Letters from Readers

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


Mr. Millington's outburst scarcely seems to warrant the expenditure of paper, time and postage on a reply, especially as the editorial footnote effectively "shot this one down," but I feel that I should point out that the whole thing is based on a false premise.

There was no public car park at Silverstone on the occasion of our club meeting. Only members of the Bentley Drivers' Club, invited clubs and their friends were eligible to spectate. We are a very friendly lot, but could it be that Mr. Millington was an uninvited "guest"?

If Mr. Millington is fortunate enough to be invited to our annual dinner and dance, I do hope that he won't put a "For Sale" notice on his overcoat in the cloakroom at the Dorchester.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Stanley Sedgwick
President, Bentley Drivers' Club.

* * *

Fog at Lindley?

I am writing to you about the curious attitude of the British motor industry regarding Grand Prix racing. Recently Connaughts have brought out their latest Grand Prix car, which could be a successful venture provided it could be tested thoroughly. The motor industry proving-ground test track at Lindley would be a good place for high speed testing and yet Connaughts are not allowed to test a racing car at this place because of the ridiculous attitude of the British motor industry to Grand Prix racing in not letting the track be used by racing cars. Yet the M.G. record-breaker car was recently tested at Lindley; evidently this car is not a racing car and therefore allowed to use the track! But surely this car cannot be called an everyday sports car? Also the D-type Jaguar is a really hot sports car and more in line for a Grand Prix performance, yet this car has also done a lot of practice and testing at Lindley. Surely one Connaught running around Lindley now and then would not be any more of a menace or track surface destroyer in the eyes of the so-called "bread and butter" car industry types than the M.G. record-breaker or D-type Jaguar!

This attitude of the British industry is really beyond me and I am sure that every real enthusiast must share my views. We have British drivers already acclaimed by the Continentals, why not British cars as well. Sports-car successes are a good thing, but the World Championship Grand Prix series really takes the honours.
I am, Yours, etc.,
F. G. Drivers.
[We had observed that the M.G. record car was tested at Lindley. Is the door still closed to others in the motor-racing field? — Ed).]

* * *

A 190-M.P.H. Austin-Healey

I see that Mr. Donald Healey, who recently voiced his disapproval of using extensively and expensively modified cars for competitions, is reported to have covered a flying mile at a speed of 190.9 m.p.h. with an Austin-Healey.

No doubt there are many of your readers who own Austin-Healeys and would like to make them go as fast as this; could you persuade Mr. Healey to tell us what are the (presumably) simple modifications necessary to attain this speed?
I am, Yours, etc.,
John. M. Hinchliffe.
London, N.W.8.

The recent records gained by the Austin-Healey 100 on the Bonneville Salt Flats are wonderful achievements. But, thinking back to Le Mans and the withdrawal by Donald Healey of his cars from the race and also of his remarks at the time, it appears his record-breaker is the exact opposite of his cry at the time for standard production machines.

To say that the car, with its lengthened nose, finned tail, bubbletype cockpit cover and supercharger, was just a modified production car seems nonsense to me; more appropriate to call it a "one off single-seater special" having no resemblance to the current production model. Then to announce the "Hundred S" with its high-compression engine, disc brakes and what have you, is a far cry from what was said just prior to Le Mans. Are we, therefore, to assume by recent events that the saying "all is fair in love and war" is applicable, in this instance?

I am, Yours, etc.,
S. Lightgfood.
London, N.13.

* * *

Fluttering in the Dovecote

By all means let us be biased, but surely the decent limits of partisanship are exceeded when in the August number of your esteemed journal there appear two letters from a Major Warliss, who is infatuated with the 2 c.v. Citroën. Deep gloom envelops me at the thought of our island roads infested with these things, for they have literally to be flogged with skill to produce any performance at all, and after 20 miles' driving experience I cannot understand how anyone calling himself a connoisseur of cars can contemplate without nausea a longer journey in this dreadful implement, which was designed for the agricultural community of a country where living standards are now, alas, lamentably low. In the United Kingdom at its present price it can only appeal to the lunatic fringe which is intoxicated still in 1954 with the quaking cacophony of the 1920 G.N. and with the Thunder Box.

From which you will understand my plea to you to put the opium away in the Louis Quatorze commode.

I am, Yours, etc.,
J. M. B. Dove.
[The double-dose of 2 c.v. publicity was obviously an error but we are surprised at Major Dove, who is prominent in vintage circles and motors about rather more slowly than any sane 2 c.v. owner in his 1929 Sunbeam or otherwise in a car even cruder than the 2 c.v., his old Ford Anglia, which on one occasion was well "lost" by Motor Sport's 2 c.v. test car within a few miles of leaving a V.S.C.C. rally at Slough. It surprises us, too, that such a prominent vintage-car owner should sneer at the 1920 G.N. — we can only hope Basil Davenport never has occasion to enter the Dovecote! — Ed.]

* * *

Engine Capacities

For years it has always been a source of wonder to me how manufacturers designing engines to come within a certain cubic capacity such as 1 or 2 litres, always arrived at a figure 2 or 3 c.c. different from their contemporaries; e.g., Bristol 2-litre Six, 1,971 c.c.; A.C. 2-litre Six, 1,991 c.c., etc. But at last the mathematical odds have been evened and I see the following: Ford Zephyr Six, 2,262 c.c.; Vauxhall Velox Six, 2,262 c.c. What a remarkable coincidence!

I am, Yours, etc.,
E. J. Higgins.
[Another curious example is the 803 c.c. of the Standard Eight and Austin A30. — Ed.]

* * *

The Bishop Ban

May I say that I consider your road tests are of the greatest interest and long may they continue.

Your unbiased report of the Citroën Big Fifteen made me buy one, and I hope in a month qr so to write you a letter regarding-the car and my impressions, which I trust you may publish.

I am, Yours, etc.,
C. K. Shone

As a reader or several years. I have always admired your unbiased approach when evaluating cars you have tested.

The "If I Can't Win I Won't Play" attitude expressed by the Nuffield Publicity Manager will certainly not harm you, but will damage Nuffield.

Any publication's life depends on reader loyalty, and your free-swinging attitude has pleased everyone in this country I have talked with who reads your magazine.

Unfortunately, several of the American motor magazines demonstrate a tendency to fawn on advertisers or prospective advertisers. This is of course readily detected by the reader. It does not occur to the management of such magazines that a well-buttered advertiser is not of much value if the readers lose confidence and drop their subscriptions.
I am, Yours, etc.,
William Mulhall
Idaho, U.S.A.

* * *


If Mr. Geoffrey E. Barlow refers to Chambers' Mid-Twentieth Century Dictionary he will find that a dash-board is defined as "a board, screen, or partition in front of a driver, on a horse-vehicle to keep off splashes of mud." I have looked in front of my dashboard (facia-board?) and cannot find a recognisable horse (I know the engine wants overhauling).

In the same reference book, facia is also spelt fascia, and a fascia board is defined as "the instrument-board of a motor car."

Why not, therefore, in view of these alternatives return to basic English and refer to the structure as "the piece of wood/metal/tin holding the instrument(s)”?

I am, Yours, etc.,
A. W. Davidson

A dashboard is a dashboard, and keeps the horses, and the mud they throw up away from the driver. An instrument panel is an instrument panel, and what's the matter with you?

I am, Yours, etc.,
P. Wright.
[No, sir; no, sir! An instrument panel is an instrument panel but the addition of warning lamps and hexagonal dials and square dials and all the modern clobber to that part of a one-piece body/chassis structure which comes approximately in front of the driver does not constitute such a panel and never will. Incidentally, what ammunition this correspondence is going to provide with which to bombard bored sales-gentlemen at Earls Court! — Ed.]

* * *

Porsche Comments

I really must call to your attention the figures which you quote on page 436 of August's Motor Sport, concerning the performance of the Type 356 Porsche. I thought them rather remarkable at the time of your road test, but, having some knowledge of the car tested, remained silent. However, the 20.1-sec. figure quoted for the quarter-mile, in comparison with the recent times at Ramsgate, forces a comment. My own 1,500 Super clocked 17.55 sec. for its best run at Ramsgate, even with the handicap of my personal 230 Pounds (how many stones?) aboard, and Mr. Wooley's standard 1,500 did a quite creditable 18:40. Surely these times are more nearly representative of the incredible Porsche than the 20.1-sec. quoted.

While on the subject, perhaps you would like to hear the story of a trip to Stuttgart last April. My wife and I were enjoying a leave on the Continent, when, on the Autostrada just out of Brescia, we were unfortunate enough to break the distributor drive of the Porsche while at speed. The end of this caught the ring gear on the crank, with appropriately expensive noises. (Some of your motoring terms, cliches though they may be here, are most refreshing to foreign ears.) We were towed into Brescia, where Messrs. Saotini, the local VW representatives, made emergency repairs using dimensionally similar VW parts. The condition of the engine, however, made it apparent that a change of itinerary to include Stuttgart was imperative.

After a lengthy conference with my long-suffering wife, who regards the American Kaiser as all the car really necessary, I proceeded over the Alps to Stuttgart. I arrived at the works, quite unheralded, on the morning of Easter week, a short work week, to find their shops full of Mille Miglia and Tulip Rally cars, in all states of disassembly. After I had explained my situation, including the all-too-near expiration of my leave, they took the car in hand, with instructions to return late Thursday.

My car had done something over twenty thousand miles, was more than a year old, and had been entered in at least five speed events. When I returned to pick it up, I learned that a night shift had been specially employed to work on it, and that it had been completely disassembled from the front wheels back. All parts damaged in the accident had been replaced. all parts showing measurable wear had been replaced, and the car bad been brought up to 1954 specification, including a redesigned crank, new light alloy valve gear, a redesigned cam, modified carburetters, and page after page of minor parts. At the thought of the inevitable bill I experienced sheer panic. However, it was explained to me that I was to be charged only normal assembly and disassembly labour, and only for those parts replaced as a result of normal wear. Excluding an oil filter and petrol gauge which I had ordered, my entire bill amounted to just over fifty pounds sterling. Further, I was informed, they did not feel that the dark red paint on my car had stood up to the weather as it should, and if I would leave the car for another ten days, it would be painted.

I should like to stress that I am in no way connected with this, or any ether, motor firm, and certainly I am not a driver who can, by reason of his competition success, expect works support. Rather, I was treated as a customer, and a person whom they desired to be completely happy with his purchase. I would be ungrateful to many of the pleasant people I have met, and who have befriended me, during my three years in your country if I were to add my own stories of poor service and dissatisfaction with English automobiles. Nevertheless, two of the three I have purchased since the war have been grossly unsatisfactory, and my efforts to achieve satisfaction from them have been largely unavailing. With the above experience accruing from my one post-war German car, and with happy prewar memories of seven litres, supercharged, does it take a necromancer to determine the most probable source of my next car?

I am, Yours, etc.,
Willis H. Bledsoe,
(Captain, U.S.A.F.).
Manston, Kent.
[The Porsche performance figures were approximate, for purposes of comparison, only and were not taken by Motor Sport. — ED.]

** *

A Lagonda in India

The accompanying photograph of my somewhat modified 3 1/2-litre Lagonda four-seater sports/tourer might be of interest.

In February of this year I won with this car the Calcutta Grand Prix, a handicap over 50 laps of the Alipore Airstrip Circuit for sports and racing cars, organised by the Calcutta Motor Sports Club, the premier body for motor sport on this sub-continent. Incidentally, my car was only 0.622 m.p.h. slower in this race than the runner-up, a 2.1-litre Rover-based special of full monoposto type, known as the Robertson Special. My car also shared with the afore-mentioned car the distinction of putting in the fastest lap of the day.

Besides another win and two places in club events, earned during the rare occasions when I can race it (I live 250 miles from Calcutta, where the racing takes place), I won with this car the Netarhat Hillclimb run in 1952, this being a hill-climb of the Alpine variety over 13 miles and up to a height of nearly 4,000 feet above sea level, and run in the wilds of the Chota Nagpur Plateau.

Lagonda enthusiasts will be interested in the fact that my car, of 1935 vintage, has yet to have a rebore and crank-grind — it has done over 250,000 miles to date!

I am, Yours, etc.,
A. Imam
Bihar, India.

* * *

A Matter of Lap Times

I regret to see that, in your report on the German Grand Prix, you fell into the error of many contemporaries in describing the fastest-ever lap of the Nurburgring prior to this year as 9 min. 52.2 sec. (86.0 m.p.h.) by Lang. This is in fact the circuit record set up in the 1939 Eifelrennen, but the fastest-ever lap is 9 min. 43.2 sec. (87.5 m.p.h.) by Lang in practice for the 1939 Grand Prix. Therefore the Fangio-driven 2.5-litre Mercédës did not establish an all-time-high this year.

Again, most observers (including your Continental Correspondent), in reporting the post-war Swiss Grands Prix constantly compare practice times with the circuit record of 2 min. 34.5 sec. (105.4 m.p.h.) set up by Rosemeyer in 1936, whereas the fastest-ever lap of 2 min. 32 sec. (107.1 m.p.h.) by Caracciola in 1937 practice seems to have been forgotten. Obviously, in practice a driver can pick his moment for an all-out attempt, is not fatigued and can carry the minimum amount of fuel in the tank, so that race and practice lap times are not truly comparable. The failure to distinguish between official records established in a race and fastest-ever laps which may have been accomplished in practice at some other date thus causes errors in appraising the relative merits of past and present machines and drivers. While on the subject of lap times, I should like to make a couple of suggestions to meeting organisers:

First, that a copy of the times should be posted up in the paddock after practice for the benefit of enthusiasts who are extremely keen to know them, but are reluctant to pester the officials for a bulletin; and, secondly, that there should be a closer liaison between timekeepers and P.A. chaps, so that fastest times to date, new records and the variation of critical time gaps are given promptly to the spectators who are not armed with a battery of stopwatches. Frequently otherwise excellent commentaries are sadly lacking in these figures, which add so much to the interest and enjoyment of a race.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Derek Taulbut.

A Renault 750 in Hong Kong

My copy of Motor Sport arrives so belatedly that my comments on the French small-car controversy may no longer be topical. However, here they are for what they are worth.

An overseas posting giving me the chance of a new car without purchase tax, I ordered a Renault 750 — a car after which I had hankered for some time. I drove the car from the factory on the Western Avenue (two miles on the speedometer) just prior to the Coronation, and ran it in England for some 700 miles. I then took it back to the factory for minor adjustments and export to Hong Kong. The adjustments consisted of taking up the stretch in the clutch cable and un-sticking a trafficator. On arrival in the Colony, I found that I could out-perform equivaent British-designed cars in most respects, but sometimes found myself at a disadvantage due to my three-speed gearbox. A 22 DRS Weber carburetter provided by Alan Southon cured this. (Why are they not fitted as standard?)

The car has now done 125,000 miles, mostly the daily 20 miles to work and back, and given absolutely no trouble, though I decoked it 500 miles ago as our very poor grade petrol at 2s. 9d. per gallon was making the motor pink quite a lot. On the sporting side, it won the 1,100-c.c. closed-car class in the local sports-car club hillclimb (two hills, each of half-mile, and two meetings at each one).

I have no garage, but tropical sun and torrential rain have not affected cellulose, nor chrome; nor have any leaks occurred.

Snags? Well, the interior door trim was peeling off before I left England, and the low roof line, combined with my height, has resulted in my not noticing the odd point-duty policeman and subsequently contributing to the revenue of the Hong Kong government.

My car has called forth a great deal of favourable comment, and had we an agent with more initiative (and some 1954 cars for sale) there would be many more in circulation here than the dozen or so which are seen motoring around the well-surfaced but tortuous roads for which they are so suitable.

Finally, having read your Bol d'Or account, may I say that regrettably I have no connection at all with my gallant namesake, and his magnificent Renault-based Special.

I am, Yours, etc.,
J. P. Perry (Lt. R.A.)
Hong Kong.

* * *

The Anglia in Action

I feel I must comment on the last paragraph of Mr. A. J. Turner's letter when he says — “The need for a high-performance small saloon on the lines of the 1,100 t.v. Fiat." This car exists in the new Ford Anglia. It may not travel as fast in a straight line, but the Swedish Rally of the Midnight Sun results show its capabilities. In the 1,300-c.c. touring class 28 Fiat 1,100 t.v.s were beaten by the smallest Dagenham product. This car also finished sixth in general classification!

If Mr. Turner is not satisfied, what about something on the lines of the Riley Nine Kestrel? — and no need to make it slab-sided either. I like a car with wings, not a tortoise shell on wheels!

I am, Yours, etc.
A. Seymour

* * *

16,500 Miles in a VW

A year ago today I acquired a new Volkswagen, standard model, and looking back on the 16,500 miles of all kinds of driving with this grand little car, I would only be able to repeat all the compliments paid to similar ones in your columns.

However, I might be able to add a few details which may interest your readers: The oil consumption is still negligible and every 1,500 miles when the oil is changed it would appear that pint would top it up. In any case I do not begrudge the 4 1/2 pints used as overall it works out at 0.05 penny per mile for oil.

As the car is driven very hard and nearly always fully loaded on relatively short distances the petrol consumption is not as good as it could be (36 m.p.g.). However, during our holidays we toured the Continent, three up with a fortnight's luggage and the overall consumption was 40 m.p.g. for the 3,000 miles covered including the St. Gothard, Simplon and Furka passes.

On the way south we travelled along the Autobahn between Mannheim and Heidelberg and for curiosity's sake the accelerator was fully depressed for approximately 20 minutes, the needle taking position between 70 and 75 m.p.h. for this period. Even suspecting a slight tail wind this is not a bad achievement as two or three local Volkswagens took up the chase but were left behind, this may be due to the fact that the best grade petrol was being used.

While in Germany the car, being due for the 12,000 mile service, was taken to the local agent. Four hours later the car was collected looking very prim, washing-down being included, but on closer inspection my wife was rather surprised because the ashtrays had been emptied and dusted, my biggest shock came when I lifted the bonnet to look at the engine and found it had also been dusted, cleaned and polished. The servicing cost just under £2; also included on the bill was 5s. 6d. worth of spares, the only expense so far in this matter.

The only setback I experienced with the car was when I applied for insurance through the R.A.C. and was told that as this was a foreign car, some conditions, unacceptable to the average motorist, would be applicable. No wonder I did not renew my membership with this association but registered with another one.

In conclusion, I would say that I look to further trouble-free use of my car without any apprehension.

I am, Yours, etc.,
G. Seydel.

If the Crash-Hat Fits. . .

Mr. F. K. Mason (Motor Sport, September, page 521) makes an obviously sincere attempt towards controlling motor racing in this country, but he should be more certain of his facts before making savage attacks on competitors. I quote: "I will point out another feature of the same race meeting. A certain sports car' (in fact a racing car fitted with cycle-type wings) driven by a racing driver of considerable repute was matched against standard everyday sports machinery, driven by gentlemen who enjoy a club 'dabble' on the track. The sports car was driven to the track on a lorry ... etc."

This refers to the West Essex meeting at Snetterton on Whit Saturday and the car referred to is my Cooper-Bristol. In the first place the car is not a racing car fitted with cycle-type wings. The F.I.A., the controlling body of motor sport in Europe, lays down certain measurements and so on for a sports car and my car complies with every one of them. The average racing car if fitted with cycle-type wings would not. It would not in the first place qualify dimensionally, nor would it have starter, dynamo, battery, exhaust system with silencer, horn, lights, etc., nor would it presumably run on pump fuel. Mr. Mason decries cycle-type wings but surely remembers that up to about five years ago all sports cars were thus fitted. In actual fact these are a handicap in so far as high speeds are concerned. My last year's car with all-enveloping bodywork is actually a good deal faster than the present car on fairly fast straights. The main reason for the shape I have adopted this year is to enable me to enter the car in racing form sometimes, by removing wings, dynamo, starter, etc., thus leaving an exposed-wheel-type car, acceptable by organisers of racing-car events who sometimes object to dish-body-type cars competing in racing-car events from a spectator point of view (although of course Mercédës are now doing so).

In the second place the car was not driven to the race in a lorry. It was started up from cold here at Caterham on the starter, and was driven through the Whit Saturday traffic to Snetterton (some 150 to 160 miles) by a member of my racing staff. I arrived some time later in my Bristol saloon. The plugs of the sports car were removed found in order and replaced. The car ran in four fairly well contested races, viz: (i) 2-litre sports-car race, first place: (ii) unlimited sports-car race, second place; (iii) Formula 1 race, fourth place; (iv) Formula II (2-litre) race, third place. The front wings were removed whilst in the racing classes, but otherwise no alteration was made between races. It ran on pump Esso all the time and averaged 14 miles per gallon. It was then driven the 150/160 odd miles back to Caterham by the same member of my racing staff, and I set off in another direction on a business trip in my Bristol.

More recent examples of the car's journeys are contained in the following activities which cover the last three weekends to the date of this letter. August 21st, driven Caterham to Silverstone (100 miles), competed in and won the 100-Mile sports-car race, then driven 100 miles back to Caterham. Next weekend, August 29th, driven Caterham to Shelsley Walsh, 135 miles (fitted with supercharger). Came back in lorry because meeting not over until 7.30 p.m. and no point in one driving car, another the lorry. Next weekend, Saturday, September 4th, driven to Brighton; first in speed trials, driven straight on to practice same afternoon at Brands Hatch for race next day. Driven home after practice. Next day, Sunday, driven to Brands Hatch, won sports-car race and driven home.

Occasionally this car goes to meetings on a lorry. This is normally the case when other customers whose cars we prepare require spares taken on their behalf and in this case it is less expensive and more convenient to put the car in the lorry at the same time.

I should like to invite Mr. Mason to accompany my driver next time the car goes to Snetterton. He will then be able to check for himself the car being started from cold and driven some 150 miles through congested traffic (including London) and can potter through any of the towns at 20 m.p.h. in top gear. I sincerely hope Mr. Mason will accept this offer which is made in all sincerity, as I think he will be just as impressed as my 75-year-old Aunt Rachel was during a recent shopping expedition in the car!!

Perhaps your correspondent is not one of my supporters, because if he was he would remember that over the many years I have now been racing I have always included a perfectly drivable sports car in my stable. My 2.9 Alfa with twin superchargers was used on Air Force duties during the war. One of my many post-war Fraser-Nashes was driven from Caterham to Montlhèry where it broke the 200-mile world 2-litre racing record, and was then driven back again, and it was largely as a result of this performance that single-seater Frazer-Nashes and Cooper-Bristols started to appear. The engines used in these cars differed only very slightly from those in the saloon Bristols. The current 404 Bristol saloon engine is the same as that used in my sports car except that the saloon has 8.5 to 1 pistons and my car 9. to 1. Truly sports-car engines as opposed to racing car engines.

Mr. Mason's suggestions as to categorising Sports cars fall down especially as far as one-day meetings are concerned. The very efficient scrutineers (who mainly exist to check the safety of the cars) would be hard overworked to check that all cars purporting to be production cars were in fact not altered beyond the catalogue specification. Sports-car racing is already divided into specific categories, (i) sports cars complying with F.I.A. regulations, and (ii) production sports cars of which a certain minimum number must have been made. Why complicate the issue any further? There are many people who with families and business ties cannot afford a "production" sports car, because they must have a saloon car for family or business. Such people buy their saloon and for instance one of the excellent and reasonably priced Lotus-Fords and Lotus-M.G.s.

Ever since I can remember, the question "what is a sports car?" occupies page upon page of the motoring press every year. The F.I.A. lays down what is or what is not a sports car and this can be modified by each organising club as it wishes. According to one's pocket, business, aim in life, and so on, one must either therefore possess a very fast car complying with the qualifications AND drive it properly, or during your everyday “dabble on the track" drive your "everyday sports machinery" so much faster than the next man in the same type of car, as to be eventually incorporated in a works team.

I do not think the public wants to see too much production-car racing with the same type of car, and same looking car, all the time. I feel that the introduction of sports cars to Brands Hatch has tended to relieve the monotony of seeing all the same types of 500 cars going round, however exciting this obviously was for the competitors and their immediate supporters.

I think a lot of Mr. Mason's criticisms would be met, not by interfering with sports-car racing as it is, but by having a novices' race at each meeting, as is often done at Brands Hatch. This must provide a different winner at each meeting.

I do not think sports-car or any type of racing wants regimenting. Like the Editor of Motor Sport, who very rightly writes what he thinks about cars submitted for test, I think drivers should be permitted to express their individualisms and ideas of the cars they drive. I personally chuckle quite merrily when I see a small homebuilt 1 1/2-litre car harrowing and passing an expensive "production car" of over twice its size, even if this could only happen in short club races.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Anthony Crook.
[Whether Tony Crook was or was not the driver referred to by our correspondent we are glad to have his views on this very controversial subject. — Ed.]

* * *


I was surprised to see recent photographs in the Motoring Press showing a single-seater record-breaking car being tested on the M.I.R.A. high-speed circuit at Lindley before leaving for Utah. I was under the impression that racing and certain competition cars are denied the use of this track. On consulting the regulations for the use of the proving ground, I find, under the heading "(A) Class of Vehicle,” the following paragraph: — "2. All single-seater cars shall be excluded at all times from the Proving Ground."

It would seem, therefore, that someone, somewhere, made an exception from a clearly worded regulation — much to the favour of a highly respected and large motor manufacturer.

Would it not be a reasonable gesture for that same someone, somewhere, to make a similar concession to S.M.M.T. manufacturers of new Grand Prix cars?

I am, Yours, etc.,
P. Hunt.

* * *

American Opinions — of the Zephyr and VW

I am drawn to my typewriter in defence of a car that was maligned in the July issue of Motor Sport, namely the Ford Zephyr. Mr. Sessions describes it as being of "bad design and poor workmanship." While I am naturally sorry to hear that he has had poor service from his model, I feel bound to disagree with his findings. If any reader should wonder front my following remarks if I am in any way connected with the Ford Motor Co., let me hasten to disabuse him of any such idea; I am not even on particularly good terms with any of the local dealers.

The workmanship is not wonderful, but it is at least as good as anything else selling for $2,000 in this country, including the Volkswagen and any American car excluding the Hudson Jet, which is pretty well put together. On the other hand the design is excellent, as evidenced by a good competition record (my mother bought hers on the strength of the 1953 Monte Carlo Rally result), and it does especially well in this country as a mass-produced sports saloon. The steering and roadholding characteristics are exceptional, Mark VII Jaguars having difficulty in keeping up with it on winding roads. The engine does a good job, being tireless, and it is capable of cruising at any speed up to 75 m.p.h. all day. It is relatively easy to average 60 m.p.h. on the Parkways (this is well above the speed limit in this state, which is an uninteresting 45 m.p.h.).

Ours was obtained in September, 1953, and it has travelled 22,000 miles since then on all kinds of roads, from mountain tracks to eight-lane super-highways, and in a temperature range of from five degrees below zero to ninety-five above. It has had some troubles, mostly due to poor servicing, but we are very satisfied with it and we will probably get a new one fairly soon. There are a few improvements that I could suggest such as a four-speed close-ratio gearbox, windshield-washers, which are very necessary over here, and the addition of several "gadgets" which could be regarded as superfluous in England, but which add considerably to driving safety in a country where driving distances are greater than can be realised without experience of them. In case anyone should think that we have indiscriminating tastes, I should like to point out that my mother learnt to drive on a Red Label Bentley, that the first car she bought was a 12/40 Lea-Francis, on which I learnt to drive before we came to this country in 1952.

With regard to the Austin-Healey controversy, all that I can add from this side of the Herring Pond is that they are selling very well on their good looks, but they have been beaten by Triumph TR2s in races in this country without the Triumphs getting high blood pressure or peptic ulcers.

I am, Yours, etc.,
David J. Elliot.
Connecticut, U.S.A.

I would like to commend you on your excellent magazine, to which I have subscribed for several years. It even appears to improve with time.

As an ex-Volkswagen owner I would like to take issue with you on your editorial opinion in the July issue entitled, "Ridiculous in Retrospect!" The opinion expressed by the engineering department of Humber Limited appears to me to be the best evaluation of the Volkswagen I have seen published. It is ironic that only the adverse opinions of the make appear to be held in ridicule. It is particularly gratifying to see a fair evaluation in print at this time as the Volkswagen has become fashionable in this country and apparently can do no wrong (according to the American motor magazines — and sometimes Motor Sport’s Editor).

The car was designed from scratch with no requirements to follow conventional engineering design, a rare privilege in the engineering profession, yet it shows no particular advantages over conventional designs, and, in fact, has some considerable disadvantages. These serve to substantiate the engineering maxim that most conventional designs are, after all, quite sound — they achieved their present status of conventionality only after years of experimentation. It is a tribute to Dr. Porsche's genius that he was able to obtain such a satisfactory design at the first try with an unorthodox approach.

Having owned a 1952 De Luxe Volkswagen for 17,000 miles, I formed the following impressions of it (before selling it): —

(1) Its quality of changing from a strong under-steer to a stronger over-steer in the middle of a bend can be very disconcerting, especially in the wet. It is true that one can become accustomed to this and play the game of guessing when it will occur — but why bother when satisfactory design should have prevented its occurrence.
(2) It suffers greatly from lack of power and top speed despite its over-1,100-c.c. capacity. The slightest gradient will drop its speed to 40 m.p.h., and its top speed, even on the "hot" 1954 model, is 65 m.p.h. (Road and Track, August, 1954). This has the tendency of putting it behind trucks on the open highway, where it becomes impossible to pass them as they will follow the same tactics as the Volkswagen — slow up hills — go like mad down them. For this lack of power you achieve high fuel economy — not worth it in this country.

(3) The accessibility of the engine and transmission is very bad, making home maintenance almost impossible and garage maintenance very expensive. For example: when it is necessary to remove the engine to do a carbon and valve job. They claim that this engine removal only takes 20 minutes but half a day is more like it (we are not all factory-trained mechanics). Furthermore, it requires two jacks and at least two strong men. After it is out then there are yards of sheet metal ducting to remove — not much fun. To even inspect the big-ends it is necessary to remove the engine and split the crankcase. Except that before this can be done one must remove a nut from the end of the crankshaft which was factory-torqued to 240 foot-pounds. Just the thing for the home mechanic! To continue — it is impossible to see or inspect the spark plugs. I personally know a Porsche owner who drove over 5,000 miles with one plug screwed only half-way in, discovering it when doing routine plug replacement. To remove the starter (underneath the car please) requires a midget of exceptional dexterity — or you can, of course, remove the engine to inspect the starter brushes.
(4) Despite the apparently excellent reputation enjoyed by Volkswagen for parts service, the U.S. East Coast dealer had a very poor inventory, e.g., no brake cables for standard Volkswagen.
(5) That aeroplane feeling obtained from the wind-tunnel sound of the cooling fan is nice — but no conversation please.

I did find that I liked the size and seating capacity and that the luggage space was adequate. Now to compare the Volkswagen and some of its derivatives with other cars available in this country: —

The price of the De Luxe Volkswagen (hydraulic brakes are a must) is approximately $1,600 in New York, with a built-in heater which is not warm enough for this country. The price of a Chevrolet two-door sedan is $1,623 for the utility model in Detroit, with a heater available for $80 more. Not much comparison.

The Porsche is the logical engineering refinement of the Volkswagen. It is very fast, has good acceleration and hill-climbing, gives good gas-mileage, and its handling is better than the VW (but still not as good as with conventional design). It does not have nearly the room nor luggage capacity. But the least expensive Porsche (the America) costs $3,450, and for $3,400 one can have an XK120 Jaguar. Not much comparison.

If real performance is desired from the Porsche, the Super model is available at $4,400. For $3,600 one can have a factory-modified XK120 Jaguar, with over 200 b.h.p. and with stiff torsion bars and wire wheels. Not much comparison.

The Volkswagen is a nice car but it appears to me that the motoring press has lost its head over it. Fuel economy can be outweighed by performance, particularly in this country. Longevity of specific parts, if indeed it is as much as is claimed, can be counterbalanced by ease of accessibility (the cost of the part is seldom the major item in maintenance).

There is no substitute for good handling!

To show where I stand, I now drive an H.R.G. and an M.G. TC.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Paul J. Flinkinger.
Tennessee., U.S.A.
[These views are of interest but do not necessarily damn the VW in England or in Europe, where road conditions are obviously different. — Ed.]

* * *

Hot Veloxes?

One continually reads of conversion sets available to owners of Consuls and Zephyrs, but never for the poor owners of Wyverns and Veloxes, who probably bought these models, in preference to the Fords, because of their greater roominess and much better petrol consumption, but who, nevertheless, are just as interested in getting a more sporting performance from their engines.

Does anyone know of a firm which produces such a kit?

I am also interested to know if anyone has gone the whole hog, with either the Fords or Vauxhalls, and replaced the bench seat with two bucket seats, and fitted a four-speed box with a short central lever between the seats.

I am, Yours, etc.,
R. F. Coleman.
Kingston Hill.