Lovable monsters

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Sir,

The theme of June’s Matters of moment (is individuality fading for the ordinary car buyer?) must be answered with a loud “Yes”. Today’s motor cars follow a firmly established international pattern— presumably because, after a very long period of R & D, the manufacturers have got things more or less right. So the charm and variety expressed in such contrasting designs as, say, the Riley 9, Lancia Augusta, DKW and Fiat 1100 (all cars for the ordinary buyer of the mid-30s) have been smoothed away. Should this be regretted, I wonder? I don’t think so.

We Motor Sport readers can have it both ways. We can use the excellent standardised cars of today, and enthuse about the completely different cars of yesteryear. The British have always, thank heavens, gone in for ancestor-worship of the inanimate; cast iron, brass, glass, wood and leather seem to be bred in our bones. And we do things properly. I was astonished by the poor standard of restoration in a German car museum; surprised not to see even one “old” car wheel crossed France last month; and displeased by the horrid newness (lipstick-red leather and chrome bumpers) of American restorations of “classics”.

We order our affairs differently in Britain. I have friends who run Morris Minors because they like them, who restore Roesch Talbots and Alvises to a condition suitable for daily use, and so on. Which is as it should be.

I well remember the days just after WWII, when I was an impecunious enthusiast and cars were truly individual: Rileys that were driven with eyes glued to the oil-pressure gauge; the distinctive racket made by Alvis wheels when those wavy splines became worn; the sharp twang as yet another spoke pulled out of the Augusta’s asymmetrical rims during hard cornering; the dreary task of replacing clevis pins on that awful Bendix rodbrake system; the bloody-fingered business of adjusting cable brakes; and the leaden feeling when confronted with a cracked, out-of-true Lancia cylinder head that was designed to become cracked and out-of-true.

I loved all of these monsters with a passion. I’m a little sorry that my son will never blow up the pneumatic cushions of a Riley or drive behind a lop-eared hare, but only a little.

When WB was nearer 30 than 70, he used to wonder, in the pages of Motor Sport, if the 60 mph/60 mpg motor car would ever be attained. Has it been, do you think?

Nicholas Fisk, Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire

Not quite — DoT figures show the Daihatsu Charade Diesel Turbo as the most economical car on sale in Britain, and while it reaches 83 mph, it just fails on fuel economy: 57.2 mpg overall. GC

 

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