Letters from Readers, July 1949

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53

The Vanguard Road Test.

Sir,
I have just obtained my first copy of Motor Sport and have placed a regular order. Is it possible to obtain a complete set of back numbers? I like your approach to the subject, and appreciated the frankness of the two road-tests published.

I am, Yours, etc.,
G. T. Hooker.
Hainault, Essex.

Sir,
As a Vanguard owner myself, I was particularly interested in your test report on this apparently controversial motor car. For the fact that to some extent you damn the car with faint praise, I feel that the distributors have only themselves to blame, for they appear to have been singularly careless in issuing you with an ill-used hack which had not been given the benefit of ordinary routine maintenance. I can well imagine a neglected Vanguard doing all the things you criticise, but I must say that mine does none of them and that I entirely agree with Laurence Pomeroy’s valuation of the car, which you quote.

The thing which does not seem to have impressed you as much as it continues, every day, to impress me, is the remarkable ability of the car — due to the excellent torque of the engine at moderate r.p.m. — to forge along between 60 and 75 m.p.h. almost regardless of gradient or surface. The three-quarter-mile hill to my house, for example, is taken at 60 m.p.h. in top gear, whereas my previous post-war car, with a maximum speed very little below that of the Vanguard, would only take it at 40 m.p.h. in third.

We can at any rate agree in being thankful for a modern cheap car with sufficient personality to be controversial.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Peter Clark.
Hudnall Common, Herts.
[We are interested to have Mr. Clark’s opinion of the Vanguard but must emphasise that we do not accept cars for test from distributors and we do not think that Standard’s would submit an “ill-used hack” to Motor Sport, whose readers are interested mainly in performance. And isn’t Mr. Clark’s guarantee in jeopardy when he forges along between 60 and 75 m.p.h., inasmuch as the manufacturers state in the Vanguard handbook that speed shall not continually exceed 65 m.p.h. — Ed]

Sir,
May I and other readers of Motor Sport be vouchsafed further information as to what conditions apply when you time a road-test car over a flying quarter mile? In the case of the Standard Vanguard, you quote a speed of 69.2 m.p.h. for this timed distance. On the same page, however, you refer to an average of 71.3 m.p.h., for a 10.7 mile road journey which is against the prevailing wind direction, has more uphill than downhill going, and includes five built-up areas with a total of 3 1/4 miles subject to 30 m.p.h. speed limit.

It is extremely interesting to be able to read test reports from a sporting angle, but your unexplained and seemingly contradictory speed figures merely add to confusion which contradictory reports on the Vanguard have produced in many minds.

I am, Yours, etc.,
J. L.
Farnborough, Hants.

P.S. — Our gestapo department works out that, after spending at least 6 1/2 minutes on 3 1/4 speed-limit miles, you averaged nearly 180 m.p.h. on the de-restricted sections of the route. Nice going, Bill!

P.P.S. — My nasty suspicious mind even checked up on your quoted distance — which you quote correctly: had the Guards-Van actually got accurate instruments?

[We appreciate the concern of the Technical Editor of the Motor to glean accurate information about the performance of the Standard Vanguard. We should, perhaps, have explained that we now employ a run-in of 1 1/2 miles to the quarter-mile of road over which we time road-test cars and that, we feel sure Mr. Lowrey will agree, is about as great a distance as any motorist on British roads finds available for persuading a car to its maximum speed.

While we would like to be able to take credit for averaging 180 m.p.h. on the road in a Vanguard, it must have been obvious to the majority of our readers that 9 min. for 10.7 miles was an error not spotted when revising proofs; the actual time was just under 14 min., an average of 46 m.p.h. — Ed.]

The “Over-Rated” H.R.G.

Sir,
Being an ex-M.G. owner who counts himself lucky enough to have found the odd £500, and so to have become the driver of a 1 1/2-litre H.R.G., I was greatly intrigued with Mr. Butts’ letter in the June issue.

Mr. Butts compares the H.R.G. unfavourably with M.G.s, more especially the L, K and TC types, but if the former models were doing their genuine timed 80 m.p.h. 15 years ago, then the latter car is slipping sadly: one of your contemporary journals recorded the mean timed speed of the “TC” as only 73.2 m.p.h. Tut, tut, Mr. Butts, 15 years younger, 150 more c.c., and 7.9 m.p.h. slower! Seriously, I do not think that Mr. Butts can ever have driven an H.R.G., or else he would not have chosen as points of comparison those very features in which, in my opinion, these cars are far superior to any push-rod M.G., viz, steering and road-holding: a comparison between braking capabilities would have provided stronger support for his argument. My “TA” M.G., thanks to some skilled attention by Messrs. Laystalls, could do a timed 83 m.p.h., but it always felt very skittish about the front end at this speed, and, at the risk of starting further hares, I would state that my impression of the three “TC”M.G.s which I have driven is that there is no improvement in the road-holding, that the cars are “fussier,” owing to the lowered axle ratio, and definitely slower then the pre-war models.

I have not yet timed my own H.R.G., but at an indicated 90 m.p.h., on a speedometer which I know is only one per cent. inaccurate at 70 m.p.h., the car is far more stable than any push-rod M.G. I have ever driven, at an indicated 75 m.p.h.

The fastest timed runs put up by the two cars, in each case curiously enough with the hood and side-screens erect, was identical, viz., 78.9 m.p.h. The mean speed of the “TC” M.G., with the screen flat, was, however, 73.2 m.p.h., and that of the H.R.G., with the screen erect, 78.4 m.p.h. The assumption would therefore appear to be that the H.R.G. will get around the 80 m.p.h. mark fairly consistently, but that the M.G. requires favourable conditions.

As far as acceleration is concerned, the H.R.G. is again superior, as shown below:

Even so, taking into consideration the H.R.G.’s extra c.c., it might not be thought that the extra price is justified, until one realises that the H.R.G. is hand-built, and that the M.G. is semi mass-produced.

The former type of production pays dividends in longevity. To take one example only; the top gear of the “TC” M.G. is 5.12 to 1, whilst the H.R.G. pulls a 4 to 1 top gear: for both these cars a sustained 4,000 r.p.m. cruising speed could be used, but at this r.p.m. the “TC” M.G. would be doing 62 m.p.h. to the H.R.G.’s 80 m.p.h. The relative rate of engine wear needs no emphasis.

A still better example of the sturdy way in which H.R.G.s are built was unwittingly, and unwillingly, provided by Mr. Jack Richmond in last year’s International Alpine Trial: during the first night’s run, Mr. Richmond dropped 12 feet over the top of the banked corner on Mt. Ventoux, and, after being righted by the enthusiastic French onlookers, continued with such good effect that he was not only a member of the winning team, but also won the Special Test, 1,500-c.c. class at Nice.

Indeed, it is if the prospective purchaser is considering any form of competition work that the worth of the extra 1500 is apparent. The H.R.G. Engineering Co., Ltd., claim, with some justice that their cars, in standard trim, can be run in Trials, Sprints or Rallies with more than reasonable hope of success. To continue with an example already used, I would again refer to Mr. Jack Richmond. His car is an absolutely standard 1 1/2-litre two-seater, using standard gear ratios, which is also used as a “hack” in the course of his business. To my knowledge, he operated in the 1948 Alpine Trial, with the success previously mentioned, within three weeks of his return from France, he swept the board in. the Redcar Sand Races, running the car stripped, as this event was for racing cars, but otherwise standard, and attaining an indicated 96 m.p.h. along the straight. In the recent M.C.C. “Land’s End” Trial he won a Premier Award. Admittedly a lot of other people did as well, but not many of them were driving “TC” M.G.s in standard trim!

I think it would be fair to say that in no 1,500-c.c. class sprint does the “TC” M.G., whether modified or not, in any way come up to the almost monotonous regularity with which the H.R.G.s are “in the money.” I refer, of course, to the unblown section, the blown class being rather the undisputed prerogative of Mr. Leonard’s astounding Magnette. As far as foreign competition is concerned, two examples will suffice, the 1948 Alpine Trial, already referred to, and the 12-Hour Race at Montlhèry. In the former, five out of six H.R.G.s finished, winning a Coupe des Alpes, both Team awards, the open Team Prize for the first time ever by British cars, the 1,100-c.c. class and numerous other awards, a percentage of awards and finishers surpassed by no other make, English or foreign. In the latter, out of the five finishers in the British Team four were H.R.G.s. These successes were won by private owners, in many cases novices, driving their own cars.

Thus, if Mr. Butts wants an extremely pleasant motor car for fast touring and general driving, he would not be justified in paying the extra £500 for an H.R.G., even on the question of longevity; he could probably buy another “TC” after the first had worn out, through being cruised at a constant 80 m.p.h., for his original outlay on an H.R.G.

If, however, he is competition-minded, the H.R.G. will be worth the extra cash.

I am, Yours, etc.,
J Gott.
St. Albans, Herts.

Sir,
As a well pleased owner-of a-1,100-c.c. H.R.G., who also is often permitted to ‘drive his “Better half’s” 1949 “TC” M.G., may I pass an opinion in reply to the first part of paragraph four of Mr. Butts’ letter in the June issue of Motor Sport, please?

The M.G. is indeed a fine car, but even with 1,250 c.c. as against the 1,047 c.c. of my H.R.G., it certainly does not match the general performance of the H.R.G., and believe me, Mr. Butts, I can assure you that the steering and road-holding of my H.R.G. are most definitely vastly superior in all respects — and the H.R.G. is used for social and business transport as well as competitions.

Shall we say then, that both cars are really excellent, but belong to different classes, or types.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Hugh Clapp.
Bowden, Cheshire.

Power/Weight
Sir,
I was very interested in your “Rumblings” in the May issue about power/weight ratios, etc., and as a result weighed my 1936 Austin ” Nippy ” at two public weighing machines, which, surprisingly enough, agreed to within a matter of pounds.

The weight was found to be 9 1/2 cwt. exactly, and to be quite definite, this included oil, water, hood, tonneau, jack, spare wheel, wheelbrace, and standard all-steel body, wings, lamps, etc. The weight did not include sidescreens, petrol, or my personal tool-kit.

As you know, there are small differences in the main dimensions of Sevens, so will add that mine are 6 ft. 9 in. wheelbase and 8 ft. 54 in. track. When you add to the above, the fact that a number of “Nippy” models have aluminium bodies, and that they can be made to steer perfectly, and that Girling brakes can be easily fitted, it would seem rather remarkable that nobody has fitted a Ford Ten engine to a normal “Nippy.”(?)

The only reason that I can suggest is that the normal engine has a four-speed box and knocks out 21 to 23 b.h.p. (“Speedy” engine) on 5.8-to-1 compression-ratio, but can be made to give more urge if required. I am in the process of extracting more horses, but if not satisfied will definitely fit a Ford Ten engine (with 4.889 back-end and 4.00 by 19’s, giving 5,000 r.p.m. = 80 m.p.h., by simple calculation). The result should be interesting, as the majority of Ford-Austin specials are trials-geared, which is not the ticket for my 4 1/2-in, ground clearance!

I am, Yours, etc.,
F. B. TAaylor
Westcott, Bucks.

Sir,
I appreciated very much your article on the Ford Specials and the probable use of air-cooled engines in more recent specials.

I should be very grateful indeed if someone with the necessary gear could assist me in the mating of any suitable four-speed gearbox to my Ford Ten-engined special.

With so many Ford specials on the roads surely there should be a potential market for some enterprising firm to manufacture (a) four-speed gearboxes (b) higher backaxle ratios.

And also for some real racing round Dundrod this year! !

I am, Yours, etc.,
Reg. B. Turner.
Bellaghy,
Co. Derry.

Sir,
Motor car races are supposed to provide incentive to mechanical progress as well as thrills and although the severest testing of car and driver certainly does take place, fuel consumption is of practically no importance at present. Since an engine is a contrivance for turning heat energy into as much mechanical energy as possible, I think that an efficient conversion should also be a racing criterion and I would therefore like to suggest a type of race that might become of far more value in urging progress.

It is that each car be allotted a measured volume of its own special fuel in the pits — a quantity decided officially for given engine classes giving, for example, an average consumption of 10 m.p.g. for the race.

After checking by officials the car would run the race as fast as possible for the given overall consumption. Too slow and the race is lost in seconds, too fast and the engine cuts before the distance is run. Subsequent developments in driving technique, engine design, fuel chemistry and cockpit instrumentation would be extremely interesting and applicable to the entire motoring world.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Forbes E. Perry.
Brent, N.W.11.
[This system of handicapping was used for the French Grand Prix on occasions, prior to 1914. — Ed.]

A New Sports Car

Sir,
I would be grateful if you could possibly find space in your next issue for the following corrections:

(a) Continental Car, Ltd.’s, address is Portsmouth Road, Send, Surrey.

(b) The car is not intended as a serious competitor for Formula H racing in its present form, and there is, therefore, no question of boring out the engine to 2 litres on this particular model.

(c) The first one was delivered to Kenneth McAlpine in October last year and ran at Poole Speed Trials on the 16th of that month. This was in the nature of a test run and, in fact, the car, to a certain extent, is a prototype differing in some aspects from the later models. Mr. Kenneth McAlpine is also having the second car, which might be described as the first production car which we hope to deliver to him this month and the one entered in the Manx Cup Race was actually Major Gale’s own car which is also being delivered to him this month, but unfortunately was not ready for the race due to the terrific coachbuilding delays which we have suffered on all these cars.

I am, Yours, etc.,
R. E. Clarke.
[The information given to us about the Connaught was supplied directly by members of the staff of Continental Car. Ltd. – Ed.]

Those Bread and Butter Continentals

Sir,
May I draw Mr. de Y. Bateson.’s attention to the road test of the Standard Vanguard (June Motor Sport). It will be observed that to cover the s.s. 1/4-mile 25 seconds are required. The difference of 1 1/2 seconds therefore is the same as the difference between the Standard Eight and the Renault. Whilst conceding one litre, it could, therefore, be said that the Standard Eight is but slightly inferior in performance to the Vanguard, which would be absurd. It could also be said that the performance variant between Standard Eight and Vanguard is the same as that between Standard Eight and 4CV Renault. It is obvious that neither of these comparisons amount to much.

A fairer and more generally accepted comparison lies in acceleration, especially as we in this country know it. That is in the ability to proceed from the traffic lights to the speed limit, 0-30 m.p.h., and then onward to our cruising speed of say 45-50 m.p.h., i.e., 30-50 m.p.h., this latter being particularly important having regard to speed limits and the baulking, which is a feature of our trunk roads, by commercial traffic. To regain 50 m.p.h. and also to maintain speed on gradients without resort to astronomical r.p.m., must have some bearing on average speed propensities. A few figures will illustrate my point:

The difference in price between the Standard and the Renault is not marked, but I submit that the interior finish of the former is on a rather more substantial and pleasing scale

On the basis of the Lancia “Aprilia” at £825 (in Belgium) it is not unreasonable to assume that the Lancia “Ardea” would cost more than double the price of the Standard Eight, and it is doubtful whether the maximum speed would be greatly in excess of 60 m.p.h. In common with many continental cars the “Ardea” offers 8-h.p. accommodation with a R.A.C. rating of 10.5 h.p. (This is not such an unfair criticism as the piston-speed-taxation-sponsored arguments.)

For price and h.p. therefore, it is also fair to compare the “Ardea” with the T-series M.G.

An eminent contemporary writer has seen fit to consider that the Morris Minor, amongst others, might give the “Ardea” a good run, and that against the stop watch it is unlikely to shine. It cruises at 50 m.p.h., and whilst acceleration figures of the Morris Minor were not published, it is known that these figures are inferior to those of the Standard Eight.

If the continental conception of motoring lies in the use of an abnormally high final drive with a subsequent reduction in acceleration allied to the necessity to constantly resort to the indirect gears to maintain speed, then any problematical advantage which may be gained in piston speed via a short stroke, is ruled out by the additional work which the engine is called upon to perform.

In this respect it is indeed interesting to learn that the 1949 “Ardea” has an overdrive and that the normal top gear is now in line with British contemporaries (Ford, etc.), in fact the “Ardea” ratios very closely approximate to those of the Standard Eight. It would appear that as yet a 1-litre engine is incapable of producing sufficient power to pull an under 5 to 1 final drive with success, irrespective of engine design.

Contributory factors which have caused the continental car to become enthusiast-owned, among others, are poor accommodation for taxable rate; constant playing with the gear lever; noisy engine; expensive overhauls and replacements; spares difficulties and the poor standard of interior finish. Roadholding has little to do with it.

In actual fact, is the ability to corner with one wheel in the gutter a virtue? By judicious use of the road most corners can be very considerably straightened. Who can say that they have never crossed the white line? Most of us keep clear of the gutters, for not only are we taught to leave a three to four foot “safety” space from the road’s edge but usually the gutter is either full of half-bricks or glass. Is cornering then, so very important?

It may well be argued that all that is really required of a car is the ability to steer without wander and brake without swerve. The cornering ability is much in the hands of the driver, anyway. From the road test extracts it is significant that i.f.s. figures prominently. Is this the secret of the continental? Reliability hardly enters into the picture, and more correctly would it be termed as miles-before-overhaul.

Without wishing to resurrect the piston-speed pundits, for the arithmetically-minded the performance of the A70, Healey, Bristol, Lago-Talbot and Jaguar may be of interest.

Finally, as to the accusation of incorrect data re the Standard Eight. The Editor is in possession of the figures which refer to the 1939 model and I leave him to decide.

It is also amusing to consider three and four-speed boxes, and 0-50 m.p.h. shows that the latter are slower as a rule, apart from adding weight and cost and, more important, increasing driving effort by 25 per cent., and clutch wear with it. Wherein lies the advantage?

I am, Yours, etc.,
A. E. Frost.
Sheffield, 2.

Motor-Cycle Racing — Mr. Bayley Replies

Sir,
Your correspondent, Mr. Maddox, agrees with me that the 1989 motorcycle racing season was unfortunate for us in regard to wins in the main events, but argues that the overall record is not one of “complete obliteration” as I described it. Well, I for one assess performance and prestige by the results of the main events, and our showing in them was miserable in the extreme, due in great measure to our adherence to obsolete, out-paced design; 1939 was Indeed a grim year for British prestige, not only in the Isle of Man, but all over the world.

Now, why is my description of the Norton, or, for that matter, of most British racing motor-cycles, criticised as being ridiculous? With the exception of two pukka blown jobs, the A.J.S. four and the twin Velocette, we relied on the obsolete, unblown single, which we kidded ourselves we had developed to the nth degree, so much so that below 4,500 r.p.m. the poke fell off so badly that it wouldn’t have pulled the skin off a rice pudding. Apart from the makers of those two machines, the remainder believed twins to be something only connected with midwifery, while the supercharger could only be a quadruped owned by a Horse Guards type. These so-called designers are no more enlightened to-day, displaying the same chronic inertia in ideas on original design, although one or two have added a second pot to the crankcase. The blower is still away above them, so, taking the line of least resistance, it is barred. And knowing the enterprising and enthusiastic Italians do all their development on alcohol, “Pool” is the rule over here, although the petrol-barons, who dictated racing policy 20 years ago when the future of the Isle of Man races was in the balance, probably insist on the use of this filth. The decline in British supremacy commenced with this fuel dictatorship.

I assure Mr. Maddox that I am aware that a Norton ridden by the finest of all road-racing motor-cyclists holds the T.T. lap record, but may I suggest that he has forgotten, possibly conveniently, that a blown B.M.W. twin has won the Senior T.T. at a higher speed than any British machine, piloted by a man with comparatively limited experience of that circuit. In any case, there is little propaganda value in both feats, the Isle of Man races are now regarded by the Continentals as the least important on the international calendar.

To-day we mainly rely on our 1919 “single” with 1949 minor modifications; the also-rans of pre-war years are still the cat’s whiskers in the eyes of the poor mutts over here. But one job stands out above this mass of antiquity. The new A.J.S. in the hands of R. L. Graham may restore some of our lost prestige. It appears to be “au point” since Matt Wright joined that go-ahead concern. We must temper our optimism, however, with a modicum of caution; the four-cylinder Gilera will soon perform like its pre-war parent.

And, Mr. Maddox, when were export figures accepted as proof of racing upremacy?

I am, Yours, etc.,
Joseph Bayley
East Mailing, Kent.

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