Letters from readers, November 1972

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them. — Ed.

A Motorway Experience

Sir,

On a recent Friday I was obliged to pull over onto the hard shoulder of the M1 with overheating problems.

Finding no water in the ditch, I walked to a deserted farm and filled my washer bottle (approx. ½ pt.) with water, which was sufficient for me to proceed a little nearer to the next service station.

I stopped in front of a motorist who was waiting for some oil to be brought by the AA. The AA arrived with no oil and when I asked the patrolman politely if he had some water he said yes, but asked if I was a member. I admitted I was not and was refused the water necessary for me to leave the motorway.

In contrast to this appalling conduct, a motorist drove out of his way to fetch me some water and I am really obliged to him.

I have heard only praise for the RAC but wonder what is happening to the AA if it is prepared to go to the point of refusing water to a motorist purely because he is not a member. After all, it was only water that was asked for!

King’s Norton. S. J. Snook.

[Are civilian drivers legally allowed to stop and help other drivers on Motorway hard shoulders ? We thought not, which troubled us when we saw a Phantom Rolls-Royce, bonnet up, on the M40 on “Booker Sunday”, as we would like to have pulled off to see if help was needed. But would this have been legal ?—Ed.]

* * *

An Alfa Romeo enthusiast

Sir,

Last year, you were kind enough to print my experiences with that splendid car the Fiat 125S.

The Alfa Berlina 1750 which took its place has now covered over 15,000 miles and proved thoroughly reliable, economical (27 m.p.g.) and a joy to drive.

The slightly hard ride is more than offset by the steering and brakes, allied to good performance. Special mention should be made of the seats (both front and back) and the behaviour in the wet, where it has the advantage over the Fiat.

Considering the built-in safety, insurance is expensive.

The gearbox, as expected, is a delight, the overdrive top being very useful. The engine starts easily, but needs time to reach working temperature when it (the temperature) becomes rock-steady. RS does the oil pressure. The AROC have proved most helpful, as well as very friendly.

Of possible passing interest, in 1937-8 I owned a Singer Le Mans four-Seater for 24,000 miles. Not entirely trouble-free (sticking valves and a thirst for plugs), hardly an ideal car for business, good brakes and steering allied to a willingness to rev. provided happy memories.

Many thanks for much enjoyable reading.

Bury St. Edmunds. Charles P. Brodie.

* * *

The HSM-Triumph Dolomite

Sir,

Your recent article in the April issue on the legendary supercharged twin-cam Straight-eight 1934 Triumph Dolomite appears to have spread some long overdue publicity and aroused some subsequent interest.

One of these cars was advertised for sale in Motor Sport for December 1958, fitted with a 2½-litre Jaguar engine. This was not rebodied and had the original “Corsica” type body similar to the 2.3 Alfa Romeo. Another was advertised in August 1955 by Carrs Bros. Garages Ltd. of Purley.

The original Dolomite was a magnificently conceived motor car and had it not been stillborn, I am sure that the name of pre-1940 Triumph would be found as frequently on the fixture lists of VSCC events as that of many other marques. Donald Healey ended up by saying that the remaining 1934 Straight-eight Dolomite assembled from some parts of the first car which was hit by a train, plus the parts to build up one other engine, were sold to Tony Rolt in about 1936 and goes on to say “I do not remember what became of them; I had lost interest”. This sounds blasé and nonchalant to the extreme and in reply to “30/98’s” letter regarding the HSM I would like to refresh Mr. Healey’s memory, assuming that my own research is accurate, because the story did not end there.

According to my information, three cars and six engines were built. The number One car was tested by the late Brian Twist of The Autocar on the eve of the 1934 Motor Show. The number three car was actually exhibited at the Show, supposedly not in full running order, and this car differed from the first inasmuch that it had full length wings with running boards. Therefore, the number two car was ADU 4, entered in the 1935 Monte Carlo Rally, which was involved in the Danish level-crossing train collision and totally written off and scrapped. The photograph in Mr. Healey’s article showed that there wasn’t much left to rebuild!

In 1936 the two remaining models, these being the No. 3 Show Model and the No. 1 car which had finished 8th that year in the Monte Carlo Rally without the blower driven by Mr. Healey, along with the six engines and other spares, were sold to High Speed Motors. This company was run by Messrs R. Arbuthnot and G. Ramponi who were allowed to rebody and change the name to “HSM-Dolomite”. W. B. said in April that five Triumphs were built but where does he get this figure from ? [From contemporary and subsequent references. — Ed.]

At the end of 1936 Tony Rolt bought one of these cars from High Speed Motors, not the whole project remnants from Triumph as Mr. Healey states. This car had been bored out to 2.4-litres and fitted with a larger supercharger, giving 10 PSI instead of the 5/6 PSI. This was his first attempt at competition motoring and he achieved FTD at the 1937 Liverpool University Car Club event with 101.75 m.p.h. over the flying mile. He raced the car in the Leinster Trophy Race, breaking the lap record at 75.53 m.p.h. and it was also raced at Donington. He sold the car in 1937 and via Speed Models of London. W10 it found its way back to HSM where it was rebodied and sold to Duncan Hamilton who, with Rolt, was to win in a Jaguar at Le Mans in 1953. The remaining bits were built into HSM-Dolomites. Reg Parnell owned one and so did a Mr. Habershon. Another of these cars competed at the VSCC Prescott Hill-Climb in 1953, driven by P. B. Merritt.

Other than the ones once advertised in your columns about three years ago with a 1.5 Jaguar engine and the rumoured use of a straight-eight engine in a boat somewhere in Scotland, all traces have tragically disappeared. Perhaps someone in the pre-1940 Triumph Owners Club, if it still exists, could enlighten us ? These cars had twin down-draught Zenith carburetters using a communal float chamber. However, your photograph clearly shows the single SU which Mr. Healey refers to. These cars were also evolved by Swettenham who was Henry Royce’s personal assistant at one time and Middleton, Peter Cowley and Albert Ludgate, the last named being Chief Engineer of Lea Francis. The chassis weight was 14 cwt., the complete car being 18 cwt. and it was priced at £1,125. The quoted reasons for the dropping of the project vary from financial difficulty to threats of legal action from Alfa Romeo, but Mr. Healey states that the latter is not true and in any case no patents were infringed. As regards the former, cash problems did not stop Triumph from developing and producing the new 1937-40 Triumph-engined range of cars. Had the original Dolomite gone into production, they would surely have been able to sell as many as they could produce of this, the only British answer to Alfa Romeo and Bugatti of its time. So what is the real reason ?

Somewhere, someone must know what became of these cars and where the bits have gone. To have even enough to build one today would be quite something. We do know that some existed fairly recently.

Thank you for your wide-ranging magazine.

London, W.10. S. E. Bathurst Brown.

[The HSM was dealt with in the appropriate “Motor Sport Racing Car Review” some years ago. I, too, thought Tony Rolt’s first motor racing was done with an HSM but in a very recent interview he gave to a weekly motor paper he is quoted as first racing a special Triumph Southern Cross, apparently at Spa in 1936! — Ed].

———

Sir,

In your September issue, two correspondents ask “Who built the HSM?”

The late Robert Arbuthnot of High Speed Motors, Lancaster Gate, bought up the remaining three Dolomite chassis after the threatened litigation by Alfa Romeo. They were fitted with special bodies, I believe by Corsica, and sold as the HSM.

A friend of mine, Lance Dennis, bought one-of these cars and I am enclosing a photograph of the car taken outside our Mess at Wrexham during the early part of the War. I drove it on numerous occasions and found the handling very like the 2.3 Alfa; it’s top speed was around 110 m.p.h.

Lance sold the car back to High Speed Motors in exchange for a special 2.6 Alfa Romeo which was prepared for him there by Ramponi and fitted with a similar body by Corsica. I have no idea what happened to these cars subsequently.

This HSM was believed to have been raced at one time by Tony Rob.

Lympne, Kent. R. W. Cookson.

* * *

Desirable Nipples

Sir,

As a regular reader of your excellent magazine, I have hesitated to write for some time on two aspects of road safety because of the very high interest value of the letters selected for publication but feel that the following would concern many readers. Whilst driving slowly (about 5 m.p.h.) in a 1968 medium-priced British car which had done 63,000 miles (only) the offside steering ball joint literally “fell off”, resulting in this front wheel going immediately to full right-lock whilst the left was in its normal position of straight ahead.

The vehicle had passed the M.o.T. test and servicing has always beep exactly in line with the maker’s recommendations.

An investigation revealed that the joint was very rusty inside but it was impossible to see whether the rubber gaiter (or cover) was cracked prior to the failure since it was damaged by the two parts separating. The apparent amount of “clinching over” was minimal and it was obvious that whilst an M.o.T. examiner might find virtually no movement at a given position of the ball it would only need a small radial movement to place it in a very dangerous position.

My local garage assures me that complete failures such as this frequently occur on vehicles with mileages as low as 30,000 and is obviously due to there being no provision for a grease nipple.

I feel that designers probably never get to hear of such frightening dramas and it would be interesting to hear both their views and that of the Road Research Laboratory.

It would also be interesting to know whether any reader has had experience of this failure at speed and if so “what happens” and what is the best way of maintaining control of the vehicle. I can only suggest that if the very severe vibration experienced before stopping at 5 m.p.h. is anything to go by a failure at 70 m.p.h. on a motorway would inevitably lead to complete loss of control and may explain the numerous brake marks which disappear over the central reservation.

Incidentally I have not mentioned the actual manufacturer, in fairness to them, but I have taken the matter up with their chief chassis engineer and I gather that every effort is being made on their new designs to make them “fail safe” by either fitting a plate under the socket or by having the socket on top of the ball but the geometry required frequently makes this difficult.

Please! Designers give us back our nipples. (Or at least make them optional extras!).

Having recently assisted in the construction of a Lotus Elan from a kit I was also very surprised to find that the “direction to undo” the centre nut wheels was exactly the opposite to that we are used to and which is confirmed on page 59 of “The Technical Facts of the Vintage Bentley”, which clearly states “… to undo the locking wing it should be hit round in the direction the wheel moves when going forward.”

The Distributors confirmed that the threads were correct and that the changeover was due to the increased levelling efficiency of modern cars. This is a subject which is frequently discussed by those interested in design but a satisfactory answer never seems to be forthcoming—may we ask a chassis or wheel designer to explain this complete change of fundamental thought (and where precisely the change occurs) to put many minds at rest ?

Cold Ashton. T. R. K. Davey.

* * *

“Good-old Jaguar” replies

Sir,

Your correspondents Mr. Ramage and Mr. Lowe, criticise the XJ’s passenger space and underbonnet space, respectively. The compactness of the XJ’s layout is many owner’s ideal. Nevertheless, I am glad to say that Mr. Ramage’s desire for a more roomy model was fulfilled by the announcement, towards the end of last month, of the long-wheelbase Daimler Double-Six Vanden Plas saloon. The Daimler marque is, incidentally, a very important one to British Leyland (especially on the home market) and there is no intention of discontinuing the Sovereign or any other model. The charge that Jaguar unjustifiably “suppressed” a Daimler Century replacement model is not valid. By the way, if such a model had been produced, its body would have been based on that of a contemporary popular car from one of the American-owned UK manufacturers . . . not so “promising” a new model, perhaps ? [Interesting, as Daimler was, and is, not American-owned — Ed.].

Your other Jaguar correspondent, Mr. Lowe, is being a little unfair in implying that the XJ12’s cooling system does not cope with adverse conditions (under which Jaguar have tested the car, but Mr. Lowe has not), and that the V12 is less powerful than the majority of American engines (which it is not). The XJ body shell was designed to accept the V12 engine, and indeed, one of the early prototypes ran with such a unit. As regards accessibility it is inevitable that the 12-cylinder engine takes up more room than the “six”. Special attention has, however, been paid to the accessibility of items relevant to routine maintenance.

The reasons for the battery position in the XJ12 have been covered at length in one of the “weeklies”; suffice it to say here that there are good reasons for rear mounting of the battery—but the merits of front mounting outweighed them in the case of the XJ12.

Coventry. A. J. A. Whyte.

Public Relations Manager,

Jaguar Cars Limited.

* * *

The Osterreichring

Sir,

I feel that I must write in defence of the organisation and layout of the Austrian Grand Prix at Osterreichring after having read Mr. Webb’s letter in the Motor Sport October 1972.

Mr. Webb says that after having paid his entrance fee he climbed a slope equivalent to the first stage of Snowdon only to find that there was no view. If perhaps he had waited and studied the situation and layout he would have found that there was plenty of room and view available and that the early morning risers (like myself) were in fact sitting down during the race and that the view was superb (far better than that I got at Brands Hatch). To have been 16 ft tall would only have got in the way of other people sitting down.

I must agree that the public address was rather bad but the programme contained every piece of information that could ever be needed.

As regards his escape from the car park in his JGW Special I’m sure that this must be exaggerated, it took us (in a VW 1600) about ½ an hour to get onto the open road and then 3½ hours to get back to Vienna. Incidentally, just in case you’re thinking that we started at about 11.00 p.m.—we started at exactly 6.00 and were back in Vienna (having driven right through it) by 10.00.

I would advise any reader that if they want to go to a GP on the Continent next year then they choose the Austrian and not be put off he Mr. Webb.

Llanelli. Mark Hopkins (16).

———

Sir,

Mr. Webb’s letter describing his unfortunate experiences at the Austrian GP reminded me forcibly of some of my visits—to Brands Hatch! This year, seven of us, in two cars, made the trip to Austria and watched the race, like Mr. Webb, as ordinary paying spectators. Unlike Mr. Webb, we reasoned that parking some distance from the circuit would make getting away after the race somewhat easier, and paid our schillings to the farmer. I think it was 10, not 25.

We negotiated the Burma Road, carrying our day’s provisions, and found this strenuous but by no means exhausting for even those of us who are overweight and no longer in the first flush of youth. We found a pleasant spot, in the shade of some trees, where we could see a good stretch of the circuit. For the Grand Prix itself, I wandered down nearer the track, chancing sunstroke, and had a reasonably close view of the competing cars. There was no public address, but the programme did give the details of the runners, while a local newspaper gave full practice times. I rated it a most enjoyable race.

We stayed to the end, trekked back to the cars, and were back in our Gasthof, about 10 miles from the circuit, by six o’clock. Given the chance, I will gladly go again. I still go to Brands occasionally, but am beginning to wonder whether this indicates a tendency towards masochism. My only real criticism of the Austrian circuit was the high cost (60 schillings) of watching practice sessions, compared with the reasonable 90 schillings for the race itself.

Obviously, the Osterreichring is fairly new, is a bit primitive in parts, and we can all see ways in which things can be improved when the money is there. But you get a real race for your money, coupled with the Austrian countryside and hospitality. Try again, Mr. Webb.

Bletchley. P. W. Munt.

* * *

Customers for the Panther?

Sir,

Did I detect a “King-sized” hint of snobbery and class-distinction in A. R. M.’s write-up on the Panther inasmuch as he hoped pop stars, footballers and the boutique set would not be the only prospective customers for this car? Just what kind of extra special customer has A. R. M. in mind ? It occurs to me, and should to him, that this beautiful car materialised (literally) due to Robert Jankel’s association with the fashion industry, which is allied to the boutiques and patronised by pop stars and football heroes, which brings me to another point. How could “lower-class people” like myself (and apparently A. R. M. if he has to rely on a football pools win) afford the Panther if there were no football stars ?

As a devoted follower of the world of motor sports, I can say that I, for one, am grateful to these flamboyant, long-haired characters for the large hand-outs in the way of sponsorships every year. I wonder just how sparse a Clubmans’ starting-grid would be without the typical King’s Road boutique-sponsored mini; whether A. R. M. likes it or not, these colourful, good-looking people could be potential buyers of the Panther and, for me, they will look better in the driving seat than a “hands off, don’t touch” type snob under an Ascot topper.

Coseley. B. T. Caddick.

[Which seems to confirm the views expressed earlier by another correspondent! — Ed.]