New cars from Rover, B.M.C., Ford and Fairthorpe

This is the time of year when 1963 models are announced, some making their appearance shyly, others boldly, at lavish parties for the journalists. But all represent much anxious conjecture on the part of Directors, engineers and the publicity boys, who study the Press releases, await hopefully the subsequent write-ups and opinions of the dealers, for the whole complex exercise is aimed at one thing only—successful sales.

In August we drove a hush-hush new Ford, its Continental-sounding type-name covered with sealing tape, from Lincoln Cars in Brentford to a stately home in Stamford and back, and last month we spent a very wet day in Birmingham standing about in the impressive B.M.C. Exhibition Hall waiting to sample the latest sports M.G., demonstration cars being in rather short supply, and the rain on M5 torrential The next day was spent in the pleasant confines of the Chadwick Manor Hotel in the first bit of greenery beyond the Birmingham boundary, sampling the revised 3-litre Rover; we have still never ridden in the gasturbine Rover, which retired on this occasion with a faulty wheel bearing but as a decision whether or not this is to go into limited production will not be made before next spring, at the earliest, this was merely a personal disappointment. When we returned to the office there was a duplicated newsheet describing a new sports Fairthorpe.

Rover: Last year the Rover range comprised the 8o, 100 and 3-litre. For 1963 it will consist of the 95, 110, and the 3-litre Mk. II, all being faster cars than previously as Rover strives to breakaway from the “old gentleman’s” tradition sometimes associated with the make, and in which it is going to be assisted materially by the splendid showing of the 3-litre power-steering Rovers in the tough Liege-Sofia-Liege Rally.

Both the 95 and 110 retain the classic P4 body shape, so that die-hard Rover advocates of many years standing will not feel out of place in them. But the 4-cylinder 80 has gone, the least expensive Rover now being the 102 b.h.p. 6-cylinder 7-bearing 95. The Rover 100 has also been replaced, by the 110, which benefits from the flowed cylinder head developed for the latest 3-litre, so that power has been increased by 20 b.h.p., to 123 b.h.p. at 5,000 r.p.m., the makers claiming that “it will attain and surpass quietly and in comfort the 100 m.p.h. mark.”

The most significant changes are in the spacious and beautifully appointed 3-litre. All three models now have i.o.e. engines and the alloy-head of the 77.8 x 105mm. (2,995 c.c.) engine of the 3-litre has been specially “flowed ” and a new straight-through exhaust system adopted which has increased the power by I7.5% to 134 b.h.p. at 5,000 r.p.m. The safe crankshaft speed is 5,200 r.p.m. This provides the enhanced performance desirable for motorway driving and to compete with twin-cam rivals in the same price category without sacrifice of silence or flexibility. The springs have been re-cambered at the back and the suspension lowered an inch. Internally there is a revised instrument layout but the traditional fine leather and walnut facia and fillets are retained.

The new 3-litre is available with either a manual 4-speed transmission changed by a delightful little central lever with a pushbutton incorporated in its knob for engaging reverse, or with a fully-automatic Borg Warner transmission. With the former gearbox overdrive on top is standard; kick-down selection of o/d. is not featured. The final drive ratio is 4.3 to 1, or 3.9 to 1 with automation. Power steering is an optional extra.

Apart from this revised 3-litre saloon Rover have introduced a 4-door coupé, almost as spacious as the saloon, in which power steering, front seats which are fully-reclining and can also be wound up and down for height of cushion and a rev.-counter are standard and either transmission can be specified.

Rover tend to be conservative in their maximum speed claims and mention over 100 m.p.h. for the 3-litre Mk. II saloon. In fact, under good conditions this car should do some 105 to 108 m.p.h. and the coupé in the region of 110 to 115 m.p.h. A commendable point of detail is that, the Motor Sport Readers’ Survey having drawn attention to the poor quality of British instruments and Rover having experienced trouble with clocks, they now fit a Moto-Meter clock with Kienzle battery wound spring movement which is said to maintain a high degree of accuracy. Inclusive prices of the new cars are: 95, £1,375 5s. 3d.; 110, £1,534 2s.. 9d; 3-litre, £1,822 17s. 9d. or with automatic transmission, £1,891 12s. 3d.; 3-litre coupe, £2,062 2s. 9d., or with automatic transmission, £2,130 17s. 9d.

B.M.C.: The latest new car from B.M.C. is the M.G.-B, which is a successor to the well-known M.G.-A sports car. The body has been restyled and modified for greater comfort. The bucket-type seats are of foam cushion on resilient rubber diaphragm mattresses and upholstered in English leather, the backs being pre-adjustable for rake. This new M.G. has wind-down windows and fully-hinged quarter-lights. There is an occasional seat behind the two main seats big enough to take a carry-cot for those sporting married couples who have gone into production, and two sorts of hood are offered, one which removes completely to allow full use of this occasional seat, and another type which folds down over the back seat, turning the car strictly into a 2-seater when it is open.

Technically, the rumoured independent rear suspension has not materialised, but engine size has been increased by 176 c.c., the bore having been enlarged from 76.2 mm. to 80.26 mm. The capacity of the new M.G.-B engine is 1,798 c.c. instead of 1,622 c.c., and although the compression-ratio has been lowered from 8.9 to 8.75 to 1 the engine now develops 4 more b.h.p. than before at the same engine speed of 5,500 r.p.m. The axle ratio of the M.G. has been progressively raised and it is now 3.9 to 1, whereas the previous M.G.-A pulled an axle ratio of 4.1 to 1. The tyre size is now 5.60 x 14, whereas previously 15-in. tyres were used. This attractive and fast M.G.-B is priced at £949 15s. 3d. inclusive of purchase tax. So far we have only had experience of this smart and well-equipped sports car along a water-logged M 5. It sits down on the road, if anything, even better than its predecessor and produces plenty of smooth power without effort. We look forward in due course to carrying out a full road-test.

Ford: The new Ford saloon, in 2-door or 4-door form, is called the Consul Cortina. It is a plain-looking little car, with normally-angled rear window, Ford explaining that, some countries like the Anglia’s reverse-angle rear window, whereas others do not-Ford are firm believers in Market Research.

Our hopes that this new small Ford would be something revolutionary are dashed. It is quite conventional, something like a scaled-down Consul Classic in appearance but without the dual headlamps. It has a new, but 3-bearing, 81 x 58mm. (1,198 c.c.), o.h.v. 4-cylinder engine developing 48½ (net) b.h.p. at 4,8100 r.p.m. with 8.7 to 1 c.r. or 46 (net) b.h.p. at this speed, using the 7.3 to 1 c.r. head. There is a very pleasant to use, all-synchromesh gearbox with ratios of 14.615, 9.833, 5.824 and 4.125 to 1. Drum brakes and the usual Ford suspension are used. The wheelbase is 8 ft. 2 in., the track 4 ft. 1½ in., and the de luxe 4-door Consul Cortina has a kerb weight of 1,763 lb. The tyre size is 5.20 X 13.

So far we have only driven one of these new Fords for just over 100 miles. The impressions formed were that the engine is smooth and willing, if noisy, a speedometer maximum of 90 m.p.h. coming up, and the gearbox delightful. The seats are not particularly comfortable, the interior decor depressing, while excessive roll on corners and noticeable rear-axle hop is a characteristic of the supple ½-elliptic rear cart-springing. In heavy rain, water came in at the ¼-windows whether these were shut or open. The brakes were adequate but road-holding disappointing and the gear ratios badly spaced. The luggage boot has a capacity of 21 cu. feet and to some extent intrudes on rear-compartment legroom.

Before announcing the Consul Cortina, Ford made it known that the new 1.2-litre power unit would be available in a revised Anglia Super, which would also have the synchromesh bottom gear, wider brake drums, a heater (which should surely be standard equipment on all cars) and improved interior appointments. It is rather difficult to see where the Cortina fits in, but apparently Ford considered that a more roomy small-car was called for; they spent four years and £12 million on developing it and claim a top speed of nearly 80 m.p.h., a touring fuel consumption of 38 m.p.g. and 0-60 m.p.h., laden, in 25 sec. Opinion at the new Ford’s Press conference seemed to be that ii will be unable to compete with small cars endowed by enlightened manufacturers with all-round independent suspension, especially when this is self-levelling, but we reserve judgment until more extended acquaintance with the Cortina is possible.

Fairthorpe: Fairthorpe Ltd. announce their new Rockette Sports Six, which is a 7 ft. 4 in: wheelbase ladder-type chassis with rack-and-pinion steering, 9 in. disc front brakes and coil spring all-round-independent suspension. The engine is the new 6-cylinder 1,596-c.c. Triumph Vitesse, giving 70 (net) b.h.p. at 5,000 r.p.m., the sports 2/3-seater body of glass-fibre. The tyre size is 5.60 x 13. This is another one from the Fairthorpe “Meccano-set” and very attractive, too. In kit form it costs £625. Assembled, the overall price is £997 16s. 3d., overdrive £70 extra.-W. B.