Letters from Readers, June 1959

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N.B. — Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them. — Ed.

A Mercedes-Benz 220S in South Africa

Sir,

The correspondence about Mercedes cars has intrigued me. A point of view from Germany, and now, in the March issue, the riposte from England.

Surely, however, there is more to a car than valve guides? In this country we look for the following:

(1) Good resale value.

(2) Facilities for service and availability of spare parts.

(3) Speed, safety and road-holding qualities.

(4) Handling and parking qualities in dense traffic areas.

In the £1,200 to £5,000 price class, Mercedes fulfils all these requirements, and, what is of equal importance, the difference between the various models is one of horsepower and luxury, not of quality.

Thus it is perhaps over-patriotic to compare this or that English car to a Mercedes in whatever price range. Certain English car manufacturers are very much newcomers to the game in comparison, and none produces so wide a range of similar quality.

I have a 220S which I bought locally. It was assembled in South Africa. With it came a little book giving service stations all over the world and indicating where spares could be obtained. Mercedes are, in addition, widely advertised.

Had I sought and delved I could probably have obtained an English car in the same price range. But in Krugersdorp and off the floor? I doubt it.

The “Three Pointed Star” is becoming more and more a familiar sight on the roads of South Africa. On the other hand, quality English makers do not seem interested in this literally golden market.

As I have not seen a road test report on the 220S your readers may be interested in my impressions. At this altitude of 5,000 feet and over the car cruises easily at 92-95 m.p.h. and will top 100 when pushed. It is rock steady at all speeds, steers well and with servo-assisted brakes, stops straight and quickly. Cornered at high speed the tail slides nicely. Comfort is superb, with hide upholstery as standard on all models. Among the tiddly bits are separate heating for both front seats, two speed-ventilation blower, two-speed self-parking windscreen wipers, fitted twin fog lights and a straight line Vdo speedometer.

The clock keeps good time, the engine temperature is always 180 deg. F. and the oil pressure 45. Ammeter? None and I do not miss it. With the demise of three-brush generators it has deservedly died too.

Starting is poor. One thrusts the accelerator pedal right down and pushes the starter button. Three to five seconds later the engine starts. This is for a semi-hot start. From cold the engine starts instantly, as it does from hot. This I feel is due to a pair of rather complex carburetters and too rich a starting mixture.

The engine is excellent. With a 6,000 r.p.m. engine 74 m.p.h. is marked on the speedo. as maximum in third, and with faultless synchromesh it is very useful for getting away from the lumbering Yankee leviathan, as it wallows up a hill at 50 m.p.h., 280 b.h.p., 12 m.p.g., all 28 chromium-plated feet of it!

Acceleration is good. Maximum in all gears is marked on the speedo. and if the car is taken up to these speeds a rapid departure is assured.

The gear-lever is on the steering column. Purists may shudder, but I see nothing wrong with convenience when levers are drop forged and splined to shafts. I have driven tanks with very remote control gear-levers, but nobody could think of any other way of changing gear unless a dwarf equipped with intercom sat on David Brown’s box of tricks in the rear bug-hutch; and as the dwarfs, mental and otherwise, all seemed to work for E.N.S.A., we carried on with gearlevers.

A compression-ratio of 8.7:1 necessitates high octane petrol, and a consumption of 20-21 m.p.g. is usual at this altitude. At sea level it probably approaches 25 m.p.g. These figures are for hard driving. He who tootles along at a modest 60 should exceed them.

Synchrornesh in all four forward gears is handy at traffic lights. At anything below 30 first gear is engageable with no more than a slight whine from the synchromesh, and the green cannot catch you napping.

On the debit side is a completely inaccessible battery which calls for a mirror to check the electrolyte level; an ignition switch controlled electrical system which prevents you using the windscreen wipers or heater blower (if you are low enough to go to a drive-in cinema on a cold wet night), without switching on the ignition; clutch and brake pedals set closely for daintier clogs than mine; an organ console of knobs, all unlabelled, largely superfluous, the use of which you tend to forget, so that you may wipe off the speedo. trip reading instead of switching on the rear roof light, or turn on the blower instead of the choke –mind you, a different coloured light goes on in the dashboard if you do.

All in all it is a good car. I cannot say how it compares with a Jaguar or the big Rover — I have never seen one on the roads travelling in the same direction as I have been going. I have been passed twice; once by another 220S when I was running-in, and again in a speed trap area by a twin-cam M.G. However, I am no Fangio, and Aston Martins and the big Maseratis I would not argue with, but in the sedate family sedan class the 220S is good enough for me.

I believe you Limeys in the Chilblain Islands have a sort of proverb about a fairy godfather called Littlewoods. Well, if he comes my way I do admit I would be quite willing to put the 220 on ice for the kids and go for a 300SL. Now that is quite an automobile as the Yanks would say. Somewhere on the speedo way after 100 — way after — is a red notice. It reads “Limit for ordinary touring tyres,” and then the speedo goes on, and on, and on.

Ah well, I can dream, can’t I?

I am, Yours, etc., John Mac Olive. Krugersdorp.

*

The Performance of the Berkeley

Sir,

During the past few months there has been much criticism of the Berkeley sports car — most of which is unjustified; there is much to its credit. On any good brake tester 100 per cent. brake efficiency is obtainable with modifying.

In 1956 the Berkeley was introduced; it was an entirely new approach to sports-car design, original and refreshing. Even today it is the best looking small sports car — not like the ugly Sprite. The Berkeley four-seater is unique in styling and cheap for such a small make — about 2,500 are made every year.

The 12-hour victory at Monza is a fine achievement for the Berkeley. It has shown that the Berkeley can beat the Italian cars, which have dominated the picture for so long. The Berkeley not only won the 500-c.c. class but smashed all the lap records, at 81.76 m.p.h., and averaged 75.43 m.p.h. throughout the race. The Berkeley covered 905.2 miles during the 12 hours. The car had to fill up eight times during the race (due to a small fuel tank), against the Fiats four times. No overheating, seized gearboxes, broken crankshafts, etc., completely reliable and contrary to the readers’ comments.

I am, Yours, etc., M. A. Vawser. March.

[Our correspondent refers to the 750-c.c. race last April. Cammarata and Bandini won the up-to-500-c.c. G.T. category in a three-cylinder two-stroke Berkeley at 75.43 m.p.h. They were eighth in the race as a whole, which was won by a 750-c.c. Fiat-Abarth at 95.36 m.p.h. — Ed.)

*

In Defence of the Dauphine

Sir,

It was with great interest (and amusement) that I read your article on the latest Renault Dauphine in the April issue. May I take various points in your article one by one for a little further discussion:–

 (a) ” . . . in which not much over 50 m.p.h. is possible in middle speed.” Tell me, what do you expect from an 845-c.c., 31-b.h.p. motor? And, another thing, my 1957 model (only modification is an Abarth sports silencer) does 58 m.p.h. in second comfortably. Imagine a standard Prefect or Anglia (1,172 c.c.) doing 58 m.p.h. in second!

(b) ” . . . lack of reverse guard.” What three-speed car of today has a reverse guard? — so why single out the Dauphine for this criticism. Any person with average (or even below) driving ability knows that reverse gear is for going backwards and is not engaged when going forward.

(c) “The wheel arches protrude into the Dauphine’s front compartment.” Ideal for resting the throttle-pedal foot against, weren’t they?

(d) I have never found my brakes lacking in retardation power and I am a trials driver. My previous car was a VW (I know now that I must have been crazy to buy it), which ran out of brake linings at 10,500 miles. My Dauphine has completed 25,000 miles on the originals and they are still as efficient as ever.

(e) The paragraph starting — “The suspension permits . . . ” to “. . only with the ignition key” contains so much irrelevant nonsense that I don’t know where to start. The second best laugh I had, however (the best laugh comes later), was about the”buzzing” of the power unit on a long run. Well, if the Dauphine buzzes, I sure would like to hear your description of the awful racket made by the German car. So the Dauphine suffers from “fussy” handling? I wonder who will believe you? I don’t. South African insurance companies are becoming very tough about motor-car insurance. Some of them won’t look at VWs — they seem to think they roll easily! Those that do insure them step the premium way up and demand that the owner pays the first £25-£50. Dauphine owners still enjoy normal premiums and the first £5. “Fussy” handling — whom are you trying to kid?

(f) You say that the Dauphine is not a serious competitor to the VW — I absolutely agree with you — they are in different classes. The only thing they have in common is the rear location of the power unit (the best place, anyway) — other than that, it’s like comparing a thoroughbred with a cart horse.

(g) Now to the biggest laugh — “. . . but the Dauphine is less roomy than the two-door German car and not a great deal more economical of petrol” . . . excuse me while I wipe away the tears of mirth . . . thank you! I stand 6 ft. 1 in. in my socks — I am able to sit anywhere in my Dauphine with perfect comfort, but somehow or other I never could get over suffering from cramped legs after a ride in the VW. As for petrol consumption — in the 18 months (22,000 miles) of VW ownership, strict records show that it averaged 29.6 m.p.g. during that period. The Dauphine (25,000 miles) at 18 months has delivered 42.6 m.p.g. Maybe you don’t think 13 m.p.g. is much of a difference? I don’t know — but — I do!

Please don’t get the idea that this is a personal attack on your integrity — it isn’t! You chose, in your article, Mr. Editor, to compare these two cars — I am merely replying to your criticism — albeit a bit harsh.

Thank you for your wonderful magazine (even if I don’t always agree with you!) — I read it every month without fail — honest!

And as a parting shot — when the beauty of line is taken into consideration — how can you compare a deer with a warthog?

I am, Yours, etc., R. J. W. May. Johannesburg.

[“In defence of the Editor,” “W. B.” replies to Mr. May’s points thus:–

(a) I was probably thinking of speeds after speedometer correction. I wasn’t even thinking of Anglias and Prefects!

(b) Agreed — but, if the Dauphine had a proper gearbox containing the minimum number of speeds requisite with a small engine a reverse guard wouldn’t be needed by people like me who may find themselves going straight from a four-speed to a three-speed car.

(c) The passenger, not having an accelerator pedal to operate, likes to stretch out . . .

(d) The Dauphine may be superior in this respect to a VW but it could do with lighter brakes.

(e) By “fussy” handling I did not intend to imply dangerous handling — of course not. I was thinking of lots of work in a crosswind, on low-geared steering, etc. As to the “awful racket made by the German car,” I hear about this but never experience it inside the car and as the VW’s engine runs at comparatively low r.p.m. it certainly does not buzz.

(f) I beg to differ . . .

(g) I can only reply that I feel there is more room in a VW than in a Dauphine and that measurements prove it. As to fuel economy, I still get 38/40 m.p.g. from a VW after 60,000 miles and the road-test Dauphine gave 44 m.p.g. — Esso Mixture in both cars. A VW giving under 30 m.p.g. is either in need of attention or Mr. May should give it a break and buy a Porsche, which is meant to be thrashed.

Re warthogs, even before I discovered Brooklands and individuality in motor cars I was a frequent visitor to the London Zoological Gardens and loved individuality in animals, and a warthog has more individuality than a deer.

Finally, I like the Renault Dauphine but I like the VW better.]

*

The New Ciroens — Where They Succeed

Sir,

As the father-and-mother of all the correspondence (beginning last February) on the above outstanding car, I feel that your readers may care to let me wind up matters before you, Mr. Editor, insert that lethal paragraph: “This correspondence cannot now be continued ” — and, so, kill off the many enthusiasts who, doubtless, would be glad to go on indefinitely — or until, shall I say, the rear end of my DS19 condescends to lower itself into position . . . which brings me, sadly, to the point of this letter.

After 12,500 miles, in a moment of madness and frustration (laced with sheer anger), I sold the DS19 last February. It was in peak condition — save for one seemingly incurable defect. The rump of my Francoise just would not come down to match the front end. For a fortnight we toured about like a platypus nosing for truffles — well, perhaps, not truffles — while my children giggled in the back and pretended to fall forward as we went over hump-back bridges — with road-studs, the only thing the DS19 refuses to ride over quietly and evenly. Telephone conversations with polite but incredulous persons at Slough, letters to managers, visits to every local Citroen “agent” in these remoter parts of “silly Suffolk” — one might just as well live in Nyasaland so few and far apart are these people — nobody could shed the slightest light on poor Francoise’s rump-trouble. She had become a sort of rear-view Can-Can dancer unable (possibly unwilling?) to lower her skirts.

So, as I was passing down Sloane Street one dull February morning, I fell — not very heavily — and just went straight back and played safe. I bought our fifth Rover — a pleasant sage-green and ivory carriage of 105 h.p. and all the trimmings. My DS was standing at the kerb as I signed the cheque and, as I was performing the last flourish, I heard a loud sigh and felt a terrible twitch between my thumb and forefinger. I looked in dazed alarm over my shoulder and saw what I saw with utter dismay and consternation . . . my Francoise had, at that ultimate moment, thought better of her Folies Bergeres tantrums and lowered her posterior into position. I believe that I wept.

Anyhow, next morning I collected the new Rover — I had a wide mourning band on my sleeve — and trundled home at a steady 40 until, crossing Newmarket Heath, I put my foot down hard and crept up to 52. I endured this for over 2,000 miles when, struck dumb with disappointment and grieving for my Deesse, I went to London, where they found that the ignition setting was about 18 degrees slow.

The car is now, as English cars go, just about as good as it can be — solid comfort, vastly improved steering, suspension (no heel-over) and admirable servo-brakes. The 105 cruises soundlessly at 65-75, returns 25 m.p.g. and, at 4,200 miles, improves with every kilometre covered.

And, now, tell me — and tell me again — why am I so ungrateful for all these excellencies and near-perfections in a car which must be considered just about the best British (all-British is better) vehicle now in production — the car that Swiss and, indeed, French cognoscenti positively choose in preference to 220S and a few more? Why is it that I am bored stiff with this admirable car? I will tell you — it is its very faultlessness which tires one to death and makes one long (having had a French mistress so recently) for some show of temper and temperament . . . indeed, I now almost love Francois for cocking her rump in the air. I only wish that my dear Rover had an equally disreputable rear-end!

They say that a fiat-six Citroen may be on the way. They say, also, that a certain firm on the Portsmouth Road will exercise a mystique upon any DS19 which will cause that vehicle to produce 110 m.p.h. and 95 in third vitesse. I wonder why I had never heard of these things before losing my reason in Sloane Street — sometimes I think people conspire against me to tell me nothing! Anyway, the near-side window would not wind up properly on the Citroen.

On the Rover they wind up and down — quite noiselessly!

On dit, monsieur, que la Deesse est une voiture exceptionelle? Oui et oui encore—helas!

I am, Yours, etc., “W. A. R.” Saxmundham.

[And so — this correspondence is now closed! — Ed.]

*

VW and D.K.W.

Sir,

May I endorse the opinions of Messrs. Woodward and Melhuish, in their replies to Mr. Boneham’s letter re “Buying British.” After my release from the Forces (British) I patriotically purchased three British cars in quick succession, keeping each only a very short time owing to the cost of maintaining it, and I was most depressed at the lack of reliability in three different makes of British cars. Since getting shot of the last of these I have owned three Volkswagens, 1947, 1952 and 1954 models, and I now have a 1955 D.K.W. I changed these cars only to progress to something newer and, apart from normal servicing, have not spent a penny on maintenance of any of these four cars. The last VW I owned had 74,450 miles on the “clock” when I sold it, and was not showing any signs of wear. I confidently sold it to a friend and it is still going very strong.

The D.K.W., in my opinion, is a superb example of German design and engineering skill, and the finish overall is excellent. It gives wonderful performance safely and with astonishing economy. During the past three week-ends I have completed the journey from Rhyl, North Wales, to London three times in just five hours, using five gallons of petroil for each run of approximately 230 miles. Admittedly these cars, when new, are extremely expensive in this country, owing mainly to import duty and purchase tax, but with the experience I have had I would much prefer to buy one of these cars four years old when the price is about half of that when new, than to buy a new British car of the equivalent price.

I only hope that the British car manufacturers will change my opinion in the near future by offering the motoring public a reasonably priced vehicle which will give me the satisfaction, reliability and really excellent after-sales service which I have enjoyed with these German cars.

I am, Yours, etc., W. H. Milner. Lightwater.

*

Good Service

Sir,

I feel that another drop in the ocean of praise for “that” car would not come amiss. This is an example of the “After Sales Service” one gets with the Volkswagen, rather than the car itself, although I fully endorse all I have read and heard about this car, and in fact it was the praise I read in your journal that aroused my interest enough to buy one, a secondhand 1955 model, from the County Distributors — Beardalls Motors Ltd., of Nottingham.

My car was two months out of their normal guarantee period when, on a Sunday morning, the clutch packed up. I contacted Mr. G. Smith, Sales Manager of Beardalls, who did his best to get the spare parts stores opened up for my benefit. Unfortunately, the two keyholders were both out of town, and so he then telephoned Hutchinson Bros., Redhill, Nottingham, locating the parts needed. This firm were most helpful, inasmuch as they, never having seen me before, allowed me to take away nearly seven pounds’ worth of spare parts “on trust.” I then returned to Beardalls and informed Mr. Smith that I was fixed up; he insisted I took him the account when it was settled, which I did, and I now have his cheque to hand for the full amount.

This is the service one dreams about but so seldom receives from motor traders and, I think, deserves publicity.

Needless to say I have no connection with either of these firms, other than as a satisfied customer.

I am, Yours, etc., E. F. Thorpe. Cotgrave.

*

Poor Service

Sir,

Referring to correspondence that has appeared in your magazine from time to time regarding repairs carried out by so-called reputable garages, I wish to relate my own sad experience regarding the type of work these people delight in doing.

I recently had a big-end bearing failure on my Rover Fourteen whilst motoring to Blackpool. I was about five miles from the town and decided to take it to an authorised Rover service agency. I left the car at the garage on the understanding that they would inform me by telephone the following week what was wrong with the car other than the big-end bearing, and an estimate of the cost of the repair. The only communication I had from them was a telephone message to the effect that the repair had been carried out and the car was ready for collection.

When I arrived to collect the car they informed me that the only trouble was the failure of one bearing on No. 5 cylinder. The mechanic who carried out the repair told me that the crankshaft was slightly marked but, providing the initial running was carefully carried out, the repair would be satisfactory. Naturally. I felt very uneasy about this but paid the bill, which was £9 11s. 10d., and took the car away. Thirty miles later the same bearing failed again.

I returned the car to the garage but they flatly refused to do anything at all about it unless I paid for further repair work to be carried out. In typical British business manner they smugly pointed out the age of the car and told me they carried out scores of these big-end bearing repairs just to get people home, which, at approximately £10 a time, l consider to be a very lucrative business to be in.

No amount of arguing, however, would induce them to admit that the repair had been carried out in a slip-shod manner, and I eventually had to arrange for the car to be towed to my own town, which is approximately 35 miles away.

On further examining the car I find that the crankshaft requires building up and re-grinding on this particular journal due to the second failure that has taken place in such a short time. The cost of the repair will now be in the region of £40 to £50, and I lay the blame for the further damage that has been caused on the shoulders of the Blackpool garage.

It appears that I stand no chance whatever of claiming any money from this garage. The whole business has been an outrageous swindle from start to finish.

It would appear that many of your readers have had similar unhappy experiences with these “reputable” firms, and one can only hope that some day justice will prevail.

I am, Yours, etc., K. Walmsley. Accrington. 

*

Farinacious

Sir,

To my surprise the British Motor Corporation have produced another new model. Perhaps I should offer my congratulations on the production of almost identical quins, “farinated” by Pinin.

There is obviously a section of the motoring public to whom this design appeals. Let them purchase the Faustarin-A55. But surely there cannot be five times this number, who, for the sake of a second carburetter and a different radiator grille, are prepared to buy the same car masquerading as one of the much-loved marques of more enlightened days?

I do not consider that mild tuning of the engine and the addition of a rev.-counter convert a family car into a sports saloon. Better that the names of Riley and M.G. Magnette should disappear from new car catalogues than be associated with such creations. Do manufacturers never consider the feelings, pride and prejudices of their customers before embarking on drastic standardisation schemes?

I am, Yours, etc., Robert A. Jardine. Edinburgh. 

_

Sir,

It has come to my notice that your readers have contributed a number of adverse criticisms of the British Motor Corporation for selling their cars under different make names when they are basically the same as each other, and even that editorial support has been given to this attack. It does not seem to be appreciated that this action of the B.M.C. is in the highest traditions of social endeavour, for it allows that freedom of choice which is the birthright of every Englishman without permitting those invidious comparisons which have, in the past, led to so much bar-room argument and been conducive to the consumption of such large quantities of alcohol. In fact, the B.M.C. are to be congratulated on their choice of Pinin Farina as their stylist, for their cars now not only resemble each other but also many more on the Continent of Europe. It is not for me to pass judgment on the actions of others and I can only hope that, in the light of these facts, you, sir, will now see fit to make the amende honorable.

Considerable study and reflection on this matter has led me to the invention of what I can modestly claim to be the greatest technical advance in motor-car construction since Gottlieb Daimler first coupled internal explosions to the wheels of a carriage. This invention has the simplicity of real greatness. It is proposed that all cars should be made exactly the same and shall be provided with a small slot at the front similar to that found on most pillar boxes, into which the identifying badge of the various makes could be fitted. It is suggested that two of these badges be supplied with each car and that others should be available at a small cost. This would, at one swoop, bring every car owner into the class of those who use, say, the Austin for daily running about and take out the M.G. at week-ends.

This, however, is only part of the invention. A further class of cars would be produced known as the Car Lovers De Luxe Series, which, on the same basic design, in addition to such technical improvements as extra chrome plate, real plastic trim and genuine imitation wood facia and sills, would have a much larger slot, allowing the whole radiator grille to be changed at will, so preserving the individuality and carrying on the finest traditions of the most famous marques.

The Vintage Car Club is expected shortly to make an announcement that all cars so equipped will be automatically accepted as Post-Vintage Thoroughbreds.

It is to be hoped that my public-spirited action in making this invention known without the protection of letters patent will not prevent those responsible for putting this idea into immediate full-scale production — as all manufacturers must if they are to maintain their technical lead in world markets — from seeing that the inventor receives the substantial reward that he deserves. Cheques should be made payable to the undersigned.

I am, Yours, etc., E. J. Roach. Purley.

*

The Extermination of the Sports Car

Sir,

May I be permitted to comment upon the letter, appearing over the signature of Mr. P. C. Jennings, in your issue for the last month?

With Mr. Jennings’ concern at the prospect of the sports car becoming extinct I would sympathise, if I considered that such were likely to occur. Observation, on the road, would lead me to the opposite conclusion, the sports car would appear to be a more and more popular feature of our roads. As for the Sprite not selling, then the very many that I encounter on the roads must have been acquired by their owners in some other manner than purchase.

The figures he quotes for (comprehensive?) insurance premiums for the Sprite, and third party cover for the A/H 100-Six would seem, from my own experience, grossly excessive. I will not here mention the name of my own insurers, but merely quote two examples of third party cover, for new cars, offered to me.

M.G.-A, £9 7s. 6d ; TR3A Morgan Plus-Four, £10 12s. 6d.

I would imagine that cover for a Sprite would be at a slightly lower figure than those quoted above, while for the larger A/H 100-Six, the figure would probably be a little higher. The company concerned is very well known, and of unimpeachable repute. If Mr. Jennings would care to communicate with me, I would gladly give him the name of this company, I feel sure that if his accident record is satisfactory, he will find it possible to own his Sprite, or 100-Six, and pay considerably less than the figures he quotes.

Having absolutely no connection with the insurance business, might I offer the impartial suggestion that the present policy of our insurers will certainly not lead to the extinction of the sports car. It may well, however, lead to the disappearance of the accident-prone sports-car driver. And a darned good thing if it does; the sooner the better.

I am, Yours, etc., J. M. Shields. Fivehead.

*

Cars in Books

Sir,

Having read the latest of your discoveries of cars in books, I went on to the “Way of the Tumbrils,” by Sir John Elliot, Chairman of London Transport and spare-time historian. I think you might be interested to glance through it some time.

It is an account of a series of journeys around modern Paris in search of spots where vital things happened during the French Revolution. Sir John, the railwayman turned busman, admits that public transport wasted too much of his time and tells of hiring Monsieur Krok, a Dutchman turned Parisian, and his Hispano-Suiza for the job. Krok and Hispano are illustrated in the book as well as lovingly described.

May I, while I am writing, congratulate you on the high and consistent standard of all departments of Motor Sport? As a newspaperman I realise how much work must go into the job.

As for your admirable campaign against the prop.-shaft and the cart-sprung axle, I can only applaud and help in a small way by giving lifts to the unconverted in my Citroen Six. If ever I have to revert to a really small car it will obviously be a VW, unless Citroen supercharge the 2 c.v.

I am, Yours, etc., Maurice Landergan. London, S.E.15.

*

Advertising Absurdities

Sir,

Is it not about time that car manufacturers started putting a curb on the increasingly absurd claims of their advertising departments

For instance: the latest Austin A55 arrived with the slogan “Austin Looks Years Ahead.” How? Why? The mechanical specification conforms to the conventional 1½-litre formula of the last several years. “Cars of years ahead” might at least be expected to incorporate such things as gas-turbine engines and perhaps independent fluid drive to each wheel; the new A55 hasn’t even got i.r.s.

Then, the latest M.G. Magnette, for which hardly anybody seems to have a good word, is advertised as being of “flawless sporting pedigree” (and agents follow this up with “buy pedigree”). What nonsense! Everybody can see that the new Magnette is a direct derivative, basically unaltered, of the A55 and, as such, has no M.G. “pedigree” whatsoever. I understand that even Abingdon, ancestral seat of the M.G. family for generations (I have had two from there), has disowned the illegitimate child, which now comes from Cowley.

Another absurd slogan comes from Rootes, who, apparently hard put to it to find a catch phrase to advertise the car in competition with their already well-established Minx and Rapier, made to a practically identical specification, try to induce people to buy the new Singer Gazelle by labelling it “Today’s most elegant motoring experience.” How high up the scale of desirable features in that class of car would an intending purchaser put the nebulous quality of “elegance,” one wonders, especially when it consists, in effect, merely in having a few bits and pieces of walnut veneer gummed on to the existing tin. Real elegance in cars nowadays can surely only be looked for in specialised coachwork on expensive chassis (not always then).

Another reprehensible gimmick is to draw the occupants of small family saloons about two-thirds normal size, so as to mislead the uninformed as to the car’s true dimensions. At least one of the firms referred to above offends in this respect.

Could not some supervisory body (S.M.M.T.?) of the car-manufacturing world induce manufacturers to rationalise their advertising as they have rationalised production? Intending buyers want facts, not fairy stories.

Another thing to which one hopes the S.M.M.T. is giving their serious attention is the pre-war practice of holding the Motor Show in October, when the big producers currently announce their “new” models from January onwards. One might, nowadays, as well go to the Montagu Motor Museum as to Earls Court to see what used to be referred to as “next year’s models.”

I am, Yours, etc., G. Kingdon. Winchester.

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Rolls-Royce Mythology

Sir,

I read Mr. P. Salter’s letter in your last issue with great interest as this is the first time that I had seen any Rolls-Royce mythology in print and, having been constantly subjected to such tales during my ownership of a couple of Rolls, I can add one or two more.

The most common story of all is the one about the man who turned up at the Rolls Service Department in an extremely old model and on returning some days later to collect the car was told that the Directors had decided that they would like to add his car to their museum and would he please take one of the latest models in return for his. This, in my experience, has always happened to a distant relation of the man who is telling the story, and I have heard it from at least twenty different people.

Another common myth is that no owner is allowed to modify his car. Many people have shown amazement when I have told them of some small alteration that I have made, saying, “Surely Rolls-Royce would have stopped you doing that if they had known about it,” and following up with the tale of the man who wanted to turn his car into a van but that Rolls-Royce stopped him doing it.

The fact remains that the name of Rolls-Royce stands for something completely out of the ordinary in the mind of the average man and it is no wonder that he feels that such a firm must be a law unto themselves.

I am, Yours, etc., B. Morgan. Birmingham.

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Historic Racing Cars with Mod. Cons.

Sir,

Being somewhat surprised and embarrassed by the number of people who have commiserated with me after reading in the May issue of Motor Sport about the banishment of my 4½-litre Bentley from V.S.C.C. events, I decided to check up on what had, in fact, been said about me. According to the report of the V.S.C.C. Silverstone Meeting, “Burton’s de Dion axle Bentley is now banned from V.S.C.C. events.”

I would like to assure all those kind people who showed concern at this announcement that it is, in fact, a quite erroneous statement. The position is that the Committee of the V.S.C.C. have decided that my Bentley is over-modified to compete any longer as a vintage sports car. She is now classified as an “Historic Racing Car of dubious, curious and irregular parental origin.” This means that we can still compete in a large number of V.S.C.C. events, such as historic racing-car and all-comers’ races, etc. As these are the type of event which I particularly enjoy, this is a very cosy arrangement for all concerned.

The reason why I was not at the first V.S.C.C. Silverstone Meeting was the very prosaic one that the Bentley was still in bits, her winter face-lift not having progressed as fast as I would have liked.

I am, Yours, etc., G. H. G. Burton, p.p. Hofman & Burton. Henley-on-Thames.

[While we are delighted to know that Mr. Burton’s modified Bentley will still be seen at V.S.C.C. race meetings, because it is such a splendid sight and sound in action, his letter seems to underline the muddled thinking which confuses vintage-car classification. Why should an historic racing car be permitted drastic mods. which are thought unbecoming on a vintage model? The eyebrows of our Continental Correspondent have never really descended since he first saw a de Dion axle on a vintage Bentley and the Editor feels like bursting into tears every time he encounters the divided-axle i.f.s. on the 1924 2-litre V12 Delage so ably raced today by J. W. Rowley, this being the outcome of L. M. Ballamy’s pre-war urge to convert every rigid axle-beam he could lay his hands on into a swing-axle. He did similar conversions to G.P. Bugatti and 3-litre Bentley cars. Will these, too, if submitted to the V.S.C.C., be classed as historic but not vintage cars? — Ed.]

Farinacious Similarity

Although many of our readers have expressed dismay, dislike and distress for the uniform appearance of the new range of Farina-styled B.M.C. cars, there are small differences between these Austin, Wolseley, Morris, M.G. and Riley cars, both in respect of interior arrangements and performance! To indicate by how much their performance differs we append some figures for four of these cars, taken from an identical and reliable source:–

See table.

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