Matters of moment, March 1959

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The Monte Carlo in retrospect

The 1959 Monte Carlo Rally is all over bar the shouting. It has been described in some quarters as a fiasco but we imagine that had a British car won it would have been acclaimed a great success. The system of basing the results on secret time controls is shaky but entrants know to a large extent what they are facing before they start. The weather relented disappointingly just prior to the start this year but was nevertheless severe enough to make the event a tough test of crews and cars, while no-one can lightly wave aside the final test in the mountains as a picnic.

So far as Motor Sport  is concerned, the results were eminently satisfactory. We have done all in our power to establish the Citroën as the most modern of motor cars, years ahead of its contemporaries in most respects, and so it was with pleasure rather than surprise that we heard that a privately-entered Citroën  ID 19 had won outright, with another Citroën ID 19 in fourth place to emphasise that this was no fluke. This victory in this much-publicised long-distance winter rally will give the French Motor Industry a beneficial shot in the arm and Citroën owners the world over must be feeling the same sense of pride that Renault Dauphine users felt at this time last year.

The many Simcas we have driven have never failed to inspire us as splendid family cars with just that little something some others haven’t got, in spite of a conventional specification. So we are glad a Simca took second place.

Regular readers will know our enthusiasm for air-cooling, so to find a little D.B.-Panhard in third place is excellent. It is significant, too, to those who believe as we do that the propeller-shaft is an anachronism, that this year five of the first twelve cars in the Monte Carlo Rally had front-wheel-drive (Citroen, D.B., and D.K.W.) and that last year’s-rally was won by a rear-engined, rear-drive car with 25 per cent, of the first dozen placemen using f.w.d. vehicles.

Britain has every reason to be proud of Sunbeam, Jaguar and Austin for being, respectively, the highest-placed British car (Adams/ McMillen  —  Rapier, fifth), winners of the Team Prize (Parkes/Howarth, Brinkman/Cuff, Walton/Martin  —  3.4-litres) and winners of the Ladies’ Prize (Pat Moss/Ann Wisdom  —  A40). We offer the warmest possible congratulations to the British girls, Pat and Ann, on beating 106 male crews by bringing their new Austin A40 home in 10th place  —   even if a lucky change in routing gave them time to repair a cracked inlet manifold which would otherwise have eliminated them.

We have advocated the superiority of Michelin “X” tyres on many occasions, so we are delighted that the first five places were won by cars shod with these sure-footed metallic tyres. The winning Citroën relied, too, on Ferodo brake linings and disc pads.

Of the Big Five from this country, Ford were placed 136, Rootes had a Sunbeam home 16th apart from their excellent fifth position, as we have said, Austin was 10th, a Standard was 25th, but we have to go down to 35th place before the first Nuffield vehicle, a 1.5 Riley, is placed, and to 51st place before a Vauxhall canters in.

However, luck takes a considerable hand in the Monte Carlo Rally and it is our opinion that the most sensible assessment of car-worth from the results is achieved by contemplating the proportion of starters of each make which complete the 2,100-mile road section  —   these can be regarded as sound touring cars  —  and then the cars that come back after the gruelling 270-mile mountain eliminating test  —  these can be regarded as excellent touring cars!  Consequently, we publish, on page 171 (web version page 33), a table giving this analysis. 

We congratulate Coltellani and Alexandre on so ably demonstrating the superiority of the modern Citroën, and we commend the cars placed 1-2-3 in the various classes, i.e., : Jaguar, Jaguar, Ford; Citroën, Citroën, Sunbeam; Simca, Volkswagen, Alfa-Romeo; D.K.W., Austin, D.K.W., amongst the standard and modified touring cars; Aston Martin (only finisher); Volvo, Citroën, Porsche; Alfa-Romeo, Denzel, Peugeot; D.B., D.K.W., Austin A35, amongst the standard and modified Grand Touring and Special Touring cars. Good cars all!  Amongst the also-ran cars there was considerable electrical trouble, but nothing like the plague which beset British competitors in 1956, but punctures were prevalent  —  and rally failures of this sort lead to better bread-and-butter cars in years to come.

Finally, for the record, here are the first six in general classification:

1.  Coltellani/Alexandre  (1,911 c.c Citroën ID 19)  —    France  —  308 points lost

2.  Thomas/Delliere  (1,290 c.c. Simca P60)  —  France  —  330 points lost

3.  Surles/Piniers  (850 c.c. D.B.-Panhard)  —  France  —  478 points lost

4.  Marang/Badoche  (1,911 c.c. Citroën ID 19)  —  France  —  489 points lost

5.  Adams/McMillen  (1,494 c.c. Sunbeam Rapier)  —  Britain  —  502 points lost

6.  Bengtson/Lohmander  (1,580 c.c. Volvo)  —  Sweden  —  537 points lost  

***

Compulsory tests for old cars  —  more difficulties

We have stated previously our reasons for thinking that the proposed Compulsory Testing of cars over ten years old will constitute a waste of effort and public money. The Ministry of Transport arrangements for these long-ago announced but oft-postponed tests seem to be going sadly astray, if we are to believe an editorial in the Yorkshire Post, in which it is stated that Leeds Corporation have refused to co-operate with the. M.o.T.’s demand for testing facilities at their municipal garages. Alderman John Rafferty, Chairman of the Leeds Transport Committee, is quoted as saying that the scheme is too expensive and would involve employing extra week-end staff. How right his attitude is!   But does this mean that, having had insufficient response from the garage industry, the M.o.T. is belatedly trying to foist responsibility for these futile tests onto municipal authorities ?

***

Life of the new Preston Motorway  —  seven weeks!

Although, with America, Germany, Italy and other countries in possession of hundreds of miles of motor roads a quarter of a century ago,  Britain’s few miles of Preston By-Pass, her first real motor road, was nothing to shout about, it marked a step in the right direction, so its official opening was welcomed.

Forty-seven days later the road had to be closed due to a faulty surface. This is a disaster for British prestige akin to the Comet crashes, the failure of the V16 B.R.M., and our lack of a moon rocket. New, better D.H. Comets have now washed out one of these setbacks, the later B.R.M.s have won races, one day a red, white and blue rocket may reach, or pass, the moon. No doubt, following “an urgent and detailed engineering investigation” ordered by the Minister of Transport, the Preston By-Pass will be re-opened and later this year the great Midlands Motor Road will, we hope, prove more durable than its little forerunner in Lancashire, which Mr. Macmillan described, when he opened it, as “a very fine new road, symbol of a new era in motor travel”

Let us not overlook the fact that years’ work costing nearly £4 million of public money that  into the construction of the Preston Motorway-brief in length and very brief in life span.

We are told now that the road is “merely experimental.” This will not satisfy the motorists of this country, who, in road fund licence fees and the savage 2s. 6d. a gallon petrol tax, have paid millions upon millions of pounds into the National Exchequer, and who justifiably demand in return proper roads for twentieth-century travel. Some of this tax money no doubt keeps the boffins at the Road Research Laboratory in business  —  how is it that they were not called in to ensure that Britain’s first, hotly-publicised Motorway would survive a few nights of winter frost?  Or were they?  Is the motorist to pay for these repairs?  In higher taxation?

These are matters that concern every road-vehicle owner in the country, while the safe condition of our new motor roads is of vital interest to all readers of Motor Sport  who drive that little bit faster and better than A-to-B motorists.

The Minister of ‘Transport should make a full public report on the shameful fiasco of the Preston Motorway  —  and quickly, both as to why the damage occurred and why repairs are now likely to cost £95,000 of public money instead of £4,000 as originally estimated.

***

Opening of the speed season

The 1959 motor-racing season opens on March 1st with a Surrey Sporting C.C. Speed Trial at Brands Hatch, followed by the C.U.A.C. Speed Trial at Snetterton on March 8th. Those who cannot embrace motor racing should consider sprint events, which call for driving concentration and skill of a rather special kind and can provide an outlet for specially-conceived sprint cars.

***

The National Vehicle Trust

At a meeting at the R.A.C. in London, called by the Rt. Hon. Lord Montagu of Beaulieu on February 5th, the formation of a National Vehicle Trust was agreed to, the objects of the Trust being to promote the permanent preservation of veteran and vintage vehicles in this country and to promote the scientific study of and research into the origins and development of sources of power for the propulsion of vehicles.

After some initial cold water poured in unexpected volumes on Lord Montago’s proposals by committee members of the V.C.C. and V.M.C.C., the meeting veered towards warm approval and, a vote being taken, 80 persons representing vintage and one-make clubs and the general public voted in favour of another meeting, whereas only seven were against, Mr. Fred Lanchester, President of the V.C.C., explaining that he was abstaining from voting until he had read the full objects of the Trust as given to the Board of Trade.

At the next meeting, to be called by Cecil Clutton, Chairman of the N.V.T., and Lord Montagu, sponsor, trustees and members of the V.C.C., V.S.C.C. and V.M.C.C. will discuss the next moves required. A V.C.C. spokesman expressed a desire for the Press and public to be excluded from this next meeting. Why ?

The provisional Trustees are named as representatives of the V.C.C., V.S.C.C., V.M.C.C., the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, Lord Montagu, Cecil Clutton, Graham Walker and William Boddy, Editor of Motor Sport.

If the Trust can achieve for the preservation of historic vehicles what similar organisations have one for the preservation of the countryside, historic buildings, old arts and crafts, etc., then nationwide support is to be expected and generous donations of cars and financial support are likely. Already Mr. Scott-Moncrieff has donated to the National Vehicle Trust a vintage Chenard-Walcker saloon and Lord Montagu the ex-Malcolm Campbell V12 350-h.p. Sunbeam racing car. Lord Montagu has made it clear that he has no further space in his museum for additional vehicles for some considerable time to come, and that vehicles preserved by the Trust will be seen in action and not relegated to museum buildings. We feel that the Lagonda Club speaker who gave enthusiastic support to the proposed Trust, and hoped it would save p.v.t cars as well as veterans, will be particularly glad to hear this, because two early vintage Lagonda light cars were noticed outside the august portals of the R.A.C. while the meeting was in progress, a most praiseworthy instance of such cars being used as practical transport.

The future of Croydon Aerodrome

We are glad to note that various interested bodies are fighting the Government proposal that Croydon aerodrome, London’s first airport, unless Hounslow can be said to have held temporarily this distinction, should be closed. After Brooklands Track had been lost beyond recall regrets were expressed and a memorial erected. Let us hope that aviation enthusiasts will remember this and do all in their power to save Croydon, where flying history has been made for over thirty years  —  the Editor recalls with nostalgia visits made to the public enclosure off Plough Lane, Waddington (where existed in those days the first aeroplane level crossing in the world), to watch the rather spaced-out arrival of de Havilland, Handley-Page and Farman air-liners. The closing of Croydon would be a sad loss to aviation enthusiasts and London flying clubs.