Letters from readers, March 1982

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Maserati 8CTF

Sir,

May I add some further information to your article on Cameron Millar’s 8CTF Maserati, chassis number 3031. These big Maseratis have always fascinated me and I have done some very searching investigation into their activities at Indianapolis and was pleased that Denis Jenkinson (D.S.J.) agreed with my findings, even though they opposed his original 1968 observations. There are two distinct features of 3031 which identify it in any photograph and these are: (1) the number of cross-bars on the radiator grille, and (2) a unique fairing over the left-hand steering drop arm.

During its sojourn in the USA, 3031 spent some time with a 4-cylinder Offenhauser engine installed in place of the straight-eight Maserati unit and it first ran in this form at the Pikes Peak hillclimb in 1948. It subsequently appeared at Indianapolis in 1949-50-51 with the Offenhauser engine, but in 1952 and 1953 it had its Maserati engine back in place. The following list shows the activity of 3031 during its stay in the United States.

Indianapolis 500 Mile Race

Year – Driver – Race No. – Result
1940 – R. Dreyfus – 22 – Did not start
1941 – M. Rose – 3 –Retired lap 60
1946 – R. Snowberger – 25 – Retired lap 134
1947 – R. Snowberger – 25 – Retired lap 74
1948 – P. Russo – 25 – Retired lap 7
1949 – H. Banks – 21 – Offy eng. DNQ
1950 – S. Webb – 21 – Offy eng. 20th
1951 – J. Barzada – 49 – Offy eng. DNQ
1952 – J. Barzada – 53 – DNQ
1953 – J. Barzada – 69 – DNQ

Pikes Peak Hill-climb

1946 – L. Unser – 25 – FTD 15 min. 28.7 sec.
1947 – L. Unser – 25 – FTD
1948 – L. Unser – 25 – Offy eng. 7th
1949 – R. Snowberger – 21 – Offy eng. 9th

In 1941 it ran under the name of the Elgin Piston Pin Special; in 1947-48-49 it was called the Federal Engineering Special; in 1950 it was the Fadeley-Anderson Special; and in 1952-53 it was the Californian Speed Equipment Special. In the four appearances at Pikes Peak it was owned and entered by R. (Dick) A. Cott who was also the owner/entrant at Indianapolis for those years.

It is nice to been that 3031 is in such good hands and that it is still active. Unfortunately its sister 3030 lies dormant with a hole in the crankcase where it threw a connecting rod. It is still in the USA and the owner says he will rebuild it “one day”. The third of the trio, 3032, is in the Indianapolis Museum, a fitting resting place for a car that competed eight times in the 500 Mile Race, finishing five times, winning it twice (1939 and 1940) and scoring two third places and one fourth.

Bridgeport , Connecticut, USA William B. Digney

[When Cameron Millar acquired 3031 the USA dealer who sold it said it had finished 4th at Indianapolis, which is why I got crossed up in my Indianapolis researches. It was the sister car 3030 which finished 4th (in 1946 driven by Emil Andres) and the best that 3031 achieved was 12th, but the truth would not have been worth so much money. Doubtless the vendor would have liked to have said it was the 1939/40 winning car, but that was not possible as the whereabouts of 3032 was known, so he took the next best finishing position gained by an 8CTF Maserati. My thanks to Bill Digney for his painstaking researches into the Indianapolis history. — D.S.J.]

The No-stroke Engine

Sir,

I refer to the description on page 152 of the rotary engine of Herr. Dr. Felix Wankel as being “effectively a two-stroke”.

In the classical Otto cycle the four component parts of the cycle (induction, compression, expansion and exhaust) occur as separate events, usually, but not necessarily, in the same enclosed combustion space. That this cycle is usually carried out inside a cylinder with a reciprocating piston connected to a rotating crankshaft gives rise to the common name of “four-stroke”.

In a “two-stroke” engine, the sequence is shortened by combining the parts of the cycle in such a way that only two piston movements are required for the complete cycle. Thus in a “two-stroke”, two or more of the parts of the cycle must occur simultaneously in the same combustion space.

For the “rotary” engine, it is clear, both from your own and other descriptions and diagrams, that each enclosed combustion chamber goes through the four parts of the Otto cycle as quite distinct events during one revolution of the rotor.

The problem arises in trying to find another name for this cycle because there is no immutable relationship between the rotations of the crankshaft and the rotor — it depends entirely on the design of the internal gear ratios and the shape of the rotor housing. In the diagrams shown on page 152, the rotor would appear to be geared at 2/3 of the crankshaft speed. Therefore, during one crankshaft revolution the rotor rotates through 2/3 revolution and produces two power strokes. If a “four-stroke” produces 1/2 and a “two-stroke” produces one power stroke per crankshaft revolution per cylinder, can we then say a “rotary” engine is a “one-stroke”? Alternatively, one say that the rotary engine has the equivalent of three cylinders per rotor, then it must be a “three-stroke”.

Even this pedantry would be inadequate to describe a rotary engine with other than 3:2 internal gearing. It mostly shows that derived terms should not be used to describe things for which they were not intended.

Tadworth, Surrey, Robert Walker

[Mr. Walker is quite right to pull us up for describing the rotary engine of the Mazda RX7 as “effectively a two-stroke” on the basis that one complete cycle requires but one revolution of the main rotor. The difference between two and four stroke engines is in the timing of the four parts of the cycle relative to the mechanism. It is not right to suggest that in a two-stroke the induction and compression take place simultaneously in the same combustion space — they don’t. But they do take place on the same up-stroke of the piston while the expansion and exhaust share the down-stroke making two strokes of the piston (and one revolution of the crankshaft) necessary for a complete cycle. All goes to emphasise the point made in the last sentence of Mr. Walker’s letter. “Stroke” is a word which can only sensibly be applied to a rotary engine when preceded by “no”. — P.H.J.W.]

Overpricing

Sir,

It is somewhat difficult to express the acute sense of disillusionment and even outrage one feels as evidence steadily accumulates to she effect that the majority of motor vehicles sold in the United Kingdom are grossly overpriced.

I first chanced upon this allegation in a copy of the Sunday Times published last year. More recently a colleague has purchased a British saloon on the Continent at a most substantial financial saving. Finally there has come the ITV television programme “World About Us” transmitted on January 25th. This presentation appeared to indicate clearly enough that some form of unholy cartel or market-rigging has long been operated by the native motor industry which discriminates against the home consumer. The UK market will apparently bear a mark-up of anything amounting t some forty-five per cent in excess of identical vehicle selling prices say, in Belgium. Misgivings were heightened when viewers were informed that the Ford Motor Company, British Leyland and the SMM&T were invited to participate in the programme but all had declined. Why, I wonder? Moreover, Ford and Leyland among others are said to now be busily engaged in preventing the purchase in Belgium of right hand-drive-cars by British citizens. At this point in the programme subterfuge, evasion and contradiction by those representatives interviewed was embarrassing to behold.

In recent times the motoring weeklies have expended considerable ink and effort in stating that several imported cars are being dumped on the UK market following supposed governmental subsidies in their manufacturing countries. Now it would appear that these vehicles may in fact be retailing at a fair and reasonable price. Thus it may well be that instead of standing up for the hard-pressed British motorist these organs are not unknowingly abetting this national “rip-off” since little has been heard from them on the overall question of UK car prices. If these periodicals are ignorant of what appears to be going on they are indeed miserably informed as to the British motoring scene.

May one now request some straight answers to the present allegations. Are you there Ford, Leyland and SMM&T? It would assist if we might have a table of comparative prices for representative ranges of vehicles as retailed on the one hand in the UK and as sold in Belgium on the other. A clear breakdown of the differences and the reasons therefor would also help in clearing the air.

Orpington, Kent. K. W. Daws

Colt Lancer Turbo

Sir,

After purchasing my Lancer Turbo in August last year, I waited with great interest for your road-test report, as I had already read the road-tests in the other major publications.

I was naturally pleased to read such a good report, as I am delighted with the car, which so far has run trouble-free and covered some 6,000 miles. However, I feel that you have made an error in reporting the braking system as being a servo disc / drum set-up, when it is, in fact, discs all round.

Chalfont St. Peter, Bucks. M. R. Cuff

[Apologies for the slip — the Lancer Turbo has indeed discs front and back, servo-applied 10.1″ ventilated for the front wheels, ordinary 9.7″ discs on the back wheels, with the hydraulic circuit split front / rear and a balance-valve for the rear brakes, adjustment of the pads being automatic, and the hand-brake working on the back discs. And very well in all respects do these brakes work, being fully in keeping with the Lancer Turbo’s truly impressive performance. — Ed.]

Who Was First?

Sir,

In commenting upon the article “Perfecting the Passat” December 1981, K. W. Dams (Motor Sport letters February 1982) rightly supposes that the divided, folding rear seat, as found in his 1969 Skoda, was not the first of its type.

My recollection of this particular seat arrangement goes back to the original US-built Dodge Charger (introduced in 1964). Is this a record? I doubt it!

Isleworth, Middx. R. J. C. Taylor

Schuler Satisfaction

Sir,

Having owned Range Rovers for six years, and never being happy with the gearboxes because of the slow, heavy change and noise level, I had for some time contemplated whether or not to have my present Range Rover converted to an automatic gear change, but after reading your article in the December 1980 edition of Motor Sport regarding the conversion offered by Schuler Presses in conjunction with Ferguson, I decided to look into the possibility further,

I therefore contacted Schuler Presses of Sunninghill, Berkshire, and was impressed by the efficient reception that I had to my enquiries tram Mr. Toby Silverton and his staff – no high pressure salesmanship, but a good honest read test in one of their converted Range Rovers. After considering automatic conversions offered by competitors. I decided that although the Schuler Presses conversion was more expensive it offered a lot more for my money and I placed my order to have the work carried out. Arrangements were made within a week for me to take my vehicle to the Ferguson Works at Coventry, and three days later I collected the car duly converted.

To say that I was absolutely delighted with the way that the car performed is an understatement. Gone was the howl from the transfer gearbox which had been replaced by Ferguson Formula transmission incorporating a viscous coupling, and all the transmission snatch which one associates with the Range Rover had completely disappeared. On the open road the car is now as quiet as many luxury saloon cars, and the whole can handles very much better, especially on tight corners.

I have driven the car every day throughout the atrocious weather conditions of this winter over snow, ice and mud, and the car has not given me one moment of anxiety. I can honestly say that the Schuler conversion was worth every penny, and the vehicle has been completely transformed. It is a real pleasure to own it.

In closing. I would state that I have no connection with Schuler Presses or Ferguson, except as an entirely delighted and satisfied customer.

Watford, Herts, N. Mole

Pit Stops

Sir,

The world of Grand Prix racing should take careful note of the Editorial Leader in your February issue. I am sure that you are right in suggesting that pit stops would enhance races, they would improve the spectacle and bring into the limelight the valued work of pit personnel.

Because of the obvious danger inherent in refuelling during the race and because safety is so much considered today, I wonder if it might be possible to revert to the use to special racing fuels instead of normal petrol pump fuel as demanded today by the fuel companies. The much lower flash point of methanol based fuels made refuelling its much safer.

You report that the Riley Register poses the question of roll-over bars on pre-war racing cars. The VSCC and others have done wonders to prevent these anachronisms on pre-war cars and on some historic post-war cars. We must do all we can to prevent further intrusions, as you say the bone-dome crash hats look absolutely dreadful in historic cars. I am sure Motor Sport will continue to press for the right things and let us hope that authority will take heed.

I can help with regard to three of the MG queries in answer in Karl J. Weissmann, I used to know that MG J4 OJ 9433, it was the one that F. Allen overturned so spectacularly at Southport in 1934. The car crashed rounding one of the pylons, Allen was completely unhurt. The front wheels of the MG hit one of the deep ruts which were always a hazard on the sharp corners in sand racing. These circuits were also right-handed and in such accidents the driver was usually thrown clear and the much greater danger was always to the riding mechanic, if one was carried. This was how May Cunliffe had her tragic crash killing her father who had been riding with her as mechanic. I well remember Raymond Mays refusing Peter Berthon’s entreaties to ride with him at Southport as he considered that the left-hand seat was far too dangerous.

The present owner of the NA MG Magnette BHX 238 asks if anyone knows who drew that car at Donington in April 1935. The driver on that occasion was Fred Thatcher’s friend H. Levy. I knew that very attractive pale blue MG quite well and even drove it once myself, taking as my passenger Fred’s famous actress sister. Heather.

Your Benfleet reader asks for any information about his J2 which he thinks was owned by Doreen Evans. I knew Doreen’s J2 very well which was registered AGY 339 and I have several pictures of Doreen competing with it. I have written about Doreen and that car in the book, “MG Past and Present”, but if he likes to contact me I may be able to give him further information.

Kineton. Warks. A. F. Rivers Fletcher

Autocavan

Sir,

Further to your article in the December issue of Motor Sport relating to the 1.8 Autocavan racing Golf. I think there is another facet of that company’s activities and character that should be brought to the attention of your readers, and that concerns their relationship with their ordinary run-of-the mill day-to-day customers.

As an ageing enthusiast seeking to obtain more performance from an equally ageing VW camper, I approached Autocavan in the latter part of 1981 and purchased a Nikki carb conversion and one or two other “goodies”. Although the total order could have been of no significance I received nothing but good humoured help and advice.

Having carefully modified the adaptor manifold, etc. to their suggestions it would not fit properly and I could not obtain full throttle. I immediately wrote to the company seeking their guidance, and as a result of a telephone call presented myself and my box of problems to them on a Saturday morning at a time when they were awash with worthwhile customers.

However, in spite of this, once again, I obtained kindness, help and, above all, good humoured patience, whilst they pointed out the error of my own ways in one area and then proceeded immediately to carry out further modifications without charge with the result that the installation has now proved an outstanding success.

Recently I telephoned seeking a replacement regulator and was told that they had the right model in stock and a price was quoted. However, when calling to collect we found that I had been quoted for the wrong model and the regulator I actually required would cost around £4 more. An understandable mistake and of no great significance. They were surprised that I was not annoyed and was willing to pay the extra without question. Believe you me, it is a pleasure to deal with such people.

Needless to say I have no connection with the company or any of its staff, and have no interest other than in hoping that the company and its cheerful good humoured staff remain and prosper as some small recompense for the majority of the drab, dreary and unenthusiastic idiots who seem to becoming the norm in so many spares and service departments.

Chichester, Sussex, R. Edward Owen