Matters of Moment, November 1952
On With The Show!
By publication date of this enlarged issue of Motor Sport, the 37th S.M.M.T. International Motor Exhibition will be in progress at the fine hall at Earls Court.
There is much of interest there, although a dearth of new models. Certainly there is no stagnation in design of engine, transmission or chassis, whether you are regarding the products which our “Big Five” (B.M.C., Ford, Rootes, Standard, and Vauxhall) are pitting against keen world competition, or the cars made by the smaller producers. Valves in the head are operated by single and double o.h. camshafts, by push-rods from twin or single crankcase-situated camshafts, and some cars still have side-by-side valves, others the i.o.e. arrangement. Gearboxes are three and four-speed, some with over-drive, a few electrically-controlled epicyclics, with levers on steering-column or on the floor. Suspension systems vary as never before. The engineering student will revel in the Earls Court Show!
Amongst the fastest sports and high-performance cars, Britain, with her Allard, Aston-Martin, Bentley, Bristol, Healey, Jaguar, Jensen, Lagonda, and the sensational new 3.4-litre Armstrong-Siddeley Sapphire, holds her own with the exotic machinery, mainly race-bred, made by Alfa-Romeo, Ferrari, Lancia, Mercedes-Benz and Pegaso. (Very slight click as Editor’s tongue removes itself from cheek.)
Competition is keen in nearly all fields. In the basic £500 to £1,000 high-performance category, Allard (Palm Beach), Austin (A40 Sports), Dellow, H.R.G., Jowett (Jupiter), M.G. (TD), Morgan (Plus Four), Singer (SM 1500 Roadster) and Triumph (new 2-litre sports car) eye one another as rivals—a pity all are not at Earls Court.
In that vast market for medium-sized and priced saloons, in the British market alone, Austin, Ford, Hillman, Morris, Standard, Triumph and Vauxhall do battle, as, somewhat higher in the basic-price scale, do A,C., Allard, Armstrong-Siddeley, Austin, Citroen, Humber, Jaguar, Jowett, Lanchester, Lea-Francis, M.G., Riley, Rover, Singer, Sunbearn-Talbot, Triumph and Wolseley—two price classes, above and below £800, being contested amongst these long-established makes.
Unless the Show springs a surprise, the economy-car market remains sadly neglected by British manufacturers—which is odd, remembering how we pioneered the “big-car-in-miniature” and, led by the Austin Seven, offered all manner of baby cars down the years. Do not scorn the economy car. Years ago the great Albert Divo used a 7.5 Citroen to drive from Paris to Montlhery as, today, famous Continental drivers, Nuvolari included, drive small Renaults and Fiats. With the price of petrol well up and the cost of living rising, it is droll that we show little enthusiasm, outside the experimental departments, for economy cars. A year ago the new Austin Seven was proclaimed “The Greatest Achievement in Post-War Motoring,” and our long-established contemporary the Autocar is to be congratulated on publishing the first full road-test report on this 800-c.c., £355 baby, on October 10th. But we note that the fuel consumption is given as 42 m.p.g., which compares unfavourably with the 45 m.p.g. we obtained recently from a British-assembled 748-c.c. Renault and the 48 m.p.g. which a 15-year-old Fiat 500 gave us not long ago.
It would seem that an all-British car to compete with Continental baby cars is badly overdue and that to achieve real economy of fuel an engine should not exceed 600 c.c., yet no four-wheeled car of this size has been announced by a British manufacturer at the moment of writing. Certainly Britain should revive the 750-c.c. class so as to enter a market at present the monopoly of Fiat, Renault and other Continental minors. In France the very simple, almost crude, 2 C.V. Citroen is in such demand that production falls well behind orders—surely a sufficient pointer to the way the wind blows?
Happily Motor Sport readers can shrug off this vexed subject of economy motoring, for if they cannot afford new cars they know better than most how to get service from secondhand vehicles and, if they cannot afford to motor behind a steering wheel, they derive much pleasure from doing so on paper.
That competition successes count more today amongst manufacturers than ever they have before is entirely satisfactory. Race and rally successes are widely advertised and demonstrations—of which Jaguar’s 100 m.p.h. for seven days and nights at Montlhery and the o.h.v. Morris Minor’s 10,000 non-stop miles round Goodwood at over 45 m.p.h. and 43 m.p.g. are fresh in everyone’s memory—teach valuable lessons to all and sundry.
Behind the static exhibits at Earls Court, for the first time embodying examples of cars that have made history and achieved fame, is reflected honest endeavour and technical skill of which the British motor industry can be justifiably proud.
The cross-country scramble against the stop-watch is an accepted and exciting form of motor-cycle sport. There seems no reason why four-wheeler “Auto-Cross” contests should not be equally acceptable to competitor and spectator. Indeed, the idea was tried out during the recent W. Hants & Dorset C.C. Knott Cup Trial.
Plenty of suitable courses on private ground exist, such as the military areas near Aldershot, Blackdown and Bovington, and such contests, a sort of combination of race and trial, might interest the military authorities. They could also provide an outlet for those who like to go quickly when motoring competitively in their special cars but who cannot afford to enter for racing events. It is too early yet to suggest suitable rules for “Auto-Cross” or to foresee the sort of vehicle best suited for it, but it will be disappointing if we do not see further experiments in this direction before the winter passes and trials cars are put away for another summer.
A Question For Stirling’s Supporters
Stirling Moss has seen the chequered flag all too infrequently this season. But at the last Goodwood meeting the dice seemed to have been loaded against him unnecessarily in the sports-car race. The winning car was an XK 120 C Jaguar driven by Tony Rolt, which, although entered by Leslie Hawthorn for Mike Hawthorn to have driven had he been well enough, was actually a “works” car. No doubt there is no driver Stirling would rather be beaten by, when victory is not to be his, than Tony Rolt, but the fact is that in the race under discussion Moss drove Tommy Wisdom’s privately-owned XK 120 C which clearly hasn’t the “steam” of the “works” cars. Stirling is Jaguar’s No.1 driver but he didn’t get a “works” Jaguar on this occasion, whereas Hawthorn did. Stirling’s “fans” are asking why, and rightly so.
The future of the B.R.M. remains uncertain as this editorial goes to press, but it seems probable that Alfred G. B. Owen will buy up the Bourne venture in the hope of doing for Britain in future in the field of International motor racing what Raymond Mays tried gallantly to do, but failed.
According to the News Chronicle of October 15th, and other daily papers, Alfred Owen has resigned his chairmanship of B.R.M. and made an offer for the three cars. If this offer is accepted he is likely to build an entirely new car for 1954 Formula racing, retaining the existing 1½ -litre B.R.M.s for “white elephant” races.
The new design for a supercharged 750 c.c. is already on the drawing board at Bourne. It may prove to be the best possible approach to the 1954 G.P. Formula, but remembering that Ferrari has forsaken the V12 engine for the more straight-forward “four” in the Formula II field, and that the V16 B.R.M. has proved too complicated in practice, there will be those who would be far happier to learn that the 1954 Alfred Owen was a nice, simple four-cylinder unblown 2½-litre. No doubt a blown ¾-litre will make very impressive noises but we cannot help feeling that without Murray-Jamieson the future of the blown 750 is behind it. But we hope we are proved to be wrong.