Letters from Readers
N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them.—Ed.
The Car That Has Less Than Nothing!
Until I got down to the reference to valve gear I felt sure that the letter from "YBM 741" in your May issue was going to relate to the D.A.F. It has nearly all the simplicities he lists, plus four others—no gearbox, differential, universal joints and clutch-operating gear, the clutch consisting merely of centrifugally controlled shoes in a drum. It has the additional advantages of a horizontally-opposed engine with more even torque and better balance even than a vertical four, let alone twin, while its front position, combined with the automatic infinitely variable gear at the back, results in what must be the largest boot in any 750-c.c., or even 1,000-c.c., car, not to mention better weight distribution and so road-holding.
In addition to all this it has the unique feature of two-pedal control, with none of the complications of an automatic gearbox, with their tendency to make sudden changes at inconvenient moments unless an over-riding control is operated. The small engine still enables it to bowl happily along a motorway at just above or below 70 on the clock, depending on wind and gradient.
I write as an engineer attracted by the design who has found that its features are fully realised in practice. I also found that there is surprising scope for controlling the ratio by intelligent use of the throttle. It is unquestionably the simplest car on the road, but the question I am always asked by strangers is—are the belts reliable? I can only say "yes" with experience limited so far to 3,000 miles, but why should a properly designed belt drive be less reliable than any other ? Anyhow the 100% standby provided by independent drive to each wheel means that the car could still be driven, unlike the VW, for instance, as the fan is on the crankshaft. Nearly all cars depend upon a belt and they are even used now for camshaft drives. I think they are associated with belt slipping and failures on early motorcycles, but the design and materials are different. The belts are endless and protected from the weather; also, being shorter, adjustment is less frequent, and they run at engine speed with reduction gears at the wheels. As mentioned, they take the place of universals and, in conjunction with automatic control, they provide differential action with drive to both wheels under all conditions. What more does the ordinary motorist want?
Wylde Green. J. R. Harding.
[And before critics ask what a D.A.F. is doing in Motor Sport, let me remind you that this make did well in last year's Liége-Rome-Liége Rally!—Ed.]
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You Just Can't Win . . . ! —
The correspondence in your columns on the perennial subject of motor insurance, culminating in Mr. E. McCann's eulogy of his experience with the National Employers' Mutual and General, makes me think that you, and some of your readers, may be interested to hear of an episode which must rank high in the annals of insurance chicanery.
In October 1962, as the owner of a 1959 Zephyr, I renewed my comprehensive policy with the Croydon Branch of the Zurich Insurance Company, an organisation purporting to offer advantageous terms to Ford owners. My renewal premium was £51 6s., a figure which doubtless took account of the dangerous and irresponsible tendencies that insurers ascribe to people in my profession. I am a journalist.
On February 19th, 1963, my car was severely damaged when it was struck in the off-side by a lorry carrying 12½ tons of newsprint, as a result of the lorry driver ignoring traffic signals against him in an attempt to catch up with a similar vehicle, driven by a colleague of his, which had succeeded in crossing the junction just as the signals changed. I was flung across the car and out through the near-side door, recovered full consciousness in hospital, and spent an uncomfortable fortnight with bruised lungs, cuts, etc.
I notified the Zurich Insurance Company of the accident and completed their "Form of Particulars," etc. On March 13th they wrote informing me that their engineer had inspected the car and found it damaged beyond economical repair. They offered me £405 in settlement, the wrecked vehicle to become their property. I disputed this proposition, because of the exceptional pre-accident condition of the car (I had it from new) and the fact that it had just been fitted with £40 worth of new tyres, a new £12 battery, new £35 radio, etc., none of which had been damaged. I also informed them that I had heard from the police that they intended to prosecute the lorry driver, and pointed out that, if the success of the prosecution established his responsibility for the accident, they could surely claim reimbursement from his employer's insurers. Zurich replied on March 19th, increasing their offer by to and saying, "We have an inter-Company agreement with the Third Party Insurers . . . this agreement does not prejudice your interests in way . . . under our agreement, however, we are precluded from recovering from the other insurers, and they cannot claim against us . . . regardless of the circumstances of the accident."
I telephoned them next day and, on April 8th, they wrote offering me £410 plus the radio from the car. At this point I sickened of the whole affair and put the matter into the hands of the A.A.'s Legal Department, asking them to proceed with my claim against the third parry insurers, the London and Edinburgh Insurance Company.
On May 27th, Zurich wrote asking me for £8 5s. additional premium for cover notes issued in respect of a car I had hired to enable me to carry out my professional duties. I ignored this and they wrote again, threateningly, on June 11th. I replied, saying that I could see little point in sending them £8 when they were indebted to me either for the total loss of my car or, in the event of that being met by the third party insurers, for a refund of the unexpired two-thirds of my policy premium. On June 20th they wrote agreeing that the additional premium could "remain in abeyance." On June 28th they wrote that further cover notes had increased the additional premium to £12 15s., and adding ". . . our premium accounts and claim accounts are dealt with separately and to deal with this matter in the way you suggest would cause complications in the system . . . we would appreciate your cheque."
On June 29th the lorry driver was convicted of driving without due care and of having failed to halt at a traffic signal, and was fined £20 and £5. His record showed previous convictions for speeding, careless driving and failing to stop when called upon to do so by a policeman.
In July I bought a 3.8 Jaguar and asked Zurich if they would insure it. I will not quote their amusing comments, beyond saying that they ended: "But we'll certainly consider you for a Triumph Herald, or even a Consul." Needless to say, I received sensible treatment for the Jag. elsewhere.
On August 13th Zurich wrote: "We have received a request from the Third Party Insurers to supply them with certain essential information, to enable them to give consideration to your claim. We should be obliged if you would favour us with your remittance for £12 15s., when the matter will receive our attention." I reported this piece of blackmail to the A.A.
On November 4th the A.A. solicitors informed me that the London and Edinburgh had offered £150 to cover my loss of earnings due to the accident, hire of replacement vehicles and personal injuries, and £410 for the loss of my car. Tired of waiting, l wrote next day accepting.
I finally received the London and Edinburgh's cheque in settlement on March 21st-13 months after the accident.
On March 31st I wrote to the Zurich informing them that my claim had been settled by the third party insurers and asking for a refund of premium in respect of the eight months' unexpired term of my policy. I added that the outstanding amount of £12 15s. could be deducted front the sum due to me.
They replied on April 16th: ". . . in view of the fact that the matter was dealt with under a total loss basis, there is no refund of premium allowable. There remains the additional premium of £12 15s. and we shall be grateful if you will forward your remittance."
I telephoned the Zurich's Croydon Branch Manager, a Mr. G. L. S. Hughes, on April 18th, making a tape recording of the entire conversation. I pointed out that the A.A. solicitors' negotiations with the London and Edinburgh had meant that the Zurich had not "dealt with" the matter at all and had not had to pay out a penny on my claim. Hughes agreed, but said there could still be no refund of premium because I had not returned my certificate of insurance and the company had, therefore, been on risk for the entire period. I asked him how the company could have been on risk for 12 months on a car that had been destroyed four months after renewal of the policy. He said they had been on risk in respect of my driving other cars. I then asked why, if this was so, they required £12 15s. of additional premiums in respect of the other cars I had driven. After an evasive attempt to answer this, Hughes said he would "give the mailer further consideration." He telephoned two days later, repeating that no refund would be made, but adding that, "as a special favour," they would "let me off" the £12 15s. additional premium!
In the light of my experience over the past 15 months, I think it is time the Zurich Insurance Company and (God forbid that they exist!) any others like it were (a) forced to maintain an ethical code of conduct precluding their present policy of "Heads you lose, tails we win," or (b) compulsorily wound up.
London, N.14. Philip Paul, M.J.I., M.I.P.R.
— Or Can You?
May I add a brief note to the never-failing controversy of insurance, at the risk of boring. Last year I took out a fully comprehensive insurance policy with the Liverpool, London and Globe Insurance Co. for my Singer Gazelle, costing in central London £36 for the year. This was more expensive, possibly, than others, but I considered it worth it for being insured with a good company. I had the misfortune to have a tyre burst on a bend, as a result of which the car was written off completely. They settled the claim in four weeks, giving me the full insured value of the car, less my £15 excess, paid for a new bus stop, and gave me the same comprehensive cover on a Hillman Imp, with no excesses beyond my "£15 of any claim" for a reduced premium of £30 p.a. They also refunded me £4 for the unexpired portion of the policy.
I consider this service of the highest order, and, since I am only 21—not a very good "insurance" age—feel that there is at least one reliable and fair insurance company available. (Though if they are making the loss on motor business most companies claim, they may not thank me for bringing them any extra business, should you see fit to publish my letter!)
Andover. John Foss.
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The gallant Colonel wildly overstates the case in his letter "Three Mercedes and a Lancia."
I own one of these convertible Lancias and it is truly a horrible little car. True, it floats like the worst of pre-war Americans, and as for superlative quality, this is rubbish. It is the worst finished motor car I have ever owned at any price. A masterpiece of inefficiency.
Newbury. Robert Quinton.
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Value For Money
Does your correspondent Lt.-Col. Holder sincerely believe that Jaguars offer too much for too little money? If so, then Lancia is also guilty of the aforesaid crime, for the Flavia coupé retails in its native country for 2,609,015 lire, or £1,490. I hope he was able to purchase the Flavia in Italy because otherwise in England he would seem to have paid too much for too little.
Long may Jaguar and Lancia provide their countrymen with such value-for-money cars.
Rome. T. G. Merrett (Dr.).
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Off The Handle . . .
The letter from your correspondent in the April issue referring to a manual giving details of engine overheating due to a defective water-cooling system in a Volkswagen, prompts me to bring to your notice the following information contained on page 44 of the Austin Healey Sprite (Mark I) Driver's Handbook—I quote: "To adjust the contact-breaker points, turn the engine with the starting handle until the contacts are fully open."
Needless to say I am still trying to find where the handle is hidden and the hole through which to insert same!
Ruislip. R. J. Chell.
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Reading the letters about safety belts, I am amused (in a decent kind of way) to see that the nature of the beast does not change.
Long, long, long ago, when I was a keen cyclist, the authorities brought out the preposterous demand that we carry illuminated red rear lights as well as reflectors (yes, it was that long ago). We were furious, and wrote impassioned letters about justice and democracy and what not, while Cycling wrote scornful leaders every week. Then they tried to confine us to cycle tracks. I thought there would be red revolution. There were protest meetings all over the country and we ostentatiously cycled on the roads, leaving the tracks bare and empty, and glaring at any policeman we happened to meet. I forget now what we had against the tracks—both they and the red rear lights seem good ideas today.
Having graduated to motorcycles, I was in the crash-helmet fracas a few years ago. Most non-motorcyclists thought they should be made compulsory, forgetting that the motorcyclist usually kills only himself if he crashes. I never got on with them—couldn't stand the odd mental effect of having my ears covered up; but I'm bound to say that now I think they are worth while.
So with safety belts. No doubt we shall all come to them in the end, but meanwhile it is his own safety the driver is playing with and no-one else's, so surely he can be left to make his own choice. Personally I think they are far too expensive, especially the inertia-reel type, which seem the most desirable. If the authorities feel so strongly about safety belts it would be worth while to subsidise their cost, so that they could be fitted for, say, a pound each.
Edinburgh. John MacPherson.
[Fair comment—but one aspect troubles me. In an aeroplane safety belts are worn during the comparatively dangerous moments of take-off and landing, but for the majority of the flight passengers are considered sufficiently safe to undo them and enjoy the food, the view, or looking at the Stewardesses. Those who always belt-up before driving cars are anticipating an accident throughout the drive, which suggests, surely, that the pleasure aspect of motoring has, for them, become nil?—Ed.]
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Motor Sport's Chevrolet Sting Ray Test
After noting your appellation "exciting" regarding your Chevrolet Sting Ray road-test, I was both disappointed and angered that the article rapidly degenerated into a bare-faced attack on this car. "M. L. T." seemed more motivated by emotion (and envy?) rather than fact. As a former owner of both Jaguars and Corvettes, and at present the owner of a Sting Ray, I think I am well qualified to comment.
Although an E-type and a "full-house" Sting Ray coupé both cost over £2,000 in the U.S.A., any further comparison is ill-advised. The facts of the matter are that Sting Ray performance is not "near" that of the E-type, but definitely beyond. So much so, in fact, that the E-type was this year dropped out of S.C.C.A. Racing Class "A," which includes the s.w.b. Ferrari 250GT and the Ford Cobra, to Class B. But still included in the fast company is the "old tyme" Corvette, back to 1961 models, which have the rigid (Hotchkiss type) rear end. The S.C.C.A. performance classes are based mainly on the achievements of a given model car during the previous year. No one who is serious about winning in Class A would enter an E-type, and the biggest reason is that they just don't stand up.
As a point of interest, there are about a dozen Sting Rays in this country at present, and half of these are in the hands of "residents." Undoubtedly the car you tested has suffered as a result of the, admittedly, quite inadequate service organisation in Great Britain. I find it almost impossible to keep my car in a decent state of tune, and I therefore got the 340-h.p. engine, having decided that the situation with the fuel-injection power plant would be utterly hopeless. It is also likely that your test car has received more than its share of abuse and hard knocks, as it is a thing of great curiosity in this part of the world. But one thing is sure, the punishment meted out to it during road-testing at the likewise eager but inexperienced hands of The Motor was the coup de grace. If one is to single out the Achilles-heel of the Sting Ray, it is the rear end. It is not hard, with some 350 lb.-ft. of torque available (about 770 in 1st gear), to cause expensive noises. My own car has had its share of hard cornering and neck-snapping starts, but without any ill effect. Your obvious relish in knocking the car is in striking contrast to the American automotive Press, who generally bend over backwards to say something nice about certain of the British exports. And for some of the cars that have reached the New World, that's a lot of bending indeed. [Oh?—Ed.]
Concerning the steering, the wheel is adjustable for length, contrary to your report [Only by attacking the steering column under the bonnet with spanners.—M. L. T.], and with the 2.9 turns lock-to-lock setting, the overall ratio is a rather quick 17 to 1. The car is not intended to be driven arms-out, Fangio-style, and a knowledgeable driver need not feel he is at any disadvantage.
I will be the first to admit that the car deserves better brakes. I have not yet fitted my metallic linings and found that after the first lap at Snetterton I was passed by everything but invalid cars (and that's only because there weren't any). Accelerate, I could, but I was forced to hold my speed down to avoid testing the escape roads and retaining walls.
You have my full agreement about the dummy louvres, etc., on the outside, although there are few places where the word "Chevrolet" or "Corvette'' appears (cf. M.G. TC and others). But you, as a writer from a country which has spawned such hideous beasts as the Standard saloons, the Daimler SP250, and I could go on and on . . . you are on mighty thin ice. It so happens that the "crossed flags" are the Corvette ensign; perhaps a bit more logical than the "alley cat" seen on a well-known Coventry product.
Your comments on the clock and radio, etc., hardly rate comment, except that they reinforce my feeling that you were determined to find flaws, no matter how minor, for reasons best left in your subconscious. Perhaps in your zealousness, you forgot about the excellent and accurate history of the car, elsewhere in the issue. The point is that the Sting Ray is descended from the family saloon, not the other way round. Almost every element of the car is identical to the saloons or, more important, can be turned out with the same (or nearly) tools and dies. That is why there are not yet disc brakes and the engine bears a strong similarity, as well as marked differences, to those in Impalas and Bel Airs. But that is why the car can be built and sold in the States, where auto workers rarely earn less than £2,500 p.a. And the detuned forms, with (blush) power steering and automatic transmission, sold to suburbanites and social climbers, help to defray the cost of the hairy machinery. Don't knock 'em. After all, the money has to come from somewhere and there are less honourable ways to get it.
If you still have doubts about Sting Ray v. E-type, let yourself be convinced. I will challenge any "showroom-stock" E-type that has not undergone any special treatment (as mine has not), with identical tyres on each car, to a race, test, what-have-you, on any "neutral ground."
The only thing is that you may have trouble locating an "honest" E-type. At a recent "club" event at Snetterton, about the only cars, besides my own, that didn't have Dunlop Racing covers were some of the non-participants. I wasn't surprised to see Lotus 23s arrive in a van; nor after I saw Elans come in on trailers (for 5-lap races, too)! Thinks: "Just a friendly little get-together for some good, clean fun." After I saw the remains of one of the competitors' cars—rolled it a few times in practice—I don't mind telling you that I didn't always stick to my line through the corners. What these race meetings are, I don't know, but it is obvious what they are not.
So, if there exists a "legal" E-type in this country, the gauntlet is down.
Cambridge. A. R. Glueck.
[A fairly comprehensive article in the same issue on Corvette evolution made quite clear the humble origins of the car—Ed.]
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In reply to your Editorial on this subject:—
(a) The facts relevant to accident investigation are established by the Police, and returned to the Ministry of Transport on a report form Stats 19. For the purpose of the experiment, in addition to the standard information given, the Officer dealing with the accident adds the lighting information for the vehicle(s) concerned. Where this cannot be established, as for example, in the case of a hit-and-run driver, or of conflicting statements, a "not known" entry is made.
(b) Headlamps aimed too high do dazzle, and the Birmingham Dipped Headlight Committiee have repeatedly emphasised the importance of good aiming. This situation equally occurs on the open road, and in poorly lit streets where headlamps should be used. Light from any source, including street lamps and shop-window lighting, falling on to rain droplets, forms a pattern of pinpoints of light. In this situation, it is only too easy to miss seeing sidelights.
Judgement of width and speed is enhanced by the use of headlights. Too many cars can be seen with one sidelight only, and the driver may not realise he has a bulb out. This can hardly happen if he is using dipped headlights, and he is then indicating that his vehicle is moving, not parked. It is essential to be seen, as well as to see.
(c) It is accepted by the Ministry of Transport, the Road Research Laboratory and all other bodies, that dipped headlights should be used in all situations where there is not good street lighting. this includes all non-urban road, and about 90% of urban ones. Property aimed dipped headlights cause no dazzle in the mirror except in isolated geometrical situations. This small amount of inconvenience is acceptable, and "blinding" effects are grossly exaggerated. Any driver making a right turn on country roads or poorly-lit streets is aware of the presence of a vehicle following him on dipped headlights, without using his mirror. This effect is exactly the same on well-lit streets.
(d) The situation at present (leaving things to the driver's discretion) is that dipped headlights should be used a very great deal of the time, but many drivers ignore the advice given in S.50 a the Highway Code, and these drivers constitute the dangerous element. The danger referred to undoubtedly exists, and that is why the Birmingham Dipped Headlight Committee are pleading for uniformity, i.e., dipped headlights at all times. This plea merely asks that S.50 of the Code be given fortification by the Minister, and that the remaining 10% of urban roads be included, as is the practice in the more enlightened countries of the World.
(d) (2) Street direction signs are not normally sited where the beam of dipped headlights would illuminate them.
(e) Far more people forget to put dipped headlights on when they should, than forget to turn them off when parked. This criticism is, as observation has-shown, very far fetched.
Motor Sport's proposal to leave matters to the discretion of the motorist just does not work, and uniformity is desirable. If all motorists were to obey S.50 of the Highway Code, they would be on dipped headlights nearly all the time, and this is patently not so. It must not be forgotten that all Class A lighting is not necessarily good, and a village street with one gas lamp is well lit when compared with an unlit country road. Is the motorist to he a judge of street lighting in addition to all his other duties?
W. R. G. Ward,
Sutton Coldfield. Publicity Officer, Joseph Lucas Ltd.
[Although we do not agree, our fairminded desire to give both sides of an argument makes it necessary to devote space to this reply.—Ed.]
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Congratulations on a very fair assessment of the Hillman Imp. I feel that your Editor must have been unlucky, as I have no criticism of the brakes on mine, though admittedly the car has only just logged its first thousand miles and hasn't yet been driven really fast. However, last year I covered 1,000-odd miles on an early Imp, and encountered no bother. Fuel consumption on this one was 38 m.p.g., driven really hard—mine is averaging 48-52 m.p.g., but again at running-in speeds.
The gear-change takes a lot of beating, and the noise level, though still a bit aeronautical when cruising at 45 m.p.h., is commendably low. The handling is streets ahead of any other rear-engined car I have driven, and inspires confidence, though there is some understeer. My criticisms of the Imp are:
(i) Not enough headroom for six-footers. With four large adults on board on a bumpy road, bruised pates are the order of the day.
(ii) Reverse is awkward of engagement, though on my car it is a lot better than on the one I drove a year ago, and brute force is no longer necessary.
(iii) The ingenious accelerator linkage is prone to jerk, both when accelerating through the gears on light throttle openings, and also when negotiating indifferent surfaces at speeds around 25-30 m.p.h.
(iv) A high level of resonance, though frankly not as pronounced as the Morris 1100, which is really noisy on heat-corrugated tarmac such as one gets in Australia. (I speak from experience, having done a long weekend's motoring—including reporting the V.C.C. of N.S.W.'s Katoomba Rally on one.)
(v) The antennae operating the indicators and lights are a good idea, but the right-hand one does obstruct the windscreen-wiper switch.
But I like mine. It is a first-rate attempt to build a small car that is different.
Beaulieu. Michael Sedgwick.
"W. B." comments: "I can't think why Rootes didn't persuade me to try the Hillman Imp sooner." I can answer that one—Rootes have been waiting for the private owners to sort out all the irritating faults that occur with a new model, instead of doing it themselves.
My January 1964 de luxe edition was returned to the dealers once a week for nine weeks after delivery—and it's still not right. The items dealt with include replacement of windscreen and rear-window surrounds (because the rain came in), alignment of trafficators and steering wheel (twice, and they no longer self-cancel), many oil leaks and other minor items.
As for the rattles—"W. B." must have been lucky to have only "a few mild rattles"—I've given up trying to cure mine!
Bedford. S. R. Gray.
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The Chivalry of the Road Isn't Dead
I should like to thank, through the medium of your columns, the driver and navigator from Sheffield and Brighouse, respectively, who were driving a Mini-Cooper numbered, I believe, 850 JWA between Gainsborough and Bawtry on Saturday night, May 2nd.
I had misread the A.A. Book regarding all-night garages, and had run out of petrol outside the A.A. Box at Gringley-on-the-Hill. I did not have my A.A. key with me and was not able, therefore, to open the door. The motorists in question stopped to see if they could help, and they gave me a lift to Bawtry, where we discovered that there was no garage open, and so they then took me on to Blyth. As if this were not good deed enough for one evening, they then took me back to my own vehicle and, as I did not know the road, accompanied me as far as Bawtry. As my windscreen wipers were not working, and it was raining, it is difficult for me to express how grateful I am for all they did.
Hounslow. J. Walsh.
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Shakespeare and the Motor Car
As this year is the fourth centenary of Shakespeare, I thought you might be interested to hear that Old Will is one of the Sport's staunchest fans, as quotations from some of his plays will show.
The track would seem to be his favourite:
"What is the course and drift of your Compact?" [Comedy of Errors, Act 2.]
"How he did lap me!" [Richard III, Act 2.]
"And how unwillingly I left the ring." [Merchant of Venice, Act 1.]
" . . . the poor mechanic." [Henry V, Act 1.]
"Our enemies have sent us to the pit. . . ." [Julius Caesar, Act 5.]
However, he liked a saloon at times:
"Good gentlemen, go your gait and let the poor Volk pass. . . ." [King Lear, Act 4.]
"A good and virtuous nature may recoil in an Imperial." [Macbeth, Act 4.]
Not to mention . . . .
"But indeed, Sire, we make holiday, to See Caesar and to rejoice in his triumph!" [Julius Caesar, Act 1.]
. . . . which will probably go down on record as the World's first car-hire firm.
Finally, he suggested that a Jaguar might say of the Galaxie:
"I would I had thy inches." [Anthony and Cleopatra, Act 3.]
Yorkley, Glos. " POH 416."