Letters from Readers, January 1953

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52

N.B.  Opinions expressed are those of our correspondents and Motor Sport  does not necessarily associate itself with them.  — Ed.

 

The Poske stir-up

Sir,

I hope manufacturers take heed of Mr. Poske’s criticisms of popular British export models.  I, and many of my acquaintances have had nearly all the troubles that he complains of with post-war English cars. My bitterest complaint is against the electrical equipment which is so contemptibly unreliable, also dashboard instruments. During the five months we have had our Morris Oxford we have already had a new electric clock, speedometer and cable; the chromium-plate is showing some signs of rust, the panels on the inside of the doors came adrift and were replaced. They came adrift again and the Morris distributor said we should need new ones and he would order them. That was nearly two months ago and we still have not got them. The second exhaust washer has just blown, the front suspension has come loose and been tightened, the boss of the steering wheel, which carries the horn button and trafilcator control, came loose and went round with the steering wheel—until it jammed, and so did the steering wheel!  I could go on criticising other new cars and components, which I know to have failed, and fill pages. However, surely most owners of post-war English cars know without being told how imperfect many of these cars are.

Mr. Poske is in the fortunate position of being able to choose from a large selection of cars of different nationalities. We have to buy English here and although there is a garage every few miles here it is most heart-breaking to experience trouble after you have just spent a lot of money—more, money than you may ever be able to save again — on a new car.

Whilst people from other countries continue to buy British cars, our manufacturers will walk in smug security and continue to make the same type of cars with all their faults. Stop buying them and the manufacturers will have to buck up.

This idea may seem unpatriotic. It is not. It is frank, and in the long run it would be most beneficial to this country. It can only do harm to a salesman’s prestige if he praises an article he is selling when experience has shown him that it is not satisfactory.

Americans want to buy really lively reliable cars that require no attention and will stand up to motoring for the whole of their lives on unmade-up roads. Why not ? That is the way American manufacturers have educated them to think of motoring.

If we want to enjoy a steady market for our cars abroad we must make what the customers want and not what we want them to have. Surely this is obvious and there are great openings for the manufacturer who is the first to do something about it. He must also provide a super spares service. Even if his cars are reliable, they will still get smashed up sometimes and will require spare parts. When the windscreen wiper control switch gave trouble the first time, I wrote to Morris Motors for a replacement and it was approximately two weeks before I received a reply. That is in England. What on earth must it be like in Peru ?

Take note of Mr. Poske’s letter. Observe that cars in his country have to operate over high mountain passes where atmospheric pressure is less, engines go woolly and hydraulic brakes boil. Remember the sun’s heat is intense, the dust plays havoc with exposed bearings and shock-absorbers’ work is increased beyond all calculation and you will soon realise that entirely different designs are required from this country if cars are to give satisfactory service. Especially in view of the existing cars’ poor record of reliability in England.  Manufacturers should bear in mind that really long journeys of several hundred miles are quite normal in the U.S.A. and motorists do not expect to spend their week-ends oiling S.U. dashpots, “rattle-hunting” and generally playing at “Service Stations.” American cars require none of this attention until they are quite old.

My thanks to Mr. Poske for his openly expressed opinions. I hope they were noticed by those people who can do something to set matters right. Then we shall all have gained.

 But to end on a softer note, there are some English cars of which we are very proud, some fine cars whose reputations I will defend tooth and nail. 

I am, Yours, etc.,

R. D. Hodgson

***

Sir,

Perhaps you will be good enough to give space to a letter of complete agreement with Mr. George H. Poske from an Englishman and an enthusiast suffering from this same shoddy work.

Car No. 1 had in its first six months a collapsed battery and rear shock-absorbers. A smash then compelled the purchase of No. 2, the carburetter-silencer bracket broke on the first day and the thermometer tube on the third. The starter jammed in a fortnight and the flywheel ring was totally stripped within six months. Incidentally, this model is still doing this three years later as friends have demonstrated.

The interior paintwork, particularly on the facia was non-existent at six months and the sparking plugs at 3,000 miles. A friend of mine had to throw the same make of plugs away after the first 760 miles in his car (not the same make).

As for tyres, I have had five cracked inner walls within 5,000 miles each and only the offer of a 50 per cent. rebate each time kept me going, but never again will I touch that famous name, nor I fancy will a considerable number of other people.

Car No. 3, just purchased, boiled in its first 150 miles, and thereafter with regularity until I discovered that a pressurised radiator conceals or prevents a leak except in the warming up period. I have also had to tear out the radiator grill which, after three months, had more rust than chromium.

Lest some readers may accuse me of being responsible, I would refer them to your own experience, Mr. Editor (August. 1952, page 367) and the even more disgraceful case of W.J.T. (Nov., 1952, page 499).

Personally I suggest that a pre-war manufacturer who sent out a car like that whether a new model or not would have been in liquidation very soon and have deserved it.

To those who make various apologies for this work, I would say that in the tropics you may be 200 or more miles from the sole agent and what in England is a case of ringing the local garage and asking for a replacement to come round straightaway and catching the bus or train that morning, out here means possibly weeks of waiting, an expensive tow, and no means of getting to work.

The attitude is obviously “why should we worry about you chum, you’re in the sterling area and have no choice,” but God help England when the Colonies and Dominions finally get tired of this attitude.

I am, Yours, etc.,

D.H. Constable,

Ceylon

***

In reply to anti-R.R  ‘Endry

Sir,

I read the letter of that nice Mr. Hendry with tremendous interest. After all, any old chump knows that the Rolls is an old-fashioned … well … car, I suppose you’d call it, trading on a reputation that would appear to be as false as it is certainly universal. Of course, they do appear to be rather nicely made, and you can’t hear them running, and some of them, even after thirty years’ service, glide along, soundless and smokeless, usually driven by rather old fashioned codgers with shiny stiff collars and bowler hats… er, sorry Mr. Hendry… derby hats.  I suppose those chaps inherited them from their fathers, who were duped by artful Rolls salesmen, when they had reached their dotage. It just shows you what you can put across simple people with lots of education and good taste. Tell them that a car is made with the precision of a Longines watch, that the interior has craftsmanship worthy of Sheraton, that the whole has the pleasing effect to the senses (assuming any) of a perfect engineering and artistic creation … why, you get some poor boobs to believe you.

Anyway, thank you Mr. Hendry for a very nice letter, even if we’re not going to have any more. There was just a point I wasn’t too clear about:  what is a Cadillac ? I asked a few odd types in the West End  (of London, Mr. Hendry). Nobody seemed to be sure. One bloke said “Excuse pliss ? ” and another said it was a make of cheap brandy, and then a Yank soldier put me out of my misery and told me. It’s the biggest, finest, fastest, goddam automobile made in the U.S.A.  Well, I said to myself, to see one of these magnficent creations before I go back to the sticks where I live is a  MUST.  So I got a cab to the big American parking lot that old Limeys still seem to call Grosvenor Square … you never could get progress across to these bums. I must say it’s improved since the old days, just jam-packed with bright shiny automobiles. At least the new ones were bright and shiny. To the pigeons overhead it must have looked full of gorgeous tin tortoises. Well, the cabby found a spot to put me down, not without a bit of trouble, I must say. I thought I heard him mutter something about  “Perishin’ Yankee sossidge cans.”  But there, I was probably hearing things. Whoever heard of a sausage can on four wheels ?

I had a good look all round for a Cadillac, without much luck. I must have looked at acres of flaking paint and spotted chrome. I asked some American sailors if either of them had a Cadillac, but they didn’t answer me direct.  One of them jerked his head in my direction and said  “Dis nut thinks wese Bawston bluebloods.”   Well, do you know, I didn’t find one in the whole square … sorry, parking lot.  Then one of the sailors told me I’d find one outside the Pakistan Embassy, most days. So I walked round, this time, and at last I found IT.  Oh, Mr. Hendry, You naughty man. It’s only a big Chev.

I am, Yours. etc.,

Howard Jones,

Smallfield.

***

Sir,

Bravo, Mr. Hendry, and bravo Motor Sport  for never failing to entertain in its correspondence or any other of its columns.

Of course, much of what Hendry says is right, but why must he wreck a good case by exaggeration ? — revealing himself to be just as prejudiced as the “enthusiasts” whom he so properly chastises.

Granted the civil Merlin was a failure, but where he got that claptrap about early Merlins fading in aerobatics I cannot imagine. I agree that the Rolls is slow, I know we are being not “heretical” but realistic in saying that the Cadillac is more comfortable, more capacious, quicker, and more durable in the fullest sense of that term (try running both in some wet, tropical country, you’ll know the difference in six months)— but why spoil the argument by bringing in irrelevant nonsense about Cadillac coupés out-running Bentley Continentals ? Let’s stick to facts, and the two have never, as far as I know, been matched.

None the less, his basic point remains, and I endorse it: where is the Rolls of yesteryear, the great Silver Ghosts that could clock 200,000 miles in the sands of Arabia, with three tons of armoured car on their back, then come home and haul an ambulance round London for ten years ? Try doing that with a Silver Wraith chassis and all its lousy, farmed-out electrical equipment, and see how long you last.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Peter Blunt (Squadron-Leader)

London, W1

***

Sir,

I almost regretted renewing my subscription to your magazine yesterday, because about the first thing my eye fell upon was Mr. Hendry’s diatribe. Mr. Hendry is evidently one of those people who believe that others will more readily believe their case if they are sufficiently offensive and vulgar. That sort of letter (with Editorial insertions) is not the usual thing one expects to see in your magazine, because Mr. Hendry is deliberately insulting to one of the greatest names in British engineering. Knowing as most people do the real achievements of Rolls-Royce in two wars, I find it most unpleasant to see them belittled in such a puerile manner.

Mr. Hendry clearly has no appreciation of anything but speed in an automobile. If that is all he requires, why not obtain a Jaguar Mk. VII?  I have no doubt that just because it goes faster than a Bentley, Mr. Hendry believes it to be a better car. He also has no idea of the policy of Rolls-Royce. They have never made claims to pioneering in car design, and they willingly admit that they pay royalties to many manufacturers. The greatness of Rolls-Royce lies not in applying half-baked ideas which happen to enjoy a short vogue of popularity but in making the application of tried ideas a matter of perfection. The Silver Ghost, generally admitted to be the finest car ever made, contained no major point of originality.

I remember the Chief Engineer of General Motors, when on a visit here a short time ago, in a statement published in the Autocar,  said that when the G.M. test track was opened at Detroit in 1928 no American car would run for long at full throttle without running its big-ends. A Phantom R-R., however, exhausted the patience of the testers. So I wish Mr. Hendry luck with his 1925 V8 Cadillac.

Mr. Hendry’s criticism of the military Merlin can only be described as niggling.  We owe the “Battle of Britain” to the Merlin engine, the superiority of which was never in doubt and merely enhanced by the addition of the U.S. carburetter at a late stage.  Even by 1942 no purely American fighter could equal the Hurricane in perormance, as events in Malaya clearly showed.

Rolls-Royce achievements from 1904 to the present day, to the unbiased mind, surely speak for themselves, but people of Mr. Hendry’s stamp are never convinced. I do not object to criticism, even such fierce criticism as has appeared from Peru, but I feel sure many readers will agree with me that efforts like Mr. Hendry’s are a disgrace to himself and to you, Sir, for listening to his raucous shouts for publication.

I am, Yours, etc.,

W. Wiseman,

London, S.W.5.

***

Sir,

Mr. Hendry’s remarks on the Merlin need straightening out. The Merlin used in American fighters was the Packard Merlin built under licence from R-R. The Stromberg carburetter used was certainly no better than the S.U. originally fitted (and later modified for aerobatics) in the Merlin Spitfire, the best fighter of its day.

Packard modifications neither improved performance or made for ease of maintenance (this from one who has worked on them).

The Bentley standard saloon is, we all know, slower than the Cadillac, but I’d like to point out that though it gives away practically a litre, the torques available at the back end are practically the same.

If Mr. Hendry notices any similarity between the Continental Bentley and American coupés of ten years ago I feel sure he would not notice the difference between R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth  and a Mississippi stern-wheeler. The 4-1/2-litre Bentley is certainly faster than the 5.4 Cadillac whose fastest run (probably with the wind) was 115:4 m.p.h., where as the C.B. can easily reach this speed on any run.

The “equal quality and more advanced design” of the Cadillac just do not exist.   R-R quality cannot be equalled for the price, and a sleek chromium-plated shell does not make for an advanced design. Cadillac’s power steering is only made necessary by its weight and I’ve yet to meet a R-R driver with stiff arms.  R-R have adopted hydramatic gear—having first made their own improvements—Cadillac have nothing extra except speed and not everybody wants to dash into town at 100 m.p.h.

I doubt if the use of R-R engines in bulldozers and fire engines is a blow to their pride. It shows regard for a quality and reliability which cannot be equalled anywhere. As for getting out of the “automotive” business — well — R-R will still be producing the best cars in the world long after Mr. Hendry’s  bones have turned to dust.

I am, Yours, etc

J.L. Greenfield

***

Sir,

I cannot recall any engine in general and continued service which produces or has produced as much b.h.p. per litre as the Merlin. I cannot recall any American car advertisement which claims a CORRECTED b.h.p. figure. I do, however, remember very vividly that during the war many American engines by famous makers would not reproduce b.h.p. figures claimed by their makers when tested on this side of  the Atlantic.

l am, Yours, etc,

J.K. Roberts,

Malpas

***

Sir,

One of the things I like about Motor Sport  is that it gives full scope to the lunatic fringe of almost any argument, and whereas I have no doubt that Mr. Hendry’s diatribe on Rolls-Royce will be adequately answered as far as the Car Division is concerned, I cannot, as an ex-member of the flight test section of the Aero Division, let his badly constructed and erroneous arguments with regard to the Merlin pass without some comment.

First, “this engine was a washout in aerobatics until fitted with an American carburetter.”  Since the Battle of Britain was won entirely by aircraft powered with Derby-built Merlins fitted with S.U. carburetters, it would seem that despite this handicap our pilots managed to fly them quite successfully. For your information, Mr. Hendry, the American carburetter, by which I take it you mean that complicated abortion of a Stromberg, was not fitted until the Packard Merlin was belatedly brought into production after Henry Ford had jibbed at the prospect of making Merlins at all. As one who has serviced both American and British engines of the aircooled and liquid types everywhere from the Equator to the Arctic Circle, I can assure Mr. Hendry that given the choice of an S.U. carburetter with two simple needle adjustments and a six-bolted attachment, or a diaphragm-ridden Stromberg which needed a test rig the size of the Palladium organ to set it up, I would prefer the S.U. every time.

As regards “negative-G” properties, Mr. Hendry is doubtless blissfully ignorant of the two types of  “negative-G” carburetter fitted before the logical development of the “R.A.E.” type of fuel injection pump, which always seemed to me the acme of simplicity and functional design, being simply an injection pump driven at a proportion of engine speed and with its stroke modified by boost pressure, and, if necessary, air temperature. I need hardly point out to informed readers that  “negative-G” is encountered only in a proportion of aerial manoeuvres.

Referring to Mr. Hendry’s second point, it is quite possible that Rolls-Royce uses a rust-proofing process patented in America, as, indeed, they use ideas from anywhere, provided they are good. I shall, however, treat this point with the contempt it deserves considering that it is common knowledge that the Americans have been pressing for a Congressional enquiry into the superiority of Rolls-Royce jet engines over the American class. This has particular relevance in view of the recent announcement of the by-pass engine. This sort of hog-wash, by the way, is not new — we had it all before in 1940-42, when everybody said that Herr Heinkel and Willy Messerschmidt were the kittens’ cuffs. They probably were in comparison with the best that the Americans could produce at, that time, i.e., the Tomahawk and the Airacobra, both of which were claimed as being “over 400 m.p.h” and in fact they had a struggle to do better than 300 t.a.s. at rated altitude.

Lest anybody should think that I am extending my defence to the tin-ware produced by the bulk of the British car industry, let me disclaim any partiality for the products of the so-called mass-production section of the industry. It could certainly do with a lot of well-informed criticism, but the Hendrys of this world will only increase the complacency of the tin-ware barons by the obvious lack of information which they show.

I am,  Yours, etc.

Derek H. Broome

Derby

***

Sir,

Mr. M. D. Hendry, of Christchurch, New Zealand. is, of course, entitled to express any personal opinion that he may chose. He is not, I think, so entitled to make statements which are simply untruths:

I was, early in 1940, a very humble member of the R.A.F., serving with No. 10 Group, Fighter Command. At that time, before America even thought in terms of war-effort, the R-R Merlin, which powered the Spitfires and Hurricanes, victorious in the Battle of Britain, was certainly not fitted with any American carburetter, nor was it treated to any American process of rust-inhibition. I cannot remember ever hearing any operational pilot complain of the Spitfire or Hurricane, insofar as combat aerobatic ability was concerned. Nor do I imagine that many operational pilots of the Luftwaffe would decry the above aircraft on the score of lack of manoeuvrability. I cannot remember ever seeing any Merlin engine either internally or externally afflicted with corrosion, and I saw a good many. And the less said about American ventures in the field of in-line, liquid-cooled engines, the better, save to add that I imagine that very few Allison engines ever completed 800 hours.

Mr. Hendry may have made these very misleading statements in the best of faith. If this is so, then his technical knowledge is sadly suspect, and reflects grave doubts on the accuracy of the remainder of his somewhat childish and petulant epistle.

I am, Yours, etc.,

John M. Shields

Sidmouth

***

Good Show!

Sir,

You may be interested to learn that R. E. Packer of Bristol, one of your advertisers took one hour  to receive, re-silver and despatch back to me a headlamp reflector of mine. Total time taken for the operation, carried out by express post between Ross-shire and Bristol, approximately 56 hours—no mean performance. Your advertisers are setting a high standard—may it be noted and emulated elsewhere. Although some degree of urgency was indicated, no special treatment was asked for.

I am, Yours, etc..

E. Robert Roney,

Contin

* * *

That Austin Census

Sir,

May I say a few words in regard to the article on Austin popularity?  Austins are producing six models. i.e., A135, 125, 70 and 40, including drophead coupé, 40 sports and A30.  Further they have just stopped production of the A90. This makes a total of seven models currently on the roads, making 20 per cent. of the cars on the roads according to the figures given. Now Hillman have only one model, the Minx and Minx coupé which make up 7 per cent, of the cars counted. I wonder how many Austin A40 cars were counted as compared with Hillmans ? This would be a REAL popularity test since both cars are almost equal in price and engine size.

In Eire, where any car is available (they get exports from Britain, U.S.A. and the Continent) there is a definite preference for the Minx, for which one may have to wait a few weeks for delivery, whilst A40 cars are always in the showrooms. I wonder if Austins would make available the figures?

I am, Yours, etc.,

John B. Kirkpatrick

Belfast 

[We believe all models of all makes were counted, but it does occur to us that the percentages could have been expressed thus : Austin, 20 per cent; Nuffield, 20 per cent; Ford, 14 per cent; Rootes, 12 per cent;  Standard/Triumph, 11 per cent; Vauxhall, 8 per cent. — Ed.]

***

Sir,

I was extremely surprised to see that the census conducted by the Austin Motor Company resulted in Rover cars being apparently amongst the “also rans” and not appearing on the “Leader Board” at all. There must be a strange antipathy to the Rover in London and the Home Counties because I am sure that here in Stoke-onTrent the Rover would appear in the first ten of most popular makes and is certainly observed by me more frequently than Humbers, Rileys and Sunbeam-Talbots. It just goes to show how misleading a census taken in one particular area can be.

I am, Yours, etc.,

“Rover ACX 706”

Stoke-on-Trent.

***

Progress ?

Sir,

One of my earliest memories of motoring is an 11 h.p. two-seater Calcott which my father bought in about 1925. The magneto of this car had sometimes to be “cooked” in the oven before the engine could be started and, even then, special sparking plugs were used for starting and replaced by normal ones while the engine was running ! 

I was fortunately too young at the time to be asked to carry out the last part of the manoeuvre, but did help in other ways since there was no self-starter and a door only on the passenger’s side of the car which made it impossible to dash from the starting handle to the controls when the engine did start!

From those “happy” days there have been many improvements in motor car design and for many years people have driven them without having to know very much about the “mysteries” under the bonnet.

At the moment, however; there is a disease spreading amongst car manufacturers which demands that the driver must use no physical effort whatsoever. It started fairly mildly with various forms of automatic advance and retard mechanisms for ignition timing and automatic mixture controls. The Wilson gearbox was another outburst, but that has great advantages as well as saving effort

More recently there have been cases of suction-operated transmissions (I refer to the Hudson Country Club model), which changes gear almost by itself, and finally the brilliant gearbox introduced by Rolls-Royce where one can presumably forget that one is supposed to be driving ! There have also arrived electrically-operated windows, hydraulic clutches and, the father and mother of them all, power-assisted steering—in an American car where one expects to find an easily turned, low-geared steering wheel !

It may be fun in a few years’ time to say: “I can remember, son, when I actually had to wind my car windows all  the way up end all  the way down again by hand. Yes, sir, every inch of the way.”

Shall we soon see a car that will take the family for a drive while the poor, weak owner rests at home ?

After that somebody may wonder how I travel about. Well, it is in a 10-h.p. Railton. If anyone can tell me something about the history of these very uncommon little cars, I should be very interested.

I am, Yours, etc.,

J.D.K. Watson,

Amersham Common.

[The story is that the baby Railton, built around the Standard Ten engine of  the period, was conceived for the daughter of Mr. Macklin, head of the Railton Co.  Afterwards it went into small-scale production — Ed.]

 

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