Comfort at the wheel
AH’s comments on the lack of space in the Rover Vitesse highlights a trend that is making life very difficult for people who, like me, are over six feet tall.
The original Rover 3-litre had plenty of head and legroom and was very comfortable, so was the Rover 2000/3500. The SDI is impossible as it lacks leg room and the distance from seat cushion to roof is laughable.
This problem is not confined to Rovers; earlier this year I found it impossible to squeeze my knees under the steering wheel of a Ford Granada Estate, and even Citroen, who in the days of the DS19/21 made the big persons’ car have, with the Cx, managed to place the vertical steering wheel so close to the seat that again I find it impossible to drive the car.
There are a few cars around that have plenty of leg and headroom, the BL Princess/Ambassador being perhaps the best, and it is interesting to note that the Ford Escort has more legroom for the driver than the Granada!
Is it that manufacturers are trying to reduce their costs by using less material? Or are they using reduced frontal area to achieve their performance figures? I note though that the Vitesse’s performance is not much, if any, better than a Coombs 3.8 Jaguar of 20 years ago and there was plenty of head and legroom in the Jaguar.
Two final thoughts, why haven’t all cars got the Jaguar system for adjusting the length of the steering column, and why don’t manufacturers give a choice of steering wheel diameters? Most large drivers wouldn’t mind a little extra effort on the steering if they could get their knees under the wheel comfortably.
DJ Dee, Slough, Berks
You may be interested to know that the ex-works Healey which you feature in the September issue of Motor Sport was originally a press demonstrator and was driven by WB in 1959, before the car was handed across to the Abingdon Competitions Department. In those days it was registered SJB 471, and was the very first Healey 3000 made.
Your article fails to make clear just how tired this very historic car is; there is no way it could be compared to anything that is modem on the road to-day when one considers just how hard a life it has had, and taking into consideration that the basic design goes back to 1950 or so.
I prepared the car for the Himalayan Rally in great haste in 1982 and noticed that it was still fitted with the very same Lever-arm shock-absorbers which BL Motorsport were able to confirm were exactly as used by Donald Morley when he drove the car to win the GT category and come third overall in the RAC Rally in 1960. Certainly the chassis had all the punishment of taking part in the gruelling Liege Marathon. The car was leading at one point. This was the Rally which saw Pat Moss in the sister car win outright (1960).
The “old No One” had its number changed to DA3 when Derek Astle bought the car and he later changed it to its present number. If your author was to jump into a genuine D-Type or a genuine Le Mans Bentley from the Audi Quattro and then try to compare such historic cars with modem transport he would also find it difficult to change gear. It is my view that the gear change of the Healey is lighter and easier than the Triumph TR8 and the steering of a properly set up works Healey is lighter and just as quick as the V8 Triumph, which failed to achieve as many successes as the big Healey. Criticism of the driving position is particularly unfair as it is typical of any sports car made in the 1950s.
It is grossly unfair to condemn the car for now having a floppy chassis that allows the doors to open on roundabouts. The gearbox has not been overhauled in the entire history of the car and was originally used by Jack Sears on the Alpine Rally in an earlier car than SJB 471.
In their day, Austin Healey 3000s chalked up numerous awards and were able to beat Mercedes, Alfas, Lancias and even the French Rally champion driving a Ferrari. It is the greatest British-sports car ever to go rallying.
Kevin Law, Crowborough
[The works cars had bolt-type catches on the doors – and they still flew open sometimes! -MLC]
. . . hot floor Healeys
Alan Henry’s denouncement of big rally Healeys has prompted me to write and point out that he has missed further shortcomings, not least the intense heat of the floor, the fact that water tends to find its way into the cars, and their excessive fuel and oil consumption.
However, let Mr Henry be in no doubt that the big Healeys did indeed “really create a worthwhile legend” two decades ago. Space precludes a list of all the National and International Rally successes (which run to ten pages in Browning and Needham’s book “Healeys and Austin Healeys”), but outright victories in these events: Liege-Rome-Liege 1960, Moss/Wisdom; Alpine Rally 1961, Morley brothers; Alpine Rally 1962, Morley brothers; Austrian Alpine Rally 1964, Hopkirk/Lyddon; Spa-Sofia-Liege 1964, Aaltonen/Ambrose; second place in the RAC Rally in 1964, Makinen/Barrow; and second place in the RAC Rally in 1965, Makinen/Easter, are surely sufficient evidence in themselves to prove the point.
Mike Kean, Montrose
Matters of Moment (September) is surely out of touch with public opinion concerning· the motorway speed limit for passenger coaches.
At present, it is routine to assume that any driver doing seventy on a motorway can expect to see the rear end of one coach after another disappearing into the horizon at a differential of at least twenty miles an hour, and whilst knottage alone may not cause the accident, recent events have clearly indicated that it magnifies the consequences in a frightening degree.
One hesitates to mention fatuity in connection with such a respectable journal, but raising the speed limit to comply with non-compliance comes mighty close to the definition.
A motorist has only one life at stake, a coach driver has fifty and too many have died this year already.
FG Rollinson, Mickleover
[The proposition was whether or not to reduce the speed limit for coaches to 60 mph, not to raise the limit. We advocate retention of the 70 mph limit for coaches (and are you suggesting that they now travel at 90 mph? Surely not!) but allow motorists to drive faster. – Ed.].
A stolen Aston
Although we realise that it is a slim chance, could you publicise details of our Aston Martin DB6 Convertible which was stolen from a private garage in Paris last summer? My husband had taken it there with the idea of restoring it properly, but as we are now based in Libya it is almost impossible to do anything concrete about recovering the car, which probably left the country as soon as it was stolen.
The Aston Martin was first registered in 1967 (UPP 900E for what that is worth), red with a black hood, black leather upholstery, and an automatic gearbox. The engine number is 400/3108, chassis number DBVC 3630/R. The car has great sentimental value as it formerly belonged to my late father, and we are offering a reward for information leading to its recovery.
Mrs C Chassagnard, Stourmouth
[Information will be forwarded.]