Malaya presents the absolute testing conditions for a car, with it’s extreme heat, copious torrential rainfall, long, fast and other extremely rough corrugated dusty roads. In this country, where a three-year-old car is described as old and obsolete, are to be found the products of every car manufacturer in the world, all on sale in keen competition. I mention this, because my choice, a Hillman Minx Series I, a choice dictated by value-for-money, has stood the extreme test and because this marque is not frequently mentioned in Motor Sport. Maybe it is considered too mundane?
In May, three years ago, I collected my Minx from the Rootes showrooms in Piccadilly, where I received every courtesy and the very best of service. My first impressions, as I drove through the busy West End, were that the car was extremely easy to handle and control. Teething troubles, however, soon became evident. Within the first 2,000 miles it was necessary to replace a shock-absorber, which had collapsed, and an exhaust pipe which had broken off at the manifold. The car was run-in in full accordance with the maker’s handbook, but, after 3,000 miles came up on the “clock” a slight shim was taken off the head and full use of pertormance was made. The car gave no further trouble until 15,000 miles were on the “clock,” this time with the car in Malaya; the generator armature absolutely disintegrated, to which the Agents attributed ill-set points, but which I personally put clown to rough manufacture, as this has been quite a regular occurrence among my associates.
The first set of tyres gave me 10,000 miles, the rate of wear bring rather high due to my rally-like driving. These I followed up with Gold Seal on the front and Michelin “X” on the rear. The result was a truly wonderful improvement in roadability; in fact, corners previondy taken at 40 m.p.h. could now be taken in safety at 65, and, indeed, the road-holding had been transformed. New shock-absorbers were required at 20,000 miles to compensate the effect of the Michelin grip. I wonder why manufacturers don’t fit these tyres as original equipment; maybe a correspondent woulld be kind enough to give a reason? Apart from the skim off the head the car is standard, yet I get an indicated top speed of well over 90 m.p.h. (actually about 84) on local petrol and have averaged 34 m.p.g. over 26,000 miles, nearly all at high speed. This is rather higher than the road-test figures, so I consider myself fortunate in having the “one in a hundred” that comes off the assembly line rather better than the others.
There is a clunk developing in the rear axle, due to slack at the end of a half-shaft – this looks as though a shim would correct the fault – and the doors are just beginning to rattle over corrugated roads, which I traverse daily. The windscreen lets in a little water over one’s feet when there is a heavy downpour and the wipers are inefficient against tropical rain. The seats have retained their shape and comfort, and the paintwork is just beginning to lose its original lustre, although it has never seen wax polish. At speed the engine is commendably quiet, despite the fact that the sound-absorbing felt has peeled off, but at idling speeds the distributor makes a disturbing and irritating noise. On occasions the radiator has boiled and I understand that this is a more common fault with the later models; however, this has been no serious trouble. (I should mention that it is necessary to throw away the thermostat from the radiator head on entry to the tropics.) The chrome is still brilliant.
The Minx holds a very good re-sale value in Malaya, due to its fine looks, petrol economy and the fact that it has four doors. Its competitors, Fiat, Borgward, Peugeot, Simca, Prince. etc., are all very much higher priced. The Borgward is very popular in this country, and it will be interesting to see how the Japanese Prince, with de Dion rear, will stand the test. It does look a very interesting car indeed and I hope that your journal will get a chance to test it. The Australian Holden is fast gaining popularity and the new model has a double dust seal around the doors, a very desirable feature, which the Minx, unfortunately lacks. Another item which Rootes would do well to look into is the guttering of windows; in these extreme temperatures, it is impossible to open a window in a rain storm, with a result that the car’s interior becomes most unhealthy and it is desirable to abandon the car.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Slim River, Perak. – J. C. Pearson.