Letters from Readers, October 1955

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N.B. — Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and “Motor Sport” does not necessarily associate itself with them, — Ed,

Triumph TR2 versus Austin-Healey

Sir, 
Your correspondent Mr. Stanley Daniel opens his letter by craving your indulgence to allow him to “state some facts.” He then proceeds to distort the few he does use and embarks on pure fantasy.

May I state a few facts to put some of Mr. Daniel’s assertions in proper perspective?

(1) The figures quoted must have been chosen by taking the best road test of the Healey and the worst of the TR2. Tom McCahill, who is probably the best qualified road tester on this side of the “Pond,” gives the TR2 a slight lead from to 60 m.p.h.

(2) Personal experience of the roadholding shows the TR2 to be the equal of the Healey. This is achieved without an anti-roll bar in the TR2, and, when one is installed to help keep the inside rear wheel on the ground, they are faster through a corner than the Healey.

(3) The Healey is a pretty car. But the neat, compact little TR2 is not ugly by any means and achieves aerodynamic efficiency while still retaining a certain amount of the classic line beloved by many a sports-car owner of more than a few years. An interesting insight into the “Healey mind” is that several local Healeys have had their front ends “Ferraried.” Incidentally, how is the other end on Mr. Daniel’s car? A good many of the local ones are considerably higher than originally supplied through contact with driveways that have the slightest dip or rise.

(4) To dismiss practically a year of research work on the TR2 chassis by simply calling it a strengthened Standard Eight chassis is a masterpiece of understatement.

(5) If Mr. Daniel appreciates low-speed torque I can arrange to ship him a 1937 Chrysler straight-eight side-valve engine. This will give him even better torque than he now enjoys and, after all, what do a few hundred more c.c.s matter, except that if he is a racing type it will project him into even more dangerous company?

(6) In pricing the TR2 the extras at least are optional so that one can buy the car for a minimum if required. Furthermore, overdrive is not essential on that lovely TR2 gearbox as it is with the A90 conversion.

Mr. Daniel’s final paragraph contains his gems of nonsense, topped by the statement that the TR2 gives 25 m.p.g. driven hard. Last year’s Le Mans average of 75 m.p.h. for 24 hours can be called hard and this was done at 35 m.p.g.! Of course, the Mobilgas Economy Run figure of 71 m.p.g. was out of the ordinary, but anyone that has a clue about S.U.s can get 35 without and 40 m.p.g. with overdrive —  driven hard.

And then, gear-changing — Oh, nuts!

I am, Yours, etc.,
R. G. Sayle.
North Vancouver, B.C., Canada. 

— — —

Sir, 
As a Triumph TR2 enthusiast I reply to the letter from Stanley Daniel (August), saying the Austin-Healey has far superior performance, with these facts extracted from the Motor. May 18th, 1955, page 594.

This shows that the performance of the Triumph TR2 is just as high as that of the Austin-Healey.

Also, as to the Triumph TR2 being downright ugly, I entirely disagree with him, as will many other enthusiasts.

The Austin-Healey weighs 18 cwt., the engine is 2,660 c.c., and the price is £1,066 12s. 6d. Whereas the Triumph TR2 weighs l8 cwt., the engine is only 1,991 c.c., and the price, is £943 4s. 2d. with overdrive; approximately £120 cheaper than the Austin-Healey.

Finally, please note what Mike Hawthorn said in the Sunday Express report: “That for the money there cannot be a sports car in the world to touch the Triumph TR2.”

In a phrase, there has never been a Triumph like this.

I am, Yours, etc.,
W. E. Yates.

Glasgow. 

— — —

Sir, 
The barrage of performance statistics now profusely illustrating the TR2 versus Austin-Healey correspondence seems to me to be unreliable; taken separately, these statistics show the cars to have very good performances, but when one considers the small differences involved and the fact that they were tested on different days, possibly, therefore, under totally different conditions, it becomes obvious that for purposes of comparison, these figures are next to useless.

Surely the most reliable method of judging the respective merits of the two cars is to evaluate their successes in all types of cornpetition; on doing this, it is immediately apparent that the TR2 is the better car, its various successes are too numerous to mention, whereas the Austin-Healey appears to have done “damn all” apart from being fitted with a supercharger and streamlining, and well, you know the rest . . .

In the August edition of your august periodical (a poor pun, but it nevertheless serves), Mr. Daniel, amidst some good points and some twaddle, stated that “the TR2 has a strengthened Standard Eight chassis “; in actual fact, this chassis was only used on the prototype TR2; lack of torsional rigidity making necessary the design of a completely new frame of the same major dimensiotri and of great strength.

Incidentally, the gearboxes on the Austin range of cars are basically very similar, and it is a well-known fact that the original A90, when raced, runs through gearboxes with phenomenal speed. Could it be that a standard first gear on the Austin-Healey would detract seriously from the longevity of gearbox and transmission alike?

I am, Yours, etc.,
Robert Wells.
London, W.4. 

— — —

Sir, 
Having road with interest the correspondence TR2 versus AustinHealey, the point surely is that having spent £177 1s. 8d. extra on the standard Austin-Healey (no matter what is argued you cannot buy one for £886 10s. 10d., which is what counts with many hard-up enthusiasts) and having an extra capacity of over 600 c.c. and doing about 10 miles to the gallon less, it ought to be more comfortable and have the better performance, if not, there is little point in it, as the car is manufactured in direct competition with the TR2 as a road car.

I am, Yours, etc.,
R. Picton-Turberville.
Bridgend.

 * * * 

The Vintage Car Controversy

Sir,

In answer to Mr. Rawnit’s letter “What is Vintagism,” I think it is purely a love of vehicles built by craftsmen as against cars slapped together by modern mass-production methods run by a group.” I am quite prepared to admit that modern cars are built to finer limits, have better performance and suit the masses far better than a Bentley. I am also of the opinion that the bulk of people who are against “vintagism” have never had the pleasure of owning one of the better vintage cars.

I had a 3-litre Blue Label which I drove over 40,000 miles and during that time I never had an involuntary stop, the nuts did not fall off the bolts, there were no body squeaks, the shock absorbers did not drag on the road, the back wheels always followed the front, and in fact the whole job was right. It was, of course, designed by “W. O.” the greatest designer of our time, not only did be design, he saw it through the shops and onto the racetrack.

I have driven over 600 miles in one day without feeling unduly fatigued, this was due to the long-stroke and slow revving engine, perfect steering and bodywork that was designed to accommodate the body and not the “stylists” idea of sales appeal in “dinky seatings.”

I should like to pick on the five points:

(i) There were several AC, Alvis, Crossley, Invicta, RoeschTalbots, etc.

(ii) The noise problem generally comes from the young and not the true vintagent.

(iii) Alarming ignorance of the wider facts of auto engineering is general, not solely in vintagents. (Ask 100 people “what is the ‘Otto Cycle’?”).

(iv) Isn’t standard sports-car racing rather boring anyway?

(v) Generally, quaint headgear comes from the efforts of a loving wife who wants to make her husband a little more silly than he really is but this is seldom seen in the real vintagent whose general form of dress is a sports jacket not split up the back. I trust I have given at least one genuine answer for “vintagism”.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Arnall Capps.
Norwich. 

— — —

Sir, 
“Vintagent” certainly makes some good points and I think we must agree that most vintage owners are exceptionally pleasant persons; but the whole crux of the matter lies in this “man’s car” business.

I own an Austin-Healey now after having numerous vintage cars, including a Talbot 110, a Speed Twenty Alvis and a 4½ Bentley, and there’s absolutely no doubt my present “pansy vehicle” will run rings round any of these “men’s cars,” whilst I relax at the wheel and steer with one finger, as it were.

No one has had more fun with vintage cars than I, but when I think of the physical struggle I used to have with my man’s Bentley getting it round main-road islands, I wonder why I ever bothered. Approaching in the sixties it was a case of hard down on the footbrake with all one’s weight and hard back on the hand-brake with all one’s strength, let go and down to third; hard on the hand-brake again with all one’s might, let go and down to second; round we go, heave, heave, heave on the wheel, now accelerate and heave, heave, heave again and we’re through, but, phew, it’s warm again! Compare this with the Austin-Healey approach in the eighties: gentle pressure on the brake pedal, blip down to second, a gentle turn of the wheel, left, right, left, and we’re accelerating away with the ash still on our cigarettes, and who wants a man’s car!

I certainly miss the mass of gleaming aluminium, copper and brass when I lift the bonnet, but am amply compensated by lovely lines, comfort, ease of control, as much speed as I can use (the first time in 27 years of assorted motoring) and availability of spares both from the local agents and the Donald Healey Motor Co. — how could Mr. Roberts “strip” third gear anyway?

I have only two complaints to make, the cockpit gets unbearably hot and the hood looks rather untidy when down; and I know absolutely nothing about TR2s — I only seem to see them on picture-house and pub car parks, but perhaps that’s because they’re so fast I never catch them up!

I am, Yours, etc.,
Rex. W. Walker.
Leicester. 

— — —

Sir, 
As a keen vintage enthusiast, I felt very cross with Mr. Rawnit’s outburst, but after re-reading the letter and overlooking the obvious inaccuracies I realise that a few home truths were included which must not be ignored.

The je ne sais quoi of vintagisrn is most ably explained in the writings of Clutton and Stanford, but the other points need further thought.

With regard to “inverted snobbery” I feel this should be aimed at the flush of new members of the V.C.C. who since “Genevieve” have seen that veteran cars are wildly fashionable and a means of investing their surplus money. These, the newly rich, who will willingly expend money to crash in on anything which promises advancement up the social scale, are, at the rnonent, responsible for raising the prices of pre-1916 cars, thus excluding the genuine enthusiast who, if not impecunious, is strongly principled against profiteering.

I have also felt that the V.S.C.C. harbours too many “showmen,” the self-styled experts, who can be heard at any meeting talking about “their” restorations, or laying down the law on this or that, yet in truth hardly know a carburetter from a magneto, and certainly do not know how to adjust either. These “armchair critics” spend their winter evenings “mugging” up early literature in order to impress others in the summer, yet some can hardly drive a car themselves, and have even the simplest job done “professionally,” including the fitting of beaded-edge tyres. These pseudo-enthusiasts airily criticise the cars restored by others and belittle the efforts of their owners yet run sorry-looking, neglected and sometimes completely “clapped out” specimens themselves which are a disgrace, or, more often than not, travel in other people’s cars.

These chaps do a lot of talking and can easily give the layman a wrong impression of the club members as a whole.

We also have the “hot-rodders,” who are apparently more interested in competitive motoring on the cheap than in vintage cars, and drastically modify perfect “darlings” of vintage cars to get more performance. These chaps unlike the “experts” know their auto-engineering well enough, but they spoil the characters of their cars and would be better suited with Ford Ten Specials.

The Bentley “boys” are generally well advanced in this “science” as can be seen by the very few original in character Bentleys on the road today.

The aim should be to restore to and preserve in as near original condition as possible, and speed alone be considered of secondary importance.

It is a great pity so many vintage car owners lack Dick Wheatley’s ideas on restoration.

We have, therefore, the “parasites” and “hot-rodders,” both of whom, I think, do more harm than good to vintagism. We ought to put our own house in order before dealing with Mr. Rawnit and this is a problem which I feel the V.S.C.C. must consider very carefully in the near future if we are to continue to be favourably regarded by the general public.

I am, Yours, etc.,
A. J. Ayres (Capt. R.E.).
Stourport-on-Severn. 

— — —

Explanation

Sir, 
Your correspondent Mr. John S. Peacock may have left your readers with the impression that we at Connaughts take a long time to learn our lessons. In self defence I should like to point out that the throttle linkage trouble which occurred at Silverstone this year was due to fatigue brought about by the vibration of a four-cylinder engine developing around 250 b.h.p. As you may know, not even the best aircraft designers in the world are always able to eliminate the possibilities of fatigue fracture.

Both the cars under our control had an entirely new throttle system fitted in time for the next race, and this gave no trouble: the privately-owned Connaught which failed at Aintree was not modified because we only had enough men to modify two cars in the time and were anyway in no position to guarantee to the customer that the modification, even if he had wished to carry it out himself, would prove 100 per cent. reliable. The fracture which occurred on this privately-owned car was in a ball-end thread, whereas the first fracture was of a rod-bearing bracket.

I am, Yours, etc.,
for Connaught Engineering,
R. E. Clarke.
Send, Surrey. 

But surely this adds up to the same thing? — Ed.

 * * *

How to Lose a Fortune

Sir, 
When Mr. P. W. Taylor of Twickenham has made his fortune in the distilled water business, if he will purchase a nice little thriving garage and service station business, I can assure him he will have not the slightest difficulty in parting very rapidly with his ill-gotten gains. Most assuredly will he be visited by all the Toms, Dicks and Harrys, and their counterparts of the fair sex, demanding Free This, Free That and Free the Other. I am definitely not encouraging my son to follow me into the business, and I hope if I’m lucky to work till I’m eighty.

I am, Yours, etc.,
C. P. Baines.
Widnes.

 * * * 

Vanguards in Service

Sir, 
I read with interest our Canadian friend’s comments on British cars. He said the Standard Vanguard looked like a good car for Canada, but it “two bitted one to death.”

Now my experience of Vanguards is not based on one car so it may be worthy of attention. We have a garage here in Bedford and every month sell quite a lot of used cars. Most months there are one or two Vanguards amongst them. Go back say two years and that’s quite a few Vanguards. Now all new cars go well because of (or in spite of!) their particular design, few owners do more than 6,000 miles in the first six months.

It’s when you are selling at anything between 12 000 and 50,000 miles that you find out how good or bad a car is. And, believe me, we find there is least to do to a Vanguard prior to sale and still less afterwards. Here is just one typical car: 1952 Phase I, 48,000 miles on the clock, routine check revealed one faulty shock-absorber arm. Oils changed and lent to our works manager to go on holiday. He did 900 miles and used a pint of oil. Car sold on his return and giving excellent service. Last June I travelled to Spain in a Phase II and cruised for hours at 70 m.p.h. in overdrive. Out there a garage owner friend of mine (not a Standard dealer) arrived from home in a heavily laden car which he said. was “going like a train.” It was an 18-month-old Vanguard, he bought it specially for the holiday.

Car hire people and farmers round here are frequently making inquiries about Vanguards for their work because they know, as we do, of their long life and “no trouble” qualities.

Faults in design? Well nothing is perfect, but I think the worst you can say about the Vanguard is that the “short wheelbase makes the suspension a bit bouncy.” But Roadmaster springs on the back go a long way to cure that.

Rumour has it that this Show will see an entirely new Vanguard announced, so with the passing of the Phase II from current production these remarks are perhaps of special interest.

I am, Yours, etc.,
M. H. Wormald.
Bedford. 

 * * * 

Racing and the Catalogue Car

Sir, 

I was very interested in your article “Racing and the Catalogue Car,” and would like to develop your theme a little further.

Most British manufacturers participate in racing for firstly, prestige and goodwill, secondly for technical progress and developmot and thirdly for publicity and to promote sales. These reasons can be translated into hard cash in a balance sheet, and so, excepting for perhaps Connaught, Vanwall and B.R.M., have a direct economic impetus behind them. The question I would like to put is — do British manufacturers who race derive the greatest return for the money that they spend, and would they obtain a greater proportional return for an increase in the amounts allocated to these purposes?

I also am not an automobile tycoon, and not having access to the racing accounts of such firms as Jaguar and Aston Martin, my opinions cannot he supported by figures. However, I do feel that British firms have not extracted the maximum in the way of publicity from their racing activities and very often, having decided to race in a particular event, have, “spoilt the ship for a ha’porth o’ tar.” Le Mans seems to be the exception.

Nevertheless, Jaguar and Aston Martin have done exceedingly well since the war in upholding our sports-car prestige, the more so if it is remembered that they have not always been competing on equal technical grounds. By this I mean that all British manufacturers approach racing from one angle, namely designing an engine for production cars, hotting it up, installing it in a racing chassis and letting it compete with units designed primarily for racing and which may be detuned, put in a touring chassis and sold to the public at a later date. The time will come if it has not already done so, when we in this country will have to do the same. Either that or follow the old adage — “If the name wins, the factory product will sell” and build racing and production engines separately, the former designed with no production costs in mind.

If the latter be judged the correct policy, then it would appear that Grand Prix racing is well worth while, if the former then sports. car racing only will pay dividends. Mercedes’ withdrawal front Grand Prix participation might give some concrete proof here. Anyway what would it really cost a firm such as Jaguar or Aston Martin to produce and race a worthwhile Grand Prix car? A £5 — £10 increase in price per car spread over two years’ production, plus the bonuses from fuel, oil, tyre and accessory manufacturers and any other sources of revenue such as owners’ associations?

I don’t know. Perhaps someone will tell me. It certainly would be first-class “joint consultation” bet ween manufacturer and owner or prospective owner. Of one thing, however. I am certain — if Britain produced a Grand Prix car with a series of wins behind it, there would be no difficulty in finding the cash to keep the team going. It would be a calculated risk to embark on such a project, and we have the drivers to give it every possible chance.

I am, Yours, etc.,
A. Tumin.
Edinburgh. 

 * * * 

Idea

Sir, 
About these inaccurate speedometers, one of which Rob Walker was grousing about in his article in the Angust issue.

For one model of any make of car, the error at a given speed is not likely to vary much between individual speedometers.

Therefore, what is the objection to sacrificing symmetry to accuracy, and calibrating the dial so that the figures follow the needle? Would not this be preferable to striving to so adjust delicate mechanism that the needle is moved through the some angle for x m.p.h. at one end of the dial as at the other?

I am, Yours, etc,.
Alan C. Brodrick. 

 * * *

And Now — Cars in Films

Sir,
After taking Motor Sport for three years, may I say how much I enjoy reading it. and how much I look forward to it on the first of each month.

In common with many other readers, I have been greatly interested by “The Motor Car in Fiction.” May I offer some examples of “The Motor Car in Films,” There must be very many interesting cars which have appeared in films, but these come to my mind at the moment: —

(i) The vintage Daimler limousine in “Chiltern Hundreds.”

(ii) A vintage Rolls-Royce with white-wall tyres in “Stop, You’re Killing Me.”

(iii) The 1938 Daimler in “Passport to Tangier.”

(iv) A Mercedes-Benz staff car in “Betrayed.”

(v) The Italian Prince’s Mercedes-Benz convertible in “Three Coins in a Fountain.”

(vi) Dick Bogarde’s Austin 7-h.p. of circa 1923, in “For Better, or for Worse.”

(vii) David Niven’s Austin-Healey, and elderly Rolls-Royce shooting brake in “Happy Ever After.”

(viii) Clifton Webb’s Pierce-Arrow in “Cheaper by the Dozen.”

(ix) Desi Avnaz’ Mercury in “The Long, Long, Trailer.”

(x) Donald Wolfit’s Jaguar Mk. VII in “A Prize of Gold.”

“Genevieve,” of course, must not be forgotten.

I hope to see more of the “Cars I Have Owned” and “The Motor Car in Fiction” type of article, concerning varied makes of cars.

May your policy of unbiased opinion and road-testing continue.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Eric Ogden.
Eccles.

 * * *

“Motor Sport” will occupy Stand No. 81 at the Earl’s Court Motor Show

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