Letters from readers, November 1964

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Values

Sir,

I observed the photograph of a 1934 Aston Martin short-chassis Mk. II advertised for sale at £435 and described as being in “excellent condition.”

In view of the comments which have been published in your magazine about the inflated prices of vintage sports cars, it may interest you to know that I sold this car in August for £260 to a man calling himself a dentist.

I considered £260 to be a reasonable price for this car, which I reconditioned shortly before I sold it. I would have said that £435 was unreasonable.

Lee-on-Solent. I. A. Campbell.

* * *

The Law —

Sir,

Your correspondent Kenneth H. Ross (“The Law,” September issue) would appear to have a short circuit, regarding permissible rear lights.

Before any readers decide to adopt Mr. Ross suggestions I would suggest they refer to the following legislation: The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1964, IV (Reversing Lights), R.16: “No vehicle shall carry more than two reversing lights. R.17: Every reversing light shall comply with certain conditions. (c) The rated wattage of the electric bulb or the total rated wattage of all such bulbs with which it is fitted shall not exceed 24 watts, and (d) it shall be so constructed, fitted and maintained that the light emitted thereby is at all times incapable of dazzling any person who is standing in the same horizontal plane as the vehicle at a greater distance than 25 ft. from the light, and where eye-level is not less than 3 ft. 6 in. above that plane. R. 19: No reversing light on a vehicle shall be illuminated except in so far as is necessary for the process of reversing the vehicle. Road Transport Lighting Act 1957 : No vehicle shall show (a) a red light to the front, or (h) light except red light or white reversing light to the rear. Exceptions (b) internal illumination, number-plate, signalling device to overtake traffic. (Section 2.)

There are exceptions to the above, but I should not think it likely that any of your readers use fire engines, police cars, etc., for general transportation.

Should Mr. Ross suggestions be put into practice, and ever reach the High Court of Justice, I feel certain Lord Parker, C.J., or any of the Judges of the High Court, would interpret the above sections and regulations quite differently from Mr. Ross.

Knaresborough. T. G. Stoker.

* * *

Sir,

It is my unfortunate task to write and tell you that, although reader Kenneth H. Ross of Dundee has done a great deal of dredging through the Road Traffic Act 1964 to prove his theory, he is still wrong. Should he use his lamp of unlimited watts and coloured amber to quell the full beam of the following motorist, he will be immune under the Lighting Regulations 1964, but not to a charge of driving without due consideration for other road users.

This charge has been levelled, successfully, at a motorist opening his door over a pavement to get out and accidentally catching a lady’s shopping basket!

Anyway, Mr. Ross, you tried hard; well done!

Burnley. W. B. Simpson.

* * *

— and the sequel

Sir,

You were kind enough recently to publish a letter of mine concerning the narrow-minded attitude of a young fellow motorist who reported me to the police for “causing a vehicle to have an illuminated reversing lamp whilst proceeding in a forward direction.”

The hearing before the Magistrates’ Court, took place last Thursday, September 23rd, where I was fined the sum. of £1 10s.— three offences concerning the legalities of reversing lamps at 10s. each.

I felt therefore, in the light of above fine, that I should write a few lines about the fair-minded attitude of both the magistrates and the police in the above action; being technically guilty of all charges, I was fined the minimum amount.

My anger, however, was not appeased by this fine. I am still annoyed by the attitude of my fellow sufferer on the road; perhaps during the period which has lapsed he has also been compounded by some legality. Also—last word—I hope he feels a sense of pride, having fulfilled his moral obligation to both police and society in reporting criminals.

Praise to your excellent journal for your fair-mindedness and channel for expression. Long may you publish the printed voice of the downtrodden motorist.

Poynton. R. W. Powell

* * *

The motorist’s life…

Sir,

I know you are always keen to learn of injustices meted out to suffering motorists in the courts. You might like to hear about this one.

A neighbour of mine—a retired commercial traveller, who for 40 years daily travelled to London and back to his home in Surrey, and who never as much as even received a caution for any infringement of the law whatsoever—was recently summoned at Richmond for disobeying a traffic sign. The facts were these. He was driving across Richmond Bridge from the Twickenham side behind a large pantechnicon, and as he had been in the habit of doing for many years past—although he had not come this way since his retirement—commenced to turn right in order to proceed up Richmond Hill and on into the Park. He was completely unaware that a sign recently installed now forbad a right turn. In addition, of course, his vision was obstructed by the presence at the lights junction of the pantechnicon. He was “booked” as he made his right turn. No-one was inconvenienced, and no “situation” was created. He merely inadvertently turned right, and this he freely admitted in court. For this “heinous” crime he was fined £20, plus £1 1s. costs. As he had also briefed a solicitor to speak for him, as he is very deaf, this business cost him a total of £45.

Observations?

London, S.W.2.0. S. R. Davidge.

* * *

Sir,

I have another unfortunate case to add to your long list of injustices to the motorist. Please bear with me and read the following account which will surely make your blood boil as it did mine.

My sister-in-law, with her daughter were returning home from my house some weeks ago. Travelling well within the speed limit when a schoolgirl dashed out onto a pedestrian crossing and hit the side of the car. The girl hurriedly picked herself up and ran off to join her friends.

Having no chance to ask the girl if she was all right she drove home and called at the nearest police station and reported the accident. She was informed by the police that she would probably hear no more about it.

Now, a school teacher travelling behind at the time of the accident also reported it to a police patrolman, vigilante? Ten weeks later a summons for careless driving arrived. Sister-in-law was told at this time that neither the child nor her parents wished to bring a case but the police felt they had to.

In court the defendants solicitor put up a very good case, the witness said the defendant was travelling well within the speed limit, the girl admitted it was her fault, the parents said nothing, and the dear old white-haired lady magistrate imposed a fine of £36 with two endorsements, one for careless driving and one for failing to exchange names and addresses.

What can we do about this appalling situation?

Hadleigh P. R. Blower

[What indeed!—ED.]

* * *

Convertibles

Sir,

The recent announcement by the Rootes Group that they are discontinuing production of convertible versions of their models prompts me to refer to this trend among British car manufacturers.

With the exception of the Morris Minor and the Triumph Herald and Vitesse, one must venture into the £2,000 plus class for a convertible version of a saloon car, or else make-do with the “two seats plus a shelf” offered by most sports cars.

As a fresh-air fan myself, and presently the owner of a Ford Consul convertible, I am firmly convinced that motoring with the roof down is one of the few pleasures left to motorists in this crowded Isle. It seems a shame that it should be left to the Americans and the Continentals to satisfy this need.

Norton Canes. A. David Page.

* * *

TV Sadism

Sir,

Your correspondent Lieutenant Comber need not go to modern B.B.C.-2 for sadism. He can get it on vintage 405-line I.T.V. any Saturday evening on the newscast after a meeting at Brands Hatch.

There seems to be a permanent film camera at Paddock Bend, and he can get five or six spin-offs on average. The motor-bike boys provide an even better display.

The funniest bit is the look of feigned horror on the newcaster’s face afterwards.

Grantham. J. H. D’Andrade.

* * *

Rolls-Royce sales

Sir,

The shortage of orders which Rolls-Royce has experienced over the past few years may be due to lack of informative advertising.

Rolls-Royce is now in the same position in the public imagination as the high altar in a cathedral, revered, worshipped, but quite untouchable except to the Lord’s appointed, and there are very few of those, and they have no money.

Is the best car in the world only for the best people, and if so, what are the qualifications for ownership, assuming we have the money?

Perhaps a more evangelical approach would convince that ownership is just a question of money, and that chauffeurs, titles, high office, directorships, or coats of arms are unnecessary.

Oswestry. E. Fox.

* * *

A problem for Alec

Sir,

Your correspondent Mr. H. J. Oldroyd, and possibly yourself, should know that when an S.U. petrol pump fails, it can invariably be induced to show further interest by a good thump. My M.G. 1100 suffered this defect at almost the exact mileage as the Editorial Morris, but was persuaded to carry on for a few miles by thumping it. On examination the points were found to be coated with a brown glaze, quite unlike any contamination of S.U. points that I have previously seen. This may be due to the fact that the cover on the Imo models is hermetically sealed by a strip of adhesive plastic tape. I am considering fitting a ventilation pipe to the cover, but this will have to be screened from the mud and filth thrown on to the pump.

A simple precaution against complete let-down by the pump would be to fit a push-button on the facia, with points connected in parallel with those of the pump. Should the pump fail, a few quick operations of the push-button would get the car going again.

This expedient is based on the reasonable assumption that failure of an S.U. pump, for a reason other than dirty points, is quite rare.

Having tempted providence with that last statement, I fully expect to run into a series of leaking diaphragms, warped valves, burnt-out coils and broken contact springs.

Woodford. F. E. GREAVES.

[I kicked mine, moderately gently, and it recovered for about 100 miles. I then kicked it gently, kicked it nearly to pieces, but to no avail. Is the fuel pump in a better position on the Austin 1800?—ED.)

* * *

Sir,

The letter from Mr. H. J. Oldroyd in your October issue interests me because I, too, have suffered from faulty petrol pumps fitted to B.M.C. cars. Two Austin A55 Farinas both let me down with pump failure, one of them on two occasions. A friend who had a Morris Oxford Farina had three replacements under guarantee, including two of a so-called improved model. This was his first B.M.C. car and naturally his last.

After these experiences and on learning where the pump is sited on the 1100, I cancelled my order. It is bad enough grovelling in the boot, but under the car, in all the muck and dirt, is not for me.

What a pity such a well-thought-out design should be ruined for what is a very bad detail in design.

How do the types in out-back countries get on? I should think the first bit of rough stuff would wipe it right off.

I am not surprised Mr. Oldroyd has not received a reply. The correspondence must be monumental on this subject!

Longhope. J. T. Jones.

* * *

Flashy

Sir,

May I, through your correspondence columns, point out to the less discerning owners of modern Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars that although Lucas fog-lamps may be suitably ostentatious and expensive, their performance as flashing trafficators is for the most part inferior to lamps designed for the purpose and built into most modern mass-produced cars ?

Eynsham. R. G. Edwards.

* * *

Troubles

Sir,

From time to time you have published letters from disgruntled purchasers of the latest products of our Motor Industry, listing the defects they have experienced. We are ten engineers working in the Sales Department of a well-known company and have individually purchased twelve cars in the last two years. Six are from Ford, five from B.M.C., and one from Standard Triumph. We list below the faults found on delivery or in service (unless otherwise stated these have only occurred once).

Ford: Four Cortina 1500s, one Classic 1500, one Anglia 997.
Engine and gearbox: One cylinder had no top compression ring fitted. Cylinder head casting so porous that it crumbled to powder when tightened down at the 500-mile service. Fault in column gear-Change due to omission and mat-assembly (two cars). Gearboxes changed for modified ones (all Cortinas). Rubber “O” rings holding rear expansion chamber of exhaust failed (two cars).
Chassis and Bodywork: Structural failure at centre door pillar/roof joint. Rubber bushes at top of front suspension struts not adhering to the struts. Boot lid twisted (two cars). Paintwork minutely scratched all over (three airs). Battery tray all corroded within one month of delivery. Defective boot lock. Doors required adjustment. Front-wheel arches leak. Boot filled with water from underside. Electrical: Water thermometer not working (three cars). Petrol gauge failed.

B.M.C.: Three Morris 1100s, two Minis,
Engine: Distributor failure caused camshaft driving gear failure. Clutch centre plate failed. Engine runs on for one minute—this after 1,600 miles only. Exhaust pipe failure at manifold joint.
Chassis and Bodywork: Failure of brakes due to pipe mal-assembly. Steering rack leaking on delivery. Defect in constant velocity joint. Universal drive couplings on 1100 replaced at 25,000 miles (“Normal life,” says B.M.C.). Underbody water leak. Doors need adjusting (three cars).
Electrical: Starter motor failure resulting in battery replacement. Indicator switch failure (three cars). Three fuel pumps replaced (one early 1100). Persistent dynamo bearing squeak. Water thermometer inoperative.

Triumph: One Herald 1200.
Chassis: Two front-wheel bearings failed. Two differentials failed and replaced under guarantee; third failed outside guarantee mileage but within 12 months from delivery. Petrol tank has a 2-gallon reserve tank which cannot be operated; this appears to be a design fault.

In addition to the above faults there have been a host of small irritating failures, e.g., on one of the 1100s the gear-lever gaiter failed…

To be fair to these manufacturers, many of the faults have been corrected under warranty, our experience indicating B.M.C. to be the most generous in their interpretation. However, even where faults have been accepted on warranty, there have been very long delays before the necessary spares have been obtained. In some cases we are still waiting for the parts, e.g. Cortina exhaust system rear mounting brackets are virtually unobtainable.

This is an appalling record of reliability and, since we all use our cars for business, these faults cause serious inconvenience. It is very apparent to us that reliability bears no relation to the type of design.

Whether one buys rugged conventiality, advanced engineering, or a compromise between the two, faults arise and, until a U.K. manufacturer is prepared to equal VW’s development expenditure and produce a reliable car with a performance suited to our roads, we must continue to suffer. Or are our twelve cars exceptional?

One last point on the length of warranties. These now generally run for 12,000 miles or 12 months, but at an average speed of 20 m.p.h. this only represents 600 hours. One well-known light bulb manufacturer offers a longer guarantee than this! Does anyone consider this sufficient ?

Ten sales engineers.

 [Names supplied.—ED.]

* * *

A “smalls” census

Sir,

Commander Dunhill hit the adjectival nail right on the head with his census of Classified Advertisements. Before supplying some translations, may I just add that the dealers are at least as guilty as the private sellers of using the Nelson touch when describing their wares.

As new: As new as we can make it look.
Unusual: Hideous.
Exhiliarating: No brakes.
Excellent: Just salable.
Sound: Just drivable.
Tested: Driven round the block.
Overhauled: Engine steam cleaned.
Needs slight attention: That we’ll fight you to the House of Lords.
Immaculate: Suitable for scrap.
Nice condition: Dusted.
Clean: Rusted.
Nice condition: Nasty condition.
Original condition: Uncared for since new.
1958 series: Registered January 1st, 1957.
Snip: Something will snap.
Enthusiast owned: Clapped out.
Very fast: Very noisy.
Good tyres: Otherwise rotten to the core.
Director’s car: Full of cigar ash and smelling of Scotch.

Sydenham. Peter Madge.

* * *

Your British drivers are wonderful

Sir,

They say “You never appreciate a good thing until you lose it.” This applies wholeheartedly to the standard of British driving.

I have the misfortune to be a commuter here in Brussels and the standard of driving can only be described as appalling by British standards. The average Belgian considers himself to be a budding racing driver and endeavours to get in a few laps round the boulevard on the way home. The only rule he knows is “Priorité a droit,” and this he applies in such a manner as to make the roads the most lethal arteries of transport in Europe.

If only some of the people who criticise the British driver would come and walk down the Rue de la Loi during office hours, the sights they would see would shock them so much that they would not try to improve the British standard of driving but be thankful that it is at such a high standard already.

Oh, I do long to be back among those safe’ careful, thoughtful British drivers, but the gross injustice in the Magistrates’ Courts and the persecution of the motorist by the Marples Gestapo are a greater evil than the Belgian driver. I abstained (by proxy) on October 15th.

Brussels. C. A. Fuchter.

* * *

He liked them

Sir,

I took Mr. Jenkinson’s advice and made the pilgrimage from Guildford to Blackbushe to watch the finals of the British Drag Festival, and I certainly wasn’t “disappointed by Garlits and Ivo in action.” I have never seen anything quite like the sight of these two projectiles hurtling side by side down the runway. It really was a fantastic ending to a superb day’s sport.

Heartiest congratulations should go to Alan Allard who upheld British prestige by clocking his fastest ever run in the Allard Dragster. This certainly was a sprint meeting with a difference, and judging by the vast crowd at Blackbushe it bids fair to becoming one of the most popular features of the motoring sport scene.

Guildford. David E. Hawkins.

* * *

A winter topic

Sir,

I was interested to read Mr. K. W. Toon’s letter but was somewhat surprised to have his comments that he had never known of a battery to last as long as four years. Probably other readers have had better experience than this, and I must say I am still using the original battery (Tudor) fitted to my 1959 122S Volvo. This car was purchased in August 1959, so that the battery has now lasted for more than five year’s and is still giving perfectly satisfactory service. I do not know whether there is any difference between 6and 12-volt batteries but .1 can go back to a previous car, namely a Volkswagen which I ran lust under four years before selling and the original Exide battery which was fitted was still in first-class condition. Surely battery life to a large extent is governed almost entirely by regular attention.

On the subject of long life from consumable items, it will probably interest your readers to know that I have just discarded a set of Michelin “X” tyres after 40,000 miles and, even so, they have still sufficient tread on them to have warranted retaining them for a few thousand miles more, although the tyre people suggested that it was better to change them now in view of winter approaching and the fact that the car is used for fairly high-speed motoring. Probably readers can quote even higher mileages on Michelin “X” tyres, as they are famed for this.

As mentioned above, the Volvo was purchased in August 1959 and was probably one of the earliest sold in Scotland. At that time I was popular with the distributors, but I fear that some of this popularity has worn off as I have retained the car over such a long period and am still thoroughly satisfied with it as, during these five years, it has never given me cause for concern, and the only noticeable repairs have been two sets of brake linings and one clutch plate. On its present performance I should imagine it could reach the 100,000 miles without an engine overhaul.

Glasgow. G. D. W. Organ.