The Editor looks back on the cars he drove in 1958
I always rather enjoy writing this annual feature, if only to refresh my memory of the cars tested during the past twelve-month before embarking on a further year’s road-testing for Motor Sport.
As I also enjoy reading similar accounts in other journals, I assumed that readers might not take unkindly to these simple summaries. Not so! After publication of this feature last year a letter came in from Mr. T. Cudmore, of Chew Stoke, which read: “Oh dear ! What a dreary and self-opinionated article. Just how boring can you get ?” To which my Managing Director retorted, “Evidently not a fan!”
I pondered this rebuff for a while but, remembering that Laurence Pomeroy, when he was with The Motor, had received a similar-rebuff from a correspondent over a similar article (and was, I believe, taken to task over his English as well !), I am able to dismiss any anxiety I might have felt, particularly as this is the only letter these articles have provoked amongst Motor Sport’s quarter-million readership. So at the considerable risk of boring the gentleman in Chew Stoke, here we go once again.
In the summary of my 1957 road-tests I opened by remarking that for — one reason and another — I had not been able to try the revolutionary Citroën DS 19 or the much-discussed Peugeot 403. Both those omissions were made good last year and if the more exciting sports and high-performance machinery evaded me, at least I sampled more than my usual quota of cars, covering a total road-test driving mileage of 14,196. Apart from these varied but enjoyable miles I covered countless more as a passenger and drove other cars for short distances, while the Editorial Volkswagen put in more than 18,000 miles during the year, all but a few hundred of them in my hands.
So I can write down 1958 as a year in which I covered a mileage of approximately 33,000, again without accident, unhappy incidents or any form of brush with the police. The cars road-tested ranged from a 328-c.c. £399 Unicar to a 5,801-c.c. £4,726 Facel Vega — from eighteen to three hundred and twenty-five b.h.p.!
Altogether I drove 27 test cars during 1958, compared to 17 in 1957 and 21 in 1956, and although I am not complaining of overwork in this respect, I would remark that the task of the motoring journalist is not all milk and honey, because cars have to be tried as and when they are available and this does not always coincide with the date of a family excursion to the coast or that long-postponed visit to some far-distant beauty-spot. Moreover, while driving a new model the tester, if he has any conscience at all, has to endeavour to truthfully analyse the car, a painstaking task which extends from the moment he slides behind the steering wheel until the blotter is laid over the last lines of the test-report. I would emphasise that these 27 cars were those submitted for full road-test. Each full road-test averaged more than 500 miles per car last year, which is often more than doubled by the time other membets of the Motor Sport set-up have tried the vehicle. I believe some journalists, when writing articles of this kind, include every car they have driven during the year, even if in some of them they have scarcely got into top gear! If I do this, my total rises to over 50.
Only two of the cars lent to us for trial last year did not become the subject of such reports. One was a blue Standard Ensign saloon which I had to abandon with clutch failure in Wolverhampton and which was never again submitted; the other was an exceedingly nice little Speedwell-modified Austin A35 which provided some of the jolliest motoring of the year but with which I had no opportunity for taking performance figures, an omission which I hope to rectify early this year. Certainly this little Austin, best qualified by the adjective “brisk,” suffered from none of the short-comings often associated with souped-up “bread-and-butter” cars, and its floor gear-change, in conjunction with the more-than-unusually eager engine, was a joy indeed.
Our inability to sample the Citroën DS 19 in 1957 was ably rectified last year through the generosity of Freddie Ridout when he was P.R.O. of Citroën Cars Ltd. He let us keep a DS 19 literally for week after week, so that the writer covered nearly 2,800 miles behind its single-spoke safety steering wheel and, as other members of the staff also borrowed it, this DS 19 covered a truly impressive total test mileage. I have said before, and I say again, that this is one of the world’s great cars, and about the safest and most comfortable means of fast road travel available today. I have no sympathy for Citroën’s carping critics who point a scornful finger at the “Goddess” because the engine tends to be rough and noisy at times, or because the wonder suspension doesn’t cope with absolutely every surface and contour with complete equanimity. These are minor vices in such an advanced and futuristic a motor car, although on our traffic-infested roads I did tire of the lag in the automatic clutch and find the need for continual, even if finger-light, gear-shifting a bore. Yet, over the majority of the world’s roads, the Citroën DS19 is just about the perfect motor car. We had ample confirmation of its safety over ice and snow when covering the unexpectedly wintry R.A.C. Rally in March, and although an average speed of 43-1/2- m.p.h. (at 25 m.p.g.) may not sound very exciting, I was satisfied when the DS 19 made this speed over the decidedly cross-country route I take from Hampshire to Oulton Park, much of it heavy with traffic. Only its price, its size in London traffic, and the anticipation of one day being able to have it with a flat-six air-cooled engine, prevent me from acquiring a modern Citroën right here and now.
After such superb travel in the Citroën DS 19 I awaited eagerly the chance to try the simplified ID 19, and again Mr. Ridout cause up trumps, his sensible theory being that you cannot discover the good points of a car in a jaunt “round the houses” and, while a weekend may suffice, a journalist permitted to live for weeks with a car really can do it justice when he comes to write his report. Thus I motored nearly 1,500 miles in luxury and security in the ID 19, which I liked enormously, although its too-obvious wood facia in a car so essentially modern irritates me in the same way as does a television aerial above a thatched cottage roof, and the manually-applied front disc brakes were disappointing after driving other cars with Dunlop and Girling discs.
Reverting for a moment to one extended experience of the Citroën DS19, occasionally as the weeks rolled by I would return in it to Slough to have it greased and each time, when I enquired if the hydraulic system needed replenishment, the service engineers would look pained and tell me this wasn’t necessary. In the end the red light indicating low fluid level came on, choosing an occasion when I was hurrying south from Aintree after seeing Moss win the B.A.R.C. 200-Mile Race in a Cooper-Climax. Both braking and cornering were at once changed from superlative to mediocre, so much so that a Vauxhall Victor, the driver of which was really trying, became an embarrassment and I was obliged to search in the Citroën’s cubbyhole for mythical maps, thus having cause to wave my opponent past! This short-coming was soon corrected and I am sure it was due to exceeding the normal servicing periods and that the DS 19 is normally foolproof in respect of its commendably advanced suspension and controls. Indeed, if I had a flat in Paris, a villa on the French Riviera and a DS 19 there would be little need to go further in the pursuit of supreme happiness!
Having dealt with the two most outstanding vehicles in our 1958 road-test curriculum, I will deal, in sequence, with the other cars I tried.
The year opened with a Hillman Minx Special saloon, powered with the since-superseded 1,390-c.c. engine, which I used to “cover” the M.C.C. Exeter Trial. This, the least-expensive of the Minx range, is an excellent family saloon which is pleasing to the enthusiast on account of its floor gear-lever, separate bucket seats and unexpectedly good road-holding and cornering qualities. If I had to do most of my motoring in a Minx Special I would not consider this a hardship, apart from my predilection for air-cooling and i.r.s. As a good-looking, roomy and entirely adequate small car, Rootes have a bestseller in this £748 family saloon.
I didn’t go abroad very seriously last year but I did get to ever-fascinating Monte Carlo for the great winter rally. This journey, and a subsequent visit to Reims for the French Grand Prix, were made by Silver City and Air Charter over the Channel and in a Vauxhall Victor and a staff Austin-Healey 100M, respectively, on the road. If the former wasn’t particularly comfortable, the latter was both noisy and distinctly uncomfortable, the cold of a dawn return from Reims on a mist-enshrouded Monday morning entirely dispelling the memory of sunshine and champagne before the race. However, the Austin-Healey is undeniably fast and gave no trouble, whereas the Vauxhall Victor, driven most of the way by a colleague, developed a number of shortcomings which caused us to spend time seeking obscure General Motors garages in the back streets of French towns, time which could have been occupied so much more profitably in restaurants or hotels! However, apart from the Rally, I was able to look at some motoring history in the form of the memorials to Bauer and Zborowski at La Turbie hill and drive over the classic Grand Prix circuits outside Lyon and Amiens, which, with visits to the Casino and the memory of the sun rising like a golden ball out of the Mediterranean, made it easy to forgive the Victor its petty faults.
On my arrival home the latest Series II Sunbeam Rapier saloon came along for trial and proved an excellent car which washed out disappointing memories of earlier Rootes Rapiers. The floor gearchange was so much nicer than the former steering-column stick, and road-holding and performance had improved, so that in a car costing not much above £1,000 the value-for-money is plainly evident. Happier on open roads and fast bends than in country lanes with tight corners, the Series II “Rallymaster” engined Sunbeam Rapier gained high marks when driven really hard, bettering by some 9-1/2 m.p.h. the average speed put up by the Hillman Minx Special saloon (which it basically resembles) over a comparative give-and-take route, albeit both cars showed a savage drop in petrol consumption to the region of 23 m.p.g. when so driven. The Coventry Sunbeam has a nice appearance, too. But why the tail fins?
During the period when the Sunbeam was in our hands a “warm” Renault Dauphine came along from the Performance Equipment Co., of Liverpool. This Dauphine provided an example of the superiority of the factory-built car over one “souped-up” by a small concern. The Renault showed considerably improved acceleration figures over a standard Dauphine handicapped, in this respect, by a Ferlec automatic clutch, but at the expense of heavy petrol consumption. The throttle linkage and carburation produced impossibly jerky running, a plug burnt out, oversteer was increased and cold-starting difficult, bearing out a contention of mine that boosting the performance of ordinary little motor cars is an art difficult to master. Incidentally, I just am not convinced that a Peco exhaust-booster can have any effect on performance but am prepared to believe this if Performance Equipment will let me time over a measured distance, with and then without this gimmick, a car on which every other detail is to maker’s specification. On the Dauphine we had dual S.U.s with ram pipes, raised compression-ratio, a cold-air intake and other modifications that overshadowed the Peco device.
Alas, this was the only Renault I drove throughout 1958. As it was, I was thankful to conclude the test and hand the Dauphine to a colleague outside the Peerless works in Slough, so that I could depart in the equally-fast and far smoother Sunbeam Rapier.
I was particularly interested in the next car to come to us for test. This was the spacious and individualistic Peugeot 403 saloon, and at the time I thought this might be the car I should like to have if ever the Editorial VW had to be pensioned off. I still have the warmest affection for this fine French car but a number of points rule it out as personal transport. For example, although road-holding and cornering are outstanding for a family-type car, the suspension is too supple, not only under certain conditions of cornering but because transmits a disconcerting up-and-down movement to the front-seat occupants. I don’t care about being a pea on a drum.
Then, before I took over this Peugeot I was told that it is virtually impossible to get less than 30 m.p.g. and that feather-footed owners get 40 m.p.g. from their 403s. Consequently, I expected, as I set out to drive to the happy little circuit at Mallory Park, to cover at least 300 miles on a tankful. The tank ran dry after 253 miles (fortunately I had a can of petrol with me), and neither then nor subsequently could I return more than 24.4 m.p.g. Although this figure was almost maintained even under abnormally fast driving, when the excellent road-holding was fully endorsed, disillusionment remained.
Again, I shouldn’t want to spend every day with a steering-column gear-lever and on the Peugeot there is the added embarrassment of a change from high-top to second which I and other drivers found tricky when in a hurry, while the ratios are wide, and one is told not to engage high-top below 40 m.p.h., which is better for French than British roads. However, although these factors weigh against a 403 as Editorial transport, I admire this excellent car, with its interesting valve gear, worm-drive back axle, rack-and-pinion steering, stainless steel bumpers, and many other commendable features, nor am I overlooking the fact that it bettered by almost 3 m.p.h. the average speed put up over the winding leg of our test circuit by the Sunbeam Rapier sports saloon.
Two widely contrasting cars were tried next — the Ford Thunderbird and the model-T Unicar coupé. Of the Ford it can be said that my children and other television-conditioned persons regard it as the acme of motordom, but that I was interested rather than impressed, although the press-button window control is fascinating and essential in automobiles as wide as this one. The very considerable performance is scarcely usable outside a desert because brake fade is a pungent failing of this arresting Thunderbird. As to the Unicar, I could hardly forgive it for taking so long, even when driven flat-out, to go from the works at Boreham Wood to Peterborough that I missed the best of a very nice Press luncheon that Messrs. Perkins put on to introduce their new 1.6-litre Four-99 diesel engine, However, I had some amusing “dices” round the circuit in various “heavy-oilers” disguised as ordinary cars, and because I like cyclecars I went on using the Unicar for a total of over 500 miles. The little car is quite pleasant to drive and of ingenious design but the noise level, hard seating, crude trim and occasional plug trouble with the two-stroke engine are against it, while it needs better brakes. Petroil consumption, too, isn’t anywhere near the claimed 75 m.p.g. These very miniature vehicles stand or fall, in my opinion, by petrol economy and none is anything like economical enough.
Apart from Citroen Cars Ltd., I found Fiat (England) Ltd. very tolerant over requests for test cars. In a Fiat 1,100 saloon I covered more than 1,300 entirely enjoyable miles, and later in the year I made re-acquaintance with the Fiat 600 on two different occasions. These modern Fiats are cars which, although small, make long journeys a pleasure. The Millecento possesses performance of which a car would not be ashamed, yet gives 36-1/2- m.p.g. and handles splendidly. There is a steering-column gear-change that is so good as to be almost acceptable — another in this category is found on the Borgward Isabella—the appearance is individual without being flamboyant, and altogether I like the Fiat 1,100 immensely, the weak feature being rather fierce brakes.
The red Millecento made light of marshalling duties on the Economy Trial and when, with the same companion, I went in much the same direction in a Fiat 600 he was sufficiently impressed to remark that the little car was almost as roomy and covered the ground as well as a Ford Anglia while returning a much lower consumption of fuel, and being much more compact. I thought the suspension a noticeable improvement over that of the earlier Fiat 600, while the lack of abnormal oversteer is an object lesson to everyone who considers this handling characteristic inseparable from a rear-engine location. That no-one need feel cold in the smallest four-cylinder Fiat was proved on a miserable summer’s day en route to a 750 M.C. speed hill-climb at Blandford, when so much hot air was induced to enter the tiny saloon that on arrival I discovered that a chocolate bar in the pocket of my coat had melted all over my wallet …
In June, George Abecassis allowed us to take a Facel Vega up to Oulton Park for that memorable V.S.C.C. week-end when the pre-war Mercedes-Benz demonstrations took place. This is one of the most effortless of super-fast cars and one which is equipped and styled in a futuristic rather than a flamboyant manner. Alas, the brakes were unable to cope with the immense performance from the 325-b.h.p. Vee-8 5.8-litre Chrysler Fire Power engine. The ease and speed with which this Facel Vega F.V.S. went up to silent 120 m.p.h. and the pleasure to be derived from using the all-synchromesh four-speed gearbox with a beautifully-placed short, rigid central lever remain vivid memories of this l.h.d. £4,700 French coupé; the later disc-brake version must be amongst the most restful of very fast cars in which to defeat the miles during a long day’s motoring.
Some enjoyable summer travel was put in at the wheel of an Austin-Healey Sprite two-seater, a pre-view of which I had been granted earlier in the year up at Longbridge. Apart from its overcheerful grin I like this poor-boy’s sports car. Its handling is excellent, there is more performance than I expected, 80 m.p.h. and 38 m.p,g. is not to be sneered at, and a clean ascent of Beggar’s Roost with power in hand suggests that the B.M.C.’s 948-c.c. sports model will do well in M.C.C. trials. The floor gear-change wasn’t quite as good as it should have been and the brakes not particularly powerful, but my wife and I agreed that this little car is great fun, providing as it does inexpensive open-air motoring at a 70-mph. cruising speed. I want to gain more experience of the Sprite just as soon as John Bowman of Austins can spare one.
From small sports model to large saloon, in the form of a Vauxhall Velox of which the cornering qualities, although I don’t think they are quite so outstanding as is sometimes stated, are entirely adequate for a six-passenger car of this kind. The big Vauxhall has the additional merit of a nice-of-its-kind steering-column change to a three-speed box, much practical equipment, and a handsome appearance, the last-named marred for following drivers by slight tail-fins and giant rear lamps. Small electrical faults intruded during the 330 miles I drove this useful Velox, which might have depressed me had I paid out over £1,000 for the car. But it is remembered for comfortable, uncramped travel over August Bank Holiday Week-end, during which our motoring embraced a speed hill-climb, a canal expedition in a 1903 butty-boat, and in-law hospitality.
One of the highlights of the road-test year was provided by a Jaguar XK150 coupé, which is disappointing over details but is an enormously impressive car from the viewpoints of immense performance, excellent handling qualities and the powerful but pleasant action of the Dunlop disc brakes on all four wheels. 100 m.p.h. is commonplace, it will reach 125 m.p.h. in overdrive top gear under suitable circumstances, has acceleration in keeping, yet is as docile as it is lithe. This beautiful-looking coupé is an inexpensive car at under £2,000. The pleasure of driving behind that silken-smooth twin-cam six-cylinder engine is alone worth the money, and the genius of Sir William Lyons has never been portrayed better than in this Jaguar XKI50. I drove it over pleasantly deserted roads to Melksham to the factory where those sturdy Avon tyres are still largely hand-made. After I had done some work and Bob Walsham, Avon’s Competition Manager, had given me lunch in a nearby English country town which would have done credit to a good French hotel, I drove away to gaze at those historic aerodromes at Upavon and Netheravon. Here, without difficulty, I can visualise rotary-engined biplanes of a past era blipping in to land, and leather-clad pilots thundering away behind the cord-bound steering wheels of stark Ninety Mercedes…
It wasn’t long before another high-performance car came along, this time an Alpine Rally Ford Zephyr, which I was allowed to borrow from Lincoln Cars’ competition department for a day’s truly exhilarating motoring. In this competition-equipped Ford no snags were apparent in the steering-column gear-change controlling a three-speed gearbox, because one was nearly all the time in top gear, acceleration being phenomenal in that ratio and maximum speed in excess of 100 m.p.h. Although this was a very rapid car I had such confidence in the rally modifications (which include higher-geared steering, stiffened-up suspension and exceedingly effective vacuum-servo Girling front-wheel disc brakes) that, although I intended to drive fast, I had no compunction in putting all the family into this Ford for a journey down to Poole Harbour. This Zephyr was the greatest fun, and although a race-bred car might well out-corner this rally-bred machine, no car I have tried before or since has had such purposeful acceleration or better all-round braking. The competition Ford was fitted with seat harness and I consider this thoroughly worth while, not only for minimising the effects of an accident but to prevent front-seat passengers, particularly children, from being thrown into the screen during emergency braking. I recommend all parents to fit proper safety harness.
I didn’t want a year to go by without experience of a production Ford and the Press Department at Dagenham duly obliged, following up the Alpine Zephyr with a normal Consul. Before driving it I had felt that the latest Consul and Zephyr were unnecessarily broad and long in their latest styling and that I preferred the earlier versions. However, after 500 miles I was reluctant to return the Ford Consul, which offers elbow-room to spare for five people, is exceptionally pleasant to drive, the new lower-geared worm-and-nut steering being unexpectedly light and smooth, while the steering-stalk gear-lever is another one that is good of its kind. The minor controls are best overlooked, but the provision of coat-hooks and a stalk to operate the “winkers” is commendable, and the excellent low-speed torque of the 59-b.h.p. “over-square” 1.7-litre engine, which gives approximately 28 m.p.g., is just what so many drivers want. A good one, this modern Ford Consul.
Well into autumn I got my hands on a Skoda 440 saloon, which proved more interesting than meritorious, and I later did some good but rather fog-restricted motoring in a Borgward Isabella coupé, which goes wonderfully well for a 1-1/2-litre car but the minor controls of which depress me.
In December I was able to test Philip Mann’s supercharged VW, which goes so much better than the normal Volkswagen as to merit this means of improving acceleration. Just before driving this indecently-quick VW there were a couple of days with an M.G.-A which went better than Abingdon-trim M.G.s do because it had an H.R.G. light-alloy cylinder head and a Derrington exhaust system. Alas, we took this M.G. away in thick fog which persisted throughout the test, so that the convincing acceleration could not be timed to high speeds.
From this harsh-sprung sports car we went over to the luxury of a new Humber Super Snipe, which was made to work hard, going over the route of my “informal Exeter” in a day and then up to Staffordshire for the R.A.C. Trials Championship. This was outstandingly comfortable travel, although the big Humber never felt entirely safe driven 20 m.p.h. faster over wet roads than most owners would drive it, nor were the brakes entirely convincing. However, it has a pleasantly smooth six-cylinder engine which functions quite effortlessly and unobtrusively at 70 m.p.h., and visibility from the driving seat is commendable, due to an excellent wrap-round screen which does not savage your knees when you enter the car, as do such screens in Vauxhall and other cars. When a colleague took over the driving I found that the heater did not warm effectively the back compartment, while the penalty of driving briskly this large, well-equipped car is an m.p.g. of only 18.
Finally, just as Christmas 1957 was made pleasurable because the Austin Motor Company put a fine Austin A105 at my disposal, so my transport problems last Christmas were solved when a new Austin A40 was collected for test on Christmas Eve. It was in vivid red, reminder that the unusual body was designed by the great Italian stylist Pinin Farina. Disappointing in matters of detail, this new A40 proved a brisk, easy-to-drive small car which attracts attention wherever it goes and is capable of over 70 m.p.h. from its 948-c.c. engine. I drove 250 enjoyable miles that festive week-end — apart from 320 miles in the vintage Calthorpe! — and my test impressions are published in this issue.
I am pleased to be able to record that I did my quota of old-car motoring last year. Deciding that I had been too long without vintage car I invested in a 1924 12/20 Calthorpe two-seater, which was tried out in December by going in it to watch the V.S.C.C. Heston Driving Tests and in which, by the end of 1958, I had driven 500 miles since removing it from the shed in Essex where it had hibernated for the past eight years. It is what Jenkinson insists an calling a heavy-light car; I am indebted to him for endowing it with some stopping power by relining the brakes and generally getting it into trim for the “Boxing Night Informal” (see page 101 — web version page 35). Mr. Price, of Motor Repairers & Spares, Ltd., of Stoke Newington, supplied the correct size Don linings by return, without being given so much as a clue to the size of the brakes on this 34-year-old small car. Being unable to resist old vehicles in need of care and attention (if the price is sensible), I bought also, last summer, a 1924 Reo Speed Wagon 14-seater ‘bus, which had been put out to grass in 1939; although it ran faultlessly from Romsey to London, proving unexpectedly pleasant to drive, and has since been partially restored, its complete rehabilitation awaits a friend’s spare time and enthusiasm.
Other vintage motoring was accomplished as passenger in the comparative luxury of author Tim Nicholson’s reliable 1927 Humber 9/20 saloon, to Beaulieu and back, then all the way to Presteigne, over the Welsh border, and home to Hampshire. At Easter I had gone in great comfort through the V.S.C.C. section of the M.C.C. Land’s End Trial as navigator in H.C. Hiller’s 1929 Hillman Fourteen coupé, and during the season I was able to see at first hand the mastery of Group Capt. Scroggs over the vintage two-stroke Trojan, while Lord Montagu again ensured my annual rain-water bath by taking me on the Brighton Run in the venerable 1903 Sixty Mercedes.
Then, one day during the summer, I was deeply touched when that knowledgeable Sunbeam enthusiast, Roger Carter, entrusted me with his splendidly-restored 1921 24-h.p. Sunbeam, allowing me to transfer my family to this lofty sx-cylinder limousine for the drive to an Alvis Register gathering at Woburn Park.
What the V.S.C.C. terms P.V.T. motoring, was enjoyed in a 1938 Rolls-Royce Phantom lll Hooper limousine which Simmons of Mayfair lent me. This was perhaps the most impressive car of all the cars I drove during 1958. I went up to the Rover works in Solihull in this magnificent English V12. and was never conscious that I was at the wheel of a twenty-year-old vehicle or that I was swinging an 11 ft. 10 in. wheelbase and 2-3/4- tons round the numerous corners. If petrol tax ever disappears I propose to consider ownership of a sanely-priced Rolls-Royce Phantom; if buying a certain modern British car is an investment, money spent on a good Derby-built Rolls-Royce must represent gilt-edged security!
In a year of motoring variety an Edwardian also came my way, in the form of George Brown’s 1913 Brixia-Züst. The journey we made to see it is remembered because of the excellent roads and lack of traffic encountered on that winter Sunday’s drive to South Wales: This pleasure was short-lived because in Cardiff lunch is not available on the Sabbath, even in the largest hotels, before 1.30 p.m., but some miles farther on a rather flamboyant-looking roadhouse provided an excellent meal without delay, nor could anyone complain of the tea which our host gave us at a café in the village of Llantwit Major.
Apart from serious testing of modern cars and happy interludes with vintage vehicles, I enjoyed a number of other short drives during last year. For instance, I tried a r.h.d. VW Karmann Ghia twin-carburetter coupé, sampled a prototype 15/60 Wolseley and was allowed to drive the new Armstrong Siddeley Star Sapphire on the Coventry By-Pass prior to the London Motor Show, the merit of its power steering and Girling disc brakes on the front wheels being readily apparent. Incidentally, I was delighted, on this last-named occasion, to learn of the trouble the makers, in conjunction with Dunlop and other tyre manufacturers, were taking to eradicate tyre squeal when cornering the Star Sapphire, an attention to detail and desire for perfection all too rare today.
I drove the new Twin-Cam M.G. for several laps of the banked Cobham track during its Press debut but the car I was to have departed in for extended testing was withheld because it was suffering from faults. Before trying this noisy if accelerative version of the M.G-A I learnt the circuit in a 1.5 litre Riley and that comfortable and well-planned car, the now-obsolete Series II M.G. Magnette.
Incidentally, of the cars fully road tested, seven were shod with Michelin tyres, seven with Dunlop, three with Pirelli, two with Firestone, and one each had Goodyear and Barum tyres..
In between driving beautiful new cars provided by the Press officers of the manufacturers, I have returned to the Editorial Volkswagen, now in its fourth year and with 65,000 miles behind it. It never let me down and its Michelin “X” tyres remained puncture proof throughout the whole of the year, and a check last December showed that it is still returning over 40 m.p.g. of Esso Mixture. So perhaps any bias I show towards the unlovely but so serviceable “beetle” isn’t altogether unjustified. — W. B.