Readers' letters, November 1985, November 1985

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Road vs track

Sir,

I didn’t think that Idris Francis’ letter was particularly amusing, nor original, because for many years the merits of “heeling and toeing” have been discussed through your columns and in many other motoring journals.

Unfortunately and too often, “Road Craft” is muddled up with “track craft”. Techniques used to save time on a racetrack, where you end up on a grass verge, are scarcely applicable when travelling down a busy street or somewhere where your vehicle can end up through a shop window! There is no need for the almost indecent haste of changing gear and braking if driving is properly planned in the first place.

Heeling and toeing is not a method which is taught in police driving schools but the Institute has never penalised any driver who has been able to do this action safely and competently. However, what about all those drivers who have tried it and failed? They are liable to go over the roundabout rather than around it! In addition, the pedal positions of a very large number of cars are unsuitable for heeling and toeing and either the pedal positions will have to be altered or the human race get bigger feet. To sum up, we see little point in heeling and toeing on today’s crowded roads.

Although I have worked at the Institute for most of its existence, I have never heard of the advice given concerning “emergency stops.” However, we do not agree with unnecessary signalling as steering control is cut down by one-half if unnecessary signals are given. In any case, who is going to do a lot of hand flapping in dead “of winter or at night? Correct mirror equipment, properly adjusted, coupled with intelligent use should eliminate the danger from our non-existent motorcyclist.

Chiswick, R. B. Peters

Chief Executive, Institute of Advanced Motorists

Driving Standards

Sir,

I read with interest the letter for “Higher Standards”. Working overseas and living in the UK, 150 yards from a motorway, my first observation is that the general standard of UK driving is already high, compared with countries between the near and far east and something taken into account when obtaining licences in some of these countries. Qatar is an exception where to obtain a full local licence a full that has to be taken, not without its lessons in car control.

Regarding the suggestion of speed one cannot fail to observe the average speeds at times on some motorways is likely to be 75-80 mph with the inside lane above the 60 mph. Lane indiscipline is a world-over problem and I often remain in the centre lane to avoid the dangerous practice of weaving in and out of the heavies in the left-hand lane. Our UK highway code is an excellent guide and I suggest better driving is gained through experience, age, and good common judgement with concentration on what occurs around one while driving, a 100% experience and occupation.

On the spot fines by the police, never, until the UK has a traffic I road controlling body. The motorist is too much of a target for police prosecution figures without producing any improvements for the motorists. A traffic body should be formed to use the income from the motorist to improve our transport system with some obvious improvements. Organisations such as the AA/RAC now have little basic effect on road changes. Toll charges on the Severn Bridge for example could well have been removed if the AA/RAC together had put more pressure on the Government.

As for any gentleman who travels 286 miles per day on our motorways I doubt his efficiency at driving and doing his job for his employers. I suggest a regular check as to his long term health with his heart doctor.

Safe driving through care, consideration and concentration!

Doha, Qatar, J. G. Hosegood

Kiss, Kiss

Sir,

I am surprised that during the course of a detailed review of a motor car, no mention should be made of such a radical change in established manufacturing practice as the relocation of the brake pedal in the Toyota MR-2. For, after some practical research, I have found that it is quite impossible to imitate one of M.L.’s driving techniques with the pedal in the conventional position.

Having slipped off into city traffic, dabbed the accelerator, flicked the wheel (presumably this is done to ensure that it is still securely attached to the rest of the car), I then tried kissing the brake pedal. Let me say right away that my car, a Vauxhall Astra, was very unimpressed by my romantic gestures towards it and carried on with its forward progress quite oblivious to my attentions. But as though this blow to my ego was not enough, there are a number of other drawbacks to this braking method. Firstly, the time required to invert the body has to be added onto the normal times for reaction and braking which in turn means that the driver has to reappraise potential hazards quite markedly. Secondly, it becomes apparent that the forward vision is considerably restricted with the head in what conventionally is called the footwell. And thirdly, the operation of the other controls in the car by the use of legs and feet requires a good deal of practice.

All in all I have come to the conclusion that, as· ‘the foregoing does not enhance progress along the road, Toyota must have decided to suspend the brake pedal from the roof of their MR-2, thus enabling the driver to execute gentle braking by kissing it and an emergency stop by butting it with the forehead. Or could it be that an emergency stop can be effected with the right foot, in the conventional manner, after some training in an obscure martial art?

I feel that I have to conclude with a cautionary tale. Should fellow readers feel moved to try this “kissing” technique I would suggest that they try it as far away as possible from other road users until they become practised in the art. I found by experimenting in the City of London that even one or two taxis altered course during the chaos caused.

Steeple Aston, R.C.B. Sanders

[I made the mistake of saying that the MR-2 was so easy to drive you could do it standing on your head. The rest of the staff insisted on a demonstration. M.L.]

Buckler Memories

Sir,

I read with interest the article on Derek Buckler which was published in the September 1985 issue of Motor Sport.

The article has re-kindled my interest in tracing and learning more about a Buckler Special which my father built between 1952 and 1954. I can clearly remember as a young boy the Buckler chassis arriving at our home, delivered by courtesy of British Rail, and have fond memories of the construction period. The chassis was a Mark V and was fitted with Ford components. I remember the first test session when the car was duly wheeled on to a “semi private road” in front of our house, and to ensure that the law did not intervene, the session was carried out when the local policeman was leading the local procession on a Bank Holiday Monday.

The performance of the car, in chassis form, encouraged my father to consider entering competitions, and in conjunction with a man by the name of J. F. Cookson, they embarked on a very low key competition programme.

The engine was duly modified, which included the fitting of an aquaplane manifold and twin SU carburettors, a high lift camshaft and double valve springs.

Competition was limited to local speed hill climbs and sprints, with two visits to the six hour relay race at Silverstone in 1954 and 1955.

I have pictures of the car during construction, which are a useful record, and am trying to locate photographs of the vehicle in the six hour relay race at Silverstone.

At the time, within our locality there was nothing which could travel as fast, although I am sure that the top speed was around 90 mph, which in 1954 was considerably in excess of most other vehicles. The car was extremely reliable, and looking at some of the photographs, a very attractive vehicle even by today’s standards.

The car was sold in the autumn of 1955 to a man in Preston, and was then re-sold to someone in Wigan, after which we have lost trace.

Preston, G.C. Curwen

WEC

Sir,

I refer to your report in October’s Motor Sport, covering the Spa 1,000 kms.

My partner and I, both being avid sup­porters of motor racing, and not sensation seekers, felt that a letter supporting your accusation appertaining to the “swashbuckling” attitudes adopted by some Group C drivers, would be in order.

Recently, we attended the Shell Gemini 1,000 kms at Brands Hatch, and were frequently astonished by some of the antics by drivers who we had hitherto considered highly professional. Your theory regarding the fact that perhaps drivers feel safer in enclosed vehicles, and are therefore more “daring”, is a theory we share also, although, on reflection “crazy” driving techniques are also apparent in Formula One, and seem to be most frequently perpetrated by those drivers from, shall we say, “warmer climates”.

Excellent magazine, as usual.

Kesgrave, Ipswich, A.P. Helmer

Marsh Special

Sir,

Ken Hammerton’s letter, published in your October issue, referred to the (4.2-litre) Marsh Special, which I owned between 1970 and 1977.

Ken is very authoritative as always on hillclimb machinery, and if this car is in fact on its wheels a fair burning of midnight oil will have taken place, since when I disposed of it, it was wholly in bits, following an argument with what is laughingly referred to as the “Lodge” at Harewood Hillclimb in June 1971.

Tony Marsh was the only driver really to come to terms with his brainchild, though the same system of 4WD was repeated in the Ray Terry Elva-Buick (Shelsley class record-holder) and the Blankstone Brabham Quattro. (Tony “demonstrated” the latter – in haste if not in anger – at Bouley Bay in 1971.) I have always wondered if the changes in polar inertia which resulted from Geoff Rollason’s adoption of a Techcraft bellhousing (instead of the original Jaguar), moving the engine rearwards several inches and enabling a more-fashionable reclining seating position to be adopted, made the car less controllable.

After my sweet-handling and “chuckable” 250LM Ferrari (“The Duchess”) I found the Special an awful handful in corners. It showed characteristic 4WD “kick-out” on the overrun, and then understeered most stubbornly with the power on. However by June Harewood I felt I was beginning to get to grips with the old car, and I was at last approaching the old “Marsh” times in practice. Accordingly on (I think) my first competitive run I decided to adopt a more robust technique when we started to “run out” on the first right-hander at the bottom of the course.

I squeezed harder on the throttle.

The Marsh motored firmly off the course and knocked off its two nearside wheels on the adjoining greenery!

After I had counted my (few) bruises, I concluded with little difficulty that this 4WD motoring was not for me! The engine (Buick, not Olds, since it lacked the extra cylinder-head locating studs of the latter) and HD4 gearbox – back to 4-speed, 2WD form – went into a specially-built Palliser Formula Atlantic chassis which I drove on the hills that year, and were eventually acquired by Mike Harrison, the Formula Junior expert, with all the Marsh remains, so that he could use the engine and box to complete the above-mentioned Elva for HSCC racing.

Two wheels, suitably mounted and inscribed, did duty as tables in the “Pit Stop” Bar for a while. (The Palliser was – with difficulty- displayed on the ceiling!)

Northwood, Jack Maurice

XR4i Lament

Sir,

I have just completed 15, 000 miles in my XR4i and what a great machine it is too. The performance is pure magic and the road holding in both wet and dry conditions is excellent. However, this car is definitely not for the faint-hearted, or your Mr Average Driver, who cannot drive a car as it should be driven. What a shame Ford decided to discontinue this great machine. One wonders whether the bad publicity at the beginning of the year had anything to do with their decision. Perhaps the drivers concerned in these incidents should learn to drive in all conditions and not just in straight lines as is the norm these days.

On the minus side, there are two points I would like to raise.

a) This has got to be the worse gearbox Ford have ever produced in recent years; it must be the slowest gear change in Ford’s history.
b) The astronomic tyre wear.

When I purchased the car it was fitted with Uniroyal Rallye 340/60 195 60 VR14, the average cost of this type of tyre is £145+VAT (recommended retail price) and they only lasted 11,500 miles and wore out in the middle of the tyre, even though the correct pressure as per Ford’s handbook was used. I wrote to Ford and complained, here is an extract from their reply:

“Among the critical design factors are the tyres, and advances in this field allow the use of wider low profile tyres with softer compounds to achieve superior handling and wet weather cornering abilities. To obtain this there will be a small sacrifice in mileage if compared to ‘standard’ tyres, and we would normally consider in the region of 15,000 miles usual on this type of model.’

Well, Ford might consider this normal but I do not when the average car tyre life on most family saloons is 30,000 miles. With today’s tyre technology, tyres should cost less and last longer, not the other way round.

Keep up your great traditions, for this must be the best magazine produced.

Storrington, Sussex, K. R. Ballard

Lamborghini As She is Spoke

Sir,

If Jalpa is Spanish, and I cannot find the word, then it would certainly be pronounced Halpa – with a strongly aspirated “H”. How the “r” crept in I don’t know but it makes the word impossible to pronounce for a Spaniard. I have searched records going back over 200 years and cannot find the bull Jalpa or whom he killed.

Won’t somebody at Lamborghini settle the issue?

There is always something of interest in Motor Sport, even when it is bull!

Malaga, Spain, P. H. Hylton

A Lagonda Peculiarity

Sir,

You raise an interesting topic whilst reporting the Rhayader MC at the Royal Welsh Show. The 1932 3-litre Lagonda you saw had “the baffling item of two exhaust tail pipes of vastly differing dimensions” – how delicious these thorny problems always are!

The narrower of the pipes may have been a copper crankcase ventilator which was extended right to the tail during this period.

The exact date this practice ceased is in some doubt but I believe the M35Rs of 1934/5 were the last Lagondas so built, the copper pipe at the tail giving way to a neater breather installed in the rear engine­mounting. I have consulted Davey & May’s “Lagonda – History of the Marque”, which records the full length ventilator ceasing upon the introduction of the M35R (3/2- litre) in 1934, but the 3½-litre my wife and I own and that of our good friends Bryan and Barbara Hyett still sport the oft-queried tail pipe.

Thank you for a superb magazine.

Eccleshall, Richard McCann

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