Letters from readers, February 1975

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

Renault 4 and Triumph TR6

Sir,

Several items in your December issue have prompted me to write to you. In “Books for Christmas” you review “Seven Years With Samantha”, and mention several trips around the world in Austin Sevens. You may be interested to hear that my wife and I drove around the world in a modern equivalent of the Austin Seven (albeit French), a Renault 4.

We set off in August 1972, drove overland to Madras, crossed Australia, and eventually arrived home via the United States and Canada, a year and many adventures later. Incidentally, while looking at some vintage American cars in a motor museum, in the little Canadian prairie town of Elkhorn, the caretaker approached, and informed me that in 1968 an Englishman called Carr, driving a 1933 Austin Seven around the world, had visited the place.

C.R.’s continuing saga of TR6 ownership put me in mind of my own very troublesome days of Triumph sports-car motoring, a complete contrast to the reliability of our faithful little Renault, which despite a variety of driving conditions, and a minimum of service, covered over 30,000 trouble-free miles, in which all it required was a new fan-belt and two new tyres. It would seem that cheap, economical cars are also those with the greatest stamina, an interesting thought in these days of inflation.

Having returned home, I wrote to a well-known weekly motor magazine, asking if they would be interested in a series of articles about our motoring marathon. I did not even receive the courtesy of a reply. Imagine my surprise, a little later on, to find the same magazine giving space to an item about a couple who set out on a “motoring marathon” from England to Morocco, an attempt which, I may add, did not even succeed in reaching Algeciras.

To conclude, I must mention that it was your Continental Correspondent’s letters which first inspired us to motor abroad, many European excursions eventually culminating in our global journey.

Epping J. M. NEARY

A dealer weighs in

Sir,

Glowing in the kind comments written by a reader, we are prompted to answer Mr. Hassall’s plea for a British car to replace his Alfa Romeo (December MOTOR SPORT).

It is with considerable feeling (and patriotically some regret) that we say to him there is no substitute for an Alfa Romeo. It is not just superb engineering at such a reasonable cost, it is the feel of the thing. An Alfa is a road-going sheep descended from a racing wolf, most cars are either the other way round or just sheep with wolves’ names.

Presumably a number of alternatives will be suggested but we doubt if. .they will convince Mr. Hassan or ourselves.

Do we sound biased? You bet we are!

JOHN HATSWELL (Director)

Motorway Sports Cars Limited

Boughton.

Unusual breakages

Sir,

I note your understandable surprise at the statement by Mr. David M. Jones that his MG-A was driven home with a broken crankshaft (Letter Dec. issue). but this is certainly quite possible.

It depends entirely on the position and angle of the fracture, and I quite clearly recall trying to diagnose at least one knock (I can’t remember the vehicle) which turned out to be just that—a crankshaft in two pieces. An even more unusual case concerned a vehicle (a truck actually) which was driven in quite normally for a routine engine overhaul. The unit was removed and stripped and the crankshaft cleaned off ready to check condition. For this purpose it was dropped on the bench and promptly fell in two pieces! I don’t know what the odds are against this happening, but they must be pretty high surely.

Bridlington A. C. SAVILE

[And there have been engines found to have one or more wooden pistons when dismantled!—ED.]

LSR Horsepower

From Air Commodore F. R. Banks

Sir,

With reference to the letter from Mr. G. P. La T. Shea-Simonds in your issue for December.

a) The Rolls “R” engine gave 2,350 b.h.p. on a benzole/petrol/methanol (10%) -1 lead fuel for the last Schneider Contest in 1931.

b) For the “sprint” engine for the subsequent World Air Speed Record of 407.7 m.p.h., the engine gave about 2,650 b.h.p. In an earlier run, it gave 2,800 b.h.p. but the cylinder head bolts failed in one or two cases so the “boost” was brought hack to the normal (contest) figure. The “sprint” fuel for the 2,650 bhp. World Air Speed Record engine was a “cocktail” of benzole/methanol/acetone +TEL.

c) A Merlin engine at the latter part of the War (1945, I think) gave 2,000 b.h.p. on 100/150 grade leaded fuel—not 2,600.

d) The “Griffon”, I forget the Mark, gave 2,375 b.h.p. on 100-130 grade fuel—similar to the power of the “R” engine.

e) There is no reason why the “Sabre” couldn’t have given a good account of itself for an LSR attempt. It gave 3,000 b.h.p. on 100-130 grade fuel + water/ methanol. It was indeed a complex engine.

London, SW7 F. R. BANKS

The Fiat 126 is Today’s Car

Sir,

Having followed the correspondence and editorial comment of recent months on the Subject of the baby Fiat I would like to add comment: particularly with the announcement of further destructive (anti-motorist) legislation. Although a regular reader for some years I did not take to four wheels until this past summer acquiring my first car in mid August—a new Fiat 126.

From impartial observation and with rising costs here to stay the 126 looked a sensible proposition, MOTOR SPORT’s opinions on this baby adding valued encouragement. My father, a Hillman owner for over 20 years, read the Motoring Which report and considered it folly. After some four and a half months and 8,000+ miles of 126 economy motoring on every type of road (excepting actual Motorway) I am well pleased with my choice. . . Even more so when I see in the county press for the first time a year-old example for sale at very little below my recent purchase price.

Commuting about 55 miles a day (to Salisbury) across the secondary roads of the New Forest and back (in darkness) along the indifferent A 36—and over similar roads at weekends—the little 126 returns a steady 52 m.p.g. Oil, tyres and battery are only checked out of consideration seeming to require no topping-up. Albeit the dryer is only eleven stone in weight and rarely carries a passenger hut having laid aside a motorcycle for four wheels the little car gets driven rather hard, cruising happily at 55-60 m.p.h. and capable of 70 m.p.h. when pushed to its safe limit.

Spending its nights in the open this Fiat is a joy to start in the mornings and the only mechanical criticism is the lack of braking power. It stops. . . just!—hut when will makers of small motorcycles and cars realise that machines capable of 60-70 m.p.h., like their big brothers, need brakes to match the speeds. The pigs (i.e. agricultural variety) roaming certain Forest roads, along my daily route, tend to change direction very abruptly which can require brakes equally positive in their actions.

Being involved with various aspects of historic road and rail transport which take me around the south and west I am finding the little car a reliable companion and continually wonder why so many of the mobile public still buy such large and thirsty motors to travel at speeds now no greater than my own.—With the national average wage now quoted at £55 per week I realise that I am now in the low income group and perhaps should know my place!

The new legislative measures can only be described as destructive rather than constructive. Yet greater increases in fuel prices can only increase the inflation spiral and the 50 m.p.h. maximum on single carriageway country routes will be difficult to enforce. Should even more bogeymen be sent aloft in their “whirlybirds” might I suggest that readers consider the application of military style camouflage to their precious motors in order to traverse the countryside undetected from above!

One final point, and I do not care if it is an old “chestnut”, isn’t it now time to scale the road fund tax to engine capacity and encourage the development of less thirsty transport?

If I in my 600-cc. Fiat have to pay £25 per annum then why shouldn’t the man in a 3000-c.c. Ford he paying £40? !—After all the operator of an eight-wheel 30 ton gross Foden has to fork-out considerably more (albeit for commerical gain). Freedom of choice, yes—but one must pay for one’s luxuries (and surely anything over 1300 c.c. is a luxury). Nuff sed!

Thanking you for an excellent and well balanced magazine and every success to you in 1975.

Purlieu RICHARD COLLIS