, did drive the little beasts a little harder than their design staff intended, but to call that monster gearbox a “lovely little thing” is taking things too far.

Several of your “Verglas” reporters will witness to the ‘orrid noises which spring from that “lovely thing” after two or three stages of even a mild rally, and one of them will no doubt recall an Alpine driving almost the whole route with only top gear.

In fact the main reasons for retirement with Midgets were almost always either gearbox failures or front wheel hubs collapsing, and those two faults were present from Mark One frog-eyes right up to the recent model … only the price has changed !

With kindest regards, and thanks for my monthly motoring “treat”.

Brackley, Northants — JOHN SPRINZEL

[Thus speaks the expert, and he’s quite right of course. But C.R. was referring to the delights (in most cases) of the gearchange, not to the undistinguished pedigree of the internals. Time will tell whether the Marina internals of the new gearbox are much more reliable. Fortunately for this gearbox the Midget is no longer an active International rally or racing car, so it should not have to survive the same rigours meted out to those in PM0 200.—ED.]

***

Real Rileys

Sir,

Isn’t Mr. Sibley rather missing the point? I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the cars produced as the the “RM” series of Rileys are anything other than very fine vehicles, and “real” cars. They were not, however, manufactured in Coventry by the original Riley Company of which the various members of the Riley family were Directors and under whose personal supervision the cars were made. In my view this rules out the application to them of the description “Real Rileys” (with strict factual accuracy, anyway).

After all, one wouldn’t call a Sunbeam Alpine a “real Sunbeam”–or would one? [No!—ED.].

Kingsclere — TONY BIRD

***

The Fiat 124 Sport

Sir,

Recently readers of your excellent magazine have expressed praise upon various sporting motor cars. I feel someone should, through the medium of your columns, thank the Fiat Motor Company for producing the delightful 124 sports coupe. These cars have been enthused over by the Editor of Motor Sport in the September 1971 edition and earlier in May 1969. The specification is most up-to-date with a 1,600 c.c. twin overhead cam, Weber-fed engine mated to a lovely short-throw, five-speed gearbox. But it is the “complete car” equipment that so impresses me. Split-circuit, all-disc braking, thermomagnetic cooling fan, full instrumentation, calibrated in two colours for home and continental readings, three independent interior lights, dipping interior mirror, boot and two bonnet courtesy lights, an automatic reversing light, a hand throttle, variable speed intermittent and continuous screen wipers, electric screen washers, front and rear ashtrays, air horns, four adjustable facia and console air vents, front and rear quarter-lights, front reclining bucket seats, four quartz-iodine headlamps, rheostat panel and “side lights on” control, twin scuttle map pockets, heated rear window and superior interior trim.

All the “extras” I have are a sunshine roof and a radio. The maximum speed is in the region of 112 m.p.h., the steering is accurate and taut, roadholding is most impressive and fuel consumption works out to between 25-29 m.p.g. Fiat’s untemperamental twin-cam can be driven as low as 30 m.p.h. in fifth gear and only uses a pint of oil every 1,200 miles after 36,000 miles recorded. It is an absolute joy to drive and can carry two average-size adults in the rear as comfortably as those up front. Mr. Boddy, who knows from long experience how a car should feel and perform, will testify to the wonderful character of these handsome coupes. If readers, sporting motorists all, can better the all-round qualities of the 1971/2 versions for around £1,200 I would like to hear their suggestions. What a pity Fiat introduced that plastic replacement last year.

Worcester — J. H. SHEPPY

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Back to School

Sir, I expect you will be inundated with letters protesting at the mis-quotation in the caption to October’s “Tailpiece”. The original poem appeared (in “Punch”?) in the 20s, as a lighthearted protest against the introduction of motor-buses to the streets of Oxford; and the essence of this cheerful whimsy was that the two words “Motor” and “Bus” were declined throughout. I recall that it started with:

“What is this that roareth thus,

Can it be a Motor Bus?

Implet in the Corn and High,

Terror me Motoris Bi …. .”

After passing references to “Motorem Bum” and “Copia Motorum Borum”, this piece of dog-Latin ended:

“Domine, defende nos

Contra hos Motores Bos?”

Instow, N. Devon — J. G. HARBORD

[Well, we weren’t exactly inundated. Perhaps other readers, like ourselves, have forgotten their Latin.—ED ]

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Another Wilks Rover Special ?

Sir,

I enclose a photograph of a car I have obtained. From the information obtainable it seems that it was built by Peter Wilks between the years of 1946 and 1953, whilst his father was managing director of the Rover Car Company.

The specification is as follows: 6 cyl. Rover o.h.v./s.v. engine, Rover 80 front suspension, long arm wishbones. It is mounted in a tubular space frame. The body is all aluminium, very well made with welded seams. The only thing that seems to be missing is a De Dion rear-end.

I would be very grateful if you could publish the above letter and photo. It seems a pity to let such an unusual car stand without the public being able to see it, so if any of your readers are interested in it in any way whatsoever (maybe someone would like to borrow it for display, etc.) please contact me.

Ardley, Oxfordshire — MALCOLM HEARNE