As a fairly regular reader of your magazine I have been much interested in the remarks of correspondents concerning minor troubles on their new English cars. My own experiences may prove of interest to some, and I fear endorse the worst fears of other writers of the effect of such failures on the export market.
In May 1960 I purchased a new Austin 850. I had previously owned a 1952 A40 which behaved so well, within its capabilities, that I decided once more to “buy British.” My troubles began within a week of taking delivery when a leak appeared in the gas tank whilst on a trip to Ottawa. When I discovered the cause of the strong smell of gasoline, which had even got into the suitcases, I found between 2 and 3 inches of gas slopping about in the bottom of the trunk. Before all was put right once more I received a new spare tyre, battery and rear seat unit—all of which were utterly ruined. I also had to have the trunk repainted. Since this unfortunate incident I have had a new fuel pump, which tended to cease operation at the most embarrassing moments, one new rear shocker, 2nd gear replaced when the synchromesh failed, and a complete new exhaust manifold. The front left-side brake assembly was also replaced after it suddenly seized, causing me to broadside on a crowded highway. [The same thing happened to me on my way to Goodwood on Easter Monday, just after I had received a bill from B.M.C. for adjusting the brakes!—ED.J
Currently under impending negotiation is a new left-side front window—badly chipped, the left rear shocker which seems to be a chronic “rattler,” and the left rear brake drum, which jams solid every time the hand-brake is applied. Final items on this current list are that there is about an inch of lateral play on the steering column and that the replaced 2nd gear is undoubtedly suspect. Incidentally, I should like to make clear that all the above items replaced (and I hope those about to be so) were provided free under the warranty. I have no complaints in that quarter whatsoever, but even when it costs nothing it is still very inconvenient.
Apart from the above, the little car has behaved admirably, and I have become so fond of her that I tend to look upon her failures as a sort of illness, which will soon be cured, and for which she is not responsible. She is great for city driving, with plenty of go and quite up to the 60 to 65 m.p.h. necessary on the big highways. The suspension is excellent and shows up very creditably on the none-too-smooth streets here. The only faults I can find in the design are the gear-change, which is not fun to use. The heater is pathetic, especially here where the temperature can go down to minus-12 and much colder further west.
I am certainly no ” bug lover ” and my wife and I would probably have to undergo a lengthy course of shock treatment before we could buy one. I am, however, finding it increasingly difficult to refute even the mildest of Wolfsburgphiles on quality or reliability. If they ever fit a gas gauge to the ” beetle ” I really will be in trouble. Perhaps this and the many other letters of complaint I have seen recently from people who have been ” once bitten, twice shy,” will make someone, somewhere, wake-up and put matters right. Time is running short, though.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Ontario. JOHN S. PURDON.