Letters from Readers, February 1979

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N.B. –Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them. – Ed.

XJ-Satisfaction

Sir,

At the end of Mr. R. F. Anderson’s letter (Motor Sport, January) describing his experiences with a Jaguar XJ-S, you invite other owners to give their impressions of this car. No doubt you will be inundated with replies, but I would nevertheless like to accept your invitation.

I have owned most types of Jaguars since 1957, and my present XJ-S for the past three years. I have also owned or driven a wide variety of other fast cars over the last 35 years, and in terms of driving pleasure, smoothness, and absence of fuss at all times and, of course, unapproachable value for money, the XJ-S must come top of any list.

A few cars are faster, some are more luxurious, but not many and not much, and all these competitors are infinitely more expensive.

When my car was delivered, it suffered from some irritating faults: clock light not working, wind noise on doors, petrol filler pipe clip loose. These were put right at the first service. When the car was a year out of guarantee, I complained about a noisy rear axle to Henlys (South West) Ltd., of Churchfields Industrial Estate, Salisbury, who maintain the car excellently. They approached the factory, who sent down an expert of their own and the axle was changed free of charge. I would point out that Jaguars rectified a similar fault, after a similar time, in an XJ-6 I owned in 1969 through Couper’s of St. Albans when I lived in Hertfordshire. This contrasts strongly with Mr. Anderson’s description of factory indifference and incompetence.

I am very sorry indeed to hear of his disappointing and disturbing experiences with his car, but one thing in his account puzzles me. He writes that the “car boiled up … engine misfired, vibration throughout whole car, driver’s door misaligned, air dam came off air conditioning faulty again … clouds of smoke came out of rear of car at speed. Rubber came off passenger door, still vibrating, horn not working.” Then he adds, “Assumed car was OK to take on the Continent.”

Surely in all the circumstances this was an unwise assumption?

Salisbury. James Leasor

Happier Jaguars

Sir,

My sympathies to Mr. Anderson and his unfortunate experiences with Jaguars. My experiences are far happier, although there have been one or two minor annoyances.

I bought an XJ 4.2 coupe in February 1976. A faulty valve on the fuel system two days after delivery resulted in it depositing ten gallons of 4-star fuel on the road. I then covered 33,000 trouble-free miles in 12 months, and all this on the original set of tyres. The car was then passed to a colleague of mine and I bought an XJ-S. Within a week it required a new prop-shaft, one of a faulty batch I was advised. I then covered 18,000 trouble-free miles in the car with the exception of the car failing to start, due to an electrical fault, in our office car park one morning; the local dealer fixed this by lunch time. The boot never did fit and I found the wheel balance was critical.

The XJ-S was undoubtedly the smoothest, quietest car I have ever driven (including our Chairman’s Shadow II) and the power delivery can only be likened to a jet airliner. My only criticism of the car was that it totally lacked character.

Our XJ-S is still in our company and has now covered 28,000 miles and, apart from re-painting under second year Supercover, continues to give trouble-free service.

After the XJ-S I bought a Ferrari Boxer to put a little spice back into my motoring. I also took back my XJ 4.2 coupe which has now covered 56,000 miles. The paintwork (silver grey metallic) is not in showroom condition, but the car looks and drives as well as ever.

Over the past nine months of use the car has let me down once. I returned from a very fast trip back from West Berlin to Europort and travelled overnight by ferry and then drove the five miles home. In my drive the old lady sighed and coughed and refused to re-start. One day’s recuperation at the local dealer and she was back to normal.

I would certainly not criticise Jaguars. They offer standards of comfort and performance unmatched by cars costing considerably more.

On sunny days and quiet mornings I take my Boxer out for a run and the adrenalin rises and life takes on a different quality. I then return home, park the Ferrari in the garage having overcome my frustrations of the ever increasing restrictions forced upon us by Sonny Jim and his merry band. I am also happy in the knowledge that the original Boxer is appreciating at a rate similar to that of the fabulous Daytona.

Cottingham. R. C. Milner

Golfing

Sir,

Having read various tales of woe in your excellent and indispensable magazine (long may it reign) with regard to Mr. Anderson’s dismal XJ-S etc., I am prompted to bring some belated Xmas cheer to your readers.

Last April I bought a new VW Golf GTi locally. It has now covered 5,000 miles in an exemplary manner and literally the only item which has failed me, was a few months ago, when the door switch controlling the interior light, broke. Nothing else, but nothing, has let me down. It starts on the button, the gearbox is a delight, the brakes smooth and powerful (they need to be), the whole car is rattlefree, tight, and quiet-running. In short, it does what a new car ought to!! As a Porsche owner for the last twenty years, I can also state categorically that the GTi is the next best thing to a 911.

My VW has brought an element of excitement back into motoring, and I would advise all those whose cars have fallen by the wayside to take heart and test-drive one! Usual disclaimers.

Croydon. K. C. Baker

From Lord Montagu of Beaulieu
“Royalty on the Road”

Sir,

I have recently been commissioned to write a book called “Royalty on the Road”, which will seek to portray in basically pictorial form the involvement of the various royal families in Europe with motoring since the early days.

I would be most grateful to your readers for any personal reminiscences, or most importantly photographs, which could be considered for such a book. Naturally, any photographs would be treated with care and returned in due course by our Photographic Department here at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.

Beaulieu, Hants. Montagu of Beaulieu

Specials

Sir,

I would like to congratulate Rodney Leach (Motor Sport January Letter) on the success of his brief sortie on the road with his Can-Am Lola T160 as I had the totally unique pleasure of being able to wave him past my MG-B between Welwyn and Hertford.

I thus had a grandstand view of the effect he was having on the Sunday afternoon Hertford strollers and can report the result as very satisfactory!

John Heseltine’s letter on the whereabouts of old specials in the same issue is interesting – this must be the same John Heseltine who used tot drive an immaculate yellow U2 and helped me out in my forst competition event at Long Marston.

I have long felt that a Register (not necessarily a Club) of “specials” both race and road going would be useful with information from the various specialist clubs plus as many owners as can be located.

Recently I acquired a TWM-bodied Convair (both companies used to advertise in Motor Sport) and will use this on the roads in the spring. One famous car not mentioned by John is the original Austin Seven-based Lotus IIIB which now makes regular appearances at the Historic Lotus Register functions.

If any person knowing of specials, etc. (however unlikely) similar to the above would care to write to me I will compile a register as the first step towards a mutual exchange of information.

Barnet. David E. Morgan

(Letters will be forwarded – Ed.)

* * *

Sir,

John Heseltine’s letter (Specials – Where are they now?) in the January issue sent me straight to my other bibles – C. A. N. May’s books on pre- and just post-war trials – so do a little homework on V8 specials built for use on trials.

Ford V8 saloons and cabriolets were in use before 1936. The beginning of the V8 special era seems to be the use of the 1934 Ulster TT Ford V8s in trials in 1935. These are described as “low, fierce, open-bodied monsters” and the original Allard CLK 5, appears to have been based on one of them.

Ken Hutchison’s special made its debut in the 1937 “Lawrence Cup” trial and was successful both pre-war and, in C. A. N. May’s hands, post-war. Unfortunately, it was rebuilt and re-registered after he disposed of it. So, FPD 673 would seem to be lost.

H. G. Symmons had a Leslie Ballamy modified Ford before the war. Ted Lloyd Jones built two “Triangle” V8 specials and Bill Butler coaxed a Ford V8 under the bonnet of an unsuspecting Singer 1½-litre. The car survived the war and ended up with one of the Haskins family in about 1947. Other re-engined cars include a V8 TT Frazer Nash, entered in the 1939 Land’s End Trial.

After the war, Guy Burrough’s and D. W. Price drove successful cars. The registration YY 7 once graced a trials car. I bet it doesn’t now! In fact, several of the trials fraternity had distinctive registration numbers, presumably due to their motor trade connections.

Tom Wise built two V8s, confusingly calling them both CW8. One was registered KUM 444-Guy Warburton, and then Reg Holt campaigned an LMB-Ford KVB 300 (?). Whether this was Symmon’s pre-war car I do not know. Watson’s Mercury-engined Watson special was very successful in Scotland and made several forays south of the border.

Bill Butler built a “proper” special in 1947. At least one of the “Triangle” V8s survived to be used by Stan Astbury at about this time. Leslie Onslow Bartlett built two Mercury-engined cars, one for himself and one for Ron Faulkner. Bartlett’s car was registered GRU 7 and Faulkner’s GAA 555. Both disposed of their cars in 1951, Bartlett trying a weird JAP-engined device (KRU 7) and Faulkner going on to his very successful Paulll special.

D. A. Armstrong gained a second class award on the 1951 Land’s End, having failed Crackington with a Ford-Mercury. Whether it was one of the above cars I don’t know.

1951 saw the end of the V8 “menace”, their place in the trials world being taken by Ford 1,172 c.c.-engined specials, which in turn led to the highly specialised NTF cars of today. GAA 555 found its way to Cornwall where, although rebodied and very low to the ground, it was used with considerable success in trials, hill-climbs, sprints and driving tests, just as John Heseltine suggests was normal at one time. This was about 1964-67 in the hands of Ken Huthnance. It then passed to John Haswell, who had rather less success with it. It then went to ground for a second time, re-emerging in very poor shape from a leaky lock-up in Falmouth in 1974. This car I now own. there is much to be done and little time of money to do it with!

Like Mr. Heseltine, I am racing against the bureaucrats to see which is finished first, my car or the Classic Trial movement as we know it. I know of no other V8 trials car remaining, other than the Allards. Perhaps John’s letter will encourage some reminiscences from trials men of that era. Perhaps other cars will emerge, as mine did, from damp or dusty corners of the country.

Chesham. M. D. Furse

* * *

Sir,

I read with interest the letter from Mr. John R. D. Heseltine in January Motor Sport. I myself have always been a keen special building enthusiast. The mention of Fairthorpe prompted me to write. Last summer I purchased for the modest sum of £100 a Fairthorpe Electron Minor Special. As found it was in terrible condition and I have had to do a complete rebuild. The chassis and running gear are basically standard but every component has been extensively lightened. The body is alloy, the engine is Standard to featuring twin SUs, special four-branch exhaust and a very high compression ratio. I completed the restoration two months ago and the car is now my daily transport. I am hoping to enter it in some mild competition work next season. I have been able to find out very little of the car’s past history, but it was originally used for sprints and hill-climbs during the 50s and early 60s. A photo of the car is included with this letter and any further information on its past history would be much appreciated.

Finally like Mr. Heseltine I would like to see more articles on interesting “Specials” of the past. And if anyone has an interesting Special in need of restoration I should be delighted to hear from them.

Kidderminster. Michael G Crosher

* * *

Sir,

Mr. Heseltine’s interesting letter in your January issue must have struck a chord with many motoring enthusiasts. Increased specialisation is surely one of the reasons why the interest in older sports cars is so great, and the remarkable exploits of vintage and later all-rounders have often been prominent in your pages.

I enclose a couple of sketches of the V8-enginect LMB trials special owned in turn by H. G. Symmons and R. E. Holt, which was a well-known competitor in trials in the immediate post-war era. I used to see this car occasionally on the road in the North Manchester area in 1959 or 1960. It was a handsome beast in British racing green and the bodywork seemed to be well constructed and finished. I last saw it spectating at the start of one of the early Manchester to Blackpool veteran and vintage car rallies, circa 1967, now painted red, so it was in enthusiastic hands fairly recently.

It is most unlikely that the owner of such a machine is not a reader of Motor Sport, so perhaps he or she could tell us more about this interesting sports car.

Atherton, Manchester. E. J. Warburton

Another Intrepid Pioneer

Sir,

As a member of that desperate band of brigands, “the motor traders”, I feel I must reply to Barrie Crowe’s letter in Motor Sport.

A considerable number of us dealers do manage to drag ourselves away from our kerbside pitches for long enough to enjoy the sort of motorsport he describes. I personally covered some 10,000 vintage miles in Europe last year in machines ranging from a D8 Delage to a De Dion tricycle, competing in various races and hill-climbs and just touring, all without mishap provided one discounts being chased by the French, Dutch and Luxembourg police; also countless cafe proprietors begging me not to leave the area!

I disagree entirely with Barrie Crowe’s remarks concerning the incredible 50-mile journeys described in the advertising section. Far from giving me neuralgia I have always regarded these intrepid pioneering trips into the unknown as having great entertainment value. Keep up the good work.

Chulmleigh, Devon. N. S. Harley

Mystery Formula junior

Sir,

I wonder if you could please shed any light on the origin of the car in the photograph. It was purchased by me some six years ago. From its dimensions and engine size it appears to be a Formula Junior car circa ’59-’60. It is very professionally built and has been accepted by the Monoposto Club for Junior events. Although some of the members can recall seeing the car around, no-one seems to know its origin.

It is fitted with a 105E Cosworth engine and VW box.

Hereford. M. J. Cowell

(Does anybody recognise it? – Ed.)

Turbo Topics

Sir,

Perhaps C.R. should have re-read his Saab Turbo test (Motor Sport Dec. 78) before writing on the Porsche 924 Turbo in the same edition. To quote: “I can’t understand why Porsche have lowered the two (my italics) bottom ratios”.

The answer is in his Saab test, where commuter-driving “showed the low speed engine characteristics in a poor light; slow, second gear turns where most conventional cars pick up quickly had the Turbo floundering …” In my opinion, Porsche, with obviously greater experience in production turbos, chose the better solution (even though another ratio between and and 3rd might placate C. R.), rather than Saab’s small turbo which in theory would provide better results at low revs., but on the evidence presented doesn’t. And give me beautifully balanced, vice-free handling to snaky recoveries.

I also happened to come across a test by the same writer in the June edition of the BMW 323i. Almost the same acceleration to 60 m.p.h., almost the same top speed, far superior handling and a spare £1,700! Personally I would prefer a very satisfactory fuel-injected car to a production/prototype, unless its performance was generally outstanding and I don’t think that top-end acceleration and bottom end fuel consumption is enough.

Camperdown, NSW, Australia. J. C. Hlavaty

(The fact is that neither Porsche nor Saab seem to have the perfect answer to gearing or low speed performance. I stand by my criticisms of both cars on that score. Like Mr. Hlavaty I’m still sceptical about the use of turbochargers on road cars – I find a conventional carburetter or fuel-injection engine with good torque characteristics and response and flexibility through the range to be generally more pleasant to drive. However, Jan Odor of Janspeed is about to try to convince me otherwise with his twin-turbocharged Rover 3500. I was most disappointed with a BMW 323i I have been driving for the last couple of weeks, but look forward to trying a hopefully better example before committing myself further in print. – C. R.)

* * *

Sir,

Your road test of the Saab Turbo was most interesting, and performance figures were, for the most part, impressive. However there were raised in my mind many questions relating to the relative efficiency of the turbocharger against the more traditional mechanically driven supercharger.

I had some experience flying Liberators during the war, these being propelled by Pratt and Witney engines with two-stage supercharging. Primary stage was achieved with mechanical centrifugal blowers while the secondary stage involved exhaust-driven turbochargers. These latter could be disengaged by opening the exhaust cut-outs and thus bypassing the gases from operating the turbochargers.

The turbochargers were considered so inefficient at low altitudes that, though they were operated during take-off, where every ounce of power was needed to pull the heavily laden bombers off the ground, they were soon, if I remember rightly, disengaged and only put back into operation when a substantial altitude had been reached. The drop in atmospheric pressure had then so increased the pressure differential between the gases in the manifold and the atmosphere that the turbocharger became highly efficient.

This can be illustrated by noting the tendency to altitude instability or “creep” which occurred in level flight at high altitudes. Any slight gain in height would result in an increased boost pressure, this in turn resulted in increased power. Naturally the aircraft would then climb higher still, at an ever increasing rate. The converse happened if quite a small amount of altitude was lost. Later aircraft were fitted with a compensating device to eliminate this tendency, but it does illustrate my contention that the turbocharger is inefficient at low altitudes – or so it seems to me.

My very small experience with supercharged car engines is restricted to having fitted an Arnott blower many years ago to a Mark I Ford Consul. As I remember it the conversion was easy and not very expensive. Performance was dramatically improved without any significant increase in noise level except for a satisfying whine at high revs. Economy was only affected if the increased performance was used, otherwise the fuel consumption was improved. Power was increased over the whole range, except for very low revs., and there was, of course, no problem over throttle lag.

Why then this expensive and complicated system with its obvious drawbacks? Are there any inherent advantages? Little is obtained free in life and it would seem that the exhaust back pressure and resultant pumping losses would be just as great as the power required to propel a normal supercharger. Perhaps someone would enlighten us.

Robertsbridge. Anthony Black

A Point of View

Sir,

I cannot let your rather uncharitable comments in December’s Motor Sport regarding the Austin 7 pedal cars go unchallenged.

It is well known that you do not particularly like auctioneers, or perhaps even the motor trade generally, but please be fair, report accurately and not in a manner which we are used to hearing from biased political commentators!

To take up this issue, firstly, these little pedal or battery-electric powered toy cars are certainly not crude. They are well made and accurate enough for the purpose for which they were designed. Secondly, it might have escaped your attention, but pedal cars are collected; numerous models survive such as Bugatti, Bentley, Vauxhall, Austin and the like. Lastly, whoever claimed them to be worth “vast bags of gold”?

We at Phillips have sold two of these children’s Austin 7 racers recently, one pedal version and one battery-electric powered. As the receiver of complementary catalogues, you will have noted that the first, which was in need of a rebuild, was estimated at £125-£150 and the second, which was fully restored, was estimated at £250-£300. Both sold for well in excess of the estimates, which surprised us all, but what this does show is that there is a healthy market for these delightful things remember the market sets the price, not the auctioneer.

Indeed, if a child’s pedal car based on the 12/50 Alvis you mention turns up, what price at auction? You, sir, imply that we would all like to own one; if that is so, then if one does appear, I presume you will attend the auction and make a bid.

So, Sir, be fair.

London, W1. Jeremy Collins

Phillips Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers

That New Bimotore

Sir,

I refer to the question raised by D. S. J. in the December 1978 issue of Motor Sport as to whether the proposed new Bimotore Alfa Romeo can be classified as a genuine “third car” or a reproduction. Although the Scuderia Ferrari designed and built the original two cars they were running the racing team under an agreement with Alfa Romeo and the cars were called Alfa Romeos. Surely, therefore, the motoring press headlines should pronounce “Alfa Romeo transfer Bimotore production to Milan!”

Haywards Heath. Alastair J. Elders

PS. Has Bernie Ecclestone been told that Alfa Romeo are building a 200 m.p.h. twin engined racing car?

PPS. How about Vittorio Brambilla driving a Bimotore in Historic Car Races….!

Rare Books

Sir,

As manager of a large London secondhand bookshop I fully endorse Mr. Roger Woodward’s comments in the November issue concerning the prices of rare motoring books. In our shop we have always worked on the principle that the prices we charge are no higher than the prices of equivalent new books. However, it is true that certain books in the field have acquired a scarcity value, and certain dealers are asking extremely high prices for them. “Putting it on” is a very common practice in the antiquarian book trade, relying on the assumption that there is, somewhere, someone with more money than sense who is willing to pay such exorbitant prices; and that, when all is said and done, the true value of a book is the price it will fetch.

Your only defence against this practice is to refuse to pay high prices and search out these books for yourself before the specialist trade get their hands on them. One of the main reasons why a book dealer is a book dealer is because he searches for books more energetically and jumps quicker than his customers do. It is not impossible to beat him at his own game.

Most of the above comments might apply to rare cars no less than to rare books.

Mr. Woodward’s other suggestion – that of reprinting the rarer books – is no longer practicable. Our company is involved in a small way in publishing reprints of early lace-making books, and it is now over twice as expensive to publish a reprint as it was in 1970: the price of paper is mostly to blame. When we re-published our best selling title this summer we had to print 5,500 copies to bring the unit price down to a feasible level and these were books with no photographic illustrations and a very utilitarian binding. Are there 5,500 customers waiting for Bradley’s “Targa Florio”? Publishers are, regrettably, not so altruistic that they would be willing to tie up a good deal of money in printing a book which would sell only to enthusiasts, slowly, and in small numbers. They would rather publish books about anthropomorphic rabbits, and sell the film rights, and so on….

London SW16. Roger May

Capri 3.0S plus X-pack

Sir,

Should anyone be considering fitting an X-pack to a Capri 3.0S, maybe some information from one who has had the operation carried out will be of interest.

First of all it is advisable to get a price list of the many bits and pieces required as they are not cheap. Also, if my experience is anything to go by, it is a lengthy exercise. It took four months for my Rally Sport dealer to collect everything. Then two weeks to fit. This may be unusual because the man who was working on my cylinder head took a week’s holiday during the operation. Mine was done at Westlake Engineering and the labour charge came to £90. The other parts, racing carb., new valves, spoiler, anti-dive kit, gaskets, manual choke, valve springs, etc., came to £248. Fitting charge £106. Add VAT to the total cost and with this working out at £36, the final figure is £480.

Tell this to your friends and they will generally say “I wouldn’t have thought there was any need to make a Capri 3.0S go any faster.” I suppose they are right, really, but after owning a 3000 GXL four-headlight Capri in automatic form for 18 months, I was a bit disappointed in the performance of the manual 3.0S; in my view it did not seem to be as gutsy as the 3000 GXL. But now it is a much improved car, and so smooth and responsive. I have not been able to check the petrol consumption fully since I got the car back as the conversion is not yet a month old, but although it may have suffered on short trips, one journey of about 60 miles, it seems to work out about the same. With an estimated 170 b.h.p, under the bonnet, it does take a bit of catching if you are in a hurry, and while there is little chance of using the speed available legally, it does shorten cross-country trips considerably.

I am not a “boy racer” but a 56-year-old who has been driving since 1953, although I did a fair bit of driving 15 and 30 cwt. Bedfords and 3 ton Chevrolets during my service with the RAF in the war years in India. I drive for pleasure only and do not cover a large annual mileage; for example in the past year I have only done 3,000 miles. But I do like to have a car that is interesting to drive and that little bit different from the bloke next door.

The work on my car was carried out by Stormonts of Tunbridge Wells and they did a very good job and returned the car without a grease mark on it; this in itself impressed me as so often garages are very lax in this respect.

Sidcup. V. Outen

PS. I have been reading Motor Sport since about 1948 and still reckon it is the best!

Battery Life

Sir,

On page 51 of January’s Motor Sport, C. R. mentions the Dagenite battery of his XK150 retaining a small charge after six years of total neglect.

A friend, who owns a Rover 2000 TC, has recently changed his Exide battery after just over six years’ service. It was naturally replaced by a battery of the same make.

Macclesfield. Philip Rambaut

(For a battery to give good service in constant use and charged for six years is not uncommon. My Dagenite batteries had lain unused and uncharged for six years, a different matter, and they are at least nine years old. – C. R.)

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