Are re-treads safe?
It is said that the RAC is going to lift its ban on re-treaded tyres, so for as the better brands are concerned—but only, it seems, in respect of short sprint events in which only one car goes up the course at a time.
Obviously safety, especially in speed events, must be a major consideration of the RAC, who have therefore to decide whether re-tread tyres will be immune from bursts or tread-flinging in highspeed events. The RAC knows, or should know, that re-treading falls into two categories—treads scientifically moulded on to carefully inspected used covers by “approved” firms, and treads stuck on to any wornout tyres which Bill Bodger has presented to him in his backyard.
The genuine desire of those firms. such as Blue Peter, Tyresoles, etc, who accept for re-treading only carefully inspected tyres and then re-tread them properly, to prove the superiority of their products led them to band together and to stamp their work as that of a preseribed standard. Such re-treads have proved their worth in trials and rallies, in which events they are allowed by the RAC on fast cars notwithstanding the high-speed tests which figured in the last RAC Rally for example. They have even been used successfully in races abroad, such as the Bol d’Or and for record-work at Jobbeke and in races in New Zealand, where the RAC ban does not apply.
So you might have thought that the RAC would have passed such re-treads for short-distance sports-car races in this country, while adhering to the view, which we share, that Bill Bodger’s work is best confined to low-speed touring cars, farmers’ vehicles working in the fields or motor-traders sans conscience wishing to give the impression that the cars they have for sale are well-shod.
There would seem to be only one possible reason for the RAC’s reticence, and that concerns a rumour that some of the aforesaid rally and sports racing cars may have come through safely on re-treads, but that such re-treads were, indeed, applied to brand new covers, either deliberately to deceive or, as we prefer to believe, because the drivers concerned had a liking for the re-tread pattern, and themselves did not trust entirely their old tyres.
While the admission of re-tread or re-mould tyres in sprints will help, clubmen will not be happy until they are allowed to use them at club race meetings. Participation in the sport is costly enough and re-treads save money, something over £12 on each set of 4.50 x 17 tyres, for example.
The re-tread firms would no doubt welcome lifting of the ban so far as the smaller club events are concerned, for some of their best business, commercials apart, should come from the club competitor, who wears out several sets of tyres a year. What puzzles us is why they have never tried to put on a convincing demonstraton, RAC-observed, of their products, as we suggested to two of the leading re-tread firms when they asked our advice about overcoming prejudice against re-treads on fast cars some years ago.
Is it that they lack faith in their products staying put on cars which reach and hold high speeds ? Is it that no drivers can be found to volunteer to drive in such a demonstration ? Or are the re-tread firms overlooking a golden opportunity of proving to the RAC that good re-treads are as safe under racing conditions as new tyres ?
Is safety glass safe?
Discussion took place recently in a contemporary as to is toughened safety-glass the cause of many unexplained accidents. It so happened that while we were driving a Citroen Six at speed along in straight road trying to come to grips with a 21/2-litre Riley a stone flew back and hit the windscreen, a Triplex Toughened affair, which immediately went opaque. So we write feelingly, and with personal experience of this vexed subject. This episode occurred on a straight road and that we brought the Citroen to rest close to the left-hand verge was due to luck if you like, to instinctive judgment. (spare our blushes, however !), and to nothing else.
It was quite impossible to see through that windscreen. We did not have the presence of mind to thrust a bare hand through the mess, being, indeed, rather busy with the steering. Nor did we steer by watching the road receding in the rear-view mirror. as the aforesaid contemporary (returning to the safety-glass subject in a rather changed state of mind) suggests that perhaps we ought to have done. Yet we were not particularly “shocked” because, after an initial fleeting thought that perhaps the engine had flown to pieces, we realised that, in fact, a stone must be the culprit and appreciated exactly what had happened. Thereafter we wound down the driver’s door window with the idea of seeing at least something, and let Mr Lockheed do the rest.
But repeat. you couldn’t see through that screen. Imagine therefore, what would have happened had it been struck going into a corner or along a congested road, perhaps at night ! The safety-glass experts have their answers of course. They will tell you that toughened glass is made to BSS requirements which specify that the glass must fracture into such a number of granules per square inch as to ensure some retention of visibility. The counterfact is that ours didn’t ; nor do we believe that Kenneth Horne, a director of Triplex, whose BBC performances we so enjoy, really sets much store by the findings of scientific “experts.” In any case, a sloping screen or sunlight can negative the visibility of even BSS glass after fracture.
Consider those “mystery” accidents, in which seemingly healthy men and women are found dead in crashed cars after leaving the road, and ask yourself, which is more likely, that they suffered a sudden heart-attack, or sudden, fatal loss of vision when a stone hit their toughened-glass windscreens ?
We emphasize what we believe to be a very real danger because Motor Sport is read by drivers of fast cars and obviously the danger from sudden loss of vision sans warning is all the greater in their case.
The solution seems to be to fit laminated safety-glass, as found in Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars and, ironically, in the Riley which was responsible for the fracture of our toughened glass screen. Laminated glass was found on most pre-war American cars, is indeed compulsory in certain States in that country, and is of course, compulsory for cars used for racing.
We suspect that toughened glass owes its popularity to its lower cost and the fact that it can be more easily manipulated when screens have to be persuaded to fit the not entirely accurately-formed screen-frames of modern pressed-steel bodywork, and because it suits flimsy screen-frames which flex when the girl friend orders you to clip the hood on to them. Sponsors of toughened glass will tell you that bits can fly from a laminated screen which has been struck by a stone and nasty cuts may result therefrom. Nevertheless, if we had to choose between losing control of a fast car on a public road or of chancing a cut from a sliver of glass which normally would be unlikely to part from the plastic vinyl centre-spread of a laminated screen, we know which we would prefer ! And so we congratulate Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Riley on their choice of laminated glass. Perhaps the only completely safe solution is to drive a sports-car in the true sense, with screen folded-flat or non-existent. Otherwise, you are advised to avoid “toughened trouble” and fit laminated safety-glass in your windscreens.