“YOU’RE not going off without putting some water in ?” The voice was that of a driver who had just brought the Press Sunbeam-Talbot down from Coventry to Devonshire House for me to take away and do with what I would. “It’s a hot day,” he added by way of explanation, as I waved aside the idea of then and there raising the shapely bonnet and seeking water can and taps in Stratton Street.
Every so often the fortunate Pressman receives this summons to Devonshire House to road-test one of the Routes Group products. On this particular occasion, and the first in my considerable experience of answering this pleasant call, no car was awaiting me at the time appointed. It transpired that a driver had been taken ill as he was leaving the factory and another had had to be found to replace him. This was really a blessing in disguise, for some very charming and fashionable young ladies occupy the vast block known as Devonshire House . . . Outside in Piccadilly the London police dislike stationary cars, so formerly I have been whisked in, given a key, a catalogue and an insurance certificate, and briskly escorted out again to the waiting vehicle. But on this occasion . . . which also explains why the delivery man had hurried and now had this pang of remorse about the water level.
As a matter of fact there are other matters of interest inside this impeccably appointed and staffed West End distribution centre of the Rootes Group. Motor owners from all over the world call there to enquire about exports, inspect the newest models and order spare parts. These sleek male and female automatons who calmly comply with almost any request in any language are Rootes’ link with their hundreds of thousands of customers in the immense export business they have established for the advancement of British Trade.
To go outside again to the Sunbeam-Talbot 90 Mk II-the 80 is no longer listed—two impressions arose immediately. First, that this is one of the most handsome of the modern British cars. Second, that even though the unfortunate malaise of the unhappy man in Ryton-on-Dunsmore had made me later in leaving the thrumming Metropolis than I had intended, this really didn’t matter very much, for few cars are more adept at restoring the ruffled to their ease than the Sunbeam-Talbot.
So far as appearance is concerned, I do not know who should take the credit for the shapely, well-blended lines of this car and I do not suppose Rootes would pin it down to one man for me. But certainly I and lots of my friends like those lines, and particularly in the metallic blue finish of this Sports Saloon I was to try. On the subject of easy motoring, various factors in combination provide for this in the case of the S.T. 90 (which abbreviation plants me right back in my schooldays, when I was something of it radio fan and knew most of the “S-T” circuits by heart !). There is a willing pick-up provided by the big, long-stroke 81 by 110 mm., 2,267-c.c. push, rod o.h.v. four-cylinder engine, which pours out 70 b.h.p. at 4.000 r.p.m. There are the good visibility, spoilt a little, however, by the big, low-set mirror, and the very sensibly-placed controls. There is the quite nice steering-column gear-shift for changing cogs in the very quiet gearbox. The Lockheed 2LS brakes work well by little more than resting a foot on the pedal. The coil-spring i.f.s. and half-elliptic back springs, Armstrong damped, make the ride inordinately comfortable. The seats are lushly upholstered and there is an elaborate heater to pour warm air over you, if you are as foolish as I was and visit a South Coast resort, in June ; also an excellent H.M.V. radio (usual disclaimer here—not even a free sample set!) to further soothe you as you go your brisk, smooth unobtrusive way. These cars always have functioned smoothly in engine and controls, to a greater or lesser degree from the first s.v. S.T. Ten I tried in 1936, onwards.
I was reminded that the 90 is high geared (13.9, 9.63, 5.81 and 3.9 to 1 with 5.50 by 16 tyres) by the engine asking for the lower gears rather frequently and of its 6.45 to 1 compression ratio by a fair amount of “pinking.” But it did not “run-on,” it started reasonably promptly and proved a very “ready,” albeit silky-smooth, unit and quite decently economical withall. I have said that I didn’t cheek the water level in Stratton Street ; when I did, more conveniently, many hours later, not a drop was needed, nor oil.
Everywhere it was safe for it to do so the speedometer indicated 70 m.p.h., and I enjoyed driving the S.T. at this speed. The competition driver might prefer stiffer suspension and I daresay George Hartwell and people like him know how to devise it. But for the ordinary sporting driver in a moderate but not a Stirling Moss hurry. I’d say the suspension rate and steering ratio are just about right.
I have just returned the car on the Monday morning after a hard week-end in it. I cannot recall any snags except a judder on the gear-shift lever in third gear location and a few body rattles. I would rate the latest Sunbeam-Talbot Sports Saloon (basic price £820) as an excellent all-rounder.