Letters from Readers, March 1981

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

Mosely

Sir,

I am at a complete loss to know what the obituary on Sir Oswald Mosley is all about. Does he have some connection with motoring history, and if so why was it not mentioned?

I would be most interested to know by what reason this obituary appears in what (I hope) is still the only motoring journal worth buying.

Bristol

Ian Dunford

[We have received many such letters and we apologise to readers who may have been offended by the reference to Sir Oswald Mosley in our January issue. It was not D.S.J.’s intention to condone or in any way glorify the man’s opinions, which are as repugnant to us as they are to all fair minded people — in this connection, the phrase “suffered internment” was, perhaps, unfortunate. However, one thing which Sir Oswald did which has affected all Formula One motor racing enthusiasts was to father Max, the legal brains behind FOCA, and it was simply in acknowledgement of this action that the paragraph appeared. — Ed.]

American Enthusiasm

Sir,

I am writing this in the weak afterglow of another commercially turbocharged, American style Christmas. A time when it is probably natural for an exile from Britain to think nostalgically about Christmases passed. This nostalgia started as I read my November Motor Sport and heightened as I put fresh Castrol in the family car, a brand that has recently appeared here. The grade is GTX 20-50 which seems to nicely match the local climate; enough weight for driving a small car on long, summer trips at temperatures over 90°F yet thin enough for the rare lows of 6F we have had this Christmas. (Is anybody left over there who is still familiar with Mr. Fahrenheit and his scale?) The owner of my local autosports supermarket told me that Castrol is a vegetable-based oil; I am sure he is mis-informed but indicates that a trace of the old Castrol legend exists here. As he spoke, I could smell the fumes of Castrol “R” wafting over Brands Hatch years ago. More nostalgia! I would be interested to know if the product made in New Jersey by Burmah-Castrol is the same formula as the British-made product.

Motor Sport has faithfully followed me around for many years and still gives much enjoyment but I confess my interest in the “sport” aspect is diminishing. This is probably due to factors such as inflation, high fuel prices and the rigorously enforced blanket 55 m.p.h. speed limit, emphasised for me by several speeding tickets and a threat to my driver’s licence. (I refuse to concede that my age might also be a factor!)

I recently sold my six-year-old Audi 100LS and bought a 1980 econo-box, a front wheel drive Toyota Tercel. There are many citizens who drive less than 10,000 miles per year yet feel that the only morally acceptable way to drive to the news-stand for a paper is in a diesel-powered vehicle, but I resisted this trend. The Toyota is not outstanding in road performance and has a peculiar reluctance to corner fast compared to the Audi or my front wheel drive BMC cars of past years. However it is well made and the smooth engine and the five speed box with well chosen third and fourth ratios make it quite agile for suburban driving. The engine compartment looks very professional with quality alloy castings for the valve cover and engine front housings and the plumbing for the US-certified emission controls is neatly manifolded and clamped so as to disguise its real complexity. Toyota clearly understands the US market and the Tercel, although its lowest priced model, is sufficiently well appointed and sound-proofed to appeal to owners brought up with larger domestic vehicles. It has an efficient heating/ventilation system with the air conditioning neatly integrated rather than the “hang it on afterwards” concept of the Audi 100LS and other imported cars.

I read Motor Sport‘s editorial endorsement of the Austin Mini Metro and found myself wondering why Leyland (and its predecessors) has not put more effort into the US market. If it had started with the Mini and the 1100 series (Austin America when it was imported here briefly) and had really planned to demolish the general negative image of British family cars piece-by-piece (inadequate cooling, not tough enough for freeway driving, weak heaters, unreliable electrics and other complaints, real and mythical) then the Mini-Metro could be a huge success here. In fact, with Bill Boddy and his motoring dog appearing on American TV to enthusiastically promote the product, Leyland surely could not have failed to re-awaken the trust in the “Made in Britain” label!

Raleigh, USA

David J. Apps

Alex Henshaw

Sir,

Your appreciation of Alex Henshaw’s book “Flight of the Mew Gull” and V. Ludford-Brooks’ later letter, awakened many old memories of this master-pilot.

Before going into the RAF in late 1940, I lived almost in the shadow of Castle Bromwich airfield (sorry aerodrome) and that whole area was always being entertained by the antics of Spitfires being flight-tested from there — they were pushed across the main road (A452) from the shadow factory (afterwards Fisher & Ludlow and now a pretty dead part of BL).

There were several fine pilots but Henshaw always stood out — barrel rolls, multiple climbing rolls capped by stall turns, etc. etc., all at minimum altitude and in any weather. A Henshaw tested Spitfire was indeed tested!

In early 1941, I was at 6 SFTS Sywell (near Northampton) learning to fly Tiger Moths and, about once a week, a light monoplane drifted in the very minimum of space by the hangar where Wellington 1c’s (Pegasus engined) were serviced in a maintenance unit. Henshaw had arrived and, within minutes, a Wimpey lumbered across the short grass field on test. One clear day we watched one take off and climb to about 5,000 feet, dive and go into what all of us swore was a loop, or at least a remarkable full stall-turn. Our flying instructors said he did it quite often. Later in 1941 I went on to Wellingtons — OTU, night bomber operations in the Middle East and then an instructor until ’44, during which I did over 700 hours on 1c’s 111’s and X’s.

Many times on air tests I dived hard, pulled and trimmed like hell but never got to the point of even a decent stall-turn (lack of courage, strength or skill?). Did you really loop them Mr. Henshaw or was it only a glorious stall-turn?

’44-46 I flew the beautiful Mosquito — what Henshaw would have done with that! — but that’s another story.

Best wishes to you and “the magazine” for 1981.

Sutton Coldfield

John L. Whitworth, DFC.

Ford V8 Pilot

Sir,

I wonder if any of your readers can help me? I am compiling a history of the Ford V8 Pilot, and would like to hear from anyone who was involved with the car, and in particular with its rallying and competition career. I am also anxious to contact anyone concerned with the construction of the various special bodies that were fitted to this chassis: station wagons. pick-up trucks, limousines. vans etc., or anyone who had experience of operating these.

With thanks for your help, and for an excellent and consistent magazine.

London

Howard Stenning

(Letters will be forwarded)

Entry and Exit

Sir,

Re. your request for opinions on the best and worse race tracks for in or egress (November issue).

By far the best race track I’ve been to, for moving people (and vehicles) in and out is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It is just incredible how fast 300,000 (or is it 400,000 now) people can be dispersed from that track after the 500 mile race is over. This is due to its location in a city, with streets all round, and the use of a traffic plan developed over many years which simply moves people away from the track — if you exit through a gate that goes west, you go west, for at least a couple of miles, even if your intended destination is on the opposite side of the track. You then circle around and head towards your destination. [Like the French used to do at Reim’s – D.S.J.]

And by far the worst was Le Circuit at Ste. Jovite (Mont Tremblant) in Quebec, twice the size of the Canadian Grand Prix. One two-lane road goes about five miles to the town before a choice of roads becomes available. We once sat still, for nearly two hours, with only four cars between us and the road — as fast as the cars on the road moved towards town (about one car length per minute) other cars came from the right, so no cars left the track gate for almost two hours. And no traffic direction at all. [We have suffered this at Brands Hatch in “the good old days”. — D.S.J.]

And re W.A. Davis’ letter about metrication of gas pumps: Canadian oil companies went metric a couple of years ago; few problems and little complaint from the consumers. The US has not intended to go to metric gas, but was almost forced to, for economic reasons. As the price of a gallon of gas passed the $1.00 mark, the oil companies had a choice: convert the pumps to be able to handle prices of over $1 per gallon, at about $300 per pump, or convert the pumps to litres (then 27c/litre) at a cost of $100 per pump. About half the US oil companies chose to go metric. The prices are still advertised and posted on the pumps in gallons, but the pumps dispense the gas in litres.

Ontario, Canada

David L Gray

Geoff Richardson

Sir,

I would like to let Mr. Wilson McComb know that I am fit and well and living in Worcestershire, having retired from the Motor Trade. The very nice picture of the RRA and self in the December Motor Sport brought back many memories. I know full well that the real interest in the RRA is due to the Riley history and the success of the late Percy Maclure and my involvement in constructing a special from that car. I only did so because I was so plagued with problems with the Riley rear axle when using the ERA engine in 1948. Also, I felt I was continuing the line of development of Maclure to keep the car competitive. I enjoyed my motor racing from the start and it was just pure fun and prodigious hard work. I would think that I was about the most impecunious enthusiast who raced in F1 events in those days (1948-54). Every penny came out of my own pocket, and, of course, the start-money and trade-money was absolutely essential to carry on. How terrific it was for me to race with the likes of Gerard, Harrison, Hampshire, de Graffenried, Bira, Mays and the others.

Times and fortunes change over the years and these days I enjoy the handicap air races; it is so like motor racing just after the war. Prize money hardly pays for the fuel burned, but it is tremendous fun. I am always surprised how few ex-drivers fly aeroplanes in competition, there is just the same exhilaration and a lot less of the hard graft. I just want to win the King’s Cup air race and would have done so in 1976 but for a slight navigation error!

Hartlebury, Worcs.

G. N. Richardson (Richardson Racing Automobile)

XJ-S

Sir,

I read with interest your recent road-test of the Jaguar XJ-S, and would like to reply briefly to your muse on why more people do not acquire this fine vehicle.

Firstly, I do not know anyone in my circle of car enthusiast friends who actually finds the X J-S an attractive shape. I am not in the market for any new car, least of all one of this calibre, but I would certainly not consider a car that I did not find attractive to look at, whatever its other features were. The Jaguar does look pretty good — but that is as far as I would go. My idea of a handsome car? The new BMWs, the Aston Martin DBS V8, some Maseratis, and for that matter the XJ-6. Mind you, the “problem” of styling exists throughout BL, but that is a whole story on its own!

The second reason is something we can turn to our advantage in the world car market; there will always be attraction in things foreign. If the XJ-S was a Maserati, for the same price and with the some dealer support available, I wonder how it would sell. The Jaguar enjoys the same aura of quality and “differentness” in the States — I would imagine that the XJ-S sells very well there, if we are actually making enough of them. I recall that there was a big demand for the X J-Coupe, until BL brilliantly discontinued that particular beauty of a car. . .

Hampton, Middlesex

Martin Bradley

Racing Recollections

Sir,

On reading my usual copy of Motor Sport for December I was most intrigued to see the letter by Ian Rogers regarding the two RWG cars made by R. Watling Greenwood. The second one referred to I bought in 1956 to embark upon a light racing programme which I had wanted to do for many years but never had the time, or finances, as a serving officer in the RAF. From the outset this particular RWG was a “goer” and I was able to compete successfully with the various Loti and Coopers (Climax-powered) of the day. It was a beautifully-designed and executed little car and the panel work by Watling Greenwood was superb and to “concours” standards, whilst being functional.

For the record, you may remember we ran Team Sprite for a while with some success: I was runner up in the Memorial Trophy in one in fact, (spun myself out of it!) and was reasonably successful with an MG-A in the Autosports Trophy and with an Elva Climax, ending up Turner-mounted either BMC or Cosworth Ford engined, last event being the “TT” 1964.

Finally, Motor Sport is our main contact with some degree of sanity these days; keep it up and may your personal shadow never get longer, I still have some 1937 and ’38 copies which make interesting reading at times, with special reference to prices!

Nairobi, Kenya

Ken (Mac) Mackenzie

Berkeley History

Sir,

I wonder if I might appeal for anyone who might have any knowledge, memories or reminiscences of the competition history of Berkeley Cars to contact me? I am particularly keen to obtain as much information as possible on the team of 500 c.c. cars which were campaigned so successfully in 1958/9 by Count “Johnny” Lurani at Monza and in the Mille Miglia. It is my intention to compile what I hope will be the definitive history of these little cars and to understate their very creditable racing and rally record would be to do them less than justice.

All letters will, of course, receive a reply and any photographic or other material handled with extreme care.

London

Bernie G. Pearson

(Letters will be forawrded.)

“Cars in Books”

Sir,

I should be grateful if anyone can tell me where this quotation comes from:—

” ‘A-hundred-and-twenty-seven-miles-an-hour?’ echoed one young man’s voice above the gavel.

‘That is my estimate’, said the Doctor, taking it for a question, and there was a whining woman-chorus of ‘Why, I never!’.

‘What kind of car do you drive, Doctor?’ asked the business man in a voice that seemed too harsh for contempt alone.

‘Delahaye 235’, said the Doctor, almost proudly.”

I understand that the Delahaye 235 appeared in 1951 and went out of production a few years later.

Brighton, Sussex

Prof. M. J. C. Hodgart

[This sounds like something from a novel; can any reader well versed in motoring literature remember it? — Ed.]

“On the Road”

Sir,

The toll bridge near Oxford, which has been mentioned in Motor Sport recently, still exists and the toll levied on a motor car is now two pence.

It is just outside the village of Swinford, about one miles from Eynsham, where the Thames passes beneath the road to Oxford.

Oxford

J. G. Millward

[Other correspondents have pointed this out and I am now kicking myself, because I used the road last year, when driving away from a Transport Trust Pageant at Blenheim Park, en route for Hampshire. — Ed.]

 

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