The Editor samples some two-stroke motoring in an Auto-Union D.K.W. F102 and a Saab Sport, and two-pedals a General Motors’ Pontiac Parisienne
THERE have been rumours lately that D.K.W. and Saab are pulling out of the two-stroke market—which would leave Wartburg in E. Germany as the only car manufacturer to continue to use engines functioning on the simple Schnürle principle of charging through the crankcase. I think the true story is that, although both Daimler-Benz, who own Auto-Union, and the Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget, which builds the Saab, have been negotiating for four-stroke poppet-valve power units (the former they say with VW, Saab with Standard-Triumph in this country), even if such engines are adopted for certain D.K.W. and Saab cars it is highly unlikely that two-stroke models, which these companies have championed so ardently, will entirely disappear from their catalogues.
At all events, it made a good excuse to go motoring behind a couple of two-cycle engines.
The Auto-Union F102
I used to like the little D. K.W. Junior, because it was a well-presented, spacious arid quiet-running small car. The Auto-Union D.K.W. which I tried this time was the latest, very lush F102 model, for which Daimler-Benz claim all manner of advantages, like…a blend of good looks, comfort, space, performance and economy with elegant, wind-cheating lines, sensible bolt-on wings, disc front brakes, underbody protection and fitted carpets, while reminding us that the 3-cylinder 1,175-c.c. engine runs like a six and has a short stroke (dimensions: 81 x 76 mm.) for long life. This engine develops 60 (P.S.) b.h.p. or 69 (S.A.E.) b.h.p., is lubricated by automatic fresh oil injection, and mated to a gearbox having Porsche-type syncromesh on all four forward gears.
While I am not a two-stroke fanatic, I confess this f.w.d. D.K.W. grew on me. It has a very acceptable paint finish, comfortable seats with adjustable squabs, that of the front passenger’s seat locking to prevent it folding under heavy braking, an accurate Vdo clock, and an enormous luggage boot behind the 2-door body. I disliked the odd-shaped steering wheel, the excessive understeer, the awkward control for the 2-speed screen-wipers, the unlockable cubby-hole and absence of door pockets—although there are map holders on the scuttle.
In contrast to the good finish there is skimping in certain respects, the speedometer being calibrated in steps of 20 m.p.h. and its odometer having no tenths, for instance, yet twin interior lamps, roof grab-handles incorporating sliding coat-hooks, armrests and a steering-lock are provided.
The steering-column gear-lever has long movements, particularly into third, although this is no longer particularly inconvenient. On the road the F102 accelerates well, stepping off in typical two-stroke fashion, so that one tends to go straight into top from and gear. The suspension is primitive, the steering, geared 3 1/2-turns of its oval wheel lock-to-lock, is nothing out of the ordinary, the brakes are reasonable, the roof line too low for tall people.
The usual, lockable free-wheel one expects on a two-stroke car is fitted, but even with this in operation for most of the 760 test-miles I could not get better than 26.2 m.p.g. (admittedly the 7.5-to-1 c.r. made possible the use of mixture-grade fuels), added to which the level in the engine oil tank had dropped by the equivalent of 2 1/2 pints of two-stroke lubricant in this distance. According to the thermometer the engine ran cool, and, incidentally, snatched badly if the fuel level fell to a gallon or less, so that few owners would exploit the overall fuel range.
The doors had lockable quarter-lights as well as main windows shaped to obviate draughts when slightly open, there are wrap-round bumpers, winkers on the tops of the front wings, and the lamps were Hella, the car being shod with 6.00 x 13 Metzeler tyres.
On the whole, although I liked the F102, I felt one would need to be a considerable D.K.W. enthusiast to spend £976 on one in this country. And I shall expect a much more covetable new model from this branch of the famous German company in due course.
The Saab Sport
The Saab is no stranger to MOTOR SPORT, we visited the factory where these rugged Swedish cars are made in 1960 and later that year published a road-test report on one of the first Saab 96 r.h.d. models to reach this country. The Proprietor of this paper was for some years a staunch Saab supporter, graduating from a series of Auto-Unions before elevating to a B.M.W. and two years ago I gave my rather lukewarm appraisal of the underpowered Saab station-wagon.
The Saab with which I renewed acquaintance in May was the 4-speed 55 (net) b.h.p. Saab Sport. As an 841-c.c. 2-door saloon capable of 71 top speed of over go m.p.h., 65 in 3rd gear, and the notable Saab ability to go round corners as fast as the driver is brave enough, or skilful enough, to drive it, this is a very quick car on long journeys. It has all the now well-known Saab conveniences of Reutter reclining seats, a comprehensive heating and ventilating system, mud-flaps, external mirrors, a deceptively receptive luggage boot, anti-draught windows with de-misters, excellent finish, and a tastefully and fully equipped facia with Vdo instrumentation, with, in addition, such rally-extras as co-driver’s headrest, adjustable pads on the seat squabs to give extra support to back or shoulders, accurate clock with seconds-hand, a rather thick non-flexible wood-rim steering wheel (one large manufacturer doubts the behaviour of wood-rims in a crash, however), Hella fog- and spot-lamps, etc. There are rear extractor vents, long a feature of Saab bodywork, now so effectively adopted by Ford.
Unfortunately there is some evidence of lack of planning. Thus, very comfortable and efficiently supporting as the seats are, the squab rake would benefit from more precise adjustment, the off-set pedals partly negative the comfort of the driving stance, the speedometer needle frequently obscures the reading of the trip mileometer (presumably a Halda would be fitted for serious’ rallying) and the body shape, the new grille apart, is unchanged and never was conducive to good visibility. I must confess, however, that due to the Saab’s compact size, I never found the complete blanking of the n/s. area, by high scuttle and rear view mirror, any serious disadvantage.
There is a Rolls-Royce kind of presentation about a Saab, which its fine finish, excellent interior trim, and items such as the bottles-stowage under removable covers on each side of the rear compartment, pockets in the front doors and on the edges of the front-seat cushions, oddments stowage in caravan-type wells below the token back seat, high-quality minor controls, the 12 electrical fuses, and the mystique of the 3-cylinder Schnürle-cycle power unit emphasises.
In use, however, you need to be an addict to appreciate this unusual car. In the first place, there is the usual two-stroke characteristic of lack of power unless the revs are maintained. Any enthusiast worthy of his string-back gloves shouldn’t mind plenty of gear-changing. But on the Saab there is nothing much below 4000 r.p.m. and the engine stops accelerating abruptly at 6,000 r.p.m. (the red section, on the inner scale of the tachometer, starts at 5,600, continuing to 7,000 r.p.m.), so that there is a useful power range of only 1,500 r.p.m., which keeps the driver busy changing down, and up again when peak speed is abruptly reached, which can he an embarrassment when passing at over 55 m.p.h. The situation is worsened because the wide gear ratios mean that the engine rushes into the red at a mere 40 m.p.h. in and gear, although 3rd is good for 65 if the full 6,000-r.p.m. are used. Then this matter of keeping up the revs, means that you may select and gear before a corner a normal car would accelerate from in 3rd, only to find all the Saab-horses have been doped and won’t come to life until bottom is used.
The traditional free-wheel enables the good but not outstanding steering-column gear-change to be used freely rather like a preselector but continual resort to it, and the lag before the power comes jerkily in, is distasteful. On the other hand, if the freewheel is locked there are other two-stroke unpleasantnesses revealed, like transmission snatch and four-stroking fussiness on the over-run. . . .
In any case, the instruction book directs you “to drive as much as possible on the free-wheel, even downhill,” and petrol thirst was still so phenomenal for an 841-cc. engine that few would care to ignore this advice, which it is claimed “. . . cuts down fuel consumption and engine wear.”
The presence of half-a-dozen spare Champions in the driver’s door pocket—I quickly looked to see whether I had been insulted but all was well—they were the hard UK-16V grade!—suggested termperament, but the Saab Sport never needed a plug change, nor did I have any difficulty starting it, hot or cold. When revving, the engine, which, incidentally, is canted over at a remarkable angle, is extremely smooth and its Carlsson-yowl is more noticeable to those without—in fact, cruising at nearly 80 m.p.h. in the 4.3-to-1 top gear, conversation can be made in normal tones between driver and occupants. Fast cornering is the front-drive Saab’s forte, aided, no doubt, by Pirelli Cinturato 357 tyres. Even here, however, body lurch on rough surfaces makes rally-style driving a busy experience, and on bad surfaces the wheels hammer the car unmercifully through the medium of hard suspension. The ride, in fact, cannot be called particularly good, except from the “glued-down” angle. The steering, high-geared at 2 1/2 turns, lock-to-lock, is accurate, smooth rather than light, and transmits kick-back only when considerably provoked. But it does convey engine vibration and scuttle shake.
The brakes, Lockheed discs on the front wheels, stop the Saab very effectively indeed, given a good prod, and for normal retardation they have been considerably improved, being lighter and more progressive than those of earlier Saabs. The handbrake, which parks well above the floor, can also do its share of stopping the vehicle.
In what, at the price, should be a well-planned luxury small car, the Saab displays small but sad indications of a lack of planning. For instance, the ignition-key cannot be removed until the gear-lever is in reverse, which usually entails re-starting the engine to get this gear to engage. The big covered ash-trays on the doors can be detrimental to knuckles, the cord which releases the ingenious bonnet hangs down by the front passenger’s legs, which could be dangerous if mistaken for some other control, the roof light is on the n/s., the free-wheel control can only be reached by stopping the car, tachometer and speedometer read abnormally fast, the fairly generous cubby-hole is obstructed by a de-mister duct, the r.h. stalk (controlling winkers, headlamps flashing and dip) is rather too short, the Sakerhetssolskydd safety vizors lack a vanity mirror, and the headrest needs a screwdriver for adjustment. The bonnet rises up before hinging from the front, to give splendid accessibility of the engine and -components, and full marks go to the efficient screen-wipers and washers. A cigarette-lighter is provided and the test car had an aerial but no radio.
Disturbing to the thrifty is the manner in which the casually calibrated fuel gauge, which swings meaninglessly over a quarter of the dial (it is, however, supplemented by a low-level light), goes down. Indeed, after 158 miles it was time to refuel, the absolute distance a tankful took me being 185.7 miles. Local driving brought petrol consumption as high as 19.6 m.p.g. and the overall figure was 20.9 m.p.g.—and I had been asked to feed it 100-octane. Expensive! The engine was run at a decent heat, too, the thermometer reading 190ºF. Lubrication of the engine is now automatic, a “steam-gauge” on the 7-pint reservoir, calibrated clearly to show how much oil has been consumed, how much is left, showing that fractionally less than two quarts of Saab oil had been used in 450 miles.
Very individual, fast for its size, the Saab Sport has surely met its match in the 1,275-c.c. Mini-Cooper-S, from both the sales and rally viewpoint? Thinking in terms of sport, one would have to be truly a two-stroke fanatic, and terribly keen on durability and an element of luxury, to pay £1,139 for a Saab Sport capable of 85 m.p.h. but only 21 m.p.g., when a Mini-Cooper-S costing £778, also renowned for cornering power and stability, will give 96 m.p.h. and 30 m.p.g.
The Pontiac Parisienne
I have left all too little space in which to discuss an enormous, all-automatic Pontiac Parisienne in which I gained another taste of trans-Atlantic style motoring the other day, but will console myself with the thought that it is similar in layout and decor to the Chevrolet Impala Sport reported on in the February issue.
The windows had electric lifts, rather inconveniently arranged, because all save the control for the driver’s were on the n/s. There was the usual vague but entirely effortless power steering (4-turns, lock-to-lock, half-a-turn lost motion), very sudden but undeniably powerful power brakes, a non-committal fuel gauge, and a fine Fisher body capable of seating the largest family and accommodating all its chattels.
Performance there was to excess, instrumentation included a clock with seconds’ hand, there was a commodious cubby-hole, the lid of which tended to stick, sill door-locks, and this 195-b.h.p. monster rolled on Goodyear 7.35 x 14 4-ply-rating cushion tyres. The Pontiac Parisienne Sport Sedan has been restyled for 1965, as our picture shows. I grew quite partial to the car, but would have liked it better if it hadn’t stalled occasionally and if the electric window lifts hadn’t failed on a wet night. The price here comes out at £2,290 2d. 11d. Petrol consumption averaged 14.1 m.p.g. but this was driving it with abandon. Even so, the gasolene tank holds sufficient for some 232 miles. After 719 miles the long dip-stick uncoiled to show that a pint of oil had been used. This is a motoring way-of-life very different from ours, but unbeatable in terms of space, smooth V8 power and effortless high-performance.—W. B.