Letters from Readers, March 1953

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N.B.  Opinions expressed are those of our correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associare itself with them.  — Ed.

 

British cars on the mat

Sir,

I feel I must agree with Mr. Poske’s remarks about British cars in Peru when they are concerned with electrical components. These always seem to be a continuous source of trouble even in this country.

I have been reduced to spending many hours fabricating a replacement for the horrid zinc-alloy pivot of a broken trafficator arm, because replacement arms are not now available, but only complete units at about three times the cost. Other jobs of a similar type I have had to do are the rebushing of windscreen wiper and starter motor bearings.

It is also significant to notice the items that have given Dr. Scott trouble on his Sunbeam-Talbot.

We are always informed what manufacturer has supplied the electrical equipment for a winning or record-breaking car. But surely these are some of the few items that are not severely tested on these occasions as the temperature and humidity variations are not as large as may be experienced in normal use.

Also, as a correspondent in the Autocar  pointed out, these same manufacturers are quick to increase the price of their products with increased price of raw materials, but somehow forget to lower them when there is a considerable fall in raw material costs.

I am, Yours, etc.,

J.P. Birchenough

New Barnet.

***

Sir,

Whether you like it or not, there is an awful lot of truth and good sense in George H. Poske’s letter to you from Peru.

I have recently returned from that country after a stay of over two years and believe me  los autos ingleses  do not enjoy the high esteem that no doubt many of our exporters would desire for them.

Poske’s remarks about lack of spares and lack of service are singularly pertinent.

Incidentally, what on earth have the Le Mans and Monte Carlo cars got to do with the ordinary production jobs that find themselves shipped to Peru?  And who won at Le Mans last year anyway?

As a Britisher, and proud of it, may I say thank you to George H. Poske ?

I am, Yours, etc.,

Derek C. Hudson

Bletchley.

***

Sir,

As an exile from Warwickshire for five years, I am an ardent reader of your paper. Perhaps you would care to publish my experiences of two well-known British cars which were run only on tarred roads here.

1950 new Lanchester Ten supplied by Currie Motors, Jo’burg,  mileage when sold 5,200, cost £624.  Faults: half the tools supplied with the car did not fit (wheel-brace, spanners. etc.). Electrical components: every one of these, bar the battery, had to be replaced due to faults. Radiator: blew up, due to rust and a faulty ball valve. Shock absorbers: two sets faulty. Back springs: weak, had to be re-tempered and set.

1951 TD M.G. supplied by Connock’s Motors Jo’burg, cost £561, run on tarred roads only, mileage 6,600, and still in my possession. Faults: wheels out of alignment, and had to be balanced. Piston rings collapsed at 800 miles and had to be renewed (cost to me £17). Hood did not fit. Water pump renewed at 3,500 miles: faulty.

The car as a whole has been nursed carefully, it was given to me when new in a very de-tuned state, (i.e, carburation and ignition miles out).

The agents here are the most unreliable lot I’ve ever dealt with, their charges are colossal and their work not on a par with a senior engineer apprentice at home. I would add that in lots of cases I told my troubles to the makers and they did nothing to help, except write letters to me and their agents, which the latter promptly ignored. I consider the above-mentioned cases a disgrace to the firms concerned, and why do not British firms appoint decent agents who will look after their customers and give them a square deal? And who are the gentlemen who come from England to appoint these people, and why are they not made to face up to their responsibilities, instead of having a good time here, leaving their customers to “nurse the baby”?

The Americans have the market here, and they deserve it because their organisations give a far and away better service than do the British.

I  am, Yours, etc.,

Denis J.S. Fletcher

Johannesburg.

***

Sir,

I should like to express my complete agreement with Mr. Arnall’s letter in your February issue. I have lived on the Continent for many years, and have had the opportunity of studying the performance of all makes of car sold in Belgium, where a buyers’ market has existed for several years. Only now, in face of powerful German competition, are British manufacturers waking up to what is required by hard-driving Continental motorists. Unbelieveable damage was done in the immediate post-war years when old designs were unloaded onto the sellers’ market, and people bought simply because they had no choice but to take what they were offered. These 1939 models wrecked the reputation of certain British cars, and it would have been much wiser to have waited until a model designed for export had been produced. Then perhaps there would not have been so many complaints about feeble suspensions, bad roadholding, etc., which I constantly heard in the 1946-50 period. French cars were also old models, but they were also satisfactory, because  their makers knew what was basically required of a Continental car. Germany has entered the field comparatively recently after careful planning and much research. Already their products are giving ours the runround in practically every class. Volkswagen have snatched the lion’s share of the small-car market from under our noses, viz.  their sales in Switzerland and Belgium, Opel are a serious menace in the medium-priced field, and Mercedes are offering superlative value in the expensive category. Both Mercedes and Borgward offer small diesels, greatly appreciated in the colonies, a point which British manufacturers have failed to realise. I know that German industry is not faced with re-armament and crippling taxation, but neither of these factors has any bearing on the actual design and “selling points” of a car. You can’t blame taxation for spongy brakes!

Personally I hold to the view that it is better to sit on a piece of  “army blanket ” and have good performance and excellent suspension, rather than place my nether regions on cow-hide and put up with steering which gives me a heart attack on every corner. In other words, spend money on the car and not on the trappings. Manufacturers must keep in mind that a family saloon capable of taking Mr. Snooks and his family to Margate and back at an average of 25 m.p.h., is NOT suitable for his French, Belgian or Swiss counterpart who wish to do three times the mileage at twice the speed. This applies equally to the dominions and colonies.

I am, Yours. etc..

I. A. S. Clarence

London, S.W.13.

***

Sir,

I have today discovered why it is that the gentlemen who deliver modern cars from factory to agent so often exceed 30 m.p.h.

They have to hurry to hand them over before all the chrome peels off the bumpers and radiator.

I am, Yours, etc.,

R.A.B Cook

Banff

***

Any Isottas?

Sir,

Is there, by any chance, in England a club or register devoted to the cult of the Isotta Fraschini?

For the past year I have been the proud proprietor of one of these glorious old beasts, and during this time I have neither heard of nor seen any other representative of this illustrious breed other than the one which now resides in the parental garage, together with the family chariot—a 7/45 series Packard seven-seater limousine. We also own a Vanguard (1949) but prefer not to speak of it.

However, to hark back to the Isotta. It is a Tipo 8, with the 7.3-litre o.h.v. straight-eight Tipo 8A motor. It is rated at 45 h.p. and can churn out some 140 h.p. at about 3,200 r.p.m. You probably know the details.

The maximum speed I have attained will not be mentioned because firstly you may not believe me and secondly my parent might see this. He disapproves.

Mechanically, the car is utterly perfect and has knocked up a scant 35,000 miles since 1920.

So far I have not had a single breakdown or refusal to start first pop. Thus I have not so far dismantled her. Pity!

Incidentally, should anyone be interested in the breed or own one or something l should be only too glad to hear from them. There is little pleasure in being enthusiastic about a car when one has no one to enthuse to. Very few people in this country have ever heard the name Isotta. This is, believe me, most disheartening.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Geoffrey Davis

Strathfield,  N.S.W.

***

The R-R Controversy

Sir,

I am greatly interested in your controversy Rolls-Royce v. Cadillac. In the first place I should state that in the past 40 years I have owned every R-R model since the 1909 overdrive Ghost, to the latest model Silver Wraith with ordinary gearbox; this car is the most overrated motor car on four wheels today; the old Rolls-Royce car and service as built up by the Hon. C. S. Rolls, Sir Henry Royce and the late Mr. John de Looge, is completely gone, as my experiences will show. In the first place the car was ordered, and delivery promised, for a trip to America in 1947: delivery was in July, 1948. Twenty minutes after taking delivery the clock stopped, later the speedo. failed; upon complaint to Messrs. Rolls-Royce I was informed that components not manufactured by them were not guaranteed by them, but they would do what they could. This cuts out at least half of the car! After 2,000 miles, I found the front suspension was completely out of true and had worn the tyre treads away; all I had to do was to return the car 300 miles for attention and collect the car later, another 300 miles: As petrol was rationed the first six months’ ration was used up. No allowance for the tyres was made. The next trouble was that the whole of the rear roof cloth blew down the first time the sunshine roof was opened. This was repaired free by the coachbuilders. Another 500 miles and, as the roof cloth had been tacked back with the tack heads showing, the sunshine roof was by now leaking badly, and one of the rear door handles had fallen off due to bad workmanship. Also, the cylinder block core plugs were defective: taking the car back for the third time two tyres burst — maker’s pressure 24 lb. but tyre manufacturers refused replacement owing to under-inflation.

By this time I was turning a little nasty and explained that I was going abroad with the car, and insisted on it being put right. I went abroad and had a full load for the first time. The rear seat went right through on to the rear axle, the front seat went completely through and smashed the air conditioner, the leather backs of the front seats melted in the sun in Italy and came off, as did the plating on the window frames. The rear ash-trays had to be blocked up owing to the fact that the ash went down the driver’s neck when the windows were down and to crown all, after 28,000 miles only, despite draining every 1,000 miles, the car started to use one gallon of oil every 800 miles. Utterly disgusted I sold the car, with all faults and failings, to the trade as it stood. The paint was peeled and cracked and it cost £350 to recondition the car. It originally cost £6,000. This makes motoring just a little expensive! I have only owned one Cadillac, a 16-cylinder job which was quite as good as any Rolls I have ever owned, and I wish I had another.

I would be greatly obliged if you can publish this letter and will prove and substantiate any part of it.

I am, Yours, etc.,

W.M. Meredith

West Hartlepool

***

Sir,

I have read with great interest Mr. Hendry’s letter on some of our finest (?) cars.

I do not wish to enter into lengthy correspondence, but I must emphatically point out that it is a poor reflection in British superior (?) automobile design that two British cars costing basically in excess of £4,000 should employ a back-axle layout and drive comparable with the. humblest Ford or Morris Minor!

No, Sir, with the exception of the Lagondo chassis (an essay in engineering) we simply are trading on names made in other generations and this will surely be reflected in the near future by a drop in sales in the export market as foreign competition is employing designs meeting today’s  needs.

Our inability to produce a racing engine that will give within 40 h.p. of a similar Italian counterpart also does not exactly help our export publicity.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Ronald H. Hallam

Lincoln

***

British versus American cars

Sir,

There has been a considerable amount of correspondence in Motor Sport  recently about the superiority in quality of American cars, as compared with British makes.

Here are some first-hand experiences with one of America’s highest priced cars (the biggest model of one of the Big Three of Detroit). Some time ago the management of the firm I work for was persuaded into purchasing this tin-monster-on-wheels.

At the present moment it has done about 28,000 miles and, believe me, it is just incidental that some of us are still here. The engine of this “power-packed” death-trap will, according to the handbook anyway, deliver some 150 odd h.p., but the man to drive this contraption at over 75 m.p.h. would need to be brave, very brave (even on the car’s third set of shock-absorbers), indeed he would possibly be dead and buried long ago. He might have survived a failing automatic bonnet (sorry, I meant hood) lifter and getting a couple of square yards of tin into his face at 50 m.p.h. His passenger miraculously also survived an automatic door opener doing its job while the car was accelerating out of the first hair-pin on the Julier.  The second time is was one of the back doors, opening backwards, with the obvious result. Compared to this that 60 miles ran last December after midnight when the automatic window winder broke down and shorted the battery after some time, when any of the windows refused to go up again, is just kid stuff. Manual winders are old-fashioned anyway. This lovely window-opening gadget failed five times in two years, and cost £25 every time to mend. And now the agents have contacted us to offer exchange against the latest model, complete with fake wire wheels and air intakes…

Only one more thing, I’d be delighted to meet Mr. Hendry of Christchurch, N.Z., some fine Sunday at the bottom end of the Stelvio, although my own small British car will deliver only a quarter of the power Mr. Hendry’s 5-1/2-litre Cadillac is pushing out according to G.M.’s advertisement boys. But I do hope that he does not forget to bring plenty of cool, clear water, the more the -better— he and his 190 b.h.p. will need it.

And now, if you will excuse me, there is a humpback bridge two miles ahead, and I want to prepare the paper-bags for the passengers of our Special Super Custom de Luxe.

I am, Yours, etc.,

K.F. Steinmann

Fahrwangen

***

Lemon’s Lagonda 

Sir,

I was most interested to read Ivan Carr’s motoring experience, for it dealt with two cars with which I was connected in the past.

The 3.8 Bugatti was the senior member of my five-string stud. Little did I know when racing it that one day it would be a road machine!

Regarding the 4-1/2-litre Lagonda, I remember watching the car being built.  I acted as interpreter for my good friend Genero Leoz and had to placate him when he urged the builders and at the same time keep on good terms with Major Watney of Lagondas. I am fairly certain Fox and Nicholl had nothing to do with this car. However, Leoz managed to win the 4-1/2-litre class, but was not satisfied with the car. He found that 112 m.p.h. was maximum, whereas he expected 118 m.p.h. Result was he returned the car to me with 1,100 miles on the speedometer and the car was offered for sale. Such was the market in 1936 that it only realised some £300!

I am, Yours; etc.,

J. Lemon Burton

London, N.W.6. 

***

More praise for the Fiat 1100

Sir,

As a hardened Fiat enthusiast, may I endorse Mr. Arnell’s comments on the 1100 saloon?

My own car is a similar 1938 model, and a sheer delight to drive, being absolutely rock-steady up to the maximum speed, which I should put as fractionally below 80 m.p.h. My car cruises up to 65 m.p.h. without any fuss, and averages slightly over 30 m.p.g. —  the low figure being due to a high percentage of town motoring. On longish, fast runs I get 36 to the gallon.

English cars just don’t measure up to this, and I can only think of one family saloon of up to I,500 c.c. now on the market which could take on the  Fiat over winding main roads and stand a chance against it. 

And what about the British baby cars we have been waiting for?  The old s.v. Topolino of 1937 disposed of a mere 13 b.h.p., and in normal trim was working very hard indeed at 40-45 m.p.h., but it could be cruised all day at 10-15 without indulging in vicious tail-wag. The quality of the Fiat front suspension is surely endorsed by the frequency of its use on Formula lll racing cars, and I cannot think of any other small car (with the possible exception of another Continental, the 750 Renault), which will average 50 m.p.g. in normal tune.

Another Continental for me, next time, too.

I am, Yours etc.,

M. C. Sedgewick

London W8

***

Request

I am anxious to make out a list of driving tests which have been used for organising clubs in their rallies during 1952 and I would be grateful if through these columns you would permit me to ask club secretaries if they would send me such lists.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Paul Noble

Forest View, Hurst Green, Oxted, Surrey.

***

U.S.A. first? 

Sir,

In the article “The Trend of Racing Car Design ” you mention that Ferrari have experimented with hub caps with three ears against the normal two. Whilst I agree that this is something new in Europe I have a strong feeling that in America hub caps of’ this type have been in use for some time, and that whilst it is a venure for Ferrari having three ears to clout during pit stops, the Americans have used them for some time.

Although I frequently see copies of Motor Trend  and  Hot Rod,  these belong to the collection of a friend in the U.S.A.A.F. who does not wish them mutilated. The only support I can offer for my contention is the enclosed advertisement taken from the American magazine Life  dated June 1952 (American edition).

I am, Yours. etc.,

Collin Bennett

Northwood.

(The Champion advertisement referred to shows the Agajanian Special with which Troy Ruttman won the last Indianapolis 500 Mile Race at 128.9 m.p.h. The hub caps clearly have triple ears. — Ed.)

***

Dream Car

Sir,

It would he most interesting to have a cross-section of the opinion of various readers as to what constitutes the ideal “dream” sports car. You could offer a small prize for the best — say a new Frazer Nash or a spark plug, depending on how your bank manager views the business.  Readers like (Shame on you, New Zealand!) Mr. D. Hendry, need not enter.

Seriously, though, what is the general opinion today? Are there many like use who would prefer a McKenzie rebuilt Bentley (money no object of course) with a Lancia front end and disc brakes, to, say, a Jaguar 120C fitted with a Jaguar coupé body and a smaller petrol tank ? Would Ivan Carr’s 3.8 Bug. be preferred to a new 300L Merc., or would the majority of your readers drop a note and £8,000 to Spain and drive round in a Pegaso ?

As a matter of interest, has an XK120 engine ever been blown ? Have Allard ever fitted one into a JX chassis?  Wouldn’t this make rather a potent Le Mans job ? Is there any technical reason why Mr. Briggs Cunningham couldn’t cut a couple of feet off the wheelbase of his lovely motor cars ? That cockpit does look so frightfully roomy. Could some form of universal joint be fitted to the tops of steering columns so that types like myself could, if we felt so inclined, have the wheel even past the vertical?  It would be darned comfortable you know.

I am, Yours, etc.,

John Wolstenholme

E. Transvaal.

***

That “Royale”

Sir,

In an interview on the “American Forces Network” last Thursday evening, an American Army officer, a Lt. Montgomery, was asked about his unusual car.

This turned out to be none other than our old friend the ex-King Carol  Bugatti “Royale” limousine which the officer had recently bought.

During the interview Lt. Montgomery mentioned that he had never “had her all out in top” but had done 75 m.p.h. in second. Fuel consumption was about 8 m.p.g.. Main snag with the vehicle was that the driver was unable to keep warm and dry with this particular type of body. Also the cross-Channel ferry charge was the same as that for a motor coach. About the car’s future Lt. Montgomery would like to exchange it for a smaller sports car, he mentioned the Bugatti Type-51, on the other hand he might take it back to America and present it to a museum!

We may yet see the “Golden Bug” at our local “Odeon.”

I am, Yours, etc.

J.S. Whittle

London, N.2.

***

Black X

Sir,

Your report on Redex in the current issue of Motor Sport  intrigued me as last summer I had a most alarming experience when using it. Maybe you will be interested to hear the case.

My Sunbeam-Talbot Ten had been fitted with a new engine direct from the factory and after careful running-in for some 1,500 miles I treated the oil strictly in accordance with Redlex instructions. I then found that if the car was driven hard for some twenty minutes all oil pressure disappeared. On the other hand, if 45 m.p.h.was not exceeded everything remained normal.

Sunbeam-Talbot advised me to renew the oil and omit the Redex;  this was done and the oil-pressure remained normal after sustained fast driving. Next, I contacted the manufacturers of Redex, albeit without stating that the engine was new. The somewhat startling reply was that the engine must be an old worn-out unit and Redex could not possibly cause the trouble.

Perhaps it is not necessary to add I have not used Redex since and have not suffered any more alarming disappearances of oil pressure.

I trust you may find the above of some interest.

I am, Yours, etc..

H.B. Davies

Wrexham.

***

Dreary age

Sir,

Every time I peruse the correspondence columns of your paper, I cannot help but wonder at the lack of vision shown by some of your readers. This month again, there were the usual crop of folks bewailing the shoddy finishes and poor workmanship of modern cars. Surely they realise that, in this age of conveyor belt assembly, craftsmanship is as dead as the dodo! 

When we in England began to follow in Henry Ford’s footsteps we said goodbye to cars that were “made.” It is just a simple fact but oh! so many of your readers have trouble in understanding it. In one of your American contemporaries Speed Age, there are some excellent articles by Roger Huntingdon where the realistic approach is taken. Under the heading “Detroit Corner,” Mr. Huntingdon writes on the varied aspects of Car Manufacture and discusses, from the production point of view, why some of the long-desired features are not incorporated in current designs. These arguments hold equally as good in this country as they do in the States. Pennies have to be counted by the costing department, and what may seem to be a minor modification may cost quite a considerable amount in retooling back at the factory. If your readers do really want a well made car, they can be bought —  but I very much doubt if they would be prepared to pay the price. People are funny like that, offer them what they clamour for, then see them settle for the car with the shoddy finish because it’s cheaper.

I once had the chance to pin down an executive of one of our well-known motor-cycle manufacturers, and rode my favourite hobby horse re poor lighting equipment. His very pithy reply was, when anybody could turn out lighting equipment as cheaply as —–,  then he would fit it. When I commented that some of his customers might be interested in quality, I was told that an additional £5 onto the price of his products would quite considerably affect his sales. If this be true, then I see no silver lining in our clouds of shoddy cars.

I am, Yours., etc.,

T.K. Manicom

London. E.11

***

And now, report from Portugal!

Sir,

I have read with very much interest Mr. G.H. Poske’s letter and subsequent correspondence in your magazine.  I am a lazy letter writer and a bad one, my English being just school-English, but I would like to send you a few lines on this matter as, it seems to me that it has been rather misunderstood.

You seem not to agree with Mr. Poske to judge from your footnote; I should like you to believe that Mr. Poske’s opinion of British cars of to-day is so good-willing and even optimistic that I think he hardly has had any reasons to complain, compared with what has happened to me and people over here I know well.

It further seems from your footnote that you missed the point in Mr. Poske’s letter; everybody knows that you can make cars, especially sports-cars, as good as those of any other country, but what the British industry seems unable to make is a reliable, well-finished car, a car that does not break down every other day, a car that is not full of small irritating faults. 

Then you should know better than I do, that winning Le Mans in a Jaguar XK 120C (I should like to stress the “C”) , or winning the Monte Carlo in an Allard (driven by the manufacturer!) or winning this year’s Monte in a Zephyr, just shows very little and has nothing to do with Mr. Poske’s or my complaints: factory-entered cars and those so-called private entries (“completely standard,” but in fact, modified to the extent a certain factory recently offered me such a standard car, with £200 modifications—about 20 per cent. of the complete car’s price — which modifications, to quote the factory, “could only be carried out at the factory as they were outside the possibilities of private-owned repair shops”) are so different from the things that are sold by the British car manufacturers in their export markets as … well as British cars are from Italian, German or American cars.

I  think what has happened to my family is typical of what is happening over here: in 1939, we had a “fleet” composed of: 1 Wolseley, 1  Anglia, 1 Standard, 1 Vauxhall, 1 Jaguar, 1 Prefect, 1 Lincoln Zephyr. These cars have been disposed of with the exception of the Lincoln Zephyr (the only non-British car) and have been substituted by the following cars : 1 Lancia, 1 Dodge, 1 Peugeot, 2 Chevrolets. 1 Citroën, 1 Matford, 1 H.R.G., 1 Dyna-Panhard and 1 Aston-Martin. As you will see there are now 1 Italian, 4 American, 4 French and only 2 British cars, but both the latter are sports-cars and of a type not made elsewhere. The Ford people, knowing that I wished to buy a new “family car,” sent one of their salesmen to visit me and he was full of “Zephyr talk” (Monte Carlo, roadholding, acceleration, etc.), but I am awfully prone to bad colds when I get wet feet and it was raining when I drove the Zephyr; I had to go home and change both socks and shoes as the whole car was more like a pool than a saloon and the luggage boot was also completely wet. The salesman being, by the way, my personal friend, ended by telling me “to buy a Taunus, because it is German, and that does make all the difference.” If I tell you that I am Norwegian and don’t like the Germans, you will understand that I hate to do it, but have just taken delivery of the Taunus, as I have had enough of British cars.

I know your readers will not approve of my letter. When I read their usual comments in your and other British motoring magazines, I can only find one explanation for their complete lack of understanding: they have little experience of post-war British cars and no experience of Continental and American cars, and that is why.

To give you some facts, I will state below some of the more interesting “little nuisances” that happen to people who buy British. Some seem so unbelievable that I will begin by saying that they have happened to me, my family or very close friends.

1.  I bought in 1949 an English sports-car of medium price; besides boiling to the extent of having to replace the whole cooling system, the flywheel was erroneously marked, so that t.d.c. was not what it said and the whole timing was wrong from the factory.

2.  My brother had what English motoring magazines usually call a “quality family saloon.” A nice car (of 4-cylinders) to look at, but not to drive in. After 5,000 miles the agents over here got too disgusted with my brother’s complaints about the engine and arranged with the factory to replace the old with a new engine. Shortly after the new engine was installed, my brother had gearbox trouble and then the differential seized for no apparent reason. One of the factory’s engineers was passing through Lisbon just then and he reported to the factory. As a result, my brother was given a new gearbox and differential. When the clutch broke, my brother disposed of the car.

3.  I bought a sports-engine of 2.5 litres, complete with gearbox, to be fitted in a chassis I have. The engine cost about £390 so it is not of the cheapest ones. The manufacturers raised the compression of my engine, probably knowing that it would be raced, but did not care for such a trifle as inlet valves touching the pistons, making a bed in each (luckily no harm was done). The pressure control of the lubrication oil was mounted incorrectly and had to be completely redesigned, as it would never work as delivered with the engine. The distributor lobe cam  was so irregular that it had to be replaced. Otherwise a beauty of an engine, but how many weeks of hard work before it could be raced with just a bit of confidence ! The manufacturers sent with the engine a complete report with graphs of how the engine had been run-in and how it behaved on the test-bench and power-brake. At least the pressure control of the lubrication oil must have been changed before the engine was despatched to my address, or had the engine been run-in at all ?

4.  Being a bit sceptical about British cars at the moment, I did not even run-in the next car before having a look at the works. On this one I only found a nut missing. A poor little nut off one of the connecting-rod bearings What is a nut more or less, when you buy £700 of nuts and bits ?

5.  A friend of mine bought a Bentley which cost considerably more than £4,000. My friend’s wife got a disease of the ears because that car was fitted with a small cabinet with mirrors and powder boxes which had been placed at the exact height of this lady’s ears; there was a terrible draught through this cabinet from bad workmanship of the people who made the Bentley’s body. They disposed of the Bentley when they dismantled the interior trimmings and found so many terrible things; they thought it best to sell the car.

(6) A very fast saloon, rather expensive too, when you think of it as a car about 15 years old (and looking it, too); just because the manufacturers put i.f.s. in that car, they call it a “complete new post-war model,” suffered from very bad clutch slip. The repair shop I usually use cured this by fitting another type of clutch lining; the clutch is a bit fierce now but you can start the car on hills, which was not always possible before. My mechanic’s opinion (based on having cured five cars of this make — 50 per cent. of all cars running in Portugal) is that these clutches are badly designed for the type of car and they fit a lining that slips, so that a clumsy driver does not feel its fierceness or breaks the whole clutch.

(7) One of those so-called cars of “very fine reputation” of which some of your readers are so proud, fit two different engines to their cars, one being a normal one and the other a high-compression job for competition work. The latter engine was fitted to my chassis, but with the former’s tappet clearances; but they did not stop at that. The instruction book (a wonderful thing of 87 pages and goodness knows how many drawings and photographs) only mentions one clearance, where, according to the index, this data is to be found; thus one would think that the clearance for the normal engine also applies to the competition engine. But this is not the actual fact, and you should see what difference it makes to that engine to have the correct clearance!

(8) Headlamps giving a safe driving speed of 70 m.p.h. are fitted to a car that nearly does that speed in second gear (it has four speeds)!  When I asked the car manufacturer why he does that, he answered that he was forced to, as otherwise he would never get delivery of the rest of the electrical equipment.

(9) One car that does double the speed of the Anglia is fitted with the same shock-absorbers as this cheapest British car, which weighs about 900 lb. less than the “quality car.”  No small wonder the shock-absorbers of the “quality car” last about 1,000 miles!  Although this happens to 100 per cent. of the cars of that make running here in Portugal (we have good roads; that is one reason why so many people start the Monte Carlo Rally from here), the factory “doubt that their cars have insufficient shock-absorbers” and you can’t get the slightest help from them.

(10) A friend of mine has a five-seater which also suffers from too weak shock-absorbers, the wheels of that car reminding one of a jitterbug tap-dancer. I wonder if that is why the manufacturers called that car the “Ballerina of the London Show ” !  Somebody responsible at that factory was travelling through Lisbon and my friend took him out in his car to show hint those jitterbugging wheels, but, to his amazement, the man from the factory could not find anything wrong with the car!

This is to me the most irritating thing about buying a British car today; their manufacturers don’t care in the least what you think about their products, and if you are in trouble, and in a hurry, you had better not approach them, because it is certain time lost.

In all fairness, I must stress that I know of an exception:  the H.R.G. people. Their service, assistance and kindness are so exceptional; they make a friend of each customer. At least I count myself as being one.

I have found out that usually the only way to get help when you are in trouble is to apply to the manufacturer of the accessory that is giving trouble: the accessory people usually are nice, helpful and fair. I make it my warmest wish that they keep like that and don’t follow the crazy policy of the British car manufacturers.

For those who may think differently, I wish to say that I have no interest whatsoever in the car business. My business is shipping and insurance.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Simon Knudsen Hansen 

Lisbon.

***

And report from an American in Frankfurt

Sir,

Today I got my copy of your February issue and the excellence and variety of your correspondence columns drives me to forsake a life long rule and for once write to the editor.

I am delighted to see Mr. Poske’s complaints receiving such generous treatment in your columns after the inane remark with which you greeted his first letter. It is indeed unfortunate that everything Mr. Poske says is true. Outside the realm of sports cars the one factor upon which Great Britain relies to sell her produets in world markets is “quality” with, as a secondary factor, economy.

Personally, I fail to see where quality comes in when one reads in the columns of your wonderful magazine of cars going  “as long as 12,000 miles” before needing this or that, up to such a major project as a rebore.

I hold no brief for Ford products; in fact I dislike them, but the company car assigned me at the moment is a 1946 Mercury two-door sedan. When it was first turned over to me in February 1949, it had been through the hands of many drivers and probably this, allied with the fact that the man who picked it up brand new from the port boasted when he got to our Paris office that he had had 85 m.p.h. out of it, accounted for the fact that it was in pretty darn poor condition after only 78,000 miles. Therefore at that time I had it completely rebuilt in our shops, new motor, transmission, drive-shaft, rear-end, springs, shock-absorbers, brakes and brake drums. Since that time I, and a few other people, have put a further 100,000 miles on the clock and I might add they were very fast miles. When travelling the Autobahn I reckon to average 65 to 70 m.p.h. Off the Autobahn my average speeds vary between 45 and 50 m.p.h., dependent upon traffic and weather conditions. This means that the car is driven with my foot through the floor boards most of the time.  In that 100,000 miles the car has had one valve regrind. About 5,000 miles ago there was an ominous “ticker-ticker” after a stretch of about 15 miles flat-out on the Autobahn. Figuring this to be a bearing, we opened up the motor and piece by piece disassembled it, finding everything in perfect condition until at last we found one broken piston-ring and a small portion of the crown of that piston burnt away. There was no sign of wear on the cylinder bores. The piston was replaced and everything else put together again and I expect another 30,000 to 40,000 miles before it will need, possibly, a rebore.

During this time I must admit that the various front suspension and steering bushings, bolts, tie-rod ends, etc., have been replaced three or four times, which is to be expected when driving 65 to 75 m.p.h. over the execrable German secondary roads.

It is the common cry of lovers of European cars to claim long-wearing qualities in their products and to decry the alleged fact that American cars are only good for three years or so. Yeah ?

What British cars, outside Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Daimler possibly, of immediate pre-war or post-war construction could possibly run 100,000 miles of really hard driving without even a rebore?

Economy ? Well, I admit the fuel consumption on the Mercury stinks. It only gets 12-1/2 miles to the U.S. gallon. But Ford products are notorious for their poor fuel consumption. I had a 1947 Studebaker Champion which I drove in similar fashion for two years, covering 45,000 miles during that time, and just before selling it, stripped it down, prepared if necessary to rebore. The maximum wear discoverable in the cylinder bores was three thousandths of an inch. Oil consumption, which had been heavy just prior to this, was brought back to zero by replacement of three broken rings. The whole time I had that car I obtained 23 miles to the U.S. gallon and drove it normally at 70 to 75 m.p.h. (Place de l’Opera, Paris, to my apartment in Frankfurt. 620 kilometres — 7 hours, 10 minutes.)

However, fuel is only one side of the economy question. How about the maintenance aspect ? It seems to me that you have to have a very great saving in fuel to make up for the—let us be charitable and say four to five major overhauls of a British car to the one for an American car.

Then, too, British service is quite remarkable. The local Jaguar people just laugh and confide to me that they generally have to wait about two months or more to get parts-orders filled. I am friendly with the gentleman who holds the franchise here for Singer and Jowett. He was giving me a typical instance of British service the other day, explaining that he carries a large stock of parts for these makes of car, and sometimes a part has to be replaced under guarantee, whereupon he gets a free replacement part from England. Of course he replaces the part in the vehicle concerned out of his own stock and merely replenishes his stock with the free replacement from the manufacturer later on. Customs duty is payable on the value of the part, including freight. The part comes at no value (free guarantee replacement) and therefore the duty on that particular part is on the freight alone. He wrote to the factory explaining this and asked them to please discontinue sending him those parts by air freight as he was in no particular hurry for them and did not want to have to pay duty on the high air-freight charges. They replied telling hint that since it fitted in better with their system, they would continue to send him those parts air-freight; besides, they pointed out, he would get them sooner that way! 

So much for the average consumer’s point of view. As for my own ideas: I have no use for the American product except in its function as “transportation,” which is after all what the American market is aimed at. When it comes to driving pleasure, which is what my personal automobiles are for, then the European product is the only possible solution because of its handling qualities. And here we enter into the realm of the R-R v. Cadillac squabble. As one of your correspondents so rightly points out, the acceleration of the Cadillac is fantastic for a touring car and its top speed is mighty handy too. But unfortunately, being mounted as it apparently is on sponges and with brakes that disappear after three seconds application at speeds over 60 miles an hour, you cannot use half of its speed. And let us not dwell upon the weight distribution which of course is no worse than any other American car — for what that is worth!

I have never driven a Rolls, but can fully appreciate the reasons why people buy them. Probably the nearest approach to such an automobile I have ever owned was a V12 Pierce-Arrow and it almost broke my heart to sell that car when I was transferred to Europe. The handling was all that anyone could desire, and although I never had it flat-out, and its speed by no means put it into the racing-car class, no modern car at the time I owned it (1945-1946) could get away from me despite the claims of owners of Oldsmobiles and such that they had clocked over 100 m.p.h on their cars. I don’t dispute those claims for one moment. As I always make it a habit of checking the speeds of the cars I drive by stop-watch in various gears at various revolutions against the rev-counter and speedometer, I am only too well aware of the fact that the average American car will easily do 95 to 100 m.p.h. on the speedometer, which represents a true speed of somewhere in the low eighties or even less. The Mercury I drive (see above) will happily go to 96 on the speedometer, which is actually about 82. A friend of mine, in his 1951 Mercury was rhapsodising over the handling of my 1933 380K Mercedes-Benz, saying that he had found it absolutely impossible to keep anywhere near me on a winding country road we had been covering because of the way the Mercury shot around bends at way over 60 m.p.h. without sign of roll, slide or whip. When I told him that I had not been hurrying but was just cruising along, he thought I was bragging, but  when I went on to assure him that I had not exceeded 55 m.p.h. anywhere, he as good as told me that I was barefaced liar, since he had been doing over 70 on the straights and close to 60 around the corners and the distance between us had been steadily increasing. So much for American speedometers ! 

By the way, my remarks about the 1946 Mercury I drive and about Cadillac’s in general are not intended to imply that the Mercury is a better car than the Cadillac. Very far from it !  The point is that any 1946 American car handles better than a 1952 American car. We also have in our Company Fleet some modern Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles, and while I find it hard to visualise a nicer town carriage than the Oldsmobile with its hydramatic drive and its oversize tyres, soft springing and comfortable seating, it is by no means such hot stuff on the open road. The average American who, let us admit it, does not know how to drive anyway, is of the firm opinion that to travel much over 60 miles an hour on give-and-take roads is definitely unsafe, and to drive in the eighties or nineties on the Autobahns is suicidal, and of course he is right when it comes to the Detroit product. With the Oldsmobile I cannot obtain an average speed higher than five miles an hour less than I get out of the Mercury, and as for the Chevrolets, on the open road they are lunkers.

By the way, Mr. Poske, do not despair. Mercedes are not almighty in the racing world from the construction point of view. Their 300SL was by no means the fastest car in the various races they entered last year, Engineer Neubauer himself admits that the reason they mostly win their races is summed up in one word — organisation. Everything is planned and rehearsed down to the minutest detail  and in racing that pays off every time. Undoubtedly there are many manufacturers who could produce just as good cars as Mercedes, but how many would spend the time, trouble and money that Mercedes do on planning to win ?  Apropos Mr. Peske’s remark that Mercedes did not have a certain gentleman to foot their racing bills for them since the war, I might mention that it is generally believed here in Germany that they did in fact have Government subsidy in 1952. This would be reasonable to believe because there is no question but that the Mercedes successes sold an enormous amount of German cars of all makes in the export market, particularly, of course, Mercedes-Benz cars.  In fact the Mercedes export business alone amounted to 53 million dollars for 1952. Does racing pay ?

Before you jump all over me, and tell me that I have not experienced both sides of the question I might mention that my first car, 1932, was a 1926 Amilcar Grand Sport with an overhead valve conversion (alleged to be the only one of these conversions that  ever turned out right — I believe the car at one time was raced by Boon & Porters at Brooklands) and my present vehicle is a model 328 B.M.W. in the process of being greatly modified.

I am, Yours, etc,

Clive B. Carson

Frankfurt, 

 

 

 

 

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