Motor Sport—Readers’ Car Survey The Manufacturers Reply
AFTER the first part of our Readers’ Car Survey was published last month we contacted VW, Standard/Triumph and B.M.C. to obtain their views on the results of the Survey. VOLKSWAGEN
At VW Motors Ltd., St. John’s Wood, we spoke to Managing Director Mr. J. J. Graydon, Wholesale Sales Manager Mr. Bingham, and Mr. Griffin of the VW Service Department who used to race a VW. On the subject of service Mr. Graydon made the point that when the VW was introduced into this country most dealers in this country were already contracted to other manufacturers and some of these contracts expressly forbade the dealer from selling other makes without prior permission from the manufacturer; therefore some quite large towns were without a VW dealer for some long while. This has gradually been overcome and quite a number of dealers who had previously been agents for British cars have gone over exclusively to VW. Referring to those complaints by readers whose local VW dealer had lost the agency, Mr. Graydon remarked that his sales and service representatives reported back to him separately on each dealer and if reports on the service side of an agency were consistently bad despite a good sales record, that agent would eventually lose the agency, as VW feel that good service is more important than a high sales record.
Naturally, VW dealers are situated in the more urbanised areas of Great Britain but it is estimated that the majority of VW owners should not have more than 20 miles to travel to their nearest agent. On the subject of sales there are approximately 75,000 VWs on the roads of Britain at the moment and this year VW Motors expect to sell zo,000 cars in Britain, although they expect to expand to 5% of the total market, or about 40,000 cars per annum, in the next few years, depending of course on whether Britain joins the Common Market.
With regard to modifications, the Volkswagenvverk at Wolfsburg do not approve of modifications and VW Motors follow this policy officially although they do sponsor one or two competition Cara.
The two faults on the engine which are still current are the short-lived silencers and contact-breaker points. Mr. Griffin pointed out that silencers are in a vulnerable position for collecting salt spray from roads and do not last terribly long on any car, but they are now metal sprayed and seem to be wearing better than previous versions. The contact-breaker points of Bosch design are admittedly less ” meaty ” than the current Lucas design but Mr. Griffin pointed out that many of those which have a short life are incorrectly serviced, both by garages and owners. On the Bosch design only the ” pip ” should be taken off and not too much trouble taken to obtain mating faces. Efforts to obtain flat surfaces usually end in prematurely burnt points.
The other faults mentioned in our survey all occurred in various batches and have all been eliminated by modifications, but owners with serious engine maladies at low mileages are invariably treated generously. No modifications are contemplated for the clutch and it is expected to go on for some time in cable form. Some small modifications have been made to mountings but some of the cases of cable breakage can be put down to incorrect fitting or adjustment. Mr. Griffin did not agree that the overall percentage of cable breakage was as high as the 15.6% notified by our readers. There was a batch of cars at one stage which required replacement clutches due to oil leaks from the crankshaft oil seal and these were replaced free of charge by VW Motors.
The stiffness in the lower gears complained of by some readers was explained by Mr. Griffin. VW fit stronger synchromesh cones on the lower gears to avoid the crunching noises that one often gets with many other cars and although this makes for some stiffness in the early life of the car it does reduce gradually over a longish mileage. He felt that most owners would appreciate this fact if the garage mechanic told him the reason, but most mechanics usually shrug it off and say “They’re all like that.” VW Motors are doing their best to educate their agents on customer relations. VW feel that the problem of oval brake drums is not significant but they have found that this can sometimes be caused on the back brakes by applying the handbrake too hard and leaving it applied overnight. Brake pipes only corrode or chafe over an extremely high mileage and W Motors examine all brake piping
on cars over four years old and often change it before the car is sold.
Problems with the steering are usually due to over adjustment or lack of adjustment, especially with wheel bearings. Suspension bush life is considered quite satisfactory and Mr. Griffin made the interesting point that the modification for de-cambering of the rear suspension actually prolongs the bush life if anything as they are subjected to a much lower loading.
The speedometer cable is, of course, a proprietary component and being driven from the front wheel is subject to more flexing than gearbox-driven cables. However, in mitigation, VW point out that being run from a front wheel wheelspin will not affect the mileage recorder. It was also pointed out that those people desiring a petrol reserve tap in the latest models fitted with a petrol gauge can have one fitted at a modest charge.
VW are manufacturing a much larger proportion of their own electrical equipment now and it is possible that the electrical system may become even more reliable in the future. The broken trafficator switches came in a particular batch of cars which are known to VW and any in that batch which suffer broken switches are provided with switches free of charge.
The horn failures are often due to ingress of water into the horn, and complaints of poor headlamps are often traced to deteriorated bulbs and VW feel that it is a good policy to change bulbs. if the headlamp power seems to be fading.
Mr. Graydon pointed out that VW had a fine reputation for painnvork and any complaints of poor paintwork are dealt with sympathetically. In fact VW engineers from the factory who visit VW Motors from time to time remarked that the paintwork turned out by the St. John’s Wood paint shop was better than on the new cars from Wolfsburg! Triumph TRz and TR3
At the Coventry factory of Standard/Triumph we were able to talk to Keith Hopkins, the Standard/Triumph P.R.O., and several of the engineering and sales staff.
The slowness of the spares service was explained as being related to the sales volume of the TR series. Quite large Standard/ Triumph dealers probably sell only to or a dozen TRs each year, so it would be unduly expensive for an agent to hold a large stock of body spares, for instance, which might never be called into use. However, all spares should be obtainable quickly from the factory. Failures of big-end bearings should be restricted to TRzs as the bearings were modified on the TR3. The modifications consisted of a change from copper to lead indium bearings with
thou. greater clearance, and a full-flow oil filter was introduced into the system. The crankshaft was also cross drilled to improve oil distribution to the bearings. These modifications cured this trouble under normal motoring conditions and owners are advised to have the cross-drilled crank when overhauling an engine without it. The oil leakage trouble on TR3 clutches was traced to the front end cover of the gearbox and this fault was quickly put right in the early production run of TR35.
On the gearbox the overdrive solenoid is fitted in a position which allows a good deal of water and oil to be thrown over it but the sealing has been improved on the TR3 and this problem is not considered as a serious one any more. On the braking system Triumph have found that most of the master cylinder replacements are caused by dirt finding its way into the system because not enough care is taken in cleaning away dirt when replenishing the system.
Steering heaviness can often be traced back to lack of regular lubrication causing rapid wear in the bushes and consequent poor steering. Standard/Triumph claim that a properly lubricated suspension system will give reasonably light steering. Broken leaf springs are normally only found on high mileage cars especially TRzs, and replacement shock-absorbers usually come under this category although modified types of damper are fitted to the TR4.
Speedometer and rev.-counter cables do fail through lack of lubrication but Standard/Triumph feel that many of these cable failures are due to the cable being bent through more than its 8 in. minimum radius either in dealers’ storage bins or by owners. In the electrical system the 54.5% of dynamo failures can mainly be put down to an insufficiently strong mounting bolt on
‘T’Rzs which broke and put excessive strain on the bearings. A modified bolt is now in production and will automatically be supplied through the spares system in future. On the Subject of general electrical reliability, it was remarked that there had been a tremendous improvement in the quality of electrical accessories in the last two or three years which was clearly reflected in the guarantee claims.
Rear axle half-shaft and bearing failures on early TR2 models was entirely due to the fact that the modified Mayflower components were not up to the stresses put upon them by sports car drivers and the rear axle was quickly modified.
On the TRz and TR3 models the bodies were made and painted by outside suppliers and although Standard/Triumph had a certain amount of control it was impossible to keep such a close check on quality as they would have liked. An improved paint specification was introduced on the TR3 and this has led to a great improvement. As a point of interest the TR4 bodies are being made and painted at the Standard/Triumph factory. An improved nickel content chrome plating is being used which it is hoped will give better results than before.
The trouble with silencers mentioned by 13% is one which has received attention and a modified type with stronger end plates is now fitted to the TR4 and is being supplied through the spares system. This will be automatically fitted to any TRzs and 35 requiring a new silencer.
At the B.M.C. Longbridge factory we spoke to Technical Director and designer of the Mini twins, Alec Issigonis. Of the engine troubles he mentioned that the shorting of electrics has been entirely cured by the fitting of protective caps and cars without these caps could be sealed with a protective grease which lasts for nine months or so. The breakage of the exhaust down pipe has caused a considerable problem as it is clamped at its lower end in order to give some assistance in the problem of engine rocking. Unfortunately this lower mounting bracket works loose and the exhaust pipe has too much movement, eventually breaking the joint. A modification has now been put into production which will eliminate this problem but Mr. Issigonis pointed out that tightening of the bolt periodically will forestall any breakage. The tie rod mounted at the front of the engine to keep engine rocking to a minimum has required re-bushing on some cars and a stiffer bush is now available for those who do not object to a little more engine vibration.
Oil leakage on to the clutch plates has been caused by the rubber seal being attacked by engine oil over a period. This has been cured by the fitting of a modified oil seal with a metal cover. Clutch drag is caused by excessive friction in the thrust bearing and Mr. Issigonis expressed surprise that more people did not suffer this trouble. The clutch and gearbox problems seem to be insoluble in their present form and Mr. Issigonis has designed a new baulk ring synchromesh gearbox unit for the Mini although he has no idea when it will go into production.
Mr. Issigonis feels that the brake lining chosen for the Mini is a good compromise bearing in mind thz different types of driver who use the car ; a hard lining would require pedal pressures which some lady drivers might not be able to give.
Owing to the large number of cars which have suffered loose shock-absorbers the mounting has been changed and this is now In production. The major trouble of water leakage into the interior has now been eliminated in production by modifications to the flooring which has been hermetically sealed to prevent the ingress of water.
These comments will probably do little to satisfy those readers who expressed dissatisfaction with their Mini as it seems there is little likelihood of faults being corrected in existing cars. Efforts are being made to correct these troubles in production, which is little consolation to Mini owners who have purchased one of these cars because of the splendid handling and excellent carrying capacity.