Letters from Readers, November 1968

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Alfa Romeos Over Big Mileages

Sir,

Since Mr. Dobson’s experiences offer one view, which I and many others believe to be erroneous, of Alfa Romeo motoring, allow me to show the other side. Our 1965 Giulia TI has now covered 36,000 miles (genuine) on its original Michelin Xs. It turns in 28-30 m.p.g. all the time and 350-450 m.p.p. on Castrol GTX, and cruises with consummate ease at 80-90 m.p.h. in perfect quietness and smooth­ness. The failing of second gear synchro-cones is well known and merely requires adept footwork on double-declutching to provide a superb change. A friend’s 1964 TI has now covered 72,000 miles and is beginning to show slight signs of wanting a decoke, nothing else. The exhaust system on most Alfas is rather fragile, but can be effectively cured by intelligent modification. Nothing is perfect, but you can enjoy that fabulous performance, incredible road-holding and good engineering.

Usual disclaimers.

Sherwood. R. C. Goodliffe.

* * *

In Favour of the Reliant Scimitar

Sir,

I have read your excellent magazine for many years and as the owner of a 3-litre Scimitar I was more than usually interested in the September issue which contained the test report of this car. I took delivery in March of this year after extensive test drives of four other makes, two of which were above the Reliant price, and two in about the same price bracket. The object was to select a car which gives a sports performance with the maximum of comfort and reasonable economy, coupled with a second-hand value showing as little depre­ciation as possible. After 14,000 miles I am in complete agreement with your friend who likes his Scimitar very much. I know that you are always anxious to present a complete picture to your readers and I thought that you might like to publish my experience with the Scimitar.

We British are so conditioned to expect a host of teething troubles with a new car that I was pleasantly surprised to experience so little trouble during the running-in period. The speedometer seized-up during the first 500 miles and the tachometer developed a waver shortly afterwards. Neither of these troubles was due to the car makers, who replaced the instruments immediately. The shield on one of the silencers developed a rattle at certain speeds and the heater control wire broke at some 2,000 miles. The bonnet light failed to switch off on occasions and a modified switch was supplied under guarantee­the other faults were corrected without question and my local service station reported that they had received every help from the Reliant service departmentwhich is more than I can say for some cars I have owned!

I use the car for everyday motoring and frequent journeys of about 200 miles out and back on the same day. Others, of course, con­siderably longer. I find that I can accomplish many hours of driving without fatiguehelped, no doubt, by the excellent handling. Corners can be taken safely at high speeds without any trace of uncertainty and the line held without any of the “twitchiness” so often felt in some sports models. The steering is light and positive at all speeds.

My first impression was that the gap between second and third was far too wide and then it was realised that once in third and top, plus use of the overdrive, the two lower ratios were virtually unused except for getting away. The acceleration in third and top is flashing and, I imagine, exceeded by very few road cars in this country or any other. There are few opportunities to enjoy safe speed in this country and I feel quite sure that Reliant have understated their top performance. At the legal limit the engine is only turning over fast enough to keep it reasonably warm. However, to digress, I know that you and Motor Sport are doing your best to remedy this sad state of affairs!

I use 4-star petrol and three consumption tests have shown that the following results: 32.4; 31.2; and 32.6 m.p.g. This is amazing for a 3-litre engine which is driven fast over give-and-take roads in this part of the world and the North. I assure you that great care was taken in testing and I am satisfied that the results are substantially correct. The car is serviced every 5,000 miles and the oil consumption with Castrol GTX is approximately 550 per pint. I use Lubysil S.C. 100 additive and I have proved the value of this over many years.

Blackfield. C. G. E. Wimhurst.

* * *

Wolseleys in Canada

Sir,
May I add a dissenting voice to the many letters I have read decry­ing badge engineering and a loss of quality in British cars in general? In the past three years I have owned two badge-engineered Wolseleys, rare cars here, both of which have given exemplary service in an infinitely nobler manner than comparable Austins and Yank tanks.

The first, a 6/99 WOS 1L0329, was far too worn and maltreated when it came into my possession to be considered a long-term invest­ment. Among other things, I had to overhaul the steering gearbox, and the previous owner had overturned it to the permanent detriment of the body. Nevertheless, from interviews with this owner, and my own experience, I can say with reasonable confidence that it did not require so much as a valve grind or rings in 93,000 miles. There is a 6/90 in Victoria reputed to have achieved 125,000 miles without such service.

The 6/99 settled in me a passionate enthusiasm for the marque, and for the Farina 3-litres in particular. They are obvious solidity, good finish, beauty, truth, and dignity in one. I resolved that my next would not be such a mess to start with, so that it might be restored cheaply and easily preserved.

Thus it was that I purchased the shabby but basically very sound 6/110, WBS 2221808, and spent all summer restoring its sadly neglected body and interior. Therefore I was surprised to find the author of your Derby Bentley article (July, 1968) inferring that students care little for their cars. Every spare cent of my university student’s budget is lavished on my car, let alone countless happy hours of maintenance!

Now I drive about amidst the warmth of traditional luxury and fine workmanship, enjoying the Wolseley’s light power steering and sur­prising (107 m.p.h.) performance. Everything fits; nothing has fallen off.

Two other virtues of the “Sigewulf” (who says people no longer name their prized vehicles?) are powerful disc brakes and stable, if heavy, handling. These, plus B.M.C.’s comfortable shoulder harness, saved my neck recently, when they enabled the minimisation of impact with a wildly spinning American brute which clouted my precious “Sigewulf” from an oncoming lane in heavy traffic and torrential rain. It would seem that irresponsible driving, traffic, and rain are as con­stant a worry here as they are in Britain! In any case, there was no fuss or skidding on my part; I just tucked over as far as I could and yanked on the binders as hard as I could. Unfortunately there was no avoiding him completely. But I am unscathed, and my assailant’s insurance is replacing the damaged panels and suspension of my beloved vehicle.

Once again, some badge-engineered British cars have, nevertheless, great character, strong, safe performance, and considerable quality. My hearty thanks to B.M.L.C. (correct designation?) for their magnifi­cent Wolseley sixes, now sadly out of production, and to you for producing the most civilised motor magazine to which it has been my pleasure to subscribe.

Vancouver, B.C. Ray Whitley.

* * *

The Value of Overdrive

Sir,

I read the road-test in your September issue of the Reliant Scimitar 3-litre GT coupé with some interest. One point struck me forcibly, and that was the low maximum in second gear of only 50 m.p.h. This is surely unduly low for a 120 m.p.h. GT car. This car was fitted with overdrive, so surely it could have been added to second as well as third and top, as is done so effectively by Triumph.

I have a TR5 with overdrive. Normal second is a good gear, with a maximum of 60, but with overdrive added takes it up to 75. Having a smooth surge of power from 25 m.p.h. through to 75, with a full­-power overdrive engagement at about 50 makes this just about the best second gear in the business, certainly on British roads where quick overtaking is at a premium.

I wonder why Triumph are the only manufacturers to fit overdrive to second? Surely if the unit can stand up to the torque and power of the splendid TR5 engine other makers, such as Reliant, could do the same to their advantage.

Burghclere. Dr. J. M. C. Almond.

* * *

A £5 Austin Seven

Sir,

I bought a splendid little 1933 Austin Seven saloon in 1962 for £5, partly as a joke and partly for daily transport around the town, but I became so intrigued with it and its staggering reliability that now I would not sell it at any price; how many cars are there of any age for which one can obtain virtually every mechanical part, new, off the shelf, at most reasonable prices?

An S.U. carburetter (ex-M.G.) was given to me, which I fitted in place of the Zenith to give a quicker rev.-up when changing down, to assist the worn-out synchromesh. It has had no other effect upon the performance or fuel consumption.

Nobody likes paying taxes, but I can just about bear to pay our unwanted lords and masters £25 a year for the XK120; I cannot, however, bear to pay my namesake £25 a year for the Baby Austin!

By the way, an extensive repair job cost only £11 and this includes re-sleeving the gouged-out bore. I had a spare crankcase and piston and got the liner and con.-rod and gaskets, etc., off the shelf in London.

Good luck, Motor Sport, but please discontinue those ghastly “Glorious Technicolor” centrespreads.

Tunbridge Wells. Stephen Marsh.

* * *

Honda v. M.G.

Sir,

I have read the recent correspondence on the Honda S800 with interest, as I own an M.G. Midget, which is a natural comparison for the Honda. I think it is fair to say that most car owners will readily stand up to defend their cars, but I would like to put some points in perspective.

I have not had the opportunity of driving the Honda, and my remarks are from observations, reports and road-tests. In the Septem­ber edition of Motor Sport Mr. Green quotes economy, performance, road-holding and reliability for the price as being unequalled in any other car.

A careful analysis of those points shows:

(1) Economy.The Midget is decidedly better on petrol (my 1965 1,100-c.c. version has returned 39.16 m.p.g. overall over 16,500 carefully logged miles). My Midget is also hard driven. The Honda would appear to return around 32-34 m.p.g.
(2) Performance.Which? gave the maximum speed of the 1100 Midget as 96 m.p.h., which is almost identical to the Honda, but the Honda scores slightly on acceleration, being 0.5 sec. quicker to 50 m.p.h.

It is interesting to note, however, that from the latest Motor road tests the Midget Mk. III (1,275 c.c.) shows better figures in acceleration, top speed and petrol consumption.
(3) Road-holding.Without driving the Honda it is difficult to compare the two cars, but my Cinturato Midget gives the effect of cornering on rails. The manoeuvrability and handling inspire great confidence in the car and are probably the Midget’s greatest attributes.
(4) Reliability.The Midget has been completely reliable in the 16,500 miles that I have owned it (since 1967), having only routine servicing, and Crypton tuning. Friends who own these cars have had similar experiences with reliability and petrol consumption.

The Which? sports-car test of 1965 on the “Spridget”, Spitfire, Alpine, M.G.-B., Tr4, and Cooper 1071 S showed that the “Spridget” was the most reliable and economical. Without giving “best buys” in cars, the “Spridget” came out with the best report.

If considering either of these two cars I would seriously consider spares and servicing (most important after some experiences with a DS19), and the cost differential of £185 (considering both cars with heaters). Praise, though, to Honda for offering a coupé version at no extra costwhat about it, B.L.M.C.? My Midget sports an Ashley fastback, an excellent product, but B.L.M.C. should offer a Midget GT which would surely be an excellent seller.

I think, then, that there is little to choose between the cars (apart from £185!), although I find the Midget the best smallish fun/sports? car made, having tried almost everything but the S800!

Finally, some notes for B.L.M.C. on the Midget of the future. More cockpit room is the greatest priority (my 6 ft. 2 in. frame is slightly cramped), and, in this decibel-conscious age, less noise in the car. Obviously an all-synchro gearbox is a must, and the option of overdrivean underrated device which takes a lot of effort out of long-distance driving. And what about an “elastic suspended” version?no doubt a subject of great controversy.

Thank you for an excellent magazineI count the days to the first of the month.

Beckenham. Paul B. Griffith.

* * *

The Best of Three Nations

Sir,

While basking by the sea in sunny 88° late summer weather here on holiday, I was reading your August issue and felt moved to write of my experiences with three different cars.

These are “the best of three nations”, I believe-a 1964 Lincoln Continental 4-door convertible, a 1958 Mercedes-Benz 190SL con­vertible and a 1949 Bentley Mk. VI.

When I purchased these carsall about three years agothe Lin­coln had less than 30,000 miles, the Mercedes about the same since used only for occasional driving, and the Bentley a reading of 61,000 miles.

Since that time each car has been driven  about the same (the Bentley the fewest miles) total mileage.

Repairs on the Lincoln (exclusive of tyres) now exceeds $600 (about 2 cents for each mile driven), for the Mercedes $500 (about 2 cents for each mile driven), for the Bentley $82.80 (0.9 cent per mile).

In summary, the Bentley just keeps on running the samedespite its age and decrepit appearance. The other two keep having nagging and often important failings. And to complicate matters, I seem to be able to care for the minor faults of the Bentley but am overwhelmed by the complications of the other two.

Calabasasan, California. W.C. Wilkinson (Comdr.), U.S.N.R.

* * *

Horsepower at the Driving Wheels

Sir,

I was interested to read the article “Honesty and Horsepower” in your excellent magazine, and would like to draw your attention to an article in a recent edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.

It begins: “At the risk of puncturing a beautiful balloon, it must be told that charging, 250 horsepower, high performance chariot you may have in your garage actually turns out a much more anaemic 90 horsepower for you.

“Horsepower ratings of today’s autos are overrated in terms of the power actually delivered to the rear wheels at normal driving rates. It isn’t that the manufacturers are lying in their horsepower boasts. Block horsepower ratings of engines, tested alone on dynamometers, will register the horsepowers they’re rated atprovided there are no loads on them and that they’re run at the necessary r.p.m. to achieve the high horsepower. However, the truth is the motorist rarely winds his car up to the r.p.m. specified, and besides, he drains horsepower with the battery charger, power options on brakes and steering, air conditioners and the like.”

Joseph Callahan, engineering Editor of Automotive News, says the Clayton Manufacturing Company of California tested a whole cross-­section of engines produced by Detroit’s automakers to determine engine power actually delivered to the drive wheels. Here are some samples of the Clayton tests on engine horsepowers: Cadillac’s new 375-horsepower engine, biggest in any passenger car, actually delivers only 140 horsepower to the rear wheels at normal speeds. Plymouth’s CTX high performance engine, rated at 375 horsepower, turned out 135. Ford’s high performance 340 engine turned out 125 at the rear wheels. Rambler American’s six, rated at 128 horsepower, turned out only 40. The Mustang six 115-h.p. engine turned out 43. Corvair, rated at 95 horsepower, turned out 34. The average of 56 engines tested showed an average rated horsepower of 250and an average actual performance horsepower of 90.

San Francisco. John L. Clark.