Letters from Readers
N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them.—ED.
I am enclosing a copy of a letter I have sent to the Automobile Association which I think may well be worth a mention in your magazine. It seems to me that the A.A. are rapidly becoming a commercial organisation representing Insurance Companies, Car Hire Companies, etc., etc. Where will it end? Will they next be including Discount Houses, Overseas Manufacturers and so on?
"I am sorry to see that the Automobile Association is acting as official Agent for American owned car hire companies who are offering discount rates to A.A. members. I am sure that the many hire businesses who are members of the A.A. will be thoroughly disgusted with this approach. For you to agree to give full backing of the A.A. to an individual hire company solely on the basis of a relatively small discount seems to be quite incomprehensible. What happens if other hire companies offer the same service to the A.A.? Will you circularise all of the members on their behalf? I look forward to your comments."
Leatherhead --- GORDON T. WINDSOR
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The Autocross Gordini
With reference to your article on Autocross, I think it only fair to set the record straight vis-à-vis the Renault Gordini which beat the Manifold VW. Whilst the entrance fee was paid by BRT (Racing) Developments Ltd., the car was privately owned and driven by our Clubman John Wales (a non-professional competition driver) and all preparation was paid for out of his own pocket. Moreover, this standard 1108-c.c. car was prepared primarily for sprinting, not for autocross; indeed, it won the 1965 British Sprint Championship outright for its owner and finished fourth (above the VW) the same year in the British Autocross Championship (it would have been higher, but for the rather "odd" system of scoring in the competition).
Throughout its life, the car was used continuously over large mileages in the same form as the owner's everyday transport without modification (no close ratio gearbox, special clutch, oversize capacity, large valves, wheel spacers, etc.), and was virtually trouble-free.
Wokingham -- H. G. MACKENZIE-WINTLE
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In your February issue you published a letter from W. S. Baker detesting rust he saw on the body of a stripped E-type Jaguar.
Mr. Baker has sadly overlooked the well-known fact that any steel body will quickly show rust after stripping if not treated.
Most people in the world are aware that the E-type Jaguar is one of the finest cars of this present era, and it seems to me that Mr. Baker is merely one of the exceptions that prove the rule!
Edenbridge H. C. HUNTER
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Longevity of the A35
I was interested to read the letter from Mr. Moore about his 1959 A35. My own similar vehicle has completed 114,000 miles without the head off. Oil consumption is noticeable but the vehicle is still used daily. The only bad feature of this model appears to be the front suspension, which I have rebuilt twice. Briefly, other major replacements have been: one new rear-spring, new rear shackle, rear hub oil seal, steering side tube, one Lockheed front wheel expander and new brake hoses, and a new petrol pump diaphragm.
Towcester -- F. H. RICHARDS, B.Sc. (Eng.)
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I was most interested to read the letter from Mr. Moore about his A35. I too have a 1958 Austin A35. Mine was purchased over three years ago when it had done close on 48,000 miles. It has now done 102,000 miles and has never had a rebore, etc. None of the steering or suspension parts have ever needed replacement either, during this mileage. During the 54,000 miles I have had the car the fuel consumption has never varied from 41 m.p.g. and oil consumption has increased from 450 m.p. pint to 400 m.p. pint. I have also enjoyed 100% reliability.
However, my car has been regularly serviced throughout its life with Castrol oils.
Derby ---DAVID R. WARD
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A "E " in Austria
The January issue was such an E-type number I wondered if you would be interested in a 40,000 mile comparative experience of a much modified car in daily family use.
We have a 1963 3.8-litre 2-seater fixed-head coupe "E" with 9.5:1 c.r. Coombs engine with gas flowed head, lightened flywheel, balanced crank, etc., competition clutch, Konis all round, heavier anti-roll bar, stiff rear springs with packing pieces (works mod. to give more ground clearance for rough roads and overload), works fabricated competition exhaust and SP41HR tyres with German Dunlop tread pattern. The car is therefore, mechanically, approaching Quick's and Pearce's cars and is, I believe, as much modified as possible without being spoiled for daily road use.
Personally I think 1963 is the vintage year for E-types, as the car was established long enough to have the bugs taken out, it retained the light alloy radiator (unrepairable, but we keep Holt's Radweld in ours as routine!) and had not acquired heavier seats, unnecessary trim round the boot hinges, etc., and the irritating and space-consuming box between the front seats and the arm rests on the doors (I am 6 ft. 2 ins, and broad in proportion). The new gearbox is the only really valuable addition since '63.
We have two children and on long trips we usually go at night and they go to sleep lying down in the back, which we have fitted with 1 in. thick plastic foam. We pack our luggage in a soft bag pushed into the angle made by the rear window, I also pack a decent suit in a polythene bag inside the spare wheel, and we have a small bag next to the engine where conventional people keep their air filter (note to Mark 2 owners: with the bonnet louvres the E-type runs much cooler than the saloons at all times).
By this means and a careful choice of drip-dry clothes we have managed to take enough for three weeks' holiday. We have had no desire to part-exchange for a 2+2, because it would be impossible for the children to lie down and sleep at night, and when they are too big to lie down then really they are too big for the 2+2. We normally leave Vienna at 10 p.m. with the intention of catching the mid-day boat from Ostend. Time for the 850 miles is usually about 12-1/2 -13 hours door to ferry, including all stops for petrol, etc. Last August we would have beaten 12 hours except for being held up in a long queue at the Customs on the Belgian border. This means doing a steady 100-110 m.p.h. when at all possible.
I think 100 m.p.h. is a good cruising speed for the "E" on a long autobahn trip, as it's fast enough to take up your attention, and as you're right in the middle of peak torque you can flatten your foot to accelerate out of trouble or away from the BMW or Alfa that tries to see how fast you are. Driving faster than this on the autobahn is not really practicable except for short spurts, because of the traffic levels, also the concentration required becomes too great on a long run. One can get in short bursts at higher speed when there is not much traffic about. For example, driving from Vienna to Ostend overnight means that for about half the year one is on the good stretch of the autobahn between Nurnberg and Wurzburg just as dawn is breaking and the road is clear, when it is quite practicable to do 125 plus m.p.h. Incidentally, 6-8 a.m. is a very tricky time on the German autobahn as it tends to get temporarily very busy with half-asleep short-haul commuters who have stumbled out of bed to face another day and are not tuned in to fast long distance traffic.
SP41HR tyres, with German Dunlop tread pattern, 40 lb. rear, 35 lb. front, give "hands off" straight-line handling from 30-130 m.p.h., and handling precision at high speed is vastly better than with RS5. I would not go back to RS5 but, nevertheless, it is a quieter tyre and gives a more comfortable ride and is easier on the car on rough roads and on pave. The SP41HR gives better ultimate handling than the RS5 but if you're pushing the car round a series of hairpins the sheer adhesion of the SP41HR could be a trap for the unwary. With the RS5 it is easier to corner on the throttle, breaking the rear end away with ease and just as easily backing off on the throttle if required to straighten out. With SP41HR, breaking the rear end away implies a higher speed, a lot more throttle and a pretty fast reaction to catch it when it goes. If you're not going to do more than 80 m.p.h. there is a lot to be said for the RS5, which indeed is always fitted to U.S.A.-bound .cars, even when whitewalls are not required.
Suspension and handling. The standard car handles much worse than one with Konis and stiffer rear suspension. I doubt if you would say "not the required standard of high-speed handling" of such a modified car. I drove a new 2-seater fixed-head coupé recently, fitted with RS5's, and it handled like a tub compared with my own car.
Fuel range. At first sight the tank appears too small but in practice it does not work out that way. The range, as you say, is about 250 miles, but if you have been driving at 100 m.p.h. or so on the autobahn for 2-1/2 hours it is time to stop and take your eyes off the road or change drivers, and it is not really inconvenient to stop at a filling station. I would rather do this than carry unnecessary weight around in what is meant to be an accelerative car.
My wife drives the car most of the week: takes me to work, the children to school, does the shopping, etc., and all the other odd jobs a family car does. Out of town the car is usually hard driven. We have found it to stand up to the treatment very well. It is tractable enough in town though the-competition clutch can get a bit tiring in heavy traffic; the car never overheats with the alloy radiator and electric fan. You were unlucky with your fan, some are much noisier than others. True, if the car gets stuck in traffic for a long time it does get just mildly temperamental, but 3,000 in second soon clears it, and usually it is not noticeable. UN12Y plugs are essential, N5s are useless in town. Plugs require cleaning every two months with the treatment we give them and are best replaced well before 10,000 miles, as modified "E"s appear very sensitive to plugs. Incidentally, I have never bought six perfect plugs, but there has always been at least one with a gas leak down the electrode or ran too cool. I am very particular about plugs and normally take out a new set about a week after fitting to check for and replace partial duds. I always use a torque wrench.
The weak part of the "E" is the rear end: universal joints and wheel hubs. The universals take a sand and water blasting from road grit and they just don't like it. We have had no engine trouble except for a freak fracture of the outer rotor of the oil pump. This summer, after thorough checking, the works would not touch the engine, although it was taken out for a clutch replacement at 34,000. The clutch was not finished, but the job was just preventative maintenance while we were home.
You ask what category does the E-type fit? The safety category I would suggest. It has one-handed precision handling, good braking, the ability to accelerate out of trouble and, above all, it is a forgiving car. True, a clot can get himself into difficulties, but that is possible in any car, isn't it?
Vienna --P. B. VOSE
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Supporting the Alfa 1750 Replica
I am a reader of some twenty years standing. I am also a reader (since its inception) of the Italian journal Quattroruote. As this journal is Italian I wish to take up cudgels on their behalf for a "crack" made by the Editor about a certain pseudo vintage Alfa Romeo. I should first say that I value the opinions of Mr. Boddy very highly but in this case I would like to draw him out on this particular subject as I cannot recall his having either fully described the car in question or given his reasoning for what appears to me to be an automatic reaction against the car.
Quattroruote does for Italians what Motor Sport does for the English speaking world in providing absolutely fearless reporting of motoring matters. I have read a Quattroruote road test of an Alfa Romeo 2600 which would make an English Editor blanch at the thought of the possible repercussions in a libel court. What they also do is something unique in motoring journalism as far as I am aware in that they promote design exercises of cars to test public reaction. This must cost them the earth.
So far three cars have appeared with the "fourcartwheel" insignia. First of all the Pininfarina Sigma safety car, thirdly the Daf-OSI City (which looks like a cleaned up Mini with sliding doors on one side) and secondly the Alfa Romeo Giulia Gran Sport Quattroruote Zagato (they will never sell it with that name here).
This latter car is the one which the Editor apparently dislikes on sight. I don't and would like to be given a chance to vindicate the backers. Quattroruote noticed from their columns of advertising matter that secondhand prices of what they call " Spyder Inglesi " were very high in Italy. The cars in question were " T "-type M.G.s, Austin Healeys, and above all, Morgans. They wondered about this and did a series of articles to promote reader comment on the subject. As a result of this they thought that the Italian factories were missing something in their lists and set out to find out what they could do to test reaction. They informed readers that they intended to do this and drew their attention to the small replica Cords and Excaliburs being produced in the U.S.A. They decided that the only Italian car of extant make that was anything like a " Spyder Inglesi " was a vintage Alfa 1750 Zagato Alfetta and therefore approached Zagato for his ideas on the subject. The Giulia GS 4R Zagato is not a slavish copy of the older car but an attempt to produce an Italian " Plus Four" using the equivalent pre-war "4/4" as a background. Quattroruote actually stated that this was the intention and quoted the Morgan Plus Four as what they were after—but Alfa based.
The resulting car is indeed very like the vintage 1750 but is a little more compact. The front is slightly smoother and the interior is more modern. Public reaction to the car has been an embarrassment. I am told that the original intention was a very limited run of the model for specialised buyers. Interest was such that by the time of the last London Motor Show 300-odd cars had been produced and these had only resulted in a dent in the demand. The car was apparently difficult to set up for series production but Zagato eventually got over the problems and have been supplying the cars as fast as they can turn them out. Almost all have gone to buyers in Italy and France but batches were being prepared for the West Coast of the United States and for Germany at the time of the Show and it was hoped to produce a certain number for Right Hand Drive versions for this and other "British" markets.
Frankly, and I here expect to bring down the ire of many readers on my head, I prefer the car to the new Giulia 1600 Duetto Spyder as tested in the February issue of Motor Sport. It has a more roomy cockpit and would seem to me to be very much better finished. It does, however, go in for a great deal of luggage space.
If the car is therefore intended as an Italian answer to the Plus Four Morgan and not as a competition to the American "copy cars" then surely it is not such an aesthetic disaster as to warrant the disdain of such an influential journalist as yourself. Just to show there is no hard feeling I will arrange to send Mr. Boddy a 1/43rd scale model of the car by Politoy in order that he may see what it is really like. This is not yet available but should be in the next few weeks.
Wivenhoe, Essex --. W. D. CLEMESHA.
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Luggage capacity of the Rover 2000
Mr. Wilks' protest in your February issue regarding the volume of luggage space in the Rover 2000 prompts me to draw attention to another aspect of this problem, namely the actual weight of luggage which can be dealt with. In passing, my own assessment of the usable space is between 11 and 12 cubic feet depending on the amenability of the passengers to use the right size of suitcase. I didn't find out that weight was a more serious limitation than volume in my Rover 2000 until last Summer. Then on the occasion of my summer holiday I had a full complement of 4 adults in the car and the roof rack and boot were filled with holiday luggage and camping equipment. The car ran excellently but scraped its underbelly a good many times on Continental level crossings and the like. I didn't even risk the sorts of roads which I have previously tackled with confidence in Spain, Norway and Italy using earlier Rovers.
On my return home I approached the Rover Company for help knowing that they had rallied the 2000 over much worse roads than I encountered. Should I fit longer or stronger rear springs? Apparently not, the Technical Service Department informed me in a quite friendly way that when there were 4 adults in the car the weight of luggage was limited to 112 lbs. in the boot and 112 lbs. evenly distributed on the roofrack.
Most people who have occasion to travel by air know how quickly the luggage weight limit is reached with a normal suitcase. My own figure for a fibreglass suitcase filled with clothing is about 18 lbs per cubic foot. Water is, of course 62.3 lbs. per cubic foot, tinned food, cooking stoves and the like have a similar specific gravity and all find a place in most holiday luggage and occupy the odd corners of a car boot. However, even if the luggage were confined to clothing, it would seem that if one could fill Mr. Wilks' 16 cubic feet the resulting 21 cwt. would cripple the Rover 2000. Even my own more modest 11-12 cubic feet proved too much. I need hardly add that in my own case the back of the car dipped so much that neither a convex or flat rear view mirror was of much value.
Although I have described my personal experience with a Rover 2000 I have no doubt that the same problem arises with other modern suspension systems and I would make a plea for the inclusion of permissible weight as a regular item of road test data.
Hale -- T.S. MILLEN
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A police view of the Triumph TR4A
I was quite startled to see someone actually praising the Triumph TR4A; the letter from Mr. Hyatt. How could he?
I am in the Southend Police Force and we had a TR4A in our fleet for, I think, two years.
Practically all the Force loathed it. The brakes were appalling until a servo was fitted. The speed was quite reasonable for a vehicle of that engine size. I once sat petrified on a "hurry-up" call at 106 miles an hour.
The car was uncomfortable to spend a day's duty (8 hours) in. The engine noise and exhaust note were excessive; in fact you could not hear the radio over 50 miles per hour. It was embarrassing to warn another driver for excess exhaust noise and then roar off in that 2-seater thing.
I never succeeded in raising the hood without getting at least one blood-blister on my fingers.
When I was younger I was fortunate in having a flight in a Meteor N.F.14 and seeing 614 knots recorded on the air speed indicator. The Triumph, on reflection, made more noise and vibration at a tenth of this speed.
Thank you for your excellent magazine.
Ralford -- W. S. HURRELL.
[Surely, Mr. Hurrell, you were using a TR4? The "A" is a big improvement in many ways.—ED.]
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Asides about B.M.C.
W. J. White was lucky with his M.G. 1100. I had one of the early ones for 25,000 miles. My Income Tax Inspector queried one year's maintenance figures. These cars do not emanate from Abingdon, but are, I believe, thrown together at Cowley. I had one gearbox under guarantee, and one not . . . £60 plus. Oil consumption, 300 miles per quart, improved to 400 m.p.g. after fitting of oversize pistons under guarantee. Also new front U.J's fitted, plus many other minor replacements.
I now have an Abingdon car, an M.G.B. It is the most delightful car I have ever owned. In 1 B.C. (before Castle) it would cruise along a motorway in overdrive at a peaceful and utterly safe 95-100. My eighty-year-old mother doesn't like "going too fast," but was quite unruffled at this speed.
I do wish, however, that B.M.C. would wake up their ideas with regard to spares. After a milk-bar cowboy hit me head-on, by a miracle escaping with life and limb, some of the parts required for a front-end rebuild took seven weeks to cover 30 miles. My main replacements have been the exhaust system—the ground clearance, with radial-ply tyres, is too low for farm tracks. A jammed starter, petrol-gauge voltage regulator and door-lock—all non M.G. components—have been my only replacements. The car is comfortable, reliable, safe and fun to drive—what more could any man ask?
Burghclere -- J. M. C. ALMOND
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From time to time, your excellent journal features articles on the "White Elephants" of the automotive industry.
The title of the series is most appropriate and one often shudders at the economic frailty of the manufacturers. Could it have happened if Discount Cash Flow had been in vogue at the time?
The correspondence columns of your journal and the classified ads are the source of another equally fascinating series—Pink Elephantitis. By definition, a car would qualify if: 1 -- It gives a poor performance per unit cost or per unit repair time, or, 2 -- It keeps you poor, or, 3 -- The purchaser was wearing pink tinted spectacles at the time of purchase, or 4 -- The vendor was an "Enthusiast."
I should be pleased to hear your views on the proposed series and, if it is acceptable, to contribute the first article on my Bristol 401, bought from "an enthusiast" who advertised in your journal—it would be straight from the heart!
Ipswich -- MICHAEL C. DAY
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May I point out something of interest in Mr. Anthony Blight's letter in the last issue? He calls the twin-cam Sunbeam of the vintage era " the only serious attempt before Jaguar to design a twin cam engine for a touring car." Surely he has, at least once in his career, taken at least a peep under the bonnet of a 2-litre Lagonda? If so, he would have seen something close enough to a twin o.h.c. engine, for all but the most pure of purists—an engine which did not survive the slump of the early 'thirties. Does he then regard the 2-litre Lagonda as having been designed as a sports car? Speed models, low chassis models and blown 2-litres came later on. In its original form the car had generous, though often sporting, bodywork and a very heavy chassis, which it retained throughout its career. Cecil Clutton in "The Vintage Motor Car" certainly looks on the car as a sporting tourer. On the other hand, the 2-litre Lagonda appeared as a "famous sports car" which could at one time be cut out from the back of Weetabix packets. I prefer Clutton's view, in spite of the car's numerous appearances in competition after modifications had been made to the original design. If Mr. Blight agrees with me so far, he must have just forgotten about the Lagonda while writing his excellent letter. Rather serious, in view of the fact that the 2-litre Lagonda has certainly survived in greater numbers than the Sunbeam. If he still agrees, but did not forget, then he must regard the 2-litre Lagonda design as something other than serious. This should set the Lagonda fans buzzing!
Godalming -- A. T COOKE
[I always call the 2-litre Lagonda a twin-underhead-camshaft car. The 3-litre Sunbeam was announced in 1924, so which was on paper first could be debatable. The Lagonda needed a supercharger to overcome its induction system shortcomings and its long timing chain was not unduly reliable, surely?—ED.]
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I notice that in Mr. Blight's letter entitled "Twin o.h.c." printed in last month's Motor Sport, he states in the third paragraph that "The Sunbeam case is rather different, since it was the only serious attempt before Jaguar to design a twin cam engine for a touring car."
May I draw his attention to the type 57 Bugatti introduced in 1934 and in production until the end of 1939 by which time about 750 had been constructed.
Perhaps this car does not comply with his definition of a touring car, although I understand that the makers always regarded the standard type 57 as such, possibly in the opinion of some the types 57S, 57C, and 57SC would not qualify as touring cars, which after all can only be described as cars suitable for touring.
Malvern -- M. RADFORD