Rumblings, November 1957

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The Standard Eight – or What Price the Miniature Car?

We are following with great interest the swarm of miniature cars from European factories, but to take a realistic view of this development is to ask oneself whether their time is yet. If a slump comes, which Heaven forbid, although it sometimes seems inevitable, probably yes. But at present in this country the baby car, as distinct from the miniature car, seems assured of a secure future, particularly because so far the best miniature automobiles come from the Continent and consequently sell here at unrealistic, duty-inflated prices.

This view has been strengthened because we have recently been sampling the latest in Standard Eights, a very useful “minimum” motor car which offers four doors, four comfortable seats, normal luggage space, conventional controls and visibility, and which cruises effortlessly at a speedometer 60 m.p.h., all for £616 7s., p.t. included. Against which, a Fiat 500 saves you £60 and a Goggomobile £121 10s.

As enthusiasts for unconventional and jolly means of transport we quite see the purpose of the little fellows from Turin and Dingolfing, especially allowing for their somewhat superior petrol economy, but we are not at all sure that Mr. Everyman is ready to make the sacrifice. After thoroughly testing the smallest Standard we do not blame him. This willing little 803-c.c. saloon, endowed with the latest Gold Star Powerplus engine, is far quieter at 50 and 60 m.p.h. than a miniature vehicle. It is endowed with Laycock de Normanville overdrive on the three upper ratios of its four-speed gearbox, and while on paper this may seem an unnecessary refinement with so small an engine, in fact the car benefits considerably from a choice of seven forward ratios and will pull overdrive-top comfortably from about 20 m.p.h. These high ratios and the high-compression engine contribute towards the Standard Eight’s notable economy. Making no attempt to economise, apart from sensible use of the little lever which flicks overdrive in and out, we recorded over 40 m.p.g. driving hard on long journeys and pottering round, with many cold starts in the interim. This was obtained without recourse to the special economy jets which are available, and later, driving as the average owner would drive, 50 m.p.g. of Esso Extra was achieved. It is this sort of baby-car economy that shows up most of the present run of miniatures. This figure was obtained when covering 800 miles in five days, during which the Standard called for no oil or water; it came from Cheshire to Hampshire in Sunday traffic, inclusive of refuelling and map-reading pauses, in a matter of five hours, and was generally driven hard throughout.

The roadholding isn’t exactly precise and the suspension is on the hard side. but rally drivers will know that this rugged Eight goes round corners fast, that the wide choice of ratios assists acceleration, that the brakes are entirely adequate and that the bucket seats are comfortable over long distances. The steering is also fairly light, and a speedometer 57 m.p.h. comes up in overdrive third gear. The aforesaid overdrive selector lever and the similar stalk for the self-cancelling direction indicators are extremely convenient, and the conventional central gear-lever permits very easy rapid changes to be made. The car we tried was a hard-used Press car due for retirement, so that Standards asked is not to take any performance figures; therefore, the low fuel consumption was all the more meritorious, The only shortcoming, moreover, concerned the direction-flashers indicator, the bulb of which stayed alight permanently until remnoved, while, once or twice the horn-button tried to stick down.

The arrangement of luggage boot on this little four-door saloon, which is accessible either by tilting forward the back-seat squabs or by opening the normal, lockable boot lid, is convenient (and allows for the accommodation of abnormal loads), very capacious cubby-holes are provided on the facia and, equipped with heater and Radiomobile radio, this latest Standard Eight, if somewhat “tinnily” constructed, provided quite luxurious economical transport. Those families who feel they are not quite planned for the very smallest new cars should make for Stand 146 at Earls Court and contemplate investing in one of these excellent Eights from Coventry. — W. B.

An Interesting Ford Special

Peter Davenport, of Macclesfield, son of the Basil Davenport of G.N. Spider fame, has recently completed an interesting Ford Special. Made from components of a 1939 Ford van, this car uses a Ford Ten engine in a unique way. The power unit is mounted at an angle of 45 degrees, with the valve side uppermost, by means of Aquaplane mountings re-drilled to take the inclined engine. A modified sump using the existing oil pump takes care of lubrication; the dynamo has had to be re-mounted, and an improved Morris Minor radiator fitted. The cooling system employs a manifold drilled to take four pipes opening on to a large-bore pipe fitted to the header-tank of the radiator, thus eliminating excessive heat around the valve seats and giving a running temperature of 80 deg. with no fan. The inclined engine also permits a low bonnet line for the Mistral fibreglass body, which is mounted on a tubular steel chassis. The engine is otherwise standard except for the fitting of the Eight head, giving a 10-to-1 compression-ratio, a downdraught S.U. carburetter from a Rover 10, and Lodge platinum-point plugs. A three-speed Ford gearbox is mounted in the normal vertical position on the crankcase bellhousing, giving a top speed of 85 m.p.h. Suspension is by coil-springs front and back, and the total cost of the car was £350. Instrumental in the design was a certain Mr. Graham of Ireland, who builds Ford Specials to order. — I. G.

*

Sqd./Ldr. D. B. K. Shipwright has bought an Armstrong-Siddeley Whitley saloon as an appropriate link with his racing days; he drove a 30-h.p. Armstrong-Siddeley at Brooklands and in speed trials in 1920/21.

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