Letters from readers, February 1973

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N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and MOTOR SPORT does not necessarily associate itself with them—ED.

MG History—A criticism and a reply

Sir,

Referring to your review of the book “The Story of the MG Sports Car”.

I only wish I could “endorse its commendable authenticity” as you have done. However, I do not trust the book which states that no tourer versions—only saloons— were in production, of the MG Magnette K1(KD). The official MG catalogue listed the K1(KD) in saloon, tourer and chassis forms, together with the K2(KD) in two-seater and chassis forms.

The Spare Parts List also shows that K1(KD) four-seaters, as well as saloons, were made. In case Mr. McComb still doubts their existence, I have one complete K1(KD) tourer and two dismantled similar cars, while I sold another similar a few years ago.

In addition, I have a K1(KD) saloon and a K1(KB) tourer for comparison.

London, NW7.
A. P. Cramer.

[The author, Mr. Wilson McComb, replies: Let’s take a closer look at Mr. Cramer’s three proofs, and, if nothing else, we may learn something of the problems that confront a motoring historian:

(1) I know the K1(KD) tourer was catalogued, and said so in my book (pp. 73/74). But manufacturers have often put nonexistent models in their catalogues (for example, MG also listed a wholly imaginary J5 Midget at one time), so this proves nothing.

(2) Mention in a Spare Parts List is more significant, but still not conclusive proof that a model was in production.

(3) I don’t doubt for a moment that Mr. Cramer has knowledge of four K1 tourers with KD engines, but even this—believe it or not—is no proof that such a model was ever in production. They could have been built as K1(KB) tourers, remained unsold, and subsequently been fitted with KD engines at the factory. We know that some unsold K1 saloons were turned into KN models, some PA Midgets were converted into PBs, and some surplus Twin Cams were eventually completed as pushrod MGAs.

On p. 161 of my book I said: “The production totals of various K-series models differ considerably in different MG factory records. Mine are deduced from a combination of allocated chassis numbers, coachbuilders’ records and the known total production each year”. There were in fact wild discrepancies, and I thought I had adequately emphasised (pp. 69, 73/74, 161, 173 etc.) the uncertainty surrounding these models, hut Mr. Cramer has picked on one of the very few dogmatic statements I made about them. However, I believed there was a reasonable basis for it in the shape of the MG Car Company’s own official (and confidential) Data Sheet No. 42, prepared by their own Design Department to serve as a complete record of all MG models. The only K1 models listed in this document, with their chassis numbers and dates of production, are the K1(KA) Saloon, the K1(KB) tourer, and the K1(KD) saloon. There is no mention of a K1(KD) tourer, and no chassis numbers are allocated.

Does this, then, prove that the K1(KD) tourer was never produced? No it doesn’t, because I know of other errors in that same Data Sheet. All that I, or any other motoring historian, can do in a case like this is consider all the evidence and draw reasonable conclusions which may or may not be correct—and if Mr. Cramer reckons to do better, he is exceedingly welcome to try his hand at it! Incidentally, the Editor was kind enough to praise my book for “commendable authenticity”, not “complete accuracy”. A motoring historian himself, he knows better than to make such an absurd claim for any work of this nature. I have never suggested that my book is beyond criticism, but it is depressing to have it dismissed as untrustworthy.

F. Wilson McComb.

“Cars In Books”

Sir,

I was charmed to read your mention of my book “The Smell of Privet”. I am convinced my mother’s car was a Jowett. It was at once christened Benjamin, after the famous Master of Ballot, on the strength of it. I must have travelled for miles, blue with cold, in its remarkably uncomfortable dickey. This was all some forty years ago, and the car was already ancient.

I am glad that someone else has also mentioned a Jowett with an engine at the back. I have never referred to it before. I can only think they were a couple of rogue machines escaped without supervision from the assembly line—or was everything hand forged in those days?

London, W5.
Barbara Sleigh.

[Definitely not rear-engined!—ED.].

Pro-Ginetta

Sir,

In response to the letter in your December issue from the dissatisfied Ginetta Owner, I can only say how extremely pleased I have been with my G15. So pleased in fact that by the time the January issue of MOTOR SPORT is published I should have completed assembling a new one.

The car I have just sold had 53,000 miles of thoroughly pleasurable driving regularly achieving an average fuel consumption a 48 m.p.g. with a recent 240-mile trip averaging 68 m.p.h. and 46 m.p.g. I have had very few problems with the car apart from the perennial one of speedo gear drives which on my own car lasted an average of 10,000 miles and at £2 each I do not consider that to be unduly excessive. The handling is superb with quite astonishing performance for the engine size. With very little felt sound-proofing the car is certainly as quiet as the Escort GT I had previously with no rattles or shakes and only the occasional apparently non-damaging bang if a wheel was dropped into a large pot-hole. My own G15 had by no means managed to “Self Destruct” in over 50,000 miles let alone five seconds and was in excellent condition when I sold it recently.

My own dealings with the factory have been met with an extremely friendly and, an unusual attitude these days, interest in the customer and his car. As you can see from the foregoing I have little but praise for both the manufacturers and the car itself and greatly look forward to getting my new 998 c.c. car on the road.

All the usual disclaimers.

Church Aston.
J. Hill.

A Mystery Solved

Sir,

We were extremely interested to see the photograph on page 175 of your December issue as this was a spraying machine manufactured by us before the war and we enclose an ancient publication turned out from the archives which illustrates this same machine. You may like to see a modern counterpart, our Victair Sprayer of which we also enclose a picture.

We are also Main Dealers for Vauxhall, Bedford, Opel and Jaguar, but the vast majority of fruit and hop sprayers used in this Country are made by us and a considerable number are also exported, in particular to the USA.

Maidstone.
Geoffery Fletcher,
Managing Director,
Drake & Fletcher Limited.

L. J. K. Setright replies

Sir,

I hope you will allow me to deal with your observations in the latest issue where you deal with my article in Total Times.

First, excess oil can lead to ruined bearings: if the sump level is too high, the oil is threshed and churned and is then pumped aerated and therefore overheated to the bearings where the entrained air causes further overheating and prompt bearing failure. Certainly the Bristol engine is sensitive to such abuse; so are several others, as their maintenance manuals often hint, when they insist “Do not overfill”.

Secondly, a dipstick really should be accurate. Look at the troubles the early BMC 1800 suffered, all because a wrongly calibrated dipstick led to it being overfilled with oil.

Thirdly, of course one must wait for the oil to settle. If you would accept the Jaguar XK engine as an example, Jaguar instruct that the dipstick reading should not be taken until at least one minute after stopping the engine when hot. For a cold engine the waiting time is considerably longer.

Fourthly, Incom P R Ltd. apparently sent me a copy of your letter, as they told me: (by telephone) they would. It did not come, but was not the only item of post I have known go astray.

[Did their reply to me also go astray?—ED.].

Fifthly, a pint may or may not he “a very great part of the average sump’s overall contents”. It represents 18.2% of the sump contents of an Imp or Escort 1100, 17.9% of a Volvo 1800, 11.1% of a Rover 2000, 7.7% of my 2-litre Bristol, 3,8% of a 356GTC4 Ferrari. Proper motor cars of course have dry sumps, their designers recognising that 1g braking or cornering will tip the oil so that its top surface is at 45 deg. from horizontal, which is obviously prejudicial to good order.

Esher.
L. J. K. Setright.

Where to get it

Sir,

We have been meeting the demand mentioned in the letter from Eric Speak for a “cheap” oil for some years now with top quality branded engine and gear oils in sealed 5 gallon drums by sale to enthusiasts after bulk purchase by us direct from the refinery.

We sell straight, no additive, oils in all grades at 45p per gallon and 20/50 Grade SD fully developed motor oil at 60p per gallon ex-stock.

Epsom.
R. A. Cluttbruck,

Summit Motors.

Multiple Economy

Sir,

As a postscript to my letter on Citroën’s use of registration number KPP 7271, this number has now also appeared on a Dyane, in the Sunday Observer dated December 10th.

Castle Donington.
Alistair Crooks.

The Big Healey

Sir,

Mr. Jefferson (December issue) asks why so many Healey 3000s appear in the advertisements. If he were to take account of the number produced (or as a very rough guide the length of the production run) he will find that on a comparative basis, fewer “Big Healeys” appear than, for example, MG-Bs, MG-Cs, TRs or SP250s.

The editor mentions a Morgan in connection with the title “Last of the Real Sports Cars”. I think it doubtful that any one model merits this distinction, and I found the Morgan which I owned (1970 4/4) inferior in every respect, save in that of handling, to my present 1967 Healey 3000, and saw little evidence of the expected “hand built quality”. In fact unless one treats its power with complete disrespect, the handling of a Healey remains basically safe and controllable, for how else could it have achieved such great success in rallying.

Apart from the exhaust system it has not been a particularly expensive car to run, and this was due not so much to the small ground clearance as to the appallingly bad quality of the replacements supplied by the official BLMH stockist. I have found that few other sports cars have such a solid and rugged feel, or can match its combination of performance, handling, quality, and competitive history. These attributes when coupled with the pleasure gained from owning an uncommon but reliable motor car, make it in my opinion a truly classic sports car. Judging by the number of people who have come up and discussed the car with enthusiasm, and by its nil rate of depreciation, many others share this view. Thanks for such an interesting magazine.

West Kirby.
J. C. Grennan.

Sir,

In the December edition of MOTOR SPORT, Mr. Jefferson poses the question “Why so many big Healeys for sale?” The answer is simple; because the short-comings of the car are as follows:

(a) Generally expensive to run.
(b) A handful to drive fast.
(c) Lack adequate ground clearance.
(d) Tend to leak when it rains.
(e) Have limited passenger and luggage space.
(f) Use oil to match the petrol consumption.
(g) Are uncomfortable to drive.
(h) Are generally “out-dated” compared-with modern cars.

I doubt whether there can be 57,352 (the total number of big Healeys produced since the BN4) sufficiently obdurate and masochistic individuals prepared to persevere with the cars—hence the number for sale.

I have just bought my third Healey which I cherish and intend to keep for ever—it’s fun. It is high time one of our number organised an owners club!

Wokingham.
M. Kean.

Winners—Hill Rally!

Sir,

I offer my congratulations to the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers on winning the Welsh Hill Rally.

This little known regiment happens to he the oldest in the British Army. It is tucked away in Monmouth and seldom heard of, but has a way of catching the headlines on the odd occasion.

In the dark winter days of 1914 our troops in France were fighting a desperate action around La Bassee, against incredible odds and in flooded trenches. The adjacent canal was filling them. It was then that a company of RE towed a barge up the canal to where it crossed no-mans land, slewed it round and tilled it with earth they dug in no-man’s land until it sank. All this under heavy machine gun fire. This action afforded some relief to our hard pressed troops and no doubt some discomfort to the enemy, I was sitting safely at home in 1914 when I read of this exploit. I was intrigued by the temerity of the troops concerned—but it was not until 1916, when by sheer coincidence I was posted to the same unit, that I found it was No. 2 Coy., RMRE.

Our transport, to the best of my recollection was one lorry (ASC attached) and two mule-drawn GS wagons.

This may hardly be suitable subject matter for such a publication as MOTOR SPORT, but I have well over 50 years of motoring experience behind me. An occasional thought for the Old Contemptibles will not come amiss, for had they broken, the history of our country would have been very different.

Kingsbury Episcopi.
M. E. Miles.

Jowetts

Sir,

Although as you say there never was a production rear-engined Jowett there were to my knowledge two built by private individuals. The first by Messrs. Smallbone, Birmingham, built just before the war using a Austin 7 chassis in conjunction with a rearmounted pre-war four cylinder Jowett engine and open two-seater bodywork. This was apparently quite a lively car for its day as the Jowett engine pushed out about the same b.h.p. as the standard 1200 VW engine in its original form. The second of these cars was constructed in Australia as a racing car using a supercharged post-war Jupiter engine and was very potent with a top speed in the order of 130 m.p.h.

I have had a great deal of pleasure restoring and running my Jowett over the past 11 years. In this time I have covered 75,000 miles including three trips around Scotland, three up, with all the camping gear covering 2,000 miles each time and climbing every hill without hesitation, on the way through the Lakes and up the West coast of Scotland. On one occasion I did a non-stop run from Aberdeen to Birmingham in 14 hours without ever exceeding 40 m.p.h. and stopping only once for petrol. My wife and I moved from Edinburgh to Birmingham in the old Jowett laden to the roof with our belongings. A load we estimated to have been nearly half the weight of the car as many items of furniture were strapped to the luggage rack at the back.

I could fill many pages with the exploits I have had in my yellow and black Jowett which I sprayed that colour on the front lawn which took 12 months to recover. I can thoroughly recommend a 1935 Jowett Kestrel saloon to anyone who wants a reliable car. Even though I drive my Jowett all over the place it was able to take second place in its class at the Jowett International Rally Concours being only one point behind the winner. It has also been awarded a first at the Stourbridge Pre-war Car Club Concourse in the “Cars in everyday use” section. Steering ball joints are greaseable and original.

Solihull.
Hamish Bowie.

Driver Legislation

Sir,

I was very glad to see that you have spotted the possible dangers in some suggested new rules for driving licences. On a recent visit to my elder brother he pointed these out to me as he felt we might be affected. We are aged 68 and 61, recent widowers who have held licences from the day of our 17th birthday, though we were able to drive long before then. My brother worked at Brooklands after the First World War and I spent much time there in school holidays and we picked up all the knowledge we could from listening to Parry Thomas, George Duller and many other great drivers talking. This must have been almost the only time when we sat quietly. We both realised the privilege circumstances gave us. Since then motoring has become the main interest in my life and while my brother pretends to the professional attitude of a car being just a means of conveyance he tells me promptly if he thinks I have taken the wrong line at a corner. Neither of us have been in the hands of the Police.

What sort of device could possibly gauge our “character aptitude” until age or illness reduces our ability to react? Our father drove with a clean licence up to the age of 73 when he had a stroke and wisely gave up.

Ten years ago I took a Police Driving Course which was strictly practical. I felt I should do this before sitting on a Road Safety Committee so that I could get a better insight into the legal aspects and see the Police point of view, but the thought of “psycho-technical” tests appals me. I hope that you will keep us informed on this subject so that we may let our MPs know exactly how we feel on any proposed legislation which would remove our right to go on driving until our own GP says we are unfit, or we commit offences—and I do not mean doing 72 m.p.h.

I can still produce the tennis strokes of 40 years ago but lack speed about the court. I wish it was still possible for me to see if I knew how to pull off the Byfleet Banking, taking care to judge the wind which used to whistle past the Vickers sheds.

Margate.
N. J. White.

Morgan History

Sir,

Mr. Boddy concluded his review of “Morgan—First and last of the Real Sports Cars” by forecasting correctly that he would be criticised as biased and self interested. I suspect his disappointment at discovering the book was not a complete history is not genuine, as I know he has seen the factory scrapbooks and knows a dozen books would be necessary to give coverage of development and sporting success.

On the dustjacket of the new book is stated the obvious fact that the colour picture is of a 1972 Plus 8 and not an older Plus Four four-seater. Almost as an after-thought Mr. Boddy mentions the 1960 factory booklet but forgets to point out that nearly half the pictures in his own booklet were from this earlier publication. I do not accept his remark that a lot of the pictures used in “Morgan” have been seen before when out of over 90 photographs I can only see a dozen in this category. I wrote “The Three-Wheeler story of the Morgan” and of that Mr. Boddy said “competition work is confined to a few pictures which have been seen before in the Club Journal”. In fact, there were no less than 15 competition pictures of which four had been published in the Club Bulletin. No mention that this was a small book to cover the history and development of the various models, with only a passing reference to sporting success. Haying read the Club book, Mr. Boddy should be aware how the fourspeed gear was obtained. He should not have thought the two gear levers in the cockpit of a special racing Morgan were wrongly captioned. One lever was for the two speed gearbox brazed to the chassis behind the clutch and the second lever to move the sliding dog clutches on the gearbox countershaft. Morgans generally wrote gearbox or gear box instead of bevel-box.

Did he not notice that only Mr. Houston Bowden and I dated the pictures of the 1925 models correctly? (Pictures taken November 1924, and 1925 prices written on the original prints). Mr. Boddy also thinks the last three-wheeler models were made in 1950 instead of 1952. As my opinion is not affected by the prospect of any commercial gain I can happily say that none of these publications really overlap in approach to the subject. They are only likely to reveal something of the magical attraction of Morgans enjoyed by successive generations.

Chelmsford.
B. H. S. Watts.
Technical Adviser to Morgan.
Three-Wheeler Club.

What next?

Sir,

Many of your readers are mourning the disappearance of the open car. In recent years these have become civilised, with such refinements as winding windows, and rear windows of sensible area, thanks to non-cracking Vybak Clear Sheet. An unfortunate fashion trend has increased the length of (us chaps’) hair, so that travelling with the hood down inflicts painful auto-flagellation, but on balance we are prepared to pay a little extra for the soft-top car.

But so many have gone. The Minor, the small Triumphs, the Minxes/Gazelles/Rapiers, and the Alpines. I had quite a few open cars between passing my test the day after my 17th birthday and this present time when I ask myself, “What Next?”. The early ones were bought because they were both cheap and serviceable, the latter ones because they were about 100% more fun in good weather. The 11.8 Star didn’t really need a gearbox as I showed by causing it to thump from Buxton over to Macclesfield in top gear. The Swift had a shiny black hood, still sound when seven years old, in contrast to the short-lived canvas type, and winding windows and pneumatic seats. The 2.3-litre HE looked like a Vanden Plas Bentley from behind and a Bugatti from the front, and to have an OHV engine with the bonnet open. In fact, the aluminium “rocker cover” covered the plugs and the valves seated in the block. I couldn’t afford to garage my Series I Morris tourer in South Kensington, and paid a householder 5/- a week for permission to park it outside his mews house. It couldn’t be locked (and locks are no deterrent with a soft-top) but it wasn’t violated except by a local cat which discovered that the front section of the bonnet was warm after the car returned to base. In 1951 I was lucky to be allocated a MG TD by University Motors—ordered in 1947—and being new it demanded to be kept beautiful; what a palaver it is, with all the sticking-out bits such as spare wheel and bolster tank. A Ford Zephyr II convertible had the best hood ever, lined for warmth and capable of a coupe-de-Ville facility, which is just right for cool weather, even for drizzle so long as you don’t stop. And now the Alpine, surely an under-rated car, even if not really a sportscar in the sense of objective measurement. But it is a mass of nice little refinements, none of them vital but cumulatively adding up to a lot of sense. And not too complex for an amateur; even I can remove the head, and (with a prayer and a torque wrench) replace it. Spares, of course, are never far away and are at a reasonable rather than a prestigious price. How many similar cars can accommodate four adults with hood either up or down? Even though those on the back bench will need a course of physiotherapy. So the question is, with what to follow it? The MG-B and Triumph TR6 are long in the tooth; the Morgan is just too “olde worlde”. Not long ago the small open Alfa Romeo was around £1,300, but it has grown in virtue and doubled its price. One seldom sees the Peugeot 304S cabriolet, which looks too dear; but Peugeot owners invariably enthuse, so it could be good value. I have found that I get great pleasure in loving and cherishing over a number of years, which rules out used cars (of which there are good “buys” for the brave). So, have your readers any suggestions as to “What Next?”.

Worthing.
N. Hopfield.

Healey praise

Sir,

I was interested to see in December’s MOTOR SPORT a letter from Mr. Jefferson concerning the “Big Healey”.

As a proud owner of one of these cars—Mark II, 1963—for the last eight years, I should like to put in a few words of praise, and a very few of criticism—of this car which has given me so much pleasure.

For its price, £1,100 tax paid, it was splendid value considering its performance, and it still is one of the best-looking sports cars ever made. The engine is big and lazy, making it possible to motor all day around 90-100 m.p.h.—4,000 r.p.m. in top overdrive. The hood is one of the best I’ve seen for fit— and easy operation. When I bought mine I fitted new “X”s all round, and during my ownership of 110,000 miles I have only had to buy another three “X”s.

The petrol consumption is good—21 m.p.g. on a mainly fast run.

Now with 120,000 miles to its credit it still goes like a “bomb”, and feels good for many more years.

The few points of criticism being perhaps the small boot space, but mainly it’s so low that it “bottoms” easily, which makes it essential to carry plenty of spare exhaust brackets.

Many thanks for your excellent magazine and the pleasure it gives every month.

Birmingham.
Stanley A. Simons.