Matters of the moment

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Speed

We refer not to the journal which Motor Sport absorbed so many years ago, acquired from Alan Hess (whom we are glad to see is still actively interested in Brooklands, coming over well in a recent BBC appearance associated with the Brooklands Society’s desire to turn what remains of the historic Track into a National sports centre) but to the speed we are legally permitted to do in our motor cars. The raising of the ridiculous 50-m.p.h. limit to 60-m.p.h. on June 1st, and the dual-carriage way and Motorway limit to 70-m.p.h., the former from the former 60-m.p.h., is a step in the direction of common sense. With the reservation, that is, that while 70 is tediously and uneconomically pedestrian on our fine and very expensive Motorways, especially in daylight and good weather, 60 can be too high on some dual carriageways where slower vehicles cause faster ones to pull out frequently to overtake. Clearly, concern over head-on collisions has caused the authorities to re-arrange these speed limits, with the result that anything over 50 m.p.h. is forbidden even on entirely uncongested country roads, of which there are thousands of miles, on which 60 and 70-m.p.h. or more can be safe. However, we must be thankful for small mercies… Nevertheless, we view with great misgiving the wide variety of speed controls from 30 to 70 m.p.h. and the invidious trapping of drivers who exceed them, even by only a small margin, and especially the iniquitous totting-up system of licence endorsements for such non-criminal offences. By catching only a few of the “offenders” the method is unfair and unliked. It has been suggested that far tougher fines be imposed for drunken-driving charges and we would like to set all speed limits abolished and replaced by the safe-guard of dangerous driving charges, with similar stiff fines where it is proved that an accident was caused thereby. You cannot win every time and some injustices would remain; but it could be a better system than the prevailing one. Meanwhile, we hope our readers will enjoy their 60s and 70s and we are sure they will drive fast with skill, in the hope that the accident-rate will drop, to vindicate this extension of our driving freedom.

What is entirely devoid of mercy is the increasing encroachment of official intervention on motor vehicle design and operation. We have those most unfortunate Type Approval Regulations, due to come into force next October, which will sound if not the death-knell, then very sad times, for the smaller motor manufacturers of this country – ask firms like Crayford, Morgan, Panther Westwinds, etc. and they will tell you what they think of these absurd crash-test and other programmes of the Department of Transport that could curtail or even terminate their businesses. We have seen how politics and managerial inefficiency have killed Companies making top products – Rolls-Royce were making some of the best aircraft engines in the World when the crash came and now Reliant, with an economy-car programme to fit the times and the V6 Scimitar which was a well-liked car, used by HRH Princess Anne, has had to sell out, its shares at one time down to 1 1/2p. We have ever more complex DoE vehicle tests, which raise the cost of motoring and bring anxiety to many who should be enjoying expensive, highly taxed ownership of a car, although we are told that accidents arising from failure of mechanical parts amount to only about 2% of the total. Now we have jolly President Carter genially informing the American Motor Industry that he is introducing a rebate scheme to those who buy fuel-thrifty cars and that he is going to impose penalties on purchasers of big automobiles. Indeed, we are told that by 1995 the V8 engine will be defunct so far as American private cars are concerned; General Motors say they visualise making no more V8s six years from now and see a quick swing to diesel engines, with a compression-ignition Oldsmobile in their 1978 model range. This is a drastic move for a Nation which has never taken happily to compact cars (the VW Beetle invasion apart) and it is one that would make ownership here of a 3 1/2-litre V8 Rover 3500 single one out as a cad, were it not that the Rover engineers have made their V8 surprisingly economical. All this Governmental interference with the automobile industry seems uncalled for. It is muddled American thinking to call for tighter emission regulations and fuel-conserving engines at one and the same time, for these aims are diametrically opposed. It may be sensible to conserve petrol, yet panic measures are surely not called for, when new sources of the essential fluid are being discovered all the time, suggesting that many more hitherto untapped supplies will be found? When we were able to buy quite good fuel for less than the equal of 10p a gallon oil rigs in the North Sea were undreamed of… Instead of throttling the hard-hit Motor Industry with speed and design restrictions it should be given every encouragement to forge ahead, thus contributing to the future prosperity of civilised Nations.

Circulation

Interest was aroused by sonic circulation figures for Motor Sport and other motor journals which the Editor dropped into his “My Year’s Motoring” article lust February. With this in mind, and the hope that it does not appear immodest, we append the latest available Audit Bureau of Circulation endorsed circulation as at December 1976: Motor Sport: 125,624 (including 14,451 overseas ); Motoring News: 83,980 (2,139 overseas); Motor: 78,541 (8,407 overseas); Autocar: 68,366 ( 10,194 overseas) Thoroughbred and Classic Car: 50,705 (14,798 overseas); Autosport: 38,766 (4,580 overseas).

The Things They Say

“Through the chalk cutting on the M40 past High Wycombe and the Porsche in front plunges down the long downhill run. Chasing hard in the Monte CarIo I find myself slipping slowly behind, despite a speedometer showing 130 m.p.h. and into the yellow sector of the rev counter in fifth as we bottom the hill”. “When finally into top, and rolling along, the 924 does start to wind itself up towards 125 m.p.h…. as I keep a wary eye open for the Police …” . Kevin Blick and Chris Goffey describing in Autocar a comparison test between the Lancia Monte Carlo and the Porsche 924. Watch your licences, lads!

* * *

“My spies in the motor industry have supplied me with a copy of the letter from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders urging its members to dip into their pockets and come up with a Rolls-Royce for Her Majesty.” – from a piece in Motor by Ralph Thoresby, headed “Royal Roller”, who describes the SMM&T’s confidential communication as “this high quality begging letter”, and asks whether you, too, would be pleased to accept a £60,000 R-R. In rather poor taste, don’t you think?

The Riley RM Register’s National Rally takes place at Dodington, Avon, on July 23rd/24th. Their current R. Memoranda contains a picture of a member’s 1947 24-litre Riley photographed on a tram-infested road by the Well Hall Inn, London, SE23, in 1952.

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