Matters of moment, February 1975

Britain’s go-slow

Since the change of Government we have seen petrol prices rise to alarming heights in a succession of quick increases, with absolutely no concession in the form of reduced petrol-tax, and then came the added insult of reduced speed-limits and the doubling of fines for motoring offences.

Don’t be misled into thinking the Government seriously believes that having a variety of speedlimits ranging from 30, through 40, 50 and 60, to a furious 70 m.p.h. on Motorways, will save any significant amount of oil. The figure it might save is quoted by authorities as from 1% to perhaps at best 2% or 2½%, Consider the matter logically. Speed on Motorways remains the same. Speed in urban areas is unchanged. Only on the roads in between will there possibly be a small reduction in pace, and then only by about 10 m.p.h., on average. With industry using some £2,500-millions of oil a year and road users but 1/250th of this, the new speed restrictions are presumably aimed at killing pleasure motoring, destroying private industry and, if Bureaucracy has any conscience at all, at hoping to slightly reduce accidents, although statistics based on accident-per-mile-of-road usage do not endorse the validity of this.

When Mr. Varley made his go-slow pronouncement the Daily Telegraph called it “Political Conmanship”, pointing out that the Road Research Laboratory (that expensive tax-payers’ institution) had announced the fuel-saving of juggling with speed-limits to be negligible. But lower limits were imposed, nevertheless. Have no illusions why!

What will the effects be? Greater danger, because it is difficult to overtake commercial vehicles safely on ordinary roads at 50 m.p.h. Yet on dual carriageways, where this is more easily possible, an extra 10 m.p.h. is granted! Why should it be permissible, desirable, if the Government really and truly is deluded about fuel-saving, for us to use that much more petrol on dual carriageways than along country roads?

Bunching, boredom, and lack of concentration at the unrealistic new speeds, will also contribute to more accidents.

Then the rift between normally Law-abiding drivers and the over-worked and generally decent Police will widen, especially among the young, who like to enjoy their ironically hard-come-by motoring freedom and used to be able to do without necessarily breaking the Law. With speeding fines doubled, up to a maximum of £100, at a time when money is ever more difficult to save, and the totting-up system of licence-endorsement, which takes no account of annual mileage driven and little of a previous good-driving record, retained, those who intend to pay only lip-service to the “futile-50s” may soon find themselves unable to go motoring. Indeed, did not Mr. Mulley, the non-driving Minister of Transport, remark that the Home Secretary will have to consider whether more Police pay and recruiting are advisable, in order to enforce his new curbs? Yet this is the Minister who, while blandly introducing these measures, told the House of Commons that when he was a car driver he exceeded the limit from time to time without being detected and who made it plain that he regards any Member of Parliament who has at no time exceeded any speed-limit as someone quite unique? What logical thinking, from the man who has put Britain at the crawl!

Just think of the further implications. The Motor Industry is not in the healthiest of conditions. Yet how many customers are going to spend money on expensive transport like Aston Martins, XJ12 Jaguars, Lotus Elites, or £30,000 sports Rolls-Royces, if such cars can only be extended to 70 m.p,h. on dull Motorways? Perhaps the Government sees in this a way of killing those private companies which make such once-saleable products? Development of fast cars is likely to be slowed down or halted to Britain’s detriment, unless these pedestrian speed-‘limits are lifted Indeed, new-car sales of all kinds will suffer, except maybe for a time while the prudent lay in stocks of baby economy-cars: The Used-Car Trade and the Specialist Dealers in exotic machinery in particular, certainly those outside the top-price “speculative” fringe, can expect a severe set-back, because drivers with two or three endorsements on their licences through failing to observe the 30, 50, 40, 50, 30, 60, 70, 50, 30-limits will surely turn to other interests such as boating, model building, hi-fl, radio-controlled model aeroplanes, garden railways and other now easily available and much publicised pastimes. At worst, some former petrol-burners may turn to less constructive uses of leisure-time and money, for those in Authority fail dismally to see that ownership of interesting motorcycles and cars keeps otherwise idle hands and impressionable minds busy! This may seem to be stretching a point. But with bombs bursting in British cities in peacetime, one may be forgiven for thinking that the more reliable citizens the Establishment can count on in an emergency the better, and that certainly the Police, who ask that every suspicious happening be reported to them for immediate investigation, should not be occupied at the present time with speed-trapping in the forlorn hope of ensuring that naughty motor-owners save a dribble of the Nation’s fuel consumption.

Already 500 workers have been laid off by the closure of Aston Martin Ltd. Does this justify legislation against motorists, when accident reduction from lower speed-limits is unproved, much as the Big Nannies want the Health Service saved in every possible way while Barbara Castle resolutely tries to sabotage it and deny it the help private patients are willing to give it.

Under these bleak circumstances, you might expect to find the Motor Industry, the Motoring Organisations, the Motoring Press and the car-users themselves to be taking a very firm stand. Mostly you would be disappointed. Yet the fact that feelings are running high is obvious from the enormous mail we are receiving—a selection of which appears on page 159. The RAC has issued a booklet about what it is doing for you. The AA wants compulsory seat-belts but seems indifferent to the rest. Autocar says it has grown to accept the limit, “until there is greater safety and while the energy-crisis continues”! Motor (from the same publishing house.) wants us to all belt-up but is against the new speed limits. Motoring News can see absolutely no sense in the lower limits, calling them “Mimser madness” but its Editor is all in favour of seat-belts. Not a very encouraging fighting outlook, is it?

There are some 18-million driving-licence holders in this country. Remembering what a handful of irate farmers did to hold Continental transporter-lorries in a Welsh dock area last year, without bloodshed or prosecution, because they didn’t like foreign beef coming into the country, think what motorists could achieve if they were properly united. It hardly bears thinking about! Perhaps a Motorists’ Militant Movement will come into being, or a Drivers’ Union as called for by a letter-writer to Motoring News dated 2/1/75. There are enough Clubs to stoke it up, on a regional basis.

In a Law-abiding capacity, everyone who disagrees with the fresh anti-motoring legislation that came into being so soon after the Election should write at once to his or her MP, voicing objections. It would be a start.

Then MOTOR SPORT will be pleased to receive suggestions about other forms of action. We presented a 265,000-signature Petition to the MoT protesting against the 70-limit on Motorways. It was handed in by Earl Howe, supported by several leading racing drivers and the Editors of MOTOR SPORT and Motoring News. Such protests are very costly to organise and the paper they consume seems merely to improve for a time the office-heating in the Ministry buildings. Yet, although we failed to achieve our objective with that big Petition, we feel certain that the limit would have been reduced to 60 m.p.h., had it not given the then Minister of Transport furiously to think.

Now we have this confused Mr. Mulley, the non-motorist, saying he has been under pressure to bring the limit down even lower than 50 m.p.h. So maybe there is urgent need of another Petition, or some other action, to convince him of the harm this would do?

Make no mistake about it—persecution is loaded against drivers and car owners. We have Mr. Mulley defending his “fatuous-50s” on the grounds of fuel conservation one moment, trying to justify his great variety of speed-limits the next, in terms of greater safety. He is certain motoring laws can be enforced—fines have been doubled, up to a maximum of £200 for careless driving, £100 for forgetting the test-certificate—yet he is sure MPs ignore speed-limits! He didn’t know the answer, according to Hansard, when asked during the Speed-Limit Debate, whether or not a 70-limit is imposed on Motorways in Northern Ireland.

Your licence may well he short-lived if you get confused about multiple speed-limits, and why you are all right using more fuel going North than going West, for instance, or whether you have to keep to 60 On the A1 when no-one minds you burning a little more petrol on the MI. If you are stopped for exceeding a speed-limit you have no way of checking on the accuracy of the radar apparatus or the competence of the copper operating it. You will be asked who you are and where you live, which is fair enough. You will also, in our experience, be required to state your age, and your occupation. If, remembering Hitler Germany, you refuse, you will be told the Law demands this information. You may be told that this data is only asked for to safeguard others if you have given a false name and address or presented an invalid licence—as if anyone doing this wouldn’t also quote a likely age and occupation! Note, of course, that although British Justice makes great play of her citizens being innocent until they are proved guilty, as a vehicle driver this prerogative is denied you.

Before there is an overall 40 m.p.h. speed limit, petrol at £1 per gallon with increased tax as well, the “Road Fund” raised to £30 or more per annum, and a radar-trap on every straight road, regardless of traffic density, with Big Brother legally entitled to ask for even more personal information about you after trapping you, perhaps the Motor Industry, the Motor Trade and all concerned will make some protest. Unless of course they want unemployment in their sector, as their customers leave the roads for less hedged-about pursuits.

Welcome to the new Escort

A new car from Ford, or from Rolls-Royce for that matter, is an exciting occasion— when Ford of Britain took over much of the remember the advent of the Model-A in 1927 and of the New Phantom in 1925. So it was ground floor of the London Dorchester last month to show the Press their New Escort, in its 20 versions—a party to which the Editor of MOTOR SPORT drove in a British Leyland Allegro, encountering a seven m.p.h. speed-limit en route! In his introductory speech Terry Beckett, Managing Director and Chief Executive of Fords, said that his Company faced the future with confidence, hoping to produce at least 50,000 more vehicles this year than in 1974, although they did not expect the car market in Britain to exceed 1.15-million, a drop of 21½% on last year’s output. Mr. Beckett made the significant point that manufacturing costs had risen in terms of prices of materials by 63% between January 1973 and December 1974, yet Ford had increased the price of their cars by only 48%. The significant point is that this represented a loss of £46 per vehicle, which has to be multiplied by well over ½-million units, giving an under-recovery of around £25-million.

Yet Ford are optimistic about 1975 opportunities, although castigating the Government for failure to introduce tax reductions and other reliefs to Industry. They hope to increase their share of the private-car market to 26% and of the commercial vehicle market to 33.3%. Incidentally, the Ford Transit, its V6 engine used so successfully for the bigger Ford cars, is now ten years old, and a new extra-heavy-duty Ford truck, the H-series, should, Ford expect, keep them at the top of the European truck and van sales-race, which proud position they now occupy.

Mr. Beckett made the important point that if ten other British companies were to export at the same rate as Ford, we should have no balance of payments deficit (£4-billion), even after paying the enormous annual bill for oil imports. Ford sold more high-series Cortinas last year than in 1973 and the Capri almost held ground, showing that the better class car still dominates, in spite of the recession. Capris increased their share of the speciality market by 9.4%, to 62.8%. Ford do not see the mini-car segment increasing much, at least for two years, when they will have a car to meet it.

Mr. Beckett was followed by Sam Toy, Ford’s Sales Director, who spoke so competently without notes that he must be the envy of many professionals. He compared the New Escort to other makes of cars, using “knocking charts” to show where Ford scores, but about the only car he referred to in his speech was Renault’s R5, as the bigger kind of mini-car which Ford must tackle next. He said that the expert opinions of 142 leading British motoring writers had been analysed in drawing up the announcement about the New Escort’s advancement, and he named several of those who had answered Ford’s questionnaire about the old Escort. Under all headings, the New Escort had been designed to eliminate the shortcomings of the old models. C.R. of MOTOR SPORT, he said, would see his desired increased use of the 1600 engine in the new range. In terms of economy, he preferred to look at the overall picture, based on the costs of servicing and frequency thereof, as well as petrol consumption. In this respect, a chart indicated that only the Alfasud comes anywhere near the New Escort but requires more frequent servicing, although one Vauxhall model showed a minor advantage. A New Escort had been driven fast from Cologne to Paris and back, giving better than 47 m.p.g. Although Ford admit that driving conditions govern fuel thirst, they claim 38.3 touring-m.p.g. from the New Escort 1100.

Mr. Toy said that Ford will continue the rally and racing that helped to improve the earlier Escorts, as Stuart Turner had told the Press a few days earlier—indeed, a picture was used, during Mr. Toy’s able speech, of Time “Yumping for Yoy”, as Sam said, in demonstrating the championships won by Escorts last year. Finally, for a joke, the New Escort was compared to a 1912 Model-T, indicating the progress made in 63 years. After which we are pleased to refer you to details of Ford’s New Escort, elsewhere in this issue.

Obituary Dick Ceasar

As a man he was above all courteous and kind and he had a deep understanding of human nature as well as machinery; Dick always had time to listen to other people and to explain patiently to the young in simple language. He was the perfect host.

With a Cambridge degree in English and History and also medical training, Dick had many interests which included literature and classical music; he loved the Swiss mountains and he loved cats. Above all, Dick always had a great sense of fun.

Out of his fertile and creative imagination were born not only a number of ingenious “specials” but also new kinds of motoring event or competition; his enthusiasm was infectious. As a driver Dick was spirited but always smooth and safe, and he “made no exaggerations”, in fact to my knowledge he never bent or burst any motor car in all the thirty-eight years that I knew him.

As a Committee member of the old Bristol Motor Cycle and Light Car Club, Dick had a hand in organising many events, mostly in the sprint or hill-climb categories, but probably his most memorable creation was CAPA, which had no connection with the BMC and LCC. CAPA was not a club, more a secret society and the name was formed from the initials of the founders: C for Caesar, A for Aldridge, P for Price and A for Adrian Butler (a final “B” didn’t sound right). The objective was motor racing for maximum enjoyment at minimum cost. Membership was by invitation, if one was judged to have the right temperament and attitude. The original track was literally hewn out of Dick’s woodland, then comprising some 12 acres, and the early cars were variations on a theme of Austin Seven chassis—without any body work.

In later years the track was moved to Joe Fry’s estate near Lulsgatc and the cars also became slightly more ambitious. The best known is probably “Alfie CAPA”, created by Dick and subsequently owned by Tony Taylor, who still drives Alfie at Vintage Prescott meetings.

Another pre-war manifestation inspired and organised by Dick was the “Mendip Grand Prix”, which was officially a competition for timed, obligatory and specified pit work, but it also involved driving round a sporting triangular circuit on the public highway at an overall average speed. The minimum and maximum time limits for this were overtly legal—except when making up time lost at the pits.

During the Hitler war Dick turned his talents to good use in the Service Department of the Bristol Aeroplane Company and he used his own 12-mm, cine camera for making instructional films. As a member of the BAC Motorsports Club he played a leading part in’ the founding of the 500 Club (to promote racing of 500-c.c. cars), which eventually led to the International Formula Three.

The primary objective was scratch racing at reasonable cost and Dick’s first idea was for cars very like the Formula Junior. Kenneth Neve inclined more to cars with a 500-c.c. motorcycle engine, and it was characteristic of Dick that after an informal meeting between the two when Dick was won over to the idea of the motorcycle engine, he put his full weight behind the project. He was an active Committee member until the Club had reached maturity and the HQ moved to London. He also had a great deal to do with the Iota (500-c.c.) racing car and the Iota Magazine, which was then edited by Adrian Butler. The 500-c.c. Formula owed much to CAPA experience and Dick’s films of pre-war CAPA races did much to convince people that 500-c.c. racing would be worthwhile.

Many will remember Dick in connection with much larger cars, particularly as an active member of the Bentley Drivers’ Club. Out of a somewhat elephantine Big Six Bentley saloon of 6½-litre, Dick created Thor (registration YE 9409). After stripping the chassis bare, he built a light wood-framed open four-seater body on it and later modified the engine with the help of Robin Jackson.

I think it is true to say that Dick was the inspiration behind the Gordano Car Company. The board included other well-known Bristol enthusiasts, notably Joe Fry. Dick’s philosophy was that they would enjoy creating an advanced 1½-litre sports car that would give pleasure and satisfaction to the customers. At least one prototype was completed and it had excellent roadholding, due largely to Moulton rubber suspension, which was then very avant garde. Joe Fry was killed in practice for a hill-climb, in the Freikaiserwagen (built by the Frys to a Caesar design). This was a great tragedy for all concerned and it also contributed to the Gordano running into financial difficulties.

Thereafter Dick joined the Press Office of Bristol Aero Engines Limited (subsequently Bristol Siddeley), from which position he finally retired about eleven years ago. His former colleagues still remember him with great affection and respect.

Right up to the end Dick was always active but never hurried. Always gentle and charitable, he shunned limelight. Other motoring personalities may be more widely known but those who were privileged to know Dick Caesar will always remember him with gratitude.

The Exeter trial

Space restrictions and printing schedules prevent us reporting the 47th Exeter Trial of the MCC but it is excellent that this classic, which originated in 1910, is still held, to much the old formula. This year it had 268 entries, of which 169 were cars. The older Fords were popular (no pun intended), 30 cars having the 1,172 c.c. engine, and Dellow, Buckler and other specials were entered. VWs were also popular and the teams included those of the Woolbridge Pops (three Fords), the Anglo-French Rock Hoppers (a couple of Dellows and a Peugeot), the Three Mustgetbeers, which has a near-traditional ring to it, and the Three Pops (three Fords, naturally). Goodall was in a Morgan and odd-balls included a Midget/Ford, a Commer Imp, a VW/Imp, the Ford-powered Mudlark, DJC, and Oliver, and the 642-c.c. Cattley Seven R. Most of the competitors were in quite normal cars and it is splendid that these can still be used on this great occasion. If you missed the Exeter, the Land’s End, first run in 1908, takes place on 28th/29th April and details are available from the MCC, Britain’s oldest sporting motor club, whose Secretary is R. L. Archer, 8 Mill Lane, Great Dunmow, Essex, CM6 1BG.—W.B.