Matters of moment, July 1991


Compared to motoring in vintage times, we drive in a complicated age. And as 1992 approaches we are going to be faced with many additional complications. As if there were not sufficient already, especially in party politics! In terms of car ownership, there are so many changes and additions on the legislation front, particularly where the running of the older vehicles is involved, that it is indeed fortunate that we have the FHVC keeping a careful watch on developments and trying to enforce a sane view of what motoring should be about.

Then motor racing is no longer the simple sport it once was. Complications inevitably came into it quite soon and have since multiplied into bewilderment. Scores of championships, with their complex points awards, fuel consumption limits, grave bickerings at official levels, weight handicaps added on a sliding-scale after each round of saloon car contests, “stop-go” penalties, spot checks on Fl weights and wings, unusual Fl finishing orders, driver fines and penalties, and so on; necessary maybe, but complicated.

Ordinary drivers do not escape either. They are required to obey ever more signals, speed limits, white lines, yellow lines, no parking notices, danger signs, etc, with a complex system of points totting-up if they are caught disobeying. Even in rural Wales new speed limit signs are mushrooming, along with more kerbs and roundabouts, regardless of the cost of erecting and maintaining such “developments”. At a time, too, when local Council spending is said to affect the levels of Community Tax we shall all have to pay. There is added complication at Council meetings when it becomes essential to decide where a “Give Way” globe should be placed on a crossroad at which all roads have equal status — and where, in less complicated days, horn-tooting usually ensured a safe crossing. So we are being ever more regimented, rather like train drivers, with a view to setting us safely on our respective ways. Yet, highly desirable as it is to eliminate where possible every accident, let us not overlook the fact that for every careless or criminal driving act, hundreds of thousands of drivers of vehicles of all kinds manipulate their machines with sufficient skill and consideration not to have accidents. Yet along with the reckless and the inexperienced, they can fall victim to radar traps, unmarked police cars and the like, while speed remains the scapegoat in the minds of most bureaucrats, contrary to the thinking of experienced police Chief Constables. It is like the mad dog syndrome, where a small percentage of pit bull-terriers trained to fight and kill are such a serious danger that they need to be dealt with, but hundreds of thousands of other dogs are harmless pets for the young, the middle-aged, and the old, and very often almost essential companions to lonely old-age persons.

Cars themselves have become vastly more complicated, too, and thus difficult and expensive to maintain. While Motor Sport is all in favour of the highperformance Supercars capable of 150 to 170 mph or so, costing astronomical sums, which can be wonderful fun and fast transport in the hands of experienced drivers, these cars in themselves must surely bring complications — in the matter of consulting with the bank manager, perhaps, although in the case of those who can afford to actually purchase such road-burners it may well be a case of the bank managers consulting them! These supercars may be abnormally fast but speed in itself is not necessarily the killer. In which respect we wonder whether reducing the legal speed of large trucks from 70 mph to 60 mph on Motorways will have much effect, except to keep them longer in the middle lanes while overtaking “mimsers” who clog the inner lanes of our important Motorway system.

If you can afford it, and want it, by all means have a car representing the peak of high-performance achievement. But in this age of recession, with the high cost of petrol and the need to reduce exhaust pollution, is it too much to hope for that our clever designers and technicians will continue to improve the now very excellent smaller and less expensive cars? Sales are reported as falling seriously. Perhaps what is wanted to stimulate them are even more economical cars, say of Sierra or Cavalier size, and a new family of much smaller cars with similar built-in refinements, leaving the half million pound road-burners to the Very Rich. — WB