Rumblings, February 1961


We visited the Daily Express International Boat Show at Earls Court on Press Pre-View day and found Naval skin-divers braving the filthy water of the Cote d’Azur harbour for the benefit of the cameramen, a young lady all but falling into the same dingy harbour while demonstrating a pair of huge floating shoes to the Press, and the loud-hailer telling the Shop Stewards that they would be meeting at 2.30. Nude dummies stood unconcernedly by the waterside, waiting to be fitted with their arms—and bikinis. A week later we went again and found the Show finished and an encouragingly large crowd looking at the exceedingly covetable exhibits. The harbour water was still dirty-looking but a gay backcloth suggested the Mediterranean and the French Government Tourist Office and the Martini International Club were there to advise and encourage visitors, who could also watch bathing girls parade.

Some boats still look like boats and others look like modern cars. In the former category we liked the appearance of the products of H. Sykes of Broxbourne and the Freebody ” Debonair ” American-designed high-speed runabout (320 lb.; £275). Then there were the Toby Marine wood-moulded boats, the handsome aluminium-alloy-hulled Albatross sports runabout (600 lb.; £650) with converted Ford 100E engine, and many glass-fibre boats such as C.I. Marine Services’ ” Barracuda” (£265), and Healey Marines’ latest outboard ” Sprite ” and ” Corvette.”

Amongst the very simple craft our eye was caught by the ” Classic ” glass-fibre canoe at £35½ and the well-known Avon inflatable craft ranging from 8 ft. ” Redstart” general dinghy to 12 ft. ” Redshank ” party boat, all suitable for outboard engines, of from 2½ to 5½ h.p., prices ranging from £28½ to £70. Norvall’s of Southend also showed an attractive range of sailing dinghys.

Amongst the outboard motors were the Woodson diesel and the brave new 500-c.c. Bundy from Milan, while the famous firm of Bolinders showed the Volvo-Penta Aquamatic inboard engines with outboard drive

Probably the fastest craft at Earls Court was the three-abreast seater Ancarrow ” Consul,” while Albatross claim 41 m.p.h. from their 17-ft. Sunbeam Rapier-powered four-seater, and the Ford Zephyr-powered Simmonds ski-boat does 50-53 m.p.h. Firms famous in the car world were there, such as Dunlop, Lucas, Pye, Smiths, Simms and Regent, all making specialised equipment or supplies for this extremely popular sport. Amongst the marine-engine exhibits it was, perhaps, typical that MercedesBenz should show the biggest of them all—the Type MB839 16-cylinder, 104-litre diesel power unit which develops 2,400 b.h.p. at 1,500 r.p.m. It had a truly ” Rolls-Royce ” finish. Coventry Victor showed typical horizontally-opposed engines, Stuart Turner some beautifully-made small power plants, while the copper piping on the Kelvin marine engines must have pleased old-car addicts. Reverting to outboards, the famous Mercury, winner of the Paris 6-Hour Race, etc., the Gale, a 35-h.p. version of which recently covered over 1,400 miles in 50 hours on Bedfont Lake, and the long-established British Anzani were there. A vintage touch was provided by Ailsa Craig, who had two of their early engines, a D1 and an F2, on their stand. And VW Motors exhibited a marine version of their well-known flat-four, which develops 34 b.h.p. at 3,600 r.p.m. Up in the gallery the Continental Correspondent would have felt at home on Arthur Beale’s stand, where all the (male) staff were bearded . . .

That boats need not be expensive was emphasised by a special display of 37 craft costing under £250 and a further dozen in the £250-£500 bracket. The former included the Aqua-Sport 10-ft. motor-boat, a Catalina Craft 14-ft. runabout and other outboard boats, apart from sailing craft—but, remember, boats are usually sold “engine extra.”

With crowded roads, rising prices and growing persecution more and more motorists are turning to water sport—it is rather startling to find that membership of the Royal Yachting Association has risen from 273 to over 10,000 since 1947! One can only hope there is enough water for everyone—there should be, judging by last year’s rainfall!—W. B.



We have had our attention drawn to a report which appeared in the Bristol Evening Post of a court case at Taunton, which arose because a police constable drove a patrol car ” round a bend at 40-45 m.p.h., skidded broadside across double white lines, struck an oncoming car, turned completely round, and finally came to rest on the verge facing the way he had come.” Tyre marks from the police car were said to have “extended for 100 yards.” The magistrate stated: “The inescapable facts are such that we have been forced to the conclusion that we should have been more than justified in prosecuting a civilian who drove in this manner.” (Our italics.)

What happened to the police driver (he had been “on motor patrol duty for two years and had passed the advanced driving test “)? Was he disqualified, as Stirling Moss was, for instance, in rather similar circumstances ? No! He pleaded not guilty and the case was dismissed by the Bench.

We are all in favour of a little leniency when a driver makes a mistake, for motorists are also humans and it is human to err once or twice in a lifetime, especially at such an exacting task as driving a motor car, but in this case an accident happened, which, as the Bench admitted, would in their view have justified a prosecution in the case of a civilian driver. Obviously, there is one law for the police, another law for civilian motorists. This case will anger a great many civilian drivers and seriously undermine the deteriorating relationship between motorists and the police.

Any Comments?

The following is attributed to a well-known Chief Constable :—

“As there are 1,760 different ways in which one can contravene the law with a car, motorists should be philosophical about it and pay their fines in much the same way as they pay their income tax, for both are inevitable.”

News of new books

As we pointed out last month, a great many motoring books are pouring from the presses, of which some are worth reading. To be expected by the spring is a biography of Sir Henry Segrave, written in consultation with his relatives and friends, a complete history of Montlhery, which, unlike Brooklands, is a banked track round which you can still race, and another fascinating Batsford pocket book, this time of sports cars, illustrating some very rare and all the popular fast road cars since the Sport began.

In addition, David Thirlby is engaged on writing a very detailed history of G.N. and Frazer Nash cars which promises to be a paragon amongst one-make histories, T. A. S. O. Mathieson, a Bugatti enthusiast who raced his own cars pre-war, is known to have written a book, and it is extremely good news that H. G. Conway is re-writing and bringing up to date the M.R.P. ” Bugatti Book.” Lord Montagu is at work on an SS and Jaguar history. Incidentally, for some unaccountable reason our printers made a nonsense of the title of an intriguing travel book published by Hammond, Hammond & Co., and reviewed last month—the correct title is ” Brushing Your Teeth With Wine.”.

One million Minors

Last month the B.M.C. staged a simple ceremony at Grosvenor House to celebrate production of the millionth Morris Minor to be made since this popular small car was conceived in 1948. This car was presented to the N.U.J. for use in any way the Union desired, to assist the finances of their Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund. This is a nice tribute to the help the British Motor Industry and, indeed, all the subsidiary interests have had down the years from the not always well-paid or sufficiently-appreciated hard working journalists. The secretary of the N.U.J. has announced a competition in which this millionth Minor—a saloon 1000—will be the main prize.

This ceremony was of interest because during the evening we were assured that although it has been repeated one million times, the popular Morris Minor 1000 is to continue in production. Alec Issigonis, its instigator, told us he thought up the original Minor when he was middle-aged and planned for it a flat-four engine, independent rear suspension, and springing possibly by rubber. The experienced B.M.C. said ” No ” and persuaded him to keep to their side-valve engine and other well-tried components. Now, said Issigonis, the B.M.C. range is so wide that even he, as Chief Engineer, finds it difficult to remember all the models for which he is responsible. Under the circumstances an output of one million Minors is all the more remarkable.

All down those years the Morris Minor, whether in side-valve, 800 c.c. o.h.v. or present 1000 form, has been popular with fast drivers, on account of its splendid road-holding and cornering powers. We recall taking over the original tourer for road-test from Cowley, and of running into the house on our return to tell our wife ” At last there is a British car which rivals Continental models.” Summing up in its road-test report of June 1949 MOTOR SPORT observed: ” The new Morris Minor is a thoroughly attractive little motor car and a credit to its makers. It handles as few cars, large or small, do, and to our appreciation of such enjoyable controllability we would couple warm praise for Alec Issigonis—not unknown in motor racing circles !—who designed the chassis.”

Today the Morris Minor 1000 continues to represent excellent value for money and the talented Issigonis has been given a free hand with the Minis, which bristle with technical innovations. —W. B.


Kitchen sinks to Brighton

The other day we engaged in a lighthearted expedition, arranged by Alfred Woolf of John Skinner Associates Ltd., which was planned to give motoring writers their first taste of the ingenious little 500-c.c. Fiat Giardiniera or station wagon. This involved, literally, taking a couple of old kitchen sinks to Brighton. We did not take them all the way, each car travelling two up from the Fiat depot at Wembley to Horsham, where this load was added before we proceeded with the stiffer part of a 100-mile route which had to be covered at an average speed of 36 m.p.h., if possible on two gallons of petrol or less. Woolf’s entertaining route to Brighton included going down Box Hill and up Leith Hill and should have taken us over Dunkery Beacon, only here a bridge had inconsiderately stepped aside—or could it be that a typist, like Homer, had nodded and left a vital line out of the instructions ?— and so the party of half-a-dozen Giardinieras went astray and in our case we had to resort to our emergency half-gallon of petrol opposite Roedean School as we came down into Brighton. The consumption had worked out at 46 m.p.g. for this fast drive, heavily laden. The little twin-cylinder air-cooled Fiat impressed us with its road-holding, oversteer being expected whereas there seemed an understeer tendency on the part of this rear-engined swing-axle i.r.s. vehicle. It ran well at an indicated 60 m.p.h. without undue fuss and proved as charming as its under-floor power unit is ingenious and those grubby sinks which Fiat put in the back after the coffee stop demonstrated effectively the space and load-carrying capacity of this diminutive Italian car.

Subsequently we heard that others of the party, perhaps more feather-footed, had achieved lower petrol consumptions, the average coming out to 50 m.p.g., very good, but heavier than the 60 m.p.g./60 m.p.h. target we would like present-day very small cars to achieve.

On the Madeira Drive we checked in at Fiat’s gaily-painted Service Van, this astonishing forward-control 1,100-c.c. vehicle containing such a complete complement of tools and spares, garage equipment and first-aid kit, micrometers and gauges, etc. —worth a total of £7,000—as to defy description. This is a normal Fiat production, with sliding side doors and ingenious storage drawers and cupboards, which gives notable economy of petrol and tyres when coping with Fiat servicing in far places.

After a late lunch at the ” Ship Hotel ” the journalists departed by train for London but we were driven back in the silent luxury of a Fiat 2100. Getting onto the wrong Underground line involved a nightmare journey, accompanied by the aftermath of Fiat hospitality, to retrieve the Editorial Mini-Minor from Wembley; nothing could have convinced the writer more firmly of the desirability of personal transport such as the little Giardiniera provides so well.—W. B.


Attack on rear-engined cars

According to the Christmas Eve edition of the Surrey Comet a coroner’s jury sitting at Feltham, at the inquest on a young driver killed in an accident involving a Renault Dauphine, decided that had this person ” been driving a standard car instead of one with the engine situated in the back, he might have avoided the accident.” Apparently the jury had heard a police constable give evidence in which he said that “the car’s luggage compartment at the front was empty, and if the car was swerved suddenly it would have the effect of lifting the front of the car.” The jury returned a verdict of accidental death, adding, according to the Comet reporter, that with the driver’s experience ” if it had not been a rear-engined car” they believed he could have held it, after it had been caused to swerve to avoid another car crossing the road; after braking heavily the Renault Dauphine struck a lamp-post.

We have heard of rear-engined cars that tended to oversteer and of some that have been inclined to break away at the rear without warning but, as every engineer and most motorists know, it isn’t necessary to put luggage in a Dauphine to keep the front wheels on the road no matter how fast it changes direction and this attack on rear-engined cars is surely astonishing ?


A good diary

If you want a diary, go and buy the Charles Lett’s Motor Racing Diary now. It is really comprehensive, with masses of information about motor racing, including an illustrated section on British G.P. cars, maps, all the usual diary features. Bound in Plexide, green, red, blue or brown to choice, with pencil, it retails for 5s. including tax, or in de luxe form, leather bound, for 9s. 6d. Postage is 6d. extra, from Motor Racing Publications, Ltd.