The Editor’s annual
ANOTHER round of Motor Shows is over; another year has gone by. It has not been a particularly happy twelve months for motoring enthusiasts, for the 70-limit goes unrescinded, there is a 6o-m.p.h. limit on a road in the Midlands, breathalysers have been legalised, motor-racing has been milk-and-watered down, while petrol prices are forever going up. You may blame the politician or you may blame the Establishment, but certainly the latter has never had such a willing leader as Mrs. Barbara Castle in inflicting depression and degradations on the 13-million drivers in this country—and these include those who earn their living behind steering wheels, as well as those who motor for pleasure. However, I rather think the Motor car is here to stay, whether the present Government likes it or not, and certainly it has weathered some pretty hard knocks in its time. So I hope I shall be able to go on recording the motoring scene, or those parts of the motoring scene that appeal to me, for a long time to come. I shall continue to do so in my own, perhaps stodgy, style, for I am not much good at the current “
with-it” journalism whereby the task of writing about motoring is presented as one long jolly, nor have we yet thought of printing MOTOR SPORT on coloured paper, or even upside down. Perhaps this is because we have been writing about motoring and motor ears for a considerable time, although I must confess I never expected to find camshafts and cars driven by belts in 1967. Turning to matters technical, there was nothing to suggest stagnation as one examined the great variety Of motor cars, the majority of them of high quality, which grace the London Motor Show at Earls Court. This year sees the advent of the twin-Wankel rotary engine, not only in the front-wheel-drive N.S.U. Ro.8o but in the rear-wheel-drive Mazda which is somewhat more expensive than the German version. It sees Ford further enhancing the appeal of their best-selling COrtina with bowl-in-piston combustion chambers and cross-flow heads, but Vauxhall beating them to single-overhead-camshaft valve operation and venticular combustion chambers. It seems a pity that the two engineering teams of these rival Anglo-American companies did not get together, for then we might have seen bowl-in-piston engines with single overhead camshafts; which Mercedes-Benz and Rover have had for some years. However, all these engines give much the same b.h.p. per litre, with the exception of the ()Aix. I lertm-head Mercedes-Benz which is notably more efficient than the others in these terms. Frontwheel-drive continues to gain ground, and Alec Issigonis will remember the old saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery if he examined, as I am sure lie did, the new transverse-engined Simca i too ta the Motor Show. One can but pity Simea’s Public Relations Stiff,
who now have to maintain that rear-engined cars, front-engined cars. and cars of the old pattern with the engine at the front and the final drive at the rear are each the very best of their kind!
This year in particular sees some very keen competition between rival makes and models. For example, we have the improved Ford CortinaS with their cross-flow bowl-in-piston heads, but without the overhead camshaft valve gear and coil suspension of the latest Vauxhall Victors. We have Rover introducing their V8 model which will undoubtedly be compared with the Jaguar 42o; some comments about this appear in Our Rover road test elsewhere in this issue. One feels that now Rovers have come under a little Buick influence, Jaguar really should hurry along their rumoured Viz, or Perhaps produce a 41-litre ” Jagestic ” V8. Then we have the Reliant Rebel 700 appearing perhaps in the role of a modern equivalent of the pre-war Morris Family Eight or Austin Seven, although its enlarged engine takes it away from the concept Of 60 m.p.h./6o m.p.g. which I have always thought should be the formula -for the very smallest motor cars. Fortunately, the splendid little Fiat 500 is still in production ar..1 was shown again this year at Earls Court. Then, with a good deal of bally-hoo, the Honda N600 is introduced Is a so-called serious competitor of the B.M.C. Mini, but this .cyclecar has an air-tooled 2-cylinder engine and leaf-spring rear suspension. Arc we going to let it stamp into the ground our water-cooled 4-cylinder I.w.d. Mini with its much more sophisticated suspension and its great International rally successes ? Well, are we ? Amongst truly advanced cats, as we have with the N.S.U. Ro.8o and the twin-Wankel Mazda, there is a British vehicle, in the form of the four-wheel-drive Jensen FF. Unfortunately we have still been unable to obtain one for road-test, So I cannot give personal impressions of it. But I do know that Rudi Uhlenhaut, Chief Engineer of Mercedes-Benz, considers that four-wheel-drive is an unnecessary expense. He bases his opinion on the fact_ that it is now illegal to driv,-.• in the really slippery places of the world, such as in Switzerland in winter, without having chains fitted to the driving wheels. This,. he considers, gives sufficient adhesion for safety and traction without the expense of four-wheel-drive.. He also makes the point that a more important contribution to road safety would be non-locking brakes, and says that in his experience the pioneer systems, such as the Maxa ret suffered from longer stopping distances in the dry than ordinary braking systems. He claims that in Germany the latest Teleix electronic anti-lock braking has overcome this difficulty, and so I think we may expect to see Mercedes-Benz -adopting this in the fairly near future. Also, at the Guild of Motoring Wr;ters’ Silverstone test-day, some of those %v:io
were fortunate enough to drive the Jensen FF appeared to be troubled by feed-back from the brake pedal and at least one driver abandoned the Cat beside the circuit for this reason, unless .1 have been misinformed.
Publicity is regarded as more important than engineering these days, when it comes to selling cars. I noted that at Earls Court Aston Martin are still amongst the leaders of those who consider that near-nudity, is necessary for the promotion of the product. And there is that new car .which apparently goes off With 2.2 hangs, and another called the Stiletto, which I am quite sure will belie the thought that this is something sharp and nasty, or else makes a clattering noise and is apt M get stuck in holes.
Coming back to the unfortunate 7o-m.p.h. speed -limit, of •which at least 245,000 motorists must be thinking a great deal about, since signing that protest Petition, this will probably ultimately have a very adverse effect on British car design which will be most unfortunate in view of the fierce competition we now face from Europe, Japan and America. If manufacturers ate prevented from selling speed, they may tend to publicise space and grace and comfort and full equipment instead, and that could kill safe handling and good braking, just as it has done in America, where they seem to specialise in multiple ” shunts.” Mr. Peter Wilks„ Rover’s wide-awake Technical Director, agrees about this. He said recently while delivering a paper to the B.S.I.’s Standards Conference : ” The universal application of a rather low maximum speed (for example, 70 m.p.h.) can clearly inhibit vehicle design and affect type approval requirements, to the point where vehicles designed for operation in such conditions might be unsuitable where speeds are not restricted.”‘ Yet the leaders of the Motor Industry seem curiously afraid to raise their voices when it comes to the speed-limit and other anti-motoring legislation. One assumes that they fear that a ” Sirhood ” will pass them by. Even those who already have theirs do not publicly demand removal of the overall Motorway speed-limit, while other Captains of Industry, like Colin Chapman, do their travelling in the air where they are above mere road problems, which may be why Mr. Chapman slapped down his Sales Manager and with it all Our five-bobs, when that gentleman commenced a sensible and spirited action against the crippling seventies. Arnold, however, still has lots of guts, for did he not arrive at Earls Court with a Lotus Formula Bard singleseater ? This will surely form a Christmas roadtest for someone or other! The real scandal is the -apathy of Our two leading motoring -organisations in fighting anti-motoring legislation. If the forecast retrogression in design comes about because of the speed-limit Mrs. Castle will have yet another explanation to make to disillusioned and savagely-taxed motorists.
Think, too, about the terrible crimes, often to children and old people, that go undetected and therefore unpunished, in this country. And ask yourself how much longer the Home Secretary is going to allow Mrs. Castle to divert the polite, with her plastic bags and radar machines, from attending to their primary function of maintaining Law and Order. When you lay of against these fetnale vapouringS the rising crime-figures, it is little wonder that she is not getting exactly 1001:;. co-operation from the chief Constables or the doctors. But do not expect Justice—innocent Men and women have been hanged for murders they never committed; and we are but overtaxed motorists. With cars becoming safer and more controllable every year it seems terrible to waste the potentialities tulles:: it can be definitely proved dist accidents are prevented as a result. What a waste this represents
in terms of tyre research, for instance. Today British motorists only need those excellent high-speed Motorway tyres, like Road-Speed RS5s and SP Sport, Auto-Speeds, Sport tabs, Grand Prix, Motorway Speed Specials, Turbo-speeds, Premier Speeds and Cinturatos for a few weeks each year, if they go abroad for their Lso annual holiday to Countries where speed if unrestricted. All the rest of the time the majority of our motorists merely need tyres for housewives—which for some reason I associate with Kelly-Springfield.
Up to now. engineering progress has proceeded at a great pace in the Motor Industry. For a long time the side-by-side valve. engine has been something which one associates only with cars of the 30/495 and earlier periods. Now the gear-lever stems likely to soon find itself in the same category. Even Volkswagen, which pri narily Supplies utility transport, has introduced a fully automatic transmission for its larger models. This is in keeping with its progressive i.nprovement of the product, for it introduced disc brakes and revised i.r.S. not long ago. As it has had torevise the rear suspension again to accommodate the fully automatic transmission it will be interesting to see what further affect this may have had on Volkswagen road-holding.
Reverting for a moment to rival makes. and models, it Scents that in A market which is still well stocked with sports cars, the 2-litre fuelinjection 150,b.h.p. all-independently-sprung Triumph TR5 will be a direct competitor of the 3-litre carburetted 145-b.h.p. M.G.-C. I will reserve judgment, however, until I have driven both these cars. Then, in an age when the Heron head is “with it” and you can have simple overhead camshaft valve gear thanks to the durability of modern belting, the best form of head still seems to me to be the classic twin overhead camshaft hemispherical head arrangement, and it is significant that Fiat, for one, is making very good use of this type Of engine, even in its 125 saloon.
We live in On age when Government controls set fresh design problems for the Motor Industry. The American safety regulations and exhaust pollution rulings have certainly caused a great deal of research to be done, for which ultimately the ordinary motorist Will pay, although we may feel Safer and breathe better in the long run. It must be remembered that there Will be some penalty in the form of powerloss if there is need for an air pump to attack exhaust emission problems. The pump will, I am told, take some 31 h.p. to drive. However, whatever the future holds, there is no lack of engineering variety to maintain interest in the immediate future. Stagnation in design is as far distant as ever and until we have a car which handles as impeccably as an Elan, is as ‘silent as a Silver Shadow, as fast as a Lamborghini, as spacious as a Checker and as good value for money as a Cortina, and with the prestige of a Mercedes-Benz 600 it Will remain that way. (You May care to consider which 1968 car comes closest to this formula.)
Moreover, there is little danger of Britain being regarded merely as the gist State of America when at the Earls Court Motor .Show the products of Australia, Canada., Czechoslovakia, France, West Germany,. East Germany, Great Britain, Holland, Israel, Italy, Japan. Sweden,. U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. were exhibited there, and Mercedes-Benz thought fit to have a floodlit 60o on their stand. And, while I can never understand how it is that news of big orders always coincides with the opening day of the Motor Show, it was pleasing to know that nearly f,52-million pounds worth of British cars had been orderedwhen Earls Court closed its doors on the public day.—W. B.