A Quick and Easy Way to the South of France
Many Motor Sport readers scorn trains but most of them presumably like motoring in France. There are still a great many motorists, however, who, because long journeys with old people or young children in the car, or because the car itself isn’t all that rapid, prefer to reduce their initial holiday mileage through the more tedious areas of French countryside.
For them, quite the best answer is the Boulogne-Lyon Car Sleeper. On this admirable train you are taken two-thirds of the way across France while you sleep, and your car goes with you on the train. The express leaves Boulogne at 8.37 p.m., leaving ample time for dinner at the Gate Maritime Restaurant after disembarking from the Dover ferry at 6 p.m. You will not be conscious that this is a station restaurant, apart from instructions and warnings of train departures issuing from loud-speakers, because the decor is modern, clean and pleasing and the food — you are now in France! — is as well cooked and served as anyone could desire.
Cars will have been loaded on to the two-tier transporter trucks and all that remains is to go to sleep, breakfasting on the train before it arrives at Lyon at 8 a.m. With merely an overnight suitcase to contend with it is pleasant to be able to relax in the couchettes, which provide everything for your comfort and convenience. The beds are comfortable, the train runs smoothly and, unlike English stations, quietness prevails when the train pauses at over-night stops.
On arrival at Lyon a coach is provided to take you some 400 yards from the passenger platform to the car unloading quay. Here you drive quickly off the truck and away — well advanced on your journey to the South of France, yet you were in England at tea-time the previous day. Without any hardship you can have a late lunch on the Riviera some hours after leaving the Car Sleeper.
The return fare for car and two passengers varies from £28 to £36 depending on the length of the vehicle. There is an additional charge of £12 return for a wagon-lit berth for two in place of a couchette, or of £6 return if you share a three-compartment tourist wagon-lit, additional passengers being charged £9 return, or £6 for children of 4-10 years of age, or £15 and £9, respectively, in a wagon-lit. Cars must not exceed 5 ft. 4¼ in. in height or measure more than 5 ft. 7½ in. between the outer faces, or less than 2 ft. 11 in between the inner faces of the tyres, and 8 in. ground clearance under the mudguards is stipulated, while three-wheelers, motorcycles and scooters cannot be carried.
Offsetting the cost of train travel is not only the saving of time and wear and tear on the car but of the cost of petrol for the 956-mile double journey, and perhaps two nights in hotels each way. Regarded thus, the Boulogne-Lyon Car Sleeper is a very worth-while institution and those with European holidays to come may care seriously to consider using it.
The return journey necessitates reporting at the Lyon Part-Dieu loading point not later than 6 p.m., the coach taking you to the train for a 7.12 p.m. departure. Dinner on the train rounds off to perfection a good holiday, because a high standard of cooking and service is a feature of French railways. The Car Sleeper arrives at Boulogne at 6.55 a.m., enabling you to cross to Dover in time for an early lunch. Last year more than 6,000 cars were carried and this year the service is run daily during the peak period. A similar service is operated between Paris and Avignon, a return journey of 864 miles. Further details can be obtained from the French Government Tourist Office, 178, Piccadilly, London, W.1, on mentioning Motor Sport.
The Phase II Peerless
Since the Peerless made its debut as a 2-litre G.T. coupe with de Dion rear suspension, a fibreglass body and components based on Triumph TR3 parts it has gained a sound reputation. A lone entry at Le Mans last year finished creditably in 16th place and these low-built, well equipped four-seater coupes are winning an increasing number of club races. During the last twelve months Peerless Cars Ltd. of Slough, claim to have sold nearly 250 cars, of which about half the output has been exported.
In the light of experience the improved Phase II model has now been announced. This has over twenty small but useful improvements to body design and finish — the technical aspects are unchanged. For example, the bumpers have been rendered more effective to combat, as the makers say, “sonic” parking habits, a new black trim, greater carpet area and minor changes have given the car a more luxurious interior, there is increased space round the gearbox tunnel and the front seats are deeper and broader, accommodation in the back seat has been improved, head room has been increased by ¾ in., the doors have proper “keeps,” the window surrounds are stiffer, with fixed quarter-lights and the body structure has been modified, a reduction in moulding of 50 per cent, being achieved, which gives a lighter, stronger structure with more rigid, robustly-hinged doors. The body is made by the Wincanton Transport and Engineering Company and assembled at their Woking branch, the aim being a minimum of 25 a week. Painting is carried out by Docker Bros. Polyester Process and the appearance of the Peerless has been improved by a modified front end with semi-recessed lamps, an unadorned radiator grille, smarter bumper, etc. The bonnet now has hidden hinges and snap fasteners in place of budget locks and the luggage-boot lid has a press button catch and lock and spring-loaded hinges instead of a prop. A move is afoot to chromium-plate the glass-fibre bumper mouldings. The price of the Peerless remains at £1,414 19s. 2d.
The Fiat 1,200 Granluce
Fiat fans, and those who quite rightly regard the Fiat 1,100 as an extremely good all-round family saloon will be interested in the latest version, the Fiat 1,200, which has a 72 by 75 mm. 1,221 c.c. Tipo 103 engine in place of the 1,089 c.c. unit. In its very latest form this engine develops 58 b.h.p. and there are small but accepted improvements to the body, such as a bench front seat with divided squab giving individual adjustment from upright to almost horizontal, rubber buffers on the bumper over-riders and rather more distinctive body moulding, while all four doors are now of trailing type. Recently we were able to enjoy a long weekend in a rather earlier 1,200, which John Skinner Associates arranged for us to borrow from Fiat’s Wembley depot. This car had the 55 b.h.p. engine, which is 12 b.h.p. more than the 1,100.
In general the Fiat 1,200 is the same as the 1,100, of which detailed impressions were published in Motor Sport for July 1958, except that the front windows have quarter-lights (devoid of locks or rain gutters), the anti-draught shields being absent, which has not improved ruffle-free ventilation.
Our report on the 1,100 applies to the new 1,200. The pleasant steering wheel (now with three metal spokes), is set very high in direct contrast to that of the writer’s everyday transport, but the driving position is good, the seats being set high. The powerful brakes retain the rather fierce erratic action we have come to associate with the bigger Fiats and judder under heavy application, and the clutch is somewhat insensitive. The screw-type petrol filler cap is now recessed behind a lockable flap and a rather unusual form of coat hanger is fitted on the near-side window pillar.
The Fiat 1,200 has an excellent top-gear performance and runs very quietly both in respect of engine and road noise at cruising speeds approaching 80 m.p.h. An unusual feature is that maxima in all gears, including top, are marked on the ribbon-type 100 m.p.h. speedometer—at 21, 38, 57 and 83 m.p.h., respectively. The stalks for lamps and flashers are retained but the parcels’ net is deleted. The passenger’s vizor now carries a small vanity mirror.
Complementary to the good driving position is the well-placed, hooded instrument cluster. The minor control knobs are set low down and the under-facia shelf is, for the same reason, somewhat inaccessible.
The Fiat is certainly a brisk small car, and surprisingly roomy in respect of passenger and luggage accommodation. Fast cornering calls for considerable work on a steering wheel asking over three turns, lock-to-lock, and it is possible to provoke protest from the Whitewall Firestone 5.00/5.20 by 14 tyres all too easily. We did not check petrol consumption but it is notably light. The “reserve” indicator seemed erratic and we refuelled 260 miles after filling the tank. The range is obviously in the region of 300 miles, representing a consumption of at least 32 m.p.g. Somewhat exceeding the recommended speeds in the gears a standing start quarter-mile occupied 22.4 sec. ; it is rather easy to run out of revs. in third. Driven in “Italian” fashion this Fiat 1,200 can be the greatest fun for the enthusiastic driver, because it can be taken round corners very quickly if not entirely tidily without the limit being reached, aided by light steering devoid of kickback and with the right amount of castor action, sensibly placed pedals, a quick, precise steering column gear change and suspension which, supple enough to give a comfortable pitch-free ride with some up-and-down motion has roll well controlled by anti-roll bars and for the coil-spring i.f.s. and ½-elliptic back springs. There is some free play in the steering and the treadle accelerator, controlling a two-stage Weber 36 DCD, has a small, rather jerky action. The safe road-holding is backed up by excellent acceleration and willing speed which enables the Fiat driver to cover the ground between A and B quicker than most. The big screen and windows, from which his model derives its name, provide splendid visibility. The car is handled from Fiat (England) Ltd., Water Road, Wembley, Middlesex, where spares and service are available. In this country it costs an inclusive £1,132 6s. 8d.
New Rootes Factory
The old Singer car factory has been turned into the new Rootes Group spare parts factory. This 18-acre building has been converted into an up-to-date and well-equipped store for all Rootes Group products. Previously the Group has had three separate stores, at Luton, Coventry and Silverstone, which has meant delays in obtaining parts quickly.
Since the factory has to distribute Hillman, Singer, Humber and Sunbeam car spares and Commer and Karrier commercial vehicle spares to 163 different countries, the magnitude of the task can be imagined. To deal with the enormous number of orders a complicated mechanised card index system has been installed which has resulted in the factory being able to despatch up to 10,000 orders every day, about 40 per cent. of them going abroad. A Telex system is also installed which receives orders direct from many foreign countries and urgent orders can be despatched by return if necessary.
A system is also installed whereby dealers’ stocks are kept at a constant level. Each depot and distributor has a pre-determined quantity of spares in stock, and as these diminish the Rootes spares factory replenishes them automatically. Fifty fork-lift electric trucks are used to convey goods to the despatch department and the factory has its own case-making department which makes cases for awkwardly shaped parts such as body units.