LETTERS from READERS, July 1953
LETTERS from READERS N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our correspondents and “Motor Sport ” does not necessarily associate itself with them—Ed.
CITROEN FANS FORWARD! Sir, I am writing this letter with the intention of starting some correspondence in MOTOR SPORT about the Citroen Light Fifteen. Thought a new Citroen in January, 1952, and the speedometer now
shows 23,000 miles ; everywhere I go I hear unstinted praise of this model yet I myself am rather disappointed considering the cost price of £1,067. The car certainly holds the road and corners extremely well yet I can’t think of any other quality which it has that appeals particularly unless it be the reported hard-wearing quality of these cars which as yet I have not had time to estimate. I have spent L41 on the car in the last twelve months. Most of it,
I admit, was due to faulty servicing; however, one of the universals was found to be rusted solid and even though they have now been packed with grease they are as open to the elements as ever and in time the same thing may happen again.
On the whole I do not consider the car anything like as good a proposition as an Austin 470 which I frequently drive. Over 20 miles of traffic-free road the Austin would leave the Citroen miles behind. The starting of the Citroe:n is uncertain, although the engine is
kept in trim by an excellent man who used to be a foreman at a Citroen service station. Maximum speed is about 75 m.p.h. ; acceleration is ” non-existent ” ; the gear-change is really atrocious and to make a silent change from 2nd to 1st really demands skill unless the car is moving at a walking pace ; there seems to be no margin for error whatsoever. Should one change down from top to 2nd at about 50 m.p.h. the resultant noise from the front end is similar to that made by a maladjusted motor lawn-mower, flat out! I understand that tyres last no time at all even though I am still
using the originals—however I do not drive hard and am very particular about pressures. Whenever 1 spot a parked Citroen I examine the tyres and usually find that two at least show signs of severe “scrubbing.” I think that this is due to the fact that very few people know how to adjust the suspension.
Perhaps some of your technical readers might be tempted into print and also I hope that one, at least, of the racing drivers who own a Citroen will offer his comments on driving performance with a frontwheel-drive car. I am, Yours, etc.,
B. L. MCGRATH.
Manchester. AMERICAN STEERING Sir,
I read the piece concerning the Buick which struck the van on the A 30 road with some interest and amusement.
Obviously the driver of the Buick was a complete moron, but I think it a little hard to blame the car, particularly in such terms as “Cannot be steered within feet.” Actually the Buick steers extremely well, as do the majority of American cars.
I drive a Buick on the Parkway out of New York to Connecticut and I can assure you that a car HAS to steer well on that particular piece of roadway ; especially at this time of the year, when the roads are crowded. The Parkway is divided into four lanes by means of white painted lines, two going north and two going south.
There is a constant stream of traffic going in both directions, on the inner lanes at an approximate speed of 35/40 m.p.h. and on the outer lanes at about 55/60 m.p.h. The cars are bumper to bumper and they proceed in a never-ending stream. There is very little room on these lanes and you have to keep in line. You can imagine the position of the cars in the outside lanes where the speed is almost always around sixty with a solid bank of cars coming the other way, also about the sixty mark. I reiterate again that there is not a lot of room in the lanes so it is clear that good, accurate steering is essential. I certainly would not drive a car which wandered only a few inches in this type of’ traffic and I can think of more than one British car that I would not go near a Parkway with,
Naturally I admire British sports cars and hope to own one myself soon, but I should like to take this opportunity to point out that American cars do behave quite well on occasion, and most certainly have their uses. I am, Yours, etc.,
New York. JOHN GRIFFIN. AMERICAN CARS—BY AN AUSTRALIAN Sir,
Let us realise that England must build cars to a price as distinct from the days when she built them well, and that a car built to a price will need service. I still contend that the English car is generally far better value than the American, but that is quite beside the point.
For over five years I worked for a firm which has the South Australian agency for one of America’s best selling cars, so I can tell you a little about those ears.
In 1935, two out of three turned out to be oil eaters. The manufacturers evolved an alteration to the oiling of the rockers to be done on all cars which gave trouble. This did not cure them. The 1936 models were fitted with two scraper rings per piston. Many of them seized up and had to have one scraper ring removed. These rings were replaced when the car started to eat oil. In 1937 a new engine was fitted with a four-bearing crankshaft, central exhaust offtake and a new water pump. These cars would not stop when switched off, if thoroughly hot. About a dozen cylinder blocks were replaced during the year because the originals cracked. Replacement water pumps were supplied by the manufacturers as the originals were quite hopeless. By the end of the year we were fitting the sixth replacement water pump.
A new steering box was also fitted in 1937 and as it gave no trouble the makers returned to their earlier model steering box in 1938. All standard models had their universal joints made non-demountable, which with an enclosed tail-shaft meant that the back axle assembly had to be removed to get at the clutch or gearbox. The back axles were made in one piece with their flanges, and on the 1935 model the brake drums were on the inside of the flanges. The performance for inspecting the brakes was something like this—drain differential, remove planetary wheel spindle grub screw, remove planetary wheel spindle remove axle spacing block, push axle inward, remove horseshoe keeper from axle, remove axle—simple, wasn’t it ?
The makers of these cars quite honestly state that the cars are sold at negligible profit. and that the true profit is made on the spare parts, which simply means that the cars are sold to create a market for spare parts.
Parts were far from cheap and frequently difficult to get. We often resorted to robbing parts from cars in the showroom. No two models fitted the same back axle, the model of carburetter was changed every year and so were most other parts. This involved a huge outlay for spares.
I could tell you many more faults in the design and manufacture of these cars, but even the short list I have given could have easily killed their market. They did not, of course, because these worries were ours, not the customers, and sales today would still be as good were it not for dollar shortages. I am Yours, etc.,
Adelaide. E. II. FRANCIS. RATTLES Sir,
Perhaps this letter should be headed “A Rattling Good Car ” ! I judge good ears as I find them, and I can assure Mr. P. J. E. Hodgkinson (June issue) that I was not talking ” tripe ” when I stated—referring to my American car—” not a rattle after five years.”
If Mr. Hodgkinson should at any time find himself in Shropshire, let him call on me, and I will take him out on the roughest roads I can find ; he will be made to eat his words.
My car is not the only Yank that does not rattle. For six months I had the use of a Chevrolet (year-old model) on some of the roughest roads to be found in the Union of South Africa, and that car too had no rattle. I know of several others (pre-war models) equally good in this respect.
On the other hand I know of a number of post-war British cars, and not cheap ones, that rattle on even the best English roads.
In case it be thought that I am pro-American in my views, I would refer Mr. Hodgkinson to my letter in the May issue. I am quite unconnected with any branch of the motor industry. I am, Yours, etc., Ludlow. C. A. L. MEREDITH