1959 French Grand Prix race report: Return of the Red Army
This year the GP of the ACF, better known as the French Grand Prix, was…
40,000 MILES WITH A 1i-LITRE M.G. SALOON and how a Supercharger was Added
YOUR road test of the -litre M.G. saloon in your April issue prompts me to write to you about my 1950 YA series saloon in the hope that a description of its behaviour over 40,000 miles may be of some interest.
It started off by my reading in one of the motoring papers an announcement and description of an entirely new model to be introduced by M.G. From the photographs and technical details it seemed to be just the sort of car I had been waiting for—compact, nice looking, lively—so I dashed down to the local Nuffield agents, sought out the Sales Manager, and said : ” Please put me down for one of those new M.G. saloons. I’m first on the list aren’t I ? ” Whereupon he laughed and told toe I was fourth, three people having been down that morning before me. A few months later a demonstration model arrived at the agents ; it was new and barely runin, but even making allowances for all that, I was not greatly impressed ; it certainly looked nice, but the performance did not appear to be anything out of the ordinary and the front seat did not seem to fit my rather peculiar anatomy. However, rather than lose not a bad place on the waiting list (by then increased considerably) I let my order stand, saying to the agent that I didn’t suppose I had any choice in the matter of colour, but when mine came along could it please lie maroon, black, bronze, grey, or even puce with orange stripes so long as it was not green. In May, 1950. my car arrived—a green one No, the agent had no idea when he’d get another—it might be many months, and anyway there was nothing to prevent the next one being green, too.
Thus it was that I took delivery and became the by no means proud, but rather somewhat disgruntled, possessor of this motor which, during the first few weeks of my ownership, hit back at my lack of enthusiasm (thereby, incidentally, showing herself to be a lady of spirit) by being just about as irritating as a car can be ; e.g., the hoot lock took hold of the key between its teeth and wouldn’t let go, the starter pull-knob came out by the roots and the starting handle was then found not to tit, the windscreen joint let about an egg-cupful of water accumulate in some secret place and then discharged it suddenly over my legs, a direction indicator stuck in and then out, and so on and so forth. During this initial and most trying period the M.G. agents exercised a lot of tact and patience with both of us and gradually the teething troubles were overcome and the car and I settled down to the running-in period—both a bit suspicious and on our guard but both prepared to forgive and forget and start a new life together. It was not long before I found that if the driving seat and the telescopic steering wheel were adjusted just so, the driving position was extremely comfortable and I could accommodate my 6 ft. 2 in. length with considerable ease ; that corners could be taken fast, safely and accurately ; that it had to be a really atrocious road surface to make itself unduly felt ; that the most shattering pot holes and gullies the byways of North Wales could provide produced not even a suspicion of a rattle and that great strength was not
required to close the doors. Moreover, rear passengers (at least those not unduly long in the leg) spoke well of the comfort of the back seats.
At about 1,500 miles the head was taken off and the valves lightly ground in, and at 2,000 miles I felt the engine was free enough to drive normally. It was then that I really started to appreciate the car and realise that it was quite prepared to take anything 1 was able to give it in the way of sheer hard work. During the time that has since elapsed I have used the car for pottering around, going to and from my office, for fairly frequent long and fast runs and for a certain amount of competition work of all sorts from hillclimbs to occasional rallies, with a bit of mud plugging thrown in for good measure. The car has not been entirely trouble-free, but troubles so far have been few and, with three exceptions, trivial—these exceptions were : (1) At about 25,000 miles a reluctance on the part of the foot brake to return to the off position, due to the bearing for the foot brake cross-shaft binding ; this is housed in the box section chassis member and no provision is made for lubrication. This proved to be a very tiresome matter to put right and if the makers will forgive me for saying so (and even if they won’t) it’s a damn silly arrangement. It is now showing signs of doing the same thing again, which is irritating. I understand, however, that this fault has been rectified in the Y11 model ; (2) the clutch became rough at about 27,000 miles and the clutch plate had to be replaced ; I cannot however but admit that if I had been treated as the clutch had, 1 v:roild have got a bit rough too ! ; and (3) fairly recently a half-shaft went— but here again, having regard to the unusual strains it has been subjected to, I feel I Cannot complain. Another minor annoyance is the way the edges of the boot lid and spare-wheel locker cover rust, due it seems to the channels into which they fit being sealed with
sponge rubber which holds rainwater for days on end. On the other hand, what a comfort it is to have a boot lid which opens from the top and can be used as a platform for outsized luggage— on one occasion I carried a light motor bike, and on another a grandfather clock, and I do not think that would have been possible with a lid of the ” modern ” upward-lifting scalp-splitting type which I regard as entirely devilish contraptions. I found the general maximutu speed on top (proper allowance being made for an optimistic speedometer) to be about 70 m.p.h. (with a breath of wind behind something in the region of 75), but she would cruise all day at 60 to 65 without the slightest signs of distress. On third just short of 60 m.p.h. was the absolute maximum with SO really useful, while on second the absolute and useful naaxisna were nearly 40 and 34 m.p.h. In this connection, Mr. Editor, may I respectively suggest that if you could only get 52 on third gear and 30 on second out of the car you tested, then either it was decidedly off colour, or the editorial right foot is throttle-shy which I feel is highly improbable I
Acceleration was perfectly adequate and if fall use was made of the gearbox it was quite brisk though hardly of ” sports-car” standard—though there are some so-called sports cars I would have taken on at any time.
Personally, I like the steering immensely—some say the YA series oversteer too much ; mine certainly does if the back tyre pressures are not kept 2 or 3 lb./sq. in. (according to load) harder than the front, but if this is done the oversteer is negligible. The car comes round fast bends with the lightest pressure on the wheels and if I overdo it and the tail starts breaking away, it comes back again with a minimum of correction, and moreover the ” directional stability ” (if that is correct journalese) on the straight at all speeds is very good—and what more can one want than that ?
I have never driven a car which is less tiring on a long run— to give an example, in June last year I started from the Midlands at 4.30 a.m. and clocked in at Inverness at 5.38 p.m. the same day, stopping a total of two hours 24 minutes for meals and feeling perfectly fresh at the finish and not at all cramped—and I am not in the flush of energetic youth. For the statistically-minded the distance (actual, not speedometer) was 425 miles and the running time, after deducting stops was 10 hours 44 minutes, giving an average running speed of 39.5 m.p.h. ; not a record, of course, but not had considering there were two up and the car was packed tight with heavy luggage and camping equipment.
The car did not likePool petrol,pinking at the slightestprovocation, and I found quite early on that a hand ignition control was very desirable and it has made a lot of difference to the running. Premium petrol appreciably improved the performance. Exhaust valves on Pool lasted about 8,000 miles, but with more gentle treatment would, I imagine, have done better than that ; with premium petrol I have reason to expect longer life from them. Brakes were relined at about 27,000 miles, and I have yet to experience brake fade. I had about 18,000 miles from my first set of tyres and about the same from the second which were Dunlop remoulds.
At about 25,000 miles a pair of replacement front shock-absorbers were required ; the original rear pair are still going fairly strong.
Last winter I thought a lot about making a change—I saw dozens of other cars and tried several, but to cut a long story short found nothing likely to suit my particular requirements as well as this M.D., so I decided to keep it but to do something to give me more power. Here I would refer to a letter in your May issue ; I do not agree with the writer that the car in standard form is “underpowered “—incidentally, a most ambiguous word—it all depends on what you want. For ordinary purposes, provided the gearbox is used as it is meant to be, I found the performance perfectly adequate, my thirst for power being solely on account of my interest in hill-climbs. After much cogitation and with considerable trepidation, as the engine had by then done some 33,000 miles, I acquired last February a Marshall Nordec low-pressure supercharger. Before fitting it, I again checked the speedometer (and also my stop watch) and carried out some maximum speed and acceleration tests with the following results, all of which are the mean of runs in opposite directions over the same length of road and proper allowance is made for speedometer inaccuracies :—
After the supercharger was fitted it took a little time to get the best carburetter setting—I found an IIV3 needle gave better idling and more power at the top end than the IIV2 supplied with the supercharger—but when this was done I again tested acceleration and speed in similar conditions as the previous test, and the results were :—
This, I think you will agree, at any rate so far as acceleration is concerned, is a pretty astonishing difference. More astonishing still, and something I did not expect, is that the blower starts to make itself felt at as low an engine speed as 1,500 r.p.m., with the result that it has turned the car, even at low speeds, into a ” top gear” one for anyone minded to drive it thus. It has not made the engine rough except between about 3,350 and 3,750 r.p.m. where there is now an annoying engine period. This appeared as soon as the supercharger was fitted, but I am pretty sure it is not in the supercharger itself, though I have been quite unable to diagnose it with certainty. Its range can be moved up or down a little by playing about with the adjustment on the engine mounting control rod, but I have been unable appreciably to vary its intensity. If the supercharger is disconnected it vanishes ; it is at its worst when the engine is hot and the oil thin, and it is as bad on the drive as on the over-ran. Has anyone else had this experience, and if so, have they found the answer ? It may well be that it would not occur with a younger engine ; after all, it is asking rather a lot of the engine to inflict a supercharger on it at 33,000 miles bearing in mind, first that it bad often been driven very hard, and secondly, that nothing at all bad been done to it other than periodical decarbonising and attention to valves. Although the maximum speed is increased some 7 m.p.h., the happiest cruising speed remains much the same as before (60165), so it is chiefly on hills and acceleration that the benefit of the blower is most appreciated—incidentally, I have had 90 on the clock on the level, but there was a following wind, and anyway it would not be more than an actual 84/85! Overall petrol consumption has increased from about 29 m.p.g. to about 23, which I regard as not unsatisfactory. Oil consumption does not seem to have been affected—it is now about 900 m.p.g. Since fitting the supercharger, two cylinder head gaskets have blown, both of a nonstandard type fitted specifically to guard against this possibility ! I have now reverted to the normal copper and asbestos and await results with interest. On both occasions there was less carbon on
cylinder head and pistons and the valves were in better condition than expected, but whether this was due to premium petrol or theblower or both I cannot say.
The car has now done just over 40,000 miles, and it remains to be seen for how much longer the engine will stand up to the increased work I make it do because of the supercharger. So far (touch wood) it shows no alarming symptoms—unless the aforesaid period is one Naturally enough there is some wear in the cylinder bores, but as. yet not so much as to require attention, and the clutch is not always quite as smooth as it used to be, but otherwise the engine is going as well as ever. It is, nevertheless, clear that the time is not far distant when a reconditioned unit will be desirable, but I hope to complete 50,000 miles before this has to be done.
As for the rest of the car, I think 1 can honestly say that there are no signs of appreciable wear anywhere, with the trivial exception of floor mats ! The gearbox, while perhaps a little more audible than when new, is still a joy to use ; the steering remains as direct and accurate as ever ; paintwork, chromium, interior wood and leather are still good, and generally the car has, I feel, stood up very well indeed to a far-from-easy life.—R. L. ••••••••••••••••••••44 ••• •• •••••••••••••
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