Letters from Readers, January 1968

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80

As Bristol Constabulary Sees It

Sir,
One thing that I like so much about both Motor Sport and its readers letters are their frequently prejudiced views. I think this is a good thing because it means that in an increasingly “grey” and undistinguished society there are people who are committed. Mr. Grey however is not only prejudiced he is so myopic that I doubt if he can read a number plate at the required distance. We have all surely seen the police drive badly on occasion. Certainly one thing we see (rubbed in by a particular TV serial) is the Police in a range of vehicles, some of which have such deplorable seating, steering and road-holding characteristics that no real advanced motorist would want to drive fast in them.

Agreed that the racing driver has “special cars, tyres, brakes, etc.” for his job, but hasn’t Mr. Grey noticed that apart from the lunatic fringe who stick flashes and drainpipe exhausts on their cars, most enthusiasts also fit special tyres, anti-roll bars, maximum coverage mirrors and so on, to make their motor cars most suitable for the kind of motoring which they do.

Of course Police motorists are well trained and skilful—so they ought to be—but to fail to see that there are also private motorists who are not only just as good, but probably even better shows either an inability to see, or an unwillingness to see.

Fearnhead. Neville Weston.
(Ordinary motorist, principal lecturer at a College of Education and enthusiastic Jaguar owner)
———

Sir,
This is the first time that I have been sufficiently incensed to write to any journal, but Donald Grey’s letter to you, published in the December edition, has finally sparked me off.

This God Almighty attitude is typical of the Traffic Department of our present police state. Let me make one point quite clear and it is confirmed by the recent excellent BBC documentary on the work of the Police in the West Riding—the ordinary man-on-the-beat and the CID sector earn the respect of the public they serve but they bear little or no resemblance to the men on the road. Before anyone rushes into print, I know of several “ordinary” policemen who have been in the Traffic Department and who have hated it from the start and they agree that attitudes are vastly different.

However, let Me deal with Grey’s letter in particular. I trust that I have made it clear that I do not think that he and his little Hitlers are representative of our country’s Police Force. I have the misfortune to be employed in a trade that entails constant travel, an average of 48,000 miles per year for the past ten years, and in that time I have seen stupendous avoidances, stupidity and simple errors of judgment. The times that have registered firmly in my mind are those involving Mr. Grey’s superior colleagues; there have been times, several of them, and one involved our own company’s vehicle that stopped in a line of traffic when the following Austin Westminster Police car (Motor Patrol) was unable to do so. Also, I have personally followed the men in blue when they have been caught out on the single/dotted white lines that appear rapidly at the conclusion of overtaking manoeuvres—with you or I this would mean a summons—for them, blissful ignorance of their own misjudgement. There have been times when in identical cars their handling capability on slippery roads have appeared pathetic but maybe they were being ultra cautious! On one occasion this resulted in the patrol car going off the road but the rest of us “inferior motorists” stayed on the island—I wonder why?

Finally, I shared Mr. Grey’s view some four years ago that—”Any fool can drive at speed on a track . . .” and then my friends encouraged me to try and for four years I have been trying very hard indeed to drive competitively as a B.R.S.C.C. member at club meetings. I have come to the conclusion that I am pathetically slow despite competitive cars, and that there is far more skill in this sport than I, like Mr. Grey, gave it credit for. I shall keep trying hard but I dare say that your self-appointed authority and God will bask in the sunshine of his self-reflected glory for many years to come. May I suggest that he appoints a public relations expert to rescue the shocking image that he has portrayed. I doubt that he will, though, because the last “Master Race” failed also in 1945!

Wimbourne. John S. Woodfield.
———

Sir,
The December Letters contained further disturbing aspects of the increasingly worrying “Police v The Rest of Us ” struggle—a state of affairs which could turn to open war unless (a) the police attitude becomes rapidly more humane and less pig-headed and pompous and (b) our Transport Minister either has the courage to find out what driving is all about by learning how to herself or (castles in the sky, this one) resigns.

Mr. Donald Grey has finally slammed the door on my wavering open-mindedness. Until I read his letter I went out of my way to give the Police the benefit of the doubt, but how can I now when a police advanced driver says: “The only drivers safe to drive at speed . . . are the advanced police drivers.” A policeman should be above all open-minded, compassionate and keen to encourage others to be good citizens. By your own words, Mr. Grey, you are convicted of bigoted, self-centred narrow-mindedness. What you have also said, in effect, is that there is no point in me trying to improve my driving because, since I am not in the police force, I can never be a police advanced driver and therefore I will never be good enough for you.

Let me tell you, Mr. Grey, I drive 800 miles a week, often average 50-60 m.p.h. across country, have been stopped once in ten years—fortunately by a policeman who was the essence of tact and understanding (you should get together)—and I make mistakes, not many, but some. I suggest you too make small errors of judgment sometimes, we all do, but I wonder if you admit it to yourself or to anyone. I wonder if, for instance one of the motorists you stopped last week could have made a genuine mistake which you appreciated.

Take a long dispassionate look at yourself, Mr. Grey, and ask yourself if your present God-like attitude does any credit to you as a person or to your chosen profession which desperately needs some disciples from the multitude of the general public, some of whom really are capable of driving no less safely than you at 100 m.p.h.

Thank Heaven for Motor Sport, and for P.C. Wilkinson, who shows there are still a few of the right men in blue.

Felden. M. A. Geddes.
———

Sir,
After reading the letter from a member of the Bristol Constabulary I felt a reply was necessary.

I myself am an ex-Policeman and have driven many miles in police vehicles with the products of the advanced driving schools and I willingly agree that they are competent drivers. But to say that they are the only drivers on British roads safe to drive at speed is rubbish.

I am now a member of the Fire Service, and if Mr. Grey thinks he has reached the ultimate in driving skill in driving a Jaguar or any other small vehicle at speed, then I suggest he tries his hand at driving a 10-ton fire appliance down a crowded High Street!

This service is also expected to respond to calls immediately, and we pride ourselves that our driving “on the bell” and at any other time is both safe and competent. Incidentally, our driving includes a range of vehicles the size and power of which Police drivers can only imagine.

Finally, I would suggest to Mr. Grey that he realises that many other people—besides the Police—have mastered the art of driving safely at speed. Thank you for an excellent magazine.

Dunstable. L. Gray.
———

Sir,
I agree with you entirely, what a sweeping statement to make. With all due respect to Mr. Grey, I suspect that if his attitude is common to all police drivers in thinking that no one else is as good as they are, then this would perhaps explain the arrogance which some of them seem to revel in when dealing with the mere motorist.

In one of the Derby Evening Telegraph‘s recent editions a police motor cyclist whilst on his way to give instruction to some young people about road sense, etc., fell off his machine, no other vehicle was involved. A local police car collided with a concrete lamp standard at 2 a.m. The car was a write-off, no other vehicle was involved, no witnesses, just a rumour of steering failure. The officer involved has now been given a 1968 edition of the car he wrote off, presumably to try again.

A Leicestershire police Jaguar, a 3.4 I believe, whilst in the course of duty, took a traffic island at speed and managed to go off the road backwards and in the process not only wrote off an expensive piece of equipment, but killed his passenger, another policeman.

The Leicestershire police force were also involved in another accident with tragic results. Whilst pursuing a suspected car, a police driver lost control of his vehicle and killed a workman who was repairing the road. Surely the moral of the listed events is that no one, including the people who claim to be the best in the world, is infallible.

As for Mr. Grey’s remark “‘Any fool can drive at speed on a track all going one way,” I challenge him to prove his point against one of the better known “fools” who act so “foolishly” on the track that they earn at least ten or twenty times the salary of a Chief Constable, let alone a Police driver.

I suggest that readers of Motor Sport raise a little stake money and approach Graham Hill about competing against Mr. Grey, in a standard Jaguar 3.8, or any similar such car, at Brands Hatch, or better still, Mallory Park. If the latter proves his point about “any fool,” not only would he win a little stake money, but Lotus would sign him up immediately!

Alas! I cannot see this contest happening as no doubt Mr. Grey will he too busy training “Super Drivers” who will eventually spend most of their valuable time crouching behind hedges and bus shelters with radar traps.

Long Eaton. A. D. Crooks.
———

Sir,
Donald Grey’s letter in your December issue displays one of the most exaggerated examples of self-satisfied conceit I have ever read.

“Any fool can drive at speed on a track”—he glibly states. Having driven at many practice days at Brands Hatch and the Brands Hatch Boxing Day meeting two years ago; plus about 50 hillclimb and sprint meetings elsewhere, my view is that even if we are all going the same way—like motorway driving (!)—”fools” I have not often seen.

He further states that police drivers are the ONLY drivers qualified to drive safely fast. Is D. Hulme therefore unsafe on a public road?

Mr. Grey further states that racing drivers have non-standard cars. Nonsense. The large majority of motor sporting meetings in this country are one of the “club type.” The class winner probably has a “warm vehicle” but the folks he beats have a virtually, or factually, standard car.

Another point. What does D.G. call fast? The police car he drives—and anything less slow is dangerous perhaps! Most police cars are not capable of more than about 95 m.p.h., and I would think that even if many of us cannot afford such delights, a vehicle, in modern terms, which cannot reach that speed in third gear is NOT a fast car—so the police as a whole cannot have been trained to drive fast.

East Quantoxbead. P. Le Q. Johnson.

[These are but a few of the very heavy post we have received in reply to Mr. D. Grey of the Bristol Constabulary, We are taking steps in the hope of obtaining first-hand experience of a police advanced driving course.—Ed.]
* * *

M.P.s & P.C.s

Sir,
I note that your December issue contains letters from two police officers, one in Bristol, the other in Manchester. Since both letters embody the same fiction—namely that the police enforce the laws “made by the people through their respective M.P.s” or “that you wish your M.P.s to vote for”—I wonder if Home Office propaganda to this effect has recently been circulated to all police forces?

The truth, as we all know, is rather different; the vast majority of M.P.s are not representatives of the people, but highly-paid stooges of their chiefs, blithely performing every back-somersault and about-face commanded by the party. This situation, which has probably existed ever since political parties dominated Parliament, has grown perceptibly worse in the last decade.

To illustrate the point, what regard has ever been paid to the public’s wishes on capital punishment, the Common Market, immigration, massive gifts of money to the “emergent nations,” and last, but not less monstrous, that 80% rise in M.P.s’ salaries?

On motoring matters too, our rulers hold us, the electorate, in the utmost contempt.

Since so much legislation is demonstrably at odds with public opinion, would not our police friends do well, before enforcing the law, to exercise those qualities of fair play, good humour and common-sense for which the British Bobby was at one time noted?

Then we might see a real improvement in the relationship between police and public, instead of the fuming resentments we all feel at the sight of muscular young constables manning radar-traps on excessively-restricted highways whilst the child-killer of Cannock Chase goes unapprehended.

Carlton. D. Corlett.

[To be fair, I could quote more than one instance when individual policemen have been more than fair to motorists who have technically broken one or more of the mass of regulations appertaining to motor vehicles. But I would like to see some figures for unsolved murders to set against accident statistics—Ed.]
* * *

A Citroën 2CV

Sir,
I was certainly not aghast at seeing a 2CV in Motor Sport; there is no greater sport than outdragging a Rover 2000, or similar opulent vehicle, into a roundabout (providing that it’s facing downhill) strings of onions flying in the wind and beret perched precariously on forehead, conducting a twin cylinder Anderson shelter in a series of lurches and leaps.

I purchased my 2CV for £90 it being fabricated in 1963 à la France, and have now conducted it for some considerable mileage, having stepped out of a Stage 4 Spridget. Apart from the fact that the Spridget was faster in third than the Citroën is in top, going down a very steep hill, all sail set and me pedalling (and praying) very hard, I have no complaints at all. It is returning a fuel consumption of around 60 m.p.g., this being conservative figure, very much like Twiggy’s.

The back seat removes in ten seconds to reveal a capacious boot which has so far moved me, and my belongings, to a new abode, has transported a PB M.G. all bar the chassis, has carried a single-seater body from Oxford to Kent, looking somewhat like a pregnant banana en route, and the car has twice towed a 1936 N-Type Magnette for some distance, all without a spanner being near it. The engine has just completed its 70,000 kilometres, and before my ownership the car toured Finland, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and France, all on one decoke and one new exhaust valve. I am sure that it will repeat this performance in the next 70,000 kilometres.

The only modifications that I am considering, are fitting roller skates to the door handles and a sea sickness pill dispenser for queasy female passengers, who so far, have named the car:—”Little Nellie of the corrugated belly,” “Tin Lizzie,” and “Hell! let me out of here.”

Nevertheless I shall continue to poke my two grubby fingers skywards at Mrs. Castle, confident in the fact that as I drive, flat out in every gear I still don’t exceed the dreaded 70. I am only paying her petrol tax at 60 m.p.g.

As to cleaning the car, it’s not in the “construction and use regulations,” yet, so it will remain a labour of love not governmental coercion, besides it makes the onions grow.

Beckenham. N. Musselwhite.
* * *

Rust and the Herald

Sir,
As I am one of those chaps who “hare about in Heralds,” I was alarmed to read from a correspondent, “Motor Mechanic,” that these cars had a habit of breaking the rear chassis arms. As I own a 1960 Coupé model I investigated only to discover that my right hand one was very thin and had a large hole in it. Can you or the correspondent, or any other reader, offer any suggestions as to how I can remedy this defect, as the car has now got to be put out of service. The car was M.o.T. tested only a short time ago.

Broxbourne. David G. Slaven.
* * *

Good Service

Sir,
I was interested to read your correspondent’s favourable impression of British service with his Rover 2000. Your readers may be interested in my experience with a more workaday vehicle.

I purchased my 4-door Cortina de luxe 1200 in July, 1965, from Basil Roy Ltd., of Great Portland Street. The car was delivered in faultless trim and the only “running in” conditions observed were avoidance of over-revving and cold running. Three minor electrical faults developed in the first 3,000 miles. Each was efficiently corrected within 24 hours under guarantee. The car has now done 32,000 miles. During this time routine servicing has been strictly adhered to, but nothing else. New tyres were needed at 28,000 miles. There has never been a mechanical failure if any kind. The car is currently running as perfectly as ever and is free of rattles or abnormal mechanical noises. Performance is good as ever and we are still getting over 1,000 miles to the pint of oil. Most of the driving has been done in the Home Counties or in and around London and the car is in constant daily use. Bodywork and interior have been looked after but are still rust free and virtually as new.

In my opinion this is a first class record for a cheap, cheerful, workaday family car and I believe the experience is not unique with this model. The ready service alone is worth paying for.

Highgate. R. D. H. Ryall.
* * *

Price Fixing

Sir,
I enclose herewith an advertisement which appeared in the Daily Mirror last year, from this you will see that Fords go to great lengths to inform the public that their Zephyr costs £906; not £906 plus delivery charge, not £906 plus heater or such like, just a plain ordinary straightforward £906 full stop.

Fords say “When we say a new Zephyr costs £906 we mean £906” until at the bottom of the page in letters 1/16 of an inch high one sees “Factory fitted seat belts in accordance with statutory regulations at extra cost.”—If that is not downright blood hypocrisy let alone fraudulent misrepresentation, what is?

Heswall. Ian Shaw.
* * *

That “Q-Type” E-Type

Sir,
Could we fill a small space in your magazine to clarify the position of this Company with regard to the Buckinghamshire police and the “Jaguar E-Type on the motorway” serial?

I feel sure your readers are aware of the fact that this Company is not in favour of the 70 m.p.h. limit on motorways and, in fact, we did everything possible to resist its imposition. However, as far as the Buckinghamshire police and the E-Type are concerned, we were asked to make a car available to them for assessment purposes. Buckinghamshire police are extensive users of Jaguar cars—as indeed are an increasing number of other constabularies—and we complied with their request. I would make the point that it is normal practice for manufacturers to loan cars to police forces wishing to test their products with a view to purchasing them for police use. Therefore, if we refused to loan car for this purpose we would obviously do so at the risk of losing this business to another manufacturer.

I would like to stress the fact that the sole basis of the request and subsequent loan was that of assessment testing, and we received no indication whatsoever that it was their intention to use the car in any other way. It is certainly most unfortunate that they should have decided to use the car in this manner, but I hope your readers will understand from the foregoing comments that we were not parties to the actual use which was made of the vehicle by Buckinghamshire Constabulary.

Coventry. R. E. Berry,
Executive Director—Group Publicity, Jaguar Cars Limited.

[We are pleased to print this letter from Jaguar Cars Ltd., and to be assured that they are against the 70-m.p.h. limit, although they, in common with some other manufacturers, refused to give any official support to our petition.
Regarding the “plain-clothes” incident, Jaguars are now well aware of the methods used by the Buckinghamshire police hierarchy and must remember that a repetition of the incident will no doubt cost them thousands of pounds in sales to private and commercial motorists.—M. D.]
* * *

Open-Air Motoring

Sir,
It is certainly encouraging to note that Mr. Holmes believes in using an open-air motor car in the correct fashion (Motor Sport, December).

However, although Mr. Holmes’ claim is indeed a fine one, I feel I must point out my experiences in this form of motoring. My car is a 1963 M.G. Midget which I bought earlier this year with the hood erected. Upon collection of the car from the previous owner, I put the hood down and since then it has only been up for two afternoons (both very wet!). At the time of writing, the car is still being used daily with the hood down.

Moreover, I should like to add that my claim can be bettered by a friend who runs a 1949 M.G. TC. Since completing the restoration of this car in March, 1967, he has yet to erect a hood! Both cars are garaged at night with tonneau covets for protection. Finally, I must point out that I am in my early twenties and sometimes find that the fairer sex are reluctant to share my enthusiasm for open-top motoring in sub-zero temperatures!

Southend-on-Sea. J. C. Goodman.
———

Sir,
In reply to Mr. Holme’s letter in the December issue, my reply is “Big Deal.”

I know that I “only” own a Morgan 3-Wheeler. but since the day that I finished rebuilding this car (the third week of January) it has never seen a hood, and only in the last month a tonneau cover. However a person who owns a modern “sports” car complete with heaters and wind up windows, etc., can claim such a record is past belief.

My wide tracked, lowered hydraulic braked Morgan (it’s the turn of the engine next year) has had Brooklands screens on until the end of October, due to the fact that it is used in racing, has been used to doing the journey from Cheltenham to High Wycombe this school term (as well as earlier this year), sometimes twice a week, and also regularly to my school which is seven miles outside High Wycombe. As it is my only means of transport it takes me everywhere, and at the last reckoning it had done at least 9,000 miles in all weathers since January. It will continue to do so until I, as a poor underpaid teacher, can afford a “better” car. (Incidentally, if anyone wants a driver for a car in V.S.C.C meets next year, they know who to contact—there aren’t enough just sticking to May events!)

As getting another car will be in the distant futures due to the credit squeeze, I will no doubt still be doing the same journeys, in all weathers with the hood down and thinking nothing of it, like so many of my Morgan and B.S.A. three-wheeler compatriots, and no doubt many other owners of vintage and P.V.T. cars; for many, many months to come.

Churchdown. E. Taylor.
Morgan-Three-Wheeler Club,
B.S.A. Front Wheel Drive Club.
———

Sir.
Your correspondent R. I. Holmes seems to he’s created some sort of world record for open air motoring. Could it be that it took him all of eight weeks and nineteen hours to erect the hood of his Spitfire?

When I bought my 1951 Morgan +4 in August, 1964, it had no weather equipment at all except for the windscreen. And that is all it still has. I certainly haven’t jumped into the car every time it rains, but it has been used quite regularly to take me to work.

This morning, following a lot of rebuilding after a major chassis breakage, it was towed home, more or less complete again, behind an open Daimler of similar vintage.

Ringwood. R. A. H. Wright.
* * *

Have we become a Police State?

Sir,
I was interested to reed in your last issue of Motor Sport about your reader who was stopped by the police for no front bumper on a Mini.

I had exactly the same experience in London last August when an arrogant motorcycle policeman stopped me after following me for over a mile, presumably to see if I would speed—I was doing 28 m.p.h. Having pulled up he walked round my car, finally pointing out the “dangerous” bumper support. I should mention that the bumpers were removed as the car had just been resprayed a day or so before and I had not had time to replace them. The policeman would not accept my explanation and booked me there and then.

I phoned the A.A. and R.A.C. and asked their legal departments for advice but was curtly informed that it was an offence and an endorsable one at that.

I appeared in court and fought the issue myself on the grounds that in the unlikely event of hitting a pedestrian, the headlamps and bonnet would contact them before the bumper support. However I was found guilty and fined £3 with licence endorsed. It would seem that magistrates and police use any excuse to blot your licence, no matter how trivial or obscure. Surely, if the police wish to maintain good relations with the motoring public they should not try to antagonise by reporting people for petty technical offences. A warning in this case would have been adequate.

I am sure the majority of Mini drivers who run without bumpers do not realise they are committing a “criminal offence.”

I wish your other correspondent the best of luck with his case and sincerely hope he can prove his point to the satisfaction of the magistrates.

Cranbrook. Peter Frazer.

[It does seem such a great pity that one officious officer can cause so much ill-feeling, when surely a warning would be sufficient, and that when such a case gets into court, some magistrates make the most of it, including inflicting an endorsement. Curious that dumbirons on the older cars, and single rear lamps on London buses, are accepted as legal—Ed.]
* * *

The M.G.-C

Sir,
I feel inclined to say a few words about the Sports Car Disappointment of the Year, the MG.-C.

Comparisons will naturally be made with the big Healey, which it is obviously designed to replace. B.M.C. give one of their faithful old power units yet another face-lift, admittedly more radical than usual, and what is the result?

(1) In a car weighing one cwt. or so less than the Healey, acceleration is slower, by several seconds, for example, from 0-100 m.p.h. It could be argued that this inferior performance is due to the higher gearing of the MG.-C. Fair enough, then at least, in return for this performance penalty, one might expect to get a more economical car, but
(2) Figures show that the M.G.-C. is considerably heavier on petrol than the Healey.
(3) This “new” engine apparently lacks low -speed torque, to the extent that the top gear acceleration up to 70 m.p.h. is inferior to that of the M.G.-B. (These statements are based on exact figures taken from comparative mid test reports).
(4) Also, comparison of general aspects such as handling would appear to show the M.G.-C, in a poor light alongside the Healey and the MG.-B.

Is this what B.M.C. call progress?

By all means give the MG.-B more urge, but let’s do it efficiently, and let’s call the car the MG.-B 3000, which is really all it is, rather than the M.G.-C, which gives unenlightened people the idea that the M.G.-B is now obsolete. I can’t wait for the final insult, when this car will be reintroduced as the Austin-Healey 3000 Mk. IV! As you may have guessed, I own a big Healey, the last real sports car built by B.M.C. (not B.M.H.!).

Storrington. P. D. Mace.

[We wonder whether Mr. Mace has driven the MG.-C. and meanwhile we reserve judgment until we have carried out a full road test on this model.—Ed.]

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