Readers' letters, February 1985, February 1985

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Opinions expressed are those of our correspondents, and are not necessarily those of Motor Sport.

Goodwood Threatened

Sir,

Goodwood — that last surviving tribute to the club atmosphere of British Motor Racing — is under threat of closure by residents of nearby housing estates. What a shame! Goodwood is one of the few remaining venues which lack the commercialism of modern Motor Racing (for which local residents should surely be thankful) and is a place where true enthusiasts clubs and organisations (such as ourselves, Motor Heritage, who operate a once yearly charity event for Historic Cars), can go and retain some of the flavour of past Motor Racing today.

Who are these “Johnnies come lately” who think that just because they move into a new development that everything in the locality should change to suit them, particularly when that locality possesses an airfield which has seen flying and Motor Racing for the best part of 40 years since the countryside around was just fields. It is not as if Goodwood had ceased to function, or is suddenly being revived to full Motor Racing events with increased noise nuisance and traffic in the area. On the contrary, major Motor Racing ceased in 1966 but since then it has remained a testing circuit and weekend venue for clubs and charities alike and to my knowledge only wishes to continue the same.

So I say to the local residents who complain so loudly — firstly, look to yourselves, you knew of Goodwood’s existence and operations when you moved into the locality, so accept what was there when you bought or go back to the local council who gave permission for the land to be developed near to Goodwood and complain to them — go back to the developers who built on the land so near to Goodwood and complain to them, but don’t complain to Goodwood — it was there long before you and consider what it would be like if it had developed like other now International Motor Racing venues or airfields.

Newdigate, Surrey Graham Capel

Kieft Formula Junior

Sir

As the owner of a Kieft Formula Junior car I was especially fascinated by the two excellent articles in the January ’85 issue of Motor Sport on Kieft and Formula Junior.

I feel however I cannot let matters pass without putting in a few good words for this generally unsung little car.

The Kieft company had passed from Cyril Kieft’s hands by 1960, when the Formula Junior machine was designed and whilst 24 frames were assembled it seems that only about 10 cars were actually built and sold. Like so many others they were overwhelmed by the success of Lotus and were obliged to withdraw. I understand the remaining stock was purchased as a lot by an Irish couple who ran two Kiefts in Ireland.

My car is reputed to be the second Formula Junior of this marque although I know nothing of its endeavours in that formula. It appears to have been used in later events, probably hill-climbing, as it was rescued from a scrapyard near Blackburn in 1973 by Hugh Clifford where it lay as a collection of derelict bits. In this form it passed to Piers Martin, who managed to get it into running order and he used it in HSCC events around 1979 without much success. I purchased the Kieft from Piers in 1981 and set about a total rebuild.

I have now rebuilt the car three times in sorting out its systems and can now say it is a very attractive and reliable car with excellent handling qualities. Indeed, in my hands, the Kieft has only failed to finish once in 35 Historic Formula Junior events.

Whilst mine is the only Kieft Formula Junior running in Europe there is another known of in the USA being used in historic car races there.

Probably in common with other marques in this class, given more time for development the Kieft could have proved a force to be reckoned with in its day and certainly today gives me and hopefully others a great deal of pleasure.

Warboys, Hants F. G. Eedwards

Kieft

Sir,

Having enjoyed M.L.’s article on this marque, may I respond to your request for information?

In 1966 I was driving a weary VW van across Europe which had just arrived overland from Perth, W. Australia. Heading north on RN7 in France one Sunday afternoon in September. I spotted a sign propped against an old Renault truck informing the deserted road that this was the “Auto Museé du val de Loire” at Briare du Canal. I stopped to investigate, gathering up camera and light meter.

The first car I spotted near the entrance was a Lago-Talbot coupe with RHO in spite of a French (Dept 311 registration. It could have been a 1957 2½ America or the later Simca / Ford V8 model. But this was not a well documented collection nor were any informative signs in evidence. In the yards surrounding the old mill which housed the “Museé du val de Loire”, were cars in all stages of delapidation. Names such as Brasier, Grégoire, Mathis, Peugeot and Salmson stood side by side and crouched forlornly in odd dark corners. It was like having a sweet tooth in a chocolate factory. I didn’t know where to start.

Inside were more cars and finally in a dark corridor an odd note of contrast. In the gloom I recognised the old F3 Kieft outline at once in spite of its dirty brown / maroon paintwork and sadly sagging tyres. In the “engine room” was a JAP and in faint white paint the name Stirling Moss was legible together with “Montlhéry” and a list of figures. These could have been speeds, laps or events, is it possible that it was a car left in France from the record breaking?

I was able to return the following year. The Kieft was still there at that time but additions such as a Rolls and a Mk 8 Jaguar had been added and a room full of three-wheelers, which were mainly Morgans or Morgan derivatives.

From the warden / caretaker I discovered that the owner was a manufacturer of office furniture. Car restoration was an on-going programme with the initial preparation and steam cleaning being carried out in the “Central Garage”, Briare.

A small book I bought from “Classic Motor Books” of Wisconsin some years ago — Automobile Museum Directory — lists museums and collections by country, dated 1976 it lists under France as the second entry — Autobiographic Renault, RN7, 45250 Briare. The first entry is — Autobiographic Renault, Ave des Champs Elysees 53, 75008 Paris.

From this information I assumed that the Briare Collection was now connected in some way with Regie Renault. When I saw this collection there was a considerable number of Renault models including more than one of the 1921 40cv models apart from many others including the 1907 20 hp.

Norwich G. D. Pilborough

[I know the whereabouts of two rhd Lago-Americas and have reason to believe only two were made. Possibly the Talbot coupe in the workshops was one of the 1955/6 cars fitted with the 4-cylinder Talbot engine. See “Swan Song” in this issue. At least one of the Kieft record cars was sold in France so it is likely that is the one referred to above. — ML.]

Rich Man’s Rover

Sir,

Can I give a piece of useful information for owners of the latest model of Range Rover?

The non-demisting of the driver’s side of the windscreen can be cured. It is caused by the new instrument binnacle and the solution is to remove the cover at the rear of the instruments. It comes off very easily (just like all the rest of the interior trim) by pressing the sides and pushing back. The de-mist / de-ice is thus improved to the point of being pathetic rather than positively lethal. The then naked instruments look a little unsightly but an explanatory sticker on the windscreen of every new range Range Rover should encourage Rover to supply redesigned covers and to test (remember testing, Rover?) before they instigate “improvements” next time.

I am sorry I can’t be so helpful with the raining in, the near immovable rear window lock, the blowing fuses, and the wind noise.

The Range Rover is a wonderful car and I’ve enjoyed it, but it is definitely only for rich people. It’s not the £20,000 price ticket, or the 15 mpg, it’s the extra car you need when your three-month-old car spends six weeks in the garage for new gears, rust in the door pillars, and bits dropping off!

Skipton, N Yorks Paul F. Howcroft

Rover Lover

Sir,

Having just read the article “Top Car ’85” in December’s Motor Sport, I feel obliged to put pen to paper. Once again I find a magazine condemning the Rover 213, but this time by someone who hasn’t even driven one! As the owner of a 213SE I feel obliged to come to its defence.

My main complaint is that everybody is so appalled at the supposed denigration of the Rover name. Will this be the case with the new XX model? What of the forthcoming Lotus / Toyota? Why cannot people accept the Rover 213 for what it is instead of what they think it should be? To my mind (and supported by the prices of used models) the car that has done most damage to the Rover name in the present SDI range. It has an appalling reputation for quality and reliability. If the 213 proves as reliable as its predecessor, the Acclaim, it can only do the Rover name good.

To my mind, the 213 is a fine car, with some shortcomings (but what car hasn’t?). Before choosing the Rover my wife and I looked at several cars in the small / medium sector. (I have previously driven Lancias but my wife who has recently passed her test could not reach the pedals. She is 5 ft 1 in while I am 6 ft, and it often proves difficult to find cars we both fit.) We did not like the Sierra, the Cavalier was uncomfortable for my wife and the Montego was bland. As for the Ford Escort / Orion we both found them of poor finish and “cheap and nasty” inside.

On the other hand, the Rover is comfortable with a good boot (the sill is very high though). The choice of materials inside is tasteful and the level of equipment and finish is excellent. The engine is excellent with a good balance of performance, economy and noise levels. A number of motoring writers have commented on the obvious Japanese dash. What might I ask does that mean? If it’s well laid out, well equipped and finished what more do they want? To condemn it as Japanese is being very small minded. Incidentally, everyone who has ridden in the car has commented favourably on the quality and comfort inside.

My only reservations are on the ride which can be caught out on poor surfaces. However, I frequently drive Cavaliers and Orions and feel that they are little better.

In conclusion, therefore, I feel that the Rover 213 is a fine car which should not be condemned for its origins. It gives ARG a valuable addition to its range as a solid, comfortable and quality car as well up to Rover’s image and standards. Why not give it a chance and certainly don’t condemn it on the basis of what others have said, M.L.!

Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancs Peter D. Brooks

PS I would like to point out that I am a young chartered accountant, married and expecting our first child. We don’t all want XR3’s, GTi’s etc, but something with a decent amount of room, a boot and comfort!

[Regardless of the merits of the Rover 213, I believe that in the context of a “Top Car” contest it would be wrong to give ARG credit for putting a Rover badge on a Honda. In exactly the same way were one to judge a contest for technical excellence in F1, one would surely give the prize to Porsche, not TAG. Had the same car been presented as a Honda it would have been a different matter. — ML.)

Ah So!

Sir,

I note that in your comments in the October issue on the “Rover 213SE” you express disappointment at the Rover name being applied to this vehicle.

An interesting feature of the publicity given to these “200 series” cars is that nowhere, either in the advertising or the sales brochure, is there so much as a hint that they are, to all intents and purposes, Hondas with a Rover badge stuck on the front. It might be enlightening to know the reason for this omission. Ivan only think of three possibilities:

1. Austin / Rover are ashamed, as they certainly should be, at this bastardisation of a famous name.
2. They do not consider the fact relevant. If it is irrelevant whether Joe Public buys a British or a foreign car, why have we the poor taxpayers been forced to pay countless millions to keep “British” Leyland afloat?
3. They are deliberately trying to con the car buying public into believing they are getting something which they are not.

Whatever the reason, it is an insult to every Rover owner that this name should be used to market a Japanese car. Bred to be Rover? That has got to be the worst joke of the year!

Harrow S. J. Sheppard

George Weldon

Sir,

In the December issue of Motor Sport I noticed two mentions of George Weldon in connection with motoring musicians.

George Weldon was conductor and musical director of the City of Birmingham Orchestra (now City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra) from 1943 to 1951.1 was one of his keenest fans, rarely missing any of his concerts (every Thursday and Sunday evening, October to May).

While it was known that he was a motoring enthusiast (I believe he owned a two-seater Riley, with a special radiator grille, very pretty), and I remember seeing him driving an XK120 on the road, little was known about his motor racing activities, apart from a mention in the local newspaper of a G. A. T. Weldon who raced a Healey Silverstone (there were few motoring publications in those days). I never knew that he had competed at Le Mans in a blown Atalantic.

I would be very interested to know more about his motor racing career either through your correspondence columns, or perhaps someone could write an article about him.

Thank you for an excellent magazine.

Birmingham Don Whitten

Racing And Rhythm

Sir,

Just a final word about my old friend “Buddy” Featherstonehaugh. Buddy at one time ran a concern called Monza Service from premises deep in the wilds of Surrey in an old mill. We sometimes held sessions there with Buddy on tenor sax. E. O. (Poggy) Pogson on alto sax and clarinet, Harry Robbins on drums, Wally Morris on bass and yours truly on piano. Based on present day standards I feel certain we could have made the Top Ten.

Freeing-by-Sea Brian Finglass

More Motoring Musicians

Sir,

This letter is prompted by the article Motor Racing and all that jazz which appeared in the November issue. Might I add another name to the list you printed, that of Canadian singer / songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. A former kart racer (he gave that up because he kept breaking the finger nails he needed to play the guitar!), his name returned to motor racing by sponsoring Canadian driver John Graham in one of Colin Bennett’s Cobras (ex-March 811) for part of the 1982 Can-Am season. Apparently Graham’s sponsorship has been taken over by Hall and Oates (mentioned in the original article).

As for a reason behind the correlation mentioned in the article: perhaps some inherent sense of rhythm is common to both music and racing?

Weston, Ontario Edward Roberts