THE ROADHOLDING OF THE SUNBEAM RAPIER

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* * * THE ROADHOLDING OF THE SUNBEAM RAPIER

Sir,

A little knowledge is, I know, a dangerous thing and this fact has been brought home to me with full force by your September issue of MOTOR SPORT.

Among the many misleading statements you made about the Sunbeam Rapier was one which I feel should not go unanswered, and that is the suggestion that the elimination of three of the works Rapiers in this year’s Alpine Rally was due to questionable handling and braking characteristics. Two of the works cars were, in fact, those which finished first and second in their class in the Mille Miglia at an overall average speed of more than 65 m.p.h. and which covered the first 500 miles of the race at an average speed of 72 m.p.h. Had the handling and braking characteristics of these cars been in question I think you will agree that such a creditable performance would have been quite impossible, particularly as nearly all the race took place under atrocious conditions on wet roads.

For your information, George Murray Frame’s car was in a collision with a Porsche; Jimmy Ray crashed when his vision was obscured by dust from another car he was about to overtake, and Raymond Baxter hit a wall owing to the peculiar road conditions existing when he left a tunnel at high speed.

In every instance the car was driven back to Bendel.

As far as the accidents to the Press cars are concerned, in each case they occurred while the car was stationary and the drivers were some distance away. As these cars were not fitted with remote control I think their handling qualities could scarcely be faulted.

With regard to your story about the S.T.D. Register’s Wolverhampton Reunion, the invitation front Mrs. Boddy for Sir William Rootes, Miss Sheila van Damm, Mr. Norman Garrad and myself arrived the day before the event. As Sir William, Miss van Damns and Mr. Garrad were all away from London and I was abroad, it was impossible to make alternative arrangements at such short notice.

Criticise by all means but, first, be sure of your facts and make sure that the criticism is fair criticism.

I shall, of course, still look forward to reading MOTOR SPORT— for the advertisements ! I sin, Yours, etc., Joan BULLOCK, Group Public Relations Officer,

London, W.I. Rootes Motors Limited.

[Mr. Bullock accuses MOTOR SPORT of unfair criticism of the Sunbeam Rapier, a road-test report on which appeared last month, but his letter is not of a constructive nature.. We stated, correctly, that the three works Sunbeams crashed in this year’s Alpine Rally and to excuse them Mr. Bullock refers to the Mille Miglia, which has no connection with the Alpine Rally. Since the Mille Miglia has been brought into the argument we must remind Mr. Bullock that MOTOR SPORT paid tribute to the performance of the Sunbeams in that race in these words : ” Both Sunbeam Rapiers finished unscathed, Peter Harper and Sheila van Damm sharing the driving of the factory car. That production Sunbeams, M.G.s, Triumphs, Jaguars and AustinHealeys all finished the course goes to show that it is possible to screw English cars together properly, and that they are not such heaps of junk as some people imagine. The next step is to produce some more speed and finish amongst the 12th to 20th places—among the Alfa-Romeo Giuliettas, Porsche Caroms, 300SL and Laneia Aurelia.” Although the performance of the Sunbeam Rapier on its first appearance was creditable, it should not be forgotten that amongst special touring ears up to 1,600 c.c. the first factory Rapier to finish was beaten by three 1,300-c.c. Alfa-Romeos, three 1,100-c.c. Fiats, a 1,600-c.c. Porsche and a 750-c.c. Renault, while two more 150-c.c. Renaults finished ahead of the second 1,500-c.c. Sunbeam Rapier. As Mr. Bullock remarks, the better of the two Sunbeams averaged around 65 m.p.h., which is hardly so fast as to completely vindicate their roadholding qualities. In the sterner Alpine Rally, where

great emphasis is placed en efficient cornering, suspension and braking, all the works-entered Ninbearns crashed. In one inStanee, we are told by Mr. Bullock, this wits due to hitting a wall, owing to ” peculiar road conditiene existiug as the car left a tunnel at high speed.” If the roadholding qualities of the car cannot be faulted in this case, it is difficult to understand why the entire Alpine RaIty did not terminate against this particular wall !

The accidents to the Press Sunbeams, to which we Made passing reference, is explained away by saying that in each case it was stationary at the time.; in one instance we know, bosses Sr. that a Press Sunbeam skidded into a ditch—we agree, Mr. BoHoek. that it little knowledge is dangerous.

Mr. Bullock’s letter serves as an example of how sensitive the British Motor Industry is to criticism. In recent months MOTOR SPORT reported favourably on two other Rootes’ products, the Singer Hunter and Ilutnber Super Snipe. These reports did not elicit any correspondence from Mr. Bullock, but because we considered it our duty to criticise the roadholding and other features of the Sunbeam Rapier, Mr. Bullock decided to write us a rude letter ! NA

bile on the .subject of road-testing Routes prodoets, %se should explain that, having publicly declared the Hillman New Minx to be a ” very bright (Minty car” we duly asked for one for test. Four days before we were due to collect it a telephone message was received cancelling the test. Fortunately, with but one free weekend for test-motoring remaining before the Motor Sim*, we were able to arrange for Porsche and B.M.W. to put cars at our disposal for extensive testing in Europe. If reports on foreign ears predeminete in next month’s MOTOR SPORT, readers will know the reason.

The Editor is delighted to learn that NI r. Bullock will ” st ill look forward to reading MOTOR SPORT—for the advertisemenis.” Presumably Mr. Bullock is becoming tired of the cars he u•efor limaness transport and is looking for something ,different. With reference to the sunbeam Register Wolverhampton we stated that useful publicity could have been obtaiiied by haring a modern Sualtesi.m at this popular event. We understand that the invitation to executive of Bowes Motors Ltd. was Sc,ii iou late for them to attend, only because the Sunbeam Register %, 41, 11,4 told until the last moment that its desire to have some Rook,’ vehicles present could not he fulfilled, after which it hopefully sent the invitation to Sir Homes and other executives. Mr. Bullock was well aware tluit sir William Hootes had expressed a desire to assist the Simbeani Register in any way possible and of their oftexpreseed desire to have some Rootes’ vehicles present at the birthplace of the sunbeam on theoccasion in question. Nom., in fart, were sent.FDA

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