Letters from Readers, March 1959

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


The Peco Booster


I read with interest your remarks regarding the usefulness of a certain “exhaust booster,” and perhaps my experience with this device may be of interest.

Before fitting the booster to my 1958 Austin A35, the petrol consumption averaged out at 43.5 m.p.g.. taken over 6,000 miles of everyday motoring consisting of both short trips and journeys of up to 160 miles daily. Two months ago I fitted a booster, and the consumption over 3,000 miles of identical motoring works out at the same figure of 43.5 m.p.g.

The only effect of fitting the booster has been to deepen the exhaust note.

I am, Yours, etc.,

N.G. Trotman



British quality


With reference to Mr. Gershon’s letter in your issue dated January regarding his Mercedes 190 car, Mr. Gershon mentioned that the valves and guides showed no appreciable wear after 15,000 miles and considered this unique after his experience with broached and drilled guides. This gives the impression that cars including British makes use valve guides with an inferior bore finish.

In fairness to British manufacturers I should like to point out that valve guide bores are finished by a process known as ” Fine Boring ” which gives exceptionally accurate results. Basically the valve guide is rotated in a very accurate spindle with a run-out not exceeding 50 millionths of an inch total indicator reading. A single point carbide tool is then fed through the bore at a fine and constant feed. The guide is held in a diaphragm chuck which ensures that the bore is machined concentric with the outside diameter within .0003 in. total indicator reading. Fine boring is also extensively used for finishing other components such as gudgeon pin holes in pistons, connecting rod bores, gearbox components, etc.

Mr. Gershon’s letter is very interesting as it illustrates how difficult it is for a car designer to meet everyone’s individual requirements. All cars are a compromise even down to quite minor components. The designer therefore has to consider a tremendous number of variables and select the combination which gives the best results to suit the market which he is trying to cover.

The prosperity of this country depends to a large extent on the motor industry which does a very good job with little encouragement either from the Government or from the average car user and I do think that we should give them every possible support. When visiting Germany recently I was impressed by the fact that all Germans use a German car. This is not due to the fact that German cars are any better than equivalent British, French or Italian cars but because to them it seems the obvious and patriotic thing to buy a German car. I think we should do the same. In Mr. Gershon’s case it seems to be that a Jaguar 3.4 would meet nearly all his reptirements except for rear independent suspension, but in addition he could have disc brakes and overdrive for the same price as a Mercedes 190.

The firm with which I am connected have operated a number of British-made cars and light vans all of which have given good service. Some of our vans covered 200,000 miles before being replaced. My own Jaguar Mk. 7 has covered 35,000 miles and the engine has not yet been touched, except to change the plugs, not even to examine the valves and guides.

I am, Yours. etc.,

W. Boneham



 A Fiat 600 in Kenya


I have a Fiat -600 and much as I like it I do wish it had an air-cooled engine and just a few more c.c.s, but as it is, it’s a fine little motor car. I bought it new in Kenya 1955, cost .£460, over £100 cheaper than the Morris Minor or A35, and over £160 cheaper (understandably) than the VW. Remember East Africa is a Free Trade market for all cars whatever the country of manufacture. 22 per cent. duty on all.

In 1956, when I returned to the U.K.. British motor manufacturers were just beginning to realise that the roads of East Africa are different from the ones in the U.K., and were improving their cars sent out there, but the Continentals have a head start on them.

Carry on the good work Motor Sport; your road tests are among the fairest, and most comprehensive I have ever read, thank you for many happy hours reading.

I am, Yours, etc.,

J.  Thompson,



The ticking of the clock


Under the heading “Imitation is …”  you give some more versions of the Rolls-Royce story of the clock being the noisiest thing on the car. I first heard this many years ago, and it probably dates back to the days of the Silver Ghost. You do not, however, finish the story. It is completed by the rocket issued by the R-R board of directors to the works: “Look here, you really must do something about this clock! “

I am, Yours, etc.,

W.A. Taylor





The day after reading “R.M.G’s”  letter in your last issue I was horrified to see his prophecy fulfilled with the B.M.C. announcement of their “Farinacious” Magnette (I will not call it an M.G.). I believe the Corporation letters its engines, so all we need now is a number for the body size; the type appears to be settled as stated above, and names may as well be dispensed with.

Thank heaven for Jaguars, Morgans, Rovers and the few others who allow us to remain owners of individually-styled and powered carriages.  Even “those” cars are a bit different, if not exactly handsome.

I am, Yours, etc..

J.C. Youle

Newton Abbot.

(The factory reference number for the Mk. III M.G. Magnette is, we believe, AD09.–Ed.)



Mr. Essex must think the body makes the car if he imagines that a variety of body designs would protect the B.M.C. range from uniformity.

Whatever styling is adopted, Farina’s or Joe Snook’s, the B.M.C. will not increase the number of engines, transmissions and suspension systems that they use. So all their cars will feel and behave similarly (with minor variations in performance) no matter what they look like. Rather we should hope that they will transfer all the staff who are occupied in dreaming up new distortions of the old radiator shells to the testing department. Then perhaps their new models would not show quite so many maddening and stupid faults. (Dip-sticks under the plug leads .. my hat!)

As for  “boring uniformity of the Continentals,”  Mr. Essex might compare the numbers of British and Continental cars, which do not conform to this mechanical specification: ” Front-mounted, water-cooled, four or six-cylinder in-line engine with attached three or  four-speed gearbox driving a live rear axle by bevel gears.”

If the appearance was meant, how closely does a DS 19 resemble a Volvo or either of these, a Mercedes 190?

I am, Yours, etc.,

Jeremy B. Lowe

Durham City



I feel I must blow off steam about this latest British Motor Corporation “thoroughbred.” Although the previous Magnette also had a Wolseley body it did at least have something of the dashing air to be expected of an M.G. This is utterly lacking in the new model. Words cannot adequately express my horror when I saw the rear overhang (so reminiscent of Detroit), and the utterly tasteless splodge of different colour on the rear door. And why, oh why, must they go on trying to put ” traditional ” radiators in body-shells so obviously more suited to horizontal radiators.  I find it very hard to see a single feature of the new design which is an improvement on the old one. It is infinitely preferable that the name Magnette should become extinct than that it be defiled in such a manner. And lastly, does the British Motor Corporation really expect that M.G. enthusiasts are going to fall for this “Italian designer” gimmick? Pinin Farina’s design may please those who have a hatred of dummy radiator caps but it certainly does not please me.

Having got that off my chest, I would like to say that my only grouse about Motor Sport  is that it does not have wings. It takes so long to get here.

I am, Yours, etc.,

J.R.C. Grieve




I agree entirely with your correspondent, Mr. Essex, and feel that a good many more will also deplore the passing of individuality.

As a M.G. Magnette owner, I would not consider replacing it with this recently announced farinated hotchpotch of a B.M.C. permutation. The ZA and ZB were bought for their sporting lines, compactness and handling qualities. They have now definitely lost the first two and, I suspect from reading the specification  —  the latter as well.

I think B.M.C. have backed a loser this time  —  anyhow, I sold my shares in this organisation  —  just in case!

I am, Yours, etc.,

E. Arnold Hall,



The new Citroëns  —  Where they succeed


May I just make a few brief comments on ” W.A.R.’s” earlier ones on the DS Citroën, particularly in connection with the two points he makes about the bodywork and the difficulty in getting service?

Some people would probably describe the DS body as being stark, but I think strictly functional is a fairer description, personally: but, it is not true to say that it is roughly finished. Indeed, the standard of paintwork and upholstery is very high, and I have found no skimped work on my car, despite a fairly thorough search for evidence of it.

Service is a snag, but, armed with the service manual, a good intelligent mechanic should have no trouble with the sort of things that can happen, or do sometimes need adjustment, like suspension heights, the traffic “creep” device, or the speed of gear change. When I first had the car I took one of those diabolical “gulleys” in the road in northern France at about 60 m.p.h., four people and luggage and all, and this put the rear heights (suspension heights, I mean) out of adjustment. But after seeing this adjusted in five minutes, I am quite sure I could deal with a recurrence myself if need be. In the same way, or rather with the same degree of simplicity, it is possible for the owner to adjust the traffic “creep,” and the speed of gear change, which in my car at least, is as near instantaneous as dammit, though it wasn’t when the car was first bought (when I shared “W.A.R.’s” views on driving the DS in traffic).

As to the general merit of the DS, I am very much in agreement with “W.A.R.”, and, for my taste, the car is just about perfect. It is fast, safe, comfortable, utterly untiring to drive, a wonderful family pantechnicon when necessary, and can, if driven gently, give surprising miles to the gallon while still putting up a good average speed. It seems to respond to mood in rather a remarkable way, being satisfying when one is really in a hurry as when one is wandering en famille. Above all it is functional and tremendously practical, with ample footroom and headroom, an excellent ventilating system, and a boot that doesn’t have to be cunningly packed with soft bags to be any use at all. There are no concessions to the type of driver who likes a veneered dashboard of course, nor is the car a good buy to the man who wants to be able to reach the ” ton,” with acceleration to match, but for sheer roadholding and wonderful steering there can’t be much to touch it.

I’m afraid I haven’t been all that brief, but I assure you I started with the best intentions!  It is a bit difficult to do the subject justice in two or three paragraphs!

I am, Yours, etc.,




Good service


Being a member of the motoring public and having had poor, bad and indifferent service from garages up and down the country, I feel that when one is really shaken by exceptionally good service it is worthy of note.

On Friday last, whilst entering Maidenhead, one of my rear tyres punctured (for the third time that day) and I was forced to abandon my car and search for help. The first garage that I approached were too busy, on learning that I owned a pre-war Austin Seven, and hastily passed me on to the Austin agents further down the road, C. W. Evans & Co. Ltd. They in turn, having heard my story, offered to go out and bring the car in while I went to their showrooms to telephone a client to tell him I would be delayed.

At the end of the ‘phone call to a hospital six miles away, the proprietress emerged from an inner sanctum and said how sorry she was to hear of my trouble—her own car was outside, would I care to use it ? Now remember, I was a complete stranger to her!

I accepted her offer and returned the car three-quarters of an hour later. Shortly after this my own car was ready—a new tyre replaced my old one (bought from another garage in the vicinity), my puncture mended, and I was once more roadworthy. Their charge for the work involved was 2s. 6d., plus the cost of the new tyre. On thanking the proprietress for the excellent service she had provided, she replied “I like to make my business my friend and not my friends my business.”

I do hope that you will have space in your excellent magazine for this story, which needs recording.

I am, Yours, etc.,

R.L. Manwaring-White




In case any other of your VW-owning readers find themselves in trouble, as I did last Saturday, in Surrey, they can do no better than ‘phone Colborne Garage at Ripley, on the Portsmouth Road.

My windscreen shattered for no very apparent reason near Reigate at about 11.45 a.m., and progress thereafter was possible only by peering through a hole punched therein. However a ‘phone call to the above firm established that they had a replacement screen in stock and would await my arrival.

I got there at 12.30 p.m., was ushered into a warm waiting room and ten minutes later my car was ready. The bill … £3  9s. 6d., and paid with pleasure! 

I am, Yours, etc.,

A.M. Coombs



The performance of the Berkeley


With reference to the letter from G. R. P. Gush regarding the performance of the Berkeley in the January issue of Motor Sport,  Mr. Gush does not state whether he has owned one. Perhaps he has never taken one on the Continent!  It has been my misfortune to have done so.

I managed to reach Switzerland with only two seizures due to overheating. The car seized again when trying to climb the Simplon Pass and had to be put on the train through the Simplon Tunnel. It had another seizure on the Maloza Pass, I let it cool off for about an hour, but it didn’t have enough power to get going again, so I had to ‘phone S.O.S. for a tow up. By this time I was dreading the next Pass (Fern Pass) but to my amazement we romped up in second gear. At Stuttgart the rear swing axle pivot point tore clean out of the body and the centre reinforcement to the pivot sheared; not wishing for any more mishaps we made a beeline for Dunkirk and home.

To quote a few other failures during my ownership, the king pins were badly worn at only 5,000 miles, and these were regularly greased. The crankshaft broke at 7,000 miles and the front brake drums had worn oval. When the top half of the body started to come adrift from the bottom I decided that it was time to part company with my “toy car.”

I now own a Triumph TR2, a different cup of tea entirely!

I am, Yours, etc.,

E.R. Batten



Regrets over a Railton


As an enthusiastic reader of Motor Sport  I scan every issue from cover to cover but after digesting each edition I am left with a slight feeling of disappointment: no photographs or comments about Railtons.

There was a time when considerable correspondence arose over the question of  “Vintage” classification, but I don’t recall seeing a photograph at any time. Some readers, I feel sure, immediately think of rather large comfortable limousines when the name Railton is mentioned and have no knowledge or idea of the qualities of the Railton tourer. Perhaps I am slightly biased after having been the owner of two of the finest Railtons, but even so, for performance, road-holding capabilities and appearance, etc., they stand out in comparison to cars of similar age.

I am enclosing a photograph of Railton JB 9268 which I sorrowfully sold recently and feel sure that many readers would be pleased to see such a thoroughbred. Maybe the new owner would care to contact me sometime to chat about the car and revive my nostalgic memories.

I am, Yours, etc.,

W.D. Woolcock



Lancia data wanted


I am anxious to know the history of my Lancia Astura two-section hardtop. I should be most grateful for any advice or information you can furnish. The body is by Castagna.

I am, Yours, etc.,

R.N. Salby

London, N.W.3.


The Siddeley Deasy


I read the articles “A History of the Armstrong Siddeley Car,” appearing in your November and December issues of last year, with particular interest. My 1913 30/36-h.p. Siddeley Deasy has a six-cylinder Knight sleeve-valve engine of  90  by 130 mm. bore and stroke. Ignition is by magneto, trembler coil or coil, while cooling is effected by a dual radiator system employing 16 gallons of water, the vaned flywheel drawing air through the supplementary radiator (situated between the dumb-irons) via a trunk beneath the sump and expelling it through the scuttle radiator. A Degory ” No-Jet” carburetter is fitted  —  unfortunately not the original  —  and the least consumption with this instrument is 12 m.p.g. Transmission is by single-plate clutch, a separate four-speed gearbox with gate change and a worm-driven rear axle with Lanchester type suspension, the worm being of the “Hindley”  “hour-glass” variety.  Braking is by a  “push-on” hand-brake lever operating internal expanding brakes on the rear wheels, while the foot pedal operates an external contracting brake on the transmission.

As regards handling, the steering is heavy but positive and the brakes more than adequate. Although no shock-absorbers are fitted the ride is extremely comfortable, particularly so in the rear compartment of the landaulette body, which, with its windows adjusted by straps, resembles a railway carriage, an illusion fostered by the hiss of air from the extra-air valve. One peculiarity of this car is its steel artillery wheels and ribbed rear brake drums, a feature I have not observed on illustrations of Siddeley Deasys, earlier or later.

Incidentally, the Sphinx mascot did not originate with the early Armstrong Siddeleys, as your article suggests, as this emblem dates back to Siddeley Deasy days, when it sat in an upright position on the cap of the scuttle radiator .

Although your correspondent Mr. H. G. Dunn considered the 30-h.p. Armstrong Siddeley to be truly “built like a battleship,” I imagine his car was really in the “cruiser” class compared with the massive proportions of the Siddeley Deasy, the makers stating, rather naively, in the handbook which I am fortunate to possess, “Rather than run the risk of failure under strain, we have not hesitated throughout the chassis to make any critical parts of a strength that some would consider almost excessive.”  The extensive use of aluminium panelling in the body has enabled the kerbside weight to be kept down to 2 tons and this, together with the use of tinned sheet steel by the coachbuilders, Messrs. J. A. Lawton & Co., of London  —  a firm, I believe, still extant  — undoubtedly accounts for the absence of rust over a period of 23 years of disuse prior to the car being discovered.

With a friend to share the driving I recently had occasion to transfer the Deasy from the North of England to London. The 240-mile journey, which began in fog and ended in heavy rain after dark, was completed in under 12 hours, including stops  —  none involuntary. Cruising speed is 30-35 m.p.h. and maximum 45-50 m.p.h.

While it has been suggested that there is another six-cylinder Siddeley Deasy in this country, possibly a 1912  24/30 h.p. (a model which had the same engine dimensions as the 30/36 h.p., the nominal h.p. rating being increased in 1913), information regarding its whereabouts appears to be lacking. Mr. Gordon Fysh, who is active in the veteran-car movement in Launceston, Tasmania, runs a 1913 18/24-h.p. four-cylinder open tourer as regular transport; there is also a 1914 14/20-h.p. existing out there  —  but derelict.  Another 1913 18/24-h.p. model is in a private museum in the North of England.

I served may apprenticeship before the war with Messrs. Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth & Co. (Engineers) Ltd., at their Scotsward Works, Newcastle-on-Tyne. As a child I can recall how the various entrances to those works bore the name  “Armstrong Siddeley Motors,” but to what extent car production was carried on there I was never aware. Armstrong Saurer oil-engined lorries were produced during my time at the works and today the Vickers Armstrong tractor.

Armstrong Whitworth ran two early Armstrong Siddeley saloons, I think a 30-h.p. and an 18-h.p., for V.I.P.s; also two Armstrong Whitworth light lorries for local goods transport. The fire engine was a 1906 Wilson-Pilcher, which now reposes in the Armstrong Siddeley Museum at Coventry. I can only remember one occasion when its services were required and it failed to get out of sight of the fire station due to an air lock in the fuel system. By the time mobility bad been restored the blaze had been extinguished by other means, so the Wilson-Pilcher returned home.

I always consider it a cause for regret that so few examples of the Armstrong Whitworth car have survived, representing as it does the other half of Armstrong Siddeley. A 1908 model is in the Industrial Museum at Newcastle-on-Tyne (on A 1), while Mr. J. C. Sword includes one in his vast collection of 186 veteran and vintage vehicles at Ayr. I know of no others.

Finally, the Siddeley Deasy handbook contains this “pearl of wisdom”  which owners of Edwardians might still observe today: “The private garage should not be near to a horse stable as the ammonia in horse dung causes paint and varnish to crack.”

I am, Yours. etc.,

William Ormston

South Kensington