Letters from Readers, June 1979

N.B. -Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and MOTOR SPORT does not necessarily associate itself with them. -Ed.
Bring Back the E-type


I have enjoyed the outpourings of your diminutive scribe D.S.J. for many years, especially with regard to his driving of Jaguars, which have been my own transport for 23 years. However, his comments in the April issue cannot pass unchallenged as my own experience has been the opposite of his.

The brakes on the V12 E-type were superb as they were on all E-types except the first few (which had poor servo and needed dished floor-wells). The performance of the V12 was hardly any better than the first of the 3.8s and I found the latter’s brakes perfectly satisfactory for racing let alone road use. I could heat up the inboard rear pads until they started to burn and still never got brake fade. The road-holding, even in the wet, with Powr-Lok and the fat tyres of the V12 was far faster and safer round bends than any other sports car within 100% of the price. The steering of the 5.3 was too light because of the PA but is not this more or less exactly the same system that all jags have had for the last five years? Aren’t they all “only just adequate”? What “very old-fashioned in its manner of going” means in English, God knows — for a 12-year-old car with a 25-year-old engine, it leaves all non-exotic cars far behind, in every way.

The last E-type I had was a V12; the only difference I noticed over the 6-cylinder apart from £1,000 extra cost, was 11 m.p.g. Performance, apart from those rare moments at 135 m.p.h.+ , was more or less the same.

After 15 Jaguars, I am pleased to note that the Series III XJ6 promises improved paintwork. It could hardly be any worse as my main beef with Jags is the appalling paint (in those boring colours) and the never-ending battle with rust, bodywork and exhaust-wise.

Far from being obsolete, the E-type would still sell well today, as second-hand prices indicate, although the bigger and steeper windscreen had made the car much uglier. Accepting their 500% inflation over the last 10 years (How I wish my salary kept pace) there is still a market which the funny-looking and over-complicated XJS does not fill (everyone I know who has one, has never-ending troubles. The late Sunday Times Jaguar column was full of people trying to get rid of theirs).

A 4.2 E-type at around £11,500, based on XJ6 Mk.II equivalent, would have no competitor. Obsolete, my foot!!!

Purley D. HOWARD

Putting Things Straight


In your obituary to Whitney Straight you state that he won the 1934 Prix de Berne. This is not so; Dick Seaman being the winner driving Straight’s MG. Straight’s MG victory was in the 1933 Junior Coppa Acerbo.

Your discourse on Ford V8s was interesting but the Model 40 was introduced for 1933 in the USA whilst we here only had the Model 18. We got the Model 40A for 1934. The Ford V8 had character, but its engine, I felt, was always a harsh, rumbly unit, and the car as a whole was far inferior to the Chevrolet in smoothness, ride and braking, and, apart from 1935, the Chevvie always outsold the Ford in the pre-war years. The V8 “22” (or “60” in the USA) was an even rougher (and very under-powered) engine, although very economical and very popular with cab operators.

How nice to read that Briggs Cunningham is having correct connecting-rods made for his racing Peugeot. Perhaps he would make a correct crankshaft for the GP Ballot in this country!


Fancy That


What is a modern Lancia?

‘Tis a Fiat, only Fancia!


Desert War Vehicles


I have just read “The Desert King” by David Howarth, which is a biography of King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, and even in that found several references to cars. There is no mention of the Rolls-Royce armoured cars used by Lawrence during the First World War, as at that time the Red Sea coast was not part of his kingdom, but in late 1924, when the Sherif Hussein was ejected from Mecca by ibn Saud’s forces, “he loaded his family and all the possessions he valued into the half dozen motor cars he had allowed to come into his country” and drove to the port of Jeddah, with his slaves perched on the running boards.

These cars seem to have all been civilian vehicles as a little later when the Saudis were laying siege to Jeddah, some armoured cars were cobbled together from sheets of iron and the chassis of abandoned army trucks. It is believed that only one of these vehicles ever ventured beyond the city walls, and that came back riddled with holes made by rifle bullets. (The rifles would have been a motley collection of 19th century Martini-Henrys and anything else which could have been persuaded to fire.)

In January 1938, the Sheikh of Kuwait revolutionised inter-tribal desert warfare when he heard of a hostile raiding party in his territory. At that time there were about 25 cars in Kuwait, most of which were Model-T Fords. He commandeered all those which were mobile, put as many troops, volunteers and ammunition in them as possible, and charged across the desert in pursuit of the raiders. Ten broke down or got stuck in the sand but the remaining fifteen or so were entirely successful, and drove the raiders out of the sheikhdom.

In late 1929, ibn Saud found himself on the Red Sea coast with a tribal revolt in full swing on the other side of his kingdom (about a thousand miles away with nothing in between but arid mountains rising to 6,000 feet and then desert). He therefore set off in a convoy of all the cars and trucks he could muster, mainly Fords and Chevrolets. The difficulties he encountered can only be guessed at, but eventually some of the cars arrived at their destination, having crossed the country more quickly than anyone had previously, and the rebels were defeated. Even today with a well-surfaced road the whole way, that is not a journey to undertake lightly, and ironic as it now seems, even the petrol and oil had to be carried on the cars. These were almost certainly the first motorised vehicles of any sort to go into the central desert, where there were only camel tracks. A few years later American oil prospectors were travelling all over the Eastern desert, and an era of Saudi Arabian history was rapidly drawing to a close.

By the end of the Second World War, the king’s cavalcade was about 200 vehicles strong on a journey from Riyadh to Jeddah, but we are not told what the cars were.

In 1945, after the conference at Yalta, Churchill promised ibn Saud “the finest car in the World, with every comfort for peace and every security against hostile action”. Apparently a new Rolls-Royce chassis was found at an unnamed firm of coachbuilders and a suitable body built up on it for the king. Eventually the car was delivered to the British Legation in Jeddah, from where it was driven to Riyadh to be presented to ibn Saud. On arrival at the palace, the king was full of admiration for the new car, until he noticed that it was right-hand drive, and then gave it to his brother. He sometimes rode in the front of his car, and he could only do so in the Rolls-Royce if he sat on the left of his driver, which, according to Arabic convention, is very degrading.

Since reading the book I have spoken to one of the Legation officials who went to Riyadh on that trip. Unfortunately he is not able to give me any technical details nor show me any photographs but presumably it was a Rolls-Royce Phantom 3. Amongst other luxuries it had a throne in the rear compartment and silver fittings, including a hand basin. An escort was sent to Jeddah to accompany the car on the trip back, and the party set off in August 1946. Because it was Ramadan (the month when Moslems fast from sunrise to sunset), they drove at night and slept during the day at police forts. The driving was shared between an Indian merchant, who had once been the king’s driver, and one of the Legation staff. After staying in Riyadh for about a week, they flew back to Jeddah in a plane given by President Roosevelt, taking off from the racecourse as there was no airfield.

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia A. J. WOOD

Motorway Overtaking


Clive Richardson’s remarks on motorway overtaking in your March issue and the letter from Mr. T. Tufnell in the April edition on the same subject are long overdue.

It was some years ago that you published a letter from me on the idiotic driving one is constantly made aware of on our would-be fast roads and I had hoped that MOTOR SPORT might give some impetus to a campaign to improve the astonishingly low standards of driving on our motorways.

But whilst drivers will stick to centre and right-hand lanes when not overtaking, then faster drivers will pass them on the near side and who is to blame them? There is seldom ever any need to be on the outside of an empty lane but, as anybody will know, one is always seeing the nearside lane empty for miles while the other two proceed at some leisurely pace, sometimes even having to stop.

Again how often do we see some fool roar past us and then, for no apparent reason, slow down? What is one supposed to do then? Slow down, too? Surely it is common sense to drive on the left in this country and only go into an outer lane to overtake. If somebody passes you on your left. then you are too far over on your right. There should never be room for anybody to pass you on your left. Any other method of motorway driving could automatically limit the speed of all the traffic to that of the slowest vehicle in the outside lanes. It should be an offence to travel in an outer lane except when overtaking.


Good Service


Having last written to MOTOR SPORT in 1971 to complain (about the Reliant Scimitar) it is a pleasure to tell a story of personal service of the highest order, especially in this era of mass production and “couldn’t care less”.

I recently purchased a 3-litre Porsche Turbo, which is quite the most incredible car I have ever owned, from the Hughes Motor Company. On Easter Monday, disaster struck when both near-side P7 Pirellis were holed by an outlying piece of granite (my story is that it jumped out of the kerb!) in a narrow Cornish lane.

After a brief phone call to Hughes, no less than twenty-five minutes later one of their directors — Mr. Geoffrey Thomas — appeared on the scene to supervise the local garaging of my car and he then arranged to take the smitten wheels back personally to the garage, some 150 miles away, so that new tyres could be fitted on the rims and then taken back to Cornwall for fitting on the car and delivery back to me in London.

How about that!

Apart from the fact that I am now considerably poorer, I am full of admiration for Hughes and for Mr. Thomas, who told me that his father George’s cousin was no less than the great Parry Thomas,

The Turbo, by the way, is a superb machine, but can somebody please tell me how to get out of second gear!


Jaguar Castings


We read with interest the Jaguar article on page 469 of your April 1979 edition — in particular the final paragraph — concerning the V12 engine.

You state that the source of aluminium castings are from Birmid. We think you may be interested to know that the very complex casting for the V12 engine is so specialised that it can only be carried out by our company, Copal Foundries Ltd., which is of course, a subsidiary of W. Canning Limited, well known for the supply to the motor industry of high quality plating and polishing plant.

We would like to take this opportunity to say that we find MOTOR SPORT very interesting reading.

West Bromwich N. A. FORD

Copal Foundries Limited

The First Win

Just to put the record straight: the first win in rallying for a turbocharged car was not the feat of Stig Blomquist’s Saab (April issue, page 510), but of Jean-Luc Therier when, in 1972, he won the Criterium des Cévennes on the first outing of his Berlinette Alpine so boosted.

Saint Cloud, France DANIEL NOTTET

strong>Praise for TVR


Having read various letters in MOTOR SPORT recently concerning problems with new vehicles from the British Motor Industry from many of your readers has prompted me to write to you regarding my TVR 3000M which was purchased new in February 1978 and has now completed nearly 14,000 trouble-free miles. The car was ordered from the main “TVR Agents” in the south of England, Messrs “Burlen Services” and was collected personally from the factory by myself being most carefully run in for the first 1,000 miles. As an enthusiastic and very fastidious motorist I naturally maintain all my vehicles personally and I was impressed that at the pre-delivery inspection there were no faults that required rectification, obviously a product of good quality control and pride in workmanship at the factory. On completion of the running-in period the car has always been driven as a sports car is intended, it having a very adequate performance with excellent top gear acceleration and flexibility. Having owned various potent machines such as Sebring Sprite, Cooper ‘S’, Healey 3000, TR6 and a works spec. modified MG-B I feel reasonably well qualified to judge, the two latter vehicles still being in my stable and now beginning to appreciate.

The car came equipped with Pirelli CN36 radials and although road-holding is excellent in the dry the tyres are not at their best in the wet and I believe Goodyears show a considerable improvement. The paint finish on the car is to a very high standard and when washed is still indistinguishable from new and always provokes favourable comment from admirers on its Monza red livery, although the alloy wheels have required rather more than washing to keep them “as new” over the last winter.

The car is very easy to maintain by any competent motor enthusiast and has not needed any replacements to date other than standard service items which are readily available off the shelf locally, while also needing no replenishment of its Duckhams 20/50 between oil changes. The only small problems experienced with the car are that it takes quite a long time to reach working temperature in very cold weather and the interior can get quite warm in high summer making the excellent sunshine roof a necessity rather than an optional extra. Radio reception is good although there is some interference on certain wavelengths, a problem I believe with many fibreglass cars, including Lotus and others.

With its 3-litre engine it never seems to be working hard and with overdrive the gearbox provides a very useful 6-speed box giving a restful cruising speed of around 90 m.p.h. at 3,000 revs in overdrive top gear, while fuel consumption is reasonable at around 21-28 miles/gallon of 4-star, depending on use.

In comparison with the large volume manufacturers TVRs are fairly expensive, but they most certainly offer a quality of finish both inside and out that few rivals can match nor the panache of ownership that goes with a high performance specialist vehicle, which to date has provided a most enjoyable and absolutely trouble-free year’s motoring.

Usual disclaimers.

Christchurch D. ARMFIELD

Watt’s Wrong?


In view of the non-stop excellence of my favourite publication, I must admit that it hurts me to point out two small clangers on page 644 SAE stands for Society of Automotive Engineers, not Standard American Engineering, and a kilowatt is kW, not Kw.

The new-fangled metric system was designed to make things easy, but the units were selected (by a Czech genius named Lode Koblers) to make things difficult again. Consequently you can’t be too careful about how you use big letters and littl’uns. A small k, for example, stands for thousands of anything, while a big K stands for absolute temperature (counted up from absolute zero rather than freezing water). A big M stands for millions of anything, while a small m stands for metres. W is for Watt, a British genius, but as far as I know there isn’t a w.

So although nobody is likely to be confused by Kw, there’s a lot to be said for using big letters and littl’uns in their right places. Perfection, as they say, is a matter of trifles but not in itself a trifle.

Meanwhile don’t let it stop you carrying on the good work.

Billericay T. A. ATKINSON

PS Two other bits of obscurity. Although Watt, Newton, Kelvin and Ampere gave us W, N, K and A, we must write the unabbreviated units as watts, newtons, kelvins, amperes. And there are no plurals in symbols: ten metres is 10 m., and ten kilogrammes is 10 kg.

Buick-engined Racing Cars


May I add some information to that given by Mr. Doug Bell in his letter of January ’79 concerning Buick-engined race cars.

First of all, he perpetrates a common error in stating that Briggs Cunningham’s Bu-Merc consists of a Buick engine in a Mercedes chassis. In actual fact the car is basically a modified Buick Century of approximately 1939 vintage and the only Mercedes component is the V-fronted radiator. I don’t know if the frame was shortened from the original 126-inch wheelbase but the engine was moved back 6½ inches and dropped 2½ inches. In standard form the o.h.v. straight-eight engine of 5,245 c.c. displacement produced 141 h.p. at 3,600 r.p.m. on a compression ratio of 6.35 to 1. Among other changes the Bu-Merc engine had a compression ratio of 9.5 to 1 and probably produced over 200 h.p.

Front suspension was i.f.s. with coil springs (knee action it was then called in the USA). Rear suspension was also coil springs with the axle assembly located by a torque tube around the drive shaft and a Panhard rod. This was the standard Buick arrangement from 1938 on. A light two-seat body, without doors, was installed and the spare wheel is mounted almost horizontally over the rear axle.

The Bu-Merc was first raced in an Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) event in the grounds of the New York World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows, Long Island on October 6th, 1940. The driver was Miles Collier and he was in second place for a while. But, in trying to make up time after a pit stop he went off course and hit a lamp-post. Fortunately Miles was not injured but the car was severely damaged. The winner of the event was Frank Griswold driving a Tipo B monoposto Alfa Romeo. He was also the winner of the first race held at Watkins Glen in 1948 and again in an Alfa but that time an 8C 2900B coupe model. At the Glen he was chased to the finish by Briggs Cunningham in the Bu-Merc who lost by about ten seconds. In 1949 the Bu-Merc was driven at the Glen by George Roberts and finished in third place behind Miles Collier in a Ford-Riley (a Brooklands Riley with a Ford V8 flathead engine) and Briggs Cunningham in a 2-litre Inter Ferrari, the first Ferrari ever imported into the USA.

The Bu-Merc was subsequently retired from racing when Mr. Cunningham started his five-year-long expensive and unsuccessful attempt to win at Le Mans with American drivers in American cars. The Bu-Merc, some of the Le Mans Cunningham cars, a 1927 Grand Prix Delage and other interesting sports and racing cars are now on display at the Briggs Cunningham Automotive Museum, Costa Mesa, California, a few miles south of Los Angeles.

Another Buick-engined car raced at Watkins Glen in 1949. This was Russ Sceli’s Bugaboo. The Bugaboo project started when Sceli acquired a Type 57 Bugatti frame and running gear. The frame was shortened by 16 inches and a Buick engine similar to that in the Bu-Merc installed. A two-seat rounded-tail body was built from scratch and cycle-type fenders (mudguards) fitted. The workmanship was superb. In the race the Bugaboo retired early and I don’t know if it was raced again.

Another Bugatti Buick hybrid was raced at Watkins Glen in 1950. This was a Type 54 Bugatti with a Buick Dynaflow transmission. The car had been purchased in France by Dr. Scher of New York City and was rumoured at that time to have been raced by Count Czaykowski. It did not have the usual Type 54 three-speed gearbox in unit with the rear axle, but, instead, was fitted with a three-speed gearbox behind the engine but separate from it. The casing of this box was a large light alloy casting with extensions to form a chassis cross-member. While being loaded on to a ship at Le Havre the car dropped out of the sling and came down heavily on one of the front wheels but did not seem to suffer any damage of consequence. However, the gearbox casing had been cracked. Unfortunately this was not noticed when the car reached New York, and, when it was taken out for testing by Bill Milliken who was going to race it on behalf of Dr. Scher, all the lubricant leaked out through the cracks and the transmission was irreparably damaged. No replacement transmission could be found in France and Mr. Milliken, then head of the Flight Research Department at Cornel Aeronautical Laboratory (now Calspan Corporation), and his engineers began looking for a suitable American transmission. In those days no US automobile transmission was expected to transmit 300 h.p. and truck transmissions which could handle that output were big and heavy. However, someone suggested that a Buick Dynaflow unit might be usable and Mr. Chayne was approached. Being a Bugatti fan he was very interested and supplied drawings and other engineering information. He also arranged for the supply of a modified bell housing to facilitate the attachment of the Dynaflow unit to the rear of the engine. All other engineering, fabrication and installation work was performed at CAL. To make the car eligible for sports car racing an aircraft-type starter with a geared drive was mounted to the front end of the crankshaft, lights and battery were fitted and a spare wheel mounted horizontally under the tail of the body. Cycle-type fenders had been fitted to the car before it left France.

The maiden race in the USA was the 1950 Watkins Glen Grand Prix with Bill Milliken as driver. Starting in the front row alongside Tommy Cole’s Cadillac-Allard Bill held second place until Cole drove a little too exubetantly and slid off the road. Bill led for only a short distance however because Sam Collier in Briggs Cunningham’s Ferrari Inter was right behind and quickly passed. A short distance further on Sam Collier got into a series of skids on a right-hand bend, left the road and was thrown from the Ferrari as it turned end over end several times. He died shortly after from his injuries. So close was Bill Milliken to the accident that a large rock thrown up by the Ferrari’s wheels finished up in the Bugatti cockpit. Bill was a bit shaken by the experience and was quickly passed by Erwin Goldschmidt and Fred Wacker in Cad-Allards. Then Bill picked up speed again but several laps later overdid it at the same corner where Cole had slid off. The Bugatti finished up in a ditch upside down and caught fire. Luckily Bill was able to undo his safety belt and crawl out from underneath, shaken but uninjured.

Goldschmidt won the event, Briggs Cunningham was second for the third year in a row driving this time a Cadillac-engined Healey Silverstone, and Wacker was third. It should be noted that Wacker’s car had a Cadillac Hydramatic transmission which had been modified. Was this the first time that cars with automatic transmissions ever competed in a race?

The Type 54 Bugatti was later repaired and raced by Bill Milliken with varying results at the Bridgehampton races and the Giant’s Despair hill-climb. Later it was sold by Dr. Scher but is still in the USA.

Mr. Doug Bell also mentions in his letter that the GMC 270 c.c. truck engine was adapted for racing. Jim Fergusson of Toronto, Canada, created a “special” which came to be known as “Mother Goose” by grafting one of these GMC 270 engines into an MG-TD. Earlier, in 1950, Jim had created the F-M (Fergusson-Morris) by fitting a Morris Ten engine of the same basic type as the XPAG MG unit into a Morris Minor. The result was a wolf in sheep’s clothing for highway driving and a good little race car as well. The F-M was raced at Watkins Glen, Edenvale in Ontario and at various hill-climb events. The F-M was also driven to an eleventh overall position in the first race ever run on the Sebring course, the Sam Collier Memorial Six Hour event. Jim sold the F-M when he was able to acquire the damaged MG-TD which was the basis of “Mother Goose”.

The GMC 270 engine in “Mother Goose” was coupled to a Ford three-speed transmission. The rear axle was also Ford with a 3.78 to I ratio, the torque tube shortened to fit the MG and the tread narrowed. The greater length of the GMC engine was accommodated by tucking it into a bulge in the firewall without sacrificing leg room or moving the pedals. Bumpers, the sweeping front fenders, full-width windscreen and other weighty items were removed and replaced by lighter components. The final weight was 2,350 lb. The 4,410 c.c. engine was given an 8.5 to 1 compression ratio, a Spaulding 3/4 race cam, three SU carburetters, lighter valve gear, bigger valves and so on. Power output was probably about 175 h.p. It was at that time the fastest accelerating car in Canada able to cover a standing quarter-mile in 15.78 seconds by actual timing. Alas the brakes were inadequate for the increase performance and after a few road races “Mother Goose” was relegated to hill-climb events. Later the car was sold when Jim became enthusiastic about racing a 100M Austin Healey which had been fitted with a double-overhead camshaft head designed and built by Mr. Harold Hunter of Kitchener, Ontario.

I hope that the above will be of interest to MOTOR SPORT readers.

Williamsville, NY, USA BILL CLOSE

Broken Half Shafts


Having read with interest the letter from Mr. R. C. Rigg, Vintage Postbag April issue, concerning the breakage of both half shafts when driving the remains of the ex-“Goff” Imhof MG BBL 81; I thought I could offer the solution to this remarkable event.

Towards the end of 1938 I bought in Hull one of the three crab-tracked 1½-litre 3-carburetter “works” team Singers driven by Messrs. Langley, Baker and Barnes. This car was registered ADU264 and is depicted in The Autocar dated March 1st 1935 and again in the “Talking of Sports Car” (No. 285) series, The Autocar April 19th 1946. This car had obviously had a hard life but was worth every penny of the £84 10/- I paid for it. I and my brothers enjoyed the driving of this exciting sports car with its heavily oversteering characteristic giving spectacular moments on wet roads in the city on purposely too heavy throttle.

However the Hitler war intervened and the car was laid up. In 1942 I received a letter from “Goff– Imhof who had traced the car to me. He offered me a swap for another 1½-litre Le Mans Singer six-cylinder, one of the 60 or so of these more standard cars offered for sale to the general public. The war prevented the exchange being made by road but the expense of the exchange by rail was eventually borne by Mr. Imhof.

The car I took in exchange was CPD7 and had belonged when new to Mr. A. E. Moss — Stirling’s dad! Mr. Imhof had spent a considerable amount of money on this car and it was very lively, but owing to the absence of petrol had to be stored.

Now to the crystalline half shafts. Obviously with such a car in my possession perforcely stored much attention to tinkering and polishing would be done. Not wishing to cold start the engine one day when needing to move the car over a concrete surface, I found I could roll it forward quite easily but as soon as the steering was locked over I couldn’t move it! No, the brakes were not being gremlin actuated — the differential gearing had been locked up in some way. The drive axle was “solid”. This technical innovation together with track-grip tyres on the rear wheels obviously gave much superior traction in the mud-plugging trials of the nineteen-thirties. Both of these aids were banned later. However I suggest that BBL81, having also been used by “Golf” Imhof, was tightly locked up in the banjo. When one half shaft cried enough the full torque of the engine would immediately be applied to the other with obvious results. With a normal diff. of course one breakage releases all the torque from the remaining shaft. I owned yet another 1½-litre Singer until 1955, BYM745. Since back axles started my letter I will finish by mentioning that I have had a TR2 1954 model with the “Mayflower” back axle since 1956. It has covered some 170,000 miles now and has only had wheel bearings renewed. Although still performing normally it proclaims its great age by murmuring merrily away on “drive”.

Spares and much sound advice are available for my old TR2 from the young men of the “TR Register”, which admirable organisation was initiated originally through the advertisements section of your excellent magazine.

Stanraer S. P. BATTE