I was once more astounded to read your comments on safety belts. You state in “On the Road”: Issigonis has said that, like me, he has had no use for safety belts, having made a very safe car in which the driver should be able to dodge the incidents”. If this is so, why do the works rally Mini-Cooper and most other top rally teams all use full harness aircraft-type belts? Why are many of the F.1 drivers using safety belts? Brian Redman recently stated that he would have been much more severely injured in his Spa accident had he not been wearing his Britax belts. As both a doctor and a regular rally competitor, I hope I will not be classed as “too timid to travel in a motor unless attached to it”. I have taken part in the Spa-Sofia-Liège, R.A.C., Monte Carlo and Circuit of Ireland rallies, not without success, and am not afraid to admit that I wear safety belts on most occasions. I have seen the other side of the story, of multiple and sickening injuries to people involved in accidents. It has been conclusively proved time and time again that properly worn safety belts significantly reduce both the mortality and morbidity of car accidents.
There are two dangers with belts, and these are negligible when compared with their saving effect. The first of these is that of being trapped in the case of fire. The percentage of accidents in which fire is involved is very low. The second is due to improper use—i.e., wearing the belt so that the buckle is lying over the abdomen, so giving rise to such injuries as rupture of the liver or spleen. Another fault is that of wearing the belt too loose—belts are designed to be worn tightly.
Perhaps the real reason why Alex Issigonis speaks against wearing belts is because he has designed a car in which the seating position is so bad that if one is wearing belts properly the only instrument most people can reach, unless shaped like a gorilla, is the steering wheel. All switches are completely out of reach!
As for you, Mr. Boddy, I think that as the Editor of a magazine which has such a very large audience you should have a little more thought before airing such ideas in public. I agree with your views on speed limits, on television and motor racing, but what is wrong with checks on tyres, and wearing safety belts? I do not wish to be hit by some idiot in a 25-cwt. car with four bald tyres of different makes who loses control while I am driving along in my Mini, not wearing belts. I do not think I am infallible!
Please, Mr. Boddy, act your age, realise that you are now living in a world of high-speed motoring and not still “Touring in 1907”.
Belfast. D. B. Crawford.
[Dr. Crawford and others who have written expressing much the same views have entirely missed the point. I do not strap myself to the cars I drive. This is probably very foolish of me and I may not live to regret it. But I have stated on many occasions that this is a personal fad—and not one that I advocate to a single reader. What I did say was that I regard a law which makes me fit belts I never use, but cannot compel me to wear them, a stupid law, on the logical, simple reasoning that if I felt as Dr. Crawford and those like him very sincerely and sagely do, I would have fitted belts anyway, without parliamentary dictatorship which stops short of making me, as an individual, use them. Competition motoring is quite a different matter, and in rally cars and F.1 projectiles, should I have ever aspired to them, I would belt up—although, going very fast in a rally Saab with Carlsson in Sweden, I said, “Do you want me to put the safety belt on?” to which Erik replied, “If you wish, but I never do. We shall get out more quickly without them.” I have been in a racing car that rolled, and other cars which have caught fire, and was thrown or was able to jump quickly to safety, which wouldn’t have been the case had I had to unsnap those belts. But I would never advocate anyone not using harness if they feel the slightest necessity to do so.—Ed.]
* * *
Sunbeam Stiletto Road Test
Interesting to read the report on the Sunbeam Stiletto in your August issue, as your views seem to fit in very closely with mine.
It is fun to drive, but there I can only compare it to an Austin-Healey Sprite Mk. I. The interior is good, the seats especially. I felt no undue cramp after covering 650 miles overnight, and this to me is as good a recommendation as any. The driving position I find fair. I’m just 6 ft. tall, and would prefer a “straight-legged” attitude, but find this impossible to achieve because (a) the seat won’t go back far enough, (b) if it did, then the minor controls would be out of reach. I’ve just reached 5,000 miles and in that time have experienced:
(i) Leaks round the bottom corners of the windscreen.
(ii) Leaks front both quarter-light locks.
(iii) Discovered the timing was hopelessly out, the engine tiring at 2º a.t.d.c. instead of 3º b.t.d.c.
(iv) One drive-shaft bolt extremely loose.
(v) One nut missing front exhaust manifold.
The last three should never have occurred—I thought the 500-mile service was for things like that. I purchased the car after it had been used as a demonstrator and had 700 miles on the clock.
The gearbox I find delightful, although I prefer the crisper action from the Sprite’s box. The Stiletto’s feels rather as though it was operating through a sponge. The engine does idle fast, but is fairly quiet at the indicated 1,000 r.p.m. A noisy section seems to come at about 4,000 r.p.m., but by the time 4,500 r.p.m. is reached it seems to be quietening down a bit. As 4,500 r.p.m. represents 70 m.p.h., I suppose it would be an act of treason to talk about 5,000-odd r.p.m. in top! However, in the intermediate gears the engine seems perfectly happy to be kept buzzing at around the 4,500 mark. Over a lengthy trip of 1,300 miles last weekend averages of 40 m.p.h. and 40 m.p.g. were achieved, this including some fairly hefty traffic work.
I would very much like to see an oil-pressure gauge fitted as standard—apart from that, instrumentation is satisfactory. The price is high—I was fortunate in having a lump knocked off because of the car’s demonstration days. I needed a car that was nippy, economical, comfortable, and would absorb into its interior my wife and myself plus baggage, and one Irish wolfhound of astounding proportions. Hence a sports car as such was out!
Thanking you for your very excellent magazine.
Elgin, Scotland. D. A. Fish.
* * *
The Police Attitude-1946/1968
Hard luck for me. Good luck to Mr. Walker and his Elan. I was “radared” in Woodford, Cheshire, on May 24th, 1968. The occasion was all very civilised and suave—”Good afternoon, sir—are you aware 44 m.p.h.—proceedings may be taken, etc.?”—I went on my way, annoyed beyond measure. A very bitter driver.
On August 2nd, I paid my fine of £6. Looking at my driving licence endorsement makes me feel a criminal!
Possibly I have been fortunate in that the last time I was stopped by the police, for breaking the law, was 1946. This was in Hazel Grove, within four miles of the area where I was caught by radar. I was “gonged” in a 1937 Morris Eight. My reception, by these two policemen this time was a contrast indeed. There was no soft-shoe treatment—just the hoot! “Now, then . . . you have driven at 38 m.p.h., a lecture on driving—built-up areas—lucky for you that your driving was reasonable . . . If we see you again, you’re for it.”
I was chastened. Felt three feet tall, but went on my way resolving to be a better driver. From these two brushes with the police it does seem to me, that in 1946 I learned to respect the Law, whereas in 1968 I have the utmost contempt for the Law as applied to motorists today.
I have motored for over 20 years without any incidents. I cannot deny that I have had many “moments” during this time; there has, however, been nothing involving man or machine. I believe all this is due to the police attitude to me in 1946; when they were allowed to do their job as men, and not as Robots. I can only assume I got away with speeding because my driving, the road conditions, the condition of my car—were all considered before I was stopped. Today’s policeman who booked me in May, 1968 judged none of these things—too busy watching the dial of an electronic machine. The old mechanic’s reply, when asked his opinion on electronic engine-tuners, was—”It’s as good as the mechanic that’s using it, lad”.
Ah, well, I can still drive my Elan between 30 and 70 m.p.h. with great joy. A privilege I appreciate. I, too, made my decision to have a Lotus after reading your road test, I believe, in the October issue, 1966.
New Mills. J. V. Howe.
* * *
I was very interested to read your road-test of the Triumph TR5 as a comparison with the TR4A, one of which I have owned for just over twelve month.
Having moved to the South West two years ago whilst owning a Cortina GT, I decided that on the types of road to be found in this part of the country a compact car offering good acceleration (tourist-avoider), long life and reliability, coupled with reasonable economy, would be more suitable.
In twelve months I have covered 31,000 miles and the TR4A has borne out my opinion that it would satisfy my requirements. Reliability has been good, two small and easily rectified leaks and initial throttle linkage sticking being the only defects to show up under warranty, since which time there have been two more, a broken choke cable attachment at 15,400 miles, rectified free of charge, and a split silencer at 29,500 miles. The silencer, I am told, is now too thin for further successful welding, and in common with those on most other British cars bears out my suspicion that these flimsy devices are manufactured with an eye to further business. I feel it is high time that the British Standards Institution took a hand here.
Economy has been more than reasonable. The Goodyear G800 tyres Were replaced at 24,000 miles, the disc pads at 23,100 miles. Five 6,000-mile services have cost, including materials, £48 17s. 6d., oil consumption is about 600 miles per pint, and 1,170 gallons of 4-star petrol work out at 26.56 m.p.g. Where possible Shell petrol has been used, being the only company, almost, now supporting motor racing and, therefore, worth supporting themselves. Allowing just over £200 for depreciation, the cost per mile works out at less than 5½d.
The car is big enough to carry my wife and two children, both under six years old, and I have heard no complaints from them after several trips of over 300 miles. It will also carry sufficient luggage for short vacations, and altogether has proved a most enjoyable car to drive. The effortless top-gear performance and good torque have contributed in no small part to the reputation of the TR engine for long life, and I look forward to at least two more years of ownership.
The road-holding took some getting used to after the Cortina GT, which ran on Cinturato-shod 5½Js; however, after the slight initial disappointment, familiarity has improved matters. My only complaint concerns the poor layout of the foot controls, which the TR5 seems to have inherited. The siting of the dip-switch would do justice to a well-planned treasure hunt, and with the heel of the shoe on the floor only a size-18 shoe can operate it. The excellent multi-purpose stalk of the Cortina range would transform matters, as it would replace four different controls. Apart from these criticisms, the interior appointments show how far sports-car design has progressed since the uncomfortable pre-1960s.
In summary, a very enjoyable, comfortable and reliable car, giving quite economical motoring (usual disclaimers).
Finally a plea to your excellent magazine to publicise the plight of Exeter motorists, who are allowed to use only the eastbound lane of the dual-carriageway High Street, the westbound lane carrying notices reading “No entry except for buses”. No doubt your eloquent reporters could do full justice to this ludicrous state of affairs, which has thrown traffic conditions in this otherwise pleasant city into near chaos.
Otters. St. Mary. A. A. Greenwood.
* * *
Tiger, Tiger—For The Big Battalions
Whilst on holiday in North Devon recently, passing through the Brendon Valley and the village of Rockford, I came across an Esso pump at the side of the Rockford Inn.
A notice beside it read as follows: “The landlord regrets that due to Esso refusing to supply small pumps such as this, he has no petrol for sale. If you wish to complain please write to Esso. The nearest filling station is at the top of Countisbury Hill—buy Shell!”
I, and I am sure many others, will find this difficult to reconcile with the pathetically eager sales campaign under way at the moment, by means of which we are urged to save the hairy monster.
Esso will undoubtedly tell us that this is yet another attempt by that wicked, nasty sales manager to bring disgrace upon the head of that friend of the motorist, the happy, lovable, anxious-to-serve-you tiger. No connection with Shell, Nat. Benzoic, Fina, V.I.P., B.P., EP., or any other petroleum company with an adult sales campaign.
Thank you for an excellent magazine; long may it reign supreme.
Rochford. R. Bryan-Smith.
* * *
Shopping For A Derby Bentley
As an ex-owner of a 1934 3½ and a 1937 4½ Bentley, I was most interested in the article mentioned above. I’m afraid, however, that there is much more to consider when buying a Derby Bentley than your contributor suggests.
One of the most important items is the propeller shaft. This was an acknowledged weak point in the design. On the 3½ and, I believe, the early 4½ the universal joints had plain phosphor bronze bushes, but later cars had needle roller bearings. Any shake in these, and in both my cars the rear was the worst, should be viewed with the gravest suspicion. Twelve years ago a Bentley agent quoted me £60 to rebalance the shaft and fit new universal joints. The fault reveals itself on the road as a buzzing vibration, particularly on the change over from drive to over-run.
Due to the large quantities of oil and water and an inoperative thermostat, a Bentley will take at least 10-12 miles of normal driving to attain its working temperature. The difference in noise level between an engine with cool, thick oil, even if the radiator is hot, and the same engine after it’s thoroughly warmed up is astonishing. The crankshaft, incidentally, is case-hardened and the bearings of the 4½ are aluminium-based and regrinding and remetalling will cost twice or three times as much as the unitiated anticipates.
Brakes are likely to be a further expense. To remove the drums two pulleys are required and these are, or were, only available at Bentley agents, who are forbidden to lend them to amateurs. The complications of the brake servo are also beyond the capacity of any but the most experienced owner. There are many other points; slack splines on the rear hubs will give an annoying series of clanks—make sure they haven’t been jammed up with tin foil! A dull rumble from the front of the engine may be a seized vibration damper which necessitates another visit to the Bentley agent. I was quoted £26 10s. for new king pins and bushes. Bentley spares cost at least three times as much as those of a mass-produced vehicle—you may be lucky with second-hand spares, but it’s not likely to be a long-term solution. Any attempt at tuning for increased performance of a 30-year-old car is strongly to be deprecated. The Instruction Book in bold letters states that on no account should 4,500 r.p.m. be exceeded, and I have known two engines destroyed by broken connecting rods.
If you want your Bentley merely to look nice at Rallies its mechanical condition doesn’t much matter, but if you want it for serious work, unless you are shown certified receipts for a similar amount, be prepared to spend £500 beyond the price you pay for it.
A Mini in good condition is much more pleasant to drive than a Bentley in bad.
York. R. G. Vinning (Lt.-Col.)
* * *
I read with interest your report on the B.M.W. 2002 in the current issue of your fine magazine.
My wonderful husband bought me one of these delectable cars for my birthday. I took delivery in early June from Black & White Garages (Harvington) Ltd., Evesham, Worcs., after a short test run that completely won me over. Over the years we have owned and driven a great assortment of cars—bread-and-butter saloons, airy monsters and some of the so-called cream of the British market—but I have never before driven a car that seems the answer to everything I’ve always looked for. I cannot enthuse overmuch on this superb car—it’s sheer joy to drive. To date I have clocked just over 4,000 exhilarating miles.
Prior to delivery I did experience a few qualms over the fact that Black & White Ltd., our nearest main distributors, are some 60 odd miles away from Pattingham, and, not being in the least mechanically minded and having a very busy husband, I was a tiny bit apprehensive over possible spares and service, which, however, brings me to the main point of my letter. Only yesterday—Bank Holiday Saturday—I had the misfortune to have the windscreen shatter—fortunately at home. I telephoned Black & White Ltd. and half apologetically told them of my trouble. I was reassuringly told that they would “send along a man at once”—and they did. I repeat—60 odd miles late on a Bank Holiday Saturday morning, and the job was completed by lunch-time. This is the kind of prompt and courteous service one can expect from this excellent firm, and which I think deserves all praise.
From my experience nothing is too much trouble to B.M.W. as a manufacturer and Black & White Ltd. as their agents—what a pleasant change in these day.
Pattingham. Sheila Galbraith.
* * *
Justice—Or the Cost of Motoring
Magistrates at Kidderminster fined two men £2 each for causing bodily harm to a boy; the week before they fined a motorist £5 for flashing his headlights to warn fellow-motorists of a radar trap. British justice is the host in the world—or was?
Bridgnorth. Arthur Bolton.
* * *
“Sorting Out The Citroëns”
I was most interested to read your article: “Sorting out the Citroëns”. However, I have to take you to task over the comment you make in the second paragraph, in which you suggest that it is right that the pre-war Citroëns should be written up, although these cars, in your words, “Were never particularly significant technically”.
I would have thought that, by now, automobile historians would have accepted that the pre-war f.w.d. Citroëns were at least two decades technically advanced of their period. That, furthermore, they set standards of read-holding and ruggedness almost unequalled by any family saloons of their period, that they showed the way for monocoque construction, f.w.d., wheel at each corner, rack-and-pinion steering, wet cylinder liners, all of these features and many, many others now, a quarter of a century later, adopted by British and European car manufacturers.
It was not for nothing that the famous “Tractions” of the thirties, forties and fifties carried the legendary name, “the poor man’s Bugatti”. So fair play, W.B.; give credit where credit is due. Long life to your excellent publication.
Broadbridge Heath. Joseph Judt.
[Sorry, sorry! I should have made it clear that I was thinking of vintage Citroëns. Of course the torsionally-suspended, f.w.d. cars with “a wheel at each corner” were splendidly-advanced automobiles. Why, the august V.S.C.C. recognises them as post-vintage-thoroughbreds. Personally, I would not go quite so far as to call them “the poor man’s Bugatti”. But I like ’em, Mr. Judt, I like ’em . . . . —Ed.]
* * *
The Reliant Scimitar and Other Cars
I was extremely interested to read your article about the Reliant Scimitar as it so exactly reflects the opinion which I formed of this car during the 12 months when I drove one. I am intensely interested in motor vehicles and am always looking for something which combines performance, comfort, good engineering design and if possible good looks, at a price of under £1,600. On paper, the specification of the Scimitar (in 1966) looked attractive, with a relatively large, well-proven engine (Ford in-line six: a six was preferred as I had got used to the smoothness of the Jaguar XK engine) in a stiff chassis and clothed in an attractive fibreglass body which is light in weight and corrosion-proof.
I purchased one of the last of the in-line six models (which is basically better balanced than the V6 configuration) and my troubles began. The “well-proved” engine had a bad knock, exhaust fumes persisted in entering the body, the quarter-lights leaked so badly that I had to seal them, and your remarks about the gear change, seats, etc., were very true in my case. The attractive body was so designed that when the doors were opened in wet weather water dripped on to the seats. The paint suffered from rain-spotting, perhaps because high-bake finish paint cannot be used on fibreglass.
The attitude of the makers was not helpful. When I informed one of the staff at the Motor Show of the engine knock he said that my car was “now history, and only under very special circumstances would they have the car back at the factory”. So I soldiered on, and, to cut a long story shorter, the car was passed from one dealer to another and ended up at a Ford establishment in Winchester. They did a good job on the engine, which required reboring (one bore was out of line), a new camshaft and a balanced flywheel, together with six new big ends. I was presented with a bill for £60 each month, which I did not pay.
Choosing a successor to the Scimitar was not easy; I would have opted for the Rover 2000 TC if it had had a 6-cylinder engine, but after the Scimitar the TC unit felt rough. About this time B.M.W. introduced the 1600 coupé, Rootes the new Rapier and Fiat the 124S coupé, and these comprised my short list. The Rapier was rejected for its rather flashy interior, live back axle which drew attention to its presence on country roads, and overdrive which operated so quickly that a jerk-free change was not possible (“Very positive, Sir,” said the salesman!). The Fiat was attractive in many ways (I had one of the 500s before the N.S.U. and enjoyed it), but at the time the five-speed box was not available, and engine noise spoilt high-speed cruising. So I chose the B.M.W., which performs remarkably well for its capacity, its only serious fault being some lost motion in the transmission, which can cause a noise when a reversal of torque occurs.
As I have such faith in your appraisal of motor cars (the N.S.U. Prinz 4 was bought in 1965 after reading your comments, and I still enjoy driving this trouble-free “cyclecar”) I was glad to read in the same issue your impressions of the B.M.W. 2002. My impression of this model is that it is very similar to the 1600, but gives about 15 per cent, better acceleration, perhaps at the expense of not quite such a smooth engine.
Thank you for these honest reports. I have enjoyed reading Motor Sport articles now for over 20 years and would like you to know that they are appreciated.
Lower Bourne. A. Wilson.
* * *
Driving the Bimotore Alfa Romeo
I was very interested in “Tailpiece” depicting Austin Dobson and the Bimotore Alfa Romeo at Brooklands. You may not know, but I had quite a long connection with this car when it was brought over to this country by Peter Aitken and Austin Dobson, and today I believe I am the only person alive who drove it in its original form. Apart from driving it on the Campbell Circuit, I covered many laps on the Outer Circuit in 1938 in working up to our attempt upon the absolute record, but my best lap was only just over 138 m.p.h. and we (that being Peter Aitken) decided to call it a day in the interests of safety and economy.
Due to the layout of the rear suspension, the car had a very nasty habit of steering from that end when going on to and coming off the bankings, but it was quite stable along the Railway straight at just over 160 m.p.h. before cutting-out for the Byfleet Banking. We decided towards the end of 1938 that the future of the car was very limited, and at my suggestion we went into the possibility of cutting away the rear engine and suspension and converting it into a modern 3-litre single-engined job. This work was carried out by R. R. Jackson of Brooklands under my supervision during the winter of 1938/39 and in its new form the car won its first race on the Mountain Circuit at Whitson, 1939.
I thought you might be interested in the above pre-war history of what was a more than interesting car to drive. In fact, when I met Nuvolari at Spa in 1939 (after the funeral service of Dick Seaman) he told me he would never drive the car again at 200 m.p.h. plus as it was too unstable.
Hove. G. P. Harvey Noble.
* * *
Although the idea behind the Editor’s remarks concerning the 70 limit (page 823 Letters, September, 1968) may be sound, I fear that writing to Mr. Richard Marsh will bring little result. These letters will probably just be ignored the same as your petition.
This “paper for discussion” is just a way of telling you what is coming fairly soon, and any letters condemning the imposition of an even lower limit will just be filed in the waste-paper basket! The end is clear from the beginning; sooner or later all that will be seen on the motorways and main roads are columns of cars and lorries, nose to tail, stretching across the country for miles and miles.
I am afraid that any thoughts about Mr. Richard Marsh getting rid of the 70 limit and letting people use their own judgment as to what speed to drive are just forlorn hopes.
Inverness. J. M. MacGillivray (age 15).
* * *
What is it?
Reference correspondent in your September issue, we would like to encounter friend Router of London with his camera; in fact, trap his nose firmly in the shutter! His type are a menace to those who are engaged in endurance running of new models. We are indeed surprised that you allowed publication of this photograph.
Stretton-on-Dunsmore. “Four Coventry Testers.”
[An Editor’s first task is to hold the interest of his readers, so I am glad to report that no single letter published in Motor Sport in recent times has caused such a heavy volume of correspondence as that from Mr. Router, who “snapped” a disguised car, near Coventry. As it seems good business to keep the customers interested in the cars they will be able to buy next year or the year after, providing a reasonable veil of secrecy is observed, and as the testers of disguised new models can surely not be blamed for getting themselves photographed, sooner or later, I am indeed surprised that these four testers thought it worth spending 1d. each on writing to us, although delighted that they, too, have further enlarged a voluminous correspondence.—Ed.]
* * *
Multi-Grade Oil Confusion
I welcome the letter from M. K. Smith and I agree with his comments concerning the appalling confusion amongst multi-grade engine oils. I have for some time given particular attention to the claims that the oil companies are making about their respective products. Indeed, I feel that the layman is to be forgiven for accepting, apparently without question, some claims which suggest instant rejuvenation to a worn engine or to preserve a new engine indefinitely regardless of how hard they are worked.
The confusion is made even worse when companies like Link-Hampson Ltd. expect us to add a tin of long-chain molecules to a multi-grade engine oil which already consists of long-chain polymers. What is the sense in this little trick? The Molyslip people also expect us to add molybdenum disulphide to engine oil, but is there arty scientific evidence to show that such an additive does significantly improve engine performance?
From my understanding of an engine oil there are two basic requirements. The oil must provide a lubricating film between moving surfaces, and, also, the oil must conduct heat away from moving parts such as pistons, bearings, etc. These two requirements are, of course, inter-related. A high viscosity oil would meet the first requirement and a low viscosity oil would satisfy the second requirement. Thus, a multigrade oil is the obvious solution. When the oil is in contact with hot surfaces conditions are such that oxidation of the oil is promoted and various by-products are formed which can be deposited on any part of the engine. The oil also becomes contaminated by acids from the fuel, partially burnt carbons and by dust through imperfect filtration. A dependable oil must resist oxidation, neutralise corrosive acids and maintain insoluble contaminants in suspension until an oil change is due.
It seems to me that there cannot be any significant difference between any of the multi-grade oils, providing the oil is a branded product. What does matter is the regularity of oil changing since it is vital in the interests of long engine life not to allow insoluble particles to circulate around the engine indefinitely.
So whilst the oil companies are boasting about their products and ramming useless information down gullible throats I hope the majority of Motor Sport readers can maintain a level of sanity and common sense. Perhaps the oil companies will realise that some of us would sooner have scientifically based facts instead of a horribly confused load of dribble.
Burnham-on-Sea. R. C. Sugden.
* * *
N.S.U. v. Honda
As an avid reader of your excellent magazine I have often been tempted to enter the lists of your correspondence columns. The current opinions on the Honda S800 compel a couple of comments. Mr. T. Green asks for an alternative to his Honda for economy, performance, road-holding and reliability. May I recommend he looks at the N.S.U. 1200 TT (£100 cheaper, too!). Also, if he believes the sales chat of the fastest under-1-litre production car, I trust he will not meet up with the TTS.
Please, Mr. Boddy, when are you going to road-test these excellent motor cars? Needless to say I have no connection with Neckarsulm other than to be a very pleased owner.
Hazlewood. C. J. Henry.
[We started asking N.S.U.’s publicity people for road-test cars several months ago, when we co-operated with them by driving on their Land’s End/John o’ Groats marathon. We have asked at intervals ever since, but only recently have their sales-link people shown speed in complying with these requests. Comments on the fabulous Ro80 and 1200 TT N.S.U.s are now scheduled to appear before the end of this year or early in 1969!—Ed.]
* * *
I think the excessive wear which people are finding on their front nearside tyres is due mainly to the fact that right-hand bends tend to be taken faster than left-hand bends, because of the longer field of view on right-hand bends. Road camber on straight roads and on unbanked turns probably increases this effect. It is true that camber makes the maximum cornering speed higher on left-handers than on right-handers, but these days the field of view is generally a greater restriction on speed than is cornering power.
This effect is shown clearly on fast motorcycles by the front tyre, which wears out quickly on the right-hand side and has to be reversed when half-worn.
Winsley. K. N. Perry.
* * *
I have awaited patiently for three months to read comments on Alfa Romeos, since I purchased a Sprint GT 1600 a month before a reader of yours expressed his views on this car.
Should one be impressed by this marque of motor car, I would like to relate to readers how well a four-year-old Alfa Romeo fared, and to point out that hidden under its fair body could lie a multitude of heart-breaking faults.
I purchased my Alfa Romeo Sprint GT in February this year. A 1964 model (Sept.) with a reputed 30,000 on the clock, and service book to verify. The dealer agreed to fit a brand new exhaust system and two new Pirelli tyres in the deal for an £850 total.
After running the car for one week the oil consumption was approx. 250 miles per pint and since there appeared to be rather a large quantity of oil on the sump, the dealer agreed to fit a new set of sump gaskets as a solution to the problem.
This did not, however, solve the problem and in the meantime the horns mysteriously came on whilst the car was parked in town, and since I was elsewhere they burnt themselves out. As an extra bonus, the oil temp. and pressure gauge packed up. These were replaced, in the case of the horns, and the latter were repaired by the dealer.
I resigned myself to the oil consumption, putting it down to the age of the car, and used the car for a further two weeks, beginning to enjoy this prestige sports car. But this joy was soon thwarted by the collapse of the rear coil springs, which were so weak that the car would not take any weight in the boot without inducing the dampers to send violent thuds through the body. Again the dealer agreed to replace.
Undaunted, I carried on for another two weeks until I noticed rust spots occurring along the wings. Expert opinion by body repair specialists confirmed serious rust areas, to such an extent that it was possible to push ones fingers through with the slightest pressure. After a more extensive inspection fibreglass fill was evident on other parts of the car. This was immediately pointed out to the dealer and it was agreed that they would take the car in and strip all the paintwork down on the areas likely to be affected. This was done and it was found that all wings were rotten and even the side panels were rusting through. Again the dealer agreed to cut out all areas affected and replace with new metal. The car’s original colour could not be matched adequately (being white) and the car was completely resprayed. At this time the exhaust system arrived from the Alfa Romeo dealers in London and fitted.
With the car completely resprayed and with a new exhaust system it was decided to give the car a long run to check any other faults that may be lurking, before a long trip to Italy. I returned after a 300-mile trip to North Wales with an oil consumption rate of 100 miles to a pint.
Again the car was returned to the dealer, who stated that he would try to rectify the problem before I left for Italy the following weekend. I also mentioned that the coil springs had not been put on, and that a reminder to the Alfa people in London wouldn’t be a bad idea. This was done, but the springs did not arrive in time. The oil problem was put down to a leaking filter bowl.
I left for Italy taking three gallons of oil (note the confidence?) and returned 4,000 miles later, with no oil, and buying pints by the score.
Returning to the dealer, I presented him with the car and told him what to do with it! He refused to, but mentioned that the coil springs had come in, and that they would strip the engine and fix the coil springs at the same time.
The engine was stripped and the problem was broken rings. The dealer agreed to purchase new pistons and liners, and the necessary gaskets.
Whilst this was being done I took the gearbox to Rob Walker’s garage as second gear wasn’t exactly the easiest thing to slip into.
They stripped the box and found that, apart from the second gear synchro being badly worn, the main bearings fifth and reverse selectors were on the way out, which, translated into £.s.d., meant a bill of £53 18s. 3d.
The engine repair, with labour, came in excess of £120 and the dealer at this time broke down and asked if I would agree to pay £50 towards the cost. The total expenditure, including all work, has now reached the astronomical figure of £360, and out of six months I have used the car for approx. three months.
My enthusiasm has now waned and, although I’ll keep this particular white elephant for another year or so, I won’t buy another.
I feel that any car that costs more than £1,900 new should last efficiently for more than four years. Either Alfas aren’t built to last . . . or the previous owner of AND 124B really had his £2,000’s worth . . . and how!
Who were the dealers? Well, they are still in business and with this type of service they deserve to stay in it for a long time. While my car was inoperative they have lent me a Mini 1000 and 1300 Austin and, as they are B.M.C. dealers, I’ll probably buy an M.G.-B from them if they will take the Alfa back. The name of my benefactors—Well-steeds, of Newport.
Newport. D. C. J. Dobson.
[It is unfair to criticise a car by make based on experiences with a used model “reputed” to have run 30,000 miles. But experiences with foreign cars are interesting, so this letter goes in.—Ed.]
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Many thanks for the entertainment given me by T. J. Mills on Rover v. Jaguar in your June issue. I can only assume that he does not appreciate good workmanship, but he does appreciate the tinny showmanship one used to associate with Japanese toys.
Perhaps my experience with both cars will encourage him to ponder the matter. My first experience with Rovers was a 1952 “75”, with which my father had done 75,000 miles, and at 79,000 I took across the desert to Melbourne (which in those days included 1,100 miles of gravel and earth) on four retreaded tyres. The trip there and back totalled 4,850 miles, when no attention was required at all, apart from two services, and it averaged 31.4 m.p.g. I sold the car in 1958 for a “90”, in which I did 24,000 miles without any mechanical defect. In 1959 I fell for showmanship, and bought a Jaguar 2.4 manual. This wasn’t new, having done 9,000 miles, but it succeeded in keeping me away from family, garden and sport for the next nine months in order to keep it going. Every weekend, and sometimes at night during the week, I was involved in repairs or just plain tuning. It would go “off tune” at the slightest provocation. I was fed up after nine months of this, and so was my wife, so I bought a 1959 3-litre automatic. This car also did a trip to Melbourne (by this time only 600 miles of gravel) and back, with no trouble apart from a puncture (the boot was full of luggage, but no problem getting the spare out).
After 53,000 miles I saw my first S-type, and fell again (some people never learn). This was a 3.4 automatic, and a much prettier car than the earlier ones. This Jaguar was an improvement on my first one in that I could do other things in the weekends. However, it had several little gadgets and uncommon features, which were continually giving trouble, and the engine was continually having to be retuned. The choke system (an auxiliary carburetter type) would often flood both itself and the engine, and was not progressive, and the coil couldn’t be touched with the hand after a short run. At 4,000 miles it blew a head gasket and the two rear mufflers. The footbrake “hold” gadget did occasionally work, but couldn’t be relied on, and by 9,000 miles she had a peculiar lurch on corners. Investigation showed considerable sloppiness in the outer rear wheel bearings. Minor complaints were continual, slicing of fingers from the mudguard every time I washed the rear tyres, three of the Dunlop SP41s splitting next to the rim in the first 6,000 miles, overheating of the engine, and having to fit an overriding dashboard switch for the choke to avoid hunting when slightly warm. The car spent so much time in the garage (under the care of a Crewe-trained mechanic) that I frequently had to fall back on an old R-type Bentley I had bought wrecked, and rebuilt, and which always went.
Experience pushed me into a 1958 S1 Bentley, which has done 118,000 miles and which in two years has not failed once, and is still going strong. I should mention that I regard regular servicing as something very important, and on country runs never exceed 60 m.p.h.
I am afraid, Mr. Mills, function and practicality such as formica are far more attractive to me than loads of polished wood which suffers from sun and soon cracks, crazes and peels, not to mention troublesome frills.
Perth, Australia. W. L. Brine.