Direct comparisons!

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We have received from a correspondent  —  which is how Motor Sport  hears of much in the motoring firmament that merits exposure and discussion  —  a folder published by the Export Division of the Ford Motor Company of Dagenham, and which, through the agency of Hughes Ltd., a Ford dealer in Kenya, apparently has been received by every post-office-box renter in Nairobi.

This folder is entitled  “Just the Facts.” What it does is to disparage three small cars which might be considered rivals to the Ford Anglia and Prefect. These cars are referred to as “A”,  “B”, and “C”,  but it is clearly apparent that “A” is the Volkswagen, “B” the Renault Dauphine, and “C” the Morris Minor. In a tabulated analysis under the headings of Comfort, Toughness and Performance, the publishers of this folder attempt to boost the Ford at the expense of these rival makes. For example, it is made clear that whereas the Ford has “fender depth springing” (whatever this is!  —  Ed.),  the VW, Dauphine and Minor lack this first essential to comfortable motoring, just as, so the folder reminds us, they lack the pendant pedals of the Ford. Then, under “luggage space”,  the Ford is shown to have 10 cu. ft. compared to 7-1/2 for the Dauphine and 7 cu. ft. in the Minor.  A ” ?” is set against the VW.

There is a column devoted to proving that the Anglia has the greatest glass area of the quartet although it leads the Minor by a mere 0.2 sq. ft., and there is reason to believe that the earlier VW with small back window is quoted. The VW and Minor are listed as devoid of sell-cancelling winkers, and whereas the Anglia is credited with a 50/50 weight distribution, that of the two rear-engined cars is shown up unfavourably and bracketed as “oversteer”!  Delving more deeply, it would be interesting to know how Ford arrive at their 50/50 figures for the Anglia, in view of the fact that the Press road-test report, from which its performance data quoted later in the folder appear to have been taken, gives a distribution of 56/44 which is what Ford quote for the Minor (with four passengers)! Incidentally, Ford seems to have gone back to 1954 for performance figures for the Anglia, perhaps because the speed and 0-60-m.p.h. acceleration times in that year were superior to those in later road test reports.

Continuing through this remarkable folder we find the Ford linked in praise with the Minor for having the battery in the engine compartment.  The VW is noted as keeping its battery under the seat, the Dauphine using the  “Iuggage trunk” (where batteries keep cool — and mention of the Dauphine’s “trunk” is amusing. — Ed.).  So we come to “Electrics”, Ford and Morris with 12 volts, VW and Dauphine with half that number. The next heading is “Safety Hinged Front Seat,” but the folder does not attempt to explain why a seat hinged to give access to the rear seat of a two-door car is a safety factor. Under this heading the VW gets a “No” as only the squabs are hinged, and the Dauphine scores better here with the entry “four-door car.”  Next we have fuel-tank position, the folder stating that on Anglia and Minor this is “In trunk at rear”  (In my ignorance I always thought the tanks were under the luggage boot.  —  Ed.) whereas the luckless VW owns up to a tank  “in front of the driver” and the even less fortunate Dauphine to petrol  “in the engine compartment”.  

Thus we arrive at performance figures and here we must censure the compiler of this odious folder for apparently giving the Ford Anglia its favourable 1954 figures but docking its rivals of their dues. For instance, the VW is credited with a reasonable 70 m.p.h. but  its b.h.p / ton figure is 2.9 b.h.p. down, the Minor’s b.h.p. / ton figure down by 4 b.h.p. Then the Dauphine is credited with 67 m.p.h., whereas it is capable of at least 69 m.p.h., and the Minor with 73  m.p.h. (tying with the Anglia!), whereas test reports give it credit for over 75 m.p.h. The Anglia, on the other hand appears to have had 0.4 m.p.h. added to the speed quoted in the test report from which, apparently, the other performance data have been quoted. Finally, we have the mysterious heading “Cradled Weight”, possessed only by the Ford Anglia, which, emphasises the folder, gives it stability. 

Repeatedly this Ford folder emphasises that its contents are FACTS, and thus the Anglia and Prefect are proved to have no equal. What is even more remarkable, as our doctor correspondent is quick to point out, are the headings which have not been included in this ingenious if not quite accurate folder. Let us, with his help, suggest some, for inclusion in the next edition: Overhead valves ?, Four forward speeds in gearbox ?, Electric screenwipers ?, Heater as standard ?, Dimmer for panel lighting ?, Combined ignition/starter switch ?, Courtesy interior lights ?, Independent rear suspension ? (the last-named surely rather important in Kenya!).

We must confess to surprise that this offensive piece of unbalanced propaganda was allowed to leave the Dagenham publicity department. Manufacturers have always had the right to refer to their own products as the finest, the greatest, the best value, the ” mostest,” if they feel so disposed, but to make direct comparison between their product and others in the same field, especially when these comparisons appear to have been deliberately distorted, is surely unethical?  Such comparisons are permissible only in the case of journalists, and then only if fair comparison is made and by a writer not in a position to profit from increased sales of the favoured product.  The writer of this “Just the Facts” folder appears to have been far from unbiased.