Matters of Moment, October 1958



The Liege-Rome-Liege Rally

The toughest and most exhausting of the great Continental rallies, this International event proved another victory for the Alfa-Romeo Giulietta, one of those high-efficiency twin-cam 1,290-c.c. Italian cars, driven by Hebert and Costen, winning outright from a couple of 1.5litre Porsches. Fourth place and the Ladies’ Cup were won by Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom in an Austin-Healey 100-Six. We wish to pay tribute to this splendid performance by the British girls, who performed superbly in what is a by no means effeminate sports car ! British cars did quite well in the Liege-Rome-Liege, two ” oversize ” TR Triumphs being placed, finishing fifth and sixth behind the 2.6-litre Austin-Healey. Austin-Healeys won the Team Prize and the over 2,000-c.c. class, a Triumph the 1,601-2,000-c.c. class. But most of the glory goes to these girls, Pat and Ann, who proved as tough as the rally.

Further proof of the durability of the Austin-Healey 100-Six is afforded by the long-distance records, from 5,000 miles to four days, established at Montlhery by a team of seven Cambridge undergraduates, at speeds around 98 m.p.h. In this model the B.M.C. have a hairy. high-performance, reliable sports car.

The Mobilgas Round-Australia Trial

If it is not as testing as the Liege-Rome-Liege Rally in respect of driver fatigue, the Mobilgas Round-Australia Trial remains one of the toughest tests in the world for competing cars. Those who have frowned and even protested that MOTOR SPORT gives too much publicity to the Volkswagen should note that, in a contest which takes in quagmire, dust bowls, mere tracks between tall grass, ascents into the Alps of Australia, and dust as abrasive as grinding paste which, once stirred up, hangs in the atmosphere for hours, a contest almost to destruction which unfortunately cost the life of a co-driver of a Morris, Volkswagen finished first and second, beating an Australian Holden into third place. The world’s car buyers should note that the class winners in a marathon in which a bad car would scarcely so much as start, and in which half the entry retired, were Datsun, Volkswagen, Peugeot 403, Holden and Chrysler. May we say, as they do in the best literary circles verb sap?

Speed with Safety

In the present state of civilisation, speed is essential to survival. whether you are thinking in terms of traffic flowing smoothly along dual-carriage motor roads at 80 m.p.h. or so, or of guided missiles seeking invaders in excess of the speed of sound. Consequently, MOTOR SPORT advocates educating those in authority to accept the fact that speed is not a danger factor on the road and that speed with safety should be the future aim. If it isn’t, we shall continue the shocking pilferage of public money spent on new roads and fly-over crossings on which speed is restricted to a mere 40 m.p.h. and congestion in our towns will bring motor traffic to a standstill—on the day we wrote this Editorial it took us more than half an hour to drive from Victoria to the Bank via London’s Embankment, an average speed approaching a dizzy 5 m.p.h.

We are, therefore, delighted to find that steps have been taken to educate officials and public alike into appreciating that speed with safety is possible under the right circumstances.

In America, in a splendid article published last month in Fortune, John D. Williams, Head of the Rand Corporation’s Mathematics Division, goes so far as to maintain that there are too many safety campaigns and that self-preservation keeps the roads as safe as is compatible with the automobile’s value to society and to the individual.

This logical and clear-thinking gentleman points out that in spite of sensational accident statistics the automobile is not exterminating us and that, indeed, far from being to blame, the automobile has a large credit balance to society at the close of each day in the very coin we worry about—lives. Mr. Williams remarks, to underline his argument, that if America’s suggested National No-Death Day were instituted, you would just have to take all vehicles off the road for 24 hours for its object to be attained. No one, on this day, could be taken to hospital, doctors couldn’t see the hundreds of thousands of patients they usually attend, firemen couldn’t get to the thousands of fires which break out daily, police could not pursue criminals, and soon. ” In fact,” observes Mr. Williams, ” we should be pretty lucky if deaths rose by only 1,000 on No-Death Day.”

Having proved the value to society of the automobile, the author deals with speed, showing that this does not clash with safety to the extent usually implied. The kinetic energy loose on U.S. roads is perhaps ten times as great as it was ten years ago, but the daily. death-rate has been fairly constant over the same period. That scotches the canard that today’s driver is maniacal.

Mr. Williams puts the matter in a nutshell by remarking : ” The important fact about the automobile is not that it kills 100 people a day but that it has been a crucial factor in the development of a complex and rich society. The important point about the new highway system is not that it will cut down accidents but that it will greatly stimulate our economy. If speed were not the critical factor the automobile could be replaced completely and literally by the horse. The physical and social structure of the country would be almost frozen were we to freeze the speed of the automobile. Speed is one of the really critical factors in our society. As with any critical factor, it is promising to look for more-more speed. We would manage better if we were conscious of the need for more speed rather than believing the exact contrary.”

Mr. Williams continues : “There is an almost involuntary impulse immediately to add, ‘But not too much speed.’ Now no one could advocate ‘too much’ speed-that’s bad by definition-but the question of when speed does become too much is a very thorny question. I encounter situations where, in my opinion, 10 m.p.h. is too much, and others where 80 m.p.h. is not too much, and the variations in the situations are too great to be controlled very intelligently by fiat and in advance. The speed at which vehicles have in fact operated front time to time has been determined principally by the drivers, who want very much to live, who have substantial personal investments in their hands, and who also know that any injury they do to other persons or property will entail very unpleasant consequences. Their intelligence, judgement, and skill are not always a match for the situations, but in general they have managed to exploit the equipment available without undue damage. They generally drive faster than those who seek to control speed think they should, but up the interested parties on the spot, their views are probably more nearly right than those of their critics. They are burdened by some feelings of guilt about the letter of the law, and they are subject to assault in the form of a fine or imprisonment if they are caught out of bounds. This business of making us into a lot of lawbreakers has been an unfortunate aspect of the development of the use of vehicles.

“The situation may become intolerable as the technical devices of detection and control, such as radar, improve; intolerable in the sense that the utility of the vehicle may be lessened by strong enforcement of inappropriate, however well-intentioned, laws. Our laws tend to be aimed at the limitation of speed rather than at the promotion of traffic flow.”

We congratulate Mr. Williams on expressing such logical views and Fortune for publicising them. From the Porsche house-journal, Christophorus, we learn that, in Stuttgart, judges and attorneys have been able, through the initiative of the Wuerttemberg A.C. and Witerttemberg Porsche Club, to see for themselves what it is like to travel really rapidly over the trafficinfested Stuttgart-Karlsruhe autobahn and minor roads in the Black Forest in Porsche and Mercedes-Benz 220 cars handled by competent drivers. One judge drove himself-and not slowly !-in a Porsche Carrera, and after these demonstrations the Police President of Stuttgart stated that he considered these outings useful and desirable, ” because we do not want to become blinded by narrow interests,”

To officials who impose speed limits on safe dual-carriage motor roads, to police dabbling in radar speed control, and to all who throw up their hands in horror or blast on their horns, if they see or hear of a motor vehicle exceeding 40 m.p.h., we commend study of Mr. Williams’ views and demonstrations such as those recently held in Germany.