Letters from Readers, January 1981
N.B. – Opintons expressed are those of our Correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them. – Ed.
A Market for Leyland
With a Saudi/Leyland sponsored Formula 1 car and driver winning the World Championship, what better time for British Leyland to begin a concerted sales drive here in Saudi Arabia?
To be honest, I am bored with the sight of uncounted numbers of mediocre Japanese car, hordes of Mercedes and a profusion of cloned Chevrolets.
To judge by the admiration for the ubiquitous Range Rover (which, incidentally, retails for about the same price as a Chevrolet Blazer 4w.d. — no contest!) and the nostalgic reactions of many a Saudi as he recalls his Austin Cambridge, the time must be ripe for an invasion of British cars where the market is increased by a substantial population of expatriate labour who also need mobility. Not only would BL beat other major European manufacturers to the punch (excepting Mercedes and possibly BMW) but it’s worth noting that Ford is black-listed and consequently not seen here!
500s and the VSCC
As a supporter of both, it is worth commenting that the VSCC moves with caution when it comes to matters of vehicle eligibility, but it does eventually move. It is therefore not unreasonable to expect that rear engined historic single-seaters will remain excluded from VSCC events for some time to come.
The reasons are well known, and repeated by those who must consider that our motor sporting history ended in 1939. By a fault of birth, I was not brought up with Brooklands or Donington, but with noisy 500s and Brands Hatch. They are MY nostalgia, and I see them with as much significance as others view the Bentley or Alfa Romeo.
No one associated with them, as a driver or spectator, can honestly say that 500s are dull. It is not the cars, but the total combination of cars, drivers, and their degree of competitiveness, that create exciting racing. I contend that a few 500s and other rear engined single seaters would create new excitement on VSCC grids, in the Austin 7 versus Bentley tradition.
Gone are the days when vast entries of 500s would appear, as if by magic, to terrorise the vivid imaginations of the VSCC committee. There are few left, and they do deserve recognition by one of the most significant car clubs in the world. They will survive despite the VSCC, but why should they have to?
Credit to Mikkola
In the November issue of Motor Sport there is a report on the World Championship Rally, the San Remo. At the end of the review you state that Walter Rohrl’s fourth World Championship win of the year equals the record set up by Ove Andersson in 1971. This fact is not in doubt, but did not Hannu Mikkola achieve the same feat in 1979? He won the Portuguese Rally, the Rally of New Zealand, the RAC Rally and the last round in the series, the Bandama Rally. This in no way detracts from Walter Rohrl’s fine performances in 1980 on his way to the World Championship crown.
[Mr. Strazza is absolutely right. Mikkola did have four outright wins in 1979, plus a second, but was narrowly beaten in the World Championship by team-mate Waldegard who scored two wins, four seconds and a third. —Ed.]
The Swing Axle IFS Debate continues
If you are not tired of the correspondence about swing-axle IFS, may one of your oldest readers, who has owned during his lifetime three Ford 10’s converted to LMB suspension, comment?
The first of these was a 1936 tourer and the others Ford Populars of the 1950s. I think Mr. Hume misses the point that Leslie Ballamy’s ingenious and effective conversion was designed in the early Thirties to provide a cheap and easily fitted IFS system to contemporary Austin 7’s and Ford 8’s and 10’s, which were suspended on beam axles with a transverse spring and shackles. It improved handling dramatically at low cost. The non-independent alternative was to flatten the spring and bind it tightly so the shackles were splayed outwards at some 50 degrees from the vertical to prevent lateral movement of the axle relative to the chassis. Effectively there was little “springing” left. It is worth noting that Mr. Witney Straight, no mean Grand Prix driver at the time, had his Lincoln converted by Mr. Ballamy.
Ten years later, Allards and Lotus were offering complete cars and, presumably, their designers were not restricted by the need to make their IFS interchangeable with the standard units. They could, for example, have used McPherson struts.
As regards “gyroscopic precessional torque”, I experienced little trouble with any of the three cars, but they were none of them capable of more than 80 m.p.h. On the other hand the 1937 Lancia Aprilia I owned from 1950/53 suffered a typical Lancia steering wobble, associated with their vertical pillar suspension and constant length tie rod.
The two LMB Ford Populars that I owned in the 1950’s were great fun to drive despite the limitations of a 1,192 c.c. side valve engine and 3-speed gearbox. One could drive up to 400 miles in a day with little fatigue and my wife and I drove to Austria and back one holiday. In retrospect it seems their handling and road-holding were not greatly inferior to those of a modern Fiesta in spite of the narrow track and Early Perpendicular shape. Certainly they were not “mere mudplugging buggies”.
Other readers may recall with delight watching Leslie Ballamy’s “Blown Popsie” racing at incredible speeds against far more recently designed sports cars of low build.
Radnor and Other Roads
Reading your latest pieces in November 1980 Motor Sport, with comments about local territory, such as the prolonged closure of the Toddington end of the Stow-Tewkesbury road and the mud-bespattered highways running through the Herefordshire hopyard — d’you know, that M50 turn-off for Ledbury has never struck me as being difficult (depends on your road speed); after all, it is a country bye-road and not a race track.
Currently I’m driving a 1,256 c.c. Vauxhall Viva. And, as a Vauxhallite, I enjoyed your piece on Bill Hancock. Especially since, some years ago, just before joining the Sunbeam Register, I ran a very pleasing Lanchester 18 with a marvellous 4–door convertible Wingham cabriolet body by Martin Walter, and sold it, through Motor Sport, to a doctor in Ireland Non-detachable cylinder head and 54 thou. exhaust-valve clearance! Did you know that the SU drew its air through the valve cover long before closed-circuit engine ventilation had been generally thought of?
Just about the best mechanical donkey I ever had for the Marches country was a 180,000-miles Minor 1000 convertible which tackled all the Forestry tracks between Old and New Radnor; even the ones so steep that the twin tarmac strips vanished below the bonnet! Going down that is. I never climbed up a 1 in 3 with it. Nor tried to. But that open Minor was fun, and is now in Illinois, sold to an American lawyer (on a honeymoon visit to Britain) through Motor Sport. On a previous bachelor vacation he’d taken home a Bentley, and now wanted “a little British car” as a bridal present. Straight off the plane his wife leapt into the Minor and drove off through the Hertfordshire lanes at 40. Turned out she was a farm-raised girl, used to Jeeps and tractors.
My family has been taking, and I’ve been reading, Motor Sport since the Brooklands Gazette days. Where once we had 20 pages of small private ads, now all the cars seem to be in the hands of the dealers. Only two pages of classifieds!
F. K. Peachey
“Cars in Books”
I notice in the November issue of my favourite periodical that under the heading “Cars in Books” you commented you did not recall a toll on the Oxford-Witney road. Permit me to confirm that a fee was demanded to cross a river a short distance from Oxford. I paid to cross on my journeys to Gloucester at weekends in 1927/8. The bridge was freed shortly after the opening of the Northern by-pass.
It was on one of these journeys that the front cylinder of my EW Douglas blew away due to failure of the flange, but a small piece of wood inserted between the pot and front down tube enabled me to complete the trip and the bodge held until Mr. Gibb, the Gloucester agent, went to Kingswood for a new cylinder. Mr. Gibb was the AJS agent too and my hope was to have a 498cc OHV model, a hope not materialised as I went on to a BSA.
As you will have noted from the opening paragraph I’ve been motoring some time, many years in a Daimler Century which I still use today. It has its original transmission but a replacement engine and after over 200,000 miles just nicely run in.
Many thanks for the entertainment of Motor Sport and with best wishes for 1981.
H. Fletcher Gee