Letters from Readers

N.B. - Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them. - Ed.

Unbeatable Jaguar


Having read with much interest the correspondence on the subject of the Jaguar XJ-S I thought I would add my experience.

I have owned two XJ-S - my first was RHD Chassis No. 15 and on that car I covered 42,000 miles. I experienced a few niggling faults initially, wind noise, sticking driver's window, and a change of rear axle due to whine. All these were gradually sorted out, and the headlamps were replaced by a later model, together with a heavy duty wiring harness to minimise voltage drop to the bulbs.

However, the problem which caused most trouble was front tyre wear. This was dealt with by Jaguar's Service Department with every possible care and assistance. They had two attempts, with various changes in geometry, which eventually seemed to cure the problem.

My second car, which I still own, has covered 13,000 miles, and to date the only real problem is again front tyre wear. Yesterday the local Daimler/Jaguar dealers altered the front suspension geometry to the latest specification - it is too early to comment on the result.

I drive quite an assortment of cars from time to time, but in my experience the XJ-S offers by far the finest value for money. What other car can offer 120 m.p.h. cruising (where legally allowed!) at the same time either listening to the radio or holding a conversation in air-conditioned comfort and complete safety, with plenty of margin in hand, should the occasion arise.

My main criticism - why not make an LWB version, perhaps complete with Vanden Plas treatment.

Usual disclaimers, but I have owned 17 new Jaguars and covered 420,000 miles in them.

My next car - watch the motoring magazines for the next few months I'm sure you will guess.

Bournemouth. Peter J. Harris

PS. The last five Jaguars I have owned have all been V-12s (total mileage 168,000) and I have not yet had need to put a spanner on any of these engines. Carry on the good work, Jaguar, and be proud to be British.

* * *


I was sorry to read Mr. Anderson's tale of woe, Motor Sport January 1979.

I, too, have an XJ-S and have owned earlier Jags: first one was a 1961 Mk. II 3.4 - wonderful; half an hour in 25 minutes! No trouble, poser, handler, etc., etc. Second one was a 1963 Mk. 10 - very imposing - all trouble; no further Jaguars for 14 years - missed a couple of good models by all accounts.

Meanwhile, I try the foreign and home opposition; result: some good, some not so good.

Twelve months ago I took delivery of my XJ-S, all 12 cylinders of complex sophisticated beauty but then I am an engineer, and must confess that, as yet, I have not inspected the battery cover critically!

There have been faults, but all minor irritations when weighed against the superb refinement, arrogant power, and sure-footed handling are compensated for.

The car needs stiffer dampers for fast driving over bumpy roads and somebody should drill bigger drain holes in the air conditioner, not to mention a redesign of the electrically operated windows and self-locking system.

What next? Ferrari, Porsche (too much fag for everyday driving), Mercedes? Too much money for well-finished Ford; BMW? Can't hear yourself talk above 100 m.p.h.!

Conclusion: sometimes it's hard to choose British against strong foreign competition; in this case - no competition - XJ-S again.

Bolton. A. Clews

Expensive Transfer


Having just purchased from Jeep of St. James's a transfer to go on the bottom of a Cherokee Chief door, I am now in receipt of an account for £28. Should this be put forward as an entry to the Guinness Book of Records as the most expensive transfer ever sold?

London W8. Peter C. Dineley

Earl Howe's Racing Colours

From the R t. Hon. The Earl Howe


In the January issue of Motor Sport on page 41 "Post-Vintage Notes", I was interested to read that the Fiat Register reports about a Fiat 500 c.c. owned by my father in 1955. The paragraph refers to this Fiat being in its entirely original condition, still finished in Howe's racing colours of dark blue and black. The small point of detail I wish to correct is that my father's family racing colours were a bright blue and silver and on the continent his car was British Racing Green with his blue and silver racing colours along each side of the car. However his saloon motor-cars were finished in blue and black.

House of Lords. Howe

"Racing Driver/Racing Motorist"


I enjoyed your article "Racing Driver Racing Motorist", which also indicated that there are actually some people who read my articles in Motor! What I found strange in it, however, is that you question the eligibility of USAC drivers to the racing driver fraternity. Surely the USAC ovals are not in any way full-bore affairs on which driving only amounts to keeping the cars on a more or less straight course - quite apart from the fact that many USAC races take place on proper circuits, rather similar to ours. So driving a USAC car on an oval is just as much an act of matching the speed through the bends to the available grip, as it is in what we still call "road racing", but isn't any more. I certainly agree that USAC racing on ovals involves much less braking and gear-changing, but it is certainly not typical banked track racing in the sense of the old Brooklands racing times.

As to George Eyston, surely he is a racing driver. In addition to the road racing feats you mention, I remember him heading Dick Seaman, both on Magnettes, in the Masaryk GP of 1934 which I attended as a schoolboy, and his second place in the 1929 Spa 24 Hours Race with Boris lvanovski, driving a supercharged 1,500 c.c. Alfa (headed by Marinoni-R. Benoist on a 1750) is also worth mentioning.

Vence, France. Paul Frere

* * *


Doubtless you will receive an avalanche of letters for your winter space-filling controversy, in my case it has had the desired effect! I have thought carefully about the definitions which I conclude should be:

"Racing Driver" - One who irrespective of era, sex or status is capable of racing a "proper" car on a track at the optimum speeds at which the car is capable of being driven. Not many have this skill: to do it, a very particular balance has to be struck between risk taking, reactions, driving technique and sense of identification with, or a determination of the balance of the car at racing speeds. Jenks' "ten tenths" sums this up.

"Racing Motorist" - The rest of us who drive racing cars, and who race cars to the best of our ability! It follows that it is much easier to be a Racing Motorist, but a person can be both at different times. I think that the spectators, due to that subtle interchange between many "performers" and their "audience" are particularly able to detect the special atmosphere of seeing a real racing driver at work.

To differentiate between the two, at any time in motoring history, becomes the simple question (having settled the comparative "racing" qualifications of the car), "could anyone else have driven the same car slightly or substantially faster under the same conditions?" If yes, then the driver is only a Racing Motorist.

Therefore, in the Vintage era, I would consider Parry Thomas to be a Racing Driver, as well as a Racing Motorist, just as I would consider my grandfather Ernest Eldridge to be both as well. I doubt if another driver could have driven "Mephistopheles" as fast as he (to the point of foolhardiness), and during his short career he ran his own GP car in European events and at Indianapolis in 1925/1926, as well as running his Miller in record-breaking.

Apart from this cavil, broadly I agree with your own assessment. In the very early days, however, the assessment is much more difficult due to their reduced possibilities for competition and comparison. At the present time, probably all the USAC drivers are normally "racing drivers", but very few of them were racing at the Brands Hatch USAC Meeting!

The terminology is personal, it doesn't matter a damn, but it provides a diverting excuse for writing another letter to Motor Sport, and a welcome break from the "jungle warfare" caused by the evolution of too much power by some groups, so that they damage the entire community in their demands for more money. It seems paradoxical that some of the finest individualistic cars were produced at a time of great social and industrial unrest, but today the reverse seems true.

Blackheath. Christopher Mann

Fuller Information


I am writing to correct part of the statement made by yourself in the December edition of Motor Sport, under the heading of "Brooklands News". You state, inter alia, "We hear that . . . Oyster Lane Properties are taking down the original fencing along the outside of the embankment at Byfleet, preparatory to destroying the Byfleet banking ...".

Firstly, we are reliably informed that the fencing was not original and secondly, we are instructed by our clients to state that they have no plans for demolishing the Byfleet banking. The purpose of the removal of the fencing was purely to tidy-up what was considered by many to be an eye-sore.

Whilst writing, I notice you also state that the brass plaque previously on the flying ground Flight Booking Office "has fortunately been restored to its proper place ...". We have no knowledge of what you report and the plaque has not been replaced to its wooden plinth on the building itself which, I would have thought, was "its proper place".

London, EC1. G. A. Peiser

Fuller Peiser, Chartered Surveyors

Low Flying


It was with great interest that I read the quote in your January issue from Mrs. Ron Price about Tyson's acrobatic flying.

You pose the question as to whether people used to fly that low (Inverted, with the tail-fin clearing the grass - Ed.) and the basic answer is no, although a few used to, and a few still do, but equally few get away with it. The simple reason is that, once inverted, an aeroplane needs to lower its tail - i.e. bring it closer to the ground - before it can gain height, which it needs to do if it is going to be able to roll erect. However, once the top of one's rudder is actually on the grass, it can be seen that it is extremely difficult to lower the tail, since any lowering would simply cause it to run along the ground, and if you can't lower it one is trapped in the most vicious of vicious circles, the only possible solution to which is to hope that the ground might fall away from you.

The other factor is of course that one is going to be travelling at at least 100 m.p.h. and you can well imagine the difficulties of attempting to judge the height of one's tail above the ground, particularly when one is unable to actually see the top of the fin.

It always pleases me to read in the pages of Motor Sport about your own breadth of mechanical interest, for while I retain a keen interest in cars, I certainly find that acrobatic flying presents a considerably greater excitement and interest than I used to get from Club racing an XK120 Jaguar. As a yardstick of performance, the Pitts Special that I display has a little over 230 h.p. for a dry weight of under 720 pounds, which puts it in the power to weight league of Formula One cars in a device which one can use in a practical fashion.

Many thanks for an excellent magazine.

London, W1. Richard N. Goode

* * *


I was most interested in your January issue especially about inverted flying and Geoffrey Tyson cutting the grass with his tail-plane.

I was flying Avro Cadets at Woodford in 1936, when Geoffrey Tyson was Hawker chief test pilot, and his aerobatics were quite phenomenal. He certainly cut the grass with his tail-plane. He also fixed a wire hook on his left wing-tip, and with an Avro Tutor specially fitted for inverted power picked up a handkerchief placed in the middle of the airfield, inverted, with a brief dip at the critical moment. He also had his own landing sequence, for all the aircraft, including Ansons, which might not be popular at Heathrow at present. It began with a flat-out downwind run at about six inches, then a pull-up with high rocket-loop, a quick half-roll out of this leading to a steep side-slip over the hedge and a perfect three-point landing. I remember all this very clearly, especially when Tyson had an engine failure in the Tutor downwind and inverted at an altitude of about one foot. He was fortunately doing about 130 m.p.h., and pulled up and over for a perfect landing.

Your incredulity about Geoffrey Tyson leads me to hope you may publish this letter; he was one of my heroes.

Beckenham. W. Van Essen, FRCS

A North Star Formula Junior


You published a letter from M. J. Cowell in the February edition together with a photograph of a Formula Junior car, circa 59/60. This car was designed and built by Ron Robinson of North Star Engineering, Marton, near Coventry, Warwickshire. It was entered as a North Star for Bill Belcher to drive in several Formula Junior races in the middle sixties and also raced briefly as a Formula Libre car with a 1,500 c.c. engine.

Robinson constructed a second North Star chassis in 1967 and this was an ultra-slim and very elegant Formula Three design. Finance and the strength of the Brabham and Lotus factories prevented Robinson from gaining any success with the car. During the years 1964 to 1967, Robinson prepared various cars for me including U2, Lotus 23 and Brabham BT18 models.

Not only did he undertake the preparation of these cars to a near faultless standard, he also rebuilt the engines and I can truthfully say that in the whole of my racing career, I never had better prepared cars than those that were produced for me by Ron Robinson.

Castle Donington. Peter Gaydon

Donington Park Racing Ltd.

Sacrificial Stag


The letter from Maurice Clarke concerning convertibles is sadly appropriate.

I have owned four Triumph Stags and in no case have had trouble with the engine apart from a mysterious tendency for the cooling water to slowly disappear without apparent reason.

The cars would cruise effortlessly all day at the ton (a mere 4,000 r.p.m. in overdrive) and never failed to turn in 30 m.p.g. or better in normal rural driving.

They were badly designed in some respects, with serious instability in the tail, and a lot of rumble and fuss at low r.p.m. from what should have been a silky-smooth engine, but for old gaffers like myself they still represented the only chance of open-air motoring.

In view of the almost total lack of competition, Mercedes being now well out of reach of ordinary mortals, it seems incomprehensible that Leyland could not make a success of them, and in fact had not bothered to improve even the smallest detail during their ten years or so of life.

Presumably, like the mid-engined Rover sports, which could have been a World-beater, the Stag has been sacrificed to the loss-making God of volume car production.

What a pity!

lnstow, Devon. P. Brannam

That March Test


I am a little behind with my reading and have just read Jeremy Walton's track test of the March 783 in the December issue.

As an ex-employee of March Engineering I wonder if I might correct an impression some readers would gather as to the specification of customers' cars as they leave the factory.

As we all know motor racing technology moves quickly and it is true that most customers embark on a development programme with or without the help of the factory. Any good mechanic will incorporate little tweaks to make maintenance easier for his circumstances.

However, to suggest that the ex-factory car is a basic product is a little unfair. In the 5½ years I spent with the company it was always our policy to offer the best we knew, without going to exotica like titanium driveshafts and so on. Apart from anything else, this policy was necessary because one never knew what Chevron and Ralt were dreaming up on long winter evenings!

It is also true to say that development ideas were coming along all the time, but to release them for production before adequate evaluation would have been unfair on ourselves and our customers.

There was an occasion a couple of years ago when we ran a rear suspension modification on the works Formula Three car that provoked cries of "unfair". That was what some people said until we found that it made the car slower and reverted to standard specification!

I have enjoyed reading J. W.'s reports for many years, even before he worked for Motor Sport, and his impressions are to be respected. However, I have read Motor Sport for even longer and admire your editorial quest for accuracy - hence this letter.

I would like to add that I thoroughly enjoyed my work for Robin Herd and Dave Reeves at March. It was only because I believe I can further my engineering career (outside motor racing alas) that I recently left on the best of terms.

However, I can still enjoy watching Marches win races and restoring my beloved Lotus 7 to return to my equally beloved hill-climbs. I can still enjoy driving my Hillman Hunter (yes, really!) and reading Motor Sport - long may it continue.

Bicester, Oxon. S. C. Butter worth

(I was naturally flattered to read this letter, but feel that reducing weight by the measures described and some of the other specification changes amounted to the kind of modification I would have expected to encounter in touring car racing rather than a thoroughbred formula car. I am pleased to see March or any other British racing car manufacturer/component maker doing well in a business that provides an underrated source of income for the UK. - J. W.)

Topless TVR


I would like to respectfully suggest that M. R. Clarke of Beckenham does not read his Motor Sport properly. If he did he would find that the convertible is far from dead.

TVR's, up in Blackpool, have been producing a convertible for a few months now. Perhaps Motor Sport could test one! Also, if Mr. Clarke has enough pennies, there is a turbo version. The Big Four are not the only ones who make cars in this country.

At this point I had better declare that I own a 1965 TVR 1800 S, which has provided me with many happy hours of motoring. Thank you Motor Sport for providing the high spot of the month.

Bridgwater. N. K. Dewar

The A-HC and Concours


I have been asked to write to you as the large, multi-sponsored Concours d'Elegance competitions have been the subject of much discussion at recent Austin-Healey Club meetings, both at local and national level.

It has now been decided that the Club will not support these events in future, as the amount of sponsorship, prize money and commercialism is a great departure from the original idea of the Concours d'Elegance competition, i.e. the "prettiest"/most intact vehicle after a competition. Although we will not be entering these large events as a Club, we will in no way try to deter those members who wish to enter as individuals from doing so.

Hertford. Roger W. Byford

National Vice-Chairman, The Austin-Healey Club.

Healey Registration


At the beginning of this year a decision was made by the AHC to develop a register of existing Austin Healeys in the UK starting initially with the oldest member of the marque, the 100/M, which celebrated its 25th anniversary only recently. Eight months later, with that register comprising some 170 vehicles only, in varying states of condition (concours, undergoing restoration, derelict etc.), we have appointed two further register secretaries to compile a register of the six-cylinder derivatives existing. In addition a further secretary is compiling a Sprite owners register.

Through your columns, therefore, we would be grateful of the opportunity to ask all owners of Austin Healey 100/6, 3000 Mk. 1 and 2, and 3000 Mk. 3, to contact the register secretary appropriate as shown below, whereupon they will receive a comprehensive specification sheet for completion and return in order that a detailed register of remaining vehicles and owners can be compiled and maintained in the future. Ultimately it is intended that contact will be made with other worldwide centres, who in some cases already have ownership details, with a view to collating information on all those vehicles still known to be in existence.

Ref. 100/6 Mk. 2 and Mk. 2: John Masefield, 52 Greenwood Road, Oxley, Wolverhampton.

Ref. 3000 Mk. 3: Hugh Ferris, "Tower View", 2 Castle Lane, Warwick.

Warwick. Hugh W. E. Ferris

Target Achieved


In the September issue of Motor Sport you kindly made reference to the Appeal Fund for the restoration of St. Andrew's Church, Shelsley Walsh which was supported by this Club.

Your readers may be interested to learn that the Fund's target of £10,000 has now been attained and the Club's direct contribution to this total amounted to over £2,400 mainly derived from the special Closed Hill Climb in aid of the Appeal which was held on October 1st.

Kidderminster. Mark Joseland

Secretary, Midland Automobile Club

The LMB V8


I was most interested in the letter from Mr. E. J. Warburton in the February issue, for the LMB V8 has always been one of my favourite cars from the time it was described in The Autocar (3?/12/1937) under the heading of "A Special of Specials".

All parts used were new but the engine and chassis (shortened by Bainshaws) were 1934 Model 4D Ford V8. The engine was mildly tuned and had 3 or 4 water off-takes on each cylinder-head to cure the boiling problems the Fords suffered from. The suspension was the LMB divided axle to give i.f.s. but, unusually, the radius rods ran forward from the axle ending under the beautiful Maserati-like radiator cowl. The whole car was built with minute attention to detail and regardless of expense.

H. G. Symmons, for whom the car was built, fell ill in 1939 and the car was advertised by L. M. Ballamy (I believe he ran it at Prescott) and was purchased post-war by Guy Warburton who then sold it to Reg Holt who re-registered the car as a V8 and KMB 300. Its original reg. no. was GMD 1.

Reg was most successful with the car. After crossing the finishing line at over 100 m.p.h. at an Ellesmere Port sprint a radius rod broke under braking causing some anxious moments. Thereafter a normal Ford beam axle was fitted.

At the end of 1950 Reg sold the car to Tom Leigh who only used it once and it was offered to me in 1951 for £450 - I was very tempted but decided my V12 Atalanta was a more practical car.

The car remained unsold until 1958 when a friend bought it (for £150) and he fitted a Mercury engine, wheels and from a Bedford CA van and made up his own de Dion rear end. He also changed the original grey to a dark green. He sold the car in 1960 and when I encountered it in 1965 it had an AC engine and gearbox and was painted red.

I was delighted to see the car at the Brooklands Re-union in 1977 and I had a long chat with the owner. Despite its many changes in specification it has always been well kept.

I should think most of the V8 specials were broken-up when they became obsolete. Their chassis had taken a lot of punishment and most were out of alignment!

Both the LMB and Hutchinson's V8 were written-up in Motor Sport in 1944.

Turning to other matters, I was most disappointed that you omitted Britain's finest pre-war driver from your article "Racing Driver - Racing Motorist". I refer, of course, to Charlie Dodson, who, after a wonderful career racing motorcycles, turned to car-racing with instant success. Napier-Railton to twin-cam Austin, road or track, sports or racing cars, racing or record-breaking, he was most successful in all these. He was only prevented from joining the Auto-Union team because Hitler would not have two Englishmen in German teams.

Stockport. David L. Gandhi

PS. I have just seen the advertisement for the 1934 Ford V8 TT car. I'm so pleased one of those impressive cars still exists. Tommy Wise trialled the sister car in 1936 and I think Sydney Allard had the other before he built CLK 5.

Another V8 special...


Concerning the interesting letters on Specials which appeared in February's Motor Sport, I am renovating a car called a Cripps Special which was built after the war and registered in 1948. From 1950 to 1957 it gained an award in nearly every event for which it was entered.

The engine originally fitted was a blown 5,300 c.c side-valve Chrysler straight eight and it managed the standing quarter of a mile in 14.9 seconds.

Later a 4.2-litre Chrysler V8 was installed, the finally the car was fitted with a Jaguar engine.

According to the letters which refer to this vehicle the Cripps Special is mentioned in an early edition of Gregor Grant's book "British Sports Cars", it is also mentioned in several other books, especially in one by C. A. N. May the title of which is unknown to me.

I have tried unsuccessfully to locate any of the books or any other history on this car.

I would be very grateful to anyone who could assist me.

Shenstone. David C. Gardner

Last Words on P4 Rovers


Thank you for publishing my letter regarding P4 Rovers. You ask why someone does not specialise in these cars. Perhaps I may advance a few reasons:

1. There are plenty of good cars around as many of the 130,000 produced still survive.
2. Though good cars fetch good money the prices generally are low in comparison with many of its contemporaries.
3. Most P4 owners I know are keen users of the cars and do their own maintenance and repairs. Very few have professional restorations done and if buying a car usually purchase one in the private market.

As to spares, this market is well covered:

1. Much is common to contemporary Landrovers and 3-litres and some parts are still in current usage.
2. Most mechanical parts are available from Rover distributors and dealers.
3. The two clubs which cater for these cars have the spares situation fairly well covered.

I have been advising people about P4s for some 10 years now in my club and have owned several. My comments are based on long experience. I would certainly take to task comments on petrol and oil consumption. Firstly oil consumption which should be at least 250 m.p.p. with a good engine and a well rebored unit between 1,000 and 2,000 m.p.p. Those that do use oil heavily usually have a combination of the following faults: worn bores, pistons, or rings; worn inlet valve guides and seals; leaking crankshaft seals; other oil leaks from the block. As to petrol consumption I would make the following comments:

1. Most overdrive six-cylinder models are capable of returning over 25 m.p.g. on a run. My own car usually returns over 30 m.p.g. and this is at 65-70 m.p.h. I once achieved 38+ m.p.g. All checks are tankful to tankful with an accurate speedometer.
2. One magazine road-testing a 105S returned nearly 24 m.p.g. including all their performance testing. W. B. may also recollect his comments on road-testing a 100 in October 1961 which returned between 20.6 and 26.8 m.p.g. under varied conditions.
3. Those models with neither freewheel nor overdrive (i.e. 95 and some 90 and 100 models) tend to be thirstier on petrol, as do the 80 (unless driven slowly) and the 105R (particularly in town).

The P4 range makes a fine long-distance car. Without wishing to put anyone off buying one perhaps it would be wise to mention that they can be cumbersome on twisting, narrow, country lanes. These cars have a high centre of gravity and an engine placed well forward. As a result they tend to roll and understeer heavily. By comparison the P3 has neither of these faults. Driving both daily I find the two complementary.

Wiveliscombe R. M. Stenning