A Novel 38-Seater
Regarding spotting Volkswagens as “maids of all work,” I feel I must bring to your notice yet another use to which this versatile vehicle has been adapted. Whilst holidaying on the Fresian Island of Nordeney last summer, I saw the amazing sight of a Volkswagen, with cut-down back to form a step, pulling a pantechnicon trailer, with yet another similar trailer attached behind this.
The trailers had two wheels centrally mounted, each trailer being subdivided into four compartments, each compartment seating four people. The car itself remained a four-seater. In this way the car was pulling a total of some thirty-two passengers, plus driver and standing conductor. Little provision is made for the conductor, who has to walk along a narrow catwalk collecting fares and issuing tickets, while at the same time hanging on to the nearest upright to remain on the vehicle.
These vehicles form one of the four forms of public transport available to the summer visitor. I think one could regard this as really putting the car to work, and I find it difficult to imagine an English car of similar calibre performing such a phenomenal task with any regularity, so cheaply and effectively. Unfortunately, I have no photograph to collaborate my story, but I hope that at the same time this information will prove, to be of some interest to you.
I am, Yours, etc.,
What of the Wolseley 1500?
I have just read it letter front your correspondent P. J. Eva, in the December 1957 issue of Motor Sport, in connection with the Wolseley 1500.
I, too, own a Wolseley 1500, which to date has achieved something like 4,900 miles, 2,600 of which have been completed on the Continent. It may interest your correspondent to know that this journey, which was done with four people and a moderate amount of luggage, resulted in an overall figure for m.p.g. of 34. It must be admitted that the first thousand miles of this Continental trip were taken fairly easily. In other words, I was still in the process of running-in and allowing the speed to build up gradually from 40 m.p.h. in top after the first thousand miles.
During: the trip, four Major Alpine passes were negotiated, together with four other more minor ones. On the return journey from Venice, I began to take advantage of many of the better Continental roads to utilise the high touring speeds made possible in this car, and, while I would hesitate to quote actual figures, the time taken to cover the full length of the double-track Brussels-Ostend highway was only fractionally over the hour. I am not certain exactly how long this magnificent road is, but our average speed must have been in the neighbourhood of 70 m.p.h. It will be seen, therefore, that the use the car had was fairly mixed, and representative of typical Continental touring.
Experience on short journeys and on rallies of 100-150 miles does suggest that the fuel consumption rises considerably, and this is probably attributable, in my case at any rate, to a fairly heavy foot so far as acceleration is concerned. Discussion with owners of other 1½-litre saloons suggests that 25-26 m.p.g. under similar conditions is quite normal, but they seldom seem to achieve much better than 31 m.p.g. under easier circumstances.
I find that the 1500 is more than able to cope with most other 1½-litre saloons in the same price bracket so far as acceleration goes, but, of course, one can never be sure whether the other chap is trying. In any case, short of taking the car to somewhere such as Goodwood or Snetterton, this type of thing can never be conclusive; I would comment here that there is very little use in attempting to achieve very much over 50 in third, but a change into top at this speed gives quite gratifying results in terms of acceleration, since the engine is still a little short of the peak of its torque curve at 50 in top.
For myself, I find the ability to cruise at sustained speeds in excess of 70 m.p.h., with absolutely no fuss from the engine, more important than startling acceleration, and in this respect, and also for its handling behaviour at this kind of speed, I give the Wolseley full marks. The suspension, while leaving something to be desired at the rear when driving “one up,” irons out even unmade roads remarkably well. I suspect it may even be able to show the VW something on Belgian pave.
As, apparently, with all new cars (and from what I can gather from other people, foreign vehicles are not excluded), a number of minor irritations have made themselves felt, such as leaking windscreen, bad oil sealing on the engine, and a sticky throttle table. In addition, one can see daylight through the driver’s door seals. However, Messrs. Eustace Watkins have succeeded in sorting out most of these minor irritations, although elimination of the daylight and ability to shut the door appear to be incompatible. In spite of this, I must confess that I have yet to detect any draught from the badly sealed front door.
More serious is the driver’s seat. This provides inadequate support in the small of the hack for a tall driver, and necessitates the use of a cushion. This, of course, pushes him forward and reduces his leg room. Conversely, the back seat is most comfortable, even for a long-legged person such as myself.
Just. in case I should be accused of never having driven anything more sporting than a family saloon, I should add that my last two cars were a 1934 J2 and a TB. While it is possible that the acceleration is not as good as the latter in the lower ranges, I would say it is better farther up the scale, and the roadholding and handling is markedly superior, although the TB was less good in this respect than the old J2.
On the whole, I would say that this piece of hybrid machinery is probably the best value for money in its particular price bracket on the road today.
I am, Yours, etc.,
A. W. G. Wilson
The Cost of Insurance
May I tell you about my experience in trying to insure my car, a 1939 Mercedes-Benz Type 230 drophead? The last time it was insured was nine months ago, when because I was broke I took it off the road when the insurance ran out. Norwich Union then wrote to me inviting renewal at £20. Recently, I went into the Norwich Union office to renew the insurance. and was told I should have to pay £61, And also bear the first £50 of claims myself. I tried to get a reason, and was told, “This is the current rate for this car.” I asked why the increase, and was told the premiums went up in July. There is a difference between 30 and 300 per cent., but when I pointed this out, they muttered about “Made in Germany” and “Spares.” I asked why this applied when I was only asking for third party insurance anyway, and was told, “This is the current rate for this type of car.”
At this stage I tore up the proposal, told him what to do with the bits and flounced out. Since then I have been trying, with very little success for hours on end to find a company that will quote a reasonable rate. Eventually an insurance broker found an underwriter who would provide third party cover only for about £17, but this would not allow me to use the car for my business as a journalist. He shopped round a bit more, and came to the conclusion he was very lucky to get that. Other underwriters told him “You must have caught the first chap while he was sleeping off his lunch.”
The broker informs me that I could easily be faced with a bill for about £140 to insure this car. Made up as follows: Premium multiplied by four because it is a Mercedes. Fifty per cent. on that for a soft top. Another 25 per cent again because I am a journalist working in London—a total of 7½ times the normal premium. Oh yes, I nearly forgot. A £50 excess on top of all that.
Yet this is a car of only just over two litres. A side-valve engine, pulling a vehicle which weighs, according to the label on the scuttle., 1,300 kilos. In short a docile vehicle, not overfast, which might just have the edge on a Ford Consul (old type.) for speed, but which would certainly leave it in the ditch when it comes to braking and cornering.
Clearly the insurance companies are working on the assumption that all Mercedes do 150 m.p.h., and everyone who drives one is a raving maniac, especially if he happens to work in Fleet Street. It is a ludicrous view, quite unfair to the car owner, and in the long run, I should say, damaging to the insurance companies themselves.
I don’t pretend to have a solution, but clearly something should be done, and pretty quickly, if a large number of cars are not going to be driven off the road by insurance costs alone.
I am, Yours, etc.,
[We also hear of overload premiums on the essentially-safe VW—can it be anti-German feeling in the insurance world? — Ed.]
From the Coronation-Safari Winner
I have just read with interest your June edition and, in particular, the item about the Coronation Safari under the heading “Rumblings” on page 308.
As the outright winner, with my co-driver Gust Hofmann, of this year’s event, I thought that you might be interested to read that our VW had over 50,000 miles on the clock when we bought it in January 1957, and, apart from approximately £30 spent on overhauling it, it gave us no trouble whatsoever during this 3,000-mile event. Moreover, after the Safari was over, we sold it for more than we gave for it!! The purchaser being aware of its history.
The tyres (Continental 4-ply) on my last VW gave me 28,000 miles of use before retreading, and roads here are more exacting than those at home. I have just sold my own VW, having bought one of the latest models, and total cost per mile—petrol, oil, spares, licence, insurance and depreciation, was 23 cents per mile, i.e., less than 3d. (25 cts.).
Show me a British car that measures up to the above and I will buy it!
I am, Yours, etc.,
A. A. N. Burton
The Export Market in Historic Cars
I should like to register strong exception to your editorial comment at the foot of the lead “Letters from Readers” in your November 1957 issue: “The odds are the better (historic) cars will be sold for dollars and the left-overs kept for the home market customers.” For over 25 years I have imported, restored and owner-driven Bugatti cars; most of them from the United Kingdom. With the notable exception of cars and parts from J. Lemon Burton, the Bugatti exponent, all cars received from the British Isles have so far fallen into two distinct categories:
(a) Exhorbitantly overpriced to the point that no British subject would consider them.
(b) The above referred to “left-overs,” in dire need of extensive reconstruction from the frame out.
I do not blame anyone particularly, but I should like to point out that, if you have a lemon for someone to squeeze, there is much less likelihood of direct repercussions if you can ship it to some dollar happy foreigner who is too distant to come knocking at your door with effective demands for some adjustment of the swindle.
Within your own advertising columns there frequently appear offers to sell desirable motor cars “not for export.” In the matter of unique and historic vehicles I concur, but let us keep an honest eye on facts; when it comes to exports, the overpriced and the shoddy remnants are the first to go. It is true, if sad, that in all countries foreigners are fair game for such practices.
I should like to reiterate that there are exceptions. Over a period of nearly twenty years, I have found that cars and parts shipped to this country by J. Lemon Burton are not cheap, but they are priced and delivered in honest relationship to the condition claimed by the seller—a most happy and unusual way of doing business. Possibly a genuine appreciation for Bugatti cars makes profit a secondary motive.
I am, Yours. etc.,
Eri H. Richardson (Lt.-Col. U.S.A.F.)
A Rare Riley
It has occurred to me that you might be able to assist me in obtaining information on the existence of a rare model of six-cylinder Riley—the “Alpine Tourer” of 1931/32.
I have had the fortune to procure one of these cars and would like to trace other “Alpine Tourer” owners. If any of your readers own or know the existence of one of these models, I should be pleased to hear from them. So far as I can ascertain, only 50 were made during 1931/32. Out of these, three were special works two-seater competition cars.
I belong to the Riley Register and my own car is the only one of this model in the Register.
Perhaps, while on the subject of six-cylinder Rileys, we might dispel the bad name these models have been given. Any Riley enthusiast who has owned a good Six knows that for smoothness, flexibility, and high-speed reliability, these engines take a lot of beating; 25 m.p.g. is quite easily obtainable without sacrificing performance, so they are not unduly thirsty.
The inherent faults in the 1928/29 Sixes were quickly overcome, and from 1929 onwards the design proved itself wholly trustworthy.
The commonest faults attributed to these engines are lack of oil pressure in the right quarters, gutlessness, and excessive petrol consumption. All these, and many other maladies, are directly allied to “blacksmith” engineering and amateur tuning.
The merit of the M.P.H. (12/6 and 14/6) and the subsequent success of the E.R.A. are beyond question.
If anyone questions the suitability of the Six for tuning they would also be questioning the know-how of the late Freddie Dixon and many others, who achieved such success in racing with Riley Six Specials.
I am, Yours, etc.,
L. J. Beach
I would be interested to know whether any of your readers have experienced the following curious phenomenon?
My work involves driving some 500 miles every week and, I have, over a considerable period, driven several makes of modern car. Recently, I have used a “new-look” Ford Anglia and, since driving it, I have experienced an eye irritation, diagnosed by my doctor as mild conjunctivitis.
I have questioned a number of Anglia drivers—all using their cars regularly for long journeys, or long periods of driving, and every one (including my doctor!) complains of eye irritation in varying degrees.
Is there such a thing as “Anglia-eyetis”?
I am, Yours, etc.,
Recently, for the first time since buying a VW, I was encouraged by the absence of wet on the ground, to lie down under the back of the machine and adjust the valve clearances. With the aid of a big spanner, and at the cost of a skinned knuckle I was successful in stripping the threads off one of the adjusting screws. This was a bit awkward as I had a fairly urgent business trip to make over the weekend, and I didn’t fancy lumping a lot of heavy stuff about by train.
At quarter past twelve I ‘phoned the VW depot at Plaistow, and whereas they had the spare in stock they were due to shut at twelve-thirty. I had visions of a VW-less weekend and a lot of inconvenience, but Mr. Myers of their spares department said never mind, he’d meet me somewhere on his way home and bring a replacement for the broken part with him. I hastily nipped on the tube, and sure enough my good samaritan broke his journey and turned up complete with adjusting screw and locknut, price ninepence. In my haste I hadn’t brought any change with me and couldn’t pay him. He said not to worry, it was only a few coppers, and I could send it on.
This I consider to be very decent treatment from an unknown individual of a large organisation, very different from that which I have received from other car people under similar circumstances.
Incidentally, this is the first thing I’ve managed to break on the Volkswagen after some 17,000 odd miles, most of them around Spain, and the tappet clearances as it so happened didn’t really need adjusting after all.
I am, Yours. etc.,
J. A. Williamson
Racing on Petrol
Interesting, isn’t it, that, for over thirty years the British Motor Industry has ignored G.P. racing, preferring to advertise its cars through the medium of the Press and other channels. Naturally, there is no reason why it shouldn’t do as it pleases, for it has been argued that if there is any prestige to be gained from a victory in one or another Grand Prix it is only appreciated by those directly interested and just a handful of the spectators, and is entirely lost upon the public in general, who only go to see the accidents. Perhaps there is something in this—human nature hasn’t changed. The Coliseum played to capacity crowds when the lions were given a few Christians, public hangings attracted the mob from miles around, and the visit of the television cameras to the recent Lewisham rail disaster was presented as if it were a variety show.
However, let’s get back to advertising. Well, well, I do hope the Standard boys aren’t serious when they tell us that, above all, their new Pennant is the exclusive car of the year. According to my Oxford Dictionary, “exclusive” means “difficult to get into.” We all know no one has yet built a car that is easy to get into, but it is a little odd to tell us that this is the worst of the bunch. Maybe, after all, a Grand Prix victory is the better bet.
Come to think of it, G.P. racing is rapidly “going down the pan.” I mean from the research point of view. Supercharging out of the question under existing conditions, now its petrol only; soon be fairy-cycles and scooters, won’t it? I wonder what the tie-up between the F.I.A. and the petrol barons really is. What did they say in 1955? “The development of commodities for sale to the general public would be better served by an insistence on the-same-as-you-can-buy fuel and oil.” Development of commodities my foot; we end up with aviation spirit becoming the official brew, which is as much use to your car and mine, Mr. Editor, as condensed goats’ milk. If there really was a genuine desire to assist the public, the petrol barons would long ago have abandoned the wasteful and absurd forms of advertising their various brands, and concentrated upon stepping up the production of home-produced fuels such as alcohol and benzole. Look at it this way; sooner or later some little upstart is going to spark off another international crisis and, overnight, we shall be back to basic and black market. Now ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is produced in this country, and its production could easily be expanded into a major dollar-saving industry. A product of vegetable matter, and obtainable at negligible cost wherever there is rain, sunshine and vegetation, ethanol is miscible with petrol and up to nearly 20 per cent. by volume may be added to petrol, and this mixture may be used in any ordinary car or motor-cycle without any adjustment of the carburetter setting whatsoever. Cooler running of the engine, with resultant greater power, giving improved top-gear performance and increased mileage per gallon, are but some of the beneficial results of petrol-alcohol blending.
This country imports annually, I believe, some 2,700 million gallons of motor fuel and oil, at a cost not far short of £200 million. Allowing as much as 20 per cent. of this to come from non-dollar areas, we’are still faced with an annual expenditure of well over £150 million, a large proportion of which we could save by the use of petrol-alcohol mixtures. Were all petrol companies and combines to prepare to make available to the public a mixture containing 70 per cent. of petrol, 15 per cent. of ethanol, and 15 per cent. of benzole, then the ultimate annual saving of dollars would be in the region of £25 million.
However, back to racing(?), because if the boys want to go in for it now, it’s petrol. And not a word of protest from any of ’em. Well, if I had built a team of G.P. cars out of my own pocket I’m sure I wouldn’t let a group of business men only interested in advertising their petrol tell me what I should put in the tank. Those cars would go into cold storage because those bright boys don’t have to foot the bill for new engines to replace those wrecked by mechanical failure due to the use of petrol, which completely lacks the cooling effects of alcohol. I wonder how some of the big-bore “fours” will fare. Ye gods, what a pasting those pistons and exhaust valves are going to get; like mother’s toast, always burnt. And that reminds me, the twin-cam Coventry-Climax and its habit of dropping exhaust valves. Maybe it was faulty design or material, but I’m willing to bet a bob or two that a diet of alcohol would have been a lot kinder to those poor poppets and a sight less expensive for the owners. And, talking of cost, just look what “petrol only” has done to motor-cycle racing. In pre-prohibition days we had as many as twenty-five British manufacturers entering the Isle of Man T.T. races. Today, there are none. And why? ‘Cause the only way to get reliability and results when racing on petrol is to be very expensive and go in for lots of pots; so far the number for a 500-c.c. engine is eight. At this rate Bourne might think up a thirty-six-cylinder job, but meanwhile the just-can’t-get-it-right Maser will do as a good example of the shape of things to come.
Frankly, I’m all for politely and firmly telling those august dignitaries responsible for this new ruling to resign, and to hand over their jobs to those who understand what G.P. racing is all about. Surely the object of it is to design a car which, with certain definitions of weight or engine capacity, is the fastest that can be built. How on earth can this be done if free choice of fuel is denied? And look ahead; once the G.P. car is no longer the fastest on the circuits of Europe, then this form of motor racing may well disappear. Limiting the sports cars to three litres was a smart move, but on some circuits this may still prove to be a sufficient margin to exceed G.P. lap and race speeds. Perhaps, Mr. Editor, the best thing you and I can do is to buy a few shares in some valve and piston-manufacturing companies.
I am, Yours, etc.,
A 1947 Rover Twelve
Your feature last year on the Alexander-Minx prompts me to send you the enclosed photograph. All praise to Michael Christie and Rootes Group for what must be an extremely healthy car to drive, but your remarks about the head of the Hillman convertible folding flush with the body very neatly, led me to sing other praises.
My Rover Twelve coupé is shown with the head folded. I assure you that both side-screens and hood are still on the car and have not been removed for show purposes. Everything folds away under a metal lid, rear-hinged, just forward of the boot door. This has been achieved too without restricting the width of the back seat, which Austins found necessary on their A90 Atlantic models. The Rover back seat is indeed wide enough to be fitted with a centre arm-rest. This I consider neater than the Hillman system in spite of the fact that Rootes have had ten years’ extra development over the designers of my Rover which has been in active service since 1947.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Arnold S. Bell