After twelve years’ motoring in seven different motor cars, my first venture in owning a brand-new car has ended. For five months and 3,000 miles I have had more trouble and exasperation, had to ” cadge ” more lifts than at any time in my motoring life. The car responsible for this was an Austin Se7en Countryman. In five months and 3,000 miles the following occurred : First, both door-locks seized up, and this despite copious applications of 3-in-1, which only ran out and made a disgusting mess of the paintwork. Of course it leaked like a sieve and I found my tools, now rusty, lying in a pool of water. I was told by my garage that I was fortunate that my car only leaked in two places. Paint started to come off the bottom of the door sills and ominous blisters formed in the roof guttering. The hand-grip for the rear window came away the first time I tried to use it. The hand-brake cables seized in their guides, very nearly resulting in ruined brake linings. The hydraulic brakes become deranged and it was only by frantic ” pumping ” that I managed to avoid an accident. The trim strips on either side of the car became tarnished and had to be replaced. A friend closed the rear doors and found the door handle in her hand when she walked away. The doors. . . heavens, how I hated those doors! . . . required a real marathon to close them. The trouble was that the door frames were so poor that they simply bounced the door open again when they were slammed.
The car had to be sound-proofed in order to get the noise level down to something which was at least bearable. Most of the noise was caused by the various panels resonating with the effect of road surface on the minute tyres. When I removed the roof lining in order to fit sound-deadening material, I found that no attempt had been made to paint under the roof lining. The paint simply faded out, until in the centre there was a 2-in. strip which was bare metal! The roof pressing is almost unsupported and is so flabby that the lightest finger pressure will spring it a quarter of an inch. The noise of this vibrating is like sitting under a theatrical thunder gong.
After continuous clutch trouble my local garage decided to strip the engine. This finally resulted in finding that the crankshaft thrust washer had collapsed, resulting in the crankshaft being able to move an eighth of an inch. After a certain amount of acrimonious telephoning, Austins decided to fit a new engine.
By this time I was completely disillusioned and considered the car to be so badly made that the chances of obtaining trouble-free motoring in the future were negligible. Consequently I cut my losses and gratefully exchanged the Austin for a Volkswagen, losing a good deal of money in the process. The points that arise from all this arc :
1. Why is a basically brilliant design like the ” Countryman” completely ruined by what, in my opinion, amounts to shoddy detailing ?
2. Why is the final result again spoilt by what amounts to ineffective inspection ?
3. Why, in heaven’s name, does a car leak, in this day and age ? Austins, I hear, are installing electronic computers. Perhaps a few garden hoses should come first.
4. How much would it really cost to spray large pressings, which are prone to boom, with sound-deadening material ?
Finally, I would like to say that the service I have had from my local garage has been excellent, speedy and free, under the guarantee. Austins finally supplied a new engine, but why, oh why, was it all necessary ? Surely it must cost more to have continuous claims under guarantee than to do a decent, honest job in the first place. The kind of experience that others and myself have now had with new cars must cancel out thousands of pounds worth of advertising.
Although I realise that there is nothing desperately exciting about my present 1958 Volkswagen, everything about the car from the paintwork to the engine is functional and made to last. It is an honest motor car. One day, perhaps, I will be able to afford a new one, then perhaps . . .
I am, Yours, etc.,
Clent. A. DUNCAN-BROWN.