Smooth, Comfortable 80-m.p.h. Travel - And On Only 1 1/2 Litres, Too!
An Appreciation of the Latest Series III Jowett Javelin
THE Jowett Javelin saloon, the introduction of which as the first truly advanced British post-World War II car can be laid at the door of the Lancia Aprilia, has been considerably developed down the years, as a recent technical article in MOTOR SPORT (March, 1953, pp. 115-119) outlined.
We recently had occasion to try one of the latest Series III examples of this good-looking, technically intriguing saloon over a distance of nearly 600 miles. and found it a very good car indeed, merit being added to its many sound qualities by reason of the fact that it falls into the convenient, but now comparatively rare, 1 1/2-litre class.
The interior appointments of this spacious 5/6-seater saloon appeal to the discerning – there is a real walnut instrument board incorporating, a large locker with lockable walnut lid opened by pressing a button, the wide bench seats are upholstered in deep-fluted hide and have folding centre armrests and detachable siderests, there is a table which can be erected on the front seat squab for alfresco pleasures, and the winding adjustment of the front seat, the excellent vsibility from the six side windows and the reflection-free screen are notable features of the Javelin.
Other aspects of the de luxe model such as the wind-down spare wheel under the floor of the very commodious luggage locker, the useful heater, H.M.V. Radiomobile radio with front and rear speakers possessing balance-control of volume, the inspection lamps for underbonnet or luggage boot visibility, the union cloth head-lining, truly luxurious seats, twin sun-visors with glamour-girl mirror in the near-side one, sensible parcels-shelf behind the back seat, etc., endear the car to those who seek a small-engined car but do not wish to forsake comfort.
On the road this Series III Jowett Javelin is an astonishingly brisk performer. We noted with satisfaction speeds of 25 m.p.h. in first, 42 m.p.h. in second, 69 m.p.h. in third – and over 90 m.p.h. in top gear come up on the 100-m.p.h. speedometer, which proved to be five per cent. fast. So briskly did the Javelin accelerate and so willing was it to run up to over 60 m.p.h. in third gear and cruise at 65/70 m.p.h., reaching a genuine 84/85 m.p.h. in top, that it was suggested to us that it must possess a Jupiter engine !
To this desire to get you along with a minimum of delay couple the smoothness of the torsion-bar suspension, the silence of the engine until it really has to work, the excellence of steering and roadholding, and the charm of the 9.in. Girling hydraulic brakes, and the Series Ill de luxe Javelin does not seem such an expensive car at its present all-in price (as tested) of a few pence over £997.
The flat-four o.h.v. engine is not quite so unobtrusive as some in-line engines when under the collar, sonic vibration being evident, but it is inaudible at idling speeds and picks up very readily in response to throttle openings. It does not run-on, shows-60 Ib./sq. in. oil pressure and a coolant temperature of 75 deg. C. all day, does not seem able to decide between Premium or cheaper fuels, being “pink-proof” on either, but it does take a good deal of patience to start from cold. It pulls well from under 20 m.p.h. in the 4.875 to 1 top gear, and runs up to its maximum speed cleanly, smoothly and without discernible valve-bounce. It is not particularly accessible and blew an exhaust gasket on the car we had for test after about 120 miles.
The gears are so quiet that third can easily be held under the impression that a further upward change has been effected.
The suspension gives a very comfortable ride if some up and down float is overlooked. The rack-and-pinion steering transmits some return motion, has good castor-action, is geared 2 3/4 times lock to lock (a generous lock), but enables one-finger control of commendable accuracy to be enjoyed, as the action becomes lighter as speed increases. The column tends to convey vibration and the edges of the spring spokes of the wheel are unpleasantly sharp.
The control is of understeer character but roll is well controlled – and there is no sudden, disconcerting change from under- to roll-oversteer. Corners can be taken with every confidence in a smooth, clean manner which is very enjoyable, the understeer, as it increases, serving to bring the tail nicely to heel. Tyre howl is rather easily provoked.
The steering column gear-change, worked with the left hand and spring-loaded to the upper-ratio locations, can be operated very quickly at the risk of beating-the-synehromesh if correct speeding-up of the engine is not employed. It is a sturdy, smooth change, decently positive save for a slight tendency to mistake top for second on occasion, and it has a push-button stop to safeguard reverse. The clutch is fully complementary. The car tested had probably received a too-generous allocation of grease, because the gear-lever emitted decidedly dubious noises when operated.
The brakes call for firm treatment, which we like, but were otherwise well behaved in every way. The hand-lever, a considerable handful of metal beneath the instrument panel, works well.
The instrument and minor controls layout is excellent. We liked the lamps switch, with fog-lamps brought in beyond the headlamps position, but a clock the size of a speedometer is somewhat unexpected. Proper oil gauge and water thermometer dials are nice to have and there is a cigar lighter if you are the type who smokes a cigar as you dice.
The interior lamp now has a switch on the lamp body and ashtrays are fitted to facia and the back of the front seat. The streamlining of the back panel only slightly interferes with vision in the big rear-view mirror. There is a map pocket by the front passenger’s legs but no door pockets. As a personal opinion the writer would like to swap the front seat centre armrest (which cramped him), the little let-down elbow-rests and that big clock for a pocket in the driver’s door, rain visors to the windows and ventilator swing-windows in the front doors. But some owners like the armrest position and use the elbow-rests.
The rear locker lid now has a spring which bears on the metal lid of the tool locker to stop it rattling, but on the car tested this required adjustment if the lid was not to require a heavy slam to get it to shut. The fuel gauge also liked to stick at zero, which can be heartstopping. The speedometer needle obscured the trip-reading at normal cruising speed, which is troublesome to those who, like ourselves, keep an eye on time versus mileage as they drive. The screen-wiper blades were not adequate in heavy rain.
These minor criticisms apart, the interior appointments of the de luxe Javelin are such that it would be a desirable car even if it gave but mediocre performance. But its performance is another altogether outstanding aspect of this modern 1 1/2-litre car. A genuine maximum well clear of 80 m.p.h., 70-m.p.h. cruising in silence and comfort, the ability to reach over sixty in third gear and to accelerate to the tune of 50 m.p.h. from rest in under 15 seconds, make the Javelin a grand companion on a long or difficult journey.
We do not own one of these cars, but we appreciate the satisfaction occasioned whenever John Baldwin telephones to offer us the Press car for a weekend. We know we are going to enjoy a vehicle modest in dimensions only, able to set up fine averages without particularly painstaking handling, which will carry up to six persons in comfort and take all their luggage, and which on a half-tank of petrol will run something like 100 miles – which, if you are a jaded scribe starting from the City, is something to bring joy indeed.
In nearly 600 crowded miles accomplished in a few days we added a little water, no oil, and petrol at the rate of 24 1/2 /25 m.p.g. The only trouble was that blown exhaust pipe gasket, quickly replaced when the car could be lifted on a hoist. Should you ask what other modern British 1 1/2-litre saloon cars offer as much we would take leave to beg the question. – W. B.