Letters from readers, January 1965

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73

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

B.M.W. service?

Sir,

I am the owner of a B.M.W. 1800 which I purchased six weeks ago. Since then I have had complete failure of clutch master cylinder, faulty speedo. head, faulty flasher unit. To get my car back on the road, the garage where I purchased it, Burns Statice Garage, Ayr, had to take the master cylinder out of a new model in their showroom, this being after the master cylinder had been on order for two weeks. I notice that the car in the garage is not back in the showroom, so presume it is one month and still no spare part.

Surely this is a shocking state of affairs, and after being assured of an excellent after sales service. The flasher unit has been on order for more than one month also, and still no sign of it.

After reading about the dependability of German cars and having had this experience, may I say I am very apprehensive about the spares position should anything further go wrong with my car.

J. Ritchie – Ayr.
[The clutch of our B.M.W. 1800 started to fail at 4,000 miles and failed completely in three hours. Master cylinder seals had perished. Local agent loath to part with last seals, saying demand far outstripped supply. Found slave seals had gone too. Local agent out of stock, so trimmed down Lockheed seals. No more trouble so far. Now, Mr. West, what is the cause of these and other annoying delays—is it your fault or B.M.W.s?—W. J. T.]

* * * *
Radar “traps”

Sir,

Whether radar meters used by police are unreliable I would not know. But under certain circumstances they can be used unfairly to get convictions as suggested by Mr. A. F. D. French in his letter in last month’s Motor Sport.

I am a reporter for a local newspaper and remember a case at Ascot magistrates’ court in early October. Three young motorcyclists had passed through a radar beam on their three machines and had been prosecuted for speeding by the police.

It was alleged that the first and second machines were going at 43 m.p.h., and the third at 46 m.p.h. Police evidence suggested the first machine was in front of the second by 80 feet, and the third was 25 feet behind the middle one and gaining on it.

But the rider of the second machine contested the evidence, based on readings taken from the radar meter. He questioned the officer who had been operating the meter and was told that the meters take two seconds to right themselves after a reading before another reading can be taken. Each vehicle would need a separate reading.

The policeman then agreed that a vehicle going 43 m.p.h. would cover 63 feet a second. When the motorcycle rider suggested that in two seconds he would have covered 126 feet, the officer also agreed.

The rider then suggested to the court that as he would have gone 126 feet in the time the meter righted itself, it could not have possibly recorded his speed as he was only 80 feet behind the first machine—a fact given by the police. He claimed that the meter was physically incapable of showing his speed or, for that matter, of the machine behind him.

The magistrates agreed and threw the charges out. They fined the first rider, who pleaded guilty.

The rider did not deny that he rode at 43 m.p.h., nor did he admit it. He went to court to prove that the radar meter could not have possibly checked his speed on the facts as relied on by the police.

I feel that this was a case where a conviction would have almost certainly been obtained by the police if the rider had not contested the charge. I have never heard any speeding case in a court (in a long experience of courts as a reporter) where it has been admitted by the police that the meters have failings. I don’t think they would have mentioned it in this instance either and the motorcyclists would have been found guilty, when on the facts—and all the facts—they could not be. This is not to say I condone speeding. A driver who deliberately exceeds the speed limit where there is obviously danger must be taught that he cannot do it and endanger others. Here, I endorse what Mr. Rodney W. Collins said in his letter headed “The other side of the coin” in last month’s issue. I hope this will be of help to Mr. French, and anyone else who suspects police radar meters.

N.J. Pugh – Slough.

[Other readers have drawn our attention to this case. What a racket the thing has become. Any policeman who believes in justice should surely tell his superiors he isn’t going to operate a piece of apparatus which may cause him to commit inadvertent perjury in court, and certainly not on safe, straight stretches of road when other, dangerous sections of built-up area go trap free.—Ed.]

* * * *
The case against “soup sets”

Sir,

Your report on the Taurus Austin 1100 repeats the old mistake of the price difference between the Morris and M.G. 1100.

There is only the one model of Morris or Austin available in this country, the 4-door de luxe with heater, price £611 15s. 5d. plus £12 1s. 8d. for heater, total £623 17s. 1d. Likewise there is but the 4-door version of the M.G., priced at £714 9s. 7d., including heater. This shows a difference of £90 12s. 6d, and not £120 as is too often stated.

The question of engine modification can never be justified by consideration of cost as a modified car is worth about £40 less on the trade-in apart from the extra expense on tyre and brake replacements. Modification is only worth while if it makes the car so really fast and improves the handling to match the speed, and if it doesn’t do this the standard car is better value, whether it’s a Morris or M.G.

E.S.K. Evans – Cheltenham

[The standard Morris/Austin 1100 4-door is available at £593 12s. 11d. but B.M.C. say that demand is limited, as most people opt for the de luxe at £611 15s. 5d. Fortunately for the tuning firms and motoring magazines there are still plenty of people who enjoy reading about and driving modified cars, and are not vitally concerned with such sordid things as depreciation and “better value.”—M. L. T.]

* * * *
Changing a lamp bulb

Sir,

The M.G. 1100 I have is an excellent little motor, and I have no serious complaints about the standard of manufacture. Nevertheless, it is not without faults, and one that I found today has stirred me to write about it.

Having noticed that one of the brake lights was not working, I bought a replacement bulb (these now cost 4s. 8d., being double filament, but why not two separate bulbs?).

To change the bulb the instructions book airily tells one that access is gained from the boot, and the bulb holder pulled out.

In fact the drill is as follows. Clear everything out of the boot; pull out the false floor over the spare wheel; get hold of a Philips screwdriver and remove three screws from the muckite lining on the appropriate side, as well as loosening several metal tabs. One can now get a hand into the cavity, if the lining will bend out, but a gorilla with wrists of steel is really needed, as the lampholder is very hard indeed to pull out.

When the bulb is changed it can be got back after fiddling about for five minutes or so. (It all has to be done by feel.) All that remains now, assuming the thing lights up, is to put back the bits and pieces, Time taken—at first attempt—about half an hour, and hard work at that.

I suppose one should take the car to a service station nowadays to have a lamp bulb changed. They will probably be too busy to do it on the spot, but you can call back next day and travel as best you can in the meantime.

Anyhow this seems a particularly crass example of bad detail design, though I dare say the competition is very keen in this field.

R.T. ‘De Gruchy – Harrow.

* * * *
Battery longevity

Sir,

Some time ago I purchased a 1929 Phantom I Rolls-Royce. One of the (few!) troubles I had with this ex-funeral car was a sluggish starter, due, I thought, to a run-down battery.

Upon inspection of the two 6-volt accumulators, to my amazement I found that whereas one was a modern large-capacity Lucas, the other was a wooden-cased Exide, with lead terminal nuts and copper strip joining bars across the cells. This battery must have been a good thirty years old, and I guessed it had been in the car from new. Although the battery was a dud, it would hold a charge for a short time, and was, in fact, serviceable, and still is.

It might do a modern-car-mug a favour, but it’s a foot high and weighs nearly half a hundredweight! Good luck to them, they need it.

J. I. Wade (Funeral Preservation Society.) – London, N. 18.

* * * *
Perils of open-air motoring

Sir,

As a driver of an M.G. Midget I have been able during the good weather to do a considerable amount of open-air motoring, which in most cases has been enjoyable but in others, lethal. How I hate the motorist who throws his lighted cigarette end out of the window to fly past my face, sparks shooting in all directions; how I hate the motorist who is continually discarding wastepaper on to the roads, thus endangering the lives of other travellers. Surely you will agree that these motorists should have more common sense and consideration. [Agreed! – Ed.]

John D. Kirkham – Sheffield.

* * * *
A quirk of warranty

Sir,

In August 1962 I purchased a new car which was fitted with an Exide 38 amp./hr. battery. This battery failed after 14 months’ use. Since the year’s guarantee had expired I was forced to buy a replacement, though as my garage offered to charge me 14/24ths of the retail price I had a similar battery. Now, after a further 11 months’ use the replacement has failed with exactly the same fault (a “dead” No. 1 cell).

In obtaining yet another replacement I have discovered what, in my view, is an extraordinary situation. If someone buys a car on, for example, January 1st, 1965, and a major component fails on November 30th, 1965, then this component is replaced under the warranty, free of charge. However, the replacement is now only guaranteed until the expiry date of the guarantee of the original item—i.e., December 31st, 1965. However, if the item fails outside the guarantee period and one has therefore to buy a replacement, this carries the normal year’s guarantee!

The manufacturer may argue that this arrangement is necessary for his protection—as usual, at the expense of the ordinary motorist! It seems to me that this is the perfect opportunity for an unscrupulous manufacturer to get rid of his sub-standard rejects—as “guarantee replacements,” themselves carrying no guarantee. You can readily visualise the situation if a manufacturer markets a faulty product.

In my particular case, since I was able to show that I had paid for my replacement battery 11 months ago, this was replaced free of charge. But, as the garage pointed out, my new battery carries no guarantee whatsoever since it is itself a “guarantee replacement”!

I am not suggesting for one moment that Chloride Batteries Ltd. fall into this category—in fact, the name “Exide” has always been numbered among the few really well made and reliable batteries. What worries me is that I have had two failed batteries in as many years. My garage works manager tells me that they have had a great deal of trouble with this battery, and always with the same fault. As an airline pilot I require a car which is 100% reliable—who doesn’t? Apart from having a heated garage, I have fitted a 200-watt mains-operated electric immersion heater in the cooling system, and another in the sump. This ensures that upon starting from “cold” the water and oil temperatures are both about 90°F. One cannot honestly say that I exactly “overwork” my battery. I only make a few journeys of less than 12 miles, and most are in excess of 20 miles. I service the car myself, and the car is fitted with an ammeter. I am certain that these battery failures are not my fault. However, it would appear that, unless my new battery fails within the next eight days, I have no come-back, as the year’s guarantee on the previous battery (for which I paid) expires on November 30th. I am not an electrical engineer, but having spent the last 10 years in aviation—a field in which we expect, and get very good performance from batteries, it is obvious that the car manufacturer is expecting far too much from a dinky little 38 amp./hr. battery. And who is the loser, as usual?

J. Howard – Reading.

* * * *
Another nail . . .

Sir,

I wonder if any of your readers in various parts of the country experience anything like the citizens of Reading, Berks, who, unless they have, or can afford to rent a garage or other off-street parking facilities, cannot, it would seem by the Chief Constable anyway, have a car.

You apparently cannot park outside your own home, be it on the main street or in a cul-de-sac, overnight, lights or not.

This state of affairs was brought to my notice by a constable coming to the house where I had stayed overnight, enquiring if it was my car outside, and then going on to tell me as it was the first occasion it had been parked overnight it was only a warning, but it must not be left there again.

I noticed he had about four official looking documents in his hand, which, as far as I could gather, were destined for the luckless owners of other cars in the street which had been parked all night, not for the first time it would seem, this in what is virtually a cul-de-sac.

I questioned the constable on the matter and he informed me the Chief Constable was “very hot on it.” I mentioned that various people might be deprived of owning a car, and, although he was quite pleasant about it and, to be fair, seemed to have no bias either way, he had to do as he was ordered; like, it would seem, anyone who has the effrontery to park outside his own home all night.

A. Farina – Swindon.

* * * *
Towards the police state

Sir,

Recently when parked (alone) in a deserted street of an unfamiliar town (Abingdon) at 4.30 a.m. to consult a map, I was pleased to see a policeman approach. But before I could ask him for directions to my destination in a remote village, I was booked for facing the wrong way in a one-way street. When imposing the £1 fine one hopes that the Bench agreed with my view that a friendly caution from the policeman would have met the case without unnecessarily antagonising a motorist against the police.

M.G. Douglas Graham – Tettenhall.

* * * *
Good show!

Sir,

I was more than ordinarily interested in the references to battery and tyre life in letters published in your October and November issues of Motor Sport.

This week I replaced the 6-volt Exide battery fitted to my VW, which was first registered in March 1958. I discovered, too late, that the life of the battery was far from exhausted. My wife using the car, and had switched the petrol tap to the “Reserve” position—she thought. She had, in fact, turned the petrol completely off, and she ran the battery flat in an effort to start the engine without petrol! Finding the battery down, I assumed, wrongly, that it had given up the ghost, and I replaced it. And now, safely charged again, the 6-1/2-year-old Exide is about to be installed as one of the two 6-volt batteries on my 30-year-old Austin Twelve, where, no doubt, it will give a further 6i-1/2 years’ service.

As for tyres, the original Michelin tubeless tyres fitted to the VW ran a modest 54,000 miles before the still rather good tread started to leave the covers. They saw some very hard service over the years that they were fitted to the car. The car itself, with 67,000 miles on the clock, runs better and better every day. I have the impression now, that the engine might be run-in, and look forward next January to a non-stop 540-mile trip north to Scotland, especially if snow and ice are plentiful.

I have lost count of the number of times the car has performed this 540 miles-in-a-day feat. Some of the runs have been exhilarating; none has been humdrum. Chiefly, I remember a dash north and back over a weekend when I could not be spared from work, and my father in Scotland was taken suddenly ill. I left Canterbury at 6 p.m. on a Friday evening, and was on duty in Canterbury again at 9 a.m. on the following Monday morning. Between those times I had driven over 1,500 miles single-handed, had slept for a goodly part of all three nights in a bed (or beds), had climbed a favourite Scottish hill, twice visited my ailing father in a remote Scottish hospital, and had briefly seen other sundry relatives throughout England and Scotland. There was another memorable trip in the late December of 1962, when I drove the 540 miles northwards on a dark winter’s day, with my (then) five years old daughter for a sole companion. At Scotch Corner we pulled into a petrol station through a foot level cover of snow. It was still snowing, and with hardly any traffic coming south we were advised to stay the night. We pushed on. In the first 20 miles we passed queue after queue of almost stationary cars, and crept by slithering lorries on the steep slopes. Beyond Bowes we passed a snow-plough, then abandoned cars and lorries for mile after mile, as we, and we alone, plunged through snow-drift after snow-drift in the Arctic conditions found that night throughout the north of England. . . Then down in the dark flurry towards Brough, and miraculously out of the snow; then fast towards Appleby, Penrith and Carlisle, and out of Carlisle with only 120 miles to go on the black ice, on roads free of traffic except for our lone, fleeting, VW . . . What a journey! And what a trip homewards a few nights later, with severe rally conditions all the way! We travelled overnight to avoid traffic. Between Baldock and Canterbury we saw only 20 vehicles (including ‘buses) moving, and we came through the heart of London! Splendid motoring in a splendid car!

Writing this, I find it hard to believe that all this (and so much more at other times) was accomplished in the mild-mannered saloon that would not start the other day when a non-mechanically-minded lady accidentally shut the petrol off. And the battery that provided the power for the lights on the many long night trips the car has undertaken was, of course, the 6-volt Exide—the same little battery that so gallantly churned the dead engine until it exhausted itself earlier this week. I think it remarkable, that after 6-1/2 years, its exhaustion was only temporary.

With the usual disclaimers.

John D. McKeand – Canterbury.

* * * *
The “Smalls”

Sir,

With regard to “Smalls” Census in the November issue, talking of adjectival nails, and Nelson: I was disappointed that Mr. Madge left out the most obvious one of all, namely :—

“Collector’s Piece” . . . : One that will have to be taken away on a trailer, or on the back of a lorry.

Neill S. Bruce – Woking.

* * * *
No justice

Sir,

In view of the increasingly severe, albeit erratic, persecutions for petty motoring offences, I thought you might be interested to hear of an offence which can apparently be committed without fear of prosecution—none other than assault coupled with dangerous driving!

I was driving north from Salisbury about 11 p.m. one Saturday when a Mini virtually affixed itself to my Morris Minor’s boot by following so closely that for about ten miles I was unable to see even its headlights for most of the time. I waved it on, I flashed it on, I slowed down, I accelerated, but he remained determined to impale himself on my rear bumper.

Eventually he decided to overtake—on a bend. At the last moment he apparently decided that this was too obvious a way to die and reverted to his former lethal position. Shortly afterwards he did overtake—only to cut in front, weave about the road, opening and shutting his door, and finally stop. I gathered he wanted me to stop, did so, and, as he walked up to my car, asked if there was something up with my car—although it seemed more likely that the fellow had gone off his head.

Be that as it may, his reply was to try to strangle me! Various blows followed but he wasn’t able to do much damage due to the confined space in my car. (A Morris Minor is not a fit place for assaults of any kind.) I gathered the “gentleman” was upset because I hadn’t stopped to let him overtake on a bend.

He eventually drove off before I took the coward’s way out (i.e., got out of the car with starting handle) and I drove about five miles before finding a police station, where I duly announced that I wished to report an assault.

The officer on duty took a statement (including the number of the Mini-Minor) and concluded by announcing that nothing would happen unless I brought a civil action for common assault, but that he would pass a report to the Hampshire Constabulary (in whose area the incident had happened), who would probably let me know the Mini driver’s name and address(!!).

This was nearly a month ago and I have heard nothing. (surprise, surprise!) Naturally, I cannot afford to take steps with a civil action and am even less impressed than before with the law-enforcing abilities of our present-day police force when dealing with crimes of any greater severity than parking offences.

Meanwhile, many thanks for your excellent magazine. I can only hope that the government allows motorists to exist so that you may continue to provide such excellent reading. I have horrid visions of a magazine containing articles such as a “Road test on the car B.M.C. would have announced had there been a private motorist left to buy it,” and so forth.

S.M. Wheeler – Rugby.

* * * *
Fresh-air motoring

Sir,

I sympathise with Mr. A. D. Page over the decline of the convertible in the British motor industry. There are several features about this aspect of car design which are puzzling, to say the least. Perhaps other readers can offer some explanations.

First, why is B.M.C. the only firm able to produce a “convertible” for the same price as the saloon equivalent? Price differences from other manufacturers are generally considerable, and perhaps this is one reason for their decline. Prior to the 1939-45 war these vehicles were known as “tourers” and generally sold for less than the saloon equivalent.

Second, in this age of chassis-less cars, when maximum possible body stiffness should be jealously preserved, why have British manufacturers abandoned the genuine “convertible” designs of the ‘thirties, in which all side window frames and roof coaming were left intact but still gave uninterrupted fresh air from the windscreen to the parcels shelf? Examples which come to mind are the excellent Tickford roofs still occasionally seen on pre-war cars and the equally attractive folding roof on the Fiat 500 of 1937 and later. These truly did “convert” a saloon car to an open car and vice versa.

The post-war versions produced in this country, on the other hand, invariably discard all useful load-carrying structure above the window sills; in fact, with the doors open, all that prevents a broken or twisted back is the pressed-steel floor, one hopes with additional stiffening added.

Finally, why are there no 4-seat versions of soft-top sports cars produced today, except perhaps in the top-price bracket? Again one has to look back before the 1939-45 war, when the Riley Lynx, Singer Le Mans, M.G.s (D, F, L, N, P, S, V and W) and Triumph, to name a few, were all produced in attractive 4-seater form. Since 1945 only the Singer SM 1500, Morgans and M.G. Y and T have been produced in relatively small numbers. No wonder the Motor Sport small ads are full of “Stork forces sale of M.G.-B” and the like. Must the man with a family be denied the joys of open-car motoring?

Surely a 4-seater version of the M.G. 1800, Midget, Sprite, Spitfire, etc., would not be costly to produce?

No room for extra seats and a boot? Then at least one would have the choice of extra passengers or luggage.

Unhealthy draughts for rear-seat passengers? Then why not a second windscreen? The Vintage Sports Car Club should be able to show a few examples of these.

M.K. Tucker – Bournemouth.
[The fact is that as man emancipates he and especially she, like fresh air less and less, unless it is accompanied by rays which leave behind a “sun-tan.” Watching TV has become a universal pastime—but nearly always indoors, with the curtains drawn against the sun in summer. Woman is largely to blame for making man, who likes to be accompanied by the opposite sex, drive and fly in closed vehicles. Convertibles, when obtainable, are not what they were—remembering the ease with which the “top” of the Jowett Jupiter, for example, could be raised from within the car and how snug and “coupé-like” it was when the hood was up.—Ed.]

* * * *
Solution!

Sir,

Let me say, as many have done, thank you for a good and certainly controversial magazine, eagerly awaited.

Regarding the photograph on page 928 of the last issue, Vol. XL, No. 11, “It’s a Queer World!”

This is in fact my car, which I have raced and hill-climbed this year. It is a 1946 TC M.G. The number on the right belongs to the car itself, and the one on the left belongs to the van which I use for towing when on the trailer. Incidentally, this car has put a great many modern cars to shame this year.

Many thanks once again for an exceptional magazine.

Bill Weston – Plaxtol.