Rumblings, February 1958

Another Motorists’ Burden

Those who have had occasion recently to renew their driving licence will have noticed a new burden which the motorist is expected to bear. We refer to the fact that instead of to bear. We refer to the fact that instead of a one-year licence costing 5s, a three-year licence costing 15s. is now issued to those whose names put them early in the alphabet, and soon every motorist will be called upon to fork out 15s. for his or her licence.

On the face of it there is no reason for complaint, you may say working on the arithmetical argument that 5 by 3 = 15.

Let us enlighten you. Money paid for your driving licence is to cover the administrative cost of issuing the little booklet. It is not a tax. The Government states that to cut such administrative costs it is issuing three-year licences. Yet the cost increases by 10s. Once again the long-suffering motorist is being fleeced. Incidentally, the new driving licence is no longer a proper book. It is a poor, flimsy cardboard-cover affair that the British should be thoroughly ashamed of when called upon to produce it in foreign countries. But it still contains four blank pages waiting for endorsements—surely the motorist is the only member of the community who suffers the indignity of having to possess a document that provides for punishment of offences before they have been committed?

This latest imposition on a section of the public which pays highly in taxation, uses products from one of Britain’s largest industries, the health of which is vital to the survival of the nation as a whole, and which becomes a ready ally of the authorities in times of strike or war, is a matter to which the rich motorists’ organisations may care to attend. You may even decide that it calls for a letter to your M.P.


The Latest American Fords

There arrived on the Editorial desk not long ago an imposing pile of catalogues from Lincoln Cars Ltd. relating to the latest Ford Fairlane, Mercury. Continental Mk. II and Lincoln cars.

These catalogues are attractively illustrated with the object of selling the idea that owner ship of a modern Ford enhances enjoyment of the American way of life. In splendid colour pictures we see happy Americans sun-bathing, ski-ing, going to dances, gardening, playing with pets, buying dowers, taking their sons to scout-rallies, riding, hunting, ice-yachting, collecting antiques, taking photographs, or just relaxing in the wide open spaces. These colour illustrations show off the new American Fords in such settings. while subsidiary line-drawings, also well-contrived, remind us that in monsoon mud, Iranian desert, Thailand jungle roads, or up the Khyber Pass these new Ford products can he expected to perform as well as on turnpikes and in New York traffic.

It is interesting to see if any fresh ideas of what, is acceptable in a car emerge from study of these catalogues. We are reminded of the great variety of body styles offered by American manufacturers—the Ford is available as Fairlane Club Sedan, Town Sedan, Club Victoria, Town Victoria, 500 Town Victoria, 500 Sunliner, 500 Club Victoria, 500 Town Sedan, 500 Club Sedan, 500 Skyliner, Custom Business Sedan, Tudor Sedan, Fordor Sedan, 300 Tudor Sedan, 300 Fordor Sedan, Tudor and Fordor Ranch Wagon, Del Rio Ranch Wagon, six-passenger Country Sedan, nine-passenger Country Sedan and nine-passenger Country Squire—the mind, although pleased to find “Tudor” and “Fordor” retained from model-T days, boggles at attempting a choice.

It is interesting, too, to note how quite major items of specification are offered as optional extras, such as choice of four engines in the Ford Fairlane (from 145-h.p. Mileage Maker Six to 300-h.p. Interceptor Special V8), Ford-Aire pneumatic suspension, choice of Fordomatic. Cruise-o-Matic, or Mex-o-Matic transmission, Swift-Sure power brakes, Master-Guide power steering, four-way front seat. either power- or manually-operated, and pump unit for vacuum screen-wipers, apart from obvious extras such as seat belts, power-lift windows, 1-Rest tinted safety glass, Select-Aire or Polar Aire air conditioner. whitewall tyres, etc.

The horse-power developed by American o.h.v. V8 engines has become fantastic, equalling that of present-day F1 Grand Prix racing cars and comfortably beating their output in special cases. Most powerful in the Ford range is the 400-h.p. Super Marauder V8. which is of 430 cu. in. capacity, uses a 10.5 to 1 compression-ratio, and is optional on all Mercury models. This tops by 190 h.p. the highest power available from any British car, Jaguar being tops here with but 210 b.h.p.

American engineers still favour the separate chassis frame, and the Mercury enjoys a wheelbase of 10 ft. 2 in., or 10 ft. 5 in. for the Park Lane. On Continental and Lincoln cars this dimension is no less than 10 ft. 11 in.

Under-bonnet features include three-stage triple-thermostat cooling, machined combustion chambers, staggering of valves to assist exhaust-valve cooling, multi-barrel carburetters, and Precision Fuel Induction (could this last be a sales-sop suggestive of fuel injection?). Ford claim that their engines are the only V8 units to be electrically-balanced while under power.

Ideas European stylists will no doubt copy include twin headlamps, arranged with the inner lamps providing highest intensity (these being extinguished and the outer lamps dipped for passing), two-stage door “keeps” to hold doors two-thirds or fully open as required, spring-assisted door hinges to ease the chore of opening or closing big doors, deep fibrous roof and dash sound-insulation, push-button control of automatic transmission, keyboard control of power-operated windows (what happens if “rear-window up” is selected while sonny is using this convenient aperture to admire the American scene isn’t explained), and “touch”-controls for automatic chassis lubrication, heater, air-conditioner, and six-way seat etc. We find, too, the Directed-Power differential to kill wheelspin at the touch of a switch, means of “dialling” your required seating position, provision for a bell to ring when your pre-set speed is exceeded, automatic declutching of the ventilator fan as highway speed increases, silhouetted ash-trays, and the skylight screen which is wrapped up as well as round the sides with roof-level fresh-air intakes.

All these ideas are found in one or other ol the 1958 American Ford range, or can be had as extras. America leads us in matters like push-button controls and full air-conditioning and may beat us to pneumatic suspension. But perhaps more praise is due to the American salesman than to U.S. engineers—apart from all the foregoing he has to remember Style Tone colour combinations. Angle Poise Ball-Joint suspension, Even-Keel rear springs, Silent-Grip body mounting, Magic-Circle steering, Giant-Grip, Double-Sealed brakes and other similar attractions when selling Ford Fairlanes!

Whatever our manufacturers think of such publicity gambits they alight very well copy the quality of the latest Ford catalogues instead of issuing the mediocre literature we how have to accept from them. Even Rolls-Royce catalogues have deteriorated sadly in quality.


The two-millionth Volkswagen left the Wolfsburg assembly lines on December 28th last year. It took ten years to make the first million, two years and five months to make the second million. VW production figures were 395,690 in 1956, 470,589 (269,198 exported) in 1957.

In America the bi-monthly Foreign Car Guide (H. K. Publications, Inc., 215, Fourth Avenue, New York, 3. 35 cents) is devoted virtually to VW matters. It contains amongst other items a detailed description of the Volkswagen by Roger Huntington, in which appear some interesting facts about how the VW engine was developed for passenger-car use, taken from a paper which Ludwig Boehner, Chief Engineer at Wolfsburg, read before the S.A.E. in 1953. Tests of the thermostatic control of cooling-air delivery were made over a 35-mile mountain road when the temperature was 23 deg. F. Cylinder temperature was controlled between 350 deg. F. when climbing to 160 deg. F. going downhill, whereas with the thermostat disconnected the temperature range changed to 330 deg. F./95 deg. F. (Note that it is temperatures below 140 deg. F. that permit unvapourised fuel to corrode cylinder bores, pistons and rings.) To obtain equalised cooling without recourse to expensive machined cylinder finning, the Volkswagen cylinder barrels are made by shell moulding, a thin resin-bonded shell of baked sand giving a fin thickness of only just over in., and fin pitch distances of less than 1/16th in., and fin pitch distances of less than ¼ in. To obviate the use of expensive curved baffle plates above the cylinders (incidentally saving 30 tons of sheet metal a year) Volkswagen employ a single flat baffle on the downstream side. which reduces temperature by 70 deg. F. as compared with the more usual baffles. A special water rig was used, air flow being similated by coloured water, to work out the shape of the baffle. Huntington quotes the rated pumping capacity of the VW cooling fan as 18 cu. ft. per sec. at 3,300 r.p.m., which he considers about proportional to the 60 cu. ft. per sec. delivery from the Sirroco fan used to cool the 100-b.h.p. Franklin engine of the ‘thirties.

With reference to our remarks in the issue for December last about VW’s supplies of magnesium coming from Germany, America and Norway, Magnesium Elektron Ltd., of Manchester, inform us that they now supply large tonnages to Wolfsburg. — W. B.