Letters From Readers, July 1954

British Long-Distance Races Wanted

It seems to me that the main reason for the unwillingness of continental firms to enter the International events run in this country is the sort of racing in which they are expected to participate.

When post-war circuit racing was in its infancy, the events organised at Goodwood by the B.A.R.C. were admirable and extremely attractive because of the varied display of cars on view. As more and more circuits came into existence what the spectators got was Goodwood after Goodwood, weekend after weekend. This was all very well for the spectators, but now that these events are getting international permits, they are, understandably, not at all attractive to continental firms. They have little prestige value, being nothing more than a contest for the cars, and that is why Ferrari, Gordini and company prefer to enter the smaller events on the continent. After all, it does cost quite a lot to bring a team of cars, or even one car, to this country from abroad.

Let’s have fewer of these heats and finals surrounded by a multiplicity of other events for sports and Formula III cars. If the organisers were to have one Grand Prix of 150-200 miles, preceded by a Formula Ill race and/or a sports-car race, and were to call the main event a Grand Prix, then they would sorely have more foreign entrants. As an added inducement the R.A.C., or some association of all the newspapers supporting motor-racing in this country, might consider promoting a national championship based upon the results of five, or at most, six events at various courses in the conntry, at Snetterton, Dundrod, Aintree, Oulton Park and Charterhall, and including the British Grand Prix. If the prize was considerable, as it well might be if the newspapers support it, the result would be more interesting international racing, and nothing could be better for the sport. What about it?

I am, Yours, etc.,
M. R. L. Barton.

May I take this opportunity of deploring the modern tendency towards uniformity in the motor-racing programmes seen on many English circuits. I refer specifically to the present preponderance of 5 and 10-lap races over the endurance sports-car races and the 30 to 50-lap events for racing cars. The short sprint races can be very exciting, but when a whole day is devoted to them the overall result becomes a glorified form of speedway racing. A sprint race may be the most suitable type of race for a vintage car, but surely the organisers of race meetings can trust the reliability of recently produced sports and racing-cars to continue racing for periods of an hour or more.

I sincerely hope that it is not true that the organisers of motor racing in England think only of the revenue obtained from the undiscerning crowds who can only appreciate a race in which all the competitors tear around in a noisy bunch and stop when the lead becomes temporarily settled.

I would like to make an appeal on behalf of those like myself, who cannot always get to circuits such as Goodwood and Silverstone where long-distance races are held, and who would like to see races in which strategy and reliability are as important to winning as is high speed. Let us have less of those races which finish just as soon as they start to become interesting.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Max. E. Barton.
London, W.

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French Small Cars

I read Mr. Banks’ peculiar attack on Citroëns immediately after returning from a 2,000-mile trip through France in a Ford Popular, and I can assure him that I would have exchanged the Ford on the spot for any of the Citroën models which passed us.

I think it is fair to compare the 2c.v. and the Popular as they both represent national ideas of economy cars and they would probably cost about the same to produce under similar conditions.

I personally found the Ford, which had done 4,000 miles, to be almost intolerably uncomfortable over French roads.

The toy-size dampers restrained not at all the violent up-and-down motion, which at times threw the back seat passengers off the seat. I had better not mention the steering and cornering.

Being ridiculously low-geared, the Ford would not better 50 m.p.h. even in the best conditions, and this was barely enough to pass the French commercial traffic.

The suction windscreen wiper did not affect the speedometer, but it did not wipe either when the throttle was open.

But to be fair the car gave not the slightest trouble, though driven flat out for nearly the whole time.

On the other hand, the 2c.v. literally rides better than a Rolls. While eating “frites” in the centre of Amiens I saw a P2 Rolls making very heavy weather of a villainous stretch of cobblestones, while in its wake a 2c.v. just gently undulated.

Incidentally, we saw many Citroën Cloverleafs, some of them-about 30 years old without f.w.b., and they were mostly charging along in great style.

Mr. Banks makes great play with graves. I should imagine Henry Ford would rest very easily after selling 15 million unconventional cars, which everyone laughed at and everyone bought. But he might be amused that the same suspension is still in use.

If Herbert Austin is revolving it is doubtless with the aid of yards of “silent” chains, which will drown the clatter of a Citroën.

As Lord Nuffield made his fortune with a French engine he will not agree with Mr. Banks at all.

My own car? I have a vintage Vauxhall which not even Laurence Pomeroy would call beautiful.

I am, Yours, etc.,
M. R. L. Barton.

In a letter from Mr. S. C. Banks, the following astounding statement occurs: “When has France ever made a small car or motorcycle which wasn’t badly finished, grossly underpowered, and fantastically ugly?”

(1) “Badly finished”: My 1951 Renault 750 has better and better-tailored upholstery than any British car of comparable size. Its chrome is still perfect, which can hardly be said of the many small British cars of equal age which I see around me. In 20,000 miles repairs and replacements have consisted of one handbrake cable, one speedometer cable, one headlamp bulb.

(2) “Grossly underpowered”: Has Mr. Banks ever been in a 1950 or ’51 Morris Minor? Power in a small car is closely linked with gearing, and in the current crop of small British cars a poor power/ weight ratio is disguised by the use of abysmally low gearing. In last month’s Mille Miglia, Renaults took the first five places in the 750-c.c. touring class, I didn’t notice the names of any British cars among the finishers in this class. Underpowered, indeed! Mr. Banks should look up the road tests of the 750-cc. Dyna Panhard.

(3) “Fantastically ugly”: Beauty is a matter of opinion. I think the Renault has considerable aesthetic appeal. Nowadays, I frequently follow Austin A30s for a hundred yards or so before overtaking them, and even my wife, who has no interest in cars, comments on the pain caused her by the rear view of an A30. My Renault, my eleventh car, is the smallest I’ve had and one of the most charming. Its predecessor was, by chance, my first British car and, by design, will probably be my last. It was a poor effort, short-lived and unreliable, which may be excusable, but it is depressing to realise from correspondence in the motoring press that in Britain this vehicle is considered to be a very good car,

I am, Yours, etc.,
P. Halion. B.E.
Stillorgan, Eire.

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German Car Longevity

Mr. Penrhyn Peach raises a point which must have occurred to many readers, i.e., “why do Volkswagen engineers consider twenty minutes’ bench running a sufficient ‘running-in’ period?” They do not consider twenty minutes sufficient!

Dr. Porsche designed the car to spend its entire working life at “running-in”speed, the theory being, and to my mind it is one which British manufacturers would do well to consider, that the engine is designed of low weight by the use of alloys and air-cooling which is too powerful for the vehicle. It is then de-tuned to give the required performance for the chassis and the use to which it is to be put. The VW engine is R.A.C.-rated at 14.7 h.p. and has only 14 cwt. to propel.

The potential of this power/weight ratio is obvious, but VW set out to build a car which would give better-than-average fuel economy and mechanical life. To obtain this, gear and compression ratios were carefully chosen and the induction valve ports designed to allow only low volumetric efficiency giving 30 b.h.p. at 3,400 r.p.m.

All this results in the production of a car from which only 60 per cent. of the potential power may be obtained under any working conditions, but enabling one to cruise at maximum speed, reach 68 m.p.h. at 3.400 crankshaft r.p.m., and, more important, do all these things for 60,000-100,000 miles at around 40 m.p.g.

I am, Yours. etc.,
R. M. W. Croxford.

There is nothing extraordinary about not having to “run-in” a Volkswagen — or any other vehicle made to good engineering standards; this was precisely the attitude of the late J. G. Parry Thomas more than 25 years ago. He argued that to attain a polished surface you must use a high-speed mop and that the same applies to bearing surfaces — you cannot burnish slowly.

I well remember Baragwanath, after putting up a 350 J.A.P. engine, saying to the owner: “Take it up the Great North Road and belt it in bottom gear for ten miles.” He did, and the following week he won a clubman’s 5-lap mountain handicap race at Brooklands.

Probably there have been more engines suffer premature demise through “careful” owners staggering up hills on top gear than could ever have been had they let them rev. happily.

I am, Yours, etc.,
E. A. Wrigley.
London, N.W.2.

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Grand Prix Selection

I refer to your most interesting article “The World’s Leading Grand Prix Drivers “; it is a type of article of which I should like to see many more.

Although in the main I agree with the list which you printed, there would be one or two differences in my survey. For example, I think Gonzalez should, despite his lack of polish, come into the first bracket. He is certainly very fast and reliable, and I think that his rugged approach is not so much a lack of development as an individual style. Hermann Lang, I know, has not had any success in post-war Grand Prix racing, but I am sure that he is the equal at least of Rosier and Chiron and should he included: personally, I would have put him in Group 2, but I can see reasons for his only going into 3.

I think a better grading system would be to start with a maximum of ten points and work down; my list would be (for the most important drivers):

10 pts. … Fangio.
9 pts. … Ascari.
8 pts. … Farina.
8 pts. … Gonzales.
7 pts. … Hawthorn.
7 pts. … Moss.
7 pts. … Villoresi.
7 pts. … Manzon.
7 pts. … Wharton.
7 pts. … Trintignant.
7 pts. … Simon.
7 pts. … Behra.
7 pts. … Marimon.
7 pts. … Salvadori.
6 pts. … Schell.
6 pts. … Bayol.
6 pts. … Parnell.
6 pts. … Maglioli.
6 pts. … Lang.
5 pts. … Bira.
5 pts. … Collins.
5 pts. … de Graffenreid.
5 pts. … Macklin.
4 pts. … Rosie.
4 pts. … Chiron.

This is no disrespect to Ascari because if I could have the technique of either driver, then Ascari’s would be my choice. I should say that he is the contemporary version of that greatest of all drivers, Rudi Caracciola, whilst Fangio is the modern Nuvolari or Rosemayer.

Incidentally, a driver who has not yet driven often, but who from his brief appearances shows signs of greatness, is Geoffrey Duke. After the Sebring crash he returned to motor-cycles, but he drove splendidly in the British Empire Trophy in 1952 and also at Berne. I think his style is extremely polished and I reckon him to be potentially a top-line driver.

I am, Yours, etc.,
R. A. Price.

In your article on the world’s Grand Prix drivers you admit that Tony Rolt is not on a par with Moss and Hawthorn and yet he is placed in the same category. May I suggest, therefore, that the drivers should be divided into five categories as follows: — Class 1: Ascari, Fangio, Farina.
Class 2: Gonzalez, Hawthorn, Moss, Villoresi, Trintignant, Behra, Marimon.
Class 3: Manzon, Rolt, Simon, Schell, Wharton, Taruffi, Gerard.
Class 4: Bayol, Collins, Salvadori, Macklin, Parnell, Herrmann, Flockhart.
Class 5 Bira, Graffenreid, Rosier.

There are few people who will dispute the first three places. Class 2 consists mainly of the younger drivers who will join Ascari and his friends in time to come. At the moment Gonzalez must be on the very verge of Class 1.

Classes 3 and 4 are very much a continuation of one another. I have included Herrmann mainly because of his eighth place in the German Grand Prix. This was achieved on a Veritas and in the process Herrmann beat Rosier in his Ferrari.

Class 4 is made up of those older drivers who are well past their peak, but who can still put in a very polished performance.

I am, Yours, etc.,
J. J. R. Lord.


No Service

I think that you may be interested to hear of my experience with a Regent Service Station at Stratford-upon-Avon. One night recently I drove my Javelin into a queue for petrol behind two other cars and was just about to drive up to take my turn when the attendant waved both his hands at me in order to tell use to go away! He would not serve me and put up a closed sign. I was so staggered by this treatment that I was unable to say anything, and I have yet to see a worse case of bad service to be shown anywhere by any garage. I might add that I was the last in the queue (I had to reverse out), and that the attendant could have served me without serving others and then closed. However, he was obviously watching the clock very closely and did not want the trade or my meagre money.

I was lucky to reach Warwick without running out and there succeeded in getting what I wanted front a very helpful Cleveland Station just outside the town — what a contrast! It is interesting to note that while the latter station is in private hands, the Stratford one belongs to a chain group who trade under a Blue Star! Please print this as I feel others ought to be fairly warned.

I am, Yours, etc.,
J. M. Trimble.
W. Bromwich.

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In these days of “couldn’t care less,” the writer feels that any firm who “couldn’t care more” deserves an honourable mention.

Such a firm is Messrs. Bowman and Acock of Malvern, who specialise in a spares service for Morgan three-wheelers. A telegram or telephone call to them invariably produces a parcel at the door within twenty-four hours and the bill comes at the end of the month. Such service for a 21-year-old vehicle is quite unequalled in my twenty-five years of motoring experience. Owners of four-wheel Morgans may like to know that the firm offers a similar service to them. [Good! — Ed.]

I am, Yours, etc.,

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I would like to correct an understandable error in the June issue, in which you show a photograph of A. R. Miller driving Pat Melville’s 30/98 Vauxhall. From the programme this appears to be correct but in fact Miller was driving his own 30/08 which had been entered by Melville. As some of your readers are probably interested in the few remaining 30/98s these details might help. Miller’s car is the one Hughes built from Vauxhall bits and is almost entirely a late or S-type 30/98 with a shortened chassis. Melville’s car, on the other hand, is a 1921 one and has the original Velox body and is outwardly, at any rate, altogether more standard. I believe it has not yet fully recovered from a mechanical disaster which overtook it at the V.S.C.C. Silverstone meeting last July.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Peter Sewell
Leamington Spa.

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May I join in the spate of correspondence on the subjects of Austin-Healeys and Volkswagen?

I ordered an Austin-Healey when it was first shown at Earls Court. My only stipulation was that the car should be as displayed and perform in standard form at least as well as my Silverstone Healey. By the time a car was available I had competed against several standard Austin-Healeys and found them by no means as fast as my Silverstone.

I was then offered the “Le Mans” modifications, which theoretically endowed the A.-H. with almost exactly the same performance as the Silverstone had in fact. The price was raised some £200 and the car would not be supplied, at this figure, through any agent.

I did not accept the car but have since noted that the standard A.-H. is approximately one second slower than my Silverstone over the quarter-mile and about two seconds slower than Brooks’ standard Silverstone at Goodwood. The Le Mans A.-H. at Brunton was about 1.5 sec. slower than my car.

The only Austin-Healey which has, to my knowledge, proved slightly faster than the Silverstone is the works car driven by Rudd at Brighton last September. I believe this was the car tested by one or more of your contemporaries.

Recently I bought a Volkswagen to replace my Morris Minor, which had consumed two engines in 17,000 miles, together with both front suspension units and two sets of brakes (shoes and all). The VW does just a little better than the makers claim in every respect. It is a superb design, beautifully made and finished in every detail. Even the pedal positions, which you rightly criticised, are easily adjustable.

In contradistinction I bought a new Ford Zephyr this year. It was only partly assembled when delivered and after 7,000 miles (and ten days in agents’ hands) it is, to me, a classic example of bad design and appalling workmanship. I have no doubt that the Volkswagen service organisation is almost as good as Fords’ but I have a feeling that I shall not be quite so much in need of it.

I hope you continue with your efforts to obtain “same as you can buy” cars for test and give your readers the plain uncensored truth. Those of us who buy foreign cars and thereby make a disproportionate contribution to the Treasury by way of import duty and inflated purchase tax do so through no love of the foreigner nor any wish to waste money.

If the ever-growing popularity of the Volkswagen does anything to shake the British manufacturers out of their “couldn’t care less” attitude towards their customers, we who are so “unpatriotic” as to help ourselves to the better things of life will have made a substantial contribution to this country’s survival in world markets.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Denys H. Sessions.

Sarisbury Green.

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Peter Cavanagh, whose “Cars I Have Owned” article appeared in our April issue, has suggested the formation of a Healey Drivers’ Club. Mr. Donald Healey has consented to become the Club’s President and “Mort” Morris Goodall will assist in an advisory capacity to those members wishing to enter for competitive events. Healey owners can obtain details of this new Club from: N. G. Perkins, 1, Lattice Avenue, Ipswich.