A compact is no longer merely the thing which your girl friend uses to make herself smell nice. In America it is also a motor car. There was a race for compacts at Sebring last autumn but the first, and more serious contest for them was a six-hour race held earlier, at the Continental Divide Raceway. The field was limited to 20-strictly-stock compacts and foreign economy saloons. Rambler refused officially to run because a top limit of 3.500-c.c. kept out their V8 and no Chrysler Valients appeared because they had only a single car to field, although this had made the Ford Falcon and Chevrolet Corvair entrants think hard on practice times.
Corvairs were driven by well-known Porsche and Ferrari drivers. After one hour the order was Rambler, Falcon, Corvair, Corvair, Falcon, Volvo, Corvair, Falcon (in trouble), VW – the respective engine sizes should be borne in Mind. The Corvairs then required tyres. A Riley shed a wheel – tell that to Les Leston! After two hours it was Rambler, Falcon. Falcon, VW, Corvair, Corvair. A Renault Dauphine had overturned at a 90 deg. corner, upholding its reputation or unsafe roed-holding. A Falcon experienced gear shift trouble.
After three hours two Falcons led, because of a leisurely Rambler pit-stop, with the VW fourth, Volvo fifth, a Corvair sixth. At four hours the Rambler had resumed its lead, with a 59 m.p.h. lap. In the end the Rambler won, averaging 55.5 m.p.h. for just over 333 miles, never having had its bonnet opened. The Volkswagen was second, 50 yards ahead of a Ford Falcon, another Falcon having gone sick.
The Chevrolet Corvairs were hampered by the need for frequent tyre changes, which their manager W. Martinez attributed to a combination of suspension characteristics and the tyres they used, of which apparently the Goodrich covers far outlasted the U.S. Rubber tyres. This had the humorous repercussion that in order that this excuse should not detract from the victory of Ford Falcon over Chevrolet Corvair, Falcon manager Pauling claimed that his Fords were consuming as much rubber as the rear-engined Chevrolets. He certainly used a remarkable variety of covers – Firestone, Goodyear, Goodrich, Continental – but it is said his claim to have beaten Chevrolet purely on performance is not borne out by the official schedule of the cars’ respective pit-stops; and it seems that both makes were equally matched through the corners.
An American contemporary’s summing up of this droll situation was “If Ford wants to advertise that a Falcon can chew up as much rubber as a Corvair any day, we doubt very much that Chevrolet’s Ed. Cole will argue the point. And we like this paper’s comment that if the Chrysler Valient enters a future race it might prove to be as hot as its Press releases!
In this opening clash between the compacts the Rambler had it all speed, reliability and low tyre-wear.
Last month Playcraft Toys introduced a very fascinating little model, No. 226 in the Corgi series, of the Morris Mini-Minor. Although only 2-7/8 in. long, the model has sprung wheels, interior panelling. seats, dashboard and steering wheel, items Corgi introduced last September, as well as transparent windows, red rear lumps and a detailed chassis which shows, amongst other things, the centrally-located exhaust system. It is finished in a rather too bright blue, with red seats, and retails for 3s. 4d. in the toy shops. We shall expect to see these Corgi Mini-Minors used as mascots on full-size “minibries.” Incidentally, Car Mart Ltd. have been sending a Corgi Austin A40 miniature to every customer ordering a full-size A40.
The newest Meecano Dinky miniature of which we have heard is a VW van (No. 071).
Round the World in a Citroën 2 c.v.
“La Terre en Rond” is the title of an amusingly illustrated book recently issued by Citroën. Although, as Tim Nicholson makes clear in his third volume devoted to long-distance travel by motor vehicle, almost all the adventure and romance has gone from such journeys, there is still a flavour of it, as this illustrated description of a 62.137-mile tour from Paris to Paris by way of Africa, America, Oceania, Asia and Europe, across eight deserts and through 50 countries, camping in the open for 350 nights, confirms. The car used was a Citroën 2 c.v.
Figures are coming in covering the outputs from the great motor manufacturers in 1959.
Volkswagen turned out just under 750,000 vehicles, an increase over 1958 of 147.847. Of these 406,813 were exported, an increase of 87,430.
* * *
Renault last year produced 515,119 cars, commercial vehicles and tractors, an increase of 84,383 over 1958. Of these, 395,827 were Dauphines, an increase of 115,223. More than 55 per cent. of production was exported, totalling 285,494 vehicles, an increase of 114,840.
* * *
B.M.C turned out a total of 486,048 vehicles last year, which Was 18.664 fewer than their 1958 output, due to the introduction of many new models during 1959. The 1958/9 turn-over was £265,000,000 and 1959 exports accounted for over 40 per cent., or a total of 198,107 vehicles, a drop of 15,898 compared with 1958.
* * *
Ford of Dagenham turned out an all-time record number øf cars, commercial vehicles and tractors last year – 469,000, an increase of 12.5 per cent. over 1958. Of these 241,000 were exported, an improvement of 11.6 per cent.
* * *
Citroen produced 287,000 vehicles last year, 213,300 of which were private cars. This beat the 1958 output by 16.5 per cent., while export sales rose by 90 per cent., some 53,300 cars being exported.
* * *
Vauxhall 1959 output was up by 41 per cent., equal to 246,085 vehicles. Exports rose 30 per cent., representing 55 per cent, of total sales.
* * *
Mercedes-Benz report some 171,000 vehicles produced in 1959 in spite of model changes, an increase of over 13,000 compared with 1958. Over 41 per cent. were exported.
* * *
Chevrolet announce 79,164 Corvairs sold since the introduction of this rear-engined air-cooled “compact” last October.
* * *
Standard-Triumph claim record sales, those on the home market being 50 per cent. above the 1958 figure, exports up by 30 per cent. The TR3 is claimed to sell better in America than any other sports car and the Herald to have trebled Triumph sales in Belgium, raised them by over a quarter in Canada. The Herald will be introduced to the American market next month.
From California comes news of an ambitious Volkswagen development on the part of Devin Enterprizes, who specialise in very smooth and attractive fibreglass bodies and tuning items. They have introduced a very sleek body shell to take new or used VW or Porsche components, the resulting car looking like a very powerful and costly piece of open G.T. machinery. In fact, the kit costs the equivalent of approximately £524 and Devin offer a complete car with new VW engine and running gear for under 3,000 dollars. If bought in kit form the constructor provides his own engine and front and back suspension assemblies, allowing for interesting permutations of new and used components, perhaps from a crashed car, and VW/Porsche parts. According to our respected contemporary Road & Track a Devin-VW weighs just user 11 ewt., the wheelbase being a mere 6 ft. 10 in. With normal VW components a standing 1/4-mile in 22.1 sec. is possible and the top speed is just better than 72 m.p.h., so it is the handsome appearance and handleability that is the main virtue of the Devin-VW, although the use of Porsche engine components and brakes would spell a different story. Someone might look into the matter of importing this Devin kit, which is sold complete ‘with light tube frame, the body shell finished in hand-rubbed acrylic lacquer, laminated screen, hood, sidescreens, carpets, excellent bucket seats, bumpers, all wiring, lamps, brake and fuel lines. etc.
* * *
Also from America comes confirmation, as if any is needed, of VW longevity. A Road & Track correspondent refers to a 1953 VW which won silverware in races, had valve grinds at 55,000 and 88,000 miles and has now covered over 100,000 miles on the original pistons and cyclinders and does not require oil between the routine sump drainings. Incidentally, the ignition was always timed with the engine stone cold, with the notch in the pulley 1/8-1/4 in. to the left of the crankcase joint and the valves set closer to .004 in. than .006 in., again with a cold engine.