Letters from Readers, July 1970

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

The Motorist’s Lot

Sir,

At the end of last year I was caught in a radar speed trap at Blackpool and was astounded to be asked my age and occupation. I refused to give these details, saying I was over seventeen, and was informed it would be noted I had withheld this information. The outcome; I am pleased to say, was only a £5 fine.

However, motoring through Scotland earlier this month, with a friend driving, we were stopped in a radar trap and the age and occupation question was asked again. After much argument as to the validity of these questions, he was informed it was an offence not to give his age, and so with no apparent alternative he told them. His occupation he refused to impart and they suggested that “unemployed” was acceptable (in fact he is a company director, and looks like one!).

My reason therefore in writing this letter is first to bring this matter into the open, as it is my belief that these questions have no hearing on motor offences of this nature, and second, if the motorist succumbs, who knows what other irrelevant questions they may decide to ask in the future.

Readers’ comments and a police explanation would I think make interesting reading to the many others who must have undergone similar experiences.

Name and address supplied. – Ed.]

* * *

Long-Sufferers!

Sir,

A certain character known in racing circles as “Jenks” is, I believe, responsible for a paragraph in the May issue in which he describes “An Historic MG”. He refers to the pre-war amateur partnership of Hurst and Edmondson which raced an MG Magnette at Brooklands. He goes on to say that now the same partnership has managed to acquire “a rather special MG Midget” and that in this case they, i.e., Hurst and Edmondson, have “decided to relive their youth once more in the harmless, uninhibited fun (?!) that VSCC racing provides”.

Does “Jenks” ever spare a thought for their poor long-suffering wives? Can he imagine what they go through on these occasions? Mind you, I might have been warned from the start. On our wedding morning, in Delhi on September 15th, 1945, he burst into my bungalow, where I was feeling pretty rocky after a very late and somewhat alcoholic evening. He said to me: “We’ll have to call the whole thing off. My big-end is broken!” In those days I was so ignorant I didn’t know whether he needed the attention of a doctor or a mechanic!

What do other wives of car maniacs do about it? Any advice would be gratefully received.

Loughton.

Joan Edmondson

* * *

Explanation

Sir,

I was amused to read (Motor Sport, May 1970, page 461) that you were once refused overnight accommodation in a hotel because you insisted on parking your car nose -outwards – the manager leaping up and down, saying only nose-in was allowed!

A similar situation occurred to me, but on that occasion the manager was justified in insisting on parking nose-in only, because otherwise the cook and the cooking in the basement would have suffered. . .

Brundall.

Rudolph Payne

* * *

The Citroen Light 15

I noted with interest the strong words and derogatory remarks of Mr. Wells concerning “horrible non-classics”. They do not, however, apply to the Citroen Light 15.

The dictionary defines “classic” as “of admitted excellence”, “cited as a model”, “often referred to” and “a standard”.

In 1934, when the original “Traction” was announced, it was courageous to even think of mass-producing a vehicle with so many daringly unconventional features so advanced of their time. It was thought that the public would never buy these low profile, aerodynamic, f.w.d., unitary construction cars; they were a “gimmick”— why, they didn’t even have running-boards!

And yet all these features have become “standard”, “cited as a model”, etc., etc. (thank you, dictionary).

As you pointed out yourself, even the “august VSCC recognised them as post-vintage thoroughbreds”.

I would also disagree with the inference that the Light 15 was designed for planned obsolescence – far from it; while most manufacturers think in terms of three-year model cycles, Citroen produced the “Traction” and its derivatives, roadster, Familiar, 15 c.v., etc., for some 23 years – a production run which compares favourably with the “T” model Ford, VW and, of course, the Citroen 2 c.v.

I should like to add that I do not view this car through the biased “eyes of a proud owner” as Mr. Wells might suppose, although I am familiar with the Light 15 through a fellow Citroen Car Club member who has two of these fine cars in roadster form.

Ayr

W.T. St. J. Bruen

* * *

An Alvis Prototype

Sir,

I am just completing what has been a three-year entire rebuild of the works prototype 3-litre Alvis. This one-off motor car, built in 1948/1949, consists of a TA14 body and beam axle chassis converted to i.f.s., a Speed 25 radiator and the six-cylinder engine shoehorned in. The car belonged to Capt. G. T. Smith-Clarke on his retirement from the company in 1950.

I am anxious to get in touch with anyone who may have worked in the Experimental Department of Alvis Ltd., where the car was built, and who may recollect it, or indeed anyone who can shed any light on its sheltered history before it was taken out to Nigeria in 1957. The registration mark is JDU 674.

Hindley

D. J. Culshaw

* * *

The future of the Targa Florio

Sir,

I would like to endorse D.S.J.’s comments in your edition for May about the threatened future of the Targa Florio. For the last two years I have lived within half an hour’s drive of the course and have been repeatedly impressed by the universality of interest among the local people for the race – a far cry from Castle Combe, but then this is only once a year. There is scarcely a town that does not claim to be the birthplace of “Ninni” Vaccarella, and to see him driving past their front doors, preferably with a couple of Porsches in tow, is one of the high spots of the year. Anyone who has heard a V12 screaming through a narrow street will scorn going into the country to hear the same.

Sicilians are very proud of the history of the Targa and, while the course has been changed various times in the past, the essence of a road race. i.e., town and country, has always been there. The idea of a “safe”, virtually circuit, Tourist Trophy-type version would be as much anathema to the locals as it is to your correspondent. Progress, alas, has a different meaning for politicians.

From the safety aspect I doubt whether cutting out the towns would really make a significant difference. The country stretches of the course are crowded by people with apparently scarce regard for their own wellbeing. The Chatham-Harvey MG that ran off this year, nearly causing a lot of injury (saved by skillful driving), was right in the mountain section of the course.

We can only hope that plans for the “People’s Targa” manage to lose themselves in a Government office so that this classic race does not go the way of the RAC Tourist event.

Petralia Soprano, Sicily

Peter Edwards

* * *

The Matra 530

Sir,

I have just read with great interest your impressions of the VW Porsche 914 in your May issue received today. For a French mind, this car is of course a direct competitor of the mid-engined Matra 530 coupe, and one is led to regret that this car is not better known abroad, and particularly in Britain. This might change with the Matra-Simca tie-up, but in fact this is not sure and I do not know if the car will be distributed by Rootes.

Its detachable hard-top is not a unique feature of the 914: I take it to be a straight crib from the 530. On the French car the roof, which is in two parts, can be removed and stowed in the front boot (there is a rear boot behind the engine for the luggage, and it is of very reasonable capacity). With the two panels of the top off the car retains its rear window, but this, too, of course, is removable and the car then becomes an open roadster with roll-bar.

In the way of seating space the 530 is commonly considered as a 2 + 2, which is probably better than what the German car achieves (am I being partial?).

As far as performance is concerned the Ford-engined car must be slightly faster than the four-cylinder VW, but there again it’s all in the way it handles.

Thank you for a very interesting magazine which keeps me in touch with the way in which the British look at sports cars, and which has a great individuality.

Niort, France

Jean-Francois Chapin

* * *

“80,000 Miles in Two MG-Bs”

Sir,

I have just read L.A.M.’s article, “80,000 Miles in Two MG-Bs”, and noted with interest his appraisal, particularly of the 1965 B. This well-renowned marque has been much abused recently – more so by apparent little boys playing at men – what with their £100 TR bangers!

Only quite recently I travelled from Le Havre to Rome in 17 hours and 14 minutes – not in a TR but in a 1965 B roadster, fitted with overdrive. The car returned 34 miles to the gallon and used only one pint of oil throughout the 1,100-odd miles. The present mileage is 49,000 miles, yet the oil pressure never drops below 70 lb.

I would add that I have also done this journey in just under a day in a 1960 TR3A some five years ago, and whilst admitting that it gave me a certain amount of exhilaration – albeit, fringed with some hair-raising experiences going over the Gt. Bernard, plus a broken differential on arrival – never quite afforded the comfort and confident roadholding of my MG-B.

I’m sorry, TR boys, but in my declining years I still prefer speed plus safety, and though in the past ten years I have owned seven – yes, seven TRs in all, I am now a confirmed MG-B addict – apart from the odd Dino Ferrari and Maserati, etc., I see belting up the Via Aurelia, that is!

Rome

Mikal A’Herne (Dr.)

———————————–

Sir,

I read your comments on the MG-B in the May issue of Motor Sport with great interest. They broadly agree with my own 40,000 miles of experience with a “B” roadster which I have owned for the last 3 1/2 years.

The mechanical reliability of the car is excellent when compared with many other cars of a similar age. It has never let me down to such an extent that I have had to leave it, but on maybe half a dozen occasions roadside repairs have been necessary. One such occasion occurred when I overfilled the brake fluid reservoir and caused one of the front discs to overheat severely due to a binding pad. This seems to have caused some severe disc corrosion with consequent uneven disc pad wear.

That other favourite complaint of MG-B correspondents, exhaust system failure, has shown itself up with me on many occasions. It seems to require attention on average every two-three months. This would seem to be a design error, as every other owner I have spoken to seems to have trouble in this department. Even a relatively robust “Peco” unit failed after three months, due to front pipe flexing. Needless to say, I am now extremely skilled in removing and replacing the exhaust system.

Fuel pump trouble has plagued me over this last winter due, it would seem, to firstly the loss of the breather pipe causing water to be drawn into the body (48,000 miles), secondly (and very similarly) incorrect location of the breather pipe outlet (second replacement at 49,000 miles and, thirdly, failure of an “o” ring on the new unit requiring attention after a further 500 miles. Again, a minor design change (relocation of fuel pump) could cure all such troubles.

An incredible testimony to the robustness and handling qualities of the car was on occurrence last summer, when having arrived in Cornwall with a laden boot and car, I discovered that all but two of leaves on the n.s. rear spring (including the main leaf) had broken. It was realised then that this explained the “clonk” which appeared every time the clutch was released from standstill before the 450-mile journey started! This was repaired by myself and a friend in a back street of Bristol after another long (and careful) drive.

Handbrake inefficiency, often mentioned in road tests or talks with other owners, generally can be attributed to the balance arm on the rear axle being seized on its pivot.

The rather flimsy location of the key mechanism for the door locks is another design error. They require periodic attention from inside the door to wedge them secure. This fault is perpetuated on the latest models.

I have very little complaint regarding the interior fittings of the car. I eased the confusion of the row of toggle switches by fitting a push-pull light switch. The spokes of a 13 in. steering wheel now effectively mask the oil, water and fuel gauges! This size of wheel certainly develops biceps if a lot of town parking is done. The key-locked glove compartment is irritating if one wants to open it whilst on the move if the boot lid key is on the same ring as the ignition key. The addition of a simple catch plus the key-lock would be useful here. Insulation of the body and floor panels behind the seats would seem to be worthwhile if the noise present when the battery compartment cover is missing is anything to go by. Another source of interior noise which eluded my eye for a while was the hole on the l.h.s. bulkhead where the l.h.d. steering column passes through. The plug is easily lost if passengers have big feet and increases the engine noise inside the car quite considerably. The noise from this source varies in level according to the position of the heater controls, too. These Controls could be improved quite easily, too, particularly with regard to the tiresome flaps by the passenger’s and driver’s feet.

Needless to say, synchromesh on 2nd gear went long ago.

The boot regularly acquires a layer of water and is consequently best left empty of tools, etc. Luggage., i.e., one suitcase if the spare is carried, has to be wrapped in plastic bags. This seems principally due to a badly fitted boot lid which no amount of hinge adjustment seems able to cure.

More lateral support by the seats was certainly a needed modification. I have to tie myself in very tightly with the seat belt if I am not to be thrown around.

The speedometer on my car seems very optimistic or else the indicated 7,000 r p.m. in top gear would seem to confirm a road speed of around 126 m.p.h. It accelerates quite strongly up to this speed quite often. The lack of overdrive doesn’t encourage one to maintain this speed. In spite of this sort of treatment the engine has never given me any cause to complain, routine attention to oil changes, plugs, points, etc., being all that was required. However, I intend to remove the head next week to see the ill-effects of several boiled radiators caused by lack of engine fan in traffic over the last few months.

Some time ago I fitted 165 x 14 SP41s on 5J rims, which gives excellent tyre wear – 18,000 miles for the back and slightly more for the front. These wheels/tyres have caused most of the paint on the sills behind the wheel arches to be shotblasted away due to road grit being thrown up. Recent fitting of G800s on the back caused chronic oversteer and caused the car to wander wildly in cross winds and on white lines.

The body faded badly after three winters standing outside and was resprayed last summer. Two sills were also fitted.

Fuel consumption averages about 25 m.p.g. over the whole year, with oil at about 250 m.p.p.

My only regret is that the car was not fitted with overdrive and also the folding hood – well worth it in this climate! It seems to be one of the few cars on the road which has not suffered the ravages of depreciation: I paid £675 in November, 1966, and could sell now for £550.

Altogether a good, solid car which has taken me safely, quickly and reliably on many consecutive long journeys with the minimum of fuss. I would be loathe to part with such a fine machine, and would have no hesitation in recommending the MG-B to anyone who was looking for an extremely reliable long-term motor car.

South Shields

Ian P. Burdon