In general, the outlook for the British motor industry and its specialised component parts is set fair for a prosperous future.
We reported last month on the party at which the government displayed its appreciation of the importance and growth of the industries directly associated with motor racing. This was extremely satisfactory, especially as the efficiency of today’s ordinary cars is closely coupled to technical lessons learned from racing and rallying.
It is remarkable how technologically-advanced most production cars are. So many now have sophisticated, fuel-thrifty engines, four-wheel drive as pioneered in practical terms by Audi and so effectively developed for less expensive cars, and anti-lock braking, another important safety-factor.
Ford continues to lead the sales-race in spite of its recent strike. If most cars using our speed-restricted roads look alike these days – so much so that an aged 1.3 Cortina and a Morris Ital (both going well) attracted our attention, when we encountered them recently – the specifications of the better 1988 cars add up to excellent performance for a given engine-size, and notable inbuilt safety.
It is mostly only the super-fast cars which continue to break the monotony of the road-cavalcade. Ferrari is still perhaps the most magical name but the quality Porsche, individual TVR, less-costly Jaguar XJ-S, new Lotus esprit Turbo, Lamborghini Jalpa and forthcoming Audi V8 quattro and BMW 8 series V12 all run it close.
These cars are all able to exceed 140 mph, with the Ferrari 328GTB and the Porsche 944 Turbo comfortably topping 150 mph (BMW speaks of 180 mph!). That you can buy them for about the equivalent of a mediocre town-flat is reassuring, that their maximum speeds are more than twice the British motorway speed-limit is less so.
What has still to be realised is that speed in itself is not a killer. It is possible to drive criminally recklessly at under 70mph, particularly if under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The police are being re-equipped with elaborate computer apparatus for detecting speed, when it might be more profitable to have them seek out incompetent drivers, at whatever pace they travel.
Indeed, we wonder whether accidents would decrease if speed-limits on motorways (except in bad weather) were abolished and stiff penalties introduced for sheer bad driving – although the difficulty of defending skilled car-handling before the biased or inexperienced would pose problems and fill lawyers’ pockets . . . if, however, scientifically checked speed restrictions kill sales of the higher-priced performance cars, and if the increased taxation on company cars has the same effect, the motor industry will start to lose on the kind of product on which maximum profits are currently to be made.
With the world’s leading high-output manufacturers heading for increased 1988-89 production levels and such optimism reflected in the successes of auctions classic car shows, the number of motoring books rolling from the presses, attendances and entry-lists at VSCC meetings, the flourishing state of the many one-make clubs and so on, the world of motoring and motoring competition is, it seems, set fair for a long way into the future.
Ragged edges? Well, following a rapid old Rover 100 towards Oxford the other evening, we reflected on how this prominent British make declined to the point where Japanese technology (if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em!) was called in to make it viable again; and how the famous name has been sold to British Aerospace without Honda being consulted – an odd outcome, surely, for the Rovonda tie-up!
Then there is the Nissan empire now firmly being established here to add competition for British car producers, and the ever-present philosophy here that cars are to be clamped and speed-restricted rather than encouraged.
But to end on a cheerful note, we can rejoice that British engineering, especially in the shape of McLaren International, exhibits such supremacy in the exacting field of Grand Prix racing.
*Contingents from Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Sweden will be making their way to Le Mans for an International De Tomaso Festival from June 18-21 culminating in a test-day on the Bugattti circuit. De Tomaso Drivers Club events secretary is Rod Hunter, 7 The Dell, Upper Norwood, London SE19 2QA.
*From a number of official starting points, pre-1956 MGs from all over the country will be converging on Abingdon in the “Wings Run” on Sunday June 12. Entries are limited, and details are available from Harry Crutchley of the MG Octagon Car Club at 36 Queensville Avenue, Stafford ST17 4LS
*All Rovers, Land Rovers and Range Rovers are invited to attend the sixth South East Rally at the Bentley Wildfowl and Motor Museum near Lewes on Sunday June 18, with pre-1950 vehicles especially welcome. Contact Richard Bryant at Flat 8, 102 Filsham Road, St Leonard-on-Sea, East Sussex TN38 0PG for details.
*Yorkshire Historic Car Club will be celebrating its 21st birthday at this year’s Pennine Rally for pre-1955 vehicles on august 6-7, which culminates at Calder Homes Park Pennine Centre on the Sunday. Entry forms can be obtained from B Collings, Automobilia, Billy Lane, Old Town, Habden Bridge, West Yorkshire.
*Lea-Francis Owners Club holds its annual rally at Stanford Hall this year, on June 5, and should attract bicycles, motor-cycles, cars, vans, estates and tractors to its concours d’ elegance and driving tests. Tom Delaney’s No 3 Hyper leaf is expected to attend (after re-importation from an Australian family which bought it after seeing Kaye Don’s victory in the 1928 TT), as are other TT Hypers and a surviving Lynx. Contact Robin Sawers, Woodbine Cottage, Blackthorn, Bicester, Oxfordshire for details.
*All owners and enthusiasts are invited to attend the informal Turner sports Car Rally on Sunday July 3 at the Gwernvale Manor Hotel at Crickhowell in Powys. Turner Registrar Dave Scott (21 Ellsworth Road, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire HP11 2TU) would be pleased to hear from anyone who is interested, and the creator of the marquee Jack Turner will be attending the event.
*Free camping, a free party, a giant autojumble, driving tests, a full race meeting and a lighthearted “alternative concours” for cars in less than perfect condition are among the attractions planned for the MG Owners Club National Event at Donington on June 4-5. Some 5000 MGs are expected to show up. Ring 0954-31125 for further information.