Matters of Moment, June 1968

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• Almost Not Worthwhile

Motoring and motor cars have provided much pleasure for many people for more than 70 years. From the initial task of making the things go and proving that they were better transport than the horse to the enjoyment of devouring Alpine roads in today’s high-performance cars covers a time-span during which the pleasures and frustrations have been many and varied.

There has been the fun of building a car at home and making it function, the joy of driving long distances in a day at the wheel of a responsive vehicle, the fascination of conquering difficult hills, of map-reading (before those prolific direction-signs sprouted!), of starting in and sometimes finishing in trials great and small, from half-day affairs to the M.C.C. holiday classics, of spectating at innumerable motor races and, as a passenger, of watching all manner of interesting things pass by, both scenic and female (it is one’s good fortune to live in the age when skin-tight slacks and micro-skirts can be observed at one and the same time).

But have you realised how the present Government restrictions seem to be aimed at spoiling the pleasures of motoring? Under the disguise of increased safety all manner of new stipulations are being made, with harsh penalties if they are disobeyed, even inadvertently. Obviously tyres should be safe for cruising at a furious 70 m.p.h. on the Motorways—the Police used to ensure this quite effectively. Now it is mm. of tread and lb./sq. in. that decide the issue, and on a day when another young girl had been brutally murdered we noticed able-bodied constalbles waving the older cars into a lay-by and peering at their wheels (£50 for every one you catch). Safety belts must be in the more recent (and therefore, one would have thought, safer) cars by the end of the month, but there is no law to make you wear them—how absurd can you get? Soon this, too, will be compulsory, one supposes, regardless of accidents in which those involved would not be here now had they not been able to duck under the scuttle, or been thrown clear. A sort of Ministerial death-sentence, admittedly for a minority, as it were. . . . The £100,000,000 which the M.o.T. is spending on publicising “Snap On That Belt”, etc. would be better spent on a few road improvements—we are sure the British Road Federation will agree. How far are we from having to don crash-hats, carry fire-extinguishers and have our cars governed to some pedestrian pace, before being permitted to go by road?

Soon the Police will be adding decibel meters to the radar apparatus, breathalysers, pressure gauges, tread-depth measurers, stop-watches, etc. they use to trap the Demon motor car, regardless of the fact that it produces millions of pounds in taxation and essential exports at a lower cost in life and limb than unpenalised domestic carelessness in British homes. But presumably jet aircraft, road-drills and portable saws which delight in destroying trees will go scot-free in respect of noise? With all the new signs, lines, laws and restrictions, not forgetting loss of licence after three endorsements, inflicted for quite minor “offences”, so that everyday driving a car becomes closer to unimaginably driving a train, there is no recognition, apart from no-claim insurance benefits, for being experienced, with a long-spell clean-licence record. This is something Mr. Marsh might well introduce.

Unless common-sense prevails, motoring, with a capital M as we know it, is likely to become almost not worthwhile. . . .

• In Memoriam

Following the fatal accident at Hockenheim of Jim Clark, O.B.E., and two deaths in Club racing, Mike Spence, the leading B.R.M. driver, was killed at Indianapolis while practising in the S.T.P.-Lotus 56 turbine car. Spence received fatal injuries in a crash after putting up the second-fastest lap ever at this American track, of 169.5 m.p.h. And now J. R.”Dickie” Stoop has died of a coronary while racing his Porsche at Croft.

Words are not much solace under these circumstances, but to all the bereaved we offer heartfelt sympathy.

• To Dog Or Not To Dig

It seems doubtful whether, in all the long history of motoring, a racing car, and a 45-year-old aero-engined racing car at that, has been the subject of Army conferences at high level and Parish Council meetings. This is what has been happening at Pendine recently, in respect of the Thomas special “Babs” in which J. G. Parry Thomas was killed, on a Land Speed Record attempt in 1927.

Knowing that Motor Sport readers, particularly those interested in vintage racing cars, would want details, we went down to Carmarthenshire to investigate. The report appears on page 485.

Farewell To The Sunbeam “Cub”

We hear that the 1924 2-litre s/c. G.P. Sunbeam “The Cub” will no longer form part of the Rootes collection of historic cars. They have given it to H.S.H. Prince Rainier of Monaco, who will add it to his own collection. Rootes say they have very good reasons for banishing this Sunbeam from Britain but, in view of its many appearances here in contemporary competitions and its successful Brooklands career when driven by K. Don, it seems most unfortunate that this decision has had to be taken. Especially as the car never competed in a Monaco G.P.

A Rover Accolade

We have referred previously to the fine reputation earned by the Rover 2000 in the eyes of the road-test staff of Road Test, the American journal which eschews advertising and publishes consumer-researched type reports. In a special feature in its June issue Road Test again gives high praise to this British car. In 1965 it had an article headed “Rover 2000-Does the World’s Finest Car cost only 4,000 dollars?” It now publishes the findings of many American users, amounting to a million-mile survey, and concludes that “Rover tops them all.” This special survey includes all manner of reports on Rover 2000, from owners, test-drivers, engineers and mechanics, and includes such praise as “Why can’t everybody make a car as good as this?” and the comment of a noted German car-fancier “It looks like it was designed at Mercedes-Benz”.

Certainly the Editorial 2000TC goes on serving well, apart from incorrect negative camber of the n/s front wheel having destroyed a Pirelli Cinturato tyre after 10,850 miles, and a broken exhaust tail-pipe bracket. In changing the oddly-worn tyre I found that the side jacking system works well and I discovered that the tool-kit contains a Rover tyre gauge. This presses straight onto the tyre valve and I find it easier to use than my Dunlop or Desmo gauges, which are angled. Incidentally, all three gauges have valve-removal tools in their tips, which is useful.W. B.

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