This year’s Monte Carlo Rally, refreshingly free from protests, underlined what we have long advocated—abolition of the prop-shaft in cars of under 2-litres. Outright victory went to a f.w.d. Mini-Cooper S, front-drive Lancia Fulvias occupied second, fourth and fifth places, third place being taken by a rear-engined Porsche 911S. It was not until you came to 12th place, taken by that most effective of conventional rally cars, the Ford Cortina-Lotus, that the old order got a look-in, the remaining 6-11th positions being filled by Mini-Coopers, the Team Prize-winning Renault Gordinis and another Lancia Fulvia. So traction avant, so ably brought to public reach by Alec Issigonis in Britain and by Citroën in Europe (the latter putting as much power through the steered wheels over 30 years ago as a modern Mini-Cooper S), carried the day, backed up by rear-engined cars, a fine demonstration of the effectiveness of having the power unit as close as possible to the driving wheels.
B.M.C. spent some £30,000 in preparing four works cars for this event and conducting the successful operation, a measure of the public following they consider this winter contest attracts. The result fully vindicated the value of f.w.d., in which General Motors is now taking a keen interest, and should help to sell lots of Issigonis/Moulton B.M.C. saloons and luxury Lancias, cars in which safe handling is built-in, a philosophy which is better than trying to make less safe-handling cars accident resistant in the event of an impact being unavoidable. Another striking demonstration by f.w.d. cars has been the conquest of Cape North, off Norway, during the severe northern winter by two Lancias, a Fulvia and a Flavia which, defeating the sub-zero temperature, wind-driven snow and undulating ice, became the first cars to travel this road, so well-known to summer tourists, under these conditions.
Sales and the 70-m.p.h. Speed-Limit
When Motor Sport addressed its open letter to Mrs. Barbara Castle in January we expressed the opinion that the blanket 70-m.p.h. speed-limit would throttle our most important Exports Industry, by diverting manufacturers away from high-performance cars to flabby over-weighted “keep-up-with-the-Jones” vehicles.
Comrade Kosygin, travelling amongst us in a Rolls-Royce, had a splendid reception from British workers. But these workers feel less cheerful in the car factories, where so much short-time working, punctuated by strikes, is the order of the day. The Credit Squeeze will be blamed for Aston Martin having to slash £1,000 off the price of the DB6, for Jaguar facing its biggest fall-off in sales since the ‘fifties, with demand down by one-third and 46% of the remaining customers going for the obsolescent 2.4-litre car, for American Motors across the water making a last bid for survival with a new low-price Rambler, and for Ford of America dropping 12% earnings last year.
But the 70-m.p.h. speed-limit is largely to blame, a view The Sunday Times shares with us. It is noticeable that several new British family cars do not want to exceed this speed, suggesting that engine development is being sacrificed to bodywork and equipment modifications which increase weight and reduce speed and acceleration. The financial depression may restrict the majority to under 1-1/2 -litre cars, with Executives and Viscounts for the fortunate minority and Shadows and 600s reserved for the World’s leaders. But if there is an overall lowering of performance and handling standards in British cars, any Export sales we have will be liable to evaporate in those countries free of restrictive speed-limits, and because flabby handling is dangerous on our type of roads, accidents will be liable to increase faster than the speed-limit allegedly to reduce them.
The toll of the roads is terrible but there is not an atom of evidence to show that restricting speed, especially on Motorways, reduces accidents. Obviously those who drive habitually at 40 m.p.h., with occasional daring holiday bursts to 60, will not oppose a 70-m.p.h. limit. As this restriction affects only a minority of drivers, mainly of long experience driving cars that are designed to be safe at far higher speeds on the right roads, and as police patrols are there to go after anyone driving dangerously on Britain’s Motorways, Mrs. Castle has no reason to prolong a speed-limit tried and found unnecessary in Continental countries. While she insists in imposing it she must share the blame for sagging sales of the very cars for which this country is held in such high esteem, and for short-time working in our car factories. After all, who is going to spend thousands of pounds on a safely-fast car for the pleasure of driving it through a radar-trap on its first outing? Mrs. Castle, take off this brake on the skilled minority, with its serious threat to sales of our better, more expensive cars.
South African Grand Prix and B.P.
British Petroleum have taken exception to the following part of our report of the Grand Prix of South Africa: “Unfortunately for him (John Surtees) some foreign matter in the B.P. oil caused considerable damage to the engine.”
Some of our readers may read into this that the “foreign matter” was in the oil before being poured into the engine. There is no evidence that this was so, neither was our wording intended to convey this impression.
In further conversation with John Surtees he confirmed that the damage was caused by “foreign matter” in the oil system but emphasised the fact that it was no fault of B.P.
Rolls-Royce Ltd. tell us that the only anti-freeze of which they approve is to BS 3150 Type A specification.
Motoring News GT Championship
A Championship for Special GT Cars is to be sponsored this year by Motoring News. Drivers will compete for a Trophy and £300 total prize money at 20 selected meetings covering seven circuits, with the final race at the B.R.D.C. Clubman’s Championship meeting on October 14th.