Letters from Readers, May 1968

N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them.—Ed.

The A.A. Badge

Once again, I am happy to write to my favourite motoring journal, in whose pages the Editor’s remarks are always studied avidly by my husband and myself.

I heartily endorse Mr. Boddy’s comments (and expression of distaste!) regarding the “with-it” apppearance of the new A.A. badge.

One must, out of necessity, try to change with the times, but at least memories cannot be erased—memories of the traditional badge, and the salutary recognition from the motorcycle patrol men, which was, in by-gone days, synonymous with the Automobile Association.

Alloway. Paddy H. Dickie.
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The “TR” Range

It was interesting to read Michael Palfreyman’s comments about the old Triumph TR 4-cylinder range.

My own car is a 1958 TR3A with overdrive which I have had for just over two years and approximately 12,000 miles. I had learnt to respect the 4-cylinder engine from my father’s experiences with Standard Vanguards, and in fact the TR has not let me down once. This, I think, is a not inconsiderable achievement since the car is 10 years old and of unknown mileage (the speedometer had been replaced just before I bought the car, but it must have covered at least 80,000 miles by now). Performance is entirely adequate and, on a good day, sufficient to blow-off most Cortina GTs, etc. However, the best thing about the car for me is the driving position and comfort generally. It is one of those very few cars in which I can cover 500 Miles in a day and not feel tired. I am 6 ft. 2 in. tall and envy D. S. J.’s smaller stature; I could not sit in an E-type for five minutes without getting sore. Petrol consumption in the TR is roughly 25 m.p.g., and tyre wear (on “X”s) is conspicuous by its absence. As a means of cheap, fast and, moreover, safe transport, I think it has very few equals.

I think Mr. Palfreyman is a little over-enthusiastic in claiming 70 in overdrive 2nd; mine (admittedly with the 4.1 axle) only reaches 55 at 5,000 r.p.m., and a professional road-tester in 1957 could barely reach 60 in the same gear with the 3.7 axle model. He is possibly being misled by the ridiculously optimistic speedometer (vide The Motor road-test).

One should not be too disparaging about the newer 6-cylinder engine; in its 85-b.h.p. version one of these, in a late-model second-hand Vanguard Six, transported my father for 20,000 miles with utter reliability. It is at least as flexible as the earlier engine, and sounds as smooth as a V12 rather than a six. My only criticism of it was its significantly greater petrol thirst. Lucky owners of the TR5 should have no qualms about this engine.
Chislehurst. D. BARRETT.

[Mr. Palfreyman makes the point that he was comparing the “2-litre 4-pot” to the “2-litre 6-pot,” not to the “2.5-litre 6-pot.” —Ed.]
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The “Ideal Export”

As a migrant Englishman, keen to Back Britain, I’ve been looking for a British car, suitable for serious motoring in N. America; at a Sensible price. There ain’t no such thing! Consequently I’ve knocked out a specification which might be of interest to B.M.H.C. If they did some market research they might find that there is a sizeable market for such a vehicle. It might even deter them from inflicting “Jagleys” and “Woltins” on the unsuspecting peoples of the World.

The present generation of British small cars sold in N. America is only suitable for second-car use in the average household. Jaguars compete unsuccessfully with Buick Rivieras in cost and the cost of spares and service for Jaguars is a sick joke!

What is needed is a competitor for the Volvo range backed by VW standard of service. (My present car is a 122S Volvo and my first car in Canada was an elderly but sound VW.)

Before the country set seizes its pens to scream Rover 2000, it’s not suitable. It’s too expensive, $4,000 plus, and it rots like the devil under the salt used to keep Canadian roads open in winter.

The ideal car would be a 4/5-seat saloon, with lots of leg room. The body would be designed and comprehensively rust-proofed to survive Canadian winters. The suspension, brakes and steering would be to high European standards. The engine should be a 2/2.5-litre six with, say, 120 proper, not S.A.E., horses. This would provide reasonable power for good acceleration and quiet cruising at 70-75 m.p.h. for 400-500 miles at a stretch.

The whole thing should be designed to be driven hard and for at least 50,000 miles before it needs anything but routine servicing. If the British Motor Industry could produce this car for $3,000-$3,500 (depending on options), a £1,000-£1,200 odd—before U.K. purchase tax, Britain’s balance of payment problems would be over. As an added bonus a whole generation of emigrée English poodling around in VWs and Volvos whilst saving for a Mercedes would be much, much happier.

Toronto, Canada. P. G. Hiron.
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Alfa Romeo Observations

I read with fascination the long letters in your magazine from readers who have many and varied experiences of’ unusual motor cars. I must commend you on not only printing these letters in full, but also including follow-up tales from others with similar problems and exaltations.

These are, in fact, unsolicited road-tests which I find most interesting and revealing, in particular the recent correspondence from owners of Aston Martins. I have long toyed with the idea of owning a DB4 but as usual the short run from a showroom is never sufficient to discover the faults and overcome the initial awe at getting behind the wheel of a legendary car.

I may inadvertently start a new line of correspondence by stating a few of my experiences concerning secondhand Alfa Romeos.

It all began when I came face to face with a five-year-old Alfa Giulietta Sprint. I had recently bought a new Mini-Cooper and was convinced that Mini road-holding was the ultimate word and “Buying British” was the only decent thing to do in these days of export drives, etc. I have long discovered that logic is not a strong influence where my car-buying is concerned!

How many family men still cling desperately to the love of their life whilst the wife clamours for a car of practicality and economy?

Pushing such considerations to the back of my mind I took the plunge and went from the land of warranties and security to the unknown of no guarantees, foreign spares, and high insurance premiums at the signing of a cheque.

Needless to say, the faults made themselves evident within a short time, not the least being a stench of burning and smoke billowing out of the screen heater vents when I tried the heater switch. For some incredible reason the heater motor was located behind the front wheel and had rusted solid, causing a short that nearly ended in disaster as the wires were smouldering in a most inaccessible spot.

This was my first introduction to the state of the undersides of Alfas with a few years of English roads beneath them. The sills and underframe were in a decidedly dodgy state, and I have since seen a similar car with a lower half that appeared to be solely supported by the roof and window frames!

How often is it the case that a good-looking car is the most crippling thing to sit in for any distance? I had heard of the lack of legroom in Alfas but probably the worst aspect is that there was absolutely nowhere to put my left foot, and on a motorway this extremity would become dangerously numb with inactivity.

To counteract all these disadvantages was the glory of the sensual Bertone body shape that had the loveliest backside on a car I have ever seen before or since, and the free-revving engine with its beautiful smoothness at all speeds. The edge had gone off the performance and the synchromesh had gone on one or two of the gears, but the flavour was there. I think it needed some new shock-absorbers as I nearly lost it on a couple of occasions in the wet and it rolled rather a lot on sharp bends.

Seeking more performance, I bought a slightly younger 2600 Spider with the 6-cylinder engine and a gearbox in a worse state than the previous one, and found the characteristics of the Giulietta Sprint very similar. No leg room, poor upholstery, and the awful smell of mildew under the carpets from a floor leak, which still hasn’t disappeared.

The three twin-choke Solex carbs tend to be thirsty but on a long motorway run at a rather illegal speed the oil and water temperatures are rock steady at 18º, as is the oil pressure at the specified 55 lb. sq. in. The reason for this is the enormous oil cooler, fitted as standard, that is virtually the same size as the water radiator!

Servo brakes make stopping easy and at high speed the sense of stability and safety is remarkable when compared to anything else I have driven.

The hood tends to misbehave at speed as I can hear the occasional pop of the clips lifting, accompanied by increasing wind noise which becomes rather annoying.

The clutch is heavy and rather exhausting in town, but in traffic it behaves very well with no plug fouling or stumbling at low speeds.

I often feel that this car is an expensive extravagance and the urge to return to a small manageable vehicle is strong, until my eyes alight on those unmistakable lines that all Italian cars possess, evoking all the intangible sensations that the thrill of motoring brings. Thank you for an excellent magazine.

Leicester. Gareth Floyd.
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“On The Road”

I was glad to see in the latest issue that you have instigated this new feature, and I think it will be popular. I feel sure there must be many like myself whose interest in motor magazines is predominantly in the motor car as used in daily life: what exists, what it is like to drive, how it performs, how it lasts—and, of course, how much! If these people are exactly like me, when they have spent years studying what the manufacturers are turning out, they eventually find themselves in a financial position to buy a new car; it will not be a new model, but will have been out for two years or so, with bugs removed; they will then do everything they can to make it as good as it possibly can be, with engine mods., handling mods. (the best shock-absorbers and tyres that money can buy), and their own careful maintenance, with the accent on smooth controls, carburation, lubrication; no amount of wash and polish will be too much trouble, and the car will always be at its best both inside and out. We shan’t consider it run-in till we have done 10,000 miles (when magazine editors tend to look and see what has gone wrong with the thing so far); in our case it is just starting life; we don’t expect anything will have gone wrong with it, and—apart from those infuriating delivery faults—if we have chosen wisely, and because we drive it with mechanical feeling, nothing will have gone wrong. When we chose it, we were careful to see that its performance was up in the forefront of current types, because we know it’s going to have to last a long time, and we don’t want to find ourselves with a performance that has been superseded a few years later—not by much, anyway. Unless we live in the country, with a good local garage man, we avoid garage repairs and maintenance to the greatest possible extent—not only to save money, but to avoid the building-in of additional faults to those from which it originally suffered. By this time, if you have read as far, you may be asking yourself: “Surely we never asked this bloke for an article?” or, more likely, from bitter experience, “What particular axe is he grinding, and when do we get to the blade?”

Well, here is my particular axe! I should be delighted to have you drive my 1960 Sunbeam Rapier—Alexander twin-S.U. mod., Polished head, Servais 4-branch manifold—two stainless-steel Servais silencers, Michelin XAS tyres (you really must try these if you haven’t already—I think the progress in tyres is the most impressive thing that’s happened in the motoring world in the last ten years). She has done 68,000 miles, is good for about 98 true m.p.h. (6 m.p.h. more than new, unmodified) and, with overdrive, will stay with just about anything not a true sports car up to 3-litres. My usual long run is Chelsea to Blakeney, Norfolk, about 137 miles, and this is done in 2½ hours door to door on early Sunday mornings (c. 55 m.p.h. average), with no unreasonable cheating on the limits! I feel you might not notice too much difference between her and the new TC.

The best bet I can see to replace her, in two or three years’ time— and assuming the money’s there—looks to be a Ford Escort Twin Cam, the poor man’s Elan Plus Two. It has to be a four-seater—says she; a two-seater “is such a selfish car”. I point out that you can only get one person into a mink coat—but she hasn’t actually got one.

London, S.W.3. B. Walford, Cmdr., R.N. (Retd.).
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The Cost of Legislation

Although costly to ourselves an incident has occurred which cannot fail to be amusing. Possibly it may be of use to you for your magazine.

Running a large number of vehicles it was decided that possibly a stores van which we run was in dire need of tyres. A “stores lad” was sent poste haste to a tyre wholesaler ten miles away to order same but, unfortunately, on his way back skidded on ice and hit an oncoming Austin 1800. The police arrived and explained that we would be summonsed for haying one defective tyre. Cost £50. Our recovery vehicle then departed to clear the blocked road of the Ford Cortina also involved and was immediately pounced upon by the Polies for yet again defective tyres. Cost £50. Thus it would appear that to obtain two tyres it is going to cost us £180 in vehicle damage, plus £100 in tyre fines.

Any further details we can supply should you find this interesting.

Tenby. C. G. Jones, Sales Manager,
Jeremy’s Garages Ltd.

[While not condoning faulty tyres, the fines are excessive.—Ed.]
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Two Versions of A90

Referring to the review of Pat Moss’ autobiography, I am sorry to have to dampen W. B.’s exuberance over finding therein vindication of his previous criticism of the A90 Atlantic Austins, but I wish to point out that the car of which Miss Moss writes in condemning tones and shows a picture of is the A90 Six Westminster, an entirely different model altogether from the Atlantic version.

It is not my intention to provoke any arguments in respect of the merits or otherwise of either car; my motive in writing being merely to get the facts straight, a sentiment with which I’m sure W. B. will sympathise, being himself so quick to point out far less blatant misquotes by others.

Cheshunt. Robert Milton.

[Agreed! This makes two dubious A90 models.—Ed.]
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Another Rule to Watch

In your reply to reader J. T. Alvey you state “contractors’ traffic lights have no legal significance”.

I would be most interested in your reasons for this statement, as I always thought the same until recently.

If one chose to ignore a red light at road works, and caused an incident, then one could be guilty of careless driving. But if the road is clear, and no danger exists, I thought the lights could be treated purely as a warning sign. But the last time I did this, the policeman who witnessed this (from afar), booked me for “failing to comply with a traffic sign”.

Although pleading the non-legality of these lights, I was fined and my licence was endorsed.

Also arousing my suspicions lately is the fact that the local road contractors are now using lights which contain an amber light.

Perhaps it would. be possible to print this letter in your excellent magazine, to enable readers views to be obtained.

Crawley. R. J. Mayes.