Letters from Readers, September 1955

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N.B.— Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and “Motor Sport” does not necessarily associate itself with them. — Ed.

Large or Small Engines?

Sir.
The day of many litres may be virtually over for economic reasons, except in the highest-priced luxury class, but the attraction of many litres will always remain for those who have experienced the effortlessness of a high-geared large-engined car, provided it handles really well.

Like Mr. Lloyd, I run a 4½-litre Derby-built Bentley, and the point I would make is that whereas there are modern cars of half the Bentley’s engine capacity which can leave it on a run, they are working hard with both engine and gearbox while I am having an easy time with both, and shall not be so very far behind at the end of the journey. I don’t want to have to “live in the gearbox,” and the great charm of the “4½” is its excellent top-gear performance, for it is seldom that anything more than an occasional drop to third is required to keep motoring very satisfactorily.

Petrol consumption lies in one’s right foot, and, as one who does not “drive on the brakes,” I can confirm Mr. Lloyd’s statement that a consumption of around 20 m.p.g. is always available at a cruising speed of 60-70, and at a cruising speed of 40-50 I get 23 m.p.g.

I am, Yours, etc.,
R. Baillie.
Bedford.

———

Sir,
I read with interest your reader’s letter entitled “Large or Small Engines” which appeared in the August issue.

Perhaps readers may be interested to hear of my experience with Bentley and Bristol cars.

My 1949 Bentley has now done 110,000 miles, and this is the list of replacements: Timing gear, two half-shafts, one gearbox, and two radiators.

Both front door panels corroded to nothing due to failure to use an anti-rust paint on the inside of the metal panels. Renewal of metal work on various parts of the body has cost £300 during the last three years.

In contrast my Frazer-Nash car, built mainly from Bristol components, has been used for racing for several seasons, including nearly 4,000 miles at Le Mans (earning a third place there irrespective of capacity), without breaking anything but a clutch plate and needing negligible renewals due to wear.

My experience tells me that there is just no comparison between these two cars for excellence of design and quality of materials and workmanship. In fact, it is no exaggeration to state that the Bristol car is one of the finest cars built in the world today and by comparison the Bentley is second-rate.

Mr. Andrew Hoyd is speaking of an experience with a car built 20 years ago — my experience is of a modern post-war car.

I am, Yours, etc.,
N. R. Culpan.
Halifax.

 * * * 

Spectator’s Opinion of Aintree

Sir,
The objections voiced earlier this year regarding transfer of the British Grand Prix front Silverstone to Aintree appear to have been fully justified.

Competitors may or may not prefer the Aintree circuit, but to spectators Silverstone is infinitely superior.

Vision at Aintree is greatly restricted by infield buildings and even the view of Tatts Corner from the main stands does not compare with that obtainable from the south stand at Silverstone.

The Aintree stands offer little or no protection from the elements and during Saturday, July 16th, there could have been few seat holders who were exempt from acute discomfort. Discomfort of this nature is aggravated by the rigid restrictions placed upon movement around the circuit and by the industrial outlook which Aintree presents.

These conditions do not apply at Silverstone, set as it is in country surroundings and allowing freedom to all parts. Whilst Aintree accommodates equal crowds it does so in congested batches and great portions of the circuit are inaccessible to spectators. Grumbles and grouses were to be heard wherever we went at Aintree and it is to be hoped that a return to the pleasant freedom and the less restricted view of Silverstone will be made for this im portant event.

I am, Yours, etc.,
John H. R. Hay.
Kidderminster.

* * *

Revival Time

Sir,
The Austin Motor Company have reached their golden jubilee, and it must be with great pride, as the past fifty years have seen some very worthy motor cars flow from the Longbridge works.

The fact that Lord Austin himself was a motor sportsman is only too apparent from the notable successes of the Austin teams in the years before the last war. The famous “Sevens” set a style in racing and in general motoring that is still pursued today. Their dependability and performance, coupled with economy, gave the enthusiast everything he wanted, with little expense incurred. You will never fail to see one at the various race meetings, parked or otherwise, even in these later years.

Since the war the company has produced the Austin-Healey, to be counted in the sporting machinery field, and a very fine road car it is, but a long way out of the reach of many an enthusiast. As a previous writer put it: a car that has done a lot for our national prestige. I think our present Austin Seven saloon has done this also, as the majority of small powered cars have.

What impact would a standard production 7-h.p. sports car have today, and what welcome would it get from our younger generation of sportsmen? I wonder . . .

I am, Yours, etc.,

Alan Taylor.E. Grinstead.

 * * *

Throttle Adrift!

Sir,
Once again a perfectly (otherwise) good car, and for the second time a Connaught, has been put out of a race, this time Aintree, by a broken throttle control. Is it beyond the capacity of designers, metallurgists and craftsmen to put together a system of linkage which will stand up to a few hundred miles hard use? Have they no knowledge of high-tensile steels and light alloys? Or is it just plain bad workmanship and design?

It seems a pity to go to the trouble of building a G.P. car and then to throw the whole thing overboard for the lack of a bit of engineering. And twice at that, Mr. Connaught! Can you imagine it happening at Stuttgart?

I am, Yours, etc.,
John S. Peacock.
Newport.

 * * * 

Roesch-Talbots

Sir,
I enclose a recent photograph of the ex-Norman Garrad Talbot 105 which I thought might interest you. I bought this wonderful old car about 18 months ago, and in spite

of having had to spend a lot of money on it I’ve never regretted it for very long — unlike some of my previous investments.

It really showed its true form on the way to Italy last Easter.

I had never realised that the Alps Maritimes were quite so flat before. Viewed from an overloaded 12/50 Alvis they had always appeared to be most formidable.

I have been in touch with Norman Garrad, who is going to drive the car again one of these days. His comments should be really interesting.

I am, Yours, etc.,
A. G. Murray.
Loughborough. 

———

Sir,
My first Talbot was the lovely little 10/23 and my last, the incomparable 110. A lot of rot has been written about their alleged difficult maintenance but the fact was they required so little that the race of four-armed, long-fingered dwarfs all died from lack of exercise! For the true engineer they were always a joy to work on and only “Ham-fisted Harry” and “Birmingham Bill” ran into trouble. Relatively few chaps make a practice of swapping con.-rods by the roadside, and even the Bentley Boys don’t often stop to slip in a crankshaft with longer throw than standard. Take courage, Mr. Campbell, long may the Talbots roll!

I am, Yours, etc.,
Cecil Scott.
Lisbon.

 * * *

A Canadian Looks at British Cars —

Sir, 
Since the influx of cars from Britain in 1948, the average buyer purchased one with the question of economy uttermost in mind. Unfortunately, he has found that what was saved in gasoline bills was put out in expensive repairs. Time and again you will hear a motorist say, “I used to own a British small car. It was easy on gas but the upkeep was ridiculous. I traded it in on a Chevrolet and have gone 50,000 miles without even a valve grind.”

In fairness to B.M.C., Rootes, Ford, etc., I will say that some of these bills could have been saved if many of these owners did not drive as if they were behind the wheel of a Buick Eight. These are the type that will crawl along our city streets at 15 m.p.h. in high gear with their Morris Minors and then wonder why they need a rebore at 20,000 miles. People who ride the clutches of their A40s at every opportunity and then condemn their cars when they need new clutch facings after 10,000 miles of economical motoring, are in the same category. There are many faults that cannot be avoided by good driving, however. Let us use the Austin A40 as an example, the reason being that it is the most popular small car in Canada. Basically it has many attributes. Excellent front suspension and rear-end, a solid body, good finish and a fair motor, but why the following list:—

1. Leaking Oil Seals
This was never corrected from 1948 to 1954. (Most British automobiles seem to be plagued with this fault.) One should try to calm down an A40 owner, when after ten or fifteen thousand miles the service man in his local garage tells him that he needs his rear brakes relined, simply because the rear oil seals started to leak before their time. Then there is the irate “Devon” or “Somerset” owner whose steering shaft and worm and sector shaft are worn out after 20,000 miles just because the steering box seal was not checked every few hundred miles.

2. Worn Steering Gear
Most of this trouble is attributed to the above. The steering idler box is usually replaced within 25,000 miles. There was no grease nipple fitted to the idler box on the “Devon” and “Somerset.” The average grease man did not realise that they were to be lubricated from the top. Consequently the high fatality rate of this part.

3. Instruments 
Very few Austin “Devons” went 20,000 miles without having an exchange temperature and (or) a speedometer head replaced. It would amaze one to see the height of the warranty pile at the local distributor. On American cars there is a minimum of trouble with this type of equipment.

4. Brakes 
Brakes had their share of trouble. Why wheel cylinders are made from aluminum I will never know. They are constantly seizing up and they are especially bad here on the west coast where it is so damp. On an A40 a wheel cylinder is considered a fast-moving item from a partsman’s point of view. A wheel cylinder should last best part of an automobile’s life. Squeaking brakes were in vogue from 1948 to 1951. It was not a serious fault, but it was painful to the ear. American-made brake lining was used to remedy this. The Austin factory overcame this in the “Somerset” with a different type of lining.

5. Clutch
The diameter of the clutch on the A40 is too small to stand up to the abuse the average Canadian driver gives his car. This is another item that should last nearly the life span of the automobile. On the A40 they are usually replaced within 30,000 miles. The clutch linkage also has a very fast rate of wear. The clutch-operating shaft-lever has a very undesirable tendency to wear rapidly on the clutch-operating shaft. This makes for a very poor clutch-pedal clearance.

6. Gearbox 
The gearbox itself is a good unit, but combined with an inferior clutch set up and poor Canadian driving habits, it presents an expansive proposition. Jumping out of third gear is very common. and also very expensive to rectify. Shifter forks are sold like the proverbial hot cakes. After 40,000 miles on a “Devon” one should be commended when making a clean gear-change.

There were many other items that were troublesome, such as door locks, window regulators, shock-absorbers and headlight bulbs. Some of the “Devon’s” faults were corrected in the “Somerset.” The only new item that caused anguish on the “Somerset” was breaking front brake springs. In some cases this breakage resulted in serious damage to the brake lining. It took the Austin people a year and a half to develop a suitable spring.

The new A50 “Cambria” seems to show a marked improvement over the “Devon” and the “Somerset.” It is unfortunate that they cannot sell this model for less than the present $1,945.00 price tag.

The Austin Hereford was a car that might have gone over in Canada if it had not been under clutched. You would wonder how it was possible to develop clutch slippage within 10,000 miles in a car that was supposed to have been given gruelling tests throughout the African continent.

I have picked on the Austin because I know it best. These faults are ones that developed in what is probably the best all round British small car. I could not go into detail on the rest of the small cars, but the following is a very small rundown on a few of the models that seemed to be very popular when they first arrived.

The Morris Minor is noted, and rightly so, for its marvellous steering and roadholding and also for its marvellous gearbox (pre-B.M.C.) buy; why not put a motor in it that does not need a valve grind at 10,000 miles, a ring job at 20,000 and a rebore at 30,000. Up to 1954 the Morris Oxford was in the same boat as the Minor. The Jowett Javelin was another car that seemed ideally suited for Canadian roads. With its torsion bar suspension, rack and pinion. steering and 80 m.p.h. top speed, it would have been a real world beater if it were not for the simple fact that the big-end bearings would become very audible within 20,000 miles. Evidently this unit was not perfected by the time the car was introduced to the public. After the car was on the market for a period of time a series of improved motors were brought out. This in one respect was a forward step, but what about the unfortunate people who purchased the early models? In many cases, these people finished up by installing a late-type motor. This in my opinion is not an economical method of operating a motor car. The question that comes into my mind is, ” Why was not the original motor brought to a higher state of perfection when it was first introduced?”

The Standard Vanguard is another car that seemed designed for Canada, but it turned out that it had a multitude of sins. You might say that it was an automobile that “two bitted one to death.”

The Hillman Minx is probably the best looking of all the small cars, but its short motor life and tinny body do it no good.

The Vauxhall Velox is getting good reports for its low maintenance costs, but why not keep good British styling instead of that 1950 Detroit look?

After having made such a devastating attack on the British car industry, I hope that the following few recommendations will assist in the rebirth of the industry. Send over fieldmen who will respect the comments of Canadian car owners and mechanics. I have talked to fieldmen about certain faults in small cars. In many cases they say that the conditions are different and these faults do not happen in England. If rear hub oil seals on the Austin A40 leak badly in Canada, they must be doing the same in England. The car manufacturers should realise that in Canada the majority of the people who buy a small car use it as their only means of transportation, not as a second car. They want it to go the same places and distances as a full-size car. They want a car that when it has 50,000 miles on it is in good enough running condition to be able to make a safe three or four thousand mile trip, without a lot of mechanical trouble. In other words they want something rugged.

I think that at this point I should explain that I am an admirer of the quality British car. In my opinion, good British car design, performance and workmanship are hard to beat. When you can buy the fabulous D-type Jaguar for less than 7,000 dollars, or the versatile Triumph TR2 for 2,600 dollars, you would think it a simple matter for the British car manufacturers to bring out a real working man’s car for less than 2,500 dollars. West Germany has already done this!

The VW is the car that is gaining many friends in Canada. It has absolutely no chronic mechanical faults and combined with a body that does not rattle, it is the car to beat. The VW can put up a creditable performance in its class at a sports-car meet, take you on your daily shopping trip, or cruise along safely at 65 m.p.h. to your holiday destination. The British motor industry will have to reckon with this astounding car, not within the next few years, but immediately.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Russell Hilton.
Vancouver. 

 * * * 

— And an Irishman Gives His Views

Sir. 
You have had many letters of recent months from distant lands commenting on the British cars. Let me now have my say — as a resident enthusiast in what is your nearest — and basically favourable — market.

Southern Ireland has always been a good market: Imperial Preference weights customs duties against other car-exporting countries, and our climate and road system, which resemble yours, also make this country a “natural” for the British car. Thus it was that in pre-war and early post-war years the Continental cars were uncommon enough to merit a second glance. Now how things have changed! VWs are in maximum production here, roughly equalling the Morris output. D.K.W.s are eagerly snatched up in this buyer’s market, and are as common as Standards. Fiat 1,100 have made a slow start, but are now selling well. How dismal is the British agents’ lot by comparison! Austin — formerly a Morris rival in sales — now cannot sell their A30s, much less the bigger models. However, they appear to be enjoying a good sale of German motorcycles! Ford have recently cut the prices of their Anglia and Prefect by £15 and £16 — not that that will sell their cars in the face of all the groans about oil-thirst after 12,000 miles, and slipping clutches.

I wish I could quote you actual figures to support these impressions but should any of your manufacturers be interested they can always contact their Irish agents.

I have deliberately left Morris until last, having a personal grievance about this make. Enthusiastic about Issigoni’s design even to the point of forgiving the fussy engine and shutting my eyes to the ill-chosen gear ratios and rubber gear-lever, I tried to buy a Morris Minor eight weeks ago. The first model I was offered I refused, pointing out 23 places where metal showed through the paintwork. On the second I showed them eight such places. I then left in disgust.

I have bought a VW and have had it back to the assemblers for servicing. Each time I have been met with courtesy and an apparent desire to please. I am well satisfied.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Ben Bulben.
Dublin.

 * * * 

How to Make a Fortune

Sir, 
I have decided to go into the distilled water business.

At a local garage the other day I was allowed to top up my battery with this precious fluid, while the attendant saw to the petrol, and on receiving my change I noticed it lacked sixpence. The attendant explained that this was a fixed charge, irrespective of the amount used. It so happens that I believe in topping up my battery regularly; in consequence very little water is required at one time. At say a splash per sell, six need easily use no more than one fluid ounce between them, and this works out, at about £4 per gallon.

I shall encourage my son to follow me into the business; and I hope to retire at thirty.

I am, Yours, etc.,
P. W. Taylor.
Twickenham.

 * * * 

Nuvolari

Sir, 
I have read your excellent article on Nuvolari, which I enjoyed very much.

In the account of the duel between Il Mantovano Volante and Achille Yarn, I think it correct to say that in the fantastic revoltions per minute (for that time) reached by the rival cars on the rise to the Casino, the Bugatti of Varzi was of course equipped with roller-bearing big-ends, whereas Nuvolari’s Alfa had plain bearings, and it was the failure of one of these which cost him the race.

Whoever saw Nuvolari leave the pits after a lightning stop at Donington in 1938, with wheels spinning all the way down the “frontages” of the other pits, will never forget this wonderful sight — it seemed that mechanics and pit attendants fell back like the policeman in Punch and Judy. This little man seemed gigantic in his forceful, inspired driving.

In later years, a Neapolitan friend of mine was on holiday with a 1,500 Fiat in Italy and he managed to seize up a piston on a long straight. He knew nothing about cars except how to put his foot down, usually in the wrong place. He raised the bonnet and stared at the smoking engine. A Lancia Aprilia came along and a small, dapper gentleman descended from it. He saw at once what was the trouble, took out the Fiat’s plugs and shot some oil into the cylinders. He cranked the engine after a little pause and my friend then got the engine started. He was astonished when the little Samaritan, on being asked his name in the enthusiasm of my friend’s gratitude, handed over a card engraved “Tazio Nuvolari.” My friend must have been the only Italian in Italy who would not have recognised the maestro.

I am, Yours, etc.,
Bernard Coulter.
Kenley. 

 * * * 

The Vintage Car Controversy

Sir, 
I really feel that I cannot allow the letter of E Rawnit in the last issue of your excellent magazine to pass without adding my personal comment to what I trust is an already mountainous correspondence. I drive a vintage Bentley, and apart from my tremendous love and enthusiasm for the car, do so because: —

1. I prefer an article to be built rather than mass-produced.

2. At £150 my car has every bit of performance, brakes, steering, and general roadability as today’s £1,000 effort.

3. In the unfortunate event of an accident, the vastly superior strength of construction of my car offers the driver a far better chance of collecting the Old Age Pension than its modern counterpart.

4. While admitting that it is very convenient to change an engine every 75,000 miles or so, I prefer the figures of my own car-700,000 miles (checked) and then £100 spent on rebuilding.

5. Obviously only the better cars survive 25 years plus, and if a car is running well after that time there cannot be much wrong with the design.

Mr. Rawnit’s “common denominators” are best treated one by one:

1. No “men’s cars” built since 1930: Please Sir, name ONE.

2. Exhaust noises: Naturally we judge the quality of an engine by its exhaust note, as to anyone who has the vaguest clue about automobile engineering there is no better method.

3. Ignorance of engineering: I personally am prepared to accept a written apology for that statement; since, having worked in a garage, I can assure you that an overwhelming majority of modern car owners are unable to tell you how many cylinders their OWN car has, let alone the type of valve gear, or the make and position of their carburetter(s).

(4) Vintage-car racing: We prefer this for two reasons:

(a) We and our friends are ourselves competing.
(b) Despite Mr. Rawnit’s misinformation, the speeds are very comparable with those of today’s “miracles,” which are also the family conveyance.

(5) Quaint headgear: See footnote in July issue. Finally, I should like to add that the people in vintage cars are all exceptionally pleasant persons.

More power to your pen and your elbow.

I am, Yours, etc.,
“Vintageist.”
Redhill. 

 * * * 

Wheel Adrift

Sir, 
I am disappointed at the incorrectness of your caption beneath the picture “On Maggotts.” W. D. Bertram did not lose a stub-axle. What happened was that his wheel came off due to the failure of a ball-race, which was an old one that had done a great deal of service.

I am, Yours, etc.,
George H. Goodall, Managing Director,
Morgan Motor Co., Ltd.
Malvern Link.

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