New or secondhand-That is the question?
I always enjoy reading through the Letters from Readers part of Motor Sport each month, and especially the unbiased remark, both for and against any particular car. I cannot help but feel rather smug when I read about a new car that has two engines in 11,000 miles. or four rear axles in 8,000 miles, of water in the boot, broken gearboxes, clutches that do not work, electrics that go wrong, and so on. Last summer I covered 30.000 miles on the Continent and used for the purpose a 1938 car, bought from a reputable trader in London and used for 2,000 miles in England before setting off for foreign parts. During the mileage I covered, which included everything from mountain tracks to autobahns and at a general overall running average of 40-45 m.p.h., I never failed to reach my destination on any occasion, except when I returned to London and was within a mile of Earls Court; then a rocker-shaft bolt broke and, had it not dropped down into the timing drive, I could have effected a roadside repair.
The only replacements I needed in 30,000 miles in this “umpteenth-hand ” car were engine bearer springs, which broke every 10,000 miles, replacement taking 15 minutes, a prop.-shaft coupling, a set of friction shock-absorber discs, a rear torsion-bar that broke due to running without a shock-absorber on 2,000 miles of bumpy roads, and four new exhaust valves when the engine was decoked at 20,000 miles. On the electric side both the dynamo and starter had new brushes shortly after the decoke mileage, and no bulbs or wires were even looked at. The clutch has never needed adjustment, while the brakes have been taken up three times, and I still do 30 m.p.g. of petrol and 3,000 m.p.g. of oil, the odometer reads well over 80,000 miles (the driver’s door has just begun to rattle), and the engine was rebored +30 thousandths of an inch some time before my ownership, during the 40,000-mile era. Due to not hanging about around the corners or over bad roads, the tyres wear out regularly in 14,000 miles, but they are 14,000 miles of enjoyable dicing with never an anxious moment, wet or dry, and I have cracked two road wheels under the stresses of a static degree of understeer, while the lightness of all the controls when returning to the car after grappling with Girling, Lockheed, Borg and Beck, Burman Douglas, Lucas, or any other specialist that helps the British motor industry, makes one think that something has become uncoupled.
This is no wonder car that I write about, just a family saloon made for the populace of Italy some 17 years ago and still used by the “funny English who love old cars”—what is it ? Why, a perfectly standard 1938 Lancia Aprilia.
If it now falls about my ears in a thousand pieces and I have to give it away, it will only represent a loss of 3d. a mile.
I am, Yours, etc.,