Readers' letters, December 1985, December 1985

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Marsh Fever

Sir,

I was very interested to see the letter from Jack Maurice in the November issue. Coincidence is an amazing thing. Several years ago the 4WD Elva Buick of Ray Terry came into my hands as a pile of bits: less engine and gearbox, but including some drive shafts and couplings for its 4WD system. I rebuilt the car, but not with the Buick engine or 4WD and eventually after some successful racing sold it on. I understand from Jack Maurice’s letter that the engine and gearbox then went into one of the stretched Palliser chassis designed for Formula A or hill climbing. This car eventually found its way into Jack Mattrice’s “Pit Stop” bar, being displayed on the ceiling in full original trim but less engine and gearbox.

The Palliser has now also come into my hands and is being rebuilt and prepared for our Pre ’70 Single Seater Championship, complete with Cherry F5000 in its Formula A specification, for which category the chassis design was originally intended.

I have recently contacted Hugh Palliser Dibley, who of course was patron of the Palliser concern, but we have been unable to contact Len Wimhurst, the designer, for suspension settings etc.

Let’s hope, like the Elva, the re-birth brings some successful results.

Best wishes for your continuing interest in Historic re-discoveries.

Norton, Wilts, Brian E. Cocks

Heeling and Toeing – 1

Sir,

It is a pity people get so steamed up about heeling and toeing. It is a very useful little technique that has been practised since cars appeared and for those who use it, it adds smoothness on the road and speed on the track. But it is only used by a small section of the motoring population who are invariably driving enthusiasts. It is also a very useful technique to have in reserve for an emergency.

Bob Peters tells us that Police Driving Schools don’t teach heeling and toeing and this is really the nub of the issue. If the police did teach heel and toe downward gear changes there would be no controversy. I am sure Mr Peters would not want everybody to practise double declutching up and down on a modern synchromesh box, yet all Police Driving Schools in Britain still teach this technique.

What is often forgotten is that the Police do not train driving enthusiasts, they take a Policeman, any Policeman, and in six weeks turn him into a Class 1 driver who can drive very fast and safely whilst on duty and at times under extreme pressure. To achieve this standard, they have, over the years, found that they get a consistently better gear change from Mr Average Policeman by teaching him to double declutch. Similarly, in 1934 when the Metropolitan Police Driving School was set up at Hendon I am sure there was much discussion about heeling and toeing but in the end it was decided that the disadvantages outweighed the advantages and so it was not taught.

This is not to say that policemen don’t heel and toe, those driving enthusiasts amongst them do so just as much as the rest of us when the occasion calls for it, but not perhaps when the Super is in the car.

What about left foot braking on automatic cars? Two feet, two pedals and yet nobody is taught to use their left foot on the brake, this has always seemed ergonomic nonsense to me.

Hartfield, Sussex, G. I. Bigg

Chairman High Performance Club

Heeling and Toeing – 2

Sir,

In challenging through your September pages the views of the IAM, using the useful technique “Reductio ad Absurdum”, I could not realistically expect to amuse their Chief Executive! Neither could I expect my own views to be considered original — though my letter certainly was.

I am, however, disappointed to see that Mr Peters has missed the point as well as the humour. The point is that “heel and toe” driving allows braking to be continuous, smooth, and uninterrupted by operation of the throttle during gear changes. This steady braking is clearly more effective, and more comfortable for passengers than the “On/Off/On” method favoured by the IAM. Mr Peters’ assumption that any driver using “heel and toe” necessarily drives as if on a race track, rather than enjoying the increased smoothness and safety margin it makes available is as specious as the early belief that front wheel brakes were undesirable because they would encourage speeding. I am therefore grateful for confirmation that the IA M does not, after all, downgrade any drivers who demonstrate this skill, using sufficiently large feet on suitably positioned pedals!

Much of the rest of Mr Peters’ letter does not stand up to a moment’s scrutiny, and cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged.

Far from showing “almost indecent haste”, heel and toe can be perfectly smooth and leisurely, and “if all driving were properly planned in the first place” as Mr Peters’ expects, why do all test bodies including, presumably, the IAM include emergency stops in their tests? How does the ability to brake continuously and more effectively, become a liability?

Since when does flicking an indicator stalk in advance of a manoeuvre represent “steering control cut down by one half”? If it is so dangerous, should not indicators, radios, cigar lighters and, presumably, gear levers, be outlawed immediately?

What car does Mr Peters drive that has no means other than “a lot of hand flapping in dead of winter or at night” to indicate the driver’s intentions? Should he not get it fixed?

It would be a wonderful world if “Correct mirror equipment, properly adjusted, coupled with intelligent use” were universal, and drivers never made mistakes. But how many times have you read the words “I didn’t see him coming” in a court report? How many crashes have been caused by inadequate signalling — and how few by excessive? How many times have you had to take avoiding action as the car you were overtaking itself pulled out to overtake because the driver had not seen you and therefore did not signal?

I consider that the IAM should teach drivers to signal their intentions clearly, in good time and at all times. Anything less, but particularly the suggestion that signalling is somehow difficult, dangerous or unecessary, is highly irresponsible.

Alton, Hants. Idris Francis

PS. You probably won’t have room for this true story. In the middle 50s in West Wales my father was being driven by his elderly partner who, without signalling or slowing down, veered across the path of an oncoming car into a petrol station. When my father recovered sufficiently to remonstrate with him, his partner replied, in all sincerity, “but everyone knows I buy my petrol here”! How would Mr Peters plan for that?

Buckler Rally Car

Sir,

I was most interested article on Buckler cars in the September issue. Whilst you listed very carefully the extensive talents of Derek Buckler and the success of his various cars in racing, you did not make mention of the small but still noteworthy contribution made by one of his cars to the history of British rallying.

In the mid-50s one of the most successful and well known rally “specials” was Roy Fidler’s Buckler Mk V fitted with a Ford 10 engine, split front axle and V: elliptic rear axle it became the scourge of many Silver Star events. Purchased by Roy in 1954 from an Army Colonel who by some means or another had persuaded a group of Army apprentices to build the hit car up as an engineering exercise. The bodywork was only just adequate complete with hood and sidescreens. The only flooring was between the two outside chassis members. The gap between this member and the door was simply fresh air. As the navigator in this machine I claim to have invented the idea of having Romer, Blackwell calculator, map measure and bulldog clip all on separate pieces of string round the co-driver’s neck. Door pockets and shelves… forget them on the Buckler. The exhaust and silencer were under the passenger side with the pipe outlet just before the rear wheel arch… la works Healey 3000! The resultant fumes did nothing for the sensitive stomach but the aforementioned gap meant I could puke direct onto the road without opening the door.

Roy would at all times swear by the roadholding of his car in that the front end went exactly where it was intended. The back end however was another story and the car used to hop about the road to an alarming degree and was judged positively dangerous by those following. Very few people passed us.

Roy learned his driving skills in this car, our various wins in the early BTRDA Silver and Gold Star events (such as the Lakeland Rally in 1959) surprised many of the then professionals who had far more money and or their own garages. Roy finally sold the car in order to buy, would you believe, a Triumph Herald. In the early 60s, and a couple of Ford Anglias later, he earned his place as a driver on the BMC, Triumph. Routes and Datsun teams and in 1966 was RAC Rally Champion.

One particular and I think amusing incident concerned the start of the Mini Miglia Rally in the late 50s. Starting from outside Rochdale Town Hall early on Saturday evening before going on to Wales for the competitive sections. The Major and Mayoress of Rochdale had been persuaded to leave an official reception for an hour or so in order to flag away the entries in the rally. This went very well for the first eight or nine cars, with the Mayoress resplendent in fur jacket and long white dress, waving the Union Jack. We were number 10 and after the usual pleasantries of good luck etc. from the Mayoress we roared away with a flourish of gravel and black smoke from our side exhaust… We learned later on that evening that the Mayoress’ best frock had been ruined by the effects of exhaust smoke, oil and dirty water. The Town Hall cleaner flagged the rest of the field away.

Hyde, Cheshire, John Hopwood

Buckler F3 Car

Sir,

Your recent articles on the small performance car manufacturers, Kieft. Tojeiro etc, have proved fascinating reading, but I was particularly delighted to see the article about Buckler in the September issue.

About a year ago. I acquired a 500 cc unidentified special and after some research — and a lot of luck — it was identified as the Ken Smith car which was constructed in 1950/51. The identification was made certain by the professionally built chassis which is, in fact, the very same one illustrated on page 962. It appears to have undergone a number of modifications (chiefly the removal of the triangulation struts which were a feature of the Buckler chassis) but is essentially the same. The car has now been totally rebuilt and is at present running with a Triumph twin engine which was fitted to the car when I acquired it. I have done everything possible to maintain originality, except obviously on matters of safety, and the car made a competition comeback at Gurston Down on September 15th. Unfortunately, it was in the hands of an inexperienced wally driver (myself!) and was not made to perform as well as it can doubtless do, but I am hoping for greater things.

I had suspected that the chassis was a “one off’ but was pleased to have this confirmed by your article. Incidentally, does anyone know the present whereabouts of Ken Smith?

Haslemere, Surrey, Colin Rawlinson

Brands Aid

Sir,

I read with dismay recent newspaper reports that BAT Industries are considering the disposal of Grovewood Securities which owns, among other things, Brands Hatch Motor Racing Circuit, and it has been mentioned that the ultimate fate of Brands Hatch is to be redeveloped. I am in the property industry but am deeply interested in motor sport in all its guises.

It would be for me the ultimate symbol of the failure of the property industry if it could not be shown that it is possible to create a commercially viable property development but still retain the full Grand Prix Circuit at Brands Hatch.

I have had a number of my letters published in the property trade press seeking property members’ views, and have already had an extremely encouraging response. In addition I have written to a number of friends, acquaintances and personalities connected with property and motoring and have had further encouraging responses such that I propose to establish an organisation called Brands Aid to promote a commercial development at Brands Hatch but specifically in such a way that it does not damage the motor racing facilities with which we are all familiar and which it would be a tragedy to lose.

I would be interested to hear your readers’ views and, I trust, receive support.

London WC1, Stephen A. Muir

A BMRHC?

Sir,

As an amateur motor racing historian I wonder if there are any like-minded enthusiasts, professional or otherwise, who would be interested in the setting up of a “British Motor Racing Historical Society”? Among the aims of the society would be:

1. The collection, preservation and cataloguing of historical material.
2. The publication of articles researched by members.
3. A register of members’ interest.

I would be pleased if potential members could write to me, giving details of their particular interests and any ideas they might have to help get the society off the ground.

Cleveland, Martyn H. Flower

[There is already a Society of Automotive Historians; perhaps a branch of this is what is needed? —Ed.]