More letters from readers, January 1952

San Francisco views


Having recently discovered your excellent journal I lost little time in subscribing to it, and anticipate a great deal of pleasure from it in the future. I have acquired a scattering of late back issues and have found some of the discussions most entertaining.

Your editorial comments, and the subsequent letters, concerning the amazing performances of American “hot-rods” seem (at least in the issues I have seen) to have omitted any mention of a vital factor, namely the use of “liquid dynamite” or fuel additives which require no atmospheric oxygen for combustion— this in effect appears to increase the volumetric efficiency, and I believe is referred to as the “poor man’s supercharger” in the forthcoming issue of Hot Rod Magazine. Of course, there is a great deal of hyperbole about these cars, for example the suggestion that the Xydias-Batchellor might attempt the World’s Land Speed Record, but their performance is really not to be questioned.

As to the relative merits of Cadillac-Allards and Jaguars, I have an idea that the XK120C may make Christians of some of the unbelievers. We hope to see a few of these new models in action here before long. It has been pointed out already that many of the Cadillac (and now Chrysler) engines being used in Allards are far from being in stock condition, to say nothing of their having a great initial advantage in displacement over the Jaguar.

Over here we are beginning to develop what appears to be an undesirable situation, in that the owner-driver who tries to race his road car is rapidly being pushed into the background by owners who, in many cases not driving themselves, are able and willing to spend almost unlimited sums on the preparation of their cars. No one could take exception to the efforts of these men were it not that there are few speed events in which they can not compete, and further that there is growing a feeling that cars of lesser potentiality should stay at home and not clutter up the track when they have no chance of placing. I suppose the answer is more clubman’s events, but there seem to be difficulties.

I am a newcomer to the ranks of sports car owners, my “TD” MG being my first machine of this sort. It is unfortunate that my work keeps me away from my car for some five weeks out of six, and it has been my further bad luck that since I joined the San Francisco Centre of the MGCC it has held only one fixture while my ship was in portend that one was an 800-mile run over a couple of 10,000 foot mountain passes ; since I had just the day before gotten my car out of the shop after a complete engine rebuild I thought I’d better not risk it.

Early in February of this year I left San Francisco with my MG on an extended business-cum-pleasure trip which took me as far as Boston, Mass, and return for a total of some 10,000 miles. If I’d had my “druthers” I’d have made the trip in an XKC 120 instead, but the MG did not do badly at all. I cruised it at 60-70 mph and occasionally higher ; fuel consumption was around 20-22 mpg (US), and oil consumption from 200 miles per quart upwards. For a couple of months I was in and around New York City, where traffic speed is pretty generally held down to about 50 mph in the open ; during this period my fuel mileage went up to about 25 mpg. Most of the little trouble I had with the car was due to ignorance on my own part and on the part of some of the mechanics who worked on the car. I think it is interesting that the clutch failure was due to the newly designed clutch and brake pedal mounting (no lubrication, so the pedal stiffened up and slipped the clutch), while the front shock-absorber was also new. Now I understand that these components have been modified.

My principal complaint against the MG is, of course, the usual American complaint against most British cars, it lacks power. At high cruising speeds it needs a great deal of highway to pass in safety, while head winds—particularly at the higher altitudes—slow it to a crawl, more than once I was plugging along at about 30 mph in third against a wind, and on pretty well opened throttle at that. While I am at sea this time I am having a Wade blower fitted to the car, so I hope to find when I get back that the performance has improved considerably.

I have recently been looking ahead to the choice of my next car. At the moment I think it will be either a Lea-Francis sports 21/2 or an XK 120—probably the former, because of the extra occasional seating and luggage capacity and because so much of my driving is necessarily done in the city, where the Jaguar has a reputation for overheating, also of course the Jaguar is larger and more vulnerable. However, the more I see and read of the sports cars of the middle and late nineteen-thirties, the more I am tempted to try something like an Aston-Martin or AC two/four-seater. Maintenance is a problem here, and in that respect the Jaguar of course wins hands down. However, the older cars have a great appeal, and in any case the question won’t actively arise for perhaps a year, by that time I may be able to manage an opportunity to inspect the British cars on their home ground.

With best wishes for the continued success of your magazine.

I am, Yours, etc.,

John A Morrisey. San Francisco