My Year's Motoring

The Editor looks back on the cars he drove in 1966

So another year is over and it is time to take stock of the cars I drove during 1966. I make no excuse for writing this series of abbreviated road-test reports other than to explain that I enjoy reading similar annual summaries by other motoring writers, and so I assume that there will be some interest in going over briefly the sort of motoring that came my way last year. I will do my best to avoid the pellucid prose that a certainly weekly broadsheet says you do not want on Thursdays, although as this issue of Motor Sport is due out on a Wednesday perhaps this is irrelevant, at least for this month! I find that last year I drove 44 cars a total of 41,900 miles on behalf of Motor Sport, again without interference from the Police or the Traffic Wardens, which I ascribe to luck rather than good judgement in these regimented times when the Hand of Authority is continually raised against those of us who go about our lawful business in or on mechanically-propelled vehicles. This motoring twelve-month was not quite so varied as in 1965, when I drove 60 cars a distance of 36,900 miles, again without accident or prosecution. Old age creepeth up, but motoring remains supremely enjoyable and refreshingly all embracing, making it the most absorbing and worthwhile of any human activity outside the home, “the twentieth-century love affair,” as Derek Jewell, of the Sunday Times Magazine, expresses it.

I see that my friend Dick Bensted-Smith, in reviewing his year’s experiences for Motor, opens by remarking on the non-standardisation of car controls, which he describes as a shambles. In these times of Nader-hysteria I would be a brave man if I disagreed with this reasoning, but I confess that for me the pleasure of motoring is dependent on variety—the variety of cars I drive, the different roads over which they are driven, and the differences in performance, character, control layouts and mechanical specifications of these vehicles. It will be a sad day when we may have only the Government-sponsored small four-cylinder-in-line people’s car and the (maybe vee-six) Kommissar’s models, from which to make a choice. . . .

So I am glad to see, after consulting my Dunlop diary, that last year I drove cars ranging in engine size from 660 to 6,965 c.c., having from one to twelve cylinders, costing so far as the current models were concerned from £571 to £4,759, and driving through the front wheels and the rear wheels (but not through all four wheels, because Ferguson forgot to put us on its test-list). These cars hailed from Britain, America, France, Italy, Germany and Austria, but so far I have resisted the Japanese Invasion, which is probably just as well, remembering how hot-under-the-collar some Englishmen became years ago when I was in favour of the Volkswagen, and how they labelled us The Volkswagen Gazette, a role since taken over by Robert Wyse of Safer Motoring. I doubt whether I shall be able to resist any longer than the day when the apparently remarkable Honda 800S is offered to us for appraisal, however.

Recapping on the cars tested in 1966, I find a rather sober list, proof that even a iournal with the title of Motor Sport does not confine itself to driving exotic Ferraris, Maseratis, Lamborghinis and Isos, and track-testing F1 single-seaters. It would be splendid if this were so, but it would also mean that by thus restricting the contents we should not be able to claim, to quote the 1966 Earls Court Motor Show catalogue, “the highest net sale of any motoring journal in the country, certified by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.” And papers, whether motoring or daily, cannot survive without a good circulation and the advertising that comes in its wake, as we are constantly being reminded at the present time.

Apart from staff cars, those we drive are provided by the manufacturers, who are more conscious than ever of the value of Press publicity for their products. Last February in this feature I wrote of some of the people responsible for these road-test facilities, and I would like to take this opportunity of thanking all those who have co-operated with me in these matters since that article appeared. Since then Ford of Britain has opened a separate department at Isleworth devoted exclusively to Press vehicles and the British Motor Corporation has appointed Raymond Baxter, former B.B.C. motor-race commentator, to liaise in London between the motoring writers and the B.M.C. Publicity Department.

Before looking at the cars I was able to sample last year it may be interesting to consider the sort of vehicles motor journals buy for their staff. The American monthly Road & Track published recently, at the instigation of the staff, who, said the Editor, are proud of their own choice of cars, a list of its staff cars, including those of Car Life. It comprised four Mercedes-Benz (two 250’s, one 200, one 190D), three Ferraris (a 1964 Pininfarina 2 + 2 4-litre, a 1958 250GT Boano and a 1949 Type 166 Mille Miglia), three Dodge Darts, three Volkswagens, two Chevrolet Corvettes, two Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spiders, a pair of Fords and one each of Buick Skylark, Chevrolet Biscayne, Chevrolet Chevvy II, Corvair, Datsun, Dodge Polara, Fiat 600D, Ford Bronco, Lincoln, M.G. TC, M.G. TD, Pontiac Tempest, Porsche, Sunbeam Alpine and Volvo 544. Not bad, not bad at all, for a journal that started after the war, although, of course, the size of the American continent materially aids circulation. Incidentally, the Ford Bronco is owned by the Editor, who previously had a Mini-Cooper. He remarks that a Toyota Land Cruiser has been adopted by a branch office, who report that it continues to be a bear for punishment, a company-owned Ford Cortina 1500 was sold after giving good service for 44,000 miles, and that they still have a Volvo 122S station wagon, which seems invincible after 35,000 miles and a VW Squareback that is a general hack with 12,000 miles to its credit.

How would a similar list look, from our point of view ? Well, the Managing Director still has his V8 Daimler Majestic Major saloon and runs a B.M.W. 1800, the Production Manager is a Porsche man, currently driving a 912, the Continental Correspondent has a 4.2-litre Jaguar E-type, the rally reporter and the photographer have an M.G.-B apiece, the photographer’s assistant an Austin 1100, the Editor’s assistant a Lotus Elan, while I make do with my own 1953 VW 1200, the road-holding of which is far in advance of its mediocre performance since it has been shod with a set of those excellent India Autoband radial-ply tyres, which, on a VW, have to be fitted with tubes, possibly a double insurance against stray punctures. There are few other cars in the VW’s age/price class that one would expect to be so dependable, as this inexpensive Beetle emphasised by taking two of my daughters on a 2,200-mile run in the heat of summer to Monte Carlo and back, with nothing more serious than a temporarily ” flat” battery. . . . I also own half a vintage Sunbeam, presumably the back-half, as maintenance is done by the other part-owner!

Now for the year’s motoring. By far the biggest mileage was done in an M.G. 1100, which I had for extended test. As described last month, this M.G. completed a largely-trouble-free 10,000 miles, of which I drove it more than 7,500 last year. At the risk of repeating myself for the nth time, the smoothness of the Hydrolastic suspension and the excellence of the road-holding to the Issigonis concept is remarkable, especially when coming back to this 1100 after driving other cars. It represents a very enjoyable if rather noisy small luxury car. Incidentally, the fact that the speedometers of certain cars, notably those of the Rootes Group, are calibrated in k.p.h. as well as in m.p.h. is often commented on, but did you know that this applies also to the transverse-engined M.G.?

My next greatest mileage was done in the Ford Cortina GT, another car that I had for long-duration road-testing last year. The residue of this occupied more than 5,000 miles. I wrote of this Ford in some detail more than a year ago, praising, amongst other virtues, its roomy boot, sparkling performance, and notable fuel economy. Suffice it to say that it continued to provide dependable hack-transport, often heavily laden and certainly infrequently serviced, with no more serious trouble than the rear number-plate light going out and the boot lock detaching itself after a mileage in my hands of 6,000. After a further 4,400 miles all the clutch fluid leaked away and the Cortina started jumping out of second gear. The Ford Press-car chaps, then at Lincoln Cars, soon put that right and the GT went on serving well until recalled. It was, I believe, bought by a friend of one of the aforesaid Press-fleet staff and is, I am sure, still going strong. I liked it for many reasons, not the least of which was the ease with which its registration number could be memorised, the first letters being FOO and the figures those of my private telephone number.

Cars in which I did four-figure test-mileages were a Renault 16GL, a Fiat 850 coupe, a Ford Cortina-Lotus, a Triumph 1300, a 3.8 Jaguar S-type and a Rover 2000TC. The Renault 16GL proved to be an absolutely unique and splendid vehicle, dripping with “character.” The combination of front-wheel-drive and supple suspension gave a surprising blend of comfortable ride and fast cornering and the petrol economy was excellent, but the outstanding impression was of quiet running and a heating system that was unusually simple to keep at a constant temperature. The good qualities of this remarkable Renault were such that one could overlook the comic speedometer calibration, the inaccessible handbrake, the indecisive stalk control for lamps and horn, and the disappointment of catching-out the normally efficient suspension on really rutted roads. Before you ask what I was doing in so utilitarian a car as this Renault, amongst others, let me remark that no less a person than Peter Garnier, Sports Editor of Autocar, whom you might expect to find in the fastest cars available, did much of his 1966 race-going in a Renault 16.

I have the greatest admiration for Fiat cars and the little Fiat 850 coupe did not diminish this, except that I felt it gave its not inconsiderable performance with too much buzzing from its rear-mounted 52 b.h.p. engine. With this Alfred Woolf, who publicises the marque in this country, did not agree, so perhaps my ears are over-sensitive. Although the tuned 843 c.c. engine would go normally to 6,200 r.p.m. without complaint while using rather a lot of oil, I craved a bit more acceleration to go with the GT appearance of this good-looking coupe. But cruising at the Castle-summit was effortless, cornering undeniably good, the gear-change delightful, and the suspension lively but well-damped. The heater poured out volumes of really hot air, which we appreciated when going to Oulton Park and back from Wales for the snowed-out “200,” and for a car costing in £ sterling approximately the same as the swept-volume of its power unit, this special-bodied Fiat is excellent value.

The Ford Cortina-Lotus was keenly anticipated, the original version having been so much to my liking. As it is now out of production I suppose there is not much point in commenting on it and Motor Sport’s correspondents have sung its praises only recently. I found the 1966 version more civilised, the more prosaic GT back axle and springing and revised gear ratios having taken some of the bite out of the car. It still tried to weave a bit but this is not a serious shortcoming, even with the earlier cars, in my opinion. It must have been very hard to decide between a normal Cortina GT and a Cortina-Lotus for those buying a new Ford last year, but the appeal of the twin-o.h.c. engine probably swayed many in favour of Colin Chapman’s way of doing it. Now, alas, it is a question of weighing a used Cortina-Lotus against a new, re-styled GT.

I had heard so much about the Triumph 1300 and have such respect for the Leyland Corporation that the test of this new model was awaited with considerable suspense. After driving this well-planned and up-to-date saloon the suspense evaporated, to be replaced by appreciation of another worthwhile concept of luxury small-car motoring. The interior appointments single this Standard-Triumph product out from the common run of under 1-1/2 -litre family cars and generally the performance and handling are comfortable and convenient, although I was scarcely aware at first that the drive went through the front wheels, and even on longer acquaintance was not particularly inspired to throw the car at corners, as I am with most f.w.d. vehicles, the B.M.C. variety especially. Asked to hurry to near the limit the Triumph 1300 becomes noisy and the gear-lever has to be used a good deal. There were delays in getting hold of the test car and then waiting while its battery, discharged due to a faulty voltage regulator, was replaced, the local agent being unable to supply the right size of battery from stock. This car had also done a considerable mileage and I would like to try another of these sensible and different 1300s under happier conditions. Not that we didn’t have fun with this one, including using it to tow ” Steady ” Barker’s 1908 11-litre Napier steadily to Brooklands Track so that it could be balanced stationary high up on the Members’ Banking, in order that a photographer commissioned by The Sunday Times, and who arrived in a Bentley Continental, could take shots of it at high speed!

There is nothing that quite compares with a Jaguar, for this make combines an air of suave well-being imparted by its leather upholstery, highly-polished walnut facia and imposing controls, with very real performance and adequate brakes and control. So I was glad to drive again, for more than 1,000 miles, a 3.8-litre S-series Jaguar saloon, even if it was somewhat old-fashioned and, rumour said (but was wrong), about to be dropped from the Jaguar range. The smoothness and rugged power of the 6-cylinder twin-cam engine is as acceptable as it is legendary, and this is really a very compact car in which to enjoy 226 b.h.p., giving a top speed in excess of two-miles-a-minute. The ventilatory arrangements are a bit out-dated but how the Coventry manufacturer manages to sell such a covetable car for less than £2,000 is one of life’s mysteries. Presumably B.M.C. now know Sir William Lyons’ secret. Just as I had decided that here was the car for me the new Jaguar 420 was announced, which although it seems from its appearance to be more in the “executive” than “middle-aged sportsman’s” class is, I was assured by Andrew Whyte at the Show-time pre-view, no bigger in overall dimensions.

The last of the cars in which it happened that I exceeded 1,000 miles on normal road-test was the twin-carburetter Rover 2000TC. I have long had a warm admiration for this most modern of 4-cylinder o.h.c. de Dion Rovers but felt that the power unit got out-of-breath too quickly. The “TC” aspect of the specification puts that right, in a car that has an ample safety margin in the road-holding and steering departments for accommodating the additional couple-of-dozen horses. The whole conception of this Rover is highly commendable except that to anyone who enjoys changing gear it is exasperating that a company that took on Le Mans with a gas-turbine racing car still hasn’t got the stiffness out of the 2000’s gearbox. But in an age of Credit Squeeze the otherwise-excellent Rover 2000 will surely squeeze a great many former Jaguar and Daimler customers into spending their diminishing assets on the Solihull product.

Taking the remaining cars in roughly the order they came to us brings me next to the Audi 1700, a beautifully-finished 4-door f.w.d. saloon possessed of the high-compression VW/Mercedes-Benz Mitteldruckmotor under the bonnet of an undisguised F102 Auto-Union/ D.K.W. This recipe gives good petrol economy, a pitch-free ride and effective brakes, but also excessive understeer and vague steering. So I do not altogether agree with a colleague that Audi’s advertising copywriter got it wrong in proclaiming : ” Mercedes put the power in. . . can you get it out ? “! Next comes the manual-gearbox Jaguar E-type 2+2, that irresistible fast-touring car, spoiled in this instance only by an engine that had a terrible thirst for oil. In it I travelled to the Lake District and to Wales to watch poor Donald Campbell in the early stages of his tragic Water Speed Record attempt and to follow part of the R.A.C. Rally. Although nothing much occurred on the former occasion I am still young enough to enjoy the thrill of anticipation which, dulled by waiting, is kindled again by rumours that something is about to happen at last, the boat in the water, the jet-engine starting up. Had it been possible, I would have returned to Coniston the following day but the schedule made it necessary for us to catch up with the rally before we drove swiftly home via some of Britain’s useful but pathetically speed-restricted Motorways. M6 formed a contrast with the Buckinghamshire by-ways used later in this rapid journey and now slippery with December frost.

The 2-litre V4 Ford Corsair GT was one of the year’s disappointments, being slower and less accelerative than the well-liked 1-1/2 -litre Cortina GT, a s.s.-mile being timed by the British Drag Racing Association at 19.04 sec., admittedly under not entirely favourable conditions. The vee-four engine had better torque low down but became rough at high r.p.m., the steering was horrid, the ride still notoriously choppy, the clutch indecisive, and the servo brakes powerful but snatchy. The Zenith-carburetted engine was apt to run-on and was less prompt to fire from cold than the Weber-equipped Cortina power unit. Anyway, Ford has since abandoned this model in favour of the luxuriously-appointed Corsair 2000E, which does have Weber carburation. Ford later suggested that I should try the Corsair GT Abbott-bodied estate car and the idea of a Grand Touring station-wagon was admittedly intriguing. But, again, the V4 engine idled roughly and was noisy when it got going, and the steering was tiring due to strong understeer, although this was a comfortable, and notably accelerative, load-carrier. Another 1966 disappointment was the V6 Ford Zephyr Mk. IV, which in 2-1/2 -litre form hadn’t quite enough steam, wasted space under its long snout, had an engine rougher than I had expected as the revs mounted, a manual gear-change that was part of the disappointment, and poor adhesion from the Goodyear G8 tyres. The disc brakes could well have been more powerful and although i.r.s. had got rid of Ford’s terribly choppy ride it did not really excel until a big load had been placed in this very big £1,000 car.

One of the outstanding cars driven last year was the Lancia Fulvia coupe, which performed very well considering that its narrow V4 engine has a capacity of only 1,216 c.c. It was a real pleasure to motor in, 80 b.h.p. being transmitted securely through the front wheels, the sturdy gear-lever controlling a typical Lancia gear-change, and the finish and interior décor being of the highest quality. This splendid little Lancia took me to North Wales for participation in a Bill Hartley Motoring Quiz B.B.C. programme, so that I had my first opportunity of driving over the historic Menai Straights bridge and came home via the Welsh mountains. Experience of the Peugeot 404 KF2 coupe confirmed that fuel-injection is worthwhile for those who can afford it and gave further evidence of the sensible control arrangements of these indestructible French cars. Not light but very sure in handling, the Peugeot 404 still ranks as one of the World’s great cars, and this sporting Pininfarina 4-seater coupe, which had cloth upholstery, combined style with the practicability for which this famous make is renowned.

Another stylish new car was the M.G.-B GT, one of the most honest propositions that came my way, vintage in conception yet capable of excellent average speeds, enjoyable to drive and gaining stature by being made in a small factory where history matters and they still talk enthusiastically about the days of M.G. glory at Brooklands and Donington. There are more up-to-date sports cars but I would much prefer this B-coupe to any imitation vintage Alfa or replica Dellow that has yet been fabricated.

There were a few miles in a clapped-out Morris 1100 then it was time to launch the Oldsmobile Toronado, mainly in order to discover whether f.w.d. would work with this power (385 b.h.p.), in a car of this weight (2 tons). It did! I had the car for only five days, but this was long enough to crave similar silence and smoothness, of transmission as well as engine, from one’s more mediocre transport, while General Motors had thrown in full electric automation of seat adjustment, window-lifts, etc. The brakes were the Toronado’s weakest feature but this great 2-pedal machine was otherwise simplicity to control, and it opened the eyes of passers-by very wide indeed.

Apart from the manual-gearbox Jaguar E-type I was able to drive a Jaguar E-type 2 + 2 with Borg-Warner automatic transmission. The hold-positions made this fools’ gearbox quite acceptable even in a car of such high performance, and the additional seating, if cramped, at least extends the scope of this inimitable car without greatly spoiling the body-lines or changing the handling characteristics. The only apparent snag I remember was the ingress of exhaust fumes, thought to be consequent upon the altered aerodynamics of the longer body. Another enjoyable experience was trying one of the first Fiat 124 saloons to be available in this country, on the registration plates of its country of origin. Lively, sure-footed, with a very pleasant floor gear-change, I am not in the least surprised to hear that this out-standing new family Fiat has been voted ” Car of the Year ” by well known International motoring writers.

In a very different category was the 3-litre Rover coupe, a luxury conveyance if ever there was one, but which I tended to enjoy more when it was stationary than in action. The clever Austin Mini Automatic was almost impossible to wrest from my youngest daughter (who subsequently passed her Driving Test at the first attempt) but I drove it sufficiently to convince myself that the 2-pedal control functions impeccably. This little car is the L-driver’s best friend and anyone faced with the problem of a novice driver will find that most of the anxieties evaporate if they go out and spend £571 on one of these Minimatics. For speeding up the learner-driver period it is unbeatable, unless you can afford a Daf.

The highlight of the year was thrashing about in Welsh by-ways with a Lotus Elan SE coupe, which set such advanced standards of road-holding and cornering without being temperamental or unduly noisy that other cars seemed for a while afterwards almost lethal in comparison. Apparently I was so enthused that I remarked ” Why can’t we all have Elans ? “, and my newly-appointed assistant reacted by promptly acquiring one. This really is a fine little car, offering fun with a capital F, and being one of the safest fast cars available. The example I drove had sornewhat inadequate ground clearance and got very warm within, as it hadn’t the latest dampers and ventilation vents, but it gave me the best week’s motoring of the year. It was used to go down to Castle Combe for the closing V.S.C.C. Race Meeting, although Abergwesyn-Tregaron-Abergwesyn was much more interesting than the Bath Road.

Impatience grew to indifference as I waited to try the Peugeot 204 saloon but when it did arrive I became, within the first few miles, a rabid enthusiast for this transverse-engined f.w.d. small car. There are those who disagree with me but how anyone can fail to be captivated by a car that smells, goes, and is arranged like the bigger Peugeots, is notably quiet, and which contrives to ride softly without detriment to its fast-cornering ability, I cannot comprehend. Expensive, in this country, certainly, and with suspension that can become frenzied over abnormally rough roads, the f.w.d. 204 is nevertheless a brilliant little car. I summed it up as ” every centimetre a Peugeot ” but for some reason this heading never got into print.

The only car which was perhaps even more impressive from the viewpoint of response to a change or direction than the Elan and an even greater opener-of-eyes than the Toronado was a projectile seemingly from outer-space in which the Continental Correspondent dropped into my front garden—to wit, a Ford GT40. I had a brief drive in it and it’s quite-out of the normal run of motoring experiences, gear-change, flames out of the back, low build, the lot. The low build was further emphasised when one of the Goodyear tyres went flat and there was zero clearance for inserting the jack. I remade acquaintance with the more recent Beetles by driving a Volkswagen 1300, the bigger engine taking the effort out of rowing this universal car along. Impressions of the VW 1600 TL Fastback, the Steyr-Puch 650 TRII and the Sunbeam Imp Sport were published last month and so need no embellishment, as were road impressions of the Alfa Romeo 1600 Spider, the pleasure the last-named sports car gave me recompensing for the unhappy experiences I have had previously with the Alfa Romeo Concessionaires in England, although I was unaware that the Spider would be on Italian number plates and an Import licence, and that therefore I was presumably supposed to have swapped the role of motoring scribe for that of Alfa salesman in order to comply with the law. The useful but dated Fiat 1100R was also dealt with too recently to require a recap.

Over Christmas I was able to test the new Ford Cortina GT and the VW 1500 Beetle, which was an opportune coincidence, as I have always regarded the makers of these cars as primarily providers of dependable transport and thus it seemed that having a family party at my place in Radnorshire shouldn’t present any mobility headaches. The revised Cortina styling was frequently much admired and the changes in suspension rates have to some extent, but only to some extent, ironed out the fearful ride with which these cars were formerly endowed. The seats have been much improved, although I would still like a finer adjustment on the driver’s seat, the instrumentation has been further cleaned up, there is more room inside, but, judging by the number of times I bumped my head when getting out, the roof-line is lower. The engine, as probably a little stiff at under 5,000 miles because I thought the performance inferior to that of “my” earlier Cortina GT. The power unit fizzed more and there were minor irritations like loose control knobs, rather indifferent press-button radio, a non-propping driver’s seat which made entry into the rear seats of this 2-door version difficult, and a boot-lid that flew up on its own after being unlocked but then floated down to clout any heads beneath it. The car also developed a number of troubles, such as a sticking passenger’s door, the tube of the radio aerial fouling the n/s front tyre on left-hand corners, the cigar-Iighter falling out and remaining permanently alight, a bush on the steering column emitting loud squeals, the speedometer light failing, and the starter eventually becoming temperamental. The bonnet still has to be propped open, the fuel filler has reverted to a horizontal orifice that defies cans, the headlamps are good but the blue “beam” warning light in one’s eyes isn’t (and on this car it developed a fit of the flickers), and the steering, never the Cortina’s best feature, has deteriorated in feel. As on the Corsair, openable quarter-lights have been deleted in deference to the efficient ” Aeroflow ” ventilation system. But when all is said and done the Cortina GT remains about the best value-for-money there is in durable, roomy, sporting saloons. The starting trouble, prompting me to keep the engine going once the car had been push-started, ruined an overall fuel-consumption check but a part distance figure of 28 m.p.g. was obtained under distinctly unfavourable conditions; after 1,500 miles a quart of oil was required. The test car had the optional extra of Pirelli Cinturato tyres on wide-base rims, which gave very impressive road-clinging on wet roads and in the post-Christmas snow, helped by the increased track.

The 1500 Beetle is presumably the ultimate development of this famous theme and as the very impressive performance is matched by the ingenious changes to the suspension that have converted excessive oversteer into understeer, the big-engined Beetle is great fun. Still the same old insect, basically, it will show 70 mph. in 3rd and step-off very impressively, while handling safely and pulling up effectively with the new disc front brakes. Yet the alterations haven’t destroyed the character of the car, which still calls for plenty of gear-changing on the splendid gearbox, has light, quick steering and a heater the setting of which I could never get just to my liking. The adhesion of the normal Michelin tyres on slippery roads was negligible and any owner about to enjoy the enhanced power would do well to investigate the supple secrets of “X”. Petrol consumption averaged 31.6 m.p.g.

That’s about it, although vintage motoring wasn’t neglected, the 1930 Sunbeam, which I drove for more than 1,500 miles, being taken to as many appropriate meetings as possible, including the S.T.D. Wolverhampton Rally, a Type 37 Bugatti being used for some nostalgic lappery of Castle Combe, and an historic 1903 Cadillac being shared with Eric Thompson on the Veteran car run thanks to Lord Montagu’s generous co-operation. Then a number of “white elephants” in the form of straight-eight and V12 Daimlers and a V12 Packard were sampled in the course of writing special articles, as were post-war Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars. Amongst the odds and bobs was a 1938 flat-twin Jowett and 1954 Ford Zephyr Six by an owner who promptly took it all to pieces, preparatory to equipping it with every conceivable piece of equipment you can think of — but you will be able to read about this in a future issue of Ford Times. During the year that unimpressive TV critic and journalist Bernard Levin was trying to take the mickey out of Donald Campbell’s record attempts and the R.A.C. Rally by saying he couldn’t decide which event was more boring (he had entirely missed the point, because spectators were not charged to watch either and so needed no advice from him about whether to go and see them), expressed the impertinent view in the Daily Mail that “there are no more boring objects than motor cars on the one hand and drivers of motor cars on the other and no more boring objects than either could possibly exist.” Except of course Mr. Levin. With whom, I need hardly add, I do not agree !

And now another year of road-testing has commenced, the first car of 1967 being a 3-litre Ford Executive of which I have already formed a much more favourable impression than I did of the 2-1/2 -litre Zephyr, although when it is not in use it is rather an embarrassing possession as I have neither an Executive Home nor a council house outside which to park it.- W.B.


Petrol and Oil Consumptions of Cars Tested by The Editor in 1966

(Petrol consumption in m.p.g. / Oil thirst)

Volkswagen 1300 saloon: 33.0 / None, in 400 miles.

Audi 1700: 30.4 / 2 pints, in 930 miles.

Ford Corsair 2-litre GT saloon: 28.6 / None, in 800 miles.

Lancia Fulvia coupé: 29.8 / —

Renault 16GL saloon: 33.6 / 1 pint, in 1,000 miles.

Jaguar E-type 2+2 manual gearbox coupé: 18.2 / 18 pints, in 1,500 miles.

Fiat 850 coupé: 38.3 / 3-1/2 pints, in 750 miles.

M.G. -B coupé: 26.3 / 3-1/2 pints in 750 miles.

Ford Cortina-Lotus: 27.8 / 1-1/2 pints, in just over 1,000 miles.

Ford V6 Zephyr Mk. IV saloon: 21.4 / None, in 900 miles.

Oldsmobile Toronado coupé: 10.8 / 1 pint, in 700 miles.

Triumph 1300 saloon: 34.7 / 2 pints, in 850 miles.

Ford V4 Corsair GT estate car: 27.7 / —

Rover 3-litre Mk.II coupé: 19.8 / 2 pints, in 670 miles

Austin Mini Automatic saloon: 35.0 / None, in 750 miles

Lotus Elan SE coupé: 28.8 / Just over 1 pint, in 800 miles.

Jaguar 3.8 S-series saloon: 17.9 / 3 pints, in 1,000 miles.

Peugeot 204 saloon: 36.3 / None in 700 miles.

Rover 2000TC saloon: 21.9 / Just over 1 pint, in 1,378 miles.

Ford GT40 coupé: 13.7 / —

Volkswagen TL 1600 Fastback saloon: 24.4 / —

Steyr-Puch 650 TRII: 40.0 . —

Sunbeam Imp Sport saloon: 40.7 / 1/2 a pint, in 570 miles

M.G. 1100 saloon: 37.8 / Approx. 4,000 m.p.g. after 10,000 miles.

Alfa Romeo 1600 Spider 2-seater: 25.3 / None, in 670 miles.

Fiat 1100R saloon: 31.8 / None, in 400 miles.

Volkswagen 1500 Beetle saloon: 31.6 / —

Ford Cortina GT saloon: 28.0 / 2 pints in 1,500 miles.