Letters from readers, February 1961
Your leader article on the prosperity of the British Motor Industry was of interest, but lukewarm—or alkaline—in tone.
One reason for the ascendancy of Germany—as quoted by Parkinson in his latest work—is the fact that the entire civil Service in Germany was wiped out in 1945, to the tremendous benefit of the tax-paying classes.
A couple of hundred of our own bowler-hatted, brief-cased baskers parachuted into Berlin could perhaps redress the balance; if left to multiply in their own amoebaic way. In ten years, or less, they could drag the Germans down to our own burdensome level.
I don’t know what the drill for ” lobbying ” is at Westminster at the moment (what dewy-eyed reformer pushed the new gambling bill, I wonder ?) but I do think that everyone should press for an investigation of our Civil Service, to be carried out by an independent firm of time and motion study people. If it costs a million pounds, I’ll happily contribute to same from my taxes.
As regards the Motor Industry in particular our decline was inevitable from the time—just after the war—when our manufacturers began to copy Detroit, only three years after the event. There seems to be a ” Let’s not be beastly to the Yanks ” movement on parade at the moment but I am not going along with it. ” My brother, right or wrong ” is a narrow stupid sentiment and even dangerous in a nuclear age.
We can learn from the Americans in the field of production methods. That is their own fetish—the much publicised American know-how. But in the dual fields of original research and design, they are strictly non-starters. Whittle gave them their first jet engine, in toto. Their space rockets have progressed only in detail from the original V2 design taken from the Germans. (British inventors and spies please note: If you fancy California or Texas as a country estate, with a thousand or so Hollywood starlets as game-stock, just find out the Russian gimmick that can put several tons into orbit as against an American pay-load measured in pounds!) ” But the atom bomb,” you may say. ” Surely, the Atom bomb—.”
The man in charge of the Los Alamos project was an American —Opperman by name. Many of the staff under him had been his teachers in Europe. In an elimination test of ability and achievement, he would probably have come about two-thirds of the way down the list. But he was an American national, and, as such, was appointed to head the project for security and prestige reasons. In fact, the majority of the top brains at Los Alamos were European. So let’s stop being beastly to ourselves, and re-set our sights on the pre-war British aim of producing a quality article that lasts . . . and lasts . . . and lasts …
One final thought for the road. Why is it that a safety razor, costing a few shillings, and living an arduous amphibious life never seems to go rusty—whilst a motor vehicle, costing up to a couple of thousand pounds, gets the ” yellow bug ” within six months ?
I am, Yours, etc.,
Hutton.. D. F. Bowden
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Was it a “dud”?
To Mr. G. Morgan, of High Wycombe (November’s MOTOR SPORT—” The World’s Most Exciting Light Car “) may I say welcome to the happiest motoring family in the world. Mind you, we Volkswagen owners have our troubles(?), too, you know. Having completed a fraction under 21,000 miles in my 18-month-old VW, I’ve just had a ” major repair” bill for four new plugs. And about 10 months ago I had to replace the interior lamp bulb, which cost, if I remember correctly. 2s. 9d. Can any VW owner account for these faults, or have I been sold ” dud ” ?
Still looking on the brighter side, the Volkswagen has the most reliable engine, the most delightful gearbox, the finest suspension and the most beautiful (incorporating resilience) interior and exterior finish of any small car (and many of the big fellows) in the World. Even the tyres (need I say what they are?) are top quality with almost a full tread remaining. And the car doesn’t leak like a sieve, which was rather advantageous when the machine was called upon to do almost one thousand miles in the recent West Country floods, without requiring me to don Wellington boots and other ” standard ” British equipment.
It is not really necessary to say that my car has never let me down. After all—it is a Volkswagen.
I am, Yours, etc.,
* * *
What the British buy
For a long time now we have been hearing about the superiority of one particular small car. Don’t you think you are sometimes rather unfair to other cars in the same category ?
The car in question is good—I have one myself—but so it should be! Was not the late Dr. Porsche one of the greatest automobile engineers of all time ? Who else, ordered to design the cheapest car that the World had ever seen, would do it so that it could be developed into one of the leading sports cars, not of its own time, but of a quarter of a century later ? And the development it has had! Pre-production models thrashed over vast distances on Autobahns and the awful German secondary roads— the military version, identical mechanically with the car as afterwards made, produced in the most rough and ready way, made to work for its living under every extreme of climate. I doubt if it got very sympathetic treatment then—the German Army was usually in a hurry, one way or the other. Sir, did you never look under yours and see the Russian mud still sticking to the front suspension, or find traces of sand from the Western Desert in the engine compartment ? And then we hear about the ” gruelling testing ” the latest new experience in motoring has had—all four of them, with expert drivers, plenty of preparation and works servicing. …
Don’t forget, anyway, that the British Motor Industry still suffers from the Average British Motorist, who doesn’t read MOTOR SPORT, and uses his car to get to work on a weekday, for shopping on Saturday, and for impressing the neighbours when he polishes it on Sunday before the gentle 30-mile run in the afternoon. Is he likely to want a car whose appearance is still much the same as it was in 1937 (they didn’t think much of it then!) and whose hidden qualities he will never even know about ? He wants a nice shiny Shoddy Showoff, even if its engine does wear out in 30,000 miles and its suspension get knock-kneed in half that distance. Blow the export market—he isn’t interested in an ugly little beetle with a smelly heater and no top-gear performance to speak of! Besides, cars with engines at the back are dangerous—the British insurance companies say so!
So why moan at British cars because they aren’t like it ? Why should they be ? After all, pistons and tyres are plentiful and cheap!
I am, Yours, etc.,
Bristol. J. M. Sloper. >
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Why I bought a Simca
Your editorial regarding the present drop in demand for British cars at home and abroad prompts me to add a few thoughts on the subject.
This often-repeated excuse about the credit squeeze from the manufacturers is in my opinion only partly the cause.
The car which will sell consistently in large numbers over a long period in the World has got to be an “‘honest ” vehicle; it matters not whether the engine is at the back or the front, or is of one or two litres capacity, providing the overall weight is consistent with engine size to give an easy performance.
I think the tide started to turn against our sales abroad when some of our biggest manufacturers stopped producing honest cars, and by this term I mean a vehicle which does not try to look bigger than it really is, which does not have excessive body overhang back and front, which has good traction, and which the manufacturers intend to produce unchanged for at least five years. The worst offender in this case is undoubtedly B.M.C. The last honest car they produced until recently was the Austin A40 Devon and since that time their 1¼ to 1½-litre models have become progressively over-styled and over-bodied. The only bright spots in this class are the Wolseley 1500 and Riley 1.5, because they are sensibly-bodied and thus able to pull a high top gear.
One would think that the ever-popular Minor would have taught them something but we have to wait for Issigonis to return to produce the Austin Se7en Mini-Minor (why could not it be one model only ?) to show what type of vehicle will sell in Canada and North America. The sooner he can get his brilliant hands, on the B.M.C. 1½-litre Pinin Farina range the better for us all.
Vauxhalls, who were badly hit abroad quite early on, still continue with that ugly dog’s-leg windscreen on all models. It is Worst on the Victor which is basically an excellent vehicle in all important mechanical respects, and yet they prefer to adorn it with a new grille and a new inferior facia design, instead of spending a bit, more on correcting an outmoded and sale-killing design feature.
The same muddled thinking is evident in the latest Velox range. The rear lights have been redesigned, they say, in face of unfavourable customer comment on their excessive size. So, incredibly, instead of merely reducing the actual red glass area and retaining the same housing with neat flasher unit above, which although large was a pleasant cohesive design, they put a tasteless blob of chromium where the flasher was and filled in the rear-light housing with an uninspired combined unit similar to a dozen other makes. And what can one make of those new narrower section tyres ?
Rootes, who always produce a well-finished vehicle with careful attention to minor details, are still restricting potential sales of their most important model, the Minx, because it is still plagued with heavy, soggy steering, and yet the Husky and Alpine are excellent in this respect. The Minx is a thoroughly honest vehicle and deserves to sell well, but this one poor feature is enough to make a customer look elsewhere after a short trial run.
It is significant that Fords were the last major producer to go on short time and I think the reason is.clear.
They are traditional producers of honest cars and get the design right before large-scale production. The initial irritating faults that early Anglia owners suffered were due to faulty assembly more than anything else.
But, and its a big but, why do they still keep making cars with the front seat occupants’ toe-board too high in relation to the seat? If there is one factor that influences a sale more than anything else, it is customer reaction when he or she first sits in the driver’s seat.
I am taller than most at 6 ft. 3 in. but I remember the misery of town driving in a 1956 Series II Zephyr because of this high floor coupled with awkward pedal movements. After four years this bad feature (which is common to the Consul and Anglia) is still just the same.
I understand Ford engineers keep a close watch on rival products, surely they have tried the Triumph Herald to see how it should be done ?
I do not indulge in slavish adulation of Continental products, but much as I would prefer to drive a British product, I now drive a 1958 Simca Elysee. Much of the body details and fittings on this car are inferior to British products, but what other 1,290-c.c. (or even I½-litre) car in this country has such powerful brakes, intelligent gear ratios, 30/34 m.p.g. economy on the cheapest grade of petrol, an unobstructed boot, automatic choke, and such a sparkling performance coupled with light, precise steering ?
On the debit side, the ride is somewhat choppy on minor roads and the gear-change is poor, but is saved by unbeatable synchromesh.
I tried the latest model recently and was disappointed to find that the excellent twin glove boxes had given way to a single one with a crude lid and handle and even the gear lever now has an uncomfortably shaped knob. The luggage boot now has a deep lip making the removal of heavy objects much more difficult. This is just to show that design changes for the worse can happen in French cars as well.
I am not an admirer of the Renault Dauphine, because of its inherent instability, and have always been mystified by its large sales in this country. Perhaps it is just clever advertising that does it, but the insurance companies appear to have had the last word now. Our biggest rivals for world sales would still appear to be VW, Renault, Opel (an example of utterly conventional design winning through aided by low price and first-class finish), Fiat, Peugeot, Citroën and Mercedes-Benz (who must spend more on research than anyone else).
The latest Ford Taunus could also be a serious contender if produced in sufficient numbers; its body shape is sensible yet refreshingly different. I hope I am not labouring the point but each one of these manufacturers, whether using a conventional or unconventional design, produces an honest vehicle unchanged over a period of several years, and I think it is this policy which in the long run reaps the richest reward.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Sunningdale. Louis R. Russell.
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In order of merit
A point arises in your article ” Small Car Topics” which demands some explanation. The relative appraisal to which you refer, issued by Richard Ansdale and myself, does indeed look suspiciously convenient since I happen to be concerned with publicity for N.S.U. cars. This is not true of Ansdale, however. He is an entirely independent engineer with no axe whatever to grind. If I may be permitted to make an observation as a professional publicist (and I am conscious of the fact that the Editor of MOTOR SPORT is no babe when it comes to such matters), it would have been even more convenient for me had the N.S.U. come, say, second or third in the order of merit. After all, the Prinz can hardly expect to compete with the Ford Anglia on this market so that the table would have more apparent verisimilitude if the order of these ears could be reversed. Unfortunately, even supposing that Ansdale were prepared to lend his name to so diabolical a scheme, the figures cannot be played with, except by the omission of certain columns which we believe to be essential to a proper appraisal of cars in this class.
One thing which our classification does do, incidentally, is to provide a ready check on ill-informed assessments such as that contained in Reyner Banham’s New Statesman article, which you so rightly take to task.
The point is that in every important aspect of performance and passenger amenity, the Volkswagen was at least 25 years in advance of any other car of its class when it was conceived. Even today, when the rest of the motor industry has awakened with a start to the fact that old formulae in the design of economy cars just won’t do, the VW attains performance figures which, taken all-round, are better than those of—any other comparable vehicle as a glance at our table shows. Its passenger area is only fractionally less than the top figure in this respect. And any statistical analysis must, of course, neglect such features as coachwork and suspension in which fields the VW has few peers. Perhaps Mr. Banham will take a look at our table and tell us what modifications he would plump for. Meanwhile, I hope that your readers will find our occasional sorties into the “value for money” argument of some use and that those of them who, possess a slide rule will satisfy themselves that we could not cook the figures, even if we wished to do so.
I am, Yours. etc.,
Victor Winstone, Automotive Technical Advisory Service Ltd.
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The Pay Packet
Your Editorial this month—Matters Of Moment—touching upon the poor state of the car exports/sales just now, is surely in all our minds. Couple this with a paragraph of Mr. Mackenzie-Wintle’s letter dealing with competitive small car prices excluding import duty, and part of the cause of our trouble seems obvious.
Now the reason for the cause—I once gave a lift to a man hitchhiking from Hastings, as far as London. He told me he was employed at Oxford as a sheet metal press operator on night work. Briefly, his job was to place sheets of metal on his press, depress a pedal, then stack the pressed sheets in a pile. This does not sound like a very skilled job to me, and I would rate it at about £13 10s, per week plus 12½% for night work. My passenger told me that he was not permitted by his Union to earn more than £34 per week, or he would be black-listed. This meant that he could work only two-thirds of his time—he was quite happy to take a nap so long as he earned as near his maximum as he could arrange. Whilst we all like to earn as much as possible, I feel that the car manufacturers could be more competitive if they stopped paying this £5,000 p.a. bonus to press operators and equivalents. Unions would today have less of a headache with their unemployed if they had been fair to the industry, and taken a longer sighted view.
I think British cars have the edge over Continentals where finish is concerned, and if we can get the price down—happy days again.
I am, Yours, etc.,
“N. H. F.” [Name and address suppled.—Ed.]
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In August you published your impressions of 10,000 miles of Mini-motoring. I have just completed 10,000 miles of Austin Se7en ownership and my experiences may be of interest. I took delivery Of my Austin Se7en standard saloon last March. The performance, economy and incredible handling of these cars have already been described at great length, so on these subjects I will say only that I am getting 44 m.p.g., including daily runs in London, and I have had an indicated 78 m.p.h.
Some points deserve closer attention. The brakes are good but not outstanding, and braking can be rather ” dicey ” in the wet, as quite a light pedal pressure can lock the rear wheels. This has been partially cured by chamfering the leading edge of the rear linings.
Oil consumption has been a steady 450 miles per pint since new. On the whole the engine runs too cool but this has been cured by backing the grille with brass gauze, which was fitted to prevent a recurrence of a” flame-out ” which occurred in a heavy rainstorm. The tyres are about one-third worn despite very hard and enthusiastic cornering. This may be due to following the manufacturers’ advice on tyre rotation and also to running at higher pressures than those recommended (viz. 28 lb. front, 25 lb. rear).
The body and chrome show no signs of rust and the paintwork has a good and hard finish. However, alas! The windscreen and both rear quarter-windows (fixed) leaked very badly around the rubber sealing until given drastic treatment with sealing compound. Despite undersealing and the plugging of every apparent source of leaks, the front passenger’s foot well still fills with water under the rubber mat. The horn button, the flashing indicators switch, the driver’s window catch and the door pulls have all needed minor repairs and attention. The cloth seats of the standard model are very difficult to keep clean.
The wiper motor leaked all its lubricant and was replaced at 6,000 miles under the terms of the guarantee, as were the front dampers, which had no return action whatever. The rear dampers followed suit at 8,000 miles and the off-side damper actually broke away at the lower hush. Incidentally, the car has been driven wholly on metalled roads.
The lock on the boot lid has now broken and a replacement is on order. At 10,000 miles, the distributor needs replacement as the brush has burned out, the rotor arm is badly pitted, ” tracking ” inside the cap is causing misfiring at high r.p.m., and the whole unit makes very odd noises!
In conclusion, I consider that it is a very fine car but it is spoiled by the detail finish and the entirely unnecessary failure of the various components, most of which are not produced by the British Motor Corporation.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Kingston Hill. H. D. S. VENABLES. Sir,
As a satisfied owner of a 1960 Austin Se7en, I would like to retaliate against sSome of the crititisms levied by Mr. Dove and Mr. Mackenzie-Wintle in the December issue.
Firstly; I do not consider the interior trim shoddy or the car to be ” crudely made.” The trim of my Se7en compared favourably with the tawdry plastic-ware seen around the facia and steering column of the cheaper Continental cars at the Motor Show.
Secondly, I have suffered little trouble over almost 4,000 miles; apart from the replacement of two bulbs, only the intake of water through the floor has caused concern. After two attempts by the garage this latter defect has been cured for all except flood conditions. Perhaps Mr. Dove, being used to Volkswagens, did not properly run-in his Mini.
Thirdly, I can only assume that Mr. Mackenzie-Wintle is using a deaf-aid of great sensitivity turned to maximum volume. Under no conditions have I found ” booming in the ears ” or ” bodyflexing,” only wheel patter on coarse surfaces, but this is not excessive. At speeds up to about 50 m.p.h. the top gear is very quiet, and at 60-65 is far from troublesome. (No extra soundproofing has been added.) I should think, anyway, that slight whine is far more tolerable than the clatter of some of the less-refined two-stroke cars on over-run. Finally, I would be interested to know why Se7ens are apparently slower than Mini-Minors, as was the case in a recent journalists’ race. Mine has a maximum on the level of about 70 m.p.h. indicated, compared with the true 75 m.p.h. often quoted for Minis!
I am, Yours; etc.,
Tunbridge Wells. David J. Apps.
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I hope you will be interested in the history of my Mini-Minor. It was purchased new in May 1960 and has now covered 10,000 miles. On the credit side I would list :—
(a) Excellent roadholding.
(c) Performance for a car of 850 c.c.
On the other side
(a) Within one week of taking delivery an oil leak developed.
(b) As a result of above clutch was replaced in October 1960.
(c) Clutch is now giving further trouble and car is at present being checked.
(d) Water covered floor in July 1960 during heavy rain. Car was returned for correction.
(e) Two months later car still leaking and again returned. Although partial cure effected water still penetrates in heavy rain at speed.
(f) Petrol gauge replaced in August 1960.
(g) Three punctures. Needless to say I am far from satisfied and propose getting rid of the car early this year.
I am, Yours, etc.,
London, S.W.16. P. S. TWYNAM. Sir,
I purchased a new Austin Se7en 16 days ago. The following are already rusty :— four hub caps, two small pieces of trim at front, one end edge of rear bumper. The surround of the manufacturer’s name on the bonnet is deeply pitted as well. The undercoat of red paint can be clearly seen on the outside of the boot lid. I need hardly say that I am disgusted with this. Is it a typical product of the British Metal Finishing Industry as applied to the Car Industry ? If you, or any of your readers, think this is an exaggeration, the vehicle is available for inspection.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Kingsbury. V. Baker.
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ON OUR SIDE!
Having read of your Edinburgh correspondent’s unfortunate brush with the Law and the Editorial plea for a better relationship between public and police, I feel that the following incident might be put on the credit side of the ledger.
A motorcyclist friend of mine, also in Edinburgh, was passed and flagged down by a police patrol. The machine was in an advanced state of decay, the owner being an impecunious student and far from mechanically inclined. As well as speeding, the halfdozen faults pointed out included missing front brake and speedometer cables.
However, on this occasion, the Law was more than lenient. The last heard of the matter was the heavy breathing of the two constables as they pushed the old bike to start it—the kick-start was out of order, too!
I am,. Yours, etc.,
Castle-Douglas R. D. White
[And a friendly warning probably did just as much good as a summons, while costing the country nothing in time and paper-work.—Ed.]
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re “Driver suspended”
And how right Mr. Firth is (December letters)!
Persecution is age old. The Romans rode herd on the Christians, the Nazis belaboured the Jews, white thugs assault the black man, and the British motorist is savaged by ” Justice.”
Degrees of detected crime are rewarded in court by the volume of punishment. Teenage hooligans are sentenced “to visit a probation officer every fortnight,” public-house brawlers are fined a few bob, owners of dangerous dogs are ” warned,” and so it goes on. Even the crook who pinches your car is let off with a couple of quid and a telling off.
Now Mr. Firth tells us of a common comparison. Speeding, fine £3; assault on police, fine £5. But I can go one better than this, and both cases appeared in the same copy of a local paper in Northwich, Cheshire, some time ago.
A van driver, backing into a road with his small vehicle, was unfortunate enough to have a rear door swing open and graze the paint of a parked car. He was charged with careless driving, fined £10.
The same paper carried the story of four or five men who broke into a local radio and electrical dealer in the town. While one remained in the get-away vehicle, the others entered the premises. It was late at night, and the police sergeant was cycling home. Seeing the parked car, he dismounted some paces in front of it. The driver, abandoning his mates, drove off straight at the sergeant, who had to throw himself down on the pavement to avoid serious or fatal injury.
The thieves left in the shop were promptly arrested, but the driver was never found. Justice came to these fellows—probation, except for one of them who was fined—£1!
But at least two crimes still carry a generally heavier penalty than being a motorist—Blackmail and Murder.
I am, Yours, etc.,
“TONY.” [Name and address supplied—Ed.]
I should like to express, through your columns, a view on the so-called ” Police State ” sometimes referred to in your excellent journal, which I trust will serve as an explanation to the outraged motorists who frequently write to you.
The words ” motorist ” and ” criminal ” are, of course, synonymous in this country, and, as everyone knows, the job of the policeman is to catch and convict criminals. The task, therefore, is a somewhat heavy one, by no means easy; and much time and money must be spent in the hounding, restricting, impeding and eventual catching and persecution of the ” motorist.”
Unfortunately, the motorist is increasing in numbers, daily, making the task all the more difficult; but he is a placid sort of chap who doesn’t complain too loudly when he is continually asked to pay, pay, pay.
Sometimes the silly fellow gets a bit upset and writes to the newspapers or one of the motoring journals and complains, and suggests that more roads should be built for him. Who does he think he is ? Where does he think the money is coming from ? The money he pays in purchase tax, petrol tax and motor tax has to be spent in other fields, and the sooner he realises that he is a scourge to society the better it will be for everyone.
So ” crime ” is on the increase; could the reason be that the car is fast becoming the cheapest form of transport? Apart from being the most convenient, most comfortable and most satisfying way of travelling these days ?
Oh well, roll on 1984, I say.
I am, Yours, etc.,
” Convict YYL 562.”
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The charitable ‘sixties
I have to relate a sorry tale of the ” charitable ‘Sixties.” Returning Londonwards along A 30 from business in the West Country on January 6th, I rounded a sweeping right-hand bend and hit a skating rink of black ice—the first such patch in a sunny, 90-mile journey. My Minor performed a double figure-of-eight and finally buried its tail in the off-side banking. By the grace of God the road was clear for those ten seconds and damage was no more than a buckled bumper. I jumped out of the car and waved down half a dozen following drivers, already swinging into the unseen hazard. Fifty yards on was a garage, where, as I walked up, three gentlemen stood, hands on hips, having watched my lucky escape. I asked if they might push me clear of the ditch, only to be told by the boss : ” You’ll ‘ave ter wait—got enough on our plate already.” I suggested that a temporary warning might be placed before the bend. ” Waste of time. People wouldn’t take no notice,” was the reply. The younger of the two mechanics then said : ” you think I ought to go down the road and wave ’em down before they hit it ?” To this, the Christian-hearted soul in charge retorted : ” And just who do you think is going to pay for your time while you’re doing that ? It’s a mug’s game.”
Holding my wrath in rein, I looked round the garage forecourt and saw why, to this person, cash took precedence over human life : already, by 11.15a.m., the iced bend had claimed five victims—all expensive ” coachwork jobs ” . . .
I returned to my car, and started it after some difficulty, by which time the busy trio deigned to push me out of the ditch. At this moment, an A.A. patrol drove up. I hailed the scout and told him of the ice hazard, suggesting that he might put up some temporary warning, or station himself well before the bend to warn drivers. His reply : ” Can’t do that, sir. We put out our warning on the wireless last night, but drivers just take no notice. We said there’d be icy patches on high ground, and we can’t mark them all—can’t do anything about it, sir.”
With these happy New Year thoughts, I leave you and your readers.
I am, Yours etc.,
Ealing, W.13. G. D. Charles
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A survey of the motor press, both your own excellent ” enthusiasts ” publication and the weekly journals, reveals a disturbing consistency of complaints regarding transmission noise. Time and again an owner’s otherwise eulogistic report on his model contains a condemnatory comment on gear whine: often the balanced rest-reports of staff writers refer in greater or lesser degree to this same annoying, if harmless, characteristic of modern production cars.
My own 1959 rear-engined car, an Italian marque with an Abarth conversion, is endowed with a superlative, trouble-free engine, outstanding road-holding throughout its speed range and —a whining gearbox. The makers have on several occasions replaced the transmission unit, finally commenting that the gearwhine is ” a characteristic of the model ” and passing my specimen as ” better than normal “!
From road-test reports and owner-experience letters it would appear that many ’59-’60 models are delivered with this annoyance: surprisingly, it is not confined to mini-cars, cheaper models or even models of similar design-conception. It is an ever-present complaint of our times!
One wonders why, in this day and age of production development to the nth degree, an industry whose designers are capable of winning two World Championships and three Constructor’s Championships in a row, can’t cure what must inevitably constitute a major customer complaint—gear whine.
To an engineer, mechanical noise indicates broadly one of two things—too much or too little clearance or else faulty surface finish. Modern gear-cutting and shaping machinery can, properly employed, eliminate the latter, and the accuracy of mass-production jigs and fixtures should eliminate the former; that is, unless acceptable tolerances are so wide as to demand selective assembly, a practice abhorred by production experts.
What then, is the answer ?
My opinion may be of interest. Apart from a more tolerant inspection, which accepts components to wider limits than the dictates of silence as opposed to satisfactory mechanical assembly demand, I believe this annoying fault can be traced to a primary design condition. That condition is gear (or transmission) case mass.
In the decades now past, when, incidentally, gears were silent, shortcomings in foundry technique were overcome by ensuring gearcase stiffness and stability with good, thick walls, webs and bearing housings.
Nowadays, due partly to superior design and partly as a result of improved foundry methods, equal if not greater stiffness and rigidity can be obtained with more complicated castings of much thinner wall and web section, and, consequently, substantially lower overall mass.
The corollary is obvious : less material to absorb and deaden sound—more audible noise!
The answer seems equally obvious. Designers should resist the production engineers’ demand to save pence by ” adding lightness,” at least where gearcases are concerned. Modern engines are now so efficient that they will readily cope with an extra pound or so of casting material; alternatively, an equal weight could quite well be pared off-those ” sales-appeal ” accessories that add little to the functional value of the whole vehicle. Discerning owners will know what they are!
I am, Yours, etc.,
Raynes Park. C. N. Brooker, A.M.S.A.E.
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I cannot resist adding a footnote to the prolonged correspondence concerning Jack Brahham.
Stirling Moss, in spite of the fact that he spent a proportion of last season in hospital recovering from injuries, managed to win 13 races in seven different types of cars. Our World Champion, Brabhamn, has won ten, all in a Cooper-Climax.
Nobody can deny that he earned his Championship last year, but I hope we will see him trying his hand against Moss at Nurburgring and Le Mans in a sports car during the coming season.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Ashtead. N. Hart.
[This correspondence is now closed, at all events until the end or the 1961 racing season.—Ed]
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BRAKES BUT NOT BELTS?
Your January issue article on Ferodo brake linings was first class, as usual, and it made me wonder why this fabulous concern cannot make a decent fan-belt.
Before leaving for Fort William and beyond to Mallaig, last June, in my Austin Seven 1931 van, with 5 cwt. of camping gear, I decided to give the old car just one new item of equipment— a fan belt by Ferodo (6s.). This reliable extra lasted as far as Carlisle whereupon I re-fitted my ” Balhamn ” 1s. 6d. standby belt and the latter is still in place. In short, I would not give Ferodo a plate of bird’s nest soup for their fan belts!
I am, Yours, etc.,
Haywards Heath. D. Murray-Wilson.
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Amenities at Brands Hatch
As a frequent visitor to Brands Hutch I am sure I speak on behalf of many when I say cannot something be done to improve the so-called ” facilities” provided for the public? One can hardly remain sweet tempered when one’s car becomes bogged down in the thick muddy fields laughingly known as car parks immediately one arrives at the track, nor do we split our sides in mirth when we ourselves almost become a part of the landscape as we sink deeper and deeper into the slimy mud which seems to prevail wherever we walk. It might, of course, be hilarious to the unfeeling when someone endeavours to clamber up the incline on and around Druids Hill only to slither face down backwards to the bottom again, but to the unfortunate victim it can hardly be called a joke.
Of course, there are always the stands where one can sit. Here we have a choice. Either we can pay a small fortune to sit on a bench with an icy wind blowing from all directions, seeking us out whether we are sitting on top or underneath the bench, or we can herd ourselves in with the other poor unsuspecting enthusiasts and spend a couple of hours watching racing whilst our blood freezes and our bodies become wet and numb. Well, you say, go and have a hot meal and a cup of coffee in the Club House. An excellent idea until one remembers that the Club House is a large hut furnished with refectory tables and benches and can hardly be described as warm and welcoming. True, a cup of coffee or tea can be obtained, but it is rather difficult to tell the difference. As for a hot meal . . .!
Lastly, another delightful feature of Brands Hatch is the toilets. Surely in this day and age it is not difficult to install flush toilets. It is not difficult to guess that many germs must be spread because of the lack of hygiene in these quarters.
May I just say, however, that the track itself at Brands Hatch is really an excellent one and the motor racing held there is of the highest degree, but, oh!—that mud!
I am, Yours, etc.,
East Molesey. Avril Gamble (Mrs.).
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My attention has been drawn to a letter published in the September 1960 edition of your journal under the heading ” Dishonesty Exposed ” and to the Editorial comment which followed. The writer of the letter, who signed himself ” Hirer-Had,” complained that a car he had hired had been fitted with a governor to restrict performance, and the editorial comment stated that this undesirable practice, referring to it as ” The art of grab-grab,” had reached its zenith in the City.
My Company, Zenith Motors, are Ford Main Dealers in the City of London and East London, and our advertising in recent years has closely linked our name, ” Zenith,” with the City of London. Unfortunately a number of people have wrongly thought that perhaps we were connected with the incident.
I wish to make it abundantly clear that Zenith Motors were not connected in any way whatsoever with the incident referred to above.
I am, Yours, etc.,
London. ZENITH MOTOR & ENGINEERING WORKS Ltd.
[We are pleased to publish the above letter from the Managing Director of Zenith Motors, and would apologise if our Editorial comment gave the impression that we were referring to his Company, as this was not intended.—Ed.]