Matters Of Moment

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THE QUALITY OF BRITISH CARS

We have never had it so good yet rail and ‘bus fares, Health Service charges, rates, the cost of electricity, car tax and insurance, etc., continue to go up. With the European Common Market round the corner, we shall be in a sorry plight if our great Motor Industry misfires.

After the war MOTOR SPORT thought it necessary to expose the generally poor quality of British cars and the inadequate supply of spares. This made us unpopular in certain quarters but the publicity was beneficial, better cars resulting, backed by more efficient service.

Now the Industry appears to be slipping back to the unhappy state in which it found itself twelve years ago. Correspondence we receive, together with personal experience, prompts this opinion. We receive a great volume of letters from dissatisfied owners of British cars and last month Mr. Noel Baker, M.P., was given time on B.B.C. television to express serious concern over the lack of enthusiasm for British vehicles that he encountered on his travels round the World. Last March the Morris 850 was unveiled in Sydney and journalists from Melbourne were allowed to drive the new cars to the agents; how unfortunate that Australian Motor Sports reported two deflations of the tubeless front tyres, with damage to steering and drive mechanism….

The Editor has been loyally using a British car for some 18 months, with a great deal of pleasure but several frustrations—he agrees with a correspondent that the vehicle is a triumph of design over construction, with the proviso that a periodic pain in his left arm could no doubt be diagnosed as “mini-elbow,” thanks to a horrid gear change! A brand-new clock, replacing the faulty original, worked properly for just 120 days before stopping intermittently so that we were late for an appointment. . . .  So keen were the makers of the battery in the Managing Director’s 3-litre Vanden Plas to stamp their name on it that acid leaked out and was blown by the fan over the engine and under-bonnet components. Such incidents reflect sadly on British prestige.

Better workmanship, stricter inspection and improved materials are essential if the British Motor Industry is to maintain its place in the face of growing competition from Europe, America and Japan.

Small firms like Cooper and Vanwall ensured supremacy in G.P. racing and Jaguar and Aston Martin ” wore the green ” proudly in sports-car contests. But the Industry didn’t care and the initiative has again passed to Ferrari. Japan is winning our motorcycle races….

Since the war only two truly new British small cars have appeared—B.M.C.’s ADO15 and the Triumph Herald—and we haven’t overlooked the Ford Consul Classic. (What a pity the Classic’s too-flexibly suspended back is so jealous of the pivotted front wheels that it tries to do its share of steering the car; perhaps it tramps like this to draw Ford’s attention to the desirability of i.r.s.).

When will another refreshingly original British car be released? Alec Issigonis is a brilliant engineer; customers should be allowed to buy more of his designs instead of being compelled to turn to Citroen when craving the most advanced car on the market.

Not being political journalists we don’t know whether the Sunday Express is correct in saying that if Britain joins the European Common Market “she would have the same status in a European league as Kansas in the United States or Kazakhstan in the U.S.S.R.” But we are certain that if British cars fail to sell we shall all be in queer street.

THE FARCE OF THE FIFTIES

Mr. Marples’ week-end 50 m.p.h. speed limits might be said to cause impatience due to nose-to-tail queues, give but a dangerously narrow speed margin for overtaking, and are ludicrous on the new dual carriageways.

One Friday afternoon, while driving along the Great West Road (sic) at a heady 10 m.p.h. over the speed-limit imposed on many arterial town roads, we pondered a more pernicious aspect of these ” fifties.”

Side roads turning off main roads should be de-restricted, so that the 50 m.p.h. limit does not automatically apply to roads otherwise free trom speed restrictions. In one small area alone we found four country roads not de-restricted. Turning off A 30 onto B 3013 the ridiculous state of affairs existed whereby the 50 limit applied as far as the nearest town in one direction but in the opposite direction, a de-restriction sign on the town’s outskirts naturally being present, this same road was free of a limit as far as the main road’s “50” sign. Could anything be more farcical? Or more unfair to the motorist? It would be so easy to be “trapped” on a side road familiar as a normally de-restricted area. What’s it like in your area? If this anomaly isn’t suppressed empty country roads as well as crowded main roads will continue to be subject to the “farcial fifties.” And while on this subject, on Monday June 19th the “50” signs were still displayed along A 4 on the Monday morning, to mae one road only, whereas officially the restriction should have ended at midnight on the Sunday–Why?

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