Letters from Readers, May 1981

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N.B. – Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them. – Ed.

Government Policy

Sir,

Many congratulations on winning the fight against a change in the Road Tax Disc system as laid out by the present Government.

Whatever motivates the minds of the people, said to be running this country? The official mouth organ said that a new form of tax collecting was needed to stop evasion. Just pretend that everyone agreed on that need. The sum evaded is about 70 million pounds. When spouted out by a bloated Conservative Minister that sounds a great deal but as a percentage of the total road tax, it is lost in the petty cash. A trifle. Which shows how honest the British Public is. The Government’s figure for road tax revenue to March ’81 is £7,071,000,000. As the Government only spends £2,230,000,000 on road works surely we should ask just whose integrity is being called into question. This Government and its Ministers are totally dishonest, at least about this subject. It is said that trucks, buses and cars do not pay their way, when Government’s own figures show that traffic makes a huge profit to the whole tax system. We can all rest in our beds now, safe in the arms of these decent, honest, upright Ministers. Of course these dirty trucks do not pay their way. The road fund must be increased (again). Then the Ministers stare in blank amazement when all the high street prices rise.

M. Potter

Hemel Hempstead, Herts

Alcohol Fuels

Sir,

The silly season is on us again. Your February ERA article notes Bill Morris’ comment that his ERA runs on alcohol and does not use up the nation’s hard won petrol. Last year Mark Thatcher was talking about using Japanese sponsorship in a car which ran on methanol. His star seems to have waned, maybe Mum explained the facts of energy to him.

In principle there is nothing wrong with using either ethyl alcohol (commonly called alcohol) or methyl alcohol (commonly called methanol) in an appropriately-designed “Special” engine. In fact there can be real advantages in particular instances and a number of engine designers have recognised this. However, ethanol, which was originally manufactured by fermentation of sugars, but is currently produced from crude oil fractions, and methanol which was obtained from the destructive distillation of wood but has of recent years again been produced from crude oil fractions, are both energy intensive in production regardless of route. This means that the energy associated with the starting materials, plus the energy required for conversion, is in excess of the energy available from the finished product. As the energy used in production comes from crude oil, where is the saving in the current processes? Even with the traditional methods of production, there is a net loss of energy as the heat required for distillation of the crude product of either fermentation or destructive distillation is considerable.

It is for this reason that the much vaunted gasohol projects, i.e. the use of alcohol petrol mixtures for fuels for internal-combustion engines, are under serious review. Considerable effort is being directed towards heat conservation in the conversion of the crude alcohols into usable products.

This discrepancy is further demonstrated by the marginal cost differences which you mention. The heavy duty/taxation on petrol is ignored, so is the difference in m.p.g. Hence the more expensive basic cost of the alcohol contained in gasohol and related fuels or straight alcohol fuels is to some degree masked.

Could I therefore plead the silly season ends.

Eric Warde

Newent, Glos.

Wanted – More Richard Smiths!

Sir,

I feel I must pass comment on your editorial in the March issue regarding Richard Smith’s end to end marathon from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Richard Smith is not going to climb Everest, he is not going to either the North Pole or the South Pole or to some dark unchartered jungle. His Everest is the physical stamina and mechanical endurance required on his part and his car’s part by travelling this marathon.

Richard Smith is showing a characteristic unfortunately so sadly lacking in this country today (i.e. he is prepared to do something), take on a challenge, take on a battle and have a go. If more people like him in this country felt this way we would be a much better country today.

We in the Veteran Car Club are doing everything we can to support Richard Smith on his worthwhile venture, knowing full well that he will have a great deal of satisfaction if he achieves his aim and above all else British heart Foundation will be a considerable amount of money better off.

Don’t denigrate his effort, let’s support it; with more Richard Smiths we would all be better off.

D.R. Grossmark, President VCC

Ashwell, Herts.

[I am at a loss to understand this rebuke from the President of the VCC. I made a story out of Richard Smith’s proposed brave End-toEnd drive in an 82-year-old Benz, but why an Editorial in Motor Sport devoted to it, asking supporters to note it would aid the British Heart Foundation, is regarded as derogatory, I fail to see. – Ed.]

“A” Series XSP engines

Sir,

Could I, through your columns, make a plea for help from your knowledgeable readership?

After what mostly seems like luck, some diligent reading, ‘phone calls and delivery trucking, I find myself with three of the BMC ” A” Series nitided crank XSP works engines, as developed by Morris Engines at Coventry, and used in Cooper Formula Juniors, Sebring & Le Mans Sprites: one a 948 38’ stroke, one a 1098 small mains (which I believe is the same part number crank used supercharged in the Sprite World record breaker) and the third, a 999 short-stroke of 2.438″, otherwise identical to the 970 Cooper ‘S’.

The first of these came from a Sebring Sprite in Windsor, the second a Le Mans Sprite in Sheffield, but the third comes from Doc Shepherd’s A40, alas without the car, and with the deliciously shining and unmarked crank having survived smashing a cam-follower through the tuning chest and eating the relevant “S” valve and pushrod. This last is proving to be a headache!

I have in mind circuit racing in a BMC saloon; and the 948 is no problem, being of standard stroke for Classic Saloon Car racing, the 1098 I’m less worried about, but what on earth can I use this ultimate “A” Series 1-litre for?

It has enough potential still for any but the most horrendous 1-litre Special Saloon, but I would prefer to use it in a replica, or at least a less Special” saloon, especially as appropriate cars are themselves tending to be modified less bodily now with the passage of time (thanks in no small way to the Classic Saloon Car Club, despite the “banger-racing” tag).

In addition to appreciating any recollections of the development origins of these 1–1.1-litre XSP engines and this 999 in particular, its history with its previous owner and car, which I believe was a works Alpine Rally entry (original specifications, performances, rev. limits, numbers produced and in what vehicles), I would be pleased if anyone could suggest any classes and clubs which might welcome this engine in a suitably competitive saloon. It would be rather sad to relegate it to a road engine; almost sadder to run it with the profiled anonymity of the modern Special Saloons Circuit.

J.D. Coates

Worcester

Motor Sport Crystal Ball

Sir,

As a reader of Motor Sport for over 25 years, one thing I enjoy doing is to pull out an old copy and read through it again. The following comes from January 1972 issue (at 15p a copy). “Matters of Moment, a sports car revival” — the article discusses open sports cars and closes by saying “British Leyland have the monopoly of not-fabulously-expensive sports cars in the old tradition. We hope they capitalise on this. It would be a sad day if sports MGs and Triumphs ceased to be made. Presumably the Morgan, a true sports car, will continue for ever.”

And in a letter from D.J. Anderson talking of quality, I read “looking at the beautifully finished cars which are becoming an even more common sight on British roads I cannot help remembering that 20 years ago the British motorcycle industry led the world. Now it is gone because it could not stand up to the challenge of the superior Japanese machines.”

The crystal ball that “Motor Sport” and its readers used in January 1971 seemed to be working well.

D.J. Jennings

Hinckley, Leicestershire

Anglo American Bastards

Sir,

I have been a reader of Motor Sport since before WWII and have been tempted many times to write.

The article on number plates — DPA 231 on the Railton finally prompted me.

I am thinking of these Anglo-American hybrids (bastards is a little too coarse), such as Railton, Brough Superior, Allard, Lammas, Graham and Jensen.

Who first conceived the idea and which was the first?

One of my cars is a 1974 Jensen Interceptor Mk. III. which I found in Edmonton in 1974 with only 1,000 miles recorded. This car had been carefully stored for five years, but now is in daily service.

There have been several hybrids since the war but which, I wonder, was the first.

Dr. B.J. Ellam, MD

Calgary, Canada

Arctic Enthusiasm

Sir,

Whilst working in Akureyri in Northern Iceland recently, I expressed an interest in vintage cars. The Old Boy’s Network went immediately into action and within half an hour I was informed that I would be picked up the next evening and taken to see some old cars. At the appointed time I was picked up by two members of the local motor club and we proceeded on our way.

First stop was to see a Citroen Type 11 r.h. drive (Iceland changed from r. h. to I.h. drive in 1968). Next stop a 1950s Ford 100E Thames van very complete. Husband only having had the car a week or so was making a very good job of replacing the floor pan, wife complaining of never seeing husband (how often have we heard that?). We then went off to a large garage with a very complete Vauxhall 14. This car having recently been found in a field buried up to the axles. Unfortunately the Club Chairman had been taken ill but had his immaculately turned out Ford in the drive awaiting us.

On to visit the Clubhouse purchased with the profits of a rally. It is an old building with room enough for six cars, space is rented to members. A photo album was produced showing events organised, rallies, trials, sprints, etc. The previous weekend a driving test had been held on the local ice rink.

All this in a town with under 20,000 people. I should like to hope that the same welcome would be forthcoming if ever these lads come over to UK.

R. Hughes

Slough, Bucks

[This enthusiasm in far off places always fascinates us. We have had similar stories from Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malta. — Ed.]

Tame Formula One

Sir,

I was interested in the letter from Mr. C.S.F. Hole, on page 423 of the April issue of Motor Sport, regarding the undulating French road where the Boulogne Speed Trials were held, and his comments on Segrave doing 140.6 m.p.h. in 1926. Some years ago I did 120 m.p.h. on that road in an E-Type Jaguar and later I did 90 m.p.h. along it on a 750 c.c. BMW motor-cycle. On both occasions my heart was in my mouth and I had the greatest respect for Segrave’s performance and could appreciate his remark about being frightened in the Sunbeam.

Referring to Mr. Hole’s last paragraph about modern Grand Prix racing seeming tame in comparison, I cannot agree. Last year I stood at the end of the Mistral Straight on the Paul Ricard circuit and watched Formula One cars entering the right hand bend at 180 m.p.h. ( Ligier) and 196 m.p.h. (Renault) with others in between, these speeds being visible on a beam speed-trap read-out on the edge of the track. When Pironi went through the corner without visibly lifting his foot, it was not tame. I was physically moved by the spectacle and found it as stirring as Mr. Hole must have found Segrave and the Sunbeam.

Unfortunately, in these “safety conscious” days the public are not allowed to stand on the edge of the track and in spite of the electronic-age in which we live, no-one thinks of letting the public know that speeds of 200 m.p.h. are being approached by Formula One cars, or letting them see such speeds close enough to appreciate them. I am very pleased to be among the favoured few.

D.S. Jenkinson

Crondall, Hampshire 

Road Racing

Sir,

If the Authorities can close 26 miles of London’s streets on a Saturday once a year for 7,000 competitors in a race watched by a million, (not to mention further street closures for Lord Mayor’s Shows and Royal Weddings) then surely no one could object to using the roads in one of our Parks for a motor race occasionally?

Brian Joscelyne

Braintree, Essex