LETTERS FROM READERS, June 1970

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ALFA ROMEO VIEWS FROM BELGIUM

Sir,
I, for one, eagerly await the next instalment of your long-term assessment of the Alfa Romeo 1750 saloon. For once, however, maybe we readers have a chance to influence your opinion, rather than the other way round, before you complete the test.

Let’s start with the precept that many of your readers are family men with sporting pretensions, i.e., practicality must override priYAte dreams. What is so attractive about the Alfa ? For me, with the equiYAlent of 14,000 miles on the clock, it is the excellent combination of four doors, four generous and comfortable seats within compact overall dimensions, refinement with low noise level at high cruising speeds (but a beautiful Alfa exhaust note when accelerating hard), a combination of engine, gearbox and final drive which makes for acceleration, relaxed high-speed cruising and docility in town, excellent handling and brakes, good roadholding, boot and finish. It is the high standards achieved in these aspects which make a local price (in Belgium) of £1,540, including tax, excellent value. When buying, the unknown quantity was reliability and service quality. My personal experience is infallible reliability and excellent, if expensive, service from my local man. However, a prerequisite for buying would be the availability of good local service, if only to keep those big twin-choke Webers in tune.

My main gripes are Marginal wet roadholding on Michelin ZXs, poor synchromesh on second gear, particularly when cold, an engine flat spot in normal starts from rest, inadequate ventilation (but open windows do not create too much draught or noise). The driver’s seat could do with raising about 1 inch. The ride is certainly lively, but in a refined sort of way.

Can we have sonic informed comment in these columns on cruising speed ? Although perhaps a little academic in the UK with your ridiculous speed limit policy, many magazines imply in their road tests, cruising speeds equivalent to around 4,500-5,500 r.p.m. No doubt modern engines will stand up to this treatment without blowing up, but what does it do to engine life ? I was weaned on the concept of a maximum cruising speed of 2,500 ft./min. (equivalent CO about 4,200 r.p.m. in the Alla or 85 m.p.h.) if long life is to be achieved. Does this still apply with modern engine design, materials and oils ?

Overijse. D, W. J. SEAR.

* * *

SAME GIRL—DIFFERENT ALFA ROMEO

Sir,
Three years ago I wrote to you concerning my views on the minor pros and cons of the Alfa Romeo. I then had an I.h.d. 1962 1300 Spider with which I had considerable spares trouble. Last Spring I bought an 1.h.d. 1963 1600 Spider, hating heartbreakingly been compelled to sell my previous car sonic months beforehand.

I think When one takes the plunge and buys a first sports car which one fancies, if it appeals, one loathes to change, e.g., recent MOTOR SPORT correspondence on TRs, MGs, etc. I am now just as attached to this white drophead coupe as my last Alfa. Now comes the appeal to other owners of similar models. Please, please, how can I locate a tiresome vibration, something under the metal facia, in the region of the instruments ? It occurs at low speeds and revs. On so many “town spins” I’ve been driving with my head part-way under the steering wheel, feeling everywhere with a free hand, to try and stop the dratted noise. I’ve also been unable to cure exhaust hanging at low revs and at the usual uneven tick-over. This peculiarity, however, has been experienced by another fellow Alfa owner.

As is obvious, I’m an incurable “rattle fanatic” and get annoyed with the loose window-winder mechanism behind the door panels. This I had with my previous car, and realise with a seven- or eight-year-old model constant slamming of the doors (as is necessary because of dropping with the weight of the large door itself) must inevitably cause this. Many a time I’ve threatened to buy ear plugs, but enjoy the roar of the super engine.

Of course, with the root down, this car is at its best and I swear, hating been born in Italy, loves warm weather, motoring beautifully on a fine day, rattles and vibrations drowned by the swish of tyres and wind noise. This makes time dream of The Sun-drenched Italian mountain roads which breed these infectious little “tigers”.

Without prejudice, I prefer the older Spider design to the latest model with the somewhat over-emphasised concave side panels and almost-hidden, distinctive, traditional front grille.

Lastly, I’d like to mention that four years ago, when I drove an MG TD, I was always flashed by fellow owners. Since driving an Alfa I have only been flashed twice. Is this because I own a seven-year-old, snobbery or just that OTHER Alfa drivers are travelling so fast as to have no time to do so ?

Paignton, S. Devon. CAROLE LANDEN.

* * *

SUNBEAM 90 TRANSMISSION

Sir,
Mr. Geoffrey Brown, also of Newcastle, perhaps understated the weakness of the Sunbeam transmission: I had a very early 90 Mk. II d.h.e. from new, and quietly (?) whipped the hardening off the teeth of five first gears, crunched up a couple of differentials, and tore a shackle-plate off a back axle casing, all through using the brute as the sports car it was advertised to be—on daily motoring mostly on smooth roads.

In those days the Monte was for Sunbeams (the Talbot bit had not yet been dropped), but it just goes to show that rallies of this nature do not necessarily test the whole car.

The trouble started when they bored it out to a big 2 ¼-litre: the extra torque played havoc with bits designed for the original 80 and 90.

The engine was good, and seemed unburstable: if I remember rightly, ERA had a go at warming the model up, hut nothing appeared to be forthcoming,

My engine simply had polished ports, to improve the flow, but it was not so far removed from that of the Vintage Bentley in characteristics. The column change was a hideous device.

The local Distributors pulled my leg somewhat in accusing me of being the reason why Rootes took on a chappie who had designed the gearbox for the Churchill tank. I at least ended up eventually with a stronger tooth-form. A remarkable thing about it all was that I only recall paying one set of labour charges, and nothing else, for all the trouble: that was why I kept it. The story is different today. Does any modern tin-ware manufacturer want their new pride and joy testing to destruction ? I offer a free service, but refuse to afford such an extremely doubtful “luxury” which costs more to own than to run.

Gosforth. J. A. MACHARG.

* * *

“THE MAVERICK ON ENGLISH ROADS”

Sir,
Interesting little piece on the Maverick. Much of what W.B. said is undoubtedly true, especially within the confines of his title. The Maverick isn’t terribly impressive by your standards and it was a mistake to belatedly decide to market it in this country—especially at £2,030. Lincoln Cars are surely going to need more than “opulent customer-baiting showrooms”.

What might have been mentioned is that the Maverick sells in the US for $1,995 standard (£830), a price at which it competes fiercely with or considerably undercuts the Austin Americas, Sunbeam Arrows (Hillman Hunter), Beetles, etc., etc. Without taking into account reliability, ease of service and availability of spare parts in the US I know which car I’d buy for American driving conditions if I had $1,995! Young couples, students, old people and families looking for a second car for the shopping clearly have the same idea, judging by the sales figures—Edsel indeed ! W.B. really did sound disappointed that Detroit had designed the car for such a US market and not as a potentially tweakabIe batmobile for him to hurl around little English roads.

He niggles about the spartan trim (which can be modified to order in the US). I wonder when he last saw the inside of a Beetle which is, as he clearly appreciates, one of the major forces behind the creation of the Maverick. Rear seat room hardly matters; in a car of this type Americans use it for the kids. And couldn’t be correct, or have corrected, a stalling engine fitted with a simple single carb ! All I can say is that I have the identical 200 Cu. in. six in my Mustang and it has invariably started first time and run smoothly in conditions from 20° below to 120°F. and in 95% humidity (something my American friend’s more expensive GT Cortinas, Alpines and MG-Bs couldn’t manage) and the carb. settings haven’t varied in 40,000 miles. Economy—that same well-proved engine in a bigger and heavier car gives me 22-24 m.p.g. (Imp) driven pretty hard in this country, though without standard-issue MOTOR SPORT clogs. On my last two trips of 5,000 and 8,000 miles, it returned 30 and 28 m.p.g. despite a very full load, extensive desert driving, altitude (10,000-12,000 feet) and ton-up work. The only attention it has had has been an oil and filter change every 6,000 miles (it uses no oil). I could go on . . .

Whilst in basic agreement with W.B. on many points, I feel he could have tried to see the Maverick in perspective, a subject your photographer [I was the photographer!—W.B.] (page 346) knows more than a little about. The situation was summed up for me by a couple of teenagers I recently overheard looking over my own closely related Detroit Dinky: “Alright innit ?” “Yeah, but if I ‘ad free farsand quid I wouldn’t buy a Mustang.” Neither would I, but since it cost me £824 brand new, fully equipped, taxed and registered (just before devaluation I might add), I’m sure W.B. would agree that things are a little different in the country for which the car was designed.

Morecambe. “LANCASHIRE COWBOY.”

* * *

POLICE MAN POWER

Sir,
I have never written to any newspaper or periodical before but the number of police radar traps that I have seen recently Causes me to ask, through your column, any Senior Police Officer for a good commonsense explanation to the following :

Why do the police need as many as seven constables and three cars, apart from the expensive radar equipment, to man these traps ? There is now a publicity campaign to recruit more policemen. Will they be added to this Radar Regiment ?

If there is need for a Relations Board (similar to the Race Relations) there is now need for one for the constantly persecuted and victimised goodwill citizen who drives a car. As I drive to the airport on many occasions early in the morning to catch a ‘plane, I almost invariably see these policemen setting up their traps and the time involved must add up to a fantastic amount of man hours per year. Is it that this is so much more profitable than dealing with the thousands of burglaries which occur every day and to which my home seems to be wide open as we never see a policeman and the houses on both sides of me have been burgled in the daytime when the police man their speed traps?

Isn’t it time that the police force was used to protect the people who foot the bill, such as us normal everyday citizens who unfortunately also have to drive a car ?

I know that the British public would like to be on friendly terms with the police force and the police in Britain have been fortunate inasmuch as we co-operate more than any other country in Europe. I am convinced now that the change of attitude of the British public towards the police force, and there is no doubt that the attitude is changing, is entirely the fault of the police. This is a bad situation that should be corrected immediately.

I would also be pleased to hear from any Senior Police Officer as to how they can warrant the cost of some of the .exotic vehicles they use; why the 420G for normal cruising, why B and C-type MG’s and 3.5-litre Rovers ? Cars half the price of these could do the same job.

Many thanks for a good motoring magazine.

Purley. P. J. FIANDER.

* * *

EXCELLENT YB

Sir,
Recent correspondence in these columns in connection with YArious pre- and post-war saloon cars of above average interest and quality prompts me to write a few lines in praise of an excellent small car to which I have seen little or no reference in recent years by your readers —namely the MG series “YA” and “YB” 1 ¼-litre saloons of 1947-53. I have owned and driven both of these models and in fact still run “YB” for everyday motoring, including a number of longer trips to race meetings, etc.

Two years ago this car completed 3,000 miles on a Continental tour with four up entirely without mishap of any sort. It was driven continually at speeds around 70 m.p.h. on autoroutes, etc., Often in very hot weather in Southern France and Italy and only consumed three pints of Duckhams during the entire trip. This I would consider exceptional as these engines are not noted for their oil economy, and ill fact usually leak from the side plate and rocker cover.

Although I would not expect this model to enjoy the popularity of the “T” series MG sports cars, I am surprised at the apparent lack of interest in these saloons which share much in common with their two-seater counterparts and are much more practical for the family enthusiast. They are also most pleasant cars to drive, having rack and pinion steering and the excellent MG coil and wishbone i.f.s., including anti-roll bar, the basic design of which has been carried right through to the MG-A and MG-B.

Whilst having this excellent mechanical specification it retains the appearance of an elegant small pre-war saloon, having a “real” bonnet and radiator with external filler cap and separate headlamps. It also has a most substantial chassis, underslung at the rear, complete with built-in hydraulic jacking system, a sun roof, hide upholstery, rear window blind, opening windscreen, and adjustable steering column. Later models also have 15-in, wheels which are suited to the full range of modern tyres.

On the debit side, I am not happy with the brakes, which require very high pedal pressures, but plan to put matters right in the near future by fitting MG-A 1600 front disc brakes and a servo. Also the car could be considered underpowered for its safe handling, even for its day, but I have found the fitting of twin carburetters and a little factory recommended tuning as per contemporary sports models to transform performance by a most useful margin.

I would be most interested to hear any of your readers’ experiences in connection with these cars, and also hope that not too many will be allowed to reach the “banger” condition that one tends to see so often. Even MG Car Club Meetings rarely produce examples. I have seen one or two advertisements in MOTOR SPORT for apparently well-kept specimens, so perhaps they are beginning to be recognised as a model well worthy of preservation.

Kesgrave, Suffolk, MICHAEL GREEN.

* * *

MOTOR RACING AND ITV

Sir
When I discovered that the “Race of Champions” was not to be televised at all this year I wrote to Mr. John McMillan, the Director of Sport for Independent Television, and asked him why this was so In his reply he stated, and I quote, “The reason why we have stopped covering motor-racing is because so many of the races develop into processions”. In my letter I also criticised the unreasonable amount of horse-racing shown. In his reply, Mr. McMillan said, and again I quote, “There is a growing demand for horse-racing and Independent Television has decided to specialise in that area”.

it therefore looks as though we shall see no more motor-racing at all on ITV, which presumably means that the British GP will not be televised, which would be disastrous for many thousands of enthusiasts, particularly in the North. Obviously ITV does not understand motor racing and I have written to them again to try and enlighten them. I suggest that all your readers do likewise; it seems that we are not doing enough by a long chalk. Need I say more ?

Aspley. J. E. Fox.

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