LETTERS from READERS, March 1956



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LETTERS from READERS N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and “Motor Sport” does not necessarily associate itself with them.—Ed.


In reading through recent copies of your publication I have noted with interest the continual battle Waged by your paper in search of the facts regarding performance of current vehicles. Particularly, have I noticed the reluctance of certain British manufacturers to submit teat models on the basis that your paper will only “praise that which is foreign ” and ” condemn that which is British.”

It would be interesting if you could obtain from returning contestants of the Monte Carlo Rally some details of the mechanical breakdowns and equipment failures, which have called forth comment in today’s daily press.

In reading a report I see that one English car had a brake seizure; wheel collapse appears to be common, and also electrical failures. One paper further comments that British manufacturers who wisely entered cars cannot fail to have learned valuable lessons from the Rally. It would seem to me that this might have been so in 1926, but surely these lessons should have been learned by now.

In all fairness, another paper states that failures were also common in Continental cars, but I think that it would be most interesting to have Some factual information published on this subject.

One is left with the uncomfortable feeling that the quality of materials in British cars is being constantly reduced in order to try to keep pace with the ever-increasing costs, without raising prices. I am, Yours, etc.,

London, S.E.21. P. A. MANN. [We deal with this matter Editorially, but while faults certainly did occur in British cars, to attempt a complete analysis of them is impossible, because information is sparse, especially for British reporters where foreign cars are concerned. Electrical troubles were prevalent, probably due to asking standard batteries, dynamos and other items of the ” electrikery ” to keep eight or nine powerful lamps, heater, radio, screen-wipers, map-reading lamps and whathave-you going for abnormally long periods. And a British car shed wheels, although its driver has since sportingly explained that this was due to the weight of its crew and of their throttle-feet l—ED.] • COMMENT ON ROAD TESTS Sir,

I have read with some interest your article on the Fiat 600 which appeared in the January issue, but as you receive so many letters it is most unlikely that this will ever get into print ! However, my object in writing is to say that whilst your article speaks very highly of the 600, it refers to certain features in an inaccurate way.

You have attempted to give your readers a comprehensive survey by driving some 635 miles over the course of a few clays, and the result is an accumulation of statements, mostly right, but others very definitely wrong. To be really accurate, no one can possibly assess an entirely new vehicle by driving it 600 miles. One has to “live ” with the car ; use it continuously, every day in every kind of weather, and over all kinds of roads and traffic conditions ; drive it solo and with a full complement of passengers and luggage. To achieve this requires several thousands of miles, and only then can one conic to definite conclusions.

Luggage accommodation behind the rear seat is not a ” shallow space.” The available space is easily capable of bolding a very large suitcase, and it is doubtful if any suitcase yet made is wide enough to 611 the width. Under the bonnet a great deal can be stored. The sidelamps are not an afterthought. they are part of the design and as such blend in with the general lines of the car. You refer to the ” expanse of tin ” in front of the front passenger, with only a Fiat motif. Don’t you know that behind this motif are three drilled holes to accommodate the car radio which is available as an ” extra ” ?

I am somewhat appalled to read that you should so abuse this wonderful little car by pulling away in top at 13 m.p.h. Top is technically an overdrive, and whilst it is possible to remain in that gear and decelerate to 10 m.p.h. it is definitely wrong and could be harmful to pull away from that speed. Second would he the appropriate gear to use. In fact to get the best out of this car one should use the gearbox in the way it was intended to be used. It can be truthfully stated that, driven in the correct way, the 600 will outperform many cars with many times the horse-power of the 600.

Your description of the front suspension is rather cruel, and I can but think that adjustment was needed on the car in question. I have never found any passengers being “thrown about ” and my experience with the 600 tells me that the i.f.s. is really good.

And now to petrol economy. I have had my 600 since new and have covered some 8,000 miles with a consumption of precisely 55 m.p.g. I drive hard and fast, and use the gears as they were intended. No sump oil is necessary between oil changes. hardly any water has been added to the radiator, and only once has the battery been topped up in 4i months.

The doors seal so effectively that one has to relieve the internal air pressure by slightly opening the sliding windows, when closing the doors. Mention should also be made of the fact that the whole of the under body is ” undersealed ” at the factory and, with the exception of the front and rear bumpers, all brightwork is of aluminium, hence it is rustproof.

In ray opinion, the 600 is a ” classic” in the true sense of the word and between the VW, Renault 750 and Fiat 600 some 6i million of these ears have been sold. Yet, judging by what one reads in certain sections of the British press and hears on the radio, rear-engined cars are wrongly designed, unsafe on corners, etc., etc.!!

In conclusion, I have owned many British cars, but this Fiat 600 will not be the last foreign car I shall own, that is unless some enterprising British car manufacturer sees the writing on the wall and produces an equally attractive, economical and well-finished light car, at least equal to the 600. I am, Yours, etc.,

Coventry. R. E. ROGERS. Sir,

As a reader of MOTOR SPORT I read with some interest your test report on the Gay Look Hillman Minx ML VIII saloon, and noted you mentioned the engine was vice-free except for transmitting vibration and hunting at tiekover in spite of a rubber-cushioned steady between cylinder head and frame.

I have been the owner of a Mk. VIII since June, 1955, and can no doubt account for the hunting when the engine is idling. This is caused by a blown manifold gasket on No. 2 inlet. I have blown seven manifold gaskets in 8,000 miles and as the car you mentioned had completed 3,000 miles I am without doubt this was the case with the car you tested. On this Mk. VIII the manifold is held on by six 106. by 1-in, cycle-thread nuts, the two centre ones being nearly impossible to tighten even with a special ring spanner. Most of the local Rootes Group agents in this district are fed up with fitting manifold gaskets. Have you any suggestions ? I am, Yours, etc.,

Aldbnry. CHARLES FRA NKL1N. Sir,

Following your article on the Fiat 600 you may be interested in my own experiences. I took delivery of such a car in July last, to be used in my inter-hospital professional duties, for transport from my home to Oxford 15 miles distant, and for use in the congested streets of Oxford. Before delivery I rather looked on it as a “dodgem,” secondary to my large high-performance British car. Soon however I became endeared to it. So far I have covered only 5,000 miles but have been put to no expense whatsoever other than for petrol, oil (Q 5500) and anti-freeze. My experience and opinions may be put under three heads.

I. Performance. A very willing engine, excellent gearbox and an indicated 65 m.p.h. on the level. More to the point, when travelling to Birmingham recently, 40 miles covered in the hour without pressing (only driver in car). On carefully measured quantity of’ petrol, 51i m.p.g. when not exceeding 35 m.p.h. Using the gearbox and accelerator hard-44 m.p.g.

2. Maintenance. There are hut six grease nipples, all between the front wheels. These I attend to myself with a side-lever gun. 3. Design. No component has failed or needed attention other than plug points. There is room and comfort—I am 5 ft. 10 in. and 121 stone. It is really rainproof. The heater is excellent. The rear engine is very accessible and has an overhead inbuilt light. Visibility in fog is particularly good. Steering and eornering ability are excellent. For a mass-produced car the finish is good and with no. sharp edges. Although four people can be carried it seems unreasonable with an engine of only a little more than 600 c.c. to carry their

holiday luggage in addition. But for two people there is ample luggage room when the rear-seat back is folded flat. Ingress and egress are easy. Comment

It would appear that some Continental manufacturers are aware that a small car does not necessarily consist of a sealeddown version of a large car nor, concomitantly, that an enlarged small car makes a satisfactory large car. Each has its virtues and failings. It may be that cars for export are subjected to closer scrutiny than those for a home market, in which event we in the U.K. have an advantage when buying foreign cars. I am not (yet) a shareholder in Fiat! I am, Yours, etc.,


Excuse the supercilious smile; but this water-injection magic is as old as the i.e. engine itself. It is quite amusing to see there hoary brain-waves trotted out ever so often as some vastly new discovery to flabbergast the tyro, but I really think that vendors of such wonders ought to be made to stick at least within measurable distance of the relevant facts in their flights of flamboyant salespatter.

Water injection, more correctly known as the water-drip, was originally a necessary expedient to suppress the violence of the gas expansion in the old hot-bulb “crude oil” engines and was fitted as standard. And for one to misname his proprietary rehash of this time-honoured device “a water-injection bomb” is ridiculous. Nay, it is a technical outrage; he ought to have a water injection himself! Surely it is incumbent upon anyone putting forward a technical matter, however ancient, but more particularly when representing hiniset1 to be an engineer, to respect a reasonable degree of accuracy

I still use, and have done for years, a water-drip on my small tug’s engine-60 h.p. at 550 r.p.m.—and it is of some benefit on prolonged heavy loads. But with modern refined fuel the advantages are not so marked.

It should be noted that with some waters there is a calcinous deposit in the cylinder, and in bad cases enough on the inlet valve and seat to impair the working of the engine. The extreme, sea water, will stop the engine from this cause in a few minutes. I am, Yours, etc.,

Leigh-on-Sea. TROMAS SAUNT. * S * CONFIRMING A SWEDISH READER’S VIEWS Sir, I read with interest Mr. Berta Nassirs letter ” Opinion from Sweden” in the January issue, and can only say “I couldn’t agree more.” I spent some nine weeks in Sweden last summer as a ” praktikant “—i.e., employed while gaining practical experience—thereby

having many opportunil’ o dear the views of workers, engineers and others in Stockhol.-) and up north near Ostersund.

That country provid a an excellent place to compare how British ears fare against the Gam.— Italian, French and Swedish ones to be found there. The distances are fairly great; the roads are often rough stabilised gravel surfaces, although well engineered generally; the cold winters provide tough conditions; the drivers are frequently fast and furious (self-admitted !); they have the highest percentage of care per head of population in Europe. The result is a population very much motor-minded, even to young children and middle-aged women, which really tests its cars during normal usage.

What is the result of this ? The VW has the highest sales, and DKW, Fiat 1,100 and Borgward feature promiuently, as well as a host of American cars and the Swedish Volvo. The 13ritiah car was little seen in comparison, although Austin-Healey and Triumph TR2 seemed popular. The reason is that conditions force the Swede to discriminate by the only sensible standards of ride quality and roadholding, stamina, performance and after-sales service. Britain does not come well out of this and it’s likely to be worse still.

In this uncontrolled Swedish market, at least, let us see some real SERVICE from our motor industry, even if it cannot be original enough to design a modern car (what about that antiquated solid rear axle, for instance ?).

While being shown (in an American car) round Vallingby, the new satellite town near Stockholm, my guide, a fairly well-known engineer, made a point of indicating the vacant premises of a Swedish firm of motor distributors which had ” gone bust ” after about three years. They had distributed British cars—surely a telling tale ! I am, Yours, etc.,

Oxhey. A. J. G. STURGEON.


I am enclosing herewith copy of a letter I have written to the Managing Director of the Standard Motor Company. It is, I hope, self explanatory; you may make what use of it you like. I am, Yours, etc.,

London, E.C.4. WILL1Abf HOWARD. The letter referred to reads as follows :— A. Dick. Esq.,

The Standard Motor Co., Ltd.. Coventry. January 12th. 1956. Dear Sir, In April of last year I bought two ears, both products of your company, • Standard Eight and a Triumph Tem

Previously I have owned or driven most types of oars of various makes, including product of all the ao-called ” popular” manufacturers in England, and in consequence have had a modicum of experience of the attitude one may expect from manufacturers.

The Standard Eight ha. given no trouble at all.

There have been one or two minor troubles with the TH2 which have been dealt with by your Park Royal (Chaee Estate) Service Depot, with the details of which I won’t trouble you.

In November last. when my T112 was well out of guarantee. your Park Royal Service Depot found the crankshaft of the TEl was scored.

Without a query or suggestion that this might have been due to neglect or maltreatment on my part (in fairness, it wasn’t), • aew engine was installed and I was charged a total of 16s. 11d, for the oil.

It was • pleasure to experience the courtesy and attention which have been shown by every person at your Park Royal Depot. from the uniformed commissionaire to Mr. Cook, who is. I believe, your works manager.

I hope this letter will be shown to the Managing Director personally beaanse I wish him to know that Mr. Cook, the works manager, a receptionist named Me. Anderson and a receptionist named Mr. Williams, and many others have, so Car as am concerned, by their competent and pleasing efficiency done your company more good than much expensive advertisement through other medium.. * * * POSSIBILITIES IN LAKELAND Sir,

Reporting your Lakeland tour you remark the absence of Buttermere from 13 5289. Surely even a Bristol would notice so large a lake across its path ! And will not the proud landlords of the Jan Hill Inn (1,758 ft.) on the Yorks/Westmorland border, and of the “Cat and Fiddle” (1,630 ft.) near Buxton, be perturbed at your claim for the Kirkstone Pass Hotel ?

I suggest that on your next Lakes trip you take a small, potent, low-value, sports car and tackle Sadgill (from Longsleddale to Kentrnere), Garburn Pass (from Troutbeck to Kentmere), and Walma Scar (from Courston to the Dadtiou Valley). All these were climbed pre-war by a Hollis Miner—with a little assistance !— owned by Jim Marshall of the Ilkley Motor Club, and this same unlikely chariot has the distinction of being the only cur known to have traversed Gatesgarth Pass from Long Sleddule over to Haweswater.

The highest ” road” in England is, I believe, the track over Cross Fell, east of Silverhand Lead Mine. A motor-cycle combination has been over, but, it is said, no car. Any claimants amongst your readers ? I had a bash in 1939, but was stopped by a deep snowdrift at about 2,300 ft., fully 200 ft. below the highest point.

Critics say that all “specials” nowadays are alike. Here is a chance for one to be unique. I am, Yours, etc.,

Halifax. DONALD S. HAYNES. [These gradients sound very tempting and may provide some fun for the adventurous. So far as Buttermere being a lake is concerned, we can only plead that our motoring diary refers to Butter. mere House on 13 5289 as 1 miles long and 1 in 31, and that we couldn’t locate it.—En.] * * *


Having read your most excellent article in ” Matters of Moment ” in your December issue, I feel that I must join the battle in defence of the foreign product.

After my experiences in recent years with British cars, I have become a Volkswagen convert and to date am thoroughly pleased with my decision. The car is economical, well finished, quite fast enough, and tireless to drive. In addition, I can sit in the car with my hat on and not touch the roof and I ant 6 ft. 4 in. tall.

On journeys from my home to London the car takes virtually the same time as my modified Jaguar Mark VII. A friend of mine locally, who also has the same two cars, claims that the VW consistently puts up the better time.

The Jaguar is just over a year old and has done 20,000 miles. In the first four months that I had the car, it spent more than two either in agents’ hands or at the works with persistent brake trouble. Thin brake trouble was admitted by Jaguars to be common to most Mark VIls, although the model was first introduced some three

years ago. Added to this the car was delivered with three faulty instruments (the speedometer has now also gone), and it has cost me some £100 in eradicating minor faults. To its credit, it has a wonderful engine, but the rest of the car just doesn’t match up to it, especially the roadholding.

Before the Jaguar I had a Triumph TR2. It was, to be fair, one of the earliest ones and on the credit side was roomy, economical and had a good engine. But when I got rid of it after 11,000 miles it was on its fourth gearbox, third lot of brakes and second back axle I! All provided under guarantee admittedly, but one seldom had the car to use.

At the same time as the TR2 I had a Ford Zephyr, which was good value for money but had a very uncomfortable driving position and also had teething troubles, in the shape of a new back axle and propeller-shaft in the first 6,000 miles.

These two ears were preceded by a Morgan Plus Four and a Vanguard estate car. The Vanguard never put a foot wrong in 30,000 miles and I hope to own a new Phase III model some day. The Morgan was brisk and a lovely car on tests in rallies, but the steering went. It was replaced after 3,000 miles by a new assembly, which had completely gone after a further 1,5W). The first time it was replaced free by the works, but not the second, much to my disgust !

Ask anyone in this country how they like their current British car and ten to one they will reply, ” It’s a nice car, but . . . ” and go on to reel off a list of teething troubles, quite often of a major nature. This is all very well in this country, where we are accustomed to put up with these things, but it must be doing us untold harm in our export markets. I meet a lot of Americans who have owned British cars in the States and they say with one accord, ” Never again,” and quote as their reason non-existent after-sales service and inability to get spares. It’s bad enough over here, as I know to my cost. Quite the best example of salesmanship concerns a friend of mine who, a few months ago, ordered a Type 220A Mercedes from the works. He wanted it for hie holiday but was told that it wouldn’t be. delivered in time, unless he liked them to fly someone over specially to collect the car. ‘When he naturally asked how much extra it would cost, he was greeted with a shocked, “Cost you ? My dear Sir, we are selling you the car ! ” I can well imagine that happening over here with our exorbitant delivery charges. 1 4

Manufacturers must face up to the fact that the joy-ride is over and that we are only just beginning to feel the weight of German competition. And finally,, as you so rightly say, they niust never be afraid of constructive criticism; it never hurt anyone.

I am, Yours, etc.

Sellindge. R. k. CooKsort. * * * THE DEATH OF BENOIST Sir,

On page 81 of your February issue you state that Robert Benoist was killed by fifth columnists. This is not strictly true. In fact, he was executed by the Germans in Buchenwald Concentration Camp on September 9th, 1944, along with fifteen other agents, one of whom was my father. Like the rest of them, Benoist had been working for the Resistance, but eventual betrayal resulted in his capture.

His brave, but unpleasant death, is well told in “The White Rabbit,” by Geo. Thomas. For those of you who are interested may recommend this book ? T um, Yours, etc., cio G.P.O., London. M. D. S. HunntE, (Lieut., Royal Navy) 1We gladly publish this correction, being well aware that Benoist was executed in a German concentration camp, but writing of fifthcolumnists by a slip of the pen. The page in question was hurriedly “put to bed” on the eve of leaving for Monte Carlo and we confess to two other errors—Seaman was killed in 1939, not in 1938, and when Nuvolari won the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup lie was at the wheel of his beloved Alfa-Romeo, not that of an Auto-Union. We thank those readers who have pointed out our sideslip in the wrong direction.— El). I IN MEMORIAM Sir, I was interested to see the page of photographs in last month’s MOTOR SPORT depicting memorials to drivers who have lost their ives in pursuit of the most courageous of sports. I have seen many

of those you featured and was gratified at the way they are preserved by the present generation of enthusiasts.

In addition to those you chose, you may like to know that I have found others in my travels about Europe, notably the simple but sincere pillar to Bernd Rosemeyer, the great Auto-Union driver. This is at the edge of a wood just off the Frankfurt-Darmstadt Autobahn, opposite the place where he crashed when record-breaking in 1938. This memorial is still beautifully preserved and local enthusiasts visit it with wreaths every anniversary of his death.

The circuit at Albi is named after Raymond Sommer, while that at Marseilles, in the Parc Borely, is named after Jean Pierre-WindUe. On the Picardie circuit a monument was erected to Louis Trintignant, elder brother of the well-known Maurice and there are many others erected by local clubs in memory of members who paid the price for the sport we love.

Far from being a morbid subject, the erection of memorials to those who have died gives me a sense of proportion about the exacting sport of motor racing. While paying homage to Rosemeyer in the quiet wood just off the Autobahn, I not only acknowledged a supreme master of his particular era of Grand Prix racing, but thought ” how he would have delighted in the Porsche Spyder if he were alive today.” No matter from what period of motor racing the memorial might be, whether of the early 1900s or 1950s, all theft men and women died whilst doing something they held above all else, they died in the heat of battle and endeavouring to conquer the machine that killed them. It is inevitable that the development of the racing car should take its toll, but it is a fine thought that we do not forget those whom we have lost, for from them we can all learn a great deal. I am, Yours, etc.,

Odiham. D. S. J. * * • A ROVER INNOVATION Sir,

The combined ignition-key and starter-switch of the Volkswagen (referred to in February ” Rumblings “) is not, I think, just another example of Teutonic ingenuity—it was standard on the Rover Fourteen of 1936. I am, Yours, etc.,

Knebworth. R. A. P. Saturn. •**•** •**•** MOBIL OIL COMPANY FILM SHOW

On January 31st two films, ” Scramblemania ” and ” Mobilgae Economy Run 1955,” were shown in London. The first,” Scramblemania,” primarily for motor-cycle club audiences, described a number of scramble meetings. The other, ” Mobilgas Economy Run 1955,” showed the first event of this kind ever to be held in this country, a 575-mile run for all types of cars running to a strict time schedule with a view to obtaining maximum mileage on a given quantity of petrol. The event will take place again in June this year. Both films were in colour and copies are available from the Mobil Oil Company, Ltd.