“Motor Sport” visits B.M.W., Auto Union/D.K.W., N.S.U., and Ford-Cologne, and the museums at Munich and Neckarsulm
– First Road-Test Report on the new o.h.c. B.M.W. 1500
– Road and Track Impressions of the V4 F.W.D. Ford Taunus 12M
I SUPPOSE in some quarters I may be labelled unpatriotic for having again agreed to visit Germany in a German car for the purpose of taking a quick look at some of the latest products of the German Motor Industry. On the contrary, this November journey was intended to vindicate the Grand Touring qualities of the Aston Martin DB4 GT, as a follow-up to the long Continental journey made earlier this year in a Jaguar E-type. But although Aston Martin might have been willing to lend us one of these cars for a few days in England, when they realised that we wished to make a week’s journey abroad, they just didn’t want to know and firmly shut the door on us. My next hope of showing the British flag on the Continent was to suggest doing the trip in one of the new 3-litre Rover coupes. Unfortunately, none of these cars was run-in in time; Bob Berry shook his head sadly when asked for a Jaguar Mk. X; so in the end we went by courtesy of Mercedes-Benz (Gt. Britain) Ltd. in a Mercedes-Benz 220S saloon.
With the likely entry of Britain into the European Common Market, the fact that Germany, after America, is now the largest producer of automobiles in the World, and the number of interesting new, cars recently released by German manufacturers, I felt we had every justification for our departure to the Continent.
Saturday, November 24th
Having collected the personal Mercedes-Benz 220S of Mr. Erik Johnson, Publicity Manager to Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union/D.K.W. in Britain, we made our way to Southend Airport in order to be flown across the Channel by the ever-willing and efficient Channel Air Bridge. On this occasion we were told that Ostend aerodrome, where there is no radar approach, was shut due to low-lying sea mist, but after the Captain of the British United Airways Bristol Freighter had conferred with the Met. Office, he decided that he would take us in. The subsequent flight was, shall I say, “interesting,” but after we had let down through die fog and flown, at what seemed to be something under 150 ft., out along the coast and in low over the city, a successful landing was made just as winter darkness closed in. We heard later that ours was the first aircraft to get into Ostend for four days. . . .
Shortly afterwards we were on the well-known Jabbeke autoroute, devouring the kilometres to some purpose. A stately Rolls-Royce, for instance, was overtaken and disappeared behind us in next to no time; it was in fact extremely difficult to remember that the Mercedes-Benz had an engine capacity of but 2.2-litres. Incidentally, it is a striking testimony to the silence of the Mercedes-Benz gearbox and transmission that for a number of miles the driver remained in 3rd gear under the impression that he was in top.
After we had driven through the spacious city of Brussels, however, a hesitancy became noticeable in the carburation and it was clear that all was not well with our 220S. We began to look for a garage displaying the illuminated sign of the Three-Pointed Star, and sure enough one showed up in the small village of Louven. Although this was only a small garage-cum-Shell filling station, a dedicated mechanic immediately set about carrying out sonic skilful diagnosis on the recalcitrant machinery. It may interest those who follow the Crypton-creed at home to know that he used a Service Equipment Sun Tester No. 150, from which it was evident that the ignition setting, carburation and sparking plugs were in a poor state of tune. After adjustments had been made and a new set of Bosch plugs had been installed, we went on our way with this fine car in new heart, but with no very good opinion of the manner in which it had been serviced—or had not been serviced!—back at the Mercedes-Benz concessionaires workshops in England. I hope the customers receive better attention!
It was bitterly cold and As we drove to Spa, where the overnight stop was made, it was soon evident that snow lay over the bulk of Europe.
Sunday, November 25th
Setting Off in the morning over treacherous roads, we drove first over part of the Spa circuit, for the unique opportunity of photographing the pits under snow. The Mercedes-Benz, sure-footed on slippery surfaces thanks to its independent rear suspension, made good time through the Christmas Card, snowbound forest landscape of Luxembourg, until we got on the autobahn at Saarbrucken. Although the German motor-road network has been well-known for many years to a great many English motorists, for those who still think they have travelled in the grand manner after they have traversed the length of M 1, let me remind them that this autobahn runs for 77 miles from Saarbrucken to Mannheim, from whence another 81 miles bring you to Stuttgart, after which it is 123 miles along the autobahn to Munich.
Although the autobahn was somewhat snowbound, often wet, and had numerous 50-k.p.h. speed-limits where repairs were in progress, the 220S covered the initial 228 miles in exactly three hours, an average of 76 m.p.h., before we stopped to refuel. It proved capable of cruising well within itself at a timed 88.5 m.p.h., the genuine maximum speed being 102.4 m.p.h.; at the latter speed the vertical-ribbon Vdo speedometer was about 5.5 m.p.h. optimistic. Incidentally, it is a tribute to German efficiency that of the 281 miles of autobahn that we traversed that afternoon, the whole of it was clear of snow except for occasional patches in the passing lane, whereas the sections closed for repairs were completely snowbound.
As I was driven comfortably at this high average speed I was able again to take stock of the practical fittings and equipment of this fine motor car. For example, the front-seat passenger has convenient hand grips on door and roof, the facia is a dignified one of polished beechwood, flanked with leather crash-padding, and the useful cubby-hole has a substantial-looking lock. The heating and ventilation system approaches the ideal, for the passenger has his or her own controls, with which a non-fug warmth can be adjusted to suit the circumstances, and at no time did any of the windows show any sign of misting-up. Armrests at exactly the right position on the doors, the safety interior door handles, the means whereby the angle of the front-seat squabs can be adjusted with a knurled knob—none of that vicious “flyback” action on a Mercedes-Benz!—and the useful front-door pockets, are other convenient items of this well-appointed and comfortable Mercedes. The screen-wiper blades overlap so that the centre of the windscreen is kept clear; the Vdo clock maintains its accuracy day after day and is rheostat-illuminated along with the instruments in their nacelle ahead of the driver. The generous-sized seats are hard but comfortable to occupy for many hours at a stretch, the mirror is of anti-dazzle type, the front roof-light is hooded, there is that convenient tray for maps, tins of sweets, a torch, etc., between the front seats, and sliding coat hooks are provided on the rear roof grab-handles. The quarter-windows can be adjusted to a nicety by means of knurled knobs, although their gutters do not always exclude every drop of rain when they are open.
Details can make or mar a car and those of the modern Mercedes-Benz, whether 190, 220S, or, like the car in which we covered over 1,700 miles on the Continent last year, the 220SE, greatly enhance the pleasure of making long high-speed journeys, such as the one on which we had now embarked. Saarbrucken and Munich having been brought within four hours of one another by this combination of German motor-car and German motor-road, we dined that night without any sense of fatigue, and were later met and entertained by Herr Hoepner, Public Relations Manager of B.M.W., and his vivacious wife.
Monday, November 26th
Waking to a snowy morning in Munich, we nevertheless carried on with our pre-conceived plan of devoting the day to compiling the first published road-test report of the interesting new B.M.W. 1500 saloon. When we last visited the B.M.W. factory in 1956 motorcycle production was fading out and the Company was concentrating on their well-known 501 6-cylinder and 502 and 503 V8 saloon motor-cars, and the exciting B.M.W. 507 sports model. I would refer B.M.W. enthusiasts to Motor Sport for November 1956 for a full description of the B.M.W. factory as it was at that time and for road-test figures of these cars. Since then a change of policy has taken place and although the luxury B.M.W. V8s are still in limited production, as are the famous flat-twin motorcycles, the bulk of production is devoted to the little air-cooled, rear-engined flat-twin B.M.W. 700s, the sports version of which we road-tested last May.
A quick tour of the factory, which has its own foundry, showed that while much remains as it was at the time of our previous visit, a fine new building is nearly completed and here engine testing will be undertaken on every power unit of every type manufactured by B.M.W. Every flat-twin engine is run for three hours on Carl Schenck test-beds. On the final assembly line the B.M.W. 700 and 1500 models progress together. At the end of the line, however, the 700s are given a short run on a rear-wheel dynamometer, whereas the 1500 does not go through this process. An interesting test-rig noticed in the factory was that for checking the alignment of the Dunlop disc brakes fitted to the front wheels of the B.M.W. 1500, at the same time ensuring that equal strength springs are used for both sides of the i.f.s. system.
Production at the moment consists of the 2.6-litre and 3.2-litre V8 cars which are turned out at the rate of approximately 15 to 20 a day, a very limited number of the GT coupe version of the 507 with its Italian bodywork, perhaps at the rate of 5 or 7 a week, 250 B.M.W. 700s a day which are made in two forms, the LS model developing 35 b.h.p. and the sports version 40 b.h.p., motorcycle production at the rate of 20 or 40-50 a day depending on the demand, and the new B.M.W. 1500, which since September 1st has been produced at the rate of 60-65 a day.
The bodies of both the 7005 and the jsoos receive four coats of paint, and a great deal of wet rubbing down is used to ensure a perfect surface on which the paint finish can be built.
The remarkable little 700 in its specialised form for competition purposes has been developed until it is capable of pushing out 80 b.h.p., an output of 68-72 b.h.p. (from 696 c.c.!) being considered not at all abnormal. Work is in progress at the moment on a special version of the engine with dual ignition, special heads, etc., from which it is hoped that even higher outputs will be obtained.
After this brief look at the factory, we drove away in a red B.M.W. 1500 saloon, heading down the autobahn towards Salzburg. Unfortunately, snow conditions became steadily worse, so that we had to abandon the idea of photographing the car at Berchtesgaden and return to less severe conditions where performance testing and fast driving over snow and icebound roads could be undertaken.
B.M.W. set great store by the new 1.5-litre car, which may perhaps be regarded as coming somewhere between the Fiat 1500 and the least-expensive Alfa-Romeo so far as this country is concerned. The basis of the new car is an 82 X 71 mm, 1,490 c.c. 4-cylinder 5 bearing light alloy engine with chain-driven single o.h. camshaft, inclined at 30° towards the offside. This compact saloon car has coil spring i.f.s. and trailing-link i.r.s., also by coil springs. The engine develops 80 b.h.p, at the comparatively high crankshaft speed of 5,800 r.p.m. The result is a small high-performance 4-door closed motor-car, equipped rather as if it were a baby Mercedes-Benz.
As we were privileged to take a B.M.W. 1500 out on test even before the leading German motor papers had had this opportunity and this therefore stands a good chance of being the first published test report on the car, I intend to go into some detail about this interesting newcomer. After admiring the good paint finish which is traditional as far as B.M.W. products are concerned, and the modern Corvair lines of this sports saloon, we entered to discover comfortable cloth-upholstered separate front seats of generous dimensions, and with high but non-adjustable squabs. The metal facia is finished in the same colour as the outside paint job. On the driver’s side are three unlabelled knobs controlling fog lamp, side and headlamps and, if fitted, spotlights. To the right is a Vdo 180 k.p.h. speedometer with total and trip mileage recorders, the speed dial being calibrated rather vaguely, in figures, in steps of 20 k.p.h., and a matching dial incorporating fuel-tank contents indicator, headlamps full beam, direction flashers warning light, water temperature gauge reading from 40-110 degrees C. and normally indicating comfortably below 80 degrees C., ignition warning lamp, and low oil pressure warning lamp. Between these is a Vdo electric clock. The remaining button on the facia is for the 2-speed wipers-cum-washers (the latter being brought into operation by depressing the rubber knob) and there is a cigarette lighter. On the facia also are the horizontal quadrants for the heater/demister control, while on the far side in front of the passenger, this being an l.h.d. car, there is a spacious but non-lockable cubby hole with metal lid, which drops to form a shelf. The steering wheel is set somewhat high but does not interfere with the vision of a driver of normal height and it is possible to get a clear view of the instruments through it. The pedals are of pendant type, with a treadle accelerator, and the floor gear lever rises centrally from a slim propeller shaft tunnel. The handbrake lever is of conventional central pull-up pattern. The engine is started with the ignition key, which, turned the opposite way, locks the steering, and there is a half horn-ring on the steering wheel. Slim steering-column stalks control, on the left in this l.h.d. car, headlamp full beam and daylight headlamps flashing, and, on the right, the turn indicators. As the gear lever is placed centrally it would be preferred if these stalks could be transposed, so that the right hand could operate the gear lever and the headlamps flasher, leaving the left hand completely free to steer the car.
Equipment of this B.M.W. 1500 is comprehensive and includes roof grab handles for the back-seat passengers, a rear parcels shelf with the rear seat forming an excellent lip, lidded ashtrays on the rear doors and on the screen sill, a roof light above the front seats with courtesy action, safety type sun visors which swivel but do not embrace a vanity mirror, rubber mats for the front compartment and cloth carpets in the back compartment, and useful recessed door pockets in the front doors. Each door has an arm rest-cum-pull, and under these, reached by gripping the pull and letting the finders extend downwards around them, are the safety-type interior handles.
The upholstery of the seats is in cloth and that of the doers in a combination of plastic and cloth trim.
The first impression is of good visibility forward over a wide but low bonnet, and a very good driving position. One is also delighted to find that the doors shut with a single thud, rather like those on a Fiat 1500, and that the bonnet is hinged at its forward edge, and remains up on its own when it is necessary to reach the engine. The lid of the large luggage boot springs up automatically when its press-button is operated. This boot has excellent accommodation for a large quantity of luggage, the spare wheel being beneath the floor. Here it may be remarked that the test car was shod with with B.F. Goodrich tubeless 6.00 x 14 tyres and that B.M.W. thoughtfully placed two Metzeler winter metal-studded tyres in the boot in case we should be imprudent and venture into the quickly-deepening snow. The filler cap for the 12-gallon fuel tank is situated beneath the boot lid on the off-side and is thus rendered thief-proof when the boot is locked. Under the bonnet the dipstick is immediately to hand on the near side of the inclined engine, being incorporated in a breather stack. The seats are found to be comfortable if on the soft side, and for the passenger there is a horizontal hand-grip, the facia sill behind it being recessed so that coffee cups and like objects can be supported thereon.
As soon as you begin to drive the B.M.W. 1500 you are conscious that here is a small car with extremely good performance and plenty of life. It also imparts a sense of quality and well-being in a typically modern manner. The steering calls for 3.5-turns lock-to-lock and is perhaps somewhat spongy while it tends to be heavy, as on acute bends it pulls against the castor action. On the other hand it exerts accurate control over the car, the cornering tendency of which is notably neutral. The engine responds promptly to the throttle and is a smooth-running, willing unit which picks up with no flat spots right to its high maximum safe speed of 5,800 r.p.m. Obviously it pays to make frequent use of the gearbox if the best performance is to be realised from this high-speed power unit. The gearbox has impeccable synchromesh on all four forward ratios and enables very fast changes to be made. The lever has rather big movements so that you bat it about with the palm of the hand rather than grasp it, particularly between third and top gear, in which positions it is a fair stretch for the average driver from the steering wheel. Reverse is easily located beyond first gear but in making a rapid change from third to second a clumsy driver will at first bring the lever too far over opposite the reverse position and therefore be unable to engage second gear. In general, however, this short well-placed lever controls a delightful gearbox. The engine has a rather harsh note but you soon accept this as in the best tradition of a high-efficiency o.h.c. unit which provides exceptionally good performance for a car of 1.5-litre capacity.
Weather conditions were against performance testing but we set out conscientiously to calibrate the speedometer, which was found to have about the usual degree of optimism. which remained consistent in the 50-70 m.p.h. band. Taking acceleration figures after correcting the speedometer, two up on a wet road, 0-50 m.p.h. occupied an average time of 11.9 sec., 0-60 m.p.h. an average of 17.6 sec, and 0-70 m.p.h. an average of 24.9 sec., the best times being, respectively, 11.9, 17.1 and 23.8 sec. Timed over a kilometre with the speedometer registering 161 k.p.h. the actual maximum speed proved to be 94.7 m.p.h. As the weather was extremely cold, it seems possible that under conditions of average temperature this maximum might be increased by some 2 m.p.h. In any case the maximum speed of practically 95 m.p.h. from a full 4 seater 4-door 1.5-litre car is not to be scorned. Over a total distance of 365 miles, fuel consumption worked out at 24.2 m.p.g. In the gears the B.M.W. 1500 proved capable of a genuine 25 m.p.h. in first gear, 46 m.p.h. in second and 70 m.p.h. in third gear, although the speedometer is marked at less ambitious maxima.
In keeping with this really high performance there is a combination of comfortable but safe suspension. Pitching is virtually absent, nor do sharp up-and-down movements intrude to spoil the comfort of the occupants. This is essentially flexible suspension but float is well controlled, nor does the car roll excessively on corners. It does, however, ride with extreme comfort on bad surfaces, such as rutted snow and the like. The gearbox is commendably quiet and wind noise is extremely low with the car cruising at speeds in excess of 85 m.p.h. We had cause to drive home to Munich in fog, when the excellence of the Hella headlamps, use of which, with the foglamp switch “on,” automatically brings in the twin foglamps, was convincingly demonstrated under these conditions, the extremely good acceleration and stability of the B.M.W. 1500 proved their worth, while the speed was matched by the excellence of the Dunlop front disc brakes. On slippery roads the all-round-independent suspension also contributes to the speed at which the car can be driven and the peace of mind enjoyed by its occupants. The heater and the windscreen washers worked well. Externally, the modern lines of the car are enhanced by the small, rather Alfa-like, radiator grille, and substantial bumpers with rubber over-riders which fully protect the headlamps and the bodywork of the car. Suspension is by coil-springs front and back, and in the luggage boot the tops of the suspension struts can be seen protruding from the rear wheel arches, rather like those on an Elite . . . but in this case much lower down in the car and not protruding within the body. ‘The front doors have opening quarter-lights, with safety catches, and the front-door handles require 3.5-turns of the winding handles to fully open the main windows.
Although the weather did its utmost to impede us, I was extremely grateful to Mr. Hoepner of Bayerische Motoren Werke A.G. for allowing me to carry out this first published road-test of a very promising new car in the field of up-to-the-minute high-performance small saloons, This B.M.W. has been much longer than its makers had hoped in getting into production, but now that it is in production we feel that it will prove very popular in all parts of the world. In this country, after the recent reduction in purchase tax, it sells at the competitive figure of £1,376. As the least-expensive petrol-engined Mercedes-Benz, the 190, is priced in England at £1,692 it Can be Said that, for those seeking a car of equivalent dignity, performance and quality but unable to afford a product of Stuttgart, this B.M.W. 1500 very admirably meets their requirements. The only minor faults we experienced were loose screws securing the cubby-hole lid, and temporary loss of screen-washers and horn until these had thawed out.
Tuesday, November 27th
The morning was occupied with driving along the Nuremberg autobahn to visit Auto Union/D.K.W. in the small town of Ingolstadt. Here we located Herr Schimpke in the Press offices, which are situated where the original D.K.W. factory once stood. From his attractive wood-panelled office Herr Schimpke telephoned the Director and Chief of Production, and the Chief Engineer, with whom we had a session in another office block which was originally a Kaiser-war barracks and was therefore an extremely substantial if somewhat grim building. Car production at the rate of 500 vehicles a day takes place in a new factory some distance away on the outskirts of the town.
Present car-production consists of the D.K.W. Junior -and more de luxe 40S, the 68 x 68 ram., 741-c.c. engine of which develops 39 gross b.h.p. at 4,300 r.p.m.; the D.K.W. 800S with a 70.5 x 68 mm. 860-c.c. engine giving the same power output at 4,000 r.p.m.; the well-known Auto Union 1000 which has a 74 x 76 mm. 981-c.c. engine developing 51 gross b.h.p. at 4,500 r.p.m., or 57 b.h.p. in 1000S form, and the 1000SP model with the 981-c.c. engine tuned to develop 62 gross b.h.p. at 4,500 r.p.m. All these cars are, of course, front-wheel-drive, with 2-stroke engines, and the 1000SP (SP stands for Special) is now available in handsome sports drophead-coupe form. The Germans are rather less optimistic and talk of a top output of 55 b.h.p. from their 1000SP engine. This, however, is very nearly 55 b.h.p. per litre and is nothing of which to be ashamed! In conversation with the Director and Chief of Production, and the Chief Engineer, I gathered that racing versions of this engine have pushed out go b.h.p. per litre. A new Auto Union will be released later this month but although we promised complete secrecy, not a word about this could we extract, although it was admitted that it will be a 2-stroke!
Naturally everyone at the Auto Union factory is a firm believer in the 2-cycle engine and I was taken again through the repertoire of such an engine, in single-cylinder form, having but seven moving parts. The outstanding advantage of a 2-stroke engine, namely that it develops a good power output at comparatively low r.p.m., was naturally made clear in the course of conversation. I asked why Auto Union/D.K.W. still employ one coil per cylinder for the ignition system of their in-line 3-cylinder engines, whereas Saab in Sweden have gone over to a normal type of ignition distributor. I was told that this was done in order not to overcomplicate the beautiful simplicity of the 2-stroke engine, and also to avoid breakdowns associated with distributor failure.
I made the point that the recently-introduced mechanical lubricator does add some complication to the engine, but was told that it has but one moving part, the pump, which is driven by belt from the fan thrive and rotates at very low speed. This mechanical lubricator brings the 2-stroke car into line with its 4-stroke companions in the matterof quick re-fuelling at petrol pumps, and it also enables the quantity of oil necessary to be substantially reduced. Normal heavy-duty oils are used. The point was made that very careful research has been carried out on the size and shape of the inlet and exhaust ports of Auto Union/D.K.W. 2-stroke engines, and a mould was produced to show that, because the engine is made in one block, good castings result, so that the drawing-board port shapes are closely adhered to in production, difficulties with casting and heat distortion being obviated by this monobloc construction. Every engine is bench-tested for five minutes on a water brake, and horsepower readings are taken after one-and-a-half to two minutes’ running. The output has to be within ±2.5% of the quoted maximum, otherwise an engine is rejected; in fact, 2/3rds of production engines show less than 1% variance from the expected maximum horse-power.
After lunching in Ingolstadt we returned to Munich in the. B.M.W. 1500, handing it back to the factory, which faces a big open space which is both club aerodrome and open common and on this occasion was a vast expanse of snowy whiteness.
That evening we were royally entertained by Herr Hoepner and his wife in their charming house in the hills some twenty miles from Munich. The road up to Herr Floepner’s house was snowbound, which provided a mild adventure. In England they are less accustomed to long spells of snow than they are in Germany and we had been dispatched without snow chains or winter tyres. The Firestone Sports tyres with which the Mercedes-Benz was shod proved to have very little grip and the car lost traction and had to be manhandled out of the way; the B.M.W. 1500, shod with studded winter tyres, climbed with no effort at all.
In the interval between returning to our hotel and leaving for our dinner appointment we had found time to visit the Deutsche Museum in the town. We had allowed all too little time and had to confine our attention to the Transport Section, even then leaving out the carriage and railway exhibits and looking only at the cars and aeroplanes. These, like the many other fine exhibits in this gracious Museum, are displayed in lofty, spacious halls, everything as clinically clean as a hospital and the floors shining with their own special brand of slipperiness. The motor-car exhibits cover some very early vehicles which should he inspected by any V.C.C. member who finds himself in Munich. They commence with the earliest examples of the German Motor Industry, and embrace an 1899 air-cooled Model-A Petit-Duc, and an 1896 Bollee. I had no time to inspect the veterans in detail but in passing noticed a 1902/5 Peugeot quadri-cycle and a 1963 Cyclon with its single-cylinder engine mounted above the single front wheel.
What we had really come to see was the pre-war Auto-Union Grand Prix chassis. This imposing exhibit, bringing nostalgic memories of Donington 1937 and 1938 to the writer, is a type-C with the body removed to reveal the enormous V16 engine perched at the rearmost extremity of its tubular chassis. Dr. Porsche’s influence stands out clearly throughout the design and nowhere more so than in the Volkswagen-like trailing-link torsion-bar i.f.s. Beside this Auto-Union stands a 1938/39 3-litre Via Grand Prix Mercedes-Benz chassis, so that these two Teutonic rivals of the pre-World War II golden era of motor racing can be studied side by side. I think both cars were prepared for a Berlin Motor Show, the black stove-enamelling of the Mercedes-Benz valve covers looking unnatural, while I don’t think the Auto-Union was ever raced. The other racing-car exhibit is a 300SLR Mercedes-Benz sports racing car of the type in which Moss won that meteoric Mille Miglia of 1955, this car bearing the racing number s on its silver-grey body sides.
Another car very suited to a German exhibition hall is a 1922/3 11-litre Mercedes with a sporting 2-seater body and the well-known supercharger on its single overhead camshaft 4-cylinder engine. Of the Edwardian and Vintage exhibits I think that quite the finest is the 1912 Audi with bright yellow tumble-sided 4-seater Alpine Trial sports body ending in a rakish pointed tail. Other exhibits of note covering this period are a model-T Ford tourer, a Lancia Lambda tourer, a very attractive Type 40 Bugatti 2-seater fixed-head coupe, a 32 c.v. Hispano-Suiza and a 1930 type-ADR Austro-Daimler limousine.
Another Daimler-Benz exhibit is a handsome SS Mercedes, while one of the last Horch cars to be built, in the form of a 1939 sports cabriolet, represents the pre-war German luxury car. Naturally there are sectional exhibits showing the workings of the motor vehicle, and some highly covetable commercial vehicle models of one-fifth and one-tenth scale looking almost as large as life, in their glass cases. Mercedes and Maybach radiators are displayed, and, reporting at random, other interesting exhibits are a 1921 Slaby-Beringer electric car standing on 26 x 2.00 Dunlop cyclecar tyres, a 1904 Peugeot chassis with sectioned gearbox, a 1909 De Dion Bouton tourer, a 1906 Ars-Vorderradantriebssatz chassis with a side-valve air-cooled V4 engine, and one of the little single-cylinder 1925 Hanomag coupes. Nor, having but recently come from the Auto Union/D.K.W. factory, did the eNe miss a sectioned 1937 D.K.W. Meisterklasse sedan.
We tore ourselves away from these intriguing exhibits with reluctance, only because the Museum doors were about to shut. The entrance hall to the Transport Section, incidentally, contains a Vallier rocket car of long, slender, racing pattern with many controls mysterious to those who drive mere reciprocating-engined vehicles. This one, too, stood on Dunlop tyres, its vintage-type wire wheels being shod with 4.00 x 19 covers.
Wednesday, November 28th
Our next objective was the N.S.U. factory at Neckarsulm and we drove along the Stuttgart autobahn to this well-known manufacturer of small motor cars. This factory in the Swabian lowland was formerly a small knitting machine company dating back to 1880. Becoming a limited company in 1884, the partners Schmidt and Stoll commenced building penny-farthing bicycles in 1886. Chassis frames were manufactured for Daimler from 1888 and by 1900 the N.S.U. Company, which takes its trade mark from three of the letters in the place name Neckars.ulm, commenced making motorcycles In 1906 the first N.S.U. cars were made and in 1909 excellent performances were achieved by this make of vehicle in the Prince Henry Trial. In the six years up to 1911 after car production had started, the output totalled 450 cars and 3,000 motorcycles, 5,200 employees being occupied On production of these and N.S.U. bicycles. A 5-h.p. small car was introduced in 1913 and in 1923 N.S.U. racing cars were competing on the Avus track.
It is well known that N.S.U. motorcycles have gained a great number of competition successes, culminating in the World’s Motorcycle Speed Record at 180.172 m.p.h. by Wilhelm Herz in 1951 on a supercharged 500-c.c. machine. In 1956 Herz pushed this speed up to 210.64 m.p.h. on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The following year the Prinz small car went into production. Today the N.S.U. Company employs 7,500 workers and is producing 290 cars a day, of which approximately five are the handsome Italian-styled Sports Prinz coupes. Production of motorcycles and scooters has dropped to a very low level, region of 1,000 a year all told, but they are still making 200-250 mopeds a day and 200 bicycles a day. They also make a small number of stationary engines. At present the Sport Prinz bodies are made “up the road” at Heilbronn, five miles away, where Neckar-Fiats are assembled.
Our real reason for visiting N.S.U. was to inquire as to the progress of the Wankel rotary engine, of which a great deal has been heard but very little has been seen. N.S.U. commenced work on this engine in 1954 and at the present time they have run One of these engines in a water-skiing small motorboat, Curtiss Wright in America have built a 32-litre version, and DaimlerBenz are also building Wankel engines. All these, however, are experimental projects as far as motor cars are concerned and although N.S.U. have about half a dozen Prinz and Sport Prinz cars so engined running about, they regard them merely as mobile test-benches. Any suggestion however, that they have been slowing up research work on this engine, possibly losing interest, probably arose because an entirely new and very modern test plant was being erected and staffed for much more intensive research into perfecting Wankel engines. Whereas these engines were originally experimented with on four test benches in an old building, a couple of years ago a new building was completed which now employs 25 engineers, ten testers, and some 80 workers, the latter figure having to be accepted in relation to the fact that N.S.U.’s normal toolshop supplies many of the parts required.
This fine new Wankel experimental factory has a total of nine extremely modern test rooms each with its separate glass-fronted office containing the control panel. In these extremely effective test rooms Wankel engines are run on Zollner electric brakes, and Schenck Waage dynamometers, the largest measuring up to 100 b.h.p. In a couple of years’ time it is expected that test benches capable of coping with 1,000-h.p. marine engines will have been installed.
In one of these test rooms we were shown a 400-c.c. Wankel engine undergoing a 500-hour endurance test at a constant and very steady 5,000 r.p.m. The engine was running with its normal air cleaner above the Solex carburetter and a normal silencer, etc., and was remarkably quiet and vibration free.
Outside the experimental factory We encountered an N.S.U. Prinz car with a 400-c.c. Wankel in its boot which was capable, we were told, of developing 45 b.h.p. on 80-octane fuel, although even lower-octane fuels could be satisfactorily burned. The engine is in the boot of the car as in a normal N.S.U., and drives through ,a standard Volkswagen gearbox and transmission. Most of the space in the engine compartment is taken up with a large water radiator and an oil radiator, and the carburetter stands high above the engine easing on its long ram-pipe.
To date N.S.U. have made Wankel engines of from 60 c.c. to 400 c.c., that for the aforementioned boat being a 150-c.c. unit developing 18-19 b.h.p. at 7,500 r.p.m. The 400-c.c. engine has a normal maximum of 6,000 r.p.m. Around the corner of the works we came upon two mechanics attempting to start the boat engine, which had been installed in a large static tank for test purposes in order to obtain a means of cooling it when it was not actually in motion in a hull.
All present Wankel engines have normal coil ignition for their single sparking plug, although an air-cooled 150 c.c. unit employing a magneto has been built for test purposes. The lubricating oil used is normal heavy-duty grade. Already America and Japan have shown great interest in this unique power unit, as have the Perkins diesel people in England. The advantages claimed for the Wankel engine are high power output for a given swept volume, light weight in relation to this power output, and running which is vibration-free, together with its ability to outlast, or at any rate last as long as, the car in which it is installed. The reasons why such engines have not yet gone into production mainly centre around the problems of installing machine tools which will make parts to the necessary fine tolerances required. It is true that a Wankel engine has to be rotated rather faker than an equivalent piston engine before it will start, at for example 150-200 r.p.m., but this presents no difficulty for the normal electric starter providing it is correctly geared. In fact, rotational friction is lower in the Wankel engine than in a reciprocating piston unit. Production of such engines should not be expensive and N.S.U. estimate that costs will be lower than for the manufacture of four-stroke petrol engines. Wankel engines only require running for ten minutes on the bench; afterwards they can be taken safely up to full load. It is visualised that an engine for a car the size of, for example, a Mercedes-Benz 2205, would be of about 1,40.0 c.c. and develop 130 b.h.p. Although this is a very compact power unit, it requires certain accessories which bring it to about the same size as an equivalent piston engine.
A 400 c.c. Wankel unit as a bare engine weighs 27 kg. and develops 45 D.I.N., as distinct from S.A.E., h.p. The sparking plug runs hotter than in a piston engine but racing plugs stand up satisfactorily and already Bosch are working on a special plug which they expect will last three times longer than a conventional sparking plug in a piston engine. The test cars now on the road use constant ignition timing, although for maximum performance some variation of the ignition setting may be necessary. Daimler-Benz are experimenting with the use of plain bearings in Wankel engines, which should prove more durable than the roller bearings used to date. Lubrication is looked after by oil in a tank containing about three-quarters of a gallon, and a scavenge pump. It is interesting to note that the Experimental Department, apart from all the work it is doing on the Wankel engine, has also done much research into ram induction systems and tuned exhaust pipes for N.S.U. racing engines. The presence of this fine new research factory, which was opened in December 1960, disposes of any idea that N.S.U. have lost heart over the Wankel engine and I hope that within a year or so I may be road testing the first Wankel-engined N.S.U. small car, while perhaps if the Grand Prix Formula changes we may see Wankel-engined cars competing with turbine and similar-powered F.1 cars on the circuits of Europe.
Wishing Herr Groth, who had shown us over the test plant, the very best of good fortune in the world of Wankel, we went into the town to have lunch in an old German castle which was bombed during the war but has been rebuilt as a restaurant in traditional style. Incidentally, one of the dishes on the menu is a grill served on a model N.S.U. Prinz car, an excellent idea which we hope B.M.C. will follow—offering, for example, roast beef and Yorkshire on the roof of a miniature Mini-Minor. This restaurant is part of the Dentsches Zweirad Museum to which we went after the meal was over.
Arranged in three storeys, this small but extremely interesting and well-equipped transport museum is devoted to bicycles and motorcycles. On the bottom floor amongst the cycle exhibits we were amused to see a replica of the 5-seater bicycle used by the Opel brothers in 1894. It was particularly amusing to see that the rear sprocket was larger than the others so that presumably the weakest brother sat at the back and was given less work to do than his four companions. Bicycles do not greatly interest me but anyone who wishes to investigate the various forms of drive used on such machines should certainly glean all he requires from a visit to this N.S.U. museum. On the first floor things became more interesting, with inspection of the motorcycle exhibits. There was, for instance, a Wolf Muller crank-driven motorcycle reputed to be 1894, the back wheel of which, apart from having such a unique drive, incorporated a cam from which a long push-rod operated the valve gear of its horizontal engine. Another remarkable machine was a Megola with a 5-cylinder rotary air-cooled engine contained within the front wheel, the magneto sticking out at the extremity of the front forks. That this was no isolated experiment was proved when we ascended to the second floor to look at the racing exhibits, for here, amongst more conventional high-speed machinery, was a similar racing version of this 5-cylinder Megola, dated 1922/3.
Reverting to the normal motorcycle exhibits, these included a 1902 N.S.U. with Zedel engine which still runs, a 4-cylinder HW, a Mars, a 1902 N.S.U. with sprung front forks, and a 1906 N.S.U. with telescopic front forks. Further down the line was the first N.S.U. with sprung rear wheel, and a 1920/22 Ardic with telescopic front forks. We were interested to notice a 1920 Triumph and, lying on a window-sill, a Triumph engine awaiting restoration. Wanderer motorcycles with both vertical and horizontal engines were on view, and there was a sectional engine showing the unique N.S.U. camshaft drive applied to a single-cylinder motorcycle power unit.
Amongst the display of autocycles was the first N.S.U. moped of 1931, its engine over the front wheel, which was driven by exposed chain, a 1922 120 c.c. D.K.W. scooter, and a Krupproller scooter which was originally designed for use inside Krupps armament factories for transporting personnel from one department to another but later went into production and was used for parachute dropping by the Army. There was even an Opel motorcycle, not to mention a water-cooled D.K.W. with side radiators reminiscent with those of a Scott, and a Neander o.h.c. machine with an oil-coded cylinder head.
Another interesting item on a 1925 Ardie, was the petrol headlamp capable of throwing a 100-metre beam, while the last prewar N.S.U. was on show in the form of a 1937 Type 501OSL.
The oldest exhibit so far as history is concerned is a replica of the 1885 Daimler motorcycle that was destroyed in a fire at the Daimler-Benz factory, while nostalgia for home was stirred by the presence in a prominent position of a fiat-twin belt-drive Douglas complete with footboards, this, surely, being Lord Montagu’s “swop” for the N.S.U. exhibit at Beaulieu?
In the racing section, the commencement of the D.K.W. concern is illustrated by two model gas-engines built by Herr Ruppe in 1910 in order to raise money which he spent on constructing his first car, which was a steam vehicle. To attempt to describe all the fascinating racing motorcvcles both of the past and the near present in the Museum would take too much space and I can only mention a number at random. There is Rosemeyer’s o.h.c. N.S.U. which he used for training and early racing exploits. Two of the streamlined 250 c.c. N.S.U. racing bicyclesmake attractive exhibits, and there is a team of three 1954 N.S.U. Rennmax-Blauwal streamlined racing machines with front fairings. A throwback to a 1958 motorcycle show is an amusing working showpiece consisting of an automaton of man-like form seated on a Fox N.S.U. which, when energised, shows how the gears are changed and how the suspension works, during which operations the sectioned engine rotates, for all the world as if the automaton is riding along a road.
You do not long escape from bicycles in this Museum, and we were interested to see the first example of a folding bicycle which literally folds in two for stowage in a car boot, and a modern wood-framed cycle in which even a rear mudguard blade is made of this material. The only “car” exhibit is a quite astonishing single-track 1921/23 Winkler-Einsturauto Jawa 2-wheeler with two outrigger wheels which can be lowered before it comes to rest, in which position we were told it was also safer to keep them on a wet day! It is a comparatively modern cyclecar, steered by handlebars and having a water-cooled engine with a Boyce motometer on its radiator filler-cap. It appears to have been used in comparatively recent times, judging by the direction indicators and modern type of lamps fitted.
Leaving behind this worthwhile display we returned to the N.SU factory to talk about present-day N.S.U. engines as fitted to the Prinz 4 and Sport Prinz. Passing the garage We were interested to see that the President of N.S.U., who is a great Jaguar enthusiast, owns a Mark X, which he uses for long journeys, reserving his N.S.U. Prinz for shorter ones, and that the Engineering Director is the proud owner of a new 2-litre Alfa Romeo.
It is interesting, in view of N.S.U.’s patronage of the Wankel engine, that its existing production engine, a vertical-twin fourstroke, has a unique form of drive to its o.h. camshaft to which I will refer in more detail later, and inclined o.h. valves in a hemispherical combustion chamber. It is an air-cooled unit installed in the rear boot of the car, driving the back wheels. This 76 x 66 mm. 598 c.c., engine, develops 36 b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m.
Every one of these vertical-twin N.S.U. engines is run for 15 min., with its gearbox in place, at a speed of 2,000-3,000 r.p.m., while clean oil is pumped into the internals. For this purpose six test benches are situated adjacent to the final engine assembly line, each of these test bays being capable of accommodating a couple of engines so that twelve can be tested simultaneously.
Between 5 and 10% of the total output of N.S.U. engines are subjected to a further test of three hours’ running on a batch of 14 test beds, after which they are given a power test on Zollner water brakes in a different part of the factory. During these tests the engines are run at 6,000 r.p.m. and the normal Prinz engine is expected to develop 29 b.h.p. D.I.N. at 5,500 r.p.m., driving from the final drive, so that this is power developed at the road wheels and not at the crankshaft. Any engine which refuses to produce 28.7 b.h.p. during this test is rejected.
Returning from the engine test shops to Herr Rudolf Mundlos’ office, for it was he who looked after us during our visit, we were astonished to see on the wall a drawing of a 1924 aluminium-bodied Frazer Nash, which made us feel even more at home than the Douglas motorcycle in the Museum.
Before we finally left the N.S.U. factory we had a short interview with Herr Ewald Praxl, who is in charge of the drawing offices and inspection departments. I was able to ply Herr Praxl with a number of questions relating to the interesting N.S.U. vertical-twin engines we had just seen being tested. This compact air-cooled unit weighs 100 kg. complete with gearbox, transmission and all components. Although N.S.U. support rally and racing drivers who use Prinz cars, they themselves no longer take part officially in competitions: I was glad to hear that they are great believers in air-cooled engines and have no intention of producing water-cooled power units in the near future, although a larger N.S.U. car is rumoured to be on its way. They are emphatic that there is no connection at all between the present Fiat 500 vertical-twin air-cooled engine and their own o.h.c. power unit. Their latest engines have a heater which takes heat from jackets round the exhaust pipes, this now being compulsory in Germany to avoid poisonous engine fumes corning in with the warm air.
I asked why N.S.U. use their crankshaft and twin connecting rod o.h.c. drive, which was first used for their car engines in 1952/53, instead of a conventional chain or gear drive. I was told that the poor quality of chains in Germany around 1950 drove them to seek an alternative. The advantages claimed for this “UltraMax” drive are low manufacturing costs once the tooling up has been done, and quiet running. It is a form of drive specially suitable for a 2-cylinder engine because the spacing of the cams in such an engine is considerate to it.
A similar form of o.h.c. drive was used, nevertheless, by the late J. G. Parry Thomas for his luxury Leyland Eight in 1919 and by Walter Bentley for his Big Six Bentley in 1925, while I believe that the experimental engine that was to have succeeded the 30/98 Vauxhall had it, as well as large Mercedes-Benz marine engines. The maner in which N.S.U. use a swinging casing to compensate for expansion between block and head is particularly neat.
That evening was spent at the only hotel in Neckarsulm, in which N.S.U. have an interest (N.S.U. toast is on the menu) and which is being rebuilt by its new proprietor and his wife, who spent many years in England, he as Chef at the Gleneagles Hotel, she as a receptionist.
Thursday, November 29th
Leaving Neckarsulm, we drove up the autobahn, along which an enormous U.S. Army convoy was crawling at snail’space, headlamps alight, towards Cologne, but, having been told that the latter part of the autobahn was under repair for considerable distances, we left it at Mainz, to run alongside the Rhine for the final part of our journey. Unfortunately, however, the sky was heavily overcast and so the beauty of this great river, with its heavy barge traffic and ancient castles dominating its hanks, did not show up to advantage. However, good time was made to Cologne, and we arrived in state, two mobile police in their Taunus having led us to the Carlton Hotel under the shadow of the great cathedral. I imagine this honour had something to do with being in an English registered 220S and I hope a German-licensed Rolls-Royce looking for the Dorchester would receive similar V.I.P. treatment in England!
Robert Zvanetti of the Foreign Press. Service of Ford of Cologne called in a Taunus 12/M and took us out to dinner with I left Osswald-, one of the head engineers, at a fashionable restaurant overlooking the Rhine. Herr Osswald had taken his pilot’s licence many years before the war and for a considerable time conversation centred around the light aeroplanes and light aeroplane engines of those days. One of the machines which he had owned was a Klemm. He gave up his licence only two years ago, finding that in Germany, as elsewhere, present-day restrictions have reduced the practicability of private aviation. In recent times his hobby has centred around boats, while around 1930 he built an air-cooled rear-engined sports car which pre-dated the subsequent Porsche, this being of considerable interest to Mr. Zvanetti and the Production Manager of Motor Sport, both of whom are Porsche owners, the former showing us his Carrera which is extremely fully equipped, even to such instruments as hydrometer, barometer and altimeter.
In the course of this conversation I was able to glean some pertinent points about the Ford Taunus 12M. It was designed in America but with the close co-operation of Cologne. The V4 engine layout was adopted to save space, but the adoption of the wide-angle V, which would be quite impracticable without recourse to the external crankshaft-driven balance weights, has subtle associations which cannot at this stage be disclosed, but which I gather are concerned with future developments. Herr Osswald made the point that the balance shaft presents no problems, either in cost of manufacture or much additional complication to the power unit.
He emphasised that Ford are more concerned with good torque than maximum power output, so that operation of the vertical overhead valves by short push-rods is perfectly justifiable. He is fully in favour of front-wheel drive for cars of up to 1.5-litres, although it was America who made the decision to use front drive for the 12M. He is a believer in water-cooling, at all events for passenger vehicles, and sees no future for two-stroke engines or the Wankel power unit. He told me that there was no connection at all between the suspension of the Lancia Flavia and the rather similar suspension adopted for the Taunus 12M. Herr Osswald does not consider that independent rear suspension is an essential, if a lightweight properly located back axle is used. There has been comment in some quarters, notably in The Economist’s Motor Show Supplement of last year, about the positioning of the gearbox behind the engine on the 12M, so that a bonnet of normal length is required. The alternative of placing the gearbox in front of the engine would have resulted in undesirable front overhang.
In the course of a spirited discussion the name of Alec Issigonis cropped up frequently, and I was particularly interested to learn that whereas Ford have recently adopted synchromesh on the lowest forward ratio in their gearboxes, Issigonis is against doing this, very considerable research had to be carried out at Cologne before full reliability was obtained, due to the heavy loading on the bottom gear cones consequent on the considerable gap between second and bottom gear in the average gearbox. The 4-speed all-synchromesh gearbox of the Taunus 17M is, as I am fully aware, one of the best gearboxes of its kind and I was told that it sets an example to gearbox technicians in all the Ford divisions.
Friday, November 30th
Before commencing our road test of a Taunus 12M we paid a brief visit to the Ford factory at Cologne. In 1925 Ford assembled cars in Berlin, but it was not until 1930 that they built their factory in Cologne, adjacent to the Rhine, where production was commenced in May 1931.
Today this factory covers a total of two square kilometres if one includes the Spare Parts Depot a short distance away and a small machine-shop employing between 400 and 450 personnel, situated 25 to 30 miles from Cologne. Approximately 27,000 workers are employed, of whom 28% are now foreigners, with Italians and Turks predominating. A fine new engine factory in which the parts for the V4 12M engine are machined and both 12M and 17M engines assembled, and an adjacent new forge, were opened last year. There, is however, no foundry at this factory, although both B.M.W. and N.S.U. have their own foundries.
Total car production by Ford in Cologne now averages 1,430 Taunus cars a day, covering the new 1.2-litre V4 12M, the 1.5litre and 1.7-litre versions of the 4-cylinder in-line 17M, and the 1.8-litre TS. Apart from saloons, estate car versions of the I7M are available. I was particularly interested to learn that, although production of the 12M did not commence until last September, already by the end of November 527 of these cars were being produced daily, the 17M accounting for 658 cars a day. Final assembly of the 12M and 17M is accomplished on a single production line, and in the same way both the V4 and in-line engines are assembled on common overhead conveyor lines. Bodies are dipped in zinc primer up to their roofs, wet sanded, and then sprayed with three coats of primer and a final coat of paint. Windscreens of toughened or laminated glass are available as required. Although-on this occasion it was not my intention to look at the entire plant or attempt to describe what is accomplished there, some details of interest were noted as we made our way to the aforesaid new engine machining and assembly shop. For example, closed-circuit TV sets are used in the control room, the serial number of each car being displayed on their screens so the operatives know which Taunus is going next to the final assembly bay and are able from the job cards to ensure that the correct equipment, colour, type of seats, etc., ordered by the dealers apply to that particular vehicle. I wonder whether the workers in this department care much about watching television when they arrive home!
So vast is this Cologne factory, which now extends far back from the original buildings beside the Rhine, that small buses run a continual shuttle-service round the factory roads so as to convey operatives from one place to another. The car parks alone are able to house 5,400 vehicles.
The new engine factory was built in the short space of thirteen months, its construction featuring a cantilever roof of concrete and glass. The machine shop alone occupies 57,000 square metres and is capable of dealing with 80 cylinder blocks per hour. These are machined on Cross transfer machines. Instead of the various parts of the engine such as valve covers, valve chests and other components being painted before they reach the assembly lines, the entire engine is spray-painted after assembly. The completed engines arrive on an overhead conveyor at the running-in benches and engines continue to circle until a bench becomes available on which they can be run. There are 36 of these benches in an upstairs bay, on which every engine is run for twelve minutes on coal gas, with clean oil circulating through it. Commencing at between 1,500 and 2,000 r.p.m. the engine is eventually run up to its maximum of 4,800 r.p.m. When it has been on the running-in bed for the allotted period a red light shows and another engine replaces it. The engines are run without their gearboxes. No power testing of every engine is attempted, but every so often an engine is removed to the experimental test-shop, where duration tests of up to 500 hours are undertaken. In-line engines are run here on Toledo dynamometers and the V4 x 2M engines on Schenck Waag dynamometers, the interesting point being that one dynamometer is coupled to each drive shaft in the case of the 12M units, which are thus tested for power and endurance with their full transmission in place, Some of these engines are being tested for up to 1,000 hours under these conditions.
The new engine plant employs 1,200 workers and turns out 1,600 engines a day, an output which will be soon increased appreciably. It was planned to be the most modern plant of its kind in the whole Ford organisation. I was interested to see the complicated cast-alloy inlet manifolds used on the 12M engine and to learn that Ford are making their own drive-shafts for the f.w.d. transmission of the Taunus 12M cars, these joints being machined to very fine tolerances.
After a short tour of this factory we were introduced to Herr Degen, its Manager, and had an interesting conversation about how the American-designed 12M engine was put into production at Cologne, by close co-operation between the U.S. and German technicians. He made the point that there was nothing particularly new in Ford making vee-engines, as the well-known V8s were in production up to the war. At Christmas 1960, the first 12M units were built experimentally, at his factory, and by February 8th last year the first engine to production standards was passed out, the factory being ready for production of these units in March. In that time 1,000 engines have been built experimentally before production standards were attained. Herr Degen made the point that very few complaints are coming in from dealers about defects in the 12M engine, in fact, far fewer than had been expected in view of the recent introduction of this entirely new design.
It was now nearly 12 noon, but before returning to our hotel for dinner that evening we contrived to cover nearly 260 miles in a 2-door 12M including several laps of the Nurburgring. The type designation of this model, incidentally is P4T, the 4-door saloon being P4F, the station wagon P4KO, the van P4KA, all having the 80 x 58.86 mm. 1,183 c.c. engine, with separate crankshaft-driven balance shaft.
Externally and from the driving seat everything about this new Ford is conventional, and there is no external indication of the revolutionary design features that it incorporates. Below a wide crash-padded screen sill the driver is faced with a large speedometer having a horizontal scale reading in steps of 20 k.p.h. after the first indication of five k.p.h., up to 140 k.p.h., the needle moving in an arc over this scale. Incorporated in this panel with its large clear digits, is the fuel tank indicator, water temperature indicator, the usual warning lamps, and the total mileage indicator with decimals. Calibration of petrol gauge and thermometer are casual, but less so than in the case of the Ford Cortina. The lamps switch is conveniently placed for the driver’s left hand and when its knob is rotated the speedometer panel is illuminated, although rheostat control of this rather bright lighting would be appreciated. Below is the wipers’ control, the washers being operated by a button adjacent to the driver’s left foot. On the right of the speedometer panel in this l.h.d. car is the choke control with, below it, a cigarette lighter. The facia centre is occupied by an enormous draw-type ash tray (Robert Glenton, please note!) with the radio beneath it. Further to the right are the heater controls, the upper knob diverting air either to the screen or to the car, and the lower one controlling the volume of heat. Here may I digress to remark that the heater is unique in that its heat-exhanger is part of the engine cooling circuit, and this results in the car warming up with commendable alacrity soon after it has been started.
Before the front-seat passenger is a very large cubby-hole with non-lockable metal lid, which drops to form a shelf, being held in this position by a slender cable. The floor behind the driving compartment is completely flat, which is not always achieved in f.w.d. vehicles. Pendant pedals are used, with a treadle accelerator and there is a pull-out hand-brake for operation by the left hand. The three-spoke steering wheel is steeply dished, and reasonably low set.
Two stalk controls are used, that on the left of the steering column flashing the headlamps and selecting dipped beam, that on the right controlling the direction flashers. Gear changing is by means of a right-hand lever (on this l.h.d. car), but strictly it cannot be termed a steering-column shift, because the lever has its own shaft which runs close to the steering column but is not part of it.
Continuing with the details for those people who like to know as much as possible about new cars, there is no crash padding at the base of the facia, the anti-dazzle vizors swivel sideways, and the passenger’s incorporates a mirror, there are ash trays on each side of the rear compartment, but centre arm-rests are not used on any of the seats, this apparently being a feature of the smaller German cars, as they are not found on the B.M.W. 1500 either. The side arm-rests are well-placed. There are quite large front 1/4-windows, but these have no safety catches or rain gutters. The rear windows partly open, as ventilator panels, and there are foot-level ventilators on each side of the scuttle.
The front seat is of bench type, with separate squabs which hinge forward at an angle to give access to the back seat. The doors have simple sill interior locks and push-button exterior handles. The interior of the body is notable for reasonable headroom and a big area of glass. The inside door handles are quite simple and pull up to open the doors. The window winders require just under three turns to drop the glasses, there is a large rear view mirror, and the roof light, with courtesy action, is situated between the anti-dazzle vizors. Simple coat hooks are provided in the rear compartment, and also rather cheap-looking plastic “pulls.” The heater, which sends out an excellent volume of warm air, has a 2-speed fan brought in by turning the heater control knob. The horn button is on the end of the left-hand control stalk, and the upholstery is a combination of cloth and plastic.
The test car had a two-tone finish, and was shod with Goodyear 5.60 x 13 tubeless 4 p.r. tyres. First impressions were that the 12M has plenty of life, is comfortable and spacious, and rides. well.
On longer acquaintance we thought the front seat not particularly comfortable, the squabs tending to support the shoulders at the expense of the small of the back, and the rather pliable cushion beginning to feel hard as the miles mount up. It was not long before we discovered that the Taunus 12M has typical f.w.d. characteristics. There Iis the very pronounced understeer when cornering under power, which changes co equally violent oversteer if the throttle is backed off. In ordinary driving the steering, although it tends to become heavy as lock is increased, is not so tiring as that of a Saab, but round the Nurburgring con-siderable effort was required to hold the car in understeer slides. It is rather low geared steering, calling for four turns lock-to-lock, in addition to which there was some sponginess to overcome, but there is very complete and fast castor-return action. Kick-back is virtually absent, but some tremors reach rhe steering when road surfaces are sufficiently bad to make the whole bodyshell vibrate. Apart from the aforesaid cornering characteristics there is no evidence to suggest to the uninitiated that this is a front-drive car.
Round the Nurburgring the Taunus 12M was found to be great fun, for just when it was about to run out of road through violent understeer, backing off would bring the tail round and enable a corner to be safely negotiated. There is also very considerable performance, accomplished at the expense of considerable engine noise, although at high r.p.m. the engine smooths out and is not unduly noisy. When it is idling the V4 also makes itself felt, probably because of the necessity to use non-flexible engine mountings in conjunction with tranverse leaf-spring front suspension. I had been interested to learn the previous evening, when in conversation with Herr Osswald, that the use of a transverse leafspring at rhe front of the 12M was brought about because there was insufficient time in which to develop a sufficiently short version of the Macpherson coil spring strut used on other Ford cars.
It is notable that not much road noise is transmitted through the structure, and what noise there is emanates mainly from the engine and from exhaust resonance on the over-run. Wind noise is low, although there was an air-leak past the o/s quarter-light when this was fully shut.
The gear change is extremely good. It has excellent synchromesh and is extremely positive, if not as silky as that on the Taunus 17M. Reverse is easily obtained through first gear, and very quick gear changes are possible.
Turning to the performance of the 12M, after the speedometer had been corrected we found it possible to get maximum speeds in the gears of 28, 37 and just over 60 m.p.h., respectively, the true maximum speed, timed over a full kilometre, being 78.8 m.p.h. with the fastest kilometre covered at 79.6 m.p.h. Given some help from a down gradient, the speed would mount up appreciably higher than this and we timed such a kilometre at 87.8 m.p.h. The speedometer had errors ranging from about half an m.p.h. at 50 m.p.h. to around 3 m.p.h. at the car’s top speed.
The Nurburgring was in an extremely bad condition, being very slippery, edged with snow, and covered in places with fallen leaves. Nevertheless, without practice, two up, the car covered a flying lap in 16 min. 22.4 sec., equal to an average speed of 51.4 m.p.h. So here is a target for ordinary drivers of untuned Ford Cortinas!
The 12M’s brakes did not suffer under this treatment, and although the suspension is quite soft, allowing a certain amount of up and down motion, and a considerable degree of roll, the car proved commendably controllable, yet farm tracks of the most savage nature could be taken fast without the equinimity of the occupants of this outwardly-conventional-looking Ford being disturbed.
This suspension system does not give that sensation of smooth running nor quite such a level-keel ride as B.M.C.’s Hydrolastic suspension, but it is a very creditable all-round compromise, in which a level ride is one of the outstanding features. Very severe irregularities of surface send tremors through the whole car, as this is in no way flabby, wallowing springing.
The Hella headlamps give a good beam, a reversing lamp was fitted to the test car, and it had a Blaupunkt radio. There are no door pockets, such as I find so useful on the Morris 1100.
The luggage boot capacity is as generous as any normal family should require, the spare wheel being mounted upright against the bulkhead, where it is out of the way, if inaccessible. The boot lid is released by key and remains open on its own. The bonnet has no internal release; it requires propping up. The 60° V4 engine is largely hidden by a big air cleaner, but the dip-stick on the near side is reasonably accessible. Driven very hard, including taking acceleration figures and lapping the slippery Nurburgring, fuel consumption came out at 29.2 m.p.g., which for a roomy 4-seater saloon capable of a genuine speed of over 60 m.p.h. in third gear and close on 80 m.p.h. in top, and which was cruised flat-out along the autobahn, is commendable. After these 260 rapid miles, the oil level hadn’t dropped. After correcting the speedometer acceleration figures were taken; it was found possible to go from 0-50 m.p.h. in 18.0 sec. (best figure, 17.0 sec.) and from 0-60 m.p.h. in 28.6 sec. (best figure, 26.2 sec.).
To sum up, the outwardly Cortina-like Ford Taunus 12M is as full of character as the Cortina is dull and uninspiring. At first its steering feels “disconnected” and the engine seems too eager to make its presence heard and felt. After longer acquaintance with the car the driver revels in its unusual but exploitable handling qualities and the responsiveness of an engine which runs smoothly up to speeds in the region of 5,000 r.p.m. I hope that this will not be my last drive in the refreshingly new Taunus 12M and that soon it will be available for the American market and in r.h.d. form in England. This seems a distinct probability, because catalogues and workshop manuals have been printed in English.
Saturday, December 1st
It was now time to leave Germany and return home via Belgium and France. From early morning sunlight in Cologne we soon ran into thick fog on the autobahn, but fortunately this cleared before entering the intensely industrial area around Namur. After this we were quickly across Belgium and into France where, instead of driving ‘Up to the coast we took the long straight roads that cross country heavily fought and flown over in 1914/1918, in order to visit a most interesting motor museum near Rouen, which is referred to elsewhere in this issue.
The Mercedes-Benz was running as well as ever, which means faultlessly since the maladjustments mentioned earlier in the journey had been set right. I do not propose to go into further details about this 220S on this occasion, as last year Motor Sport made a similar Continental journey in a 220SE, about which details were published in the issue for May 1961. The 220S differs from the 220SE in having twin carburetters in place of petrol injection. I have already referred in this report to the comfort and convenience experienced by a passenger riding in this fine car, and it is only necessary to add that driving it is an even greater pleasure, enhanced because the minor controls and instruments have been so sensibly planned.
On the 220SE a foot-operated windscreen washer was fitted, whereas on the 220S there is a toggle-handle under the facia for operation by the driver’s right hand which allows you to operate wipers and washers simultaneously without turning on the former, a great convenience when having to clear the screen quickly of mud after passing slow-moving traffic. Another small but satisfactory feature is the way in which the cubby-hole lid closes, not with a vicious clang, as is so often the case, but with just the right spring action, so that it neither falls open too readily nor tries to trap your fingers. These are quite minor details, but it is the small items that can make or mar a motor car when you occupy it for many hours at a stretch, day after day.
Having visited the aforesaid Museum, the night was spent in Calais, and it only remained on the Sunday morning to cross the Channel by the ever efficient and helpful British United Airways Bristol Freighter.
Those who use this efficient and obliging Channel Air Bridge at all frequently may well regard a channel tunnel or channel bridge as superfluous. On the Tuesday the Mercedes-Benz was returned to the Concessionaires at Brentford. It had covered a total of 1,756 miles at very appreciable speeds, yet fuel consumption worked out at 20 m.p.g. and no oil was required to bring the sump level back to normal, after this long-distance, high-speed European tour.
So ended a most interesting visit to some of the more prominent German manufacturers. It is rather amusing to reflect that in the course of these visits we had looked at and discussed a revolutionary form of rotary internal combustion engine, and conventional engines of push-rod V4, push-rod in-line 4-cylinder, o.h.c. 4-cylinder in-line, o.h.c. 6-cylinder in-line, 3-cylinder two-stroke, push-rod o.h.v. flat-twin, and o.h.c. vertical twin types, two of these engines being air-cooled. Such is the diversity of engineering thought in a country in which competition is keen and the prospects for future sales very bright indeed.
I will conclude by paying tribute to the 2.2.-litre Mercedes-Benz which had carried us so successfully and comfortably on this long and rather hurried business journey. The recent reduction in Purchase Tax in this country means that you can purchase a similar car for £2,280 13s. 9d., and it is indicative of the demand that Daimler-Benz experience for the car that it can be sold at a basic price here of only £1,887.
Those who ride as we had done behind the proud symbol of the Three-Pointed Star enjoy comfort, security, ample performance and all that is best in motoring. For this reason I was sorry when our expedition came to an end and it was time for me to relinquish the task of Continental road-tester and reporter and, climbing into the somewhat-the-worse-for-wear Mini Minor, resume the role of Editor of Motor Sport.—W. B.
[Those who have derived some pleasure from reading the foregoing account of this Continental journey may like to be reminded that Motor Sport has published similar accounts of visits to other European factories, as follows: “At the House of B.M.W.” —November 1955; “German High Performance” (B.M.W. and Porsche)—November 1956; “Parisian Affair” (Renault, Simca and Lago-Talbot visited in an Austin Healey 100M and Renault Dauphine)—April 1957; “To Italy in a Rover” (Alfa Romeo and Lancia)—November 1957; “A Week Abroad” (Peugeot, Mercedes-Benz and Borgward visited in a Sunbeam Rapier)—April 1959; “A Week in Sweden” (Volvo and Saab)—June 1960; “European Ramble” (Mercedes-Benz, Bugatti, Fiat, Pininfarina and Ferrari factories and Turin Museum in Porsche Super 75 and Mercedes-Benz 220SE)—May 1961. Back numbers or photostats are available from the appropriate department—ED.]