Goodwood test day

Each year motoring journalists have their annual outing at Goodwood, organised by the Guild of Motoring Writers, when they can drive the products of most British manufacturers to their heart’s content. Notable absentees this year were A.C., Aston Martin, Bristol, Lagonda, Lotus, and Ogle, but with 133 different cars available they were not really missed.

Despite an optimistic weather forecast the rain was teeming down when the circuit was opened, and I elected to go out first in a Mini-Cooper S which, by virtue of its SP tyres, proved to be very safe and controllable under atrocious conditions. An E-type passed it on the straight but the Mini gobbled up the Jaguar on the bends. A real fun car!

Not having driven the Triumph 2000 before, I snapped one up quickly when it became available and was soon at home in it despite its rather spongy steering and light throttle action with too much free play. I thought its handling was not as good as that of the Rover 2000 but a colleague who drove one with SP tyres felt that it was better than a Pirelli Cintura-shod Rover. Of course, handling isn’t everything and the Rover must score on its interior quality if nothing else. However, the Triumph is a lot better than I thought and is obviously a step in the right direction.

Right at the height of the downpour I selected the E-type coupé, which was not in really great demand, for obvious reasons. This car has the latest seats and interior trim but otherwise is not changed a lot from its 1962 form. Despite any minor shortcomings, such as its unhappy gearbox, the E-type is a great car and is certainly one of the few cars I would consider using for 100-m.p.h. cruising down Lavant Straight in pouring rain. The test car was shod with RS5 tyres which could be made to break away very easily, but SP tyres should cure this tendency in the wet. I want one!

Not quite from the sublime to the ridiculous, but the next car was the Vauxhall Viva. Seats which give no lateral support on hard cornering were one of the weak points so that I had to hold myself upright with the steering wheel. However, it is quite quick, has a nice gearbox and seems to handle reasonably well on Goodwood’s smoothly-surfaced corners. One gentleman at Goodwood said he spun a Viva three times on his first drive in one, but then he is used to conducting Minis. In any case Vauxhall’s can’t make enough so why should they worry.

To get back to something a little quicker I took out the Reliant Sabre Six with Ford Zephyr engine. This has a sort of homemade feel about it, with several groans and noises coming from the transmission and body, and I was rather cramped in the cockpit. The Zephyr engine soon whisked it up to 90 m.p.h. but the Ford gearbox is no match for the ZE box used in the smaller Reliant. The handling seemed reasonable but someone else spun it later on.

People have been slow in modifying the Hillman Imp but Frank Webb of Nerus Engineering had a car at Goodwood with a modified head and twin S.U.s. The kit is not on the market yet but this engine gives 55 b.h.p. and it is probable that a kit will become available for around £60. On the track the difference in performance was most marked for the Imp reached valve bounce in 3rd gear, which showed 80 m.p.h. on the speedometer. There was no room to check the top speed but Nerus think it will do 90 m.p.h.

A Ford Corsair with Westinghouse-Hobbs automatic transmission was next on the list and this once again proved the advantages of this excellent gearbox. You can now order a Cortina or Corsair with the Hobbs box for £85 and good value it should be for the person who wants the best of both worlds.

Next was the Radford-modified Morris 1100. This has everything but the kitchen sink and with its big bucket seats the car is rather crowded. A lot of extra weight makes the performance rather sluggish but this will presumably not affect the person who buys this type of car.

The Rover 2000 completed my rather small tally of nine cars and this car confirmed the findings of our road-test for it could be cornered almost as fast in the wet as in the dry, the Pirelli Cinturas “squeegeeing” through the water and squealing merrily. A great car.—M. L. T.