Letters from Readers, December 1978

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

***

Customs Duty

Sir,

Readers of Motor Sport may be interested to learn that HM Customs now actively discourages the return to the UK of UK manufactured Historic vehicles.

Customs Duty is normally assessed on certain foreign goods to protect the home market manufacturers. However, in a seemingly ridiculous piece of legislation, Duty and VAT is now claimed at the market value on UK manufactured and UK registered vehicles brought back to this country.

Only if the vehicle can be proved to have been out of the UK for less than three years and is being re-imported by the original exporters, is it exempt from Duty. (This does not apply to vehicles located in the Common Market.)

Perhaps Motor Sport  could champion the cause of preventing the payment of Duty on UK goods, thereby enabling some of British Motoring heritage to return to Britain without penalty?

C A Mann,

Blackheath, London SE3

***

Support for Phillipe Renault

Sir,

I have noticed with some dismay the letters you have printed criticising Phillipe Renault apropos his activities on the Historic Car scene in Europe.

Historically the French have always used every means at their disposal to win races, championships and trophies both on and off the field. We all know this. To the French and the sporting English it is all part of the game. My own limited experience of these tactics in the 1973 Historic Race at Le Mans was when the Sports Car Class on the day itself was changed from 1,150 c.c. up to 1,250 c.c. to allow a French MG T Type to run! We still beat them (viz., Bert Young) in our 1,100 c.c. Lotus Elite — the engine was changed specially.

But please try not to forget that Phillipe Renault was the only person who back in 1972 started getting Vintage and Historic Racing going and accepted in Europe. You all race there now as a result of a lot of very hard work, over nearly ten years, given unstintingly by Phillipe — to say nothing of his financial assistance in the early days by underwriting race meetings which were attended by a hard core of British enthusiasts.

I know, from my own experience, that it is very easy for competitors who are dissatisfied to make public their own grievance to the detriment of the movement as a whole. Conversely it is rare for organisers to receive the praise they deserve: — so let me finish by thanking Phillipe Renault and also Michael Bowler (for the British) for their efforts — and roll on next season.

Anthony Hutton,

London SW1

***

The FIA Historic Championship

Sir,

With reference to the letter in the November Motor Sport from Georges Maitre, regarding the FIA Historic Championship, may I say “Bravo Georges, you expressed my feelings completely”.

When the “old car” Championship was mooted a German vintage magazine called it a “Mickey Mouse Championship, with a Mickey Mouse Champion at the end of the season”. So be it.

Denis Jenkinson,

Crondall

***

Harry Weslake

Sir,

I was much saddened to read in your journal for October a report of the death of that great engine research specialist Harry Weslake. He and I had known one another for very many years, and such characters as Harry Weslake can never be replaced. I can well recall our first meeting. It was at the old Lagonda factory at Staines, not far from the bridge. Fortunately I still possess a number of old diaries, and in the one covering the year 1930 I find that meeting duly recorded. It was on March 11th, I930.

The object of my visit was to conduct an investigation into some carburetter development, using a new Stromberg carburetter of the new downdraught type, then being manufactured by Stromberg Motor Devices, Milman Street, Chelsea, by whom I had recently been engaged. Prior to this, I had worked on the maintenance staff of Daimler Hire Ltd., Knightsbridge, London, in the capacity of trouble-shooter, tuneup and carburetter-man. This was good experience, with a fleet of 300 cars in summer and 250 in winter. In my capacity of trouble-shooter I was frequently called to the Royal Mews in Buckingham Palace Road to deal with any running troubles of the Royal Fleet. At that time all Daintier cars produced were equipped with the Knight sleeve-valve engines, which were notable for their quietness.

The Lagonda engine on which I was to work was a new design, a four-cylinder unit of two litres. When I arrived, the development chief told me that Mr. Harry Weslake was engaged on the test bed with the development of a new cylinder head and induction system. Mr. Weslake was probably nearing completion of his work, Would I care to keep in touch, and use the test bed when he was not using it? This idea suited me admirably. I knew Mr. Weslake well by reputation but had never met him, and the idea of actually working on the test with him appealed to me enormously. My diary for 1930 briefly records, “Cannot get on, Mr. Weslake still on his cylinder head.” But we joined forces, with me using the test bed sufficiently for the information I needed.

So started a friendship which was to last for very many years. Quite often in the years which were to follow, we would find ourselves standing at the test-bed-side of some ailing engine, discussing what the next move could be.

Harry Weslake was a Cornishman, and as direct in his approach to problems and people as it is possible to be. I always enjoyed being in his company. He was stimulating company. His pet abomination, or one of them, was some pretentious ass who would hold forth in a presumed learned manner about how problems of inefficient engines should be tackled; Harry Weslake had a devastating manner of demolishing such pretensions. The world will lose a great engineer. Some, like myself, despite the rarity of meetings in recent years. Many will mourn his loss.

Charles H Fisher,  CEng, FIMechE, MSAE,

Shrewley Common

***

Wanted a Rare Daimler

Sir,

I wonder whether any of your readers can help me with some information. I am looking for one of the very rare 1951-53 Daimler 3-litre Regency Saloons (not the 3-litre Empress) which had a body rather like a Conquest, but larger and more flowing. Daimlers made 12 of these cars in all, but only four escaped from the factory; cars 80000 (first registered 27.11.1951), 80004 (5.12.1952, then again as PRW 981 on 1.1.1955), 80005 (4.11.1952) and 80007 ( 5.10.1953 ), Car 80004 was unfortunately broken up in Herefordshire in 1975, but I have no knowledge of what happened to the three other cars, which were all initially distributed by Stratstone. I would be extremely grateful to have information from any reader about registration numbers, owners, or whereabouts of any of these three cars over the last 25 years, in the hope of finding one for preservation.

Martin Pulbrook (Dr.),

Maynooth, Co. Kildare

***

Cheap Motorsport

Sir, 

After my one day a month cover to cover reading of the bible I noticed one of the more advertisers who takes part in events as well selling cars tells us that his highly exotic pet of the month was driven 50 miles without mishap, this a vehicle which is valued at 20,000 pounds, with some parts original. At this I felt I must brush off this Italian typewriter (hence no pound sign) and write. I recently raced at the Nürrburgring Historic event with my 1954 Lancia B 20 Aurelia. We left England on the Thursday, drove to the ‘Ring; had two practice sessions, two races, did some sightseeing and got back to England on the Monday. All this was without mishap.  Surely this is what fun motoring is all about. The car races in those events, it is eligible for and over the last four years it has done 12,000 miles either going to circuits or racing and no great problems. All this on a set of plugs a few exhaust systems; cheap motorsport is still alive and all this money now quoted for the serious formula circuses is boggling! Keep up the excellent standard.

Barrie Crowe, Competition Secretary, Lancia Motor Club

***

Missing Astons

Whatever happened? I refer, of course, to Motor Sport  (November) page 1589 and your otherwise excellent Motor Show report. But I see you wrote: “Somehow I overlooked the Aston Martin stand”. How could you of all people do such a thing?

A Matthews

Finchampstead

(I think it must have been a case of wearing the wrong glasses, or could it be that the Aston Martins were not in place when I did my rounds the first Press Day? Apologies to Aston Martin who by all accounts had a magnificent  display opposite the troubled Ford stand, showing that at least one section of the British Motor industry still knows how to work properly. —  Ed.)

***

The P4 Rovers 

Sir,

In reply to Mr. Simpson’s enquiry about P4 Rovers in your October edition, with regard to tral reliability of these cars, it is really a question of luck as to whether you find one that has been driven well, or one that has been thrashed”. My first too looked very tidy, but had recurrent valve trouble, This appears to be the only potential weak point in a P4. If a valve burns out it ought to be replaced by a proper Rover valve, and the valve seat should also be replaced. It is no good getting any old replacement off the shelf. Furthermore, the work ought to be done by an authorised Rover agent. Your friendly neighbourhood garage may not have the necessary knowledge or expertise.

My second 100, a 1961 car, is far from tidy. In fact she is a battered old heap, but as faithful and reliable as the day is long. In the five years and 50,000 miles I have owned her she has needed the usual maintenance and spares to be expected of a car of this age, but no more. Mr. Simpson asks about  brake parts and exhaust system. These are the only bits, apart from tyres, and a clutch, which have been required. The parts for the brakes, consisting of an entire new disc and caliper, were obtained without any trouble at all. New linings for the rear brakes (drum) were provided as a matter of’ course. The clutch was no trouble either. And these parts were supplied through the trade to my local small side street garage in Bristol.

The exhaust system was a little more difficult. The parts had to be searched out, but it seems that people in the trade can get hold of these things without too much trouble.

Running costs: In spite of the claims of some owners of P4s, who, I think, must indulge in wishful thinking, neither of my two 100s, both of which had overdrive, ever returned much more than 21 m.p.g. The usual overall rate of consumption is about 20-21 m.p.g.

Oil consumption? Well … er  … I’m told it’s something to do with the valve layout, you know, overhead inlet with sloping pushrods, and side exhaust, coupled with the long stroke, but even with a moderately low mileage engine 300 miles per pint is about average. They do tend to smoke a bit; but then something would be wrong if they didn’t.

I am afraid I am unable to help Mr. Simpson about the rust-prone front and rear wings. Battered though my car is, the front and rear wings appear to be remarkably sound, and have exhibited no signs of deterioration throughout five years of outdoor life.

A word of warning. If you can carry out your own maintenance, do. It doesn’t amount to much. Even with such simple things as changing the oil, garages can go wrong. When topping up with oil, never let anyone else near the oil filler top. It sits on the filler pipe by gravity, but has a little lug which fits into a slot. Ham-fisted ignorami, when they find they can’t screw the thing on, invariably get the lug in the wrong place and then bang the thing down by force. It takes the strength of Hercules to get it off again. Make sure that the front wheels are properly tracked. Incorrect tracking can wreak havoc with tyres. I once scrubbed out a nice new Dunlop in 5,000 miles. Cross-plies should be used in preference to radials. The latter tend to cause too much stress on the steering, making it unduly heavy at low speeds. It’s heavy enough as it is. Cross-plies of 6.40/15 are still reasonably obtainable, but a P4 will consume them, particularly those at the front, at a rate of 10,000 to 15,000 miles.

Be very careful when changing the oil filter (a beastly fiddly job) to make sure that the rubber ring seal is fitting properly into the top of the filter cavity otherwise dire consequences may result. If you want a new fan belt, ask for the type that fits a Vauxhall Viva!

With regard to the question as to which year the alloy bonnet, boot and doors were replaced by steel, both my 100s, of 1961 and 1962, respectively, had those parts in alloy. To the best of my knowledge the “all-steel” P4 was introduced in 1963 with the 95 and 110 models, Certainly 95s and 110s of 1963 which belonged to friends of mine had those parts in steel — and the bonnet of a 110 is a very heavy piece of metal!

I wish Mr. Simpson well in his search for a “poor man’s Rolls”.

T J  Hills,

Bristol

***

Sir,

I refer to B. S. Simpson’s letter in Motor Sport.  I had a 1961 Rover 100, on which there were alloy panels,  from August 1972 until the spring of 1975. It was bought from the original owner for £125 and had covered a little over 61,000 miles. It covered a further 30,000 or 35,000 miles in my hands. I was considerably influenced by your monograph in my decision to buy an “Auntie”.

The car gave very little trouble, other than dampness occasionally making it difficult to start, and the overdrive ceasing to operate periodically due to electrical defects. I think that regular maintenance helped considerably in this regard.

I found it excellent on long mainly high-speed journeys (it went to Durham from Hampshire and vice-versa six times a year), but a little heavy when parking in confined spaces. It was more manoeuvrable than one would suspect. The petrol consumption was about 19 m.p.g. and it used about one pint of oil every 1,000 miles. It was heavy on tyres: I think I got about 15,000 miles out of each cover, on the average.

There did not appear to be any difficulty in obtaining brake parts, nor exhausts. Some new valves were installed when the engine was decarbonised. I found it a substantial economy to obtain a Rover 80 for spares (£12 delivered), from which new front wheel bearings were “cannibalised”, together with three fairly new tyres and sundry minor parts.

The rear axle eventually failed far from home, and this was when I decided to discard the vehicle. The makers did not have the appropriate spares, and a “cannibalised” axle would have cost over £50 to install. My comments to anyone seriously proposing to use an “Auntie” are:

(1) That they often seem to be overpriced, as it is anybody’s guess when a major part will fail — I wouldn’t now pay more than £400 for one and at that price it would have to be very good indeed all round. One has to think in terms of paying someone to remove them when they are finished.

(2) I doubt whether it is worthwhile acquiring one which is showing considerable signs of decay, unless it is a present, or very cheap. I didn’t have to think in terms of wing replacement when I bought mine.

(3) The mechanism is not particularly accessible so garage repairs can be expensive.

(4) I still miss mine which was most enjoyable to own and drive, and was extremely serviceable for most purposes.

Since discarding the Rover I have used 120 series Volvos, which I cannot recommend too highly.

George S McLellan

Catherington

***

Sir,

I refer to the letter in the current issue of your magazine from a gentleman in Sutton-in-Ashfield requesting information, etc., concerning the Rover P4. May I respectfully suggest that our organisation with 550 members throughout the UK, and abroad, is well qualified to tell him anything he may wish to know about this particular vehicle. There is a Midlands Branch of the Guild, with over 60 members, which holds regular monthly meetings on the last Monday in each month, and all P4 owners are very welcome. I shall be most grateful, therefore, if you could ask your correspondent to contact me; also, I would ask any Rover P4 owners who may be interested to get in touch with me (if in the Midlands), or alternatively, to write to: Daniel Young, General Secretary, Rover P4 Drivers’ Guild, 60, Woodville Road, London, NW11 9TN.

Trevor Kirk,  Secretary/Chairman,  Rover P4 Drivers’ Guild Midlands Branch

37 Dovedale Road, Thurmaston, Leicester, LE4 8NA

***

Sir,

With regard to Mr. Simpson’s letter regarding Rover P4 cars perhaps I could make a few points.

Reliability and running costs all very favourable. Mechanical parts all fairly plentiful as much was common to the Land Rover and 3 / 3-1/2-litre. Over the last couple of years the final body and trim parts have become obsolete. Brake parts all common enough to other Rover models and other marques so as not to cause concern over availability. Exhausts (except the 105 and 110 models which use a larger bore system) are still fairly plentiful, and indeed some parts are listed with Unipart numbers. However there are a few stainless steel system manufacturers catering for this range when problems are encountered or the owner is looking for a long term answer. There are a few items peculiar to this range of cars which though available may become obsolete in the not too distant future and all worth “putting on the shelf”, such as suspension rubbers and steering tie rods.

To return to reliability and running costs, these can be affected by the availability and price of parts. As most parts are available and are common to other models their price is really no more than other Rover parts, which by today’s standards are much on a par with other BL or even Ford, Vauxhall or Chrysler prices. There are of course a few exceptions but by and large one can consider them fairly average.

Reliability is very good, servicing is minimal and most mechanical items give very long service. For the most part they can cope with the modern 6,000/6-month service intervals, though it pays to keep an eye on the king pin oil reservoirs which can leak.

If Mr. Simpson would like to contact me I can loan him a sort of buyer’s-guide article I wrote a while ago, which may help him in his selection.

As to the aluminium panels, these were replaced by steel about March 1963. The notification was in Car Service Letter No. 32, March 1963 and steel panels commenced on the following chassis numbers: 95 Home RHD models from 76000493A;  95 Export RHD models from 76100075A;   95 Export LHD models from 7630004A; 110 Home RHD models from 76500972A; 110I to Export RHD models from 76600066A;  110 to Export LHD models from 76800019A.

Thus only 572 (of 3,680) 95s and 1,057 (of 4,612) 110s had aluminium panels. In fact it is quite rare to find an aluminium-panelled 95 or 110. All other models will have aluminium panels. However from March 1963 all replacement panels bought from Rovers would be steel, however some aluminium panels are still collecting dust in the lofts of Rover agents so any combinations of panels may be fitted after an accident.

As to wings, the front ones are bolted on and can be welded if congealed mud has not caused them to approximate lace curtains. Rear wings are not replaceable as they are part of the main body and include the quarter panels and are welded and leaded in on top of the roof. They have to be replaced in situ. However the wings are only cosmetic superstructure and unless they are really jagged or loose will not affect the MoT test. There is a sturdy chassis underneath but it does pay to check it over the rear wheel arch and round the outriggers for rot.

R M Stenning,

Wiveliscombe

(I have often wondered why someone does not specialise in selling these old “Auntie” Rovers, and spares for them, as others do of Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Daimler, Jaguar and MG, etc. The only specialist concern I know of declines to answer letters or an offer of a “Shopping For a Rover” article. A nicely-produced brochure explaining the P4 modelling differences and which are best suited to different customers’ requirements, should help such a business. — Ed.)

***

Swansea Again

Sir,

I have been reading with some alarm, recent letters in your publication portraying tales of woe. in connection with the apparent inefficiency of such a fundamentally British (or Welsh2). organisation as what you call the DVLC at Swansea.

You may wish to know that I have had a recent long-range dealing with these people and the outcome is quite the reverse of those which seemingly predominate. Some time ago I wrote to Tom Threlfall, Editor of the VSCC Bulletin  saying that I may send my 1925 Austin Seven 1 “Chummy” back to UK one of these days, and how would he suggest I go about getting an appropriate registration number for it without  subscribing (at huge cost) to the “number” trade which surely must be causing Swansea more of a headache than all their accepted everyday tasks put together. Tom replied saying that the Swansea people are nice when people treat them properly (adding that most people don’t!) and gave me the address to which I should direct my query. This I did in the pleasant correspondence’ terms I have become accustomed to in my 20 years away from Britain, giving them all the facts which I considered relevant.

Some five weeks later I received a reply from the Department to which my query had , eventually been directed, to the effect that, subject to inspection of the vehicle, a mark appropriate to its age will be allocated and that I should apply to my Local Vehicle Licensing Office (which happens to be in Scotland), producing their letter to me and a certificate C& E 386 obtainable from the Customs & Excise Authorities. Their letter opened “Dear Mr….” and concluded “Yours sincerely”. I would add that this particular car has never been registered in Britain in the 53 years of its existence and under the circumstances is surely entitled to nothing better than a current registration mark with the ghastly “T” on the end of it.

E D Reid, 

Kuala Lumpur

***

 Sir,

We thought that you might find the latest sample of Swansea’s vehicle description of some interest; it is original if nothing else. I enclose a  photocopy of the Registration document relating to the vehicle shown in the enclosed photograph., This must surely be the largest “Moped” in the world!

D Doncaster,

Cricklewood

(The Reg. document calls this vehicle a “Heavy-oil 2-axle Rigid Body Moped”. —Ed.) 

[Tailpiece: “Some Scammell, some Moped.  See letter from Mr. Doncaster”.] 

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