Matters of moment, December 1976

Fun from your fuel

With the cost of everyday existence ever rising, Britain running up enormous debts, and food prices failing to stabilise, those pessimists who forecast that the cost of a gallon of petrol will soon be £1 are probably right, or not far wrong. Which gives rise to the thought that with the cost of this essential fluid so high it behoves all of us to get the best we can from it, which to the motoring enthusiast means having as much fun from fuel as possible.

One way to this end is to make every drop go as far as possible. Modern i.c. engines are decently economical and the technicians are devoting themselves to all manner of fuel-conserving ideas, like the Stirling engine, the Perbury Drive, Honda CVCC stratification, and all the rest of it. Such research is most commendable (and Honda are making use of theirs). But down the years the rotary-valve, sleeve-valve, slide-valve and other unconventional engines have, in the end, been ousted by old Otto’s reciprocating system, with poppets. And there is nothing new about refined cylinder-head formations. The Editor recalls nearly going mad (all right, all right!) at the age of 14, trying to understand the gospel of Ricardo, Weslake and Whatmough, of the kind Michael May (no, not that one) is effectively preaching today. It is the diesel engine, though, which shows so much promise, even with tax on heavy-oil loaded against it. Motor Sport was quick to recognise this, with a special article about normal and competition use of the c.i.-engine in January 1974. At the time we were criticised for this in some quarters.

So we are naturally pleased to see that there is now general recognition of this form of power unit for the private-car, with Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot, Citroen and Opel, already selling such cars in this country. Although we have yet to try it and would need to drive it for a considerable mileage, Volkswagen seem, with their Diesel-Golf of modest engine capacity, which owes something to our late Sir Harry Ricardo, to have made the greatest breakthrough. As for flywheel-stored energy, the free-wheel, which makes such good use of gravity and the inertia of a car on so many occasions during a journey, is surely a more simple investment? Which is why we are sad that no-one has reverted to it and why not long ago Motor Sport published technical details of pre-war free-wheeling systems, as a bait for experimental engineers.

The topical aspect of motor fuel is not, as we see it, whether the World’s supply will be exhausted by 1984, AD 5000 or whenever, making it essential not to use it carelessly, but that the present cost of petrol should be so savagely high, so that it automatically elevates the price of almost all the goods in all the shops. It is nonsense to say that a high petrol-tax is good because it makes motorists conserve fuel against a final drying-up of all the oil fields. That is as futile, in view of the overall consumption of oil by industry and housing, as saying the 50/60 m.p.h. speed-limits are a real help to this end, and the fact that, although the new Transport Minister says that they are “under consideration”, these limits are to be kept in force for another six months, is indicative of the muddled thinking of the Government, which is strangling us all.

The first Government to act for the car-owner and all who drive, in taking off futile speed limits and licence-endorsements for non-criminal offences, must surely catch some very useful votes? And any Government must see that reducing the petrol (and diesel-oil) tax would be the best possible way of helping one great Industry which employs such a huge workforce and of reducing the cost of commodities across the board, thus covering the cost of living. Remember that this happy little Government money-raiser commenced at 3d. (1.2p) per gallon in 1910 but had risen to 9d. a gallon by 1949. Thereafter, it went on rising viciously. Do you know what it represents, per gallon, today? Reducing this tax, with a differential to encourage the diesel engine, as was once done, would help the Motor Industry and reduce the cost of household purchases ; but will any Government ever do it?

If we are to pay so dearly for our fuel, it is important to get the most fun from it. We disliked imitation veteran and vintage cars but note that Panther Westwide have veered away somewhat from this theme, with their Vauxhall-engined sports Lima. In the days when all-enveloping bodywork was arriving the HRG, with red mudguards and exposed headlamps, was not regarded as a bogus-oldy, because it was currently in production, and today the Morgan from Malvern carries on that tradition. There is nothing. against exposed headlamps and mudguards if these are used to reduce body-building costs instead of to deliberately suggest that a /97677 car is something from another age. This being the case, the time would seem to have arrived for the smaller car-makers to think in terms of “fun cars”, of which Caterham Car Sales’ Lotus Super Seven is the outstanding example to replace such ageing sports cars as the MGs Midget and B. If existing saloon-car frames lack rigidity when used for open cars, perhaps it is time to return to space frames of the sort Buckler and the others made good use of a few dacades ago, and to bring out something on the lines of a modernised Dellow or 750/ 1172 trials-car. That way, the fun factor from savagely-taxed petrol could, for some of us, he enhanced.

The Brighton Run

They may prefer vintage to veteran cars ‘or be interested only in modern vehicles but that does not prevent a great many people from watching the Veteran Car Run, which remains one of Britain’s great sporting occasions. The spectators are estimated at a million; certainly a very big and enthusiastic assembly watched. This year there were 290 entries, the oldest being an 1893 1 1/2 h.p. Benz, from the USA. Eighty-seven pre-1905 makes were represented, including several steam cars; and De Dion Boutons predominated, with 52 entered.

The RAC called this the “80th Commemoration Run”. We wonder if they have “shorted” their pocket-calculators? The first Emancipation Run took place in 1896, it is true, and in odd forms thereafter, possibly up to 1913, with two so-called runs in 1903, we believe. But the idea wasn’t revived, as a newspaper stunt, until 1927, and there was obviously a break during the last war. A rough calculation would suggest that this was the 47th rather than the 80th Commemoration Run. Be that as it may,it was a splendid event, very well policed, and experiencing first bright stinshine,.then torrential rain. How the Editor, clad of course in a Functional Stormcoat, contrived to get Tom Lightfoot’s 1902 Beaufort (what, another German car!) through the Run, in spite of two involuntary stops and his passenger having sortietimes to push this 8-h.p. one-lunger to enable a gear to be eased-in, is told on pages 1472 to 1474. For the record, 246 started and 219 completed the 57-mile route within the stipulated eight hours. Those unfortunates who started but failed to finish were :

M. L. Cohn (1893 Benz), J. R. Garrett 11895 Gladiator), R. A. Collinp (1899 Benz), E. Snapper (1899 Benz), G. von Rallay (1900 Panhard Levassor) F. H. Parkinson (1900 Peugeot), Major A. Pownall 11901 De Dion Bouton), Transport Trust (1901 Godiva). 3. Northwood 11901 Int. Charette), P. A. Brandt 11901 Locomobile), W. Lewis (1901 Panhard Levassor), Mrs. M. Garrett (1901 Pick), R. M. Snapper (1901. Renault), J. S. Corry (1902 Benz), W. D. S. Lake (1902 Mors), W. Harrah (1903 Panhard Levassor), T. 3. de Vert: Green (1902 Scania), W. F. Watson (1903 Gladiator), R. L. Lester (1901 Humber), N. H. Cullen (1903 Humberette), C. W. P. Ilampton (1903 Mercedes), Mrs. V. Allen (1903 Oldsmobile), R. Lucas (190$ Tony Huber), C. M. Booth (1904 Slumber), Mrs. M. A. E. Banfield (1904 Mors), D. R. Gilbert (1904 Panhard

Leins.sor). C. E. Dumbell (1904 Turner Miesse.)

The new Secretary of the Wolseley Hornet-Special Club is B. Baxter, 13, Trinity Close, Stanwell, Middlesex. The Autumn issue of the Aston Martin OC magazine continues the fascinating story of Gordon -Sutherland’s memories of the old AM days. Incidentally, in his article on the Aston Martin factory in the September issue, C.R. became confused over Bamford & Martin’ history and has been corrected by Fred Ellis, who has rebuilt some of the rare s.v. and o.h.c. B & M. models; of Lionel Martin memory.

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That indefatigable 72-year-old Alroyd Lees has added another marathon drive to his, tally. This time his wanderlust took him the 1,892 miles from Stroud to Land’s End to John O’Groats back to Stroud in a solo drive record of 31 hours 15 minutes. Lees forsook his faithful Jaguar Mk. 9 for a new Ford Cortina 2000S. He recently founded the End-to-End Club for people who have completed the journey from John O’Groats to Land’s End or vice versa. Details of the club can he obtained from John Dullea, Studio Douglas, London Road, Stroud, Gloucester (Stroud 3729).