Letters from Readers, February 1969

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N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them. — Ed.

Stupid Prices

Sir,

We have been increasingly concerned at the out of proportion prices asked for pre-war Morris cars and spares lately, but even we were shocked at the advertisement in the December issue for a 1932 Morris Cowley sports coupé at £680 o.v.n.o.

This particular car was advertised by Gold Seal Car Co. last March at £395, a figure which we felt then was £200-£250 too high. I contacted the aforementioned company and gleaned the information that a Mr. “X” had purchased the car. Thinking he must be an enthusiast I wrote and told him about our club—needless to say he did not reply! It would seem from the advertisement that all that he has done since purchasing the car is to scrape the chrome off the radiator, headlamps, hub caps because these were certainly not brass (as advertised) when new. Also I’m pretty certain the car is 1933 as the front wings changed in 1932 and this car has the later style.

Billericay. Mike Turner.

The Morris Register.

* * *

A Modern Buckboard

Sir,

As a recent reader of your most enjoyable magazine, I was particularly interested with your V.E.V. article, December, 1968, page 1134, referring to the Orient Buckboard.

This car was an inspiration to me, because of its simplicity, and I set out to design a modern counterpart in 1953, completing the project in late 1954.

My buckboard had an ash frame, plywood bulkheads and was planked in ¼ in. x 1 in. mahogany strips, epoxy glued in place but with several hundred brass-head screws exposed for decorative purposes. Expressly designed as a home workshop do-it-yourself project, everything was extremely simple. Suspension and wheels from two Renault 4CV front ends gave independent suspension all around. Power originally was the complete package from an Ariel Square 4, with transmission chain driving the left rear wheel only, o/s rear wheel idled free. A Simca starter motor was hinge-mounted to be lever operated to engage with the drive chain for reverse. The headlights folded flat, flush with the body shell, controlled from the driver’s seat, and, when pivoted up, the right headlight had a finger which fell into a fork that was linked to the steering, so that it turned with the steering wheels, a la Citroën.

The total car was exceptionally light (not necessarily intentionally) and weight was slightly over 700 lb. empty. Scrounging parts in wrecking yards, the used, but rebuilt engine, etc., resulted in a total outlay of $746, of which $200 was for chrome plating and $150 for five double-sided white-wall tyres.

Performance was not too bad; it was only meant to be a fun, around the block, sort of car, anyway. Top speed with the Ariel was about 85 m.p.h. This engine had a penchant for snapping rings, or it was my impatience, not allowing enough warm-up time, and I later fitted a Harley Davidson 45 engine, which had much more low torque, plus a reverse gear transmission. I had dreams of installing a blower, and bought a small roots type, but then life got complicated in other areas and I gave the car to a friend in California.

Those two years or so of buckboarding were certainly fun years, and I thank you for the picture you published of the Orient; it brought back memories, got me to digging in my photo file, and reminiscing, and writing you.

New York, U.S.A. Donald S. Bruce.

* * *

Motor Racing and the Colour Bar Question

Sir,

Mr. Lawrence’s letter re South Africa brings to the fore a matter that will have to be faced soon.

Drivers that the Afrikaaners would regard as “coloured” are racing in several countries, and motoring sport also includes rallying, bringing to mind Joghindar Singh and others.

The last solution would be for all ruling bodies to require a guarantee that performers of every race and colour would be admitted to South Africa, and if the Government forbade such a pledge, then South Africa should be ruled out of all participation until it was forthcoming. Several efforts have already taken this action, and that motoring lags is to motoring’s discredit.

If the country was completely shut out of all international competitions the Government then might be forced to alter their attitude, and no doubt pressure would be brought upon them to do so.

Several men of a shade unacceptable under present rulings have been prominent in the past, such as the immaculate “Bira”, and it is only a matter of time before another reaches the top.

Action should be taken before, not after.

Leicester. R. E. Wright.

* * *

Czechoslovakia Carried On

Sir,

The English language edition of the monthly illustrated (and quite glossy) Czechoslovak Motor Review still comes by post from Prague to many Skoda owners, and makes interesting and enjoyable reading. It has not changed its tone since the sad, unpleasant events of last August, nor do the contributors appear to have lost their sense of humour. Here is a good excerpt:

“All the same, the new body (on the M.B. Skoda range) is also easier both on the eye and on the part of your own body that sits in it.”

Could a British manufacturer have expressed it better?

Burley. G. R. Wakeling.

* * *

Overdrives!

Sir,

With reference to the correspondence concerning overdrive in the gears, a Jaguar Mk. VIIM which I once owned had overdrive on all gears, including reverse.

However, I soon put it right.

Washington. R. N. T. Burke.

* * *

Aston Martin DB4 Experiences

Sir,

I have just read a letter in Motor Sport, and I would like to inform you of a few facts concerning my motoring experience. I used an M.G.-B for two years, both for pleasure and for my job, that of towing boats of all sizes around the country. During this time I found it a very reliable and cheap car to run. Then, in a moment of madness, I bought a DB4 Aston Martin. It was approximately one month before I could get it to run reliably enough to use for work.

Since then I have found that spares such as exhaust boxes, shock absorbers, etc., take around two weeks to obtain and spares which have to come from Newport Pagnell and through an official spares stockist before reaching me take as long if not longer. The nearest official spares stockists are around 90 miles from me, and this does not exactly speed the delivery of spares.

Altogether, I have found the car very temperamental and expensive to run and also unreliable; therefore I advise your correspondent to have another reliable, cheap-to-run M.G.-B.

Brightlingsea. G. Cowell.

* * *

In Defence of S.T.P.

Sir,

The letter from Mr. J. H. Foster (November issue) concerning the S.T.P. oil advertisement seems to contain an unnecessary grievance. The advertisement makes a reference to “Old Irons”. Surely this expression is used by many people as an expression of affection for an old car, be it Concours maintained or a hack.

The advertisement, when referring to an ignition key, obviously does so metaphorically in order to drive its point home (pulling a button and turning a key produce the same effect anyway, viz., turning on the ignition).

S.T.P. show a Riley Monaco “9” in Concurs condition, which is a compliment to the marque, not an insult.

I am a member of the Riley Register, and own a 1937 Continental touring saloon. I have had it for two years, and it has been trouble-free and very economical to run for its age. I paid £15 and an old Vauxhall Wyvern for it and, because it was so good bodily, I have decided to recondition the engine and transmission. Therefore I have good reason to like Rileys, and I also find Register members friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, Vintage and P.V.T. motoring seems to attract some people so fanatical that a form of snobbery coupled with a narrow-mindedness is bred. This, Mr. Foster, tends to spoil the atmosphere of fun and enjoyment that can come from running an old car.

I am not surprised that a letter from the Riley Register was not received by Motor Sport. The committee is, fortunately, more tolerant and realistic towards trivialities such as these.

Hatch End. R. M. Seabrook.

[“Old Iron” is kinder than “Old Crock” I suppose! The Riley Register did refer to this matter in their magazine!—Ed.]

A Satisfied E.P.S. Battery User

Sir,

There is little doubt that we live in a world where money is the all important feature of our activities. It is a place in which skills in handicrafts and materials are sold to the highest bidder, codes of practice are set by individuals, and opinions are decided by the National Press.

It is, therefore, refreshing to discover that there are pockets of resistance to the New Order, and at least one commercial company appreciates the definition of after-sales service. It is for this reason I have written to you in the hope that you will publish my letter in your Journal and so publicise the event I relate.

The vehicle I run contains two type 3-EY7, 6v. batteries which are linked in series to operate a 12v. electrical system. Recently I had the misfortune to break one of the filler stoppers on one of the batteries. Although I tried at several garages, I was unable to obtain a new stopper. After some time I traced the manufacturer to Electric Power Storage Ltd., Abbey Road, Park Royal, London, N.W.10. I then wrote to this company and received by post two new stoppers within a few days, one to replace the stopper I had broken and one to keep as a spare. No charge was made for sending the items, although postage had to be paid by the company.

I truly believe the above action deserves publicising; I hope you will think so, too, and will in consequence kindly publish this letter in your journal.

St. Albans. D. Saull.

* * *

Which is the Best Oil?

Sir,

Speedwell. Usual disclaimer.

Ramsgill. Anthony Brooke.

———

Sir,

I can deal with one point raised by Mr. Heywood.

A very large number of diesel fleet owners use Shell Rotella, which can normally be freely obtained where there is a DERV pump.

I started to use it in a Porsche Super 90 because it is the only oil that Porsche recommend (as opposed to approve). Whilst Shell suggest the use of their more civilised lubricant (which is approved), there seems to be little point in doing so because it costs about twice as much, as the Porsche Concessionaires pointed out to me when I discussed the position with them.

Having discovered from my VW dealer that another Porsche/VW Customer was running his VW on Rotella with success, I started a new VW 1500 on Rotella and at 17,900 miles it seems very happy on it and uses no oil, whereas a VW 1200 run on Viscostatic has always used a small quantity. This latter was decarbonised at 51,000 miles (to enable the exhaust valves to be replaced, since they eventually “neck” and drop into the cylinder, which is expensive) and the condition then disclosed appeared good.

I am not inclined to change the 1200 over to Rotella, since this is highly detergent and will probably displace harmless deposits which the Viscostatic has allowed to accumulate, though in view of the saving in cost I am often tempted.

Without reference to the book, I think that VW have always recommended engine oil not by make but as “highly detergent extreme pressure” or something very like that, and this is exactly what one would normally need for the conditions within a diesel crankcase.

Although I have no experience of it, I was given to understand that the appropriate grade of Agricastrol would be a suitable alternative to Rotella for my Porsche; I believe the price differential within the Castrol empire is the same as Shell.

South Perrott. D. T. Harrison-Sleap.

* * *

Running In

Sir,

Regarding Mr. Heywood’s question on running-in, in your January issue, I can only say, with a certain smugness, that I had no need to worry on this score.

Three and a half years ago I bought a VW 1500 S Estate car and, apart from taking just a little care for the first hundred miles, I forgot all about the tedious routine of running-in. Thereafter the car was driven with abandon, mechanically speaking of course. At 3,000 miles I had the needle past the 100 m.p.h. mark on the M1, with the dog asleep in the back atop the engine.

At 68,500 miles, and the motor completely original and untouched, the car reached, and cruised at, an indicated 98 m.p.h. with three people aboard. A friend following in a Mini-Cooper “S” confirmed that this was well over 90 m.p.h. This on the Continent, of course.

Now, at 70,000 miles and using less than a pint of oil between regular 3,000-mile oil changes, the VW goes as well as ever. Castrolite oil has been used from the start. Incidentally, the average tyre life on this car for the one set of tyres so far discarded was 50.000 miles.

So you see, Mr. Heywood, some cars need no worrying over. It depends upon who makes. ’em.

Uxbridge. A. Frankham.

[I, too, use Castrolite, or, more recently, Castrol GTX, and I remember that the late J. G. Parry Thomas advocated running-in engines at quite high speeds, not idling along.—Ed.]

* * *

Friendly Police

Sir,

I can assure your correspondents R. Stuart-Pennink, that his friendly encounter with a Northern police constable was not merely a flash in the pan.

My friend riding his Velocette motorcycle was recently stopped by a police officer in his car after a “high-speed chase”. Expecting to get a good rollicking off the policeman, you can imagine my friend’s surprise when the officer said that it was not often that he had the chance to travel at speeds over 80 mph. and went on to thank my friend for a good chase. To cap it all, he then asked my friend whether he wanted to be booked for 90 m.p.h. in a 70 limit, or 49 m.p.h, in a 30 limit!

A couple of years ago another friend was given a lift home in a Z-car, a distance of eight miles, after leaving a party in the early hours.

Although both these tales are second-hand, they do show that at least some of this country’s police officers can exercise a bit of humour and goodwill in their baleful task.

R. J. B.

[Name and address supplied]

[Unlike P.C. 753 of the Dyford-Powys Police Force, who stopped a respectable 15-year-old car doing a modest speed in daylight on a derestricted road at Christmas-time to check its brakes and tyres and, finding these to his satisfaction, caused the driver a 320-mile journey to produce the insurance papers at a distant police station.—Ed.]

* * *

Are Remoulded Tyres Safe?

Sir,

Since the new Tyre Law came into operation, that now makes it illegal for any motorist to use a tyre with less than 1 mm. of tread, which I thought was laid down by the Minister of Transport as a safety factor, I now personally think that every motorist on the road. today who uses remould tyres is also breaking the law.

My own experience in the last 12 months is that remoulds are a far greater risk now before the new Act came in.

A motorist then knew he had a bald tyre so took the necessary precautions when his speedometer registered 20-30-40 m.p.h. His mind flashed straight to the bald tyre so he slowed down, which in turn cut down a certain amount of risk to himself and other road users. But what can be said for a remould which, when all said and done, is an old tyre entering its second life and no guarantee as to its length of service or safety.

I bought two remoulds for my van of the same make and, like hundreds of other motorists, I did not ask the salesman their pedigree, etc., knowing that a remould would not give me the same mileage for £4 as a new tyre would for £7 10s., but it should give me the same amount of safety while the tread lasts. The first tyre burst after five months—the rubber left the canvas which came up into a balloon half-way round the tyre. I must have been doing 20 m.p.h. as this was going through the town centre, which could have led to a serious accident.

I took this tyre back to where I had purchased it and he entered the fact in a book, together with my name and address, and sent the tyre back to the firm, who eventually allowed me 70% of the cost. The other one of the pair did exactly the same thing, so again we went through the same procedure. So again I bought a third tyre, which I have had on the vehicle for six weeks and is now already showing signs of the tread leaving the canvas. I took it back to the shop as soon as I noticed it and again he wanted to send it back to the makers. He says that is all he is entitled to do. I made it clear to him that I have now come to the conclusion that these tyres are unsafe and I intend to keep this tyre as proof of same, also I will be writing to the Press and the Ministry of Transport as I feel something should be done about it.

The motorist has it pushed down his throat about safe driving, no drinking, etc., yet there are people making fantastic profits for unreliable and dangerous tyres.

One naturally thinks that because it is a remould it is reliable and can be quite safe at 60-70 m.p.h. I shall be notifying my insurance company to see if they will still cover me when using remoulds after receiving this letter, or might they think they are a bad risk.

If the M.o.T. cannot clarify their safety, may I suggest the insurance companies refuse to insure anyone having remould tyres, or the manufacturers giving 100% safety, not mileage.

It does not make sense to me that a tyre is safe or is not safe— you do not buy oil heaters in two grades, i.e., 100% safe at £12 or cheaper models that sometimes burst into flame 50% safe.

Christchurch. N. P. Ridley.

[This would seem to call not only for a reply from the M.o.T. but experiences of readers—for and against.—Ed.]

* * *

The Ginetta Road Test Report

Sir,

I write with reference to your road test of the Ginetta G15. My husband has a beard, several big woolly jumpers, and, it seems, a woolly-headed wife. He also has a Ginetta G15 chassis No. 15/0004. I must protest, however, that I am in my right mind and find it quite easy to live with the G15; it is considerably more refined than the G4 my husband owned before our marriage and at least as convenient as the N.S.U. Sport Prinz it has replaced, even in respect of the volume of luggage it will carry.

My husband suspects inaccuracies in your report and suggests that the car you drove was probably on Dunlop RS5s and not C41s. He also points out that our car (No. 4) has a front radiator and the latest type of seat.

Finally, my husband has only once seen motor racing and found it a bore, although he thinks that participation might be fun. He says that the Ginetta owner is a self-confident individualist with sufficient courage to take the car to its limits, and he is awaiting with impatience the appearance of a 1,300 c.c. Imp engine!

Gainford. Stella Fay.

———

Sir,

Re A.R.M.’s review of the Ginetta G15. I have a beard, a woolly jumper and an elderly Singer Gazelle coupé, I also have a wife who is attempting to extract a promise of a G15 for her birthday. Before marriage reduced her to living in a manner to which she was not accustomed my wife drove a 1962 Morgan +4. A.R.M’s comments have me confused—who is nuts, me, my wife or ARM.? Would he like to comment?

London, N.16, Davin P. Combie.

[Your wife is obviously one of a rarebreed—go ahead and buy her the G15.—Auntie A.R.M.]

* * *

C.G.G.

Sir,

A great many people must have been delighted to read W.B.’s appreciation of the late C. G. Grey in “Goodbye To The Aeroplane” in January’s Motor Sport. As far as I could see no mention of its famous Editor appeared in the last issue of The Aeroplane.

Grey’s reports on the Schneider Trophy contests—with those delicious dissertations on “The Marine Mind”—are remembered after nearly 40 years. He was a powerful champion of inventions like the Handley Page slotted wing. He made persistent demands for “aeroplanes that land slowly and will not burn up”. At one stage he put forward the simple idea of “one man, one aeroplane, one bomb”.

He was a staunch friend to the Royal Air Force, especially during the 1920s and early 1930s, and could hand out pungent precepts on matters great and small. “Reading The Times,” he once wrote, “is as much a part of a gentleman’s toilet as cleaning his teeth.”

C.G.G. was a superlatively stimulating and entertaining writer who knew everybody in aviation in the early days. Week by week for 28 years he opened the sluice gate of his fertile mind and poured out pages of intensely readable prose. It mattered little whether one agreed with him or not because he fulfilled the first requirement laid down by Somerset Maughan for a writer—that he should be read.

I read him from 1924 to 1939, and have been looking forward to enjoying him all over again in old age.

Cheltenham. Squadron Leader D. R. Parkinson, R.A.F.

(retd.).

[I couldn’t agree more and was only sorry and angry that my small appreciation of C.G.G. was marred by an unfortunate misprint making him the enemy of the R.A.F., which emphatically he was not, instead of the R.A.E. It may not be known by many of our readers that the R.A.E. was once known as the R.A.F. (Royal Aircraft Factory). But when the R.F.C. (Royal Flying Corps) changed to R.A.F. (Royal Air Force) the Royal Aircraft Factory changed its designation to Royal Aircraft Establishment (R.A.E.).—Ed.]

* * *

A Child’s View of the Chitty Film

Sir,

Daddy says that you think that the film “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is a load of rubbish.

I think that it is a super film and even Mummy and Daddy sat still all the way through it. If you had taken a little boy to see the film you might have enjoyed it more. Daddy says you are too old to enjoy it. I have asked Granddad to take me to see it again.

I read the pictures in Motor Sport when Daddy brings it home.

Chingford. Alexander Lewin (2¼ years)—as recounted to his parents.

[I am delighted that Master Lewin has confirmed what I have been emphasising all the time—that this is a delightful children’s film, but that it has absolutely nothing to do with serious motor racing, in spite of the amount of space some motoring writers and motoring magazines have devoted to it. I am glad children like it and so long as they sing the modern version of the Chitty song and not that sung by Zborowski, all will be love and kisses. As I have no sons it would have been unseemly for me to have gone to the Trade Show (I wasn’t invited to the Premiere) with a little boy.—Uncle Ed.]