Many years ago, at the time of another slump, we recall a campaign against Britishers who bought foreign cars. This took the form of advertisements in the national press showing people driving in imported cars at prominent functions like Lords for cricket, the Boat Race and the Hendon Air Display, etc., captioned, with an air of disgust, “Look, they’ve come in a foreign car!”
This bout of patriotism is being repeated by the Labour government, which displays a similar distrust of foreign cars with its 15% increase in Import duty, aimed at protecting home products.
In this context it is frivolous to find that not only does the Fiat 500D remain the least expensive car on the British market at £410 but that the savage increase in petrol tax is causing quite a cult in this excellent Italian saloon. However, knowing that the British people are never so staunch as when their backs are against the wall, it is likely that the sale of foreign cars will take a tumble, their mainstay at prevailing prices being those connoisseurs who put individuality and quality before price. Certainly it would seem to he our duty at the present time to remind the world of the very real merits of the products of the British motor industry.
In the first place, this nation, which leads the field in G.P. racing, wins its fair share of European rallies, and holds the World’s Land and Water Speed Records (within the wheels-driven meaning of the former), builds a unique range of sports cars in the older tradition, in the factories of the B.M.C., the Rootes Group, Jaguar, Morgan, Lotus, Triumph, A.C., Fairthorpe and Turner. These high-performance open two-seaters are in avid demand, particularly in the U.S.A.
So far as GT cars are concerned, a Ferrari may be the ultimate but other discerning people besides James Bond are buying Aston Martin DB5s.
Turning to the luxury-car field, assuming that such cars will be permitted after next April, the Rolls-Royce is, in our opinion, out-dated technically, but remains the finest prestige symbol available anywhere in the world: By design or accident the royal Daimler Majestic Major has road-holding to match a performance which shames most sports cars, and this fine car sells, moreover, at Sir William Lyons’ “bargain basement” price. All Jaguars represent a remarkable return for outlay and, reverting for a moment to the sports cars, the E-Type is as happy at 30 m.p.h. as it is at 150 m.p.h. and shows phenomenal acceleration between these two speeds.
If the buyer’s ego is best satisfied by a combination of easy performance and smooth automation which flows from multi-litred American power units and the road-holding and powerful braking of cars built nearer home, he or she has no need to look further than the Bristol from Bristol and the Jensen from Bromwich West. Family cars are not the primary concern of motoring sportsmen, although you would not think so when you see an English saloon-car race. Britain now makes the best family cars available anywhere in the world. B.M.C. having reaped the benefit of Issigonis/Moulton brilliance, Rootes adding the spice of quality to family transport, while Fords of Dagenham know better than anyone how to make dependable and acceptable cars for the masses, augmented by the competition-proved Ford Cortina GT and Cortina-Lotus for enthusiasts. Vauxhall are responsible for some of the most comfortable and best-equipped cars in the medium-size price-range, recently of enhanced performance. Going up a step or two it is difficult to decide who is learning faster, Standard-Triumph or Rover, from the lessons forced on them by the rivalry of their respective products in the 2-litre class.
All in all, and things being as they are, it needs a pretty good excuse not to Buy British!
If the excellence of British cars is easy to comprehend, the reverse applies to British justice. A woman convicted of ignoring a “Halt”-sign and thereby killing a vicar’s-wife and six-year-old child got the sympathy of Mr. Justice Stable, who fined her £5, with a year’s disqualification. “It might have happened to anyone,” explained the learned Judge. At another court four drivers charged with speeding, which happens to a great many people every day without accident or hurt to anyone, were fined a total of £54. We call this an unstable verdict.
New B.R.D.C. President
Congratulations to the Hon. Gerald Lascelles, a knowledgeable follower of motor racing and enthusiastic Aston Martin owner, on his appointment to the Presidency of the B.R..D.C. One wonders whether this will result in a Royal Park being closed for a future British G.P.? If this sounds improbable, ask yourself, did you expect, this time last year, to see and hear G.P. cars running in the City of London? If the new B.R.D.C. President cannot obtain Richmond or some other Park for us, no-one will!
Gloucester Trial (December 6th)
The venue for the London Motor Club’s Gloucester Trophy Trial, just outside Cirencester, is renowned for its wet and slippery conditions, but on December 6th competitors were confronted with thirteen sections set out on unusually sticky mud which made for good adhesion on the steeper sections. Emerging after three laps of the course, Peter Highwood, driving his Canhi-Ford, had dropped only 69 points and thus added yet another Gloucester to his long list of victories. Also driving a car of his own construction, Percy Barden (P.A.B.-Ford) took second place with 87 points, and Lol Hurt, a consistent performer, took third place in his Ford Special with 87 points. Tight marking was used to keep competitors on their mettle, and on a number of sections the use of marker tapes added to the challenge. Retirements and mechanical maladies cropped up throughout the day, one competitor sustaining a broken steering arm on the third section, whilst Malcolm Eaves was put out when the front suspension of his Alexis-Ford collapsed (he is now going to make his own car!) and Colin Taylor (Cannon) had to struggle with a reluctant gearbox. Stan Jenkins in an early Cannon spent most of the afternoon topping up the radiator after a fan blade had pierced the core, but just managed to finish the last section in a cloud of steam. Clutch trouble caused more than one driver to drop points, but almost total failure after a particularly trying section dropped Frank Lewis (Cannon) right out of the picture. Fourth, fifth and sixth places went to Charles Pollard (Cannon), Rex Chappell (Cannon) and Ken Lindsay (Cannon). Team award went to Peter Highwood, Geoff Newman and Charles Pollard with an aggregate of 283 penalty points. – E. L. W.
Editorial Lotus Seven
Since the article on building and running a Lotus Super Seven appeared in our March, 1963, issue the Editorial Lotus Super Seven has completed over 28,000 road miles as a general runabout.
During this period the Cosworth-modified 1,340-c.c. Ford Classic 109E engine has required very little attention, apart from occasional tappet adjustment and regular oil changes. Oil consumption has been negligible although there has been some leakage through the timing chain oil seal. The “O” rings on the twin Weber carburetters were changed at 10,000 miles but these were hardly worn and will be used again when the existing set eventually expire. Some trouble was experienced with the dynamo but since fitting a stronger bottom bracket and overhauling the dynamo there has been no trouble except for an occasional slackening of the securing bolts. The electric cooling fan (in place of the unbalanced mechanical fan) caused considerable trouble with broken blades and undue vibration but since then Lotus have discovered that the blades were fitted back to front and there has been no further trouble. The vibration has been minimised by mounting the unit on three rubber gromets.
Transmission has been a source of trouble, the differential housing splitting at 17,000 miles, the resultant loss of oil causing the differential to overheat and to become noisy. The existing axle was salvaged by welding the hair-line crack and strengthened by welding a tubular brace to the back of the axle, thus spreading the load that these units have to take from the 85 b.h.p. engine. The replacement differential has given no trouble although it is noticeably noisier than the previous unit but all oil leakages have been eliminated by using wired taper bolts to fasten the nosepiece.
A recurrent trouble has been the disintegration of the crankshaft pulley wheel but there is a later, cast pulley wheel available from Fords. Apart from a loosening of the gear selectors, causing an annoying rattle, the rotting of the double-duck hood after only a year and the deterioration of the fibreglass wings and nose-piece and the growing opaqueness of the sidescreens the car has given reliable service, requiring only one visit to the makers in the last 18 months.
Accessories tested on the car include a Tudor Screenwasher (reliable and compact), N.G.K. and Autolite sparking plugs (the latter still good after 7,000 miles), India Autoway tyres (13,000 miles but some tread left), Goodyear G8 tyres (7,000 miles, excellent grip, plenty of tread left) and Typrod rubber-link mats (they haven’t worn but the driver’s shoes have!).
Petrol consumption is variable, in town (with stopping and starting) as low as 14 m.p.g., but as much as 25-27 m.p.g. on a long steady run. From the above it is obvious why these kit-built cars are so porular with the do-it-yourself enthusiast. – E. L. W.