Matters of moment, February 1974

The 50 MPH speed limit

We are not, thank you St. Christopher, politicians. But we are prepared to believe that there are good reasons for carefully conserving fuel of all kinds. Whether or not petrol is properly rationed by the time these words appear in print, the high cost of this essential spirit makes personal conservation of it of considerable moment to most of us.

Having said that, we still feel it debatable whether a compulsory blanket 50 m.p.h. speed-limit helps the petrol shortage. The motoring organisations were quick to point out the savings of fuel that driving at never over 50 m.p.h. should ensure. Their figures, which we hesitate to term facts, were probably based on the fuel-consumption records for different types of cars driven at a constant pace. Even with the 50-limit, this is never possible in normal driving, except perhaps on deserted Motorways. Indeed, a more mature reasoning seems to show that while some cars may use less fuel at 50 than at, say, 45 or 60 m.p.h., others use considerably more. Our own experience with a BMW 520i, checked over 380 miles of varied driving since the introduction of the dismal-50, has been that with very light footwork on the accelerator and other aids to sheer economy, an overall petrol consumption of just over 36 m.p.g. is possible. Yet before the imposition of this ridiculously sedate speed-limit, this car was doing closer to 40 m.p.g., because coasting goes on longer from higher speeds and overtaking at them calls for less clinging to the lower gears. As we have said, some cars actually show a quite serious increase in fuel thirst when confined to the “learner’s pace” which is now mandatory over the whole of the British Isles. The fuel-injection system with which the BMW is endowed clearly contributes to exceptionally good fuel conservation and it also gives extremely prompt winter-conditions cold-starting.

If there was some excuse for the “panic-50” being imposed by the Government which is (was?) doing its best to avert petrol rationing, this restriction in speed is typical of the thought behind motoring restrictions in official circles. Whether it is safety or economy, speed is always the scapegoat!

In fact, apart from the terrible waste of enormously-Costly Motorway., the 50-limit is causing unpleasant bunching on them, now not only on the fast lane but in the overtaking lane also, bunching which even at this modest speed could produce nasty results in fog. Nevertheless, it was most commendable to note how law-abiding (or fuel-price conscious?) all drivers seem to be. Observing during our Christmas travels, about the only vehicles to overtake us on the M4 were big commercials and we even saw a Maserati Bora being passed by a long-distance motor-coach. What troubles us among so many prevailing anxieties is not so much whether the 50-limit is justified in the present State-of-Emergency, as whether it will ever be repealed? The longer it is imposed, the more reluctant will be Authority, in the persons of those who are appalled that the motor-car was ever allowed to slip past the horse onto our roads, to rescind it. We must fight for its removal as soon as petrol flows at all freely again, as we must fight for our motoring sport this year.

The longer everyone crawls around at low speeds, the more dangerous will motoring become when we try to go somewhat faster—but don’t tell that to the, anti-rnotor-,car lobby!

The future of rallying

In times of crisis and strife we are said to be a nation of stalwarts capable of putting up incredible displays of resilience, both defensive and offensive, against alarming odds. When our petrol supplies were threatened with the dosing of the tap, it was not out of national character that thoughts turned away from personal interests and towards the national one. Various forms of sport accepted curbs in order to reduce energy consumption and it was not unnatural that sports using motor cars should be among them. But the haste with which the RAC announced its total ban on rallying bordered the dictatorial and gave the completely false impression to the public that rallyists had to be forcibly prevented front continuing their sport. Nothing could be further front the truth, for no rally enthusiast would argue against the wisdom of calling a temporary halt to the sport, but the announcement could at least have been made in a manner which did not tend to paint rallying a faintly disreputable colour.

To say publicly on television, as Dean Delamont did, that the whole question of rallies was under review anyway was tantamount to welcoming the opportunity to bring it all to a (temporary) halt and was not at all in keeping with the RAC’s position as the accredited national voice of thousands of motor sportsmen.

When the RAC announced its ban on rallies it was not made clear whether it was its own decision or whether it came from the Department of the Environment. The RAC administers, and issues permits for, all forms of motoring sport, but in the case of rallies it also acts as the agent of the Government to process all applications for authorisation under the provisions of the Motor Vehicles (Competitions and Trials) Regulations. Which hat was the RAC wearing when the ban was announced, its own or the Minister’s? The vagueness and the hint of secrecy are in keeping with an air of mystery which has always shrouded the inner sanctums of Belgrave Square, and it is high time the whole administration of our sport should be brought firmly and squarely into the democratic open.

To cap it all, within a short time of the stoppage the RAC published what is called a “consultative document” on rallying. It contained proposals for the future of the sport, in particular those events which do not rely on private road special stages for the bulk of their competitive content. Such “road rallies”, as they have come to be called, form the basis of all rallying in Britain; they are the forerunners of modern rallying and exist today in large numbers since they represent the cheapest and most popular form of the sport and certainly the easiest on which beginners can cut their teeth. Unfortunately they are also easy targets for those with complaints to hurl and it is towards this type of event that most criticism, justified and unjustified, has been directed.

It was not surprising, in view of the defeatism emanating from Belgrave Square, that all manner of restrictions were proposed for rallies which used public roads, but completely disheartening to realise that the representatives of the sport’s participants were taking such a negative attitude. Rallying enjoys immense popularity and to see sackcloth and ashes in a document published by those who ought to be leading the fight for its complete preservation must have been totally demoralising for all Britain’s rallying people.

Confidence in the RAC, notwithstanding the respectability oozing from its Gentlemen’s Club status, as a competent and representative governing body for British motoring sport has been diminishing for some time and the recent happenings have accelerated that drop. Indeed, there is presently a movement to oust it from its position and to seek the support of British competition licence holders so that the CSI may be asked to recognise a completely new body as Britain’s national club, or at least the existing one with its ties to the parent RAC completely severed.

An important factor in the success of any such new development would be the degree of democracy adopted by the new regime. The present RAC Competitions Committee is appointed, not elected, so’ that there is no real representation of the people in the current administration. A change of system in that respect would be taken by motor sportsmen as a sign that a new body is prepared to acknowledge its prime raisons d’etre, to represent the participants and followers of the sport, to govern and administer fairly and openly and to stand up and fight when the need arises instead of backing down in the face of what might be called political pressure.–G.P.

The Peugeot 404 Diesel saloon

Last month MOTOR SPORT had a good deal to say about diesel-engined private cars and cited the Mercedes-Benz 220D and new 240D as being available on the British market. Peugeot remind us that their 404 saloon is available with the XD88 diesel engine. This is a 1,948 c.c. 88 x 80 mm. four-cylinder power unit developing 57 DIN b.h.p. at 4,500 r.p.m. It has a Bosch injection pump. A fuel consumption of 34 m.p.g. is claimed, with a top speed of 81 m.p.h. and this manual-transmission diesel-powered Peugeot sells for £1,850.65, inclusive of purchase-tax and VAT.


The present panic over fuel shortage or, more accurately, the panic about stretching the personal petrol allocation as far as possible, has resulted in a flood of advice and odd ideas, such as making fuel from pig-manure, etc. Tonic Accessories International Ltd. of 35, Wates Way, Mitcham, Surrey, are offering an electronic gadget called a “Startomatic” which was originally developed as an anti-pollution measure but which is now suggested as a fuel-saver. It enables the engine to be stopped by button and re-started with the merest feathering of the accelerator pedal, which is claimed to be less laborious and fuel-consuming than switching-off and switching-on with the ignition-key. The idea is that this will encourage stopping the engine during traffic halts. Tonic say that tests with a Wankel-engined car in weekday Central London traffic showed a petrol consumption improvement of some 50%, the car giving better than 19 m.p.g, whereas under these conditions it normally returns about 12½ m.p.g. The device costs £24.50 plus VAT, however, and would take some 1 hours to fit.

This “Startomatic” seems to be less gremlin-orientated than the pre-war Lucas “Startix”, which obligingly re-started a stalled engine without the driver’s intervention. It was intended to make nervous drivers less so, should they inadvertently stop the motive power in traffic. But, if the ignition was left on, it could exhaust the battery of the luckless car-owner who had left his or her car locked up in a car-park and gone away, allowing the obliging “Startix” to get the engine to run intermittently, until he or she returned, the hot manifolding causing stalling after a few moments’ running, which the “Startix” would be quick to rectify! Until the battery quickly ran down . . . I also remember an embarrassing time with a pre-war 2½-litre Opel cabriolet which had developed a clutch that refused to free, while it was on road-test. Normally it would have been not too difficult to drive the car home on the ignition switch but on this occasion the “Startix” intervened all too frequently (separate starter-button in those days) which made matters somewhat fraught. Indeed, an Opel salesman, irate at the manner in which I had quickly parked the over-eager Opel as soon as I had got it off the road, ran it into a wall when “showing me how to park it properly”.

This “Startix” device was nevertheless quite frequently encountered in the mid-1930s, on Morris, Standard, Wolseley, Franklin, Hudson, Willys and other cars. Does anyone recall it and are any still in use on restored cars ?—W.B.

Getting it right

This time it is the Assistant Editor’s turn to be embarrassed by the mis-setting of original copy and ignoring of editorial corrections on proof pages by the printers. When writing for the last issue both C.R. and his typewriter were well aware that Jaguar manufactured a 3.8S-engined XK 150 roadster but did not make a “3.85-engined roadster”, nor did Bill Lyons liner down a 1½-litre SS to 1-litre nor a 3½-litre Mk. IV Javar to 3-litre. Nor do BMW market a CLS. The caption to one of the Aston Martin DBS V8 photographs should have credited the 5.3-litre engine with a consumption of 10 to 15 m.p.g., not 10 m.p.g. (nor 10 m.p.h. which the typesetters set originally!), for the lower figure is applicable only under continuous traffic use or high-speed auto-route work.

Ford-Cosworth 3.4 V6

While motor sporting pessimists were spreading round gloom and despondency, Ford provided a morale-booster for wilting motoring journalists by holding their annual competitions plans announcement meeting during the first week of January. Stuart Turner was in fine form in the chair, the worries of his dual role as Director of Motor Sports, Ford Europe and “Commander-in-Chief” of Ford Advanced Vehicle Operations having done nothing to blunt his sharp and droll wit.

Instead of worrying about the present, Ford are looking forward to the future a few months hence when the energy crisis should have abated. Accordingly they have formulated a full programme of activities, of which the piece of ironmongery displayed at the front of the meeting gave a fine foretaste. A four-overhead-camshaft, 24-valve version of the Ford 60-degree V6 “Essex” Capri/Granada engine producing well over 400 b.h.p. is the latest result of that longstanding Ford/Cosworth relationship and when installed in Michael Kranefuss’ Cologne-built works Capris is intended to win back the European Touring Car Championship from BMW.

To be accurate, Ford should claim that the new engine’s block comes from the Capri RS 3100, this standard-stroke, larger-capacity model putting the Capri into the over 3-litre class for Group 2 and allowing further overboring, to a total of 3,412.5 c.c. As dictated by the regulations it retains the same stroke of 72.42 mm. as the production 3.1-litre and 2,994 c.c. engines, but the bore is increased from the latter’s 93.66 mm. to 100 mm. Aluminium cylinder heads, identical bank to bank, carry one inlet and one exhaust camshaft per bank, driven by one belt per bank from the crankshaft. Each pent-roof combustion chamber houses two inlet valves (each 1.450 in. diameter) and two exhaust valves (each 1.25 in. diameter) and a single central position spark-plug, although the head is designed to accept three plugs per Cylinder, in conjunction with Lucas Rita transistorised crankshaft-triggered ignition, and a distributor driven by the innermost (inlet) camshaft of the right-hand hank.

The cylinder heads have two separate cam carriers, again one casting to suit both hanks, and have normal bucket tappets of sufficient diameter to fit down over the Terrys double valve-springs, saving over an inch on overall height of the cylinder head assembly. Oil drainage of the heads on this dry-sumped engine is external, via pipes which go direct into the twin pick-up chambers of the twinrotor scavenge pump, driven by a crankshaft belt at half engine speed, as is the single rotor rotor Hoburn Eaton oil pressure pump. The steel, cross-drilled crankshaft uses steel caps for its four main bearings, line bored 0.015 in. oversize and Vandervell bearings are fitted.

Full skirt, flat-top forged aluminium Pistons have two compression rings and one oil control ring, 1 in. diameter, fully-floating gudgeon pins with circlip retention and connecting rods are shot-peened forged steel. The exhaust system has two banks of three primary pipes feeding into one tail-pipe each bank. The Lucas fuel-injection system has butterfly rather than slide throttles, and Curved, cross-over inlet trumpets to lower the engine and is fed by a Lucas high-pressure petrol pump driving in tandem with the oil pressure pump. The metering pump is located in the vee, driven by yet another Uniroyal toothed belt from the right-hand bank inlet camshaft.

Cosworth’s chief designer Mike Hall has been largely responsible for the new engine, though the cylinder head designs bear Keith Duckworth’s hallmark, similar to Cosworth-Ford EVA, BDA and DIN units. It weighs 385 lb. compared with 349 lb. for the DIN, develops its 400 plus b.h.p. at 8,500 nom. compared withthe 1-WV’s 460 b.h.p. at 10,000 r.p.m., produces at least 280 lb. ft. torque at 7,000 r.p.m., runs on a 12 to 1 compression ratio, and was first tested on the dynamometer last July. One hundred such engines will be laid down and those which aren’t kept for the works will be sold for less than £3,000 each, complete but unassembled, a remarkably low price because development costs are spread over 100 units. Turner is excited about the engine, which he believes will prove competitive in F5000 if mounted in a good F2 chassis, and looking to the future, feels a new single-seater formula might be created around it.

Kranefuss has assembled a strong team for the Capris in which the engine is initially intended: current European Touring Car Champion Driver Toine Hezemans has been seduced from BMW, Jochen Mass (1972 Champion) and Dieter Glemser (1971 Champion) remain from last season,and Niki Lauda joins the team, having driven for BMW-Alpine last season. A further two big names are expected later. However, with the very real threat of a works BMW withdrawal from the ETC, their only opposition will be from privately owned CSLs.—C.R.