LETTERS FROM READERS, July 1961
LETTERS FROM READERS
N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and” Motor Sport” does not necessarily associate itself with the m.—Ed.
R. N. T. Burke’s letter prompts mc to relate my experiences with Smiths Motor Accessories Ltd.
In Bahrein I have a Borgward Isabella TS to which, last December, I fitted a Smiths subsidiary panel. Deciding that I wanted the oil warning light as well as an oil pressure gauge, I sent Smiths a cheque for tos. and asked them to send me the necessary T-piece by air mail.
To cut a long story short, ten weeks later I had collected no fewer than eighteen documents, including four export invoices, four sales invoices and a certificate of origin which I didn’t need and for which I was charged sos. I also had to pay 8s. for postage, 4s. 6d. for the actual T-piece and 3s. 3d. for packing. All these charges were reasonable except the last, which was ridiculous. All this for a small brass T-piece which I still hadn’t received !
Eventually, after a final somewhat vitriolic letter from me, Smiths did send the part and, to give them their due, they returned my second cheque for 15s. 9d. and gave me a credit note for LI 5s. 9d. However, I’m not at all sure that their final generosity compensated for weeks of frustration and my increased blood pressure !
Like Mr. Burke, I would not willingly do business with Smiths again.
The last straw came a few days after the T-piece arrived, when I lost the damned thing ! I just didn’t have the heart to start all over again. I am, Yours, etc.,
Chelmsford. * * PETER J. 11. /VIORT.
* * FORD-WORTHY
Sir, I was very interested to read the letter from A. J.,..MacLagan in your June issue of MOTOR SroRT recounting his experiences with
the MOSE exciting light car in the world,” and have very much a fellow feeling with him.
I purchased one of these vehicles in October of 1959 having been kept waiting for months for the announcement and delivery of “Henry’s new Baby,” and from the moment I saw the thing I knew what I was in for—the colours are “sunburst yellow” with a ” cirrhus white” roof and with its down-turned mouth and cheeky eye it had a look of mischief which has since been well proved. The dealers who sold me this car insisted on my having all the oil taken out and new stuff put in when I had done but 300 miles; in fairness, they made no charge for labour, only the oil, but what a racket ! At x,000 miles they did the same thing ! They still send me a postcard reminding me to take the car to them once a month, when they have the absolute nerve to charge me los. 6d. to grease all the points, blow up the tyres, top up the battery and look over the vehicle for faults.
You will be interested to hear that the car has now done 24,688 miles and last week went on the ” Scottish” Rally. We did 1,703 miles from Sunday morning to Saturday evening and used no oil at all so far as I can see—we also did more than 40 miles per gallon throughout the whole trip !
However, the list of faults and repairs was formidable at 7,000 miles and we changed the wheels round and developed the famous wheel wobble—balancing cured this; St 9,000 miles the door latch came loose so I had them both tightened up; at xo,000 miles the light for the number-plate failed—it still does not work and cost me 300 marks in the Scottish ” when we were third in the class (among all those wonderful Mini’s and Heralds and things); at 12,000 miles we changed the wheels round once more, rebalanced them and put in four new plugs; at 19,000 miles we had four new retreads and balanced ‘cm up once again, and, of course, every 1,5oo miles or so we service it.
It still turns the speedo. up to go in top and 65 in third easily; no doubt the instrument is fast, but the car feels very safe. If anyone asked me if! would change it for that wonderful, wonderful foreign car where the engine is in the same room as you are, my reply would be, “Not on your nellie.”
I have taken MOTOR SPORT for over ten years, and it still irritates me beyond measure each month. I must be a glutton for punishment.
Peterborough. I am, Yours, etc.’
DEN IS RAWL I NSON.
THOSE BRAKE SHOES
Will you allow me to warn Mr. Gill, Sales Manager of Mintex, who wrote to justify his firm’s charging seventeen shillings for riveting one pair of shoes with customer’s own material, that his London Depot is misleading him.
Contrary to your report, Mr Gill, the material was not in. but tg in., not that I can see what difference this can make to the charge. The ” shims ” were neither metallic nor made by the depot; they were fibre supplied cut and drilled ready to fit. If you do not believe this, come and sec them, in which case I shall, of course, be forced to make a charge for stripping down ! And, if you please, the work was not done ” to oblige ” nor “to put my Trojan on the road.” The job was examined beforehand and a quotation of ” about six shillings ” given. As for the latter remark, my Trojan is most hurt at the suggestion that after performing daily since 1927 it would go out of service for a simple reline. The two shoes were replacements which were fitted during a twenty-minute pause—can this be called being “off the road ” ?
Do other motorists with motor engineering qualifications find they are taken for novices if, for convenience, they ask service depots to do work they normally undertake themselves ? I am, Yours, etc.,
Chislehurst. D. J. WILLIAMS.
in common with other Sprite owners I was awaiting with trepidation the new edition of the car which brought fame to Venner-Pack, Sprinzel and “Pierre.” Over the past three years B.M.C. had succeeded in de-naturing most of their products, but surely they wouldn’t spoil the Sprite ?
Alas, on my breakfast-table one Monday morning appeared a photograph of a sterilised horror that could best be described as an Austin-Farina Bandit. Where was the cheerful smile, the neat tail of my small friend ? Gone, to be replaced by a humourless mask and antiseptic fins that seemed to ape the anonymity of the larger products of the land of vermicelli and innocenti.
Where is the attraction of eyes which would never deign to blink, and a boot in which it is impossible to investigate the finer points of human relationship ?
I shall not desert my friend, until the day when connoisseurs, sickened by the flow of Morris-Healeys, A.G.s and B.M.C. Berlinettas that will surely follow, will pay good money for a noble sporting companion with a true sense of humour. I am, Yours, etc,
London, W.1. ” POPEYE.”
THE AUSTIN HEALEY 3000 AS A RALLY CAR
I have just come across a letter from the well-known rally specialist Mr. John Gott.
Having owned four Austin Healeys (one BNx, two BN4, one BN6 type) during the last six years and covered some 250,000 km. during this time, I have rather strong feelings about the ground clearance of this model. At various times my cars have suffered from broken sumps, ripped-off silencers, squashed exhaust pipes, damaged wiring, etc. All this happened on more or less reasonable roads, such as N 64 outside Verdun, the main road into Chur from Zurich, the Juliet Pass. This is especially ‘disappointing, as all cars have given utmost satisfaction mechanically, otherwise. In a quarter of a million km. there has not been one case of trouble worth mentioning with my Austin Healeys. The fact remains, that a standard Austin Healey, as delivered to the customers, has a ground clearance of rather less than 4 in. laden. After some lengthy but fruitless correspondence with (a) the Swiss Austin Importers (” never heard about trouble with insufficient ground clearance “), (b) the Austin Motor Co. (no answer), (c) a British Motoring weekly (” we are quite amazed that you had all this trouble, (d) a British firm of specialists advertising conversions for Austin Healcys (no answer), Messrs. Donald Healey Motor Co. of Warwick answered my questions quickly and supplied special springs and modified damper valves. I can recommend them, but they gave a bare I am, Yours, etc.,
Fahrwangen, Switzerland. K. F. STEINMANN. * * *
in. of extra clearance. I know quite a few Austin Healey owners on the Continent and in the U.S.A. Their only grumble is inadequate road clearance.
I remain therefore quite unmoved by Mr. Gott’s impressive list of rally successes. Unfortunately, four years of successful rallying with modified Austin Healeys have apparently not enabled the B.M.C. to bring the benefits, which we are being told come from competition, to the buyers of standard Austin Healeys.
It is interesting to note that according to a well-known motoring publication, Mr. John Gott’s private Austin Healey has the following modifications: Special front springs, special rear springs, both ends of the car raised about(!) an inch, 650 x 16 tyres (standard 590 x 15), exhaust system terminating in front of rear wheel (illegal in many countries for road use).
Any reader who has tried to take his standard Austin Healey over the well-known ” Alpine ” or “Liege rally grounds will no doubt agree with me. Let’s hope B.M.C. will eventually do something about it!
BRITISH CARS IN CANADA Sir,
I see a lot of unkind letters complaining about the finish and inspection on English cars. I hear a lot of the same remarks here in Canada, and as I, too, was ” exported ” five years ago, I am naturally conscious of this unhappy state of affairs, but I have to report with regret that there is no doubt in my mind that U.K. cars are losing a lot of respect because of one basic fault—lack of inspection.
My first car bought here in 1956 was a 1952 Chrysler Windsor with 58,000 miles on it—a beautiful beast, and completely troublefree for the 15,000 miles that I drove it.
Unfortunately, this and a lot of dollars were swapped for a 1957 Ford Zodiac convertible.
It leaked, and how. The floor wells filled up in 15 minutes’ driving in the rain whilst the driver, was showerbathed. It took 20 hours’ labour by the local dealer to finally trace and fix. The water appearing from the windshield hood joint was entering around the windshield rubber seal, which was riddled with holes like a sponge.
The floor and trunk (boot) received their supplies due to all rubber plugs missing, and three holes which had been “fitted” as extras in the floor for no apparent reason I !
The brakes had to be relined after 7,200 miles’ gentle town driving. At an early examination I felt sure that the drums had not been machined, but the local dealer just could not believe this, quite understandably. Unfortunately I was right.
All hoses and much weather stripping rotted within nine months and had to be replaced.
After 18 months and 23,000 miles of grief I unloaded this beautiful-looking black and white monstrosity and bought a Rambler Cross Country station wagon which after 58,000 miles of hard treatment to date over mountain roads, dirt tracks, as well as city driving has cost one tail-light bulb, two sets of brake linings (even with automatic transmission) and is still on original, if rather thin, tyres. Gas consumption is a little better than the Zodiac which is only half the size.
Last year my wife bought a to5E for a Christmas present for herself, but again, grief.
At x so miles a rear brake and drum disintegrated due to assorted hardware left inside the drum at the factory.
The body rattles like a tin can, the doors fit where they touch, and the general noise level confirmed our decision not to fit a radio—you couldn’t hear it.
The door and trunk locks failed at x,000 miles and still require a locksmith to open the darn things.
A rear wheel bearing went at 1,200, and the windows started jamming at 1,5oo and still require two hands to wind them.
Exuded and smeared cement on head linings, etc., turned really ugh! after three months.
At 8,000 the rear-end (differential) became scrap metal due to ” no-load ” disarrangements.
At 9,217 I have just removed the third load of metal filings and sundry bits of rag from the fuel system. The windshield wiper is the noisiest contraption and is definitely minimal, and the imitation heater is just a delusion. It takes an incredible time to dentist even a small patch on a rainy day, and is the first heater that I have come across that requires the blower on highway driving to maintain any comfort in comparatively mild weather—and the noise
The whole darn thing leaks—of course—and the radiator and heater hoses show signs of decay already.
In 12 months a $1,700 car has cost $170 for repairs which in every instance were due to poor materials or workmanship.
Potentially a very pleasant and virile Hide car, but pleasureless through so many faults—Dear Editor Manufacturers, and Readers, this story is repeated day after clay by owners of U.K.made cars.
I hate VWs but they outsell all imports for one very simple and obvious reason—quality and first-class workmanship.
In case it should be thought that my troubles are due to rugged weather, Vancouver compares very favourably with the Cornish Riveria—heaven help U.K. cars in those areas where weather and roads are really a problem.
Please Mr. Manufacturer, spare the pride of us British/ Canadians and send us products which we can talk about without blushing with shame. I am, Yours, etc.,
North Surrey, B.C. J. T. SULLIVAN. * •
Sir, After reading the latest batch of criticisms from owners of
British products I put my own case.
Car: Austin Se7en.
Date of purchase: September x8th, 1960.
Mileage zo date: 33,337.
Fuel consumption: 47.3 m.p.g. Tyre wear: Approx. 2-3,000 more! (a friend has done 22,5oo
on his tyres!). Faults rectified free: (i) driver’s seat recovered; (ii) New
petrol pump. Observations: A good, noisy car. The ” Interior Silent Travel” people didn’t reply to two orders from my dealer on my
behalf. I did the job myself and I have a good car. I am Yours, etc.,
Peterlee. C. G. Nictiotsox. Sir,
I am sick and tired of hearing how readers have broken their Minibrics. There must be someone, beside you and me, who is. delighted with his Mini and is not ashamed to say so.
I purchased my Austin Se7en last July, and have since then covered 14,000 miles. My fuel economy stubbornly refuses to fall below 40 m.p.g., despite much hard main road work, and rallies. I can cruise at 70 m.p.h. on main roads, and the car does. not tire at all, nor is it at all unstable. Cornering is a delight.
Troubles ? Apart from punctures (I have had five) and the speedometer failing at to,000 miles, I have no cause for complaint. The gear change is not perfect, but is better than any column change I have met. The driving position could also be improved upon (I am 6 ft. 3 in. tall), but is quite satisfactory.
I confidently claim that the Mini is the best small car buy on the market today. You say the VW has quality-car finish and climbs. hills like a mountain goat ? I don’t wish to know that. What I want is a cheap, economical, reliable, sporting four-seater car, and I think I’ve got one. I am, Yours, etc.,
Tadley. T. Md. PAGET. Sir,
Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the day I took over my first car, a brand new example of first-class British design, a MiniMinor. Since then:
x. The exhaust system has twice fallen right off at the manifold, on the second occasion necessitating a new pipe and silencer complete.
2. The fan belt has torn in shreds twice. No misalignment anywhere. On the Mini this is serious, there being no forced draught from the forward movement of the car. I now carry twc spares.
3. The body collected water inside. It took a week for the loca: main agents to cure this.
4. The driver’s door-lock jammed in the locked position. Thi: is a trifling matter on my de luxe version as one of my part) tricks is to have someone lock thc car and gain access in thirt3 seconds via the opening rear windows. You need to have thir arms and remove your jacket. On the standard model you’d IN locked out for good.
5. The synchromesh failed altogether.
6. The clutch filled up with oil.
7. The fuel pump has been twice replaced.
8. A front shock-absorber fell off its top mounting. Endways location of the rubber bush on the mounting is by rubber stiction and Grace of God (who helps only those designers who help themselves).
9. The upper mountings of the rear shockers rattle like blazes. To get at the left-hand one you begin by removing the fuel tank. It puts you in mind of grinding-in a Bugarti’s valves.
In all, in the first nine months of ownership I had to do without the car for over a month to have work done under guarantee. With the exception of Nos. 4 and 9 above all work has been done quickly, efficiently and at no expense to me. Nevertheless, the Inconvenience of not having the car when it chooses to play up tends to outweigh the fun when it’s going properly. One really needs about four Minis and a chauffeur always following one with a spare car.
The only car I would swop it for is a Porsche. A man I know says the only car he would swop his Porsche for is a Mini. Well, now . . .
The thing that really sticks in one’s throat is the cost of spares. A bumper (” body finisher” they call it and who am I to quibble at their choice of words ?) costs £3. A VW drove into my driver’s ‘ door—cost of door without trimming, lock, handle, windows, catches or hinges, £9 to& Profit margin on these items can scarcely be less than 400%. Anyway, that’s what an employee of a very large body firm tells me.
Finally, I would be glad to hear from anyone who has found any way of attaching a tow rope to the front of the Mini so that the first mild jerk does not disembowel the car.
That the car ever works at all must (to invert a saying of Laurence Pomeroy, Senior) represent a triumph of design over workmanship. The guarantee runs out t the garage as I write.
Edinburgh. °morrow. I hear crafty laughter from I am, Yours, etc.,
KENNETH H. Ross, President, Edinburgh University M.C.
Will the person who removed the J.C.C. badge from my 5958 (black) Austin Westminster, kindly return same to me ? However beautiful the new B.A.R.C. Badge may be, it does not replace the ancient and decrepit badge I had the honour to own.
You present matters motoring with interest and candour, up-todate, but with happy reference to the past.
Had a few cars in my time, and so often the best all-round car, although admired and often retained longest, it is the car with some outstanding good characteristic which is the most loved, despite other failings. It is alive—it communicates its good points and doesn’t cover up its faults. Too many British cars are soulless—not really bad—but nothing good or outstanding. I owned a 20/25 Rolls-Royce, 5935 vintage, many years ago. I still feel it was one of the best cars I’ve ever owned and I still consider the Best Car in the World. No trouble, so little servicing, everything, you touch works, excellent brakes, a performance of
time from ” to ” b,” always a surprise and they keep so clean, another source of wonder.
When one considers that we are, perhaps, the only country in the World, making such a type of beautiful car, it appears to me very short-sighted for the Government to counter sales of cars of this class with the latest restriction of £2,000 limit for business purchases. The Government should be reminded that RollsRoyce did materially assist us in winning the last war. How poor is memory and how ungrateful.
But it is not an enthusiast’s car—you can’t enthuse, perhaps because it is just too good. I loved that car, but I was never so unreasonably enthusiastic about it as I was with the Ulster Cozette blown Austin Seven, Riley Kestrel Sprite and straight-8 Railton I owned before. These cars were exhilarating to drive, in their time, despite failings—mostly brakes. You made a reference, some time back to the Gibbons Mark IV of the ‘twenties. My cousin bought one of these (new), but as it failed to move up the steep drive from the house, sundry bits at the back falling off, it was thereafter called the “Gibbons Marktime.” The air-cooled flat-twinned engine was mounted on the offside running board, presumably so one could spit on it to keep it cool, as otherwise it overheated to almost the extent of ” glowing ” on a dark night. The gear cnange often resulted in one’s eyebrows being left on the windscreen—hence, being painted primrose it was also named the “Yellow Peril.” It was swopped for a second-hand Morgan, which transported, on many occasions, as many as six of us—three inside, two over back wheel and one on
bortnet. It had only one failing—the disc covering the wire wheels would come unscrewed with remarkable sight of a disc showing the way in front of us.
I have owned two Morgans—great fun and very reliable. The first was a family model and despite the angle of the rear wheel, often four up. This was followed with a 50/40 J.A.P. Aero, which was quite fast and remarkably stable. When shifting it hadn’t the usual twin cylinder “burble,” but had the hard ” bark ” of a single cylinder. This car was followed with a new B.S.A. three-wheeler, an absolute shocker.
Other cars, a Plus Ultra Riley Nine—the last of the fabrics— a lovely little car, an Austin 12/6, reliable but horrible, a Rover 75 —good but I never really liked it, two Fiat ITO° T.V.s—great fun and I still think the best small, all-round, family car. I almost wrote the last T.V. off—skidded on oil and had to go off the road to avoid the following car. Was going on holiday in three weeks, so with a broken collar bone, had to get something large with good top gear performance and at modest price. So, I bought the 5958 Austin Westminster. It’s a good looker, plenty of family or snogging room (Healey owner, please note) in back compartment. So very reliable, quite a brisk performance but’ as so often with modern British cars, the road comfort and holding leave a lot to be desired, and the lights, another British failing, so very poor. Also controls—foot dips I cannot stand, as the Continental light control is far superior. Regarding column gear changes, the Fiats were excellent, but the ” Westminster ” horrible and I changed it to a floor conversion by Redhill Engineering, which is undoubtedly very good. The brakes are fair, but not convincing, and to be a person “with squeaky boots and no reference” it adds insult to injury to have
squeaky brakes with no ambition.”
Flow much time Austins spent designing and producing the over-elaborate boot lid mechanism I shudder to conceive. It’s good, except for the tendency to trap the rear light cables in the mechanism. Far better they had accepted a simpler procedure to produce equally good results and spent more time on other details, such as illumination of boot and engine compartment and countered the flooding of the boot after a storm, which has been cured after much patience.
As one grows older, especially with a large household, you become convinced that a good little ‘un ‘ will never equal a good “big ‘un ” and our friends ” Hermes ” cannot expect me to buy a fleet of bubble cars to answer my family problems.
So where do I go now ? I still have lasting leaning to another old Rolls, and wish I could afford the price of the first of the Continental Bentleys—a truly delightful car, which they have, in my opinion, never equalled in more recent models.
I’ve tried all the British Farinas Mk. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, with their terrible cocked-up rear fins, but the Wife and I hate the hard suspension, particularly in the back seat, yet when they corner they roll and travel indeterminently, like ruptured crabs. Too many people bury their heads in the worm-ridden sands of quasi-walnut trimmings and fail to appreciate a car that is in ” one piece.”
Of course, one member of my family, my brother, has one of those horrible unmentionable cars. He’s convinced there is no equal. Reliability, good finish and a sound sense of driving fun, makes a car that “can’t go wrong,” but it is just too small for me and they lack the ” briskness ” of the small Italian cars which also are a little roomier. (The t500 ?—En.].
, Just as well we all do not like the same car, although B.M.C. are doing their best to delude us. Hat’s off to Jaguar who have again produced a world beater. Admittedly they provide the best value in the World, but for my purpose the big ‘un is too big and the others not convincing, with an engine difficult to service and clean oneself. The Herald, good design and now much better finished, thanks no doubt, to Leyland; but just too small. The Citron, yes, but not a happy txtr for short journeys, and lacks initial “punch.” So I motor with elegance and toe safety of the heavily constructed body of the Westminster, which provides the necessary armour in event of collision, but, alas, without enthusiasm. Is it that I have grown out of this age, or will I eventually find the car, over which I can feel is part of me ?
I trust that you will forgive the time taken, and hope some of it may be of interest to you, but please now get on with your job, as my only joy these days in motoring, is to read Moron SPoRT. I am, Yours, etc.,
Southampton. GERALD L. ADAMS.