Letters From Readers, January 1957



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

Where Your Money Goes!


As conscientious motorists dutifully part with £12 10s. for their car licences at the beginning of each year, how many, one supposes, ever stop to consider just what happens to their money. Do they imagine that it will be spent on road upkeep, or improvement. or do they just regard it as the price of a coloured disc of paper which the law demands they renew each year? Either way, it is likely that only a very few view the ultimate goal of their money with any great concern.

Each year, the British Road Federation issues a booklet called “Basic Road Statistics,” and perusal of the latest edition reveals some remarkable facts. In 1950, 60 per cent. of all motor vehicle tax receipts were spent on roads, in the form of maintenance, cleaning and improvement; a matter for concern perhaps, considering the accident rate and general state of Britain’s roads. But in 1955 only 23 per cent. was spent, representing £2 17s. 6d. out of each £12 10s. that motorists paid, and of this amount only 5s. represented the sum spent on “major improvements and new construction.”

These facts, together with the continual increase of traffic congestion and lack of foresight of officials concerned led me, some while ago, to the honest belief that my money was being wasted. I therefore resolved (not through any desire to break the law) not to tax my car in the future.

The conspicuous absence of major road constructions, together with the steady increase of accidents indirectly attributable to poor conditions, and traffic jams due to atrocious bottlenecks, strengthen my belief that I am justified in my action.

Some will say that an attitude such as this serves only to aggravate the situation, but the fact remains that if the majority of motorists took my view, then the state of affairs would be rapidly assessed to better effect, and sensible steps taken to cure it.

I am, Yours, etc., “Enlightened.” Welwyn Garden City. 

A Petrol-Rationing Anomaly


As one who has owned and driven a 2-litre Lagonda for the past six years, I have just written to my Member of Parliament, Mr. Baldock, protesting against this Government’s revival of the R.A.C. Formula which under the new petrol-rationing scheme gives me fuel for up to 1,600 c.c.s, whereas everyone knows that a 2-litre Lagonda is nearly 2,000 c.c. in spite of being rated at 12.9-h.p. R.A.C., and does therefore consume fuel at the 2,000 c.c. rate.

Having been a reader of Motor Sport for many years, I know that you will have strong feelings about this injustice to what I think is a very important section of the motoring population of this country. The amazing thing to me is that the supposedly defunct R.A.C. rating has been given the largest billing on the Ration Books and in the Press.

Has this Government and the popular press not yet woken to the fact that the R.A.C. Formula, after causing years of serious restriction in the development of the British motor vehicle, was abandoned some years ago, for the present capacity system? Perhaps with such untechnical representation, the British public will be without a motor car of any description within a few years.

Thank you for the very many hours of enjoyment in the pages of your magazine.

I am, Yours, etc., A. E. H. Chadwick. Market Harborough.

Enthusiasm For Rileys


I endorse the remarks made last month by Mr. P. W. Thomas about the merits of the 1½-litre Riley—what a shame there are no more! My second such Riley was bought in 1953 and has been vastly improved by fitting twin carburetters and a .030 in. cylinder. bead gasket.

I ran a big-end once but this might have been due to using thin oil, which I then gave up.

I am never likely, as Mr. Thomas may be, to change to a 2.4. Surely there must be another small and potent Riley on the way?

I am, Yours, etc., W. Huson Watts. Hempstead Garden Suburb.

Those Safety Posers


I would like to say that a point referred to on page 754 of the December issue of Motor Sport is not correct. I was issued with one of the small “safety booklets” when I received my first full driving licence not very long ago.

The picture referred to in the article shows plainly that the saloon, which is endowed with a prominent speedometer, is exceeding the 30-m.p.h. limit. The speedometer shows plainly that the car is travelling at 50 m.p.h.!

The saloon-car driver is portrayed as a person who will not give way to another car. He is therefore the person who is not taking care at the road junction. Thus the answer at the back of the booklet which says that the driver not taking care is also speeding, means that the saloon car driver is speeding.

I would like to say how much I enjoy reading your magazine, for, although I am only 17 years old, I find the articles are very interesting. Especially the road-tests, which seem nice and free from phrases which are made in other magazines to cover up when the tester feels he should criticise, but his Editor disagrees.

I am, Yours, etc., Alastair Mirrlees. Wigtownshire.

[We have re-examined the drawing in question in the light of Mr. Mirrlees’ remarks. If you have good eyesight the point can be conceded but we still consider that the drawing will prove puzzling to many, misleading them into assuming it (is) the sports car that is speeding in a built-up area.—Ed.]

Are Tubeless Tyres Foolproof?


Quite a lot of publicity has been given recently to the use of tubeless tyres, and in view of this I feel bound to write to you regarding my own experience of them.

I run a 1956 Vauxhall which is fitted with tubeless tyres and one evening a few weeks ago I had the misfortune to run over a broken kerbstone which had been left lying in the road. The tyres appeared undamaged but next morning I noticed a small dent in the outer wheel flange, so I called into a dealer who assured me that if the tyre wasn’t losing any air it would be perfectly sound and there was nothing to worry about as they were tubeless anyway.

In view of this I carried on using my car; however, one evening about two weeks later I had the tyre deflate suddenly exactly similar to a blowout on a conventional tyre. Fortunately I was not going very fast at the time and no accident occurred.

When I took the tyre to a tyre fitter he found that several layers of cords had broken at the time of my original aceident and the wall of the tyre had gradually weakened until it had split.

I should like to add that my visit to the tyre fitters opened my eyes to several disadvantages of tubeless tyres for the private owner if he intends to fit them himself, as the following equipment appeared to be required:

1. Large clamp to encircle tyre to force beads against rim. I am told this can be accomplished by twisting a rope around tyre, although it seems doubtful whether this method would be really effective.

2. Compressed air supply, as small quantity of air leaks from bead until pressure is built up inside cover, hence footpump no use unless used extremely quickly.

3. Large tank of water to place wheel and tyre to ascertain that there is no leak from bead edge. I am told it is not unusual to fit a tyre twice before obtaining a perfect seal and even new cars are delivered with tyres which have a slow leak and have to be refitted.

In view of this I feel that the only advantage of tubeless tyres over the conventional tyre and tube is that they will not deflate if cleanly pierced by an object such as a nail. However, as from my own experience they do not appear to stand a violent blow without damage and they are more difficult to fit than the normal tyre, I am not very impressed with them.

I should greatly appreciate your comments and any of your readers if you should care to publish this.

I am, Yours, etc., C. E. Paine. Harlow.


Mr. Woodland Replies To Critics


Please permit me a final letter in reply to Messrs. Stocker and Thomas, both of whose letters seem to be closely reasoned although Stocker overstates his case and is inaccurate. It is interesting that Thomas agrees that the run is possible outside the city limits even with a less powerful car.

Let me first illustrate why a stop-watch was not used for the long run: the distance in 2 hr. 45 min. would be 48.00 m.p.h., in 2/49 would be 46.86, in 2/50 would be 46.59, in 2/51 would be 46.32, and in 2/55 would be 45.26. Stop-watch accuracy would thus be useless and indeed one should not assume averages to two decimal places from broad basic figures. Stocker will see that the size of the figures is worth consideration.

Secondly, Stocker, there are many roundabouts outside town limits; three for example on the Watford bypass. My comment referred to an occasional test obviously done when nothing was about and only as a test.

Thirdly, as to m.p.g. I have lodged with Motor Sport a certified true copy of my car log-book covering 4,806 miles at an average of 21.2 m.p.g. with a highest recorded on 10 galls. of 23.0 and a lowest of 20.0, excluding one case of 19.5 when some towing of a broken-down car was included; 15 of the 24 entries cover the range of 21.0-22.9 m.p.g. I would also refer Stocker to Ricardo’s book “The High-Speed Internal Combustion Engine,” from which the page references which follow are taken.

Power required varies as the square of the speed, F = 0.002AV2, A = frontal area in sq. ft., and V = m.p.h. (page 293).

Specific fuel consumption on 70 octane in pints/b.h.p. hour at ¾-throttle = 0.51. at half-throttle is 0.56 and at ¼-throttle is 0.78 (page 169). By extrapolation full throttle = 0.50 and ⅛-throttle = 0.91.

H.P. required to drive a car of 31¼ cwt. at 35 m.p.h. is 10 (page  169). (Vauxhall 14 h.p.)

Weight has little effect on a level road, rolling resistance 30 lb./ ton for a Vauxhall (page 293).

For argument’s sake assume that 12 h.p. would be required to move my car at 35 m.p.h. for it has a similar frontal area, 26.sq. ft., and weight does not count. The figure for 45 m.p.h. would then be 20 h.p., at which my experience tells me that I am using about ¼ throttle. The following table will show what can be done :

See table 1

The figures in the columns headed (a) and (b) illustrate what would happen if my car required 15 and 20 h.p. to drive at 35 m.p.h. if Stocker objects to my assumptions, although I think that the figures do tie in quite well with the recorded results.

One further quotation (page 203): “The importance of efficient operation over the load range especially at small throttle openings cannot therefore be over-emphasised. In such circumstances features having the most devastating effect upon fuel consumption are:

(1) Low mechanical efficiency, in the one application above all others (the engine) where it should be as high as possible.

(2) Defective carburation and distribution, especially the latter.”

I am perhaps correct in thinking that the Bentley excels in these aspects!

Fourthly, average speed Churchill to Bristol. All three of us agree on the mileage, 13.0; the amount in limited area, 2.8; and the amount at lower speeds due to bends and Redhill, 1 mile at 65 m.p.h. Thomas agrees that two bends outside the limit call for less than 70 m.p.h. Stocker talks of a roundabout, but I would remind him that this is beyond St. Mary’s Church; furthermore, the signals he mentions are worked by mat at night. Let me add that the run was made about 4 a.m without traffic being about; there is also 1.2 miles of limited but not built-up road from the limit to the top of Bedminster hill at the fork. For the sake of argument assume that the speed was not reduced within the limit for the 1.2 miles over the Bedminster Down Common and that an average of 35 m.p.h. was maintained for the balance of the built-up area. We then have :

See table 2

Is this really such a tall story ?

From the many letters I have received, it is obvious that there is much interest in the Bentley as a car. Can you possibly let us have an article on it at some future date ?

I am, Yours, etc., A. H. Woodland. London. N.W.3. 

Breath Of Fresh Air


One hears so much criticism in regard to the motor trade today that I feel that the treatment I have received from one of your advertisers deserves to be “broadcast.” I purchased a gearbox from him (after some correspondence which resulted in a reduction in the price quoted), which was promptly despatched. Unfortunately, although sent by passenger train, a lug was broken off the gearbox in transit and, apart from “regrets” from B.R.S., no compensation was forthcoming. I wrote to the vendor and told him what had happened, and he contacted the railway company, with the same result.

The cost of putting the gearbox to rights was £10, and on notifying the vendor in a friendly letter, he promptly sent me a cheque for £5. How refreshing today! His name: A. Fielding. Lerry Garage, Talybont. Cards.

I have never met him, nor dealt with him previously.

I am, Yours, etc., G. Davis Winchester. High Barnet. 

Spark Gaps Are Out!


Recently I decided to try in my Austin-Healey one of the so-called “high-frequency ignition converters,” which have been advertised recently in the motoring press.

At first I noticed no difference at all in performance or petrol consumption, but after about three weeks (and 800 miles) the ignition became very rough, performance dropped, and starting in the morning became increasingly difficult.

Inspection showed that the distributor points were so badly pitted that they had to be replaced, whilst the plugs had suffered a similar fate, but with a bit of attention could be used again.

I removed the device and curiosity prompted me to see what I had spent my 25s. on. Having broken the outer plastic casing away, the interior consisted of a smaller plastic hollow block with a 1-in. wood screw embedded in each end, thus creating a very crude spark gap — total value less than 6d. What a catch-penny swindle!

In the interests of other motorists who may be tempted to try one of these gadgets, I sincerely hope you will publish this letter as a warning.

I am enclosing all the bits for your personal inspection, from which you will see that the inner plastic case was burning to pieces anyway.

I am, Yours, etc., Bunny Ross. Bletchingly. 

Points About Big Cars


Referring to your article “The Guild at Goodwood” in your December issue, you lament the fact that the rev.-counter of the Alvis Graber saloon does not move in unison with the speedometer as on the Bentley “S” saloon.

It should, I think, be pointed out to you that a rev.-counter is not fitted as standard to a Series S. It has been Bentley’s post-war policy not to include this fitting on their products. The only departure from this policy is on the manually-controlled gearbox Continental.

Whilst taking pen to paper, I should like to point out that some of Mr. Talbot’s facts in the “Cars I Have Owned ” series are a little doubtful. The most obvious one that springs to mind is his alleged 8.75 m.p.g. from an 8-litre.

As a past owner of one of these masterpieces I can only say there must have been something wrong with the car, or his driving, because over a period of approximately 14,000 miles I returned an m.p.g. of 13½. This maximum speed is also a little optimistic.

With an engine that peaked at 3,500 r.p.m. and a back axle of 3.78, which gives a road speed of 27 m.p.h. per 1000, it was virtually impossible to obtain the coveted “100.”

I am, Yours, etc., J. B. Hilton. Liverpool.

[The S-series standard metal Bentley saloon submitted for test was equipped with a rev.-counter.– Ed.]

Volkswagen versus Morris Minor 1,000

From Viscount Bury.


Since the introduction of the Volkswagen Motor Sport has been singing its praises; and quite rightly so, for it is undoubtedly a very remarkable car. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and a million people can’t be wrong.

It is refreshing to read a motoring journal that follows a strictly independent line and, irrespective of sentiment of any kind, accords honour where honour is due. This tends to prevent any complacency within our motor industry.

The Volkswagen has in my opinion at last a rival in the Morris Minor 1,000. This really magnificent little car I consider surpasses the VW, both in the amenities that it offers and in the performance that it gives.

Firstly, as regards comforts. The Morris has more luggage space, four doors instead of two, far better rear vision, a smoother and more silent engine, more comprehensive instruments, and superior body styling. The VW scores through a better driving position and doors that open through an arc of ninety degrees (shunting fourteen stone through the aperture provided by the B.M.C. takes practice). But, all in all, the Morris leads, I think, on the score of comfort. It must not be forgotten when considering performance that the Morris is giving the VW 242 c.c., although it gains in m.p.g. in consequence. The VW I suspect has superior acceleration in the lower speed ranges but a lower maximum speed. There should be very little to choose between them as regards steering, brakes and suspension, except in the case of the latter, where the VW has a slight edge on the British car.

The main reason for this letter is not to start one of those fruitless Bentley versus Bugatti types of controversy (although two more incomparable cars than these two can hardly be conceived), but to express the hope that Motor Sport will treat its readers to (a) a road test of the Morris Minor 1,000, and (b) a table of performance comparing these two cars.

This might result in this case in people buying British because it is best.

I am, Yours, etc., Bury. Newtownards.

[We are looking forward to the day when a Morris Minor 1,000 is made available to us for test.—Ed.]

“Vehicles I Have Driven”


It is gratifying to know that Mr. Rigby-Jones has been sufficiently interested in my article to challenge some of the statements contained therein, and I am pleased to have this opportunity to answer his queries.

The Lanchester Ten and Daimler Straight Eight to which I referred were immediate post-war products, and I think your correspondent must have confused them with pre-war models.

My memory is not infallible, as will be apparent in the last paragraph of this letter, and I therefore contacted Daimlers, who forwarded the data which I have before me.

The Lanchester L.D.10 had an engine of 1,287 c.c. capacity, rated at 10 h.p., installed in a chassis incorporating i.f.s. (coil-spring).

In 1946, with a pressed-steel body, it sold for £761 0s. 7d. inclusive of purchase tax, but in 1950/1, when Barker coachbuilt bodies were fitted, the inclusive price was no less than £1,245 18s. 10d.; surely one of the most expensive small saloons ever sold in any quantity.

The Daimler Straight Eight D.E.36 was not a 4½-litre, but a 5.4-litre, and the Hooper limousine body accommodated eight persons in comfort, three on the front bench-type seat, and five in the rear compartment, which was equipped with two commodious folding occasional seats. The dry weight was 52 ¾ cwt., and if to this is added eight adults averaging 11 stone each, 20 gallons of petrol, together with water and oil, it will be found that the total is approximately 3½ tons. I clocked 88 m.p.h. in normal top on the level, but with the experimental overdrive the car was very much overgeared and appreciably slower.

I made it clear that 103 m.p.h. was attained in the fully laden condition on a more than definite down grade, where peak r.p.m. could be slightly exceeded on overdrive. This is the only occasion on which I approached anywhere near the peak on this particular overdrive ratio, and it would obviously have been quite impossible on the level.

I could give the location where this run was carried out, but make a point of not disclosing these facts in case someone may be tempted to have a bash when perhaps the road conditions might not be quite so favourable. It is possible that Mr. Rigby-Jones may query the speedometer, but indicated speeds mean nothing to me. I had previously calibrated the instrument over a measured distance, found it to be 5 per cent. fast, and took the error into consideration.

With regard to the Jaguar Mk. VII, I am afraid I slipped up there. I have a recollection of driving an early prototype with the push-rod engine, and was under the impression that a few went into production but find I was wrong. It behoves anyone who puts pen to paper to make quite certain of their facts, and it only remains for me to tender my apologies for this lapse of memory and express the hope that I have dealt with the queries in a satisfactory manner.

I am, Yours, etc., R. M. V. Sutton. Coventry. 

Census In Switzerland


On a recent visit to Switzerland I spent an hour on a wet Sunday afternoon taking a census of passing cars from the hotel balcony, and I felt that the result may be of interest to you.

See table.

These were not all necessarily Swiss-owned cars, but included tourists from other countries. Nevertheless the result is significant.

I am, Yours, etc., J. W. Greenwood. Tedstone Wafre. 

In Praise Of The Porsche


Having driven Porsches over a period of some three years, I may perhaps be permitted to comment on the letter from Mr. Wright. During that period I have covered a substantial mileage, during which I have never succeeded in overheating a Porsche and, in fact, the only mechanical trouble has been one leaky oil cooler. I have certainly never been blown into the gutter in spite of having driven at high speed in winds of gale force, and one is tempted to wonder whether the incident occurred when Mr. Wright’s attention was momentarily distracted. The steering and handling ability of the Porsche are of course among its major assets.

Chromium plating, another alleged shortcoming, is confined in my experience to bumper over-riders and nave-plates, which of course are easily replaced.

In conclusion, may I express the hope that Mr. Wright will have formed a better impression when he has driven his Porsche for 50,000 miles.

I am, Yours, etc., “Speedster”. Burnaston.