Human Aid for Ailing Engines

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Sir,

I feel it is time that the readers of your excellent magazine started a campaign for the provision of starting handles in new cars. Although this has been a sore point with motorists for years, not much has been heard in defence of the handle recently and it has now all but disappeared. I believe that Rootes products and the older B.M.C. models are the only popular cars now so equipped. The reasons for a handle are very well known indeed, but it is time they were hammered home to all errant manufacturers, viz. :—

(a) A handle converts a useless lump of metal into transportation on any cold and frosty morning when the battery is feeling a little tired.

(b) It brings magical life to a dead engine when the starter motor fails, and starters do fail – —Bendix drives break, brushes wear out, bearings seize, etc., Mr. Joseph Lucas not withstanding. If a handle is only used once a year to get one mobile, it Is worth having.

(c) It makes child’s play of routine tests like tappet adjustment, checking compression, adjusting timing and contact points, and on some poor designs even helps when fitting a new fan belt.

(d) It avoids a flat battery when chasing an elusive gremlin in the engine.

One wonders why handles are not universally provided. It cannot be cost, since a starter dog, a tube through the radiator, a funny hole in the bumper and a piece of bent steel cannot, in all conscience, add more than a pound to the price of a car. It cannot be the current trend for higher compression ratios, since very few engines are, in fact, difficult to turn over on a handle – even with a 6-cylinder motor, you are only turning one piston over compression at a time. The fact that more ladies are buying cars now has nothing to do with it either – all members of the fair sex are able to conjure up a gentleman to assist them in moments of distress. One is led to the conclusion that the reason is an absolutely splendid commercial one. It is excellent for the sale of new batteries, it increases Mr. Lucas’ trade in B90 exchange starter motors (why not B89?) and, since an aged car with no handle is not ultimately as dependable as one with, the sale of gorgeous new cars is encouraged. It is not exactly planned obsolescence, but something akin to it.

I believe that a vigorous campaign by a large number of motorists under the auspices of MOTOR SPORT would produce very satisfactory results, especially if the sale of new cars began to decline at the same time. For a start, we could all refuse to buy any new Ford, Vauxhall or Triumph until the front end had been suitably modified at the dealer’s expense. After all, even a Mini and 1100 could be so equipped before leaving the factory if Mr. Issigonis scratched his head a couple of times and produced a detachable bracket which would clip to the body with the wheels on full lock, and thus support my proverbial handle.

Two other points which require a little gentle publicity are the expert manner with which both new and replacement exhaust systems are produced in this country so that they collapse in a heap under the car every two years, and the Lucas battery, still fitted as original equipment by a lot of manufacturers, which expires with unfailing regularity (have you noticed ?) after 25 months. A cheap battery will do better than this. These are only straws in the wind but tend to suggest that we are being inexorably led towards the two-year life vehicle.

JOHN A. EVERRETT.

Cheltenham.