The Editor looks back on the cars he drove during 1973
Ideal Pair.—A year ago Motor Sport teas in the thick of its popular discussion about ideal pairs of cars, in which our readers avidly joined. The Editor lair year found himself making effective and satisfactory use of this “ideal pair”— Ford Consul 3000 GT and BMW 520i.
Last year was not quite so prolific from the driving-variety angle as some previous ones, and the road-test programme was affected towards the end of it by the dismal stop-go-stop fuel situation. However, I was not unduly distressed, because there was a good deal of interest and fun and I was able to console myself with the thought that, although I have not yet faced the onorous task of trying to tot them up, I suppose that in my time I must have driven more than one thousand different cars.
Road-testing for a motoring journal is still a very happy assignment, even in these days of congested roads, a narrowing band of completely different makes of cars, and, in this country, the overall 70 m.p.h. speed-limit. One thing we do have and that is a very high degree of reliability from the cars we put through their paces. This was not always the case. For instance, what of the 12/30. six-cylinder Talbot with which The Autocar elected to take a quick trip from Boulogne to Monte Carlo and back in the winter of 1922/23? Apart from a flaw in the axle casing, whatever that meant, which delayed the start, during the journey the pipe to the oil gauge broke, a windscreen pillar broke so that the entire windscreen came adrift, water leaked from the pump gland, the brakes required adjusting twice, and before the run was completed the drive to the back axle ceased and the car had to be abandoned in France—yet it was still described as “an exceedingly good little car” and it received “the full measure of praise it unquestionably deserves”!
Then there was the Brescia Bugatti which The Light Car & Cyclecar optimistically took on test to North Wales in a snowstorm in 1925. This £500 light car broke its brake pedal spring before Worcester, so that much of the lining of the transmission brake wore away, the foot brake was next to useless, all the plugs had to be changed, the petrol filter needed cleaning twice, and all the tyres gave trouble, resort being made to fresh tubes and blow-out patches, in the course of this 700-mile run. Yet the Bugatti was described as “a splendid touring car for the enthusiast”. If Press road-test reports are now far more detailed and revealing, the cars we report on have also indubitably improved!
Consulting my Dunlop diary, I see that at the beginning of the year I was driving a Mercedes-Benz 280E which I had road-tested in 1972. It had the twin-cam engine but was not one of’ the newly-announced S-series cars. The first test of 1973 was with a Mazda RX-3 coupe, although before this happened I had been up to Longbridge in the BMW 2500, for a rather disappointing preview of the then hush-hush ADO 67, or Allegro, after which I got almost irretrievably lost in Birmingham, trying to tie-up some ancient Calthorpe history. On other occasions I had looked in at the Model Engineer Exhibition and gone to Coventry to converse with old Alvis employees, in the comfort and quickness of what I termed my “small-six from Munich”.
The Mazda was used, among other chores, to cover the VSCC Measham It proved to be interesting mainly on account of its provision of a Wankel rotary power unit at a highly competitive price but was otherwise thirsty for two-star fuel, noisy, lacked lowspeed torque (not to be confused with smoothrunning), and had a choppy, lurchy ride. The performance was good for a car of a nominal 1,964 c.c., especially if you “drove on the rev.-counter”, the twin-rotor engine running up easily to some 8,000 r p.m. But the hard leaf-spring rear suspension was unfortunate, as was the poor rearward vision, made worse because the demisting could only be obtained by having the heater-fan on a noisy setting. I admit that a Wankel-engined car costing only £1,635 was not to be despised but the items criticised marred this Japanese offering, especially as I had been so impressed with their sporting 110S six years earlier. The test report had a sequel, when I was lunched at Rotor House, Oxted, and had to answer to the Mazda top-brass, including a Japanese representative, for my remark that the sporting Mazda had spent the last few years going backwards while other makes had advanced. This was less of an ordeal than finding the rendezvous, as I was mistakenly looking for a building of circular construction. . . . . I escaped eventually, re-joined my wife, and drove the long distance back to Wales in the comfortable luxury of a Ford Consul 3000GT, its sun-roof much appreciated on this blazing Spring day.
Next on the agenda was an Austin Maxi Highline. This improved-performance British Leyland product was very acceptable, especially as I had used a Special Performance version during some of the previous Motor Show period and had liked it so much I was reluctant to exchange h for the then-new Morris Marina. The oddly-named Highline promised something of the same performance as the tuned version, BL having endowed it with the long-stroke overhead-camshaft 1,750 engine in high-compression, twin-carburetter form. Actually, the urge was not as good as I had hoped and the car generally seemed noisy and old-fashioned. But its well-contrived five-door body was extremely useful and when snow fell the safe-handling of this Issigonisconcept, front-drive car was greatly appreciated. This likeable Maxi incorporated some improvements long overdue on the bigger front-drive BL models, but it was a thought disconcerting to discover that it was practically as fast in fourth as in fifth gear, although 85 m.p.h. in third speed was not to be sneezed at. I took this hottest of the standard Maxis to have a look at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu and attend one of the Advisory Committee Meetings which Lord Montagu holds there. It was just as well, for many months afterwards I had a visit from the local Police, who wanted to know whether I had ignored a “ticket” on the windscreen of the BMW which had been parked for a whole two minutes outside the MOTOR SPORT office building (the postal reference of which they rendered incorrectly), where there were single yellow lines. This had taken plate so long ago that I was no longer using that type of BMW, and, anyway, on the day in question I had been lunching at Beaulieu, arriving in the aforesaid Maxi. I told the polite young policeman that if he still thought I was the criminal it might prove rather expensive to subpoena Lord Montagu and Graham Hill, whom I had sat next to at lunch, as witnesses for the Defence! I think he thought I was joking, but I have heard no more of the matter.
After a visit to Gower Peninsular to stay with the well-known pre-war Bugatti racing driver Lindsay Eccles, for the purpose of looking at the excellent Penrice hill-climb course (where I still want to see a VSCC meeting held), and attendance at the opening of Tom Wheatcroft’s equally excellent Donington Racing Car Museum (to which I was happy to wear my 1937 Press Admission Badge), in the BMW, the next road-test car arrived, in the form of the long-awaited Jaguar XJ12 saloon. I had spent half a summer day in this splendid motor car and was now to have it over the Easter holidays.
First, of course, this absolutely splendid British car had to be demonstrated to all those present, in spite of the congestion along the roads to the coast which afflicts even Radnorshire at peak holiday periods. I then seriously assessed this vee-twelve luxury car which can be bought for such a modest price, waitinglists apart. I decided that the steering was too finger-light for my taste, so that on difficult fast corners I was not quite sure who had more control, the driver or the Jaguar. There were a few minor irritations too, outlined in the road-test report. Otherwise, what a superb car this latest Jaguar is, so effortless, so supremely accelerath)e, so very quick if fullyextended. My worries concerned the chances of being lured into loss of driving licence on British Motorways by its ready speed, the spoilation of Continental average speeds on account of the frequent stops which would be required for re-fuelling, and the feeling of insecurity along winding English roads due to the aforesaid very insensitive power steering. Otherwise, this was the top-car tested last year and, as I remarked at the time, the luxury provided, the prestige of the vee-twelve, transistorised-ignition (Lucas Opus) 5.4-litre engine, and the quite unique value-for-money combine to put the XJ12 among the top cars, anywhere in the World. I still think that if the Silver Shadow did not have such an impeccable self-levelling ride, the Jaguar would cause much consternation in Crewe. As it is, I would very much like a coupe XJ12, except that the single-figure fuel consumption to be expected if it is driven at all quickly is at the moment rather chilling. . . . . And to drive it habitually at 50 m.p.h. absurd!
A rather different car came up for test next, in the form of the Datsun Cherry. This little 988 c.c. Japanese front-wheel-drive saloon proved a fast and generally attractive car, although noisy, both from the point of view of buzz from the transverse engine and gear whine, from which latter the Mazda RX-3’s occupants also suffered. The Datsun 100A’s economy factor was especially commendable and I found it no hardship to use it for my rather interesting cross-country route from home to Silverstone, returning the same day, although the insensitivity of the heater was rather a bore. Willing to sample another small car, I was then let loose in a Renault 5TL, which, although it did not match the Datsun Cherry’s notable fuel economy, was a very comfortable, sure-footed, and thoroughly useful vehicle, the two-door body having a rear gate so that it is really a mini-estate-car. The steering, and the road-clinging on the Michelin tyres; met with my approval, the facia gearchange (like that of a Renault 4 or Citroën 2cv) was simplicity itself, and this well-contrived small car from Europe’s largest importer, which I tried in 956 c.c. form, seemed an excellent proposition, particularly as a ladies’ car or a second-car for a family.
I returned the Renault to the well-located Acton depot and there awaiting me was a BMW 520i, replacement for the well-liked 2500 of this illustrious make I had used until then as a personal car. I wrote about how well this smaller BMW and a Ford Consul 3000GT served me for the remainder of 1973, in last month’s MOTOR SPORT, so there is little to add here, except to say that although of differing characteristics, both cars are most acceptable for local or long-distance work, the Ford because of its torque low down from the well-proven V6 engine, the BMW on account of outstanding controllability. Both cars proved almost 100% mechanically reliable and just recently, not having used the BMW for a week to conserve petrol (which it conserves pretty well of its own violation), I had confirmation of the excellent cold-starting properties of the fuel-injection o.h.c. engine. Since the aforesaid article was written the BMW has joined the Ford in blowing a fuse, thus temporarily losing flashers and horn, but this demonstrated the extreme accessibility of the under-bonnet fuse box, complete with a spare fuse.
In due time the new BL wonder-car, alias Allegro, arrived for appraisal. Having done a great deal of driving in transverse-engined Issigonis-type BMC small cars, I have a considerable respect for them, and I found the Austin Allegro 1750SS a generally accepable package, able to give points to much-boosted Continental cars on a number of important aspects. On the other hand, I was dismayed to experience some cornering float, a baulky five-speed gearbox, an engine noisy until the fifth speed had been engaged, and some body shake. The sickly colour of the upholstery on the test-car also put me off. As for the Quartic steering-wheel, this, and a fluctuating fuel-gauge which made me wonder if I would get home, contributed to the fracas I had with a young member of the Police Constabulary who stopped me at midnight, in “mid-coast” (to save fuel, on a personal not National basis at the time) at the only roundabout on the A44 for many miles and refused me permission to park somewhere safer while I answered his questions. When I refused to tell him my age, which has nothing to do with driving a car unless you are under 17, he flung the book at me. A driving licence was easy to produce, but you try asking a Welsh police station to please telephone their counterpart in Longbridge to ascertain that the Allegro was, in fact, insured for me to drive!
Which is what I had to face the next day. . . . They would have been within their rights to refuse, although this centralising of Cover Notes by British Leyland is a sensible one, under the circumstances of the widespread use Press cars get. (Ford use the same system.) I am pleased to report that although I was unable to show them the piece of paper demanded, they were very co-operative and all eventually passed off without further acrimony.
I had heard such glowing accounts of the Audi-NSU 80GL saloon that I was eager to try one. After a frustrating drive from Wales to Luton, I was able to do just this, and was soon on the Ml, bound for the office. Later I had experience of the small Audi on normal roads. It is remembered as a nicely finished car, pleasing to be in, with its fitted carpets, generous door and window areas, very responsive 1½-litre overhead-camshaft engine, nice gear-change, and no tricks to the frontwheel-drive. I confess I could not see the point of the “keep-straight” steering geometry in ordinary usage, which I also thought a trifle too low-geared. I did not like the confusing lamps’ switches, and I found the engine noisy. To be fair, however, while this is obviously an attractive little car, as I said at the time, I think the Austin Allegro corners better and is quieter if proper use is made of its five-speed transmission. One up for maligned Britain!
Having greatly enjoyed myself in the past with Ford Mexico and twin-cam 16-valve RS1600 cars, the Ford RS2000 two-door saloon, complete with speed stripes and the less complicated 2-litre Pinto single-overheadcamshaft 8-valve engine, just had to be sampled. Ford’s AVO section and their many convincing rally victories ensure that the more exciting products from Ford-of-Britain have had the snags well and truly ironed out of them and this was definitely so with the extremely accelerative and quick RS2000, if you overlook the rear-view mirror falling off when I was on the M4, which necessitated looking over one’s right shoulder in this left-hand-drive car in order to overtake and change-lanes safely. I thought that perhaps a larger fuel tank might have been provided but otherwise this was a car in the best sporting-Ford tradition. But a completely new conception of same, with better handling, softer suspension, and more powerful braking than the Mexico. As a fun-car it is excellent and I am sure Ford have many more future uses in mind for this adaptable single-cam power-unit.
The Triumph Stag which I tested in August came at my suggestion, as I had such a horrid time with the previous test-car three years earlier that I felt I should have another go. The British Leyland Press Office complied very promptly and I set off to revise my ideas about this uncommon and individualistic British V8. The steering, which could be called of the “power-on, power-off” kind, I found still marred the enjoyment for me. This was most disappointing, because the Stag was a very nicely-appointed car, even to electric window lifts, and this was the only serious fault I had to find with it.
Remembering some mild adventures we had had in Wales 25 years earlier when testing the latest Allard, I went over some of the same route again, in style and comfort, the Stag’s smooth multi-cylinder accelera reminiscent of tion being very acceptable andthe now-defunct Sunbeam Tiger, which also had a vee-eight engine, but made by Ford. The mild adventure was repeated when attempting to re-trace the 1948 route, because I couldn’t believe that the lane which had stopped the Allard was now a well-surfaced road with passing bays, so I took instead a wild forest gradient. This petered-out eventually, with a .fine aerial-view of the road we had turned off. My lady companion threatened to get out, although it was pouring with rain, if I tried to turn the Stag on this ledge, so I was obliged to reverse back to the ‘ard ‘igh road, to the detriment of my neck muscles—but at my age it is as well to humour the birds…. It was a sad fact that parts of the route which, when we ventured there from Hampshire in the Allard, struck us as very remote and deserted, were now so grille-to-bumper with holiday traffic that we abandoned the full objective and made hastily for the comparative freedom of Radnor. All the time I was liking the Triumph Stag more and more. Indeed, I wonder now if perhaps I was a shade too critical of the not-nice steering, in my report. If you feel you would become acclimatised on longer acquaintance with the car, the Stag is worth serious consideration, for although it is expensive, it is also not very frequently met-up-with, so retains a worthwhile individuality. I only hope that British Leyland will not find itself with too many multi-cylinder engines and decide to discontinue this easy-running 146 b.h.p. 3-litre Leyland Eight.
Another Triumph followed immediately after the Stag, in the guise of the new Triumph Dolomite Sprint. There is something rather indefinable but somehow reassuring about all the modern smaller Triumph saloons and the ingenious single-cam 16-valve head on the Sprint had greatly enhanced the performance, as well as giving the car decided individuality, which was warmly praised in these pages at the time of the Sprint’s introduction. From the moment I first let-in the clutch I liked this latest Dolomite. High speed came up most deceptively quickly, yet the 127 b.h.p. engine ran happily at the then top legal cruising speed at a mere 3,000 r.p.m. in overdrive. This no doubt contributed to a fuel consumption of nearly 30 m.p.g. The driving position was good, the cornering and handling were outstanding, the interior of the modest-sized saloon very nicely done, but Ford make a better gearbox. If I was at all disappointed with this fast version of the Dolomite, it was only because it was a far less “rorty” affair than I had anticipated, although a maximum speed of 115 m.p.h. and the ability to break the s.s. ½ -mile in 16.6 seconds prove that this observation is really a compliment to a car which possesses very high performance without betraying this by roughness or crudity. The only factors which stopped me from staying awake at nights craving a Sprint were that it, obviously, does not begin to compare with a BMW 520i and that an eminent engineer disclosed to me that he is a little doubtful as to whether the long rockers which prod the Sprint’s eight exhaust valves will stand up well in service. Certainly, if I were in the market for an entertaining and thoroughly practical smallish saloon, more refined and with a better ride than an Escort Mexico and more “umph” than an Allegro possesses, I would go straight out and order a £1,800 Dolomite Sprint—or would have done before the compulsory 50 m.p.h. speed-limit.
After this satisfactory experience with the Dolomite Sprint, I drove to Coventry in the accommodating Ford Consul to try one of the latest products of Jaguar Cars Ltd., namely, the Series-Two XJ12 Jaguar saloon, but not, alas, the very handsome new XJ12 coupe. This fine Jaguar saloon wafted me, mostly on Motorways, to Derbyshire to take another look at the Donington Museum and the progress Tom Wheatcroft had made with his Donington race-circuit, after which I spent an enthralling evening with Walter Hassan recalling the ancient days at Brooklands, where his Bentley-engined single-seaters so rapidly lapped the outer-circuit. The quiet, easy speed of the newest Jaguar was naturally very impressive and comforting. But having done my share of criticising the long row of Jaguar dashboard switches, I now felt almost guilty that they have been changed for a more ergonomic and safer arrangement. . . .
Going to the office the next day, again mostly per Motorway, in the Ford, I picked up a Honda Civic. This is the answer of the famous Japanese motorcycle company to some rather uninspiring ventures into small-car manufacture which did not altogether meet European requirements. This chunky threedoor Honda, with its light-alloy overhead camshaft five-bearing engine, had both the performance and the comprehensive equipment to make it an attractive proposition at the selling price of not much above £1,000, especially as the front-wheel-drive, transverseengine layout played no tricks and fuel consumption averaged nearly 38 m.p.g. of two-star petrol. The least-pleasant aspect of this Jap was its hard ride on the poorer roads, while, as the weather was beginning to turn chilly when I had it, the fact that the heater was defective did not please me, and I was once again all too aware that in the smaller cars you suffer a good deal of noise and discomfort.
The VW Passat LS was commented on too recently (December issue) to need embellishment, except to remark that it has much of the merit which endeared me to Volkswagen all of 20 years ago, albeit nothing Wolfsburg has done since has quite, for rne, matched the magic of the ubiquitous Beetle.
Soon after this the fuel shortage loomed. It was then that Alfred Woolf, Fiat’s British PRO, showed what an efficient (even clairvoyant) chap he is! He wrote to ask whether I would care to borrow a Fiat 126, Turin’s latest economy-car, saying that after BMWs and big Fords he thought I probably wouldn’t, but that the car was available if I felt I could stand it. Because I find nearly all cars interesting I try never to refuse an opportunity to road-test those that are offered. So I said “Yes, please” to Alfred. But I took advantage of my youngest daughter wanting to visit us, to have her deliver it from Brentford. She complained that although the speedometer could be forced to 70 m.p.h., the long run was very boring. Soon the fuel shortage reached crisis proportions, and the little rear-engined, air-cooled Fiat became the most desirable transport we had! It was written-up as recently as last month, so suffice it to say here that careful driving has produced in the region of 57 m.p.g. of three-star petrol and that, having always had a soft-spot for two-cylinder “cyclecars”, the Fiat is proving pleasingly amusing, as well as damned good economytransport, for four if needs be. Its thrift was such that I ventured in it to London and back at a time when petrol was either unobtainable or available only to “regulars” or “accountcustomers” after we had passed Oxford on the outward journey. My wife and I found that by stopping for lunch the 180-mile run was made quite tolerable, and in fact did not take all that much longer than when thrashing along in far faster cars. It was not too tedious, for reasons already given in my road-test report, and the Fiat has proved to be entirely snag-free, apart from a tendency to run on one “pot” for a few miles when being used after having spent a night exposed to rainy humidity—its cold-weather starting is impeccable. I used it for some 1,800 miles in the first seven weeks, and still loved it dearly. A Mini 850 might get within 10 m.p.g. of its fuel consumption and would be more roomy (Issigonis genius) but it costs £738 against the £715 asked for the Italian baby which is immune to boiling over or freezing-up, as VW once used to claim for the Beetle. Anyway, unless you have already ordered, I do not suppose you will now be able to obtain either of these ration-era cars. . . But it would be worth trying!
The onset of fuel scarcity prevented me from trying the Alfasud, which I should have shared with a colleague earlier, had not the test-car suffered a petrol-boiling malady. I consoled myself with the thought that it is the Alfetta I really want to try, even though my Assistant regards the Alfasud Ti as the World’s best small car. The new Vauxhalls also somehow evaded me, but I did have a look at the Vauxhall test track at the time of their introduction. I think that I should have been offered an S-series Mercedes-Benz over Christmas, had not the restrictions on fuel and speed made this more of a liability than a treat. However, at a time when Derv. was in even shorter supply than petrol in the London area, Erik Johnson of Mercedes-Benz (GB) Ltd. very generously made available to me a 2.4-litre Mercedes-Benz 240D, because he knew that I had become intrigued with the idea of a compression-ignition revival.
This most-recent of diesel-engined Mercedes-Benz was an impressive car. It had all the dignity, space, high-grade engineering and convenient controls expected of the Stuttgart breed, but was comrnendabty sparing of its heavy-oil fuel. I was told it will give some 40 m.p.g. of the stuff, which is not to be sneezed at, even if Derv. went up by 1 p a gallon the day after I had returned this fine yellow Mercedes to Brentford. It was started by using a heater-control and needed about 75 sec. before it would fire from stone-cold. It then conveyed that it was an oiler only when pulling from low speeds, nor was there a trace of “diesel odour” or smoke. Once it was opened up it was very reasonably smooth, nor did acceleration seem to have suffered unduly in comparison with its petrol-burning, polluting brethren (Mercedes claim 0-60 m.p.h. in 24.6 sec.). The speedometer was marked with maxima of 23,38 and 60 m.p.h. in the indirect gears, which are changed by a nicely-functioning floor gear-lever having a man-sized, nicely-shaped knob. Within the car all was convenience. Without, the three-pointed star rode majesti cally, but lower than formerly, on the front of the bonnet. Even the exterior mirror was easily adjustable without having to open the driver’s window, the parking lamps were easily selected using the neat lighting-switch, reverse gear was available simply by lifting the gear-lever before selecting it, and the r.h. stalk carried the two-speed wipers/washers controls, and so on. All of which endorsed for me the fact that whether in diesel or petrol-engined form, a Mercedes-Benz is one of the World’s best-engineered automobiles; as a final reminder of this, as I locked the driver’s door all the others locked by themselves, another Mercedes refinement, although the 240D did not have electric window-lifts. With many taxi-cabs off the road through lack of Derv. I felt somewhat conspicuous in this fine diesel-powered carriage, so I returned it after some 70 miles, without having taken it out of London. I have no reason to doubt that on open roads it would have been nearly as smooth-functioning as many modern petrol cars up to its top speed of 85 m.p.h., for a far better return in terms of longevity and low running-costs.
That concluded a satisfactory, if not wildly exciting, year’s motoring, one in which there were no accidents, no breakdowns, and no serious clashes with authority while driving cars of from 594 to 5,343 c.c. (apart from having to pay a £2 parking-fine, my first-ever, after a friend had persuaded me to leave the Austin Maxi on a double-yellow in a Mews approachroad in Kensington which one would have thought exempt). I see that of these 1973 road-test cars, eight were on Dunlop, four on Michelin, two on Bridgestone and one each were on Avon, Continental, Pirelli and With tyres—alas, the Fort’s popularity did not prevent Dunlop shares from dropping to 43p as these words were being written!
Apart from reporting on the cars of the 1970s, I did not altogether neglect the older ones. The generosity of Robbie Hewitt enabled me to put-back-the-clock when drove her sedate but fascinating 1928 Amilcar to Thruxton in February. There I contrived to make s.t.d. in the VSCC driving-tests, mercifully without further blotting my copybook by hitting the markers or otherwise making mistakes with this immaculate little French sports car. Returning to London was even more satisfactory, because it involved motoring there from Hampshire in the same owner’s 4½-litre Lagonda TT team-car, any doubts I might have had about being able to swop its gears being dispelled because it has an all-synchro mesh Alvis gearbox, but a record number of Policemen seeming to watch our progress as my wife and I set out on this stimulating Sunday morning drive.
I was also allowed to go from the drivingtest ventie in Adrian Liddell’s magnificent 37.2 h.p. Hispano-Suiza which he had been using as a convenient and well-stocked retreat from the cold, and thus discovered that to change gear properly on the threespeed Hispano box calls for the rapid movements one associates with a Bugatti’s fourspeed gearbox. A few days afterwards I was allowed to take the wheel of a rather different car, Keith Hill’s AJS two-seater, and some weeks later I went to a Humber Register Rally in a one-owner, somewhat-modified 1927 9/20 Humber two-seater, driving this effective vintage light-car that evening the 150 miles front Dunstable to Radnor. This encouraged me to put my own 1924 12/20 Calthorpe on the road, but, although it had been somewhat tidied-up and was on brandnew 4.50 x 19 Dunlops, with a very fine Motorways Remould spare, it was not used for long, gearbox trouble developing, although this was subsequently found to be nothing worse than a loose taper-pin in the selector mechanism.
More memorable was the long day’s motoring to commemorate Jenatzy’s Mercedes victory 70 years previously in the Irish Gordon Bennett race, in Roger Collings’ very willing and practical 1903 Sixty Mercedes. Equally enjoyable was driving Russ-Turner’s exBirkin blower-4½ Bentley single-seater. Then there was the 1926 Model-T Ford I co-drove on the Daventry Model-T Rally, a 1919 solid tyred Thornycroft van in which I was driven on the Clun Carnival, and, as recorded elsewhere in this issue, a memorable ride “on the step” of Bill Lake’s 1902 Paris-Vienna Mors. I also attended the Bishops Castle traction engine rally and the opening of the Syon Park Museum and saw “Babs” run again for the first time for 46 years. So what with attending various VCC and VSCC meetings, marshalling at some of them, playing with Sandy Skinner’s Austin 7 special, sampling again briefly a Rover 100, and a 1952 Ford Prefect which is in daily use locally, there was some variety in a rather mediocre year. I also tried something even handier than the Fiat 126, with one fewer wheel, but only inside a factory, for this astonishing device, which seemed to me crude even by 1920 cyclecar standards, has not so far got itself off its sponsor’s secret-list.
So that was 1973, that was. As to the future, it looks as if, for some time at least, we shall be a lot of crawlers in a country of little cars. Even so, I cannot believe that the amusing and interestirig moments will entirely fail to emerge.—W.B.