Letters from Readers, February 1959

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

 

Too much “soup”?

Sir,

In the January issue of Motor Sport we are told of your interesting challenge to a tuning firm to substantiate performance claims in respect of an Austin Metropolitan.

You also print a half-page advertisement in the name of  “Messrs. Rally Equipment” for a twin-carburetter conversion for the Volkswagen, which claims acceleration from rest to 60 m.p.h. in 29.0 seconds and a maximum speed increase of 9 m.p.h.

It was a similar advertisement by the same firm in another journal some weeks ago which led me to contemplate buying this equipment for my own VW, but I was brought up short by a test published in The Autocar of November 7th which gave the 0-60 m.p.h. figure of the converted Volkswagen as no less than 35.8 sec. and the maximum speed increase as a mere 3 m.p.h. (Actually the maximum speed of the converted car was slightly less than that quoted by one or two highly respected technical journals for the VW in normal untuned form!)

What is one to believe.? I thought that would be the end of this particular claim, but it now appears, unabashed, in last month’s Motor Sport.  Can The Autocar  have omitted to attend to the VW’s admittedly splendid handbrake before taking their performance figures?

I am, Yours, etc.,

David Arditti

Taunton

***

 

Points about the M.G.-A.

Sir,

I have the greatest respect for Motor Sport and its fair, comprehensive and objective road test reports  —  in fact I’d go so far as to say that I wouldn’t buy a car without first of all reading up what Motor Sport  had to say about it.  However, I think you go too far in the last issue (in “A Special Head for the M.G.-A) in describing the M.G.-A as “noisy, crudely sprung and difficult to enter.”  This is very harsh, even allowing for the fact that the M.G. Car Company Ltd. have not, yet allowed you to sample the “Twin-Cam”.   Furthermore, it is strange that these points were not vehemently made when you road tested the car for 1,200 miles way back in 1957.

As the owner of a M.G.-A coupé I agree with the subject of noise, and to a certain extent on the subject of difficulty of entry but I would not agree that the car is crudely sprung. Before I bought my car I naturally read your road test which appeared in the July 1957 issue. It did criticise the car on the grounds of difficulty of entry, and I would certainly agree that matters could be improved. However, if one uses the orthodox method of entering a sports car (left foot onto clutch, sit on seat, swing right leg in) it is quite simple, and anyone can acquire this knack. I am a youthful 6 ft. and don’t have any trouble. If my joints were getting rusty, then I might final things a bit more difficult, but I hardly think, were I senile, that I would consider the M.G.-A  quite my “cup of tea” anyway. There is compensation in the fact that when one does get into the car, easily or otherwise, it fits like a glove and one feels part of it, yet there is plenty of room.

You say the car is “crudely sprung.”  I can’t for the life of rne see how you justify this sweeping statement. Admittedly the car has not independent suspension all round, but then nor have most other British sports cars. I can’t think of any other count on which the M.G.-A  springing can be criticised. Reverting to the road test in 1957, on that occasion yon said  “the suspension is firm, but not so stiff as to give an unpleasant ride, except over atrocious by-roads. The M.G.-A sits down well and hugs the verge round long bends in a manner which inspires immediate confidence.”  Funny how it can do that when crudely sprung isn’t it ? For my part I consider the car’s roadholding and “ride” first class and immeasurably better than that of Triumph and Austin-Healey, which cars I have driven many thousands of miles.

Regarding noise, I couldn’t agree more—it’s damnable. But I didn’t gather this from your 1957 road test report, but from practical experience. Your report then disregarded the subject of mechanical noise altogether except to say that “the indirect gears are quiet.” My indirect gears  are most certainly not quiet, and the mechanical noise from the engine which reaches the interior of the car is appalling when accelerating hard. However, I hope to cure this to some extent by fitting an alloy rocker cover and insulating the underside of the bonnet lid. Strangely enough on the car you tested the bonnet lid was “liberally sound proofed.”  Exhaust noise is mercifully unobtrusive. Although I like my M.G.-A very much indeed I do find the lack of performance (and excessive fuel consumption) very frustrating. But now it’s me that’s making sweeping statements!  I hope that you will have the opportunity of testing the “Twin-Cam” in the near future. It does seem strange that after so many years’ development the twin-cam head has not been perfected, and that the car should be announced with such a fanfare and put on the market before it is au point.

I am, Yours, etc.,

C.B. Carter

Newtonards

(The H.R.G.-M.G. struck us as harshly sprung after experience of other modern cars. Our difficulty in extracting ourselves from the M.G.-A was aggravated, not so much on account of rusty leg joints, as because the car tested was the coupé, and the doors do not open far enough.—Ed.)

***

Antics in Austin-Healeys

Sir,

Have you compared the Austin-Healey advertisements on page 767, November 1958 issue, and on page 11 of January’s issue of your magazine ?

The driver of the Sprite must have been very frustrated, first to be overtaken by a Healey driven by a chap in cap and sports jacket, with bare-headed companion, and then, presumably, overtaken again almost immediately by the same Healey with the driver in his shirt sleeves and sans headgear while the companion has acquired a head-scarf! I must really try this one day on some unsuspecting third party and test his reactions!  Stephen Potter would surely have a word for it  —  car-one-up-manship?

Thank you for an excellent magazine;

I am, Yours, etc.,

A. E. H. Jones

Gyncoed

***

M.G. and Vandervell

Sir,

I am extremely interested in tracing the whereabouts of two particular M.G .s. both of which have a sentimental interest. If any reader should know of the present whereabouts of the two following vehicles, I will be very grateful indeed if they would be kind enough to contact me at their earliest possible moment.

Car No. 1. The twin-cam McEvoy-headed R-type Midget owned by the Baines brothers, which I believe was the ex-Briault car latterly sold to Donald Campbell,

Car No. 2. The ex-Weir, ex-Peter Monkhouse and Monaco, much modified, two-stage blown single-seater K.3 Magnette with a double-reduction differential assembly, etc. This car was, I believe, eventually sold by Monaco to John Willment. 

It would at the same time make most interesting study to learn of the present whereabouts throughout the world of all the “Q”, ” K3 “-and “R ” types which did so much to uphold our country’s prestige.

In closing, how pathetic it is that S.M.M.T. can shut their eyes to the Vanwall when Her Majesty acknowledges the fabulous achievements of Stirling Moss, O.B.E., with, one is quite sure, the gigantic personal and human achievements of Mr. Tony Vandervell, which, by their very nature show the world that we can always produce any vehicle of any type or class given the necessary “punch” by a master who knows precisely what he is doing.

How very proud we feel of such men and those around them. Well done. and jolly good luck  —  always.

I am, Yours, etc.,

D.C. Pitt

Rodborough Common

***

Farinacious

Sir,

While Mr. Farina’s designs for B.M.C. bodies are being widely applauded, it appears to me that he is, in fact, leading us well on the road to seeing the extinction of makes in the motor industry which, in earlier days, were acknowledged as vehicles of high calibre, having their own individuality and quality of design both in body and power unit.

We have already seen the beginning of this process with identical bodies being used for the Wolseley 15/50 and M.G. Magnette, Riley 1.5 and Wolseley 1500, and now, with the evolution of the Wolseley 15/60, it looks as though the new Farina body will also be used for the Riley, M.G., Morris and Austin. It is, therefore, obvious that these all having the same B.M.C. 1,500 c.c. engine, it will be unnecessary to give them different radiator grilles, and thus the great old marques will disappear for ever.

Many of us regret the fate of the “pure” Riley engines, and the miserable correspondent who had the nerve to applaud the retainment of the original style radiator in newer Riley models should be advised that all that glitters is not gold.

No doubt there is a good economic reason for this method of production, but I am not convinced that the employment of Farina is a good thing for B.M.C., since, like so many sheep, we are sacrificing the true British traditions of originality and good taste to follow the Continentals in their boring uniformity.

Many thanks to Motor Sport for many hours of good, sane reading.

I am, Yours, etc.,

R.M.G. Essex

London, N.12.

***

Not a Maharajah’s Rolls-Royce

Sir,

With reference to a correspondent’s letter and photo of a rather well decorated Rolls-Royce car said to have belonged to the late His Highness the Maharajah of Patiala, I wish to point out that although the owner of several cars of that make  —  the one in question was never in his garage as being his.

I am, Yours, etc.

C.W. Bowles,  Late Superintending Engineer, P.W.D. Patiala Govt., Punjab, India

Blakeney

***.

Lancia Lambda bodywork 

Sir,

In your correspondent’s report on the V.S.C.C. Heston Driving Tests he comments that amongst the spectators’ cars was a Lancia Lambda which seemed to have a saloon body of another make and then goes on to ask whether this can be done with a Lambda.

All Lambdas of up to about the middle of the 7th Series had integral body-chassis construction and, of course, alterations to this type of body were not possible without very extensive modifications which generally affected the rigidity and road-holding of the car, but about the middle of 1927 Lancias started producing a platform chassis in which the chassis members from scuttle back consisted of a double skin pressed steel member about 11 in. deep, the inner skin having dimples which added to the rigidity. A great number of the 8th Series Lambdas were supplied in this form so that specialist coachwork could be fitted and this quite often took the form of Weymann Fabric saloon bodies. Forward of the scuttle the platform chassis was similar to the earlier series, the front cross-member consisting of a channel frame around the radiator shell and the second member consisting of a frame around the scuttle.

The Lambda seen by your correspondent was undoubtedly that belonging to one of our members, Mr. R. P. C. Mutter, which has a coachbuilt close-coupled coupe body mounted on the platform chassis; both the chassis and body being original.

As a matter of fact my own late 7th Series Lambda touring car which was competing at this meeting has a Curtis aluminium body mounted on a platform type chassis, both body and chassis being original.

I am, Yours, etc.,

J. Borthwick,  Hon. Editor of the Journal of the Lancia Club.

Send

(Our correspondent says be wrote with his tongue in his cheek, being aware that the 8th Series Lancia Lambda had a separate chassis and could thus carry specialist bodywork..  —  Ed.)

***

A two-carb VW

Sir,

I  was extremely interested in the test of a VW fitted with a supercharger and hope that, for the sake of comparison, you will now publish a test of one with the two-carburetter conversion advertised by Rally Equipment.

I had my own 1956 car fitted with a two-carburetter conversion sold by Tarrant and Frazer of Winchester Mews, N.W.3, eighteen months ago and have had absolutely no trouble and am delighted with the result. The improvement in acceleration is very marked but at the same time petrol consumption has remained unaltered at 35 m.p.g. average, with at least 38 m.p.g. on a run, this on commercial spirit, which I always use, and the car is driven fairly hard most of the time. I am loath to give figures for, as you say, the speedometer is definitely fast. The only disadvantage has been a tendency to “run on” and this has been largely overcome by advancing the ignition slightly and would no doubt disappear altogether if “premium” petrol was in use; but there is no sign of “pinking” and economy of operation is a consideration.

This conversion appears to be identical with the Rally, except for different air cleaners, and the fact that it gives a really marked improvement in performance without in any way detracting from the normal reliability and economy of the VW makes it well worth while. The car still feels “unburstable”  —  one of its most delightful traits  —   and I have found its “oversteering” tendency largely overcome and made entirely controllable by the use of “Town and Country” tyres on the rear wheels with an additional 5 lb. pressure.

Incidentally, I have to thank you, Sir, for the fact that I ever considered a VW  —  I am completely satisfied with it, and my cars have ranged from a G.N. to a Derby Bentley over the past 35 years.

I am, Yours, etc.,

R. Baillie

Crowborough

***

The new Citroëns —  where they succeed

Sir,

I am particularly interested in Mr. Scarr’s letter about the DS Citroén in your issue of last month. I have been running a 1958 model which we bought last May and have now covered 11,000 miles including 3,000 miles last summer in France and Italy. I am, by automobilistic descent over the years, a Rover driver, but sold our last Ninety (overdrive) because of poor brakes, worse steering, surplus weight and antique appearance. My regard for the Rover is not shaken in any way—the DS 19 and Rover are different animals and one must not compare a thoroughbred and rather staid hunter with a slightly untamed beast of tremendous staying-power and vitality.

Personally, as a veteran driver (1911-1959), I cannot praise the DS 19 too highly—but it is not everybody’s car. To get the best  —   indeed anything at all  —  -from this truly extraordinary machine one must be a born conductor and gear-changer. Even gifted latter-day amateurs are not wholly masters of the DS19. It is no sort of car in traffic and a drive against  —  or, worse, with  —  the home-going evening crowd across the Serpentine to Hampstead is a memorable nightmare. The DS is an open-road vehicle and as such, in my now worthwhile opinion, has no true rival. I can compete—without strain to car or myself—with any car whatever and cruise two-up at anything up to 80. The only car that teases, and indeed beats me, is the Borgward Isabella. About 72-75 m.p.h. is its natural gait and this returns 27 m.p.g. No other car possesses comparable stability, steering, springing, or brakes. The comfort, under all road conditions, exceeds any I know—and I suppose I know most cars by this time. Perhaps the all-round visibility is as valuable a feature as any, the perfect driving position comes next—but above all must rank the total confidence one has in the car to respond to all driving demands and hazards and the sense of safety enjoyed by even nervous passengers makes 200 miles across France before lunch not the feat of endurance I remember too often but a magic-carpet ride which one hopes may never end.

I ant sorry for Mr. Scarr and his bad roads  —  but do not all cars (not Land Rovers and the like) scrape on the hardcore spine common to all Nyasaland roads; why pick on the otherwise excellent DS 19?

The Citroën body is admittedly somewhat stark and perhaps roughly finished  —  but it is noiseless and adequate for its purpose. The “engine-room” would pass anybody’s closest scrutiny—and that’s what really matters.

The most serious bad mark against the DS 19 is, of course, the service problem. Slough is a long way off and even there, as with one’s dentist, an appointment (often far ahead) is necessary. No garage—even the best  —  will spare a glance at the DS and are careful to look the other way as one approaches!  Fortunately I have had no trouble of any sort  —  except a leaking steering unit which was replaced, unasked, by Citroën, passenger train, within 48 hours. All in all the DS is my car and I cannot now conceive of driving any other  —  which is rather sad but very true.

I am, Yours, etc,

W.A.R.

Saxmundham

***

Delage D8 and other matters

Sir,

Not for one moment have I regretted my decision to become a subscriber to Motor Sport.   Its very personal and independent style and the great amount of information it contains on the finer points of motoring, and especially on vintage cars, make it an outstanding magazine. The November issue was even better than usual, and it contained a couple of things which were of special interest to me.

The first one was the twice appearing statement that the engine of the B.S.A. twin-cylinder three-wheeler had some connection with Hotchkiss. I wonder what was the nature of this connection ? I have owned one of these vehicles which somebody, probably in Sweden, had converted to a four-wheeler by using an old Morris front axle. It was a very nice little car, which only behaved disgracefully once, on a bridge, when it dropped a front wheel into the lake below. Later I sold it to a friend, who is now considering rebuilding it to the original specification provided he can find the parts for the rear-wheel arrangement.

I was also very interested in Mr. John Howell’s article on “Cars I Have Owned” especially in the comparison between the Hispano and the Bugatti. The photographs, however; certainly did not confirm Mr. Howell’s opinion that the Bugatti is a prettier car than the Hispano, with its magnificent lines and very fine proportions.  It would be interesting to know the name of the body-builder.

For comparison I enclose a photograph of my own car, a 1931 Delage D8 with a Letourneur & Marchand body specially built for her first owner, a well-known French author and motoring enthusiast. The car was awarded first prize in the Concours d’Elegance at the 1932 Paris Salon and is still practically in her original state. Among her notable features are de Ram shock-absorbers. She is a delight to drive and, in spite of her greater weight is just a little less thirsty than Mr. Howell’s Bugatti; but then, of course, her engine is smaller, 1 litres instead of 5.3.  Nevertheless, her acceleration is quite good and top speed is about 85 m.p.h. It seems to me that the DeIage is too often forgotten today when talking about the world’s really great cars. My car is the only one of her type now running in Sweden, with spares from a dismantled similar car and information from the Delage Owners’ Club have been of great assistance.

There are some interesting vintage cars in Sweden, including a handful of Bugattis and Rolls-Royces, and of course the 8-litre Bentley saloon in the Technical Museum in Stockholm. Also there are several very satisfied readers of Motor Sport!

I am, Yours, etc.,

Bjorn Linn

Bromma, Sweden

(The engine in the 1924 B.S.A. light car and the later B.S.A. three and four-wheelers seems to have been a 1919 Hotchkiss design.  —  Ed.)

***

Service — French fashion

Sir,

With reference to the correspondence concerning garage service, an incident which took place last year in France might be of interest.

Two friends and myself had been in France barely 12 hours in my immaculate 1930 Austin 12, when disaster in the shape of a momentary transmission seizure overtook us whilst coasting downhill. A cursory examination revealed nothing beyond that something was amiss in the rear axle. We limped on and the first garage that turned up was the Austin agency in Talent just outside Dijon.

Monsieur Martinez, the proprietor, was most sympathetic but was already flooded out with work. However, he made room for us in his workshop and placed all his tools and plant not in use at our disposal and left us to get on with it.

After stripping the axle, with the help of two mechanics, when available, the damage was seen to have been caused by the head of a crown-wheel retaining bolt shearing and dropping neatly into the mesh. Metallurgical examination diagnosed the fracture as stress fatigue due to beam axles, abominable French roads and 11 hours pounding at all of 50 m.p.h.

As only 15 per cent. or so of the meshing area on two adjacent crown-wheel teeth was missing and the pinion appeared all right, we reassembled and hoped for the best. The noise was worse than before and the next morning, a Sunday, found us thumping on the garage door which was thrown open to us and all equipment and mechanics again made available.

A spare crown-wheel, which I just happened to have in the car was fitted. What with the local wine and an air display the job took all day and the garage was kept open long after closing time to enable us to complete the job.  Old Austins are definitely not the easiest of’ cars on which to change crown-wheels, and to complete this job with one Spanish and One Italian mechanic, using first principles and sign language, was a feat comparable with the construction of the Forth Bridge.

As an example of service and courtesy this, in my opinion, is without parallel, especially as the car is, to say the least, obsolescent. The charge for this was nothing; M. Martinez merely invited us to “tip” the mechanics as we thought fit.

I am, Yours, etc.,

D. J. Peebles

London, E.C.1.