Letters from Readers, November 1958

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

SERVICE— GOOD AND OTHERWISE
Sir,
Recent correspondence in your magazine has been pointed out to me by a motor enthusiast friend of mine who realised that the unfortunate motorist concerned was myself.

Having run out of petrol. I was most grateful to Mr. Ells-Hill for his kindness but, as he says, this atmosphere of “Goodwill to all men ” was swept away at the garage.

On arrival at the garage (if I may add the third side to the triangle), I was told that all cans had been loaned out and all further questions were answered by the unhelpful ” No! ” of someone who could not be bothered to either help or direct. The fact that whilst Mr. Elles-Hill was waiting for me to return from Prynne Stevens he was asked to move off (he was not hindering pump service, etc.), is proof enough of the rude attitude taken by the attendant.

I had spotted the Shell sign outside Prynne Stevens when standing in the Esso place—the man there was most helpful. He charged the usual 10s. deposit on the containers, which I did not mind at all as I had to pass the garage on my way in to London.

This incident has introduced me to a very interesting magazine.
I am, Yours, etc.,
London, W.10. L. CHRIS. DAVIS.

Sir,
I run a 1928 Austin Seven tourer that is usually as reliable as one expects this model to be. My brother and I were returning from a holiday, however, when we heard a new sound, stopped to inspect the front wheels and found that the hub had fractured on one of them, and that the wheel was held on by dangerously little metal. We naturally decided not to go far, and to do even that at walking pace, but we were cheered up by finding in our A.A. Handbook that the nearest town, Swindon, had a garage listed as an Austin agency. The name of the garage was Steel’s Ltd., and this happened on September 6th.

Steel’s turned out to be a very large garage with many new Austin ears in its windows. We explained the situation, but were told that nobody but the filling attendants worked there on Saturday afternoons. and since this was a Saturday nobody could help us. We drew attention to our A.A. badge, but this made little impression. The man to whom we spoke said, however, that he would try to find the foreman and went off to a glass-sided cage, spoke for a moment to a man inside it, and returned to say that the foreman was not in at that moment and was not expected till the next Monday. Then a further man appeared and listened to our story. He said that he could not help us personally as he was only the sales manager, but that he would find the foreman and tell hint. ” But the foreman is away,” we said. ” No. he isn’t,” replied the sales manager, ” there he is in his office.” He pointed to the man who had told the filling attendant that the foreman was away.

The foreman than came out in person, though he showed not the slightest embarrassment at our having detected his chicanery. I thought that the sales manager appeared a little apologetic, though this was small compensation for what next happened. The foreman said that his garage was most unwilling to work on ” them old things,” but he did ask us what was the matter. We told him the exact nature of the trouble and pointed out how simple the repair would be : I imagine that he was very capable of working out for himself the relationship between simplicity and profit. After a moment’s thought he said that he would not touch the car, and he continued in this attitude while we reminded him that the car was made by the firm for which his garage was an agent, that the garage was listed by the A.A., of which I was a member. and that the car was definitely unsafe in its then condition. He refused us permission to leave the car in the large park, said that there was no possibility of his mechanics ever working on it, and repeated that cars of that age did not interest him.

I did not have the impression that this foreman was sorry to see us drive slowly, away, even though he must have known from his professional experience—however limited to modern Attains this might have been—that the car was potentially very dangerous. However, we had no option but to take it back on to the road.

I am very glad to say that within minutes we received a welcome that contrasted vividly with this boorishness and lack of professional responsibility. We came to a garage that had only one petrol pump and no showroom at all. It is called The North Wilts Engineering Co. The workshop manager was actually locking it up when we arrived, and he was the only man on the premises. We thought that we were too late again, but we were wrong, for this gentleman listened to our explanation, looked through his stock of spares, apologised that he could not help us immediately, opened up the whole place, drove out one of the company’s vans, so that my open car would have shelter, promised us the early service that we have since received, and finally went out of his way to give us a lift to the railway station.

I suppose that this double experience was a practical way of learning a little about the Motor Trade, and will surprise you less than it did me.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Shrewsbury. A. J. LANGDON.
(And before anyone says this proves old cars are dangerous, let them read about what happened to a modern Riley 1500 at Goodwood—see page 760.—ED.)

Sir,
Recently, when swimming in the Mediterranean, I managed to lose the ignition key to my Volkswagen. Fortunately, my wife had a spare and no great inconvenience was caused. To be on the safe side, I wrote home to V. & F. Monaco Motors, who have taken care of me for about 90,000 miles in various VWs, asking if another key could be sent out.

Not only did the key come by return, but it came with a humorous greetings card, which seems to represent something to be aimed at in the line of personal service—complete with a little humour.

The day after the replacement key arrived, I was again swimming, wearing a mask, and saw my original key 10 to 12 feet down on the sand. I now have three ignition keys. a tall story, and still feel kindly disposed to my maintainers.. ,
I am, Yours, etc
London, N.W.3. D. S. FLEMING.

A PRESCOTT NON-AMENITY
Sir,
Referring to the “Prescott Non-Amenity” letter published in your October issue, we understand that Mrs. Ray Ryley’s complaints are fully justified. Quite a number of the members’ wives have also registered protest and, in fact, before this letter was published the Club had been able to obtain the services, in a consultant capacity, of Lem Putt, the specialist.

In view of the increasing popularity of Prescott, it is very necessary to look after the basic amenities, and this work will be carried out before next season without, we hope, recourse to the usual ” hessian enclosures” encountered at a number of motor sporting meetings.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Birmingham. K. NIGIITINCALE.
[We are delighted to learn that the ladies’ basic amenities will be improved but, in view of the very modern young women who patronise Prescott we wonder if Lem Putt is quite the man for the job; if he fails to produce what is required how about calling in the services of John Pliancy, author of “The Smallest Room”? – Ed

BRITISH RACING GREEN
Sir,
The newly-published book on the history of D. Napier & Son Ltd.. ” Men and Machines,” reviewed by you last month, was to this ex-Napier employee highly disappointing, though probably quite a fair record of the comings and goings of the management. The sad thing is the wealth of material that has been left out of what one would have hoped would have been an authoritative and definitive book.

The joint authors hardly give David Napier’s first cousin, also named David Napier, any credit other than to say he was a marine engineer. His steam engines powered the first steamship in the world, the P.S. Comer, and the first boat to snake a regular steam packet service in the world, a cross-Channel ship, the Rob Roy. The book is studded with stories that have been left out—the worst omission is that no reference is made whatsoever to the company’s colour, Napier green (which is 4 British Standards colour and is, of course., synonymous with British Racing Green), and dates back to the time of the Napier entry for the Gordon Bennett race in Ireland, when the colour was adopted as a graceful tribute to Ireland’s laws which permitted motor racing on the public roads.

There is no inaction, for instance, of those two splendidly eccentric design features for the six-cylinder cars, a lower compression ratio on the sixth cylinder, supposedly to damp out a critical vibration period, and the anti-clockwise rotation of the engine. The book stresses the men who made Napiers and the machines come off a poor second best, but there is one interpretation of the company’s history by the authors which is open to very severe criticism. it is said that the company was driven out of the car market by a combination of acts; first, they were a small company, secondly that the market for luxury cars was declining after 1918, and, thirdly, that Montague Napier thought they would be better off making aircraft engines. All manifestly true, but neither the directors of those days nor the authors of today have grasped the nettle that a firm that makes its name by Motor Racing, and sells its cars because of their technical excellence founded on race successes, cannot permanently leave Motor Racing unless they wish to go out of business.

An interesting book but not a good book, and it is to be hoped that somebody will be encouraged to write a book called ” Napier the First to Wear the Green.”
I am. Yours, etc.,
London, W.2. “D. A. T.”

HOW ROVERS ARE SERVICED
Sir,
In July 1958 you published an article on ” How Rovers are Made.” As a sequel to the above, I would Suggest that you title the following, ” How Rovers are Serviced.”

At the beginning of this year I bought a secondhand 1955 Rover 90. During July, a peculiar tap, very similar to a loose tappet, made a distinctly audible appearance. There being no local Rover agent, I asked other Rover owners to diagnose this complaint. Their verdict : worn camshaft and followers.

Considering the fact that I was the second owner and that the car had already done 23,00 miles, I felt that, no matter how many bits I could try to stretch. I just could not expect Solihull to replace the offending parts.

As the previous owner was enjoying a new Rover 90 and three months’ holiday in your country, I wrote to Solihull to make sure that the said camshaft was original and also spun them my long, sad tale. To my utter astonishment they replied–1 quote :

” You will of course, appreciate that there can be no question of guarantee to consider in view of the age, mileage, and the fact that your car is secondhand, but, nevertheless, we are prepared to treat the matter sympathetically as a goodwill gesture without prejudice. After due consideration it has been agreed to replace the camshaft and rockers free of charge, but it is regretted that we are unable to consider the labour costs in this instance.”

Sir, in my very humble opinion, the above must he about the best definition of SERVICE that can be found. Accustomed to indifference, incompetence and downright profiteering in this part of the world, the generosity of Solihull has allowed Hope to make a nervous appearance.

After the praise comes the criticism. Why am I not allowed to buy Rover and M.G. (TC) spares from dealers in the U.K. ? If they wish me to support their local agents, let them then ensure that prices ex-U.K. are not multiplied three-fold before being quoted by their N.R. dealers.

For what it is worth : Broken Hill must surely have the greatest number of private Rovers per capita than any other city or town in Africa . . yet our nearest agent is at Lusaka, 86 long. awkward miles away.
1 am, Yours, etc.
Broken Hill, N. Rhodesia. F. COURT.

THE ARMSTRONG SIDDELEY
Sir,
As a comparative “new boy ” to Armstrong Siddeley cars, I would very much like to endorse C. H. Haworth’s remarks.

Having only owned post-war marks, 1951 Whitley and my present 1956 Sapphire (automatic), I have nothing but praise for same. The Whitley, after being converted to solid tappets, was a really excellent steed, having quite good performance and being most beautifully finished. The Wilson box, as Mr. Haworth states, never gave any trouble, and I honestly believe that our so-called ” motor dealers” are greatly responsible for giving it a bad name. My old 1937 Riley bad clocked some 170,000 miles with nothing more than an oil change every 2,000 miles—again a Wilson box.

My present Sapphire although, alas, no longer having a hand-made aluminium body, has a most excellent performance, giving most Jaguars a good run for their money, and, coupled with the first-class finish, it is after all, considering the general equipment, power braking, automatic transmission, excellent lights, only in the medium-price range.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Ryde, Lo.W . K. E. Powell..,

Sir,
The letter regarding the “Neglected Armstrong Siddeley” prompted me to write supporting the views of C. H. Haworth.

As part-owner (one-seventh share) of 1934 Siddeley Special (AKF 888) which took six strident friends and myself to France on holiday, four years ago, I experienced the thoroughbred characteristics of this fine piece of machinery. She covered 2,700 miles in two weeks—after costing only £40 from a dealer in Dundee, who, we suspected, was glad to see, the back of her! However, we got a bargain. The performance was what one would expect—effortless 50-55 m.p.h. cruising and comfort of travel of the highest order. Steering—heavy yet good; roadholding—solid as a rock; braking— well, the less said the better !

The interior appointments of this thoroughbred were—as C. H. Haworth states—up to Rolls-Royce standard. Being a touring limousine, the front seat was of beautiful (yes, even twenty years later) hide, while behind the partition one could sit in the Bedford cord-covered occasional and back seats with the utmost comfort. Her only vice was her insatiable thirst, 13-14 m.p.g., but with this motoring par excellence—who cared !

On returning from her tour she had to be sold, but the Siddeley Special will always be something ” special ” to me. If any further history of this car is known I should be pleased to know about it.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Dundee. R. MORRIS PARR.

MUNCHAUSEN IDIOM
Sir,
In the October issue there appears in the advertisement of Noel Roscoe Ltd., a ” Stop Press” item regarding the purported performance of a Metropolitan at Brighton Speed Trials : ” . . . Robin Russell driving his Austin Metropolitan, scientifically tuned by us, etc., etc. . . at. the Brighton Speed Trials, seventh (12 runners) in the 1,500-c.c. Sports-Car Class standing-kilometre, 37.88 sec., and winning his heat, crossing the finishing line at over 105 m.p.h.”

As is well known, there are no heats to win at Brighton and the official timing of the final 88 yards of the timed kilometre give the following times for this car (No. 171) : First run : 67.9 m.p.h.; second run : 80.4 m.p.h.

As a matter of interest, in order to ” cross the finishing line at over 105 m.p.h.,” this remarkable device would have to be ” scientifically tuned ” to the extent of knocking over seven seconds off its standing-kilometre time !

It is surely about time that the lie was given to these outrageous claims, particularly when they appear in a responsible journal, such as MOTOR SPORT. The very appearance of such a claim in your journal might tend to add veracity (to those who know no better!) to it.

Perhaps you will be good enough to bring this to the notice of your readers in the November number.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Parkstone. HARRY ROSE.

SCIENTISTS’ SQUABBLE
Sir,
We have read the letter from Mr. Vineall, in which he contradicts the categorical statement he made in his original letter : “If the oil is clear and pale it does not contain this solid additive “—i.e., molybdenum disulphide (MoS2).

Mr. Vineall now admits that he has succeeded in making a clear dispersion but has failed to suspend sufficient MoS2 to give efficient lubrication. It is obvious that if the particle size of the MoS2 is large enough, even the small proportions referred to in his letter will give an opaque appearance and a larger amount will make the oil black.

For several years we have been able to produce particles small enough to enable us to make a clear suspension containing very many times the proportion of MoS2 quoted by Mr. Vineall in his letter. As he suggests, however, it is only the larger particles (i.e., those of more than approximately half a micron) which he cannot eliminate, which can be seen under a microscope.

We did not intend to imply that this suspension in straight mineral oil could be used as an additive. but tests completed since Mr. VineaII’s letter have proved that it may be used in the proportion of ten per cent, with a normal oil and will still give results comparable with any similarly diluted molybdenum disulphide additive on the market.
I am. Yours, etc.
London. S.W.1 R. N. GUNN.

READERS DEFEND Sir,

I would like to conclude the correspondence regarding the Monza race report by ” D. S. J.” I think that his personal views have been criticised for long enough without anyone going to his aid

Personally. I think that no other Motoring Journalist in the world can write such interesting race reports as Mr. Jenkinson.

His vivid accounts of race meetings are read by numerous enthusiasts, who fail to write and tell him that his views coincide with their own, but, let his views differ, and that is quite a different story. If they cannot put pen to paper and praise him occasionally. why bother writing to disagree with him ? Myself, I do not believe that Moss was seared at Monza, so what ?

Please let me conclude this rather distasteful topic of correspondence by giving three hearty cheers for Denis. I ant sure I will be joined by the majority of MOTOR SPORT readers.

I would like to take this opportunity to agree with you about the Volkswagen being superior to the A35, but I do wish you would not rub it in so much

Lastly, a word of praise for your excellent staff, who combine to make MOTOR SPORT the best motoring magazine, published today.
I am, Yours, etc.
Flint, N. Wales. D. S. BALDOCK.

Sir,
As one who reads every motoring publication of interest to the sporting enthusiast, I would like to make an observation on one who has come under fire recently in your ” Letters ” columns, namely, Denis Jenkinson.

It is my firm belief that” Jenks “is the finest racing correspondent currently contributing to the technical press. His lack of unnecessary levity is very refreshing in contrast to the uninformed bonhomie of most of his fellow scribes. The technical accuracy and the conciseness of his reports put, to shame the ” waffle” of other, perhaps more popular, writers.

Without knowing Mr. Jenkinson personally, I would take the liberty of saying he is dedicated to the Sport. It is through him that motor racing can be seen in its true, magnificent, perspective.
I am, Yours, etc.,
London, S.E.23. D. A. BROOM.
[These two letters chosen at random front the many received close the ” Jenks ” controversy. We, in common with thousands of our readers, look forward to many more vivid and accurate reports and provocative views, from one of the few motoring correspondents who actually watch the racing and can operate without being continually topped up.”—PROP

A DISSATISFIED CUSTOMER
Sir,
I read Capt. E. H. Walsh’s letter in your October issue with interest. My only comment to Capt. Walsh is : sell it quickly in Malaya before the secondhand car dealers treat the Victor with the disgust they do here in England—a fair indication of the quality of the model.

My story is almost as dismal and disgraceful.

The car was purchased new in early March of this year, so is eight months old, and shows an approximate reading of 10,000 miles (this latter comment will be explained).

First the windscreen wipers packed up the second time they were used. It was raining heavily at the time, so I had to await the end of the downpour before proceeding. The mechanism had packed up completely and the whole unit was replaced under guarantee. Excessive squeaking started to persist at approximately 3,000 miles, and constant efforts by one of the most efficient garages in London cannot cure this problem. It has now been examined and treated eight times, and still it remains. The very wet weather of late has tended to deaden the fault, but now an irritating squeaking in the front-seat springing persists. as though to keep me going while the elements deaden that from the front suspension.

The starter motor has failed to function on three occasions, once in busy traffic in London’s Oxford Street—an occasion of embarrassment to me and the police.

At approximately 8,000 miles I became baffled at the mileage I was collecting, so had the car tested over a measured mile, when the mileometer recorded 1.8 miles. This was put right with a new mileometer fitted under guarantee.

The next mishap, almost unbelievable in 1958, occurred when 1 was driving along and the accelerator pedal snapped cleanly at the first joint inside the bonnet. When I telephoned Shaw & Kilburn, London’s Vauxhall agents, instead of the service representative telling me I was playing a practical joke on him as I would expect anyone to say on hearing such a fantastic tale. of woe, he intimated that this sort of problem was a regular occurrence in their lives and well understood. This was corrected under guarantee.

Since running out of guarantee the exhaust outlet fell off without warning, and two attempts have been made to remedy the persistent squeaking from the front suspension. It is impossible to describe the wear on one’s nerves from driving a car with incessant body rattles such as this one.

The oil has been changed every 1,000 miles and three pints have been added to date.

Can I praise the Car? If I say the engine is hopelessly sluggish I can complete my criticisms and acknowledge that steering and brakes are excellent—but only as I write. You see, I have no faith in this car and don’t know whether I shall get to work in it tomorrow, or to my sport on Saturday.
I am, Yours, etc_.
London, W. 4. RONALD BEST

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