Matters of moment, June 1978

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More motoring legislation

It is indisputable that the motor car and those who use it are more hemmed about by bureaucratic legislation than any other section of the community. It Might be said that as soon as you get into a motor vehicle and drive it onto public roads you are almost certain to become a law-breaker but not a criminal under one or other of the myriads of regulations, laws and by-laws that govern this otherwise pleasant form of transport. It has always been so, trum the first feeble chutlings of hot-tube-ignited, automatic-inlet-valved petroleum motors in wheeled chassis.

When William Plowden decided to write his book about how politics have affected all motor-vehicle drivers down the years (“The Motor Car and Politics – 1896 – 1970”, the Bodley Head, reviewed in Motor Sport at the time of publication) he needed 457 pages, excluding the index, to get it all down… Most of this legislation is disguised as essential for motorists to tolerate in the interests of greater safety for themselves and those whom their vehicles might endanger. Some of this is true. A lot of it is nonsense. As looked at, for instance, from the viewpoint of speed-limits spasmodically checked on deserted straight roads and wide Motorways, and the insistence on newer cars being equipped with front-seat safety belts when, so great has been the opposition to their compulsory usage, that although we are legally obliged to buy these things (how much has the Government taken in the Value Added Tax on them?) and maintain them in good order, we don’t have to put them around our persons. Those are only two of the “nonsense” restrictions which would seem to have a strong political bias.

Motoring legislation is ever increasing and now we have these Ministry of Energy fuel-consumption figures that have to be quoted in car-manufacturers’ catalogues, and advertising matter. We do not propose to bore you with the details of how such m.p.g. findings are calculated rthese appear in those advertisements by the D of E for which we pay in taxation). While we can see that they form an extension of the frades Description Act’s safeguard of dishonest advertising, we think they will cause endless confusion and much waste of time to motor-car salesmen in particular down to the over-burdened Motor Industry in general. We note that Autocar is of this opinion, for they remark “We hope that the Department of Energy have the time and the infermed stall to deal with the queries of aggrieved and confused motorists Who find their tar’s fuel consumption is quite different from the quoted figure”. Any experienced motor-vehicle user knows how fuel-thirst varies with driving methods, the weather, engine-tune, traffic, road conditions, average-speed, and so on. Obviously the M of E has tried to take account of this. Has it succeeded? This is very much open to doubt and must Sorely (rouble a vital Industry whose object should be increased productivity how often we hear this expression mouthed by politicians rather than wasting energy explaining to puzzled customers why the vehicles the have purchased do not give quite the fuel economy that official Government computations, which will be widely displayed because the Law so demands, tell them they should. We are reminded of the time, many years ago, when a certain Mayfair motor dealer advertised reconditioned Fiat 500’s or Topolinos, “guaranteed to do at least 5o m.p.g.” we took one out for road-test and it did 48 m.p.g. The dealer involved insisted we did another check, when he was present. We did. The figure was then 5p m.p.g., until we then reminded the gentleman that he had not allowed for milometer optimism, which cracked the proper figure back to our 48 m.p.g. Thus it is, with all m.p.g. readings, not many drivers know how to check them correctly or have the apparatus or the inclination so to do. We continue to quote such figures in MOTOR SPORT road-test reports, but only as a general guide.

So we are sorry that the troubled Motor Industry has now to contend with yet another burden, Which must in the long run waste its time in its task of selling motor cars. l’he ‘I’rades’ Description Act, properly applied, would surely have been an adequate watchdog? Meanwhile, Renault can bask happily in the 57.7-m.p.g. M of E figure for their 5GTL at 56 m.p.h., even if the D of E does say it gives only 34 1/2 m.p.g. on the Urban cycle, compared to 50.4 m.p.g. and 35.8 m.p.g. respectively tor a Ford Fiesta. How all these civil servants have all this tune to test all the cars is another troublesome thought. But here we are, landed with it, to add some more expensive legislation to these crash-tests which write-off Boxers and Carmargues and what not, in the interests of so-called occupants’ safety in a shunt.

Meanwhile, Fiat are permitted to display large posters “knocking” the engines in certain British Leyland cars, although if Leyland Cars were to do something to counter this, on posters, throughout Italy, we can imagine the outcry. Isn’t it a beautiful motoring world…?

Motor-racing on TV

Once again ITV knocked the BBC flat, with their live-coverage of the Monaco Grand Prix. But this time the televised race was interrupted not only by the advertisements that make such viewing viable, but by endless football items. Was this necessary? Kick-ball may be the sport which the masses follow. But they get full coverage of the big matches on Saturday nights in fact. The items that interrupted the Monaco GP report were replays of old matches and interviews with players about future games. Surely this need not have interfered with the enjoyment of the very big and highly-enthusiastic band of motor-racing followers, especially when it is remembered that the aforesaid advertising, of Fiat, Ford, Goodyear, etc., is surely more closely geared to motor-racing than general advertising is to the other noble sport?

If Britain is not to be classed as a decadent Nation more taken up with ball games than with mechanical sports, we must have full-length motor races shown on TV. That apart, full marks to ITV for letting those at home get a very adequate idea of what was happening in far-away Monte Carlo, with another non-hysterical, welldelivered commentary and good pictures. So far as the BBC was concerned, its promised survey of Monaco came on too late to be of much interest to those who saw the ITV coverage. Some aspects of TV race-viewing may be misleading, or so the Continental Correspondent tells us; but it is far better than not seeing anything of the major motor races at all.

Should you ask what the Editor of Motor Sport was doing watching from an arm-chair instead of from the Monaco Press Box, he would remark that S. C. H. Davies set a precedent all those years ago, when he was Sports Editor of The Autocar, by listening-in to the 1924 Italian Grand Prix on the radio “That Sunday I was at home getting more and more nervous as the day wore on, picturing the cars far away in Italy, and gradually becoming apprehensive, a state of mind not unusual when a friend is driving. In the evening the loud-speaker of my set (some set in 1924 Ed.) was switched on, and the first thing it said confirmed my worst fears …” the announcement was of the fatal accident to Count Lou Zborowski in a Mercedes, see page 77 of Sammy Davis’ book “Motor Racing”. Then there was C. G. Grey, Editor pre-war of The Aeroplane, who used to go up once a year so that, as he put it, he could devote the other 364 days writing about how dangerous flying was! The truth is that modern Formula One racing is highly specialised and Motor Sport is fortunate in being able to send experts like D.S.J. and A.H. out to these races, while W.B. concentrates on other things. Which is why we hope for full-length motor races on TV in the near future.

Ballot Postscript

Due to working to the time schedule and space requirements for the colour-section of this issue of Motor Sport, so tar as my article on the 1920 Indianapolis Ballot was concerned, I find that I have done Miss Joan Richmond an injustice, when describing her racing with this historic car.

Further research reveals that, although she non-started in the four Brooklands races she entered with this Ballot in 1933, in 1934 the old car was again running there, now with more success, in the hands of its new owner. Indeed, Joan Richmond finished third in a half-mile sprint race at Easter, although the car was illsuited to such a race, even the experienced Jack Duntee having been reported as losing a race because of a poor start. Admittedly there were only four runners; Joan did the s.s. 1/2-mile at 50.81 m.p.h. She also ran the Ballot in three outer-circuit handicaps during 1934, finishing in two of them, although unplaced, but retiring in the last one, presumably when that con.-rod came out. Her fastest standing-start lap in these races was 87.38 m.p.h. her best flying lap at 108.51 m.p.h., which you may care to compare with the speeds set up by Jack Dunfee, given in the table on page 816. In one of her races Joan was even put on the scratch mark. By August the car’s colour was blue and silver, with silver wheels. A long-lived racing car, this straighteight Ballot! Its full story today appears in the article referred to. W.B

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