Motor Sport - readers' car survey (Part 4)
In this issue we are covering the Fiat 600, the Hillman Minx Series I, II and III, and the Sunbeam Rapier. Owing to space restrictions it has been found impossible to include the Vauxhall Victor as promised last month. Also in this issue are comments from the manufacturers of the M.G.-A, Austin-Healey 100 and 3000, Austin-Healey Sprite and Ford Anglia.
Is service satisfactory? 57.1% expressed satisfaction with Fiat service, 22.8% were not satisfied, 10.5% carry out their own routine maintenance and 9.5% made no comments on servicing.
If car is modified give brief details: 74.2% of Fiat owners made no modifications to their cars. Of the remainder 25.7% have fitted modified exhaust systems, usually Abarth, 16.2% have fitted modified cylinder heads, the majority of owners restricting operations to raising of the compression ratio but a number of people have also carried out porting and polishing of combustion chambers, etc. Different carburetters have been fitted by 3.8%.
Engine: No engine trouble has been experienced by 66.6% of Fiat 600 owners. Despite its small capacity and the possibility of the engine being pushed harder than some others in its class the Fiat 600 unit has obviously been very reliable. The only components which have failed in any appreciable quantity on the survey cars are pistons which have cracked or been holed on 9.5% and radiator hoses which have perished on 4.8%, causing overheating in some cases. Other faults, although fairly numerous have been restricted mainly to individual cases.
Clutch: No clutch trouble has been experienced by 84.6%. The Fiat clutch seems to be particularly reliable, only 7.6% requiring complete overhaul at low mileages (below 25,000 miles). Otherwise the clutch seems to be long lived and does not appear to have problems with slip or judder, only 4.8% reporting oil leaks into the clutch.
Gearbox: The gearbox is almost as trouble-free as the clutch, 78% having no trouble in this department. Synchromesh failure was reported by 5.7% but there was general approval of the strong synchromesh. Oil seal failures were mentioned by 6.6%, bent selector forks by 2.8%, defective mainshaft bearings by 1.9%, while a further 1.9% have encountered trouble with the gear-lever jumping out of mesh.
Brakes: Although 62.7% had experienced no braking troubles there was general dissatisfaction with the braking system especially on those models with the transmission handbrake which seems to be the receptacle for gearbox oil leaks on many cars. This problem has obviously been appreciated for a normal handbrake system is now fitted. There was some criticism of fade and short lining life, 12.4% having all brakes relined in under 20,000 miles. Other brake failures such as leaking master cylinders, sticking wheel cylinders and so on were reported by very few.
Steering: Virtually trouble-free the Fiat 600 steering has given no problems to 91.4%. Apart from 3.8% which required new king-pins at relatively low mileages and isolated cases of oil leakage from the box and bush replacements the steering has given no trouble.
Fiat 600 owners on steering
" Handbrake (shaft model, but now on rear wheels) relined five times. In my opinion can be dangerous if left on slope as there is too much strain on shaft."
" Weakest feature of the whole car. Repeated trouble with brakes sticking on. Freed three times then relined at 21,000 miles, now sticking again."
" Adjustable shoe pivots inclined to seize unless dosed with graphite grease."
" Adjustable cams tend to bind, two actually sheared at 15,000 and 20,000 miles."
" Handbrake has been useless since new."
" Handbrake failed regularly due to oil seal in gearbox working loose."
" Oil seal leaked oil onto handbrake despite three attempts at repair."
Suspension: Another virtually trouble-free aspect of the 600 is the suspension which has had no failure on 88.6%. The shock-absorbers have required replacement on 6.6% at varying mileages and wheel bearings have been changed on 10.5%.
Instruments: The Fiat instruments have a better reliability record than many other cars, 81.8% of owners having had no failures. Once again though, the speedometer has been the main cause of trouble 5.7% having the speedometer head changed while a further 5.7% have required a new cable. The fuel contents gauge has been replaced on 6.6% and the oil pressure switch on 1.9%.
Electrical: With 61.9% having no electrical bothers the Fiat electrical system seems to have been more reliable than most. Various switch failures have occurred on 16.2%, battery replacements have been required by 4.8%, dynamo brushes by 3.8% and exchange dynamos by a further 3.8%. Wiring faults were reported by 2.8% and another 2.8% had a failure of the voltage regulator.
Final drive: One of the most reliable components on the 600 the final drive has been trouble-free for 91.4%. Troubles are restricted to isolated failures of universal joints half-shafts and differential bearings. However, a number of people criticised the noise level of the final drive, some whine becoming evident after modest mileages in some cases.
Bodywork: No bodywork troubles have been encountered by 60.1%. As usual the complaints against bodywork are mainly directed against the paintwork, 19.1% complaining of rust on the paintwork while a further 8.6% felt that the paint finish was poor. Broken door locks were reported by 2.8%, water leaks by 4.8%, and bonnet hinges by 1.9%.
Fiat 600 owners on bodywork
" Paint terrible—faded after 52 months."
" Rusting badly at drivers door sill and screen pillar. Body eaten by rust on front offside. Drivers door lock broke twice."
" On delivery found lots of rust underneath. Factory re-undersealed car."
" Coachwork (white) gone yellowish in places."
" Chrome poor, rust extensive under front bonnet and behind front body panel."
" Bottom of doors very rusty. Rotting in various places, e.g., body seams and where stones have chipped front."
" Ivory finish faded badly, car is now piebald."
" Very, very poor. Corrosion underneath excessive. No touch-up paint."
" Good. Fiat bodies tend to rust very easily-cannot be dipped very well."
Other Serious Defects: No detects of serious nature were reported by 77.1%. Bad cases of overheating were re-iterated by 2.8%, and 3.8% mentioned that the windscreen wipers had been set for a left-hand drive car while a few people remarked that the hub caps fall off easily.
Tyres: Pirelli Extraflex tyres are fitted as standard and are fitted to 69.5% of survey cars, Michelin "X" to 18.1%, Dunlop to 7.6%, and Continental to 1.9%.
Would you buy this car again? Yes, 80%, No, 20%.
Of those who said they would not buy the Fiat 600 again the following cars were named:
VW: 4.8%, Not yet certain:4.8%, Ford: 2.8%, B.M.C. Mini: 2.8%, Vauxhall: 2.8%, Saab: 1.4%, Simca: 1.4%, Austin: 1.4%, Fiat (other model): 1.4%, D.K.W.: 1.4%
Is service satisfactory? 75.4% expressed satisfaction with servicing facilities for their Hillman Minx, 11.9% were dissatisfied, and 3.4% carry out their own servicing. There seems to be a general air of satisfaction with Rootes service, one owner remarking that his dealer actually collects the car for servicing and delivers it back.
If car is modified give brief details: Few proprietary conversion kits are available for the Hillman Minx, which possibly accounts for the small number of owners who have carried out modifications. The most popular is the conversion to the Sunbeam Rapier floor gear-change, fitted by 2.9% on those models which were not available with a floor lever. A straight-through exhaust, system has been fitted by 4.5%, raised compression-ratio by 2%, ports polished by 1.6%, an exhaust extractor device by 1.6%, various carburetter modifications by 4.1%, braking modifications, including power brakes and harder linings, by 2%, and on the chassis side Koni shock-absorbers have been fitted by 1.6%. Overdrive has been fitted by 1.6%, and Alexander Conversions have been fitted by 2.9%.
Engine: No engine trouble has been experienced by 68.4%. Although twenty-eight different faults have been reported in connection with the Minx engine, few really serious complaints have been made. The most common failure is to the water pump, which has been replaced on 6.1%. A faulty exhaust system is reported by oil leaks by 2.9%, defective carburetters by 2.5%, thermostats by 2%, big-end bearings by 1.6%, burnt valves by 2.5%, and cylinder-head gaskets by 2%.
Clutch: No clutch trouble has been encountered by 76.6%. Clutch judder is the most common complaint against the Minx clutch, 9.2% suffering this trouble, while a further 3.4% mentioned slip or excessive noise. Of actual failures the thrust race has been changed by 2%, master cylinders by 2%, new clutch plates by 2.9%, while complete exchange clutch units have been supplied to 3.4%.
Gearbox: 63.6% have had no gearbox trouble with the Minx. Like so many other gearboxes reviewed in this survey, the Minx gearbox has proved to be reliable but many owners have criticised various aspects of the design. Excessive noise is mentioned by 7%, difficulty in engaging gears, especially 2nd, is reported by 6.1%, and a further 5.7% complain of stiffness in the gearbox. Poor synchromesh is mentioned by 3.7% and 1.6% have had synchromesh cones replaced. 2.5% have had trouble with the gear-lever jumping out of engagement, 1.2% have had the gearbox jam in gear, 0.8% have suffered a broken gear-lever, 1.6% have suffered from broken linkages on the column change, and 2.9% have had oil leakages.
Brakes: No braking troubles have been experienced by 71.7%. Few troubles have occurred on the Hillman Minx braking system but some people remarked on poor lining life, 8.2% having brakes relined in under 20,000 miles. Brake fade is complained of by 3.7%, master cylinders have been changed by 1.2%, and slave cylinders by 1.6%
Steering: No steering trouble has been experienced by 72.2%. Although the Minx steering has been relatively free from mechanical failures it is criticised for heaviness, sponginess and stiffness by 18.4%, whilst 2.9% mention that the front-wheel alignment was incorrectly set on delivery and 1.2% found that the steering pulls to one side or another. Rootes modifications to the steering have been fitted by 1.6%, and excessive play was reported by 4.9%. Actual failures reported were very few indeed, indicating that, although heavy, the Rootes steering gear is strong.
Suspension: With a total percentage of satisfied owners of 82% there is obviously little fault to be found with the Minx suspension. The shock-absorbers have required replacement on 7.4%, while a further 5.3% mention soft suspension and settling, indicative of weak shock-absorbers. Of failures, anti-roll bushes have been replaced by 2.5%, wheel bearings by 0.8%, and replacements of components in the independent front suspension by 1.2%.
Instruments: 61.5% of Minx owners have had no instrument trouble. The speedometer once again is the most troublesome component, 17.2% having the speedometer head changed, 11.9% having a new cable and 9.4% having various speedometer repairs carried out. The fuel contents gauge failed on 8.6%, the temperature gauge on 2.9%, and the ammeter on 0:8%.
Electrical: No electrical failures have been encountered, by 57%. Battery failure is the most common fault, this being reported by 14.7%. The side/head lamp switch has been changed on 6.6%, the winkers switch on 5.7%, the windscreen-wiper switch on 5.3%, the windscreen-wiper motor on 2%, the dynamo on 5.3%, the dynamo bracket on 1.2%, the starter motor on 3.7%, the coil on 3.4%. the A.V.C. on 2.5%, wiring faults on 2.5%, and distributor on 1.6%.
Hillman Minx owners on electrical
" O.K. except for short and consequent fire behind dash at 13,000 miles had to be rewired."
" One vast cloud of blue smoke at 14,000 miles-cause unknown-, effects nil, duration three minutes."
" Battery failed after only 1,200 miles, New regulator had to be fitted after a short circuit causing fire."
" Four light switches have failed, each lasting about four months. Self-park switch on wiper motor broke."
" Two Lucas batteries under part guarantee-now replaced with Exide. Flasher Unit replaced at 10,000 miles."
" Delivered with no panel light. No lights at all for the first 1,000 miles. Windscreen-wiper motor failed at 1,500 miles."
Rear Axle: No rear axle trouble has been experienced by 71.7%. As on so many other components on many different marques more criticism is made of certain aspects of the design than against actual failures. Noise from the final-drive unit is complained of by 16%, many owners have exchange axles (several having as many as five axles) in an attempt to reduce the noise level. New axles have been fitted by 7.4%. Half-shaft oil seal failures have affected 5.7%, propeller-shafts have been changed by 1.2%, differential units by 2.9%, and the crown-wheel and pinion by 1.6%.
Hillman Minx owners on rear axle
" Rear-axle noisy at 3,000 miles. Five, repeat five, rear axle units fitted up to 18,000 miles, when trouble diagnosed as warped diff. casing. No trouble since then but never really quiet."
" Noisy. New diff. fitted approximately 1,000 miles. Result-noisy. Diff. stripped and rebuilt-noisy. New crown-wheel and pinion-noisy. Now accepted. All in first 3,000 miles."
" Rear axle replaced four times before 5,000 miles."
" Noisy. Five complete differential units fitted under guarantee although period had expired. Still not satisfactory."
" Very noisy. Twelve attempts to rectify all under guarantee. Total number of days without car due to axle faults alone-60 days."
" Companionable hum at 50, rising to high-pitched whine at 75. Agent pronounced this normal and sprayed diff. casing with underseal !"
" Five replacement units in first 9,000 miles. Still noisy. Have given up."
Bodywork: 46% report no trouble with the bodywork. The largest single complaint concerns water entering the body, which is mentioned by 16.4%. Rusting of chromium-plated parts is reported by 11.1%, paintwork defects by 9.2%, body rust by 6.6%, defective door locks by 10.2%, various rattles by 8.2%, defective window winders by 6.1%, broken quarter-light catches by 4.1%, ill-fitting doors by 2.9%, and loose trim by 2.6%.
Hillman Minx owners on bodywork
" Rootes beetle attacking underside of wings. These tiny holes cause blisters in paintwork, requiring intermittent action."
" Poor finish. Duo-tone red is only one coat over the main colour. A lot of orange peel to be seen. Tending to pimple in places."
" Door lock faulty at 25 miles. Minor defects in assembly and trim-very difficult to rectify."
" Boot often won't open. Off-side back door grates on tread plate."
" Paintwork bad. Resprayed (roof and boot lid) at 9,000 and 22,000 miles."
Other serious defects: Although a number of individual faults were reported, the only remarks that occurred in any quantity were directed against the ineffectiveness of the heater and wheels being out of balance.
Tyres: Dunlop tyres are fitted to 70.9% of Hillman Minxes, Michelin to 11.9%, Goodyear to 4.9%, Firestone to 2%, India to 1.6%, Pirelli to 0.8% and Davies to 0.8%.
Would you buy this car again? Yes, 75.4%. No, 24.6%.
Of those who said they would not buy this car again the following cars were named:
Sunbeam Rapier - 3.7%, Vauxhall - 3.7%, Morris - 3.7%, Ford - 2.0%, VW - 1.6%, Singer - 1.2%, Triumph - 1.2%, Volvo - 1.2%, Austin - 1.2%, Rover - 0.8%, Jaguar - 0.8%, Porsche - 0.8%, Fiat - 0.8%, Borgward - 0.8%, Alvis - 0.8%, Wolseley - 0.4%, Riley - 0.4%, Citroen - 0.4%, Peugeot - 0.4%
Is service satisfactory? Of Sunbeam Rapier owners 69% found the service satisfactory, 19.7% were not satisfied, 2.8% carry out their own servicing, and 8.5% made no comment under this heading.
If car is modified give brief details: Being in effect a tuned version of the Hillman Minx the Rapier has most of the performance-making accessories already supplied in standard form and not a large number of tuning modifications have been made. The most popular alteration is the fitting of overdrive, which is of course a Rootes extra, and has been chosen by 6.7%. Various proprietary 4-branch exhaust systems come next in popularity, being fitted by 6.2%, while alternative makes of shock-absorbers have been fitted by 3.3%. Brake boosters have also been fitted by 3.3%, cylinder-head modifications have been made by 2.8%, modified camshafts have been fitted by 2.2%, various other twin-carburetter layouts, including the Zeniths from the Sunbeam Alpine, twin S.U.s and twin Webers, are used by 2.8%, while 2.2% have fitted particular proprietary tuning kits from Alexander, Jack Brabham and George Hartwell.
Engine: No engine trouble has been experienced by 43% of Rapier owners. A fairly large number of faults have been reported but, as on so many other cars, these appear to be of the minor irritating type rather than serious defects. Of the more serious complaints the associated troubles with big-end bearing failure and crankshaft replacement were reported by 4.5% and 3.9%, respectively, while oil pump failure is mentioned by 3.9%. Camshaft troubles are reported by 2.8% and 4% have changed the timing chain, a fault which partially accounts for the 6.2% who complain of the excessive noise of the engine. The twin Zenith carburetters come in for some criticism mainly on the score of flooding and stalling, 2.2% complaining of flooding and 3.3% of stalling. Valves have been replaced by 3.3%, tappets by 2.8%, and exhaust system by 3.9%. Other troubles, although numerous, are of relatively minor proportions and do not recur in any great quantity.
Clutch: No clutch trouble has been experienced by 70.5%. The Rapier clutch seems to have given little trouble, only 4.5% having required complete overhaul, while a further 2.8% have been fitted with a new clutch plate. Of general complaints, 5.6% report excessive clutch judder, 1.1% reported a heavy clutch-pedal action, and 2.2% have suffered from a sticking clutch pedal.
Gearbox: No gearbox trouble has been experienced by 70.5%. Failure of the overdrive has affected 7.3% of Rapier owners and a further 2.2% have required adjustment. General complaints concerning poor synchromesh have been made by 15.8% and too much noise from the gearbox by 15.2%, but actual failures are limited to oil-seal trouble, reported by 3.3% and a small number of isolated bearing and pinion failures.
Brakes: No braking troubles have been experienced by 80%. Those cars fitted with drum brakes appear to have suffered little braking trouble, the 19.2% who have changed linings doing so at an average mileage of around 25,000. Those with disc brakes do not appear to be so happy, 8.5% requiring one or more new discs, while brake pad life seems to be somewhat lower than that of drum linings at around the 20,000-mile mark. Other troubles are relatively minor.
Steering: No steering trouble has been encountered by 82%. The Rapier steering has been almost entirely trouble-free from a failure point of view but 17% of owners made remarks on sponginess, heaviness or stiffness, while 3.3% mentioned that frequent alignment is required. The only part requiring replacement in any quantity is the track-rod end, which has been replaced on 2.2%.
Sunbeam Rapier owners on steering
" Very stiff from new. Finally unable to move wheel at all. The steering wheel split."
" Low geared and rather sloppy. No mechanical failure."
" Atrocious. Spongy and heavy and tiring to drive in town."
" Spongy-but apparently an inherent fault. Safe when you get used to it."
" Weakest feature of the car design-wise."
Suspension: No suspension trouble has been encountered by 71%. As with most cars, shock-absorber replacements form the bulk of suspension troubles, 10.2% requiring one or more replacement dampers at a maximum mileage of 45,000. Rubber bush replacements in the anti-roll bar have been made by 3.9%. Few other mechanical troubles have affected the Rapier suspension, most other complaints being of a general nature about stiffness or sponginess in the suspension.
Instruments: No instrument trouble has been experienced by 40.5%. As usual the speedometer gave most trouble, 24.5% requiring new cables and 7.3% having new heads. Water temperature gauges failed on 9%, fuel contents gauge on 8.5%, rev.-counter head on 5.1%, rev.-counter cable on 2.2%, and the clock on 5.1%.
Sunbeam Rapier owners on instruments
" Speedometer reads too slow due to incorrect gears being fitted to overdrive model. Fuel gauge steams up."
" About five new speedometers. Gables kept breaking. Speedometer did not work from new."
" Non-overdrive speedometer fitted to car when new."
" Four new speedometer cables; two speedometer heads, one water-temperature gauge."
Electrical: No electrical trouble has been experienced by 45.5%. Battery replacements form by far the greatest percentage of electrical component replacements, 19.2% having changed batteries usually within the guarantee period, many people remarking that they felt the standard unit was not up to the job given to it. Other failures included dynamos, reported by 5.1%, windscreen-wiper motors by 6.7%, starter motor by 5.6%, various electrical shorts by 3.3%, light switch by 3.3%, overdrive switch by 2.8%, and overdrive solenoid also by 2.8%.
Rear Axle: No rear axle trouble has been encountered by 69%. Few faults are to be found with the Rapier axle but 16.4% remarked that they found the axle too noisy. The crown-wheel and pinion has been changed on 3.3% and oil seals have failed on 2.1%.
Bodywork: No trouble with the Rapier body has been encountered by 37.2%. Rusting of the chromium plating was reported by 22.6% and rusting of paintwork by 17.5%. Water leaks in various places are reported by 11.9%, broken or damaged locks occurred on 6.7%, faulty windows by 5.6%, various rattles by 3.3% and faulty bonnet catches by 2.2%.
Other serious defects: Few troubles have been listed under this heading but 3.9% refer to the frequent tuning required by the carburetters, 3.9% comment on poor silencer life, and 2.2% reiterate remarks on the poor steering.
Tyres: Dunlop tyres are fitted by 64.5% of Rapier owners, Michelin by 23.2%, Goodyear by 3.3%, Avon by 2.8%, and Pirelli by 1.1%.
Would you buy this car again? Yes, 67%. No, 33%
The following cars were named by those who said not buy the Sunbeam Rapier again:
Volvo - 5.1%, Jaguar - 4.5%, Not yet certain - 4.5%, Vauxhall - 3.3%, Triumph - 2.8%, Fiat - 2.2%, B.M.C. Mini - 1.1%, D.K.W - 1.1%, Lotus - 1.1%, Saab - 1.1%, Porsche 1.1%
Petrol used by Fiat 600 owners
Esso - 16.2%, Shell - 14.3%, Anything - 13.3%, Jet - 12.4%, B.P. - 10.5%, National Benzole - 9.5%, Cleveland - 6.6%, Regent - 6.6%, Mobilgas - 5.7%, Fina - 2.9%
Oil used by Fiat 600 owners
Castrol - 52.5%, B.P. - 14.3%, Anything - 9.5%, Shell - 6.7%, Esso - 6.7%, Mobiloil - 4.8%, Duckhams - 1.9%, Havoline - 1.9%
Petrol used by Hillman Minx owners
Shell - 27.4%, Esso - 13.9%, Anything - 9.0%, B.P. - 8.6%, National Benzole - 7.8%, Jet - 5.7%, Mobilgas - 4.1%, Regent - 4.1%, Fina - 1.64%, Power - 1.2%, Aral - 1.2%
Oil used by Hillman Minx owners
Shell - 33.1%, Castrol - 29.1%, B.P. - 17.6%, Mobiloil - 2.46%, Esso - 1.65%, Havoline - 1.65%
Petrol used by Sunbeam Rapier owners
Esso - 24.2%, Shell - 22.6%, B.P. - 10.2%, Anything - 7.9%, Cleveland - 6.2%, Jet - 5.6%, National Benzole - 4.5%, Regent - 3.9%, Mobilgas - 3.3%
Oil used by Sunbeam Rapier owners
Castrol - 38.3%, Shell - 29.4%, B.P. - 11.8%, Esso - 6.2%, Mobiloil - 2.8%, Duckhams - 1.6%, Havoline - 1.6%, Anything - 1.6%
The manufacturers reply
We were rather unkind to Ford and B.M.C. last month in remarking that neither organisation had fixed a date to discuss the various models reported on in the previous issue. It appears that both companies were busily engaged in deciding who should talk to us about the survey, and when this was done the engineers concerned made detailed reports on the survey, putting their answers into tabulated form.
First of all we went to the M.G. factory at Abingdon, where we spoke to General Manager John Thornley and Chief Designer Sydney Enever, with whom we discussed the two Austin-Healey models reported on in the May issue and the M.G.-A reported on in the June issue. Dealing with the Sprite first, Mr. Enever went straight on to the engine which, he said, had no inherent faults with the exception of the external oil filter which gave trouble on early cars. This was due to the large overhang of the filter body which worked the retaining bolts loose, allowing the oil to escape. This happened to the Assistant Editor's Sprite and the bearings were almost ruined. The cure was somewhat delayed because this fault was not reported in any great quantity through the usual dealer defect report channels, presumably because most owners tightened the bolts themselves. However, this provided no permanent cure and eventually a new oil filter with less overhang was put into production. On the Mk. II Sprite, incidentally, the filter body is much easier to withdraw owing to redesigning of the lower sub-frame. Clutch trouble has not been considered a major problem bearing in mind that the Sprite is a hard-driven sports car, but an improved clutch is fitted to the Mk. II model.
M.G. are fully aware of the shortcomings of the "A" series gearbox but, of course, to keep the price low they are committed to using as many production parts as possible. However, the faults brought to light by the harder-driving Sprite owners have benefited other people because the basic gearbox has been improved considerably in production. The Mk. II Sprite box has new ratios with needle roller bearings and improved steel specification for the pinions, which now have increased chamfering to prevent baulking. Now, instead of failing to get 1st gear once every five tries, the Sprite owner will be baulked only once every 100 or so.
The short brake lining life is recognised and the original AMII linings are now replaced by AM3, while it is expected that an even harder lining, AM8, will be put into production before long. On the suspension the noise problem emanates from the rear quarter-elliptic leaf-springs, fibre washers have been fitted each side of the rear bushes, while it is now possible to fit interleaves between the springs. B.M.C. dealers have the necessary information. New rear springs with polythene interleaves are to go into production shortly.
On instruments, the drive gearbox of the rev.-counter has been modified by Smiths to prevent seizing of gears, and the dynamo end plate, from which the rev:counter is driven, has been modified by Lucas to give more accurate alignment. The position of the battery on the Mk. I Sprite is partially responsible for its early demise, being rather difficult to top up, and being prone to overheating. The battery has been re-positioned on the Mk. II Sprite. Rear axle noise is something with which B.M.C. engineers are fairly familiar and considerable research is going on into this problem, over 50 axles being on test at the moment to see if this problem can be alleviated. Mr. Enever pointed out that axle noise is more evident on the Sprite because the driver's ear is only just in front of it.
Bodywork sealing is not considered a major problem but more comprehensive sealing instructions have been given for production and dealers have also been given instructions for curing of water leaks. In closing on the subject of the Sprite we asked Mr. Enever if our personal opinion that the Mk. II "Spridget" has less character and less appeal than the Mk. I is reflected in the sales graphs. He said this was certainly not so and quoted sample figures which showed that weekly production of the Mk. I averaged around 500, while the Mk. II Sprite sells about 300 and the Midget 250 a week.
Turning to the Austin-Healey 100 and 3000, we went straight to the engine, which, it is felt, is quite reliable in service, the complaints mentioned being normal high-mileage replacements. The clutch is not considered a problem, although a 10-in, diameter version was introduced with the 2.9-litre engine. The gearbox was modified on the Mk. II 3000 model with strengthened pinions to cope with the greater power.
The disc brakes fitted to the later models have caused a problem because no one design can cope with all conditions to he found the world over. The standard disc brake provides pad life up to 40,000 miles in dry conditions but in parts of Canada and the United States it was found that on their dirt roads pad life could be reduced to ridiculous proportions in the wet, the gritty mud sometimes wearing out pads in 700 miles. The introduction of dust shields brought the pad life under these conditions up to a respectable 15-20,000 miles, but also reduced the pad life of those cars run in good conditions to about the same mileage due to the extra heat. Therefore it is really a matter for the owner to decide whether to remove the dust shields, which are standard on the latest models, or to fit the kit now available from dealers to a car which does not have dust shields.
There is no service history of steering side rod failures and it must be assumed that these are in high-mileage vehicles.The side rods now have greaseless nylon ball joints. As a point of interest the works rally cars have adjustable side rods so that steering adjustments can be made more quickly and accurately. On the suspension, it was pointed out that limited axle movement and high rated springs are inherent in the design and therefore more liable to suffer from breakages. Even higher rated springs and stiller dampers are available for severe conditions.
The fuel pump failures have been attributed largely to its position on the car close to the exhaust pipe, and it has now been removed to the right-hand side of the car.
Similar comments apply to the rear axle noise problem on the larger Healey as have already been mentioned on the Sprite. Water leaks have been virtually eliminated on the 3000 model by the introduction of a glass-fibre prop.-shaft tunnel with improved sealing to the floor and front diaphragm.
The problem of ground clearance of the sump and exhaust systems was summarised by John Thornley, who said "The whole car is too near the ground." Everything is compressed into the minimum possible vertical height and the only way to increase the clearance is to raise the entire car, various modifications being available to make this possible for competition purposes.
The problem of loose spokes in wire wheels is a perennial one which has always plagued car designers, and this will be inevitable unless they are periodically re-tensioned. Design-wise they are inferior to disc wheels but many owners, especially in America, are willing to pay more for wire wheels. Special 60-spoke wheels are available for heavy-duty work.
Mr. Enever felt that the Survey on the MG.-A .called for few answers as the survey proves what the M.G. Car Company has already discovered; i.e., that the M.G.-A is remarkably sturdy and trouble free. The gearbox is gradually being improved along with other models in the range and similar comments apply to the brakes of the M.G.-A as to those of the big Healey. Slight modifications have been made to the dampers with a new recuperating chamber but it is not planned to change to adjustable dampers.
Both John Thornley and Sydney Enever felt that the majority of faults mentioned on the M.G.-A are those encountered on most cars in service and are not in any way peculiar to the M.G.-A. In this they may be influenced by the fact that the M.G.,A was their baby while the two Healey models were foisted on them by B.M.C,!
At Ford's Engineering and Service Division at Aveley we talked with Frank Harris (Manager of Product Planning), Hamish Orr-Ewing (Light Car Product Planning), Harry Skirrow (Service Manager), Ron Platt (Marketing Manager, Domestic Sales) and Harry Carlton from the Press Office. Fords had gone into our survey most carefully and Mr. Harris remarked that, bearing in mind the relatively small numbers covered in our survey compared with their own market surveys, the results tallied in most respects. They were also most willing to discuss faults and admitted quite openly that they had made mistakes and gave us full details of modification action that has been taken.
The carburetter flat-spot trouble has been a really thorny problem. The reason for this, as explained by Mr. Orr-Ewing, was that the major portion of the final development on the Anglia was done during the hot summer of 1958 when the problem did not arise as the flat spot becomes prominent only in cold or wet weather. The Solex carburetters with black, blue or white spots on the body suffer from this problem, and a carburetter with a green spot was introduced into production which virtually cured the flat spot but it was still evident under some extreme conditions, and in May of this year a new Solex pump type carburetter offering a complete cure was put into production. It was pointed out that those with a "green spot" carburetter need not attempt to change as this carburetter is satisfactory under most conditions.
The noisy timing chain is due to a faulty hydraulic tensioner which has been replaced by a spring-type since April 1961. Some of the 4.3% who complain of excessive noise may still have the hydraulic tensioner. The water pump has had minor modifications and some material changes, while many of the thermostat changes were due to the marking of the temperature gauge which had the red sector marked rather pessimistically. This has been moved slightly. The water hoses have been given a neoprene skin since September 1961. A modified cylinder-head gasket was introduced in July 1961 with tin-plated steel insert which has eliminated most problems on this score. Oil leaks, Mr. Orr-Ewing said, were very often caused by overtightening of sump bolts, etc., and he recommended that a torque wrench should be used as directed in Ford handbooks. However, a new sump stamping which is more accurate has been put into production.
Oil on the clutch is not considered an Anglia problem but after some experience with customers who parked their cars on a sloping drive, allowing oil to seep through to the clutch over a long period, an oil return hole has been incorporated in production and a new oil seal is due to go on to the production line very shortly.
The Ford engineers are obviously rather proud of their gearbox and seemed rather hurt that 8.8% felt the box was too noisy. They feel that most of these complaints arc directed against the gear-lever, which "buzzes" at high speed. This has been overcome by a change of material for the selector forks, which are now alloy bronze instead of steel.
It is felt that many braking problems have been solved with the introduction of the MS3 lining which came into production in May 1961. This wilt give longer lining life. but the Ford engineers are concerned with not increasing pedal pressures for lady drivers, so the lining cannot be expected to become too hard.
With regard to the remarks on wheel shimmy, Ford have been studying this problem for some time and have now come to the decision to carry out wheel balancing on all new cars. The equipment is now being installed and cars with balanced wheels will be rolling off the line in July. However..Mr. Skirrow is looking forward to problems later on when balance weights get knocked off by rubbing kerbs, etc., or when the tyres wear over large mileages, changing the balance of wheels.
Some of the speedometer cable trouble has been traced to incorrect routeing of the cable and the cable run has been altered in production to give a larger radius. Other instrument failures are felt to be within permissible limits.
On the electrical system Ford engineers have been giving considerable thought to changing over to a fused system, but if they decide to, it will be with a completely fused system rather than the arrangement on most cars at present. At the moment if a fault occurs in the lighting system the lights fade gradually rather than going out suddenly when a lose blows. The battery and A.V.C. arc not positioned ideally, which has caused some trouble. but a cooling aperture has been arranged to duct air to the battery and this has helped considerably. Originally poor thermal switches were fitted to the Lucas windscreen wiper motor and it tended to overheat. These have since been improved. Most of the courtesy-light switch failures were due to the switch in the door jamb being bent over instead of being depressed when the door was closed. This has now been modified.
On the bodywork the door spring failures caused a good deal of concern in the Ford factory and a very thorough investigation was carried out before the trouble was cured in May of last year. The water leaks were mainly due to water being thrown up by the front wheels and finding its way by devious routes to the windscreen surround. Many owners and garages removed windscreens and resealed the surround but as soon as the car went out in the rain the trouble returned, After a long investigation the trouble was detected and a seal put in which immediately cured the problem. Chromium-plated parts such as bumpers and door catches now have a duplex nickel coaling which gives good results. Many underbody parts are zinc-coated for extra protection. Several of the interior appointments have been modified, such as the door pulls which are now much sturdier.
Although the Anglia has suffered its share of troubles, we were most impressed by the methods taken by Ford to eliminate them. Mr Skirrow pointing out that roving service representatives are able to check on serious troubles at short notice and report back to the factory. Ford are also interested in and willing to investigate some of the more serious troubles which have come to light through our survey. A most refreshing attitude.