RUMBLINGS, October 1960

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RUMBLINGS

ROAD-TESTS

Those who road-test cars for the Press are frequently told that they have the finest occupation there is. Tell them this as they arrive bloodshot-eyed after a long day’s (or night’s) motoring to sit down before sheets of foolscap to write a fair appraisal, and they will look sideways at you There are many problems confronting the professional road-tester, from fitting-in interesting cars all due to be delivered within a few days of one another, to wondering if there is the price of the petrol home some weeks before the next expenses-settlement is due. Although this journal naturally looks at all cars through the eyes of the enthusiast, which is permissible when even Mini Minors, A35s, Goggos and diminutive Fiats are seen in competition events, it is unfair to criticise a family saloon for not drifting corners like a G.P. racer, and much thought is necessary to produce an unbiased report.

There are disappointments, too, as when a big saloon from a big Corporation failed to materialise recently because its gearbox had fallen to pieces the day before the test was due to begin and apparently all the resources of the factory couldn’t put it together again in less than three weeks. Then the 3-litre Rover was supposed to come to us this summer but has remained elusive, which makes it difficult to reply to letters and cables from Overseas readers who have it amongst the cars on their “short list” and seek our opinion.

Road-test cars are, traditionally, handed over to the scribes all clean and polished and with fall tanks. But we would rather take a car away unclean but in good order than hours late with detail -defects apparent as soon as the car is driven away. And it is even more irritating to be handed a car which runs out of petrol on a 30-mile drive home!

Some manufacturers and agents go to great lengths to maintain good relations with the Press. Rootes always produce test cars in spotless order and make you feel you are really welcome, Lincoln Cars have found us cars at short notice and actually read our comments afterwards without waiting for free copies, and VW recently hit upon the happy idea of having the name of the journalist’s magazine engraved on the key-fob—although this gesture wasn’t extended to Motor Sport, which many people regard as the World’s greatest advocate of the Wolfsburg beetle. Incidentally, all Press cars should be equipped with radio—it is irritating to leave behind one’s own car so-fitted and go off in a test car in which the News and listening to the antics of the Archers are denied to One!

Today most makers and their concessionaires realise that while a paper is pleased to have their latest models for test, the idea behind the loan of such vehicles is mutual, because several hundred pounds of free advertising is represented by a complimentary test report. The road-tester should never be bribed but we must confess that tears rise behind our eyes at the quite-frequently-encountered most generous gesture of all—washing and polishing of a decrepit vehicle of rival make left behind as the glistening new car is driven away. And, damn it, we have even had a free battery-charge thrown in as well. MOTOR SPORT has earned a hard-won reputation for unbiased, outspoken test reports. The cars of which we have published full road-tests so far this year have been :—

January     …    Jaguar XK150S.
March       …    Sunbeam Rapier Series III.
                       Riley L5.
April          …    Panhard PLI7.
                       Vauxhall Friary Velox.
May           …   Ford Falcon.
                       Auto Union 1000S.
June           …   Humber Super Snipe.
July            …   Ford Taunus 1714,
August        …  Fiat 2100.
September  …   Jaguar 3.8 Mk. IL
                       M.G. Magnette Mk. III.

A great many subsidiary test reports have also been published.
                      *         *         *
THE NEW VW
We recently spent a long week-end with a new 40-b.h.p. VW saloon, in an attractive shade of light green—thus experiencing that curious sensation of having been here before! It was delightful to experience again the splendid gear-change, light steering, roomy interior and very high-quality interior and exterior finish of the ubiquitous “beetle,” which add up to restful motoring. Almost all the improvements are worth having, but the stalk operating the self-cancelling direction-flashers, although more substantial, is less aesthetically pleasing than formerly.

The test car had run a mere 1,000 miles and although V Ws do not require tedious running-in, the spotlessly clean engine was too stiff to justify taking performance figures. However, a genuine 60 m.p.h. came up in third gear quicker than on the earlier cars and initial pick-up is very useful; in top the needle stood at 70 m.p.h. along any reasonable length of straight road.

The Kumficar plastic seat covers on the front seats fitted very snugly but very soon would probably polish one’s trousers, just as if one worked in an office … !

The steering, now hydraulically-damped, had lost the extreme lightness of our 1955 VW but with “running-in” this may return. The splendid fuel range was demonstrated when reserve was not needed for 270 miles, after which the tank did not run dry until another 34 miles had been covered. Fuel consumption from the still-stiff engine was 35½ m.p.g. of Esso Mixture in normal fast motoring.

As this was a VW we didn’t bother to consult the dip-stick until the end of the test, when it showed the sump to be full of clean golden oil after 400 miles. The VW is still the best value in quality small cars for those who like its individualistic engineering characteristics.

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