Road Impressions Of - The Standard Vanguard Sportsman

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A Fast Version of the Vanguard Series III, Giving a Maximum Speed of Over 90 m.p.h., Excellent Acceleration and a Very Fair Economy of Fuel

The Vanguard Sportsman is the fast version of the Series III Standard Vanguard, and for a 2-litre saloon it offers commendable performance for a modest outlay and a decent economy of petrol.

We conducted a road-test last year, which, although curtailed somewhat in deference to the petrol cuts announced while it was in progress, covered a distance of over 780 miles, ample for accurately summing-up the Vanguard Sportsman’s demeanour and performance.

The initial impressions are of a brightly-finished car of individual appearance, although seen from just off a ¾ -front-aspect the very eye-catching radiator grille is low in relation to the hooded Lucas inbuilt headlamps, giving rise to a rather squat outline. The bright exterior was matched on the test car by star-spangled upholstery and a washable plastic head lining.

This is a roomy 5/6-seater saloon with an 8 ft. 6 in. wheelbase, and to gain leg-room for the back-seat passengers a shallow front seat cushion is used. This has given rise to criticism on the grounds of discomfort but we could not seriously fault the seat, which on this car was of bench type, although a back-seat passenger found the bulge at the top of the rear squab somewhat hard under his shoulders, but it was otherwise extremely comfortable, especially as ducts supply warm air to the rear compartment. Separate front seats are available as an extra but large folding armrests in both seats on the test car held driver and passengers securely and no other arrangement seemed desirable.

The Vanguard Sportsman has plenty of useful stowage space. Each door has a rigid “well,” there is a wide parcels’ shelf in front of the front-seat passenger and the usual one behind the rear seat, in addition to a cubbyhole and a further stowage-well in the dash if radio isn’t fitted. The cubbyhole is lined but the interior is somewhat obstructed, while a weak point is that the lid can only be opened or held closed by a detachable key, which is inconvenient if removed and a nasty obstruction if left in place. Surely the designer has seen the simple press-button catch which does this job so sensibly on other cars?

This good stowage. arrangement extends to the luggage boot, which has a lockable lid with over-centre hinges, and which provides good accommodation, as the spare wheel lives in a well below it, from which it is wound down, as required, with the wheel-brace.

All doors trail, which is a good safety factor, and the Standard design-team is obviously safety-conscious, because there are crash-pads on and along the dash before the front-seat passenger (the end-on pads hardly thick enough to be very effective, however), and those enormous rear lamps, combining the stop-lamps and “winkers,” which glow like twin electric fires and, to our way of thinking, are so bright as to be embarrassing. The designers are also “American-conscious,” for, as well as the “Vanguard Sportsman” motif on the tail, the word “Overdrive” is added, quite unnecessarily.

In the driving seat the occupant is confronted by the low-set steering wheel with centre horn-button, and before him is the Jaeger 100-rn.p.h. half-arc speedometer, with very clear luminous figures and total and trip odometers, set neatly side by side. Under the speedometer in the same plastic casing it is nice to find fuel-gauge, oil-pressure gauge, ammeter and water thermometer as separate, square-dial Jaeger instruments. Oil pressure varies with engine speed, being normally 75 lb./sq. in., and water temperature was steady at 85 deg. C.

Neat knobs along the dash control the two-speed self-parking screen-wipers, a press-button in its centre operating the Lucas electric screen-washers with their powerful jets, the choke, the lamps and the cigar-lighter. The lamps-switch turns for sidelamps and again for headlamps, which we prefer to a turn/pull action, and it is not too inconvenient for use as a “flasher” at night. The dip-switch is a big rubber floor knob, from which the left foot was inclined to slip. The cigar-lighter lacks a tell-tale.

The ignition key turns to start the engine but to work the wipers it has to remain in the ignition-on position. Under the speedometer is a knob which brings in the instrument lighting with rheostat control, the luminous figures of the speedometer being clearly visible with no lighting of the smaller dials.

Warning lights of subdued aspect are used for ignition, lamps main-beam and “flashers,” the last-named winking rather obscurely down by the steering column.

Centralised below the dash is the heater control unit, with slides to control heating, demisting and de-icing, and an accurate, large clock set within it in a position where the rear-seat passengers can also see it. Much plastic is employed about the car, with unhappily sharp corners to hurt one’s fingers as the heater slides are operated. We did not admire the crude metal exterior beading round the windows.

The window winders are well placed, those for the front windows needing just over two turns, up-to-down, those for the back windows nearly three turns. All four doors have ventilator windows, stiff to close, with mediocre catches lacking tamperproof locks. There are side armrests-cum-door-pulls, set rather low. Novel, pull-out-to-operate, plastic interior lamps on each door pillar provide excellent interior illumination and come on when the door is opened.

From the foregoing it will be seen that this £1,200 Vanguard Sportsman is fully and sensibly equipped. To complete the story, there are twin anti-dazzle vizors. which swivel for side dazzle, the passenger’s having a vanity mirror; they are non-transparent vizors. Externally, there are push-button door handles. Rather crude pull-out ashtrays are fitted at each end of the dash, with two more in the back of the front-seat squab, for those who are not content just to motor and must smoke as well.

Visibility from the driving seat is good, the bonnet falling away sharply and both wings being in clear view, but we felt we could have been spared the revolting mascot. There is a raised intake for the heater on the scuttle before the windscreen. The screen side-pillars are thick but slope back sufficiently steeply to prevent obstruction. The wrap-round back window is also productive of good visibility, for reversing and for the rear-view mirror, but the latter hangs from the roof and tends to spoil left-downward forward vision. The pedals are pendant, with a treadle accelerator that has rather short travel and works in opposition to the arc of the control link.

The gear-lever extends on the left of the steering-column and works as this form of gear-change is expected to do, the movement from first to second rather long. There is no stop for reverse-position. The lever is spring-loaded to the higher ratios. The overdrive switch is very conveniently positioned on a stalk on the right of the steering-column.

So much for the initial impressions of a driver trying the Vanguard Sportsman. .After driving it for some distance he or she will be impressed with it as a very useful, comfortable saloon, getting very briskly through traffic, round corners and along what unrestricted roads are left, in this country, albeit a car possessing no particular “character.”

The suspension seems at first unduly supple for a fast car but experience shows that corners can be taken fast, the degree of roll remaining constant, and the nose not wanting to curtsey under crash-braking. On long, fast bends there is faint understeer, changing to a trace of oversteer on tight corners. Only very fast changes of direction cause the Dunlop tubeless tyres to protest. The i.f.s. uses coil springs and wishbones and is undoubtedly helped by the anti-roll bar. The ride over bad going is excellent, except when the rigid back axle tramps on its cart-springs. The clutch action is heavy, accentuated by a tendency for a rubber-soled shoe to slide up the hanging pedal.

The brake pedal went down some distance before anything happened and then firm pressure was required, but otherwise the Lockheed 2LS brakes are powerful and entirely vice-free, being silent, progressive and fade-free. It was not possible to lock the wheels under emergency conditions but there was the advantage that the car pulled up in a dead-straight line. The hand-brake is actuated by the right hand, and it is necessary to reach forward slightly under the dash to operate it. It turns to release the ratchet and holds securely.

The steering, which needs three turns lock-to-lock but provides a very small turning circle (35 ft.) is very heavy for manoeuvring and not entirely light at speed. There is useful castor-action and the wheel is generally free from road-wheel return action, but there is some column vibration. It is dead, at times spongy, steering, but very little play had developed after some 3,000 miles.

These, then, are the handling characteristics of this brisk Vanguard Sportsman, but its charm is enhanced by the splendid performance available from the rugged 2-litre, wet-liner, four-cylinder, push-rod o.h.v. engine. Outwardly this looks like the Vanguard engine except for polished valve cover and twin 45-deg. HD6 S.U. carburetters, but, with a compression ratio of 8 to 1, it delivers 90 b.h.p. at 4,500 r.p.m., having received the benefit of research devoted to developing the well-tried and dependable TR3 sports-car engine. This endows the Vanguard Sportsman with excellent acceleration, of the 0-50 m.p.h. in just over 12 sec., 0-70 m.p.h, in a shade over 25 sec., or a s.s. ¼-mile  in 21.7 sec., variety. The three-speed gearbox is converted into a five-speed box by intelligent use of the Laycock overdrive, and it is very convenient to be able to flick down from the 3.55-to-1 overdrive top into the normal 4.55-to-1 top gear for better high-speed acceleration, or to hold the 5.93-to-1 overdrive second gear to nearly 70 m.p.h. We were unable to check speeds in the gears because the speedometer became hysterical and finally ceased to record in the course of the test, but something like 26, 54 and 68 is obtainable in first, second and overdrive second, while there is little to choose between maximum speed in top or overdrive top, 85 to over 90 m.p.h. being attainable according to conditions; at about 93 m.p.h. the speedometer needle shows an impressive 100 m.p.h.!

The rapid and willing pick-up of the twin-carburetter, high-compression engine of the Vanguard Sportsman is one of the car’s endearing features. It is not a noisy unit, but some odd noises emanate at times from the overdrive, and the indirect gears hum.

Driving hard, the Standard gave 24 m.p.g., less prolonged use of the lower gears and full-throttle raising this to 26 m.p.g. This gives the fairly useful range of approximately 300 miles. The engine showed no vices and started reasonably after a night out in a heavy frost. The Smith’s heater works well and isn’t unduly noisy. The headlamps did not give an adequate beam for fast driving at night and were positively dangerous in the dipped position; fog lamps are not supplied as standard.

In 780 hard miles the engine required no water and consumed about a pint of oil. The bonnet has over-centre spring-loaded hinges and a press-in safety-catch. It opens to reveal excellent accessibility of the essentials, the big A.C. air-cleaner possessing two forward-facing intake funnels, the dip-stick being in a useful guide, and distributor, plugs, fillers, screen-washer reservoir and Lucas battery all in easy reach. The “globe” badge on the radiator grille, formerly exclusive to Triumph cars, is a pleasing “vintage” touch. Body rattles betray the car’s unitary construction. There is a four-point jacking system.

For those seeking a medium-sized car of reasonable economy and outstanding performance, and who can tolerate a steering-column gear-lever in a sports saloon, the Standard Vanguard Sportsman is worthy of careful consideration. Its basic price is £820, inflated by purchase tax to £1,231 7s.—W. B.

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