Last February Motor Sport published a colour feature devoted to our staff’s idea of what constitute ideal pairs of cars. This created so much interest that correspondence on the subject appeared in the two subsequent issues and it now becomes my pleasant task to summarise some of the very large number of remaining letters.
Thus, while the Continental Correspondent was sorting through a pile of post telling him when and why readers had lost interest in Grand Prix racing (or, as he explained last month, more likely that they have not lost interest) I was wading through another stack of correspondence concerning ideal pairs of cars. I was so busy doing this that I did not have time to tell D.S.J. that my interest in the highest form of motor racing diminished when drivers ceased to be “characters” of great courage and determination, at driving as well as making money, and when racing became far more a case of sponsor against sponsor than marque versus marque—but I digress.
Going through these “pairs” letters I can say with D.S.J. that the very high volume of readers’ letters which Motor Sport receives is of the greatest interest and satisfaction, even though only a small proportion can be printed. Not only is a large post a measure of the success of a magazine—any magazine or paper—but from it an editor can learn much, if he takes the time to read all the letters he receives, regardless of how many he has room to publish. Sometimes, as an extension of this, one subject creates so much interest that it is worthwhile to summarise the correspondence received, although to publish every letter in full would occupy an unreasonable amount of space. So, to our pairs, or rather our readers’ choice of two-car pairings.
Letting our overseas readers speak first, a lecturer in Engineering in Botswana (what a pity I do not collect stamps!) has as his ideal pair two cars he says are tailored for his part of Africa and yet remain within a limited budget, namely a 1957 Series-1 s.w.b. Land Rover and a Citroën DS19. The Land Rover was bought two years ago ex-Ministry and brought out from England and the Citroën was purchased from a colleague. This reader says that the former vehicle has given excellent service, although often having to carry 50 or 60 gallons of petrol and similar quantities of water and much camping equipment on safari. Front-wheel-drive is almost essential, he says, in the Kalahari desert and 52 miles in bottom gear over rough going does not upset this rugged vehicle. “The Citroën provides more civilised motoring, is large enough for shopping trips with a wife and three small daughters, is fast enough to give very high average speeds on the magnificent roads of S. Africa”, yet its “sophisticated suspension system irons out bumps on the dirt roads very well indeed”. Spare parts are expensive but not many have been needed, although the car has done 64,000 miles.
Next, let’s hear from an enthusiast in Denmark, who owns a Jowett Javelin and a Citroën GS estate-car. He remarks that both are intelligent designs, and recalls the 1952 Jowett advertisement which read: “The Javelin is a waste of money if you don’t care what a car does”. He chose the estate version of the GS because it “is so handy when you have two children who tend to sleep on the way home”. Incidentally, the previous correspondent is contemplating a Gilbern Invader on his return home this summer and asks for comments. Now for the ideal pair owned by a United States Air Force officer commanding a Transportation Squadron in Suffolk. He has a 1973 Ford Cortina GT 2000 and a 1973 Triumph Spitfire 1500, saying that the Ford gives enjoyable and reliable family transportation and the Spitfire has the American specifications so that it can be enjoyed in England but will be suitable for taking home to the States. Whether D.S.J. approves or not, most of our readers are family men who have to have at least one big car—but this need not lead to stodginess, a letter writer from Durham using a 4.2 Jaguar Mk. 10 for driving four-up to motor races, for holidays and the week-end runs, etc. but pairing it with a Norton motorcycle on which he also goes to race meetings, with his 17-year-old son on the back . . .
From another enthusiast we learn of a Lawrence-modified Morgan Plus-Eight and a Reliant Scimitar GTE, explained by the reader and his wife being hoteliers eight miles from Snetterton, which gives the gentleman his interest in sporting motoring while his wife, who is the lady chef, requires a quick and commodious car for shopping at the nearest warehouse, 20 miles distant. A vintage flavour comes into the picture with a 1930 12/50 Alvis Cross & Ellis tourer which has a 1971 Volvo 145S as its Macclesfield stable-mate. This reader says he wanted a 12/50 Carbodies two-door sports saloon, but couldn’t find one, paired with a Lotus Europa, but that the Europa was far too small, so he got an MG-B GT, changed for the Volvo with increases in family. He remarks that both his present cars have biggish engines with bags of torque and display sensible engineering—and the tale ends happily, because he has discovered most of the saloon 12/50 he covets.
Next, a letter bursting with enthusiasm, from S. Africa, where the writer has shelved his ideal of a Porsche Carrera RS Touring and a Ford Granada with 5-litre VA engine (available from Basil Green of Edenvale) but uses with great satisfaction a Peugeot 404 for business (his wife’s favourite) and a Ford Escort with 2-litre o.h.c. Cortina engine and other sporting mods, the latter sold for £1,340 by the aforesaid Basil Green, who puts the big Cortina engine in BDA Escorts, of which, apparently, about 100 were imported but only a very few sold with the twin-cam engine. The ultimate gambit is to have the Cortina power unit upped to some 148 b.h.p, by Super-formance of Jo’burg, using a 3.44 diff. They are keen out there—this letter mentions a Mazda RX-2, the handling of which on dirt and tarred roads was frightening but which is being tuned with a possible 170 b.h.p. in mind . . . .
A contrasting pair from Lechlade is a 1972 Ford Mustang Mach 1 with the intermediate 351 cu. in. engine and 4-speed gearbox, and a 1971 VW Beetle. Total cost, approx. £2,000 and if the Mustang gives only 14 m.p.g., there is the consolation that back in the States fuel will cost only the equivalent of 16p per gallon. To combine vintage-like, comfortable, commodious fresh-air travel on a modest budget a Sittingbourne reader uses a 1973 Ford Granada GXL and a refurbished pale blue 1962 Mercedes-Benz 190SL with hard and soft-tops. Outlay: about £3,000.
From Chorleywood comes news of a Peugeot 504TI paired with a Jowett Jupiter, giving a combination of a huge, reliable, quiet and comfortable business saloon and an openable fun-car able to tour at 10-85 m.p.h. in top—but it’s being restored at present, after 21 years and 385,000 miles. A girl from Edgware writes of a 1933 Austin 7 bought for £20 and restored in a year for an additional £60, which now gives 40 m.p.g. of 2-star, parks easily on shopping trips with the baby’s carrycot in the back (I shall probably have to hold D.S.J. down!) and which is named “Lady Clementine” after Lady Churchill, as being a dependable, characterful and beautiful lady. For business the husband has Gilberns, having had a Piper-tuned Genie and two Invaders, The present Mk. II gives 27 m.p.g. and a commendable flexibility and performance from its 3-litre Ford V6 engine. The Austin gets a good spares-service from the firm at Kirby Wiske and Gilbern Cars are reported as being very helpful. One who lives in the country at Great Dunmow has paired a 1970 Volvo estate and a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB4. He says the cost was £5,100, which would have been under £9,000 new, which he considers superior to our choice of “that nasty Kraut duo”. Having tried all the BMWs except the Alpina, this correspondent prefers the Ferrari, which, with only 12,000 miles on the engine when bought last year, never wets plugs or overheats, even in the North Circular and M1 traffic jams.
A reader living in the country near Leeds but having considerable Motorway driving to do has added a Renault 5TL to ownership of a rebuilt 1951 Alvis Tickford d/h, not having been deterred by earlier experience of an Alvis Grey Lady coupé which boiled going down hill but not up and exuded oil from the top of its steering column going over Alpine passes. He says that his wife, who drove fast in E-type and Mercedes SL, “is quite in love with the Renault as a second car”. It gives at least 35 m.p.g., with no insurance loading. This letter concludes: “My father had a 2-cylinder Renault in 1908 and that was a good car, too”. Alvises figure in the next letter I picked out—a 1959 3-litre saloon owned since 1961 and an open Speed 25 which left the factory in August 1940 and was bought in 1960. The idea here is obviously to have an open and a closed car. The same applies to a doctor in Herts., who uses a very basic 1970 VW 1200 as a hack and for towing a 20-foot sailing sloop, and a Morgan 4/4 for fun, the latter replacing a Mk. III Sprite. When bought, these gave some change out of £2,000. The doctor’s wife finds the Morgan comfortable on long runs and the VW has covered 50,000 miles in three years with no real problems. A Cheshire reader with 20,000 miles of mixed commuting and long runs to do each year, living five miles from a station, with three young children, solved the problem with a used MG Midget and a new Peugeot 204 estate. Both fun, both reliable, the MG used 10% less petrol; restricted engine-compartments made home-maintenance difficult on both cars. The advent of a business Triumph Dolomite killed the next development—acquisition of an open MG-B with overdrive and a Peugeot 304 estate. Given a £10,000 budget this person would go for a Dino Ferrari (if a set of golf-clubs would go in) and a Peugeot 504 Family estate, hoping to have enough change for the insurance.
From Yorkshire comes a one-make pair, namely an Alfa Romeo 1750 Gran Sport Spider with coachwork by Brianza of Milan and an Alfa Romeo 1600 Sprint Speciale with Bertone bodywork, which their owner thinks “will take some beating”. Next, a letter not so much about pairs as replying to a correspondent who asked what car could replace his open Sunbeam Alpine. The suggestion is, a VW convertible, and this Derbyshire reader and his wife own a VW 1300 and a VW 1500 and have nothing but praise for Beetles. I was pleased to find a letter from Mr. A. L. Baker, whose father won the last Brooklands race. He has an Aston Martin coupé and an Austin-Healey, both on AL registrations, the former six years and 16,000 miles old, the latter 13 years and 14,000 miles used. His second pair comprises a Citroën Safari and a 1926 6-1/2-litre Bentley with special two-seater body, tuned to about the limit, “which if nothing else brings back the aroma of Brooklands” . . . .
What else? Well, there is a 1954 Riley RME paired with the wife’s 1966 Morris Minor 1000 estate used in a country area of Somerset, both used cars, total outlay £525 when bought respectively 3-1/2 and five years ago, while someone in Cheltenham recommends an Austin Ruby for road use and occasional trials, coupled with a season-ticket with the Bristol Omnibus Co., which shows a saving of £2,400 on a reader’s pairing in the March Motor Sport. This could, it is suggested, be donated to the “Car Salesmen’s Benevolent Fund” or used as down payment on a vintage Bentley! Then we have, in Oldham, a Volvo 144 Automatic and a Fiat 805 sports-coupé, both 1969 cars bought second-hand, the Volvo taut, reliable and used for towing both a goods trailer and a boat trailer. Another writer mentions very good service in Nairobi from a Fiat 124 coupé and a VW Kombi but in England has been using a Fiat 126 1300 coupé and a 1965 Norton 650 SS. He lists five “pros” and seven “cons” for the Fiat, since sold.
Many of the Pairs Letters were about what would be purchased if Ernie or Littlewood’s or the forgotten will turned up trumps. Our correspondents’ dreams are mainly about Dino Ferrari, V8 Aston Martin, Lotus Elan and Range Rover. Fair enough, because we founded our pictured pairs on day-dreams. For instance, I have not got a 30/98 Vauxhall and will have to make-do with a much-worn 1924 12/20 Calthorpe, although I am now using a Ford Consul 3000 GT. The Continental Correspondent is practising what he preaches with an E-type Jaguar and a 750-c.c. Norton Commando. Some readers felt that two cars were not enough, one quoting a three-car stable of Bentley Continental, VW Caravanette and Triumph Spitfire Mk. IV, another (with his brother) a recent four-car stable, consisting of Jaguar XJ6, Dino Ferrari, Jaguar E-type V12 and Mercedes-Benz 280SL. Mr. N. H. Fowler of Lincoln says he is pleased I voted for a 30/98, as he would like his old one (E-373) back, although doubting its practicability in modern traffic, but that for less than £1,500 he could be happy—with his present 1970 VW 1500 backed up by a 1969 VW Variant A. What is clear is that lots of families think in terms of more than one car, and that Volkswagens go on appealing to many.
What has pleased me about these interesting letters is the proof that so many of our readers enjoy their motoring, at whatever price-level, and obviously intend to go on doing so in the face of encroaching restrictions—like, for instance, compulsory crash helmets for ordinary motorcyclists. This reminds me that when told that crash-hats might become compulsory for racing, way back in the ‘twenties, the late J. G. Parry Thomas is said to have retorted “If they do. I shall wear mine on my arm”. (I think that, in spite of his nasty accident at Boulogne, the only time he did wear one was in the GP Sunbeam at Montlhéry, perhaps out of deference to Segrave, to whom he was acting as co-driver (another ideal pair?) in conditions of abnormal ice, rain, hail, snow and fog. (Someone will now write in to remind me of how Thomas met his tragic end, of course . . . .!).—W. B.