Letters from readers, October 1972

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N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them. — Ed.

The “70”-limit

Sir,

It would appear that the general motoring public is getting sick of (a) the 70 m.p.h. speed limit and (b) the frustrating bunching which takes place, for example, in and out of London on the M4.

I was so annoyed recently that I utilised the emergency telephone to report the fact that the overtaking lane was being continually blocked although both the middle and nearside lanes were empty. The information was received in a most courteous and co-operative manner and I was assured that the police would attempt to intercept the offenders.

Do please continue to try to obtain the removal of the 70 m.p.h. limit and the insistence that drivers must use all lanes on motorways.

Maidenhead. John Kellett.

[To impose a 70 m.p.h. speed limit on an excellent motorway like the M4 is an appalling waste of public money—it does nothing to prevent accidents in conditions of good visibility and the authorities have proved they are incapable of preventing fog accidents, when 17 or 7 m.p.h. can be hazardous, on a motorway or any other road. The change from three to two-track carriageway on the M4 as it enters the Metropolis and the traffic converging onto it from London Airport and other busy areas remains a disgrace and a tragedy. We would settle for a drop from 50 to 40 m.p.h. hereon if the motorway speed limit were to be rescinded on the more Westerly stretches of M4.—Ed.]

* * *

VW Beetle defenders

Sir,

Ever since quantity car production began there have been substandard cars and better-than-average ones. Forty years ago I was exchanging an exemplary Ford AF for a new one which definitely wasn’t.

My first VW was a 1600 fastback which after ten months I had to dispose of because it fell short of the customary VW standards of economical and trouble-free motoring. I now have a 1500 Beetle which after 24 years and 47,000 miles motoring would pass for a six-month old car in every respect and is a credit both to Wolfsburg and the garage which has maintained it. I feel Mr. F. G. Clarke (August issue) must have been unlucky with his 1500 Beetle because I know two other owners of the same model and year who have nothing but praise for their cars. I note he was critical of his car’s petrol consumption and feel he ought to have had his carburation attended to: over the past 2,300 miles’ motoring under varied conditions including daily commuting, shopping and pleasure runs, my 1500 has averaged 40.4 m.p.g. On a recent 300-mile to the North with four occupants, three suitcases and other impedimenta to scale (two cases on a roof rack) the car averaged 41.6 m.p.g. The other two owners claim very similar figures.

Mr. Clarke also refers to “dear” petrol. I thought all petrol was far too dear, but I assume he means the higher-octane grades. VWs recommend a minimum of 91-octane fuel for this model and I have always used the 92-octane grade with complete success both winter and summer. It is wasteful and often harmful to use one kind of fuel in an engine designed to run on another.

On the subject of general finish (Mr. A. C. Bucknell) as I write this, my 1970 car is parked outside by a 1964 1200 and an even earlier 1,131-c.c. model. Taking into account their respective ages and mileages, I cannot see any respect in which the 1970 car is inferior to its predecessors. There is of course the point that when those earlier cars were put on the road, this appalling road salt was not spread around so lavishly, nor did local authorities use the young boulders for road gritting each summer that they now seem to do. Nowadays cars suffer chemical attacks each winter and the hurling of sharp stones each tarring and gritting season, no wonder their outward appearance suffers.

I joined the VW brotherhood rather late in life, to be precise in my 42nd year of car ownership and after about the same number of cars: when I began back in the twenties it was a common and pleasant habit for drivers of similar cars to greet each other on the road but I thought this like many other examples of good road manners was virtually extinct.

Since I became a Beetler I have been amazed by the number of other Beetlers who wave as we pass each other, and the number of owners, both British and foreign, who have come up and chatted about their cars and mine. This is the kind of camaraderie which makes motoring very pleasant and it seems to include all groups from the young enthusiast to senior citizens (like myself).

The acquisition of a Beetle caused a mild family furore since the ladies said they didn’t like such an outdated outlines: however they have now come to acknowledge the car’s many virtues and to admit that on this occasion at least, the old man was right!

Lincoln. N. H. Fowler.

* * *

VWs and inflators

Sir,

Re the letter on Tyre inflation in Vintage Postbag, my earliest recollection of an inflator of the sort was in 1943 when I was in the Royal Signals at Haywards Heath. Our unit had a 15-cwt Guy truck that had an inflator which one screwed into one of the plug holes in place of the plug. What make this was I cannot remember, though I have an idea it was a Schrader. I saw a similar one in India in 1945, also on a 15-cwt Guy, so whether they were issued as part of the normal tool kit of these vehicles at that time I do not know.

Regarding letters concerning VW’s triggered off by Mr. Thomas’s VW sorrows, all I can say is that after 30 years of motoring I have yet to find anything more reliable. I have owned 3 Volkswagens, a 1961 Beetle, a 1962 Beetle and my present vehicle a 1960 Karmann-Ghia, which now has 109,000 miles on the clock. There are plenty of faster, more exciting vehicles around but I can’t afford them, if I could I’d be running a 911E Porsche.

Some years ago when the Editor was running a Beetle as his personal transport and singing its praises, I decided if it was good enough for him it was good enough for me. I do not regret my decision. My old KG goes on and on, day in day out with little attention, it does about 34 m.p.g. on short runs and 40 m.p.g. on long ones and despite its age can still exceed the legal limit. What more do I need ?

Thanks for many years of interesting reading and for some truly beautiful photographs in your colour section.

Tiverton. Brian Hoinville.

* * *

Alfa/Jaguar matters

Sir,

It was a coincidence that Mr. Goulburn should have written about the resemblance of the XJ6 body to the Alfa Romeo Giulia coupé, as I too had just been struck by this, particularly after taking off the rear bumper of my 1750 GTV. From the back the profiles are alike indeed and, as he says, we all know which came first. But to be fair, if Sir William Lyons did unconsciously crib Bertone’s shape, he has done a good job with it. The rear lamp cluster on the XJ6, for instance, is surely a sweeter design than the Alfa’s, and those big fat tyres have enhanced, as always, the dynamic appearance of the XJ6 to a degree which Alfa might usefully emulate.

I took the bumper off my Alfa Romeo, by the way, to get at the rust, and on this point, and on the altruistic assumption that one day Mr. Goulburn’s nice new 2000 GTV will get in the hands of someone like me, might I intrude a little further on your space, and appeal to him to take precautionary measures now against what is in my experience a tendency of Italian cars to premature corrosion. I do not wish him to break out in a sweat, or start plastering bitumen compounds all over the undersides. Far from it, I would wish him simply to be aware that the body panels really are thin in places—are they so short of iron in Italy ?—and what is perhaps more significant, there are one or two gaps on the bottom edges of the body through which, doubtless, Italian dust blows in and then out again, but where the winter sludge of this country can pack solidly with ruinous consequences. For a start, he could take a squint at the cavity at the rear bottom of the front wheel arches. It is astonishing just how much stuff can get itself rammed in there. But, FE2 O3 apart, it is a magnificent motor car and, for me, quite worth the effort of restoration. Indeed, at times I liken myself to an expert from the V & A working on damaged art treasures in Florence, though at others, I begin to suspect the Alfa was in the Floods.

Northop. E. Trevor Jones.

* * *

More good Chronosport service

Sir,

Having read Mr. Whale’s letter about Chronosport’s service, I would like to add my own praise.

Recently my watch was damaged and I sent it back to Chronosport to be repaired. Before sending it I went to a local watch repairer who said that he would charge £4.50 to mend it. Chronosport in fact mended it for £2.50. The work involved included fitting a new balance staff, new glass, new sweep hand, new second hand wheel spring and electronic test.

Canterbury. P. J. Wooley.

* * *

Volkswagen matters.

Sir.

Is Chris Meakin really a Volkswagen PRO man—or is he a British agent infiltrated into the organisation to alienate customers ?

Not content with writing a patronising letter to a dissatisfied custorner explaining that the £172 he has lost, is not really lost at all, he bases his entire letter on a totally spurious argument, the like of which we have not heard since Mr. Wilson’s devaluation broadcast!

Perhaps we should acquaint Mr. Meakin with the facts of life. The resale value, and the depreciation of any newish car must always relate very closely to the current purchase price of a similar new car which necessarily includes tax. What proportion of this purchase price is allocated to purchase tax, what proportion to materials, or for that matter, what proportion is spent on puffed wheat for Mr. Meakin’s breakfast, is totally irrelevant! To suggest as Mr. Meakin does, that any car automatically and immediately drops in value by the amount of purchase tax paid, is absurd—study of resale prices will very quickly show that most used cars, sold within a year or so of purchase, sell for prices higher than the untaxed cost!

And the reason? The reason, Mr. Meakin, is that a car on which tax has not been paid, is as useless as a car which has no wheels or a car which has no brakes—none of them can be used on the road without serious consequences! May I suggest that Volkswagen (UK) Ltd, who can surely have had no knowledge of Mr. Meakins letter, be invited to publish a retraction?

Hounslow. I. R. Francis.

Director, Flight Link Control Ltd.

———

Sir,

Your correspondent (August issue) Chris Meakin, Assistant Public Relations Officer of Volkswagen (GB) Ltd., must be a very young man to think that he can get away with a cheap sneer based on that old fallacy about purchase tax. The value of a second-hand car is governed by 4 factors:

1) The popularity and availability of the model. (“supply and demand”)

2) The full retail price when new.

3) Its condition.

4) The avidity of the dealer.

The amount of purchase tax included in the retail price when new is completely irrelevant.

West Wickham. P. Baker.

* * *

Satisfactions from a BMW 2002

As a sports-car enthusiast who has read your magazine avidly for many years, I have recently been forced to give up 2-seater motoring and purchase a conveyance with 4 real seats.

Previously I have owned a variety of vehicles including the MGTC, TR’s, SP250, Austin-Healey 3000, MGB and MGC, etc., and have particularly enjoyed motoring quickly for long distances in some of these uncomplicated low-revving machines. To my mind, the MGC GT which I last owned is a most under-rated car which is too often condemned by people who haven’t even tried one. Bought secondhand it is particularly “good value for money” and not uneconomical to run.

It was not until I started looking for a fairly quick, reasonably economical and well-designed saloon that I realised how few cars fit into this category. My final choice lay between a second-hand Triumph 2.5P1, Rover 2000TC, Rover 3500—all fairly thirsty—and the more economical BMW 2002.

Although I have never considered a foreign car before, I bought the BMW because I like its designand in fact it probably has as much accommodation internally as the Rover.

On paper the BMW looks like less car for your money (produced in UK it would obviously cost far less) but forgetting for a moment the traditional yardsticks of cubic capacity, amount of road space taken up, acreage of leather and woodwork, etc., what British car has a specification similar to that of the BMW? I cannot think of one, but judging by the increasing popularity of this marque, many people require a car with this specification; they are bored by gimmicky and constant styling changes.

At the moment I am well pleased with my 2002; it is well-endowed with road-holding capacity and only consumes a gallon of petrol every thirty miles, even when driven hard. Possibly when I become old and grey-haired I will settle for the Rover 3500.

Great Chesterfield. S. J. Robinson.

* * *

Jaguar matters

Sir,

How totally I endorse the comments on the Mk. 2 Jaguar 2.4, Made by J. R. B. Mackie, in the August edition; such reliability, construction and value (my own depreciation was £725 for 5½ years’ ownership, very fair for this quality of motoring). His point on slow warming up was true, and this was remedied on the “S” Type range. I had the privilege of owning both at the same time and making side by side comparison, and I say to anyone dithering on “moving up” to an “S” not to hesitate as they will find the petrol consumption on the 3.4-litre anyway fractionally better, with much better acceleration.

Now in return for that little Jaguar info, will someone give me any acceleration/petrol consumption comparisons on the 2.8 against the 4.2 XJS, as no magazine appears to be interested in the lower capacity, which I find hard to understand as there are many on the road ? I know many 2.8-litre owners have dropped their model for a 4.2, (one told me he did this because he was not going to stand for Ford Corsair 2000Es leaving him at the lights in his 2.8). Please, don’t tell me the old Rolls’ answer to the prospective buyer of “If you’re concerned with the petrol, sir, you aren’t ready for a Rolls”, as there must be other Jaguar fans like myself who are just affording the Grace Pace and Space life of motoring by every means short of putting the wife on the streets.

Compton. D. F. Amor.

———

Be careful!

Sir,

I recently bought a copy of Guide to Brake Servicing published by Girling and was absolutely shattered to note that they advocate where axle stands are not available that the car should be blocked up on house bricks.

This is a very dangerous practice as house bricks are brittle and liable to sudden collapse. Most of your readers will know this already but newcomers should be warned. If stands are not available wood blocks should be used, due regard being given to the direction of the grain.

Ironically, Girling state that they have the reader’s safety in mind.

Stansted. E. Maddox.

* * *

AA inefficiency

Sir,

I note that your correspondent L. R. Blewitt of Fowey would like to know of other readers who have had “frustrating experiences” similar to his own. I have, for one!

Unfortunately I have not kept a record of all the bumph, postages and waste of time etc. involved, but mine started on July 11th, 1971 and continued until January 6th. 1972. During this time I twice had occasion to comment that it was obvious that one half of the Association “knew not what the other half doeth”!

I know little of the technicalities of computers, but I believe it is a fact they only digest that which is put into them!

Enough said, what ?

Poole. E. P. (Joe) Huxham.

* * *

Washers now

Sir,

I was interested to see your comments on page 995 of the last issue concerning the new windscreen washer regulations and I entirely agree with what you say. Surely the absurdity of the situation is that certain cars that do not require indicators, brake lights, speedometers, seat belts, etc, are now compelled to have windscreen washers fitted.

Even if the Government is not going to ban all cars over fifteen years old, they may still introduce so much new legislation that these cars will be forced into an early retirement from economic reasons.

I am fortunate enough to escape this regulation since my 1934 car has a folding windscreen but I am apprehensive of future legislation.

London, SW10. S. J. Fisher.

[At first this could be misconstrued as Government appreciation of the older sports cars, with fold-flat windscreen, behind which, of course, goggles or vizors will be compulsory. But then one supposes they will ban all open cars in a few years time, on safety grounds, of course ! — Ed.]

* * *

Value for money

Sir,

Having read your rather cursory report of the Alfa 2000, I see that you consider it rather expensive at over £2,000.

I would he interested to know what you would consider to be better value for money in its class. This must be a 4/5 seat saloon with luggage room for 4 people and ability to cruise all day at its maximum recommended speed of 115 m.p.h. effortlessly and in more silence than most, have excellent acceleration etc., etc.

Incidentally, my car, delivered in March, has got door keeps, admittedly the first of 4 Alfas that have had this very necessary feature.

My 1750 did 62,000 miles, fairly hard driving ones, had one new exhaust system and 2 new rear shockers, was rust free, never had anything else replaced except brake pads, plugs, etc. at routine servicing, was going as well as ever when I sold it and cost me £250 per annum in depreciation.

Lyonshall. R. C. Green.

[What do other readers suggest ? — Ed.]

* * *

The customer’s viewpoint

Sir,

Having read D.S.J.’s eulogistic account of the Austrian Grand Prix, no doubt written through a champagne haze in the sanctuary of a Members’ pavilion, [I think not!—Ed.] I feel the need to redress the balance by presenting the picture from a paying customer’s point of view in order that the “growing band of enthusiasts” who make the long journey out from Britain next year will not be too disappointed if they find that it is not all beer, hot-dogs and roundabouts—with a little racing thrown in of course!

I was staying at Mondsee, near Saltzburg, and a day at Zeltweg was to he a highspot of the holiday, especially for my teenage son. It was a four-hour drive, but that was no problem as we are quite used to that sort of journey to Brands Hatch. Indeed, it was an easier journey in that the mountain roads were well engineered, the scenery infinitely more enthralling than Reigate High Street from the middle of a traffic jam, and there was very little traffic to bother us.

We passed the hundreds of people who had parked at the roadside several kilometres from the circuit, or in the fields of entrepreneur farmers at a charge of twenty-five schillings per car, to continue their journey on foot, and pressed on into one of the free official car parks, remarking on the prodigality of the walkers. We paid our enclosure fees and clambered up the side of a hill—a climb roughly equivalent to the first stage of Snowdon, and in a temperature of 90 degrees!—to get to the nearest trackside vantage point. But no view! The early risers were lining the fence three deep, and as the fence was obligingly about twelve feet tall, further vast numbers were clinging to its higher meshes like monkeys. The problem was exacerbated by the sharpness with which the ground fell away from the track. To have seen anything one would have had to have been sixteen feet tall, or have had the foresight to take a tower ladder.

We wandered around, without much success, looking for good vantage points. Most of the trackside fences were plastered with monkeys and, where this was not so, the area was “prohibited”. There were several slopes where one could command a key hole view of a few hundred metres of track before it dipped behind an embankment or snaked out of sight behind a copse, but the strain of keeping in coherent touch with the race in these conditions was too much. We finally settled for a slope inside the circuit where we could see longer stretches of the track, even if they were far distant and the cars looked like toys.

Another discovery was that our programmes contained everything except the names of the day’s actual competitors, cars or numbers, and as the public address system was somewhat capricious, no help came from that quarter. A further consequence of this was that we were unaware of developments during the race, except so far as our own eyes and intelligence served us.

So far, so good—we have had similar experiences, in varying degrees. at Brands Match and Thruxton. Our real troubles began when we tried to get away from the place. It took two and a half hours of stock car-type driving just to get outside the car park! Courtesy was abandoned and chaos reigned. Motorists barged about from exit to exit, made new exits, broke into queues in dozens of places, and drove across adjacent fields in attempts to gain advantages. Even coaches joined in the hurly-burly. Add to this the heat, noise, dust, exhaust, fumes, overheating engines, flat batteries from repeated stopping and starting, and fraying tempers. And not a policeman or car park marshal in sight!

After three hours have elapsed we were still in the village of Zeltweg: after three and a half hours we had travelled a total of three kilometes. It took nearly another hour to reach Judenburg three km farther on, by which time darkness had fallen, so virtually the whole of the return journey was made during the hours of darkness, and we were in a slow moving continuous stream of traffic for at least a further hour. Now we knew why there was a continuous stream of people away from the enclosures before the race had ended, and why so many had parked away from the vicinity. To get away unscathed, I consider that harder than any of the competitors that day, and displayed skill at least equal to that of Fittipaldi. [Oh!—Ed.]

I could go on and give a gruelling account of our unsuccessful attempts to get a restaurant meal at that time of night, and of our arrival back at Mondsee at one o’clock in the morning, but I won’t. I think I have made my points. Not all jolly revelry, was it ?

It is time that the interests of the great, uncomplaining, paying public are considered in this and similar sports. Courses should be designed so that the mass of the spectators have a substantial view of the events without recourse to balancing acts and feats of climbing; programmes should contain the information required for the events: additional information and adjustments should be displayed visually, with repeater boards at various points around the track; public address systems should perform their functions adequately in all enclosures; and departure should be as well supervised as arrival. These are a few main points—no doubt your readers can think of others.

Basingstoke. J. G. Webb.

[This is partly the penalty of the present great popularity of good motor racing but can also stem from circuits lacking in bridges or underpasses, etc. I do not know about Zeltweg but feel that the reverse applies to Thruxton, where the spectators fare better than those on the inside of the circuit, which is, perhaps, as it should be.—Ed.]

* * *

Tarring and gritting

I don’t know what Gritting thinks about it, but I wish you would stop knocking Tarring.

The answer to the problem is to drive a proper motor car (like a Frazer Nash) with a proper windscreen (flat, laminated) and a proper chip-resistant finish (polished aluminium).

Chertsey. Trevor Tarring.