Matters of moment, June 1974

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Multum in Parvo

Whether or not you believe that in the lifetime of the present generation the World’s supplies of crude oil and other fuels will dry up completely, so that horse-breeding will replace the massproduction of automobiles, or whether you simply regard the ever-rising cost of petrol as sufficient reason to make a little go as far as possible, you must presumably be thinking in terms of smaller engines. Although it can be argued that a power unit of moderate but not minute size pulling high gear-ratios may he as conserving of fuel ts a tiny engine screaming its head off, generally we doubt if anyone will quibble with the assertion that, all things being otherwise equal, the smaller the swept-volume the lower the consumption of the expensive fuel. When it comes to sheer performance nicely delivered, there is no substitute for litres; but if economy is of paramount importance the smaller the cylinders the better.

This tends to suggest a Nation or a Global-tribe of motorists crawling about in small, slow cars. This seems to be the preferred mode of progression by the more ordinary road travellers and was so before the price of petrol crept ever upwards. But that is no reason for the keen driver, the enthusiast, to despair. Small cars have achieved some notable feats and gone remarkThe Panhard-Levassors in th 1895 Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race had Phenix engines giving about 4 b.h.p. at -800 r.p.m. and Levassor’s winning Panhard (15 m.p.h. for 732 miles) had a 4-cylinder 8-h.p. motor. By 1912 we had seen the 3-litre Coupe de l’ Auto Sunbeams showing up all but the advanced 7.6-litre Peugeot and a giant Fiat in the Grand Prix at Dieppe. All that was a long time ago but the trend should be noted. After the war AC cars proved able to exceed 100 m.p.h. for various distances, and eventually for a full hour, with non-supercharged 1,500 c.c. engines. Later the 750-cc. competition cars came on the scene, MG doing the magic “ton” in that category by 1931. It was admittedly with a speeial supercharged racing car. But -do you remember the grand-slam scored by sports MG Midgets in that year’s JCC “Double Twelve” hour race, led by the Earl of March and C. S. Staniland? Those Were road–going small sports cars, with which the Sports Editor of The Autocar no doubt had much fun, using an MG Midget for a season in the .MCC long-distance trials, high-speed events round Brooklands, and on his daily travels. It might seem tame today, because times change, cars, even very Small ones, get faster, and the competition scene alters. The shapely jappic and the crude Gush Special which went very well on Brooklands propelled by 350-c.c, single-cylinder motorcycle engines, might not seem exciting now. But they were all helping to prove that even little racing and sports cars should not be scorned. Just before and after the Second World War there were some quite encouraging efforts on the part of small-car tuners and drivers. There was that aerodynamic Fiat 1100 of Lord Brabazon’s (FLY 1) which gave an excellent performance and -a fuel consumption in the region of 40 m.p.g. at a cruising speed of 60 to 70 m.p.h. There were the Fiat Topolinos, one of which Lord Howe used for his journeys to the House of Lords, and racing editions of which won their class in the 1940 Mille Miglia at an average speed of 70.8 m.p.h. with a top speed, vide Michael Seelgwick’s new Fiat history, reyiewed in this issue, of a cool 87 m.p.h. The performance of the DB-Panhards at Le Mans in 1959, 1960 and 1961 will be recalled and; of course, the Cooper-Mini Showed just how much poke could be built into-a compact saloon motor-car. In 1957 Lotus entered for Le Mans using a 750-c.c. version of the Coventry-Climax engine of that time and with it Allison and Hall brought this 744-cc. car home in fourteenth place overall, winner of the Index of Performance, with three larger-engined cars, two Panhards and a D13 of the same size and a 741-c.c. Stanguellini behind it. And to rub it in, this smallest product of Team Lotus averaged 90.3 m.p.h., which would have beaten the 4.1/2-litre Talbot which won Le Mans outright seven years earlier. And the original Alpine from Dieppe, which won its class in the 1956 Mile Miglia, was based on the diminutive Renault 4CV.

We will refrain from cataloguing similar performances by cars of modest sweptvolume. Enough has been set down to show that there is much speed to be got from the smallest-engined cars. It might now be ‘opportune for the “soup chefs” again to turn their attention to extracting more power and fuel-thrift from little power units. And for enthusiasts again to build fast versions of the smaller cars, which can provide great fun for a modest expenditure on petrol and materials.

Over sixty years back the cyclecar fraternity enjoyed showing up bigger and heavier cars up-hill and on the level, while spending far less than the car owners, on petrol and tyres. Since then cars like the Mini and the Imp have had tuning wonders worked on them and we arc glad that the British Leyland MG Midget III remains in production, as the present-day equivalent of those 850c.c. and Month ery MG Midgets of long ago. Now, maybe, he time has come again to extract economical power from even smaller engines?

June Gatherings

Malcolm Buckler, son of the late Derek Buckler, the originator of Buckler cars, has founded a Buckler Register, which will be holding its first meeting of Buckler car and special owners on Sunday, June 23rd, preceded by a light lunch at the Tally Ho. Inn, Eversley, Berkshire, eight miles south of Reading on the A327. New members and anybody interested are welcome to rendezvous before 2.00 p.m. at the Tally Ho. For full details write to Malcolm Buckler at Fairy Oak, Regaby, Andreas, Isle of Man.

The DKW Owners’ Club is holding its 11th Annual Rally, Driving Tests and Concours at Dodington Park, near Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, on Sunday, June 23rd, while on June 9th, the Lea Francis Owners’ Club will be celebrating its 21st anniversary with a concours, driving tests, etc., at Stamford Hall, near Rugby, from 1 p.m. Late entries for the driving tests should be sent to T. J. Howard, 113 Westerfield Lane, St. Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex (Hastings 51594). Also on June 23rd, the Railton Owners’ Club will be holding its national meeting at the Gamecock Barracks, Bramcote, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, which will include a motor jumble, concours and driving tests and obviously an interesting display of Railton, Brough, Hudson and Invicta cars. On the same date the Forward Trust Veteran and Vintage Car Rally will be held for the fifth year running, this time in Cannon Hill Park, Edgbaston Road, Birmingham, where the cars will be on view from 11.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.

Thc. Jowett Car Club’s International Jowett Rally will be held at York on Saturday and Sunday, June 29th-30th, with Jowetts of all ages and types from home and abroad expected. A concours and display on the Saturday is hoped to attract the sole survivor of the 1952 Le Mans class-winning team of R1 Jupiters, and an R4 Jupiter of which only four were produced. The annual dinner and dance on the Saturday night will be followed by driving tests on the racecourse approach road, to which the public will be admitted free, on the Sunday.

High performance Renault 16

Recently we spent a couple of extremely pleasant days sampling two new Renault models, the 16 TX, a more luxurious and higher performance version of the popular 16, and the Renault 12 TR, an automatic version of the 12 TS. It was a trip to gladden the heart of any budding Egon Ronay, with lunch at that famous gastronomic high spot, Thornbury Castle, near Bristol, an overnight halt at the Cottage in the Wood, Malvern Wells one time home of Elgar, and lunch the following day at the Dundas Arms, Kintbury, near Hungerford, all splendid reminders that there will forever be an England, however heavily we are swamped by foreign cars.

Of those imported cars, Renault have consistently been the most successful, however hard Datsun have challenged them with current figures, and to drive a Renault again after a long lapse answered the reason why.

If particularly Gallic in appearance they have the ride, handling, comfort, finish and practicality to suit natives of any land.

The usual 16 engine of 1565 c.c. has been enlarged to 1647 c.c. for the TX, in which form it offers 93 b.h.p. DIN at 6,000 r.p.m. and 92.6 lb. ft. torque at 4,000 r.p.m. using a twin choke Weber downdraught carburetter with automatic choke and a compression ratio of 9.25 to 1.

A five-speed gearbox has been developed for the TX, the overdrive 5th providing a perfect step up from 4th to reduce engine revolutions to roughly 5,100 r.p.m. at 100 m.p.h. Maximum speed is 106 m.p.h., though the test car persistently showed 115 m.p.h. with the tachometer on the red line. A column gearchange is retained, coping with the five gears pleasantly and positively. Alternatively, a three-speed automatic gearbox is available.

Distinguishing features are sports wheels, four iodine headlamps, wheel-arch embellishers, rear window wiper and washer and a small, inoffensive spoiler above the rear window to reduce drag and improve stability at speed. Sumptuous scats, electric front windows, tinted glass, electro-magnetic door locks and a laminated windscreen are all included in the useful saloon/estate four-door body. A most comfortable, moderately quiet., good handling, probably ideal family car, advantageously priced at £1,894.

Other than the gearbox, the 12 TR’s specification is similar to that of the 12 TS, including the 1289 c.c., 60 b.h.p. engine. If anything this car proved even quieter than the 16 TX at 80 to 85 m.p.h., but most remarkable was the smoothness of the gearbox, making upward changes perceptible only by the change in engine note; credit for this goes to the Renault gearchange design, which includes a mini electronic computer unit which assesses data on road speed and engine loading and selects the gears accordingly. Once again handling, roadholding, ride and comfort were excellent and the TR proved most rewarding and relaxing to drive. It is probably the best fourdoor 1300 automatic saloon on the market, and if it sounds expensive at £1,472, it must be regarded as being superior to many saloons of greater capacity.

Triumph 2500 TC

Triumph have sandwiched a new twincarburetter 2.5-litre model between the 2000 and 2.5 PI. Called logically enough, the 250 TC, it has resulted from the supposed new demand for economy. It is claimed to be considerably less thirsty than the Lucas fuel-injected 2.5 PI and not much more thirsty than the 2000 with twin Stromberg carburetters, both of which models continue in production, changed only in detail to conform with the 2500 TC. All have a new wide bar grille similar to that of the Stag, rubber inserts in the bumpers, seat belt warning lights, door mounted mirror, hazard warning lights, redesigned instruments and so on.

The 2500 TC engine has twin SU HS4 carburetters, produces 99 b.h.p. DIN at 4,700 r.p.m. and 133 lb. ft. (not inches, as the press release says!) torque at 3,000 r.p.m., has a claimed maximum speed of 103 m.p.h. and accelerates from 0-60 m.p.h. in 12 seconds. This compares with 84 b.h.p. at 5,000 r.p.m., 100 lb. ft. at 3,000 r.p.m., 96 m.p.h. maximum and 0-60 m.p.h. in 14.6 sec. for the 2000 and 120 b.h.p. at 5.000 r.p.m., 146 lb. ft. torque at 2,000 r.p.m., 108 m.p.h. maximum and 0-60 m.p.h. in 11 sec. for the 2.5 PI. The 2000 is 6 b.h.p. and PI 12 b.h.p. down on preemission figures. At £2,166 the TC is £116 dearer than the 2000 and £213 cheaper than the PI, though the PI includes overdrive as standard. The estate car sells for £2,506.—C.R.

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