Letters from Readers, February 1975

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

Napier versus Rolls-Royce


I should like to comment on the letter from G.P. La T. Shea-Simonds. In particular re his Miserable comments on the Napier Sabre engine. The Sabre was undeniably the most powerful piston engine in ‘service at the end Of World War IL It did have problems in its early Service career, but it must be borne in mind that Napiers did not have the time or the enormous Government support that Rolls-Royce enjoyed whilst struggling from the early thirties to make the Merlin work.

Rolls-Royce efforts to produce an engine to equal the Sabre were abysmal failures, as anyone who survived the Vulture (Under-) powered Avro Manchester would surely endorse. The later Eagle, a close copy of the Sabre hut ten-litres larger in capacity, produced less power than the Sabre and was abandoned after test-flights in the Westland Wyvern. The Sabre, in the Typhoon and the Tempest, did sterling service in Normandy in 1944 and played a significant part in the Allied liberation of Europe.

Mr. G. P. La T. Shea-Simonds states that he is unfamiliar with L. J, K. Setright’s Superb book on aero engines, “The Power to Fly”. I would respectfully recommend him to read it, for Mr. Setright seems to have discovered as much as is now known about this fine engine which is decried because it is not understood. Rolls-Royce have not exactly gone Out of their way to publicise the Sabre since they killed off Napier, as they did Bristol, Bentley and finally themselves, by their customary underdesign and over development.

Furneux Pelham J, L. WEATHERITT

Another Fiat 124 enthusiast


Thank you Mr. Sheppy for your remarks regarding the Fiat 124 Sport.

Some six months ago I was under pressure to part with my MG-B and as I won’t see sixty again it had to be replaced by a car which would appeal to my wife and for my Part to retain a sporting image. So with some misgivings I acquired a 1972 Fiat 124 coupe and up to now never regretted it. All Mr. Sheppy claims it does and its stylish appearance is refreshing today when most 1,600 c.c. cars all look alike.

Erdington C. D. WADE

An Open Letter About MG Styling


In a letter in this column of last January, I speculated as to what further indignities British Leyland could impose on the Midget. Now we know, and one wonders whether it is all -a had dream. What sort of market research does the company carry out among MG owners before embarking on these hideous alterations? And what’s happened to those once familiar advertisements? Is “Your mother wouldn’t like it” to be changed to “Your mother (or anybody else for that matter) wouldn’t be seen dead in it”?

It is common knowledge that Lord Stokes is most unenthusiastic about the sports car side of his company. He probably considers that the factory space could he more profitably used for turning out his highly unimaginative and unattractive saloons. All right, fair enough. Let him dispose of MG altogether to somebody who would show more willing an interest in it, and run a new independent small company on the lines of, say, Morgan. There would be plenty Of potential customers, and surely this would be better than turning MG into a music-hall joke. So Lord Stokes, how about it?

Cheshire. JOHN F. L. WOOD

[It is not altogether true that Lord Stokes is anti-sports-cars but we know what our correspondent means—ED.!

A Russian Hybrid


I enclose a photo which may be of interest to you and MOTOR SPORT readers. The picture shows a 1936 Lancia extensively modified by its owner, who is with the car. He has fitted a three-cylinder, two-stroke Wartburg engine and gearbox, and wheels and rear axle of unknown Russian origin.

The owner is a tractor-driver on one of the huge co-operative farms (this one was over 200,000 acres!) in Bulgaria, where I took the picture last October. The car is in quite good condition, and seems to have a remarkable “cross-country” ability, because the driver took it to wherever he was working, when the only other vehicles on the land were tractors or the Russian-built “jeeps”.

Midhurst A. G. HODGEKISS

Suppress Big Nanny!


It is the contention of some people that the individual does not have the right to place himself at risk whilst driving, by choosing not to wear his seat-belt. They argue that the resultant burden on the Health Service, loss of productivity, and anguish caused to relatives in the case of an accident is unacceptable to society.

If this principle is accepted, then it is indeed the thin end of a very large wedge.

Each year, in pursuit of their leisure, a few yachtsmen are drowned and amateur racing drivers killed or injured. The same applies in rock climbing, private flying and many other sports. The application of the principle would surely result in the outlawing of all such activities, particularly as the acceptable degree of risk would bound to be lower for non-essential leisure pursuits than, for example, driving, much of which is done in pursuit of productive business.

History is full of the results of well meaning, but short-sighted people failing to appreciate the broader implications of their actions.

Basingstoke A. W. JONES

In Favour of Lancia


I have been looking through a MOTOR SPORT, dated March 1964, which I found particularly interesting on account of its potted history of Lancia.

Immediately after the last war, the big one, I mean, 1939-1945, I had a craving to own a Lancia Aprilia. The reason seems now to have been due to the fact that Lancia and Aprilia were such pretty names. However, an attack of poverty, thought then to be acute, but now accepted as chronic, necessitated acceptance of a 1937 Singer Bantam as the mode de transport.

Since then, my taste in motor cars has been satisfied through ownership of some thirty-five cars, including a 1933 Humber Sedanca de Ville, R-type Bentley, some Rileys, an MG, several Austins, and, more recently, art E-type Jaguar.

I thought, when having the Jaguar, that this would be difficult to follow, unless through a second mortgage I might acquire a Porsche or Daytona. I was surprised therefore to find myself selling the E-type and buying a Lancia Fulvia 1.3 sedan. The two cars were so very different as to make direct comparison impossible. On its own merits, however, the Fulvia was an excellent car, giving a standard of driving potential far ahead of that suggested by its outward appearance.

The sedan has now been replaced by a 1.35 Zagato coupé. Here indeed is a car worthy of praise. You, Sir, will undoubtedly be aware of the endearing qualities of these little cars, Using the gearbox to the full, and keeping the revs above 3,500 can produce truly astonishing averages. In asking to be driven hard, the car responds by providing a standard of stability and roadholding equalled by few, and bettered by even fewer. The petrol consumption figures are amazing, and are undoubtedly due to a good shape: wind noise is the lowest I have ever experienced.

To sum up, it has taken me a long time to get my Lancia, and the problem of what to get next is indeed a real one. Perhaps the lords and masters at Fiat can be persuaded not to indulge in badge engineering. The Lancia tradition is well worth preserving, and will always find devoted followers, not the least of whom will be,

Kenilworth H. BIGGS