Matters of moment, November 1963
Motor Show speeches
An important item of the London Motor Show session is the speech by Mr. G. W. Harriman, C.B.E., Chairman Of the British Motor Corporation, to the Press. This year Mr. Harriman, after reminding English journalists of the high reputation they have got and the impact of their articles on people with whom British Industry does business .abroad, went on to emphasise the B.M.C.’s unique position as the World’s biggest sportscar producer, making well over 1,000 a week; the popularity of M.G. and Austin Healey in North America has prompted at least one U.S. competitor to enter this field. But, said Mr. Harriman, the success they have achieved in competitions has been won by using larger engines, or brute force—”a galaxy of power,” whereas the B.M.C. is constantly striving to perfect the small engine. But has Mr. Harriman overlooked the fact that, the big Galaxie apart, Ford compete in rallies and saloon-car races with engines of 1,540 cc.?
His speech went on to praise the B.M.C. for fulfilling its promise to the Chancellor that a cut in p.t. would increase business; B.M.C. current output is equal to well over 900,000 vehicles a year, with exports up 18% on 1962. 46% of all cars registered in the U.K. last August were made by the B.M.C. “In my view the Government could do worse than gear the economy of the country to the Motor Industry,” said Mr. Harriman.
It would seem, however, that the B.M.C. may harbour secret fears, for its Chairman cannot leave foreign small cars alone—”we are always glad to hear your suggestions for producing better cars….a long as they do not include rear-mounted engines, swing axles or air-cooling.” Also, after saying that since 1946 the B.M.C. has shipped abroad more than 3 1/4-million vehicles, or a million more than any other British manufacturer, made by a wholly-owned British Company, using British designs and British engineering innovations, produced by British workpeople, financed entirely by British capital and supplied by an organisation overseas predominantly British, Mr. Harriman added “and no doubt you will see the influence of the dollar at Earls Court, but do look at the quality of the pound.”
Perhaps he has forgotten that the late Lord Nuffield, to whom tribute was rightly paid in a reply by a Pressman, used American engines in his bull-nose Morris cars to build up the motor empire from which the B.M.C. stems.
We still hear criticism of the VW, which is approaching 7-million sales, from the top-brass of the British Industry. This shadows their fear of Wolfsburg and is the finest compliment they can pay to the memory of Dr. Porsche. How refreshing, then, that when the Rt. Hon. Viscount Lord Hailsham, Q.C., opened the London Show he welcomed first our foreign competitors, saying “they are all very good indeed and give us a proper challenge, to show us the standards that we need to compete with.”
We are confident that our 1964 cars, notably the new Rover 2000, can compete with the rest of the World. But we don’t like to see our Captains of Industry and our engineers with their heads in the sand. Let them look bravely at what Europe and American dollars are doing, accept the challenge, and beat it, rather than tilt at rivals in public and decry them in private, as we have heard them do. In this context, all praise to the B.M.C. for its philosophy that technical advances and engineering innovations, so ably displayed in its Issigonis ADO15 and 16 designs, are so much better than styling gimmicks, which have merely transient appeal. Finally, we hope Mr. Harriman was joking when he said all the free inches journalists give the B.M.C. don’t equal the advertising space it pays for—apart from editorial space being far more valuable than bought publicity, has he counted the comparative inches?
The turbine tape
Chrysler International, in the course of a World tour in which they are flying a Chrysler Corporation gas-turbine Ghia coupé 47,000 miles in a DC7-F aircraft, let British journalists drive it near Dorking last month. Running on Mobil JP-4 fuel, shod with 14-in. Goodyear tyres and having power steering and braking, the car is simplicity to handle and Chrysler obviously have the utmost faith in it. From without it sounds like a rather frenzied Foden; within, all is silence. A tiny central lever selects “idle,” “drive,” “low” or “reverse” on the very smooth TorqueFlite automatic transmission, the tach. says 18,000 r.p.m. idling up to 44,600 r.p.m. maximum, a dial shows a first-stage inlet temp. around 1,500° F., all else is normal. Everyday drivers seen struggling with their juggernauts at 40 m.p.h. will find the turbine car no more frightening! Pedestrians cannot object to heat or smell, although standing close to the tail is a nice way of warming the feet gently on a cold day. There is engine braking, the pick-up is very smooth and they claim 17 m.p.g. (range about 300 miles) driving normally. All praise to Chrysler for showing us a practical turbine car. The idling noise alone is the personification of prestige.—W.B.
Those dragster duels
Last month we described how the Allard Motor Co. and Revell (Gt. Britain) Ltd. promoted a dragster-duel between Sydney Allard and Dante Duce and how, after Duce had won at Silverstone with 9.48 sec., at Brighton only demonstration runs were permitted. Also how Mickey Thompson had arrived unexpectedly, after flying-in with his dragster.
The duel was resumed at Church Lawford on September 21st. If at Brighton Duce could have been considered the token winner, for whereas his smoke-enshrouded starts left the spectators enthralled, Allard retired with engine trouble, now the position was reversed, Duce clocking 12.14 sec. for the s.s. 1/4-mile, whereas Allard did 11.34 sec., over a somewhat dicey course.
Thompson managed an even better time—8.84 sec.—the next day when all three slingshots ran at Debden, timed by the N.S.A. over the 1/4-mile, while competitors in the Thames Estuary M.C. sprint tackled a s.s. 1/4-mile. Allard was in trouble with a faulty main bearing and when he did finally get going fuel starvation spoilt his runs. Thompson later clocked 9.21 sec.; this was on nitromethane fuel; using less potent fuel and a different axle ratio he clocked 9.47 sec., reaching 177 m.p.h. just before the finish of the 1/4-mile. Duce in his 1961 smaller-engined vehicle, running on straight petrol, did a creditable 9.99 sec., finishing on 164 m.p.h. Densham’s 1 1/2-litre slingshot clocked 14.43 sec. and George Brown on his “Super Nero” Vincent, which, after all, is still a conventional motorcycle and not a freak, managed an excellent time although a missed gear change had upset one of the valve collets and made the wee-twin misfire, so that most of his runs suffered. It is interesting that Duce borrowed a pair of “slicks,” softer than his own, from Allard, but found that with them he could not spin his wheels at all—and Allard gets off without a spin.
After Duce and Thompson had run as a pair the R.A.C. Stewards seemed to regard the whole thing as near-suicide, and Thompson’s desire, after putting in his liquid dynamite fuel, to be timed over the 1/2-mile, when he expected to reach 250 m.p.h., was disallowed. Why we do not know, for both slingshots pulled up easily and Thompson pointed out that they ran paired drags over strips of half Debden’s width in the States. But as the N.S.A. agrees with the R.A.C. to allow a half-mile pull up at the end of the s.s. 1/4, they had to abide by the decision of the cautious Stewards.
However, the crowd stayed to the very end and there is no doubt that with more of these 150/180 m.p.h. slingshots in the entry list, British sprint meetings could become very popular indeed. There is nothing quite like them for smoke and sound!
What really matters, of course, is the time over the s.s. 1/4. The “terminal velocity” is only of academic interest and, keeping a sense of proportion, it is desirable to remember the speeds G.P. cars were attaining on road circuits in 1937/39 and the sort of tyres and chassis brave men lapped Brooklands on in the old days, not forgetting that Parry Thomas was doing nearly 180 m.p.h. at Pendine in 1927 and Segrave over 200 m.p.h. at Daytona the same year, in very primitive cars. Also, the times for the s.s. kilo and mile set up pre-war by comparatively conventional racing cars shouldn’t be overlooked.
Nevertheless, slingshots in their own sphere are a great sight and a fine technical achievement. More power to them!
A big Pontiac sedan cut down to form an impressive pick-up was borrowed to push-start Thompson’s 8-litre Harvey Aluminium and the S.M.A.R.T.’s Ford Cortina station wagon served the same purpose for Duce’s 5-litre Chevrolet-powered Revell Mooneyes.—W. B.
A good battery
During the last six months or so we have been testing a heavy duty 12-volt Macaulay battery. Although the plates have been kept well covered with distilled water and the terminals have had a liberal coating of grease the battery has been purposely left without use or attention for weeks on end. However, no great discharge of power was noticeable after this maltreatment and when brought back into service turned the engine over readily. A two-year guarantee is given and further details of these very reliable batteries can be obtained from Macaulay Batteries, 25-27 Mallinson Road, S.W.11.
The 100,000th VW competition
Some 30 Volkswagens at least ten years old assembled at Lord’s Court on Oct. 19th for the final of this contest. The judges were Mrs. A. M. Scales of the Anglo-German Association, Robert Wyse, and William Boddy, Editor of Motor Sport. They declared the winner as Mr. Wagstaff of Leicester, whose 1953 saloon, which he has owned for 8 1/2 years, has run 64,000 miles and never been de-coked. Mr. J. J. Graydon of VW Motors presented Mr. Wagstaff with the 100,000th VW imported into Britain, a 1500 saloon, and the Company bought Mr. Wagstaff’s old car in order to present it to the Montagu Motor Museum. So his visit to London was worth over £1,000. Another 1953 VW owned by two sisters tied for first place but had run only 10,000 miles. No other Company is likely to be so generous to its old customers, and one wonders whether they could assemble such a presentable number of their products of a decade ago? The only pity is that a VW which looks to have another ten years’ life in it should now be destined for a museum!
In our description of the Vauxhall Viva we stated that to lower the c.r. a thinner gasket is used and eagle-eyed readers have pointed out that what we should have written was a thicker gasket. In fact, normally a corrugated steel gasket is used, but to lower the Viva’s c.r. from 8.5 to 7.3 to 1 a copper asbestos gasket is substituted, enabling fuels of lower octane-rating to be used. Incidentally, the Viva’s combustion chambers are fully machined. The inlet valves are 1.244 in. in dia., the exhaust valves 1.066 in , with faces at 44° in 45° seats.—W. B.