Letters From Readers, November 1953



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

The Cars of Germany


Very many thanks for printing my letter of last month regarding the German smell in your previous issue . . . very fair of you indeed.

I feel that you ought to know why the missive was addressed to another journal: well, I wanted your undivided attention for a moment, and I know how busy you Editors are, and so I opined that a letter from another Editor would be of more interest than one from a casual reader who has only read your journal ever since it was The Brooklands Gazette under our late friend Capt. Holmes.

I also imagined that the other Editor might open and read it, and thus I did three things at once: (a) got it to you by a “trade” channel, (b) perhaps got another smack at things German to another journal, and (c) so far interested you that you put it in Motor Sport. It seems I was right!

Viva Motor Sport!

I am, Yours, etc., J. Granville-Grenfell. Weybridge.

P.S. — “Viva” is Italian/Spanish.

[We publish this letter to show that correspondents go to extremes at times, damme, Sir! But Mr. Granville Grenfell is not entirely right, for The Brooklands Gazette was never run by “our late friend Capt. Holmes”! And why “our late”? Mr. Holmes is very much in the picture still; it was he who flew Les Leston to Charterhall in an Auster last summer. So far as the “German smell” is concerned, Art knows no frontiers and we consider it should be so with Engineering — our S.M.M.T. thinks so too, for there are half-a-dozen or more German cars at Earls Court — Ed.]



Personally, and I am sure I am not alone in this respect, I thought your recent summary of German vehicles made most excellent reading and gave a very true insight into the “other man’s” way of going about things.

In this country, where, incidentally, the people are profoundly pro-British, the German car, and in particular the Volkswagen, excels. This is because of two things. Its purchase price is low and its performance and general attributes are far and above its British counterpart. When Britain produces a people’s car on German lines, then and then only will the boot be on the other foot.

In conclusion, may I say, thank heavens Motor Sport has lived up to its name as a sporting magazine and has not sunk into the “unclean” depths of political bias as has your correspondent. The war has been over a long time now!

I am, Yours, etc., E. A. Odell. Copenhagen. 


Starting a Four-Wheel Drift


I have just read a short story in Lilliput, July-August, by Stephen Black and James Boothby, and enjoyed it immensely. It is called “Grand Prix,” and deals with the lives and motor-racing fortunes of three men, from different countries, the climax being on the Reims circuit.

It is most gratifying to see such a widely read magazine happy to devote thirty of its pages to a story based on the Sport.

It would be interesting to know to what extent the writers are experienced in the subject, for although the story for the most part has a very convincing ring, there is one paragraph which could perhaps be closely examined.

A young Italian member of the supposed Ferrari team was driving a 4.1 Mille Miglia car on the open road, and with no other traffic in sight he took the opportunity of practising a four-wheel drift. Now the authors set out to describe his actions in detail. They tell us that he was approaching a mild left-hand curve at about 110. He changed down to fourth, and a quarter of the way round the curve . . . and I quote . . . ” He abruptly trod hard on the throttle pedal, and at the same time locked hard left.”

Now, Sir, I have never raced in anything really powerful, but what little competition experience I have had tells me that if I ever acquire a chariot with 300 b.h.p. per ton, or thereabouts, and I follow this “recipe” in trying my first real four-wheel drift. I shall probably punch a large hole in the fence!

This question of what really is a true drift has often been discussed before (I particularly remember John Bolster on the subject in one of the early copies of Autosport), but I believe that many other readers of your excellent journal would like to read a close analysis of this manoeuvre written by some recognised expert driver. Do you think this could be arranged?

In closing, may I say how much I know your journal is appreciated in New Zealand. I think I can safely say it is the Bible for all club members in the country.

I have read the letters regarding the bad name English cars are getting overseas with some feeling. I have the latest 2½ Riley (engine number in the 30s) and at 13,000 miles am running in for the third time . . . pistons. Comments, anybody?

I am, Yours, etc., Arthur Moffatt. Ashburton, New Zealand. 


Ford Engine in Morris Minor      


Would you be good enough to pass on the following information to other enthusiasts on the conversion from Morris to Ford 10-h.p. on a 1949 Morris Minor.

Shorten the Morris gearbox drive shaft by7/16  in., then make and fit a new flywheel centre bush with ⅝-in. bore, this must be a good sliding fit on the shaft (to be given .001 clearance later). Then offer the gearbox up to the engine and mark off and drill fresh dowel holes in the gearbox flange, then elongate gearbox bolt holes slightly to suit Ford holes, next remove clutch spinner plate centre and put in a distance piece ⅝ in. thick to suit shorter Morris splines and reassemble, next procure a Ford clutch thrust race, carrier and operating fork, then make a cast-iron sleeve 3½ in. long by ⅞ in: bore with o.d. to suit carrier and mate and weld this over the boss of the gearbox ball-race retainer, next remove ⅛ in. from the thrust faces of the carrier lugs and ⅛ in. from the rear of the carrier boss, this prevents the fork from becoming trapped in the “off” position; now the engine and gearbox can be finally assembled.

Shorten the off side of the Ford engine bracket by 2½ in. and copy the Morris”tin box” chassis mounting (in order to clear the bottom radiator hose), but with a flat top plus a 1 in, thick rubber block the near-side mounting can be rectangular plus a 1 in. rubber block, then deflect rearwards by 1¼ in. each end of the bracket, reverse the staggered rear (gearbox) mountings and lift the rack and pinion steering assembly by 1 in. and the engine and gearbox will then go straight into position.

Nothing was “farmed out” and even as amateurs we found the job fairly simple and have been very gratified by the returns for our efforts.

I am, Yours, etc., K. J. Hirst. Huddersfield. 


Motor Oil


As a motorist for 20 years I have had many cars, but only one rebored (during the war), because I have used only good quality oil, changed it when necessary, kept my engines clean myself; now after all these years I find the oil companies have decided I am not capable of doing these things myself and they are putting into their oils washing powders called “detergent additives” or “detergent dispensives,” etc., they might even have chlorophyll added, anyway I don’t like it.

What the oil companies don’t tell us is that detergent oils have their limited uses, mainly for engines with hydraulic valve mechanisms which must be kept clean. But most engines on the British roads today have performed well and will continue to do so with a pure oil and no additives if kept clean.

No finer proof is needed than the number of vintage and near vintage cars on the roads today and the engines of a modern car and vintage car are very little different, both respond to good lubrication.

Really the object of this letter is to find out if there is any pure oil on the market today, if so can someone tell me the name before my engine is washed away ?

I am, Yours, etc., J. E. Hands. Coventry.

Buyers’ Market


I see that my friend Rodney Touche has written to you about his father’s car and the buyers’ market. Please, may I do likewise?

The tin egg in this case has an over-square four-cylinder engine and tiny wheels. Unfortunately it was an early model, but now, having done the maker’s experimental work and general fault-finding for him free of charge, I and a few thousand other owners are having to replace the dud bits with modified ones (well, my father is). To list a few items which went wrong at around 10,000 miles: new type pistons have been fitted because the old ones were seemingly top heavy, or something, and rather hard on the top of the bores. A slipping clutch has been cured by fitting a new type of centre with new type fingers which don’t stick in the out position. The single rear-engine mounting point, which right front the start was obviously hopeless, broke the four little bits of welding “holding” it and has now been replaced by a more normal double mounting.

Jumping out of second gear on the over-run started around 6,000 miles. I told the agent and he said “Oh yes, they all do that.” I told several motoring friends and each one could tell me of this happening to far earlier models by the same maker. I told a mechanic who had been to the factory technical school (and he has a certificate to prove it too) and he seemingly had asked the instructor about this and the man merely shrugged, looked pathetic and said: “Well — that’s just one of those things.” I am told that the works are at a loss to account for this. One glance at the faulty parts makes it rather clear to me that the dogs are far too small and almost bound to jump out after a few thousand miles of wear.

The rear axle makes a fantastic noise and nothing can be done at all. With the door locating wedges wrapped in insulating tape, the loud clunkings can be stopped. With the front seat far enough back for driving (I am merely 5 ft. 9½ in.) the rear passengers have their knees round their necks and they can’t see out anyhow.

The thing corners well enough provided one is content to wear away the tyres in the process, but on snow or ice the only thing to do is — leave it at home. I use my Black Shadow with a sidecar in winter for this reason. On occasions when I MUST take it out on snow, I proceed with my heart in my mouth and four 56 lb. weights in the boot. The agent carries a large anvil in his model. When I give friends a lift, they say: “My, what a grand car.” My father is proud of it, but then he can’t drive. I prefer my Black Shadow. My father thinks I’m mad. So do the natives. Do you?

I am, Yours, etc., R. A. B. Cook. Banff.

[No! — Ed.]


The 4-Litre Bentley


The 4-litre Bentley was a good car! There now, that ought to start something in the correspondence columns. So much has been written and said about it, a lot of it uncomplimentary, a lot or it by people who have never owned one, that I feel like making a few claims on its behalf; nothing technical, but merely some comment on how it behaves on the road.

The car must obviously be considered in relation to the time when it was in production and to the other vehicles of British manufacture available at the same time. Between 1930 and 1931 one had a choice of a large Daimler, an equally large Austin and the R.R. 20/25. There was also the eight-cylinder Lanchester, but as this is a very rare car it can perhaps be left out of the argument. (I foresee a letter from Mr. Hutton-Stott!)

I think the Austin and the Daimler can be dismissed by saying that neither has any noticeable acceleration, they are ponderous in the extreme, have about the same handling characteristics as a brick, and anyway were intended to be ridden in rather than driven.

This wholesale elimination would appear to leave only the R.R. 20/25 as a basis of comparison. Right then, let’s see what they are all about. When new, though I am shot for saying so, there was little difference in quietness of running except at tick-over. The R.R. undoubtedly retained its silence for a longer period, but on the open road there was nothing to choose — if anything, the Bentley was smoother. In performance the Bentley had the edge on every score except possibly brakes. My particular example has no servo and one has to apply sufficient pressure to bend the pedal in a lesser motor car if one wishes to stop in a hurry.

The 4-litre’s steering is very pleasant, and although very free from reaction one is very conscious of firm connections between the steering and road wheels. The R.R. on a rough road feels as if it has a piece of string with two large weights on the end instead of a front axle.

The R.R. has a much easier gear-change, the Bentley requiring lots of practice and concentration the whole of the time if clean changes are to be the order. The 4-litre box is an immensely tough thing, yet on the coldest morning one can move the lever across the gate with the merest touch of a finger. On the indirect ratios it is one of the quietest boxes yet made.

The chassis is about the toughest thing one could make on orthodox principles, having 7-in, deep channels of ¼ -in, material with four 3-in, diameter cross-members and three puny ones of 2 in. The suspension is of the kind that makes one realise that independent springing is something of a fad.

The engine is the thing that most people have seen fit to criticise, especially the B.D.C. It is more accessible than other Bentleys, has a detachable head, only one way in and one out for gases, single ignition and no multitude of timing gears grinding their heads off! The catalogue claims 125 b.h.p. at 4,500 r.p.m., and even allowing 20 per cent. for optimism, this is the same specific output as the 80-b.h.p. 3-litre engine. In spite of having the greater part of 2½ tons to pull around, I doubt if it is any slower than a standard 3-litre, and if the two cars had saloon bodies fully laden there is not much doubt of the result of a trial of strength.

My vehicle, a large shooting-brake, once brought about 2 tons of assorted bits of motor car from Manchester cruising at a speedometer 60. A lot of the weight was in a huge trailer. On one dual-carriageway section the speedometer reached 75, and it was then that I encountered a police A40 lurking along in front of a crawling pantechnicon! The bogies affected not to have seen anything.

The 4-litre Bentley IS a good car!

I am, Yours, etc., G. W. Pay. Lowfield Heath.