Letters From Readers, March 1954

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Opinions Of The Customers
Sir,
The January Motor Sport came today, and I was pleased to find your excellent and interesting article “Gran Turismo” in it. The more such features the better, but it is somewhat saddening to find paired articles on the Volkswagen and the Simca Aronde taking up good space better devoted to a few big pictures of something like a 2.3S Alfa-Romeo. I am not sure if it is my imagination, but it seems as though your advertisers are becoming reluctant to pay for the publication of photographs of their used cars — perhaps things will pick up again in the spring. As far as Uncle Tom McCahill is concerned, I believe that this is the first reference to him in an English magazine I have seen which did not remind the reader of his heinous views, published in Mechanix Illustrated months and months ago, about the Aston Martin’s handling and steering. My favourite McCahillism was used by him in 1948, road-testing the Oldsmobile 98, then fitted with a side-valve straight eight of 115 b.h.p., and which weighed 3,900 lb. — he said the car “hasn’t got enough power to pull a gumdrop out of a baby’s mouth!”

Now back to “Gran Turismo.” I am astonished, on the one hand, that, you did not include the Jaguar XK120 coupé, and on the other, affronted at your skipping the Cunningham.

I can’t imagine why you left out the Jaguar. It certainly belongs in the bunch. It’s faster than most of them, stable enough for its speed, and is the only one of them priced at about what it’s worth and not up in the stratosphere somewhere. I don’t think the shape of the top is pretty, but there are differences of opinion on this point. There can’t be any question about its being more reliable and having more low-speed top-gear performance, just by virtue of engine size, than any of the others. Most of the people who refer to it as “just a short wheelbase American car” haven’t driven it. And it’s English.

As for the Cunningham, I was displeased to see this brute left out; after all it’s our only representative in the hot department to date, and I must say that it in every respect deserves inclusion in your Gran Turismo grouping — I refer to the model which is supplied with the Vignale coupé body, not to the C4R or C5R. The February, 1954, issue of Car Life has a road-test on this job. A 1952 Chrysler engine, modified only with quad Zenith carburetters to produce 210 b.h.p. (dual exhausts) supplies the power. Curb weight is 2,950 lb., the standing quarter-mile (these figures were taken with 3.54 axle and hydraulic valve lifters) was done in 17.55 seconds, 0-60 in 6.85 and 0-100 in 11.01 seconds. The average of four runs showed a maximum of 126.52 m.p.h. The factory asserted that with mechanical lifters and a 3.27 ratio top speed would be closer to 140, and I see no reason not to believe this. In addition, a perfectly stock Chrysler engine is good for 235 b.h.p. this year. The hydraulic lifters hold the r.p.m. to 4,300, but 5,000 may be reached with the mechanical lifters. Of course, if 140 does not satisfy, a Chrysler engine may always be ordered from California — up to 300 plus horses with stock displacement and if you are willing to bore and stroke. Oh my! With all this literage the car tested produced 23 American m.p.g. in country driving (not over 75) during the test. The brakes stopped it in 144 feet from 60 m.p.h. There has been enough racing experience behind this car to assure the buyer (at ten thousand dollars) that it will have roadholding commensurate with its fantastic performance.

In summing up I would not hesitate to put this car, along with such as the 4.1 Ferrari, into a Grandissimo Turismo class. This may be had Italian, but you get the idea. Just for kicks, out of respect for an interesting sounding specification (but on no proof of excellence) we might stick the blown 2.8 Pegaso in here too. Separate the sheep from the goats at 140 m.p.h. (that man Lyons is here again!).

If you have any pull with David Brown I suggest you give him a ring and tell him to quit making that silly odd-size engine he uses in the Aston Martin DB2-4 — too big for the 2 1/2-litre class and at the bottom of the 3-litre. class. He has a 2.9 engine already in the Lagonda which is interchangeable with the A/M 2.6, using the same block. The Lagonda engine would make a real wildcat out of the DB2-4, and it would stop the scandal of having your $5.800 A/M buyer being shaded away from the traffic lights by every cheap $3,350 Jaguar which comes along. Of course, a Cadillac or Lincoln (this last should also go into the G/T group — will outrun most of them, road course or straightaway, as the past two years in Mexico show) will probably make even a 3L A/M sweat on the getaway. He should also go to a side-of-the-seat gear change (like Rolls) and do away with the necessity of providing two types of shift levers.

I notice (this is my impolite day, I took an examination in Development of Legal Institutions this morning and I believe that I passed it, so unexpected a happening that I have lost all sense of proportion) that the good old English practice of making ugly cars uglier is exemplified in the latest Morgan. Quelle horreur! The only thing which will save it in the market over here is the crudely displeasing appearance of the TR-2. As far as the Jowett is concerned, this car is so weird-looking that it would take a brave man to let himself be pinned down to any adjective descriptive of its appearance. However, with this tadpole one can always say: “Has a flat-four old boy y’know” and silence any incipient aesthetic criticism with such a revelation of technical innovation. If Jowett had been decent enough to put one huge P100 spang in the middle of the front end, bow, grille, radiator or whatever one calls such a hangdog countenance; nobody would dare to question its lines. It would have represented an entirely new synthesis, but now that they have erred and used two headlights people will recognise it as an automobile!

I quite agree with you about the nonsensicality of the 2-litre engines used in the Fiat, Bristol, et al. These midget “spindizzies” have no place outside of competition. Their use is even more idiotic in a sensibly-sized car, prime example the quite magnificent 403 Bristol. This car is justifiably respected as one of the best in the world, and every road-test or comment on it I have ever seen has had something to this effect — “remarkable for a small engine,” “flexibility of a much larger engine.” I leave to your imagination just what kind of an automobile the Bristol would be if equal cure and devotion had been spent on the development of four or five litres. The car wouldn’t cost any more, and it wouldn’t use any more gas. A hundred miles an hour out of a given automobile body takes just as much b.h.p. and gasoline with two as with four litres.

I have already been down to the G.M. show, to look at the fancy cars. I was suitably dumbstruck. For sheer lack of taste I’ve never seen anything comparable to this turbine job, which looks exactly like an F86 Sabrejet with its wheels lowered. The two Pontiac Specials, one a stubby coupé with transparent canopy and the other superlow sedan, are close seconds for pure unholiness. The Buick sports car, on the other hand, with a 100-in. wheelbase, 220 b.h.p., undercut fenders, wraparound front screen, winding windows, etc., looks very nice and must be very fast, even though I think having the change lever for the Dynaflow between the seats is a bit of an affectation! However, you may be sure that if it uses the regular Buick suspension, it is better put out of mind at once. The Chevrolet Corvette coupé is also handsome enough. There is also an Oldsmobile weirdity with 250 b.h.p., and a Cadillac thing with rather more. I kept at least six feet away from these cars when I was looking at them, and ten feet away when looking at them front the front.

In your Gran Turismo article you slight the looks of the Aston Martin. Would have been more accurate if you had said it was a hit more masculine-looking, more purposeful, rather than “bulkier and less finely blended” than the Continental stuff. Look at that Pegaso and at the 8V Fiat photos. Aston Martin has it all over them. Aston Martin has that nasty squatty look, weight over rear wheels/crouched-to-spring effect missing from the Lancia. The Alfa grille is effete, not so an Aston Martin. Porsche looks like a lump of sugar left out, in the rain. Only the Ferrari illustrated looks like as going a car as the Aston Martin.

I am in receipt of a rumour coming by devious byways from Bob Said, the Osca exponent, to the effect that somebody over here is going to Europe with a Meyer-Drake 270 in a Kurtis chassis to show the Ferraris the way home in sports-car races. There is also some nonsense about Formula I and an American engine in a foreign chassis — I can’t think of a suitable U.S. engine. Meyer-Drakes come in 1 3/4, 3.6 and 4.5-litre sizes. That 4.5 is a superb engine as you know, and once upon a time, say in 1948 or 1949, anybody in Europe with enough brains to come over here and buy one and put it into a G.P. chassis — a Maserati or Talbot, for that matter — could have gone back and beaten every one of the blown 1 1/2 cars except perhaps the Alfa of the last couple of years. There was that period when even the feeble Talbots were doing moderately well. It is perfectly possible to get 270 horses out of the Meyer-Drake on gasoline, and this is just the horse-power Moore’s Blue Crown Specials were extracting when they had that terrific winning streak at Indianapolis. The highest output I have heard of for the Meyer-Drake is 360 on methanol, without nitro additives. This is pretty good for a basic design that originated with Miller over twenty years ago. If Cunningham had started with a detuned version of this lightweight little power-house instead of trying to make a racing job out of bulky production engines, he would have won at Le Mans time out of mind. Of course, ten grand is plenty for a Cunningham as it is and it would cost nearly double that with a Meyer-Drake, so I doubt not that this had its influence.
I am, Yours, etc.,
M. K. Benenson,
New York.

Sir,
I have enjoyed the correspondence about the merits of cars from different countries. I am particularly interested in what the South Africans have to say as their conditions must approximate ours.

I suppose the most remarkable feature of the Australian market is the position of the Holden. Not only is it selling marvellously well, but it shows remarkable resale value. I suppose it costs at least a hundred pounds more to own any comparable British car for a couple of years than to own a Holden for that period. From what I can gather by judicious questioning of owners and the Trade, this is hard to justify. For example, the Vanguard is only about £50 dearer in the first place, and frankly one would not bother to compare a Holden with it on the showroom floor. As for handling, people who are used to Yanks regard the Holden as abominable. I think service must be quite a bit of the answer. The Holden has captured the commercial and semi-commercial user nearly exclusively, I gather. I know that the early Vanguards had quite a bad reputation here, though I know of several 1951 models that are faultless in the hands of fairly kind owners. I think, too, that the extra tractability of the six is greatly prized by people who do a great deal of their driving in the city. On the other hand, the British cars seem to have been designed expressly for the purpose of promoting damper sales and repairs; and they do not seem to learn much.

I have not had a wide experience of Continental cars. I bought my Renault 750 secondhand, and I know that they have been improved in many ways since mine was made; however it has rather disillusioned me about the race-bred car. At some 22,000 miles on the “clock” (genuine, I believe) it needs rings, reconditioning of dampers, new king-pins; and it goes through tyres at quite a prodigious bat. It is very cheap on the secondhand market and is handicapped by its importers. I have not treated it harshly — it has rarely exceeded an indicated 50-55. I think the Peugeot 302 stands up about as well as anything and I like it to drive, so I may soon own one. It seems to have quite a firm although small grip on the market, and strangely enough is used quite a bit as a taxi — a good sign.

I have considered the Fiat 1,100 which sells for appreciably less than the 203 but, Mille Miglia notwithstanding, I am now very wary of cars that have not proved themselves on the Australian market.

I considered buying an Austin A30, and sampled one, and wrote to Austins to learn what they considered the cruising speed of the car and what I could do about it; 45-50 m.p.h. they said and were sure it would serve me well in average conditions and so on. Not a word in reply to my specific proposals about raising its cruising speed. I like refined engines and I like good acceleration; I like the A30 top gear — but not as the highest gear available. It seems to me very wrong that the highest gear included provides such hill climbing on a very limited number of “horses,” where it has to be at the expense of cruising speed. I was very interested in your road-test … but when you spoke of holding 60 … ! Incidentally, I think that durability is what the small car needs for real economy of operation — to hell with another mile or two per gallon; and distance between “decokes” is also important.
I am, Yours, etc.,
G. W. Taylor,
Canberra.

British Gran Turismo
Sir,
I have read with some interest the letter of Mr. M. S. R. Napier in your February issue on the subject of “Gran Turismo” models and your editorial comment, particularly with regard to the fixed-head 120 Jaguar.

I think that you have hit the nail fairly and squarely on the head by emphasising that quite apart from the actual handling characteristics of the car concerned, the driving position, visibility along the bonnet, pedal layout, etc., which make a machine feel right are very important factors and contribute greatly to the degree of usable performance that such a machine possesses.

The fixed-head 120 Jaguar, while producing admirable “straight-line” acceleration and maximum speed figures, by virtue of its bad seating position, etc., is a difficult car to motor really quickly with peace of mind. The rake of the wheel is far too vertical and even in its fully-forward adjusted position is still too close to the chest to cope with rapid lock-to-lock manoeuvring. In addition the steering gear itself is a trifle woolly and does not provide that accuracy of control so noticeable in rack-and-pinion layouts.

Another disturbing feature is the way in which the leading edge of the windscreen on the coupé has been propelled a further two inches or so along the bonnet top than on the open version (due no doubt to some requirement of the stylists), the overall effect being to make one feel extremely remote from the scene of action and rather as though one is travelling in a mobile greenhouse. To make things more difficult the sheer length of bonnet which one looks along rather than down upon tends to make the placing of the car in “mixed company” a trifle tricky, to say the least. In this respect I would stress that there is a great deal of difference between motoring at say Goodwood, where everything (one hopes!) is going in the same direction and where if one makes an error of judgment one is liable solely to spin the car off onto the grass, and high-speed road touring where other road-users must be given consideration and where one mistake can prove fatal.

All in all the fixed-head 120 coupé is a car that the Stirling Mosses of this world can probably drive with complete aplomb under all circumstances, but which lesser mortals such as your scribe would certainly not select to put up really fast road averages under give-and-take conditions in competition with Gran Turismo Aurelias, 1900 SC Alfas, Le Mans coupé Frazer-Nashes, and other such machinery.

Please don’t think that I am trying to crab the Jaguar out of hand as I think that it is wonderful value for money and in the past have owned two of the modified open versions myself. What really matters is “usable performance” and in this respect the Jaguar’s “engine potential” exceeds the “road usable” by too large a margin.

The Jensen 541 looks an interesting car on paper, but I wish that it were powered by the Jaguar or Sapphire engine instead of the Austin A135, as I have to think of the way the valve gear is going to flap about at higher revs. For my money I think that the British car to watch (again at the moment on paper — or should I say under development) is the Sapphire-engined Frazer-Nash. With rack-and-pinion steering, de Dion-type rear axle, an adequate brake-lining area and, and this is most important, people who really know what they are doing in developing a high-speed chassis, this version of the Frazer-Nash should prove a winner in the world markets; and with the considerable torque available from the Sapphire engine when fully developed it should be able to “see off” its contemporaries by providing a terrific performance that is fully controllable and which the relatively unexpert will be able to use to a high degree without causing too many phenomenal avoidances.

If Jaguar wish to enter the lists, what about purchasing the patents of the DB3’s chassis and fitting it with the XK120C engine and a light aerodynamic coupé body? If they can provide the 260 b.h.p. or thereabouts that Duncan Hamilton gets on his 120C with Continental-pattern pistons and rods so much the better.

On second thoughts, what about Aston Martin doing the job themselves, fitting a 4-litre version of the engine at present installed in the DB3s — Weber carburetters and all! I have come to the conclusion that it is not that we cannot make really fast touring machinery — we just don’t seem to try! And even if we do, we seem to miss out some of the essential ingredients.
I am, Yours, etc.,
A. C. Johnson,
Sevenoaks.

Correction
Sir,
With regard to your statement in “Rumblings” of the February issue, you inform us that Avon Standards were built by W. Lyons in conjunction with the Swallow Coachbuilding Co.

Surely this is quite incorrect? My information is that Avon Standards were produced by the brothers Jensen, in more or less direct competition to S.S., which were produced by the Swallow Coachbuilding Company, Mr. Lyons being one of the early executives of that organisation. I do not doubt that the confusion exists through both concerns producing at certain periods vehicles based on Standard components.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Desmond R. Robinson,
London, N.21.

Modern Jacks!
Sir,
It is very, very cold and the snow is deepening: I am alone late at night in the Welsh hills, making all possible speed to home and bed.

A clattering aft announces a snow chain has come adrift, despite the appalling conditions I must do something about it. I stop, get out, collect the biped jack from the boot and a torch, remove the little rubber bung from the jack orifice with difficulty as it is by now covered with frozen slush. The car is jacked up, the wheel removed, and the chain replaced with numb fingers.

The wheel is offered to the studs by the light of the torch held between the knees but, alas, it slips from my partially frozen hands and the sudden upward jerk of my right hand severs a vein in my wrist on the razor-sharp turn-under of the wing. The first-aid kit is in the cubby-hole opposite the passenger seat but the three passenger doors are locked and the by-now-bloody jack is so mounted that the driver’s door cannot he opened.

I have survived, sir, and now I spend much time thinking of what I might do and say to the pompous individual who wrote to me recently from the great corporation that excretes these monstrosities of transport, to the effect (I quote), “We have spent the money required to build the car to the best advantage”!

I am jet propelled in my haste to add the usual disclaimer.
I am, Yours, etc.,
J. N. R.
Malpas.

The Cost Of Spares
Sir,

In questioning my conclusions concerning the economies of running elderly quality cars, I think Mr. H. B. Sayer may have misread my original statement, which was that such cars were not an economic proposition unless run on a long-term basis. I certainly didn’t intend to imply that they were not an economic proposition under any circumstances.

The point which I intended to make was that although the cost of spares, etc., for such cars was frequently many times greater than for cheaper cars, their anticipation of life was proportionately higher and that over a long period they were probably relatively cheaper.

I still think that it is uneconomic to recondition a quality car and then dispose of it within a comparatively short time. Surely the advertisements appearing in your excellent journal give ample support to this view. It is quite common for such cars on which hundreds of pounds have been spent (bills produced!) to be offered at prices below the cost of the work done, perhaps only a few months previously.

Mr. Sayer has obviously been extremely fortunate with his Bentleys, but I venture to suggest that not all Bentley owners can claim quite such modest maintenance figures. Obviously a Bentley or Rolls-Royce is likely to give the least trouble, but even so, it is possible to spend quite a lot of money on them.

I have watched the depreciation factor in post-war cars quite closely and agree that, again on a long-term basis, the pre-war quality car is a better proposition in most cases. Incidentally my candidate for the highest depreciation rate is the Invicta Black Prince. In one instance it worked out at about £2 per mile!
I am, Yours, etc.,
B. W. Rivett
London, S.E.6.

VW Enthusiasm
Sir,

I wonder whether my experience with a Volkswagen over more than six years may help Mr. F. R. Nichols.

When new the car showed a strong tendency to over-steer which decreased when the car was loaded. In time the ever-steer became less evident but I do not know whether this was due to the rear springs settling and altering the “trim” of the car, or because with practice I was able, unconsciously, to anticipate the car’s attempts to go on going round the corners,

Within the last two years I have fitted a more modern type of front suspension and better shock-absorbers at the rear. Due either to these modifications or to the effects of time on the rear springs or myself, the car is now free from over-steering except in unusually violent cornering. At all times the steering has had a fairly strong castor action which increases with the load on the rear of the car.

I have always understood that over-steer is inherent in swinging rear half-axles and thus a characteristic of rear-engined cars only in so far as nearly all rear-engine cars do in fact have such a type of rear suspension. I do not, however, recall any very great over-steer in the 170V Mercédès which we used in great numbers in B.A.O.R. Design, no doubt, can minimise this tendency. Was it not for this purpose that just. after the war an Italian 1 1/2-litre racing car (Alfa?) fitted with swinging half-axles at the rear was arranged to give the rear wheels a negative camber?

As to the Volkswagen generally, I can endorse most of your remarks about it and will be glad to help any readers with unprofessional (and inexpert) advice on this subject.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Henry Cleaver (Major),
Harlington.

Sir,
Many thanks for emphasising the virtues of the Volkswagen. Mainly as a result of your references and an article in Motor Trend I am now an enthusiastic owner of a de luxe model and still finding it tremendous fun (after over a month). Usually I find a new car begins to pall after a week or two but, despite its low power, the VW makes up for it with charm of steering, suspension and general decor.

Incidentally, please at all costs keep up your good work of being truly unbiased and independent of all outside influences. I’m sure the vast majority of your readers cherish the critical nature of your magazine and, after all, if we want the soft soap type of comment there are several alternatives on the news stands.
I am, Yours, etc.,
D. L. Hayman
Llanelly.

The Great Oil Controversy
Sir,

In reply to Mr. P. D. George (Sternol Ltd.), whose letter appears in the February issue, I would like to say that the facts I previously mentioned are based on the observations I have made during my many years of practical experience with motor engineering.

It is a recognised fact, which I do not think Mr. George will dispute, that cylinder bore and ring wear has greatly increased during the past years, and I think it will be found that this increase dates back and coincides with the time when detergents were introduced into the oils.

Since that time it has become necessary for the motor-car manufacturers to fit oil cleaners, which in the days of straight oils were not necessary and, here again, these fitments came into use after the introduction of detergents. Please note I am speaking of detergent dispersants not just additives.

My own theory is that the carbon particles being dispersed are held in suspension in the oil and are circulated in the oiling system, where they act as an abrasive, and even with an oil filter fitted a certain amount of carbon can be found in the engine sump oil which is being thrown on to the cylinder bores. With straight oils this does not occur, as this carbon does not remain suspended but settles at the bottom of the sump in the form of sludge.

Again I would point out to Mr. George that my remarks relate to detergents only and do not include anti-oxidant, anti-corrosion additives.

However, I notice that this gentleman had made it a point to mention that their oils contain only mild detergent properties.
I am, Yours, etc.,
A. J. Firth.
London, N.W.4.

Post-War M.G.s
Sir,
It was with very great interest that I read the letters in support of the “Types TD and TF “Morris tourers,” and noted that not one of the three protagonists really answered the criticisms of the excellent Mr. Giers. The only technical point raised was the usual remark with reference to the vertical drive oil sealing on the o.h.c. engines. Apparently the writer does not know of the simple modification to cure such leaks. All three of your correspondents wrote quite blithely of “progress” and “Abingdon improvements,” but surely they do not consider that a push-rod engine, substantially the same as that in the Type TB of 1939, and developed initially from the Morris Ten of three years earlier, is a technical advance on the o.h.c. engines? Incidentally, I would remind Mr. J. J. Bell that the engine which powered “Goldie” Gardner’s car on many of his record runs was basically K3. When I think of other so-called improvements such as pressed-steel wheels, single helical gears (the TA had double helicals) and engine accessibility being cut down to about 40 per cent. of what it should be (and was), the only words which come to my mind are very short and rather coarse.

Regarding the present-day styling, the supporters of the TD and TF do not seem to worry about the fact that the M.G. has always been regarded as a motor car in the traditional style. Nobody could apply the adjective “traditional” to the TF in comparison with even a TC.

I do not intend to make any comment on the Type ZA (I refuse to call it a Magnette). No words of mine could be more expressive than the rumbling of Cecil Kimber revolving at high speed in his grave. Anyway, the car is an Austin!

Just to forestall any remarks regarding my own TA. I run it for the sole reason that spares are a darn sight cheaper than those for any of the earlier models.
I am, Yours, etc.,
G. J. Lewis
South Harrow.

Sir,
It was with great disappointment that I viewed the new M.G. Magnette at Earls Court and it’s very sad to think that the real M.G. cars, which everyone knew only too well and which had so much tradition and individuality, had at last completely disappeared.

Being the owner of a 1 1/4-litre I was naturally very interested in the new M.G. Magnette engine manufactured by the B.M.C., but for some reason or other the representative on the M.G. stand had no engine to show, although there were in fact two complete models on view to the public.

We know the 1 1/4-litre engine of the TF but what of the Magnette? Perhaps they were not awfully keen on displaying this so-called newly designed engine, which, incidentally, bears a very close resemblance to the Austin A40 Sports model — in fact I was led to understand that the engine is actually produced at Longbridge! Could any reader please confirm this?

Lastly I wonder whether the B.M.C. can ever “maintain this particular breed” as well as the world-famous M.G. works did its predecessors. However, it is all very sad.
I am, Yours, etc.,
E. P. Harris
Hereford.

Sir,
The letters from readers resulting from my letter published in the December issue of Motor Sport regarding post-war M.G.s give me reason to clarify some of my viewpoints and also to meet some of the criticism.

My first letter was written in a fit of anger and great disappointment. The fact is that I needed a new car and was waiting for the new M.G.-type to come. It did arrive, but even the first sight of it was a shock. Since then I have examined the new TF closely and even test-driven it, Mr. “Young and Able Enthusiast.” However, the TF does not suit me. There are plenty of things I dislike, so I do not really know what to start with. At first, however, I must say that I find the car a rather beautiful little thing. Of course there are lines I should prefer otherwise but that is the way with all cars. With regard to the roadholding I have no complaint.

But now for the criticisms. The car is too heavy, far too heavy, or the engine output too small — the result is the same. There is no reason why a little open two-seater midget should have a weight exceeding 13 cwt. And then this old-fashioned engine. We have to change with the times, Mr. “Young and Able Enthusiast.”

In December, 1930, Cecil Kimber changed to fully-floating gudgeon-pins. To use clamp screws to secure the gudgeon-pins belongs to the T-Ford era. But with the beginning of the Nuffield era in 1936 the old system was relegated to its place of honour. And the stroke — 90 mm. Rather too much for a modern sports-car engine, isn’t it? We have to change with the times and shorten the stroke to at least 83 mm. Oh, that’s not enough. It is the same as the old-fashioned PB engine. At a medium piston speed of, let us say, 12 m./sec. the speed of the TF is just over 100 k.p.h. in top gear, and the PB makes just over 105 k.p.h.

There is a man I should like to have a word with and that is the chap who gave the TF a radiator filler-cap in the traditional manner but who made it inoperative. The real thing is under the bonnet. All right, let it be there but remove that childish dummy-cap on the radiator shell. There is no place for it on a sports car. As to the instrument panel. I do not want a painted tin board and I do not like octagonal instruments. They ought to be circular (with an octagonal mask if necessary), and why not a really functional board, as for instance on the TC? I have no use for dual cubby-holes. I do not need them as storing-places for chewing-gum or gloves. I do not use chewing-gum and if I use gloves I have them on my hands. But maybe it is a good thing for the U.S. export. The door pockets in a PB are quite enough for me. And the bumpers. Let them be optional extras. The salesman does not reduce the price if I return them. Furthermore, I want the slants in the-radiator shell to be painted instead of chromed.

And here are some more words to Mr. “Young and Able Enthusiast.” I buy a sports car to be able to go faster and have more fun than I have when driving an ordinary family saloon in my daily work. So we can agree that a sports car must have better performance than an ordinary car. In 1935 the PA Midget was very much superior to most family cars on the road, consequently it was a sports car. Today I promise to stay on a TD’s or TF’s tail with, for example, a Fiat 1,100 (which make I represent here in Stockholm), an ordinary Swedish Volvo PV 444, a Simca Aronde or a Peugeot 203. I would like to try it even with a new Volkswagen. No, neither TD nor TF are sports cars.

I must admit that I have had trouble with the PB’s vertical drive, which has caused oiling up of the dynamo, but today there is on the market a special type of oil seal which has proved very effective and so that problem cannot be so troublesome as setting the tappet clearance on a XPAG engine every 300 miles. Anyway, I have TD friends who do. And last, if Mr. “Young and Able Enthusiast” becomes the proud owner a a TF, I hope that he will not have any repair work under the bonnet miles away from home on a dark and dirty night. It cannot be too easy to get to work under that bonnet.

I also want to answer Mr. S. A. Thompson. He states that no standard PA in its original form could seriously challenge a TD or TF over any distance. That is completely wrong. Supposing it is a very long distance, then the PA might have a chance to pass, because it takes rather a long time to change camshaft and cam-followers on a TD. One of my friends has changed 36 cam-followers and one camshaft in 24,000 miles and another eight cam-followers and the camshaft in 29,000 miles. But that is what happens when such parts are turned out in an inferior material.

In this letter, I would like to take the opportunity of relating some lines from an article by Mr. John Bentley in an American book. The article heading is: “An open letter to the M.G.’s maker.” “… The Nuffield Group is manufacturing a wide range of dependable touring vehicles that cater to every task and purpose, and to so transform the M.G. that it becomes just one more touring vehicle in this group is to defeat the traditional aims of the M.G. Car Company and deprive it of any reason for existence. For those who want high-grade touring cars there are Wolseley, Morris and Riley, while for those who want a touring car that looks like a sports car there is the TD M.G.; but for the minority who want a real sports car at a modest price there now is nothing in the Nuffield Group.”And more: “There are some things one buys with one’s head and other things one buys with ones heart. The M.G. is definitely something that the knowing buy with their heart.”

If anyone in the M.G. Car Company reads this letter, I should also want to add a few words of what I would like my new M.G. Midget to look like. Such a car must be obtainable at a reasonable price and if it is to be sold in big numbers it must be modern. I suggest the use of the new o.h.v. Morris Minor engine and chassis parts from the same car. The bodywork mast be modern sooner or later and I would like it to look somewhat like, for instance, the new Maserati A6GCS. Of course the car must have knock-on wire wheels, Bonora filler-caps, aero-screens, a real steering-wheel and a full set of functional instruments. The weight must not exceed 12 cwt. and the engine output should be increased to about 40 b.h.p. For those who want a bigger and really fast car I suggest a new Magnette, as in the old days. It ought to have a six-cylinder o.h.c. 2.5-litre engine with a power output of about 100 b.h.p. For this car I suggest two body types, one open two-seater and one 2+ 2-seater Gran Turismo coupé.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Gustaf L. A. Giers
Stockholm.

Sir,
As an owner of an o.h.c. M.G. I have followed with interest the spirited correspondence regarding the new Magnette.

All the o.h.c. Magnettes were not ferocious sports-racing cars or even sports cars. Unless I am very much mistaken, the KA, KD and KN series were quite gentlemanly vehicles of 9-ft. wheelbase and mostly carrying saloon coachwork. As their engines produced 39, 48 and 56 horsepower, respectively, they were not exceptionally rapid motors. Surely the series ZA is quite a logical successor to these former Magnettes?

This is the opposite extreme view of the ZA in relation to its antecedents, but it does show that some people are taking rather a narrow view in only considering the sports models of the past and in particular the K3 (of which motor car only some thirty were produced).

With regard to “pansification” of the Midget series. The o.h.c. models are very nice little motors in their way, but they do really have to be driven not to look rather silly under modern conditions.

Surely there can he no real merit in having to row the motor along with the gear-lever, or in suspension which leaves one aching after fifty miles or so.

I like the J2 which I own, but I can admit that the current Midget is a far better proposition as a road motor. As far as competition work is concerned, motor sport has become much too specialised for a manufacturer to hope to produce a suitable motor car which would still have a wide enough demand to sell at a reasonable figure.

Please let us consider the current M.G.s for what they are, and not criticise them for failing to be what they were never intended to be.
I am, Yours, etc.,
John A. Noble
Oxford.

Ackermann Patents
Sir,

In his “Historical Notes on Steering Gears,” in your January number, “A. B. C.” refers to Ackermann’s patent of 1818 and states that the layout therein described” originally suffered from the severe limitation imposed by the fact that the steering arms were parallel, and therefore the wheels tended to skid on corners due, to the perpendiculars from the wheel centres failing to meet at a common point.” He further emphasises the first part of this quotation by a diagram.

Can “A. B. C.” quote any reliable authority for this allegation? May I refer him to the address of the (then) Chairman of the Automobile Division of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, delivered in 1948 by Mr. R. Pentony, where in figs. 3 and 4 are given reproductions from Ackermann’s patent specification which clearly show, as Mr. Pentony said; “that when the vehicle is taking a curve full provision is made for all the road wheels to revolve round a common vertical axis situated on the line of the back axle, and the wording of the specification shows that the geometry was fully understood and possible adjustments were described.” Mr. Pentony goes on to say “The Ackermann design of front axle appears to have lain dormant for nearly 60 years until Jeantaud modified the details to make it suitable for self-propelled vehicles.” This makes the date of Jeantaud’s development 1878, which agrees with a reference I have seen elsewhere. What vehicle would this be, some seven or eight years before Benz. and Daimler ?

Turning now from the historical to the technical, is it true that the steering arms being parallel will in fact induce skidding on corners? The Ackermann layout gives correct relationship between inner and outer steering angles for only three positions, viz, straight ahead, one particular angle of inside lock to the right (varying according to the actual geometry), and the same angle of inside lock to the left. Does the small error under other conditions induce skidding? I have an idea that at least one famous British manufacturer has tried experimentally a steering layout in which the steering arms were parallel, and found handling and tyre wear indistinguishable from the normal layout. Furthermore, I am reliably informed that the steering linkage on the Alfa-Romeo 1900 is such that the wheels remain parallel when cornering. Can anyone confirm this?

I hope “A. B. C.” will reply to this.
I am, Yours, etc.,
F. W. Pittuck
Kingston Hill.

Two Rear-Engined Cars
Sir,

Motor Sport has been much concerned with Continental cars of recent months, particularly since the German invasion, and it was to be expected that this would give rise to some interesting and controversial correspondence. Probably the only thing that this has proved is the truth of the statement that it is opinions, not facts, which guide men’s actions, and that a man will give up a great deal before he gives up his bigotries!

I have had a number of cars in the last ten years, some of which were poor, one at least an unmitigated horror. The cars I have owned, with one exception, have always been much slower, much heavier on petrol, and have cost much more to maintain than cars of similar make and year belonging to friends and acquaintances. Moreover, these people never had bad cars, whereas I had several. It was just the same when I was running lorries. I always found that my brand new, latest-pattern machines could never equal the performance of old, worn-out trucks belonging to other people. This used to depress me a great deal, and still does when I think of it, but it is the thought of my childlike innocence that depresses me now.

The exception to this gloomy rule is a Renault 750, bought-secondhand a year ago on the strength of a 10-mile road test and the Motor Sport road test of the original 760 model. I tried all the similarly priced British small cars up to 1 1/4 litres. All used more petrol, only one could compare for roadholding and accuracy of steering, but this one performed pathetically. Some of the others had a good deal more performance than the Renault, but this could not be used due to the vastly inferior steering and roadholding.

After several months of delighted ownership, I was surprised to read what a poor car the Renault was, in the opinion of at least one of the weekly motoring papers. Similar judgment was delivered about the same time on the Volkswagen.

Nothing daunted, when the Volkswagen arrived in this country I lost no time in trying it. The quality of manufacture and finish of this car are considerably better than price-comparable British cars, the steering beautifully light, smooth amid dead accurate, the gearchange the best I have ever used, the driving position first class. All these are points of grave weakness on British cars, although only the Motor Sport road test saw fit to point them out. The effortless way in which the Volkswagen travels in top gear has to be tried to be appreciated; in my own experience I can only compare it with a Mark V 3 1/2-litre Jaguar, which is the most powerful car I have driven. Certainly it is a most remarkable contrast to the fussy, undergeared home products, which are in consequence very tiring to drive over long distances, as well as wearing themselves out at a great rate.

So far as the cornering powers of the Volkswagen are concerned, in any limited experience of the car I should say that it corners as well and handles very similarly to my beloved Renault. Mr. F. R. Nichols need have no qualms about buying a rear-engined car on this account. After driving over 30,000 miles in twelve months I can say with complete confidence that a 750 Renault will out-corner, by a very considerable margin, any British popular car, and that this is true also of the cheaper sports cars, a factor which adds interest and amusement to a long journey. There must, of course, be a point above which any car, even a DB2, will go out of control, but with the Renault this point is way up beyond the point at which its home-produced counterpart has already gone through the hedge. You do not fight a Renault round corners, a light pressure of the finger-tips takes you round, the car following the steering exactly irrespective of the smoothness or otherwise of the road, the whole operation taking place without fuss, tyre squeal or roll, or, indeed, any of the unpleasantness which usually follows when you corner a British popular car rapidly.

The trouble with Continental cars is, of course, that they are foreign, and as a friend of mine said only yesterday, he didn’t like foreign cars because he didn’t. This attitude is quite common, and makes the position of the Bristol car of great interest. This delectable motor has found great favour with many of those people who have the wherewithal to buy it, and is probably coveted by millions, yet I have seen it in print that it is built to pre-war German B.M.W. designs, and that the bodies were developed by an Italian coach-builder. If this is true, and I have not yet seen it contradicted, then it proves that the prejudice which undoubtedly exists against Continental cars exists solely because they are foreign, and that the public will not only buy but clamour for those qualities which are expressly those of the better Continentals. Moreover, if the foregoing is true, what must the post-war products of the same brains and organisations be like? Or is that question rather unkind?
I am, Yours, etc.,
John B. Owen,
Kiveton Park.

Comment
Sir,

Where do the petrol companies stable their obviously large stock of healthy bulls?
I am, Yours, etc.,
Joseph Clayton,
Hove.