Matters of moment, May 1967

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PEUGEOT’S SAFARI

Thanks to the publicity boys, the Monte Carlo Rally is still the biggest “plum” a rally-conscious manufacturer can win. All praise to B.M.C. for producing little cars that put down so much power through their front wheels that they were invincible in this event. But the toughest rally in terms of car-bashing high speed is the E. African Safari, which a weekly contemporary describes as “still the fastest, roughest, most exciting competition in the World” and refers to as “motoring’s last great adventure.”

So we are very pleased that the Shankland /Rothwell fuel-injection Peugeot 404 won the 1967 Safari Rally outright, because Motor Sport has long held this make in high esteem, as a reliable, individual, comfortable, spacious family-car. Its reliability and stamina have again been proved, even if the dry conditions this year enabled more cars to get to the finish than is usually the case. Peugeot, by winning this horribly tough contest for two years running, with virtually a privately prepared car driven by the only non-Kenyan to have been victorious, by taking five of the first ten places, and by gaining third place with their team of 204s, those so-refined f.w.d. small cars, behind the Ford Cortina GTs in the Manufacturers’ Team Prize category, have once again endorsed the worth and strength of these likeable cars from the long-established French factory.

Ford, even if they didn’t gamble quite the £50,000 so often quoted on winning the Safari, did the next best thing to Peugeot by taking the coveted Team Prize with 99-b.h.p. Cortina GTs and second place with a 1966 Cortina-Lotus. Our Rally Reviewer explains on a later page the bad luck Ford encountered in having two of their cars eliminated while in the lead by striking, respectively, a culvert and an impala – the latter has no bearing, incidentally, on the Ford-General Motors axis! But there should be no “ifs” and “buts” in motoring sport and although it is traditional that Motor Sport’s correspondents are allowed to express their opinions without editorial interference, the fact is that Peugeot, not Ford, won outright, by ten minutes, this very important and testing rally. Some of the Fords experienced serious mechanical troubles, so the Peugeot lion is fully entitled to its victory roar.

Overall, however, cars which we have frequently advocated for reliability and quality were the only ones really in the picture – Peugeot, Ford Cortina and Volvo 122S. And this event is quite unique, with political native-thrown rocks added to the hazards of the road, which is hardly a feature of European rallies, even if violence between ordinary road-users in Britain is on the increase and is not being helped by the unjust findings of Magistrates willing to accept, the evidence of biased witnesses who bring charges against drivers the abilities of whom these often unbalanced persons are not qualified to assess. That licence-endorsement and stiff fines are imposed in such cases even though no accident has occurred, and the convicted driver may have been unaware that he has been reported until the police inform him, is a sad and serious reflection on the fairness of British Justice – but we digress!

Those who shop for cars on Safari results will buy Peugeots and Ford Cortinas this year; the Japanese did not invade this rally, their works Datsun 2000s fading like a setting sun with serious mechanical failures. The tyre war was Carried into Kenya, those excellent all-round radial-ply Dunlop SP41s being on the winning Peugeot and the Cortina-Lotus which was second, the works Fords using Goodyear Ultragrips.

STARS AND OCTANES

Petrol is worth selling in this country in spite of the savage Government tax on it, which last month’s Budget did nothing to reduce. For many years its selection has been haphazard. Many motorists choosing the brand they bought on the basis of the stamps, gifts, gambles. contests or – well, alluring pump-girls associated with various companies’ products, and the grade they used on the basis of what economies they could effect without alarming noises emanating from the combustion chambers. Of course, sensible car-owners bought the fuel used by their favourite racing drivers….!

The British Standards Institution has now attempted to sort things out, so far as grades are concerned, distinguishing octane-ratings on the basis of number of stars awarded. Thus, instead of asking those dizzy blondes or blistering brunettes for regular, mixture, premium or super, which in the case of premium could have been Extra (Esso), Special (Mobil), Mixture (National Benzole) or Super (B.P.) you can now captivate the pump-girls by asking simply for a tankful of two- three-, four- or five-star.

This simplifies matters but it does not go far enough. Two stars merely mean that the fuel concerned has a minimum octane-rating of 90, by the research method three-star petrols a minimum of 94, four-star a minimum of 97 and five-star a minimum of 100-octane. Esso gained much publicity and increased sales from recent welcome price reductions, which caused other petrol distillers to cut their prices. But Motoring Which? has flung a little grit in the tank by remarking that when they did this Esso cut their former four grades, which tended to be at the higher end of the octane-rating for each grade, to three grades, of two-, four- and five-star rating, which in the two top grades are at the bottom of the octane range for these grades. Whereas Shell left their four grades and octane ratings alone when they chopped prices, although they have not cut as much off the cost as Esso.

We cannot help you here, because we have not done laboratory tests to measure octane-ratings, and neither has Motoring Which? But the crux of the matter is that neither has the British Standards Institute, or if it has, it does not require octane-ratings to be marked on the pumps from which we buy our very heavily-taxed petrol. it only stipulates that the star-gradings shall be shown, which to date has ranged in our experience from Shell pumps with octane-ratings on them to some Total pumps in which the stars had been put on, almost illegibly, apparently with lipstick.

The star-rating is convenient and may eventually cause copy-writers to drop names like Super Plus and similar superlatives, but the real criterion must be based on quality/octane-rating/price. This remains obscure and in a country where children can be kept quiet on long journeys by getting them to spot a given pump out of Abco, Amoco, Ascot, Atlantic, Bowen, B.P., Cleveland, Conoco, Curfew, EP, Esso, Fina, Eleetline, Gainsborough, Globe, Good Gulf, Heron, Imperial, Jet, Little David, Major, Mex, Mobil, MS, Murco, MW, National Benzoic, No-Nox, Octane, Olympic, Regent, Rowilco, Shell, Total, or V.I.P., maybe the gimmicks and the girls will continue to grab sales for a long time to come!

BROOKLANDS OPEN DAY

The Godalming Round Table, which is organising a rally on behalf of Vickers-Armstrongs and the B.A.C. to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the opening of Brooklands Motor Course, at what remains of it, look like surpassing anything the smaller motor clubs have done, if all comes up to expectations.

When Brooklands opens its gates to the public for the first time since 1939 it is hoped that some 8,000 cars will be admitted, at £1 per car, profits to go to a charity named by B.A.C. This admission charge, we are informed, includes a 32-page illustrated souvenir programme. Those who will not be at Le Mans and wish to be part of this gigantic rally should apply for tickets to Godalming Round Table, Crownpits Lodge, Godalming, Surrey. The attractions will include driving tests by some 500 pre-1940 cars marshalled by the S.W. Centre of the B.A.R.C., and a demonstration by ex-Brooklands racing cars and motorcycles. The entry has expanded from an uninspiring beginning, when the cars listed included an E.R.A. which never ran at the Track and a “very rare A.J.S. saloon,” to embrace the lap-record Napier-Railton, Barker’s 1908 Napier, the 1908 G.P. Austin, the 1908 G.P. Itala, the Montagu Motor Museum 350-h.p. Sunbeam, the ex-Cobh 10-litre Fiat, the 10 1/2-litre V12 Delage, an ex-Barnato 3-litre Bentley, Brooklands Morgan 3-wheeler, two straight-eight 1 1/2 litre G.P. Delages, Derrington’s Salmson, Lindsay’s ex-Cobb Monza Alfa Romeo, the V8 Harker-Special, Dunham’s Alvis, many E.R.A.s, etc., backed up by motorcycles ranging from a 1908 N.L.G. to the ex-Noel Pope lap-record Brough Superior. These will contribute sight and sound rather than speed, because they have to run on part of the main runway, not on the Track, and for insurance purposes have to accelerate in pairs away from the public enclosures. Not all of them will be run, but the static exhibits will add to the spirit of the occasion.

Given a fine day nostalgia should go unadulterated and we commend J. B. Richardson, Clerk of the Course, and his young colleagues for their initiative. Richardson, we hear, has resigned from one of the specialist clubs after complaining of their inefficiency, and has told them that if they want to see how a rally should be run they should go to Brooklands next month! So he is obviously confident that his rally, which may well break all previous attendance records for an affair of this kind, will be competently run. We look forward to reporting in due course that this was so.

The significant thing is that Brooklands, after 28 years, is again opening its gates to the public, which should make June 11th an historic occasion, embellished by the presence of some of the most famous racing cars in the land. Aeroplanes, which were so much a part of Brooklands, seem to have been overlooked and the organisers are strangely reticent about naming the illustrious Patrons who have agreed to lend support to this brave venture. – W.B.

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