Letters from Readers, March 1958



A Rare Riley


As a fellow enthusiast for the Riley 14/6 Alpine tourer, I can thoroughly endorse Mr. L. J. Beach’s comments on this very useful but rare model.

My own version, a 1932 model fitted with the 1929 engine, has been in frequent use since 1949. The original engine had been bored to plus-60 thou. and after 30,000 miles, and more as a luxury than because of any defects the block was resleeved and the crank reground. Since the operation some 12,000 miles have been pleasantly motored. Petrol consumption works out around 27 m.p.g. and overall performance is sound rather than spectacular; about 75 m.p.h. can be encouraged and 60-65 m.p.h. is a characteristic cruising speed.

For normal bread-and-butter use a Rover Fourteen, an A70 Hampshire and a Vauxhall Velox, in that order, have been tried. In the matter of high cruising speeds the A70 and Vauxhall are superior to the Riley, but for sheer satisfaction of driving—and that means first-rate roadholding, acceleration, manoeuvrability, and reasonably fast cruising—the Alpine is the best of the bunch. Over 400 miles in holiday traffic one day last year in the “oldster” proved less tiring than half that distance in the newer cars; even the pre-war Rover had the edge in most respects over the post-war tinware.

Here in the north. I have seen one or two other possible Alpines, though the model is superficially similar to the Plus Ultra 9-h.p. of about 1932, and for that reason positive identification wasn’t possible.

From some of the knowledgeable there is the view that a number of the Alpines were used, in converted form, as “specials” during the 1930s. Certainly it is a rare bird and if you have a good one it looks as though there is some understandable reluctance in accepting lesser products.

I am, Yours, etc.,

J. F. B. Tew





I have an Austin Atlantic which is fitted with quite a good many “extras.” I would like to hear if anyone can beat this?

I am, Yours, etc.,

Jack Kelly, Jnr.


P.S.—”Dangling dolly” not included.


A 1935 Alvis Speed Twenty


I was most interested in the letter from Mr. Arnold S. Bell and the photograph of his Rover Twelve coupé published in the January issue.

I do indeed agree that the Rover is a neat job, but I feel that the enclosed photograph of my 1935 Alvis Speed Twenty coupé—in which both sidescreens and hood are still on the car—shows that the rear-hinged metal lid beneath which all is concealed was well handled by the Charlesworth designers twelve years before the Rover coupé took the road in 1947.

I am, Yours, etc.,

K. F. Nelson Curryer





I have also experienced eye irritation in the 100E-type Ford Anglia. I had the same complaint with a 1954 model and eventually traced it to the windshield demister nozzles. These I modified with a strip of plastic which I inserted into the nozzles in order to deflect the heated air on to the windshield. I found that in the unmodified xondition, more then half of the demister air was being blown towards my head. This car was fitted with a recirculation-type heater. With my present model, a 1956 100E type, I have the same trouble after 15 min. behind the wheel; however, this car is fitted with an air-conditioning system and I am able to switch off the windshield demister at will.

I would like to add that both cars were assembled in Holland and that the windshield glass used is of local manufacture.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Harold Elgey



Ford Reliability


I have been so pleased with the mileage obtained with the original engine in my October 1953 Mark I Ford Consul that I thought other Ford owners may be interested. I have just sent the car in for a replacement engine, having completed 98,040 miles with the original engine.

At 97,500 miles I found that I was having to check my back exhaust valve every day, as this got noisy after about 80 miles. At 98,040 miles I realised this was due to the cam follower, which was then very worn and only just opening the valve. Even though I felt that the engine had another 30,000 miles, at least, ahead, as it was only using one pint of oil per 600 miles and the power, until the cam trouble, was as good as ever. I considered it doubtful economy to pay for the engine stripping and fitting a a new cam, and therefore decided to have a reconditioned engine fitted. The following is a summary of repairs from the start to 98,040 miles:

Engine: decoke, at 50,000 miles and at 96,500 miles (by myself).
Timing-case oil seal.
Axle: one bearing (carrier).
Two rear springs.
Brakes relined three times.
Approximately four sets of tyres; say, 20,000 miles per set.
New radiator.
Oil seal to front suspension.
Three new wheel bearings to front near side.
New track-rod ends.

This car has been driven every day for business and, as I am a civil engineer, the roads I use are often pretty rough. It has been driven in rallies and hill-climbs. I always cruise at 60-65 m.p.h., and up to 75 m.p.h. when roads permit. I change the oil every 1,500 miles and I have used Shell X100 S.A.E. 20 from the start and I.O.W 30 when this was introduced.

Why look further than a Ford? I have had one for fifteen years and will continue to do so until I can afford an Aston Martin, and then I shall keep a Ford as a second car.

I am, Yours, etc.,

H. Lang



Racing on Petrol


I should like to cross swords with Mr. Bayley (January issue) on the subject of petrol and engine reliability.

Mr. Bayley and Mr. L. W. E. Hartley have, in the past, voiced the opinion that alcohol (“obtainable in abundance from freely growing, although uncultivated, vegetation”) would solve both the problem of an unstable British economy and that of burnt exhaust valves.

While this may be true, may I point out that, owing to a more complicated manufacturing method and to problems of bulk drying, alcohol would, and does, prove more expensive to burn than petrol.

There is also the disadvantage that alcohol, to produce comparable power, must be used in rather startling quantities, owing to the fact that alcohol has an inferior calorific value. The carburetter settings, contrary to what Mr. Bayley states, would have to be altered to take alcohol in quantity. Benzol. however, can be added to petrol to about 30 per cent. with beneficial results, and since benzole is obtained from coal then International upsets should not affect this source.

What Mr. Bayley does not say is that tetraethyl-lead, which is added to petrol for anti-knock reasons, most definitely destroys exhaust valves in time. This addition of t.e.l., as far as one can see, serves only two good purposes: (1) it permits the petroleum companies to blend into their product a spirit which is better suited to agricultural tractors, and (2) it supplies a market for the produce of the Ethyl Corporation of U.S.A., who appear to have the monopoly in this line.

However, to leave fuel and turn to engines, would Mr. Bayley not agree with me when I aver that the 500-c.c. Norton engine is of the one-lung variety and is also the most reliable (I did not say fastest) in its own field? It burns petrol.

Mr. Vandervell, I am sure, agrees, since he was not above borrowing from Nortons in the manufacture of his now widely acclaimed Vanwall unit. Mr. Bayley might be well employed looking into the possibility of increased internal friction and complexity from, say, eight cylinders over four.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Ian G. Colquhoun



The Cost of Insurance


I have just noticed a letter in your columns written by Mr. Mark Stead. I feel I must comment on it as his remarks are most misleading and might possibly influence other people in purchasing the car of their choice.

First and foremost, I must explain to Mr. Stead that Insurance Underwriters do, quite obviously, differ greatly in their underwriting principles. As man has his preference for blondes, brunettes or red-heads, based by and large on the principle of experience, chemical reaction and profit and loss, so almost exactly in the same way do Insurance Underwriters view certain motor cars and trades and professions. Let me assure Mr. Stead that in the normal way his particular car can be insured for Third Party coverage at an annual premium of about £19, always provided that the proposer had reached years of discretion, had a clean record and is going to give the car normal use. On the other hand, journalists are not popular risks and obviously the class-of-use premium increase must be applied to them in the same way that it is to so many other trades. and this increase is not purely something thought up by the Underwriters but, in most cases, asked for to provide additional coverage for the private car used for commercial purposes, as provided by law.

His remarks referring to a possible premium for his car of £140 and such things as a £50 excess is utter nonsense, and could only be asked of a proposer who had such a shockingly bad record that a company wished to finally discourage his business, and, naturally, I am wondering whether Mr. Stead has disclosed all the facts. I would like to point out to him that the majority of insurance companies are as fair and reasonable as they can possibly be, taking into consideration that there are very few of them not making heavy losses on their motor accounts and that, perhaps in his case, quotations he has received are assessing the risks of the man and not the machine.

I am, Yours, etc.,

A. Hyde-East



Sir, I wonder if your correspondent would be interested in the following, which applies to my 1955 Borgward Isabella:—< Details and a proposal form with pleasure, on request! Incidentally, full marks to the Isabella: independent suspension all round, four-speed all-synchromesh gearbox, plenty of passenger space, a pay load of 820 lb., 70-m.p.h. cruising, and all from 1,500 c.c. and a 6.8-to-1 compression ratio. Mine has clocked over 50,000 km., including Lebanon to the U.K. and vice versa with, so far, no major snags. I am, Yours, etc., E. W. Curtis Hemel Hempstead. *** Sir, Having read Mr. Mark Stead's letter on his insurance difficulty I feel, in all fairness to Norwich Union, I should pass on my experience with them. I am running a Mercedes 220 cabriolet (1953) in Germany, which is the highest price area. I am not yet 25, the normal age most companies like, and, as aircrew, am considered a rather unhealthy risk. Nevertheless, the premium I am paying for Third Party Only, with only £10 excess, is just below £19, this with the recent increase. Incidentally, a few notes on my car may interest you. A genuine maximum of 90 m.p.h. on tatty German petrol and, in normal running, cruising at 60-70, the fuel consumption never drops below 25 m.p.g. The only real criticism is that the hood, when folded back, is not stowed out of sight but left in full view. I am, Yours, etc., "220 Type" R.A.F., Germany. *** Sir, May I quite respectfully admonish you in the words of the late George Bernard Shaw—"My dear Sir, Oh, my dear Sir"—in relation to your editorial comment on Mr. Graham Walker's letter published on page 93 of the January issue of your magazine. In particular, my comments are in criticism of the final sentence of your footnote. With regret (as a motorist) I must disagree (as an insurance official) that the cost of Third Party Only cover is costly or, for that matter, there is any "interchange of liability" between companies arising from the application of "Knock-for-Knock" agreements. May I first explain that assuming the application of the more usual form of "Knock-for-Knock" agreement between motor insurers, if one insured is covered Comprehensively and another Third Party Only, and these two unhappily come into collision, their respective insurers apply their policies, so far as they go, in the interests of their insureds, after confirmation of the "Knock-for Knock" agreement. As a consequence thereof, the company whose policy is Comprehensive, indemnify their insured under their Contract of Insurance in respect of his Material Damage, and deal with any claim made upon him by the Third Party for his uninsured loss. Now the company whose insured is covered for Third Party Only cannot be called upon to make payment to their insured under their contract for his Material Damage, loss of use, or other extraneous expense to which he may have been put. If their insured wishes to claim for these items, irrespective of "Knock-for-Knock" agreement, the claim falls upon the Third Party Section of the other Insured's Comprehensive Policy. Similarly, if the comprehensively insured motorist wishes to claim for uninsured loss, such as loss of use, then his claim falls on the Third Party Only policy. Only in the case of the Third Party Only insured motorist being wholly or partially responsible for the accident is any liability for the Material Damage of the comprehensively insured vehicle transferred to the Accidental Damage section of the Comprehensive Policy. You will see, therefore, that there is no "interchange of liability" so far as the Third Party Sections of the policies are concerned, because of "Knock-for-Knock" agreement. In the case of two Third Party Only policies being involved, then neither insurer would have to meet a claim by his respective insured for Material Damage, etc., but claims only in protection of the insured for Third Party Liability, and again there is no transfer of liability. Far from "inflating the cost of even these innocent policies" the application of "Knock-for-Knock" agreements mitigates against the endless litigation on the grounds of responsibility, as is the experience on the Continent, where the cost of Third Party Insurance is often from three to five times greater than in this country. Whilst admitting that the incidence of claims per 1,000 population, per 1,000 vehicles or even per 1,000 kilometres of highway is greater on the Continent, nevertheless, from experience it is evident that part of the high cost of Third Party claims there is due to the absence of "Knock-for-Knock" agreements. The majority of motor accidents lead to proceedings in both penal and civil courts and insurers have not only to defend their clients but to meet the resultant and frequently greatly inflated Third Party claims. Finally, and to avoid inquiry in this respect, I should say that despite the No-Claim Bonus not being a No-Blame Bonus, the majority of motor insurers in this country do not prejudice their insured’s discount, oven if obliged to make a payment because, of “Knock-for-Knock” agreement, if they are satisfied that their insured would have been able completely to have recovered his loss from the Third Party, had he not been insured.

I am, Yours, etc.,

A. E. Jackett, A.C.I.I.

Eltham Park.