Letters from readers, May 1972
N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and MOTOR SPORT does not necessarily associate itself with them.—Ed
The answer to inflation
I wonder if you will allow me to give Mr. P. E. Porrett the answer to his problem of disaffection with the AA and the increase of subscriptions.
The answer is, RESIGN—it’s as simple as that.
It is a great pity that the majority of the British people will not fight back, against increased prices and charges in particular, and the dictums of “Authority” in general. This failing, I regret to say, seems to manifest itself more among motorists than some other sections of the community.
What persuaded Mr. Porrett that he needed the AA in his life, in the first place, I cannot imagine, because although the AA may have had good intentions of becoming the motorists’ “watchdog” and champion, in its early formative years, I cannot remember a single instance (in my over forty years of motoring) when the AA have successfully opposed any Government anti-motorist legislation whatever. And there has certainly been plenty of that.
Their only claim to fame, so far as I can see, is to have become the owners of some very valuable blocks of property, built, no doubt, with the proceeds of their ever-increasing charges.
Had the AA been doing the job over the past forty years for which it was originally formed, and had it given its members value for money, there would have been no surplus funds for building palatial offices, and the motorists’ lot today might be a much happier one than it is.
The answer in respect of Esso road maps is of course equally simple—don’t buy them. Finally, I would like to assure any readers who may be interested, that it IS possible to go motoring without the AA and Esso road maps, I know—I’ve done it!
Chapel en le Frith. W. K. Parker.
Move over, Rover!
We have long tolerated the middle-of-the-road driver, but now it appears British Leyland advocate drivers of Rover 2000s should drive in the third lane of an otherwise desolate motorway, or are we to imagine that there are two slower moving vehicles off the bottom of the page? I always enjoy your excellent magazine and appreciate the full-page colour adverts, but . . . .
New Milton. J. A. Townend.
[We agree that the driver in the very effective advertisement appears to be setting a bad example, but you do not really know that the inner lanes of the M62 were not blocked just ahead of the speeding Rover, do you Mr. Townend? And now I suppose we shall have Sir Alfred McAlpine pointing out that if it was so blocked, it wasn’t due to surface repairs or anything of that kind. But you have a sharp brain, Mr. Townend !—Ed.]
Putting the current issue of your excellent magazine on one side the other evening to catch up with world events in the other press, my eyes soon alighted on a two-page spread in a weekly colour supplement which extolled the virtues of the new Victor Transcontinental Estate from Luton.
What immediately struck me, and also my non-motoring wife when I raised the point, was that in all the press announcements and advertisements not a single actual photograph of any of the new range of Vauxhall has been shown.
From recent scandals regarding artists’ impressions of Spanish hotels in travel agents’ brochures which have been incompleted before arrivals by un-suspecting holiday-makers are we therefore to assume that no new Victor exists at present, but some are planned for the coming season?
Cosby. R. W. Powell.
[And this reader has sharp eyes !—Ed.]
In “Matters of Moment” in the January edition, you found a new meaning of the expression “Motorway Madness”. I believe that I have discovered yet another meaning.
My brother and I were going from St. Andrews to Edinburgh, by way of the M90. At the time there was a dense fog—we couldn’t see 100 yards ahead of us—but none of the fog-warning lights were on! I have heard it said that sometimes these lights are used when they are not needed, and therefore some motorists do not pay proper attention to them when they are needed, but surely, when visibility is down to less than 100 yards, the lights should be switched on! This is certainly the worst case of “Motorway Madness” I have ever come across.
Edinburgh. Alan Lucas.
Armco and racing motorcyclists
When reading about the hyper concern of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association for the safety of its members on almost every circuit in every country, one can’t help being astonished that one fact has been consistently overlooked from the start because the Grand Prix drivers aren’t the only people who compete on the circuits concerned.
My older son is a professional racing motorcyclist contracted to a leading factory and I feel that it could interest the Grand Prix drivers to know that, however much more safe an Armco barrier may make a circuit for them, it constitutes one more appalling hazard for the racing motorcyclists.
One can hardly open a motoring paper now, without reading of the latest whim of the current Grand Prix drivers—a poor bunch if ever there was one—and one can’t help wondering whether they or their doting fans do realise that motorcycle races and Grands Prix are frequently run on the same circuits. It wouldn’t be so bad if the current GP drivers were of the calibre of Caracciola, Fangio or Nuvolari—but none of them are. They can, if they like, counter by saying that their opposite numbers don’t include any Surtees or Hailwoods. True, but while the circuits are being made steadily more dangerous for them, they are the chaps who aren’t complaining.
Even past Grand Prix drivers, who accepted natural hazards—and who were far better than this lot—weren’t called upon to accept artificial ones.
And anyone who has seen, as I have myself, a racing motorcyclist collide with an Armco barrier, would be up in arms with the GPDA right away.
Ewhurst. Charles Mortimer (Snr,).
About Alfa Romeos
May I, through your columns, pass on the following information to owners of Alfa Romeo cars.
Having recently bought an Alfa requiring minor repairs and replacement parts, I, naturally enough, contacted the local agents for parts and was absolutely amazed at the prices of such parts. However, on noticing an advertisement in your publication, I contacted Messrs. E. B. Spares of Bradford-on-Avon, Wilts, and in many cases, the prices of the parts which I required were as much as 50% less than locally. Well, so far so good, I obtained the parts by return of post and was all ready to commence the repairs. Here is where I needed some assistance (much as I hate to admit it, I just don’t understand the mechanics of a car). Here I was with all the necessary parts and not a clue how to fit them. In desperation, I phoned E. B. Spares for advice which was readily given in detail and in just six days I had ‘phoned them some nine times for advice and nothing else. I began to feel that any moment the voice on the ether end would tell me to take the car to a local garage and stop bothering him. Not at all, on every occasion I received nothing but kind, courteous and considerate service. So unusual is such service in this day and age that I feel it should not be allowed to drift away without praise, To E. B. Spares, thanks! to Alfa owners, I would not deal elsewhere now and sincerely recommend E. B. Spares for all your Alfa requirements. (Including advice). Finally, I would point out that I had never heard of this firm prior to reading their advertisement in Motor Sport.
Stony Stratford. Lawrence P. Butler.
Having noted with interest the recent correspondence from Alfa Romeo owners I should like to comment on what, I think, is the nicest looking Alfa produced since the war, namely the Giulietta Sprint.
My own Giulietta, a 1962 1290 model, started life in these parts and is still running remarkably well in the damp air of England.
With all the talk of reliability and otherwise, let it be known that this genuine little Gran Turismo car has only this year had to have new valves and pistons—readily supplied by E. B. Spares, of Bradford on Avon. Petrol consumption is around the 30-32 m.p.g. mark—something that certain popular firms in England might strive for with similar performance.
Certainly I think a Giulietta a more exotic buy than an old MG-B —and more reliable having an extremely tough and long living engine. However, anyone considering buying a Giulietta should take special notice of the body which is very prone to damp weather. The chassis seems to be strong enough, but front wings are just not up to 10 years of English salted roads.
My own Giulietta, which cost a mere £’190, has a fair number of years to go. A specification designed in 1952 which is still modern, a beautiful 1950’s Bertone body, seems to me, at any rate, to be far superior to the hardly designed BLMC MG-B GT which could he classed as its competitor.
Naturally my next car, if I can resist the temptation of a Lancia Aurelia GT 2500, will be a Giulia Sprint GT, but what a pity Alfa Romeo dropped the old Bertone GT body. Thanks for the most interesting motor magazine in Europe which once every month livens up the most badly cooked pasta!
Como, Italy. Kerry Gill.
For and against the Reliant Scimitar
Mr. Stone’s letter “Scimitar sorrows” in your March edition prompts me to write to you, echoing his sentiments. Although the Scimitar is not the worst car I have ever bought, it is certainly very far from being the best, although (by quite a bit) the most expensive. Like Mr. Stone, I too have (1) replaced my driver’s seat; (2) I am still waiting on door hinges; (3) cannot demist the windscreen due to a “design fault” in the heater blower; (4) find the general finish of the interior very cheap; (5) cannot, despite all possible adjustments, make myself comfortable in the driving seat.
However, the car goes very fast and holds the road well and I suppose I must he thankful for that.
Stirling. D. R. Chrisitie.
You were kind enough to allow me space in your April 1965 issue to say how satisfied I was with my 1600 Alfa Romeo Spider and to compare it favourably over the equivalent Lotus Elan, the bodywork of which was less waterproof and the final transmission was far less satisfactory. I still have the Alfa with its original hood and this is sufficient comment. I must now take up the cudgels on behalf of the Reliant Scimitar GTE. I have owned my present one for 3 years, and my son-in-law is on his second. I have been more than satisfied with the machine—the gearbox is not Reliant’s fault—and the only inconvenience I have suffered was the earthing strap which worked loose in a thunderstorm. The rear side window leaked and this was dealt with by Reliants, who also fitted modified dampers. The delivery driver spun the car off and it arrived with a flat tyre, the track awry, and clods of earth trapped between tyre and rim. Reliants gave me a new Pirelli. I had a blown cylinder head gasket, replaced at no cost to myself, and a new front wheel bearing at 30,000 miles.
I would have no hesitation in ordering “the same again” hut at the moment I see no need to replace a most satisfactory and relaxing form of transport which continues to please both my wife and myself. We do not always travel on smooth roads having to traverse Welsh farm tracks and minor roads at least once a month.
My sympathy must go to Mr. Stone in his ill-luck.
Tenbury Wells, Lewin T. Spittle.
Yes of course! I am old enough to know better but I suppose after two decades of absorbing every word of praise in Motor Sport and admiring every compelling syllable of VW advertisements, there appeared only one answer. For our second car we required three qualities—mechanical reliability; an ability to withstand outdoor treatment; and a high re-sale value. Everything pointed to a VW. So in December we purchased from the distributors a new 1300 Beetle with the special metallic paint finish. The list price of this car on the road was £972.24.
Within a month or so it had covered about 600 miles and was due for its first free service. By this time unusual noises were coming from the transmission and the paint on both front wings had begun to blister. The distributors lent us free of charge another 1300 while they repaired our car and repainted the wings. It took three weeks by which time I had completely lost confidence in the car so I asked the distributors either to exchange the car for another new one or to refund my money. When they refused both requests I asked them how much they were prepared to offer me for the car as it stood, one month old and under 700 miles. Before me I have their quotation—£800. If this rate of depreciation were constant the car would be a complete write-off in six months!
The full page advertisements for VW headed “A few old reasons for buying a new one” which extols the resale values and “the car with the built-in garage” I find amusing enough but the latest one which finishes “and why no one’s laughing louder than the man who buys one” just creases me.
Could this decline of standards coincide with the falling demand for the Beetle and for the encouraging figures from British Leyland?
Brixham. E. W. B. Thomas.
Against a Jaguar monopoly
I must take exception to the remarks of your correspondent Mr. Reddie, expressed in the March issue, regarding Rover drivers. Over a period of years I have owned a number of elderly Rover cars, the present one being a 1959 105 “S” model. All of these vehicles have given endless pleasure and the quality of their construction has endeared me to the marque to the exclusion of all else.
The 2000 and 3500 V8 range will continue to be beyond my means for at least the foreseeable future and whilst I feel that there has been some decline in standards of construction, that does not, I feel, detract from the vehicles’ other qualities. Surely Mr. Reddie cannot consider the Jaguar 420G a more sporting vehicle than the 3500 “S”?
These observations however are incidental to the main point, which appears to be the basic difference between Jaguar and Rover owners. Both are quality cars, but that I would suggest is the only basis for comparison and the choice of prospective owners depends more upon personal characteristics rather than the qualities of the respective marques. Whilst in no way wishing to detract from Jaguar, particularly the splendid, but long awaited V12 E-type, it appears that on occasions owners feel a need to justify themselves and their choice of vehicle, a phenomenon I have not observed in Rover owners.
As regards Motor Sport. I have not noted any preference for any particular marque, in fact it appears that any motor car deserving of comment, be it praiseworthy or adverse, receives its due. Therefore, let the format remain unchanged, as continued reporting on the somewhat limited Jaguar range would I suggest quickly result in complaint and accusations of bias.
Shif nal. Alan Lowe.
There is quite enough space devoted to Jaguars in Motor Sport already. What with your Continental Correspondent’s addiction to the marque, E-types are overrated! As for describing the (Jaguar) 420 as a “Sporting Saloon”—well ! !
Your balance between Veteran, Vintage and Sports articles is fine, please keep producing the best motoring magazine!
Buntingford. H. Edwards (911S).
I write in defence of Ford Escort owners and other owners of “lesser cars” referred to in G. Reddies’ letter in your March 1972 issue.
Perhaps he is unaware that the majority of your readers are not Jaguar owners and never will be (mainly due to lack of finance). Please continue with your existing choice of cars for road tests, etc.
Perhaps Mr. Reddie is envious of Ford’s participation in motoring sport in general (I too would like to see Jaguar return to racing to compete with Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, etc!).
Bathwick. G. M. Proctor.
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I have recently received, by grace of God and the Watersiders’ Unions, the December 1971 issue in which W. B. states that he has not yet had the opportunity to drive a Holden. May W. B. indulge in a quick resume of his blessings!
General Motors/Holden must surely lead the world in the production of agricultural camions. Holden performance is mediocre; handling can only be described as surprising; gear changes are generally effected by a three-speed “column shift” which evokes the sensation of stirring one’s finger in a tin of baked beans, and general finish is a tribute to the wonders of the world of plastics.
The “bread and butter” model of Holden would better be described as “ship’s biscuit and dripping”; and the more exotic models appear to be designed upon the American presumption that sexuality is directly proportional to size and vulgarity. In accordance with this precept, the greater the number of letters denoting the model type, then obviously the greater the virility of the driver. The epitome of this is the automotive misfortune known as the Holden Torana GTR—XU1.
However, many exciting conversions can be wrought upon the Holden. Imitation stick-on racing stripes are available, and even greater increases in performance are achieved by lowering the door handles and planing 10 thou. off the dipstick.
A final affront in the senses and blow against good taste was observed in the display window of a local purveyor of fine machinery: An Aston Martin DBS V8, an Aston DB6, Lotus Elan, Lotus Elan Sprint, Lotus Elan +2, and a Nausea Purple Holden Torana.
Please, W. B., spare yourself the trouble, and forget the truly unforgettable Holden.
Dunedin, New Zealand. K. MacD, Hunter.
[I have, but my assistant didn’t—and seems to have become Holden orientated. See p. 137, February issue.—Ed.]
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For the past eighteen months I have been running a 1964 330 GT 2 + 2 Ferrari. I bought the car from Maranello Concessionaires, who had serviced it throughout its life with two previous owners. It had 49,000 odd miles on the clock, and the clutch had been renewed a few months previously.
It is an extraordinary car. One expects it to go, handle, and stop, all of which it does splendidly. The docility, reliability and lack of temperament are more surprising. The 330 engine is very similar to the 275, being of just under four-litres, and fed by three twin-choke Webers. Soon after I got the car a plug oiled; with some foreboding I replaced it, and since then the plugs have only been touched at routine servicing, every 3,000 miles.
All too much Of my motoring is just pottering around locally; Usually I use the DAF, an ideal practice car, but my wife has first call on this, so then I use the Ferrari, the only snag being the large turning circle. It never gets hot. Indeed, when I first got it I thought the electric fans must be faulty, and when they did not cut in in the traffic jam after Daily Express Silverstone I was sure of it: however, half-an-hour at a fast tickover with the bonnet covered eventually got the thermometer high enough, and all three fans started to work. The next time they did so was on a hot June day stuck for a couple of hours in a fiesta in Granada, and then it was only for a moment, and the engine opened up absolutely cleanly as soon as we got clear of the traffic.
Soon after I got the car a rear-spring leaf was found to be broken. It was removed locally, and a new one made by a specialist firm, and has proved entirely satisfactory. The gear lever suddenly came loose in my hand, due to a small bolt shearing, but a call at Egham for a new one, which was instantly forthcoming, had the car mobile the next day. The overdrive refused to stay engaged, but this was an electrical fault remedied in a few minutes. The brakes have had new rubbers throughout, and the front exhaust pipes have been patched to take me through the winter, when new ones will have to be fitted.
This is the sum of repairs done. The car now has. just under 60,000 miles behind it, and goes as well as ever. Fuel consumption varies with use, 14 or so in town, though after three hundred miles up to Scotland in 5 1/2 hours, only 15 gallons filled the tank again. In 2,500 miles last summer through France, Spain and Portugal I just used up a gallon can of oil.
Yes, Mr. Thomas, I am sure you would enjoy a Ferrari, and you would probably find it reasonable to run. However. I suppose it is unwise to run any second-hand car that one could not afford to run when new. Any major work must he expensive, tyres cost a lot, insurance is heavy, and if you want to respray the car, a first-class job is essential, and so on. But then Life would be very dull if we only did the wise things!
In conclusion, may I say how much I enjoy Motor Sport. Apart from the War, I have hardly missed a copy for over forty years. Good luck to you, and thanks for all the pleasure you have given me.
Dunstable. G. E. Pinkerton, (Dr.).
Having owned two 250 GT Ferraris in recent years. I was puzzled by Mr. J. L. M. Cotter’s story of a 275 GT-B (closely related to the 250) which constantly oiled-up its plugs: this is something that a properly-set-up GT Ferrari virtually never does. Mr. Cotter suggests that the trouble may have been connected with his six-carburetter version of the engine, but I should have thought that this was very unlikely and would bet strongly on the fault having been somewhere in the ignition department. This is not to cast any slur on the excellent Marelli ignition equipment.
I bought my first 250 GT when it was seven-years-old, and it provided many thousands of miles of trouble-free motoring on long journeys across Europe and shorter traffic-clogged ones in UK. Except for the fault I mention below, the only plug trouble it ever gave was on one occasion when a contact breaker gap started to closeup due to my foolishly having allowed the cam lubrication pad to get dry. My present car, a 1960 short-wheelbase Berlinetta of more or less “competition” specification, is again entirely free from plug trouble: after ticking over or inching forward in prolonged traffic jams, it gathers way without even a perfunctory cough when asked to do so. Both cars, however, gave quite a lot of plug trouble when I first acquired them, and in each case this was due to electrical leakage, particularly in damp conditions, through the perished insulation of the plug leads which run in metal conduits. Once new leads had been fitted in an open harness and the conduits thrown away (which Ferrari and most other makers have now done) all plug trouble ceased. Perhaps this was one of the gremlins in Mr. Cotter’s car?
Kingston-upon-Thames. Claud Powell.
A belated contribution to the discussion of used Ferraris,
I bought my 1963 250 GTE from the estate of its elderly first owner (less than 14,000 miles in 5 years, much of it in traffic). I added another 4,000 miles, mostly long high-speed drives to remote spots like Sun Valley, Idaho, with the needle often 100-120 m.p.h. One day the bottom of the radiator split open (too little solder, apparently) and while I switched off before seize-up, two pistons (5 and 6) had started to disintegrate.
The engine was rebuilt by a mechanic who had never seen a Ferrari before hut had rebuilt Alfa’s, Porsche and even an Aston (which he considered the Ferrari engine far surpassed). New bearings from Vandervell, two pistons, all new rings were fitted. We found the clutch badly worn; also the tappet adjusters and the stem tips of some valves had suffered from being run too loose.
Two lessons emerged. The price of parts in the U.S. (and in England) is more than double the retail price in Italy. A gasket set cost about £20 in Italy, £45 in New York. It is worth waiting until friends can pick things up. Secondly, information is hard to come by and often inaccurate. No workshop manual in available. Different distributors have different numbers for torques. It took several months before the engine was reassembled and replaced. The exercise cost about £400. I believe it would have been twice as much (including freight) if shipped to an authorised repair place.
Subsequent to re-build the car has done another 3,000 miles and runs excellently. It has never oiled a plug (NKG’s are fitted). Top speed is 130 at 5,000 ft. above sea-level. Since power drops 2-3% per 1,000 this seems to coincide with the 143 mentioned in the instruction book.
I would hesitate to buy a new 12-cylinder Ferrari (should it be possible) because I suspect that outrageous repair costs are a deliberate policy to keep the car a status symbol of the rich. I am also discouraged by a factory which would not answer my request for torque information but sent instead the name of a non-existent dealer 2,000 miles away. Finally I suspect new Ferraris are more temperamental than the well-tried 3-litre engine, which has given me no trouble.
On the other hand I get more pleasure driving the Ferrari than any other sports car. Everything is exactly right about it—sound, smell, feel and looks. It satisfies every emotion. My Gullwing Mercedes was a more efficient car, but I always had to check the speedometer before approaching a corner because one couldn’t judge the speed. With the Ferrari you always know the speed without looking—just like a Vincent Black Shadow.
For everyday family use there is nothing in my view to beat a Mercedes, particularly the carburetter 280. It is the only make, of very many owned, that can only be replaced with another of the same.
Calgary, Canada. Rodney Touche.
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A Lotus S2 Europa in Canada
I notice that Lotus has not been mentioned in your correspondence columns for some time and I thought you may be interested in my experiences of two years with an S2 Europa in this isolated area of Canada. The car has been in daily use in my practice and I find it an extremely rapid means of transport on house calls! I have now completed almost 21,000 miles of very enjoyable and reliable motoring.
I must say I am amused sometimes to read the problems some of your correspondents have with British cars in England. Here, my nearest Lotus dealer is in Winnipeg, 450 miles away to the west and the main distributor is in Toronto-950 miles to the East. The Toronto company is Sportscars Unlimited and the Winnipeg firm—Burnell Motors. On the rare occasions that I have needed their assistance the service has been tremendous. A phone call and a part has been on the plane either the same day or the next.
Fortunately I have an excellent mechanic in the town who does routine servicing and repairs for me and the car has run excellently in the time that I have had it.
Our winters here are long from December through to April, and in January and February temperatures may drop to 20 or 30º below zero. On occasions with the wind drill factor this can be equivalent to 50 or 60º below zero. The car is fitted with a block heater and, of course is “plugged in” overnight in these conditions, but it has never failed to start and is used daily all through the winter.
In the time I have had the car the following repairs have been required: the bracket supporting the gearshift linkage re-welded twice, the second time considerably beefed up and adjusted properly, since then no problems and once set up properly the gear changing is not difficult. Anti-roll bar replaced and mountings beefed up—it broke twice at attachment points after fitting Koni shocks, and one new battery. These are all the problems I have had with the car, which in my opinion is excellent. Fortunately both times the gearshift failed I was in town and it was repaired the same day. I have used the car on long journeys of over 2,000 miles and I find it most restful over 600-700 miles a day—figures easily achieved on our traffic free roads in this part of the world.
I have only two complaints, in the winter the heater keeps the windshield defrosted and thats about all. Secondly, there is a dreadful draught that comes in around the accelerator pedal and in spite of closing off every orifice that I have been able to find, I have been unable to cure this. I am sure you realise the affects of this when driving in the winter.
If you or your readers have any answers to these two problems I would really appreciate hearing from them.
Thunder Bay, Canada. Robert E. Walker. MB., B.S., C.C.F.P.(C.)