Letters from Readers, January 1969

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

Which is the best Oil?


May I request, through the medium of your correspondence pages, some informed information to dispel my complete bewilderment concerning currently advertised engine oils and additives?

The Motor Trade seems to be in just as thick a sludge as myself and tends to palm off whatever brand of oil it stocks. Unless I am very much mistaken, there used to be three (disregarding the vegetable-based oils) basic kinds of oil, the straight mineral, the detergent, and the visco-statics. Usually a car driven for fairly long journeys was filled with a detergent oil, and one used for short trips was run on a visco-static.

This quite simple state of affairs seems to be a thing of the past, but please don’t let’s have a slick of Oil Sales Directors eulogising their products. Most experienced drivers know that some oils are better than others for specific requirements. What causes the sudden and alarming drop in viscosity of the visco-statics at about a thousand miles, and why are we warned not to run very high performance engines on visco-statics? On what detergent oils do diesel fleet operators run engines which do phenomenal mileages and are frequently as clean inside as the day they were built? And what was that curious oil with which Standards used to fill their new engines? It looked and smelt like creosote oil.

I confess to a touching faith in RedeX. Engines run-in on about 20% RedeX have gone to big mileages. Conversely, engines run-in on colloidal graphite have been, in my experience, noisy and rough. As an engineer, I cannot explain this, and merely state what I have personally experienced, and I am sure that all the solid lubricant manufacturers will rush to prove me wrong. Gearboxes seem to thrive on graphite or molybdenum seems disulphide.

My methods of running-in a rebuilt engine will no doubt provoke smiles all round, but it works for me. Start up and idle for about half an hour, then drive with fairy foot for 50 miles not exceeding about 1,000 revs and with virtually no throttle. Absolute Hell! Drain and refill with oil, and drive very gently for about 200 miles with minimal throttle opening, gradually lifting the revs for very short periods. Drain and refill, and drive with increasing throttle opening until at about 3-5,000 miles, depending on the feel of the engine, it would take all you could give and could be regarded as being run-in. Power output seems to rise gradually, reaching a peak when the engine begins to burn a little oil. I am sufficiently naive to think that a good product will advertise itself. I know that there are additives used in industry which do work, and you balance effectiveness against cost, but what in heaven’s name is 100% pure petroleum, to pick just one of the additives currently advertised?

Finally, I ask in all seriousness, how would other readers treat a new engine, assuming it had not been taken into the red from assembly line to vehicle park? Twenty years ago I would not have asked this question, as I thought I knew all the answers; now I am not so sure.

Rothley. A. Heywood.

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The Japs Come Creeping Up


A combination of the arrival of the November Motor Sport (late, probably due to your new two-tier postal system!), the recent British trade deficit and the fact that Japan has moved into second place, behind the U.S.A., as a leading manufacturer of motor vehicles, has prompted me to write.

Singapore (to a slightly lesser extent Malaysia) represents a very car-conscious society. Traffic jams and exhaust fumes, as elsewhere in the world, have taken any enjoyment out of city motoring. However, with the increasing number of vehicles on the roads, it is easy to see that the lion’s share of new vehicles are Japanese. I shall give some examples of areas where British interest is being displaced, for reasons not readily apparent, except lack of interest.

Singapore City taxis are almost exclusively Austin Cambridges or Morris Oxfords (with diesel engines). The new taxis just appearing on the road are Japanese. Singapore ‘buses are mainly old British coaches, Albion, A.E.C., etc., which have outlived their usual lives and are now decrepit, uncomfortable and unreliable. They are being replaced by Japanese rear-engined coaches, which are modern, comfortable, reliable and fast. Pick-up trucks and light vans much loved by small businesses, once almost exclusively supplied by U.K. manufacturers, are giving way to the Japanese models. In the world of the private car, where the tax system here is based on cubic capacity (a recent innovation), the small British cars still sell well, as they are assembled here in some cases. But they are being hard pressed by their small Japanese counterparts, which tend to have tinted windows and cold air blowers, both desirable in the tropics. A recent newspaper article indicates that the fleet of Norton motorcycles run by the traffic police are to be replaced by a smaller but faster Japanese model. Garages long faithful to British makes have practically fought one another for the concession of large Japanese firms.

I shall resist the temptation to quote recent instances of long frustrating delays for M.G. spares, as I am led to believe from your excellent magazine that things like that should now improve with recent changes in management.

Rumours are heard that a certain large British firm also makes ‘buses and trucks, or are these more examples of “interimism” and consequently not offered for sale in the Far East?

Is British Industry really taking the need to export seriously; events here lead me to wonder? Thank you for your magazine, which maintains an excellent balance between modern and old car matters; long may it thrive.

Singapore. Robin Springett.

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A Fiat 124S In Canada


Living in a country relatively free from gnome-operated radar (radar operated-gnomes?), I have over the last six months had the pleasure of owning a Fiat 124S.

With 15,000 miles on the clock, I am still enchanted with this car. Its pleasing exterior draws favourable comments from owners of 440 cu. in.-engined monsters, as, on closer inspection, do the interior and under-hood layout. To date the most serious major fault to occur has been the demise of the fuel gauge. No leaks, rattles or other disconcerting happenings.

Road-hold on Pirelli Cinturatos is first class, suspension, though a little soft, excellent. Braking, both in the wet and dry, is most impressive. The controls are well placed and the only criticism I would level here is the parallel juxtaposition of the indicator and headlight switches.

Comfort and driving position, almost straight arm, are both good and I have yet to finish a long (400-600 miles) drive feeling tired or cramped.

On the open road, theoretical speed limit 60 m.p.h., it cruises easily at that speed. On unpaved, unstraightened roads, and for moving through traffic at speed, it leaves nothing to be desired.

The only modifications I have made are the addition of safety harness, exterior mirror and the replacement of the original headlamps with Lucas PL700s.

Owning an import car in North America has the disadvantage of widely-spaced distributors. My Fiat dealer has given me service second to none, and I feel confident that I can rely on him to keep me on the road. However, I feel that exporters marketing in this and other countries can profit from attention to their Overseas distributors’ needs.

I hope my sketchy impressions of a relatively new GT car will be of some interest to your readers.

Ontario, Canada. B. R. C. Street.

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Radiator Fans


If it is accepted that the water-cooled engine must incorporate a radiator fan (which I personally, do not accept, because it has not always been general practice and may not even now be universal), there is perhaps a case for limiting the speed of the fan, but only in order to reduce unwanted noise. Claims that the fan and its drive absorb some engine power obviously have some truth, but are largely irrelevant, because the engine designer takes this factor into account, together with frictional losses in the transmission gear train, accessory drives to dynamo or alternator, and any other components driven by the installed engine causing reduction in power available at the driven road wheels of the car. The fan and drive for it are not problems over which the designer has no control. If the power loss were significant I suggest this feature would not continue to be built into cooling systems.

The makers of the various types of thermostatic, auto-electric, VP blade and other devices now widely advertised claim that this is a kind of major “problem” which must be overcome by replacing the offending fan and its driving arrangements. One manufacturer appears to say that he has spent £100,000 on research before offering for sale his fit-it-yourself cure-all, until you reach the small print!

It seems to me that these claims wildly over-state the case, and that the modification kits provide complication and potential trouble, more weight and more expense for a dubious return. There is possibly some justification for fitting these things if the object is to reduce the sound level caused by the standard fan turning at high speed. But this can scarcely apply to the sports-car enthusiast who understands that his engine can’t breathe properly without making a lot of exhaust noise about it, and a loud radiator fan would hardly worry him.

Despite these comments, however, I do know of one modern production engine, and there may well be others, which incorporates an automatic speed-limiting control in the fan. On this 2½ litre engine the fan is mounted on its own bearings on to an extension of the water-pump impeller spindle, but is not keyed to it. The water pump is driven by belt off the crankshaft, and the fan is driven by the water pump through a small rotor and fluid coupling which forms the hub of the four-bladed fan, the whole assembly being very compact and at first sight indistinguishable from normal. The fluid coupling transfers the drive at 13:12 crankshaft speed up to a maximum of 2,000 r.p.m., above which speed the fan r.p.m. remains constant, the forward movement of the car providing natural airflow heat dispersal thereafter.

This is an exceptionally quiet engine and car in the first place, and with the bonnet open the fan is practically inaudible at its maximum operating speed. In terms of road speed in top gear, for example, the fan is “windmilling” at speeds above 40 m.p.h. and contributing nil to the overall sound level. I do not know how much power is absorbed in driving the fan through its rotor and 0.4 fluid oz. of silicon oil at 2,000 r.p.m., but, judging by the size of the bearings and moving parts, only a negligible amount of torque is applied. In any case, I am sure that the real purpose of this simple and ingenious refinement concerns further suppression of decibels in a car, which already produces a remarkably low number of these things under all operating conditions.

This principle may not be original, but the car in question is not available in U.K., and I personally do not know of another engine that incorporates it. I suggest that if fan-speed must be controlled, this device compares technically more than favourably with the various equipments offered by the accessory makers. If, on the other hand, fan control is unnecessary, as almost all engine manufacturers seem to agree, there appears to be no cause for trying to improve the designers’ work.

Sydney, New South Wales. H. I. Hill.

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Motorways and the Speed Limit


Can you hear the distant sound of knives being sharpened? The present Minister of Transport certainly seems to have convinced himself that motoring is still giving someone somewhere pleasure and is going to “split his breeches”, if necessary, to stop them.

He uses the traditional techniques, flourishing nondescript figures, issued by Ministry “experts” to illustrate his points (we’re all fed up with this party trick, y’know)—showing charming little films on television that give children nightmares, and leaking hints to Fleet Street of the “possibility” of a 60 m.p.h. speed limit, which is, of course, a painless way of preparing the flock (ba-a-a-a) for the inevitable. You will recall that the same technique was used for the 70 m.p.h. limit, breathalyser, noise control, etc. So we won’t have to wait long before it is fact.

Hum, have you heard the M.o.T.’s latest argument about Motorway speeds? He says that if everyone went at the same speed it won’t be so likely to have a high-speed shunt occur. He considers that most motorists burble along at 55 m.p.h. on the Motorways, with a few antisocial sorts doing 70 m.p.h. (gasps from the House). Notice that magic figure 55? There’s a reason for that.

Well, before the 70-limit he reasons, cars, used to travel at up to 120 m.p.h. (no faster?) and the possibility of crashes was terrifying (see figures). But if everyone did 55 m.p.h. this wouldn’t happen.

Mr. Minister, you deserve a medal! For if your system was adopted we should have regiments of cars in tight ranks shuttling up and down the Motorways at a uniform 55 m.p.h., with about 55 feet of road between each: ready for 55-vehicle pile-ups every day of the week. It is abundantly clear that the speed limits don’t work; the Motorways are constipated with dolts in the fast (screams of laughter) lane who won’t move over because they’re on the legal limit—usually their speedometers are slow and they’re only doing 64 m.p.h.

In pre-limit days the rule of the road on Motorways was: “Watch thy mirror” and everyone got on fine, in their own time, and no one got held up. This is why Motorways were built—for speed, not queueing capacity.

Great Bourton. John Willier.

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Save Castle Combe Circuit


We enclose a copy of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government decision on Castle Combe circuit and also a copy of the Inspector’s Report on the Public Inquiry into the Appeal. It will be of concern to all those interested in Motor Sport that the recommendation of the Inspector based on a week-long Public Inquiry, that the circuit should receive a 20-year planning permission, has been arbitrarily whittled down by the Minister to a mere three years. The Minister wraps his bitter pill in a sugar coating. His letter says:—

“In the Minister’s opinion the aim should be for the use to be discontinued within a reasonable period which will give the appellants time to transfer their activities elsewhere as they so desire. In this latter connection the Minister suggests that the authorities should give the appellants such assistance as they can over the question of an alternative site.”

“Take up thy bed and walk” would, in the case of a racing circuit appear to be an exceptionally difficult task. However, we have to assume that the Minister means what he says and that the necessary site and financial assistance will be made available. Alternatively, should this prove impossible, might not there be “reasonable” hope that the Minister’s suggestion will provide the opportunity so Iong demanded by the needs of Motor Sport and the Motor Industry for a racing circuit and development test circuit comparable to those available, or under construction, in Europe and North America; perhaps an English Nurburgring, which Germany had the foresight to build in the 1930s, or a circuit to achieve International recognition Iike Le Mans?

Unfortunately the Minister, who can apparently disregard the findings and arbitrarily reject the recommendations of a Public Inquiry and in so doing make a mockery of the process of a local inquiry, its unlikely to have any far-reaching insight into the problem of ensuring that Britain’s domination of Motor Sport is maintained.

However, the fight for Castle Combe is not yet lost. We would appeal to all your readers who can remember any of the years between 1950 and 1955 at Castle Combe Circuit. We need any record of any meeting held at Castle Combe of a motoring nature—photographs, programmes, diaries, club write-ups, details of any cars tested or demonstrated on the circuit, etc., etc. There must also be a number of readers who helped to clear up the circuit in about 1949 to make it fit to hold club meetings—personal remembrance on this point is also of great interest to us in trying to ensure that Castle Combe can survive for future club meetings.

Readers, please do not delay in sending your records as time is now of the essence if we are to save the Combe!

A.F.N. (Castle Combe) Ltd.

Isleworth. J. T. Aldington.

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Friendly Police


At the risk of making Mr. J. V. Howe even more bitter, I feel obliged to tell you about the rather different experience which I had with the law recently.

I was motoring in the outskirts of a large Northern town in my MG.-B when I was overtaken and stopped by a polite officer in a similar car. I had been travelling well in excess of the limit and foolishly had not noticed his approach. I was treated in very much the same manner as was Mr. Howe in 1946, save that, after stating his case in no uncertain terms and warning me to “watch it in future”, this officer became most friendly.

Far from booking me, he went to great lengths to explain that he and his colleagues also enjoyed driving fast and that having to see motorists heavily fined and even disqualified for very minor and non-dangerous offences was an unpleasant duty.

Needless to say this incident did not take place in Kent, but it must serve to show that there are still some Police Forces whose officers are reasonable enough to realise that reason will often prevail when force fails. In any case, this “kindly copper” has won the respect for himself and his brothers of at least one private motorist.

Thank you for your pages of monthly pleasure.

London, S.W.9. R. Stuart-Pennink.

[We were delighted to receive this letter. With crime increasing in this country it will be as well for police and non-criminal motorists to remain on co-operative terms. A pity, we thought, that drivers on the London-Dover section of the London-Sydney Marathon had to be stopped by police and warned about using sirens and flashing their lamps when this event may never happen again, most people, including the onlookers, were rather excited and the public loved it. But, then, the route did go through Kent!—Ed.]

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Shopping for a Derby Bentley


Your correspondent, Lt.-Col. R. G. Vinning, states he has owned two Derby Bentleys, yet he makes a completely inaccurate statement regarding the propeller-shaft universal joints. Never did Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd. produce a 3½-litre with plain phosphor bronze bushes? I own an early series 3½, chassis B831BN, and the universals are needle-roller bearings.

All Bentley crankshafts are nitrided-vat case-hardened and it might interest the Colonel to know that the shaft in my car, after 33 years, was still within tolerance! He continues to make an equally stupid comment about the removal of brake drums. Nothing unusual is needed and most workshop tools can be made up without difficulty.

The 3½-litre is one of the World’s great cars and the classic body styles have never been surpassed.

Victoria, Australia. D. T. Manley.

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First Correct Solution


Your picture of the N.S.U. 1200 TT was taken on the private road round Howey Lake, Llandrindod, Wells, Furthermore, the sign on the tree in the background warns that it is an offence to commence fishing without first having your tackle disinfected..

W, Bromwich. Edward Robinson.

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Ford and the 70-Limit


Instead of “pandering” to the stupid 70 m.p.h. speed limit in such a patronising fashion—I refer to the recent Ford Escort advertisement—I would have thought it would have suited British car manufacturers to show their disapproval of such retrograde legislation. Surely it puts us at a disadvantage on the Continent, where our 70 m.p.h. speed limit must be regarded with some amusement and is no doubt used by them as an excuse for saying British cars are only safe up to that Speed, not to mention the most degrading thing of all—our having to take over to the Continent any decent car that needs proper test-driving?

Bury. R. B. Blackledge.

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An Enlightened Country


A thought to gladden your hearts. Ontario today raised the speed limit on its two major highways (the Macdonald-Carder Freeway and Highway 400) from 60 m.p.h. to 70 m.p.h. Since the law will not pounce on a motorist until he exceeds the speed limit by 11 m.p.h. or more, this is virtually licence to drive at 80 m.p.h. with impunity

Congratulations on a fine magazine; I look forward to your road test of the Morgan +8 with eager anticipation.

Ontario, Canada. Alan R. Brand.

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Points for Sir Donald Strokes


Your readers may be interested in the following points encountered in running a 1967 998 Morris Cooper Mk. I and a 1968 Morris 1800 Mk. I.

(1) The rubber grommets for the valve cover securing bolts are unobtainable, and have been so for two months. B.M.C. say they are “pending”.

(2) The 1800 handbook states valve rocker clearance to be .015 in., but an amendment slip in the handbook states .018 in. Our local garage said the clearance has been altered back to .015 in. and re-set tappets accordingly. Main dealers say correct clearance is .018 in. On asking B.M.C. which is correct, they say .015 in. and feel we must have misinterpreted the amendment slip!! HELP!

(3) “Rallying Improves the Breed,” say the B.M.C. adverts., yet the fuel pump remains in the same dismal place on my Cooper, and has just accounted for my third breakdown in four years’ Mini motoring. The works Coopers, of course, have the pumps mounted inside., showing B.M.C. to be fully aware of this failing.

(4) With regard to the proximity of the 1800’s handbrake to the kneecap, and its lethal effect in a crash, B.M.C. “cannot recommend or approve that this is re-sited”. The works 1800s have a sensible floor-mounted handbrake, though!

(5) On asking for further information on B.M.C. sound-deadening kits for the 1800, as advertised in Motoring, the official B.M.C. publication, B.M.C. Service say that “no proprietary manufacturer is at present marketing such a kit”. Apart from their own kit, have B.M.C. ever heard of Interior Silent Travel?

[Name and address supplied.—Ed.]

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Buying a New Car


Mr. Giles’ disenchantment with Jaguar distributors and subsequent discovery of Alfa Romeo salesmanship prompts me to chronicle my own experiences when I decided to change my Jaguar for something smaller and more economical

A casual visit to Mangoletsi’s in Cheshire in search of literature on the 1300 TI Alfa resulted in an immediate drive in a 1300 GT, a visit to an out of town garage to look at the saloons and later, proof of ingenious salesmanship in the form of invitations to Ox Roasts, circuit and showroom demonstrations. In spite of all this I felt I had to economise, so I settled (due to their advertisements) on either a 124 or 125 Fiat.

Now my troubles began. No local agent, and I tried three, would consider making an offer for my 1964 Mk. II Jaguar, not even a ridiculous offer. “Go away,” they said, “and sell it privately; then we will sell you a new car.”

By this time I had convinced myself that no new car around £1,000 would be a substitute for grace, space and pace, and that a Mini Cooper “5” or standard would fulfil my requirements. I contacted the gargantuan garage that I had bought the Jaguar from (amongst other things they are Aston Martin, Bentley, B.M.C., Daimler, Rolls and Rover distributors) where a disinterested, callow youth told me that delivery would take six to nine months and that there was no access to a demonstration car. As I had never even sat in a Mini Cooper really wanted a ride to see if I could bear the thing, so I suggested that they might take my address and then contact me if they could borrow one, or ever had one in as a used car—need I add that this mildly unusual suggestion was not taken up. Next I ‘phoned another Jaguar and B.M.C. agent, who said the same thing. I pointed out that many London firms seem to have them in stock, surely they weren’t so rare; with this the salesman was very shocked, and respectfully told me that if I purchased a new car elsewhere I could hardly expect them to give it their best attention when it needed servicing, adding that of course they would service it, but I must realise that their own customers would have priority. By this time I was confused as to the real meaning of the words—customer and service.

Lacking time and patience to crawl around grovelling to have a new car sold to me, I filled in a coupon from the current Motor Sport for Performance Cars Ltd., which brought a telephone call the next day. I drove down to London on a Thursday night, presenting myself and my car to them at 10 a.m. on the Friday. Two and a half hours later I drove out in my new, just-registered, serviced, and seat-belted Cooper —hours, please note, not weeks or months. If I didn’t think that they always gave this speedy and efficient service, I would be inclined to ask if this was a record.

Of course I realise that there is another side to the story. A used car has to be sold, and a dealer must be realistic, but three B.M.C. and three Fiat dealers did not want my trade at any price.

It is a pity that I couldn’t have afforded the Alfa at the start of the affair, then I could have asked for more of your space in which to have told if the service department had lived up to the standard of the sales department. As it is the Mini Cooper is completely “good”; it goes, it stops, it corners, it rattles, it is harmless and friendly. My only modification is a sun roof, which does away with clawing at those dreadful windows, and my insurers charge more than for my previous 3.4 Jaguar or M.G. Midget. I’ll probably have it for years, as I don’t think I can face ingratiating myself before reluctant car salesmen (except, of course, those two firms that I have mentioned by name).

Fernhead. R. Weston.

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The Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV Road Test


Having been an avid reader of your wonderful magazine for the past 15 years, I am shocked at the inaccuracies of A.R.M.’s report of the Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV in the October issue.

Being the proud owner of one of these cars (my third Alfa—I900 TI super, 1932 1750 Zagato GT) I should like to point out misleading statements as reported by A.R.M. in his “exhaustive” 1,000-mile test.

The writer states that the horn button was hard to find. The ribs in the steering wheel are quite noticeable when looking at the wheel and are easily identified as the horn buttons.

The hand throttle I consider as a necessity for cold morning starts as the engine may take up to five minutes to come up to working temperature.

The doors are lockable from inside the car. All one has to do is to push the door handle right down till you hear the lock click into place.

The bumper bars are not chromium-plated but are made of stainless steel.

As to the maximum speed, I have had an indicated 127 m.p.h. on the speedo of my car. A true reading being more in the vicinity of 120-122 m.p.h. This speed was done with one passenger and luggage for two people, a 9 ft. x 9 ft. tent, poles, pegs and other camping gear stored in the boot and back seat compartments.

This has been the best test to date that I have given the car, which was a 500-mile drive to Bathhurst and back again in one weekend for the Hardie-Ferodo “500” Touring Car Race.

The car was cruised at between 90-100 m.p.h. all the way, except for built-up areas. The fuel consumption worked out at 25-27 m.p.g. and oil consumption was less than ½-pint for the 1,000-mile journey.

In the four months and 6,500 miles of motoring in the 1750 GTV I have had no troubles at all and have nothing but praise for these fine Italian motor cars.

I hope you may give one of these fine cars a good test on Continental roads and come up with more realistic figures.

Victoria, Australia. David Roberts.