On the Road with products from Ford and B.M.C.



On the Road with products from Ford and B.M.C.

Exploring Pre-War Trials’ Routes in the Latest Cortina-Lotus and a 1,275-c.c. Austin-Healey Sprite

IAIPASSABLE.—The approach to Cusop Dingle Hill, used in trials in the 1930$, as a appears today, unclimbable even by a Ford Cortina-Lotus.

I HAVE a very high opinion of the Ford Cortina as a useful, reliable, economical value-for-money saloon of sensible passenger-carrying and luggage-containing proportions. I have previously given my reasons for holding these views, based on considerable experience of the C-series Ford in GT form.

When it was first introduced, in 1962, as Cohn Chapman’s conception of what a x i-litre competition saloon should be, the Cortina-Lotus was great fun to drive but hardly every family’s idea of how saloon-car motoring should be. Since then a development programme has been completed, aimed at softening up, and building reliability into, the high-performance version of the Cortina, without spoiling its appeal to the average enthusiast. All this we covered at some length last February, including brief road impressions of a car I regard as constituting the ” third-phase ” in Cortina-Lotus history.

But when the opportunity arose for me to acquire further experience of this useful Ford I accepted towns eagerly, for I could thereby establish a sound idea of the reliability factor of the 105-m.p.h. Ford and its suitability or otherwise for all kinds of hard usage.

The car I was allocated—CTC 25E—had already had a strenuous life, having been used for road-test purposes by several motor journals. It came to me with 8,718 miles on the odometer, being collected by a member of my family, who promptly vanished into the London traffic with it, using it for town commuting. It was later brought home to me with the comment “Why is there a red light showing all the time ? ” This referred to thc dynamo warning light, but Vick Bros. of Aldershot went into action after some female persuasion, replacing a faulty voltage-regulator, and since then all has been well. The Cortina-Lotus’ next assignment was to have a very heavy load of roof slates stacked in its capacious boot and be driven fast for a distance exceeding 300 miles. This it accomplished without complaint, the rear-end load making little, if any, change to the car’s almostneutral cornering characteristics or troubling the servo-assisted Girling disc/drum brakes, although the weight was sufficient to take the sharp

edge off the normally-outstanding acceleration (s.s. in 18.o sec.). This sort of treatment underlines rather nicely, I think, the purpose behind the present Cortina-Lotus, which, apart from those Lotus badges and wide-base wheels, resembles bread-and-butter Cortinas in appearance. There are not, perhaps, many 41,000 twin-cam cars one would find so suitable for use as hack transport—indeed there are not many £1,000 twin-cam saloons! But the Cortina-Lotus, which is in effect an Elan-powered family model, is rugged, capacious and uncomplaining, yet is also an extremely effective high-performance

car. A good deal of glamour and fastidious rumour surrounds twinoverhead-camshaft engines, and rightly so. Ford, who now manufacture this engine in its entirety, have therein a completely docile, untemperamental 1o9-b.h.p. power unit, which idles quietly, burns 99-octane fuel (although too-octane is recommended), and runs so smoothly and unobtrusively that, unless one detects the subdued ” fizz ” of the timing gear from outside the car, as when standing in front of it, it can easily be mistaken for the push-rod engine of the Cortina GT.

Except, that is, when the throttles of the dual-choke 40DCOE3t Webers are opened wide, when there is a very useful increase in performance, in terms both of pick-up and speed-83 m.p.h. in 3rd gear, for instance, from an engine which goes up to 6,500 r.p.m. before the ignition cuts out, but which has good top-gear pulling power from a speed as low as 1,500 r.p.m. This encompasses such diverse performance factors as picking up smoothly from 27 m.p.h. in the 3.78-to-I top gear and cruising along the Motorways of civilised countries at an effortless 90 m.p.h. The previously-recounted loadcarrying experiment (a necessity, really, if rain was to be kept out of my ancient Welsh hide-out!) proved that the slight weaving of early Cortina-Lotuses, which some drivers found disconcerting, has been entirely eradicated by the adoption of Cortina GT rear suspension (i-elliptic leaf springs with radius-arms) of the now-normal back axle, although the presence on the car about which I am writing of Pirelli Cinturato (13 in.) tyres may have contributed to this straight-line running, while the rough-road ride, if by no means irreproachable, has definitely improved.

I think choice between the GT or Lotus version of this excellent C-model Ford depends mainly on whether you regard the considerably greater performance and “willingness” of the t.o.h.c. engine over that of the push-rod power unit to justify the somewhat heavier petrol thirst and greater craving for oil of the Lotus version. That is, if reliability and freedom trom petty faults are comparable between the two cars—about which, together with further comment on the matters of fuel and oil consumption, I cannot pass judgment until I have covered a greater mileage. The next chore to which CTC 25E was subjected was a run to mid-Wales via part of a pre-war trials’ route. Which trial this route applies to is lost in the mists of antiquity. It so happened that, when we were in process of moving the MOTOR SPORT offices, some ancient route cards fell, almost literally, into my lap. Most of these applied to M.C.C. Exeter and Land’s End Trials of the mid-193os, and there

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was a card covering the S.U.N.B.A.C. Colmore Trophy Trial of 3935—of which, more later.

But a single card covering part of a long-forgotten trial (they were ” reliability trials ” not ” rallies ” in those days, although the latter were held as well) caught my eye and as the route embraced Hereford, through which city we intended to travel,. it seemed logical to put the Cortina-Lotus to this inadvertently-acquired test. In fact, the route did not start frorii Hereford, because the sheet I was looking at is numbered ” 2,” and it is therefore apparent that many miles and several ” observed sections ” had been covered by those trials drivers of long ago before they had reached this part of the competition. The time of departure from Hereford is given simply as ” 6.o,” so whether there had been a breakfast-stop there, or whether these intrepid but to date unidentified drivers had taken tea in this fine city, there is no means of knowing. The thing finished, at ” 9.26,” assuming you were in car No. 1, at the Forest Rest House outside Ross-on-Wye. Was this then, a nice, simple afternoon and evening affair, starting as well as finishing in Wales ? Or could it have been a Gloucester Trial, commencing, maybe, in Gloucestershire and terminating at Ross ? Memory is weak and, sinless I do some research, I shall never know. . . .

But old trials’ routes are pleasant to drive over, since they usually take in beautiful scenery seen from little-frequented roads without the necessity for map-reading or even carrying a map. For this reason we (my wile and l) agreed to discover where following this route card, almost certainly over 30 years old, would take us. It may have routed a tough competition for trials-specials such as abbreviated Ford V8s and Allards, or it could have been a jaunt for ordinary cars, like Morris Ten/Fours, Austin Sixteens and Ford Populars. Whatever it was (and possibly some trials expert will be able to name it), how sad to reflect that such fun-and-games have been banished from the motor sporting scene, simply because the Police objected to the amount of mud ” comp “-tyres, with their knobbly treads, brought onto ordinary roads from the muddy acclivities that constituted the ” observed sections “! And, unless they were shod with tyres of this kind, ordinary cars became too pathetic to contemplate in competitions of this sort. . Thus the Cortina-Lotus again found itself heavily loaded, this time with conventional luggage, but its strong springs inspire confidence, so off we went. Finding Peterchurch from Hereford was troublesome on account of’ modern one-way roads and the fact that A463 seems to have become 134348 since this aged route card was printed. But, making our way across country through fine pastoral scenery in the mid-afternoon sunshine, we eventually reached this point, where we partook of a

splendid tea in the immaculate garden of ” bed and breakfast ” cottage, served by a pleasant-natured old lady. Then it was right turn at the Cross Ways and on to Dorstone I fill, stopping on the way to look at what appeared to be a windmill converted into cylindrical, one7windowed living-quarters, and now for sale.

Had the clock gone back, converting us, perhaps, into wind-swept competitors crouching behind acro-screens, we should have soon taken an Acceleration Test. As it was, the Cortina-Lotus climbed Dorstone disdainfully, up past the ancient monument, Arthur’s Stone, eithough needing bottom gear momentarily. Its ability to go from o TO 60 m.p.h. in to seconds would probably have given us high marks in this timed test of yesteryear! After the I-in-4 descent we got a bit lost, fkir Dorstone level-crossing apparently went with, or before, Beeching. . . Our next objective was POnty Weston Hill. A girl cyclist, asked where it was, regarded us as if we were lunatics, but the farmer past whose farm we were directed remembered 160 or so trials ears coming to climb it in the early mornings of long ago but advised against trying it in 1967, because, he said, the water has since played havoc with it and nothing has used it for years. I have, perhaps, reached the age

of discretion in these matters, having been stuck in my time for so many hours in so many different cars. . . .

So it was back up Watery Lane, now tarmac, but apparently a stony running torrent in the times to which we had endeavoured to project ourselves. After this, things continued to fall apart, even though the Ford just went on and on uncomplainingly, fed with Shell 4-star and a quart of Castrolite.

Turning towards Cusop just outside the drab, seemingly deserted town of I-lay, we sought our next ” observed section,” Cusop Dingle Hill. The approach was remote, beyond a stone house hearing a ” For Sale” notice and a ” Dangerous Corner” sign lying, disregarded, in the ditch. A young man working on a Mini directed us, but told us the hill was now quite impassable to .ears, adding ‘• I once got a few feet up in a 1932 Austin 7.” He was absolutely right! The gated lane is overgrown, the water splash at the hill’s approach so steep that it would frighten a Land-Rover. We reversed out, and retreated. . . . Evening had by now come down, as we set off again from Hay, where a late-closing shop had supplied provender and a Pothus Miracle can-opener which subsequently felt to pieces and nearly resulted in the motoring dog going without her supper. The roUte now lay over narrow, winding deserted lanes, entirely devoid of traffic, except that, immediately after I had remarked that I doubted whether, even in Ireland, greater desolation would b.: experienced, we narrowly missed another Cortina coming from the opposite direction. Later, a farm lad on a motorcycle, encountered at one of the many blind corners, obviated disaster by putting his machine into a broadside slide to kill its speed and then skilfully resuming the upright position, to shoot through what little space I had managed to provide for him. . . . We were bound, our route card told us, for Craswell, which time, or it may have been a misprint, now renders as Craswall. At last the remote ” Bull’s Head ” Inn was reached and we were trying to fiad ” S.O. to Farm buildings, Llanvynoe.” A young couple were baffled but an old man standing at a farm entrance knew at once, telling ui how to wind round towards Black Hill, another observed section and no doubt a very fine one, approached via a muddy gated hill-track. But again prudence made us turn back at Up and Over Hill, before getting to the real gradient. On the descent we had to wait while an old Ford Popular with a puncture was reversed down to a place where its ruined tyre could be changed before the youngsters in it proceeded to theii evening picnic As we had been motoring for over eight hours without stopping Ibr food we decided not to look for the last observed-section, Hill

near Long Town, which might well have been as elusive or impassable as the others. SO, in the gathering dusk, it was back via I lay, Three Cocks, dinner, Builth Wells and home. It was now noticeable that the outcrop of simply enormous road signs has spread to rural Wales. Huge reflecting signs are all very well when one is travelling at 100 m.p.h. or more on a Motorway but are a terrible waste of money— yours and mind—in a country where we are not supposed to drive at more than 70 m.p.h. and may soon be held to 6o m.p.h.—and they look quite absurd beside quiet country roads. Contrastingly an Aveling & Porter to-ton steam-roller, an old friend of mine, is still working on the Doldowlod–Rhayader road. The Cortina-Lotus has served since this expedition as a country

house hack, coping with such varied chores as taking elderly ladies to church, meeting trains, carting dustbins round the farm (that big boot !)—but also going to the Crystal Palace for the B.A.R.C. Race Meeting. Its Lotus engine makes no complaints about operating comparatively low down on the tachometer-scale, in spite Of its rally and saloon-car-racing pedigree. To date I have used it for 2,150 miles, during which it has averaged roughly 27 m.p.g. and 1,400 m.p.g. of oil. It is proving a very useful, satisfying and reliable car, about which I hope to make further comment when it has built up an appreciable mileage. The only troubles since the voltage regulator was replaced have been a piece of beading loose on the tis door and failure of the Tudor screen-washers. It is finished, incidentally, in a nice shade of slate-blue.

The extras on this particular Cortina comprise Triplex laminated windscreen, a small Springall competition steering wheel (the pliable sponge-rubber rim of which I find less pleasing than a leather-gaitered ordinary wheel) and a Ford push-button radio. This brings the total price, inclusive of purchase tax, to A;1,117 17s. 10d.

The other car of which I have been gaining extended experience contrasts drastically with the Ford, being a sports car, in the form of the latest R.M.C. Austin-lleaky Sprite Mk. IV—IKON 176I-7—with the 1,275-e.c. engine. Soon after Raymond Baxter had been appointed Director of Motoring Publicity for 13ritish Motor Iloldings he asked me what B.M.C. prOdUCUS I wp1.14.1 like 1A) test. I replied that as this paper is called Mirror,: SPowr I thought a sports car would he appropriate, and expounded on the idea of keeping a log that would prove how often such a car can be used conveniently in open form in the fickle English climate, besides generally observing how satisfactorily an inexpensive sports car can adapt itself to day-to-day usage in this congested country. Baxter said he had often intended to tackle this sort of research himself but had never found time; he would gladly provide the means to make the experiment possible. At the time of Our conversation the heat-wave was at its height and had the Sprite become available immediately, it would have notched up early points in its favour. This didn’t happen and it was not until I found myself at ShelsleyWalsh, where Baxter had just put up a remarkably last climb in such an unlikely vehicle as a Mini Moke. that he remembered his promise. By the time an almost new, white Sprite arrived, the weather had broken.

Consequently, the first time I drove the smart little wire-wheeled Austin-liealey was with the hood erect and its glass side windows up, in which form it proved toa”„ Weatherproof in showers of tropical intensity. In between such rainstorms the passenger elected to lower the hood, doing so hurriedly without reading the instruction book and so spiking two small holes in it where it was skewered by the safety-belt anchorages. Returning to the Sprite I found I ‘vas driving it surrounded by a good deal of agitated, not very warm, fresh air. But I must confess that, especially when the full etkcts of the gale were diminished by winding up those side windows, this was really very pleasant, and a nice contrast to sitting within a saloon car, even one ventilated on the excellent ” Aerollow ” system.

We had set off to search for a breakdown truck alleged to have been made out of the fast car to Will a race at Brooklands. As so often happens with such rumours, this vehicle had been broken-up some ten years earlier. But at least I was able to establish ” beyond reasonable doubt ” that it had been a standard example of its kind before conversion, with absolutely no racing history. This could have been established with the Sprite’s hood up or down. But whether, had we made the return journey with the car closed up, as they used to say of taxis and vintage landaulettes, we should have heard the sound of racing cars lapping fast on the old Goodwood circuit, is debatable: but the hood was now down, we did hear them, or rather the Continental Correspondent did, and consequently we were able to see I lulme driving the fierce McLaren-Chevrolet, preparatory to leaving for the Can-Am races. Surtees having just put away the Lola-Chevrolet. litilme’s car was an impressive sight and sound as it completed its final laps, tilling Goodwood with all the old noises, before the circuit was closed for the day to allow. the Duchess of Richmond and Gordon’s dogs their customary exercise. . One purpose of a sports car wherein performance as such does not arise is the joy Of having an openable car, for now that currently-made

touring ears ” are obsolete, how else can one motor inexpensively in this manner ? And Motoring, with a capital M, while it means different things to different people, should surely embrace the pleasures of driving in the fresh air, close to the sounds and smells of the countryside, conditions which make a driver more alert, therefore safer, thao he or she may be in a closed car—even though Man has polluted God’s fresh air with diesel fumes, silage scents and exhaust smoke! Indeed, I am not sure one should properly speak of ” going motoring ” in anything but an open car!

It was in this spirit that I came to enjoy this white Austin-Healey Sprite, which is also rather noisy, quick from 13 to C, responsive, a good road-clinger on its Dunlop SP41 tyres, and notably easy to park. It is certainly very modestly priced, the test car, with heater, flasher, tonneau cover, centre-lock wire wheels, suspension anti-roll bar and laminated screen costing a kw pence over 1,733. A most attractive little car, although 1 felt no desire, as the advertiseMent tries to persuade me, to ” go stroke this new little pussycat,” even in the privacy of the garage. But I do enjoy driving it. In fact, I found the latest Austin-I leaky Sprite much as its predecessors, the ride good but firm in the sports-car manner, the remote central gear lever controlling a good gearbox but set too high, on top of the transmission tunnel, for my liking, less performance than I had expected, although the 1,275 c.c. twin-carburetter engine, detuned in comparison with the Mini Cooper S to give 65 b.h.p. at 6,000

makes this a too m.p.h. car in favourable conditions, the steering rather stiff and dead and the disc/drum brakes adequate rather than powe au . The immediate objective, as I have explained, was to go over the aforesaid COlmore Trial route of az years ago. Checking on what that competition Was like, I had a nasty shock. It had attracted 155 entries. some of the leading exponents of mud-plugging among them, and as drivers belonging to Invited Clubs were asked to pay a 30$. entry lee and the route covered less than ho miles, it was rather rudely dubbed the sixpence-a-mile trial ” by some of those taking part. What was of more concern to me was that it earned harsh criticism on account of congestion at the last observed section, which upset the Cheltenham police: One report called it the ” Colmore Debacle ” and made it “SIGAllfl’S.”—This disease-has spread to Welsh roads, as these pictures prove. On the left drivers, apart Irom being ordered to HALT, STOP and GIVE WA’, have seven signs to contend with at this junction, with two more direction signs not in the picture. ?lank of the cost of it all, in public money ! Itehno, we see the nonsense that results when new signs supplement older ones. nese directin signs arc approx. one-fifth of a

tulle apart. Study them carefully !

plain that ” in an age when new and sudden laws can revolutionise motoring “—there is a familiar ring about this !—” organisers of trials should be very careful not to antagonise the general public.” Because the last hill, on the very outskirts of Cheltenham, was very long and sinuous, and because both the tractor and a six-wheeled caterpillar lorry provided for towing to the top those who failed broke down, dreadful congestion resulted, a main road was blocked, and the section had to be scrubbed when only two competitors had climbed it clean. . . . The entire event was obviously very tough, and, held late in February, had attracted competitors of the calibre of Langley, Baker and Barnes

with the new green crab-tracked Singers, Richardson, Lawson and Westwood with the team of white Singer Nines, Toulmin and 13astock with M.G.s, the Evans’ M.G. team, Allard and Hutchison with their powerful Ford V8s, not to mention many chain-drive Frazer Noshes and Mrs. Moss’ iA-litre Singer. And here was 1, proposing to try to emulate these experts with a production Sprite—admittedly a 1967 model..

Anyway, we set off from home one morning along the Comparatively uncongested Newbury, Wantage, Faringdon, Burford, Stow-on-theWold route, to gain the starting point near the Fish Inn at the top of the well-known hill Of that name which ascends out of the beautiful but congested Broadway village. Here we furled the easily-folded hood of the Sprite, which is such an improvement on the detachable variety fitted to earlier models, and set off to see what would befall. Nothing much did. Stanton Hill was found fairly easily but we were told it might be impassable and as its approach was barred by a gate we contented ourselves with a picture, and moved on, but not before our presence had startled a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce that was trying to turn COTSWOLD SCENE—The Sprite at the water-splash leading to ‘

Trial of 1935.

round in the road. Stanway Hill, on which the Cohnore competitors of long ago did a stop-and-go test, seems to have become just a mainroad ascent, unless we missed the old road, but the splendid Cotswold scenery en route, with many stately stone houses blended into slumbering parkland, made up for not finding the severe gradient we had expected.

More excellent scenery brought us to Kineton village. We did not attempt to go up Kineton Hill (where in 1935 so many failures had occurred, but with fine ascents by Mrs. Moss, and Toulmin, and a very wild one by H. J. Berry (M.G.) who cannoned off walls and trees, shedding his luckless passenger) as this was on private ground, but we found the wide water-splash at its approach. This made it Simple to pick up the route, although we by-passed the gated lane near Lower Guiting where driving tests had been timed in 1935 (the Sprite’s ability to go from rest to 60 m.p.h. M 13 sec. might have been useful !), again in deference to private property—in following old trials’ routes it is important to remember that permission had sometimes to be sought before hills could be used, also that if you try an ancient observed-section and get stuck, no willing marshals or hard-working tractor will be there to get you out !

Deserted lanes flanked by open Cotswold fields, the sunny September afternoon ideal for open-car motoring, brought as to the left turn on to West Down Hill. In the &Amore this long rutted acclivity had caused some consternation. Even W. J. B. Richardson of the aforesaid Singer team stopped and Mrs. Riley skidded near the top, her M.G. nearly turning right round. It may have been muddier that winter but we found it quite easy, the game little Sprite having no difficulty in re-starting after we stopped to check ground clearance and to walk ahead to reconnoitre—remembering that absence of marshals and tractor ! Otherwise we could unquestionably have made a non-stop ascent. But it was with some relief that we got to the end of this long, if not very steep section, because empty fields stretched away beyond the overgrown hedges, and We seemed utterly alone in the universe. At last we came to the gate which opens on to Cleeve Hill Common. Here a big notice proclaimed that motor cars are not permitted to be on, let alone drive across, the turf. So, not wishing to get sports cars a had name, we opened another gate and retreated towards a near-by farm. However, a farmer driving a tractor said if we wanted Wontley Farm there would be no harm in following the common tracks, so, after confirming that we had indeed Climbed West Down Hill, we resumed the route, dropping down a long t in ‘6 to the outskirts of Winchcomb. It now grew chilly and I was glad to resume my comforting Castrol coat… . Up and over Cleeve Hill by the new main road we failed to spot the turning to Mill Lane. Perhaps this was just as well, because in the Colmore this hill had broken the back axle of Miss Taylor’s M.G. and it had seemed as if Miss Labouchere’s big Singer saloon might he there for good, parked in a bay off the track, although another Singer saloon had got up. Apparently those competitors who were still in one piece went on over the hills above Cheltenham—they had included Whiddingum’s Meadows Frazer Nash, in the back of which I sometimes used to passenger in those days, and Wright’s old Powerplus Frazer Nash. But as we had by now ” mislaid the way and were into Cheltenham, it seemed sensible to call it a day and return home

along our usual road through Cirencester, especially as the Sprite’s engine still had the occasional bad mis-fire I had noticed earlier (later traced to a faulty condenser) and there seemed to be more noise than usual from its exhaust system—a new voice certainly roared inside this little kitten, as the Admen have it….

However, passing the Lilleybrook Hotel, my daughter, who was navigating, remembered that the trial had returned this way into Cheltenham, so, after putting up the Sprite’s hood because storm clouds were now well and truly above us, we turned back to follow the route to the notorious Leckhampton Hill, which had caused all that trouble all those years ago.

We could not locate the turning to it. But it seems that it was like four Simms Hills in one, slippery, with a i in 2i gradient. The Cheltenham-Birdlip road is now very wide at this point; one can only conclude that this was not so in 1935, which caused the terrible congestion. Permission had had to be obtained to use this part of the common, the police at first had stopped the trials cars going up, then relented, but only Haden’s M.G. Midget and Attwood’s M.G. Magnette had made clean climbs, out of some 22 to attempt the section, also known as the jinny, before it had to be abandoned.

It is interesting that in those days it was trials, with their big entries of more-or-less-normal sports cars, which were causing anxiety. Rallies were organised by responsible clubs, were very few in number, and were run to low speed-schedules, being for virtually-standard cars. Today it is club rallies that are the problem; trials have been banned altogether from public roads—a great pity, because they enabled ordinary sportsmen to enjoy not only the thrill of fairly harmless competition motoring but gave them long days out in different parts of the country, driving through very worthwhile scenery from one observed-section to the next.

Having recalled this S.U.N.B.A.C.-organised Colmore Trial of 1935, perhaps I should go on to say what was the outcome of it. The Colmore Trophy was won by G. B. Goodman’s M.G., the Club Team Trophy went to the Singer M.C. team, and the Committee Team Prize to Alf Langley’s Singers, Mrs. Moss winning the Ladies’ PrizeM.G. and Singer were the successful makes in the trials of the midthirties. Sixteen drivers, among them H. G. Dobbs with a Riley, gained ist-Class Awards, 50 took 2nd-Class Awards and no fewer than 54 won 3rd-Class Awards. Names that stand out include those of Henry Laird with a McEvoy, Mason in his Clyno, C. A. N. May’s M.G., Doreen Evans’ M.G., Whalley’s Ford, Anthony’s Aston Martin, Bartlett’s M.G., Tenbosch’s Fiat, Harrison’s jowett, Burt’s M.G., and Nicholls’ Cup-Model Austin 7, the last-named even then described in one report as a ” veteran “—those were the sort of cars used for pre-war trials. Happy days—and what, I wonder, has become of the enthusiast who used to take me through some of them, at first in an M.G. Midget, later in a blown M.G. Magnette ? * The Sprite came home as happily as it had set out, although an A.E.C. Duple coach cruising at an indicated 70 m.p.h. along the Cirencester-Cricklade road had made it think. The new 70.6 l< 81.3 mm. engine goes to 5,500 r.p.m. before entering the yellow section on the tachometer, with 800 r.p.m. in hand before it goes " into the red." The little car cruises contentedly at about 4,500 r.p.m. to maintain the legal-limit and on this day-excursion it consumed

about a pint of Castro! XL in spite of a leaking oil-filter and returned 33.4 m.P.g. of 4-star fuel. To date I have used this handy little B.M.C. sports car for 1,978 miles, but for much of the time it has been driven by my daughters, for I find it exceedingly difficult to get the Sprite away from them. If for no other reason, I think the sportscar market is secure, because of this fascination such cars have for the younger generation—which is as it should be (my daughters’ boyfriends seem to favour the rugged Austin-Healey 3000). I am sorry that insurance premiums often preclude the young from owning cars which, driven with intelligence, bring out the best in a driver and are amongst the safest on the roads. In this mileage, which took it into Yorkshire and Wales as well as commuting in London, apart from the matters aforementioned, the only troubles have been a tendency to jump out of bottom gear and a crack which has developed in the passenger’s oddments shelf, which appears to be made of compressed paper, although it still holds light articles. The overall petrol consumption works out at 30.9 m.p.g., oil consumption at approx. 1,800 m.p.g. Oil pressure remains reassuringly at nearly 65 lb./sq. in., water temperature at 190 deg. F., a little water having to be added on one occasion. If the boot is restricted, it takes a girl-size travelling case satisfactorily. Over a period of 33 days in the variable 13ritish climate, it has been possible to put the hood of the Sprite down on 20 of them, although we do not profess to be a particularly tough family.—W. B.