Letters from Readers, October 1974

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Designed by Engineers

Sir,

I have been an ardent Rover enthusiast for several years. This is probably a result of parental influence as my father owned two or three of the good old ‘uns including a c1938 16 close-coupled sports saloon which I recall had three carburetters and a sunshine roof that was almost continuously open between May and October. Another endearing feature of this car was the window winder in the driver’s door – a long handle with about 90 deg. movement; so convenient – why can’t modern cars feature simple aids like this?

From time to time you publish letters from readers concerning their experiences with various vehicles. Here for the record is my Rover experience:

I am now on my fifth Rover, having covered 80,000 miles in a 1958 “90” (the only failure on which was a broken diff. pinion occasioned during a violent reversing exercise uphill), 40,000 trouble-free miles in each of two 3-litre autos (the first of these was a ’62 model which rolled down a bank in a snow storm and finished upside down with me unhurt in a field. It started first time on uprighting and was still drivable!) and 45,000 miles in a 1967 2000 TC at the cost of a new clutch. My current car is a 1971 TC which I have just got back after a front end rebuild following an encounter with a van on a blind bend. This progressive collapse and bolt-on panel idea of Rovers really works!

As the Rover policy seems to be to keep a body style virtually unchanged for 14 years or so, I am dismayed that they do little or nothing to correct the mud traps under the wings of all the models from the P4 onwards. Simple attention to detail here could greatly increase the life of expensive body parts even if replacement is quick.

As well as the TC we also have a 17-year old Mk. 1 LWB Land Rover in the family which lives permanently outside.

This amazing vehicle has covered at least 150,000 miles, has been fitted (by me) with a Series II engine and has been used for carrying up to a ton of potatoes, sand, bricks, gravel, a piano, a henhouse, farmyard manure and up to 17 children on picnicking expeditions (not all at once, of course). In the three years we’ve owned it it has never put a foot (or wheel) wrong, tyre wear is non-existent and servicing and cleaning are rare luxuries.

Apart from the niggling faults that all mechanical contrivances suffer, all these vehicles have been a delight to own and service (I do all my own maintenance including engine changes).

As a Quality Engineer in the Aero Engine Industry, I am used to high standards of design, manufacture and assembly, so I am somewhat intolerant of the tack weld, pop rivet, self-tapping screws and nylon clip brigade. In these days of coke-bottle-shaped stylists’ nightmares, I for one am thankful that Rovers are still designed by engineers.

To close this over-long letter I would ask you if you could consider publishing some details of the pre-war Rovers, as they surely must qualify for a space in your erudite magazine.

Turnditch, Derby.

D. J. Wilson

* * *

A DAF Fan

Sir,

You conclude your August editorial by commenting on the possibility of middle-class motorists (whoever they may be?) finding themselves motoring in certain Iron-Curtain products. Well, after trying out each of the three makes named, I wouldn’t consider this a too-awful predicament, but for those who would prefer to do business with Western Europe, I would like to advance the cause of that apparently little-known car, the little Dutch DAF.

It has surprised me how few motorists one speaks to have any knowledge of this make except that somewhere in its automatic transmission there are a couple of belts, the impression being that as a means of transport the DAF isn’t to be taken too seriously.

I cannot claim to have read Motor Sport since the first issue, but I have certainly bought my monthly copies for over forty years, excluding a break in 1939/45 when I was otherwise engaged.

Consequently it seems only yesterday that was enthusing over small air-cooled horizontally-opposed engines and in particular a small one from France and a somewhat larger model from Germany. I took his enthusiastic advice and had a good deal of fun out of the French car, and even more and some hard motoring too out of a succession of the German ones: in fact I only regretfully parted with my 1300 Beetle at two years and 24,000 miles old in June because an arthritic left knee could no longer cope with the VW pedal positions.

Looking around for a two-pedal car in about the same price-class I came to the conclusion that, though I knew next to nothing about them, a DAF was about the only solution. A visit to the local dealers revealed that apart from a little 33 which I thought too small and too slow, only an 844 c.c. model 44 was available for immediate delivery, and so nine days later Dutchy was mine. When I took him away I had only driven a demonstration 44 for about a mile.

First impressions were that paintwork and trim were quite up to VW standards and that comfort and room for both occupants and baggage were considerably better. The DAF is like a Hollywood film set in which a little country cottage has an interior like a stately home. By comparison with the Beetle it seemed almost vast, though a number of inches shorter. Roadholding and handling, thanks to rack-and-pinion steering and ZXs, is, I regret I must say, superior to any Beetle I’ve driven (and I’ve driven the lot). The small two-cylinder engine is fussy until the variomatic transmission reaches “high” (which is 3.87 on 14 in. wheels in this model), this occurs at about 28 m.p.h. on the level and thereafter the faster you go, up to about 65, the less noise there is. My screen-pillar mounted radio aerial makes more wind-noise at sixty than the engine does. With windows closed, the sound proofing is such that cruising at 50/60 it is really hard to know how many cylinders are in front (and my hearing is excellent!) It is only when driving with the offside window down that a little clatter comes in from outside. I hear it because having cut my teeth, as it were, in open touring cars in the twenties, I never feel happy with glass all round.

Since I drive some sixty miles each working day between home and office alone, and despite having joined the “over sixties” still enjoy my driving. I am fairly critical about a car’s general handling. Cornering in this DAF is superb for the class of car – dead flat and totally predictable in the wet or in the dry. (This winter will tell what it’s like in snow and ice, maybe.) Take-off is deceptive – there is some clatter from the little engine up to about 25 and then if the throttle is eased back gently, revs. drop and the noise dies away: at first it is strange to see the speed increase in inverse ratio to the revs, but in fact considering this little engine has a car weighing over 14 1/2 cwt. to haul about, it does extremely well. On its first and only trip of any length so far – from Lincoln to the north-east, mainly up the A1 – it held 60/65 without effort or strain for mile after mile on more level stretches, and had no difficulty at all in covering 92 miles in two hours running time. More than that I would not want out of so small a unit. At journey’s end the car was running as sweetly as when it began, there were no hot smells, and everything was oil-tight.

In the first 2,500 miles trouble has been for all practical purposes nil (one dislodged circlip on a wiper spindle) and m.p.g. over the first 2,000 worked out at 41.6 calculated exactly, filling to the brim from the same pump all the time. This was on three-star fuel so if converted to the equivalent m.p.g. in higher octane this would give a good 45 m.p.g. – not Mr. Boddy’s idea of ideal economy, but where else can one find a very roomy four-seater with very adequate bootspace, well-furnished and good to handle, capable of 60 m.p.h. cruising and 40+ m.p.g.?

As to the belts: I am informed they have a guaranteed life of 15,000 miles and with normal treatment will last twice that long: this means that when replacing a set of tyres one fits new belts as well at a cost of currently about £16. Otherwise the transmission seems likely to last as long as the car, with none of the expensive overhauls most normal automatics seem to require at least once in their lifetime.

On balance, for the man who needs reliability and economy, I think the DAFs have a great deal to offer. I would like to see the results of a long-term evaluation carried out by an expert tester – how about this, Mr. Boddy?

After this, I must make the usual disclaimer: I am not in the motor trade, nor have I the slightest connection with the makers of the DAF except as a so-far well-pleased and critical user.

Lincoln.

N. H. Fowler

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