I have read your excellent magazine on and off for the past 20 years and subscribe now. It is complete and I need no other The cars. advertised there sometimes make me wish I was in England as I am sure by the time my magazine gets here the good stuff has been sold. Continue as you are, don’t make poorer quality.
But I am writing you about another matter that has made me so annoyed over a period of days that I feel I must write and get it off my chest—I will have told your group, and that is the most I can do. My subject is the British Car Industry. I can’t believe how it is screwing up! Each time I see your industry come to a cross point and I can figure out four ways to go, it always does the worst. Let’s look.
In 1950 I bought a used 1949 MG TC from a friend. I was in college then. This was the best car I have ever owned, service, driving, fun, and feel. I sold it in 1952 to buy a used, 4,000-mile Jaguar XK 120. This was the worst car I ever owned. Fun to drive but very bad mechanically. I was getting 35 miles to a water pump when I sold it, and had been to every mechanic in Los Angeles. I know that Jaguar made this model with the bad pump for at least two years. How could this be? They should have redesigned it when they found it was bad—but, instead, they kept producing the bad one, and it wasn’t until the XK140 came out that the problem was solved. Also, remember at this time the British had the distribution and reputation. Germans had VW coming in and Porsche, and the Japanese were still making those nice model airplanes with silk wings and rubber-band propellers.
Today, look at the figures in the enclosed clipping. Out of five companies selling less than last year, three are British and the others are Renault and Simca. I realise the Cortina doesn’t count, however. And the Capri is a real winner. [The clipping shows USA imports for March, 1970 against those for March, 1971, from the Wall Street Journal.—Ed].
But Opel sold more than the whole British Motor Industry. How come? Why didn’t Chrysler go British instead of Japanese part way? There was a big market for you there but you were not ready.
Now let’s talk about what caused me to write this letter. I collect cars, so know of what I speak. When the MG-B changed to the next model I was interested to see what would develop. Here is a great chance to get back some of the prestige of the British cars and MG in general. When I saw they had shoehorned that obsolete piece of six-cyl. iron in and that was the new model, I burned up. Do these people think the public are fools? They are competing now against other companies who are not only not backward but are very forward. So Datsun came out with the 240Z and will get most of the market. If MG decided not to change the body and just put in a new engine, OK. It’s a nice body. But to put in an old engine… growl.
Rover I won’t even discuss, it has such a bad reputation. Triumph Stag—a new engine that puts out 150 b.h.p. doesn’t send me for $7,500. It must be tweakable for much more but why not sell it that way? I feel the big market is for cars $4,000 and under anyway. And now Jaguar comes. This is the only British car I have great respect for, except Lotus. Jaguar uses the same body and frame they have used for 10 years or so and puts a new engine in it. Gentlemen, it won’t work… you must open your eyes and look around. The country that has Lotus, Cosworth, Healey, and lots of small genius-type garages can do better. Please do better.
Qvale in San Francisco, who distributes Jensen, wants an Austin-Healey type car so bad he is even trying to finance it and get it built in Britain. Here is a good start. Put a nice grille on it, build a 2-litre or so s.o.h.c engine, put a Ferrari front and a Kamm tail on it and watch sales go. Don’t try anything radical, just do a nice job and it will sell itself. Best of luck….
San Diego, Calif.