ELVA AT EPSOM
The Elva Press-party was a disaster. Not for the assembled journalists, for they had a good lunch in the slightly-decayed dining room of the R.A.C. Country Club at Woodcote Park. But for the Lambretta-Trojan Group, which is manufacturing the new range of Elva sports cars, and whose spokesman found it necessary to excuse the criticisms of those who drove the cars by saying that the release had been called early to avoid a clash with other Paris and London Motor Show parties and that Trojan Ltd., with 1,000 keen workers, would be able to put right the faults in a very short time, when the journalists would be able to try the cars over a greater distance. He went on to say that they were aiming to introduce an individual car in an age of increasing standardisation, using well-proved B.M.C. engine and transmission units, and reminded us that some 700 Elvas have already been sold, mainly to the U.S.A., and that their long list of competition victories should ensure a ready market. A competition car successful on the circuits in the hands of skilled drivers does not always imply a car palatable to road-users of average skill, however.
There should have been four Elva Courier Mk. Ills to try, but only two materialised, and the coupe with reverse-angle rear window and disc brakes all round, inboard at the back, was not expected until late in the afternoon.
Obviously the cars had been too hurriedly prepared. The beamaxle Courier Mk. III coupe driven by the Editor had a gear-lever set high and so stiff it could only be shifted with considerable force, pedals set far too close together, a driving seat that refused to adjust, so that effective operation of the clutch and brake pedals was impossible, unconvincing brakes, a petrol gauge reading permanently empty, a thermometer permanently at “C,” an ignition warning light that never went out, a rear-view mirror partially obscured by an enormous “box ” behind the seats, and something rattling in the boot.
The steering is extremely light but there is pronounced oversteer and the car is very “tail-happy” both vertically and laterally, while ground clearance is virtually nil. The doors have sliding windows and fixed quarter-lights and the transmission tunnel is the widest I have ever seen, effectively isolating driver from passenger. This 1,622-c.c. M.G.-engined fibre-glass coupe would have been excusable if built from a kit by a lad of 18.
However, there is no accounting for tastes, and at lunch Bob Danvers-Walker, a Radio and TV commentator, announced quite emphatically that he considers the latest Elva to be far nicer than an M.G.-A, ordered one for cash, and expressed regret that he hasn’t shares in Trojan Ltd.
It remains to be seen whether Trojan can eradicate the errors incorporated in the prototypes. Even so, the price of £965 10s. for the 2-seater is higher than that asked by B.M.C. for the new M.G.-B 2-seater. Mk. IV versions of the ladder-frame Elva, with i.r.s. based on the Triumph Herald, will not be available for a few months and will cost over £1,000.
In our description of the new Morris 1100 in the September issue we referred to its rubber Hydrolastic inter-coupled all independent suspension as self-levelling. This is virtually correct, because as the front wheels ride over uneven ground the back of the car rises under the influence of fluid passing along the coupling pipes, and vice versa, so that a pitch-free ride ensues.
It should, however, be made clear that such self-levelling or pitch-free travel is not the same as more complex constant level suspension in which a car maintains an even-keel even when weight is applied to one end or the other. Citroen achieve this by hydropneumatic means, and it is found also in the Mercedes-Benz 300SE and was a feature of the big air-sprung Borgward. Such automatic height control involves the extra complication of engine-driven air or oil pumps, and storage reservoirs.
B.M.C.’s Dunlop/Moulton even-keel suspension, using rubber units with hydraulic inter-connection, is self-contained and ingeniously simple. Inter-connection was pioneered by mechanical linkage in 1950 on the Citroen 2 c.v. (which retains it and has handed it on to the Ami 6) and was followed in 1955 by a similar system on the big Packard Clipper.
Congratulations to Sydney Allard on setting up the fastest s.s. kilometre achieved by a four-wheeled vehicle in this country 20.86 sec, at Church Fenton. Allard also did a s.s. ¼-mile in 11.54 sec. and he crossed the line at 145.77 m.p.h. at the end of the longer distance, which rather disposes of previous claims in the 170-190 m.p.h. bracket. By way of contrast, the figures for Peter Sutcliffe’s Jaguar-D were 23.93 sec. and 141.84 m.p.h. Allard turned the tables on George Brown, who beat him at Brighton, as at Church Fenton his figures on the Vincent were 21.69 sec. and 148.84 m.p.h. It appears that before the end of the Brighton kilometre the Allard dragster had burst the pipe between supercharger and engine, a common problem with such an installation and the reason why the Americans bolt their blowers on the engine, eliminating a long induction pipe.
This is not anything like as fast as American ” sling-shots ” have gone but sets a fine target for English sprint exponents.
Incidentally, there is no truth in the rumour that Allard welcomed the recent railway strike as a chance to “get the cement to set” — he is, however, a leading advocate of the railways-into-roads movement.
COPS AND ROBBERS
Remarkable things happen on the roads of Britain, apart from private motorists being apprehended for doing 32 m.p.h. in deserted towns and 43 m.p.h. along dual-carriageway arterial highways. For instance, according to the Daily Mail two prisoners were being conveyed in a hired Austin Princess when a halt was called by the three prison officers in charge of them at the Homestead Café near Salisbury. The driver carelessly left the ignition-key in place and while he and the three officers poured themselves tea the prisoners went to the lavatory, then emerged and, although hand-cuffed together, managed to start the car, having locked its doors.
Quick to respond, and gallantly foresaking the cup that cheers, the driver and officers rushed to the Princess and held on to it. Not surprisingly, it pulled itself clear. Luckily the café proprietor offered his car and drove the officers in pursuit. The Daily Mail reports the Princess as doing 125 m.p.h., driven by its hand-cuffed driver, and the following car over 100 m.p.h.—the hire firm concerned is to be congratulated on knowing how to tune a Princess!
However, even Fangio was never asked to display his skill while hand-cuffed, and at a bend the Princess crashed. Yet, with a burst front tyre, one wing hanging off and smoke pouring from under the bonnet, the prisoners got it going again, only to have another prang down a lane. This time they hit a tree and really wrote off their Princess. But, having found the officer’s keys, they had undone the hand-cuffs and one swam a river before being re-captured with his mate. Ah well, as we are always reminding you, there are many forms of motor sport!
If the prisoners ever come out we suggest they apply for a job in TV crime films. But really, with the police reminding all motorists to lock their cars, these prison officers seem to have been singularly careless; and who pays for the Princess and its tuning equipment, we wonder. . . .—W. B.