Matters of moment, July 1962

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Grand Touring Cars

Having conducted last month a lengthy Continental road-test of that fine British car, the Jaguar E-type, thoughts turned to that class of automobile that is deserving of the title of Grand Touring Car.

In recent times the F.I.A., in its wisdom and omniscience, has decreed that the definition for competition purposes of a G.T. car shall be an open or closed vehicle built in small quantities (but at a minimum rate of 100 identical units per year) for customers who are looking for a better performance and for a maximum of comfort and are not particularly concerned about economy.

That may be all very-well for dicing round the race circuits but it is not our impression of what G.T. cars should be, for their name implies a vehicle eminently suitable for touring in the grand manner, which is by no means true of all open sports cars or such cars equipped with “hard-top” lids. To us this implies a car capable of devouring countries as lesser machines cope with counties. We visualise a car capable of attaining 100 m.p.h. or more, not only along a Motorway, autostrada or autobahn but in the average traffic stream, with a maximum not much, if any, lower than that of a modern Formula One G.P. racing car, and the ability to average around a mile-a-minute all day on the Continent in complete security.

Such a motor car is only required to seat two persons in comfort, because when a man is very young he likes to travel with a single female companion and when he is old his former friends will have found him out and be content for him to tour alone with his aged companion who can best be described as “his lady.” But these two occupants must be really comfortable over mileages of 700 or even 800 in a day, both as to seating, leg, head and elbow room, and ventilation and warmth.

Because the classic shape of a streamlined 2-seater coupe encompasses a low roof and sloping back window it is easy to provide for the stowage of ample luggage behind the front seats, so that a complete change of clothes for two travellers for a fortnight can be lost therein, with space to spare tor food, maps, coats and cameras, etc., above the suitcases, where the passenger can easily find them while the G.T. car goes on its purposeful way.

Arrived at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo or the Negresco at Nice, a porter will instantly take the luggage within, leaving space for such friends as the car’s owner may make, or for the children who may have flown down from Eton or Roedean, at least as far the Casino or Golf Course. A G.T. car should not be unduly noisy, but it should not be meek. It must possess brakes and controllability in keeping with its magic carpet performance, a petrol tank that enables it to complete the aforesaid daily journey with but one stop (at lunch-time) for refuelling, and its suspension should be such that it can negotiate the higher (and rougher) passes of Europe not necessarily at rally-averages but at a decent lick, without damage to sump, exhaust system, petrol tank or other mechanical frailties.

In brief, by our standards, a G.T. motor car should be eye-able, possess stamina and really high-performance, be extremely comfortable and generally live up to its claim of Gran Turismo. As the report elsewhere in this issue explains, the Jaguar E-type does not qualify, although its excellence as a value-for-money sports car has never been in doubt. If the makers or concessionaires of the £4,401 Aston Martin DB4 G.T., £6,273 Ferrari 250 G.T., £5,800 Maserati 3500 G.T. and £4,000 Porsche Carrera 2, and any others we may have forgotten, care to provide the same facilities as Jaguar Cars Ltd., we will gladly amplify the virtues (and vices, if any) of these delectable G.T. cars. Meanwhile, although comparatively rare in England, such machinery is sought after in Europe and America, and is a class of car that quality manufacturers cannot afford to ignore.

B.M.C. wins the Alpine Rally)

The “Alpine” is still one of the tougher rallies, run in three 24-hour stages of 2,400 miles, that eliminated 23 of the 51 starters, and warm congratulations are due to B.M.C. for winning outright with the Morley/Erie Austin-Healey 3000 and taking the Coupes des Dames with the Pat Moss/Pauline Mayman Austin-Healey 3000, and the team award.

Indeed, all who took a Coupe des Alpes deserve high praise – a Triumph TR4, a Citroen DS19 alone of the Touring-category entrants, the two Austin-Healeys and a Porsche. Incidentally, not content with gaining a Coupe, Triumph advertised a 1, 2, 3 success in the 1,601-2,500c.c. G.T. Class; droll, as it consisted of just four cars, all TR4s!