Letters from Readers, February 1960

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74

A SATISFIED FIAT OWNER

Sir,

As I have owned a Fiat 600, and two New 500s, I can’t let Mr. Cook’s letter in the January issue pass without comment.

On none of my Fiats, or two 600s owned by friends, did water come in at any time, nor were the wheels off centre. On my 600, the original tyres were still in use at 40,000 miles, despite hard driving. One of the other 600s was sold with tyres apparently very little worn at 10,000 miles, and the other still has its original tyres at 35,000 miles. I sold my first 500 at 18,000 miles, when over half the tyre life seemed to be left, and my present Abarth-500 shows hardly any wear on tyres at 8,000 miles. All three 600s I’m talking about had poor fuel consumption, in the nature of 40-45 m.p.g.

Although I found the 600 a very pleasant little car, with reasonable roadholding and brakes, and a pleasant gearbox, the 500, especially Arbarthed, is a much better bet. The normal 500 I had, although very slow, did a genuine 55-60 m.p.g. It also has a very large opening roof, a fabulous constant-mesh gearbox (on which instantaneous changes without the clutch can be made), only two grease nipples on the whole car, self-adjusting brakes, and is only four ft. four in. wide, and nine ft, nine long – perfect for London.

In addition, despite the rave notice given to the Mini-Minor’s roadholding, the Fiat’s is just as good. Like the Mini, it breaks away much more easily than the driver thinks it does, but it is very controllable, and-over poor roads or mountain passes can make most English sports cars look pretty silly. It is helped on this score by the brakes, which stop the car very quickly without locking wheels, and do not fade.

The Abarth-500 is quite good fun – it can stay with Minis, Minors. A35s and A40s from the lights up to about 40, but they easily out-perform it from 50 onwards, as well they might with twice its 479-c.c. But what is a revelation is the way in which, a well-driven miniature (and I mean miniature, – the dilferetwe between, the Fiat’s four ft. four in. and the four ft. eight and a half in. is very noticeable) can keep up with larger, faster cars, with inferior brakes and roadholding, on our pathetically crowded roads. In the winter the 500 is at its best in London, but come summer, and miles of Britons off to the coast or race meetings, and it can easily keep ahead of 100 m.p.h. sports cars on popular routes.

The maddening beetle-browed interior of the 500 does not disturb someone of my height, and  I’m keeping this open-air sports midget! – I hope to get Mr. Abarth to provide 32 b.h.p (enough for 80 m.p.h.) this suinmer, and we’ll have fun.

I am, Yours, etc.,

FRANCIS MEGAHY.

London W.1.

 

EXPERTS ONLY?

Sir,

Why has no one suggested the prohibition of synchromesh and automatic transmission systems ? I feel confident that this measure would make our roads much safer, and less congested.

I am, Yours, etc.,

MERVYN FRANKEL

London, N.W.1.

 

THE PERSONAL ELEMENT IN MOTOR RACING

Sir.

I read with great interest Mr. Beaumont’s letter. I am absolutely in accordance with what he says, and there are one or two things which I would like to add to his opinions.

The fact that Jack Brabham became the World Champion driver of 1959 has not been publicised nearly as much as it might to have been, but we are continually hearing of the success of Cooper cars during the last year; surely it is more important to mention the racing ability of the drivers, etc., for, are not they the people who matter most ?

In December’s pictorial review of the Grand Prix at Sebring there is not one picture of Jack Brabham only; all we see of him is a helmeted figure in a Cooper-Climax leaving the starting grid and a rear view of his car. The only picture of “humans only” is that showing McLaren, the winner of the race, and, of course, John Cooper himself, but where is the World Champion? Granted, he is not a Britisher, hut neither is Bruce McLaren.

To diverge from the point a little. I should just like to say how disappointed I was to find very little mention or pictures of either Stirling Moss or Tony Brooks, both having driven very hard for the World Championship, so why waste time bothering with these silly little cars such as the Tec Mec and “Midgets”: throw this lot over the wall and make World Championship driving for the “elite” both in cars and drivers.

To conclude, I will quote the last sentence which appears in Stirling Moss’ book: “In the Track of Speed,” which illustrates well how the cars are becoming more important than the men:

“…I wonder what motor racing will be like if I should look back on it its a veteran. . . It won’t be long before we have constant contact with our pits. Maybe – horrible thought – we shall have driverless racing cars just as we have pilotless ‘planes.”

I am, Yours, etc.,

K. M. GILBERT,

Burnley.

 

Sir.

I entirely disagree with Mr. Beaumont’s letter, “The Personal Element in Motor Racing,” January issue.

The drivers are not merely extensions of machines; the car and the driver are a closely matched team, working together. Mr. Beaumont asks, “Can there be art without a human artist ?” Motor racing would be non-existent without the cars.

If profiles of drivers and mechanics were included in MOTOR SPORT there would be little room for the excellent race reports. and if photographs of drivers replaced those of cars, we would soon become out of touch with the designs of the cars. These change regularly, drivers do not.

Motor racing is a sport of men and machines battling for supremacy and there is little room for sentiment.

I suggest Mr. Beaumont reads the first chapter in “The B.P. Book of Motor Racing,” entitled “This is Motor Racing.”

I am, Yours, etc.,

JOYCE E. RUTTER

Keighley.

 

ANOTHER SIDDELEY SPECIAL !

Sir,

I have often felt the urge to let you in on yet another Siddeley Special, a 30.h.p. sports saloon, February 1936, chassis 3468, engine 721

An excellent thoroughbred “White Elephant” in every way and a delight to own. Mine works for its living, too – mainly at towing our 14 1/2-ft. Safari caravan around south and east England on business and pleasure trips throughout most of the year. It is good to possess something “other than usual” in this age of mass production, when so many makes and models of motor car have become the same under a different name-plate.

Though I’m only a “Mr. Average” as far as means are concerned, I am proud to be playing my little bit in that fine body – owners of outstanding pre-war motor cars. Thank you! MOTOR SPORT for your part in keeping us together and in the news.

I am, Yours; etc.,

ERIC STOCKS

Studham.

 

THE POLICE STATE ? –

Sir,

Your timely words forming “Matters of Moment,” plus the experience of “Commercial Traveller ” in the January issue, prompt me to add my record of a comparable situation.

Some months ago I was called upon for Jury Service. Whilst awaiting our Case to be heard, I and my jury colleagues listened in court to several appeals to earlier convictions, one of which, not surprisingly, was a motorist. He had previously been charged with “dangerous driving.” “driving without due regard . .”. etc., etc., the bare facts being apparently that, having been beckoned on by a truck driver crawling up a steepish incline, loaded, at 4 m.p.h, in passing he allegedly caused an oncoming motorcyclist to swerve, thus endangering his life. A police patrolman provided the sole evidence against the driver, who was convicted, fined heavily and had his licence endorsed. At the appeal it was clear that the lorry driver had no desire to give evidence against the motorist, and in any case the motorcyclist was never approached since he did not even trouble to stop at the time of the incident,

In spite of photographs taken by the motorist, clearly a very distressed man, disproving some of the evidence given against him, the motorist eventually left the court with his appeal rejected, and with added costs-against him.

It was indeed distressing that when certain accusations began to appear rather doubtful, alternative ones were ready at hand to supplement them.

My experiences taught me the wisdom of keeping clear of courts of law, especially as a motorist.

I am, Yours, etc,

“JURYMAN.”

(Name and address supplied.)

 

– BUT HELPFUL POLICEMEN

Sir,

After reading your article regarding the police v. motorists, I feel prompted to relate an experience of mine a few weeks ago.

Driving through Burnt Oak at 11.30 p.m, I had a puncture in a front tyre. I began to jack the car but, to my horror, the jacking lug on the underside of the door sill tore away, rendering the jack useless. Two policemen informed me that no garages were open in the area from which to obtain a small bottle jack of some sort, but readily agreed to lift the car, an A35, while I endeavoured to change the wheel. This, with the aid of a borrowed milk crate, saw me on my way that damp evening, and although I have had experiences of the other kind, I feel that deeds like this should not go unnoticed.

I am, Yours, etc.,

L. J. VINE.

Wembley.

 

COMMENT

Sir,

I have been a reader of your journal for many years and I find it quite the best motoring journal.

I do think, however, consideration might be given to producing a journal with a larger and more legible type as, personally. I find the very small printing extremely difficult to read. Apart from that, I have no other criticism.

I am, Yours, etc.,

J.SMITH

(The theory is that if you can’t see the print you shouldn’t drive a car ! – ED)

 

THAT “MINIBRIC”

Sir,

May I wish you luck with the Editorial Morris Mini-Minor. As the owner of one with 2,500 miles on the clock, I hope you will not experience any of the following troubles:

On delivery mileage: Stop-lights stuck “on,” gear-change a two-handed affair, clutch drag when cold, rough running at low, throttle openings – weather dry.

Up to 1,500 Miles: Gear-change easing, showing up poor synchromesh (clutch pedal clearance as per handbook). Also no spring to prevent accidental engagement of reverse gear; only a notch at third/top position of gate, which is easily over-ridden. High-pitched buzzing petrol pump failed (“this buzz is normal,” said the agents); silent pump now satisfactory. B.MC. said low-throttle “kangaroo antics” due to poor tuning. Weather Wet, gumboots on !

Up to 2,500 miles: Body leaks 90 per cent. cured by extremely helpful distributors (Messrs. C. K. Andrews -I have no connection with same). Prolonged tuning has no effect on rough running. Clutch drag is still present, and the front-tyre wear is phenomenal (peculiar how one of your contemporary publications never mentioned tyre wear in 8,000 miles around the Med.!). To cap it, all a rash of rust spots is appearing under the paint all over the bodywork.

The long-suffering distributors will shortly receive the car back with a full list of faults and the shortest reasonable time in which to rectify all of them.

If these irritating defects were not present the “Mini” would be an outstanding little vehicle in every way, as I am highly delighted with the body room, performance and road-holding of the car, but I do feel that more detail development should have taken place to substantiate the extravagant enthusiasm of the B.MC. Publicity Department.

On the day I called on the distributors to be told that they had received factory information on how to cure body leaks, a “Mini” was delivered to them from Cowley with an eighth of an inch of water in the foot wells.

I am, Yours, etc.,

IAN A. DAVIS.

Swansea.

(The Editor has his fingers crossed but so far troubles have been confined to water swishing about under the car but no leaks into the interior. allthough under-sealing has not been carried out, and failure of a signalling “flasher.” As to tyre wear on the 8,197-mile run undertaken by a contemporary, although this was over very sub-standard roads and run at a high average speed we understand that the tyres were changed after 3,320 miles as a precaation but that it seems highly probable that the entire journey could have been completed on the original set of tyres. – ED.)

 

THE FORD NEW ANGLIA

Sir,

As a Ford New Anglia driver, I felt I must write and endorse fully your excellent and very fair criticism of this car in your December issue.

All the minor faults mentioned in your article I have found occurring in my car, notably the tendency to leak around the windsereen in anything like a heavy shower. I have also found despite regular servicing and attention over the car’s current 4,500 miles, that the engine seems to lose its “tune” remarkably quickly, resulting in several nasty flat-spots in acceleration, in particular around 35-40 m.p.h. in third gear.

On the whole, however, I must agree with you that this is a most praiseworthy little car, but of the famous Ford “Service” I am not so sure. My dip-switch gave up the unequal struggle one night last week, and I was told, upon inquiry, that I needed a complete new switch; unfortunately, my Ford Main Dealer had not one of these in stock. “We have had them on order for over a month, sir. I am afraid we shall just have to wait.”

It is the same story in a large number of Ford Main Dealers over the South of England, as I have made a point of going into each one on passing and asking for the dip-switch. Can this be “service” ? It would appear to this innocent customer that the powers that be at Dagenham are a little too much concerned with producing more and more New Anglias and not enough with the equal necessity of keeping their dealers supplied with spares. Could it be that they have forgotten to get around to making spares yet ? The eyestrain of dipped headlights in this weather being what it is, unless something happens soon I shall find myself sneaking into that showroom down the road at dead of night and pinching a dip-switch off the gleaming de-Iuxe model in the window.

May I conclude by saying how much I appreciate your magazine each month ? It always warms the heart of a penniless yet devoted fan of the greatest sport.

I am, Yours, etc.,

M. COSBIE ROSS.

Eastleigh.

 

A SATISFIED HERALD OWNER

Sir,

I have been most interested to hear of owners’ experiences with the new Triumph. My father bought me a Herald model a few weeks after its debut and you may like to know what has happened to it in the first few months of ownership.

The suspension system was a perfect delight from the start and I had not the slightest difficulty in removing the tyres from the wheels completely within a few yards of my home. Although the machine no longer runs smoothly it still gives me great pleasure, and the only serious defect is that large areas of paintwork have disappeared, leaving patches of bare metal all over the body. There is also a tendency for water and mud to fill the car completely and obscure the 93 per cent. visibility of which the Triumph Co. is so proud.

On the whole, however, I think Meccano Ltd. have every reason to be proud of their product, and I hope I shall be given another Herald for my second birthday.

I am. Yours, etc:,

C. W. ROBERTSON, for Amanda Robertson

Maidenhead.

 

LETTER FROM AUSTRALIA

Sir,

Being, so I thought, intensely patriotic by buying British, and allowing this bias to influence my choice of automobiles, when I arrived here in South Australia several months ago I coaxed myself into continuing to patronise the British Motor Corporation product.

Now I sincerely believe that all motorists do, at some time, buy a “white elephant,” and having experienced one particular model marketed out here. I think that in all sincerity I can opine that any resemblance between the B.M.C., Cowley. United Kingdom, and B.M.C. Pty. Ltd., Sydney, is purely coineidental.

Although I admit that B.M.C. products in the United Kingdom are eclipsed by several Continental models, pound for pound, the British model has been in the past a better buy, if only because of the protection afforded by the import duty.

So, upon arrival in South Australia several months ago, I investigated the prices of the various models of which I could afford and eventually chose a Morris Major Series II. Now this model had just been put on the marketand suceeded the Series I, which together with the Austin Lancer Series I could, I suppose, be described as a cheaper edition of the Wolseley 1500. Cheaper most especially in the materialistic sense, so I found.

The power unit is the fabulous “B ” -type engine, and of that I can only have the highest admiration. And there my admiration stops. Within three thousand miles all doors had dropped so much that they had to be lifted before closing; this was rectified by the dealer under the ‘warranty, but now they have dropped once more. On two separate occasions I had had to return from touring with both front doors tied up with cloth. The locking plate had jammed back.

The floor mats have had to be trimmed to fit; my wife, a mere nine stones in weight, “bottoms” on the rear seat well, the upholstery springs are so weak; the floor underlay was a cheap hessian that actually fell apart when handled.

And the coachwork ! Welded joints were filled with putty and left unpainted. Putty filling around the roof gutters is still soft, and the finish is extremely poor. Paint bubbles are now appearing and I am thankful that the climate is dry – I shudder to think how the “bright parts” would react to a winter in Lancashire.

Mechanically, I suppose that I have little cause for complaint, “It goes, don’t it,” said a friend. And that appears to be a typical Australian attitude: This is brought home when I see some of the vintage stuff still being subjected to the state of the South Australian roads, garage servicing and the South Australian Traffic Code.

But upon retrospect my thoughts and eyes turn towards the 20-year-old VW, the model that is also built in Australia. This ugly brute can still show me a clean pair of heels from the trafffic lights, can still cruise at a mile a minute with the mercury over the century while my Major begins to generate super-heated steam; and shower me with red dust over the unbitumised roads whilst I sweat with fear that the Major will break in two!  And, needless to say, this Australian-built VW can still show B.M.C. Pty. Ltd, a few tricks apropos “car finish.”

Why is it that this, 20-year-old brute of a beetle can still outclass most makes within the same price bracket except maybe for appearance? I am unable to answer that. But one lives and learns from bitter experience. I bit all right – the aloe!

Congratutions to you on continuing to publish a magnificent journal. Some accuse you of being a VW fan magazine. Well, so what? There is a proverb about “cutting off one’s nose, etc.”

I am, Yours. etc.,

MAURICE LEONARD WILSON.

Adelaide.

 

BIAS OR THE TRUTH ?

Sir.

It was interesting to note that one of your correspondents wonders if MOTOR SPORT is as unbiased as it used to  be; for the last five years I am sure there are many non-German car owners like myself who have perceived just a suspicion of bias but have suffered it with amusement, exasperation and boredom, until we are now ready to march down City Road and daub your office door “Volkswagen Raus” in white paint. (Which would be excellent publicity for this remarkable car! – ED)

Of course, a good magazine must be biased, but I invite your comment on what must be a deliberate policy of denigrating the efforts of Aston Martins, This seemed to appear some three or four years ago when Aston, began to win the big Continental races, and is possibly more noticeable in Mr. Jenkinsons articles.

In the January issue for instance, you state in a book review that no British car has had a more illustrious career than the Jaguar, which is a debatable point to say the least: again, the Jaguar victories at Le Mans are dragged info “A year to Remember.” This is not to deny the brilliance of this series of victories, but again, it is a debatable point wether these are not now over-shadowed by say, the triple victory at the Nurburgring and the winning of the World’s Sports-Car Championship. Admittedly, Jaguars won the only British victories of these days, while Aston Martin are sharing the honours with Coopers, but there was no difference in the quality of the opposition. It should also be admitted that Moss won the Championship for Astons with an exhibition of sheer virtuoso driving such as is rarely seen nowadays, but, other things being equal, he would not have won it in a Jaguar (now, there is a debatable point!).

It will be obvious where my own sympathies lie. Fearing that my approach would be too partisan, I have delayed writing until comments from others recently confirmed my feelings. Quite frankly, we are wondering which Aston driver, mechanic or other team member hurt Mr. Jenkinson’s feelings all those years ago.

I am, Yours, etc.,

G. R. C. D. GIBSON (Dr)

Anstey.

(There has been no deliberate attempt to denigrate the efforts of Aston Martin. Dr. Gibson has presumably overlooked an Editorial devoted solely to praising his favourite make of car, published last October, and complimentary comments about the DB4 G.T. on page 838 of the November, 1959, issue, to mention but two references only. Could Dr. Gibson himself be biased? But cars with which the Press has no contact tend to get overlooked; we have not had an Aston Martin for roadtest since 1949, in spite of frequent applications to David Brown’s P.R.O. (until we became tired of asking), whereas we have been permitted to drive several different Jaguars, including the XK150S. – ED)

 

KIPLING ON MOTORING

Sir,

In connection with the activities of certain magistrates a correspondent very appropriately advises us to read Rudyard Kipling’s story “The Village that Voted the Earth was Flat” which is contained in a book entitled “Diversity of Creatures” It occurs In me that many of your readers would be interested to hear of other Kipling stories, mostly humorous, which are concerned with motoring.

Kipling himself was an enthusiast in the days before most people believed  that cars had come to stay, and he owned a steam car called a Locomobile at the beginning of the century. Some of the little habits of this unreliable machine are described with feeling in “Steam Tactics” (included in “Traffics and Discoveries”). In my collection I have a holograph letter from Kipling to ta titled lady advising her not to buy a Locomobile except for town use because of the inconvenience of taking up water frequently. Kipling next owned a 1901 Lanchester. which is now in a Birmingham museum, and in “Something of Myself” he described how the heads of the company would come down and consult at his house in Sussex when there was trouble. The Lanchester probably appears in “Steam Tactics” as the car of a friend who was skilled enough to operate the tiller steering with his legs; this would have been rather wearing for the passengers. I should imagine.

The new pleasures of motoring to see the English conntryside are found at the beginning of “They,” which is also to be found in “Traffics and Discoveries.” Other stories in which cars play an important part are “The Horse Marines” and “The Vortex” (in “A Diversity of Creatures”) and “Aunt. Ellen” (”Limits And Renewals”). The last book also contains verses on motoring in France, ”Long of Seventy Horses,” and in collected editions of Kipling’s verse there is a series or deft parodies. “The Muse Among the Motors,” some of which reminds us of pioneer days, while those concerned with safety are still applicable to us all. There is also a long Shakespearean parody on a motoring theme, “The Marred Drives of Windsor.”

I hope that my summary will not occupy too much of your space and that it will interest readers who are not familiar with this aspect of Kipling’s work. “Steam Tactics” is particulairly recommended because it has descriptions of the early steam and petrol cars, and of police traps almost sixty years ago. The place-names are disguised but the Sussex background can be traced fairly closely on a map.

I am, Yours, etc.,

F. A. UNDERWOOD

Sale.