Letters From Readers, November 1959



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

You Can’t Please All the Customers All the Time . . . .!


I was so surprised by your supremely uncritical (and occasionally inaccurate) account of the B.M.C. babies that I was driven to comparing road-test figures from your weekly contemporaries with those of the A35 from the same sources. Frankly the differences are so small as to be negligible.

Try another test — put the cheapest Anglia [or the 1959 Popular —  Ed.], the cheapest A35 and the de-luxe baby side by side — they all cost the same. The question that springs to mind then is — “why does the baby cost so much?” Size and weight have surely some relation to the cost?

However, I hope you are right in supposing that we can now beat the Continental small cars, but we shall only get a fair comparison by removing the import duty. Roll on that happy day, but in the meantime may we hope for a return to the more impartial attitude which generally distinguishes your magazine.

I am,Yours, etc., “Goggo.” Warrington.

The Police and the Public


Re your recent articles of readers’ letters with regard to police and public relations. I would like to bring to your notice the following incident.

During May I travelled from Manchester to London and back by motor-cycle, this was a racing Gold Star which, not being fitted with electrics was fitted with a bulb horn to comply with the law.

I travelled to Plumstead, London, and back as far as Mere, Cheshire, where I was halted by a policeman who was standing at the side of the road. He stated that he could hear the motor-cycle “way up the road” and was it fitted with a silencer? He then poked his truncheon up the silencer to see if it was “efficient” as he could only get it to the end of the tail-pipe, he decided by some miraculous means that it was efficient.

Among other things he decided that he would like to hear the “audible warning of approach,” whereupon I discovered that somewhere on the journey the bulb part of the horn had vibrated loose and been lost, thus depriving the horn of means of operation.

Despite the fact that there was affixed a complete horn, less bulb, he told me, with obvious smugness, that I would be reported with a view to prosecution (or should I say persecution?).

The sequel to this is that almost four months later I appeared at Knutsford Magistrates’ Court and was fined £10 for this trivial offence, which I could not have rectified before I arrived home even if I had been aware of it, but as stated, I did not even know that the bulb was missing until asked to operate the horn.

Needless to say, unlike your correspondent “Frustrated,” I have no sympathy whatsoever for the police after receiving treatment of this description, which smacks of police state administration,  and I am afraid that my help would not be forthcoming to any policeman under any circumstances.

I would also say that it is about time that administration of the law by “amateur” magistrates was stopped, and left to men with the required knowledge of processes of law and impartiality required to carry out these duties in a manner fair and satisfactory to the general public, and not only to the police. How often have unfortunate drivers heard the farcical words ” Well, in this case we feel there must be a conviction.”

Why should magistrates “feel” there “must” be a conviction, they should be sure of it or dismiss the case.

I always understood that the basis of British law was for a person to be assumed innocent until proved guilty, but this would appear to go by the board nowadays and a person is assumed guilty until he can prove himself innocent. But with the law applied in such manner by people so biased in favour of the police, taking the word of a policeman as absolute gospel, what chance does the poor unfortunate, unbelieved motorist stand of establishing his innocence?

And please, do not let us have a spate of letters saying that the policeman must tell the truth on principle as an upholder of the law, as I know from bitter experience that this does not always apply, and providing a conviction is obtained and a fine extorted they are not at all particular about their methods.

As I do not want to be victimised by the police, and believe me I have not the slightest doubt that this would occur, I would appreciate your withholding publication of my name and addrese and sign me as . . .

I am, Yours, etc., “Disgusted.” Salford.

Good Service


Although a regular reader for many years this is the first time I have felt it really necessary to write to the Editor, and as it concerns service in the true sense of the word, something rarely found in these days of “take it or leave it, ” garage service, I would like to express my family’s thanks through your column to High Gate Motors, Highgate, and Mr. Cook, proprietor of the garage — Hurstborne Priors, Whitchurch, and British Railways at Whitchurch, Hants.

Proceeding on my holiday to Cornwall on Saturday, August 15th, we had just passed Whitchurch when I lost the crown of a piston — you can imagine the feelings of self and family. The time was 7.45 a.m.

I was indeed fortunate in finding Mr. Cooke’s garage and after explaining to him the position, he assisted in every possible way to obtain a replacement, all contacts including the Alvis agent at Andover and service station at Finchley Road gave the usual reply  — no help till Monday.

Lunchtime was approaching too rapidly and as a final hope I suggested trying Highgate Motors from whom I had purchased the car some 12 months ago. They did not have a piston, but would not only pick one up from Finchley Road, but would be pleased to put it on the train at Waterloo. They finally asked the number from which I was ‘phoning in order that they could give me the departure time of the train — this they did.

Armed with this information I approached the station at Whitchurch — they explained that the parcel would have to change trains half-way, but the friendly and most helpful booking clerk promised to ring the half-way station just to make sure the parcel was transferred to the connection. At 3.45 the parcel was handed to me. At this point I would like to add that Mr. Cooke’s mechanic came back from his Saturday afternoon off at 4.30 to reassemble the engine, and I drove away just before 8 p.m.

This is service which in my opinion deserves the highest praise — such people obviously are honest enough to back up the “Service” sign they display. Unfortunately, the majority do not appear to understand the meaning of the word.

I am, Yours, etc., S. Pearcy. Hemel Hempstead.

They Like the Volvo


In reply to your correspondent in the October issue of Motor Sport, who asks for an ordinary driver’s impressions of the Volvo, perhaps the following observations might be of some interest.

I have just completed 4,000 miles in a 1959 Volvo 122S and, unfortunately, for various reasons, I have now parted with it. Firstly, as stated in your road-test in February, the performance is really outstanding for a 1½-litre engine — and without using any oil to speak of. Petrol consumption is probably what one would expect, ranging from 26 m.p.g. on short journeys and in towns, to about 31 on long journeys, driven hard.

My impressions of the gearbox are mixed. Whilst the gear change itself is quite delightful, with absolutely unbeatable synchromesh, even with full throttle changes, the amount of travel is rather extensive in a car of this nature, where remote control would be a great improvement. The brakes: are effective enough, in standard form, although fairly heavy pedal pressure is required.

My chief criticism of the car concerns the suspension. Road shocks are transmitted very noticeably and there is a fair degree of pitching on undulating surfaces and considerable roll on cornering, during which tyre squeal is very noticeable. This latter fault occurs even on gentle cornering and is particularly obvious on smooth surfaces.

For the rest of the car, the quality of detail finish leaves nothing to be desired and is really outstandingly good. The rear lamp glasses on my car came adrift after about 2,500 miles, the plastic of the lenses fracturing around all the mouldings which retain the screws attaching them to the reflector and bulb-holder assembly, possibly due to overtightening. This would appear to be a weak point in design. Luggage space, I found, was very adequate indeed and the fact that both boot lid and bonnet lid do not have to be retained in the open position by struts is particularly helpful. The latest model has some modifications to the specification quoted in relation to the road-test model. Long-time parking lights, windscreen washers and electric clock are no longer standard fittings, although the jets for the washers were in position!

Altogether, a delightful car to drive in many respects, with excellent instruments and equipment, but with braking and suspension not quite in keeping with performance.

I am, Yours, etc., J. J. Hall. Hitchin.



Since Mr. W. B. Horner has asked a Volvo owner to come forth with his own views I will do my best to satiate his curiosity.

Having read the road-test report Motor Sport, 1959) I feel that undue emphasis was placed on the car’s performance. I have completed more than 6,000 miles of varied motoring, and I feel that this car is pleasant to drive but I would not go beyond this point. As the Volvo 122S comes from the distributors it has excessive roll when cornered quite modestly, with an attendant tyre squeal both when cornering and when braking. Stiffer anti-roll bars can be fitted but I imagine that the tyres would still squeal. The brakes are indifferent, requiring considerable pedal pressure to pull you up in a hurry, but they are adequate. My brakes never want to pull me up in a straight line and appear to produce much dust in the brake drums. The steering is light and positive, the 32-ft. turning circle is more than useful. The driving position is admirable, especially after driving an M.G. Magnette, but I do not know how anyone under 5 ft. 10 in. can reach the foot-operated dip-switch. The collapsible steering wheel is adorned with a strip of chromium plating which I have covered with black leather. This was an eyesore in more ways than one. There is an impressive array of adjuncts (but no ammeter) all well placed for the driver. The heater gives out enough heat to melt the shoe polish on your shoes but the air inlet part on the bonnet lets in too much air so that its incoming force eventually overrides the controls. At 60 m.p.h. this makes a frightening noise — it keeps me awake.

The engine layout is impressively accessible such that routine maintenance does not require the usual abdominal flexing and manual gyrations. I find the engine remarkably smooth and economical for 1½ litres, with 30 m.p.g. town and country driving. The gear ratios are well chosen and the gear lever an abomination. It waggles back and forth at all rev. speeds and when the gearbox is used to advantage I have to take a firm grasp of a long lever when changing. This is not much joy after my 1958 VW with its silky smooth vibration-free gear change.

My real argument is directed against the finish. If you run your hand under the dashboard feeling for the parking light switch be careful you do not cut your hand. The plastic upholstered interior is a mass of rough ends. The bottom of the doors trap water with the inevitable consequences, and the interior hollow door handles with rough edges remind one of the poor finish each time my too-soft hands take hold to dismount, from an impractical pink and now off-white interior.

I think that it would be unfair to enumerate a list of teething troubles except to say that my steering was out of alignment when I took delivery. The main London agents were most helpful here.

If I may be so bold as to sum up my impressions. Here is a saloon car with remarkable performance when compared with a B.M.C. car of comparable cubic capacity but with an interior finish so shoddy by comparison with a M.G. Magnette.

If only Mercedes Benz would make the spritely 122S Volvo!

I am, Yours, etc., T. E. N. Preston. Hampstead.



In reply to Mr. Horner, he can do no better than rush out and buy a Volvo, if he wants a car that will make cars with a litre more look silly in comparison, and yet with steady family driving return 40 m.p.g. She is a solid, well-made car, and does not sound like a drum when tapped, as so many do these days. After 13,000 miles of cruising at 70 when we can, the car has returned 35 m.p.g., and a non-existent oil consumption.

With the old model 9-in. brake drums I have found a brake booster desirable for fast work, whilst the tubeless Trellenborgs have been changed for Michelin X’s, mainly because of the terrific howling from the former on any corner over five m.p.h. The only other extra has been a straight-through exhaust, which has helped the car do over “the ton” on a very near correct speedo, whilst full of luggage.

After one good “dice” I should say that the all-round performance is slightly better than the Ford Zodiac, but the B.M.C. 1½ litres just look puzzled in the distance. With performance to match the Alpine and yet with rear seats and a boot (Alpinists apparently only use brief cases) the Volvo is surely just the car for a sporting motorist.

I am, Yours, etc., D. S. Carriott. Truro.

P.S. — I would not like it to appear that there has never been any trouble with the car, for the Wilmot Breeden door locks have not worked properly yet, and no one seems to know why. Thank you for your splendid magazine.



In reply to Mr. Horner, I have now had a Volvo for one year and 15,000 miles.

I, too, had followed these cars through numerous rallies. I was attracted by its lines, and by the fact that it is undersealed before leaving the factory.

Petrol consumption averages 32 m.p.g. On taking delivery we drove 300 miles not exceeding 45 m.p.h., with gentle acceleration and averaged 43 m.p.g. Late night driving on the Ostend autobahn at a steady 85-90 m.p.h. for 70 miles produced 21 m.p.g.

Naturally, I find it an excellent car for rally work, other drivers behind being impressed by the way it hugs the road on corners, even of the sharp left-right-left type. It is also excellent for fast long distance touring, even with two cwt. on the roof rack. My wife prefers it for shopping as it is so easy to park with a turning circle of 32-33 ft., less than an A35.

I get most satisfaction out of leaving a certain 2.4 saloon standing at the traffic lights. To be fair, that 2.4 passes me again at 65 m.p.h., but as I am still chuckling at the look on his face, I don’t mind!

Criticisms are minor. Giving it the gun in second gear on wet roads will slide the tail but this is easily corrected. There is appreciable engine noise when accelerator is suddenly depressed, this can be overcome by a different type of air silencer, but this also reduces performance. However, it is quite quiet at high speeds, unless one puts one’s foot down hard. There is a sharp bend in the speedometer cable which snaps cables at 6,000 miles, also heater control has little movement between cool and roasting.

In short, it is a good car for rallies, town work, long-distance touring, and is very good on rough roads such as in its home country. After driving 11 makes of car, I have found the Volvo to have their advantages multiplied, and their shortcomings non-existent; although I have found that, like a VW, the longer one has one, the more pleased one becomes.

I am, Yours, etc., G. D. Hedley. Westerhope.



The menace of cancer-producing diesel fumes should be stopped once and for all. There is a very simple way of doing this. Just increase the duty on diesel oil above that on petrol when the desired result should be achieved.

Medical evidence has already proved that diesel fumes are dangerous to health and the urgency cannot be over-emphasised.

I am, Yours, etc., W. G. West. Northwood.

The Performance of the Berkeley


To those of your readers who followed the correspondence in your columns earlier this year under the above heading, the following brief account of my recent Continental tour in a 500-c.c. Berkeley may be of interest.

The total distance covered was 3,250 miles in 16 days. This included 450 miles of autobahn at speeds in excess of 60 m.p.h., the Stelvio and Gavia passes in one day without stopping, numerous other passes — mostly in torrential rain, and several hundred miles at high speed in the almost tropical heat of Central Italy. Our only trouble consisted of a fractured engine mounting on the first day, soon efficiently welded by the French. Our luggage included weather equipment, camping gear, cooking equipment, and two suitcases containing personal belongings, all of which resulted in the ground clearance being reduced from 7 in. to 3 in.!

Perhaps the most remarkable achievement was an overall petroil consumption of 50.27 m.p.g. The car normally returns 45 m.p.g. touring around this country at moderate speeds with a fair amount of traffic driving.

The car now has 13,000 miles to its credit. Unreliable. . .?

I am, Yours, etc., N. Grazebrook. Kidderminster.

More Mass Convictions at Salisbury


Your comments on the mass convictions of motorists at Salisbury bring back nostalgic memories of motoring in the early part of the century, when the 20 m.p.h. speed limit was in force.

May I recommend to you, and all readers of Motor Sport, Rudyard Kipling’s short story “The Village That Voted the Earth Was Flat,” written, I believe, in 1913. The present-day magistrates and police have changed but little from their predecessors!

I, myself, was convicted at Chichester in 1910 for driving over a measured two furlongs at the colossal speed of 25½ m.p.h., and fined £2 with 10s. costs and 5s. for verification of the stopwatch, an Ingersoll costing 5s. new in those days!

But do read “The Village That Voted. . .” it will amuse you I’m sure.

I am, Yours, etc., D. S. Ainger. Torquay.

Where are They Now?


Through the pages of your excellent magazine I wonder if I could trace the whereabouts of two cars which belonged to my father in years gone by. The first is a 1934 Lagonda, Reg. No. AXB 104, and the other is a 1932 Rolls-Royce 20/25, Reg. No. XJ 3029. I should be very interested to hear from the present owners.

May I take this opportunity of thanking you for many hours of very enjoyable reading.

I am, Yours, etc., John Eastwood. Sutton Coldfield.

The Cooper Driving School


It seems that there are two alternative conclusions we can draw from Ian Burgess’ letter in your September issue; either the standard of applicants has been lower than expected or the standard expected of them has been too high.

Let us take these alternatives in turn. First, if the standard of applicants is too low what is the point of encouraging candidates to waste further considerable sums of money on second and subsequent attempts? Second, if the standard set is very high, should it not be possible for these top drivers to graduate to larger and faster cars under adequate training and supervision? Perhaps we may be told which of these is true.

Surely to say that “the step from even the most careful and advanced training to actually competing in F.2 races was too great” is a contradiction in terms, as such drivers as 18-year-old Pedro Rodriguez find it possible to step straight into an F.1 Ferrari without “the most careful and advanced training” but with considerable success.

I am, Yours, etc., Michael R. Robertson-Martin. Ingatestone.

[We invited Cooper Cars Ltd. to reply further to recent correspondence regarding the Cooper Driving School but we are informed that they do not wish to take any further part in this at the moment, although they have invited us to send a representative to Brands Hatch to see part of their training programme. — Ed.].

The Jim Russell Racing Drivers’ School


The recent letters concerning the Cooper Racing Drivers’ Division have been most interesting.

Here in Norfolk the Jim Russell Racing Drivers’ School which was formed at about the same time as the Cooper school has been having sessions at Snetterton most weekends and has been entering drivers in races for the last two seasons. At Snetterton it is quite normal to see five or six pupils entered for a race, either in 1,100 c.c. Cooper sports cars or single-seat Coopers, or the pupil’s own car. While the cars belonging to the school are detuned to a certain extent they have put up some very creditable performances, and the pupils are getting actual racing experience, which would appear to be more than is the case with the Cooper Racing Division.

I have no connection with the Russell R.D.S.

I am, Yours, etc., R. F. Young. Bunwell. 

Another Racing Drivers’ School


I have read recent issues of Motor Sport with delight at hearing the Cooper Racing Drivers’ scheme exposed. It warns off other people who may be tempted to join these clubs. May I add another, more useless club, to this list — the M.R.E. racing team. This must be the most obvious swindle I have ever experienced. I heard first of this in last year’s Motor Sport, when they offered to hire out cars for certain track events. The next time was when I read an advertisement in the local newspaper which read: “Any driver between the age of 21 and 30 who thinks he has so far been denied the opportunity to race and has the conviction that he could become a successful racing driver please write box –.”!

I wrote to this box number and five weeks later received a reply containing an application form. They said they were sorry for the delay but they had had so many replies it had been hard to cope with them. I filled in the application form which asked for details of driving experience, competition experience and if a competition licence was held (it was in my case). Three weeks later I received a promising letter which said I was one of the chosen few who had been selected from thousands. Of course, went on the letter, we cannot bear the whole expense of this trial so we have decided the fairest thing would be to halve the cost and pay 78s. each. This at the time seemed quite reasonable, even it I had only three of four laps round the circuit. The circuit they used is at Castle Combe.

I sent off 78s. and two months later the appointed day arrived. I had a day off from work and drove down to Castle Combe (150 miles) in the Dauphine I own. On arrival at Castle Combe I drove straight past the circuit for obvious reasons — it is now closed down. After asking a villager for directions he smiled and pointed out the way. On arrival I got quite a shock. The only buildings standing are just about to collapse, and the circuit is bumpy. A small group was gathered around a lone Cooper-Climax — there were about 10 people there. A chap took us on the circuit (which is now only half a circuit, as the other half is occupied by cows owned by a local farmer).

The run consisted of going about a quarter of a mile, turning round a barrel, going back about three-quarters of a mile, then turning by another barrel and repeating the process.

After watching other people do the test in the Cooper I was convinced it would be of no use, as the officials were just not interested in how you drove. They just stood and chatted all the time. The clutch would not disengage on the car so it was impossible to tell whether you could drive or not, as it was impossible to make a decent gearchange.

After the test I stood around for two hours waiting for someone to say something but no one did. I went home very disappointed. All the other drivers felt the same and you will doubtless have had other letters concerning the same scheme. In point of fact I wasted approximately £9 for the day out.

I hope in the interests of other enthusiasts that you will be able to find room for this letter in your columns.

I am, Yours, etc.,B. Stevens. Sheffield.

A Twin-Cam M.G. in Ireland


Due to being away on holidays I have been unable to write you sooner requesting you convey my sincerest thanks to Malcolm Woodward and David A. Ford for the obvious trouble they have gone to in furnishing such detailed information about the M.G.-A Twin-Cam.

Since my letter appeared in your August issue my car has been modified under the supervision of two representatives from Messrs. Nuffield Exports and its former characteristic bugbears have now been eliminated — my only trouble being with plugs, which I have cured since fitting K.L.G. FE220 plugs. These have not got the tendency to oil up when driven at town or touring speeds.

Might I advise your Ledbury correspondent, A. Allen, that having made known my requirements to concessionaires, I was not advised that this model would be unsuitable. He is quite right when he says the Austin-Healey Sprite would not be as impressive at the yacht club — I don’t think it would be vary impressive elsewhere either. In any case, as it happens, the Austin-Healey Sprite is not sold in this country.

It is perfectly obvious that J. J. Flynn of Dublin is not objective in his reasoning and conclusions, and he might like to peruse my file before making any further hasty appraisals. I fail to see by what method of reasoning he considers a 1952 Aston Martin DB2, which he has been endeavouring to sell for some years, a fair exchange for a 1959 M.G.-A Twin-Cam.

I am, Yours, etc., S. Clune. Dublin.

Motor Sport in Admiralty Bay

As a regular reader of Motor Sport I thought you may be interested in the enclosed photograph received from as far away as Admiralty Bay, South Atlantic.

The gentleman in the photograph, a friend, by name of Mr. Christopher Sauter, joined a group of scientists as diesel and electrical maintenance engineer.

The party sailed tor the Antarctic in October 1957.  You may recall the Shackleton on which they were aboard, was holed by an iceberg later on in the year, but managed to limp back to port after having to throw overboard valuable equipment.

Chris informs me that Motor Sport, which is posted each month and he receives when weather conditions are favourable, is the most popular magazine on the base, it is read in comparative comfort at their living quarters, and under canvas with an old oil lamp waiting for a blizzard to blow itseif out.

I am, Yours, etc., B. Willgrass. Sheffield.

[See photograph below. — Ed.].

Vauxhall’s Steel Problem


The following statement, signed by Philip Copelin, Vauxhall’s Chairman and Managing Director, was posted on company notice boards on October 13th:__

“Our supplies of sheet steel, which have been difficult throughout this year, have now reached a critical position.

“Over the past year or two steel industry spokesmen have indicated that by 1959 British mills would be able to supply practically all of the requirements of the motor-car industry, but as the year has gone by Vauxhall has found it necessary to import an increasingly large percentage of its requirements. In fact, Vauxhall will receive less British steel in 1959 than in 1958. At the present time our delivery arrears from British suppliers amount to more than 7,000 tons.

“In these circumstances we now find it impossible to continue production at full capacity. We are therefore reducing our production schedules for the next few months by not working on Saturday mornings.

“Demand for our cars and trucks continues at peak level. The unavoidable cut in our output at this time unfortunately means that we cannot meet our commitments to many important customers in export markets.

“Our Purchasing Department is, of course, continuing to make every possible effort, with the assistance of our associates around the world, to secure any supplies of sheet steel which may be available.

“This matter has been fully discussed with the M.A.C. at today’s meeting.”

We are, Yours, etc., Vauxhall Motors Ltd., Public Relations Division. Luton.,

“Light Under a Bushel”


The initials W.B., D.S.J., M.L.T., A.B., J.B., and D.J.R. abound in the text of your magazine, but the photographer or photographers who produce the very fine set of action shots we all look forward to seeing on the centre pages, remain anonymous. Do we assume from this that your photographers are a reticent group of gentlemen, or perhaps W.B., D.S.J., M.L.T., etc., take the photographs themselves.

I am, Yours, etc., A. G. Fewkes. Loughborough.

[At your request we are delighted to bring our photographers into the open — since 1918, Michael John Tee, joined in 1958 by Alan Wake Green. Glad you like their pictures — so do we! Managing Director.]