I feel I cannot let your report in the January 1973 MOTOR SPORT on your “four days blind” around Europe in a BMW CSL coupé pass without a few comments.
Firstly, speed limits and a warning to all MOTOR SPORT readers contemplating a holiday in Switzerland this year. As from January 1st there is a general speed limit on all roads in Switzerland except the motorways of 100 k.p.h. As far as I know, visiting motorists are not informed on crossing the border and therefore risk paying heavy on-the-spot (!) fines for breaking the limit. I am told that a German motorist recently paid 600 francs on the spot for speeding!
You mention a 100 k.p.h. speed limit in Germany when using cross-ply tyres. This is incorrect. The speed limit applies to users of winter tyres with spikes. The equivalent limit in Switzerland is 80 k.p.h. Incidentally, though spikes may be useful and even lifesaving on the occasional icy road most roads are kept fairly ice-free with the result that instead of carving into the ice, the spikes do very expensive damage to the road surface. So much so that the Swiss canton of Vaud now charges an extra road tax of 100 francs per season for (or against?) spike users resident in Vaud. Other cantons are likely to follow suit and it looks as though spiked tyres in their present form, which make cars sound like passing tanks, may be banned completely in Switzerland.
To return to your interesting road test, you mention that you had “seen what great roads there are for the motoring public in ordinary cars”. As you say, it’s all relative but I would not consider the BMW CSL an ordinary car and I wonder how much more time it would have taken to cover the same distance in the same car during holiday peak traffic when the European motorways are full of “the motoring public in ordinary cars”. As a driver of a VW Variant and an MG 1300 I belong to this fraternity and find daytime motorway driving in Summer, particularly, in Germany, a hectic and highly dangerous experience. Seventy to 80 m.p.h. is fast enough to have to spend a lot of time in the offside lane. However, there are enough drivers of our faster cars who seem to infer that their mere speed gives them priority, and almost resort to bumper-car tactics to sweep lesser cars aside into even slower moving gaps in the nearside lane. And, to make a sweeping generalisation, it seems that BMW drivers are most ready to risk the lives of themselves and others for the glory of their marque. The statistics behind this impression would be interesting. As you can see, as a “driver of an ordinary car”, I approach motorways with mixed feelings. I enjoy getting to my destination quickly, particularly with three children squabbling on the back seat, but there are many negative aspects not the least of which is the sterility of the motorways themselves.
I also have a 1936 Austin 7 Nippy in everyday use in the warmer months. What a splendid fun-car! Does any reader know what happened to the first car I ever had, a 1929 Austin 7 Top-Hat saloon with registration no. VW 8841?
Thanks for an excellent and very readable magazine!
[As an unbiased journal we publish pro-speed restriction views along with the anti’s, but our own views on this matter must by now be well-known.—ED.]