Letters from readers, October 1981

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BL’s future

Sir,

Your leading article in the August issue clearly shows the agony many British car enthusiasts have been going through the last few years. BL seems to excel in only one thing . . . closing down new factories, and stopping production of the very few cars that could help boost sales.

But let’s face the facts: BL has made, and still is making, many mistakes, but by far the most prominent reason for lower sales has been the appalling service record of all the BL models. No doubt a result of bad quality control, and a workforce more interested in unrealistic wage increases and strikes.

Of course some horrible designs have been brought out, the Marina, Allegro, and Princess, but also some that should be successful. Rover is doing better than ever before in Holland in sales, not service. We’ve had several in our company, both V8 and 6-cylinder models, but you would not believe the things that have happened to them. One car broke down 26 times in the first year!

I still think it’s a beautiful car, and the design is basically very good, but BL does not seem to be able to build them the way they should. The poor record with the Rovers is reflected in the second-hand prices. A new V8 costs some £8,600; after two years it will fetch less than £2,600 in Holland! (unless you trade it for another Rover). Many large companies will not buy BL products as company cars, but rather German or French cars.

I know you are trying to keep people from knocking British-made cars, and so you should, in general. But Motor Sport alone can’t keep BL alive; I’m afraid nobody can, as long as the true problems are not solved. And I’m certain the Metro will not save BL. Exports are vital and the Metro will lose against the Golf, R5, Mazda 323, Colt etc. It is a sad story, but I am afraid both Rover and Jaguar will follow MG, if they are not saved very quickly.

Thanks very much for an excellent magazine.

John Hugenholz Jr. Naarden, Holland

Exhaust turbocharging

Sir,

I was recently reading a 1949 copy of John Bolster’s book “Specials” and chanced upon mention of former Napier Chief Engineer Maj Frank Halford’s 1923 Halford Special with its remarkably advanced engine. Designed and built by Halford, it was a 4 cyl 11/2-litre turbosupercharged engine featuring a compressed charge intercooler, forged alloy pistons and con-rods, cast alloy block, 3 valve pentroof combustion chamber and a metal to metal hand lapped head joint. This yielded a respectable, for the day, 96 bhp as first developed, before the turbo was exchanged for a Roots type supercharger to overcome what we now call tubo-lag. It all goes to show that modern day “innovation” is a very relative notion. While thinking of Halford and Napier, it will be interesting to see if today’s turbos follow the same path of logical development that led from Halford’s original and ended with that masterpiece of elaborate technical ingenuity the Napier Nomad. The main feature of this aero engine being, you may recall, that the turbo-superchargers were compounded with the output shaft via a differential, so that the exhaust gases could be fully expanded and the power surplus to compressor requirements be usefully harnessed. (The engine itself was a two stroke Diesel with three banks of cylinders arranged in a delta with a crankshaft at each corner, each bank having twelve pairs of opposed pistons. The turbines, compressors and all ancillaries were housed in the central void, all this resulting not only in a very high power to weight ratio but also in an extremely low specific fuel consumption (both sadly outweighed along with Napiers by the first commercial jet engines and cheap oil).

Harking back to the present competitive turmoil in Formula One and to Colin Chapman’s reputation for being two steps ahead of the herd, I think an educated guess would say that Lotus are toying with a compounded engine even now. This would pose an interesting question in the light of the present ban on turbines, for is a turbo-compound a piston engine or a turbine, bearing in mind that on the Nomad the turbos produced upwards of 30-50% of the total output. Even after the “chassis” affair my hope would be that a compound engine would be accepted, though no doubt the sceptics would disagree.

Trusting that your publication maintains its present excellence.

CBF Winstanley,  Benson, Oxon

[We understood that Halford abandoned the exhaust driven turbocharger in favour of a positively driven Roots supercharger not because of “lag” but because the technology of the period was not up to making turbine units which would operate reliably in the hostile environment of an exhaust system. “Lag”, by the way, is not a new phenomenon, similar delay in throttle response being known in the early days of supercharging when cars with lengthy inlet trunking and slow revving engines displayed the same symptoms. – Ed.]

 

Club news

Sir,

May I refer to your notes on the Frazet Nash, Section of the VSCC written under the heading of “Club News” in your issue of September ’81. It is of course correct that Gerald Brigham has written a well reasoned letter published in the Chain Gang Gazette. I fear that to some extent your note could be read as implying that the Frazer Nash Section of the VSCC may be accepting post-war Frazer Nashes.

The owners of the cars are more than welcome as associate members of the VSCC and of the Frazer Nash Section. The cars being unacceptable to the parent club cannot of course be accepted in the Section. However, it is hoped that more owners of these post-war cars will join the Section and that pre- and post-war cars may be able to get together in certain events run by clubs other than the VSCC.

DPM Hall, Captain, Frazer Nash Section of VSCC, Knutsford, Cheshire

 

The Police and the Law

Sir,

Your correspondent BG Inches seems to have missed the point in his criticism of your article on the police and the law.

Most motoring offences are not criminal offences and hence should not be subject to the heavy fines imposed in some areas. The object should be to deter the offender without building up in reasonable people, which the vast majority of motorists are, a deep-rooted resentment against the police and the courts.

I would like to give you an example of the treatment handed out to my wife here in England compared to my experience in Germany.

On a quick visit to the bank with a few minutes to spare before closing time, my wife parked in torrential rain in an area where parking was formerly allowed. Having been out of the country she was not aware that this had been changed to a no-parking zone. Alighting from the car directly onto the pavement, she hurried to the bank and completed the transaction in a few minutes. On emerging from the bank, she was confronted by a policeman, sheltering from the rain, who had seen her arrive and thus knew she had been there only a short time. With words to the effect that he caught a lot of people unaware of the new parking prohibition, he then booked my wife for illegal parking, and she was subsequently fined £25 plus an endorsement.

In Germany, inside a period of three years, I have been booked for speeding three times and once for a parking offence. My total fines amount to the equivalent of £20 with no “Flensburg points” against the withdrawal of my German driving licence.

The effect of these experiences is a continuous feeling of resentment by my wife, whereas I think the German authorities are not bad guys after all, and I pay much more attention to speed limits than before. My fines were paid direct by banker’s order and no magistrates courts were involved, another time wasting practice (except for those who wish to appeal).

No Sir, I’m afraid it’s all part of the big British rip-off, from petrol to peaches, where the consumer is expected to pay up and keep quiet. (I am astounded to find a 1.3 HLS Metro with a few extras is the same price on the English road, as my BMW 323i, without extras, cost in Germany in 1980.)

DA Lunan, Munich, W Germany

[It must have been a very serious parking offence to warrant an endorsement. – Ed.]

 

Legalised Murder

Sir,

At various times in the past the Editor has asked “When are we going to rebel”. I think it could be quite soon?

On the very day that a vote was taken in Parliament two people drowned in their car because they could not get the belts undone. On the next day a motorist was killed in Paris when the seat belt wrapped around the woman’s neck. And earlier it was reported that some Renault seat-belts do kill because of their design.

The debate about the mandatory wearing of seat belts will continue but far more important is the manipulation by the Government of this and other major topics.

Take all the economic and industrial predictions by this Government. There is not one that has come true. Or take local rates. Why, despite wholesale sackings and lay offs and cut Government grants, do rates rise much faster than inflation?

Into this unholy mess is now thrown the seat-belt question. Do the Government Ministers really believe all the claims that they make? Do the seat-belt supporters ever listen to what they claim in the House of Commons? In the High Court they would be sent to prison for fraud. The wearing of seat-belts will no doubt become law but watch and see if the police do not just use the law as an excuse for an identity check. Also, if the motorist wishes to prove that there is some defect in the seat belt or the law, he has got to take on the whole Government first and prove them wrong.

MGC Potier, Berkhamsted

 

Air Mail

Sir,

Your series on “Air” matters are as enjoyable as the remainder of the Motor Sport, and evoke many memories of aerial occasions long since gone, especially the references to the Austin Whippet, which my brother-in-law Group Caption John Seabrook, AFC, test flew on its arrival in Auckland in 1921, and later delivered it to Hamilton for a friend of mine. Two were imported – only one was assembled. The Anzani engine was found under a house in Taranaki a decade ago, but has since gone further underground.

I have been reading Motor Sport regularly since the early forties, and am always surprised at the fund of knowledge which you and your readers possess, so there may be chance that someone can supply an answer for me. Fifty years ago, and for a long time after, I worked on and flew behind Cirrus and Gipsy engines of various sizes, and came to admire the design expertise of Major Frank B Halford. I am aware of quite a lot of his various productions, both air, earth and water borne, but can find no information as to his personal life. Can anyone enlighten me? So beneficient a designer surely deserves a well documented obituary – always assuming that such an exercise has been necessary.

DE Wood, New Zealand

[The only reference we know of, apart possibly from papers read by Major Halford to learned societies, is in “DH – An Outline of De Haviland” by CM Sharpe (Faber & Faber). -Ed.)

 

Corrections

Sir,

A couple of small, but important corrections to misprints in Cecil Clutton’s letter (Air Mail, September) about the Eagle microlight: his twin Chryslers are 134 cc each, not 114; and I am sure that the circuit he “just” completed was on one engine and not, as printed, on “our engine” – a slightly misleading collective!

Incidentally the twin Chryslers have been discontinued. We now supply the Eagle with one single-cylinder 250 cc Fuji Robin (slower ­revving, quieter, more reliable).

On the subject of microlight speed: Gerry Breen won the 1981 Norfolk Air Race in one of our “conventional” (tailed) configuration Mirage Mk IIs. Controlled in three axes by side stick and rudder pedals, this little bombshell has a 440 cc twin-cylinder Kawasaki engine. Maximum (level flight) speed is 60 mph, cruise is 50. Breen’s official time over the 50-mile course (which included off-track observation tasks en route) was 75 minutes. Had he not wasted ten minutes in the wrong field at the finish before rectifying the mistake, his average speed would have been 54.8 m.p.h.

Slowly they’re getting faster!

Christian Marechal, Enstone, Oxon

[We apologise for the slip in re-producing Cecil Clutton’s letter about his Eagle microlight. We have plans to try one of these motorised hang-gliders ourselves, and GP has made a visit to Enstone with a view to doing a flying test, but was unable to carry this out due to strong winds. We hope weather conditions will be favourable for our next attempt. – Ed.)

 

Fate of a Swift

Sir,

Through the columns of your most popular journal may I enquire if any of our many fellow readers knows of the whereabouts, or fate, of Comper Swift G-ABWW. This was a Gipsy engined version built to the order of Lord Wakefield for entry in the King’s Cup for Fielden to fly, with some success.

Denis Comper,   London W4.

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