Matters Of Moment, November 1962

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THE SURVIVAL OF THE SPORTS CAR

In a World of increasing automation and a softening human race it is a relief to know that the sports car shows no evidence of dying out. Indeed, some promising new sports cars were a feature of the London Motor Show, which should be a cause for congratulation to those who enjoy fresh air, recognise that, properly driven, such responsive cars represent the safest as well as the most exhilarating form of road travel, and who appreciate how successfully British sports cars have been exported to the U.S.A., since the demand there, immediately after the war, for M.G.s

Although sports cars no longer have fold-flat windscreens calling for flying helmets and goggles, indeed, often have wind-up windows to supplement fixed screens, and invariably possess heaters, in essence they remain the exciting and desirable cars they always were. In this field you seem to get what you pay for, with the B.M.C. Sprites and Midgets costing well under £700 with 1,098 c.c. engines, disc front brakes but rigid back axles. The all-independently sprung Triumph Spitfire 4, priced at £730 with Italian-styled, very attractive bodywork, less than £1,000 buying the new M.G.-B or a Morgan Plus Four, the Triumph TR4 available at £1,032 and £1,499 covering a Lotus Elan with twin o.h.c. Ford 5-bearing engine, a revolutionary design of chassis and independent suspension and disc braking on each wheel, even if the body has to be of fibre-glass.

Moreover, Ford in America has the prototype Mustang, demonstrated at Watkins Glen by Dan Gurney, which uses a 1½ litre version of the ingenious V4 Taunus 12M engine at the rear and the Lotus-like wheels of which imply that Colin Chapman has a foot firmly entrenched in the Ford empire—which could do them a power of good.

Altogether, the future of the small sports car is bright, providing Insurance Companies do not push them off the road with ridiculously inflated premiums.

SEEDS OF THE POLICE STATE

A Police State is something to be dreaded and from which British Citizens are immune. Take note, however, of a recent motoring case in which the young driver of a Mini-Cooper, whose job and prospects depend on driving, was banned for a year and fined £30 with £3 18s. costs, at Guildford Borough Court because two witnesses, one a non-motorist, considered he was driving too fast and reported the matter to the police, vide the Surrey Advertiser. The driver explained that his car being more noisy at low speeds than at 55 m.p.h. and above and its special tyres squealing readily, his pace could easily be misjudged. He estimated it at “not much more than 32 m.p.h.” In any case, no accident had happened, and no one appears to have been inconvenienced. The driver, an insurance representative, aged 19, was merely accused of driving too fast and turning into a side road too quickly without signalling. He was accused on the evidence of a couple of young male nurses and, although his council said that even a minor offence could not be upheld on such evidence he lost his licence and was fined £30.

It is not for us to question the Court’s verdict but dislike and fear of Britain ever becoming in any way a Police State makes it necessary for us to express surprise and disapproval that the self-appointed witnesses, namely a Mr. Dale Clayton Spencer and a Mr. Reginald Rawlinson (who were engaged on a spot of window cleaning when they saw the Mini-Cooper) were thanked by the two Magistrates who heard the case. The seeds of a Police State are planted by encouraging non-uniformed civilians to turn informer. In most schools, and surely in the schools attended by those who now govern this country, “telling tales” is regarded as the lowest and most despicable form of behaviour. If it is to be encouraged by magistrates who hear motoring cases, no-one’s driving licence is going to be safe; far cry from the days when the Police wisely listened with extreme caution, or not at all, to self-appointed informers and when sober motorists never anticipated losing their licences for minor offences, real or alleged.

B.M.C. OPTIMISTIC

Mr. G. W. Harriman, Chairman of The British Motor Corporation, speaking to the Press at Grosvenor House on the eve of the London Motor Show said that B.M.C. regard the whole World as their Common Market. There are 206 countries in the World. They trade in 190 of them and have their tentacles in the remaining 16. B.M.C., said Mr. Harriman, have exported their first 100 cars to New Zealand and 40 or 50 to Fiji, exports that, being outside the British quota do not affect U.K. exports but contribute to the Australian economy.

B.M.C.’s exports to W. Europe have increased to August this year by 33% and the 1962 total should be 100,000 cars, or well over three times as many as Europeans can sell in the U.K. With improved sports cars, the Minis so well-established, the rally-winning Mini-Coopers and the brilliantly conceived Morris and M.G. 1100s, B.M.C.’s optimism is justified. Alas, lack of a positive policy from the Treasury and the Bank of England towards the financing of exports and overseas investments clouds an otherwise bright outlook.

WHO WON?

In recent weeks the results of three British races have been in doubt – those of the Three Hours Race at Snetterton, sponsored by Autosport, of the 750 M.C. Six Hour Relay Race at Silverstone and of the B.R.S.C.C. International Six Hour Saloon Car Race at Brands Hatch promoted by The Motor. This isn’t good enough. It detracts from the reputation motor racing has earned as a sport with a very large and enthusiastic following. Let’s hope it won’t happen again in 1963.

Best wishes to Pat Moss. who, after serving B.M.C. so well as a rally driver, has been signed-on by Ford in their determined bid to win outright one of next year’s International rallies.

JUSTICE?

More queer quirks of Justice where motorists are concerned have been brought to our notice by readers. It seems that if you are a policeman driving when off duty, you need not trouble about obeying the Law, judging by some recent cases. An off-duty Dundee policeman, after driving a van dangerously, was found to be unfit to have proper control of a motor vehicle as a result of taking alcohol, by a Police Surgeon, by a Police Constable called to apprehend him and by the Inspector at his Station. The lastnamed ordered him to be charged. Sheriff Inglis of Dundee Sheriff’s Court found the man not guilty (Dundee Evening Telegraph). A policeman involved in a cross-roads crash that overturned a lorry was found not guilty in Surrey (Aldershot News), A Huddersfield detective-constable was found not guilty after the Police estate-car he was driving hit a trolley pole, mounted the pavement for 100ft., hit another pole and a wall and finally crashed into a tree stump (Huddersfield Daily Examiner). In the last-mentioned case the excuse was that the driver saw a child he thought might run off the pavement. Case dismissed.

We are all for a little leniency towards sober drivers who get into difficulties, but would civilian drivers have fared so fortunately? However, if you are convicted, don’t forget to induce artificial tears, like the actors do, when you appear in the dock. When a lorry driver, fined 10s. for speeding, broke down and sobbed the Chairman of Usk Magistrates’ Court said, “Don’t worry, we will pay your fine. And there is the case of a milk roundsman who pleaded guilty of causing the death of a motorcyclist by dangerous driving. Mr. Justice Thesiger offered him the option of a year’s disqualification and one month in prison or a nominal fine and a 4-year disqualification (South Wales Echo). The correspondent who sent the latter clippings says if ever he wishes to commit murder he will run the victim down, expecting that British Justice will offer him the choice of paying a fine and using public transport for a few years in lieu of imprisonment.

APOLOGIES

In our October issue in the report of the Goodwood Members Meeting we said that Shaw’s Austin-Cooper nearly spun on the cooling down lap. This Mr. Shaw denies and further points out that he finished second not third as we stated. The problems of race reporting!

The latest windscreen washer kit from Tudor Accessories incorporates a flat, hot water bottle type, water container suitable for fitting to Mini Minors and other cars short of under bonnet space. Designated the “353” the kit consists of the water bottle, a double jet unit, pump mechanism and simple fitting brackets. At 30s. complete, a good investment for the winter months.

Tickets for the British Racing Mechanics Dinner, which is being held at the Criterion Restaurant, on November 23rd, are now available from Eddie Bowler. 7, Douglas Avenue, Wembley, Middlesex, at £2 each.

Film show: as in previous years the Sevenoaks and District Motor Club are presenting their annual film show at the Odeon Theatre, Bromley on November 23rd, starting at 11.30 p.m. Tickets price 5s. each can be obtained from Stephen Clipston, Plant Clifford & Co., 28, Widmore Road, Bromley, Kent.

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