Matters of moment, March 1978

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Michael Edwardes – Magician

We do not profess to understand how Mr. Michael Edwardes has done at British Leyland what Lord Stokes, Lord Ryder, Alex Park and Derek Whittaker failed to do, inasmuch as he was able to actually obtain .a standing-ovation from the Leyland work-force, after announcing 12,500 redundancies and saving some pretty pungent things about the workers themselves and the Companies they are employed by. In the past this would have resulted in a walk-out and a series of instant-stokes, surely?

The mystery of how Mr. Edwardes performed his magic act successfully is not known to us, but we only hope it is ever-lasting magic. Unless sense has at last dawned on the Leyland workers and Management, the prospects of an uplift in this Country’s standard-of-living (never mind percentage inflation-estimates) and its eventual industrial survival are small indeed. So we must pray that Michael Edwardes really has the magic-touch that will be respected and followed, and that his Chairmanship will lift Britain’s cars, of the various makes the Leyland-banner covers, out of the low ebb into which they have been floating. Presumably Edwardes’ gentle way with future BL redundancies, the astronomical payments rumoured to have been given to those immediately redundant, and his promises of jam tomorrow for those who remain on the Leyland strength without threat of dismissal, are what this latest Leyland Chairman pulled out of the proverbial top-hat. It is to be hoped that such goodwill does not turn into a rabbit….

It is pathetic that Britain should have to ask Japan not to import her cars here, as they out-sell our own products. There is nothing much wrong with the better Leyland models except unreliability, and this Edwardes will presumably rectify as his number-one target, on the assumption that a Model-T that works is worth a Silver Shadow that won’t start, to anyone who regards a motor-car as something to drive and not just a nice object to look at. In the Jaguar, Rover and Triumph ranges BL have admirable vehicles, with the aforesaid proviso. We would, however, remind Mr. Edwardes of the firm desire of many potential customers to see the MG retained, as a best-selling sports-car, and are astonished that this great make was not specifically named under the Jaguar/Rover/Triumph heading, at a time when this remarkably, dynamic new Chairman expressed his intention of reverting, quite rightly, to individual make-names for BL cars. Aged 47, Michael Edwardes is too young to remember the great reputation MG cars had before the war, at Brooklands and abroad, in the hands of drivers of the calibre and courage of Tazio Nuvolari, George Eyston, Ron Horton, Goldie Gardner, Lord Howe, and others. But he must know how well the MG, in proper sporting guise, sold in America. Edwardes is right to say, with due respect to the memory of Parry Thomas (of whom he has probably never heard), that the name Leyland is a truck and ‘bus one. He is right, if he can do it against such intense World competition, to introduce a new super-Mini and right, too, in going on with the soundly-selling, existing Issigonis Mini. If the new Super-Mini and the proposed medium-sized new family car can incorporate good points of their own, and incorporate all those things the enthusiastic driver requires, with total elimination of those small but stupid shortcomings found in so many modern cars (Edwardes has only to read the collective Press road-test reports to understand what we mean) the new BL. cars, given reliability, should, indeed must, succeed. BL’s Supercover Service should give them a worthwhile lift, until unduly overworked because of petty faults within the guarantee period. (See Rover 3500 experiences in this Issue). These the Edwardes-enlightened workers are now apparently out to eradicate but we confess to finding it difficult to believe in miracles….

The Mini should remain in production because, however rosy the future, Britain Is likely to remain mainly a country of little cars, unless overall commodity prices fall drastically, and even then there would be fuel conservation (or the threat of no tankers to deliver it) pointing in this direction. Until a revised BL small car comes along, however, there is the Reliant Kitten to stop the gap, a car which could gain the warm affection of enthusiasts as somewhat resembling a pre-war Austin 7, with that car’s defects but also wIth modern conveiences, rear wipe/wash and demister for instance, on the Estate version, which costs £236 less than a Mini Clubman Estate and an Austin 7-like fuel-thrift. Then it should be pointed out to Michael Edwardes that the TR7 isn’t the only sports-car he should market – the zest for fresh-air motoring in the MG tradition is still there for a lot of the customers, which Peter Morgan would, we think, confirm.

Motor Sport is fortunately concerned with motoring for pleasure, not commerce, which we think to be a more healthy, if less lucrative, way of enioving the i.c.-engine, and so this is all we propose to say, for the present, about the welcome apparent change of heart which Michael Edwardes has introduced throughout the whole Leyland empire, except to express the wish that, having produced confidence and applause he will go on dipping into his magic hat, so that from what looks like an impossibility will come success and prosperity. That is the trick he has got to bring off. It would help, of course, if his highly-dependent “audience” could refrain from buying Japanese cars, good value as many of them may represent, until they have at least had the chance of taking trial-runs in the promised new BL models.

Finally, with sport in mind, let the Magician remember that racing and rally engagement promotes car sales, as Ford, Fiat, Datsun and others demonstrate, and that once upon a time prominent race victories were achieved by Mini and 748 c.c. MG, even (though this may surprise Michael) by a fine motor-car called a Leyland. This being so the lone Tony Pond rally TR7 and just the saloon-car-racing Dron and Fitzpatrick Dolomite Sprints isn’t very much for BL to field, in this lucrative publicity arena.

Afterthoughts

The Golden Jubilee Celebrations on the Ards TT circuit in Ireland, to which we referred last month, are now confirmed as scheduled for August 19th. Moreover, as the Dundrod circuit will be available about ten days or so before this, it is now hoped to have a similar demonstration over that circuit, with plenty of entertainment in between, and those with C-type Jaguars, 3-litre Ferraris and other appropriate cars that ran in the 1955 TT and who wish to be present, should contact Lord Dunleath, Ballywalter Park, Newtownards. Co. Down BT22 2PP immediately. This should interest Motor, which thinks that Moss won this 1955 TT for Mercedes-Benz at Ouhon Park!

* * *

We were incorrect in thinking that the Bayliss Thomas which featured on last month’s Motor Sport front cover was the ex-Hayward car. This is in the National Motor Museum, and is to be restored to trials’-trim.

• • •

We deeply regret to report the deaths, in road accidents, of Ian Maxwell and R. J. Brooks, both of the VSCC, and of Leslie Pennal, the well-known Bentley mechanic who rode with W. O. Bentley in the 1922 TT. 

* * * 

Over the years the Editor has come to think of Motor Sport as incomplete without its quota of monthly misprints. But to keep the record straight, apart from some of the odd grammar ascribed to him last month, it was S. F. Edge, not Else, who took the 24-hour record in 1907, Lord Dunleath lives at Ballywalter Park, and it is the Motor Cycling Club that uses a hill called Fingle Bridge in the Exeter Trial, et al. It now seems that W. O. Bentley did design a new 3-litre car for Armstrong Siddeley, using a Lagonda-DB-type engine in a chassis with all-independent suspension, by coil springs at the front, torsion-bars at the back. But how many were built? The Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire was a 3.4-litre, not a 4-litre, car, the latter being the Star Sapphire. Incidentally, the Sapphire engine was copied by Humber for their 3-litre Super Snipe of 1958, by permission of AS and with the help of Marvyn Cutler, who had designed the Sapphire engine. All this from a letter to us from Graham Robson. Other, enlightening letters on this Bentley-AS subject have arrived since, including one from Geoffrey Healey, and will be published next month.

* * * 

The Bean CC is holding its annual Daffodil Run on April 30th and asks intending competitors to contact the Rally Secretary: W. Fraser, The Rookery, Bishopstone, Aylesbury, Bucks.

* * *

The Brooklands Society Affair we have received further correspondence on this subject, which will be published next month. 

* * *

The Alvis Register is excited to discover that the valve timing of a 1924 200 Mile Race-type Alvis in New Zealand differs considerably, it seems, from that of the similar car owned here by Eric Benfield. -W.B.

Unprovoked Attack

The Lancashire Constabulary are requesting information about a man who recently attacked the wife of a Motor Sport advertiser whilst responding to an advertisement placed in this magazine.

The man, purporting to be from London, arranged to see a 1953 MG TD advertised by Mr. David Heap, of David Heap (Burnley) Car Sales, on the morning of Saturday, February 11th. After viewing the car at the Heap’s Burnley home, he arranged to return at 2 p.m. in the afternoon. When he did so, in Mr. Heap’s absence, he attacked Mrs. Heap brutally about the head and escaped.

The Man is described as 30/35 years of age, 5 ft. 10 in, tall and of slim build. He had dark brown collar-length hair in a modern style, a moustache and a light, well-trimmed beard. He was dressed in a black gaberdine military-style raincoat, dark flared trousers, a white shirt and dark tie. He was carrying a brown brief case and is believed to have worn modern style metal rimmed spectacles.

The Lancashire Constabulary inform us that shortly before the attack a man of identical description was seen 400 yards front the house parking an “old type” two-seater sports car, dark green in colour, with a dark canvas top. The attacker’s conversation suggested that he had a good knowledge of vintage MG sports cars. He spoke of previously owning one which he had recently sold at a London Auction for £4,600 and claimed to be a photographer in London living with his wife in a flat over his shop premises.

Advertisers are warned to beware of this man. Anyone with any information or suggestions as to his identity should contact the Lancashire Constabulary Police at Burnley (Tel.: 0282 25001) or any Police Officer.

* * * 

Robert Brooks

It is with the deepest sorrow that I have to report the tragic and untimely death, in a recent road accident, of Robert Brooks, a stalwart of the VSCC.

Robert was a man of sterling qualities, immense integrity and complete professionalism. With a manner that put the inexperienced at ease and that gave the cautious confidence, he always found time to guide and assist those who sought a career in the profession of the land.

One will however, recall Robert’s skilful handling and the meticulous manner with which he maintained his motor cars. In particular VSCC members may recollect his sporting entry in the 1976 Welsh Driving Tests with his enornums Phantom I Coupe de Ville, which he loved so much. If not seen at the wheel of this magnificent carriage Robert was Often to be seen piloting his: Darracq tourer or perhaps another of the cars in his stable.

As befits the true enthusiast and founder member of the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club Robert was latterly involved in the recreation of a Silver Ghost sporting replica.

A man of many talents and never ending good humour, Robert will be sorely missed by all who knew him; none more than by Ann his wife, his children and his family. To them all we send our deepest and heartfelt sympathy. – JEREMY COLLINS.

Vehicle registrations

Owners of cars which have not had their registration details fed into the eomputer at the Central Vehicle Licensing’oflice at Swansea (i.e. if the vehicles have not been taxed or change of ownership notified within the last three years), should note that they could be in danger of losing their registration numbers if this is not done soon.

All local taxation offices will be closed in mid-March and any “manual vehicle record files” left on their shelves for vehicles unlicensed tbr some years will be destroyed, the great god Bureaucracy presuming the vehicles to have been scrapped.

Owners who may wish to relicense their vehicles in the future May have the registration ‘details added to the central vehicle records now, even if no licence is required immediately. There is no charge for this service, which should be requested through the local licensing officer. He will require the log boa, which will he returned only if the owner requests it in writing, assuming the notification is made by post. If the owner wishes to obtain earlier log books for the vehicle, he can do so provided this request is made at the same time as he requests the vehicle to be put on the Swansea records. Otherwise the current and earlier log books will be destroyed, although microfilm copies of them will be held at Swansea, from where owners can obtain copies.

This facility for straightforward notification of registration details to Swansea will exist at least for the next year, so there is no need to panic. Indeed, Swansea say that they don’t want all such notifications. to be made at once, because of’ the demands made on them during the system changeover in March. So long as the owner can prove title to the vehicle, there should be no problem in adding its details to the computer in the immediate future, after which he may leave it untaxed long as it isn’t used on the road at will. But owners who wish to obtain earlier log books must act promptly.

There is cause for concern in the future. however. In due course, possibly alter a year. Swansea will no longer accept notification of details as above and vehicles may have to he re-registered, with consequent complications and lack Of authoritative dating and history.

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