Matters of moment, May 1977

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That vicious budget

We have been used to anti-motoring Budgets in the past, when a Government has required some ready finance. But the Denis Healey Budget in a time of liberal Socialism, was unexpectedly vicious. We have been accustomed to petrol-tax rises of a new penny or so, but 5p extra a gallon, and £10 on the so-called “road tax” in addition, is a hard rap at all road-users. To increase the duty on diesel-fuel and raise the tax of already very heavily-burdened commercial vehicles is a move that cannot avoid putting up commodity prices all round, at that everyone, down to aid-ago pensioners, must suffer.

It is all very well to argue that petrol is practically at the equivalent of £1-per-gallon in other European countries. Their cost-of-living is higher than Britain’s, which renders comparison invalid. That Denis Healey, apart front making April fools of most sections of the community, has a down on the road-user and the car-owner was very apparent from the manner in which petrol prices rose within an hour of his Budget speech and it was announced that tho £50-per-annum tax would come into force from midnight that day – as if anyone could tax a car at that time of the night whereas a few days’ grace was allowed in the case of other price rises.

Motor Sport is not concerned with politics unless these affect motorists. So we are not able to say whether the slight income-tax concessions waved before our noses by the Labour Chancellor will be acceptable against rises in food and other commodity prices, Rate increases, and to on. But we do see that it is Nation-saving common-sense for the Unions to accept the requested pay-restraints to allow inflation, hopefully, to be reduced to a tolerable level. It does not seem to make sense to us, when British Leyland is nearly strangled and foreign-car imports are booming, to further load the burden carried by all car-owners. It may well be, as we have predicted before, that car sales, both new and used, will decrease, as people turn to other, less viciously-taxed, leisure pursuit, such as gardening (garden equipment is now it big Industry), model-making, improving their homes, and buying the kind of Hi-Fi musical apparatus that our Advertising Department ensures that Motor Sport describes and illustrates. Or you may become a drinker, for, apart from beer, the Chancellor has left duty on the hard-stuff alone, while penalising savagely the car-owner, thereby changing the slogan “Don’t Drink and Drive” to “Drink, for you cannot afford to Drive”.

This vicious anti-motoring Budget has brought one ray of hope, though. We have often suggested that the votes of the car-owner and every road-user arc worth cultivating, as representing millions of citizen, who until now have been more or less ignored by the various Political parties. Yet immediately following the Budget speech we had the Shadow Chancellor saying that Healey’s proclamation was strongly anti-motorist and we have the Liberal Party opposing Labour’s petrol-price increases. At last, it seems, all of us who pay dearly to get out on the roads, either for pleasure or to earn a living, and who have to endure ever-increasing costs, concealed radar-traps, endorsed-licences for petty offences, delays in being able to licence our cars, etc. etc., have become of some significance to those who want our votes. Let us press the advantage home. And, as a final thought on an unpalatable subject, let as hope fervently that wage restraint will work for a little longer, to give the present Government at least a chance to get us out of the inflationary bog. But whether this happens or not, let us agree that the Police, whom the motorist may not love all that much at times, nevertheless deserve a pay-increase, equally with those who so readily institute industrial strikes to achieve them. Because the British policeman does a fine job in times of riots and football matches; and never before has the maintenance of Law and Order in this little community been of greater importance.

A club record attempt

The Pre-War Austin 7 Club recently put on an ambitious bid to secure such records in Class 4, Category .5, Group 1 (which used to by, more simply, International Class H) as were thought to be within the compass of a vintage 747c.c. Austin 7. This was a worthwhile exercise, properly observed and timed by the RAC, and demanding a high standard of organisation. It was appropriate that an Ulster Austin was involved, because it was with a blown Ulster Austin that S. C. H. Davis and Charles Goodacre broke Class H records of up to 12 hours and to, 10,000 kilometres at Brooklands in 1930. But what a pity that Chris Gould’s 1930 Austin which made the attempt had a replica plastic body and was otherwise non-original.

Not that such considerations affect record-breaking as such; the aim was to set a 10,000-mile figure, never established in this class, and to net such other records on the way as were within reach of a 46-year-old 750c.c. car. The World’s 10,000-mile record was clearly out of reach, as it belongs to Citroen at 89.71 M.p.h.

There is so little interest in record-bids these days that this attempt drew much interest and Sammy Davis, Goodacre, Edge and other Austin personalities were at the start, the replica Austin being flagged away by the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, as the bid was put on at Goodwood. A banked track would have been more appropriate but Brooklands has gone and maybe Montlhery and Monza were also unavailable. Sponsorship came from British Leyland, Avon, Wadham Stringer, Petrofins, Mark Samn Road Markings, Filton Surveys, Cornelius Chemicals, Champion, Bermotor Ltd. and Chubb Fire. Unfortunately, the objective was not realised, as engine trouble intervened. However, subject, official confirmation, Class records for 1,000 km. and 5,000 km. were established (the International Class H 1,000-km. record stands to the credit of MG, at 88.36 m.p.h., the equivalent 5,000 km. record to Simca, at 64.11 m.p.h.; but categories seem to have changed). Another bid by the Austin, when its engine has been de-tuned for reliability, is pending, we understand.

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