MATTERS OF MOMENT, May 1975

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MATTERS OF MOMENT

• THANKS A MILLION, HEALEY!

The above heading could have been facetious, but is actually genuine, inasmuch as the Budget did not increase petrol tax or VAT on the purchase price of cars, either of which would have been a serious brake on the Motor Industry, which is so very much in need of aids to its recovery. On the other hand, the 60 increase in the so-called Road Fund licence from £25 to £40 will kill off car sales to some extent, such as plans for two-car families, etc., and it is vicious that a Budget that tried to discriminate between the lower-paid and the better-off in other fields imposed this savagely increased tax on all car owners, whether they are compelled to drive, for instance, a well-used A.30 or a Camargue.

To the small-car man doing about 10,000 miles a year economically it represents a rise of about 6p per gallon. Under the existing fuel conservation situation, a sliding scale rate would be far more equitable, like the RAC h.p. tax of the 1920s, but based on cubic capacity. As it is, the longpromised, short-term licences should be immediately implemented.

However, our thanks to Mr. Healey for not toying with the un-workable two-tier fuel tax, and presumably his 25′!„ increase in the cost of boats is an insurance against the heavily and so easily taxed motorist forsaking the road for the water.

• THE WHISPERING REVOLUTION

It is very sad that the BLMC has abandoned turbine-engine research in its Rover Division after attaining so much real breakthrough with private cars and, since 1967, building seven turbine-powered commercial vehicles that completed a total of 96,000 test miles before this this did not prevent a very interesting exhibition of Rover gas-turbine cars, called “The Whispering Revolution”, being opened at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry by Rover Triumph’s present Managing Director, Mr. Bernard Jackman, CEng., FIProd.E, ARAe.S, on March 21st. It will remain open to the public until May 19th, and some of the very significant project, too, was abandoned last year. However,

exhibits will become a permanent part of Coventry’s Transport and Industrial Collection. As one expects from Peter Mitchell, Senior Keeper of the Museum’s transport exhibits, an excellent display has been arranged, in a fairly confined space—the Museum is awaiting a move to new premises. Most interesting was the experimental Jeep-like car built by Spen King to try out a turbine. This vast unit lives in the back of a very crude open vehicle, built as much to test fourwheel drive and a new suspension system as gas-turbine propulsion. It is thought that the drive from the turbine normally went through the rear wheels but that if these began to spin on a slippery surface the drive automatically went to the front wheels as well. At all events, whereas the turbine apparently gave little trouble, the suspension and drive had to be the subject of experiment.

The next exhibit is the famous JET I Rover turbine car, on loan from the Science Museum in London. It is very largely a standard Rover 75 converted into an open car, with the turbine in the rear, decked over. In 1950 this car set a record of 151.965 m.p.h., gaining the RAC Dewar Trophy for the Rover Company. Mitchell has collected some excellent pictures depicting Rover gas-turbine development and those of JET 1 show that it was originally an open version of a “Cyclops” auntie-Rover, with two aero-screens. Afterwards a later radiator grille was used and a shallow Perspex full-width windscreen fitted. (Those enthusiasts seeking a fun-and-fresh-air car should not have too much difficulty in creating a less-professional replica in outward form, using any convenient P4 Rover saloon, with the top chopped off!) In fact, JET I was a three-abreastseater, using the front compartment only. The next exhibit is the T3 gas-turbine Rover coupe, built in 1956. It had the 4WD and the suspension developed in Spencer King’s “Jeep”, would exceed 100 m.p.h., and give 14.3 m.p.g. (of Continued on next page

paraffin) at 60 m.p.h. The finish of the fibreglass body is up to Motor Show standards and it is easy to see how the T3 influenced the later piston-engined V8 mid-engined Rover coupe that Lord Stokes refused to wean.

Next comes the Rover T4, that full-fourseater gas-turbine saloon, front-engined, with a very definite look of a Rover 2000 about it, which the Press were permitted to play with. Front-engined, with front-wheel-drive, it was announced in the autumn of 1961. The T4 would start from cold in 12 sec., had disc brakes and all-round independent suspension, and its two-turbine engine developed 141) b.h.p. This was a great Rover breakthrough—a practical road-going turbine car, along with the gas-turbine Chrysler saloon I drove at about this time. More exciting still are the Rover-BRM exhibits. In 1963 the Owen Organisation joined forces with Rover to build a gasturbine car for Le Mans, developing 150 b.h.p. at 40,000 r.p.m. It was not allowed to race as such, but gave a demonstration that was enormously impressive. Driven by Graham Hill and Ritchie Ginther, who had to master new techniques, it averaged 107.84 m.p.h. for 2,592 miles, bettering by 15 m.p.h. the target the AC de l’Ouest had set it. All that remains of this car, the bonnet-cum-front cowl, has been secured by Peter Mitchell and it hangs on the wall behind the 1965 Rover-BR/v1 gas-turbine car which, driven by Hill and Stewart, was the first British car to finish (of 15 finishers out of 51 starters), averaging 98.8 m.p.h. for 2,370.7 miles. It made ten pit-stops, used 176i gallons of paraffin (lowest fuel consumption in the race), three pints of oil, and required but one change of the rear brake pads and no tyre changes. A most convincing show, especially as two blades broke off the rotor within the first hour, as a cased exhibit shows. (There was no gasturbine Le Mans entry in 1964.) Other components on view include the ceramic heat exchangers that so improved gas-turbine-car

prospects, with millions of tiny gas passages in the disc. That for the first Rover-BRM was driven by a chain round its circumference and the problems of making an effective seal with its casing capable of restraining the pressures and temperatures involved can well be imagined.

Among the photographs setting off this interesting exhibition, which readers in or near Coventry are recommended to visit, was one that showed JET 1, the T3 and the T4 taking part in a demonstration at Silverstone at the same time, an episode that D.S.J. and I had forgotten and one that proves that these cars were kept in running order, as most of them still are. Between them they gave Rover three significant “firsts”—first to demonstrate a gas-turbine car, first to set a speed record with one, and the first to race one.

Altogether, a worthwhile if sad recalling of the traditional excellence of Rover engineering, and a tribute to men of the calibre of Maurice Wilks, Frank Bell and Spencer King.—W.B.

The Mille Midis

IN the June issue of MOTOR SPORT, 1955, D.S.J. recounted the story of his epic ride alongside Stirling Moss in the Mercedes 300 SLR to victory in the 1,000-mile Mine Miglia. This year D.S.J. has driven round the course in a Mercedes 450 SE reliving the race. A story and colour pictures reconstructing this famous drive of 20 years ago will appear in next month’s issue of MOTOR SPORT.

Jaguar VI2 fuel injection

AMONGST a series of Jaguar model announcements at the close of April was the exciting news that—at long last—the XJ Coupe is in production. Furthermore, the XJC-equipped with the V12 engine will have fuel injection (a Lucas-Bosch system) as standard fitment. Later this year 12-cylinder Jaguar saloons will also feature fuel-injection as part of production specification. Also announced is the return of the 3.4litre six-cylinder engine for economy-con

scious XJ customers. The XJ 3.4 will sell at £4,794.66 with the engine in the same basic trim as before (it was last used in 1968) but with a pair of 2-inch bore SU carburetters.

All XJ saloons come in L, long wheelbase form nowadays, and Daimler offer a range of counterparts to the Jaguar models. The Coupe prices begin at £5,480.28 and commence to £6,850.28 for the injected XJC 5.3.

The Class winners in the recent Total Economy Run were: Citroen 2CV6 : 53.8 m.p.g.; Honda Civic: 48.11 m.p.g.; Audi 80GT: 43.95 m.p.g.; Triumph Dolomite: 39.7 m.p.g. Of the modified cars a Hillman Imp achieved 54.28 m.p.g. and a Ford Escort 46.36 m.p.g.

The BLMC has announced prices for the range of 1800/2200 new AD071 cars. They are: Austin 1800, £2,117; 1800HL, £2,215; 220011L, £2,424. Morris, ditto. Wolseky 2200, £2,838.

The Jarrold “White Horse” Series of illustrated tour suggestions cover the Scott Country and Borders, the S. West Coast, the Dorset Coast and S. Snowdonia. They cost 20p, plus postage, from Barrach Street, Norwich, NR3 1TR.

The Brooklands Society is at present without a Secretary and there is the threat of a Motorway wiping out much of this uniquely historic landmark. Nevertheless, the annual Re-Union is to be held there, on June 29th.

Stagger the Cost

OPPORTUNELY in view of the increased road tax in the Budget and ever-increasing insurance premiums, the Bristol-based Hill House (Insurance Brokers) Ltd. have intro’ duced a scheme whereby the over-burdened motorist can pay both his motor insurance premiums and Road Fund licence by means of his Access or Bardlaycard credit card. Under the scheme the motorist, who is billed on his monthly credit card account, cast renew his existing insurance cover or transfel to a policy underwritten at Lloyds.

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