Letters from readers

The Alfa 6

Sir,

I do hope that at the grand old age of 36 years I can look forward to many more years of driving my "old gentleman's" Alfa Romeo Alfa 6. Could it possibly be that one has to be that mature to appreciate a car that can be driven like a sports car but give all the creature comforts of an expensive limousine. 

Most cars have idiosyncrasies and the Alfa 6 has its fair share but the only one that I have discovered in the driving / handling department, which perhaps you have not experienced (you didn't mention it in your article), is that when driving on ice and snow covered roads with little or no resistance to the variable power steering you get a "dead" feeling in the steering which can be a bit disconcerting. 

Perhaps you would allow me to take up a few points that you mention in your article: you comment on the lack of a sunroof but if you get the settings on the air conditioning right there is absolutely no need for one. The door "keeps" that you miss are an integral part of the lower door-hinge, albeit not very strong, and the "electrickery" of door-locks as with the electric window-lifts ought to be exercised frequently as these things tend to pack up through not being used. I also miss the facility of a nearside door mirror, as much as I abhor the flimsy mountings of the bulky driver's door mirror which shakes rather than vibrates at high speed. 

You mention the position of the electric window switches (yes, they are too far back) but you don't mention the position of the heated rear window and rear fog lamp switches on the fascia which I find to be awkwardly placed in front of the steering wheel. My car also sports a tap in the engine — perhaps it should be there! — and my screen-washer bottle has never needed filling but I still get charged for screen wash additive at services. The speaker on my driver's door shakes loose and the cover frequently falls off when closing the door, but nothing else has fallen off or broken. All things considered, I can't find much to complain about. 

In the general running of my car, the plugs need to be changed at about 6,000 mile intervals and the brake pads at 5,000 on the front and 10,000 on the rear. I find it difficult to get more than 18 m.p.g.; perhaps this will improve an/get older, but I don't top up the oil between services and there are no obvious leaks from the engine gearbox. The front tyres were worn out at 13,000 miles but the back ones are still good. The velour trim seems to be coping well with the children and dog but the carpets always look grubby. 

I have enjoyed my year of motoring with the Alfa 6 and I don't think I would swap it for any other car in its price range except perhaps a manual version of the same car. It is, as you say, a sure-footed car which brings back the fun of motoring which is slowly disappearing with the concept of talking cars and flashing lights and dials that tell you that you are driving uneconomically or have not fixed your seat belt.

I hope that you continue to get as much pleasure from your "six" and look forward to a long term report.

Bill Lodge
Tallesbury 

[The latest checks on my Alfa 6 show 19.4 to 19.8 m.p.g.; Point about age taken but I do mainly long runs. On snow once I have lost all "feel" and the car as well for a few yards! My o./s. mirror is firm. At a reading of over 16,000 miles the Michelin XVS tyres show plenty of tread. No oil inured between servicing. Mr. Lodge and I seem to agree! — Ed.] 

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Road safety spending 

Sir,

Here are a couple of examples of the actions of local authorities resulting in a worsening of road safety at particular points. 

On the A316 at Twickenham, Middlesex. at the roundabout with the junction of the A3004, the approach from the west always had a good sight line, for seeing traffic already on the roundabout. Now, on the triangular island before the roundabout, has appeared a brick wall, apparently one day to contain a raised flower bed, but already sufficiently high to distract one's view of the approaching traffic. 

Meanwhile, near my home is a pedestrian crossing, with pedestrian-controlled traffic lights, which is used by children of all age groups on their way to and from school. Pedestrians and motorists have always acted responsibly, and I do not recall any accidents or other difficulty occurring. Now the local authority has seen fit to provide a "lollipop lady" here. This does not make it any safer for those who use the crossing, but it has meant that the older children, treated as adults for the rest of the day, now prefer to cross further along the road because they do not with to be shepherded by a lady with a "Stop Children" sign. A shade irresponsible on their part maybe, but that is what is happening.

I am sure there are many other examples but it seems a pity that local authorities, whose duty must surely be to improve road safety should by their lack of attention to detail be spending our money to such negative effect.

C. M. Ward 
Camberley 

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Healey in the Monte Carlo Rally 

Sir,

I refer to your article in the March issue — Looking back (light-heartedly) at the Monte Carlo Rally. I enjoyed it very much but I would like to point your attention to what I feel is a small mistake. You say that in 1934 Donald Healey fitted 9"-section Dunlop tyres to "the same type of 100 m.p.h. low-chassis Invicta" which he used in 1932. Fit oversize tyres he did, but not to the Invicta but to the new Triumph Gloria Monte Carlo (or was it to a car using the Southern Cross chassis and the new 1,232 c.c. engine prepared for the Monte Carlo model?) with which he achieved a creditable third place overall. In the 1934 Monte Carlo Rally seven Triumphs finished out of seven entered. 

Thank you for an excellent magazine (to which, following your recommendation, I have already obtained a subscription from a friend).

Madrid, Spain
Manuel Díez-Alegria

[I beg to suggest that we are both right. I quote from Graham Robson's book "An Illustrated History of Rallying" (Osprey, 1981): "The rules governing the eligibility for the rally itself, however, were not always very carefully written, with the inevitable result that cars became more freakish year by year. It was probably the irrepressible Donald Healey who started the rot in1932, when his Invicta appeared wearing the monstrous balloon tyres on special wheels; and by 1934, when he was working at Triumph and using their cars in competition, he was even having special bodies built as well." (My italics.) The dates became misquoted in my spiel, however, Healey winning with an Invicta in 1931, using oversize "boots" on one of these cars in 1932, and to finish first of the British cars, and on a Triumph in 1934. — Ed.]