Matters of moment, January 1972

A sports-car revival?
We have been hearing recently of how apparently staid, middle-aged people have been buying fabulously expensive German BMW and Japanese Honda motorcycles for the pleasure of travelling on something different from the common run of vehicles, or perhaps recapturing their departed youth, and no doubt doing their health a power of good into the bargain.

For similar reasons, a sports-car revival could be a distinct possibility and bring similar advantages. There was a time when enthusiasts drove open sports cars and were quite distinct from other road users who were ensconced in saloons, coupés, limousines and closed-up landaulettes. In that golden age, although the sun did not forever shine, so-called sports saloons were something of a joke and sporting motoring was a pure-air pursuit.

Later, as homo sapiens grew softer, the open car diminished in popularity and rain-proof bodies took over, along with the demise of open-cockpit aeroplanes, open-top ‘buses, unheated swimming-pools and coal fires. Why, even the boating fraternity (or a section of it) called for hoods and windscreens. We suggest that a sports-car revival, on a limited but worthwhile scale, may not be far distant. But to succeed it would have to centre round cars possessing equal or superior performance, in terms of roadholding, acceleration and speed, to better high-performance saloons, the essential compactness, the eye-ability of line and convenience of handling of the fast two-seater and, vitally important, weather protection as easy to call upon as opening and closing an umbrella—electrically-operated tops, perhaps.

Such cars would be distinctive, fun to own and drive, health-giving, safe, and fast on average speeds. British Leyland have the monopoly of not-fabulously-expensive sports cars in the old tradition. We hope they capitalise on this. It would be a sad day if sports MGs and Triumphs ceased to be made. Presumably the Morgan, a true sports car, will continue for ever and you can have an open Lotus Elan or S4; and the forthcoming new Healey will, rumour says, be an open sports car.

Motorway madness
A new expression “Motorway madness” has entered our language, although all too often it is applied thoughtlessly to luckless drivers who suddenly encounter fog on a motorway and are trying to lose speed gradually while easing over to the inner lane, rather than cram on their brakes and be rammed in the boot. Incidentally, warning lights which wink-wink when no fog and no accident is to be seen could be the cause of some of the fog pile-ups, inasmuch as they cry wolf too often, so that drivers may disregard them when the warning is vital; we have encountered such faulty lamps on the M6 and the M40 on several occasions recently…..

Now we have that other kind of motoring madness, initiated by Mrs. Enoch Powell, supported by her usually fearless and courageous Politician husband—MPs policing our motorways. Within days of the incident another, less distinguished, MP had indulged in a 90 m.p.h. (by jove, Sir!) motorway chase after a driver of whose driving behaviour he disapproved. Where is all this madness leading us? The police are the only persons who should indulge in such capers. We most definitely do not want MPs, or any other citizens, reporting the numbers of cars whose drivers offend them, let alone giving chase. This Gestapo nonsense is un-British, obnoxious, and could be extremely dangerous. Especially as, pace the Enoch Powell case, the word of the tell-tale is accepted and that of the other driver ignored. Incidentally, the second MP is a Labour representative, so fortunately Party politics are not involved!

Mrs. Powell was apparently driving a Hillman Minx at what she thought was 70 m.p.h. (but unless her speedometer is exceptional, was probably more like 65 m.p.h.) along the M4 in the outside lane. By driving in the passing lane, she was not only inciting other drivers to pass in the middle lane, but was committing an offence. A Jaguar driven by 54-year-old Mr. Rogers, a chauffeur employed by the Standard Telephone Company, who was driving Lord Caccia, Provost of Eton, and Lady Caccia was behind the Powell’s car. Mrs. Powell alleged that Rogers flashed his lights in her mirror and, as she refused to give way, passed on her near-side. Because Enoch Powell bleeped to the police Mr. Rogers, who holds various safety awards, was a member of the IAM, does some 25,000 miles a year and hadn’t had an accident in 34 years, was found guilty of dangerous driving, relieved of £25.50, endorsed, and perhaps lost his job as Lord Caccia’s chauffeur, although he pleaded not guilty, pleading no recollection of the incident.

It boils down to the 70 m.p.h. speed limit making a mockery of our fine, wide, but expensive, motorways. Mr. Enoch Powell has won the respect of a great many people with his courageous political views. He would do well to remember that not so long ago more than 250,000 Motor Sport readers signed a petition against the 70-limit on motorways. His childish tell-tale action in supporting his wife over upholding this fragment of the law has conceivably caused a quarter-of-a-million voters to think less favourably of him. Some of the remarks we have received include wonderment that such a busy MP had time to be so petty and whether Mr. Rogers is a Pakistani, in which case, says a correspondent, what a grand kill for Mr. Powell!

Politicians are adept at answering questions. So we invite Mr. Enoch Powell to tell whether he realises that Mrs. Powell herself was breaking the law, as she was apparently using-the “passing” lane of the M4 as a “cruising” lane, instead of moving to the middle lane when the Jaguar driver wished to overtake her?—his speed was purely a matter for the Motorway police, whose good sense so often overlooks a bit of over-the-70 under fair-weather conditions; if, in fact, Mr. Rogers exceeded a true 70 m.p.h., which no-one has proved…. Mrs. Powell’s spell in the outside lane is surely contrary to the Law as publicised by a Department of the Government her husband serves?

As accidents unhappily go on happening on our motorways in spite of the 70-limit, it is time the situation were reassessed. The majority of cars which use the M-ways do not cruise at 70 m.p.h. anyway. Is this justification for penalising those in safe-handling faster cars from extending them a little, in return for the excellent proposition they represent in terms of purchase tax and petrol tax? If safety isn’t at stake, as we and over 250,000 of our readers believe it isn’t, under good weather conditions, how can the Government which Enoch Powell represents, having just given H.M. the Queen (God bless her, and long may she reign, in preference to a Dictator) one pound a year for every unemployed person in this country, refuse this dash of spice to those hard-working citizens who buy and fuel the better, more expensive motor cars? How indeed!