Letters from Readers, July 1969

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

Lotus Elan Brakes

Sir,

I should like to endorse the comments of Mr. A. G. Cosgrove (May) on Lotus Elan braking.

As he observes the brakes of this car (principally the front wheels) lock up under wet conditions. And at times they do so quickly enough to provoke alarm in otherwise quite normal braking situations.

In the dry they are superb but one needs to allow a wider margin for the difference between wet and dry braking in the Elan than in other cars I have driven.

On the thorny subject of Lotus reliability I can only say that the Elan is an improvement on the delightful but exasperatingly temperamental Elite. But it is certainly no VW.

In particular many of the latest Series 4 cars seem to be suffering as a result of the changeover from Weber to Stromberg carburetters to meet the American exhaust emission regulations.

At 3,300 miles my own Elan S4 has just been to the Zenith engineering division at Queensbury in North London to be fitted with its third set of carbs.

The previous two sets (the first pair was replaced at 1,500 miles by my Lotus agent) caused constant backfiring, engine “surging”, stalling, running on, overheating and excessive fuel consumption. As a consequence performance was non-existent.

The trouble is apparently something to do with different camshafts being fitted to cars for the home market and those given the full emission control treatment for America. Or so Zenith told me.

Quality control inspection of cars at the factory could also seem to do with tightening up. My own Elan arrived with the following faults :
No seat belts.
Indicators did not self cancel.
Indicator warning light inoperative.
Reversing lights not working.
Faulty handbrake warning light.
Faulty electric window.
Cracked arid chipped paintwork.

Mr. Cosgrove is also right when he says the Elan lighting system is unreliable. My headlights have twice failed without warning while driving at night, once almost causing an accident.

In addition it is not uncommon to have to jiggle with wires under the bonnet before the headlights come on at all.

My Lotus agent—Purley Performance Cars of Purley, Surrey—have been particularly helpful and sympathetic. But the inconvenience caused by all these problems has been considerable.

Having said all this the Elan remains a superb car. Its incomparable handling, road-holding and ride, together with the lusty engine and precise steering make the trials and tribulations of owning it worthwhile.

And I would disagree with D. S. J. who described the Elan cockpit as “spartan” in May’s issue.

With its beautifully lacquered walnut dashboard, excellent seats, good quality carpets and other attractive appointments the latest S4 is almost in the luxury class.

Blackheath. David Tattersall.

* * *

Jaguar Mascots

Sir,

With reference to the letter from Mr. Walker (April issue).

As he is a proclaimed Jaguar owner of many years standing I am surprised that he has failed to notice that the XK series, surely the most famous and revered by all Jaguars, were never fitted with anything more than a plastic badge.

Surely they were none the less car for the omission?

Dagenham. John J. Atkins.

* * *

Goodbye, Mr. Purdy

Sir,

We act for Mr. Ken W. Purdy, the well-known American writer.

Our client has become increasingly irritated at the appearance in Motor Sport of a series of snide innuendoes and unfounded criticisms concerning himself. Concerning one article (“Letter from Europe”, August, 1968, issue, over the initials of Mr. Denis Jenkinson) our client consulted Counsel and was advised that the article was defamatory. A more recent article (“Fear and Motor Racing”, 1969 issue, over the initials of Mr. William Boddy) returns to the same laborious attack.

Our client does not, any more than any other author, demand immunity from criticism. If Motor Sport wishes to criticise our client it is free to do so within the bounds of the law. Alternatively, you may prefer to ignore our client, a fate he would welcome. If, however, you decline to make any open criticisms but continue the present line of defamatory suggestions and unsubstantiated innuendoes, we give you notice that our client will have no hesitation in availing himself of his full legal rights and enforcing his full legal remedies. We hope that you will treat this letter as seriously as it is intended.

London, W.C.1. Wright Son & Pepper.

[Having received this letter from Solicitors acting for Mr. Purdy, we are glad to comply with his request to be ignored. No further references to this gentleman will ever again appear in the columns of Motor Sport—not even an obituary.—Ed.]

* * *

A Jowett Javelin Enthusiast

Sir,

While reading your excellent and most informative article on Mr. Gerald Palmer’s 1924 Targa Florio Mercedes I noted the reference to this wartime-designed brainchild, the Jowett Javelin, and it struck me how seldom these cars are heard of nowadays, a fact which I would like to do a little towards remedying, if I may.

What other family saloon can carry four people in superb comfort, and six with ease, will return over 30 m.p.g. in good tune, and exceed 80 m.p.h. Couple this with excellent road-holding and a very high standard of finish, and the fact that a good specimen can be found for less than £100 . . . in fact I bought my own untidy but basically very sound 1952 PD de luxe Javelin for £20.

I would have thought that in view of the above, the Javelin would be a much sought after vehicle, especially at a time when the better cars of the immediate post-war period are gaining a certain following, but apparently not. An impression appears to have gained ground that spares are difficult to obtain. Possibly this has arisen because Jowett car production ceased some 15 years ago. Let me quash this impression completely. I have never had any troubles in obtaining spares since I bought my first Jowett some three years ago. This is presumably due to the factory producing spares right up to 1963, and in more recent times the various agents undertaking to have certain of the less plentiful items specially manufactured.

And what about the Jowett Jupiter? A sports car, designed by Robert Eberan von Eberhorst, working hand in glove with E.R.A. Ltd., which did so well at Le Mans, and incorporated so many advanced features in 1949. With a view to publicising the Jowett marque, there now seems to be a possibility that the N.E. section of the Jowett Car Club will run a team of Jupiters in Historic Sports Car events next season, and I am preparing my recently acquired 1952 SA Jupiter to this end, and looking forward to some good sport! /p>

Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Geoff Brown.

* * *

Time Wasters

Sir,

Recently, an accident occurred outside the gates of my school, involving a police car and a car which had been attempting to turn into the gates. Within minutes, six police cars and eight policemen were on the scene. Efficient? Yes, very. But farcical, considering the damage amounted to a small scrape and a knocked-out headlamp rim to the police car and the private car respectively.

York. Martin Bradley.

[So the younger generation is noticing! In this country we waste so much time calling the Police to very minor shunts, whereas on the Continent they take this as an inevitable part of motoring, quickly driving on after a shouting match or exchange of addresses. Some time ago we saw a taxi hit by a car in Aldwych. The only damage was that one of the taxi’s wheel nave plates fell off. But, because of archaic regulations, the fare had to dismount and the cab remained there for ages, until inspected and judged safe to proceed. We have just not yet come to accept the motor car and as it has been with us in ever increasing numbers for over 70 years, it looks as if we never shall!—Ed.]

* * *

Praise for the Police

Sir,

During the last fifteen years I have had several encounters with the police in relation to motoring and they have all been unpleasant. However, on Sunday morning, 11th May, my car, an ageing Mini, refused to start when I was on my way to work. Living near a long hill, I attempted to roll start and ended up a considerable way from home with a useless motor car.

As I walked over to a ‘phone box some two hundred yards away, I looked back and saw a panda car stopping by the Mini and two policemen were busy trying the doors. This, I thought, is it! Incredibly, one of them offered assistance and got himself pretty dirty mucking about under the bonnet—to no avail. They then ran me across to the ‘phone, provided me with the correct change and waited as I had words with my garage mechanic. As a final friendly gesture, one of them gave me a Sunday paper to read as I waited for assistance.

A small incident, but what a pleasant encounter with the law!

Clayton-Le-Dale. John West.

[Good public relations, Police v. Public, too!—Ed.]

* * *

Oil Cooler or Oil Thermometer?

Sir,

In these days of oils and petrols advertised as having special anti-wear ingredients, I should like to bring to the attention of fellow readers a point which could possibly be a big wear-saver. I run an old Ford Capri with a Cortina GT power plant. The local pub “go faster” experts inform me that an oil-cooler is essential if you are going to drive the car to its full capacity. Before spending out on a cooler I fitted an oil-temperature gauge and conducted a series of tests, bearing in mind that a well known oil company informed me that the correct sump temperature should be between 75ºC. and 95ºC. to enable the oil to carry out all its functions.

My sump was not protected by a cardboard splash shield, and I believe some recent Fords did not have them fitted. The results of the tests are as follows: Driving steadily at 45 to 55 m.p.h. over a distance of 100 to 200 miles the oil temperature reached a maximum of 55ºC. Driving hard over a similar distance the maximum temperature rose to 65ºC. I then made a splash shield that completely sealed the bottom of the engine compartment, without the customary hole to allow the sump bottom to protrude. The same tests produced a maximum temperature of 85ºC. I should point out that I have an electric water cooling fan that is used only in traffic jams, and that the radiator is 50% muffed above 30 m.p.h. which maintains a water temperature of 90ºC. I would venture to suggest from my findings that there must be an awful lot of cars in use that never reach the correct running temperature, thereby causing more wear than is necessary, so perhaps readers might check their oil temperature, especially before lashing out for an oil cooler.

Shirley. John Dowman.

* * *

A £15 Singer Le Mans

Sir,

I have been interested in the correspondence in Motor Sport on the cheaper pre-war thoroughbreds. I enclose a photo of my 1936 Singer Le Mans 9 four-seater bought in 1962 for £15.

Reliability is not outstanding, but she has done about 10,000 a year for the last three years with little bother, mostly flat out.

Top speed is in the 75-80 m.p.h. region, fuel consumption 28-32 m.p.g., according to speed.

The hydraulic brakes are first class and road-holding is of an order that cheap cars still can’t emulate, though the ride is a bit lively.

She is quite a good car in Production Car Trials, where she is well known on some courses, chiefly for the piercing squeal from the clutch on fast starts, a fault of no consequence, having nothing to do with the rivets!

Rugby. Ian Blackburn.

* * *

Shoestring Motoring

Sir,

I have been extremely interested in the letters concerning “Shoestring” Motoring. This is a point that for about the past five or six years has made me alternately laugh and fume whenever I have read through the “for sale” section of your magazine.

The “lesser” pre-war cars are just not worth hundreds of pounds, and people don’t seem to realise that there was plenty of mundane machinery on the roads before the war just as there is today. Around 1958-1959 the prices asked for old vehicles were reasonable, but now they have escalated out of all proportions, and it now requires considerable time and effort to find good bargains. As for my own experiences, the best examples are an M.G. M-type obtained for £10, which gave 100% reliable motoring and was never touched with a spanner, and a 1932 Wolseley Hornet Special, which I obtained for £35 and have been using for the past six years, including a tour of the Continent.

A very wise heading to the article in June’s Motor Sport. My case for being on tow illegally (in another Hornet Special, obtained for £5 complete) comes up soon, and no one seems to be able to quote the exact letter of the law on the subject, since there are apparently technicalities concerned with the point where a car can no longer be termed “a motor vehicle”.

Finally, the classified section of your magazine is beyond doubt the finest advertising medium for motor vehicles of interest. Would it not be possible to seperate advertisements at least for post- and pre-war cars, thus eliminating the need to wade through pages of “Stork forces sale” nonsense when looking for the latter?

[Late print schedules are against this.—Ed.]

Sittingbourne. Julian N. Brownridge.

* * *

In Favour of the Jaguar XK Engine

Sir,

I was puzzled to read the comments on the XK engines in Matters of Moment, June, 1969, issue.

What is fussy about this motor and what on earth do we want even noisier high-revving intractable engines for? Your road-test of the Maxi criticised the car for noisiness, which is no doubt due to the demand by the technical press (not the public) for high-speed low-capacity cars. By all means let’s have new power plants, rotary engines, electrical devices and the like, but to ask manufacturers to make the comically outdated reciprocating engine whir even faster and be quieter seem ridiculous to me.

Treated sensibly the Jaguar motor lasts for incredible mileage and with not too much lead in one’s boot at 22.3 m.p.g. If I get the same performance from my 1300 Riley the consumption drops from 35+ to 28 and the shrieking and gearbox stirring necessary is quite exhausting.

Let’s leave the power output of the piston engine as it is, and (Jaguar, that is!) start hollering for a fundamentally different, more powerful, smoother engine that doesn’t need a box of cogs to be rattled around to cope with its narrow power band.

Finally, why do manufacturers go to such ingenious lengths to swop cogs about? Surely industrial variable speed drives or hydraulic motors would be simpler.

Beaconsfield. E. H. Dudman.

* * *

R16 v. MAXI

Sir,

The detachable back shelf something of an innovation. Have another look at the R16!

I hoped when the Maxi came out it would be good. The first one I examined appalled me as a showroom example. So I looked at two others. In none of the three cars could the doors be shut without slamming Hell out of them. The rear door on two had rubbed to such an extent that brightened bare metal was visible both on the body and the door. Also rather stupidly the salesman kept boasting about the low revs in the 80s in fifth. What is the use of this information in a country controlled to 70?

If one compares what one gets in an R16 for £970 it makes the Maxi a very dear car, especially when import duty is taken into consideration.

It has got one good point—a good hand-brake. The R16 handbrake is unprintably had—and two women I know cannot reach it wearing Britax inertia reel seat belts.

When the Capri came out, they were soon about. So far I have only seen two Maxis on the road!!

Alrewat. T. L. Dyer.

* * *

Two-Wheeler Bravery

Sir,

I daresay the controversy started by D.S.J. in his “chicken” article will rage for-some time in your columns.

It must he remembered that he spent many years in the world of motorcycle road racing, a game that makes car racing look a bit tame by comparison.

I would seriously recommend all who fancy themselves as fast, tough drivers to try it out on two wheels.

I remember many years ago Geoff Duke invited Stirling Moss to “have a go” on Manx Nortons, but Stirling politely declined, and no one can say that he was short of guts. Come hail, rain or shine, the only correct line at the bottom of Bray Hill is between that grid and the kerb at about 130 m.p.h. with a nice stone wall to stop you if you miss. I wonder what the G.P.D.A. would say to that.

Cheadle Heath. R. Sandbach.

* * *

F.2 v. F.5000

Sir,

I would like to raise a few points concerning F.5000 through the columns of your magazine. The sponsors of F.5000 say that the public want this formula. Well, I don’t want it and many of my friends don’t want it either.

The truth is that the sponsors have made the mistake of thinking that because the public support 400 b.h.p. Formula One that they will support F.5000. The mistake of assuming that the public want 450+ b.h.p. cars has been made twice before with the Inter-Continental Formula and Group 7 and we all know what happened to those formulae!

The formula I would like to see more of is F.2, which offers close, exciting, fast racing with an occasional bonus of graded drivers. The sponsors of F.5000 say that F.2 is uneconomic, but if this is so why do the B.A.R.C. stage an annual F.2 race at Thruxton?

Regarding a recent letter in your excellent magazine about circuits in Britain I would like to say that there is just one good circuit in Britain, and that is Oulton Park. It has good amenities and is, of course, the most picturesque circuit in Britain. For these reasons I would like to see the British round of the World Sports-Car Championships where it belongs, at Dolton Park with the Tourist Trophy.

Bingley. Paul Schofield.

* * *

How was your used Sports Car

Sir,

Fear is an undesirable emotion. Y’ know the kind of feeling you get every couple of years when it’s time to buy another used sports car (I use the term “used sports car” for ‘financial reasons). I have owned Sprites and never quite got over bad-suspensioned, back-breaking journeys, and now my M.G.-B with the three-bearing crank is making worrying noises. Purchasing a used E-Type or Aston Martin DB5 needs careful consideration, so please could we have readers’ assessments of these cars, particularly the early ones (far more enlightening than engineers’ reports) and so reduce the fear of used sports car buying?

Edge Hill. Gerry Dowton.

[Any experiences of used or used-up sports cars?—Ed.]

* * *

Before his Time

Sir,

In the midst of all this talk about wings and aerofoils, I came across this quotation in “The Power And The Glory” by William Court (page 141). Year 1925 or 1926.

The subject under discussion is the dangerous road-holding of fast light cars.

“. . . the inevitable Heath Robinson came forward in the shape of one E. Hellstrand with this suggestion:
“‘Would it not be practicable for light racing cars for track use to be fitted with a couple of ailerons projecting on each side of the car about the back of the driver’s seat . . .the adjustment could be partly by hand . . . the settings found most suitable could quickly be made with certainty.’ “

Not so Heath Robinson as Mr. Court seemed to think!

Cheadle Heath. R. Sandbach.