Your August Editorial headed ‘Petrol Problems’ referring to the particular problems faced by vintage car owners, is both commendable and timely. However, I do not believe that the blame for this state of affairs is to be laid entirely on the petrol companies.
It is true that last year the companies withdrew 2 star petrol which was the staple diet for our cars but, whilst I hold no brief for the companies, it should be borne in mind that we had several years’ warning of what was likely to happen (during which the lead content of petrol was progressively reduced) and yet failed to explore ways of ‘living with’ the new situation. Also I understand that the companies set up an Unleaded Petrol Group Committee around 1986 or 1987 containing representatives of all interested groups but, as far as I am aware, this did not include anyone from the vintage car movement.
The clock will not be put back and I believe leaded petrol will be withdrawn altogether in a few years to make way for further grades of unleaded. I am informed that some other European countries already have three grades. Furthermore, in the meantime, it seems to me that its content is also likely to change, possibly quite rapidly, to keep pace with new engine development for the present ‘green’ era. The proposed introduction of exhaust emission testing into the MOT may also be relevant in this connection. If this assessment is correct, I hope the vintage car movement will at last concentrate its considerable resources in finding ways of accommodating these changes. There seem to be three main areas in which this should be tackled:
1. To establish which cars can safely run on unleaded petrol without engine damage and which of the remainder will take hardened valve seats and any other alterations necessary to render them capable of running on unleaded without damage.
2. To encourage the marketing, possibly by the petrol companies, of a suitable and reliable additive to cover those cars falling outside the above category. In this respect, I am assured by a leading additives’ manufacturer that the necessary technology to produce this already exists.
3. To establish permanent lines of communication with the petrol companies through which the impact of proposed future changes in the content of petrol on vintage cars can be assessed and possible problems recognised at an early stage. These tasks are urgent and, unless the policy of non-involvement apparently adopted by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs can be reconsidered, will require some new co-operation between clubs. My own small efforts in this direction as a club member have fallen on very stony ground and, if this is typical, then the long term outlook for the continued enjoyment of vintage motoring in this country looks bleak. It would be ironic indeed if, at a time when we seem to have made a good start in learning to play the EC motoring ‘game’, we finally succumb to an own goal!
Garnet W Wrapsen
Cottingham, North Humberside.
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