The Editor's Annual - Showtime Soliloquy



Oh Mr. Grylls,
Whatever shall I do?
I have always praised Mercedes,
But now there’s a new car from Crewe!

With apologies to Everybody’s Weekly.

Another year gone; another Motor Show at Earls Court… It has been a year of great endeavour – with Jim Clark winning Indianapolis in a Lotus-Powered-by-Ford. And a year of anxiety. But, although the roads of Britain become ever more crowded, motoring remains enjoyable, is still the most convenient form of personal transportation, the greatest of hobbies. I have to be careful in describing the degree of it’s greatness; I once remarked that a car is a man’s most coveted and cosseted possession after his wife and his home, only to be deluged in letters from motor-widows, telling me that the order of affection is emphatically CAR, home, wife…

The past year must have been one of the wettest on record, which decreased my desire to return to open-air motoring, which the female of the species put the kibosh on many years ago. I have a theory that as man is always trying to out-wit nature and nature never lets up, this is the answer to our concern with atomic weapons, for it is said that rain, and lots of it, is the best means of dispersing fall-out. The more cynical will contradict this, suggesting that the atomic bomb is something nature intends man to use, thereby solving the problem of over-population… Be that as it may, in an age of wars in various parts of the globe, Rhodesia demanding its freedom, and the cost of living rising all the time at home (which latter Socialists will foist onto the Conservatives for having presented them with a financial mess and Conservatives will blame on Socialists because prices have risen sharply since they have been in office, making me glad I am not a political writer), men and women need plenty of relaxation. The much-maligned motor car provides it, more satisfyingly, in a more practical form, and more universally than any other vehicle controlled by homo sapiens. The boat comes next if you can find anywhere to moor it. The private aeroplane is the trickiest means of personal transport because it cannot support itself at rest in the medium in which it travels, which caused the inimitable C.G. Grey when Editor of The Aeroplane, to comment, on learning that the Royal Household was to make considerable use of aerial transport in the future, “God Save the Queen!…

So it is a pity that it costs more to use a car, either stationary or in motion, as each year goes by, and that those in authority over our Police Forces and those in power in the courts of law seem to take as great a perverse delight in harassing drivers as they did in the decades following the Emancipation Run of 1895. To the present heavy burdens of petrol tax, road tax, compulsory insurance, purchase tax, 15s. Driving licence, parking fees and fines, couples with the beginner’s burden of the M.o.T driving test (more fees!). and, for historic-car enthusiasts or impecunious owners of merely old cars, the M.o.T test (more fees again!>. there is the threat of a new system of differential car taxation, which the Labour Government is said to be planning. I do not suppose, when it comes , it will be any easier to understand than the mechanical differential but almost certainly it will involve paying more – the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already stressed that the increase in car tax to £17 10s per annum in the Labour Budget was merely an interim measure! When the next increase is announced it should well be that some of it will be given to Local Government, to offset the rates. The more cars in an area, the greater the local authority’s income – but as local rate rise, so would car tax be liable to rise with them. Ponder on this, all you over-taxed car owners!

Turning to cars themselves, what has the great London Motor Show revealed that is significant or what technical trends does it portend for the future?

The new Rolls-Royce is perhaps the most disused car in this great static exhibition where tobacco and whisky fumes replace exhaust fumes – is it not remarkable that after all these years, although Islington’s Agricultural Hall, the Crystal Palace, Olympia and White City have served their purpose, we are still content with a Motor Show which is not only all but inaccessible by motor car but one in which cars can be sat in but not started, stared at but not steered, discussed but not driven? Surely the time has come to stage the thing in the wide open spaces, with a course over which prospective customers could be driven, new cars seen in fast action, and where you could be shown, over rough surfaces, how the suspension coped, and so on?

Coming back to Earls Court and the new car from Crewe, I must express satisfaction (but not Self-congratulation, for the Silver Shadow was being planned at least a decade ago) that almost everything MOTOR SPORT suggested a modern Rolls-Royce, should have, has been embodied in the new Silver Shadow. I might be excused for wondering why Mr. Grylls, the Chief Engineer of Rolls-Royce’s Motor Car Division, has-so effectively burned the boats he floated on when I was privileged to interview him late last year. As long ago as 1914, H. Massac Buist, who edited a weekly known as The Autocar, observed how the average automobile engineer produced the most abstruse theoretical and serious arguments against anything new—four-wheel-brakes, for example—to prove conclusively that they could not possibly work, when all the time he fully intended to have them on his own cars the following year! If it were not for the ten-year time-factor in Crewe’s aim towards perfection and the feet that Mr. Grylls cannot be called merely an average automobile engineer, I would be tempted to call this a parallel case, the case of a man upholding the rigid leaf-sprung back axle, drum brakes, the gearbox-driven mechanical brake servo, etc., then dropping them all overboard within six months.

An appraisal of this West, very wonderful Rolls-Royce appears elsewhere in this issue but it was not possible to mention therein all the meticulous technical innovations which make this Silver Shadow the most exciting engineering exhibit at Earls Court. It challenges technically the great Mercedes-Benz 600 in all but fuel Injection, variable height air suspension and some power services. Incidentally, I note that having at last discarded the mechanical servo brake on which R.-R. are said to have paid royalties to Renault and Hispano-Suiza, they have adapted a power braking system which uses pressure-regulating valves built under Citroen licence. And the warning light to snow when new brake pads are required is common to both Silver Shadow and Pallas—with the subtle difference that R.-R. have disc brakes all round. But if Mr. Grylls had his head in the clouds, when he spoke to me, I am delighted that this eminent engineer, who has lived close to the R.-R. legend for thirty-five years, was developing in the shadows a really advanced automobile, which itself replies to nearly all my criticisms and has put the illustrious Company for which he toils once again in the running for the Best Car stakes.

However, there is little new under the satellites or the automobile draughtsman’s pen, and what Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz and others are doing to level-ride their cars, Citron did more than a decade ago. Come to that, I saw a racing E.R.A. of Raymond Mays on air-strut suspension more years ago than I care to remember. . . . And now comes the most revolutionary motor car of them all. at less than the cost of a Silver Shadow— the four-wheel-drive, Dunlop Maxaret-braked Jensen F. F.

Anyone who has had experience of f.w.d., preferably on snow and ice, will accept that this is the safest form of car on the road— but the Jensen F-.F. should be even safer. All credit to the firm which stemmed from those Avon-bodied pseudo sports cars ot the vintage years tor taking this bold step in automotive technology…. I have only two regrets, (1) that, in spite of my warm regard for front-drive, unreliability of the product (B.M.C) has lately toned me back to an old-fashioned rear-drive machine (Ford) in search of dependability and performance, and (2) that I was not invited to see or try the new 4-w-d. Jensen, which could well be The Car of the Year in 1966. Certainly the proof of the product is in driving it—did you notice how quick some English writers were to sneer at General Motors for putting nearly 400 h.p. through the front wheels of their new Oldsmobile Toronado, but how loud was their praise alter having a drive in it ? This Toronado is a two-fold breakthrough for front-wheel-drive, for G.M. have returned to a layout last used in America by Cord 28 years ago, at the same time putting nearly four times more power through the steered wheels than British and European engineers have thought advisable.

Standard-Triumph need have no fear that they are putting too much urge through the front wheels ot the Triumph 1300. judging by its performance when I drove it on the foothills to Wales! This is yet another new f.w.d. car, which has a curious power unit. the toothed flywheel of which is naked but presumably unashamed. although horribly exposed, at the front or the engine. and the transmission line of which is arranged to allow you to quickly remove the whole clutch unit and replace it within a short space of time, if you feel so disposed. As the hard-worked clutch is amongst the most reliable of modern components the logic of this facility escapes me, unless this is another power unit intended for commercial-vehicle as well as private-car installation. Not need Standard-Triumph have tweaked Issigiams nose by stating that “Another ‘first ‘ resulting in longer life for both power unit and the gears is the separation of the oil supplies. Engine oil can be contaminated with the products of combustion, and the oil used for the gear train carries metal particles which can shorten the life of cylinder bores, bearings and Journals.)” considering how successfully one lubricant has sufficed for engine and gears ever since the advent of the very first Mini. The logic is obscure here, also, because almost every car I have ever had anything to do with has had its sump oil separated from the gearbox lubricant, and even amongst f.w.d. designs I can think only of the B.M.C. range and the new Peugeot 204 where this is no the case—so where does S.-T.’s first come in? Certainly B.M.C.A.P. have scored a significant first for lady drivers. morons and all non-enthusiasts by getting gremlins actuated by engines of 1,100 c.c. and under to swap cogs—Mini gremlins presumably. Indeed. S.-T. seem a bit awed by the Issigonis concept inasmuch as they have gone over to front-wheel-drive which he advocates for small cars, yet make play of the fact that their engine ” is placed longitudinally so that the front-drive power pack does not spoil the Company’s reputation for tight turning circles.” (Triumph 1300 – 30 ft.. B.M.C. 1100 = 34 ft. 9in., B.M.C 1800 = 37ft)

Of course, there is very little under the satellites which hasn’t been done before: the brilliant transverse-engine front-drive power pack of the Issigonis Mini was pre-dated by another once-best-selling small car, in the form of the pre-war two-stroke D.K.W., which my friends Pomeroy and Tubbs used with great enjoyment during the petrol-starved motoring era of the last World War. In this case even two cylinders were apparently worth placing transversely, one suspects as much to simplify the transmission line as to save space, and even then the layout was, I seem to remember, less compact than the Mini’s on account of the separate gearbox—but, come to think of it, the separation of oil supplies which the S.-T. engineers regaid as so important was certainly ensured in the D.K.W., by not putting oil of any sort in the sump—the engine being lubricated on the petrol system!

If I was asked what is the single most significant engine development of recent times, I would point to belt-drive as applied to overhead camshafts—being careful not to get a finger chopped off; because these new drives, unless enclosed, seem to me to be as lethal as those exposed gear wheels which drove the magneto or the camshaft on the more primitive early engines. Glas in Germany, who bravely introduced this cogged-belt o.h. camshaft drive, now uses it for both oh. camshafts of his new 2600 V8 engine, and in America it is found on the Pontiac Tempest, Tempest Custom and Le Mans models. Harry Ferguson Research Ltd. also use two such belts in the camshaft drive of their new Ferguson R.5 engine.

In America these are North British PowerGrip belts, that for the Pontiac weighing 9.5 oz. and proving satisfactory over 3,000,000 miles or test running. This dream of inventors, who filed over 100 patents since the turn of the century covering non-mechanical timing became reality when Dick Case, who joined U.S. Rubber in 1928, was asked by the Singer sewing machine people to develop constant-pitch belt in 1936. The case belt was not perfected for production sewing machines until 1945. It won him the Longstreth Medal of the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, an honour which links him with Edison, Bell and Marconi, as well it might, because this simple timing belt looks like enabling all motorists to enjoy the manifest advantages of o.h.c. valve actuation, which in spite of costly complexity when mechanical drives were necessary, was already well established in Germany, and which may soon make push-rods as obsolete as side valves.

This should delight costing departments and production engineers, too. and I cannot see how salesmen can complain, providing the Case is kept in a case, to obviate finger tips falling into the undertray, . . .

Almost as important as simplifying the camshaft drive is simplifying the combustion chamber by putting it in the piston crown instead of in the cylinder head. Diesel engine designers have been doing this for years, Rover copied them for the Rover 2000, the idea finds favour with Daimler-Benz. and Ford use it for their new V4 car and truck engines. This bowl-in-piston enables the c.r. to be altered without changing the basic shape of the combustion chamber, whereas taking a cut off the face of a head with wedge-section chambers changes the whole shape and ruins the gas and flame-flow characteristics.

So, with belts to drive the camshafts and combustion chamber in piston-heads, the o.h.c. outlook is rosy. I have often stressed that, despite sleeves and slides and rotary valves, the poppet is with us still, but I think the push-rod will soon be as defunct as the hot tube…

Thinking in terms of costing, I have been pondering why Ford of Dagenham has suddenly gone over to a V4 power unit for the Corsair. I suspected that someone in costing had calculated that more metal was saved by shortening the crankshaft and camshaft and omitting a couple of bearings than was expended on that curious balance shaft and its pinion. I argued that the five-bearing engine of the Cortina and this year’s Corsair is so somoth that balance couldn’t be the reason—rather the reverse, I should have thought! I figured out that space saving wasn’t the answer, as it presumably was in the Ford Taunus 12M, where the drive to the from wheels had to he accommodated, or in the Taurus 20M, in which there was a 2-litre 6-cylinder engine to be installed in a Corsair-size car. I read carefully all the Ford handouts, without being any clearer. However, we grow grapes in the MOTOR SPORT office and along the vine came what may well be the true reason—merely that the in-line engine wouldn’t fit so nicely into the new Transit range of Ford commercial vehicles, … This could certainly explain the complacency with which Alan Worters regards the complexity of balancing a 60″ V4 engine….

And before this is misconstrued as sour grapes, let me add that I have no doubt that these are jolly good engines, with several advantages over the old in-line bangers; but I also suspect that it was rationalisation of private-car and commercial-vehicle design that instilled the building of is new 44-acre £13,000,000 factory at Dagenham in which to make them, and not the advantages of the vee-layout on its own account. . .

In this context. It is courageous of Ford to be able to derive enjoyment from the wit of L’Argus de l’Automobile et des Locololions whose preview of Le Mans was headed ” Victoire prevue d’un moteur en V” whets it was a V12 Ferrari and not a V8 Ford which triumphed in this much-publicised race. And I note that Ford predict that this vee-cylinder formation will become increasingly recognised for production cars in the next few years— but surely in eight, rather than in four and six-cylinder, engines; unless more makers seek to improve the cabs of their commercial vehicles.

I must confess that having advocated front-wheel-drive and independent suspension of the driven wheels in MOTOR SPORT for year. it gives me great pleasure to discover cars as far removed as Oldsmobile Toronado and Triumph 1300 swelling the ranks of the former and Rolls-Royce and Bentley at last going over to i.r.s. along with disc brakes, which we have long advocated for the World’s best cars—and rumour suggests that. in a very different field. the Lotus-Cortina may also be abandoning an; old-fashioned if sophisticated-design hack axle for i.r.s.

The foregoing has to do with the engineering of new cars. But, whether you run a new car or an old one, motoring is still the greatest sport. What a remarkably widespread affair this open-air hobby is—on any one Sunday you are likely to see a rally in progress, spectators and competitors setting off to various rate meetings, the boys riding to a motorcycle trial or scramble, go-kart being carted to a local stadium, vintage cars being polished for a concours d’elegance, a speed trial, getting off to a sprint start, the local church or factory having a treasure-hunt, one-make clubs holding a rally., even off-beat things like jalopy racing, and driving-tests galore. Literally thousands of motorists having fun out in the fresh air, and paying a hefty tax on every gallon they burn. . . . Indeed, this healthy enthusiasm for mechanised sport has resulted in fresh legislation but in spite of the soon-to-be-implemented “Motor Vehicles” (Competitions and Trials) Regulations ” I am sure the fun will continue fast and furious, and that 1966 will be as good a year for motoring sport (and I hope for MOTOR SPORT) as 1965 has been.

The very popularity of the motor car has resulted in it receiving the close attention of financiers, salesmen, publicity pundits, auctioneers, gimmick-kings and the rest. Copy-writers, think up catchy slogans like “U Safe Go Swift, Go ___,” “We’ve got a V in our bonnet!” “Unbeatable___” and so on (try fitting the correct makes to them), and Tigers, Jaguars, Kestrels, Hornets, Gazelles, Chamois, Hawks, Impalas, Mustangs, Huskies, and Spiders give Earls Court a touch of the zoo’s

But it’s the sporting aspect of motoring that matters, and which allows us to keep a proper sense of proportion, at a time when according to a recent ITV “The World Tonight” programme, “Ask the Man Who Owns One” is a slogan to be avoided by the British motor manufacturers, and when the continuing sales-success of Volkswagenwek make British salesmen shy of the other old slogan, “Count Them on the Road!” – W.B