Opinions expressed are those of our correspondents, and are not necessarily those of Motor Sport
Your correspondent, Mr. Buttolph’s doubts as to the smog problems of Adelaide, are understandable. A short term visit during Winter might well coincide with a windy smog free period. However, the conjunction of sea, coastal plain, backing hills and lots of sunshine is a sure recipe tor the photochemical process that creates Los Angeles’ far bigger but similar problem and the South Australian Authorities, quite rightly, showed concern.
As to the Mini differential used on the Pelland Steam Car, it is standing up quite well. We have fitted double-helical tranter gears to give an invariable speed reduction of 1.3:1. This compares with about 4:1 for top gear in a Mini. With 14 inch rear wheels, road speed is approximately 50mph per 1,000 rpm. Of course, with a steam driven piston engine the maximum is at nil rpm and the power is zero too. As speed and power build up, the torque falls away. These characteristics make the steamer ideal for stop/start duties such as city buses. Hill climbing specials are another obvious application.
Sierra 4 x 4
Referring to W.B’s road impressions of the Audi 90 Quattro, he refers to vibration on his Sierra 4 x 4. I too had this and, with mine, rough brakes. New discs cured both, but soon the vibration returned, followed by rough brakes. The third set of discs so far give no vibration or roughness.
I am convinced the vibration was discs slightly out of true and it even absorbed power. Naturally, all replacements were under guarantee and apart from this I have nothing but praise for the car.
An opinion without a yardstick is valueless, so may I say Porsche, Aston Martin and latterly BMW. I find the 4 x 4 a very surprising car. It does not have the solid feel of say the BMW, but it does everything superbly. I have now done 12.000 miles including two European trips including the Alps and Alp Maritime. Any car can cope with motorways, but the yellow green and white roads on a French map are a much better test. I do 400 to 600 miles in a day and both my wife and I arrive fresher than ever before. In some strange way, “G” seems absent and my wife no longer complains when I get a bit enthusiastic! It copes with bad surfaces well, including one road on which the bonnet of my DB6 opened at 120 mph!
Admittedly the engine does not rev like a BMW, but it is very flexible and pulls well. The gearbox is a bit notchy and too much travel, but acceptable if not fun. All in all a remarkably good package and I am firmly converted to the FWD and to anti-lock brakes. Add these to superb road holding and steering and it becomes a fast and pleasant machine. Admittedly, other road users who often pull over for a bonnet with “image” like a Porsche or BMW, do not do so for a modest Sierra.
Stephen R. Southall,
Back in the early sixties I attended a Formula One event at Snetterton. The race was a non-Championship International and attracted the top drivers like Jim Clark, Innes Ireland, Bob Anderson and Bruce McLaren. The whole time and place would I’m sure have slipped my mind forever but for a splendid incident in the paddock that day. A schoolboy asked dear old Bruce if he could take his photograph. Quite a normal thing in those days but on that occasion the New Zealander made that little fellow’s day by making sure that his young admirer had a picture he’d remember for a long time. He rounded up a few of the team’s mechanics and stood them as a backdrop to the Cooper-Climax. Bruce himself sat on one of the front wheels with the boy and had someone else take the shot. Bruce may have gone but I’ll not forget him making the kid’s weekend and I’ll bet a year’s supply of pit-passes (if I had them!) that he still has that wonderful picture!
Automatic Choice (almost)
I also prefer to select my own gears, as does my friend of early PCGB days, Bill Goodman; July Motor Sport, page 772. But I think I have a very pleasant compromise; for something to “play with” I purchased an NSU R080 a few weeks ago, still with its rotary engine, running fine since reconditioned by the previous engineer owner. If it does “go bang”, as I am told it might well, I would try to install a Mazda RX7 engine, being very similar, of course. She runs as sweet now as anything I have used before, including six cylinder BMW’s, Porsche, etc.
However, the point of this letter is the gear change, which I find a delight; a normal three speed box with a torque converter, not a complicated self change box. It also has a normal clutch operated by a switch on the gear knob which activates a solenoid and, in turn, a vacuum servo gives the clutch lever a push. All this in one tenth of a second; less than it takes to press a normal pedal. I see no reason why this system could not involve a normal third pedal, if you wish.
There you are Bill, a gear in each corner, park to the left and forward and “neutral” centrally. All with the advantage of a fluid drive/torque converter as with automatic and I like that, particularly in town driving, up hills, etc. Did not Porsche have something of this sort with their “Sportamatic”? In other words, simply add a torque converter to the normal gearbox and you have what I find the best of the automatic system. Or go Daimler.
(Not only Porsche but Citroën, Simca and Renault have used such systems in recent years. The Renault ‘box was controlled by push-buttons on the dash. G.C.)
Shortly after G.R.N. Minchin’s “Under My Bonnet” (G .T. Foulis & Co Ltd, London, 1951) appeared I read that delightful collection of reminiscences and anecdotes with much pleasure.
One episode, on p 30, intrigued me particularly. Minchin relates how he met Sir Mansfield Smith-Cumming who mentioned how he lost his foot in the 1903 Paris’ Madrid race under these agonizing circumstances:
“. . I drove with my son in that race and like many others we had a terrible accident near Angloulême, the car overturning. My son was pinned underneath and it was necessary to extricate him. I couldn’t get to him, my foot being trapped. I amputated it myself with my penknife and got to my son — who was dead.”
I have since, on occasion, tried in vain to pin down that story. It was highly intriguing that the first head of the British Secret Service (Foreign Section) — as Smith-Cumming, who liked to be known as ‘C’, became a few years before 1914 — should have driven in the Paris-Madrid. But confirmation of ‘C’s participation proved elusive.
The recent book “Secret Service: The Making Of The British Intelligence Community” by Christopher M. Andrew throws some light on the mystery. Professor Andrew’s erudite work is that rare combination of wit and real research. Highly recommended for both facts and laughs. On p 131 of the US edition the following passage is found, dealing with Intelligence Corps driving in France September-October 1914:
“A fortnight later there was an even more serious crash. Lieutenant Alastair Cumming was driving his father in a Rolls-Royce on the road to Paris when he ran into a tree near Meaux and was fatally injured . ‘C’ himself lost a foot in the crash and was critically injured”. It is further mentioned that ‘C’ was in hospital.
As Professor Andrew explains, the lurid account of auto-amputation with a penknife later became part of Secret Service lore, see Compton Mackenzie’s “Greek Memoirs” p 73-74. And — with fine disregard for the factual happenings—it rebounded, further enhanced, to Minchin who took it on face value. All evidence shows ‘C’ as an enthusiastic rather than skilled driver, but whether he did drive in the Paris-Madrid remains unclear — though highly improbable.
Can any reader add to the above?