Letters from readers, June 1983

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Bogus Sports-cars, etc. 

Sir,

Surely Mr. Warburton has missed the point of our current unfortunate breed of “bogus sports cars” in his attempts at comparison with the pre-war SS (Vintage Post Bag, Motor Sport, April, 1983). The SS and its ilk were never retrospective as are the Panther and the equally horrific confections which purport to be MGs or Bugattis but are masquerading Triumph Heralds or VWs. Comparisons therefore are impossible. If a comparison with the SS, Wolseley Hornet Special, Standard Avon et al is conceivable, then the Jensen-Healey surely would emerge, being an amalgam of bought-in components clothed in a seductive but up-to-date body. The SS certainly filled this description in the 1930s.

All imitation pre-war sports cars are in bad taste and this, no doubt, is the explanation for their scant coverage in your columns. (Would that your contemporaries thought likewise.) Apart from their spurious retrospection, such reproductions will never convince on account of their proportions: wheels are too small, engines are mounted too far forward, screen/scuttle details never match the pre-war prototypes, and modern lamps, bumpers, instruments and so on will forever remain incongruous. No, any self-respecting reader of Motor Sport would not be seen dead in such devices, although your correspondent, A.R.M., did eulogise over that indescribably vulgar creation, the Panther J72, in your columns back in 1972. 

Your reference to General Montgomery’s Rolls-Royce Phantom III with its distinctive reverse-rake screen is of interest: I dismissed the provenance claimed for this detail in the R-R advertisement to which you refer (Motor Sport, April, 1983) as spurious, for I recalled watching a television interview featuring Montgomery and his P III during the late 1950s. The explanation given by Montgomery at that time for the windscreen design was simply an evocation of the reverse-rake screen of military vehicles for desert use. Such a device removed the possibility of the sun’s reflection and therefore detection by enemy aircraft. The inference given in RR’s Publicity that this P III was used during the war in the desert as a staff car is clearly fatuous. Presumably the chassis was equipped with this coachwork after the war: no doubt the RREC will clarify this.

I avidly read your “Cars in Books” column: architect readers may find the following references of interest. Philip Johnson’s monograph on Mies van der Rohe tells of trips through pre-war Germany in the former’s Cord (I wonder which model), whilst that doyen of architectural journalists, J. M. Richards, mentions in his autobiography, “Memoirs of an Unjust Fellow”, that the avant-garde in pre-war British architectural circles, notably Wells Coates, favoured the Lancia marque. More recently, notable members of the profession have favoured the DS Citroën, and the NSU Ro 80. All these cars, Cord, Aprilia, DS, Ro 80, exhibit a total correspondence between styling and innovative engineering: I wonder what represents their successor?

A. Peter Fawcett 
Sheffield 

* * * 

Type Approval 

Sir, 

A recent issue of The Sunday Times carried an article “How to survive in the fast lane”. The high costs of development work were mentioned, and to quote: “. . . simply gaining type approval from the Ministry of Transport requires more than £100,000.”

Can you please explain this to me. Does it mean that before a new car can be introduced to the market one has to incur some sort of licence?

R. A. MacDonald
Dumfries

[The manufacturer has to put every new model through a rigorous set of tests to obtain Type Approval before the car can be sold on the British market. The tests include crash testing prototypes from the front, side and rear, which accounts for much of the expense. — M.L.C.] 

* * * 

Cut-offs and carbs 

Sir,

Whilst reading your write-up of the Maestro, RS1600i and XR3i, in the March issue, I noticed reference to fuel cut-off devices.

It is obvious to me that this works in a fuel injection engine as the pick-up would be instantaneous as soon as fuel pressure is restored. However I can’t see it working well with carbs., for the following reasons:—

1. The engine will continue to draw fuel from the float chambers, thereby reducing its level. Once this has occurred pick-up would surely be poor, the mixture being much too weak. 

2. The float design of the modern SU is such that it the fuel level falls very low the plastic floats tend to stick down. Many people have experienced this after running the system dry for any reason.

3. If the engine hasn’t reached full operating temperature then surely there would be a tendency for it to stall, if the driver selected neutral whilst changing gear.

I would be glad to have observations from designers and users of the system alike. Further, at present road speeds, the percentage of time one is running on anything approaching a closed throttle must be minute.

Martin Johnson 
Hindhead 

* * * 

RAC Recovery Service? 

Sir,

My daughter was returning to Edinburgh when her Morris 1000 suffered a front tyre blowout which resulted in the car overturning. The car came to rest in the offside lane after travelling 25-30 yards on its roof. My daughter was wearing her seat belt and escaped injury but was badly shaken. The police were called by a passing motorist and arranged for the car to be removed from the carriageway. 

I received a call from the Morpeth police at 9.30 p.m. informing me of my daughter’s accident and did what most parents would do in the circumstances and set out for Morpeth immediately, collected my daughter and returned home, after ascertaining that the car was not driveable. During the retum journey my daughter told me that she was a member of the RAC and had paid for the recovery service. 

The following day she telephoned the RAC in Leeds to request the recovery service, but was advised to contact RAC Newcastle who told her that she would have to accompany the car. This she was unable to do until six days later, being prevented by her nursing duties. 

She arranged to accompany the vehicle but when she contacted the RAC Newcastle again, she was told that the vehicle would not be recovered because “We are not in an ongoing situation”. Apparently recovery must be effected at the time of the incident unless the driver is hospitalised. She was naturally upset by this and telephoned me for advice. 

I telephoned RAC Leeds and received a sympathetic hearing, but was told that I must contact RAC Newcastle. The controller of the Recovery Service was most unhelpful and refused to provide the service referring to the conditions of membership. A telephone call to Customer Service at Croydon proved equally futile. 

I called at the Leeds office today and asked for details and membership application forms. I was given two forms, “Join Us” and “Recovery Service” and “At Home Service”, which refers to a third leaflet for terms and conditions, but this leaflet was not provided and as far as I could ascertain was not available. It appears that one is encouraged to join the RAC first and then to find that having parted with one’s money that Our only concern is not the Motorist. Caveat Emptor.

I am a member of the medical profcssion and request that my name and address should not be published.

(Name and address supplied)

[It is a condition of the RAC Recovery Service that the car shall be accompanied by the driver, though this clearly may not always be possible. — M.L.C.]

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