Letters from readers, March 1983

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Country lanes 

Sir, 

You will probably be interested to know that Essex County Council shares your concern for protecting Britain’s country lanes (Motor Sport, January 1983, page 39). It has devised measures within the existing legislation to put conservation of this important landscape feature onto a formal basis.

Certain lanes have historic and landscape value and they are important to the character of Essex. The County Council wishes to preserve their traditional character by keeping the banks, ditches and verges as far as possible. Trees and hedges will be protected where they are on highway land and, where they stand outside the boundary, the co-operation of adjoining owners will be sought. As highway authority, the County Council will relate traffic volumes, weight and speed to the need to avoid damage to the amenity and historic character of these lanes. The County Plan for Essex, approved by the Secretary of State for the Environment last year, incorporates the following statement of policy:

Any proposals which would adversely affect the physical appearance of the protected lanes of historic or landscape value or give rise to a material increase in the amount of traffic using these lanes will not normally be allowed. This is not just a sensitive concern for heritage and a sympathy for traditional landscape, although it is both of these as well. The importance of the Essex countryside for recreation and tourism is also recognised by the County Council. The Essex Plan deals with those issues too.

While you obviously agree with this, you may also have pondered the problem of a successful outcome of these policies for conservation. If the landscape of unchanged country lanes is so attractive to holiday visitors, will they in their great volumes damage the verges and press the need for black tarmac ribbons?

K. W. Boddie
Principal Assistant County Planner.
Essex County Council

* * * 

Personal imports 

Sir, 

I have been attempting to gain exemption from National Type Approval on a Japanese car which I am importing to this country. The car is an Isuzu Piazza which has not been type-approved in the UK, but I understand that a personal import can be exempt from NTA, subject to certain conditions which I can comply with.

The Department of Transport did confirm that NTA exemption was possible in my case, but then informed me that the car in question did not comply with C&U Regulations — period!! No indications were given as to why it did not comply.

I have now established that certain components require “E” marks and hope that the manufacturer can provide alternative components as necessary. The basic rule for importing “one-off” cars is — don’t bother. The pleasure of owning and driving a car that is different is not acceptable to our “Euro-minded” leaders, especially if the alien in question comes from the land of the Rising Sun and Higher Productivity.

Peter E. Jennings
Shirehampton

* * * 

American Grands Prix

Sir,

Upon reading the Grand Prix calendar for 1983, published in Motor Sport recently, I was tempted to call in the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. How long will it be before the World Championship becomes an American series? With the introduction of a New York Grand Prix for this year, the USA has now created three new races in successive years. I like the Long Beach race, but a Grand Prix in a car park is degrading, and four races in the USA is ridiculous. Britain, home of many formula one teams and drivers, deserves two Grands Prix; the “San Marino” and “Swiss” dodges are acceptable for similar reasons. But the United States has no formula one teams, only one driver and four races. A good balance? I thought the Americans were pushing their luck with a Grand Prix (west) and a Grand Prix (east) in 1976. Now we have a Grand Prix (central) and a Grand Prix (west of central, but not as far west as west itself) as well. Would anyone care to envisage what might happen, when Bernie and the yanks discover North and South on their compasses, and a few more dollars in their wallets? I dread to think.

G. Thomas
Merrow

* * * 

Rally coverage

Sir,

Motor Sport‘s RAC rally report comments that this is “the most prestigious sporting occasion to be held in the British Isles”. Very true — and it attracts huge crowds any time of the day or night! Why is it then that it is ignored by TV and radio? If there is a snooker competition, there is a programme every night, and cricket can be shown during half the day, but the RAC rally had a brief picture of the leading cars in the news. The most annoying thing was to know that the cameras were there, but little was broadcast. It was as if they were there just in case there was a major accident.

At least the enthusiast could ring the special GPO number and get a good up-to-date report — up to this year that is. When I used the service, I found you now had to listen to snippets of various sports before getting a very poor RAC rally report. A case of a majority being ignored.

T. Irwin
Overton

* * * 

Belt penalties

Sir, 

May I raise an aspect of seat-belt-wearing following the letters and your own contributions. One reads from time to time that the victim of an accident receives less than the full indemnity due to him on the grounds that he was not wearing a seat-belt.

Let us assume that motorist A is proceeding properly on his way and is run into by motorist B who is driving dangerously. In many cases the judiciary declare that motorist A contributed to the damage or injuries by his negligence in failing to wear a seat-belt. This to my mind is iniquitous. If motorist B had not been driving dangerously there would have been no accident. Motorist B is wholly and solely responsible for the consequences of the accident. The judiciary have no moral right whatever to penalise Motorist A.

This is a point which I have not seen raised previously in print. I hope you agree.

Ronnie Symondson
West Horsley

* * * 

Seat-belt profits

Sir,

In your editorial of August 1982 you advised your readers to buy shares in companies that manufacture seat belts in view of the extra sales that they are about to make due to the Compulsory Seat Belts Bill. The following month this idea was ridiculed by one of your readers, Mr. Lockwood. Well perhaps Mr. Lockwood and other doubting Thomases would be interested by the advertisement placed by Kangol in the January Trade Press. Here the dealer is warned that car owners will be “BELTING ROUND” to them for new front seat belts. If this prospect is not enough to get Kangol dealers buying sufficient extra stocks they are also advised to sell seat belts to the already well-fleeced motorist “FOR THOSE VULNERABLE BACK SEAT PASSENGERS” . . . BE WARNED! Your friendly seat-belt vendor is after one thing: YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY.

Personally, I am in favour of voluntary belting up, but the decision should be made by the individual, free from the pressures of this Government inspired sales campaign. Ask yourself what is going to be the next target?

On another topic, I would like to mention that over the last 28 months I have completed 90,000 miles in two (totally boring) British made 1.6 GL Ford Cortinas. During this time the only road-side breakdown was a jammed starter. For those of us that need high-mileage workhorses what has Japan or Europe got to rival this reliability? I only hope that my new Cavalier can match this.

Thanks for the magazine that still expresses the joys of motoring and the character of cars that are tested, rather than just publishing tables of minute, often trivial, data such as one can read in most so-called motoring magazines. I am in my 15th year of readership (since the age of 14) and have never discarded one issue.

K. D. Lake
Hitchin

* * * 

The other side of the coin

Sir,

Jeez, you Poms are a strange (but lovable) bunch.

I write on behalf of the vast silent majority who believe seat belts to be the best thing since the ring pull can. If, owing to an error on my part, my vehicle comes to a sudden halt — then I want to come to a sudden halt with it, I don’t want to have a test of strength between my face and a laminated windscreen. Should I ever catch my missus driving without her seat belt, even in the Jowett Javelin, I’d kick her from here to Sunday and she knows it. I grant you that there will always be a very few people whose life is saved because they’re not wearing belts, the exception that proves the rule.

My main concern is for the younger people who may be tempted to follow our Honourable Editor’s example; after 20 years of navigating — and having been stuffed up more trees than the average Possum — I say “Mr. Editor — Belt Up”. 

While I’m here, may I thank Murray Walker and James Hunt for their fine Grand Prix commentaries; they make it well worthwhile staying up until 1 a.m. for the finish. And let us not forget W.B., D.S.J., and everybody else from Motor Sport, eagerly awaited every month and never a disappointment.

Peter L. Smith
Brisbane, Australia

[There are times when belting-up is fine, as in rallies, etc., and for passengers; but a car isn’t lethal 100% of the time, which is why I, and so many others, abhor compulsion. — Ed.]

* * * 

Whose responsibility?

Sir,

In view of the fact that motorists are now compulsorily belted in, I sincerely hope that the Government is going to accept full liability for those killed or seriously injured by seat belts. As we in the anti seat-belt lobby have had to concede defeat in preventing this absurd legislation coming into being, at least we can now make every effort to persuade the Government to set up a scheme which would provide compensation for those killed or seriously injured in an accident where a seat belt has been proved on the grounds of reasonable probability to be the cause of injuries sustained.

In my respectful submission, it would be a tyrannical Government which would be callous enough not to accept responsibility for such road accident victims. Further, with reference to a recent BBC television programme called “Top Gear” in which Jackie Stewart extolled the virtues of seat belts and safety generally, I felt a deep sense of regret that Pedro Rodríguez and Ronnie Peterson have lost the chance to put their views across.

R. L. Meredith, B.A. (Hons.) Law
Hereford

* * * 

Proportional reporting

Sir,

Your item of Seat Belt News in the February issue has stirred me to write to you.

While I agree that the compulsory wearing of seat belts is a retrograde step, the effect of your reporting only one side of the news gives a totally unbalanced picture, ignoring the far greater number of accidents where death or serious injury has been averted by the use of belts.

A few weeks ago near this house, two cars were involved in a head-on collision at which I happened to be the first person on the scene, so that I had a good demonstration of the two alternatives. The man in one car, who had been wearing a belt, had already climbed out and was able to wave me down to go for help. In the other car the woman who had not been wearing a belt lay unconscious partly under the steering wheel. The man had dislocated his thumb on the gear lever and had a black eye, whereas the unfortunate woman was lucky only to have badly broken ribs and multiple bruising. Both cars were write offs.

Please, if you are going to report the inevitable cases where a belt has proved dangerous, also report the proportion of cases where the belt has proved an effective safety aid.

It seems to me that the seat belt manufacturers would assist rapid exit greatly if they could agree on a standard type of release button. The present confusing variety of belt release methods is a very real danger, especially if you should drive three or four different vehicles during the course of one day, as I often do.

While on the subject, can any of your readers tell me if it is possible to fit inertia reel belts to a Series Two 2+2 E-Type, as the present belts nearly drive me mad!

Jack White
Royston

* * * 

Old car taxation

Sir,

In reply to Keith Rumsey’s letter “Hobby Tax” (February), I can only hope that we Veteran, Vintage and Classic car users are kept to the same taxation as modern cars. Any segregation could lead to the restricted use of old cars which is present in a number of European countries.

I am sure that regular users of these old cars would not wish to be restricted to Sundays and Bank Holidays.

Clifford Walmsley
Accrington

* * * 

In defence of Land Rovers

Sir,

I refer to the opening paragraph of your article on the Mercedes G Wagon in the February 1983 issue, when you voiced your surprise at getting a Land Rover stuck alongside ordinary two-wheel-drive vehicles. May I respectfully suggest that you ask the driver of the Land Rover, successfully pulling an ordinary 2-w.-d. VW Beetle up Clinton hill, on page 187 of the same magazine, how to use the 4WD and low ratio levers.

I would add, that having spent almost nine years in the Middle East and having driven the same Land Rover for most of that time, through perhaps some of the sandiest and roughest terrain in the world, I consider it to be the finest vehicle of its kind. It is common to see early series I vehicles built in the 1950’s and loaded to the gunwales still labouring over sand dunes and through wadis (riverbeds) whilst other makes of vehicle died long ago.

Vaughan Dennis
Jordan

[We were not belittling the Land Rover, for which we have, and will continue to have, untold affection, merely setting down facts which are inescapable. Their transmission system is clear for all to see, and there can be no denying that, once stuck in glutinous black-cotton soil, they are much harder to unstick than light 2-w.-d. pick-up trucks. — G.P.]

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