The Budget was less of a shock to the motoring fraternity of Socialist Britain than past experience led us to anticipate. Nevertheless, the Government, as usual, bled a little more from already savagely-taxed motor vehicle owners, in the form of dearer annual licence fees, which hits motorcyclists particularly hard, while by withdrawing tax concessions on cars bought for business use it presumes to regard executive transport as a minor essential in efficient commercial expansion, apparently expecting Managing Directors of British industry, salesmen for British products and others to rely on any branch-lines Dr. Beeching has left open to them or, maybe, on what is left of our inland waterways…
However, at least purchase tax on new cars and the petrol tax have not been raised, so that all the brisk buying of motor vehicles before Budget Day, if temporarily stimulating for the industry, was inaccurate speculation…
Until the next Budget at least this country can continue to motor much as before and need not become a pathetic nation of small-car commuters. Indeed, with the welcome drop in petrol prices (premium grades would cost you approximately 1s. 11d. a gallon if it were not for the exorbitant tax levy), motoring, which gives so much pleasure in so many different forms to so many people, is now a little less expensive than it was. Enjoy it while you may!
The Ferrari affair
On the eve of the expected titanic battle between American-powered GT cars and the Ferrari entries comes one of Enzo Ferrari’s typical announcements – that he is withdrawing from the big GT races, not without some justification, it seems. The facts of this distressing matter are sorted out elsewhere in this issue and the position is not as black as it appears, for apparently Ferrari GT prototypes and the works 330P2s, will run at Le Mans and elsewhere.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, say the sages. So Issigonis must be glad to see, first Fiat, then Peugeot, copying his tranverse-engine/front-wheel-drive layout for small cars, a concept that has had far-reaching effects on both competition and family motoring.
We have referred previously to the Bianchina Primula imitation. Now comes the Peugeot 204 (picture—next page). It has a 75 x 64 mm. (1,130 c.c.) water-cooled 4-cylinder engine set crosswise with the transmission gear train beneath it, driving the front wheels. The car differs from the B.M.C. 1100s in having the radiator conventionally at the front and coil-spring struts for its all-independent suspension. The engine, which has slightly-inclined o.h. valves operated by a single o.h. camshaft and rockers, gives 53 (D.I.N.) b.h.p. at 5,800 r.p.m. on a c.r. of 8.8-to-1, develops a maximum torque of 79.5 ft./lb. (S.A.E.) at 3,000 r.p.m., uses a Solex 32 PBISA carburetter, A.C. or Marchal plugs, and has a 12° ignition advance.
It is geared at 15.3 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. in top gear, and this Peugeot 204 has a wheelbase of 8 ft. 6 in., a kerb weight quoted as 16-3/4 cwt., disc front brakes, and 135 x 14 Miclielin “X” tyres. Interesting aspects, apart from the beautifully-made overhead camshaft engine, are a 4-door body with sliding roof, rack-and-pinion steering, two-plane steering-column gear-lever, an 11-gallon fuel tank, and only six grease nipples. The top speed claim is 86 m.p.h., and the makers speak of approximately 28 m.p.g.
The Peugeot company is an honourable concern with a fine record of racing and rally participation, and its decision to follow in the Issigonis path with its new small car must be highly flattering to the British Motor Corporation.
Interest in the old-car movement, which Motor Sport has fostered from time immemorial, has never been greater. The V.S.C.C. has a fine programme of competition events, including races for Historic Racing Cars, the V.C.C. is as active as ever, the Brighton Run for ancient commercial vehicle takes place on May 1st, and the Bugatti O.C. is to have a separate class at all its Prescott hillclimbs (National Open Meeting: May 1st/2nd) for historic racing and sports cars, while there is a handicap scheme for similar cars at the Wiscombe Park hill-climbs. And the Inter-Register Contest, intended to encourage the more active one-make organisations, saw the first round, by the Humber Register, last month, to be followed on May 30th by a 12/50 Alvis Register fixture.
Over Easter, coinciding with the announcement of the f.w.d. Peugeot 204, the Editor was testing a fuel-injection Peugeot 404 KF2, an excellent car which endeared itself to him because it ran from the Lion Works at Croydon to Wales via the office on a tankful of petrol (316 miles) and the many other desirable features of which we hope to deal with next month. At the same time there was another “Easter egg,” in the form of a Fiat “Nuova 500,” used mainly by the children and for holiday shopping chores after coping manfully with a 350-mile journey from Wembley to Wales and back. Whatever some engineers think of 2-cylinder engines for cars – and we heard recently that Sir Herbert Austin refused to develop the one intended for the original Austin 7 after he drove a flat-twin Jowett – there is no denying the fascinating simplicity of the ultra-economical 499-1/2-c.c. air-cooled vertical-twin power unit in the cyclecar tradition of the extremely-popular little Fiat 500D, still the most inexpensive 4-wheeled saloon on the British market, at £410. At this price its finish and equipment are highly commendable; driven “flat” a spot check showed a fuel consumption close to 50.m.p.g. of the cheapest petrol. Both the Peugeot and the Fiat are amongst the best cars in their respective classes. And, appropriate for the first holiday of the year, both had watertight sun-roofs. – W. B.
New National Benzole maps
Maps issued by the big petrol companies sell in millions. National Benzole publish some very popular sheets and have just brought out a new edition. These comprise nine easily-folded sheets, all to a scale of 4 miles to an inch, except for that covering the London area. Each costs 1s., from National Benzole filling stations, and contains a great deal of clear information. The sheets are as follows: 1, S.W. England; 2, S. & E England; 3, The Midlands; 4, Wales; 5, Northern England; 6, Southern Scotland & I.O.M.; 7, Central Scotland; 8, Northern Scotland; 9, London area. – W. B.
Easter road deaths
Some say this, and some say that, but … lack of concentration over the Easter Holiday has once again taken its toll of motorists and pedestrians.