"Motor Sport" Samples Two Much-Discussed British Cars



The 2-Litre Standard “Vanguard”

Requests from readers that we should publish a test-report on the Standard “Vanguard,” although it is not a high-performance car, have perhaps been influenced by the statement of an eminent motoring writer that the “Vanguard” was the fastest average-speed car he had ever had on the Continent, with which an equally eminent Swiss technical journalist readily agreed, and by the opinion of a well-known motor racing photographer that this Standard is “an ideal F.I.A.T. or Lancia “Aprilia” with all the bad points taken out and a number of good ones added.” As we have never accused either the F.I.A.T. “1,100” or the Lancia “Aprilia” of possessing many bad points we cannot be drawn into an argument on the latter score, but having recently been able to cover some 250 miles in a “Vanguard” we can give our impressions of this much-discussed car.

On the face of it, the “Vanguard” hasn’t a sensational performance. The speedometer needle seldom goes beyond the 75 m.p.h. position, 0-50 m.p.h. acceleration requires rather more than 16 seconds, and the manufacturers themselves strongly recommend that the car shall not continually exceed 65 m.p.h. in top, 40 m.p.h. in second or 20 m.p.h. in first gear. The van and utility versions are permitted 5 m.p.h. on each of these stipulated maxima, having larger tyres. How, then, has this car become associated with exceptional average-speed capabilities? It seems that a combination of well-damped suspension, steering that is not unduly low-geared, reasonable pick-up, and an ability to cruise effortlessly at a genuine 65 m.p.h., coupled with powerful brakes, results in excellent journey-times for a car of this class.

As an example, early in our acquaintance of the “Vanguard” we disposed of the 10.7 miles from the old Lagonda factory at Staines to the “Jolly Farmer” fork on A30 in just under nine minutes, in spite of being baulked by a bus up Egham hill and by crawling lorries up Bagshot Hill. Later, hastening to Southampton to welcome Hess and Davis on their return from Indianapolis, we covered 44 1/2 miles in an hour, averaging over 37 1/2 m.p.h. for the first half-hour, which included negotiation of Farnham and Alton. For a roomy family saloon priced at £425 that is good motoring, although a F.I.A.T. “1,100” gave the same A to B performance pre-war, on perhaps more crowded roads. Our candid opinion is that it would be an insult to the late Ettore Bugatti, to the Maserati brothers, to the engineers at Derby and to others responsible for some of the world’s really rapid motor cars, to compare the Vanguard with their products on the score of maximum speed, acceleration, handle-ability or, for that matter, average-speed capabilities. For all that, this ambitious one-model Standard is in some ways outstanding, compared with others in its own class.

There is no doubt but that the suspension, coil-spring and wishbone i.f.s. at the front, is well-damped, as rapid negotiation of hump-backed bridges testifies. This, in conjunction with understeer characteristics and a very generous steering lock which asks but 2 3/4 turns of the wheel, together with anti-roll arrangements that can be felt to do their work, enables the “Vanguard” to be put round corners in a brisk fashion from which a keen driver derives considerable enjoyment. Roll is not entirely absent, the car’s nose dips under heavy braking, and rough roads produce considerable up-and-down motion, but controllability is of a high order for a car of this kind and one, moreover, which must meet the requirements of the export market. Comparison with sports car stability is unfair. If it could be made, would it do this latest Standard any good, remembering that it is designed to sell in countries where most of the running is over habitually bad surfaces? As it is, really severe road-shocks are reduced merely to a tremor running from end to end of the car, and speed need not be reduced because the surface has deteriorated. The car will negotiate deep mud without excessive wheel spin, confidence under such “colonial” conditions being helped by the excellent ground clearance.

It is, perhaps, the steering, rather than the suspension, which damps the driver’s ardour, for while, as we have observed, it is reasonably high-geared, it is heavy in the spongy sense at low speeds and light but inclined to be vague at higher speeds, road undulations or a side wind tending to deflect the car. There is castor action, but this ceases before the wheels are fully centralised, which perhaps explains the tendency to wander in spite of understeer. The column is absolutely rigid and wheel reaction is transmitted only over bad surfaces, together with slight vibration. After 3,000 miles’ wear there was the usual lost-motion one has come to expect in modern cars, amounting to rather more than exists in a fifteen-year-old Austin Seven that has had its connections re-bushed. Dry tram lines deflected the front wheels. Full marks, however, are earned for a good lock. The car holds in well round long bends, nor did the tail-end break away on dry roads or the tyres protest to any extent.

The Lockheed 2LS brakes are very powerful for all ordinary occasions, with just a suggestion of fade when they are applied from about 70 m.p.h. They call for fairly heavy pedal pressure and are inclined to be fierce, resulting in nose-dip, so that progressive braking calls for good judgment. The car kept reasonably straight under crash-braking, with a tendency to pull to the off side and no particular noise or smell accompanied such adventures. The hand brake lives under the facia on the right, holds well, releases well once the short ratchet-release has been found, and is, in itself, quite an anchor.

The “Vanguard” really does offer generous accommodation, three abreast on both the deep, comfortable bench seats being a normal accomplishment. On operation of a convenient handle the front seat winds well forward when required, and it gives a good upright position, nor does the driver slide about on the leather upholstery as much as might be expected. The rear seat has well-padded side armrests but no centre-rest, while the driver’s arm-rest is too low-set to be of much value. The pedals and steering wheel are well placed and visibility is mainly excellent, although the screen pillars are rather thick where they join the down-swept roof and the near-side front wing is invisible. However, the car’s breadth of beam is soon forgotten and the width is easy to judge once the in-set of the wheels is accepted. The facia presents the usual row of rather indecisive “cornpressed milk” knobs for starter, lamps, heater and demister (which is an extra), choke, wipers and panel-lighting. A panel, clearly visible to the driver and well-lit at night, carries a water thermometer, oil gauge, a difficult-to-read fan-type speedometer with trip and total mileage recorders, an optimistic petrol gauge calibrated in gallons and litres, and a separate clock. The Standard engineers are to be praised for eschewing little glowing lamps in lieu of gauges, although there is no ammeter. The direction indicators self-cancel after actuation from a lever in the centre of the sprung steering wheel and a plated ring operates the mellow wind-horns. On the car tested there was one of those admirable H.M.V. radios.

Some timed test figures are included in the appended data-table and it may be remarked that the timed maximum speed represents almost peak engine r.p.m. If the maker’s instructions are disobeyed, a speedometer 50 m.p.h. in second and 25 in first is possible. A rather surprising feature for a modern car is the lack of top-gear performance in a car that doesn’t encourage gearchanging for its own sake. The rubber-mounted engine isn’t really happy below 20 m.p.h. in top, although it will pull down to 8 m.p.h. or so. Thereafter it pulls away with no trace of a flat-spot, but not until the speedometer read 30 m.p.h. did real pick-up commence, while in middle gear 5 m.p.h. is possible, but again, decent acceleration is postponed until 25 m.p.h. has been attained. Beyond these speeds acceleration is good and we disposed of an early “Phantom” Rolls-Royce from a standing start.

The r.h. steering column gear-lever, substantial and working in a visible ball-gate, presents no difficulty, the synchromesh functioning very well with deliberate rapid movements and double-declutch downward changes being possible. The action, however, is rather heavy. At first we found the location of first and reverse below those of second and top confusing and we tended to go from first into reverse, for which there is no stop. The brightly-plated gear gate combines with the plated steering wheel boss to cause dazzle in the V-screen on a sunny day. The clutch pedal has rather a long travel but the action is smooth, when it is realised that engagement occurs towards the end of the movement, and is very positive.

The engine is an easy starter from cold, a bit reluctant when hot, and a quiet runner, save for some exhaust burble when accelerating. Normal water temperature is 65 degrees C. and oil pressure varies with engine speed, settling to about 40 lb./sq. in. at 40 m.p.h. and beyond. Pinking on “Pool” isn’t pronounced but appalling running-on was experienced, becoming less severe in the cool of the evening. Fuel consumption came out at 23 m.p.g. No oil or water was required, and the only trouble was momentary refusal of the starter button to actuate the starter, a bother that cured itself. There is a fair amount of wind noise at speed and a rumble from the tyres over certain types of road surface, but the heater motor is commendably quiet and only occasional rattles obtrude. The Lucas in-built lamps provide excellent illumination and dip effectively per foot control. The general appointments give evidence of good planning. Points we like about the “Vanguard” include the big boot with lockable, spring-loaded lid, pull-out external door handles, substantial doors, big parcels shelf behind the rear seat, large cubby hole with a sprung, if tinny, pull-up lid, excellent pull-out storage boxes in the front doors, slide-out driver’s ash-tray, recessed anti-glare visors (but why such protruding grips?), fold-flat window-winder grips, snap-shut, if rather small, fuel filler, the ease of entry and egress, extra ventilating windows front and rear and good head room. “Pulls” and a roof lamp are provided, but no rear blind. We do not like the rather swollen, self-satisfied external appearance. To conclude, the Standard “Vanguard” is not a racing car or even a sports car, but it does possess average-speed propensities formerly beyond the reach of the British family-car owner and it is, withal, a very roomy, well-planned vehicle, quite modestly priced – £543 16s. 2d., with p.t.

The Standard Vanguard Saloon
Engine: Four cylinders, 85 by 92 mm. (2,088 c.c.). R.A.C.-h.p. 17.9; 68 b.h.p. at 4,200 r.p.m. Compression ratio 6.7 to 1.
Gear Ratios: 1st, 16.35; 2nd, 7.71; top, 4.625 to 1.
Tyres: Dunlop 5.50-16 on bolt-on steel disc wheels.
Weight: Without occupants but ready for the road, 24 1/2 cwt.
Steering Ratio: 2 3/4 turns lock to lock.
Fuel Capacity: 15 gallons (range approximately 345 miles).
Wheelbase: 7 ft. 10 in.
Track: Front, 4 ft. 3 in., Rear, 4 ft. 6 in.
Overall Dimensions: 13 ft. 8 in. by 5 ft.. 9 in. by 5 ft. 4 in. Ground clearance, 8 in.

Performance Data
Acceleration: (mean of two runs.)
0 – 30 m.p.h. … 6.6 sec.
0 – 40 m.p.h. … 11.1 sec.
0 – 50 m.p.h. … 16.45 sec.
0 – 60 m.p,h. … 24.5 sec.
s.s. 1/4-mile … 25 sec.
f.s. 1/4-mile … 69.2 m.p.h.
Maxima in gears (maker’s recommendation):
1st … 20 m.p.h.
2nd … 40 m.p.h.
3rd (top) … 656 m.p.h.
Makers: The Standard Motor Company, Ltd., Coventry.

During the period of the British Grand Prix we were loaned not only the beautifully appointed Coventry caravan mentioned elsewhere, but one of the new £299 Morris Minor saloons. If the van is a product that draws static admiration, the little Morris calls for the highest praise in respect of its qualities of vivacious action. For the handling characteristics of the car are superb and render it a delight to drive, even for sports-car folk imbued with the Grand Prix spirit. The torsion-bar and wishbone i.f.s. layout, the proportions of wheelbase to track, the small wheels, and the forward-set engine add up to the best roadholding and cornering we have experienced for a very long time, and then mainly in respect of cars of Continental conception.

On tight corners and long open bends alike the Minor displays admirable understeer and goes where it is required to go. If you steer it down into the gutter and hit a series of deep pot-holes or gulleys the firmly-damped suspension will impart a sharp kick to the car, but the roadholding will remain unaffected. The steering, too, is delightfully light and smooth throughout its entire range, so that a minimum of effort is required to whip the Minor round bends, particularly as just the right degree of full castor action returns the wheel to straight-ahead. There is no tendency to wander on the straight and, although the suspension is soft enough to convert really bad surfaces into merely a limited upand-down motion, with no trace of pitching, yet only acute corners taken at speed provoke rolling and then not to an excessive degree, while the rear wheels still “follow through” beautifully, with no tendency to break-away without warning and a minimum of change from under- to over-steer. This in spite of the fact that if the car is swung from side to side of the road the suspension feels considerably “soggy.” The wheels seem always to follow the road contour, with no patter or bouncing, while, although the steering is so delightfully light, the pleasant spring-spoke wheel requires only just over 2 1/2 turns from lock-to-lock and the turning circle is commendably small. So well do the shock-absorbers work that humpy-bridges can be taken at speed and the cars is lenient to a novice who enters a corner too fast at the wrong angle. These qualities, in brief, add up to a thoroughly jolly little car which is so safe and such fun to drive that one infinitely prefers twisting roads to dull arterial routes. We can think of no other British car of this class which gives so much sheer satisfaction to a keen driver.

There is kick-back at the wheel, varying from nil to quite a sharp movement according to the road surface, reminiscent of Lancia steering and having, from our point of view, no particular disadvantage. Column movement or vibration is absent, the front end of the car remains rigid at all times and not a trace of lost-motion was apparent after over 7,000 miles wear. The tyres protest only when the car is put abnormally fast round bends and tail slides are almost impossible to evoke, but, if the Minor does get so skittish, it is a delight to bring under control again.

The driver is able to appreciate such fine handling qualities, because the visibility is generally very good, although neither front wing is normally in view and the screen pillars are somewhat thick. He sits nicely up to the wheel on a rather high, firm, adjustable bucket seat and he has ample elbow room on each side. The whole car, too, feels “all in one piece” and gets along with notable lack of effort or noise. True, the enthusiast who mistakenly wants to compare this wonderful little motor car with his beloved sports car will hanker for more low-speed torque, for the acceleration in top isn’t brisk, and hills quickly pull the speed down. Against even this unfair criticism can be set the fact that on sheer cornering ability alone, and excellent Lockheed 2 LS braking, the Minor will put up truly creditable averages. As an example, on a journey from Hampshire up to Silverstone along very winding secondary roads and including negotiation of five minor towns, we put 42 miles into the first hour and averaged nearly 40 m.p.h. over 72 cross-country miles, including a brief stop and before being really accustomed to the car. Moreover, if the gearbox is used the very smooth and willing 918-c.c. side valve engine offers quite brisk acceleration, although its valve springs impose an absolute limit of 21, 86 and 52 m.p.h. speedometer readings in the quiet indirect gears. It runs down to 9 m.p.h. in top and picks-up well from 25 m.p.h. onwards. Our wives, sweethearts, uncles and aunts would be more likely to change-up at about 10, 20 and 80 m.p.h., respectively, and still feel they were getting along quite briskly. They could not fail to appreciate, too, the delightful steering and comfort of this Morris, even if they did not discover its exceptional cornering qualities to quite the same extent as those persons to whom Motor Sport is primarily intended to appeal!

Here it can be observed that the gearbox is a delight to use, even if its lever is a trifle short and oddly cranked, and rather stiff to move. It will whip from one position to another very rapidly, synchro-mesh not protesting in the least, and the lever itself having short movements and being decently rigid. Reverse was tricky to locate, due to the strong spring-loading away from this to the central position — but that is hardly a criticism! The clutch action is light and the clutch showed no tendency to slip, but was tricky to engage, principally because the tiny Morris pedals, high set from the floor, are retained and that for the clutch operated only at the extreme end of its travel. The 7-in. brakes are powerful, even a thought fierce, without using real effort, progressive under lighter action, and gave no signs of distress in any direction, nor does the nose dip to any extent during a crash stop. The central hand brake of the old-fashioned sort nestles beneath the front bucket seats in a very accessible position and is admirably located, frees easily, and really works to the point of locking the rear wheels if required.

We found that we could get a speedometer reading of 70 or so m.p.h. along straight roads with a little help from down gradients, and that an indicated 60 m.p.h. was a very normal gait, while in the gears, 80 m.p.h. in second and 40 m.p.h. in third was the usual procedure. Later we timed it at 50 m.p.h. over the 1/4-mile, with the speedometer showing 60. Incidentally, to hurry things up a quite delightful change down from top direct into second was normal tactics. As 2,500 ft.-per-min. piston speed equals 63 m.p.h. in top gear, there seems little fear of over-working the engine. Some engine noise is evident, the road wheels amplify sound and certain rattles arrived from somewhere or other, a noisy speedometer drive developing as the test proceeded, for example, and the gears hummed on the over-run. But, generally speaking, for its size the Minor is a quiet car, and very definitely so at the sort of cruising speeds at which ordinary motorists will drive it.

Apart from being a truly fascinating car in action, the Minor has several other charms. It is upholstered in a pleasing light-hued leather. There is a full-width parcels shelf below the facia and an excellent cubby hole, its substantial lid releasing automatically on pressing a button on the windscreen sill; this button is matched on the opposite side by the dynamo-charging light. The sloping V screen doesn’t dazzle, as so many do, the trailing doors incorporating part of the front wings are beautifully hung and their pull-out exterior handles function admirably, while they shut against thick rubber mouldings. Exit and entry is not unduly impeded by somewhat restricted opening, while quarter windows provide ventilation apart from the main windows. The rear seat is roomy if somewhat restricted in leg room, there is a shallow shelf behind it, and plenty of arm room, with outer arm-rests. The comfort factor is high and the front seat backs fold to provide access. The rear compartment can be converted for luggage carrying by folding the seat forward. Items like the big rear window, adequate rear-view mirror, powerful horn, neat leather door “pulls” and flat floor were appreciated. The facia carries merely the spring-loaded choke control, lamps control and starter control, all operating nicely and feeling substantial, the ignition key, an 85-m.p.h. Smith’s speedometer incorporating a milometer, a pessimistic petrol gauge calibrated “E, 1/2, F” and an oil gauge that sat habitually at 60 lb/sq. in. once the engine was warm. The layout is much to our liking. An H.M.V. radio (an extra) was well-suited to this car. There are no ash-trays, centre arm-rests, rear blind or roof lamp — but remember, please, that the Minor is priced at only £299, or £382 16s. 1d. when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has had his “pound of flesh.” We were, however, somewhat taken aback to find no instrument illumination, while the rear lamp had been left in the near-side wing although this was a r.h.-drive car! The bonnet catch is released by a handle rather tucked away under the facia, but its safety catch is much nicer to use than most of its kind and it really works — we know, because Morris Motors’ gatekeeper didn’t close the bonnet properly after checking the engine number and we were in a distinct hurry for the next 50 miles but noticed nothing amiss. Accessibility of the engine and accessories is excellent, including dip-stick and even the front shock-absorbers. The direction-indicators are operated by a fairly easy-to-reach control on the extreme off-side of the dash and have to be manually cancelled, a warning light being incorporated in the control.

Externally, the Morris Minor is pleasant to regard — and easy to clean. Rabid vintage enthusiasts will not agree; but if you are going to have a modern-looking car at least let it look modern! The bumpers are substantial, the inbuilt lamps would have given a good beam if properly adjusted, at all events undipped (there is a good foot dipper) and the luggage boot has a light lift-up lid incorporating a reflector and illuminated number plate and the roomy interior, with spare wheel and tool-kit stowed separately, evoked surprised exclamations of praise. The fuel filler snaps shut a bit shakily and is rather small and the tank only holds five gallons; twin screen wipers work really effectively, controlled from a button on the windscreen sill. In rain worse than torrential a drop or two of water came in, and the screen misted badly even with the “Airflow” heater switched on.

Then there is the economy of this Minor in relation to its average speed propensities, a factor which will continue to be of first priority for many until “peace time” returns. Checked over 360 miles of abnormally hard driving the consumption was better then 36 m.p.g., and over a total of 600 miles approximately 37 1/2 m.p.g. In that distance about a 1/2 pint of water was added, no oil was needed, and nothing went wrong, except that the near-side “trafficator” got a bit tired. The engine started as briskly as ever on a cold, damp morning, quickly warming to its task and only occasional muffled pinking was evident on “Pool.”

To conclude, the new Morris Minor is a thoroughly attractive little motor car and a credit to its makers. It handles as few cars, large or small, do, and to our appreciation of such enjoyable controllability we would couple warm praise for Alec Issigonis — not unknown in motor racing circles! — who designed the chassis. Some months back we said, in connection with a certain Continental small car: “Many of the cars the motoring journalist tries he soon forgets, some live for long in his memory, a few, very few, he would like to have as his own.” That sentiment applies even more definitely in the case of this Morris Minor — in spite of its modest price. — W. B.

The Morris Minor Saloon
Engine: Four cylinders, 57 by 90 mm.(918.6 c.c.) R.A.C.-h.p., 8: 27 b.h.p. at 4,400 r.p.m. 6.6-to-1 compression ratio.
Gear Ratios: 1st, 17.99; 2nd, 10.48; 3rd, 7.01; top, 4.55 to 1.
Tyres: 5.00 by 14 Dunlop E.L.P. on bolt-on steel disc wheels.
Weight: 15 1/2 cwt. dry.
Steering Ratio: Just over 2 1/2 turns lock to lock.
Fuel capacity: Five gallons (range approximately 190 miles).
Wheelbase: 7 ft. 2 in.
Track: 4 ft. 21/2 in.
Overall Dimensions: 12 ft. 4 in. by 5 ft. 1 in. by 5 ft.
Makers: Morris Motors, Ltd., Cowley, Oxford, England.