Early in the New Year we were able to sample the Hillman Minx Series IIIA Easidrive saloon, which, if it is of greater interest to wives and girl friends of enthusiasts than to the enthusiasts themselves, represents a significant technico-industrial development. The Smiths automatic transmission functions well, upward gearchanges occurring at around 10 and 25 m.p.h. under light throttle openings. Because of the comparatively small engine rather frenzied changing goes on under conditions of traffic or undulating roads, and some lag is experienced when the driver wants to obtain bottom gear from second gear in an emergency. Kick-down on the accelerator holds second gear to an indicated 50 m.p.h. and provides for useful acceleration in an emergency. To the novice or the disinterested this full automation in a 1 1/2-litre car will be extremely acceptable and the controls are simplicity itself – just two pedals and the substitute for a steering-column gear-lever which selects D, 2, N or R as required, from which it will be appreciated that second gear can be held in if desired. There is no hold-control on hills.
The Hillman itself is a staunch, carefully planned, and well finished family car with more than average roominess and generosity of seating. It cruises well and with commendable silence at an indicated 70 m.p.h., has better than average road-holding, adequate if not outstanding rather “dead” brakes, and spongy, slightly heavy, steering geared three turns, Iock-to-Iock, or 3 1/2 turns if the sponge is pressed. In bad weather the quiet running is marred by noisy wipers and a heater fan which sounds like a hair-dryer. The self-supporting, easy-to-open bonnet and spring-loaded lid of the big boot are good points, as are the sill-locks for the doors, although the car isn’t truly thief proof, having no locks on the quarter-light catches, of which that on the driver’s door came away in our hand. Forward visibility is excellent; the sloping side pillars are rather thick.
The test car had such extras as whitewall tyre rims on the Dunlop Gold Seal tyres (which squealed slightly on tight corners), a powerful but insensitive heater, wing mirrors, a rather weak Ekco radio, Smiths clock (which galloped), ammeter, screen-washer, etc., but we would have liked fog-lamps, oil gauge and a trip milometer. The fuel gauge reads accurately even to the last gallon. The underfacia parcels-shelf is apt to spill its contents, and the useful, well-located interior lamp has “courtesy” action only when the front doors are opened. The engine started promptly in very cold weather and the automatic transmission does not seem to have greatly affected fuel consumption, which came out at 29 m.p.g. (range approximately 203 miles) in general use, including uneconomical running in fog which caused Mr. Smith to change gear frenziedly, and fast cruising while pursuing Exeter Trial competitors round Devon. A mere pint of oil was consumed in 940 miles – the dip-stick is accessible and marked at the quart level. A good instruction book is issued. Altogether the latest Hillman Minx is a good family car and in Easidrive form one particlarly acceptable to the ladies. As tested it cost £990-9-7, inclusive of purchase tax.
Whilst at the recent United States Grand Prix in Florida, I was fortunate enough to meet Bill France, President of the NASCAR and President of the Daytona International Speedway Corporation. It did not take long for this 6 ft. 5 in. hospitable American to invite some of the representatives from European journals to Daytona to see his track and the famous sands on which many world records have been taken.
The speed track has been cut out of the swamps behind the town. It is 2 1/2 miles routnd with two 31-deg. banked turns at either end, joined by a long back straight and two short straights linked by a fast 18-deg. banked curve in front of the pit area and main stand, thus making the circuit like a large “D” with the curve flattened slightly top and bottom.
The banking remains the same angle from top to bottom and has a tarmac surface. This surface is remarkably smooth and caused several headaches during the laying process, the laying machines being anchored to steam rollers driven on the wide road which runs round the top of all the banking.
The pit area is off the circuit down a 2,000-ft. road which cuts off the fast curve in front of the main stand. The stands are named after famous drivers who broke records on the sands, so the main central stand is called the Malcolm Campbell stand and seats 6,000, while on either side are four more stands, with a total capacity of 12,400, named Barney Oldfield, Ralph De Palma, Sir Henry Segrave and Ray Keech. From these stands the public can see the whole of the speed track and the scoreboard, which is a giant four-sided electric signboard on which running messages, results, pit news, etc., are continually appearing, keeping the public right up to date.
Permanent buildings already consist of a hospital, large covered garage area, time-keepers’ box and stand, trade buildings for tyres, fuel, etc., and large offices and ticket boxes, while many others, such as restaurants, are to follow.
Inside the speed track and making use of part of it, there has been laid out a road circuit on which it is hoped to hold sports-car races, and even perhaps the Grand Prix one day when it is realised by the “powers-that-be” what a hopeless circuit Sebring is.
The 1,000,000 cubic yards of earth used to make the bankings was dug out of part of the infield, and this now forms a lake several feet deep and 45 acres in area on which speed-boat racing takes place, and from which some of the 100,000 bream and 15,000 black bass can be caught and cooked on the spot. Bill France and his officials are alive and go-ahead and the track should be a great success – certainly there is something going on every day; cars testing, manufacturers trying to break records, etc. And for those who would like to try, e.g., S. Moss, there is $10,000 waiting for the first car, in any trim, at any time, to lap at 180 m.p.h.
One could not leave Daytona without driving down the 23-mile long, straight, smooth beach and seeing the board marking the measured mile over which so many famous cars and drivers have travelled.