Obesity

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Sir,

Transport technology reached a zenith when, with the invention of the bicycle, the addition of just 25Ibs to a man’s weight quadrupled his speed. Since then we have become progressively less efficient. Rummaging In the loft recently shook the dust from a few elderly magazines, which led me to check a theory. For many years a midsized family car weighed a ton, or thereabouts. My Alvis 12/50 is a shade over, the postwar Austin Somerset was about a ton, a 1981 Cortina or Cavalier or Maxi was almost exactly a ton. In the mid-eighties I used a Sierra stationwagon which weighed just over a ton.

At the end of last year, your contemporary Autocar published a comparative test of four midsized cars, whose weights ranged from 1255kg to 1412kg. It concluded that the Peugeot, at 1412kg, was the best of the bunch. After 60 years at about a ton, the family car now weighs 1.3-1.4 tons. Another such article, though I don’t recall from which magazine, compared cars in the “super-mini” class. My 1981 source quotes the Metro at 1620Ibs (735kg) and the Polo at 1510 (686kg). The recent test claimed the Polo was the best in its class, and I don’t doubt it. I merely ask, at a kerb weight of 990kg, to which class they are referring?

I applaud the research which has enabled Audi body shells to be made of aluminium, but still find it hard to raise three cheers for a “lightweight” car which weighs more than a ton and a half. The growing weight of nonrenewable resources which we are building into each car is requiring a growing weight of safety provisions largely to combat the car’s own momentum. This compounding of the weight increase is increasing the consumption of fossil fuel and the production of pollutants. We do seem to be going out of our way to provide ammunition for those who would restrict the use of the private car. Motor manufacturers generally achieve their design aims. In the Sixties and Seventies, when performance and handling sold cars, huge improvements were achieved. In the Eighties, for a while, it looked as though there would be a serious attempt to improve fuel economy, and my hard-driven Sierra gave over 30mpg. The comparative test of modern mid-sized cars I refer to above showed disappointing overall consumptions in the 25-28mpg range. Isn’t it about time that manufacturers started to take weight reduction seriously?

R D B Wilkinson, Orcop, Hereford.

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