Rumblings, May 1961



To help itself out of the recent recession the Motor Industry has wisely introduced a number of interesting new models, which should stimulate World sales.

NEW MODELS Citroen has at last released scanty details of the long awaited 3 c.v., which will be known as the Ami Six and conic on the market later in the summer. A picture appears on page 395 and I note that in its caption a colleague has chosen to poke fun at Citroen’s loose translation into English of the French hand-out. This is not to imply that the 600-c.c. front-drive Citroen, with fully upholstered seats, proper interior trim and sloping back window, as on a Ford Anglia, will not be a thoroughly worthwhile economy car. No doubt its suspension will be as comfortable as that on the 2 c.v., its brakes as effective, and as it retains an air-cooled flat-twin engine it can be referred to as a Citroen cyclecar, using this term as an endearment and not in the sense of antiquity. Over 62 m.p.h. is claimed from this new model, which will not supersede the ubiquitous 2 c.v. but is really a faster, de luxe version of this most successful of French small cars, notable for combining a long wheelbase providing generous interior space with an engine. sufficiently small to be truly economical. Moreover, at last Citroen have increased the power of the DS by engine mods. which include raising the compression-ratio from 7.5 to 8.5 to 1 and using a larger Weber carburetter, so that there is an increase of eight h.p. without increase of crankshaft speed. The new engine gives 83 b.h.p. at 4,500 r.p.m. The automatic clutch has been arranged to engage more quickly and smoothly, the fully reclining front seats are easier to operate and this essentially safe car now has Belbrace seat harness as an optional extra.

Another very well received new car from Europe is the Fiat 1300. Since 1937 Fiat has sold a successful family saloon in the form of the 1,100-c.c. model which, in post-war guise, earned a great reputation for its good handling and for performance that made it the best all-round small saloon available. Now comes this Fiat 1300, which has the same conventional specification but a 72 x 79.5 mm. (1,295 c.c.) engine which is a 4-cylinder version of the 1800’2100 6-cylinder power unit, having inclined o.h. valves in poly-spherical combustion chambers operated by different-length push-rods and rockers from a base camshaft. This engine develops 72 (S.A.E.) h.p. and an alternative 1 1/2-litre 80 (S.A.E.) h.p. 4-cylinder engine is available. Both have a new drop-forged crankshaft, twin-choke Weber carburetter, twin exhaust manifolds and the centrifugal oil filter which Fiat has used for the last four years.

In body styling the Fiat 1300/1500 is akin to a scaled-down version of the luxurious 2100 Fiat Six, with restrained Italian styling, four headlamps and high-class interior trim with fully reclining seats.

We have not so far driven this new Fiat 5300 but rumour suggests that it will be one of the outstanding family cars of 1962. It is due to make its debut here next October. The outstanding all-round performance of the Fiat it too will be materially enhanced by the larger, inclined-valve engine. A top speed in the region of, even exceeding, 87 m.p.h. is spoken of. Although conventional springing and a rigid back-axle are retained the ride is said to be outstandingly comfortable, while the objection we used to have to Fiat brakes, which could be rather ” sudden,” has undoubtedly been overcome by the adoption of disc brakes on the front wheels.

Altogether, the Fiat 5300 sounds an exceedingly welcome addition to the ranks of 4/5-seater economical family saloons, especially as the great Fiat organisation built 19 prototypes and ran each one from 37,280 to 74,560 miles ranging from winter conditions in Northern Scandinavia to driving through the heat and sandstorms of Equatorial Africa. In particular, noise and vibration have been reduced to a minimum; the underside of the 1300, for instance, was altered after tests to give greater stiffness and by small readjustments it was found possible to reduce bonnet vibration amplitude by eight times and that of the back wings by ten times, while front wing vibration was completely eliminated. The gearbox (4-speed—steering column lever) was tested for the equivalent of 125,000 miles, was run for tens of thousands of miles under a torque stress 40% over maximum engine torque and its synchromesh was required to show no wear after 50,000 engagements at 4,000 rpm. Fiat say that, in addition to such testing, three prototypes were given to the Service Department, three more to the Production Department, so that both would be fully conversant with the new model. It was not announced until the end of last month because Fiat prefer to have their new cars on sale by the time they are announced.

A new model from a British factory is the Herald 1200. The Herald was notable for i.r.s., a compact turning circle and minimum of greasing points but fell down because of casual attention to finish and details and because its 948-cc. engine never gave much performance, even in two-carburetter form. So Standard/ Triumph/Leyland have enlarged the bores by 6.3 mm. to give a capacity of 1,547 c.c., which results in better acceleration between certain speeds than the single-carburetter model was capable of, a higher top speed and better maxima in the gears from a new close-ratio gearbox. The improved Herald 1200 now goes reasonably well while being fairly economical of fuel and with restyled interior with walnut facia, better seats, etc., is a worthwhile small saloon at £708, available, also, in convertible form.

An epoch-making innovation introduced by Standard-Triumph is inspection and final customer-preparation of cars at the factory instead of by dealers; this should ensure satisfactory finish of the Herald 1200, which will then face a rosy future.

Judging by Smiths ” Worth Looking At . . .” advertisement, the revised Herald will be associated with girls wearing slacks and sweaters but we hope the fact that the charming young lady sprawling on the bonnet of a Herald 1200 has her umbrella open does not signify water-penetration into the body of her car….

We hope that British manufacturers will not postpone for too long announcements of new models to match the VW 5500, Citroen Ami Six, improved Citroen DS and Fiat 5300, amongst Continental newcomers. More exciting versions of the B.M.C. front-drive twins and a larger car on the same outstandingly successful theme, together with the rumoured rear-engined Morris, seem to be hanging fire, as does the prospect of a new Dagenham Ford which, they say, will have a 1,390-c.c. version of the 105E engine and disc front brakes, appearing first in saloon form, to be followed by a handsome coupe. We hope for more news of such projects very soon, or Britain may again be left behind. There is, the grapevine says, a new Singer with four headlamps, but already this styling is found in Europe, on Fiat 1300, Lancia Flavia, Alfa Romeo 2000, Gordon, Maserati and Humber cars. Disc front brakes are appearing on small family cars as well as on fast cars, vide the Fiat 1300 and Lancia Flavia. Will Britain get left behind in the automobile fashion race?

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PRICE CHANGES Alfa Romeo prices have been reduced and you can now buy a Giulietta saloon in this country for £1,517. Volkswagen prices have increased slightly, that of a de luxe VW by £22, to £739.

The price of the Fiat 600 with the 633-c.c. engine has been reduced to £533 1s. 8d. and the Convertible to £560 14s. 2d…. the Alfa Romeo Giulietta T.I. saloon is now available with righthand drive and floor gear-change at £1,595 and other models in the Alfa range have been considerably reduced in price . . . the Sunbeam Rapier is now fitted with the Alpine engine and costs £999 17s. 6d.

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THIS MONTH’S BEST STORY? A woman driver came round a corner rather fast and shouted ” Pig ” to a driver coming in the opposite direction. This innocent driver was furious. He wound down his window, shook his fist at the lady and—shot round the corner to damage his radiator on a large pig that was sleeping in the road. . . .