Letters from Readers, November 1979
N.B. – Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them. – Ed.
Two Views of Villeneuve
I refer to the article in the October Motor Sport reflecting on the Dutch Grand Prix and I must say I totally agree with D.S.J.’s comments about Gilles Villeneuve’s heroic drive in the crippled Ferrari.
There can be no doubt that Villeneuve has been the best find for many years and must be a potential world champion.
When people flock to a Grand Prix many go hoping to see at least one driver put on the kind of show Gilles put on in Holland.
As long as there are drivers of his capability and dedication, Formula One will remain the most exciting of sports.
M. N. Bush
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I feel I must protest at the apparent lack it interest shown to the actions of Gilles Villeneuve in the Dutch Grand Prix. I have just seen a clip of the US East Grand Prix, where very much the same thing happened to Alan Jones and Jody Scheckter. but did they career around the circuit, not only endangering their own lives but the lives of others? Oh, no, they stopped and actually walked (yes, walked) back to the pits, which seemingly Monsieur Villeneuve was incapable of.
I can only hope that this and other letters will help to convince people that a much deeper enquiry is needed into that unfortunate accident.
Cast Iron Reasons
D.S.J.’s article on Formula One front brake design, reminds me that when disc brakes first came in, an engineer said that he could not understand why more advanced metals were not being used for the discs.
I well remember the Aston Martin front discs glowing cherry red in the pits during the Goodwood 9-hour race and that must be well over 20 years ago!
Perhaps someone in the brake world could be persuaded to explain why dear old cast iron is, apparently, still preferable?!
Formula One Turbocharging
Formula One motor racing is presently enjoying a (rare?) period of tranquil ascendancy — power struggles and disagreements over a myriad of minor matters have, excepting, perhaps, the still hotly disputed merits and demerits of the season’s new scoring system, receded into the background of a blissful landscape of entertaining racing. As in any sport, however, some people are never content unless they can envisage impending doom, and so no-one should be surprised that the improved performance of the Renaults, together with the unveiling of the new “turbo” Ferrari should galvanise some into predicting that the sport will shed the smaller teams. to be left with the rich few who can afford the extra research involved in developing a new turbo engine, and the ensuing period of little success which usually has to be endured while the engine is refined.
These merchants of doom and despondency thus say that to allow the advance of the turbo would effectively reduce the Grand Prix entry to Renault, Lotus, Ferrari, Williams, Ligier and Brabham (speaking of which, wasn’t it a masterful publicity exercise which we experienced? I wonder how much Jackie Stewart was paid to keep up the pretence of “still considering” the one million pound offer while he and B. Ecclestone milked every conceivable ounce of publicity – an extremely valuable commodity – from the offer. Alternatively, could Stewart himself have concocted the plan in order to increase his saleability in the sphere of sponsorship and advertising — a face currently in the public eye is worth more to manufacturers than one which has slid to the far corners of the mind of most of the public. In any event, the idea that Stewart was really considering a come-back was surely too ludicrous to be taken seriously).
Returning to the matter in question, however, if one looks at the Constructors’ Championship, it is clear that these “big six” teams by-and-large dominate the championship anyway, and so if these teams were all to move over to turbo engines at worst the move would only highlight the gulf which already exists between these and the other teams (apologies, perhaps, to Tyrrell and McLaren). Alternatively the move could provide an opportunity for a points system to be introduced which would lead to increased competition: By dividing the championship into two sections, one for turbo-charged cars, and the other for conventionally powered Formula One cars, not only would the constructors with more modest budgets have a more accessible championship to retain their interests, it would also give an increased number of drivers some real hope of success within the international Formula One arena, and give rise to an increased spectator interest in the race developments of the whole Grand Prix field. Also, while the system would in no way threaten the position currently held by the “big boys” — and so would not threaten their sponsorship revenue — the increased interest and publicity which would be generated by the secondary championship may well lead to increased sponsorship for the currently less wealthy teams.
If, of course, the turbo does not prove to be as markedly superior as I anticipate, the present system could be retained: but even if they do prove to be vastly superior they need not lead to a demise of Formula One due to smaller teams being edged out of the international arena. Managed properly the turbo could make the Grand Prix scene more healthy and more interesting than ever.
C. A. Freeman
As a native Californian, I enjoyed reading D.S.J.’s Reflections in the Shadow of a Queen. However I should point out in the honour of Long Beach there are areas that are quite well to do. The Belmont Shores area with yachts moored in front of very expensive homes could rival Monaco without the hills. Where the GP course is, the city is in a rehabilitation plan; many of the old rundown hotels and apartments will eventually be replaced with newer structures, but it takes time and money. I had the pleasure of chatting with Mr. Jenkinson in the pits during the 1978 GP at Long Beach, but missed seeing him this time as I had to leave Saturday for Lake Tahoe, 450 miles north, where I watched the race live on TV. It was very nice and comfortable.
D.S. J. is certainly right about the So. Calif. activities being plentiful and the main roads being crowded, but we locals know many fine, fast back roads for enjoying fine cars. On a recent major holiday here, we had a 500-mile race for Indy type cars at Ontario Raceway 60 miles east of Los Angeles that drew 76,000 spectators on a hot day. The local baseball team and the local football team in LA drew 25,000 and 59,000 respectively. The LA Times’ sports pages gave the auto race two columns, the baseball game six columns, and the football game got five. Auto racing does not get very good coverage in our local press unless the paper is giving support or sponsoring the races.
One final comment about California. Most US easterners and visitors from Europe are surprised to see how big it is, a thousand miles long and averaging over 300 miles wide. It would be interesting to hear from some of the English Bentley Drivers Club members who visited Monterey in Central California for the Historic Car Races last August to hear their thoughts on driving their vintage autos across the US.
How I agree with the sentiments expressed by Bruce Heathcole of Ontario regarding his “mellowing” Rover. I know the feeling! After driving an assortment of company cars, it’s a relief to glide away in my Rover 100, with over 200,000 miles to its credit. You really should be as comfortable in your car as you would be at home, and there is more to lasting pleasure than a frenzied 0-60 m.p.h. time.
I do like effortless motoring though, provided by good torque and restful engine speeds, and my 45-year-old Brough Superior motorcycle complements the Rover admirably.
Motor Sport is widely read in the company for whom I work, and we enthusiasts would like to know what happens to those teutonic thoroughbreds, so beautifully made with legendary durability, after about eight years. Do they have a secret graveyard like elephants: because they just don’t survive do they? I once drove the 600 — marvellous performance but I haven’t seen one for years. [There is an immaculate one in our car park right now!—C.R.]
As development engineers we suggest that “legendary” is the operative word, i.e. a myth.
Having read much of the published correspondence regarding Brooklands race track in your magazine, I was very much looking forward to actually seeing the course for the first time when my travels took me in the vicinity of Weybridge. Upon reaching the security gate of the “Brooklands Industrial Park” I was greatly disappointed when the gateman refused me entry to even look at the track saying it was “private property” and no-one was allowed into the grounds beyond the main gate. After explaining I had driven from South Wales to see the course he relented a little and took me just inside to see a section of the banking. He then went to great lengths to convince me that the industrial site was rapidly expanding to the extent that within two or three years the runway will be broken up and nothing will be left of the actual race track except the memory.
I tried to explain to him that there was an active group of people called the Brooklands Preservation Society virtually hell-bent on keeping what was left of the track and buildings and doing restoration work to preserve them. Also that meetings were held there with cars travelling as far as they could around the course (the last one I believe in June this year) with the event having a 4,000 strong audience. He replied that this was not so and no work had been carried out on the track for 20 years or more. He had also refused entry to a group of Americans who had flown over specially to see the race track.
Whilst the gateman cannot really be blamed, as he is only working to orders, it appears that the powers that be are actively employing their time in completely discouraging any enthusiasm for the future of the track.
Perhaps this attitude should be brought to the attention of the public and the Society as I for one feel that Brooklands is a part of our country’s history as any other of our national monuments and anything that can be done to preserve it can only he time and money well spent.
Barry. S. Glamorgan
The MG Affair
In the wake of Michael Edwardes’ announcement on Monday 10.9.79, I would like to put the case for MG, a small subsidiary company of British Leyland, with a following unequalled by any other make of car in production today.
The enthusiasm generated within the factory itself is something that any company would be proud to boast of, the workers at MG are enthusiastically interested in what they are doing and are very proud of their product. They never go on strike, and the only time they stop production is when they cannot get parts, due to strikes at other Leyland plants.
At the moment MG production is running at 1,050 cars per week, 80% of which is produced for the export market, by a workforce of just over 1,100. For a factory with little or no automation this is no mean feat, and works out to almost one car per man per week. Despite this extreme loyalty and unbroken production British Leyland have always declined investment in MG, appearing to favour the Triumph-based models.
The MGs being built at Abingdon at the moment are very much outdated and have hardly changed over the last 10 years, but they retain their supreme quality, and have proved by their comparatively enormous sales, that it is still a car that people want.
It has been suggested by Leyland that every MG sold this year in America has been sold at a loss despite the fact that the price of the MG-B has gone up considerably more than that of the TR7, making the MG-B several hundreds of pounds dearer than the Triumph. It does, however, still manage to outsell the Triumph by a considerable number, one must surely wonder how much is lost on the Triumph product. It has since been rumoured that so many millions of pounds have been sunk into the Triumph, that they can only think of recouping the investment by halting production of all other sports cars, thereby depriving the consumer of the choice.
It is even more ironic that Michael Edwardes’ timing should coincide with the MG factory celebrating their 50 years of production at Abingdon. A complete week’s celebrations were planned for the Golden Jubilee, including factory tours, gymkhanas, dinner dances, etc., plus a barbecue which was provided by Jaguar, Rover, Triumph Ltd., New Jersey, USA, who are responsible for marketing the MG in America. The week’s celebrations culminated in a Carnival Day (8.9.79). The carnival procession consisted of a number of floats provided by the town’s industries and social groups, and at least one of every car that has been produced at Abingdon over the past 50 years. A total of 2,000 people took part in this procession and some several thousands turned out to watch, completely closing the streets of Abingdon. Where else in the world does Michael Edwardes think he will find such devotion, not only from his workers but also from the people who are buying the cars.
It can be imagined how the workers of MG felt the following day when they learned that they were to close.
It is also rumoured that British Leyland plan to use the MG octagon on their new Japanese venture. This must surely be considered the final insult, not only to MG but to the British people in general. It is obvious that Leyland feel this car will only sell with the reputation of a fine name behind it, but why give the reputation of a good successful British Company to a Japanese car.
It is my personal opinion that if Leyland were to carry out this plan, not only would it be the end of MG, but it will also be the first nail in the coffin of British Leyland, because they don’t make anything else at the moment that people want to buy, with the exception of Jaguar and Rover. Neither will the British public be fooled into buying an MG with “Made in Japan” stamped on it, and British Leyland would have lost the sale of approximately 40,000 MG cars per year on the export market.
I would suggest to Michael Edwardes that he invest in MG and let it follow its natural development, as it is the only selling power he has of its type. If he does insist on throwing all this away, I would urge most strongly, de-nationalisation of British Leyland to enable a private enterprise to take over MG and put it back on top as the world’s leading sports car manufacturer, where it belongs.
Thank you for an interesting magazine. keep up the good work.
L. Wharf (Mrs)
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I hope that when the October issue of Motor Sport comes through the mail that “Matters of Moment” will carry some strong comment on the unfortunate end of MG! What a pity!
It is interesting to note that Aston Martin, Lotus and Morgan are all prospering as makers of “sporting” automobiles! One wonders what MG could do, as an independent, with a modern 1.5-litre or maybe 2.0-litre car. British Leyland seems to have lost touch with the American market. The end of the “E.’ Jaguar. No economy cars and no 4-wheel-drive Rovers in a country that is sports, economy car and 4-WD hungry. Look at others’ sales results! Chevrolet can’t meet its Corvette market. My local Ford dealer can’t find me a Fiesta until Christmas and AMC has a new 4-WD on the market though delivery is nearly impossible.
Menominee, Michigan, USA
I. W. Stephenson
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I am no great letter writer, but as you probably know I scribble the odd cartoon for the VSCC Bulletin.
Therefore in response to the news of the cessation at Abingdon and the trading of the famous badge, I was stirred to render my own comment in my own style, which I enclose.
Motor Sport’s hallowed pages are not famous for harbouring lampoons and the like, but I thought this particular illustration might see a few heads nodding in virulent agreement.
The Campbell Account
I was pleased to see the late Donald Campbell again mentioned in the Motor Sport letters page. The letter from Mr. Archer makes it three times this year. Third time lucky perhaps, for in his letter Mr. Archer begs a question which I suspect, and hope, may be on quite a few minds. Is the British account with Campbell in balance? Or is it, as I would also suggest, in the red and overdue.
Are biography, a Royal commendation and a fellowship sufficient acknowledgement in this case? I think not. Part of the record is the destruction of a public image, and it is this element of the story that will not allow “the books” an ethical balance.
I understand that Innes Lloyd is to produce a play about Campbell jnr. for the BBC. Perhaps such a production will allow an accurate account of the story, and some small recompense to the historical record of a brave man.
P. S. Knight
From Sir George Burton
Reading the announcement of the new Lancia, always an interesting event, prompts me to enquire why it should be christened the “Delta”. I like Lancia’s use of the Greek alphabet for naming their cars, much more original than some, but why “Delta” — why not “Alpha”, as it is the smallest in the range? Then Lancia would have the nice sequence of Alpha, Beta and Gamma! In the past before the first World War they had an “Epsilon” and of course in the mid-20’s the famous “Lambda”. The “Kappa” I believe was immediately post World War 1 and the “Theta” like the “Epsilon” before it. Penetration of the alphabet seems to have stopped at “Lambda” so pre-emption by Colt of “Sigma” probably doesn’t worry Lancia.
Consideration of this question of nomenclature makes one wonder at the point of using Italian place names by Ford. Why Cortina and Capri? Why not Taranto or Bari? Or even Gorgonzola, a suburb of Milan? Don’t you think Ford’s new 8-litre, turbo-charged Gorgonzola sounds appetizing?
I also find BL’s use of ‘Allegro” rather curious. I feel in view of its performance “ma non troppo” should be added.
Sir George Burton
Mr. Carter’s letter comparing his 1937 Talbot’s performance with that of his wife’s 1975 Vauxhall is all very well, but it looks at only one side of the picture.
I too have a pre-war car, a 1928 Riley 9 which I have had for forty-four years and over 400,000 miles. Though flat out at about 66 m.p.h. and seldom if ever bettering 31 m.p.g., it is as right and tight as ever and passed its test last month with king pins and bushes which have been there since 1941. It will be interesting to see the condition of Mr. Carter’s wife’s Vauxhall in the year 1990 let alone the year 2026.
The life expectancy of the modern car is lamentably short and must disgust those of you who see your barrow rotting irretrievably away from the day it leaves the factory. The demise of the chassis and the inception of the frozen milk and tin-foil job sounded the death knell of the proper car, and we are now victims of the American disease, “Throw it away and get another”.
I join with Mr. Carter in recognising crankshaft bearing and piston improvements but longevity has to an overwhelming extent been sacrificed to performance. Once again the paying private owner largely takes second place to the business-car user, while the manufacturers blithely sing the praises of their latest puff-balls. Fistula dulce canit volucrem cum decipit auceps.
J. E. McGowen
It is an interesting coincidence that, during 1979, the Grands Prix of France, Britain and Italy have each been won by cars manufactured in their respective country. i.e. Renault, Williams and Ferrari. Perhaps motoring historians could ponder whether this circumstance has occurred in any previous season.
It is perhaps a sad reflection on the British Motor Industry, and perhaps the country as a whole, that the British car was kit built (albeit a very good car) and financed by wealthy Arabs.
Roger G. Burfitt
A Special Survives
In reply to Mr. Allan Grant’s letter in your July issue, re V8 Specials in Scotland, I can assure him that at least one V8 survived the gruelling rallies across the Scottish Highlands. My father, Mr. R. S. Pigg, whose name Mr. Grant may remember, was Number 40 on the entrants’ list for the eighth Scottish rally in May/June 1939 in his 1936 Ford V8 Club Cabriolet, which has remained in our family since my father purchased it in 1937; this car is now undergoing extensive renovation, having been garaged for some years. I still have the official programme and provisional list of entries available, and if Mr. Grant would care for a copy of these, please let me know.
I am enclosing herewith a photograph of the car literally “raising the dust” over some indeterminable part of the course; my father is driving and his passenger is Mr. Jack Chawner, who was his companion on many such trips.
I am now looking forward to many happy motoring days myself, in this classic motor.
Robert L. Pigg
It was with great interest that I read “Road Impressions — The New Ford Cortina” (Sept issue).
Whilst pointing out the rather fine sales record over the years, and noting the excellent advance in engineering with the current model, I cannot help but point out that you do not mention the “dread” of a large proportion of Ford o.h.c. owners – the ever-failing camshaft. This problem has been with us since the introduction of the Mk.III, and as owners will appreciate, is very costly to repair.
I travel a round trip of thirty miles per day to my work, and I can guarantee to hear a noisy cam (applicable also to Capris) almost every day – the annoying part being that a good proportion of these are Mk.IVs!!
I have personally had to replace three camshafts in my own Mk.III GXL 2000 c.c. – I shall not replace another.
I notice in the area in which I live, several local motor factors now put together a “camshaft kit”, so great is the problem – too great for Ford to sort out one might ask?
What a way to spoil what is otherwise a good motor car. Would anyone care to comment?