Every Man his own Index of Performance

We have felt for a long time that it would be interesting to establish which are the leading cars in a number of representative engine eaparity or price classes by evolving a system of marking based on collective performance figures and factors – a car-buyer’s index-of-performance in fact. The annual road-test report bookstioldished by The Autocar and The Motor offer the figures required but lack of time and an acceptable system of marking has so far prevented us from going into this romplex but fascinating field of analysis.

Now we find that Richard Ansdale has done something of the sort for us, devising a point-by-point classification of a range of popular cars, his findings having reached us through the medium of Victor Winstone of D.M.A. Mr. Ansdale’s classification is far from comprehensive, because he worked out his computations before performance figures were available for the such recent significant additions to the small-car market as the Triumph Herald, Ford New Anglia and the new B.M.C. twins, while he has omitted to include the Citroën 2 c.v. and the Volkswagen because the road-test reports on these cars were said to be too old to be of any practical use.

However, even with such omissions, the figures are of interest, covering as they do fourteen popular cars made in England, France, Italy, Germany and Sweden, under headings which take account of’ road area, passenger area, weight, petrol consumption, maximum speed, piston speed at 50 mp.h., the steepest gradient climbable in top gear, 0-50 m.p.h. acceleration, M.E.P. speed at 50 m.p.h., width of front and back seats, the mean turning circle, braking pressure at 30 m.p.h. in neutral to give 0.5 g. retardation, and the basic price in Swiss francs, using the N.S.U.’s marks as representing 100%, the others at higher or lower percentage accordingly.

The result comes out as follows:

N.S.U. Prinz (100%)

Fiat 500 (95.5%)

Morris Minor 1000 (94.8%)

Fiat 1100 (94.3%)

Standard Eight (94.2%)

Fiat 600 (94.0%)

Austin A40 (93.9%)

Ford Old Popular (93.8%)

Renault Dauphine (92.25%)

Austin A35 (91.6%)

D.K.W. 1000 (91.15%)

Ford Old Anglia (90.5%)

B.M.W. 600 (89.6%)

Saab 93 (88.9%)


The first impression may be that these percentages are so close as not to prove very much, but, in fact, we see the N.S.U. Prinz as 5 per cent. superior to the Fiat 500 and that it leads thirteen of the World’s better-known small car, in spite of an engine size of only 583 c.c. suggests that it has excellent performance blended with compact dimensions that give it many high marks. In fact, the Prinz has 14.00 marks to the Saab’s 12.308. It is interesting that the Morris Minor 1000 comes out third, confirming the continued popularity of this somewhat out-moded B.M.C. production – but all credit to the diminutive N.S.U and Fiat for bettering it. We know from personal experience how well the N.S.U. goes in spite of its tiny engine and it possesses excellent road-holding as well. The slender difference between buying a Fiat 1100, known to be a magnificent “all-rounder,” or a rather dreary Standard Eight may make this marking system employed suspect, however, and, further, it does bit take into consideration personal preferences or cover those unmeasurables which can make or mar a motor car.

Nevertheless, this is an attempt to grade cars mathematically which could be usefully employed, perhaps in modified form, to compile that “short list” to which most prospective buyers of new cars give a great deal of thought. If any readers are convalescing after an illness, have wran a football-pool or otherwise have the leisure, we should be very interested, if they are prepared to put aside the Times crossword, to discover where the VW. 2 c.v. and the new British small cars rate by the Ansdale formula –  he is optimistic about the B.M.C. babies, for example.

To this end it should be explained that piston speed at 50 m.p.h. is calculated from the formula:


A Collection of VW’s

Collections of antique cars are quite common but of modern cars are comparatively rare. So we were interested to hear that the Muston brothers have a trio of unusual Volkswagens and we made a point of calling at the Arkley Garage near Barnet to inspect them.

J. M. Muston has a great respect for the engineering of the late Dr. Porsche, his personal means of transport being a 1955 Porsche Speedster. When he and his brother were in Chamonix last summer they climbed an alp and found at the summit a cafe proprietor who had a number of military VWs left behind by the Germans. They took a fancy to two of these and, returning home, arranged to import them and then flew to Paris, returned to Chamonix and drove the two vehicles home.

One is an ex-German Army I.h.d. four-man transporter, which is being restored to original condition with canvas hood and side-screens and 5.00 x 16 tyres, although an 1,131-c.c. engine replaces the original power unit. It bears the registration 889 AC 74 and is probably of 1944 vintage, certainly of 1941-44 type. The specification follows present VW practice in most respects, but there is a self-locking differential.

The other VW brought home from the French Alps, where it had helped in the construction of the café by transporting enormous baulks of timber up improbable gradients, is an amphibian with bath-like body, registered 433 K 74. This is a very light vehicle, the driver sitting on the left, in a very narrow tubular seat. Normally the four-speed transmission is used but a small lever working in a quadrant behind the usual gear lever selects four-wheel-drive and, pressed further forward, brings in a very low fifth speed. With this and all four wheels driving we gather the VW amphibian eagerly climbs gradients which make a Jeep nervous! The engine is the 1,131-c.c. unit and, for swimming a small propeller, mounted on a pivoted alloy housing, folds down to engage the dogs which are used normally for the starting handle, thus providing propulsion in the water, when the front wheels are used in lien of a rudder.

Finally, the Mustons discovered a third military VW languishing in Melton Mowbray. This again, is the 1941-44 type, with the authentic 950-c.c. engine. It was used by an Army officer who is believed to have investigated it for M.I.5 and became so attached to it that he built a four-door hard-top on to it. Registered MTV 225, this VW now has oversize tyres from a Jaguar and a non-standard rear petrol tank inside the body and is intended as spares for the other pair.

A recent 750 M.C. trial was, we gather, considerably enlivened by these two military Volkswagens, each of which happily ascended the hills carrying driver, navigator, and three girls.


Porsche 356B

The new Porsche 356B with the Super 90 engine, intended for delivery last January. has been held up, but will be available about the middle of this month.