The Editor Looks Back on the Cars he Drove in 1961
ANOTHER busy year is over and it is time to take out my diary and recall the pros and cons, the merits and shortcomings, of the cars I road-tested for MOTOR SPORT during 1961.
It was a year during which I covered 18,930 miles on these test runs, 15,000 further miles in staff and personal vehicles, was a passenger for considerable mileages in other test cars, all without accident, only one serious incident and with no friction of any kind with our friends the police.
When not driving cars I drove pen and typewriter for this journal and when not so occupied I watched motor races— altogether a most satisfactory way for a motoring enthusiast to live out his life, a life far more intimately associated with cars than ever the boy of ten who used to spend the tips given to him by visiting relations on copies of The Light Car & Cyclecar ever dared to anticipate.
Last year in this annual discourse (a journalistic gambit customary with other motoring writers besides myself) I developed the theme that road-testing is concentrated work and that it is wrong for manufacturers lending products for test to regard this merely as an act of kindness and generosity towards journalists. Conversely, it is unethical of a writer trusted with a Press car to use it for mere joy-riding; he must conscientiously attempt to assess its qualities and performance and set down his findings accurately and honestly, if he is to do a proper job for his paper.
Having put road-testing on this lofty pinnacle it is depressing to record that some firms still disrupted our schedule in 1961 by withdrawing promised cars at the last moment, although I can readily appreciate that with motoring journalists exceedingly thick on the ground and attenuated Press fleets, it is not always possible to fit in everyone from The South Twittering Times to MOTOR SPORT…
The best Press service of all is, I think, provided by Daimler-Benz of Stuttgart. As we prepared to drive away from the Mercedes-Benz factory in a 220SE saloon after a very pleasant visit to the fine Museum and Test Track, my Production Manager turned to Prince von Urach, who so graciously and efficiently looks after foreign journalists, and inquired whether the car’s papers were in order for crossing into Switzerland and Italy. “If you can think of any frontier where this Mercedes-Benz cannot proceed I shall be glad to know of it,” or words to that effect, came Urach’s reply. “And,” he added, “while even Daimler-Benz cannot deflect the path of Justice, we have included a note telling any policemen whom you may encounter that the car is being tested by foreign visitors and that if you inadvertently transgress local traffic regulations Daimler-Benz would be obliged if this could be overlooked.” This splendid car was found to be equipped with snow-chains, safety-belts (” in case you are in the habit of using them “), telephone numbers of day and night Mercedes-Benz contacts, maps, an expensive book about travel in Germany, and so on. On producing the papers at customs-posts we were treated like minor royalty; I may add that any sense of bribery that such liberal hospitality might suggest was rendered of zero importance in this instance because the 220SE ran so faultlessly, so effortlessly, and proved to be such a very fine all-round luxury touring saloon that I should have accorded it high praise had we been welcomed merely with a stale sandwich and sent away minus a spare wheel…
Do not run away with the impression that my purpose is to praise the Press service of Continental companies at the expense of our own. For example, when we arrived at Zuffenhausen to collect a Porsche Super 90 for a test arranged some weeks earlier we found everyone far more concerned with going away for Easter and no Super 90 forthcoming…
So it is not only British P.R.O.s who nod. For example, towards the end of the year I formed a very high opinion of the Press arrangements that prevail at Vauxhall Motors at Luton, under the calm but thorough supervision of Michael Marr and D. C. Goatman.
Turning to less domestic matters, the tour we undertook in the aforesaid Mercedes-Benz 220SE was a very satisfactory expedition—the only occasion in 1961 when I motored abroad, using the ever efficient and obliging Air Charter Bristol Freighters for jumping the salt-water section.
The first part of the journey in a staff Porsche Super 75 took in a long-overdue visit to the Bugatti works at Molsheim. I had, admittedly, waited too long and much of the magic has gone— before the war, as the Giles brothers discovered and Scott-Moncrieff and my friend Monica Whincop still recall, Molsheim was a veritable mecca of enthusiasts, the sporting motorists’ shrine, where, if you were in luck, you dined in Bugatti’s own Pur Sang restaurant, saw the crockery smashed against the walls after the better parties, and drove G.P. Type 51s into the little factory where high-speed, pneumatic-tyred Bugatti rail-cars were in firm production. Today it is much quieter, we couldn’t find the famous restaurant, but we were received very courteously and I was glad indeed to be shown Bugatti’s unique collection of historic cars and engines by Francois Seyfriend and his English-speaking Secretary.
Thereafter a snow-bound climb over the Freiburg hill-climb course enabled us to appreciate the wheelspin-subduing qualities of the independent rear suspension of the Mercedes-Benz 220SE, and after a night in Basle I remember with pleasure dining in Geneva with a fountain shooting jets of water into the air higher than the buildings flanking the broad river, the sun shining bravely from a clear blue sky and Switzerland seeming unreal, as it always does, so clean and bright is it, especially as this was March and we had left behind sombre skies and cold winds in the drab streets of London…
A brief visit to the Geneva Motor Exhibition sufficed, but there was no doubt about it—the star of this Show was the new Jaguar, and we were still feeling proud of the fact that Artur Keser had greeted our arrival in his office at Stuttgart by holding up a newspaper report of the Show and, tapping a picture of the E-type, had proclaimed quite clearly that Sir William Lyons had the finest exhibit of them all. Praise indeed from the head of publicity of the mighty Daimler-Benz empire!
From Switzerland we penetrated into Italy to visit the factories of Fiat, Ferrari and Pininfarina, and to see the Turin Automobile Museum in its fine new building.
Altogether, this pre-Easter visit to the Continent covered 3,400 miles and enabled me to put on tape some 13,000 words for publication in this journal. The 220SE? It proved supremely comfortable, unexpectedly controllable for such a spacious saloon, and it excelled under all headings without being outstanding in any one particular. A top speed of over 111 m.p.h., which was also the autobahn cruising speed, from a 2.2-litre engine is true high performance, the ventilation is extremely satisfactory and the answer to whether petrol injection is worth having was found in an overall fuel consumption of over 20 m.p.g. for this very fast tour of 1,766 miles, which included cruising flat-out along the stupendous Autostrada del Sole between Modena and Florence and along the German autobahnen, and storming the Simplon Pass. Seldom have I been so comfortable or felt so secure on a fast long-distance Continental tour and three or four more persons could have travelled with us without disturbing our equanimity. This was a drum-braked 220SE and although there were times when disc brakes would have been an improvement I cannot agree with a certain weekly paper that the brakes of this magnificent Mercedes-Benz are hopelessly inadequate. To me, it is, indeed, a touring saloon par excellence, and I still recall the satisfaction of leaving Turin at tea-time and driving virtually without pause back to Stuttgart, treating countries as motorists in England treat counties. Descending the Simplon in the dark was facilitated by the excellent spread of light from the Bosch headlamps.
Of the rest of the road-test cars of last year I come first to the D.K.W. Junior 40S and Peugeot 404, in each of which I covered my biggest distances. The front-drive 2-stroke D.K.W. was pleasantly quiet after my personal Mini-transport, is indeed a luxury small car, its high-class finish a reminder that it is made by a subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz. Altogether I enjoyed the four-figure mileage I covered in it, which included a rapid dash to Dover, where we arrived just in time for one of my daughters to catch the cross-Channel boat, first stage of this 15-year-old’s journey alone to Kitzbuhel which worried her parents silly but left modern youth entirely nonchalant and unperturbed…
The Peugeot 404 had to set a high standard in view of the regard I felt for the 403. It did not disappoint, being a very fully-equipped, typically French car that performs very well for a 1 1/2-litre saloon with such a spacious interior. It proved really economical, if rather thirsty for oil, and has notable character, some of which, centred around its valve gear and back axle, is hidden. In short, the 404 offers good value for expenditure. I found its suspension rather too lively, ruined a suit by tearing the coat on the frontseat projection, and was reminded that enjoyment in driving any Peugeot is something of an acquired taste. The Peugeot importers are pleasant people, which no doubt contributes to their claim, which I can believe, that there are no dissatisfied owners of these rugged, individualistic cars from Souchaux.
Incidentally, I see that while I was testing the 404 it went to Great Auclum, Silverstone, Worthing, Coventry and Goodwood in the course of a week of testing, reporting and chasing motoring history. My next highest mileage, just coming into four figures, was in a Citroen DS 19 and I have nothing but warm praise for the World’s Most Advanced Car. For sheer safe, comfortable travel, in ideally contrived seats, surrounded by proper crash-padding, immune from road shocks or vagaries of temperature, the Citroen DS19 is the ideal car, taking ” ideal ” as one step removed from the unattainable ” perfect.’ It is bulky for parking otherwise than at meters, has an agricultural power unit which, however, now develops increased power so that the always deceptive ability to cover the ground rapidly is further enhanced, and, with its self-levelling suspension resulting in an endearing habit of settling down for the night after a day’s work, is a car that practical motorists and rabid enthusiasts alike find it almost impossible to resist. Slough is sometimes a little casual in the handing over of its Press cars, which I have found grubby and short of fuel, but so completely ahead of other automobiles is the DS 19 that perhaps they feel they can afford to be independent. Certainly they are no fools, but nothing I could do would prize a Bijou from them for test-reporting…
In spite of the gradual recognition of front-wheel-drive as the safest form of traction (unless it is four-wheel-drive ?) by the designers of Europe, and America’s tentative experiments with air suspension, the Citroen remains as far in front of other cars today as when it was introduced, a breathtaking hydraulic novelty. For long-distance travel it is at its very best, which is to say that it is near to perfection. That is why, when the Continental Correspondent returned home to report the British G.P. at Aintree and demanded suitable transport, I rang up Slough and borrowed the latest DS. A Porsche user of many years’ standing, “D. S. J.” is not easily impressed; when I told him he was going to Liverpool in the DS19 he registered no complaints.
The fact is that the Citroen, with a “wheel at each corner” given every chance of maintaining contact with the road, is entirely suited to the Michelin ” X ” tyres with which it is shod. And, just as the DS19 is futuristic beside other modern cars, so this altogether excellent tyre retains its superiority in the face of all developments—cling rubber, metallic-braced treads, detachable tread bands, and so on—by other tyre makers.
The next biggest mileage covered in one test car fell to the little Fiat Giardiniera station-wagon that I belted up to miserable Keadby to take a look at Jet Petrol and down to Beaulieu to deliver a big load of weekly motor journals that I presented to Lord Montagu’s newly-opened Museum Library. If not exactly jet-propelled, this little Fiat buzzed along with commendable eagerness, it being no real hardship to make frequent use of the excellent 4-speed gearbox. For a very modest price you get a miniature estate car with powerful heater and sunshine roof that gives better than 52 m.p.g. from its completely hidden 499-c.c. twin-cylinder air-cooled engine and which can cope with very considerable loads without the good road-clinging qualities being destroyed. Earlier I had driven another of these attractive little cars. When I was at Fiat’s Wembley depot recently, Alfred Woolf, who looks after their public relations in this country, took me to see the nearby extensive department they have opened, in which new Fiats are prepared for delivery; clearly Fiat (England) Ltd. have every confidence in increasing business whether or not Britain joins the Common Market. The new receiving depot was full of Giardiniera vans, which British traders are finding extremely useful; 1962 bids well for tradesmen’s boys, with f.w.d. Mini versus rear-engined Giardiniera street races! I was disappointed not to be able to drive a Fiat 1300 or 1600 last year, this being a very intriguing new model that was still hush-hush, although about to be released, when I was at the Turin factory.
During the summer B.M.C. saw to it that I had a whole week with a Cooper-Austin while this incredible little saloon, outwardly so innocent, was still on the secrets-list. After initial disappointment that this was no rorty, difficult-to-restrain boyracer’s bolide and that its Lockheed disc front brakes didn’t put you into the windscreen when trodden on, I began to appreciate the subtle charm of one of the outstanding new cars of 1961. When I looked in at Surbiton with the Cooper-Austin they said that if I wanted more urge John Cooper would he delighted to drop in something akin to a Formula Junior engine (to give me 100 m.p.h. plus and departure in anything but a straight line ?) but that B.M.C. preferred to provide a road-worthy everyday car that could still see-off lots of far bigger vehicles. And in rain I came to admire the sensible balance between ” giant’s hand.” retardation and brakes you can clap on hard without locking the wheels and turning circles. In other words, the Cooper-Austin proved a very well conceived small car of quite breath-taking performance, yet one that is perfectly acceptable to ordinary motorists. With its proper remote gear-lever that makes the chop-stick of normal Minis seem even worse than it is, improved interior finish and a decent heater, these 997-c.c. Cooper Minis are just the job for fast touring, rallying or getting home early from the office.
In complete contrast I enjoyed many miles in a Ford Zephyr convertible, which is outstandingly good value-for-money for those who like effortless American-style motoring and the ability to enjoy fresh air. The first evening I had it the Zephyr developed a fault in its overdrive mechanism that threatened to weld it to Mother Earth but, this disadvantage rectified by Lincoln Cars, I enjoyed the car very much indeed, especially as the disc front brakes make all the difference to average speed in a car that should he taken comparatively soberly round corners, using its very impressive acceleration out of them. Fuel thirst was modest for a 2 1/2 litre Six, but some of the minor matters were not beyond criticism although, when a Firestone tyre punctured, the jacking arrangements proved to be well contrived.
I did quite a lot of Ford motoring last year, finding the 1.7-litre Taunus 17M saloon very much to my liking. The finish is characteristically German in quality, controls and details sensibly contrived, the 4-speed gearbox a great improvement and the sliding roof well worth having, opinions vary about the appearance of the Taunus but to the its clean lines, suggestive of an American compact, are pleasing and I became thoroughly enthusiastic after a fast run up to Snetterton at a quite astonishing 35.6 m.p.g.
Two other Fords of which I was able to gain experience were Anne Hall’s Tulip Rally Anglia, a most attractive mode of travel, greatly improved as to cornering ability, and an Allard Shorrock-supercharged Anglia, in which the forced induction was too;, foolproof except for its unfortunate effect on fuel economy. The Ford-prepared Rally car did a s.s. 1/4-mile in 22 sec., the Allard blown Anglia needed only 20.6 sec., and inevitably performance has to be paid for in petrol bills.
The really interesting Ford, of course, was the Consul classic 315. It was amusing to be able to attend a dealer’s party in the very model that they were to reveal (to an uncomfortably packed, alcohol-primed audience) at midnight! I was able to put in over 700 miles in a de luxe Consul Classic saloon and a further 417 miles in another car having the steering-column gear-lever. In general I liked this expectantly-awaited new 1.3-litre Ford, and I think that pre-announcement anticipation, excelled only by that of the model-A in 1927, made the long-awaited road-test an anti-climax; so that faults stood out more prominently than usual.
These concerned some disappointment over the lack of sharpness in performance, a feeling that the back axle was playing almost as great a part as the steering wheel in directing the car over rough surfaces; dislike of the rather cheap star-spangled and Americanised styling and wonderment that the boot was so huge, at the expense of leg room for the taller rear-seat occupants. The facia I thought fussy and some of the controls lacking in precision. But the disc brakes on the front wheels are well worth while, even in a comparatively low-performance family car, the floor gear-change splendid and the column-shift very good of its kind. I felt that if you must keep up with those mythical joneses, here was a 5-star 4-headlamp car to enable you to do this. The second Consul Classic I tested seemed to handle much better but whether this resulted from carrying a heavier load, or from revised shock-absorber settings I never discovered, and as I read both solutions in the same issue of a weekly contemporary the puzzle remains unsolved. A pity, because it is rather important to those contemplating a Consul Classic mainly for two-up motoring… If this much-publicised new Ford didn’t quite add up to all that I expect of such a car (although I heard one young wife at one of the public releases say ” We’ve ordered one. My husband knows it must be good because the agent told him so. Of course, he’s dying to drive one.”) I am not sure that the even more eagerly awaited VW 1500 did either. I had it under trying conditions, in a crosswind up M1, and coming South again the front boot lid flew up at 75 m.p.h., causing me to ” fly blind ” as quickly as I could up a kerb onto a mercifully empty grass verge in order to avoid being pulverised by the thundering multi-ton lorries I had just overtaken… With memories of impeccable VW workmanship I was surprised (but pleased under the circumstances!) to find that I could undo the bonnet-hinge nuts with a small box spanner and my fingers—the buckled metal having to be left at the roadside. Apparently the bonnet catches had been faulty for some time, hence this depressing episode, which might have cost me and my passenger our lives. But it is early days for the 1500, this one was a show demonstrator, and I hope that if I am invited to test a r.h.d. version it will restore my faith in the World’s favourite small car. Those interested in aerodynamics may care to know that loss of that bonnet panel cost us 10. k.p.h. down M1…
Early in 1961 I tried a Moskvitch 407 Saloon. The appearance of Russian cars at Earls Court, like the advertisements for Russian watches you now see in jewellers’ shops, may seem disturbing to some people but could be a small contribution to World peace, since you cannot understand a nation whose people (and products) are unknown to you. The Moskvitch is pre-war in its general conception but it stuck to the road better than I thought it would when I had to drive over ice-bound roads to Barnstaple. The Moskvitch fell well below our standards in respect of engine noise, lack of torque at low r.p.m., and petrol consumption from a 1,360-c.c. engine. But it was not the enormous joke some people thought I would make of it, for here is a 4-door saloon with comprehensive tool-kit, coat-hooks, towing hooks, efficient heater, radio, reclining front seats, oil, water-heat and fuel gauges and so on, all for £759. A lot for your roubles. If you are thinking of getting rid of a 1937 Vauxhall Twelve or Standard Fourteen I think you would get on very well with a 407.
Curiously, although Thomson & Taylor (Brooklands) Ltd. readily lent MOTOR SPORT a Moskvitch, when I asked for an Alfa Romeo Giulietta for test, a car far more suited to this journal’s clientele and selling here at a competitive price, they displayed no enthusiasm, retorting, ” There’s a queue waiting for it and you are way down the list.” An odd attitude, surely, remembering that, according to my Proprietor, we have the largest A.B.C.circulation figures of any monthly motoring magazine. However, no Alfa.
The Jaguar E-type is another that has eluded me, apart from a brief but hyper-exhilarating flip down M 1, drivers cruising at 100 m.p.h. in the outer lane being astonished when ” flashed ‘ so that we could go by at 150. Some experience of the high standard of cornering with the new i.r.s. was obtained by coming back to Coventry along A 5, and for fun we took a photograph of it outside the Aston Martin factory in Newport Pagnell. I wrote three pages of cautious praise on the strength of this brief orbit and I hope I shall be able to fully test both an E-type and a Mk. X Jaguar for MOTOR SPORT this year. There was even briefer experience of the Triumph TR4, again along M 1 so that I would hardly like to comment on it, beyond saying that it seems to have a softer, less ” hoppy ” ride than its famous predecessor but the same powerful brakes, quick and delightful gear-change and positive cornering, features that make TRs very safe and very good fun to drive fast.
In I960 the 3-litre Rover eluded me but this was rectified in time for me to drive the family to North Devon in one of these fine cars early in 1961. Technically interesting on account of its i.o.e. engine, the biggest Rover is a luxury car in every sense of the term, making long journeys under difficult traffic and/or weather conditions the least tiring of motoring experiences. This is a quiet car, as regards wind and road as well as engine noise, and now that it has disc front brakes its considerable weight can be brought to heel without anxiety. All the more pity that some body shake is transmitted to the occupants and that the suspension seems to have been planned for maximum comfort over rough surfaces, rather than over normal roads and round corners.
Before the year was over I was able to drive a Rover 100, which retains the traditional Rover outline, gear-lever and hand-brake. etc. This is a car in which walnut facia and window fillets blend admirably with fine leather upholstery, whereas in many lesser cars an instrument panel of wood in a tin bodyshell smacks of someone who has discarded his cloth cap for a black homburg but isn’t ready for a bowler. In Rovers bowler hats are entirely permissible and it seemed a very appropriate car in which to attend the Farnborough Air Show. The Rover 100 looks staid and most Rovers do seem to be driven very cautiously but, in fact, there is ample performance, the Girling disc front brakes produce up-to-date retardation, and this car is the epitome of comfort and good taste, from its sober black instrument panel to the tool-tray under the scuttle. It badly needs forward-hinged rear doors and it doesn’t exactly encourage you to fling it round corners, but I hope sincerely that Solihull will continue to make Rover 80s and 100s for a long time to come—no matter how successful is the 3-litre, which, of course, has the difficult proposition of competing on price with the Mk. II Jaguars. Last year was notable for a Daimler SP250 sports car coming into the road-test curriculum. It was spoilt by a horrid gearchange, but that V8 engine is delightfully smooth and supple and although the mere thought of a fibreglass body on a Daimler would cause a duchess in a Double-Twelve to throw a fit, this one is quite well made. SP250 is faster than its road-holding but, driven sensibly, it ranks as a very good and original approach to the sports-car formula. I know of one open-air fanatic, formerly at a loss to find a car to replace an Allard, who is thoroughly satisfied with his SP250.
Rootes products that came along for test included a Singer Gazelle convertible, offering various desirable combinations of snug closed or refreshing open-air travel, its fuel consumption heavy because the overdrive failed, while the hood wasn’t as easy to erect as it should have been. In any case the Gazelle was overshadowed by the new Singer Vogue, which I took to Oulton Park for the Gold Cup Meeting. It is remembered for a very fast run from Cheshire to London, aided by using M 1 but also by the Vogue’s ability to cruise very fast without complaint, although later mild fuel starvation symptoms were noticed, soon cured. This is a lavishly equipped model costing under £1,000 that should do much to restore the Routes Group after its altogether commendable stand against the strike force.
I also drove the latest Sunbeam Rapier, the Series 111A. Each new Rapier is a significant improvement over the last and in this case the larger engine gives enhanced acceleration. The Rapier took me to Oulton Park for that memorable V.S.C.C. Meeting. It is a car that I often think I would like to use regularly and only the rather spongy steering, harsh ride and sense of effort from the engine when accelerating change my mind. On paper, ideal; in practice the Routes Sunbeam somehow just fails to be a hit with me, for reasons, other than those mentioned above. I cannot clearly define. Earlier in this discourse I mentioned Press services. Routes can congratulate themselves on possessing one of the very best.
The most recent Simca Montlhery with Rush 5-bearing engine came my way early in the year. I have always liked Simcas for their combination of French logic (such a provision of a tiny crank-handle for working the wipers should the motor fail— alas, since deleted) and Italian vivaciousness, This one fully endorsed earlier good impressions. Renault contrived to lend me the 4-speed version of the Dauphine, a commendably quiet, well-appointed baby car that gains in stature by the additional ratio, and which rides very nicely and handles rather better than it did previously with its Aerostable suspension; and a Floride convertible which proved to have splendid weather-resisting gear, either hard-top or hood, the latter easy to erect and lower, and very smooth manners. A Floride can compete with the best specialist-coachwork creations in the matter of looks. If I had a mistress who was expecting a present…
Brief acquaintance with a Triumph-engined Warwick G.T. showed it to be a rough, noisy but very exhilarating 4-seater coupe, better planned than first impressions suggested and very safe indeed when it came to anchoring or cornering at speed.
During the summer there was an expedition to Wales to sample the new Vauxhalls and I have since driven a Victor estate car 543 miles. However, impressions of this, the Austin A60 Countryman and the latest Austin-Healey Sprite were published in January, so there is no point in reiteration. The same applies to the Lancia Flavia flat-four f.w.d. saloon, which has superb steering, wonderful brakes and a ride the equal of that of a Citroen DS. But the price…
A Triumph Herald 1200 proved acceptable, with visibility, turning circle and gear-change of a high order, but brakes, layout of the facia controls and other details due for reform. Reform which, I feel sure, will be spurred on by Spurrier…
As a handsome, big estate car the Vauxhall Cresta Friary that I used on ” Brighton Sunday ” entirely filled the bill and is another car that has benefited from front disc brakes. Finally, covering the R.A.C. Rally provided an admirable opportunity for reminding myself of the quite outstanding qualities found in that rugged, economical and sun-footed family car—the Peugeot 403.
The year’s motoring also included brief drives in the new front-drive Renault R4 with its cross-country suspension, and seats and gear-change cribbed from the 2 c.v.; and an even briefer drive in the new 2-litre Porsche Carrera. If I was expected to assess this sensational G.T. car in 16 miles I can only retort that this is quite impossible, apart from saying that here is a 100-in-3rd vehicle that is truly docile in top cog, its four o.h. camshaft engine surprisingly, quiet and flexible. Not having driven a Porsche for five years I couldn’t even attempt to compare this latest, very expensive model with others of this make, except to say that its 1600 Super brakes were shockingly inadequate for its vivid performance.
That’s about the lot, except for some runs round the Chobham banked track in Mini de luxe and Cooper-Mini, round Silverstone in a Shorrock-blown Mini, and the usual Guild Day dicery at Goodwood. However, a colleague whom I share with a weekly newspaper contributed test reports on the Sunbeam Rapier Series III in which he followed the Monte Carlo Rally, the earlier Harrington Alpine coupe, the Rochdale Olympic, the Aston Martin DB4 G.T., the Rudd A.C. Ace Zephyr, the Renault R4 and the G.S.M. Delta, besides doing track tests of even more potent machinery, so I think it can be said that MOTOR SPORT lived up to its title in this department. Driving all these moderns left little time for old-car motoring but I am glad to say that this was not altogether neglected. Thanks to Lord Montagu of Beaulieu I was able to chug with only one inadvertent stop from Hyde Park to the Madeira Drive in November in the Brighton Motor Museum’s 1904 Brushmobile, taking Michael Sedgwick, Curator of the Beaulieu Motor Museum, as passenger. I also attended various V.S.C.C. meetings in my 1924 Calthorpe and took part with it in the Beaulieu ” Lost Causes” Rally besides completing, as recorded in the appropriate part of this issue, the ” Boxing Night Informal,” this vintage light car covering in the region of 700 miles last year without mechanical tribulation and having but little difficulty in getting its 10-year certificate. There was also a brief drive in a 1930 35/120 sleeve-valve Daimler in conjunction with my ” White Elephant ” series of articles.
I am also happy to record that the Editorial Mini Minor, which continues to please me by its unrivalled cornering powers, its stability on ice and snow, spacious interior, and general handiness, has settled down to be reasonably reliable. During the year it has frequently jibbed at starting, has suffered annoying punctures in tubeless tyres (a Dunlop subsiding instantly on a scorching summer day in the Goodwood paddock but a Pirelli at least getting me home) but survived a freeze-up resulting from B.M.C. flushing the radiator and forgetting to put back the anti-freeze, although leaving the Bluecol label on the screen. When the last-named calamity struck I coaxed the Mini 35 miles sans fan-belt, which the London Service depot replaced with commendable dispatch, and a stiff dose of Castrol anti-freeze kept the plumbing intact in the colder weather that followed. Mechanical troubles during this additional year’s motoring of 15,600 miles, including a few hundred when friends or B.M.C. mechanics have used it, have been confined to a blown exhaust gasket, a loose exhaust system, failure of horn, screen-washers and a door-pull, and a loose dynamo bracket bolt. Consumption of Esso Extra just betters 40 m.p.g. even under traffic conditions, and the call for Castrol XL has remained moderate. The Lucas battery failed to hold its charge for any length of time, perhaps because it is buried in the boot and apt to be overlooked, even by official B.M.C. service stations, when due for topping-up. I changed to Pirelli Extraflex tyres, which still show plenty of tread after 6,200 miles. The brakes have been relined. Otherwise this hard-used and maltreated Mini has served me faithfully and, apart from the essential Interior Silent Travel underfelt, an Ashley wood-trimmed steering wheel, roofrack, and extra instruments, is in standard trim.
So another year’s motoring ran to a close and another has commenced. I think it unlikely that I shall find myself jet-propelled, and I hope that I shall not be atom-projected, but it is possible that during the season ahead I may be able to drive a car that is N.S.U. Wankel-powered. At all events, of one thing I am certain, the future of motoring writers everywhere will be no less interesting than the past.—W. B.
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