Matters of Moment
• Happy New Year ....
This issue of Motor Sport appears a little later than usual due to the present spate of public holidays but nevertheless marks the commencement of another motoring season. And although 1979 is uncomfortably close to George Orwell's 1984, we can all hope for a good motoring year, providing we are lucky enough to escape the web of VASCAR, roadside-radar, parking-meters, stiffer DoE vehicle-tests, and ever-increasing anti-motoring legislation (not overlooking the four-year retention on one's driving licence of any endorsement) which threatens to wrap-up anyone in charge of a motor vehicle. The righteous will enjoy telling us, as they always have, that we can stay out of this bureaucratic web by keeping within the law. Not easy, in view of the complex legislation that governs every move made by any motor vehicle.
However, the vehicles themselves continue to improve impressively, in spite of all the Governmental rules and regulations imposed on their luckless manufacturers. Small cars now offer good performance and comfort and can be had in diesel-form, thanks to Volkswagen's initiative. No longer are fuel-injection, independent rear suspension, sealed coolant systems, five-speed gearboxes, disc brakes, belt-driven o.h.camshafts and puncture-proof tyres, etc. regarded as futuristic innovations. Within the last few years items of equipment that were once picked out in road-test reports have been taken for granted, but add much to motoring enjoyment and safety. Automatic transmissions, which even enthusiastic drivers now find acceptable, are appearing on the smaller cars, such as the Renault 1300 Auto and the Lancia Beta, with Borg-Warner working on a new small-car foolproof transmission, and many high-performance cars from Rolls-Royce to Rover 3500 and Opel Senator now spare the left foot in traffic. Indeed, there are experts who think that the very refined and well-mannered Porsche 928 is nicer with automation between its 4½-litre vee-eight engine and its transaxle than with its alternative five-speed gearbox.
Technical advancement being so satisfactory, it is a pity that the Government has been threatening Ford with sanctions because its management was unable to contain trade union ambitions. It will be interesting to see whether Mr. Callaghan does any better, in the long run. So far as Ford is concerned, he should remember that sudden application of a brake often results in a nasty smell, followed by disaster ...
If Inflation (which deserves a capital "I") is to come down, Government spending must be cut. All carusers are very close to a nasty example of gross waste - the DVLC at Swansea. It cost hundreds-of-millions to set up. Yet it is so slow in issuing even a driving licence that Section 84/4 of the Road Traffic Act of 1972 had to be amended, so that you can drive legally without this document while the civil servants and their costly computers are sorting it all out for you. What was wrong with the previous system, and the regional taxation offices since closed, when this licence was a nice little red book and renewal worked expeditiously? Then we have those absurd vehicle-designations - see last month's "Tailpiece" - issued by brainless Swansea electronics, not to mention countless historic records in the form of log-books for unlicensed vehicles which we understand are in danger of being shredded, and thus lost for ever. Now comes the Government's idea of putting all road-vehicle taxation on petrol and diesel-oil, without reducing one iota the staffing at the DVLC; scrapping the licence-disc will almost certainly penalise financially business-users, goods-transport, and high-performance cars of the kind Britain exports. If we are wrong about this you will be able to knock us down with a puff from a moped's exhaust ... Nor do we much like the suggestion that this change is "to be introduced gradually".
All of which suggests that motor vehicle users and drivers will have to watch their interests as strongly as ever, even though the private-car remains the most convenient form of door-to-door transport and, let it be whispered, some of us actually enjoy driving. Because Governments will go on legislating against us, taxing us savagely, blaming us for all types of accidents, and ruining our vehicles by spreading the winter roads with sand and salt. Those mounds of salt you see waiting to be used must make car owners feel quite faint, so it is fortunate that, along with other technical advances, specialist rust-proofing and undersealing has now spread to this country, in the form, for example of the well-known Ziebart system introduced here some six years ago.
By taking advantage of such things, and given reasonable luck, your 1979 motoring can be as enjoyable as it was last year, even in an age, would you credit it, when The Times, once Britain's "Thunderer", has ceased publication (at all events temporarily) and when the names "Brooklands" and "Bass", very regrettably, will soon be synonymous. The motor car is still the number-one prized possession and plaything of an enormously high proportion of the population, many of whom enjoyed racing-cars being allowed to parade round Birmingham before last year's NEC Motor Show that was packed almost to a standstill, and in seeing Andretti's F1 Lotus-Cosworth and other Lotus racing cars running through Norwich to celebrate 12 years' occupation of that area by Lotus Cars Ltd. With sporting motoring so very much in the public eye perhaps, now that the BBC seems to have lost its football viewing top-spot to ITV, perhaps we shall get more motor-racing coverage on the media throughout 1979, for the benefit of those unfortunates who have not been able to plan exciting visits to the actual events? All In all, 1979 need be no worse than 1978. It might even be better, and so once again Motor Sport optimistically wishes its many readers happy motoring, in the months ahead ...
The Pentax Prize
In the idiom of the Society glossies, I got into the Opel Senator and drove 170 miles, mostly through fog, to the Carmelia Restaurant in Syon Park, that pleasant pasture-land close to London's end of the M4, to see Peter Edwards and his wife Blossom win the Pentax prize of a new BMW 316, a new camera outfit, a holiday for two in Bavaria (with a visit to the BMW factory) and £250 spending money. Just everyone was there my dears. I soon met Anton Hillie, the BMW Director in this country, who chatted about cameras and motor cars and Raymond Playfoot, his PRO. Tom Walkinshaw who drove the Pentax-sponsored black BMW 53oi on which this photographic contest centred was there, also the 12 runners-up in this, who were each to receive Pentax K1000 cameras. One of the Motor Sport photographers happened to come, too, and I felt he would have been justified in bursting into tears at the thought of someone getting a nice new BMW for just one colour photograph, when things like this pass through his hands in hundreds every week . . .
What competitors had to do was to take a picture of the Pentax-BMW in any of its races. The winner bought £600 of Pentax equipment to do this and his winning entry, out of 369, was taken with a Pentax MX at Lodge corner at Oulton Park last October, using a 400 aim. Vivitar lens at f8 at 1/250 on Fujicolor 100 ASA slide film, Fuji processed. The picture that appealed to me was of the BMW jumping a kerb at Donington, taken by Ian Simpson with a Pentax SPF with 400 min. Soligor lens at f8 and 1/500 on Kodak Tri-X film developed in 1:1 D76. After the presentation we all sat down to a good buffet lunch my dears and then I had to hurry off in my Rover 3500. - W. B.
A Rare Lancia
At the VSCC Driving Tests at Enstone last month, reported elsewhere, J. Reeve gained an award with his two-seater Lancia Lambda. Apparently this is one of only two such Lambdas in this country, the other was illustrated in Motor Sport last month. - W. B.
The Things They say . . .
"Goodall was driving his usual registration plate, GC4 ..." From "Morgan Sweeps The Board", by Dr. J. D. Alderson and D. M. Rushton (Gentry Books Ltd., £9.95) and one of the pieces of humour which makes this a book that will make many people yearn for a Morgan 3-wheeler, especially as these which are approved and are of appropriate age are now eligible for VSCC events, and two-speed twin-cylinder versions tor that Club's Light Car Section. I rate this chronological study of the Morgan 3-wheeler in competition, from 1910 to 1951, as my Motoring Book of the Year, 1978. Watch for the review next month.
Car of the Year: Chrysler second win
Chrysler's front-wheel-drive hatchback, the Horizon, has won this year's Car of the Year trophy. It is the third time in the last live years that the French (Citroen's CX and Chrysler's Alpine were the others) have won. The 53-member international jury gave the Horizon 251 points over the Fiat Ritmo's 239 and the Audi 80's 181. The highest placed British car was the Rover 2600 in a lowly 12th place with just four points.
The competition is sponsored by the Telegraph Sunday Magazine from Britain. The last time a British car won was in 1977 (Rover 3500).
Vandervell go Formula Three
It is nice to see the GKN-owned Vandervell concern directly involved in motor racing once more. Their products have always been extremely popular for competition use, and now we are to have a 1979 Vandervell British Formula Three Championship.
It will be the only British F3 series next year and is likely to attract a great deal of foreign talent. Most will use British chassis from March, Chevron or Ralt. Engines will be largely Novamotor-modified Toyota twin-cams, but the Unipart two-car team of Marches with Dolomite Sprint engines will again be providing opposition.
This will be the series for spotting the talent hound for Grand Prix racing.
Back in court
Earls Court will again be the venue for the bienniel Motorfair organised under the chairmanship of Tommy Sopwith.
As the Motor Show proper is not scheduled to be staged again until 1980 in Birmingham, this London show alternate makes economic sense. The dates will be October 17-27th.