Letters from Readers, June 1956

The Amateur Census


I read with dismay your warning that the amateur census was declining in favour of the registration number, as a schoolboy hobby. I determined to do my bit towards a revival. Thus, on the sunny afternoon of May 6th I was to be found on a busy stretch of the Barnet By-Pass, undertaking a thorough census. The results were very satisfying, being far superior to earlier attempts.

A total of 3,020 cars, representing 63 makers and six nations, were seen. Thirty-six makes were British, as were 2,911 of the cars. No less than 2,715 cars were the work of the “Big Six.” Twenty-seven foreign makes totalling 108 cars were taken down. They represented the not very alarming percentage of 0.0371 of the total census. However, they provided the main features. A silver Mercedes 300SL and its equally rakish sister the 190SL were a worthy advertisement for Germany. A Lancia Aurelia in maroon was appreciated. American manufacturers were represented by 16 makes, in a great variety of colours, only Lincoln and De Soto were missing.

There was a dearth of vintage machinery, but Alvis took the honours with two Silver Eagles. An immaculate 4 1/2-litre Lagonda drophead, and a very smart Red Label Bentley made their presence known fairly audibly! However, the most interesting phenomena was the variety of three-wheelers, a staggeringly smart, red Powerdrive, and attractive hardtop versions of both Bond and Reliant. The whole census went with a bang, being enlivened by a fierce brush fire, and a final breathless flurry of a Volvo PV 444, a Swallow Doretti, and a Lea-Francis 18-h.p. Here is the actual result :

I am afraid you cannot blame modern schoolboys really, with so many cars concentrated on our sparse trunk roads it is the most tiring job to get them all down.

I am, Yours, etc.,

M.D. Young. (aged 15).

Elstreet, Herts.

[Congratulations, Master Young. When the Editor and his eight-year-old daughter attempted a similar task at Easter on A30 the traffic flowed so thick and fast they found it impossible. Congratulations, too, to the Ford Motor Co. for the integrity of their advertisement stating this is the most popular make on our roads.— Ed.]

*   *   *

Opinions From Trinidad


How very refreshing it was to read the comments of Messrs. Watson, Molthan, Gifford & Pugh and how right they are. As correspondent Nassil says, so many Englishmen consider that the mere fact that a car is English is a virtue in itself.

In this hard materialistic world, surely the best, standard by which one can judge an item is – what do you get for your money? Before comparing the English and American product one must first of all establish the true domestic value of the U.S. dollar in terms of purchasing power and wages paid. It is my opinion after much discussion that the real exchange rate should be 4.80 dollars to the pound – i.e., a dollar equals 4s. 2d. When I was in Chicago last year brand new Fords were being offered at $1,500 (£312 at 4.80) but even accepting that this is a bargain, at $2,000 (£416) you are getting an awful lot of motor car for your money. For this amount one can buy a Chevrolet, Ford or Studebaker, all big, beautiful machines which are certainly the equal of a Humber Snipe. Even discounting purchase tax what will £416 buy for you in the U.K.? – an Austin A30, a Ford Anglia, Popular or Prefect or a Morris Minor. Lets face it chums – in the markets of the world British cars are poor value and if it were not for Imperial Preference and restrictive quotas operating against the importation of foreign cars throughout the Commonwealth the sales would drop even more alarmingly than they are doing at present.

I am the far from proud owner of an Austin A50. My first and last Austin. How it is possible for any design team to produce a car with so many faults, is beyond me, but even so for value for money I think it is the best small English car available. A depressing thought.

Its worse fault is that, due to appalling weight distribution, it will spin its wheels in all gears on a hot dry road. When cornering in the hills it lifts one wheel off the ground completely, at very moderate speeds. The gear change itself requires a Houdini to find the ratios. The knob on the gear change comes off once per week (on another A50 I know of it fell off the first day). At fifty the tin surrounding the steering column vibrates like a zither. The hand brake is sealed into this tin with a rubber grommet which came off the first week and comes off regularly as soon as replaced.

The clock aperture is sealed by a plastic plate which falls off daily (perhaps this is to encourage you to buy a clock). The trunk leaks whenever there is a shower, as does the rear window. However, when the water enters the trunk it remains, for there is no exit for it. The headcloth, being of cloth, fades and is a great attraction for insects.

The quarter lights on the front windows, in common with all other British cars I have seen, do not lock and in consequence two minutes work with a penknife on the catch and the car is open to any thief.

The oil pressure gauge failed after 2,000 miles, the flashing indicator mechanism (operating those sensibly proportioned, clearly visible indicators) has failed twice, and the speedometer has commenced oscillating 5 m.p.h. either way on the correct road speed.

To jack up the vehicle one has to open the front door. Assuming an offside tyre goes one would have to park facing the oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road. What happens when it is illegal to do this as in many countries?

This then is a British car which is nine months old and has travelled 6,000 miles over excellent roads and is taken to the main agents for servicing and tuning every month. Do not think my case is exceptional for I could write almost as long a list concerning a similar car which has done only 2,000 miles.

One last point, I have now read on two occasions in road reports in the Daily Mail the remark “the rear lights are too big” (one assumes in the opinion of the correspondent but it doesn’t say so). Driving in a bright, sunny country, where the motor industry hopes to export their cars, the rear light and flashing indicators need to be big if they are to be seen during the day and surely they can’t be too big for night driving?

I am, Yours. etc.,

Hal Johnson

Port of Spain, Trinidad.

*   *   *

A TR2 Modification


I read your magazine with pleasure each month, and hope you may find something of interest in my experiences with a TR2. This letter was prompted by an article on the Editorial Austin-Healey 100, which I gather responded gallantly to a face-lifting process involving some £108; in both cases the brakes of the respective cars play a part.

The model I own was the property of the Standard Motor Co. Ltd., from new until I bought it last November at 5,000 miles. Unlike your correspondent, Eric Lister, whose March article I greatly appreciated, I like driving the car, but have had an experience which other TR2 drivers may hear about to their advantage. I had occasion to apply my brakes very hard at about 30 m.p.h. while accelerating in third gear to overtake; I did this and avoided an accident. However, the engine, carrying the fan blade mounting screws, was thrown forwards by this sudden deceleration and punctured the radiator; a bad habit, but one betraying good brakes! The brakes are still good and a private mod. has cured the habit.

For those interested, the mod. is to shackle a brake cable – one from a Ford Ten fits well – between the flywheel housing and the centre cross of the chassis.

I am, Yours, etc.,

J. R. Sims, Flt.-Lt., R.A.F.