Book reviews, July 1967, July 1967

“The 1100 Companion,” by Kenneth Ullyett. 184 pp., 8 1/2 in. x 5 1/2 in. (Stanley Paul & Co., 178-202, Great Portland Street, London, W.1. 25s.)

It could be said of this book about the B.M.C. 1100 range of cars that all or nearly all of it has been published previously. But that is unfair, because such comment applies to many works of reference and history and the value of such works is that a great deal of interesting and useful information is there between two covers.

So it is with Ullyett’s latest one-make, indeed one-model study. He has a happy knack of unfolding an account of a car so that its prestige is enhanced, personalities associated with it seem real, and ownership of the make or model concerned gains in stature after the book has been read. This is certainly true of this comparatively brief story of the famous transverse-engined rubber-suspended B.M.C. cars. How they originated in the mind of Alec Issigonis, how they were rendered so comfortable by Alex Moulton, how they are made, should be serviced and generally fit into the modern motoring scene, it is all there in fascinating wordage. Because there is an M.G. 1100 some pre-war M.G. racing history is included, rally exploits by the type are mentioned, the modifications made to 1100s down the years have a chapter devoted to them, and the author is very interesting on the subject of Moulton and his Hydrolastic suspension. The data section contains torque-wrench settings and I suspect that in text and tables quite a lot of new facts will be discovered. This is not a great one-make history such as Macdonald, Cassell and Foulis specialise in. But it should be read, and will I think be enjoyed, by all keen owners and advocates of B.M.C.’s 1100s. – W. B. 

 “The British Bomber Since 1914,” by Peter Lewis. 418 pp. 8 1/2 in. x 5 3/8 in. (Putnam & Co. Ltd., 9, Bow Street, London, W.C.2. 63s.)

Here is another important title to include in the bookcase with other standardised Putnam aeronautical books. It is to their same very high standard, as regards art paper, rare and clearly-reproduced photographs and scale line-drawings. But instead of dealing with the many British bombers built since 1914, the author takes us through their advent, development, success or failure, and decline in one continuous story, divided into chapters representative of different periods or phases of bomber design.

Here it all unfolds nostalgically but also technically and informatively, covering those aeroplines which defended our freedom in 1914/18 and again in 1939/45, with in between accounts of those which were seen in the New Type Park at Hendon Air Displays, on the grass and tarmac of bomber stations of the ‘twenties and ‘thirties, some secret, some built in ones and twos, others turned out in formidable numbers.

Peter Lewis knows, and I suspect loves, them all and who better to devote a very large and comprehensive book to them? From Handley Page V1500 and other giants of the First World War and even earlier bomber aeroplanes, to the great bomber craft of the last war, here is the true picture of how these machines performed, how and why they were built, when they first appeared, who flew them and what they achieved, in peace and in war. The data tables alone, running as they do from the A.D.1000 to the Wight converted seaplane, with type names, engine details, maximum speed, empty and loaded weights, dimensions, and prototype numbering, are alone worth “the price of admission” and will settle many arguments, unseat much unofficial information. Model makers will like the plans, historians the pictures. Putnam’s have done it yet again! – W. B.

“The Design and Tuning of Competition Engines,” by Philip H. Smith. 464 pp. 8 1/2 in. x 5 1/2 in. (G.T. Foulis & Co. Ltd., 1-5, Portpool Lane, London, E.C.1. 48s.)

A book for the more advanced student of engine improvement, probably in the lower echelons of motor racing, the publication is now in its fourth edition and its fourteenth year. It has been revised throughout with new photographs, line drawings and five more chapters, though more than half the book dealing with the basic theories of building and tuning for performance remain virtually unaltered.

Power units dealt with specifically include the Daimler V8, Ford Cortina GT and Lotus, Ford V8, Hillman Imp, Jaguar XK and E series, M.G.-B, Cooper S, Porsche 911, Rover 2000 and Triumph 2000. Some of the “competition engines” qualifying for technical tabulation are rather outdated, since the Alvis TD 21, B.M.W. 2.6-litre V8, Jowett Jupiter, Lancia Appia, Panhard Tigre, Riley Pathfinder, Singer SM and Sunbeam Mk. 3 (2,367 c.c.) are included among others, their descriptions being justified on the grounds of general interest and possession of unusual features.

The publication is quite expensive, but thoroughly justified for the person who is setting about getting maximum power out of an engine for competition use. – M. L. C.

“Autocourse,” The Review of International Motor Sport 1966-67, edited by David Phipps. 216 pp. 12 1/2 in. x 9 in. (Macdonald & Co. [Publishers] Ltd., Gulf House, 2, Portman Street, London, W.1. 55s.)

“Autocourse” is a comprehensive, well-illustrated and objective survey of the year’s racing, dwelling on Grandes Epreuves and also covering GT, Prototype, and Group 7 racing, saloon car racing and rallying, European Mountain Championship, Tasman Series and Indianapolis.

In the past “Autocourse” has suffered from late publication, improved last year, and now published only four months into the following season, without any loss of quality or accuracy. It also contains 20 pages of advertising, which we hope will make it economically viable, for its existence is important if only for the inclusion of full lap charts (including lap times and elapsed times for each car) for each Grand Prix. David Phipps writes a survey of the 1966 season in Formula One, includes a controversial assessment of the top ten drivers, and features the tyre war which is all-important to the continued improvement of lap times. He unashamedly tips Clark for Champion this year, in the Lotus-Ford Cosworth V8, and since he forecast Brabham last year before the championship got under way, when everyone else was putting money on Ferrari, we should perhaps take notice! Keith Duckworth discusses racing engine design, though not mentioning his number one project specifically as it was at the time highly secret, but his logic is interesting to study. The strength of “Autocourse” lies in its photography, presentation and authenticity, which is improving all the time. – M. L. C.

Further thoughts about “The Vintage Alvis” by Peter Hull and Norman Johnson

A preliminary review was published in May, but this is such a significant and expensive one-make book, further establishing Macdonald as the leading publishers of reference works of this kind and stealing much of the lead Cassells, Batsford and Foulis had in this field, that it merits further comment. On the whole the vintage period of the Alvis Company is splendidly described, with Peter Hull’s happy knack of capturing the atmosphere of the times as well as honestly and critically portraying what the cars concerned were all about. It is not only the famous 12/50 that he covers. The book is also a very thorough commentary on the front-wheel-drive Alvis models and, indeed, about the evolution of f.w.d. and the technical pitfalls involved. The other vintage versions of Alvis are naturally dealt with as well, like the Silver Eagle and the early side-valve cars, and the Buckingham story is included. The book terminates, so far as the historical Section is concerned, with just a brief look at the post-vintage models and the way in which the transition from pure vintage to what we now call p.v.t. was seen by a customer, and by T. G. John, the Alvis Managing Director, makes most interesting reading.

Post-vintage Alvis models are not covered more fully, partly out of respect for K. R. Day’s very scholarly book on the entire history of the Alvis Company and its products and to preserve Hull’s sanity. This is rather a loss, because whereas Day is entirely factual and does not “take sides” or express opinions about the relative merits and demerits of the different models, Hull is the writer to do this, and it would have been nice to know, for instance, whether, as David Scott-Moncrieff has it, in his book “The Thoroughbred Motor Car,” the Alvis Firebird was really “a nasty little car … with little of nothing to commend it,” the engineering of the Speed Twenty truly “a bit agricultural … with brakes which required frequent adjustment, a long task even for an Alvis specialist,” and the Firebird merely “a bit better in all respects than the Firefly, and eventually sunk without a trace.” And if, like Scott-Moncrieff’s published opinion, the Firefly’s coachwork was “far from good,” whether the fitting of an E.N.V. pre-selector gearbox “made the car seem worse,” and if Speed Twenty coachwork by Alvis “varied in quality, from good to very bad indeed.”

Personalities come over well in “The Vintage Alvis” and the details of Mrs. Urquhart-Dykes’ and her husband’s long-distance record attempts at Brooklands with their old 12/50 are very interesting, although, to be fair, the full story in Mrs. Dykes’ own words in “The Alvis Car” is a scoop for K. R. Day and is so fascinating and redolent of the spirit of the ‘twenties that I hope Mrs. Dykes can be prevailed upon to write more of her motoring reminiscences.

It is easy to be wise after an event and as I am supposed to have edited the Hull/Johnson book I do myself a disservice by drawing attention to omissions in it! However, an editor can only do a fraction of the research that is the author’s responsibility and that I did discover in time for proof corrections that Sammy Davis drove a duck’s-back and not a beetle-back 12/50 in the 1927 Essex M.C. Six Hour Race and I was able to prevent Harvey’s 11/40 pictured competing in the 1922 R.S.A.C. Light Car Trial from being passed off as a 10/30 in the 1921 London-Edinburgh.

Hull is one of the first writers to deal collectively with the intimate items of the Boulogne races and this makes another valuable and absorbing section of his book, although nothing is said about that remarkable personality, F. N. Pickett, who made a fabulous fortune out of converting live ammunition in the Boulogne area into scrap metal, and had his own army and his own prisons to keep order, and who made the Boulogne Speed Weeks such successful Anglo-French occasions.

Naturally, although all Alvis competition exploits are well covered, and the sorting-out of the different racing Alvis cars and their subsequent history is extremely well done, “The Vintage Alvis” gives particular attention to the 1923 J.C.C. 200-Mile Race, in which the 12/50 Alvis scored its first major racing success. I have no grumbles here, except that the winning Alvis is quoted as running on 710 x 90 tyres whereas I think it used 760 x 90 Engelberts and that it could have been mentioned that it held 4,000 r.p.m. almost continuously throughout the race, must have been doing 100 m.p.h. down the Railway straight, and that it finished without loss of water. Some of the excellent drawings of its mechanical aspects, from The Autocar, would have been welcomed, too. It is mentioned that Harvey experimented with radio before this race, Hull remarking that Smith-Clarke, the Alvis chief engineer, could have been responsible. He certainly was, and some more research in the motoring papers would have revealed quite a lot about his wireless interests. But it is only because Hull has done such a splendid and thorough job that this hair-splitting is justified. Anyone who wants the continuing story of Alvis competition exploits in the vintage years, rendered graphic by liberal quotes from the contemporary Press (including how The Auto saw Mrs. Dykes as a personality at Boulogne) and giving the registration numbers of many of the cars used in competition events, and a clear explanation of the various vintage Alvis models and how they were developed, illustrated by an excellently-selected range of pictures and many line-drawings of mechanical items, will value this book very highly. Those who are more concerned to get the best out of the cars they are rebuilding and running in 1967 should note that, of its 400 pages, 179 are devoted to well-written notes on maintenance and tuning, again copiously illustrated.

Incidentally, for the record, Wason’s 10/30 Alvis broke its back axle, not on one of my replica Exeter Trials, but during the one organised by the V.S.C.C., while to titillate historians, what was the twin-cam Darracq tourer said to have beaten Harvey’s Alvis on formula at Shelsley Walsh in 1924?

The appendices deal with Alvis in Australia, and include an intriguing description of racing Alvis No. 1 which is still in existence, and a complete list of cars in the 12/50 Alvis Register at the time of publication. There are accounts of personal experiences with f.w.d. Alvis cars, extracts from road-test reports, very welcome accounts by Tom Rolt and George McKerrow of how they went to the works, respectively in 1924 and 1925, the latter taking delivery of a new 12/50 which he is still using, a story by L. T. Rooper of driving his 12/50 and f.w.d. cars in contemporary Brooklands races, and a summary of post-vintage Alvis competition successes, so that people like Fotheringham-Parker, Ivan Waller, Michael May, Powys-Lybbe, the Dunhams and Charles Follett are recalled, although I was disappointed that Westbrook, whose early stripped 12/50 duck’s-back won a race and lapped Brooklands at 88.15 m.p.h. as late as 1932, isn’t included. But an author cannot include every detail and Hull and Johnson have done magnificently, even to telling us of the post-Alvis activities of the works’ personnel. “The Vintage Alvis” is dedicated to W. M. Dunn and George Tattersall and has a Foreword by Ruth Urquhart-Dykes. It is well printed on good if rather thin paper and boasts a colour frontispiece – of a 12/50 Alvis radiator surmounted by the famous hare mascot. Published by Macdonald, it costs 126s.

Those who enthuse over Alvis cars, and even collect different models as I would like to do, should perhaps get both books. “The Alvis Car” is published by K. R. Day of the Alvis O.C. at 45s. and its text and many fine illustrations are complementary to those in the-Hull/ Johnson tome. – W. B.

“Jaguar – A Biography,” by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu (300 pp., 8 3/4 in. x 5 3/8 in., Cassell), has been published in a revised edition taking in the E-type and subsequent models, with revised competition history and appendices. It is priced at 42s.

A look at…

The new Alfa Romeo Giulia 1300TI

I was able to cover quite a respectable mileage in an Alfa Romeo Giulia 1300TI very soon after the first batch of r.h.d. models of this newcomer had been brought into Britain. Driving any of the cars from Milan is usually a memorable motoring event and even this most inexpensive of the range is a car cram full of character. However, its comparatively small light-alloy twin-cam five-bearing 74 x 75 mm. (1,290 c.c.) engine, developing 94 (gross) h.h.p. or 82 (DIN) h.p., has very little power below about 3,000 r.p.m., so the driver does a great deal of gear changing on the 5-speed box to keep the thing moving at all effectively. Even then, acceleration from the lower speeds is disappointing unless the engine is allowed to scream away in 2nd gear; it is safe to 6,500 r.p.m., so enthusiastic driving is encouraged. You have to be pretty keen to truly enjoy this small Alfa Romeo, however, because at normal traffic speeds the well-known Alfa fizz is very evident and when cruising at around 4,000 r.p.m. in fifth cog, or at about 70 m.p.h., which is as fast as Mrs. B. C. thinks it is safe for it to go, the fizz changes to a rather tiring roar.

Everything else about the 1300 version is similar to that of the bigger-engined cars. Although the suspension is fairly supple, giving a most comfortable ride, the road-clinging is impeccable. Steering, a bit heavy at a crawl, becomes light once on the move and is very positive, with quick castor return. The Pirelli Cinturato S367 tyres can be made to howl, but only because the Alfa Romeo corners so quickly.

The all-disc brakes are superb, although those on the test car were inclined to rub and squeal, maybe because of harsh treatment in the hands of another paper’s tester. Alfa Romeo, like Volkswagen, puts the pedals in a most awkward position, vertically above the floor, but at least they have non-slip rubbers (Rover please copy!). The pull-out handbrake had too short a travel to give it a decent feel and the r.h. turn-indicator had lost its self-cancelling action.

Much is made of the 5-speed gearbox but to enjoy it to the full I think you want to sit on the left of the central floor lever and to have the bigger engine. The lever is very heavy and rigid and so balanced that with any weight of hand on knob it comes out of gear – which should cure drivers of this bad habit, but can spoil maximum acceleration as placing the hand ready for the next upward change is apt to select neutral, with the revs going off the clock. The movement from fifth back to fourth gear is rather big and notchy, at all events on r.h.d. cars, and it is possible to beat the synchromesh going from 3rd to 2nd gear. Pressing the lever down to select reverse can be trying for those with weak wrists, like young girls.

Instrumentation is messy, the tachometer being a silly little dial externally figured prominently from 1 to 7, to the left of a ribbon 120 m.p.h. Veglia speedometer. Grouped warning lights look after dynamo, heating, lights and fuel reserve problems, and there is a very pessimistic petrol gauge, a water thermometer commencing at 100 deg. F. and normally reading around 175 deg., and an oil gauge recording a normal pressure of about 80 lb sq. in. A shallow lockable cubbyhole with a dangerously-projecting metal grip and a useful shelf in front of the passenger complete front-compartment stowage, save for a little pocket for the servicing booklet.

The front seats are large and comfortable, except that at first the cushion allowed me to sink down further than I liked, and there are reclining squabs. The boot is of very generous proportions but luggage has to be lifted up into it and the spare wheel, stowed under the floor, up and over the back panel to get it out. Equipment is good, too – things like bumper rubbers, coat hooks, twin roof lamps, roof grabs, arm-rests, etc. But the low-geared window winders are high set, where an elbow is apt to move them inadvertently, the 1/4-lights were stiff to release, and the door pulls pulled against the trim. The headlamps are Carello; the turn-indicators, controlled by the shorter of the r.h. stalks, have repeaters on the bonnet sides. The doors have no noticeable means of keeping them open, their handles and locks are old-fashioned, and in external appearance, if this were not an Alfa Romeo, many people would call it downright ugly. The fussy facia is made more unpalatable by recessing, in this case of the cubby area, rather as on a Triumph 2000.

However, I can forgive a car of such personality and fine road manners many things, although I am not sure I should want to pay £1,224 for this slowest of the Alfa Romeos.

The makers claim it to he the most powerful 1300 saloon in volume production, with a top speed of more than 100 m.p.h. But it takes powerful “rowing” to persuade it much above 70 on our sort of roads. Driven thus, mostly in traffic, I got 32.2 m.p.g., the fuel light flashing for nearly 60 miles before the tank ran dry.

It is always a pleasure to inspect the engine of an Alfa Romeo. After propping up the bonnet, I did this, noting the Bosch ignition equipment, Marelli Magnet battery, Solex twin-choke carburetter, twin two-branch exhaust system, Bosch dynamo, and that the recommended lubricant is Castrol XL. Of this, less than 1/2 pt. had been consumed in 680 miles, checked on the not-exactly-accessible bent-wire dip-stick. Hand-throttle and choke levers are fitted under the scuttle and the engine was a prompt starter from cold. – W. B.

Cheaper Ford insurance

The Ford Cortina GT has been re-classified in Group IV instead of Group V by members of the Accident Offices Association of insurance companies. Making the announcement the Ford Motor Company forecast savings of 10-14%, up to £10 a year. The reductions are also valid for earlier Cortina, Corsair and Capri GTs.

Concessions of this nature are good for the manufacturer and appreciated by owners. It is high time B.M.C. got the Mini-Cooper re-classified, especially in view of declining sales, since even the 998 c.c. car, about as fast as a 1,200 c.c. Anglia, is loaded 50% by some companies and many refuse to quote for any Cooper S.

Valve replacement

The importance of replacing the valve of tubeless tyres each time a replacement cover is fitted, is stressed by Schraders. The valve provides an air seal at the rim hole and is made to last the life of a tyre. Beyond this time fatigue of the rubber of body the valve is likely to impair the air seal, Causing danger through deflation.

Cox safety seat

Cox of Watford, the safety seat manufacturers, have asked us to point out that the seats fitted in the Brabham Viva we tested recently can be tilted to give access to the back seats and are, therefore, quite suitable for two-door cars. There is a small catch in the headrest to release the mechanism, which was not pointed out to us.

Thanks a million

We have received from the British Insurance Association the following warning about cars entered for competitions:

“since last summer motor insurers have introduced stricter rules about taking part in rallies and competitions and the British Insurance Association warns competitors to make sure that their insurance cover is adequate. For some years cover for damage to the car itself occurring during a National or International rally has been excluded front the scope of most motor insurance policies. Until recently, however, third party cover during these rallies and comprehensive cover for other rallies was not excluded by the normal policy terms. Since last year all cover for competitions. rallies or trials has been excluded and it is essential that motorists wishing ro take part in these events should get in touch with their insurers.

“The purpose of the new arrangement is to enable insurers to assess the risk involved in any particular competition and to charge additional premium or impose other terms where justified. This is based on the principle that only a small proportion of motorists take part in rallies and it is only fair to ask them to bear the additional claims cost rather than spread it over all policyholders. As well as considering the various features of the individual competitions concerned, insurers have to allow for such factors as the age of the policyholder and the type of car used, when deciding whether to charge more or impose other terms.

“Competitive driving generally involves an increased risk and the additional premium required may where the circumstances justify it, be substantial. In others such as a treasure hunt or road safety rally presenting no particular hazard, insurers may be prepared to give the cover without additional premium. Because of the ever-present damage risk, some policyholders may be required to bear an ‘accident damage excess.’ that is, they may have to pay the first £25 or £50 or more of the cost or damage to their own cars. This may be in place of or as well as additional premium. A spokesman for the British Insurance Association Commented: Insurers do not want to be spoilsports in discouraging motoring competitions and penalising car enthusiasts. Their purpose is to distribute the costs of providing cover for these events in an equitable Manner. It is vital for any motorist wishing to take part in a competition to contact his insurers to discuss the matter or he will he running the risk of driving uninsured.'”

We have long held the opinion that insurance companies are out to extract as much revenue as possible from car owners, under the cover of the enormous claims they are compelled to meet. Yet there remain curious anomalies in their business methods. For instance, they are hot on young drivers, old drivers, certain fast but very safe cars and now on competition drivers. Yet they permit risks to be increased for them by granting to most third-party policyholders cover for anyone driving the car with the owner’s consent. When we asked the B.I.A. for an explanation they told us this was originally a Catch-penny scheme introduced by one company which, because it is so attractive, had to be adopted by all. Fine. It suits us! But it is surely absurd to require policy applicants to full in copious details of themselves and their driving record before acceptance, and then to permit to be protected by the insurance anyone to policyholder likes to nominate, although they have filled in no forms, have given no details to the company and are in fact quite unknown to them?

The nonsense stems from insurance of vehicles instead of drivers. One day, sense may prevail and each driver be insured to drive all vehicles the insurance companies consider he or she can safely control. Because it is the driver who has or does not have accidents and it matters little, if he or she is competent and prudent, whether the vehicle is a Mini Minor or a six-ton Foden. To grant a man cover for his family saloon and refuse to take his Lotus-Cortina or Elan or 1925 Bentley unless an enormous increase in premium is paid, no matter how good his driving record, seems insane, but very good grab-grab.

Part of the fault lies in there being no means of ascertaining, apart from trusting the individual’s word, how long anyone has driven without accident or conviction. It is high time clean driving licences were carried over on renewal, so that those with good records over many years would have proof to lay before not only insurance brokers but Magistrates and J.P.s. In like manner, endorsements could be carried over year after year as a permanent record, with dire penalties for defacement, as in fact they are on current driving licences. – W.B.