Letters From Readers, November 1957

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

The Export Business in Historic Cars

Sir,

For several years now there has been a steady trickle of fine vintage and thoroughbred motor-cars departing from this country to new owners on the other side of the Atlantic. This has, I imagine, peeved other enthusiasts as well as myself, but they have at least been private transactions.

Now, however, I am really riled — if other dealers follow the example of one of your advertisers and deliberately export these choice cars we shall very soon find ourselves with little of any worth left. As is well known there is the money available in the States to pay prices which are far in excess of those realised in this country. Consequently once lost to us these cars will never return, and of course they can equally never be replaced.

A glance at the list of cars shipped to New York reveals a selection calculated to reduce any connoisseur to a gibbering wreck at the thought that such beautiful machinery should be taken away from the country which fashioned it.

I suppose that there is nothing which can be done about this — or can the V.S.C.C. take any action to prevent such cars falling into this danger? If so, then I sincerely hope that they will do so before it is too late.

I am, Yours, etc., R. G. B. Webb. St. Albans.

[The cure seems to be partly in the hands of the enthusiast, who can boycott those firms which openly advertise an export service in historic vehicles. To do so might even be wise, because the odds are that the better cars will be sold for dollars and the left-overs kept for the home-market customers. — Ed.]

I.T.C.A

Sir,

Allow me to reply to Mr. T. S. Moore of Gt. Witley and his implied accusation of unfair trading by an English car-maker by saying: others do it — only more so!

During the summer.of 1950 I had to call on the main Renault service station in Nancy (France), which also held the main Austin agency for the district. The agent, like Mr. Moore and yourselves, fancied Volkswagens even in those early days and had written to Wolfsburg asking for an agency. Imagine his surprise and anger on being told by them that before being granted that privilege he was required to relinquish his English agency! And this, please note, a short four years after this factory had been “put on its feet” by British tax-payers’ money with the help of R.E.M.E.

I have no connection at all with the motor trade, British or otherwise, and am just an enthusiastic reader of Motor Sport. But in fairness, all restrictive practices have not been started by and are not confined to one side only . . .

I am, Yours, etc., F. Burnell. London, N.W.9.

*

The Future of Sports-Car Racing

Sir.

The last paragraph of your leader in the October issue revives a very vexed question. Can motor racing survive if the present ridiculous position of sports-cars relative to Grand Prix cars remains unaltered?

As you will gather from what follows, I am a very firm believer in Grand Prix racing as the pure essence of motor sport. There are many reasons for this belief — comparative safety, spectator appeal, and above all the idea that one form of racing, and one only, must represent the pinnacle of development and driving skill, with the others, important though they may be, playing no more than supporting parts.

In my opinion, Grand Prix racing is better fitted to fill that position than sports-car racing. There are so many sports-car races now which have little tradition or personality. The great events, such as Le Mans, the Mille Miglia, the T.T., the Targa Florio, and the Pan-American excite popular opinion purely because they are unique — but others, such as Nurburg, Rheims, etc., are just another race on circuits where the Grands Prix are the big attraction. And sad though it may be, the paying gate nowadays just cannot be ignored.

Let us assess the present position. Grand Prix cars are limited in capacity, and will soon be still further restricted by having to use “pump” fuel (which I suppose will be of a higher octane rating anyway than is commercially available). Sports-cars are unrestricted in engine size, probably for that reason more costly, more powerful, very much less controllable, and disliked by many of the top drivers, including the maestro himself. Yet the trend is, unless I am much mistaken, towards sports-cars and away from Grands Prix proper.

What can be done to correct this state of affairs ? The answer seems to me to lie very plainly in the clamping down on sports-car racing. (When one considers it, all the accidents which in recent years have jeopardised the sport have emanated from this, and I cannot offhand recall a single fatality to driver or spectator since Marimon was killed at Nurburg in 1954, in Grand Prix racing.) The big problem is whether prototypes should be allowed in sports-car races. I think that prototypes are necessary to proper development; after all, there is not much point in finding out your faults after going into series production; but there seems to me to be no good and valid reason against limiting engine size. Firms such as Mercedes and Aston-Martin have shown that it is not necessary to have big capacities in touring cars in order to provide ample performance for any roads.

I would like to see sports-car engine size restricted to the same limit as G.P. engines, so that the technical lessons learnt in the one may be embodied in the other, and so a direct link established between the G.P. car and the production model which results from the sports prototype. Together with this should go really stringent regulations about equipment. What we want is proper development of things like hoods, silencers, etc.; not demonstrations of the ingenuity of designers in getting round the regulations. Why not phon-meters for exhaust systems, and hoods-up till half-way? And let’s have no more perspex screens, but proper safety-glass; ones of a decent size. (I can visualise some nice Gran Turismo models!)

Let us not forget that in the eyes of many people the main justification for motor racing is technical development, and that the main drawback is the danger element. Adoption of these changes would bolster up the former, and by reducing to a certain extent the speed differential between the fastest and slowest cars, would proportionately reduce the element of risk. The outcome would be on the one hand pure Grand Prix racing as the ultimate form of the sport, with the top drivers and the fastest cars: on the other, sports-cars with a similar limit, but being a direct link between that ultimate development and the cars sold to the public — an excellent test-bed for prototype production models embodying the technical lessons learnt in the Grands Prix.

It is my earnest conviction that this, or a similar arrangement, would lead to a much more secure future for the sport, and would perhaps even encourage more of our manufacturers to regard the race-track as the invaluable test-bed which it undoubtedly is. I am sure that I am not alone in taking this attitude.

I am, Yours, etc., Anthony R. W. McMillan. Belfast.

*

Praise for the Porsche

Sir,

You published a most interesting article in the December 1955, issue by “D.S.J.” entitled “Porsche Motoring,” and having had 19,000 miles motoring experience since of a similar car (model 1,600 coupe), I would like to add my observations.

I can fully endorse all that “D.S.J.” said about this most excellent motor car, which, even after 30-odd years of motoring, gives a pleasure in driving, which I doubt could be found in any other car.

My Porsche does a genuine 105 miles per hour by rev.-counter, gives 38 miles per gallon, driven as hard as I can drive it, and, most surprisingly, the rear tyres have given 19,000 miles, and the front, not half worn, at the same mileage. Whereas “D.S.J.” claimed an average of approximately 6,000 miles for rear covers, but admitted to constant cornering by the “Wischen” (wiping) method.

Needless to say, the entire car has scarcely required the use of a single spanner in 19,000 miles of motoring, and the Porsche is certainly the safest and the most enjoyable car I have ever driven, having a personality which has to be experienced to be appreciated.

I am, Yours, etc., N. R. Culpan. Mytholmroyd

*

Railton Enthusiasts

Sir,

May I, as Hon. Secretary of the Railton Owners’ Club, be permitted to answer Mr. Donald Monro’s remarks, at least those relating to the Club.

On August 28th, 1956, Mr. Monro wrote to wish the new club the greatest possible success, and continued: “Would you mind letting me know whether, with the Skinner, I apply for full or associate membership, as I am not quite clear on what to put down.” The club wrote on the 29th to say: “With regard to your query reference Club membership, it was decided by the Committee that as a ‘one-make’ Club, full membership should apply to actual Railton owners, associate membership therefore being reserved for past and intending owners, and for owners of Hudsons, Hudson-based Specials and Brough Superiors.” He subsequently applied for and was elected to, associate membership.

The second “chip” on Mr. Monro’s shoulder appears to be that Club members have so far not entered the field of competitive sport. As a young Club, we are still “feeling our way,” but after two very successful rallies at Heston Aerodrome — both advised to Motor Sport, but blithely ignored in your columns! — and several other activities now being planned, we expect to deliver some fireworks in due course. In this connection, the Committee deeply regret Mr. Monro’s resignation, since obviously his knowledge and guidance would have ensured that Railtons were in the right place at the right event despite the entry restrictions — I have this year’s Brighton Speed Trials in mind!

While I agree that the Railton is primarily a fast touring car, it possesses no small degree of acceleration: the standard unsupercharged model could go from zero to 50 m.p.h. in just over seven seconds, and using only top gear could advance from 10 m.p.h. to 90 m.p.h. in less than a minute.

May I, therefore, make an appeal to all Railton owners, throughout the country, to join with us in our attempt to preserve the name of Railton alongside those other thoroughbreds of the pre-war era.

Our Club headquarters, the Manor Hotel at Datchet, is barely an hour’s drive from London, and here the last Friday of every month finds our members assembled for their “Noggin and Natter.” I accordingly extend to Mr. Monro an invitation to come along any of these evenings, and “cool his header-tank” at the expense of those “odd” characters, the Railton Owners’ Club.

I am, Yours, etc., R. Landall-Smith. Datchet.

_

Sir,

We have in the family a standard 1939 16.9 (76-b.h.p.) Railton Fairmile coupe, which lives up to all Mr. Hyde-East had to say about it in his letter, and I would gladly become the 61st member of the Club.

Though the top speed is only about 70 m.p.h., with an easy cruising speed of a little over 65 m.p.h., the acceleration puts many current cars to shame and the crash gearbox is a joy to use if used properly.

Roadholding is excellent, due in part, no doubt, to the front beam axle location by means of two pivoted radius arms, the after ends of which are attached by means of rubber-bushed “shackles” to a chassis cross-member. These arms relieve the springs of torque during braking, acceleration and cornering, and thereby avoid upsetting the steering geometry.

I feel that a four-speed gearbox would be a great improvement, as at present, in hilly country, top gear is frequently too high and middle too low, though for main-road cruising the ratios are very well chosen.

I saw in London, a few years ago, a car that I thought was a R-R. but upon its radiator (still Railton-like) was the Railton nameplate. Its owner, who came along, said that it was a 1947 model, one of the few built after the war, before import restrictions prevented the import of the necessary parts from the U.S.

Fuel consumption of our Railton has been a steady 22 m.p.g. under all conditions, using Commercial grade petrol. Premium juice makes no difference to the performance, which is not surprising considering the low c.r. and s.v.s.

The body is beautifully designed and made, and would appear to be dateless, many people ask if the car is a very recent model and are surprised when told its real age. After 18 years of use, the doors still close with a dull thud and will probably continue to do so for another 18 years.

I am, Yours, etc., Stephen Marsh. Tunbridge Wells. 

 

The Worth of the Ranault

Sir,

From the other side of the Globe comes a reply to a letter, in your September issue, from G. W. Taylor of Australia. Mr. Taylor states that he and most owners he has talked to agree that the Renault 750 is awful.

My first Renault, a 760, was bought in March 1949 for £330. This car I traded-in for a 750 in April 1955, being allowed £177 for the ’49 car, which I think was a very fair “trade-in” price. The cost of the 1955 750 being £487. Some facts about the 1949 760: The speedo-reading was 48,299 when the thousandth gallon of petrol was used. The car, up to the time it was traded-in, had never been decarbonised. At 44,000 miles the engine was overhauled and, according to the sub-agents for Renault, did not need rings, sleeves, etc. A new set of exhaust valves, inlet valves and connecting-rods being the only mechanical parts renewed. This, incidentaly, being the first time the head had been removed since the car was bought.

On taking the cost of the car, plus the cost of all repairs, tyres, oil, petrol, polish, respraying, plugs, points, etc., less the trade-in, the cost of running the 760 worked out to 2.4 pennies per mile.

The 1955 750 has so far done just under 24,000 miles. The only part which has been overhauled and repaired is the generator, at a cost of £5 11s. 2d. A set of plugs and a pair of points have also been bought. The tyres are still showing plenty of original tread. The speedo. reading was 22,003 after the five-hundredth gallon of petrol was used.

Here in Cape Town we have “Factory Reject” shops which sell shirts, suits, etc., very cheaply, these articles having failed to pass certain factory inspections and specifications. I am still wondering what happens to motor cars when they fail to pass factory tests. Perhaps our friend in Australia got one of these? Judging by the number of letters in our evening newspaper about defects of new cars, it seems that Cape Town is now the dumping ground for these factory rejects.

Are the roads in Australia worse than those here in South Africa? I do not think so. Our National Roads are as good as any in the world. Our main roads are fair to good. Our town and city roads are tenth-rate, and our secondary roads, well they have to be seen.

For cheap motoring, for reliable motoring, and for comfortable motoring, give me a 750.

I am, Yours, etc., J. H. Maytham. Cape Town. 

_

Sir,

I feel that I must protest at the letter from Mr. Taylor, of Canberra, in your September issue, regarding the awful flimsiness of the 750-cc, Renault. I do not question his word or his right to state his opinions as he sees fit, but I can hardly credit that his comments are based on much experience. I own a 1956 4 c.v. Renault and have done 11,000 miles in it with no work being done other than plug changes every 3,000 miles, and from my own past knowledge of the car I should be astonished to find anything different. When I moved to Canada from London I bought an old 4 c.v. with about 30,000 miles on it and slogged it in the most brutal fashion, owing to lack of funds, without any work whatsoever, for over 35,000 extra miles, and never experienced any trouble. We treated the car shamefully throughout our period of ownership, sometimes to the most unbelievable degree — on one disgraceful occasion we left Southern Ontario for the North with seven people in the car, four large adults and three children, and with a heavy roof-rack containing over 300 lb. of baggage — a gross load of 1,000 lb. on a car weighing 1,300 lb. When we set off we found we could only reach 25 m.p.h., and investigation revealed that the rear wheels were cambered in so far under the strain that the handbrake was locked on, and we had to disconnect it to make any progress. Mr. Taylor may not believe me, but the rear bearings did not collapse and have not, to date, given any trouble; and, in fact, I only know of one Renault that ever has, and that was in the hands of an idiot who found that he could cause wheel-spin and demonstrated his new-found technique to all his friends!

I have always found 4 c.v.s to be as reliable as any British small car, and with a much more reliable engine than any other light car I know — and I say this willingly, although I am addicted to my second car, a 1956 Dyna-Panhard saloon —  and, personally, I can think of no more suitable car for England, with the sole exception of a Dauphine, which, after all, for all its great beauty and superb design, is only a development of the 4 c.v. The Dyna-Panhard to me is a wonderful “specialist” car, made for a few enthusiasts who like an unusual design of real genius, but the 4 c.v. will one day take its place with the all-time great “people’s cars” — the “A” Fords, the VWs and the Austin Sevens — regardless of Mr. Taylor’s limited experience and wholesale condemnation.

I am, Yours, etc., A. C. Rolfe. San Francisco. 

 

Wot, No DS19?

Sir,

After your labours on BwIch-y-Groes I thought Citroen would have presented you with an S19; instead they haven’t even lent you one to test yet. How much longer have we all got to wait?

I am, Yours, etc., W. Stuart Best. Godmanston.

[Quite; but we keep trying. Latest offer is “after the Glasgow Show.” — Ed.)

*

Any News?

Sir,

You may recall that earlier this year you commented in Motor Sport on the forthcoming opening of The Mallory Park Racing Drivers’ School. This was supposed to open in June or July.

I understand from Mr. Wormleighton, the owner of Mallory Park, that a Mr. Hett of Nottingham is the instigator of this scheme.

Since filling in the application form (including a cheque for 8 gns.), receiving a prospectus, and later a letter to the effect that due to the difficulty of obtaining cars the opening was delayed till August/ September I have heard nothing.

I wrote to Mr. Hett on September 13th at his Nottingham address and am not surprised that I have received no reply.

As, apparently some 200 people sent Mr. Hett cheques for 8 gns. (and he has therefore had the use of this money for about six months), I would be most grateful if you would let me know whether you have heard any talk or rumours of this project during the last month or so.

It would seem on the face of it that we have been had by Mr. Hett, and I don’t like being had by anyone.

Possibly you may have been approached by other people on this matter?

Any information you may have would be most welcome.

I am, Yours, etc., J. W. Herbert, Capt. Chatham.

[In view of the fact that Capt. J. W. Herbert heard of the Mallory Park Racing Drivers’ School through publicity which Motor Sport gave to the scheme, we are sorry to learn of the complaint he raises. Can Mr. Hett offer an explanation and have others any comments? —  Ed.]

*

Mercedes-Benz Raced on Castrol

Sir,

I have read with interest the comments of Mr. R. I. Willis in the September edition regarding the advertising associations of products relative to motor racing.

Mr. Willis’s comments seem to be rather contradictory in that he first asserts that it pays a company to associate products with standards of success, and immediately goes on to say that the final choice is, however, usually based on trial and error as to their suitability for a particular machine.

The purpose of this letter is, however, not to comment on the intricacies of racing patronage, but to point out to Mr. Willis that during the years 1954 and 1955 the highly-successful Mercedes-Benz organisation used Castrol lubricants in the vehicles of their Grand Prix and sports-car teams and, therefore, if he has been mistakenly using some other oil because of his misinformation he should immediately drain and refill with the lubrication choice of the highly critical motor manufacturer mentioned above.

I am, Yours, etc., G. J. B. Williams. London W.1.

 

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