My year's motoring
The Editor looks back on the cars he drove in 1960
Last year was a particularly busy one, for I drove a pen for more than 200,000 words and forty road-test cars a matter of 18,300 miles; in addition to which I covered a further
17,000 miles in staff and personal vehicles. It was, however, a happy year, because I enjoy motoring and luckily these 35,000 miles, and a great deal of travel as a passenger with friends and colleagues, were accomplished without accident or any sort of brush with the police.
Most of the road-testers have this annual predilection for summarising their year’s work, whether their readers welcome it or not, but one of them, on a weekly contemporary, seems to have difficulty in deciding in what order he should recall the cars he has driven; last year he evolved an elaborate system, offered a small prize for the first of his readers who could discover it, then, or so they say, himself forgot how this system functioned!
To obviate any such mental effort and anxiety I shall set down my recollections of our 1960 road-tests in roughly the order in which I sampled the cars but first let me say a few words about cars we, em>didn’t get for test last year, in order to convince those keen MOTOR SPORT readers who wrote, telephoned, and even cabled us from far places about such omissions, that it wasn’t due to laxity on our part the vehicles in which they were interested were not covered by our critical and much sought after reports. For instance, not a single Renault came my way last year and so I was unable to say whether ” Aerostable ” had obviated that tendency to dangerous oversteer rumoured to be a Dauphine shortcoming. I was particularly anxious to test the latest race and rally-bred Mercedes-Benz, believing them to be fine cars, but without travelling to Stuttgart (as we did in 1959 to see the factory and test the 190SL) this could not be done, a shortsighted policy, surely, on the part of the great Daimler-Benz concern. Although the products of the Canadian and German Ford Companies were made readily available—and fine cars they proved to be—only one of the then-British Fords from Dagenham was offered for test and then for me to assess the merit of the optional disc front brakes rather than to analyse the Zephyr to which these had been fitted. I had hoped for one of Ford’s successful Rally cars, having had a most enjoyable day’s fast motoring in a Alpine Zephyr in 1959, but I was told that competition Fords are not for the Press, although a weekly of lesser circulation had at the time been permitted to go all the way to Geneva in a Monte Carlo Rally Zephyr! I even tried in vain to get a Consul convertible, it seems a long time ago since I sampled an Anglia, about which some of our readers complained rather bitterly last year, and I have yet to try a New Popular or the latest Ford Prefect, which some people find superior to the New Anglia. Austins, too, never had the car we wanted to test at the time we wanted to test it and it is far too long since I drove a Morgan or a Triumph TR. As a confirmed Volkswagen addict I craved a go in a rear-engined air-cooled Chevrolet Corvair but neither Vauxhall Motors nor their main distributors could provide one, although both Ford and Chrysler willingly lent me their Falcon and Valiant ” compacts ” last year. Through a dating muddle I missed trying the air-sprung Borgward but Citroen missed an opportunity of having a test report on the little Bijou published by an avid 2 C.V. enthusiast at a time when MOTOR SPORT was much concerned with truly small motor cars, simply by not having a Press car available.
A.C. and Aston Martin never have co-operated and my plans for testing a modern Rolls-Royce or Bentley and describing how these ” top-people ” automobiles are made, or if that proved unpalatable to the manufacturers, of telling how carefully they are tested and their chauffeurs taught to drive them, met with a tepid response from the new R.-R. P.R.O. In like fashion, the Daimler SP250 sports model and the magnificent Majestic saloon of this royal make have so far evaded us (Jaguar will be providing the former V8 this month), but what really has been a disappointment is that Rover, at one time so helpful, have still not managed to lend me a 3-litre and so I have been unable to ascertain whether or not this latest, cumbersome-looking model from a famous factory has cut its teeth. Then the Lotus people seem to have a happy knack of promising a car and then forgetting all about it, which is why I still have to drive a Lotus Elite. The proposal to take one to Monza and back having misfired, I had no intention of substituting a run round the block for a full-scale Continental test of this controversial car. I have not made the aforesaid comments in any spirit of bombast or pique and as a matter of fact I do not very much care if some makers choose to ignore us while others seem delighted to get the equivalent of several hundred pounds worth of free publicity in return for the loan of a Press car. You see, testing a car is no light task, because every mile of the way you are analysing details and countermanding previous opinions in a conscientious desire to discover the truth, and after the notebook has been filled comes the tedious task of translating the comments into readable form. Moreover, the test-car of the moment does not always fit in with week-end requirements, a cramped sports model inevitably coming along at a time when you have promised to take the entire family to some far-distant locality or a mini-car powered by a noisy and gutless lawn-mower engine presenting itself for test on the very day you are due to go as quickly as possible up to Oulton Park or Aintree. Apart from such inconveniences, which are but part of the job, I have died a thousand deaths driving along Oxford Street or on a ” Clearway ” with the fuel gauge needle below zero while conducting petrol consumption checks. Then the test-car has to be weighed and photographed, and a dry day is necessary before acceleration figures can be taken, necessitating much re-arrangement of driving schedules in had weather. So, all in all, the arrival of a road-test car is no longer a golden episode in my life. The P.R.O. concerned is doing his job by his firm in providing it and I am doing my job by my paper in testing it, but in middle age I refuse to get unduly excited; if Rolls-Royce lend you nearly £10,000 of limousine it will undoubtedly impress the neighbours but it also represents quite a responsibility to the tester in charge of it…
So, while I am sorry when interesting cars are refused or just ” go astray ” (the more so when prospective buyers ask why MOTOR SPORT hasn’t published a particular test report and, being told, probably conclude that the maker has something to hide, so that a sale is lost), I reflect that there will be as many good cars on future assembly lines as ever stood outside the offices of Publicity Departments and that if manufacturers can afford to ignore valuable free publicity the loss is theirs, not mine. I will admit, however, that when I commenced doing road-tests for MOTOR S PORT a quarter of a century ago every fresh car driven was a bright new thrill, not the least of which derived from trying to fit each one to an appropriate girl-friend, not altogether as successfully as in the recent series of Smiths’ advertisements, however! No doubt the present recession in the Motor Industry and resultant return to a buyers’ market will cause the Public Relations boys to seize every inch of Editorial space they can command, so I expect 1961 to be a very busy year. Having explained something of the background of road-testing, let me write first of the Morris Mini-Minor which was subjected to a twelve-months’ test which concluded last November— since then this willing little vehicle has been purchased as a staffcar and I find myself very reluctant to relinquish it. When I first had it the car was a novelty, but you cannot stifle a good design and now these little vehicles are everywhere. Since my comments on it in the December issue the ” Minibric ” has given no further trouble, apart from breakage of the speedometer-light switch and the final demise of the never-wholly-satisfactory Smiths clock. Since new pistons were fitted 4,000 miles ago the consumption of Castrol XL has settled down to approximately ½ pint per 1,500 miles. The year’s mileage, including that driven by friends (or trade drivers when the car has had to be returned to the factory for vital repairs) was 16,626, of which my share proved eminently enjoyable. These B.M.C. ” Miniboxes ” are about the safest cars I know on snow and ice and their road-clinging and cornering qualities are, of course, quite remarkable. Before the war it was a treat to test a Continental car solely to experience its in-built stability, which was inevitably immensely superior to the wallowing road-holding and vague steering of equivalent British cars. I remember how safe and secure I felt in cars such as the Lancia Aprilia, Fiat Balilla, Fiat 500 and D.K.W. Since the war British design-teams have caught up in respect of road-clinging and no longer are Continental products markedly superior in this respect. Surely, therefore, it is all the more creditable that Alec Issigonis has endowed his little beggers with such truly outstanding road-holding and cornering in this enlightened age ?
The rubber suspension needs no attention and has not deteriorated one iota on my car; it now remains to be seen whether lssigonis will be able to get the same remarkable results, perhaps using pneumatic/rubber suspension, from front-drive cars of 1½ and 3-litres capacity. I hope we shall know the answer in the not-too-distant future. Incidentally, I used to crave a vintage Austin Seven Chummy merely to use on those occasions when I wished to explore narrow country lanes but the B.M.C. mini-cars represent the ideal substitute, being compact, economical and able to negotiate, triumphantly, muddy fields and unmade roads. I endorse readily the vote of Canadian motoring journalists, that the Austin 850 and Morris Mini-Minor are the “Car of the Year.”
Coming to road-test cars, 1960 opened with a Hillman Minx Series IIIA saloon with ” Easidrive ” fully automatic transmission, which was used to cover the M.C.C. Exeter Trial. I have the greatest admiration for the Minx as a family car but its gear change is not difficult, so this ” Easidrive ” is really for men whose womenfolk denote, by undignified grating noises, that they are unaware of the relationships of the various cogs in that underfloor box in which an inconsiderate car manufacturer has put the ratios. However, two-pedal transmission is bound to come and, short of such a simple approach as the belt-drive of the D.A.F., Rootes have taken the initiative in supplying gear-shift automation on a 1½-litre car. A bouquet to them! And I certainly look forward to testing the rear-engined small car rumour says Rootes have designed for production in their new Scottish factory!
Another Rootes car came along next, in the form of the Sunbeam Rapier Series III saloon. This proved an extremely acceptable I½-litre two-door sports saloon, immensely improved by disc front brakes, alloy head, and closer gear ratios, although the gear change and road-holding could be improved. I took the Rapier on M 1 to please the children but I shall scream and scream if people go on writing up and talking about this Motor Road, which, after all, is ridiculously short compared to similar roads on the Continent or in America. . . .
Next I re-made acquaintance with the Riley 1.5 and I must say it suited me very well indeed. The spacing of the lower gears is rather dreary, the fuel range pathetic, but four door’s are an advantage and I like the small radiator grille and compact dimensions. Driving it fast the Riley 1.5 understeers and rolls round corners and the rigid back axle discloses its presence, but all in all I enjoyed my 890 miles of modern Riley motoring.
A Volkswagen having made me keen on cooling an engine with air and B.M.C. having convinced me that I need front-wheeldrive, and with three growing daughters who demand a sizable car, the Panhard PL-17 seemed the answer. I have considerable admiration for this 851-c.c. flat-twin which devoured Salisbury Plain at 70/80 m.p.h. at fractionally under 40 m.p.g. and there is plenty of room within. It is the garish interior decor and unhappy driving position that spoils the PL-17 but its good acceleration and refreshingly unusual characteristics should endear it to many.
The only Vauxhall tested last year was a Friary Velox station wagon used to tow home from Kent a 1922 Rover Eight coupé on a trailer, the present of a generous reader. I was impressed with the smooth flow of real power and the unexpected ” handiness ” of this so-spacious vehicle. The built-in towing attachment is sensible, the seats comfortable, and forward visibility good. although the wrap-round screen is hard on careless knees. In brief, an estate car par excellence.
Although no Mercedes-Benz were available to British journalists in this country last year I got hold of two Auto-Union 1000S saloons, now made by Daimler Benz. I didn’t like the roadholding or ” back-to-front ‘ steering-column gear change, but the acceleration from the ” revvable ” two-stroke three-cylinder-in-line power unit is impressive, and delivered with notable smoothness. The interior appointments are luxurious but the Auto-Union 1000 has ” dated ” and is not for me; the Managing Director of MOTOR SPORT, after owning a number of these German cars, has transferred his allegiance to the similar, but more likeable, Swedish Saab 96. Verb sap!
One of the ” events ” of my 1960 road-test curriculum was trying the new Ford Falcon ” compact.” It came to us in automatic form and left a profound impression. I drove the Falcon 833 miles and was a passenger in it on a very fast run to Oulton Park and back. I know some writers regard it as no improvement over the Zephyr but I do not agree. The transmission is extremely smooth, the lines sleek and compact, the performance excellent. The suspension, it Is true, reminds one of the car’s country of origin, there is no particular ” character ” about the Falcon, and I had trouble with a discharged battery. But the 2,365-c.c. six-cylinder engine makes no great call on the suppliers of petrol and oil and holds ” 80 ” all day as a matter of course.
After this I took time off to drive a ropy 1959 Wolseley 1500 supplied by J. Davy Ltd. in the Press Section of the Mobilgas Economy Run. As co-driver, I took a girl friend who drove as well as I did and enjoyed the splendid hospitality laid on at the overnight hotels by the Mobilgas Company,—it is quite irrelevant that she is now on her way to Kenya! We made a mess of it through frequently getting lost, but had fun.
Easter found me in temporary possession of the 3-litre version of the Humber Super Snipe Mk. II but with holiday road safety slogans ringing in my ears, the steering and road-holding didn’t seem altogether proper for a 100 m.p.h. saloon and the disc front brakes failed to ensure straight-line retardation. It has a good engine, which, like Peugeot and six-cylinder Fiat, has inclined o.h. valves prodded by cross push-rods.
A Chrysler Valiant disgraced itself, with no generator charge, in front of a critical audience in Kent. If it hadn’t been for the kindness of John Sprinzel and the fact that Rootes’ London Service Station stays open all night, I’d be there still. Later I became re-acquainted with this exciting American ” compact ” and found it very good indeed, with the smoothest automatic transmission imaginable, although it seemed shoddily turned out, consumed far too much oil, and wasn’t as economical as the Ford Falcon. Early in 1960 I flew by S.A.S. to Sweden to look at the Volvo and Saab factories and came home convinced that Swedish automobile engineers do not realise just how well made are their products. They take conscientious engineering for granted and elaborate inspection of raw materials and finished parts as an essential of their trade. In consequence, a Volvo not only gives you astonishing performance from a very big 1.6-litre car but an extremely high degree of durability, dependability and finish. The gear change is old-fashioned, the brakes not outstanding, but as a luxury family saloon the 122S is just about unbeatable. When this visit was undertaken I knew Volvo proposed to assemble the handsome new P 800 coupé in Birmingham, but I did not know that the other Swedish motor manufacturer. Saab, was about to invade the English market. This is another conscientiously put-together car and I like to think that our description of the Saab factory, published last June, and Erik Carlsson’s convincing R.A.C. Rally victory, have helped to establish the merit of these very rapid two-stroke automobiles. Not that I have heard from either Volvo or Saab since, but after the childish manner in which Britain accepted the Norwegian gift of a Christmas tree for Trafalgar Square, sending the electricity bill for its illumination to the generous donors, vide John Gordon in the Sunday Express, it would not be surprising to find that Scandinavian countries are not on speaking terms with us! Incidentally, Volvo now fit better seats, leather cloth upholstery and revised gear ratios to the rugged 122S.
Apart from considerable experience of the 750G.T. Saab in its native terrain I was later able to drive over 1,500 miles in England in two separate Saab 96 saloons. They are captivating little cars with astonishing cornering powers and a complete contempt for rough roads, if you don’t object to a two-stroke engine lubricated by the messy and inconvenient ” petroil ” system. It may be that the Saab’s rather out-dated appearance, lack of forward visibility and only three forward speeds will limit sales in this country. I remember with pleasure, however, a fast evening journey home from Oulton Park after the Gold Cup meeting, this 850 c.c. vehicle passing all and sundry with the greatest of ease, to the accompaniment of a quite shocking exhaust yowl which I assumed must be ” standard Carlsson ” until it was brought to my notice that the tail pipe needed re-welding to the silencer!
Some of the cars tested during 1960 were ” re-caps,” like the jolly little N.S.U. Prinz, these reliable ” cyclecars ” being the greatest fun, spoilt only by reluctant dynastarters, while I can find no superlatives grand enough to do justice to the comfort, stability and spaciousness of the Citroen ID19.
I gave a Ford Taunus 17M estate car some really hard tasks over the Whitsun holiday, when it conveyed some young people and quantities of luggage long distances without fatigue to the passengers, while affording the driver considerable enjoyment, for the stylish Taunus possesses real individuality and runs and handles very nicely. Like the Falcon, it is economical of fuel and oil, but its brakes are not its best feature. I would like to try the four-speed version of this attractive German Ford.
For another of my journeys to Oulton Park I used a smooth, sleek Fiat 2100 saloon, and formed a very high opinion of this six-cylinder Italian saloon. It has a torque curve that spells delightful traffic motoring, the steering column gear change is more acceptable than most of these off-the-floor levers, there is effortless performance and the interior appointments of this Farina-styled Fiat are such that it is a delightful car to discuss with friends while just sitting waiting for your wife to emerge from the shops or for one of Britain’s growing traffic jams to evaporate. The 2100 was spoilt for me only because of its ” feel ” on corners and rather flabby ride but whether incorrect tyre pressures or the unusual rear suspension were responsible. I never ascertained, although Maurice Faulkner of the Cheshire C.C. who has one tells me he has no complaints. The brakes played up a bit, pulling unevenly and I was really angry when all the gears vanished outside my hotel in Chester—as it proved subsequently, due to inadequate servicing.
Best value of the year and some of the most enjoyable motoring of all time was provided by a 3.8 Jaguar Series II saloon. I have nothing to add to the favourable comments published in the September issue on this comfortable, beautifully-appointed, very fully-equipped car capable of 98 in third, a top speed of 125 m.p.h. and of disposing of the s.s. 1-mile in just over 16 sec. If the synchromesh can be beaten and a few details criticised, at the price no real complaints can be harboured about this splendid British motor car with that turbine-smooth, very quiet twin-cam six-cylinder engine and extremely well-contrived disc brakes. Sir William Lyons has his reward for marketing such fine cars; at the height of the Coventry recession Jaguar employees are working full time.
Writing of disc brakes reminds me that I drove a Ford Zephyr with these as optional extras, at a competitive price, on its front wheels. They functioned satisfactorily but did not impress me as a similar Girling disc installation on a 1959 Ford Alpine Rally Zephyr had done, while the car itself was too broad in the beam, too prone to wheel spin on wet roads and too undistinguished for me to covet a Zephyr for day in, day out transportation. Two convertibles came along in spite of the wet summer, a Hillman Minx and an arresting 5.4-litre 225 b.h.p. V8 Ford Galaxie ” Sunliner.” Both were good, and there is a very real place for such bodywork in our quick-change climate. The Minx hood seeped a little water when the car was standing, but the hood folding arrangements were praiseworthy; its steering and gear change, however, called for considerable effort. The big Ford was an eye-opener in other respects besides appearance. It handled far better than I had expected, had quite passable brakes, and returned 16/17 m.p.g., possessed extremely good dual headlamps, steamed up to ” the ton ” with absolutely no effort, having a top-gear range of approximately 2-110 m.p.h., and its push button hood operation is the last word in practical open/closed motoring. I award the Ford Galaxie very high marks, its stiff suspension giving good control and its power steering being acceptable; when very large automobiles are going out of fashion, even in America, to own one in overcrowded Britain may seem foolish, but if I had £2,250 to spare I should be sorely tempted to become a Galaxie owner! An M.G. Magnette Mk. 3 saloon came up for a test after patient waiting and was driven down to Bath to judge for a Concours d’Elegance and to Brands Hatch over the August Bank Holiday weekend. It proved a useful family saloon with more ” go ” (85 m.p.h.) than is immediately apparent and a nice gear change; vague, heavy steering made the car a sad parody of the Magnettes I used to enjoy. The M.G.-A 1600 was also sampled over a big mileage and it was pleasant to experience again the good brakes and ” all-in-one-piece ” feel of the sports M.G. and to obtain real performance from a push-rod power unit able to turn at 6,000 r.p.m. But a cynical friend regarded 20 seconds for the s.s. ¼-mile as in the semi-sports category. Not being a G.P. driver I would be glad to have the M.G. for my fresh-air motoring . . .
What else came up in 1960? Why, the latest Volkswagen, its more powerful engine giving it just the additional acceleration that the earlier models lacked, while the other improvements are well worthwhile and the finish remains impeccable, so that this remarkable car continues to sell strongly in this country and America, to those who seek quality and good engineering in an inexpensive car economical of petrol, oil, tyres and spares. Indeed, last year VW produced 891,067 cars, not far short of a ¼-million more than in 1959, and of these they exported no fewer than 511,759, an improvement of 99,228 over the previous year; America took 37% more Volkswagen than in 1959, whereas registrations of other imported cars fell by 27%. I was sorely tempted to order one and the only reason I didn’t was because after five years of VW motoring I felt a change, was due and because a Karmann Ghia is really too small for the family. I also thought I should use one of the new British cars for my Editorial outings. But I abandoned VW motoring with real reluctance and shall watch eagerly to see if a new model appears at the Frankfurt Show next September. Going home from the “Boxing Night Exeter” I kept myself awake by driving the staff VW, which has 100,000 miles coming up on the original pistons and barrels and was as taut as to steering, gear change and brakes as when I took delivery of it as a new car six years ago. It is just beginning to use oil but the engine remains quiet, the gear change was a delight compared to that of the Mini-Minor, and after packing in five people, luggage and a four-gallon fuel can, we could refute the mistaken notion that the German ” beetle ” lacks interior space! Another convertible tried in 1960 was the elegant Fiat 1500, which proved completely weather-proof in a tropical storm, no mean attribute for a car hailing from a far dryer country than ours. The twin-cam engine is a delight, the whole car the personification of smoothness. Patsy Burt is not the only person who is in love with this Italian sports car!
A little Fiat New500 convertible was enormous fun and showed worthwhile improvement over an earlier version I drove. I shall always retain an affection for air-cooled two-cylinder motor cars and this economical Fiat is one of the very best.
The Wolseley 6/99 is a sedate car for the retired colonel or businessman but I quite enjoyed the sense of leisurely dignity it imparted and it was in some ways better contrived than a 3-litre Vanden Plas Princess that I took to Exeter at the time of the floods. The latest Wolseley 1500 proved, to me at any rate, to be a likeable, high-geared, 1½-litre ” compact.” I became reluctant to return this well contrived and nicely appointed small Wolseley. The powerful, very desirable, Austin Healey 3000 and Humber Super Snipe estate car were dealt with too recently (December 1960 issue) to justify further mention, as was the promising Standard Vanguard Vignale Six with its very smooth and quiet engine.
I went twice to the Scottish Highlands last year, once for the R.A.C. Rally and before that on a test of the ingenious Pirelli BS3 tyres, a journey which gave us quite a high opinion of the modern Morris-Oxford as a rally as well as a family car.
Apart from testing cars on the road I drove a selection of British cars round Goodwood on ” Guild Day,” the outstanding impressions of which were what a splendidly stable car the Morgan Plus Four is when in tip-top condition and how effective the Weber-carburetted, light-alloy-bodied version based on the Lawrence ” racer” is going to be, and what a formidable little ant an Alexander-tuned Mini-Minor is round this many-cornered circuit.
I also drove in the B.A.R.C. Journalists’ Race and if this proved disillusioning to those readers who expected the Editor of MOTOR SPORT to be able to at least keep Jack Brabham in sight (given a very long straight!) I must say I loved every minute of it, even though, on arrival at Goodwood, I found they had inadvertently fitted the Austin 850 I drove with a non-adjustable driving seat and that it was the only one to have tyre trouble, a Dunlop deflating for no apparent reason as the car stood innocently in the Paddock after practice. On reflection, I wonder whether the fact that not one of the ” racers ” indulged in a crash was attributable to the skill of the collective journalists or to the genius of Issigonis ?
Apart from all this to-ing and fro-ing in present-day motor cars I did not entirely neglect vintage motoring. At the beginning of the year, after a short run in my 1924 12/20 Calthorpe, I purchased a 1929 Standard Nine ” Teignmouth ” fabric saloon from its original owner. It has since attended several V.S.C.C. socials, has been driven by the Continental Correspondent in V.S.C.C. Driving Tests, went through the same Club’s very wet Light Car Rally at Prescott and won the Distance-Awards in both the Fleet Carnival Rally and the Standard Register Coventry Rally. This £10 car, indeed, covered over 1,300 miles during the year, without doing anything more wicked than snapping off a wheel stud because a half-shaft nut had worked loose. Repairs cost 2s. But I don’t suppose Ernest Marples would like it.
The 1960 Brighton Run scarcely commenced for me, the Montagu Motor Museum’s 1903 Humberette breaking down before we were out of the Royal Parks, but the Museum’s 1921 A.C. took me very snugly through a wintry “Boxing Night Informal.” These ” ancients ” apart, I enjoyed exhilarating runs in a 1926 G.P. Bugatti and in Jenkinson’s 1924 G.P. Sunbeam, to remind me of what motoring in helmet and goggles is like.
Altogether, a satisfactory and eventful twelve months. Some of the test cars have given trouble but I doubt whether we appreciate sufficiently the abuse and wear and tear to which modern cars are subjected. How long do you spend warming up your engine-oil on a winter’s morning, for instance, before slamming off to the office ? Have you ever computed the amount of abuse brakes and clutch have to stand in modern traffic ? It is pleasing that today’s motor cars still display plenty of individuality. I should be extremely sorry if standardisation of controls at the behest of safety-first pundits came along to diminish the ” character ” of the better cars. Road-holding, braking and cornering qualities have improved to keep pace with rising performance and increasing road congestion and most of the accidents that cause alarm and despondency are caused by incompetent driving. 1960 closed with a sales recession but matters should improve this year providing the Government eases H.P. restrictions and purchase tax, provides adequate roads and does not disqualify drivers for such trivial offences as losing an L-plate or having a temporarily-defective handbrake ratchet. Otherwise, former car owners are likely to seek other forms of relaxation, spending their money on boats, flying, radio-controlled models or stately homes and gardens. This will be fine for we enthusiasts, who will then have more space on the roads, but a blow to Motor Industry employees whose £20+ pay packets have already dwindled considerably. For their sake let us hope that those in authority will do all in their power to foster motoring in 1961.
On that note I look forward to another full year of road-testing, during which I shall endeavour to access the merits and shortcomings of the cars I try critically, but fairly and without bias.
Already the New Year has started well, with a Russian car and a four-speed ” Aerostable ” Renault Dauphine, and I have been on an amusing competitive drive in a Fiat Giardiniera, which is a diminutive car possessing a quite astonishing ratio of space/swept volume, and effective handling from a rear-engined vehicle in which it is a puzzle to find the little air-cooled power unit.—W. B.
Petrol and oil consumption of cars tested in 1960
—————–Car————————————– Petrol Consumption ————Oil Thirst
Hillman Minx Series IIIA Easidrive saloon 29.0 m.p.g. One pint in 940 miles.
Sunbeam Rapier Series III saloon 24.7 m.p.g. One quart in1,300 miles.
Riley 1.5 saloon 28.2 m.p.g 1½ pints in 1086 miles.
Panhard PL17 saloon . . 39.0 m.p.g. ————
Auto Union 1000S saloon . 25.7 m.p.g. Mixed with the petrol 1 pint per 5 gallons.
Ford Falcon saloon 25.3 m.p.g. None in 1,157 miles.
Chrysler Valiant saloon . 20.2 m.p.g. Two quarts in 750 miles.
Saab 96 saloon .. 34.5 m.p.g. Mixed with the petrol 1 pint per 4 gallons.
N.S.U. Prinz saloon .. 45.0 m.p.g. —————
Ford Taunus 17M estate car .. 32.3 m.p.g. None in more than 1,000 miles.
Fiat 2100 saloon .. 23.5 m.p.g. None in 775 miles.
Jaguar 3.8 Mk. II saloon . 16.75 m.p.g. 3 pints in 1,000 miles.
Fiat 1500 convertible . 24.4 m.p.g. 2½ pints in 737 miles.
Fiat New 500 saloon .. 54.0 m.p.g. ————-
Vanden Plas 3-litre Princess saloon 19.2 m.p.g. None in 750 miles.
Austin Healey 3000 four-seater .. 15.9 m.p.g. ———
3-litre Humber Super Snipe estate car 20.8 m.p.g. Practically none in 1,400 miles.
Standard Vanguard Vignale Six estate car 21.0 m.p.g. —————
VW de luxe saloon 35.5 m.p.g. None in 400 miles.
M.G. Magnetic Mk. III saloon .. 29.05 m.p.g. None in 540 miles.
M.G.-A 1600 two-seater 25.5 m.p.g. One quart in 570 miles.