Matters Of Moment, July 1959

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Harken to the Herald

This issue of Motor Sport contains a detailed and analytical appreciation of the exceedingly promising new Triumph Herald, Britain’s challenge to the long-established supremacy of the Continental small mass-produced car.

We are delighted that at last a British manufacturer has contrived to provide independent rear suspension at a competitive price and that the new Triumph incorporates other features, carefully planned to render use of the car convenient, enjoyable and safe.

In congratulating all concerned we would express the hope that what could undoubtedly result in record home and export sales of this stimulating British car will not he undermined by industrial disputes (which hover, we gather, round a demand on the part of certain body-assemblers for a wage as high as £50 a week, instead of a guaranteed minimum of £20 a week!).

At last a British manufacturer has thrown the rigid back axle over his shoulder. Other entirely new small cars are in preparation in our factories. Is it too much to hope that when they are released the propeller shaft will have followed the beam axle into oblivion, perhaps to be followed one day by the cooling water?

B.R.M. Victorious

Last month we congratulated Aston Martin on their sensationally satisfactory debut in Grand Prix racing at Silverstone. Now the for-so-long ill-fated B.R.M. has won the Zandvoort race in the capable hands of Bonnier. This convincing victory should act as a splendid stimulant to B.R.M.-sponsor Alfred Owen. Grand Prix racing, from being in the doldrums at the beginning of the season, has entered one of the most interesting situations ever, with Aston Martin learning fast (although in trouble at Zandvoort), B.R.M. vindicated, Cooper at top form, Ferrari still a force unscorned, Lotus improving noticeably, and Maserati still on the starting grids. Moss has recently put a new Vanwall round Silverstone very fast indeed, which presupposes Tony Vandervell’s renewed interest in motor racing.

All in all, the French G.P. at Reims on July 5th should be a tremendous race, and all who are lucky enough to be able to visit this very fast champagne-drenched circuit to watch it, are likely to witness a battle they will remember for the rest of their lives . . .

Donald Campbell’s New Record

More congratulations — to Donald Campbell, C.B.E., on once again accomplishing the difficult and dangerous task of raising the World’s Water Speed Record. It now stands at 260.35 m.p.h. Grand Prix victories and World’s records are invaluable in maintaining British engineering prestige.

Motorists and the Police

The fair-minded and sensible pronouncement on the part of Sir Joseph Simpson, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, in which he called for “a removal of any factors tending to inflame a sense of hostility against the police,” will be warmly praised by all who appreciate that heavy traffic congestion and resulting delays aggravate and try to the limit the temper and patience of road users of all categories. This wise Police Commissioner has issued orders to all his constables to intensify their efforts to assist motorists wherever possible by giving friendly, firm advice rather than looking for “bookable” offences, and he has told his motor patrols that their duty is to prevent accidents, to assist the free circulation of traffic and to enforce traffic laws, in that order. Those who have been “gonged” for going a little too fast in London’s confusing areas of 30 m.p.h., 40 m.p.h. and unrestricted speed-litnits will be glad to hear of the Commissioner’s sensible statement and his action should unquestionably result in greater harmony between motorists and the police. It is lamentable that drivers who remain sober when in charge of vehicles they strive to keep in good mechanical condition and who try to drive safely on our shockingly congested, ill-conceived and often inadequately sign-posted roads, should have to keep one eye on the driving mirror in case an “enemy” policeman and his mate are following them. If careful and considerate drivers, even if in fast cars, can come to regard the police as present to keep traffic flowing and accidents to a minimum something very valuable, however intangible, will have been achieved.

After the wisdom of Sir Joseph Simpson’s pronouncement it was pathetic to read of the Debate which took place in the House of Lords on June 10th, the purpose of which attempted to establish special road traffic courts with stipendiary magistrates in which heavier fines and more frequent disqualification could be inflicted on the “criminal” motorist. The motion, proposed by Lord Elton and strongly supported by Lord Lucas of Chilworth and Lord Goddard, was withdrawn and one feels pity rather than contempt for those who made it clearly evident that they have failed to accept that the world has progressed from the manure to the jet age.

Obviously those who drive when drunk, drive dangerously, habitually drive carelessly or who, probably due to bad luck rather than bad intentions, are accident-prone, must pay heavy penalties. But to describe all motorists as “lawless and ill-mannered” and to express, as Lady Wootton of Abinger did, a desire to brand as criminals all drivers who come before the courts, even those who have slightly exceeded a statutory speed-limit, maybe at night, crossed a white line (we have not mentioned double lines) or parked imprudently, is evidence of minds attuned to horse-age thinking. For goodness sake, let it be remembered that without the Motor Industry this country would be in a very sorry plight, with a standard of living comparable with that prevailing in the days of serfdom, and that motorists are not only rather necessary for the continuance of this vast industry but that they pay enormous sums annually in taxation, as well as fostering subsidiary developments such as the Service Station and Garage Industry, Hotel and Catering Trades, petrol, oil and tyre sales, etc., etc.

This fatuous debate in the Lords on the “criminal” motorist revealed that we can count as our friends the Bishop of Carlisle (who wants to see better roads and, like other clerics, has a fatherly, feeling for the railways, which he thought should carry more freight), the Earl of Selkirk (“There is a danger of placing too touch emphasis on speed . . .”) and Lord Somers (“There is too much of the view that the motorist is a criminally-minded man, only out for himself and without any thought for anyone else. Most people are motorists now and the British as a race are not criminally-minded.”).

Reverting to the practical action taken by the Commissioner of Police for speeding up the traffic flow and reducing accidents (during the aforesaid Debate he had the support of Lord Selkirk, First Lord of the Admiralty), it seems high time for Sir Joseph Simpson’s good example to be applied throughout the country.

A reader has drawn our attention to the remarkable case of Salisbury, where 88 motoring cases were heard by the City Magistrates in just under two hours, a case every 72 seconds, resulting in fines totalling £134. 10s. Last month in Salisbury 117 motoring cases were disposed of in about four hours, fines totalling £109 10s. Of these offences 51 were for parking, 32 for no lights and 18 for obstruction. There is something radically wrong with a city whose police have become so active against motorists committing merely technical offences; our correspondent remarks that “the hazards of visiting Salisbury compare most unfavourably with conditions at Winchester, Andover, Fareham, Portsmouth, Gosport, Southampton and Bournemouth, whose traffic problems are in no way dissimilar.” For this we cannot vouch but certainly the infliction of fines at the rate of over £60 an hour isn’t likely to promote a feeling of friendliness between motorists and police!  So we hope the Wiltshire Constabulary has since received the same good advice that Sir Joseph Simpson has given his men . . .

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Maidenhead River Festival, with boat show, carnival water procession, beauty contests etc., takes place from July 17th-19th. Details from: The Secretary, River Festival Association, Porthole Club, River Road, Maidenhead, Berks.