Letters from Readers, June 1968

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

“Sportomatic”—A Different View

Sir,
In a number of magazines lately they have been testing the Porsche 911 “Sportomatic” and I have yet to see a favourable report. This absolutely amazed me as I consider the “Sportomatic” the greatest thing since instant coffee. It has all the advantages of an automatic which is so necessary in England in these days of sloth and yet keeps the advantages of a manual box on a sports car when one is abroad or risking one’s licence at home.

I admit that it drops a little off the top speed, though this seems less on the “S” than on the reported 911, and that aesthetic acts such as “heel and toeing” and “double declutching” can no longer be demonstrated—and about time, too, as they are both substitutes for poor mechanical development and should not be necessary in this modern day and age.

I have owned a number of quick cars ranging from the expensive noise of a Ferrari, whose clutch pedal was so heavy I had to have my left trouser leg let out on all my trousers after a few weeks, to the Elan, and I have never in my life had fun with a car. My drive through the mountains around Perigueux in France on my way down to Pau the other week was the most exhilarating experience I have had for a long time.

I should finally just like to add that before I was completely at home with the Sportomatic it did take at least a couple of weeks and a couple of slight adjustments—and I believe that the testers would also have changed their minds if they had not merely reported on their first impressions.

I wish we could put the box on our formula car!

London, N.W.6. Charles Lucas.
* * *

Shopping For A Rolls-Royce

Sir,
I have been most interested in the writings in your very enjoyable magazine under the heading “Not for Commoners”.

Some two years ago I purchased a 20/25 Rolls-Royce from a Purveyor of Horseless Carriages in the same manner as your correspondent William Fuller of Ontario, Canada, and, being a commoner, my experience was very similar.

I removed the engine from this car and stripped it completely for repairs. All bearings, main, big end and little end, had to be replaced as the sludge described so accurately by Mr. Fuller had dried and set hard in the oil passages through the crankshaft. Bearing clusters on the generator drive, starter, etc., had to be replaced, new rings, crank-shaft grind, clutch relined, and last but not least I had to import a new cylinder head from England to replace the hopelessly cracked one fitted. All skeletons are now removed and the motor is running very nicely.

The car was in the coachbuilders here for two months having fibreglass removed and the panel beating carried out in a proper manner, rotten wood replaced where necessary, and numerous other jobs done to bring its condition up to description. I have also purchased four new tyres to replace the “new tyres” which were fitted. This winter I propose to remove the back axle to try and catch the wolf dog lurking therein.

As the car was described as having had its “bodywork renovated regardless of cost”, and as being “ready to put straight into Concours d’Elegance” priced at £975, I can only suggest that perhaps Mr. Fuller was lucky to get such a bargain by purchasing his for £395.

Timaru, New Zealand. Owen Johnstone.
* * *

Vested Interests

Sir,
In an attempt to reduce the friction caused by your obvious red herring labelled “Signitus”, I recommend the study of The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions, 1964, H.M. Stationery Office, price 12s. 6d. net, which should answer most of your questions. I modestly confess to being the intelligent person you are looking for and agree to answer specific questions for a nominal charge, say, 9d: per word, as your advertising rates.

No usual disclaimers this time—I work for Franco Traffic Signs, who manufacture internally illuminated and reflective STOP and GIVE WAY signs to meet the conditions you nominate.

Watchet. H. Wyatt.
* * *

Waiting List?

Sir,
I wish to draw attention to Ford’s advertisements of the new “Escort Twin-Cam” model, and particularly to the two full-page advertisement appearing in last month’s Motor Sport.

Beneath a mouth-watering picture and a sexually stimulating specification of the said car follow the words: “Now you probably won’t be able to sleep tonight. Especially when you hear that most of the early models are heading for the export market.”

What the last part of the quotation means, in fact, is that the Twin-Cam model at present unavailable in this country except it those people who can enhance its image through success in the competition field—Mr. Anybody, just try buying one!

The point of my letter is: why the hell advertise a commodity and a very desirable one at that, which is unavailable?

Hale. K. G. Wilcox.
* * *

Good Service

Sir,
I recently undertook to do some repairs to the suspension of my Morgan Plus Four. I sent an order, amounting to less than £4, to the Morgan factory at Malvern, by letter on a Tuesday afternoon. The following Thursday morning, less than 48 hours later, I received the parts.

Comparing this service to that which I’ve come to expect from some other motor companies, it makes a pleasant change to receive such prompt service in this age of mass production.

Who else gives such service? Rolls-Royce perhaps. Possibly, but there again a Morgan doesn’t cost £10,000.

Wenvoe. Shaun Gregg.
———

Sir,
Recently I saw a report that B.M.W. sales in this country have increased threefold since the beginning of this year. With my recent experience of the service of their South-West agents, Chenhall’s Garage, Paignton, I am not in the least surprised. One often hears tales of woe from people who have experienced great difficulty in obtaining spares for foreign cars. When I decided to overhaul my much-loved 1963 B.M.W. 700 coupé I was delighted to find all my spares dispatched by return post. My model has been obsolete for some years, and is the humblest in the B.M.W. range, so it speaks well of the service position for the fortunates who own the latest models. When I took my engine to Chenhall’s for expert attention by the concessionaires I was most impressed not only by their efficiency but the courtesy and genuine concern of the staff. My only connection with Chenhall’s Garage is as a satisfied customer.

Bideford. R. J. Dark.
———

Sir,
Recently I bought a Quinton Hazen silencer system for my M.G.-B GT, which after fitting was found to be defective. I immediately got in touch with the company concerned, who without delay sent an inspector to examine the parts and, as a result of his report, agreed to refund me in full, not only for the parts, but also for the added expense I had incurred in fitting the system to the car.

I was impressed by this firm, which obviously feels that courtesy and after-sales service are as important as initial sales, and I shall not hesitate to use their products again when the occasion arises

London, W.11. Jock Butler.
* * *

A Rover 2000TC in Canada

Sir,
Having read your recent comments regarding one year’s motoring in the editorial Rover TC, I am prompted to forward the following summary of my highly satisfactory experience with a similar car over a like period. The writer’s TC, purchased 50 weeks ago (1967 model, 41805438B, $4,395.00 less $1,975.00 for a 1966 Austin Cambridge traded-in) has now covered 22,947 miles with a very acceptable led of comfort, convenience, and cost. The latter is covered by the table, presented below, of all operating costs to date.

Item – Quantity – Cost
Gasoline – 905 gals. – $483.21
Oil changes (consumption nil) – 9 – 32.02
Oil filters – 4 – 27.25
Air filters – 2 – 9.60
Greaslings – 4 – 3.90
Spark plugs – 8 – 7.08
Points – 1 – 1.90
Anti-freeze – 9 qts. – 9.70
Tyres – 2 (at 20,268) – 71.20
Routine service checks – 4 – 74.00
Total: $719.86

Other repairs and maintenance:
Mileage – Item – Cost
2,584 – Short in turn signal circuit – N/C—warranty
15,950 – Windscreen wiper blades (heavy duty) – 6.20
16,585 – Burst radiator (89.00 cost but – N/C—warranty
17,001 – Front wheels balanced – 2.00
17,589 – Cold starting difficulties – 6.00
18,630 – Burst radiator hose – 1.05
20,268 – Wheel alignment checked – 7.00
Various – Punctures (5) (All on Dunlop studded SP44s) – 9.00
Total Operating Cost: $751.11

Added to the foregoing is $113.00 for one year’s insurance coverage ($200,000.00 PL. & PD, $2,000.00 medical payments, $250.00 deductible collision). Samplings of my log show that gasoline consumption, although averaging 25.35 m.p.g., has ranged from 21.60 for some urban winter driving to 32.88 for one 3,088-mile trip to the Canadian GP (motorcycles) last fall.

The body and trim are in prime condition after spending a mild winter in the open. There may be one square inch of rust in total on the body, but you have to look hard to find it. The only dent (right-hand front door) was caused when my father collided with my brother, who was riding my Norton 88/SS at the time in a town some 60 miles distant. No serious damage was suffered by either vehicle or driver. Discounting depreciation and insurance (the former because it varies according to the time the car is kept, and the latter as it varies so much according to the driver) the car cost 3.055 cents per mile to operate to date.

Minor annoyances are three: 1. The speedometer gearbox is often very noisy in cold weather, and the indicator “shivers”. 2. The tachometer sometimes dances to its own tune, and reads twice what it should. 3. The gearbox is sometimes reluctant to engage first gear, and a firm hand is required. Leyland have advised me that the Canadian Service Manager will certainly be in touch with me about these matters on his next visit to this area. I should mention that the national sales agents have been very prompt and helpful in all situations that my local dealers have been unable to finalise, and are pleased to answer any questions from owners in a complete and pleasant manner. Although my experience may not be typical of all owners I hope that it will be valuable to any potential purchasers interested in road tests of substantial duration. I have even been on hand to test the “strength in adversity” claim, too. While being driven by a friend in a three-day-old TC identical to mine, we crashed into a tree at about 60 m.p.h., badly damaging the car ($1,500.00), severely damaging the tree, and slightly damaging one occupant (cut knee from petrol res. tap). (Thanks to Irvin.)

Halifax, N.S., Canada. Patrick J. Doherty.
* * *

Rover v. Jaguar

Sir,
Congratulations to Rovers—at last they have managed to produce a car comparable to the Jaguar 3.4 and 3.8. It has taken them nine years to do it.

It has always amazed me that no one managed to produce a car with the performance, handling, comfort and looks of the 3.8 at any price, let alone under £2,000. Even now I can’t see that the new Royer 3500 is that much better than my 1960 3.8. After 85,000 miles it will still out-accelerate the Rover, and it has a decent set of instruments and some real walnut. The Rover dashboard is the sort of thing I would expect on an economy model—and that Formica on the doors is horrible.

I wonder how long it will be before anyone manages to produce a competitor for the new range of Jaguars. I have no doubt that when they are announced they will be another ten years ahead of Rover and most other manufacturers’ present efforts.

Dorchester. T. J. Mills.

[Yes, but when will new Jaguar models appear?-Ed.]
* * *

Eating on M1

Sir,
With reference to “Cardboard Imitation” on page 360 of the May issue, your staff member did indeed make a mistake by calling at this particular Service Station. To regular users of the M1 it has the reputation of resembling a glorified camping site and is normally by-passed except in emergencies. However, if your colleague had travelled some 20 miles further north he would have reached the Mecca Village Service Station which is designed around the Robin Hood legend of Nottingham.

There he would have had a difficult choice of deciding whether to visit the warm, comfortable cafe with an extensive self-service menu or the luxuriously appointed Sheriff’s restaurant which resembles the banqueting hall in Nottingham Castle. Here you can choose a table beneath a Sherwood Oak and be handed a menu written on an imitation 14th century scroll by Maid Marion (also imitation).

This restaurant, together with the “Horseless Carriage” in Norwich, is probably the finest and best appointed for the motorist in the country, and I can personally assure your colleague of a wonderfully prepared meal at either.

Mansfield. M. L. Whittle.

[I haven’t been served by the Maid Marion referred to. But I feel that after thrashing up M1 at a furious 70 m.p.h. I would find it more appropriate, if the flavour of the past has to flavour the food, to be served by a waiter (or waitress) dressed as a racing motorist of the 1920s. But thanks for telling us of a decent restaurant, anyway.—Ed.]
* * *

“Top Italian Cars in Britain”

Sir,
As a “long time” reader of your excellent magazine and, despite current conditions, a very enthusiastic motorist with more years and miles “on the clock” than I care to remember, I was most interested to read the article “Top Italian Cars in Britain”.

Just a year ago this month I took delivery of my Lamborghini 400 GT, when it was immediately put into Messrs. Hoopers Ltd. for a right-hand drive conversion, and although they took about ten weeks they made a very good job of it. I enjoy the car very much and, though my mileage these days is exceedingly small, my impression is that a better GT model would be very hard to find. It is quiet, docile, yet terrifically potent. I tried three Ferraris before finally deciding on LAM 1, and I do not regret my choice. I have had excellent service from Lamborghini Concessionaires, who have always been most helpful in every way. Previous potent pieces of machinery included Porsche, Facel Vega, Aston Martin DB5, and Bentley “Continental” (which, incidentally, is still in the “stable”). I am also getting excellent service from the smallest member of my “trio”, a Sunbeam Imp Sport.

The “Mulliner” Bentley is 1962 and can only be referred to as an “impeccable and incredible” car, having suffered from “nothing” during the two and a half years in my possession.

Esher. Barry Gray.
———

Sir,
I was most interested to read your article about top Italian cars in Britain.

Peter Hampton says he has the second car in Britain and I am fairly sure I have the first. What surprises me about the people who have been interviewed is the very small mileage they have done on these cars, I brought my Lamborghini back to, England in August, 1964, and to date I have done 27,000 miles on this. The following April (1965) I bought a Quattro Porte Maserati which to date has done 23,000 miles. So far as the Lamborghini is concerned, I have had few confusions with this, which have been adequately dealt with by the Commendatore, with the possible exception of the back axle which they changed for me in 1967 and now makes more noise than the original one did. Otherwise, I like the original GT body because it has more room for luggage than the 2+2 and seems to me, with the 4-litre engine, to go very fast indeed.

My Lamborghini is fitted with a special chronometric speedometer and rev.-counter with a maximum hand on each and the speedometer has been checked by Smiths Competition Department and is right to the +/-½ engine revs. without allowing for tyre expansion. I find therefore I have no difficulty at all in doing indicated 148 m.p.h. This car used too much oil, but Tony Tocock completely overhauled the engine, fitting Hepchrome rings, and now the oil consumption is very good and the car is an admirable one for pub crawling and long-distance autostrada. So far as the rectangular headlights are concerned, I quite agree that these are perfectly impossible, so Tony Tocock changed these for four quartz iodine lights (Carello), all on for normal driving, centres out with the outers on for dip. This produces great confidence and no irritation for the oncomers. So far as the Quattro Porte Maserati is concerned, this definitely goes over 145 m.p.h. and with air conditioning it is the most comfortable car for four fat chaps that we know. Mine has independent rear suspension; the only disadvantage of this is that it makes rather a road noise and it uses up tyres fairly quickly. I changed the silly rectangular lights for four quartz iodine Carello.

I imagine that the new Quattro Porte without independent rear suspension has more room in the back and more petrol capacity and may have advantages over mine, but at the present moment I see no point in changing.

Barnet Instruments Ltd., Codicote. Robin Grant.
* * *

West Suffolk County Library

Sir,
It might be interesting to find out how many vehicles belonging to local authorities have defective brakes, lights, etc.

It has taken the recent legislation to convince the West Suffolk County Council that they should no longer use bald tyres (see enclosed card).

Dear Madam,
The Mobile Library will be calling on Thursday, 4th April owing to difficulties in obtaining new tyres.
It will call again on Thursday, 18th April, 1968.
Yours faithfully,
W. Cutting,
Mobile Librarian,
West Suffolk County Library.

Newmarket. R. E. Phume.
* * *

Another “Short List”

Sir,
I work as a representative for an invalid carriage manufacturers who also sell racing motorcycles through a dealer network, and together with trips towing my own machines to trials and scrambles. I cover about 40,000 miles annually. What is the ideal vehicle for a hard task such as this? Obviously, if expense were not a prime consideration, a Mercedes-Benz 250 (or even the larger 280SE) would be ideal—but, with a bi-annual £1,500 available for the initial purchase, the answer seems to lie somewhere between a Volvo 144, a Rover 2000, a Triumph 2000, a Peugeot 404 or even a B.M.W. 1800. I have discounted B.M.C. 1800s, Renault 16s, VW TLs, Ford Corsairs and Cortinas, etc., as being too mass-produced and not carrying either the prestige, the performance, or the quality of the £1,300+ vehicles. Also dismissed for various reasons are the Jaguar 240, the Ford Zephyr range and anything that Rootes are able to offer.

After some 250,000 fairly high-pressure miles I have finally arrived at the perfect specification, but which is not offered in one package by any of the above makers—if only the “market researchers” would knock on my door! In an approximate order of priority the features are these:—

General Specification
1. Gearing high enough for 80 m.p.h. cruising—with or without trailer—but naturally only in thinking countries.
2. Fuel consumption of 30 m.p.g., coupled with a tank range of 350 miles, with the ability to run on low grade petrols.
3. The offer of a sunshine roof as a factory fitted extra.
4. Turning circle of 33 ft. or less.
5. Brakes that will stand up to high speed towing and that will last at least 30,000 miles before relining.
6. Robust and easily available towing hitch.
7. Fold down—sleepable on—seats.
8. Easy fuse changing.
9. Floor gear change and a practical handbrake. (If only the factories would realise that occasionally we are on an aerodrome just after it has snowed….!!)
10. Illuminated boot and engine compartment, irrespective of sidelights being on.
11. Heated rear window.
12. Electro magnetic fan.
13. “Hondability”—for our Castle-congested streets in parking be-metered boroughs I use a 50 c.c. fold up Honda monkey bike and a high boot waistline can wreak havoc with one’s “natty schmutter” when lifting the 100 lb. scooter up and in.
 

Interior Specification
14. Sensible lightswitch, and dipswitch easily to hand.
15. Dipping interior mirror that also covers whole of rear window.
16. Horn ring.
17. Availability of all black interior (trim etc.)
18. Powerful interior light linked to courtesy action with ALL doors.
19. Cigar lighter and clock and decent ashtrays, preferably stainless, one to each door.
10. Radio fitment in the centre position with space under for tape recorder—also allowing easy provision for front or rear speaker or both.

Items such as radial tyres, alternators, trip speedometers, interior coat-hooks and single side parking lights are, I think, standard equipment on the five makes that I am dealing with; but three points that are so often overlooked until it is too late are the safety factor; the resale value, and both the price and ease of obtaining spare parts.

A few quick comments on the specification above will show that:—

1. – 8. The Fuel Injection Peugeot is ahead on all these points particularly with regard to the sunshine roof at under £20. Against, the conversions at £80+.
9. This round to Rover.
10. – 12. All 5 Makes score something, but none of them can claim to have all the best features available.
13. Rover again.
14. To Peugeot, but this is an almost personal thing—like blowing the nose. etc.
15. I bought a Jaguar mirror six years ago and have had to have it fitted to each new car in turn, as I took delivery.
16. Peugeot again I think, but I am sketchy on the details of the others.
17. Black is not possible with a Peugeot unless you pay £200 extra for a deluxe model—again I am sketchy about the others.
18. – 20. No car is 100% on these, but Peugeot is strong on 19 and 20. Who likes plastic ashtrays and who can tune in to the Jimmy Young Show (in a Volvo) whilst wearing safety harness?

Regrettably, my prejudice has broken through whilst drafting the above and you will have realised that I chose the Injection Peugeot. This followed two earlier petrol models. Equally regrettable is the fact that before these I had a 1275 Cooper “S”, two TR4s, an Alpine 1600 and a Zodiac Mk III. Starting with the Ford and finishing pre-Peugeot with the Cooper. All purchased new and all expiring at just under 40,000 miles.

Not even 1,000,000 Frenchmen can all be wrong—the 404 has had an excellent production run—I await the 504 with some trepidation and considerable interest!

Southampton. Mike Jackson.