We recently enjoyed a taste of Nuffield soup, in the form of a modified, or “souped-up,” Morris Minor loaned for trial by VW Derrington of Kingston, a TD MG, a Stage II TD, and a “souped-up” TC MG.
Dealing first with the Minor, so superlatively safe and pleasant to drive is this modern Nuffield product that Mr Derrington is to be congratulated on supplying more urge for it, the more so as the only major criticism levelled at these grand little cars concerns a lack of power.
This is a report on how the well-known Kingston-on-Thames purveyor of speed equipment has removed this valid objection. But we find it impossible to refrain from expressing warm appreciation of the Morris Minor itself, before dealing with the Derrington mods. Within the first few miles we were captivated by the excellence of the steering and roadholding. Clever proportioning of dimensions, weight distribution and suspension arrangements by Alec Issigonis, designer of the Minor, have endowed it with an ability to go round wet and slippery corners with an all but complete absence of sliding and with strictly controlled and very moderate roll. If the Minor does slide it is gradually outwards with all four wheels, in a manner which offers the maximum opportunity of winding it out before the accident is encountered. To this astonishing stability is wedded smooth, quick, light, (but not too light) rack-and-pinion steering, suffering return motion only over really bad surfaces. The lock, too, is enormous.
The suspension is well damped, and gives an outstandingly comfortable ride and definite, reassuring, understeer. This brilliant combination of riding and handling characteristics renders the modern Morris Minor extremely pleasant to drive and so inspires a driver that he has no qualms about suddenly changing direction while cornering should it be expedient so to do.
After driving MMM 398, the two-door saloon provided for test by Mr Derrington, we fully understood Stirling Moss’ preference for one of these cars. Unquestionably the Minor is a capital car with which to practise motor racing while going about one’s lawful occasions. It would however, be incorrect to say that it handles like a GP car, but only because it has insufficient power to spin its wheels as has a racing car.
To the inbuilt virtues just declared for an 8-hp vehicle, the Minor adds a high degree of silence, spaciousness and luggage-carrying capacity. But, because the side-valve 919-cc engine which powered its predecessor, the Series E Morris Eight, had to be utilised, there certainly is an absence of power. This Derrington has rectified.
His first step was to fit double valve springs, for early valve-bounce limits rpm on the standard engine. These are Terry “inners,” retaining the ordinary outer springs. At the same time the standard exhaust valves were replaced by more durable Valkrom exhaust valves. The next mod was to substitute for the normal ci head a “Silvertop” aluminium head, enabling the compression ratio to be raised from 6.5 to 7.2 to 1 with no more than muffled “pinking” at wide throttle openings, or none at all if the correct amount of Octol or benzole is laced with the “Pool.” In this form the engine gained appreciable speed ; it now called for harder plugs and Champion L10S proved eminently suitable. The standard gasket is retained.
Mr Derrington found that the time required from a standstill to when the speedometer needle pointed to 50 mph (an actual speed of just over 40 mph) had been reduced by 6.8 sec. The addition of a Derrington deep-note exhaust system, to reduce back pressure, and of a Lucas sports coil, knocked another 1.6 sec from this time. Finally, the existing Morris inlet manifold was adapted to take two serni-downdratight SU carburetters instead of one horizontal carburetter, whereupon a further 4.6 sec was lopped off. In other words, the elapsed time for reaching a speed of over 40 m.p.h. from rest fell by 13 seconds. When we took over the Minor it had all these mods, and also a Scintilla Vertex magneto. The pleasant gear change, with good synchromesh, was improved on account of a Derrington gear-lever extension, retaining the Morris knob,
In taking performance figures we departed from our usual practice of correcting the speedometer flatter, because not many Morris Minor owners are likely to have the opportunity or inclination to do this. Consequently, a fairer comparison is possible by quoting speedometer indicated speeds. Thus we went from to 30 mph indicated in 8 seconds (second gear) and did 0-40 and 0-50 mph, indicated, in 13.1 and 19 sec, respectively. A carburation flat spot did not help acceleration from rest, power coming in suddenly at 12 mph in bottom and 18 mph in second gear. (Stirling Moss’ Minor also has twin carburetters and suffers in a similar manner.) But the 0-50 figure represents an improvement over those for the standard car of 13 seconds; Although our best was 3.8 sec inferior to the best time claimed by Mr Derrington. Where the modified engine really scores is in the middle range of acceleration; for example, to go from a steady 30 mph to 50 mph (indicated speeds) occupied 11.6 sec in third gear. A ss 1/4 mile took 28 sec.
Over a 1/4 mile where most sports cars reach what can be termed their “obtainable anywhere” maximum, as distinct from their “flat-out maximum,” the Minor wouldn’t clock more than 36.2 mph. But this test does not flatter small cars which need a reasonable run to reach their normal maximum speed, this was borne out by the speedometer, which read 65 mph at the finish but on many other occasions had worked up to over 70 mph and, throttles eased back, been held there as the .cruising gait. On one occasion we got an indicated 78 mph and pretty obviously the “Silvertop” Minor is good for comfortably over sixty. Here again, the main point of the mods, is that this speed can be held up main road gradients or at all events quickly regained, where the Standard Minor goes notieeably “flat.” The double valve springs, too, enable nearly 6,000 rpm to be reached. Indicated speeds of 24, 40 and 60 mph, respectively, are possible in the lower gears, after which valve bounce, not unexpectedly, returns.
Altogether, Derrington has gilded the lily, or, as Pomeroy prefers it, gilded refined gold. Does the Minor stand up to such treatment ? We can only say that in nearly 650 miles no trouble was experienced. The engine was a bit difficult to start from cold but was flexible from 20 mph in top gear and never protested at being asked to run at 6,000 rpm for considerable periods. Fuel consumption was better than 30 mpg, hard driving and the timed runs included. Oil pressure sat at a truly reassuring 70lb/sq in and Mr. Derrington was using Price’s Energol as best able to stand up to prolonged high-temperature operation.
If you enjoy your Morris Minor but desire it to go more briskly, Derrington’s “extras” are well worth investigating, in combination or separately. They are priced as follows :
Twin carburetters, approximately £20. Scintilla Vertex magneto, £17 10s. “Silvertop” aluminium head, £7 15s. Terry inner valve springs, 6s per set. Valkrom exhaust valves, 7s 6d each. Deep-note exhaust system, £4. Gear-lever extension, 5s 6d.
Mr. Derrington, 150, London Road, Kingston-on-Thames (Tel. : 5621-2), is able to prepare the engine for these modifications; for example, decarbonising, fitting the “Silvertop” head, double valve springs and harder plugs, can be done at an inclusive charge of £18 10s.
In stating that we returned MMM 398 reluctantly we have never written truer words—how happy the writer would be if those letters stood for “My Morris Minor” ! For souped-up or not, the Minor really is a remarkably fine car, its spacious interior, with plenty of stowage space within the body and its good-sized luggage boot with spare wheel stowed separately being practical features additional to the advantages conferred by basically sound design. Nuffield has set a high standard in small car technique which others will find it hard or impossible to equal—after all, what’s good enough for Stirling Moss should satisfy most of us !
The next helping of Nuffield soup was cold, but palatable. We arranged to try three different MGs on the same day, and although it was freezing hard at least we just escaped the fog which clamped down that evening.
These MGs comprised a tuned “TC” and a normal “TD” belonging to private-owner and red-hot enthusiast HC Bradford, and a Stage 2 “TD” loaned by Jarvis, of Wimbledon. Mr. Bradford’s immaculate “TC” was nonstandard in that it had had the head milled to raise the compression-ratio to 8.6 to 1, the ports polished, and stronger valve springs fitted, together with a Delco oil-coil and Servais silencer. The car had been bought secondhand after 10,000 miles, overhauled and tuned, and had now run about 19,000 miles.
We sallied forth first in this trim “TC” and were very favourably impressed. The engine we were assured, had a standard bottom-end, but its surprising appetite for revs, was matched by outstandingly smooth running—indeed, the whole car had a pleasantly taut feel. The exhaust note above 4,000 rpm, or about 60 mph, was quite inspiring, in a harsh, metallic sort of way. The power came in at about the same engine speed and thereafter the revs, would just go up and up, with no trace of roughness or other anxiety. Indeed, taking acceleration figures, we essayed, just once, to stay in second gear to a genuine 50 mph. The needle of the rev-counter went right off the calibrated scale and finished up across the inset clock, yet no valve bounce or protest intruded. Subsequent calculation showed that we had exceeded 5,900 rpm.
The “TC” settles down happily to an indicated cruising speed of just over 70 mph, probably clear of a genuine mile a Minute, and 5,000 r.p.m. comes up as a matter of course in the lower gears. The remote gear-change is quite delightful, the clutch works well, and the Lockheed brakes are excellent. The “cart-spring” suspension makes itself felt, but it can be said that we know of other cars in current production, one with ifs, that give still harder ride.
Altogether this “TC” impressed as a very well-kept, attractive little car, and one that would get its occupants about the place with genuine speed. The old-style suspension pays dividends in respect of minimising roll on corners, and Mr Bradford was warm in his praise of tyre longevity. The Goodyears (a make over which he enthuses) on the front wheels showed a deep tread pattern in spite of having run 8,000 miles, mainly in races at club Silverstone meetings and MCC trials.
The steering is the least attractive aspect of this fine little car. It feels “dead” and there is too-pronounced oversteer, so that conscious steering is necessary along straight roads. The wheel, too, is rather too close to the driver, although the gearing is reasonably high, asking 15/8 turns, lock-to-lock.
Distinctly intrigued by the engine’s willing flow of power, we took the “TC” to a measured quarter-mile. Here we were able to ascertain that when the speedometer read 60 mph we were doing 53, and at an indicated 30 mph the true speed was just over 281/2 mph. In taking acceleration figures we were somewhat hampered by the fact that there was no benzole in the fuel and by a tendency to “flick” on the part of the Jaeger rev-counter and speedometer needles.
However, a standing quarter-mile was covered in 21 sec and a genuine 50 mph reached from rest in 12 sec (first and second gears). The engine showed no distress during these somewhat brutal tests, oil pressure remaining at 50 lb/sq in, oil temperature at 50 deg C, water temperature at 70 deg C.
After lunch the Jarvis Stage II “TD” and the standard “TD” turned up and, after photographing all three MGs outside Mr Bradford’s charming house at Virginia Water, we set off in the “TDs” to see if Nuffield have made any improvement in their current MG over the earlier “TC.” The subsequent verdict was that they certainly have !
Mr Bradford’s “TC” had run 5,000 miles and was perfectly standard. It was in generally good tune, although the tappets were thought to be a bit noisy. The Jarvis “TD,” PM Walters’ personal car, was in Stage II trim, with 9.3 to 1 compression ratio and relevant Stage II mods. It had run nearly 15,000 miles in all, 5,000 miles (without decarbonising) since conversion from standard. It possessed the 4.55 to 1 axle ratio, whereas Mr Bradford’s car had the lower 5.125 to 1 ratio. There was a manual ignition control on the steering column, which only slightly subdued pinking when accelerating ; as the petrol contained 16 per cent of Octol, this suggests that the combustion chambers contained much carbon. The fan blades and thermostat had been removed. In this form the car covered the Brighton ss kilometre in 39.45 sec. The mixture was weak, resulting in a reluctance to start, and No 4 plug oiled up.
Naturally, with such an opportunity for interesting comparisons, we took both cars straight to the measured quarter-mile. On the way the superior roadholding and steering of a “TD” over a “TC” became very apparent. Cruising speed is probably a little higher, but the “TDs” felt more stable and rode really comfortably, due to the noticeably long-travel suspension. On corners they showed improvement both on account of their understeer and because they could be placed more accurately, especially over a bumpy approach, due to ifs. Cornered fast, however, rolling intrudes and rear-end breakaway occurs, which, under racing conditions, might put the car into a spin.
The steering is lower geared, 22/3 turns lock-to-lock. The gear-change, while still very pleasant, isn’t quite so enjoyable as that of the “TC,” and it is possible to catch up on the gate if rapid shifts from second to third are clumsily promoted. All these MG boxes are notably quiet. The clutch of the standard “TD” slipped when making rapid get aways from rest and neither “TD” engine had the smoothness or the ability to rev of the “TC.” On the whole, however, the “TD” is an infinitely better, although heavier, car than the “TC,” particularly when judged on steering and roadholding. The brakes, too, are better, humoured by wheels that are on the ground more frequently.
The speedometers of the “TDs” were more accurate, that of the standard “TD” reading 60 at a true 56 mph, and that of the Stage II being dead accurate at 60 mph. The acceleration times (screens erect, two up) were instructive.
It will be seen that the Stage II showed only a small improvement over the normal “TD” and was a shade slower than the “TC” It must be remembered, however, that its engine did not rev so willingly as that of the “TC” and that it had higher gear ratios than the standard “TD”. Where the Stage II did show up well was in its easier cruising at speed, while it would see off the normal “TD” quite comfortably up to 40 or 50 mph from a standstill, even when starting in arrears. The “TDs” were slower up to 50 mph than the “TC” because it was necessary to go into third gear, whereas the “TC” just got there in second gear.
The Stage II “TD” had no thermometer but it boiled after the acceleration tests, probably because two-thirds of the radiator was blanked off. It oiled up No. 4 plug towards the end of the test. Both cars showed about 40 lb/sq in oil pressure (Mr Bradford uses Esso 30 oil), and the normal “TD” ran at 70 deg C water temperature. Mr Walters averages about 27 mpg with his Stage II “TD” and Mr. Bradford gets about 35 mpg in ordinary motoring with his “TC” considerably less from his “TD.”
As dusk came down and the cold increased, the two “TDs ” were returned to their owners, after a final run over twisty cross-country roads. We had covered a total of about 193 miles in the three MGs, sufficient to compare “TD” with “TC”, and a Stage II “TD” with a standard “TD.” The acceleration figures were the real object of the exercise and very interesting they are.—WB.