Matters of moment, May 1960


Elsewhere in this issue the Editor recounts his experiences in driving a Wolseley 1500 in the Press Section of the 1960 Mobil Economy Run.

Considering that no freak tuning of the cars was allowed and that the 1,200-mile route was such that competitors found it difficult to maintain the required 30-m.p.h. average speed (as witness the body-damage incurred by some of the entry), while such hills as Porlock, Station Hill and Bluehills Mine figured in the itinerary. the m.p.g. figures attained speak loudly. The B.M.C. Minicars, in particular, showed up extremely well, and the outright winner was a Standard Ensign which achieved over 40 m.p.g. of Mobilgas Special.

This interesting contest will be modified slightly for 1961, and one improvement would be less serious penalisation for coming slightly behind schedule into a Time Control. It is, incidentally, restricted to current model British cars, by invitation.

We received so much help and hospitality from the Mobil Oil Company while “covering” the contest that we shall be inclined to regard the notably knock-free Mobilgas Special as our favourite petrol for a long time to come!


We sympathise with Stirling Moss on being deprived of his Driving Licence for a year. Justice has to be done and it would be improper to question Mr. Justice Stable’s decision. But the result of this case must be disturbing to everyone whose business and pleasure depends on driving motor vehicles. It seems the time has come when the motorist is not permitted to make a single mistake — people do not win every time at tennis or cricket, they lose an occasional rubber at bridge, they even get on the wrong bus or fall over a kerb, human construction and mentality being what it is. But the motorist must be right every time, every day, throughout hundreds of thousands of miles driving on congested, often-antiquated roads. At all events, that is the impression Moss’ disqualification gives, especially remembering that his accident caused no death, no injury to other parties. On the other hand, we do not know how many previous motoring convictions were taken into account or how serious an error had been shown up by the evidence before the Court.

Moss has saved his racing career by acquiring an American Competition Licence. We deplore our historic cars going to America and regret even more our leading racing driver linked so closely with America. But one cannot blame Moss for making this move and he is, after all, only treading in the footsteps of Mr. Harold Macmillan!

We confess, however, that we do not see any point in having the nationality of a competitor inscribed on the Competition Licence if, indeed, he was not born in the country which issues his Licence. For a long time the true nationality of Harry Schell has been a faint puzzle to us, and before the war Alvin Spike Rhiando appeared able to be a British or an American driver to suit his own convenience. If Moss’ example is followed we shall find motor-race-conscious countries importing talent; or it may be that good British racing drivers who find green their unlucky colour will take out a Lithuanian or an Estonian Competition Licence — we have always thought it would be nice to race a car in chequered blue and yellow with blue wheels, or with the upper part white, the lower part blue, with black chassis and wheels (the national colours of these two countries)…

Reverting to the accident which has given rise to the foregoing thoughts, it is ironical that it happened when Moss was driving an Austin Se7en, which cannot be considered a fast car and is certainly one of the safest vehicles on the road. One wonders whether in future, whenever two cars collide, even if there has been no suggestion of manslaughter, merely an error of judgment, anti-motoring magistrates are going to find that one driver must he to blame and must have his licence suspended? Certainly licence suspension for minor offences, even when no accident has happened, such as using a Provisional Driving Licence but forgetting the L-plates, is on the increase. How many of the careless amongst the pedal-cycling fraternity will be disqualified from riding, how many jay-walkers will be barred from crossing main roads other than at approved crossing places, in the next twelve months?


We were delighted to read in the Sunday Express on Easter Sunday a powerful article by A. J. P. Taylor emphasising that it is the slow driver who is to blame for traffic congestion and road accidents. It is the Daily Mail which, after telling us we should all buy new cars, scrapping the “rattle-traps,” allows its A. G. Street to climb on that unbalanced old hobby-horse “speed kills.” While the Mail dithers the Express looks after its motoring readers!