Letters from readers, February 1983

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Colin Chapman

Sir,

In July of last year at Brands Hatch I joined Club Team Lotus, as I have been an enthusiastic follower of Lotus for the past 16 years.

In November Club Team Lotus held their first dinner in Norwich, and what a splendid occasion it was, as we were the privileged first to see next year’s Grand Prix cars. The day was finished off by an excellent dinner and a chance to meet my hero Colin Chapman.

During the evening we saw a film of the 1973 season with Emerson Fittipaldi and Ronnie Peterson battling it out and I remember watching Colin watching himself on the film, and not realising I was watching Mr. Motor Racing for the last time.

When it corms to Motorsport I have only been an armchair critic but Colin Chapman was to me not only Mr. Motor Racing but a hero, and his name in Motoring History will live for ever. A sad loss.

Stuart Stark
Yarn

Sir,

The entire sport must have been saddened, as must its supporters (particularly those who are followers of the Formula 1 Lotus team), following the tragic and premature death of Colin Chapman. During the political wranglings between FISA and FOCA, Colin had a spirit of innovation that was an inspiration to all, reminding us all that motor racing is a sport. and not just an excuse for “all in wrestling”. This spirit of innovation was due to Colin always looking to the future for Lotus racing as well as for the road car company. People who have worked for him described him as being hard but fair, always searching, through innovation, for success on the track.

Looking to the future, as Colin always did, I can only hope that the racing team will be carried on in the same spirit as when Colin Chapman was in charge; as for the road car company, suffering as many are due to the recession, I have every confidence that through innovative design and increasing standards of comfort etc., they will pull through the recession, and thus work hand in hand with their Formula 1 team.

For the sport as a whole, I can only hope that the departure of Colin Chapman from the scene will not be seen as an excuse for FISA and FOCA to increase their already ugly arguments; and that everybody may work together to organise a good and fair year of racing for 1983.

Ian Burrows
East Foxdale, IoM

Sir,

A. C. B. Chapman, CBE, whose Team Lotus won seven World Championships and 72 Grands Prix, suffered the fate of so many British geniuses in that he did not receive in his lifetime the recognition he deserved.

It must look churlish to our American and European friends who admire our honours system that this family man who achieved such international acclaim was never properly rewarded.

Virtually single-handedly he changed the concept of the racing car, dominating the motoring world for 30 years with his technical innovations that eclipsed all who had been before him.

Mr. Chapman did not sail round the world nor did he make raincoats for a Prime Minister but he was responsible for some marvellous yachts and his cars beat the best in the World when the rest of our motor industry was in decline.

Posterity will surely place this British gentleman above Ferdinand Porsche, Enzo Ferrari, Ettore Bugatti and maybe even Sir William Lyons, Sir Alec Issigonis and the great Sir Henry Royce.

I am sure that eve,one who has ever driven a Lotus will be eternally grateful for the genius of Colin Chapman and will join me in extending sincere condolences to his widow and family.

Angus Watson
Kirklevington

The Jam Factory

Sir,

I refer to Michael Sedgwick’s letter (January Motor Sport), with regard to the Cordwallis works known locally as the “Jam Factory”. Marendaz Specials were indeed the last cars to be built in this factory. I would suggest they were the only cars built there as new works were erected by Captain D. M. K. Marendaz, I believe in 1931, for the production of his side valve and i.o.e. engincd Marendaz Specials. Photographs of the erection of the new factory were shown in the Marendaz sales catalogues.

When production of Marendaz Specials ceased in 1936, makers of St. Martin’s “Chunky” Marmalade took over the factory. However, I think Reilly pads are now produced there!

Also located at the Cordwallis works according to Lord Montagu in his book “Lost Causes of Motoring” were GWK, Burney and Imperia, but these must have been in other buildings on the Cordwallis Industrial Estate or was the new Marendaz works built on the same site?

Perhaps Michael Sedgwick, who lived locally at that time and who remembers seeing these cars, can add to the above. 

John Shaw
Leckhampton

Seat-belt safety

Sir,

Lately I have noticed a trickle of correspondence concerning the new seat-belt laws and now that the hour is upon us I still fail to detect any serious resistance to the introduction of these restrictions.

Indeed, most discussion seems to have centred on whether pre-1965 cars will remain exempt or not; happily the answer seems to be “no”, though I can’t help thinking that this is a ploy to render a fair proportion of motorists apathetic — even though there is no guarantee that under a subsequent review this position will remain.

Does this lack of interest mean the general motoring public is behind the proposed legislation? Judging from the percentage of people passing-by this morning without seat-belts, I would think not!

Who are responsible for the passage of this bill through Parliament and what are their motives; is it the load on the National Health dentistry and cosmetic services alone or, if not, to what extent have the insurance companies become involved?

Looking to the future it would seem too late to prevent the implementing of this law, the only course of action available being mobile protest, pending the proposed review later this year. With this in mind could anyone advise as to the penalties expected for disregarding this law and of any new stance insurance companies may adopt in the event of injury to people not wearing belts? Remember the turbaned Triumph riders who fought Traffic Police at the time of the “Helmet Law” introduction?

In conclusion, although many people “belt-up” much of the time, one rarely meets a motorist who absolutely insists on tying his passengers down!

C. Lovell
Weymouth

PS. Maybe Ed. could let us know where he stands and also positions publically adopted by various motoring organisations and authorities?

Sir,

Regarding the current letters concerning the impending Seat Belt Regulations I thought you might be interested in the enclosed article from the local Evening Echo. The last paragraph says it all — I wonder what state the unfortunate young man would have been in if he had been securely strapped to his seat!

Seat belts may well help in certain specific accidents but since accidents happen without choice I for one consider the proposed £50 fine small price to pay to ensure that I survive my next accident.

M. C. R. McMahon
Leigh-on-Sea

[The report was about a driver whose car left the A130 road at Rettendon and overturned. He was thrown into the front passenger seat and thus escaped serious injury. The steering wheel went through the roof and had he been belted in . . . Mrs. Thatcher please note. — Ed.]

Seat-belt expenses

Sir,

With regard to the various readers’ views on the compulsory wearing of seat belts, I am in total agreement with Harold E. Parkin’s views, and of course he correctly forecasts the SPEND TANK riding roughshod over what must be, by practical experience and scientific research, a thoroughly reliable industry, that of making seat-belts.

One thing is for sure, if I ever seen police patrol car with its occupants unbelted the number will be taken, and if I have my camera widl me, arid can be quick enough, photographs will be taken.

Name and address supplied

[The Seat Belt Industry already predicts “a massive increase in seat-belt sales”, according to a Securon press hand-out. This Amersham based Company expects to expand production volume by 400% in the early months of this year. Apart from that, when the Government “do-gooders” get down to stipulating a life for a belt and M.o.T. tests require them to be replaced, vehicle-users can expect the compulsory belt up Law to cost them a lot more money — and they are an over-taxed majority anyway. — Ed.]

What’s in a name?

Sir,

May I refer to the letter from your correspondent, Mr. Mike Thomas, in your December 1982 issue, claiming that the name “Vitesse” always was a Triumph name.

Whilst it is some time since 1913, he may like to know that in that year there was an Austin 10 h.p. car called “Vitesse Phaeton”. I don’t know whether any of this model still exist.

P. F. Skelton
Tilehurst

Licence refunds

Sir,

My view is that if you look hard enough, you’ll always find some law which forbids you from doing this or that.

I’m as law.abiding as the next man, I think, but generally my life has been guided by two items of sound advice inherited from my grandfather: “Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men” and, when you’re sure, “I’ve done it, should I ha’ done?” rather than “Can I?”. I’ve survived thus far without imprisonment!

M. Worthington-Williams
Newcastle Emlyn

Taming the monster

Sir,

It was very interesting to read D.S.J.’s thoughts on the 1983 Formula One season (December issue), in particular the reference to having a monster in our midst of which we have all but lost control. I can assure him that there is a simple solution to the current problems which nobody within the sport seems to be able to see.

The problems are that the cars are too powerful, and have too much handling capability thus potentially making the tracks themselves more dangerous for spectators. But this, as D.S.J. says, is not the fault of the designers who only wish their cars to win races. The problem is that modern cars are designed not to win races, but to win sprints. After all, the average Grand Prix is not much longer than 150 miles, which at current average speeds can take little over an hour and a quarter to achieve.

So why not introduce a minimum race distance of between 250 and 300 miles? This will have the effect of reducing power outputs, as 650 b.h.p. turbos will never last the distance in their current state of development. It would also re-introduce suspension design because drivers could not possibly survive in the current “planks” over such a distance. Result — slightly slower but more reliable cars which handle more predictably, and lots of lovely pit stops to keep Murray Walker happy!

Regarding the comments about the potential reaction to a serious accident involving spectators in this country, think hard for a minute about the possible involvement of the likes of Sue Lawley. “And tonight we ask . . !”

M. P. Toogood
Melksham

[I’d like 500 mile races. — D.S.J.]

Osterreichring response

Sir,

In reply to Douglas A. J. Mockett’s letter “Las Vegas Response”, I can only hope that he enjoyed the sight of Mario Andretti’s crash, also his beer drinking, his hot-dog eating, his spectacular view of each numbered turn with its giant pylon, his gambling and Diana Ross.

I, however, enjoyed unspoilt scenery, fresh air, tree-lined corners and one of the most exciting finishes of the season at the Osterreichring.

Still; each to his own I suppose. . . .

Mrs Barbara Long
Maidstone

[This is what we preach — D.S.J.]

F1 predictions

Sir,

Whilst checking and filing away the Race Results for 1982, I began to notice certain predictable facts in a normally unpredictable sport.

Taking Grand Epreuves Results from the beginning of 1950 to the end of last season, it became obvious that more drivers had “opened their account” in the French Grand Prix than any other (seven, plus Fagioli’s ½ in 1951), followed by Monaco and various USA’s. The eight included Mike Hawthorn in 1953, Dan Gurney in 1962 and Ronnie Peterson in 1973.

Looking to the other end of their careers, I discovered that more drivers ended their winning ways in the German Grand Prix; no less than seven, including such names as Fangio (1957), Moss (1961), Rindt (1970) and Stewart himself (1973).

Included in both sets of figures is one driver who must now figure as the “most predictable”, namely Mr. J. Ickx, who won for the first time at Rouen on July 7th 1968, and of course won on July 30th 1972 at the Nürburgring.

M. F. Thorley
Offerton Green

Hobby tax

Sir,

How much longer has the “motor road tax” paying public to wait for the introduction of short period tax as promised by a previous government.

One of the advantages for “old car” owners on the now infamous computer at DVLC was going to be a reduction in the ridiculously high taxation of ownership of veteran, vintage and classic cars whose use now bears no resemblance to that of a modern car.

Is it not now long overdue for the “old car” movement to press for the elimination of road tax for what is predominantly a hobby. Stamp collectors and railway modellers pay no tax so why us. Over to you club secs.

Unlike Christopher Screen, who writing in the January Motor Sport, complained at the loss of 22p per day if returned discs are not used until the last day of the month. I calculate that each time I take one of my two Jowetts, a 1926 and 1932, out of the garage it costs £2 in road tax! Of course this is less than most as pre-war 7 h.p. Jowetts pay less tax. If we cannot be rid of this tax the next best thing is to buy a pre-war Jowett.

Keith Rumsey
Chatham

Corrosion guarantees

Sir,

I would like to bring to your notice the situation pertaining in the motor trade regarding six year “anti-corrosion” guarantees.

The one I have cause to query is the “CRYLA-GARD” treatment as applied to new Fiat cars. This treatment is undoubtedly an incentive to purchasers, as Fiat cars in particular have a history of rust problems. In fact, it was only because of this treatment that I even considered buying a Fiat in the first place. There is a hidden cost, however, in that the car has to be inspected every year. Although this is pointed out to the customer, I doubt if many will work out that it may cost about £100 over the six years.

But what is the treatment worth? I bought a brand new Fiat Mirafiori 1300 which had been treated with “CRYLA-GARD”; imagine my shock when, after four months, a rust hole appeared in the driver’s door! Closer inspection revealed advanced rust in both doors, on the boot lid and various other areas. There were also over 30 odd things wrong with the car on delivery and the Agents (PDH Garages of Brighton) had to admit it could not have had a pre-delivery inspection.

To cut a long story short, I have had to have a new door, a new boot lid, and parts of the car resprayed as many as three times, and it is still far from perfect. As you can imagine, I first of all demanded a replacement car or a refund (laughed out of the office!) so I decided to let the Garage (PDH) do all the remedial work and then demand some sort of compensation for the state the car was in when sold to me.

Surely this situation, quite apart from showing the six-year treatment up as being useless (at least on my car), also fails to meet the standards expected of any NEW purchase. When I tackled the Managing Director of PDH Garages (Mr. P. J. C. Armstrong, about it, he said, and I quote, “All new can are rusty; I have just bought one myself.” Intending purchasers of Fiat cars should take note of this statement.

“CRYLA-GARD” will probably argue that the rust was present in the car before they treated it, and that the responsibility was all Fiat’s. But what faith can be placed in this Company’s competence if it nonchalantly goes about treating already rusty cars? If I had bought a second-hand car that needed a new door within a few months I would have felt cheated. In fact, the car I traded in was in better condition and it was ten years old! To cap it all, the new door is already showing signs of rust in the same place as the old one!

To have all these problems in a new car from a major manufacturer that has “WE CARE” as its slogan is surely condemnation of the Motor Trade in general. Why do manufacturers like Fiat think we buy new cars if not for the pleasure of looking forward to at least a few years’ motoring free of rust, wear, M.o.T. problems and big repair bills? I can only assume that my car spent a very long time rusting away in some compound waiting to be taken out, dusted down and sold as “new” to the first trusting customer that came along. I have had 12 months of frustration and inconvenience and feel that as I have received no compensation from Fiat’s, l am well justified in bringing my situation (which is not unique) to the attention of the media.

W. H. Batch-Elder
Saltdean

Giulietta grumbles

Sir,

I have just read W.B.’s remarks about the latest Alfa Romeo to bear the Giulietta name. As someone who has had a good degree of experience at the wheel of a Giulietta, I would like to make a few comrnents.

Although my own car was, admittedly, only a 1.6, I find it stretching the bounds of anybody’s credibility that any Giulietta can be a pleasure to drive, as W.B. implies. The 2.0 version must be a completely different motor car to the 1.6.

The fact that the 1600 engine was extremely sluggish apart, I wonder whether any other Motor Sport readers who may at one time have had a 1.6 Giulietta ever experienced rust after only 12 months ownership? Or perhaps found that no matter how tidily driven, the recalcitrant beast would not return a remotely decent fuel consumption. From personal experience, daily commuting to London returned about 22 m.p.g., while a long motorway journey upped the figure to a devastating 24 m.p.g. I know there’s an oil glut nowadays, but that was ridiculous. Talking of oil, it required a healthy percentage of a five-litre can to prevent it from seizing up every 500 miles or so.

How many people have ever driven a Giulietta upon which the second gear could only be selected with the aid of a leviathan effort and an accompanying graunch? This latter problem, I gather, is fairly commonplace.

As for the “wonderful” suspension, how much discount do Alfa give you on cars? My own car handled like a kite in a thunderstorm, and the ride was but average at its best.

Perhaps I was unlucky. Perhaps. Several enquiries made during the recent past led me to believe that mine was not an isolated case however. I sincerely hope that the latest Giulietta is an improvement over my 1980 model — it could certainly be no worse.

Oh, and finally, just how does having a back-to-front speedometer give the car “character”? What absolute nonsense.

Brian P. Whitcombe
Langley Vale

[While I agree about the second gear problem, I must assume that the 2.0-litre Giulietta is indeed considerably better, as I have enjoyed the prolonged use of one in both town and country. Fuel thirst seems to be less in the big-engined version, and I would concur with W.B.’s views on the good ride. G.C.]

Replicars

Sir,

In the January edition of Motor Sport the honourable editor, W.B., comments that he “cannot see the point of “Replicars” and “bogus sports cars”, and he deplores the “quite appallingly ugly” frontal aspect of Panther Cars’ latest offering, the Kallista. I agree!

The reason why the Kallista and Panther copies of the famed Jaguar SS100 are so awful to behold is because they are false and it shows! These replicars and others allude to a period they don’t belong to.

Dressing up a vintage style car in modern rubber and trendy modifications immediately smacks of falsity.

What I say to all those who think that they can improve on the original is, build your own car from scratch and prove yourself and the car.

One can well understand the impecunious building kit cars and home built specials; but when we come to the present and people are prepared to pay out £26,000 for a bogus Jaguar “D” Type, sporting “Jaguar” badges, or £18,000 for a replica “C. Type, it begs the question — are they mad? Just think of the genuine cars that can be bought for £10,000 — with a racing history, let alone those in the £20,000 bracket! Heavens, £20,000 would currently buy a mint condition XK120 and “E” Type, both genuine! Truly there must be some people about who have more money than sense!

Anthony Jordan
Orleton

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