I realise that most enthusiasts who are not VW owners must be getting heartily sick of reading about them. Each monthly issue that I read I think this must be the end of the VW correspondence and editorial praise but, apart from the New Year’s resolution in the January issue (made to be broken anyway), I see no signs of abatement. However, before it does finish 1 feel I should like to get on the “gravy” train and say my piece.
I am a post-war enthusiast with a great love for vintage cars and good quality machinery. Since 1946 I have owned well over 20 cars, mostly with sporting characteristics. To mention a few : Lagonda Rapier, M.G., Fiat, O.M. 2.3-litre blown, J.B.M.(V8), H.R.G. 1,500, various Fords (blown or tuned), blown Minor, a few low-h.p. vintage cars and a Healey tourer. On all these vehicles I covered a considerable mileage, both on my job (average 500 per week) and weekly competitions, rallies, hill-climbs, sprints, and a little club racing (750 class this year).
A year ago I considered the VW to be just another uninteresting small car of rather peculiar design. Then a friend of mine bought one (much to my surprise he came off a Plus Four Morgan) after a demonstration. I tried it and was entranced. What smoothness ! What a gear-change ! What steering, seating and driving position ! What ease of running at maximum speed (which seemed to keep building up slowly after you thought you had reached maximum)! What quality ! All superb features, but—the snag—violent oversteer when cornered really fast, and not quite enough power for me.
A month or two later the larger-engined model was introduced. I went to my local dealer and was amazed to find a full range of spares, fixed prices (very reasonable) for service and three factory-trained mechanics who were very keen. So I took the plunge, traded in my Healey (which I disliked despite its 105 m.p.h.). and drove away in a new Volkswagen. I drove her up to maximum speed in gears from the beginning, but made sure she got the recommended service and oil changes.
After a while I found out the following facts : Oversteer is 99 per cent, cured by inflating the front tyres to 18 lb.. rear 26 lb. (at slight discomfort loss), never tugging at the wheel, just lightly holding and slightly turning the wheel on fast corners, and being ever so gentle in the wet. The car corners like a leech, and was passing much faster cars on Silverstone Club circuit at the corners in safety. I completed nearly 50 laps in faster times by a few seconds than the tuned Minors, and my VW was standard except for jets. I know one of our VW team turned over when he took a wrong line due to being hemmed in at a corner (but so have Ferraris under similar circumstances). I used 20/30 tyre pressures on the standard Michelin tyres, and oversteer was absent at racing speeds when handled correctly. I have gained six awards for first in class and sometimes fastest saloon in autocross and hill-climbs this season.
She has done 11,000 miles, the only mechanical attention being one set of new plugs at 10,000—only because it is recommended in the handbook. Oil consumption almost nil; petrol average, including competitions, just over 30 m.p.g.
A few very minor faults developed in components when the car was new, windscreen wipers and a squeak in the clutch withdrawal, but were cured within a few hours free of charge. I get, with corrected speedo., 0-50 m.p.h. in 17.2 sec. (one up) and under favourable conditions over 80 m.p.h. Always a genuine 70 m.p.h. cruising over any surface in amazing comfort.
Finally, one more word about the oversteer. This is not caused by the rear-end weight but by the swing axles, which I believe can be adjusted. Most swing-axle cars seem to have oversteer, and rear weight helps to cure it. Note the difference in handling of the VW (with normal tyre pressures) with four up. So there we are. I have forsaken my high-speed sports (sic) car for a family runabout but, when its grandpa designed racing cars, I need make no excuse. Like Stirling Moss, I feel “if only it was made in England.”
I am, Yours. etc.,
Manchester 14. Eric Lister.
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