Letters from readers

Who was first with light-alloy pistons?


In your June issue, you published an article under the heading "Did W. O. Bentley Crib?"

I don't have any intention of joining sides with either you or Mr. Ulmann, and only seek clarification of a small issue that has bothered me, off and on, for some time. Perhaps, when you have a moment to dig into your obviously impressive library, you could give an answer to my query.

Many people are familiar with the scene in which W. O. picks up an alloy piston, used as a paper weight on Dorriot Senior's desk, and is told that it is only a gimmick containing 88% aluminium and the remainder brass. I could be quite wrong in my detail, but don't choose to verify it, as it is immaterial. The point is that W. O. developed quite a business based on pistons, used them in his "hot " D.F.P.s, and subsequently in BR-is, 25, etc.

I now refer to your text and quote "...but hiding from his American readers the account of how Bentley pioneered the aluminium piston which was adopted for Rolls-Royce, Sunbeam and Gwynne-Clerget aero-engines in the early days of the war." realise you specify aero-engines in your text, but as a number of people who have read Bentley's autobiography think W. O. beat the field in the automotive game, would you perhaps give some detail on the use of alloy pistons previous to Bentley?

We have a 1912 The Autocar in the library of the past-president of the Sporting Car Club of South Australia, containing an advert for an N.B. (Nichols and Bennett, I think) fitted with alloy pistons.

Also quite recently, and I think in an "Antique Automobile" article (I don't want to involve this publication, so apologise if I have misremembered where) I saw reference to 1911 Chenard Walckers, fitted with alloy pistons as standard equipment. In fact, and this is really straining either my memory or my imagination, I think the wording of this advert was almost along the lines of "first in the world" stuff.

S. Australia. J. M. Lobban.

[This raises an interesting issue. Can anyone comment?—ED.]

* * *

A year earlier


Fancy printing the picture at the top of page 642 of the August issue Motor Sport with the caption stating that thecears were a part of this year's rally, when in fact that was a photograph of last year's rally. I know, because I'm the girl in the hat, and although I was at this year's meeting the hat wasn't.

Rochester. Barbara Kennison.

[Our apologies. The young photographer who perpetrated this hoax has been appropriately dealt with. (It just shows what a distinctive hat can do!)—ED.]

* * *

The Renault 4L


Your assessment of the Renault 4L Estate last month was in general in complete accord with my findings after 21,000 miles.

Your theory about the door pulls is I think a bit far fetched, especially as nine out of ten passengers are quite unable to work the door openers without help! I have obtained 34.8 m.p.g. overall with regular fuel (equivalent to 38 on premium) with most of the mileage done in town on short journeys. Long runs, cruising at an indicated 65 m.p.h., give exactly 40 m.p.g. Considering the physical size of the car and its load carrying capacity I consider this reasonable.

What fascinates me about the car are the extras supplied with the car at no extra cost, some of which I only discovered after six months! They include, potent heater, first class fresh air system, rubber over-riders, fly-oil handbrake, Childproof door locks, external headlamp adjusters, quick-change adjustment for l.h. or r.h. headlamp setting, as well as the usual screen washers, etc.

Serious troubles have been confined to the transmission system. At 17,000 miles the synchromesh on 1st gear disappeared and the gear would not stay in. No explanation has been given for this early demise but after considerable haggling Renault paid the considerable labour costs of renewing the affected parts. The universals in the drive shafts also show signs of wear after five or six thousand miles but at 12 gns. a time replacement cost I shall just have to live with the clunk, clonk, clonk.

The technique of cornering to cope with the large angle of roll is closely allied to that used on the track. To keep the roll to a minimum the widest and smoothest line should be taken, and to avoid unpleasant changes of trim the chosen line should be adhered to if at all possible. An enthusiastic 4L driver and distributor is one  J. M. Fangio of the Argentine!

Highgate. J. C. M. Templeton.

[Yes, the R4L. is quite a sports car, in its own inimitable way. —ED.]

* * *

Satisfactory batteries


A few months ago you gave a report on a Macaulay battery. You might be interested to hear my experience.

In July 1960 I replaced the original battery on my 1958 3.4-litre Jaguar, which had lasted 26 months, with a Macaulay for £5 19s. 6d. This gave every satisfaction and, as its fourth anniversary approached, I decided to have another if it lasted until July 1964. This it did, never failing to start the engine during this period.

I went to see Messrs. Macaulay at Clapham Junction and was advised to continue until it died. However, it was getting .a little tired and so I purchased another. The price? Exactly the same as 4 years ago!

A Jaguar with its high under-bonnet temperature and its 8:1 compression gives a battery a hard life. In nearly 30 years as a motorist I have never known a battery to last so long.

On the 23rd December 1961 my father's Austin A40's battery died overnight without warning after at months of the original one's service and he remarked, "That means no motoring over Christmas." I told him not to be so sure and I telephoned Macaulay's who sent up and fitted a new one within an hour. This also is giving every satisfaction.

My only connection with Messrs. Macaulay is that of a very satisfied customer and I think that a firm which gives such service deserves a word of praise.

Putney, S.W.15. K. W. Toon.

* * *

Out in the cold and wet



My last three cars have all been B.M.C. products. An Austin Mini, a Morris 1100 and an Austin 1100. The first and last were new, the Morris was a few months old.

On each car, the petrol pump failed after a very short time, depositing me immobile in various parts of the country. On one occasion this meant staying a night, besides the usual expenses involved in seeking assistance each time.

The garages who dealt with the breakdowns all said that such petrol-pump failure was common to the B.M.C. cars and thought that its cause had to do with the siting of the pump under the rear nearside wing where it is open to all the elements and the dirt, etc., from the road.

I realise that the guarantee covered the replacement but this did not do away with the inconvenience.

Accordingly, I wrote to B.M.C. some six weeks ago telling them of my troubles and asking for their comments.

Although I keep reading in the newspapers of export figures and increased production, this seems a poor substitute for reliability, so I thought they might be interested, especially as I had had three of their cars in the past three years.

However, the sad truth is that they have not even acknowledged my letter.

Tealby. H. J. OLDROYD.

[We, too, have come to a standstill with an inoperative petrol pump on a Morris 1100.—ED.]

* * *

Cobra homologation


With reference to your article on GT homologation in "Matters of Moment" in your August issue. You state that the Daytona Cobra coupe is "recognised although only three cars have been built, the theory being that it is basically the same as the production open 2-seater AC Cobra."

The Daytona coupe is recognised not on any "theory” but on fact. The fact is that the chassis, suspension; engine type and capacity and transmission units are identical to the production car as homologated, of which over 200 cars have been produced in series form this year alone. The question of the special type of bodywork is irrelevant as is clearly shown in Paragraph 271, Appendix J, R.A.C. Regulations, which states that once a series of 100 cars have been built in 12 consecutive months the manufacturer or entrant may fit any special body he wishes to the chassis, providing of course that it complies with the regulations for dimensions.

Slough. Arnold Stafford, Shelby American Inc

* * *

A “smalls” census


I must congratulate those of your readers who may have been seeking a used car in the Classified Advertisements section of the August Motor Sport on the extremely high standard of the vehicles offered to them and commiserate with the unfortunate owners forced to part with property so tantalisingly desirable as the following:— Excellent (67 of these), Good (47), Immaculate—which means pure and spotless—(39), Exceptional (17), Superb (16), Attractive (i3), Beautiful, Sound (12 each), Very Good (10). First Class, In Original Condition, Very Fast (9 ea.), Outstanding, Perfect, Magnificent (7 of these), Above Average

Reliable, Well-Maintained, Fabulous, Nice and Fine (4 of each), Fair, Handsome and Average (who, incidentally, strikes this average?) (3 of each). Unusual, Gorgeous, Pretty, Impeccable, Lovely, Concours Condition, Mint Condition, Unique. Sound (1 each of all these) and, finally, one each of the following: Delectable, Swift, Most Desirable, Uncommon, Fantastic. Good Looking, Safe, Quiet, Very Clean, Fast, Well-Mannered, Exhilarating, Tidy, Great, Smart, Cracking Order, As New, Versatile, Splendid, Reasonable, Supremely Elegant, Comfortable, Very Potent, Distinctive, Unusual, Pristine Moonstone Specimen, Superlative, Workmanlike, Impressive.

My choice, however, would fall among the two cars which "needed slight attention," the two which were "shabby," the two alleged to be "towable" or even one described as "somewhat agricultural," another as in "almost running order" and my favourite of all "not outstanding in any way," which latter, incidentally, describes the majority of brand new cars sold in this country.

Perhaps some of your more cynical readers would care to submit their definitions, from experience, of some of the above eulogistic adjectives.

Alverstoke. CDR. A. Dunhill, M.V.O., R.N. (Retd.).

* * *

Motorists and the election

From the Rt. Hen. Lord Montagu of Beaulieu


It is now certain that there will be a General Election in October. Never before in our country's history have so many vehicle owners been in the position of exercising their right to vote. In the coming weeks all three political parties will no doubt raise many issues on which the electorate will be asked to decide. Some will be important, others trivial. Two issues which we can be pretty certain will not be raised will be the absurd policy towards modernising our archaic road system and the ever-growing restriction and persecution of motorists.

Because successive governments have been equally guilty of lack of the foresight which has resulted in the appalling present day road conditions, I have no doubt in my mind that there is an unwritten political pact among the main parties to keep roads out of national politics. It is far easier to bemoan road casualties, blame the motorists and divert people's attention from the only real solution—a road system adequate for the needs of today and tomorrow.

Consider, for instance, the amount spent in Italy—a defeated nation—since the war, or consider New Zealand, a small country With only 2.1 million people, who enjoy excellent social services and a high standard of living. New Zealand spends annually £25 millions on its roads, which are administered by an independent Road Board who derive their total income from the petrol tax, and petrol is only 35. 6d. a gallon. At this rate the U.K, should be spending in excess of £600,000,000 a year, and that is precisely the sum we should be spending.

I need not dwell on the attitude to motorists by most authorities, although no-one's daily life could exist without road transport in 1964.

Now if we can even make the motorists' vote a fact instead of a myth surely it is at this election for our influence to be exerted.

I am appealing to motorists, whatever your political allegiance. I have a simple suggestion to make. Write to your candidate or ask him at the hustings to state publicly that he will, if elected, press urgently for a major review of our road policy; will support a large increase in the road budget, will not vote for any further restrictions on the motorist, and do all he can to ensure a fair deal for the motorist in the courts. Unless he is prepared to state these publicly tell him that you will abstain from voting for him and will encourage your friends to do likewise. Politicians know that a vote wasted is a vote lost. If we get enough M.P.s in the next Parliament having publicly pledged their support, some action may result. If they don't, one can make it clear that you won't continue to vote for a candidate of a party which goes back on public pledges.

Finally, don't be put off by being told that our road programme is adequate. Consider the M3 to our vital export area of Southampton. They will not even be starting this until 1970. That's after the Election; after this next one.

R.M.S. "Queen Elizabeth." Montagu of Beaulieu.

[We can expect lots of ballot papers to hear, instead of the hoped-for "X," remarks about the voters being motorists and so having no faith in any party. And, as Lord Montagu says, a vote wasted is a vote lost, and a record low poll would or should shake the leaders of all parties more than somewhat. It's up to you, or the M.P.s.—ED.]

* * *

Your drivers are wonderful


I (a) congratulate the drivers of Britain for maintaining such a high standard of driving, and (b) congratulate Mr. Marples for his efforts (whether they be right or wrong) to convince motorists that they are in charge of a lethal weapon, and, as such, are obligated to every other road user (cyclist, pedestrian or fellow motorist) to use common sense and restraint.

For those who don't believe that there is a high standard of driving in Britain come to Sunny South Africa—Johannesburg in fact—where, although no lions or sabre-toothed tigers roam the streets, one would be safer if they did!

The standard of driving here is incredible, and if Mr. Marples' laws were enforced here there would be very few motorists left on the streets. The ignorance of the majority of drivers could be compared to that of a delinquent teenager—i.e., wildly irresponsible.

This letter is not intended to belittle Johannesburg drivers, but to point out to the "moaners" of Britain that their drivers are courteous compared to most other countries, South Africa being only one of them. I can't wait to get back!

Johannesburg. T. Brown (seconded by J. Hamilton).

* * *

Renault engines


Thank you very much for publishing details about the current Renault engine this month (September 1964) in your series "The Evolution of Modern Small Car Engines." Surely this engine will pass into history with others like the Volkswagen, the Austin Seven, etc., as a classic.

I would like to point out, however, that your caption for the first two sectional views is incorrect; this engine is not fitted to the Dauphine (or its variants or the R4 -series), but only to the R8 series, the Caravelle and the Estafette. The old "Ventoux" engine (another classic, with close on 20 years' production to its credit) is still fitted to the former types.

Surbiton. H. G. Mackenzie-Wintle

* * *

Honda and motorcycle racing


Before "D. S. J." rejects the Honda motorcycle racing record altogether (see his article on the Honda Grand Prix car), I think a few facts need pointing out.

Firstly, concerning Honda's meteoric rise to racing fame. The first time a Honda team was entered in any G.P. event was the 1959 Isle of Man T.T. when they gained the team prize. In 1960 a total of six races were entered; to quote from "A Look at Honda": "…to gain experience for riders and performance figures for its designers and tuners." In 1961, after only seven previous appearances, Honda made full entries in the 125-c.c. (eight wins from eleven races) and 250-c.c. (ten wins from eleven races) classes. Both these class championships were won with maximum points. For 1962, entries were made in the 350-c.c. class as well as the two smaller classes. Out of 25 races entered in the three classes, Honda won 25, i.e., every race on the calendar except the Argentine Grand Prix (no entries), and the 350-c.c. class in the Isle of Man T.T. when an experimental machine was withdrawn before the start.

If this isn't as near to appearing on the scene and winning immediately as makes no difference, what is?

Secondly, their invincibility: after winning everything open to them in 1961 and '62 no Honda works entries have been made in G.P. races. The still considerable success attained has been at the hands of private entrants.

With regards to the classes entered, does it not occur to "D. S. J." that the size of Honda's production bikes might have something to do with it? As the largest of these is 300 c.c., there is no point in entering a 500-c.c. race when adequate racing is available in more useful capacity classes!

Does “D. S. J." really think this fantastic record is insufficient evidence of Honda genius and mechanical prowess to create no excitement at all when a Honda G.P. car is produced?

Woking. P. J. Noble

* * *

Towards the police state


I, like many of your readers, I am sure, in the past have taken some of the stories told about action taken by the Police with a pinch of salt, or, at least, have often wondered if what they said was the full story.

No more do I wonder. Last Sunday I was driving back from a day at Bognor. I was in no hurry and was being followed by my friend who was driving a sports car—a Daimler 250SP. (I mention this as it may be relevant.) Some distance outside Bognor, on the A29, I overtook two cars that were following each other, at 20, I repeat 20, m.p.h. My friend waited behind for a while until he reached a straight stretch of road. He then, on this straight stretch of road, overtook these two cars and pulled in behind me, with about thirty yards between us and a further forty yards from those overtaken, when a policeman stepped out from the verge and asked him what the hurry was. He said he was in no hurry and asked what the trouble was. After pulling off the road he was asked for his documents. At this stage I came back, completely puzzled, and was told to mind my own business. I mentioned that I was a witness. He then ordered his colleague to keep me occupied. This officer, I am glad to say, took no part in these proceedings, and gave the impression rather of having nothing to do with this farce. This first policeman then said, “Will driving without due care and attention do?”

This road had no white lines at all, was wide enough for three cars. There was nothing parked on either side. There was nothing coming the other way. In fact, there was absolutely no foundation for the charge at all. When asked on what grounds, he replied “Overtaking in a built-up area."

When stopped we were twenty-five yards from a level crossing, but this is not a relevant fact at all. I mention this only as they may try and make something of it. And, as you can see, I have already changed my attitude towards our Police. So, all I can say is that this is completely true. I have left nothing out. There is no other side to this coin. This happened—yesterday (30.8.64) —to us—two very responsible motorists, who were driving home after a day at the seaside, with three children between us, under two years old.

I am forwarding copies of this letter to the Chief Constable of the West Sussex Constabulary and to the Mayor of Bognor for comment. Should their comments throw any further light on this affair, I will be only too pleased to write to Motor Sport again and ask them to publish.

Harrow. B. Brookes.

[If the Police wish us to publish the other side of the story they are welcome to write to us.—ED.]