LETTERS FROM READERS, May 1970

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TRIUMPH versus FIAT

Sir,
When I wrote my letter regarding the Fiat 125, I little realised what I was starting. I purposely did not compare the Fiat too closely with my previous -cars which, incidentally, were three Triumph 2000s, as basically my letter was about the Fiat, but since Mr. J. A. Evans singles me out as the arch critic of the 2000, I will attempt to be a little more specific.

I cannot rule out reliability and therefore I must enthuse over it. The parts for my decoke following a cylinder-head gasket failure were kindly paid for by Fiat (which is more than I can say for the similar parts at 25,000 miles that required replacement on one Triumph), but it was primarily the amount of time that the Triumph spent off the road for maintenance and its resultant cost that prompted me to buy the Fiat and I have not been disappointed.

When mentioning that the “chuckability” of the Triumph was ‘irrelevant. I feel that Mr. Evans completely missed my point. I will accept that the ride of the Triumph is superior, but certainly not its general handling or road-holding. There is very little doubt that a great deal can be done to redress the balance in favour of the Triumph which, on paper, apart from the push-rod unit, is in many ways a more advanced design, but what can be done, or has been done since November, 1968, When I parted with my last Triumph, is totally irrelevant to this matter.

My Triumphs suffered considerably more body roll, were more tiring to drive, and were certainly more inclined to cause distress to “tickle-tummied” travellers than ever the Fiat is. The harder ride, with optional power steering and the other improvements that are available on the Mark II Triumph 2000 probably cover most of these criticisms, but the Fiat 125S is, I am told, a further improvement on the 125, and therefore we must, when discussing design, bear in mind that a car of advanced specification can only be superior to the less advanced one if development is such that the full potentiality of that design is reached.

If, Mr. Evans, you wish further proof, try a 2.5 BMW which is right first time.
Kidderminster. J. NEVILLE R. HAY.
[Yes, but a Triumph 2.5 PI costs £1,636, the Fiat 125S £1,347, and the2.5 BMW £2,996. Fiat seem to win them all, these days, when comparisons are made!,—ED.]

* * *

NON-CLASSICS

Sir,
I have become annoyed at having to read more and more drivel on the subject of so-called “desirable cars”, which, in the eyes of the proud owners, MUST become classic. I cannot understand why the following horrible cars have been submitted for recognition as desirable. Triumph TR, Sunbeam-Talbot and Citrӧen Lt. 15.

Let us, first of all, accept that all were designed for planned obsolescence, and share, along with most other modern cars, one notable feature, i.e., inherent body rot. This includes even the pre-war designed Citrӧen. I have not owned ST or TR, but the examples I have driven have all been in very good condition, and have one outstanding feature in common, that is, a complete lack of finesse. The ST (and all the other Rootes cars I have driven) with a feeling of soggy rubber in the steering box, and its pathetic gear-change, was only remarkable for complete lack of interior space.

The TR3 I drove was, I think, the most brutal apology for a motor car that I have ever driven, with steering almost as bad as that of the ST, and appalling rear suspension, in fact, I think it had the worst “cart” springing I have experienced. Also, shoddy seating and interior. The only improvement noted in the TR4 was the adoption of rack and pinion steering. The fact that they don’t GO seems to apply to all TRs.

As an ex-Citrӧen fanatic, in reply to the letter from Mr. Isbell, I can only say “Dear Mr. Isbell, you don’t know what you are talking about, you are completely deluded, or you have never driven any other Motor car ?” The first two points you mention are well known, as to the third, well, I can distinctly remember the engines (which have been described as agricultural by more than one so-called authority) of both my Lt. 15s, rumbling to and fro on their clockspring mountings, despite the alleged sound proofing. While I would be the first to agree that it WAS a car years ahead of its time, and haying steering, braking, and suspension (IFS only Mr. Isbell) second to none IN ITS DAY; these features have now been equalled and surpassed by several cars.

As to high speed, if I remember rightly, according to the road tests of the time, the Lt. 15 could not manage much over 70 m.p.h. Both of the Big Sixes I owned ran out of steam at 80. As to ease of maintenance, well honestly, Mr. Isbell, it is obvious to me that you have not had to overhaul the transmission driveshafts of a Lt. 15. As these are pre-packed with grease on assembly, and no provision for further lubrication has been made, other than the splined coupling, these require frequent expensive overhauls. This not only involves dismantling the lower steering swivel ball joints, but trying to obtain the tools for removing, the outer hub bearing, and the inner bearing retaining lockring, both of which are special to the Lt. t5 and which Citrӧen Cars disdain to make easily available.

Please, W.B. let us have more interest articles in MOTOR SPORT, such as those on “Cars I Have Owned” and “White Elephants”, etc. And a little less racing ?
London, N16. E. C. WELLS
[This reader votes for his P4 Rover, which he says “is so despised by W. B. and D. S. J.”‘; not so—see footnote to following letter.—ED.]

* * *

* * PRAISE FOR THE ROVER P3s —

Sir,
I feel it is time, with everybody praising their particular favourite: car, to make a mention of the P3 Rovers. The original “Aunty” Rovers.

I have owned one of these superb cars for the last two years. My particular model is a r.h.d. export “Sixty” made in t948. This car has done 91,000 miles without a major overhaul and is still capable of exceeding the 70 m.p.h. limit.

It is a joy to drive, with its short remote-control gear-shift, and seats adjustable for height and rake, as well as the normal forward and backwards movement. The steering column is also adjustable for rake; which means most people can find a comfortable driving position. The comfort and room is amazing, I am 6ft. 2 in. tall and with the seat right back am unable to reach the pedals. Even in this position there is room for me to stretch my legs out straight in the back!

It incorporates such .modern refinements as self-cancelling indicators and a lighting switch similar to that amazing discovery now used on the big Mk. II Triumphs. There are odd refinements not found on modern cars, such as a dipstick for the gearbox and a plate under the rear seat to facilitate checking the rear axle oil. There is also a gauge for the sump oil level and a blind for the rear window.

During my ownership this car has started first time whatever the weather and gives me trouble-free motoring, for which I am most grateful. Spare parts are still available, although one cannot always get ”over the counter” service. I hope this letter will do a little to bring the attention (which it deserves of motoring enthusiasts to a long-neglected car which deserves all the praise it gets.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne. PETER M. JONES.
[Not neglected by us—see comprehensive article on the “perpendicular aunts”, admittedly the P4 range, in MOTOR SPORT dated May 1967.— ED. )

— EVEN FOR THE LAND-ROVER

Sir,
Don’t do it, please don’t do it! Don’t waste valuable space in your excellent magazine by publishing another account of driving a nonsporting car around our non-sporting roads. I refer, of course, to your declared intention of reviewing the Hillman Avenger, yet another in the endless procession of uninspired little boxes designed for the nonsporting family man. (Although I suppose he must have been sporting once, in order to become a family man in the first place.)

Turn your attention to more inspiring vehicles. For example, I own one of the most sporting conveyances built in the last twenty-odd years, and yet I have not seen an account of it darken your doorstep in the last year or so. Think of it, 2 3/4-litres, four-wheel-drive, majestic appearance, rustproof body, engineered to last for years and years, choice of many body styles and hosts of optional extras, and yet you ignore it as if it did not exist. The Land-Rover.

Now at this point you will probably be tempted to consign this epistle to the waste bin, but do not be hasty. Consider first the sporting potential of this machine.

Today’s roads are becoming more and more crowded, so that the enthusiastic driver has to seek elsewhere for his thrills. Where can he go ? Well, as you pointed out in last month’s issue, he could take to the air, but it is still rather expensive for the majority of folks; he could take to the water, but that is becoming as crowded as the roads. Or he could buy himself a Land-Rover and take to the open moorland, where the thrills come at zero m.p.h.

What can compare to a happy Sunday afternoon digging yourself out of a bog in the tranquility of a wind/rain/sleet/hail-swept moor ? And as you dig you are filled with the happy knowledge that if you had stuck with your road-bound buggy, you could not have possibly got yourself within miles of this place. Or join a Land-Rover Owners’ Club, like me, and spend a happy Sunday getting stuck in a bog with a dozen others of similar inclination. (Actually, last time it was deep snow on top of Stanage Edge in Derbyshire, and it took two and a half hours to get out of that lot!)

Besides its sporting potential, the Land-Rover deserves mention from time to time for its services to motoring sport in general. Towing to and from race meetings, recovery, acting as guide dog for aged autos intent on ploughing from London to Scotland and back (on that occasion there was only a small piece of front wing allowed in the photo), even blazing the trail through the snow for the RAC Rally, and never a mention or a review in sight!

Once you are bitten by the Land-Rover bug, there is no turning back. I have a friend who owned three (not all at the same time, I hasten to add) and declared himself a confirmed addict. Then he had a mental upheaval, sold his Land-Rover and bought one of those horrid Mini-Cooper things. Well, that didn’t last long. He started being bullied by Volvo owners and other motorists, so he saw the error of his ways (no-one bullies a vehicle carrying a large steel girder where the bumper-bar ought to be) and is now waiting for Land-Rover number four to roll from the assembly line.

There is no escaping from the bug; even my wife has grown to like our new vehicle. She became rather attached to our previous car, a Singer Chamois, and was a little upset when it was sold, but now she no longer leaps like a startled deer every time the canvas roof gives out its thunderous crack and rumble; she might even start speaking to me again soon.

So do not disregard the faithful Land-Rover. Remember, it can out-accelerate an E-type (over a ploughed field, or up a 60 degree earth bank) and if you buy one with a canvas body, the drop-head model, you do not have to pay the government for the privilege of parting with your money. How does that grab you, taxation lovers ?

Well, there you are, you TR and Morgan fans; the last of the real sports cars is the Land-Rover, without question. As D. S. J. said last month, it’s all a matter of keeping things in proportion.

Southwell. TERENCE S. GILL.

* * *

THE MOTORISTS’ LOT

Sir,
I was interested to read the comment on police behaviour in the West Riding, the technique is now used in various parts of the country. A police Cortina marked only on its sides is unrecognisable when driven at a distance of 10-12 feet from your rear bumper at 60-70 m.p.h. with its headlamps on main beam, and can put on a very realistic imitation of a thoroughly drunken driver about to have an accident inside your boot. The method works even in slightly failing daylight. I. too, fell for the above trick on a summer evening last year, on the A11 between Quendon and Newport.

I was then involved in one of those “one-sided” conversations so beloved of the police, which consists of a somewhat biased opinion of one’s driving, and may last for ten minutes or so, the idea is that by this time you will be brainwashed into thinking that it is you, not them, who were driving dangerously. However, do not be tricked into saying anything silly; it will be read out in court!

My particular policeman suggested that I had twice overtaken dangerously (not true) and had entered a 30-m.p.h. restriction at 60 m.p.h., slowing down only gradually (true, trailing throttle— dare not apply power-assisted brakes). Eventually, the tirade stopped.

Policeman: “What have you to say ?”

Myself: “I thought I was being followed by a drunken driver … etc.”

Policeman (getting very excited): “Never mind what I was doing, we are talking about what you were doing.”

Myself: “I can assure you that my driving was a .product of’ your provocation.”

Policeman (after long deliberation): “Will you accept a verbal warning ?”

Myself (like innocent civilian signing confession to escape from Red China): “Certainly, Sir.”

Does anyone believe that this farce has contributed anything to road safety ? I shall add that I have been driving 22 years, vehicles fast and slow, about 250,000 miles in all, and have never caused an accident. I have had one fine for exceeding a 40-m.p.h. limit in 1958.

I currently run two ageing motor cars, in each of these I have invested three years of my life to restore them to good and sate condition; therefore, I, too, am interested in road safety. If my cars are damaged I have to repair them myself.

As long as speed is the scapegoat no progress will be made. The amount of damage done in car parks at speeds of less than 5 m.p.h. make it obvious that a great many people will never have the ability to avoid causing accidents.
London, E13 R. K. SUGG, Technical Secretary, Association of Healey Owners.

* * *

Sir,
Nobody, except yourself, has to my knowledge bothered to mention that, with regard to road accidents, it is a miracle that there are not a ten-fold more than there already are. With the average motorist putting up enormous yearly mileages I am amazed that we do not have more deaths on the road. One naturally clarifies this by expressing the horror that mounts each year, and as things are it can only get worse.

Auntie BBC seems to be waking up to the situation and gets positively breathless about it all; this last week we had Michelmoritorium in the form of a “driving test” thing, which leant heavily upon the confines of the TV screen, and positively toppled-over by reason of the content matter.

Then we had “Man Alive”, which was really “Man A-Dead”, with Dr. Stephen Black delivering a fine grand-slam at the Motor Manufacturers and the Reps. from Rover and Ford in particular. The entertainment value was highlighted by a bleating “Road Engineer” who kept murmuring “More money for roads” like a damaged gramophone record, and a very strange species of Policeman, who spoke, I thought, with reserve and sound common-sense.

I have, I find, a deep distrust of Motor Manufacturers as a general view, for their terms of reference deem it necessary for them to make gigantic profits at my expense; and when almost all those profits go overseas, it hurts—Boy, how it hurts!

Of course “More money” is needed for road works and improvements, but in heaven’s name, will it be the motorist all over again who has to pay ? Surely no other facet of Society is so harshly taxed and bled; but I think Authority will increase it, and make it a permanent arrangement. Like Purchase Tax and SET, further increases mill arrive in a supposed temporary form, and quickly become a fixed situation.

But this accident thing gets me; for I think it’s you and me, dear Sir, who cause accidents, no matter what the roads have or have not in their design or favour. Bad manners carried to the steering wheel, temperament and character twinges—all the spectrum of the Human animal are conveyed to the car and its progression in public. The chap who walks into you in a Supermarket because he didn’t look, because he didn’t give a damn anyway, is just as likely to do the same thing with his car. Trouble is, there’s not much use in apologising to either a corpse or a write-off; it’s too late then, to say the least.

An “improved” or more stringent driving test won’t be any more than a palliative either; it’s only when you’ve removed the brain and put a handbook in its place—as in the Guards—that things get sorted out a bit. Only then can cold-blooded consideration for others be applied to the road, and even then, one thing’s missing; you can’t “make” a driver who is fully aware of what is going on beneath and around him.

But when the head-shrinkers are brought into it, I don’t want to be around; they’ll take the guts out of it all, as usual.

Meanwhile I’ll continue to shout abuse and utter Anglo-Saxon oaths at Motor Manufacturers who spend millions on advertising and utterly fail to reduce the appalling prices of their nasty little dreams’ on wheels.

Down here in Dorset, we used to get cars with the odd dent or so on their wings; now they’ve “improved” the roads, we have to sweep up what’s left of car and occupants. What price “progress” ? God, what a mess it all is.

Swanage. JOHN T. DEAN.