Letters from Readers, February 1981

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



Your correspondent Peter Cook, enquires in your December issue as to the fate of the Shelsley Special “Dorcas”.

I am unable to say with certainty whether or not this interesting spring car was broken up, but it would seem probable that it was; its enlarged and Eric Fernihough tuned 8.45 JAP motor, is believed to have been fitted into a Brough Superior motor cycle for one of the immediate post war, Brighton Speed Trials.

Canterbury, Kent

Richard B. Knight

[Absolutely correct Mr. Knight. I acquired that very special JAP engine to put in a Morgan but my friend Norman Sharp had an ex-Baragwaneth s. v. Brough Superior so we put the 8/4 motor into the Brough. After six years of enforced lack of performance (the war years 1939-45) we were desperate to go quickly and had visions of the Brooklands Outer Circuit re-opening. Norman Sharp rode it at Brighton in 1946 but with Brooklands being “sold down the river” the Brough was sold to someone in Norfolk and we turned our attentions to Norton and Velocette road-racing machines. — D.S.J.]

Aston Martin History


We are currently engaged in the preparation of a major new history of the Aston Martin marque from 1912 to the present day. If any of your readers feel they can help in any way with stories, cuttings, pictures or any other material we should be most grateful. For the pre-1947 period please contact Inman Hunter at 3 Coniston Close, Whitton, Twickenham, Middlesex, and from 1947 on write to Brian Joscelyne at 1, Hazel Grove, Braintree, Essex. As we don’t pretend to know it all we shall be glad of any assistance to make the story complete.

Braintree, Essex

Brian Joscelyne, E. Inman Hunter

Gallons to Litres


I have looked in vain for some kind of response in your magazine to the proposal, instituted so far as I can ascertain by the garage trade itself, to alter the system of petrol retailing from gallons to litres. It seems however that no one can except Mr. W. A. Davis and myself care one way or the other if this totally unnecessary destruction of our traditional gallons takes place. Presumably the pint of beer and the pint of milk will also disappear with hardly a murmur. What astonishes me is that while you quite rightly created a considerable fuss in your editorial about taxation proposals for laid up vehicles which were recently advocated, you haven’t apparently forgotten to even mention that particular piece of vandalism. Is it that you really aren’t bothered and consider it to be a fait accompli anyway?

Saffron Waldon

V. G. Lumsden

[We are certainly against yet another annoying change in British measurements but, as our correspondent says, it seems to be an accomplished fact. — Ed.]

Motorway Manners


As a semi-professional car driver, about 20,000 plus miles per year, it is increasingly apparent that the standard of motorway driving is deteriorating: no longer does the British driver drive upon the left side. Continually one experiences cars or lorries “hogging” the middle lane with little or no traffic in the inside lane. The simple arithmetic is that if he uses the inside lane, 100% more traffic can pass than when he is using the middle lane, but this does not seem to register. I am against weaving in and out of traffic, but drivers should reflect upon the above and bear in mind that with a closing speed differential of 10 m.p.h. and a clear traffic gap of say 1/2 mile, it takes three minutes to pass the inside vehicles, or at 60 m.p.h. a distance of three miles (approximately).

Come on then everyone, let us all be aware of the law abiding motorist and keep to the left and I suggest Motor Sport campaign for more driving on the left side.


G. Thompson

[As a regular rush hour, M4 driver, I couldn’t agree more. — P. H J.W. ]

Disinterest and Aggression


I read with interest in December’s Motor Sport that, after a month, you had received no reply other than an acknowledgement card from your MP regarding your letter on the proposed and disgraceful “possession” tax.

I can however beat this! — at least you did receive an acknowledgement.

In early August this year, I wrote a perfectly-civilised letter on the subject to the MP for the constituency in which I was then living, Amersham and Chesham, which MP is no less a person than Sir Ian Gilmour. I received no reply of any sort! On the first of October, I wrote to him again, in slightly less-civilised terms, enquiring whether all his constituents were treated with contempt. To date, I have received no reply at all to either letter! I am pleased to say that I have now moved away from the constituency of this “representative of tthe people,” and I trust the MP for the area in which I now live will be more forthcoming.

On another subject, an interesting point that you may like to air in your columns, is which make and model of car is, on average, driven by the most aggressive and least considerate type of driver. My vote would undoubtedly go the Ford Cortina Mark 3, by a handsome margin!

Bovingdon, Herts.

W. G. Piggott

Richardson’s RRA


D.S.J.’s account of the Percy Maclure Riley’s gradual development into Geoff Richardson’s RRA was interesting and enjoyable, but I think he did less than justice to the latter by compressing the history of the i.r.s. car considerably. Richardson, usually known rudely but affectionately as “Scruffy” Richardson because of his permanently oil-stained appearance, developed the car’s potential a whole lot, and though he had more than any normal man’s share of bad luck in racing, he and the RRA did much to enliven our circuits in the early Fifties.

The enlargement of the engine seems to have been a gradual process, according to my files. It was still a blown 1 1/2 for the 1951 Ulster Trophy at Dundrod, where I recall Richardson’s having a stupendous accident in practice, doing car and driver no good at all. However, the RRA reappeared with a much tidied-up body (and presumably much-repaired chassis and/or running gear) in 1952, when Richardson probably qualified for the Guinness Book of Records by coming third in a Formule Libre race Goodwood, only to be disqualified as he had somehow lost his crash-hat in the process.

I think the engine was still 1 1/2-litres then, but during 1953 it came out with 1781 c.c. engine. This, the brakes and even the tyres all gave trouble at another Snetterton race in early July, causing retirement after 12 laps in the lead, but a week or two later he drove what one magazine called “the race of his life” in the Formule Libre supporter to the British GP at Silverstone. He came fifth in noble company, behind Farina’s Thinwall, the vee-16 BRMs of Fangio and Wharton, and Flockhart’s ex-Mays ERA, R4D. And a week later, back at Snetterton, he was fourth behind Wharton, Flockhart and Rolt (who drove a Connaught).

Without spending a long time digging, I’m not sure of his 1954 activities, but in 1955 he seems to have run mainly in fairly minor races, several of which he won. By then the engine capacity was usually quoted as 1963 c.c., and presumably it was in this form that the unit was sold. Is Geoff Richardson still around, and, if so, could he be persuaded to tell us more about the car? The RRA having been developed and raced with such enthusiasm, surely its history deserves to be recorded? Even if, I admit, it didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

Chichester, Sussex

F. Wilson McComb



At one period in my profession as an aircraft engineer, and for my sins, I was involved in the maintenance of turbocharger systems as fitted to aircraft engines. We, at that time about four years ago, found the engine inspection time nearly doubled on account of extra work necessary to keep the turbo system in efficient working order. The following discussion may be of interest to the readers Motor Sport who are contemplating the fitment of a turbo system or who are already running the system.

The centre bearing, despite having its own lubrication system, complete with oil cooler, would leak oil into the hot side of the exhaust turbine, thus emitting a beautiful blue haze from the exhaust.

Due to the continual wide variations in temperature to which the system is subject, it can provide dangerous leaks at exhaust flanges, couplings and clamps. The corrosive nature of the hot exhaust gases causes gradual erosion of the exhaust turbine blades and housing, which in turn impair the efficiency of the turbocharger. The clearance between the exhaust turbine blades and the housing has to be checked regularly as has the clearance of the impeller blades. The exhaust turbine housing itself is subject to heat cracks. Waste-gates stick and seize up.

Unless the present turbochargers in use on automobiles are less prone to the maintenance difficulties above, I should imagine many of the present turbo enthusiasts will regret the day they fitted one. Why bother, anyway, when you can get performance when it is needed from a well-designed 2,000 c.c., s.o.h.c. 9.3:1 c.r., fitted with 2x40PHH Solex or 2x45DCOE Webers, coupled to a gearbox and rear axle giving 20 m.p.h. for every 1,000 r.p.m in top gear and returning 32 m.p.g. at 70 m.p.h.

Of course, like “go-faster” stripes, it must be nice to have TURBO written on the side of the car!


A. Irwin

25 Years’ Motoring


Having just completed 25 years of motoring and having been a reader of Motor Sport throughout, it seems an appropriate moment is set out a very brief account of the period which may help convince any of you readers who may be doubtful about buying British.

I started with a 1934 Morris 10/4 which cost £50 in 1955 and which was sold a year later for £45. This £5 depreciation was to set a pattern. A 1937 Ford Prefect was cannibalised and rebuilt with a fibreglass body as a Rochdale GT. A Ford Anglia and a Corsair followed before a succession of 3 Series V Sunbeam Alpines. The need for extra room brought a Sunbeam Rapier fastback before a modest windfall made possible the Lotus Plus 2S dream car. Disillusionment at the extreme difficulty of working on this overcame the exhilaration at its performance and it departed quickly. Two more Series V Alpines came along and again the need for more space meant having a Humber Sceptre as well. The two Alpines went when I found after a long search and several fruitless journeys round the country a Ginetta G21S. This was a marvellous car and was reluctantly sold earlier this year when finances were particularly stretched. The need for even more space meant the Sceptre being changed for a Hillman Hunter Estate while a Jensen Healey posed as substitute for the Witham product. News that the Alpine Owners Club were making available those spares which had become unobtainable made me return to this marque when I found a nice Series V example locally through your classified section.

This potted history shows 17 cars the purchase prices of which total £10,675. Sale proceeds for the 15 disposed of mean a net cost for these of  £610 (yes — six hundred and ten pounds) giving an annual depreciation of £24.40. I estimate the total mileage at 314,000 or about 12,500 a year.

Apart from the re-registered Rochdale I have never had a new car. They have been maintained to a good standard with almost all the work being done by myself. In the whole period I have had only one breakdown when a car needed to be towed home (caused by a brand new yet faulty condenser). I have replaced engines three times, clutches four times and gearbox and back axle never. General servicing costs and renewals of tyres, brakes and electrical components have been modest despite the work having been done without any cheeseparing and immediately it was needed.

In my motoring I have looked for reliability, reasonable economy, readily available spares combined with a little flair to the extent that my pocket permitted. Having two or more inexpensive cars at any one time as I have done for the past 12 years or so  involves additional running costs only in respect of road tax, MOT, and a modest extra insurance premium and has the advantage of ensuring continued mobility when one vehicle needs attention — indeed on only one occasion have I been forced to resort to public transport because both cars were being repaired.

I think the record of the British manufacturers must speak for itself in making available such worthy products and the question of buying a foreign car is one which for me does not arise.

I hope that what I have written may do something to counter current criticisms and restore a little balance.

Darwen. Lancs.

D. Byrne



I have recently acquired a fairly rare car and wonder whether any of your readers also has one and if so whether they would care to correspond with me. The car is an ASA 1000 made in Italy by ASA, under the guidance of young de Nora, from about 1964 to 1966. Probably only 50 were made but this could be a little higher. As far as I know about 35 were sold in America, a few in France and Holland and probably the rest in Italy. There could be several in this country. Mine was an Italian one and comes from near the beginning of the series.

It is a fascinating little car with a single overhead camshaft, two twin choke Webers, coil spring IFS and a Watts linkage with coil springs at the rear. BHP reputedly 90, maximum speed 118 m.p.h., it handles as if on rails with a firm yet comfortable ride. It can justifiably be called a baby Ferrari since it was designed and tested by Ferrari but never made by them. Any information, details or experience of past or present owners would be most welcome.

Bishops Stortford, Herts.

Robert Abraham

[Letters can be forwarded. — Ed.]

Independent Comment


May I add my “two pennorth” (or stir the pudding) whichever applies, to the Ballamy/Hume split front axle controversy.

I drove the 100 m.p.h. “Pop” in the early fifties in a few competitions and let me say here and now that that car had quite astonishing roadholding. At Brands on the anti-camber it held on quite amazingly, so much so that one did not need to explore the limits of adhesion. The fact that the LMB suspension was able to keep that ridiculous looking anti-aerodynamic, early Gothic unit on the road surely speaks volumes for Ballamy’s designs competence.

Of course. I’m not an engineer and therefore not at all gyroscopic.

Middle Claydon, Bucks.

Charles Meisl

[This correspondence is now closed. — Ed.]

A Reliable Alpine


I would like to congratulate Chrysler (or Talbot as it now is) in producing a motor car which has functioned excellently for over 100,000 miles. My car is an Alpine S purchased on August 1st, 1977. It is most economical of fuel consistently returning 34 m.p.g. which includes motorway use. On long journeys travelling fast on A and B roads this improves to almost 40 m.p.g. which I consider excellent for a vehicle of its weight and carrying capacity.

The car now uses a little oil at 400 m.p.p. and has lost a little of its performance. It was bought from and has always been serviced by Groves of Rugby at 8,000 mile intervals. The cost of maintenance has been £2,000 which I calculate at 2 pence per mile.

Overall this vehicle has provided satisfactory and reliable, if characterless, transport and demonstrated greater stamina than the BMWs, Fiats, Citroens, BMC and Triumph cars I have previously owned. I do have quibbles with the atrocious paintwork of the car and with parts availability. However, the vehicle has only been off the road for six weeks and the service provided by Bob Millar, Service Manager at Groves, has been first class.

We also run a ’78 MG Midget which also acquits itself well. It now has 40,000 miles up and is a quite splendid device top down on the Routes Nationales to the Riviera. We love being asked by the Continentals “What year is it?” and observing their looks of amazement when we tell them. We are not so pleased with a best figure of 25 m.p.g. or overheating on the Autoroute in summer.

Leamington Spa, Warks.

John Cliffe

A Satisfactory Rover SD1


In these days of foreign is “better”, perhaps the following may help to redress the balance. In February 1979 I took delivery of a new Rover SD1 2.6 manual saloon. In spite of dire warnings from all the let’s buy foreign know-alls, I haven’t spent the last 22 months arriving courtesy of the AA Relay. My Rover has been used as an everyday business car during the week, and on a good many weekends has towed a trailer with my Aston DB4 racer on it, very often at speeds of 70 m.p.h. (motorways of course and 70 m.p.h. trailer before the men in blue strike!). The mileage is now 50,000, petrol consumption averages 27 m.p.g. (22 towing) and with the exception of a new clutch, which is hardly surprising, reliability has been 100%. The car’s sporting nature was highlighted at the Pomeroy Trophy meeting where it won an award against a lot of stiff opposition and its comfort and load carrying are second to none for a car of its price and class.

On a slightly different note, I should like to commend a British company, that of AH Spares of Leamington Spa, who have provided an incredible spares service for my ex-works Austin Healey 3000. Nothing has been too small a problem or too much trouble for Fred Draper and his staff and I would cite the recent rebuild of the Healey’s straight cut gearbox, which was achieved in 10 days at an extremely competitive cost and with real “old fashioned” courtesy. Usual disclaimers.

Lilleshall, Salop

Mike Ridely



With pleasure I read in the November Motor Sport your memory-article about the Milan engine in the Arzani-Volpini. As you say the most important work done by Mario Speluzzi was the modification to the two Roots superchargers and the manifold sizes; they measure 200 mm. and 140 mm. rotor length, respectively, against the 180 mm. and 125 mm. of the original Maserati blowers.

The engine was dyno-tested by me during the winter 1948/49 and gave 302 b.h.p. at 7,000 r.p.m., about 20 b.h.p. more than what Maserati then claimed. We were using two double-choke Weber 50 DCO carburettors. The engine was installed in the hull called “Pucico” built by the Vidoli yards of Stresa to Ing. Renzo Bagnato’s drawings. It was an original tree-steps boat, designed for breaking the world record for 450 kg. racing hydroplanes. At that time the record was held by Achille Castoldi with a Picchotti boat and 158 Alfa Romeo engine.

On March 7, 1949 at the Milan Idroscalo I had the honour to be the driver of the Milan-engined boat that broke the long series of records of the famous Alfa Romeo engined boat. That happy day the record was improved from 129 k.p.h. to the new world record of 139 k.p.h., with the best run at more than 144 k.p.h.

Milan, Italy

Ing. Carlo Leto di Priolo

Don’t Hide Historics!


One of my presents this Christmas was Racing and All That — a fascinating insight to Stirling Moss and Mike Hailwood’s views on motor racing. In the first chapters of this book both authors make much of how the fun has gone out of Grand Prix racing in particular — with commercialism being seen as the main culprit.

I mention this because Mr. Moss has recently moved into Historic Racing: a branch of motorsport where I believe fun still exists. Even with the recent championship being set up the “fun” carries on — with the performance differences being so wide between cars many drivers must put giving a good show before being boringly earnest about winning. Putting aside the contentious Replica issue, I must thank Mr. Moss and the JCB team for their support of this institution, to return to my theme, I do not wish to thank them for taking some of my fun away. They now have a huge modern transporter and marquee in which they hide their cars from the public view in the paddock. Being free to examine historic cars in the paddock and chat to their owners has always been a part of this branch of the sport. Many individuals unselfishly park vehicles as valuable as JCB’s own where we (who have paid to) can see them. Are we to see chicken wire enclosures behind pits like the British Motor Cycle GP I went to a couple of years ago?

Mr. Moss mentions his well-known gesture of waving to the crowd during GP’s. Well, JCB, perhaps your “wave” would be showing your cars in the Paddock once again to the crowd of enthusiasts who have always supported the fun of racing.

Thame, Oxon.

Philip P. Whiteman

Targa Florio


I read with interest Chris Mason’s letter about the rather obscure driver Cyril Snipe, winner of the 1912 Targa Florio (Vintage Postbag, Jan 1981). I have rather an extensive motor racing library but was unable to find any reference to Mr. Snipe other than that mentioned in W.F. F. Bradley’s book “Targa Florio” (Foulis).

In that book it states that the average speed was 24.3 m.p.h. — Mr. Mason quotes 26.44 m.p.h. — and that Snipe was two hours ahead by the early morning and thereupon flung himself from his car and fell into a deep sleep on the ground. His riding mechanic, Pardini, could only wake him by pouring a bucket of water over him. He then jumped into his car, streaming water everywhere and went on to win by 1/2 hour from the second car — Lancia (Jaretti Juglielminette).

Watford, Herts.

W. E. Avory

Inside Information


With reference to the article entitled “Connections and Communications” (Formula One Trend of Design, Jan. 1981), I would be extremely interested to discover how D.S.J saw Jonesey’s mouth form the words “Yep” and “Nape” whilst the new World Championship was wearing a Bell Star helmet.

Surely when the drivers of today are wearing fireproof balaclavas with two small eyeholes and full-face helmets all that can be seen is a pair of eyes, or does D.S.J. know something that the readers don’t?


Paul Brennan