Letters From Readers, May 1956

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

The Worth of American Engines

Sir,

Mr. Bell quotes impressive figures for the American Cunningham sports car. In comparison to a DB3S-engined Aston Martin DB2/4 the Cunningham, he states, is 9 m.p.h. faster and superior in acceleration. One must admit that 0-100 m.p.h. in 11 sec. is phenomenally good, but high speed and biting acceleration do not, alone, make a successful sports car. The handling qualities of the car concerned are a very decisive factor — sheer speed is useless without the cornering and braking ability to match. This constitutes a failing in many American cars.

Mr. Bell goes on to say that British cars will not stand up to the hard life and high speeds expected of American cars — a comparison of British and American performances at Le Mans provides, I think, a satisfactory answer!

As makers of roomy cars capable of cruising at fairly high speeds along straight roads with a maximum of comfort the U.S. manufacturers excel, but as makers of high-performance sports cars they cannot (yet) be counted very serious rivals to their British and Continental counterparts.

I am, Yours, etc., Raymond E. Bona. Folkestone.

*

Conditions in —  Sweden

Sir,

After all this talk in different papers about British car sales going down on some export markets, 4-day weeks and so on, I think it might he of interest for you and your readers to have some official figures of new car registrations in Sweden for 1955. (Page 12 in the enclosed paper Motor.)

Let me declare that I am pro-British indeed and that I would certainly be most satisfied if British cars were sold in ever-increasing numbers. Unfortunately, that is not what is happening here in Sweden, for this last year British cars have been losing markets as never before. Why is that so? Well, I don’t know, but I have some ideas.

The best sellers in Sweden last year were the VW and our own Volvo PV444. Those two cars have one thing in common: a most perfect service in the whole of Sweden, together with non-expensive spare parts and a list of fixed prices of repair. I must mention, too, that the Volvo is guaranteed for five years, even if the car has more than one owner in that time.

Well, what I want to say with this letter is just that I don’t think it’s a very good thing to go on criticising a particular make of car, a particularly ill-chosen gear ratio or a particularly bad back-axle design. There’s nothing really wrong with the British car. On the other hand there must be something wrong with the top figures behind the British Motor Industry.

Change them quickly for young and service-minded men who have enough time to live to see the fruits of putting in some service in selling their products abroad. And as there isn’t always fog in the Channel, why can’t those top figures come over here to study and see? To compare on one hand the organisations selling Volvo and VW and on the other hand all the organisations trying to sell the different British products.

By the way, congratulations to Rootes for producing such a good-looking car as the new Sunbeam Rapier! In fact, a jolly good step in the right direction. I do hope that car, with its splendid success at Earls Court, will be an eye-opener to some other of your big concerns, particularly to those who want to build a big-car scaled down and have gone on with unchanged models for some seven years . . . If there are any!

I am, Yours, etc., Gustaf L. A. Giers. Stockholm.

[The figures in the Swedish Motor referred to by our correspondent are Swedish new-car registrations for the year ending December 31st, 1955. They show VW to head the list with 24,431, closely followed by Volvo PV444 with 23,716. The best-selling British car was the Ford Anglia, with 2,791. Total sales of the products of our Big Five were: B.M.C., 7,208; Ford. 5,437; Standard/Triumph, 1,899; Vauxhall, 1,585; Rootes, 929. Of station-wagons, Volvo 445 sold 1,078, VW 1,034, and the most popular British vehicle was Hillman/Commer, with 325 sales.—Ed.]

Service!

Sir,

I was very pleased to see the letter in your March issue extolling the virtues of the Triumph TR2. I have owned a hard-top model for about six months; I think it is a wonderful car, and was obviously designed and developed by enthusiasts.

The Triumph Sports-Car Owners’ Club is a very fine idea — it certainly succeeds in selling TR2s and keeping them sold.

When I made a perfectionist’s inquiry about a vibration period on the gear-lever at certain revs., this was passed on to the Technical Department, and when next he was in the district their Technical Representative made strenuous efforts to contact me to investigate the trouble. He made arrangements for the local Triumph Distributor to carry out a modification, no reference was made to the strict letter of the guarantee and the work was carried out on a “no charge” basis. This I contend is Service in the true sense.

A passing reference to Kirkstone Pass in another letter prompts me to write to you and sound a warning note to motorists using the Pass, as there are unusually hazardous circumstances attached to this hill. Tired or badly-driven cars often stall, and an easily acquired piece of stone is used to chock the back wheel. When the engine has cooled or the driver has sorted himself out, the car is driven away but the stone is left.

A local inhabitant told me recently that he had seen as many as six pieces of stone on the road at one time; they are a real menace not only to cyclists and motor-cyclists but to motorists as well. Burst tyres and worse can result from hitting these stones, which are difficult to see quickly enough around the many blind corners, especially in the half-light or at night.

I had the misfortune to encounter such a stone, approximately 9 in. high and very solid, and, as the clearance on the TR2 is only 6 in., you can imagine the horrible crunching noise which resulted! I was lucky — the only damage was to the hand-brake mechanism, but it could easily have been the sump or the banjo. My two rear brakes jammed on and I was unable to release them.

I struggled down to Brothers Water Hotel with the drums smoking; they ‘phoned forward to Mr. Powell at Ullswater Garage, Glenridding. He was in the bath, had a house full of guests, and his wife made a plea that I should try and struggle on as far as Glenridding. This I did, where Mr. Powell opened his garage, jacked up the car to a position where the damage could be examined, freed the brake and made an examination of all the other parts to make sure that no other damage had been occasioned. For this service, carried out I know at great inconvenience to himself, he refused to take more than half-a-crown!

Surely such people deserve the maximum possible support from real motorists, and I am only too pleased to place the facts on record for the benefit of enthusiasts who might be in that area. In passing, I would like to repeat a story told to me by Mr. Powell. One of the callers at his garage — probably a “stone leaver” — asked him when he was going to finish his Filling Station, which is built with local stone in the traditional dry-walling style that is so attractive. To his surprise, Mr. Powell told him that it was finished and, with a disgusted expression, the caller stated that it would look a lot better pebble-dashed!

I agree entirely with your Editorial policy of “publish and be damned “: forthright criticism of inferior workmanship and bad design is the only way to progress, but you will agree, after reading the above, that the British motoring picture is not all black.

I am, Yours, etc., N. S. Goodwin. Ponteland. 

_

Sir,

Having had a similar experience to Mr. Howard (March issue), may I heartily endorse his complimentary remarks regarding the Standard Motor Co., and, of course, Mr. Cook and his merry men.

Efficiency, courtesy and a square deal are such rare qualities these days. When we are lucky enough to discover these virtues, I feel that we cannot publicly applaud them too much.

In every way, I, and indeed a goodly number of my friends, believe that “Standards are outstanding” among British motors.

They have a “secret” of course — CONSUMER CONSIDERATION!

I am, Yours, etc., Donald Morrison. Woodham. 

 

Sir,

In these days, when dollars are lost because carpenters cannot drill holes in sheet aluminium and painters may not tap a nail lightly with a hammer, it was a great pleasure last night to be assisted with a stuck starter-motor by a man who cuts safety glass.

I had just had a back window replaced by a good firm in New Cross and when I tried to start my Lancia I found that some unknown bods. had been trying to start it and had got the starter pinion jammed. I could not release it by rocking and all my tools were at home, to avoid theft during the day. The glass-cutter came out to assist, tried all his tools, walked a long way to a garage and borrowed some more, finally freeing the badly jammed starter by beating one of his own box spanners with a hammer to make it fit over the flats. This involved his lying on the wet road under the car with pitiless rain descending on his legs. Needless to say he refused any money. A really stout guy and his firm made a quick, good job of fitting the safety glass. It is the New Cross Glass Co. in case anybody is interested. They deserve a good recommendation in case you feel disposed to publish this letter.

I am, Yours, etc., Bernard Coulter. Kenley.

*

Helicopter versus 300SL

Sir,

I read with much enjoyment R. R. C. Walker’s article on the Mercedes 300SL, and in particular was interested in his “dice” with a helicopter.

Mr. Walker need not be surprised that he could not beat the helicopter on acceleration — a good machine will reach some 90 m.p.h. in 10 seconds, from the hover (standing-start).

With a vertical rate of climb of some 1,500 ft. per minute it would probably “see him off” at Shelsley too!

None the less, for poor earth-bound mortals like most of us, the 300SL is assuredly a dream car.

I am, Yours, etc., W. S. Whimster (Lt.-Col.).

*

The Rover in France

Sir,

I was glad to see Mr. Smith’s letter pointing out that the combined ignition-key and starter-switch was a feature of pre-war Rovers.

I am able to do better than 1936, however. The Lucas “Startix,” as it was called, was fitted on the 1932 Rover Pilot, which was also the model on which the freewheel first became standard. The Startix was no mere “gimmick.” With the freewheel in use the motor was prone to stalling until it reached working temperature. When this happened, of course, it was restarted automatically by the Startix, no action on the driver’s part being necessary.

A similar device has been a feature of certain post-war Studebakers and, I think, of other American makes.

Being a Rover enthusiast, I was also interested, although not really surprised, to read in Mr. Faithful’s letter in your February number that Rovers tend to stay in one piece out in Kenya longer than most British cars. The point is that the Rover is a large hand-built car, whereas those with which it is being compared are mass-produced and considerably cheaper. The fact is, however, that this is a valid comparison, for while the majority of hand-built motor cars are either very large or rather exotic, and in both cases extremely expensive, the Rover is a thoroughly practical and sturdy car of medium size selling at a reasonable if not a popular price. It has always been notable for its toughness as well as its smoothness and is now one of the few marques in the world that has gone any way towards the elimination of routine servicing by the extensive use of rubber bushes, etc. It is not, of course, a fast motor car and has little claim to he mentioned in Motor Sport but it will certainly out-perform most tin saloons of similar capacity, and they appear only too frequently.

Very few Frenchmen own British cars but I have seen, and other readers may be able to bear me out here, as many French-registered Rovers as all other British makes put together. This amounts only to a handful all told, but in view of the smallness of Rover output it is surely significant. A Frenchman, of course. must have a car which he can drive really hard and which will be comfortable over his appalling road surfaces. French cars are naturally second to none in these respects but their engines tend to be rough and their interiors utilitarian. For the few who do not like this but cannot afford a really luxury car the Rover is the answer. In its appeal to both the practical and the tasteful it is rare if not unique.

I am, Yours, etc., M. S. R. Napier. East Carlton.

 

In Favour of American Cars!

Sir,

For five years I have suffered in sullen silence while writers of letters have potificated in your columns about the shortcomings and absurdities of American automobiles. Since a smouldering controversy on this subject appears to be under way at the moment I can, perhaps, not only fan it a little but also get a few things off my chest and set a few records straight. But I want to begin with a perfectly rational request. It is this: Considering that I have had twenty years of driving experience, that thirteen of them have been with American cars and that seven have been with European and English cars, is it not reasonable to suppose that I am in a better position to judge than many of your correspondents, who often make it clear that they have never so much as sat in an American car?  Assuming that I have agreement on this premise from at least a majority of your readers, let’s get on.

For the past seven years I have driven an assortment of vehicles and I have driven them under varied conditions. They include a TC M.G., a TD, a Morris Minor, an XK120, a Ford Taunus, a Vokswagen, a Zephyr and a Type 35 Grand Prix Bugatti. Not a bad collection, I think. But then, last summer, I happened to be in the U.S.A. and a miracle occurred. It was shaped like an Oldsmobile 98 and it drove like a dream. It is an experience that I should like to have again soon. For, you see, during these past seven lean years I have become a hater of the “American Iron,” because it was big, it was gaudy, it was (everyone said) lumpy on the road and because so many others (over here) seemed to hate it too. As I said, during thirteen previous years I had driven nothing but Detroit equipment and I was happy . . . though ignorant. My sojourn in Europe did serve to awaken me to other vehicular possibilities, but as with anyone with something new, I went too far and swallowed too much.

But to tell a story.

I had free use of this “Old” for six weeks during the hottest parts of the summer, when the thermometer clung damply to 95 or 100 degrees. This “iron” had the usual power aids, including automatic gearbox, power-steering, power-windows, power-seats, and power-brakes. The energy for all this was derived from a typical V8, producing, so the manufacturer claimed, about 235 b.b.p. (I’ll have more to say on this anon). The body was painted brilliantly in two shades of green with plenty of chrome trim. It looked to me a little like a rocket ship on first sight but it didn’t take long to wake up to something, and all the wiseacres who read this please note: The colour scheme and what passes for gaudiness over here fitted in perfectly with the brilliant sunshine and colourful landscape. It was intended to by those poor distaff-dictated engineers and designers who are so decried over here.

But it was the driving that produced the real revelation and my eyes bug out even now when I think about it. I drove this more-than-two-ton juggernaut from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Oklahoma City and back, a total distance of a little more than 3,000 miles, including a few side trips. I did not, unfortunately, keep an accurate record of fuel consumption but from petrol station receipts I am able to calculate that this huge car provided everything for the expenditure of about one gallon to every fifteen miles (or about 18 miles to the British gallon). Now believe me or not but the speed during this trip, on highways, was seldom less than 70 miles per hour and often considerably more. I was in a hurry. I did check my average over one 96-mile stretch and it took me 73 minutes and I wasn’t trying. The second day out I covered 815 miles, every mile of which I drove personally, and I arrived fresh enough in the evening to party until three in the morning. And remember the temperature. It is true, of course, that such averages are considerably helped by dual four-lane highways. But it was done in such luxurious comfort and silence. And when on the infrequent occasion that precipitate action was required, the car responded at these tremendous speeds with obscene ease.

Acceleration was immense. I recall one occasion when, coming out of a petrol station, I misjudged the speed of an approaching car. Because I was already in the traffic stream my only course of action was to romp on the loud pedal and try to move on. I was startled at this moment by the sound of squealing tyres and when I looked into the rear-view mirror, expecting to see the misjudged car on a collision course with my stern, I saw instead two black marks following my car up the road. And other than that sound of tyres the trip was made in truly remarkable silence, no matter what the speed.

Now this last item will doubtless arouse shrieks of derisive laughter, but, because it’s true, I must tell it. Upon my return, 3,000 miles later, I checked the oil and for the first time it needed replenishing. Just a little over one quart (American). I can hear the anguished yelps from some British designers who insist that some consumption (usually a quart every 500 miles, if my present car is any standard) must be expected, even in new cars. Yet this “Olds” had 19,000 miles on the clock when the trip began and, according to the local agents, shouldn’t be brought in for a decoke until about 60,000. This may have been a jape on his part, but after my experience of the summer I am prepared to believe him.

What is the moral of all this? It seems to me that for one thing, there is a hell of a lot of ignorance (some of it venial) about American cars. For another thing, you can’t judge someone else’s machinery by what you have in your own garage. I’ve heard American cars called all sorts of things, from flamboyant to gruesome and ghastly (this latter is a favourite), but would it do any good to say that many British cars are perhaps the utter and absolute when it comes to just plain ugliness? Who but a cretin would call the Austin A30 pretty? It looks like a potato. Or the pre-Graber Alvis? Ugh! Or any Morris but the Minor? And the Rover? Yon see, it’s a matter of taste. You have a sample of mine and I know yours.

But in matters of performance, comfort, durability and cost there can be, or should not be, any place for opinion and venom. I will place the performance of most American cars against any produced anywhere (excluding sports cars). I’ll put American cars against any in the world for comfort, and here I have the advantage of most. I’ve tried them all. As for durability, would anyone care to put a Rolls or an Alvis or a Mark VII against a Cadillac, a Chrysler or a Pontiac and run them equally around the roads of America? But cost is something else again. Compare a Chevrolet, £700, with a Riley and watch the repair and upkeep costs.

Finally, does Mr. Martin, who wrote so feelingly about the discrepancy between advertised and actual American brake horsepower, really expect his foreign readers to swallow his quotations without quibble? He claims immense differences between what the makers claim and what is actually produced. Yet how can he explain the performance of Chevrolet (which I suspect he used as an example) with his arguments. In a recent issue of Road and Track, testers drove the car from 0-60 m.p.h. in nine seconds flat!!! They made three timed runs at over 111 m.p.h. (with the wrong axle ratio) and recorded petrol mileage of 17/21 m.p.g. (American). And yet the makers claim only 205 b.h.p. I suggest Mr. Martin consult his sliderule and try to figure out how the car could have done what it did, weighing 3,725 pounds, on very many less horses to help. (As a matter of interest the 2,500 f.p.m. piston speed on this family “iron” is reached at 108 m.p.h. There is a moral here.)

And so I’ll end this appeal. Hoping that some reasonableness will attend future exchanges and that those of us who love the auto will see something good in each other’s yard.

I am, Yours, etc., Robert H. Rose. Whitchurch.

*

“Bentphobia”

Sir,

When writing in support of the “Chums of Cheltenham,” Mr. John M. Bell appears to be so well informed that I was somewhat astonished by his later appeal for information on cars which “compare as regards handling and performance with a Bugatti.”

At first sight this appears to be a task of considerable magnitude, but, unfortunately, Mr. Bell himself narrows the issue to one of Bugatti versus Bentley. I suggest, therefore, that we examine a series of events in which both Bugatti and Bentley faced the starter’s flag, and, further, form a list of cars which, in the same events, proved by the fact of going farther and faster their superiority over the Bugatti.

We have for our purpose, the following:–

1928:

Six-Hour Race  Brooklands

Ulster T.T. Ards, Belfast

Coupe Georges Boillot  Boulogne

1929:

Double Twelve Brooklands

Six-Hour Race Brooklands

Irish G.P. Phoenix Park

1930:

Double Twelve Brooklands

French G.P. Pau

Admittedly this is not quite fair, as the Bugatti is of the pur sang while the racing Bentley is at best no more than a very carefully-prepared version of the sporting car which could be purchased by anyone, so inclined. We must, however, take facts as we find them, because the only alternative is to accept mere personal opinions, which are notoriously prone to bias, and quite worthless as data for a detached appraisal of the relative merits of different cars.

In all the above eight events, Bentley was included in the list of finishers, the leading car scoring two first, three second, one third and two fifth places. In all but the French G.P., Bentley set the highest race speed of any finisher. It is obvious that if you want to beat a Bentley, the only way to do it is to get yourself a good handicap. Nothing else will do.

Etancelin, who won the French G.P., is given as driving a Delage by Birkin and a Bugatti by Berthon. If we accept the latter, we have one instance of a Bugatti heading a Bentley. This result was poignantly emphasised by the Bugatti procession trailing behind the Bentley. Apart from a known ninth, in the Ulster T.T., I have no record of Bugattis even completing the course in the other races, as the also-rans are not always given in full. To produce more evidence of Bugatti inferiority is simply a matter of quoting more history.

The superlative excellence of the Bentley tends to dim the lustre of the lesser stars, but the following cars, by finishing, showed at least equal roadholding but better performance than the Bugatti.

Alts-Romeo

Lea-Francis

Alvis

M.G.

Aston Martin

O.M.

Austin

Riley

Austro-Daimler

Salmson

Lagonda

Etc.

Finally, Mr. Bell, I think you have misquoted le Patron. The word should be “champion” not “camion,” hence “lorry” is a mistranslation. It is quite understandable why le Patron was moved to comment upon Bentley, while no parallel announcement appears to have emanated from the Bentley camp.

I quote from my as yet unpublished “Thoughts on Seeing a Bentley.”

The mirror satellites shine back the great sun’s brilliant flame,

And basking in his glory, their fancied worth proclaim, 

While the Imperial Bentley, circling

Launched again the grail,

That lesser breeds, aspiring

Might be tempted on perfection’s testing trail.

Where his flying tyres sang, earned a nation’s proud applause

Where the embattled Bentleys won their golden spurs.

I am, Yours, etc., Ronald K. Hunter. Ewell.

*

A “Special” Builders’ Club

Sir,

Perhaps you would be interested to hear that our club meets on the first Monday in each month at 7.30 p.m. at 5, Fosbury Mews, Hyde Park, W.5.

Our aims since the club’s inception in July of last year have been to promote the interchange of ideas between “special” builders, not necessarily coming into the category of the 750 Club. One chap in the club is even using a Bedford truck engine.

Our car badge design has just been agreed and will be available to members shortly. Our film show is planned to take place fairly centrally, although the venue is not yet fixed, in the near future.

I am, Yours, etc., K. J. Kennedy. 102, Grove Road, Chadwell Heath, Romford, Essex. 

*

Skill and the Driving Test

Sir,

I have just read a letter in the correspondence columns of a popular weekly motoring magazine which, to put it mildly, leaves me gasping. The writer, who recently passed the driving test in a (modern) Velox, proudly states that he never made a downward change from second to first, as this involves double-declutching. Instead he made a momentary stop to drop into first, “being smoother and quicker than double-declutching.”

This correspondent goes on to state the alternatives available, of slipping the clutch to pull away from a very slow speed in second gear, or making a double-declutched change into first. He says “the former is undesirable and the latter an unnecessary refinement for a novice in a modern car.” The letter is “signed” by the writer’s car registration number, which serves the dual purpose of hiding the shame attaching to his name and giving any reader who subsequently finds himself behind him on the road a fair warning to keep well clear.

Seriously, however, it seems to me that for the authorities to allow people who drive like this to pass the driving test is nothing short of criminal. They are a menace to themselves and others wherever they go simply because they do not know how to control their vehicle properly. It also seems very odd that this procedure is completely contrary to the instructions given in the Police driving manual, now published by H.M.S.O. under the title “Roadcraft,” wherein it is laid down that all gear-changes, up and down, will be double-declutched.

It is very little use having better roads (if we ever get them) if the permitted driving standards are allowed to drop to this level, since we are merely exchanging one source of danger for another.

I am, Yours, etc., R. B. Side. Kemsing.

*

Styling

Sir,

Mr. E. C. Martin, in his letter on American design in your April issue, makes an excellent point, although it is somewhat spoiled because he felt compelled to state it in rather exaggerated terms. American cars are loaded with extraneous junk, but they do not perform like junk, or else Americans would not continue to buy them in such overwhelming quantities, despite the dominance of the female in matters of visual taste (a condition that is as much the creation of the sales departments as of the accidents of social history). Americans have a quite pragmatic attitude towards their cars and expect them to perform in a variety of ways under a staggering variety of conditions, and if the car baulks once he will unsentimentally throw it away and try another. English cars, the ones competitive with Detroit, make do nicely with very little, perhaps, but in terms of performance standards too many of them that have been observed in action in America have not behaved in a way that entirely bears out Mr. Martin’s prejudices. Americans do not really care how many horsepower or cubic centimetres their cars are rated at or what rallies they could win; they just like to see a few on the road that work. If he is an enthusiast he takes an old heap and strips it and hops it up with his own hands, which seems to me a bit more creative than buying a ready-made sports car, despite zoot-suit associations, and if he wants to race he does it with an old stock job, which is a sport more accessible to the people than Grand Prix racing, if somewhat less elegant. English sports cars, on the other hand, have made the one notable penetration into this Chevrolet-mounted society (it has been interesting to watch a few percolate down, via the used-car lot, the real keystone in the American market, from the highbrows to the boilermakers), which penetration has been partly based on snobism but also partly on the functional ruggedness of which Mr. Martin is so proud. Still, my own English sports car (make withheld to keep out of another controversy raging in your magazine!) exudes a nice air of sturdy mechanism that makes me dearly fond of it, but I would not like to compare its relative incidence of mechanical difficulties and limitations with that of a number of plain ordinary Dodges, Fords, Studies, and so on that I have driven back and forth across the U.S. and Canada (“safe, speedy conveyance … all types of road … least nervous strain” — E. C. Martin), crass though these buses appear to the taste that, I must admit, I share with the British. The British make a fetish of craftsmanship which is a handicraft-age ideal; when you are designing for industrial production, broader performance criteria are more pertinent.

All this is in prelude to agreeing with your point about “styling” (as long as you use that term you’re trapped). I am an American architect, of sorts, here for a year, and my main interest in cars is in their visual qualities. All about on the streets of London one notices two kinds of car. The first is the mechanical gem of the ‘thirties, elegant little Rileys, Sunbeams, and such, culminating, in approach, with the TC. The approach is the mechanical, a conventionally but solidly engineered mechanism in which every part is tailored to its function and articulated, expressed for what it is; the result is an industrial product that seems without any conscious “styling” at all but which, through its functional fitness, possesses an inherent elegance that could never be out of date. This, because it was once done so well here, is considered British design. The second type one sees is the successor to the first, the many confused messy, stodgy objects, not all of them small and cheap but some big and pretentious and bearing sacred names, which reflect a basic confusion of intention. These reflect foreign trends, largely American, of greater utility, of more luggage space, warmth, and a ride that does not break the back after a mere few hundred miles, but they do so by clinging half-heartedly to the old lines, where what was valuable was the old approach. Now this type is about to be replaced by a third which seems to be a complete surrender to “American” styling (it might be kinder to call it “Detroit” styling, for in some other fields American design is of a much cleaner, more functional character).

But has this apparent surrender produced once again cars of a unified visual elegance? If there is one thing we can learn from the history of visual design, in architecture or fine arts as well as industrial design, it is that imitation, copying the manner of someone else, just does not work, if only because there is something essential in the original that escapes the notice of the copier. Good design is the design of wholes, of fitting parts to the whole, and it must come from where only that whole can be understood. There have been some very learned attempts at imitation in the past, but they always result in hollow sham, for what can never be imitated is the spirit which first produced the thing imitated. Even if there were no feelings of nationalism involved then (and these are immense), this trend in Britain can only result in unsatisfactory designs because the essential spirit is so obviously foreign to this country. The choice, then, is not between British or American design, but between British or bad design. And this is very sad, because nowhere does there seem to be, at the moment, any valid efforts to resolve, for the design requirements of the ‘fifties, the approach of the direct, articulated, functional mechanism, devoid of sculptural caprice, that produced a recognisable British car in the ‘thirties.

Meanwhile, all around us are these ugly little monsters that, as long as cities are laid out on medieval lines, we are compelled to look at all day every day whenever we venture to look or go out of doors, which makes auto design an architectural problem, more conspicuous and pressing than design of the pedestrian-level detail and street-furniture upon which architects are beginning to lavish some of their time This street scene the Italians are busy filling with sculpture, the Germans with well-engineered machines, and the Americans with useful reliable extensions of their living-rooms (they really do live in them, you know, for much of the day). The British might make a further contribution to the scene, but it is not evident that they are trying.

In general, I am quite annoyed with your magazine, because it completely distracts me from my work and other interests until I get it read.

I am, Yours, etc., R. P. Rosenthal. London, W.11.

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Safety in Racing

Sir,

How sad that, the fine day’s racing at Goodwood on Easter Monday was marred by two fatalities. Whilst it is easy to be wise after the event, one, possibly both, occurrences might have been nothing more, as I saw it, than a harmless spin-off if the infield had been firm grass. Soft yielding soil cannot be the best of surfaces to get one’s off-side front wheel into at 100 m.p.h. or more. The virtue of turf bordering the track was seen at Woodcote when Cornet in the new 1,500-c.c. Maserati slid off absolutely broadside-on, to end up battered but with the driver unhurt against the barrier at the members’ stand. Had the surface there been loose soil as on the infield the machine would surely have rolled over, with serious results. Racing drivers cannot expect every hazard removed from a course but they should be able to count on a reliably surfaced verge which gives them a sporting chance when they make an error.

Incidentally, what a superb race — as ever — Archie Scott-Brown drove in the works Connaught: most Press reports did him nothing like justice. What a fine driver he is — one can always be sure of a spirited performance whatever his mount, D.K.W., Lister-Bristol or Connaught.

I am, Yours, etc., D. B. Barton. Surbiton.