Letters from Readers, January 1950

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

M.G. v. H.R.G.
[This correspondence is closed, but we make exception in the case of this interesting letter from William Loeb, President of the Union Leader Corporation of America, as it naturally took longer to reach us than letters from English correspondents.—Ed.]

Sir,
Can an American get into the discussion on the M.G. and H.R.G.? As one who has driven an M.G. through two Vermont and New Hampshire winters under all sorts of conditions, I would like to subscribe to what Miss Betty Haig had to say in her letter in the October issue. The M.G. has some startling virtues, as well as some horrifying faults.

Among its faults, I certainly would subscribe to that brilliantly put statement of Miss Haig’s, “The suspension on both cars is equally shattering!” It is with regard to Miss Haig’s statement that the “M.G. steering box is an affliction to all owners” that I heartily agree.

When the M.G. steering is good it is like the little girl who is perfect—it is VERY good. But when it is bad, like the little girl, it is horrid and horrifying!

Unless one has an assured conviction of a good seat in the “hereafter,” about one of the most discomforting sensations in the world is to come around a corner, which you ordinarily take at 55 miles an hour when the steering is in good condition, and take it this time at 40 and find yourself wildly out of control because the steering has gone out again!

This writer had that experience once and went down is 30-ft. embankment into a river. At THAT juncture appeared the good points of the M.G. The car sustained nothing more than a broken frame, and the writer drove it 100 miles to Albany, New York, and then back 150 miles to New Hampshire.

One has the feeling that a little more construction of the H.R.G. and a little more care and attention to the details and design of the M.G. would tend to produce two perfect automobiles. At the moment, the writer is driving a four-passenger Healey of this year’s vintage, with it great deal more comfort but much less fun. Incidentally, the Americans notice, with regret, the passage of the large diameter wheels on the English motor scene. Looking over the specifications for this year, only the M.G. is retaining the 19-in. wheels.

Not being an engineer, the writer is not aware of the reason for this, but, he does know that the large diameter wheels on the M.G. emoted him to be able to negotiate steep hills in deep snow before the ploughs had cleared the roads, and to move along back country roads during our mud season when the ruts are over 10 inches deep, and nothing except four-wheeled traction vehicles were moving. We doubt if the Healey, even with the running start the M.G. would take, could get through that mud. Perhaps some of your British enthusiasts could put some pressure on the M.G. people to improve the steering and riding of their almost excellent car.

I am, Yours, etc.,
New Hampshire, William Loeb.
* * *

Straw Bales

Sir.
I cannot agree with your correspondent, Mr. Cooke, re straw bales.

Silverstone was not, as he says, laid out as a road circuit. It was designed as an airfield, and the runways have to be used as they were laid down for aircraft, whether suitable for racing or not.

The use of so much straw does not produce the conditions of a road circuit. The latter is usually provided with escape roads, thus giving the driver who approaches too fast a chance to avoid a crash. Silverstone is not so provided. The straw bales edge the road all round the curve, and there is no margin for error.

Mr. Cooke seems to think that drivers will not learn the art of driving if they are encouraged to think that they have plenty of room to correct errors. I think that it would be even more detrimental if they become over careful through remembering that they have no room at all.

Straw seems more dangerous than walls. It seems that the straw forces the car to overturn, whereas a wall does not.

There is no excuse for risking lives in, this way, and I hope that. the authorities will alter the position of the bales this year (unless it is possible to run the big races at Donington Park).

Donington’s ratio of deaths to seasons (even allowing three) is much better than Silverstone’s one in one.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Humberstone. R. E. Wright.
* * *

Sir,
I waist join issue with you over the question of the half-and-half, or unmentionable cars referred to in “Rumblings.” Whilst I couldn’t agree more with your views on vintage cars, I most emphatically refute the implication that nothing good came out of the decade before the war.

Surely you do not contend that such motor cars as the Frazer-Nash, Type 55 Bugatti, “17/95” and Alfa-Romeo, Lagonda Rapide, “4½” Invicta, “1½” Squire, 3-litre Hotchkiss, Talbot 105, and “Ulster” Aston-Martin, to name just a few are “unmentionable!”

They all possessed a very high performance, were devoid of frills and unnecessary ironmongery, and were in every sense of the word, thoroughbred.

Surely the moral is that an extension is needed to the vintage era. As the history of motoring grows it is quite possible that each decade will produce its quota of cars which will live on when their contemporaries are forgotten. Only time can give a proper perspective to this theory.

I am, or course, well aware of the fact that the cars at present labelled ”vintage” are quite dissimilar in their characteristics from those of later years, but there are many vintages of wines, many periods of furniture and architecture, and each can stand on its own feet, having nothing in common with the others except good breeding.

If I have read more into your words than you intended to convey, please accept my apologies, and in any case, my thanks for producing Motor Sport each month, to say nothing of “The Story of Brooklands,” etc.

I am, Yours, etc.,
B. W. Rivett.
Catford, S.E.6.

[Mr. Rivett’s views have the backing of the V.S.C.C. and of ourselves—we did define the “half-and-half” breed as having the birdcage before the rubber mountings and the dried-milk fittings before the built-in heater and radio, and none of these things apply to the cars Mr. Rivett names.—Ed.]
* * *

More Riley “Gen”

Sir,
Having read with interest your article “Choosing and Tuning a Riley Nine,” I feel a few more hints would help if you could spare the space in your excellent publication.

The standard inlet camshaft has a dwell of 230 degrees, and the exhaust 265 degrees dwell.

If an exhaust is fitted on the inlet side, use the inlet timing wheel and set to the standard markings, except that the inlet camshaft should be turned one tooth, in a clockwise direction beyond the standard position. The ideal timing for twin exhaust camshafts is for the inlet to open 25 degrees before t.d.c., and the exhaust to close 25 degrees after t.d.c. This can be obtained by resloting the timing wheels, but positions close to the above will be obtained by the method mentioned.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Sittingbourne, A. J. G. Wicks.
* * *

Re The Duesenberg

Sir,
Mr. P. S. De Beaumont’s remarks on the Duesenberg in your November issue were very interesting, but I should like to offer a word or defence for the Duesenberg, one of which, in the twin-cam version, I drove for a number of years with great enjoyment.

Mr. Beaumont was quite right in remarking that the car was never “lively,” particularly in traffic, or accelerating at low speeds. Its long stroke and great size and weight rendered that sort of performance unlikely, with the possible exception of two or three ultra light and short-wheelbase model two-seaters, which are still running in southern California.

Even the sports models were ponderous cars, with a far from quiet engine which emitted low, sullen mutterings at speeds under 50. But with a long stretch of open road, when the throttle could be held down, the car came to life.

The feel of the car became increasingly lighter as it gathered speed. At 70 and over it seemed to be an entirely different automobile, with a wonderful, deep engine note which was never audible under ordinary conditions.

In the somewhat giddy years when cars were still manufactured, an acquaintance of mine purchased one of the supercharged models, supposed to develop 325 b.h.p. At that time he was a student at the University of California at Berkeley, and was in the habit of driving from the campus to his home at Los Angeles at frequent intervals, a distance of about 400 miles. On several occasions he made the run in less than five hours. This required cruising at over 100 m.p.h., when traffic permitted and occasional stretches at 140 m.p.h. [!—Ed.]

This, of course, is scarcely the sort of driving to be recommended. I mention it to show the performance these cars were capable of. In my own experience the Duesenberg was neither easy to drive, practical, nor economical, but for sheer speed and a sensation that must be akin to piloting a locomotive, I don’t believe any other American car could touch it.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Idaho, William Mulhall, Jr.
U.S.A.
* * *

Tale of Woe

Sir,
I have read with great interest of three enthusiasts who have been experimenting with Douglas Drone 750-c.c. light aero-engines, to convert them to use in racing cars, and thought that my experience with the same engine may be of some help to them.

The engine was originally designed to run at a maximum of 3,500 r.p.m., and the compression ratio 5 to 1. To get any decent performance, I first had new pistons made to increase the compression ratio to 11 to 1, and a modified camshaft giving the following valve timing: inlet opens 20 degrees before t.d.c., and closes 50 degrees after t.d.c., exhaust opens 63 degrees before b.d.c. and closes 49 degrees after t.d.c., with 30 degrees advance on the ignition. Also fitting much larger float chambers to the carburetters and then increasing the jet sizes accordingly. The fuel used was straight methanol.

Our first trouble was found to be flywheel keys continually shearing, although special attention was paid to the crank and flywheel tapers when fitting. The next trouble was the crank itself giving under the strain of the extra horses. A special crank was made, having larger big-end hearing journals, using smaller rollers for the big-ends, and taking a skimming out of the con.-rods themselves, and the taper altered to take a new flywheel. After all this I hoped all would be well, but alas! up went a piston solid: this was dealt with by making a special oil provision, injected into the tops of the cylinder barrels.

This seemed to overcome the lack of oil reaching the pistons, but the motor easily oiled its plugs. The next fault was the bronze tappet guides, that in turn just flew to pieces, and had to be replaced with case-hardened steel ones, which seemed O.K. after the first test run. Everything then appeared to be “spot on,” and it was decided to give the engine an all-out test; the result was one large hole through the crankcase, and a short stub of con.-rod poking through it.

I am now, thoroughly disheartened, having spent most of the spare dollars put away for a rainy day, and hope that some kind soul will sell me a works Austin Seven racing unit for a very reasonable sum, to enable me to complete my car!

Maybe I should have used a little common sense in the first place, and have known that to boost up an engine of this type was hopeless, especially as the main components of this engine are the 494-c.c. Douglas motor-cycle engine, but I hope I can pick up cheaply, another crankcase and polish up the motor and give it a worthy resting place on the sideboard or in some place where I shall always see it, to remind me not to try to build skyscrapers out of match boxes.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Brockenhurst, A. E. Fisher. Hants.

[It will be interesting to see whether the enthusiasts we referred to get better results.—Ed.]
* * *

Praise for the Citroën

Sir,
I was particularly interested in your account of the supercharged Citroën Six in the December issue. I had the pleasure some weeks ago of meeting the owner by chance and examining the car. As you say it could give much food for thought to the builders of the bloated post-war cars which now “adorn” our roads.

My interest is perhaps explained by the fact that I am the enthusiastic owner of a 1946 Light Fifteen saloon, my first—but not last—experience of the type. Without a doubt it is one of the most satisfying vehicles which can be bought to-day. I say this having been a member of the Chain Gang until 1946. In my humble opinion much of the excellent roadholding and cornering abilities of the ‘Nash are found in the Citroën, so that the change of necessity to a family car has lessened considerably the gap felt by the passing of the ‘Nash.

Would it be possible for you to publish a Road Test Report of the Citroën? In spite of the fact that the design is basically about 15 years old, it is still modern in style and performance, combining the pleasure of real motoring with great comfort, accessibility and economy of running.

As a somewhat different subject, I am forced to wonder when I read of the greatly improved performance or postwar cars when compared with the pre-war model. Records I have include road test reports of two popular cars—each tested before and after the war. And in each case performance figures of to-day show poorly in comparison with those of ten years before. Surely the reason cannot all be found in the quality of our present fuel? One is a well-known open sports car and the other a 3½-litre saloon, both renowned for providing brisk motoring.

Good luck to Motor Sport, and may it long continue. I have been a reader for over 16 years.

I am, Yours, etc.,
London, B. A. Crabb.
S.W.16.

[We approached Citroën, Ltd., last year and shall publish our impressions when they are able to loan us a test car.—Ed.]

You may also like

Related products