Letters from Readers, July 1968

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N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them.—Ed.

Selling British Cars

Sir,
Now that B.M.C. have merged with Leyland, will the new monster give redress to people like me?

I ordered a new Triumph Spitfire after being given a firm delivery date. When the date had expired by a week, Triumphs first told me: “We can’t find the car,” then “The delivery agents have it” and finally, “A mistake has been made—the car does not exist.”

A fortnight later they found a substitute, but, due to another mistake, it was not given a pre-delivery check. It was in filthy condition, inside and out. I pushed the washer button to clear the screen. It did not work. When I took the first corner, the steering stuck fast. When I braked the car slewed violently sideways. Then the clutch began to creak. Switching on the headlights produced a small fire under the dash, the speedometer did not work, the hood leaked and the seat-belts were too rusty to use.

Further checking showed 40 faults to the engine, transmission, steering, brakes and interior trim. The engine overheated, there was no proper running-in oil in the sump, the generator was faulty, the plugs were burnt, screenwipers jerky, wheel nuts loose, brake fluid leaking, body rusting at joints, paintwork yellowing, carpets scuffed and stained with glue, dash loose and hood too rusty to move.

I sent the car back and demanded a new one. Triumphs refused, but took the car in for four weeks for repairs. It has since been in for another week. Having paid £700 for a new car, I had to walk and go by ‘bus. My holiday has been ruined and I had to hire a car. I have not had a penny compensation. Instead of the new car I ordered I have a heap of rusty, dangerous junk—and have been deprived of the use of even that. Now I have a repaired and refurbished car which I cannot trust.

It isn’t much encouragement to “Back Britain”.
London, N.17. Robert Hawes.
———

Sir,
I thought you might be interested in my experiences on buying a Riley Kestrel 1300 from the B.M.C. brochure No. 2464—delivered 1.2.’68.

On arrival it was noticed that the wheel trims were missing and the seat cushion fore and aft measurements, “C” in the brochure, were 15½ in. instead of the 18½ in. shown. Either side of the front grille, under the bonnet, was unpainted. To date I still have not received the wheel trims. Regarding the seat dimensions, B.M.C. have at last come up with the statement that the specifications can be changed without notice, and refuse to do anything about it. The brochure 2464 is still being supplied to agents, so prospective customers are being given false information. This applies to the seats in all the models, which bear no resemblance to those shown in the catalogue.

Other brands of 1100 and 1300 cars I have seen are unpainted in the same places. My oil pressure warning light is also missing.

I have parted with a good M.G. 1100 and now have a more expensive car with a lower specification than the M.G. which, incidentally, had the full-size seats.

Hounslow. G. D. Barrow.
* * *

“Signitus”

Sir,
It appears from recent correspondence and your replies that several people are under a misapprehension regarding temporary traffic lights. The Ministry of Transport and any highway authority are empowered under Section 52 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, to erect traffic lights where the highway is obstructed. These lights should comply with Regulation 33 of the Traffic Signs Regulations, 1964, and should also be approved by the police. The statutory undertakers, electricity, gas, etc., and the G.P.O. have similar powers. Your readers would be advised, therefore, to assume any such lights are legal rather than the reverse. There is no significance in whether they are two or three light, though, in fact, after December 31st, 1969, they should all be three light.

In your article, “On the Road”, you inquire about advance warning signs for GIVE WAY signs. The regulations governing these are that the “Give Way” sign must be erected within 20 ft. of the white line across the junction and therefore it may be invisible until it is within the minimum stopping distance. In this case on unrestricted three-lane roads more than a mile in length if the sign is not visible at 750 ft. a warning sign must be erected, for trunk roads and urban dual carriageways the distance is 425 ft. and all other roads 150 ft. Both signs must be illuminated if within 50 yd. of a street light. This means that often the “Give Way” sign can be illuminated from the electricity supply to traffic bollards whereas the advance warning sign is too far away.

Newbury. P. W. Widdowson.
* * *

A Le Mans Peerless

Sir,
I should like to inform any enthusiasts or fellow Peerless owners who are interested that the same car that completed the 24-hour Le Mans race trouble free in 1958, chassis No. GT2/00008, is still in excellent condition both mechanically and bodily and used daily by myself.

I recently purchased this Peerless, registration number 706 EBH, and have tried to trace its history but not completely successfully due to a previous owner presumably changing address. Although I am not a member of the Peerless and Warwick O.C. the majority of the information stated in your article was known to me, excepting the actual Le Mans driving team. I found this point most interesting. Any information, enquiries or correspondence on this subject will be gratefully received and replied to.

Lincoln. J. D. Malley.
* * *

Sunbeam Rapier Road Test

Sir,
I read your article on the new Sunbeam Rapier with some interest, as I acquired mine some three months and 5,000 miles ago.

It is an unfortunate fact that many of the minor faults to which you refer could so easily have been rectified in the design stage, possibly even at a saving of production cost. A determined customer can rectify them with the help of a co-operative dealer, but only at some additional cost and inconvenience. It might be of some assistance to any of your readers who may own, or may be planning to buy, one of these delightful cars to know what I have had done. The quotes are from your May issue.

(1) “A l.b. stalk selects overdrive which I do not like.” To achieve satisfactory gear-change control it is essential, in my view, for the overdrive stalk to be on the opposite side from the gear-lever. It requires no more than a few minutes’ work to turn the overdrive/trafficator switch assembly through 180º on the steering tube. As on my previous car (Jaguar 3.4 Mk. 11 automatic) my trafficator is now on the left, which suits me very well.
(2)”Lamps dipping is done by a floor knob rather stupidly located on the footrest for the clutch.” How right you are—particularly as the cheaper cars in the Hunter range have their dippers as an extra position on the trafficator unit; surely a much cheaper system. An attempt to fit a Hunter trafficator proved abortive as the steering tube on the Rapier is of larger diameter. I now have a toggle switch under the facia and enjoy the sheer luxury of the most comfortable left foot in my driving experience!
(3) “The choke is insensitive as its knob is large.” Sensitivity has been somewhat improved by adjusting control to provide more choke with less throttle opening.

Other points you do not mention are:—

(4) Steering wheel obscures view of lower instruments (see middle photograph at bottom of page 385, May issue). My wheel has now been turned through 180º and I now have a full view of the entire instrument display and the wheel spokes fed much more comfortable.
(5) Seat belts are inconvenient. The buckle drops under the front seat every time it is lifted and can only be retrieved by getting out of the car and starting again! The webbing jams under the rear window winders and I have cured this by turning the handles through 180º on the winder spindles.
(6) Courtesy lights as fitted are operated by reaching back and turning their most uncomfortable sharp-edged lenses. At a very nominal cost I have had wired-in a toggle switch connected in parallel with the door-operated—a vast improvement.

As to the fast-back lines, this is no mere styling gimmick but a very practical way of providing additional interior space at absolutely no sacrifice whatsoever. I fondly hope that some of our other manufacturers will shortly be marketing 4/5-seater saloons on similar lines and would gladly buy a 4.2-litre Jaguar with a body of this type, providing they also adopt a heating and ventilating system of equivalent standard.

I have had, so far, maximum rearward visibility at all times without recourse to electrical heating elements in the glassware. Window mist can be dealt with almost instantly, thanks to the aforesaid h.v. system.

Finally, a couple of comments about extras I have had fitted. I can thoroughly recommend the Webasto roof on the Rapier which really does provide the next best thing to a fully-open car but specify a second interior light when ordering. The addition of a tow bracket is a work of engineering! It involved re-locating number plate on boot lid (cutting away black and silver trim strip), reversing number plate lamps to shine upwards and re-fitting reversing lights outward of the overriders. Clearly the stylists forget the man who is shown in the Rootes brochure taking an outboard motor out of his boot! !

Epsom Downs. A. A. Taylor.
* * *

The TV Ban

Sir,
I have just watched a perfect example of the BBC’s two-faced attitude towards advertising. While enthusiasts of motor-racing who are unable to attend meetings are prevented from seeing the sport on television, BBC 2 is allowed to show an edition of “Wheelbase” which amounted to a publicity film for the Toyota Landcruiser. I am not attempting to argue the relative merits of this vehicle and the Land Rover, but a programme that consisted of the loudly-voiced opinions of only one person coupled with typically romantic film of East African wild life does not seem to constitute an impartial comparison. While it appears perfectly acceptable to mention car manufacturers by name, small posters showing the names of oils and tyres, etc., are taboo.

Edinburgh. Peter J. Carr.
———

Sir,
I would like to take this opportunity to add to what must, by now, be an enormous pile of letters after ITV’s cancellation of the motor-racing from Silverstone on Saturday, April 27th, and the BBC’s cancellation of their coverage of the East African Safari on Thursday, April 25th, although it seems now as if this was more of a postponement, because an edited version (presumably to make sure that no one could read any advertisements) was shown on Thursday, May 2nd, and was most enjoyable, even though it was a week late.

As a schoolboy I can only manage to get to one or two race meetings each year and so I rely almost completely on the coverage provided by radio and TV, particularly for the European part of the World Championship. That the TV companies should refuse to give this coverage on the grounds that the cars are now carrying tiny advertisements, which surely cannot be legible on the screen, is absolutely ridiculous, particularly when all the circuits are adorned with large, clearly visible hoardings. It has been argued that the cameras are not concentrated on these and that advertising on the cars is advertising “where the action is”. But for years now advertisements have appeared on drivers’ overalls. I have a photograph of Denny Hulme receiving the trophy after the Monaco G.P. 1967, which was shown on TV, the words Esso and Goodyear being clearly legible on his overalls. How extending advertising from inside the cockpit of a car to the outside of the bodywork can make any difference from the TV point of view, I fail to see. I also have photos of the cars which competed in this year’s BOAC 500 at Brands. This was televised on London ITV (why not elsewhere?) and most of the cars were adorned with advertisements, so the ITV are not even being consistent about the matter. A recent “Wheelbase” programme examined the question of advertising on cars. Mr. Dunmock, of the BBC, spoke of the dangers of finishing up with the advertisements on TV being interrupted by programmes. I do not see how a few advertisements on racing cars could possibly lead to this situation. I was delighted, incidentally, when Colin Chapman challenged Mr. Dimmock with a picture of a skier, complete with advertisement for Martini across his chest. I have no doubt that this character has appeared on TV at some time or other.

I feel that I could understand the TV companies’ point of view if they were being paid to televise cars with advertisements on them, but the situation is just the opposite; they are paying the circuit owners for the privilege of bringing the cameras to the tracks. I have also heard that the TV companies cannot televise advertising on cars because of some vague clause in their charters. If this is so, then it is about time they reorganised themselves in a more logical fashion, since this clause is frequently violated anyway.

I am sure that most reasonable people, whether they are motor-racing enthusiasts or not, would condemn the action of the BBC and ITV, and I think that it is about time that some action was taken to end the nonsense and give the country’s third greatest crowd-puller the TV coverage it deserves; after all, horse-racing fans get far more than their fair share of TV time. I don’t think any sport deserves the coverage which horse-racing gets, I would therefore like to suggest that Motor Sport organise a petition, as they did for the 70 m.p.h. speed limit. This received tremendous support, even though it has so far failed to achieve anything. [But, so far, no 60 m.p.h. limit!— Ed.] I am sure that there would be similar support for a petition against the TV ban on motor-racing and I also think that it would stand a better chance of achieving its objective.

After all that, I feel I must congratulate you on your excellent publication, and particularly on the new colour centrespread, although I was rather disappointed that there were no colour pictures of the Race of Champions.

Aspley. J. E. Fox.
* * *

The Motorist Pays!

Sir,
As if motoring costs are not exorbitant enough already, I have just unearthed one more plot which I think requires broadcasting as a warning to fellow-readers.

Recently, in the course of preparing a Continental holiday, I was informed by my local (Pinner, Middx.) insurance broker that the charge for the green card was now £6 for up to 21 days’ cover, an increase of 200 per cent on last year. In order to seek justification for this increase I made direct contact with my insurance company and found to my surprise that their charge was only £3, the other £3 having been added by the broker, who is already receiving commission.

Needless to say, I completed the transaction direct with the insurance company.

In the light of my experience I am tempted to suggest that it would be in the national interest, better brokers included, if the green card charges were published for all to see.

N. Harrow. Bernard Herbert.
* * *

“Short List”

Sir,
Mike Jackson’s reasons for having chosen an injection Peugeot, on page 521 of your June edition, make interesting reading.

Never mind the Volvo 114, the Volvo 133 scores 12 out of 20 on his scorecard (the same as his Peugeot) and costs £250 less. Furthermore, the 133 offers better performance, seat belts included in the price, his all-black trim together with collapsible steering column. I admit the Volvo does not have an ash tray in both doors, but this drawback becomes a trifle insignificant when compared with the prospect of being impaled on the end of a steering column.

Ipswich. D. R. Hounsfield.
* * *

Rover Tyre Wear

Sir,
I was very interested to read that the Editorial 2000TC has destroyed its near-side front Cinturato after 10,850 miles. My own Rover 2000 had a very badly worn Cinturato on the near-side front wheel after some 9,000 miles. The pattern of wear suggested incorrect negative camber; the other three tyres at this mileage were hardly worn. When I consulted my local garage about the wear on the near-side front wheel I was told not to worry because all Rover 2000s destroy this front near-side tyre within about 10,000 miles. When I questioned this information I was assured that it is a known fact in the motor trade and results from the design of the Rover front suspension. Not satisfied with this information I took my car to the Rover agents from whom I bought the car new; they checked the car and told me that the tracking was out of alignment, but if this was all that was done to the car then the charge of £5 4s. seems rather high. Since this checking was carried out I have covered a further 2,000 miles, and frequent use of a tyre depth gauge during this period has not as yet revealed any continuation of uneven tyre wear. However, of five other owners of Rover 2000s with whom I have spoken, four tell me that they find the front near-side wheel uses up tyres at about twice the rate of the other wheels. Of these four owners three were using Dunlops, the other Pirellis. I would be interested to know the experiences of other Rover 2000 owners regarding the rapid tyre wear on this one particular wheel.

Rochdale. R. Wareing.
* * *

The “Babs” Controversy

Sir,
I spoke to my sister-in-law recently on this as it was after her that Parry Thomas named the car “Babs”, and she agreed that the car should remain honourably in the sands. To those who knew him Thomas was a Brooklands man, never happier than when on the track—he crashed badly at Boulogne and died at Pendine. The car was not representative of Thomas the engineer, but was the only available machine to find out more of high speed difficulties and to satisfy Thomas the man with a very natural desire to capture a record. True, he loved big cars for the thrill of driving, but the engineer prompted him to design the 1½-litre Straight Eight so sadly undeveloped at his death

Some time ago I was asked for information about his family for a proposed television programme, but we could provide little help as Thomas belonged to Brooklands: the lower picture on plate 43 in your admirable book, “The History of Brooklands Motor Course”, is as we remember him, a man whose name is known by many young people as the little drawing and poem I found on his grave when last visited Byfleet cemetery prove.

If the car is raised and any money results from its exhibition I would suggest a sum to be invested to provide income to cover the cost of maintaining his grave if Byfleet cemetery has the grave maintenance scheme so that we do not have to rely on infrequent visits to keep it in order. Any other money should endow a bed and a children’s hospital, for he loved them, though his preoccupation with cars gave him no time to think of marriage.

Now, if one of the original Leylands could be found it would be a more fitting tribute to a great engineer, as well as a great sportsman.

Margate. W. J. White.

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