Matters of moment, July 1963

More Marpleisms

This summer, not only will Marples’ 50-m.p.h. speed limit be imposed over 750 miles of trunk roads at week-ends, but this 50-limit will apply to every road in the country, other than Motorways, for five week-ends between July 26th-August 25th, no speed-limit signs being exhibited.

This in spite of the fact that last year no conclusive proof was forthcoming that accident reduction resulted from this low and frustrating speed-limit; such speed restrictions were tried on the Continent, found to lead to traffic congestion, and abandoned. You have 40-limits on dual carriageways carrying much traffic but, on summer week-ends, on the open road, even at night, a mere 10 m.p.h. faster is all that the M.o.T. regards as safe! This could easily be the thin end of an immovable wedge for an all-the-year-round 50-limit on all our roads.

Making traffic proceed on English-style roads at this speed causes congestion and dangerous bunching, results in hazardously slow overtaking in the third lane, and can promote accidents by the fatigue and frustration it imposes on holiday and business drivers covering long distances in a day and finding themselves taking longer than expected for no good reason except that of advertising yet another Marples’ restrictive practice.

The partial 50-limit will divert fast cars to by-roads and mix them with slower traffic. There is added danger, too, because drivers will be looking frequently at their speedometers instead of at the road, as they go Marpling along.

The vital need of our inadequate roads is free flow of traffic, not restrictions; has not Police Superintendent E. Turton, head of Bedfordshire’s Traffic Department, who presumably knows more about practical road problems than Mr. Marples, said: “What we need on trunk roads is a minimum speed limit, not a maximum”? (Daily Herald, April 26th)?

Meanwhile, reduction of accidents is in the good hands of road-users themselves—road casualties in the first three months of 1963 fell by 5% compared with January-March 1962, deaths showing a reduction of over 20%. In March deaths were down by 3%, although motor traffic was estimated to have increased by 6%. So why these 50-limits?

Policemen who “gong” drivers as they sail along deserted roads at 55, or who criminally go up to 60 trying to pass safely a stream of “under 50s,” will be adding to anti-police feeling amongst road-users. And as a correspondent emphasises: “It has been shown recently in other countries that when a large section of the population becomes hostile to the Law, it becomes practically impossible to maintain order.”

If you are “gonged” in these new universal 50-limits, that will be another endorsement to weigh against Marples’ “3-in-3-years” legislation. Yet, in answer to hundreds of letters, including 100 through M.P.s, complaining about the unfairness of this clause, all the M.o.T. could reply was that each of the 26 offences is either a serious “killer” offence or reflects dangerous or irresponsible behaviour on the roads. “Besides,” added the bicycling Minister, “it is long odds that if a driver is caught three times, he will have done the same thing on other occasions without being caught.”

So that’s what he thinks of motorists, in spite of the falling road deaths. If the M.P.s cannot make him revise his views we should make them try harder, by threatening to withdraw our votes, and, if necessary, those for a Government that continues to employ the man.

Why no concession?

Marples has declared that he would like to get even tougher with motorists. He has succeeded already in making motoring in Britain a strained, unhappy occupation. Will tourists wish to come to this Island of the Fifties during August? Is it fair to extract purchase tax from purchasers of modern cars and then restrict them to an endless crawl, even on dual carriageways and at night? We shall be unable to road-test properly any but the slowest cars during August week-ends, and the Editor, who thought the solution to Marpledom was a Trojan or a 2 c.v. Citroën, is now opting for a pony and trap. Will anyone want to shop for a Ferrari or Jaguar E-type when there is a haunting fear that soon Marples may permanently clip the speed potential of such safe cars by two-thirds?

Marples imposes restriction after restriction. He never makes concessions, apart from new roads motorists have paid for in taxation many times over. It presumably hasn’t occurred to him that three convictions in three years is a far harsher penalty for those driving, say, 30,000 miles a year, than for week-end drivers doing around 2,000 miles a year. It is no good leaving leniency to Magistrates, for so often we hear of a driver with a clean record over scores of years receiving a licence endorsement. But now that licences are renewable every three years, surely some form of “bonus” for a clean one could be incorporated in the next licence issued? This would go some way towards equity.

We commend the suggestion to the M.o.T.

Ford at Indianapolis

No praise is too great for the fine showing of Clark and the Lotus-Ford at Indianapolis on May 30th. The car and its great first-appearance achievement are described elsewhere in this issue. Although Ford of Britain are apt to regard Motor Sport as anti-Dagenham because the Editor has seen fit to criticise the out-datedness of certain of their products—we have even had a visit from the indignant Ford Advertisement Manager about it!—we recognised the active interest World Ford has in competitions of all kinds and ran an article about it in Motor Sport last April.

The ability of a Ford V8-engined Louts to finish second in the difficult medium of Indy, with another in seventh place, is a great tribute to Ford’s intelligent approach to motor racing. Ford engines which have attained fame deservedly in F.J. racing are now making themselves felt in saloon-car and track racing, and may one day appear in GP cars. More power to them!

Motoring Defence League

Recent Editorials in this paper have drawn attention to the iniquities under which motorists exist in this country and we have no doubt that Motor Sport readers will wish to join the newly-formed Motoring Defence League and persuade their friends to do likewise. Details of the M.D.L. and two membership application forms will be found in this issue.


Ford GT performance figures

Elsewhere in this issue appear the Editor’s impressions of the Ford Consul Cortina GT and Capri GT but performance figures were not quoted. They were obtained a few days ago for a Cortina GT and are quoted in the next column.

Acceleration (mean of several runs—best time in parenthesis):-

0-30 m.p.h. – 3.8 sec. (3.6 sec.)
0-40 – 6.4 sec. (6.3 sec.)
0-50 – 10.4 sec. (10.3 sec.)
0-60 – 14.0 sec. (13.9 sec.)
0-70 – 19.0 sec. (19.0 sec.)
0-80 – 27.6 sec. (27.5 sec.)

Maximum speed in the gears at 6,000 r.p.m.: 1st: 30 m.p.h.; 2nd: 44 m.p.h.; 3rd: 76 m.p.h.

N.B.—Gear changes were made at 6,000 r.p.m. as no appreciable gain was found in taking the engine above the figure. Unfortunately the manifold gasket blew before we had an opportunity to check the S.S. 1/4-mile figures and maximum speed.


Fleet Carnival Rally (June 16th)

This event, held in mid-June, typifies the more general, as distinct from enthusiast-promoted contest. The vehicles were extremely varied. A. F. Albon’s extremely smart dark blue 1927 Austin 7 Chummy was a great attraction, lady passenger in 1920s “flapper” costume. A clean Riley 9 Monaco fabric saloon came all the way from Essex, and the two rare 21/60 straight-eight Wolseleys were there again, the d.h. coupé with a wind-screen on its dickey-seat lid. Another “regular” was Inchley’s 1922 Autocrat, its Dorman 4MV engine spotless in cream, with black tappet cover and brass compression-taps. The same owner also brought his 1904 water-cooled vee-twin Riley Tricar, showing no signs of its prang in the 1961 Brighton Run.

Armstrong Siddeleys were represented by A. Wood’s stately 1936 20/25 saloon, very clean in primrose, with “Dunlop 6.00 x 17R” on the tyres picked out in gold, and a 1951 Limousine, Michelin-shod, with cushions and folded travelling-rug in its spacious rear parlour.

More exciting were Gahagan’s Type 37 Bugatti, Bourne’s low-chassis 4 1/2-litre Invicta, a striking Farina-bodied blown 2.3-litre Alfa Romeo d.h, coupé, a Singer-engined H.R.G. and all manlier of Aston Martins, from 1935 “Ulster” to DB Mk. Ill. Commercial vehicles were represented by an exceedingly clean 1932 Leyland Titan TD2 ex-Jersey double-decker ‘bus, a real credit to J. Banfield and the H.C.V.C,. the T.T. Boughton and Sons’ 1928 Foden steamer, equally immaculate, which, since the Editor rode to Brighton on it, has waved the flag for steam by going to the Andover, Beaulieu, S. Molton and London rallies. It scored over the ‘bus by taking part in the Elegant Lady and Vehicle contest, hating found a very nice volunteer girl passenger. There was also a nice Morris Commercial ‘bus, waved into the enclosure by mistake and with a deflated rear tyre, which stayed to win a prize, and a 1934 Austin 10/4 van laden with badges, plastered inside with holiday stickers—and were the windows original?

Perhaps the best-presented car was C. F. Williams’ beautiful 1935 Daimler 15 with Mulliner drophead coupé body, its truck recessed to accommodate the furled hood. Eldridge presented a 1936 Ford Ten saloon that was too clean to be true, its carburetter carefully chromed. Of course, it won a prize. There were clean and scruffy Rolls-Royces, a 1935 Buick drophead, two Fiat 509 2-seaters, a 1915 Calcott with Lucas “King of the Road” brass headlamps, a nice clean 1933 Austin 10/4 tourer. Fun, these informal gatherings! — W. B.