Variety—continued

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The Editor thoroughly enjoys driving the Ford Consul Cortina GT, finds the current Chrysler Valiant V-200 “Compact” commodious, essentially restful transport, and refreshes his memory of the latest technically-revolutionary, superbly suspended Citroen DS19, and the latest Ford Capri GT.

I predicted that with a few suspension changes and more “steam” the disliked Ford Consul Cortina might well become a car I could enjoy. I was absolutely right. In what Dagenham chooses to call its GT form the Cortina is an extremely covetable car, very pleasant indeed to drive.

In writing this I am not eating those words of disappointment that the Cortina in its dreary standard form inspired. For the GT version has many notable improvements. The excellent Ford 5-bearing 1,498-c.c. power unit has been given a Weber 2-stage progressive-choke carburetter beneath a very big dry-type air-cleaner, feeding via a 2-piece curved-pipe light-alloy water-heated inlet manifold. The camshaft is a special high-lift, long-dwell version developed by Keith Duckworth of Cosworth. There is a fine fabricated exhaust manifold with four long branches, linking cylinders 1 and 4, and 2 and 3, and the exhaust valves are 0.125 in. greater in diameter than those in the normal 1,498-c.c. Cortina engine. The edge to the vertical wall of the combustion chamber on the inlet side is relieved and the pistons have more metal inside the crown to cope with a 9-to-1 c.r. The five main bearing shells are of copper-lead instead of white metal.

These modifications result in a power increase of 31% and a torque improvement of nearly 12%. This rugged and well-proved engine in GT form develops 78 b.h.p. at 5,200 r.p.m. (against 59 1/2 b.h.p. at 4,600 r.p.m. of the standard Cortina engine). Torque has been improved to 91 lb./ft. at 3,600 r.p.m. from 81 1/2 lb./ft. at 2,300 r.p.m. This gives the Cortina GT a very useful performance, both in terms of through-the-cogs and top-gear acceleration, coupled with a very impressive 3rd-gear speed and a maximum in top of around 90 m.p.h.

Stronger springs in the clutch look after the hairier horses, and the diameter of the propeller shaft has been upped by 1/4 in.

This performance increase would be near suicidal had nothing been done about the soggy rear springs of the Cortina. Fortunately, Ford engineers agree, and have provided stiffer rate springs and have also lowered the car about 1 1/2 in. These modifications, in conjunction with 5.60 x 13 in place of 5.20 x 13 tyres, have made the handling qualities acceptable. Moreover, the front brakes are now 9 1/2 in. dia. discs.

Inside the Cortina GT there are further, acceptable mods. A slim central “console” in the front compartment carries an ammeter and oil-pressure gauge (normally reading 40 lb./sq. in.), has louvres which direct hot air into the foot wells (so that it could truthfully be said that the driver of a Cortina GT goes hot-foot), and carries a proper, short remote gear-lever. Interior trim is part Cortina de luxe, part Cortina Super, and screen-washers, fresh-air heater and water-temperature gauge are standard equipment. The fuel gauge is entirely uncalibrated, which may not trouble the car’s owner but is of little help to strangers, the same applying to the thermometer. Clipped to the left of the steering column is a Smiths electronic impulse tachometer, the red band from 6,000 to 7,000 r.p.m. bearing silent witness to the crankshaft-speed potential of the GT power unit.

To me a GT car is a big, beefy machine with accommodation for two keen motorists and their luggage, in which you can travel very fast, with maximum enjoyment, from, for instance, Calais to Cannes at the highest possible average speeds. Even the Jaguar E-type failed to quite match up to Motor Sport’s exacting ideas as to what a GT car should be and accomplish. So I tended to look askance at a completely normal-looking Ford Consul Cortina 2-door saloon bearing “GT” motifs on the side panels of its big luggage boot… However, the conception of what constitutes a GT car has changed since I was a boy and regarded Ferrari and Maserati as magic names, and there is some quiet amusement to be had from the fact that, unless they spot the “GT” badges, drivers of standard Cortinas are baffled as you unleash the 78 horses of the Weber version, which is not to say that, good as it is, I would select this car in which to travel quickly between the two towns just named!

Ford’s 4-speed all-synchromesh gearbox is one of the best, and mated to the Cortina GT’s remote lever it is all that the most ffastidious enthusiast could desire. The action is halfway between what I call a “mechanical” change and “Porsche” action, with very small movement across the gate. Reverse is engaged by lifting the lever beyond 2nd gear position.

Road-holding is not of the kind of which Alec Issigonis would approve but the Cortina GT goes round corners with very little roll, noticeable understeer, perhaps a trace of “tightrope walking” but really very effectively indeed. The brakes are entirely adequate, clutch action juddery.

In spite of the 9-to-1 cr. and high-lift camshaft, the engine is docile enough to accept top gear down to 1,600-1,800 r.p.m. It is at the other end of the scale, however, that it becomes so interesting!

The electric tachometer showed 6,800 r.p.m. in 1st and 2nd gears, equivalent to speedometer readings of 35 and 50 m.p.h., respectively. In 3rd gear the smooth, willing power unit just runs up and up, to 6,200 r.p.m., or an indicated 80 m.p.h. Petrol consumption, of 100-ottane fuel, came out at 28.6 m.p.g. The gearing gives indicated speeds of 5, 8, 13 and 17 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m., respectively, in 1st, 2nd, 3rd and top.

I was extremely disappointed that pressure of other work prevented proper performance testing of this very well-balanced Ford model.

Incidentally, Ford of Dagenham now list so many models that I should not be surprised to hear that the Management has gone on strike through having to deal with all this complexity. But for the customers, if not Ford agents, it is great fun deciding which one to have. Just at the moment, if Ford wants me to do a long-duration test of one of its products, I would like very much to be offered a 4-door Consul Cortina GT….

I imagine it to be a far more sensible everyday road car than the Cortina-Lotus which is being so leisurely about getting itself homologated, yet this quiet-running, safe-handling, extremely accelerative Cortina GT can win saloon-car races. You can buy one for ,£749 in 2-door form.

***

The next car to show up for test was an impressive off-white Chrysler Valiant V-200 “compact,” with blue upholstery, interior trim and steering wheel. Compact through American eyes, but a big 6-seater saloon to us, I found it a very acceptable and likeable car.

It may be that I am getting old, because at one time anything as soggy as an American car round the swerves and with brakes having an inbuilt tendency to fade, would have been dismissed with brief comment, whereas now I can see a lot of good sense in this comfortable, near-silent, accelerative automobile from the great Chrysler Corporation. In some long drives, when I was more concerned about getting there, with a big load aboard, than concentrating on how the car was doing it, the latest Valiant seemed a highly practical and desirable car.

The fact is that its new 3,687 c.c. inclined-at-30° 6-cylinder, 145 (gross) b.h.p. engine with square-section ram inlet pipes offers unobtrusive running for which rich motoring connoisseurs pay abnormal sums of money, and the matter-of-fact, very “punchy” performance which in my youth was associated with the 30-h.p. Ford V8.

There is excellent “Torqueflite” 3-speed automatic transmission, as smooth as a good sherry, with neat little push-buttons for selecting “N,” “D” and “R” and for holding in 1st or 2nd gear for maximum acceleration. An over-riding PARK lever renders all safely inoperative, except for engine starting, when it is pushed down. The anti-dazzle rear-view mirror is abnormally wide and apt to be in the way, and the internal front-door handles are set dangerously far back, so that passengers are encouraged to grab theirs and might inadvertently open the door, as the handle pulls back to release the catch.

Again, I didn’t take any performance figures, but I did discover that I had the most comfortable, least tiring Sunday evening journey up from my country house in Radnorshire to my weekday abode in Hampshire that I have had in any car—and I have made that 165-mile journey in a good many good cars. Under these press-on conditions, blended with pottering about little-frequented Welsh lanes, the thirst for normal good-quality fuel is at the rate of 20.5 m.p.g.—but don’t let your Valiant run dry because the horizontal filler refuses the most cunningly-contrived can. This is slightly better than I achieved with the earlier Valiant with a 2,779-c.c. 101-b.h.p. engine. The doors have clever roller-type 2-position “keeps” and similar rollers acting on long torsion bars support the bonnet when it is up.

Either because people think you are a Yank gaining an appreciation of cute little ole’ England (and Wales) or on account of the much improved styling of the latest Chrysler (Plymouth across “the pond”) Valiant, they help you out of predicaments, as when I inadvertently drove into a new one-way street in Hereford and would have got lost in extricating myself. The car attracts attention by its good clean styling. That imitation spare wheel cover has gone, the radiator grille has been cleaned up to great advantage, but the individual touch of (snow-catching?) recessed lamps and facia dials, stainless steel fittings, plated interior door and window handles, and “engine-turned” metal instrument, radio, and press-button panels, are retained. And the dual headlamps have gone, which is interesting at a time when even Humbers and Rolls-Royces insist on having them. For this country the tail-end of the Valiant is that of the Dodge Dart, using recessed tail-lamps and inbuilt reversing lamps.

This Valiant is an automobile in which eight slim or six near-portly people can travel in comfort, on two excellent bench seats, with their luggage in a very deep, extremely commodious self-locking boot. The “Slant Six” engine can be inspected easily without the necessity for fumbling with an interior bonnet release. The instruments now consist of a 110-m.p.h. circular speedometer with decimal total-mileometer, and small round heavily-rimmed dials for “gasolene,” “alternator” and “temperature.” The big, plated knobs, clearly labelled “Lights” and “Wiper,” have been moved to a very convenient location on the extreme right of the facia, with the button bringing in powerful pump-driven screen-washers, between them. Turning the lamps knob brings in rheostat instrument illumination. A similar size lighter-knob is sensibly placed above the pull-out ash-tray. Coat-hooks are provided.

There is a cubby-hole with unlockable, but spring-loaded, lid that swallows a Rolleiflex camera and a good deal more besides. Otherwise, interior stowage is sparse, the back shelf unlipped, although the facia sill, on which objects reflect in the screen, is lipped! A I.h. stalk works the turn indicators, the engine starts on the key, the steering wheel carries a 1/3rd-horn-ring, the doors have arm-rests, the engine sports a Super 225 air-cleaner, the oil-filter is by Chryco, and the two pedals, of which that for the brakes is a reasonable size, have rubber non-slip studs on them.

The steering of this big (to us) Valiant V-200 is manually contrived but almost light enough to be power steering. It is low-geared-4 1/2 turns, including 2/3 of a turn which is “sponge”—and the suspension is soft enough not to encourage extreme methods on corners, although giving a commendably level ride on average road surfaces. Aside from these remarks, this Chrysler handles somewhat better than confirmed critics of American cars might care to admit, and if the drum brakes call for a heavy foot in spite of servo assistance, with fade just round the corner, they stop the car reasonably under normal conditions if applied hard. The accelerator has a heavy action.

These observations apart, for restful, effortless driving, I commend the Chrysler Valiant to all but rabid Anglophiles. I suggest that it is a strong advocate of John R. Bond, in the Bond-versus-Laurence Pomeroy controversy I have been reading somewhere—or would be, given rather better brakes, had the protagonists been discussing chassis as well as engine design. After driving with very considerable enjoyment for 935 miles I let the big, sound-proofed bonnet rise of its own accord and withdrew the engine dip-stick (the other one, on the other side, which you check when the oil is hot and the motor is idling in neutral, is for the transmission) and it hadn’t used a drop of oil.

Of the three best-known American “compacts” that are better suited to traffic conditions in Britain than full-size U.S.A. automobiles, the Chrysler Valiant is, perhaps, the best. It gives the impression of a lightweight rather than ponderous construction in spite of its size, and has a commendably steady ride. Only slight shudders are transmitted to the body shell, and the steering, which has powerful castor-return action, is shock-proof. The 45° angle of the screen pillars is the only aspect that obstructs driver-vision, and an exterior mirror is provided.

A full road-test report on the older Valiant appeared in Motor Sport for November 1960. The improved 1963 model sells here for £1,788 11s. 11d., purchase tax paid, inclusive of heater. The test car had a Chryco transistor radio, was 6.50 x 13 Goodyear-shod, and that interesting alternator, in lieu of a dynamo, should ensure a continual supply of alert amps. in the Chryco battery. Notable are the considerable use of stainless steel for exterior fittings, sealed chassis bearings calling for lubrication at 32,000-mile intervals(!), and sufficient power to provide a top speed of 92 m.p.h., 0-6o-m.p.h. acceleration in under 14 sec. (s.s. 1/4-mile in 20 sec.), and suspension that is less supple than the anti-American fraternity would credit. A good automobile, which has almost converted me to automatic transmission!

I have great admiration for American automobile engineering and this Chrysler is a fine compact example of it. But I sometimes wonder why American auto engineers don’t swallow their pride and pay royalties for brakes by the British Dunlop, Girling or Lockheed companies, as Mercedes-Benz do in Germany and Ferrari does in Italy. I wonder, too, whether the speed limits on American “freeways” were imposed because of the size, suspension characteristics, power potential and inadequate brakes on most American cars? If so, Marples is a fool to imitate American speed limits in a country where cars and road conditions are vastly different.

***

The next car to come along for test was a 1,911-c.c. Citroën DS19 saloon, in its latest form with cleaned-up frontal aspect, more powerful engine and revised facia layout, but with all those hydro-pneumatic wonders of self-levelling suspension, gear shifting and steering assistance that render it the most advanced car in the World. I have described the Porsche as distinctly an acquired taste, and the Citroën, especially in DS form, is even more individualistic. Either you like or loathe it.

I am a Citroën supporter of long standing because on a long journey over fast roads the comfort, security and speed of a DS19 are outstanding. The 83-b.h.p. engine is still rather rough, and noisy, and needs to be really wound-up in the gears to produce worthwhile performance. But it will wind-up—to 60 in 2nd and almost anything you care to go to in 3rd gear—to beyond 90 m.p.h., in fact. The disadvantage that it is desirable to drop pretty frequently into 2nd gear is offset by the ease with which the gear selector lever in front of the single-spoke safety steering wheel can be flicked about the gate. The latest alloy-head inclined o.h.v. engine develops its maximum power at a modest 4,500 r.p.m.
Because “heel-and-toe” action of the brake button and accelerator isn’t possible, somewhat jerky action tends to accompany hurried downward gear shifts, but the upward changes go through beautifully. The Citroën DS is now about the only car to have an automatic clutch; it works well, with less lag than formerly. A small amount of creep is intentionally introduced to facilitate parking manoeuvres.

The Citroën also has ingenious brake compensation in accordance with the load carried, achieved by means of a simple sliding fulcrum under the pedal, which I have seen demonstrated on the hydraulic test-rig at Slough. With roof and interior crash-padding, well-applied lighting and direction indicators, and impeccable road-clinging qualities that stem from traction avant, a wheel at each corner, and Michelin “X” tyres for which the Citroën was initially designed, the DS is one of the safest 100-m.p.h. saloons available.

The gear-lever moves to the left to operate the starter, a fool-proof idea pioneered by Parry Thomas on the Leyland Eight in 1919. It then goes right into 1st gear, pulls towards you to select 2nd, and moves to the right for 3rd and top. Reverse is protected by the lever having to go down and through 1st and to the right before the Citroën gallops backwards.

The brake pedal is still just a knob on the floor, but this obviates the foot slipping from a pedal and saves fractions of a second in applying retardation. The braking action, with inboard front discs, I thought more powerful and progressive than on earlier DS19s I have driven.

There is a second brake pedal, held down by an under-facia knob, in lieu of a handbrake, but this is more pointless, can savage the ankles, and calls for difficult juggling of left and right feet on brake button and accelerator when re-starting on steep hills. The power-assisted steering is very heavy until the car begins to move; it then becomes light and positive, with an occasional uncanny “rocking feel” that is typically Citroën. Who but Citroën, indeed, could not only get away with a car of this shape and conception, but find customers who rave about it?

The notable front-drive Citroen qualities of “sure-footed” cornering, comfortable scats, cleverly contrived internal door handles and variable-height suspension, the controlling lever for the latter now on the right floor sill on r.h.d. cars, are retained and require no additional praise from me, for I have enthused about them in Motor Sport for many years. The ventilation and heating arrangements alone are a work of concentration, although I thought there was less cold-air flow than in earlier Citroëns I have enjoyed.

It is rather droll that, in a car with such splendid window area and very slender screen pillars, near-side forward visibility is impeded by a high scuttle line and central low-mounted mirror. Stowage of oddments, apart from on the wide back shelf, is not well provided for, the flap-lidded cubby-hole being of little use for more than a pair of gloves and the useful facia map pocket on the teat car being sacrificed if a radio is installed.

The luggage boot is very deep and commodious but the width of access precludes loading it with the larger trunks and other big objects. These items apart, the latest Citroën DS19 is the same lovable, highly individualistic, very safe motor car that it always has been. You may dream of it with a 6-cylinder engine and fully-automatic transmission but in its present form it appeals to Frenchmen and English enthusiasts with long journeys on their hands. I wish, though, that they would install a fuel gauge that meant something!

Fast driving of the DS19, cruising on a level-keel at 80 plus with cornering to match, did not drop fuel consumption below 26.7 m.p.g.

Here is motoring individuality personified, for an all-in price of £1,568 19s. 7d.

***

Having so enjoyed the Ford Consul Cortina GT (as John Bond has said in Road & Track, what a ridiculous name), I expected the Ford Consul Capri GT to be an excellent car, a sort of Dagenham version of the Volvo P.1800. Alas, I was sadly disappointed.

In the days of the model-T it was said that Henry Ford kept a special department manufacturing jokes about this crude but tough product, for publicity purposes. I can only think that a similar department exists today at Dagenham and that calling the hotted-up Capri a GT car was one of its pranks.

For almost everything you do not find in a proper GT car has been worked into this so-called GT Consul Capri. The driving seat is one of the most uncomfortable I have sat in. You sit too low for good visibility, the squab is painfully hard and you stick to the plastic cushion and cannot easily shift position on it. The plating on the steering wheel and parts of the facia reflects sunlight into the driver’s eyes. The upholstered screen pillars are too thick for safe sideways vision. Unless the driver’s window is open there is no elbow room for the right arm. The steering is somewhat spongy and the back axle tramps about over bad road surfaces so noticeably that road-holding is adversely affected and shake transmitted through the body shell.

There is pretence woodwork on the facia, but although real wood in conjunction with leather upholstery is acceptable in cars like Daimlers, Jaguars and Rovers, I dislike imitation wooden panelling adjacent to plastic upholstery, in a mass-produced steel shell.

Then detail-work in what has been described as a “personnel car,” the price of which exceeds £960, was shoddy. The internal door handles hidden beneath the arm-rests are intended as a safety factor but that is no excuse for making them so stiff that only by applying real force could I open the driver’s door—best done with the left hand so as to be able to exert maximum effort. The passenger’s window-winder, too, required considerable strength, so much so that to open or close this window from the driver’s seat was quite tiresome.

The separate front seats lift to give access to a flat luggage platform behind them, which is in the best GT tradition. But these heavy seats refuse to stay up on their own, which makes loading luggage a one-handed task. Presumably to prevent an empty passenger’s seat lifting under emergency braking it is clipped to its runners, making it difficult for a girl to lift it—if Ford are so concerned about seat security I suggest they study the neat solution adopted by Volkswagen for the front seats of the 1500. Their cruder method does not obviate seat rattle. . .

The appearance of the Ford Capri GT is unfortunate, because the big tail-finned boot contrasts unhappily with the short bonnet. The Classic saloon has this very big luggage boot at the expense of rear-compartment leg room; but why it has been necessary to have a similarly commodious boot on the 2-seater Capri is probably best known to Dagenham’s production economists.

Presumably the basic Cortina is an advance on the Classic under the headings of ride and road-holding, for in their GT versions no favourable comparison can be made between the Classic-inspired Capri GT and the Cortina GT commented upon favourably earlier in this discourse.

This is a pity, because the same excellent 78-b.h.p. 5-bearing Weber-carburetted engine propels the Capri GT very nicely, endowing it with excellent acceleration in top gear, surprisingly good pick-up if the splendid gearbox is used, together with a good turn of speed. So commendable is the performance that I fully intended to publish figures but the fifth-wheel couldn’t be located due to an office hitch (to me it seems a singularly difficult thing to mislay!), so I am unable to do so. But I have no grumbles about the Capri GT on the score of performance, although this is to sports-coupé rather than GT levels. Moreover, in spite of this more than ample urge, the carburation must be well nigh perfect, because a check showed the excellent figure of 33 m.p.g. in fast driving, using 100-octane petrol. After 500 miles approximately a pint of oil had been used. The servo-assisted front disc brakes are as excellent as the floor gear-change, and dials are provided on each side of the speedometer for fuel contents (reasonably calibrated) and water temperature, with a Smiths electronic impulse tachometer, ammeter and oil gauge on a subsidiary panel on the floor above the transmission tunnel. As on the Cortina GT, the engine is in the red only at rotational speeds between 6,000 and 7,000 r.p.m.

An under-facia shelf and deep lockable cubby-hole provide useful stowage and the minor controls are effectively laid out. A pity, therefore, that in general the Capri GT is a disappointing car.

If I were in the market for a modern Ford my choice would be a 4-door Consul Cortina to GT specification, with the “GT” badges removed, and perhaps, with a Microcell driving seat. In such a car I feel I could motor far and fast with a great deal of enjoyment.

For decent road-holding and clever, comfortable suspension, however, I still prefer the Morris 1100, about which I intend to write in detail when I have driven it for 10,000 miles. But I wish I could put a Ford engine into it; the B.M.C. power unit is on the sluggish side and makes noises one associates with a worn-out sewing machine.—W. B.

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