Letters from Readers, July 1981

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

Formula One

Sir,

Over the past months I have read in the columns of Motor Sport and Motoring News of the slow but sure decay of F1 to the point that my indignation has now reached fever pitch. You understand of course that we in the indolent majority are bound to suffer such extreme pain before attempting any remedial effort.

My problem could well be no more than a naive belief that the majority of those within F1 have an interest in its whole success [There are still those who believe this. — D.S.J.] rather than personal gain at any expense. It does appear that the people involved have failed to notice the underlying transition that has taken place in F1 since the advent of major sponsorship. [I did warn about this. — D.S.J.] This is that it is no longer a sport, but an industry with all the attendant needs. When it was a sport, the ruIes had no critical need to be absolutely precise, since the spirit of sportsmanship could be relied upon, successfully. However, recent developments have proved that, as in industry, there is no place for such an approach, with the result that anarchy has set in.

Rules that contain any vague areas must be to the disadvantage of both the governing body and the competitors. From the governing body’s point of view, their position is almost impossible because they cannot demonstrate complete impartiality. Therefore they can be exposed to inflammatory accusations of rule-bending, at which point acrimony, then anarchy set in. Equally from the competitors’ point of view, their position can be impossible, because they do not know where the rules’ limits lie. This is aggravated by their commercial need to be one step ahead of their colleagues, which forces them to explore unknown areas of the rules. In stepping on to such a tightrope, no one can tell when they have fallen or been pushed. Again this leads to accusations of gang warfare which itself is a member of the anarchy family. Such circumstances must drive the media to distraction since their reports inevitably become inconsistent or contradictory. An example of this is evident in the reports concerning the hydro pneumatic suspension systems appearing in “Letter from South America” in May’s issue of Motor Sport and later in the Belgian GP report in the Motoring News dated May 21st, 1981. Incidentally, I notice that the correspondent in each case has the initials A.H. Since I understand that these are sister publications, I assume that one unfortunate person has written both pieces. In the first article such phrases as “neatly side-stepped” and “very clever” are used to describe Gordon Murray’s designs in this respect. However, the second piece admits to “close examination” of the unfortunately named Concorde Agreement [the Concorde Agreement was not available at the time of the South American races. — A.H.]; it then goes on to describe the same ploy as unworthy of the term “cheating” and further to, in effect, regard such systems as “blatant in their contravention of the rules”. Such reports must be recognised by the influential as a clear warning, in order that they may take drastic steps to avert the impending disaster.

As far as I see it, such action would involve the measures taken by other industries. My only experience is that of the construction industry, where we use a comprehensive, formal standard form of contract related to common law and its ethics [I am not sure Formula One understands the word “ethics”. — D.S.J.], which apparently works tolerably well. The disadvantage of this action of course would be the arrival of the legal profession on the scene, and its attendant costs. Even so while the personnel currently shaping F1 may be experts in their field, if they happen to have one, it is patently obvious that they are not lawyers and cannot organise the running of such an industry. Thus such an investment would be in the long term a justifiable benefit to the governing body, the competitors, the media and — the public. In order to meet their part in this expense, the competitors could easily economise in many areas including the entertainment lavished on the hordes of “lurkers and posers” that congest the pit lanes. Once these complete and concise rules had been established, the legal profession would still need to have a presence in order to settle disputes. However, I would imagine then, as in the construction industry, the parties would have a great deal of respect for such costly cases. This would therefore act as a negative incentive to overcome problems, when they arise, at a low level and with a minimum of fuss. [Heaven forbid that the “small-print” world ever gets into the paddock. — D.S.J.]

I have to concede that I am not at all certain how the other branches of motorsport would be affected though some sirnilar logic could be employed, using the all important distinction between sport and industry as the criterion.

Northampton

S.J. Stott

[Hopefully the unprofessional world of club racing will not be affected. At a VSCC meeting the word “protest” was mentioned and someone said “it’s a national event so it will cost you a fiver” — “they take Barclaycard don’t they?” came the reply. — D.S.J.]

Mike Hailwood

Sir,

Your excellent but tragically necessary obituary by Denis Jenkinson must have softened as far as possible the sad loss to the motorcycle racing world to whose fans Mike, I think, showed his prime allegiance.

As a relative newcomer to the world of motorcycle racing as opposed to cars, in which I used at one time to compete, I wonder if it is fully appreciated just how important to Mike were his fans and supporters.

For me this was exemplified at his farewell Donington Park meeting last summer. Sadly, Mike crashed in practice suffering a broken collarbone. Despite what I believe was two hours of surgery to plate the bone that day and another session on race day morning, he insisted on being present to bid his fans farewell. He was only reluctantly dissuaded from riding himself and taken on his tour of honour in very considerable pain in an 8-litre Bentley.

This type of courage could only come from a man of his stature and would be fully appreciated in the unselfish world of bike racing. Perhaps that is why his acceptance was not so total in motor racing which has never enjoyed the same benefits of simple dedication to the sport, all too quickly becoming on occasions a morass of politics

For me Hailwood’s loss, as a fan, rates on a par with the late Jim Clark another “sportsman” whose memory has not, for very many people, faded at all and who was always willing to race and enjoy without fuss almost everything and anything to the best of his ability.

It can be a sad world.

Bourne, Lincs

Warwick Banks

TVR 3000S – A Holiday Abroad

Sir,

My girlfriend and I have recently returned from a two week holiday in Europe in which we covered just over 3,000 miles in my V-reg TVR convertible. It is the first convertible that I have owned and it was bought to fulfil a lifelong ambition of wanting to own a fast and unusual convertible. Having previously owned a Taimar I was interested to see if I had made the correct decision in exchanging my fairly practical hatchback for an obviously less practical soft top.

The problems throughout the trip were few and the car performed as it usually does — superbly. However, there were a couple of silly things that did go wrong that shouldn’t have, especially when one considers that it is by no means cheap (£7,000 when purchased in Dec. 80 when 14 months old). The bonnet catch on the driver’s side refused to catch after about a week and the boot sometimes did not open, resulting in the luggage having to be brought out through the inside of the car. The biggest problem was the roof which fell to bits after about 10 days, admittedly after it had been raised and lowered 3 or 4 times in a day. A rushed repair had to be done to tighten up all the screws that had come loose, to refit the driver-side handle that connects the roof to the windscreen and to find suitable screws to replace the ones that had fallen out altogether. (When the roof is working it can easily be lowered and raised in a couple of minutes, but not from inside the car). The two other inherent TVR problems, that of noise and ventilation I’m sure won’t come as a surprise to any owner; the noise is something one accepts – even likes occasionally – but the ventilation, or lack of it when sitting in a midday traffic jam in hot sunny weather can be a bit boring. [See TVR Tasmin road test last month! – P.H.J.W.]

Those were the problems, on the brighter side I know it would take a lot more to go wrong before the bad points outweighed the good — the tremendous acceleration, outstanding road holding, good solid brakes, and the well proven, reliable Ford V6 engine and gearbox producing the power and drive. The inside is very well furnished; perhaps the only unusual thing is that the rev.-counter is in front of the passenger.

The small boot and quite large space behind the seats give just enough room for two for a couple of weeks (small tent included). For me however the greatest thing about the car was when the roof was down, the sidescreens off, the sun blazing in and, with a deep throaty roar from the exhausts, the car accelerates away from just about anything. The petrol consumption from SW Scotland to S of France, Andorra and back was about 25 1/2 m.p.g. and could easily have been more, oil consumption was 1 1/2 pints.

The convertible is an awful lot of fun. It’s a great pity the ventilation was never sorted and I’m sure the small faults, once mended, will not go wrong again. I’m extremely glad I’ve got one, my problem now, as the rain pours down (and in) is whether to keep it.

Muscat, Oman

R. McCrow. Captain, SOLF

And the Tasmin

Sir,

I am putting pen to paper after reading the June publication of Motor Sport namely the Road Test on the TVR Tasmin.

I feel that the report was rather scathing and too highly critical of one of the few remaining British and privately owned car manufacturers.

Perhaps you could explain why your report differs drastically with the report of the same car in Motor recently, your comments would be appreciated.

I have owned a Tasmin for the past two months and totally disagree with 75% of your criticisms, and would like to place on record that on reporting several minor defects to TVR Limited, the car was collected and defects attended to by TVR Limited and not their agent. The car was returned swiftly to me. The after sales service offered by TVR Limited is second to none.

Motor Sport seems totally biased towards foreign sports cars, whereas praise should be given to a British company on limited finance, when announcing a new model, perhaps other larger publicly owned ailing companies could learn something from the success of TVR Limited over these past few years.

I have been a regular subscriber of Motor Sport for the past past 18 years, and find this report distasteful and in my opinion inaccurate.

I trust my letter will be published in the next issue to show that you too can stand criticism.

High Wycombe, Bucks.

G. M. Richards

[I am glad that Mr. Richards disagrees with my assessment of the TVR Tasmin Convertible, for it shows that there will continue to be a market for such cars — individuality cannot be stamped out! It would be a poor world if all cars were the same, and it would be a poorer world if all motoring writers agreed with each other. It is as distasteful to me to find any fault with a British product as it is to any patriot, but it is not innaccurate for me to report on what happened during my evaluation of the car. I wish TVR luck and hope they may continue to produce cars for years to come, but it would be wrong for me to write a glowing report glossing over poor features (as Mr. Richards seems to think I should have done), simply because it is the product of a small, British firm on limited finance. — P.H.J.W.]

On the One Hand, A Colonial’s View

Sir,

Your article in my latest copy of Motor Sport March 1981 on the Mazda 323 1500 GT prompts me to comment on what appears to be a major epidemic sweeping through the ranks of British motoring journalists — one-eyed-itis.

Being British to the boot straps is all very admirable and I understand the bias toward the local product. But if you could just keep that other eye just slightly opened you might become aware of the attributes of products which might just be the competition necessary to jolt the British car industry back into healthy life.

In Australia, we have been exposed to Japanese cars for many years. I am sure that it is only because of the enlightened approach of the Japanese engineers and the competition in the market place that finally put our Detroit Dinosaurs out to pasture and forced them to come up with Cortinas and Commodores. These at least resembled something worthy of the title automobile.

Yes, I do own a Japanese car and find it excellent for its purpose. I also own a Porsche 911 and have owned other Porsches, Alfa Romeos, MGs and Austin Healeys, and I have a fair idea of what a good car is all about. I gave up reading Australian and American motoring magazines because they became incestuous and could see nothing but local products. I hope the British scribes can fight off this infection and influence the industry, not react to it. [We at Motor Sport are often accused of being too anti-British in our attitude, (see letter above). We try very hard to be fair in our asssessments of cars, not allowing political or national considerations to impair our judgement. — Ed.]

Just one other point — seat belts. Recent editorial comment and readers’ letters seem as if they were reprinted from Australian magazines prior to legislation on the wearing of seat belts in Australia. OK, no you don’t want to fry when your Austin 1800 bursts into flame because it’s going to take 1 sec. to undo your seat belt — but your number is probably up anyway if you are in this situation. But . . . what about that minor collision in which your passenger went through the windscreen. You weren’t travelling very fast and you can’t understand her just taking off like that. The steering wheel bruised your chest a little but that’s all. It’s a pity that to restore that beautiful face she has to undergo massive plastic surgery and neurosurgery or a last chance operation to restore her sight.

These are the great savings of seat belts — reduction of injuries. The recorded figures for road accidents maintained by an independent road safety group in Australia, show a phenomenal reduction in head and facial injuries to passengers, particularly children, since seat belt legislation was introduced. Unless the average British motorist is remarkably enlightened and will automatically buckle up, legislation is the only salvation for the idiot and the only way to save money for the others.

Who pays for the hospitalisation, the time lost in the work force and the massive compensation claims on motorists’ third party insurance? You do my friends through increased taxes and insurance premiums. North Sea oil can’t pay for everything.

Canberra, Australia

Terry Lovett

And on the Other Hand

Sir,

As a confessed anti-seat-belt man from a compulsion point of view, I was disgusted by the recent comment by the television interviewer on the road safety programme that no one escapes death or injury unless belted in. This ignoramus also openly implied that those who had allegedly escaped through not being belted in were figments of bar room imagination.

As a virtual non-drinker who has two relatives alive, only because they were thrown clear when their small cars were crushed by lorries beyond recognition, I bitterly resent the lies being perpetrated by those evil enough, although possibly well intentioned, to want to see us all tied down literally and legally regardless of the cost in lives that a seat belt law will undoubtedly claim.

I am even more concerned that apparently neither the police nor the Department of Transport keep records on people unbelted who survive certain-death crashes. Thus this Government Department’s figures are totally unrepresentative and hence worthless, yet it is on those figures that MPs, many of them regrettably very gullible, will be asked to give their vote.

I trust as a serious freedom loving driver and fellow anti-compulsion fighter you will be able to publish the total fallacy of the so-called lifebelt statistics.

Heathfield, Sussex

Harold E. Parkin

[While we maintain our stance against the compulsory use of seat-belts, we cannot agree with Mr. Parkin when he suggests that compulsion will claim more lives; we are convinced of the benefits of wearing belts, and feel that others (especially passengers) should use their belts through conviction rather than compulsion. — Ed.]

“Sic transit gloria Rolleiflex”

Sir,

Last month in my photographic magazine I read that the Rolleiflex turn-lens reflex camera had been discontinued. First introduced in the late 1920’s, it had been developed steadily, the basic design remaining the same, a little like the famous AC 2-litre 6 cyl. engine, which also was produced over many years.

Now in my June Motor Sport I see that W.B. has retired his Rolleiflex — one of the World’s most famous, having measured the capacity of many a glovebox down the years, and taken some interesting photographs, too.

Do gloveboxes no longer need measuring or have they shrunk to such a size that the old Rolleiflex is no longer a sensible yardstick? A modern compact Japanese job would seem to do.

I cannot make up my mind where the old camera should spend its retirement: the National Motor Museum or, more sportingly, the Donington collection.

Thornton Heath, Surrey

Noel C. A. Yates

Stratos support

Sir,

Might I add my support to Alex Moore (June edition) in his defence of the Lancia Stratos— not that I think J.W. meant to imply any serious criticism of the car. The differences in approach by BMW and Lancia to their respective “homologation specials” merely underlines very strongly the differences in national temperament so often noted by writers comparing German and Italian cars. No one could deny the BMW’s superior build-quality and no-nonsense practicality, any more than they could deny the Lancia’s vastly more sensuous, exciting character. Remember, too, that Lancia were under considerable pressure from Ferrari and Fiat not to make the Stratos too attractive a proposition, and thereby take sales away from the Dino.

My own Stratos is about to undergo major suspension surgery similar to that of Alex Moore’s car, and I can only reinforce his remarks about the transformation that properly-sorted suspension can bring about. On Pirelli P7s, Bilsteins, and the correct competition springs the car is quite simply the most electrifying device ever put onto four wheels.

Abingdon, Oxon

Simon Park

Alfa Romeo 8C/35

Sir,

Good old D.S.J. should return to school for a “refresher course” on geographical, political and historical matters. In his otherwise excellent article about the Alfa Romeo 8C/35 (June 81 issue, page 794) he writes about Tazio Nuvolari’s second place in the “Hungarian Grand Prix at Masaryk”, which, I am afraid to say, does not make any sense.

These are the facts, as I was present at the 1935 Masaryk Grand Prix, which was — by the way the very first car race won by the late Bernd Rosemeyer on an Auto Union, while Tazio Nuvolari, on the Alfa Romeo 8C/35, was second in front of two more Alfa Romeos, driven by Louis Chiron and Antonio Brivio-Sforza for Eliza Ferraris Alfa Romeo racing Scuderia.

T. G. Masaryk was then President of Czechoslovakia and the Masaryk Circuit — just on the outskirts of Brno — was named after him. It was in no way connected with Hungary and was therefore never the venue of a Hungarian Grand Prix. The race contained a 1500 cc class, which was won by Dick Seaman on his black ERA in front of two type 51A Bugattis, driven by Pierre Veyron and Bruno Suyka.

Bielefeld, Germany

Erwin Tragatsch

Dealer Replies

Sir,

Rodney Smith’s letter, published in the June issue of Motor Sport, was misleading in itself, and contained a number of fake premises. The car I was advertising is KV 5392, the KV and the 53 being clearly visible in the photograph. I make no claim to own VC 8304, the tail of which can just be seen in the photograph.

KV 5392 retired from the 1933 Le Mans race (the year that VC 8304 won the Index of Performance having been placed fourth overall) but finished fifth in 1934 driven by Becke and Peacock, carrying racing number 36 and winning the Index of Performance. I have photographic evidence of KV 5392 leading the Sebilleau – de la Roche car, although the latter eventually finished second overall.

The possible mix-up of information may derive from Birmingham’s Riley book where my car is confused with KV 9477 in one of the photographs.

London,SW7

Dan Margulies

In Support of Leyland

Sir,

In perusing May Motor Sport, I noted the comment of your caption writer on page 616 that the Audi Quattro bonnet proper was “a piece of bent rod to match the crudest from Longbridge”. While it does seem to me strange that a £14,500 car from the Fatherland should have inferior bonnet proppery to, say, a Longbridge/Cowley designed Princess (whose bonnet rises gracefully, even regally, on two gas struts), why pick on Europe’s most advanced car plant for such a snide comment? Time was when I would have ignored this kind of xenophilic stuff, but since Austin Morris has made such a massive effort over recent years, culminating in the Metro launch, it’s time we started being more aggressive and self-assertive. like our friends over the Channel. Longbridge rules, OK!

While on my hobby-horse, might I refer back to a comment you made in your Metro story in January, when you expressed an aesthetic preference for the less aerodynamic, square front of a certain Spanish hatchback, over the Metro’s “wedge” nose? Surely, the former arch-exponent of Beetling should prefer bonnets which do not obstruct one’s sight line to the road?!

Solihull. W. Mids.

Ian Elliott (BL Cars Press Office)

[(Perhaps the designers of the Quattro are confident that the owner will not have to open the bonnet himself — Ed.]

Peugeot-Solution

Sir,

With reference to the letter in the June issue from C.K. Luton regarding his Peugeot trouble, I may have good news for him. A colleague had identical engine trouble and after £400 and 12 months head-scratching he accidently flushed the heater circuit the reverse way. The result was a messy, rusty sludge from the pipe! After thorough flushing he refitted the pipe and fitted the cooling the correct way. Result — magic. The engine ran cooler, heater worked better and the car was faster. The car had done 60,000 miles, so the sludge build up must occur slowly on these highly tuned engines.

Rochdale, Lancs.

E.A. Rothwell

Kieft Coventry Climax Car

Sir,

Cyril Kieft built four Kieft cars with the 1,100 c.c. Coventry Climax engine in or about 1952. He took out a series of ten registration numbers for his cars from the Wolverhampton Licensing Office, ranging from LUK 1 to LUK 10, and so the four cars originally started with one of the above registration numbers.

The history of the cars is as follows: one was destroyed in a crash at Le Mans, one was destroyed by a fire, another was given to Cyril Kieft’s daughter (Anne for her 21st birthday, the registration number having been changed from LUK ? to AK 123. This car was once driven by Stirling Moss, and is now still in the possession of Anne Kieft now Anne Etchells). The fourth car is a mystery!

I have spoken to Cyril Kieft, whom I know well, concerning the whereabouts of the car but he, like myself, is completely mystified.

I would be extremely grateful if anyone could throw some light on this matter.

CodsalI, Staffs.

Richard Howell (Letters will be forwarded]

Mistaken Identity

Sir,

W.B.’s article “Cars in Books” refers to the Paris-Madrid race and a chain-driven Mercedes driven by Jos. “Jos” was not Foxhall-Keene. His surname was Grant and on page 21 of “Nellie — Letters from Africa” from which W.B. quotes, it describes his meeting with Nellie the sixth and youngest child of Lord Richard Grosvenor, a younger brother of the 1st Duke of Westminster. The book was written by Elspeth Huxley, Nellie Grant’s daughter.

London, SW10

Patrick Matthews

“Cars in Books”

Sir,

The letter of Professor M.J.C. Hodgart which was published in your March 1981 issue brought back to me delightful memories of a very humorous book. The quotation which he cites is, as you suspected, from a novel. However, it was not a novel centring around motoring.

My recollection is that it is from a book written by Terry Southern (the co-author of the once rather scandalous novel “Candy” which was later turned into a rather vapid film notwithstanding eminent English actors’ participation), the title of which when I read it was “Flash and Filigree”. That was some 12 years ago. The Doctor referred to in Professor Hodgart’s letter carried on a delightfully amusing, if rather bizzare, scandalous and cavalier set of escapades and the quote is from the evidence which the Doctor gave at trial when he was defending a charge which I believe included reckless driving resulting in the deaths of at least some innocent bystanders. He was, I recall, driving at the speed which he estimates, shortly after having bludgeoned a patient with his paper weight for irritating him with a neurotic and prolix history of a pimple.

What was particularly amusing to motorists and motoring enthusiasts was that the Doctor notwithstanding having been driving well in excess of any known speed limit to which he readily admitted, acquitted himself with the most haughty of rhetoric, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that a Delahaye in his hands was by far a better standard against which to measure rules of safety than any of the laws which lesser beings might have to obey; surely one of the most vivid and common fantasies of all lovers of fast automobiles!

Toronto, Canada

John R. Dingle

 

 

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