Letters From Readers (Continued), September 1952
Fiat Facets Sir, I was interested to read your article "Fiats in Mayfair" in the…
Twelve months ago I made a business trip which took me as far north as Tongue and completed in all a little under 2,000 miles in nine days. I returned so enthusiastic about the Jupiter that I felt I had better let a few weeks pass before I wrote about my experiences, lest I be carried away and exaggerate in singing the praises of this wonderful little thoroughbred. When I finally wrote them they were crowded out, our Editor being unable to find space.
Twelve months passed very quickly, and, with the speedometer showing 24,000 miles, we started off on the same trip. Safely home again, I am even more enthusiastic than before.
First, however, let me relate some of my experiences with the youngest member of the Jowett family.
A heavy shower of rain had fallen and the sun was just beginning to shine through as I caught sight of my red Jupiter standing in the market-place at Stamford, quietly waiting for me. My first impression was, “You little beauty!” and as time has gone by that first impression has grown until for me it is the prettiest car on the road.
The drive back to London was taken quietly, and proved uneventful—then a period of quiet running took the speedometer along to 2,000 miles. Only then did I start to push the rev.counter beyond 3,500 r.p.m. It must be remembered that this Jupiter was one of the first to come from the Jowett factory, and I decided to return it to Bradford for a general overhaul at about 3,500 miles; so, at 7 o’clock one very beautiful spring morning, the Editor and I left for Bradford. The speedometer seldom dropped below 30 m.p.h. and we soon realised that this little car was making really exciting headway so we pushed along a little faster but never exceeding 5,500 revs. Then, just before Stamford, the engine began to falter, and finally we came to rest by the roadside a few miles on the London side of Stamford. Obviously the engine was starved of petrol. I have no explanation as to why I did it, but I walked to the back of the car and released the filler cap at the back — a small “plop” startled me, and I quickly realised that the quick-release cap fitted so tightly that it had formed a vacuum. Drilling two small holes has since made certain that we are never caught like that again. Only a few minutes were wasted and on we sped, and at 9.50 we were five to ten miles the Bradford side of Doncaster when I thought the car had disintegrated! Several very loud bangs and violent shaking of the floor boards, and a large bump appeared on the beatitiful red bonnet, and the Editor shouted. “For God’s sake, stop!” In a flash, the ignition was switched off and the gears disengaged. As we were travelling at very nearly 90 m.p.h. when it happened, this easy-running little car quietly drifted a very long way before dying by the side of-the road, but we were at least a little nearer Bradford. Quite honestly, I expected to see the engine in pieces and was surprised at not seeing a trail of parts in the driving-mirror. However, when the bonnet was lifted, we saw that the fan had come adrift, hit the underside of the bonnet — hence the bump—and then out of the bottom. Our luck was in, for although it had severed several wires and pipes, nothing vital was touched and the radiator was undamaged. When the fan belt was taken off, the car was cranked (the starter being quite dead), and started straight away. Driving quietly, with the water temperature well up, we proceeded to Bradford, reaching the works at about 11.30 a.m.
Very shortly, the car was ready for the road, and we drove to Bradford to collect it in a very lively Javelin, arriving at the works only 3 hr. 55 min. after leaving Romford.
The large bump on the bonnet had been smoothed out and after a short run round the local roads with the tester, a quick glance at the factory and lunch, we left about 3 p.m., expecting to be back in London not later than 7 o’clock—perhaps 6.30. Before we reached Doncaster, an ominous knock started and, although the oil pressure was well up, so was the oil temperature, we decided to stop at the next garage to check oil and water. This we did, and to my amazement one quart of oil was needed to satisfy the dipstick. Out on the road again, only a further ten miles completed, a most “sickening” knock developed in a matter of seconds to a rhythmic thud and we had no big-ends. We had to press on but, oh! what a miserable drive and it was 11 p.m. when Romford was reached, and anyone was welcome to the Jupiter by just taking it away.
Several months went by and at last the little red car was delivered to the office, with the remarks: “You’ll find her all right now— we know the answer to flying fans, blown gaskets and big-ends — you won’t have any more trouble.” By the time 4.500 miles had been completed, the gasket blew again and the front tyres were bald, and as the back tyres showed practically no wear, it was obvious that the tracking was at fault. I was getting a little “browned-off” for, after all, I had paid a lot of hard-earned money for this car and even the most optimistic would have to admit that I had been in trouble!
August, 1951, saw the speedometer clocking 6,000 miles and the modifications that had been made looking as if they were going to be successful. The new tyres on the front were showing signs of a little unnecessary wear, but by now Jowett’s had the answer to correct tracking and the necessary adjustments were made. Twelve months have quickly slipped by and the speedometer reads 25,750 miles, the last 20,000 being very nearly trouble free — 20,000 hard miles, for all of them have been completed in the service of Motor Sport—trials in the West country, hill-climbs in the North, large and small race meetings, and speed trials at very nearly every track in England and Scotland. Thousands of miles in torrential rain, snow and fog, and most of them in darkness. Never once has the little red Jupiter failed to get us to the meeting—never once has it failed to get us home again. The Lucas equipment has never failed to excite the engine, announce our presence, and light our way, although we favour the small Marchal spot and fog-lights. Dunlop tyres, 5.50 on the front and 5.75 on the back, have never failed us, and the Girling Mintex-lined brakes have always just managed to stop us in time. Hundreds of interesting incidents rush to mind but space allows for one only, that already referred to.
One Thursday morning, at 9.50, we left for a visit to the Ferodo works at Chapel-en-le-Frith, arriving at the Palace Hotel, Buxton, at 1.10 p.m. After a wash and brush-up and a very good lunch, we went to fulfil our appointment and a very enjoyable afternoon was had. The very fulfilling of this appointment reminds me of one of the strongest points that makes the Jupiter such a favourite for the business man.
One is able to put on a cap, muffler and gloves and enjoy the exhilaration of an open sports car and, by Jove! only those who have experienced it know the thrill. Then, having reached the town, one can put up the hood, wind up the windows, and go about one’s business in the town in what is virtually a closed car. A very enjoyable evening and first-class service at the Palace sent us on our way in a very good frame of mind. Up past Holme Moss television aerial, all, except a few feet of the bottom and the top (funnily enough), shrouded in thick mist. Through Huddersfield and Leeds, joining the A1 at Wetherby, leaving it just after Scotch Corner, and then into Scotland by what I think is the most impressive route, A68 over Carter Bar. We mustn’t forget the old-world Wellington Hotel, Riding Mill, where the service and lunch were fit for a king. Arriving at Edinburgh about 4.30 we found that Queen Elizabeth was already there and the town full, and wherever we went we received the same answer, “No room at the inn.” So we pushed on to Linlithgow but, before reaching it, we saw a large white house high up to our right and were admiring its position when a small board announced it as Bonsyde Hotel. We took the last room and enjoyed our stay, leaving Sunday morning after completing our business at Bo’ness. Through the Trossachs, with the sun blazing its welcome, unbelievably beautiful and peaceful— lunch was taken at Tchailoch Hotel, beside the loch—then on to spend the rest of the day and night at Killiecrankie. Mine host of the Killiecrankie Hotel has created an atmosphere of delicate charm and we were sorry to leave at 8.30 on the Monday morning, climbing to 1,500 feet through Glen Garry to Kingussie and on to Inverness. It pays handsomely here to drive back along the west shores of Loch Ness to Drumnadrochit and then west along Glen Urquhart, and finally north to Beauly. The Drumnadrochit Hotel, with its vast windows, provides one with a “view while you chew.” Through Dingwall to Bonar Bridge, that delightful little village at the head of Dornoch Firth. Turning left in the village and running by the side of the Firth one finds oneself in Lairg—very wild and desolate countryside, most forbidding in winter, but so delightful on a sunny summer day. Tongue was reached by 5.15. The Bungalow Hotel was our home for two days; it is built of wood with little wooden chalets, overlooking the Kyle, and warmed by peat fires. Just to think of the smell of the peat, the warm welcome, the good food beautifully cooked, the delightful bays explored, gives me a glow of contentment.
The Jupiter, the first the local garage had seen, created interest, and the loving care with which it was serviced was much appreciated. Thoroughly greased (one quart of oil, one pint of water, and about 4-5 lb. in the tyres, the first attention it had received since leaving Romford 1,150 miles away), and we were ready for the wildest run to be imagined in Britain. Driving right round the Kyle, leaving Ben Loyal first on our left and then on our right, one strikes due west to Hope. Even on a glorious day one needs hope, for the boulder-strewn roads and wild, desolate scenery make one feel that without the Jupiter purring quietly and effortlessly along, all would be lost. Round Loch Eribol, divinely blue and as lovely as any Italian lake. Through Durness and following the road southwest of Cape Wrath to Scourie, across the Kylestrome Ferry, on past Loch Assynt through the wildest and roughest country in our lovely Isle, and finally dropping down into Ullapool. A memorable day’s run, the Jupiter simply bounding along, it being necessary to check its onward rush up the long steep hill from Kylestrome Ferry. A most delightful evening was spent at the Grand Hotel, Ullapool, where the staff make one feel so absolutely at home. A sunset at Ullapool with the Summer Isles silhouetted against the evening sky is one of the sights one never forgets. Away next morning by 8.30 and, following Loch Broom for a short time, the road winds inland for a short way before returning to Little Loch Broom, and from there to Gairloch one passes through miles of the loveliest mountain loch and sea scenery available for man to see, Grunaird Bay with its sandy inlets forming natural wind-breaks, give such marvellous opportunity to sun bathe, as we did. Miles of sand covered with thousands of beautifully coloured shells of all shapes and the sea—a translucent torquoise-blue—and ourselves alone to enjoy it. The steep hill out of Grunaird Bay was levelled by the lively Jupiter, which had to be checked before the top was reached. A very fine lunch was taken at Aultben Hotel, right by the seashore off the direct route, but worth a visit. A run by the side of Loch Maree, then through wild country with a single-track railway appearing and disappearing, past Strathcarron station and across Loch Carron by Strome Ferry. Arriving at Kyle of Lochalsh about 5 p.m., with the most delightful views of Skye, which looked mysterious, the mountains appearing unreal and ethereal. Most delightful was our stay at the Lochalsh Hotel—everyone going out of their way to make us comfortable.
Leaving about 10 a.m., we travelled along the same road as we came in by, Skye looking quite different in the morning sun but just as mystical. The country was still quite wild but the road surface steadily improving. We reached Fort William for lunch at the Alexandra Hotel, then on to Ballachulish and so into Glencoe, bathed in brilliant sunshine. The high snow-posts, however, were a reminder of what a terrible reception a visitor can get in the winter. Through Inveraray, with views of Loch Fyne, the grandeur of which defy description, finally down Rest-and-be-Thankful to Arrochar, where we arrived about 5.30 p.m. Before putting the gallant little Jupiter away, I checked tyres and water (O.K.), oil (a quart needed); a check-up of petrol purchased since leaving London showed that we were averaging 28 miles per gallon for the 1,600 miles completed, surely a truly wonderful performance, for about 1,000 miles of it had been run over mountain roads which are the worst I’ve ever driven on in Britain.
After Rest-and-be-Thankful Hill-Climb, which is held in such beautiful surroundings that the racing becomes a secondary consideration, we followed the road to Glasgow by Loch Lomond. How lucky are the Scots living around Glasgow to have such glorious scenery, as one sees by the shores of Loch Lomond, so near at hand! Through Glasgow and on to Abington to spend a most comfortable night at the Abington Hotel, where any visitor can always be assured of a warm welcome, good food and drink served under the watchful eye of the Chief. Sunday morning dawned mistily. Obviously we were in for a really hot day and, my goodness, how hot it proved to be. When travelling at 90 miles per hour in the Midlands later in the day even the wind blew hot, but at no time did the Jupiter overheat. With no special preparation we left Abington at 8.35 and ran without a stop to within ten miles of Newark. Here we stopped for lunch, and filled up with eight gallons of petrol and one pint of oil. This took an hour and we left at 1.45 p.m. At 4.45 p.m. we stepped out of the Jupiter at Romford, having completed the 375 miles in 7 hours 10 minutes’ driving time.
Some friends said to my passenger: “You must be dead tired,” but her reply, “Not a bit, I should be quite happy to drive straight back,” should be noted. I myself would have been quite happy to have driven back. I was very nearly as fresh as when I started and, do not forget, the drive from Huntingdon had been through traffic which was quite heavy on this hot Sunday afternoon.
To sum up, any motor car that, after completing 1,600-odd miles over the rough roads of North and North-West Scotland, runs 375 miles with one stop of an hour at an average speed of 50 m.p.h., with such smoothness and such airy lightness of control as to leave driver and passenger as fresh as when they started, has indeed qualified to be considered one of the finest cars in the world—and I submit that, on the evidence, the Jupiter is definitely in that class.
W. J. T.
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