Letters from readers, September 1958

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

The Monza “500”

Sir,

The report by Mr. Denis Jenkinson of the Monza “500” surely denudes him completely of the stature and reputation he gained largely on his report of the Mille Miglia.

(1) It will be recalled that on that occasion he survived a very brisk 1,000 miles thanks to a very long roll of toilet paper, and the courage, incomparable judgment and driving ability of the man he last month chose to publicly label “timid and frightened”—Stirling Moss.

No doubt he will call this his right of free comment. But when free comment becomes insulting, personally wounding or contemptuous, it seems to us that it no longer has any place in motor-race reporting.

(2) The “blood and guts” atmosphere throughout this piece by “D. S. J.” compares rather strangely with Matters-of-Moment criticisms of over-emphasis of death and danger by other motoring writers.

(3) And it is even more out of keeping in the pages of a magazine so devoted to avoiding the mention of death, that it prints no obituary or tribute to Musso—a brave man and one of the world’s best drivers.

(4) It is only necessary to read the Monza article to see, in Jenkinson’s own words, that several drivers were worried about the race, and also that several of the machines were unfitted for and breaking up under the strains of the peculiarities of the banked track.

(5) Ferrari himself was bludgeoned at Government level into it, and then had to put the heavy hand on his contracted drivers in turn. Such misgivings by people who should know may be in error—but they are not to be sneered at.

(6) We find it difficult to understand what is so impressive, or brave or “hairy” about cars at high speed on a banked track compared, say, to cars on the equally fast Masta curve, which is level road and very narrow road at that.

(7) When a man has only one life to lose, a bystander writing about “rough and tough, don’t move over, interlock your wheels” stuff at 180 m.p.h. is both embarrassing and stupid.

(8) The inescapable fact is that we came as near to losing Moss in his prang as perhaps we have ever been—and that would have been due to a mechanical failure in a car acknowledged to have been rushed through in 20 days to please the promotors.

(9) It only remains to observe that although Mr. Jenkinson has done a lot of fast passenger work in his time, the only time we have had the privilege of watching him drive his Porsche at Silverstone, his speed was so unimpressive as to make one suspect whether he really appreciates the hazards of high-speed motoring from the driver’s point of view.

We are, Yours, etc.,
H. Bancroft, Alan Staniforth,
Horsforth.

We submitted this letter to Mr. Jenkinson, who replies as follows:—

(1) They obviously did not see Moss close up.

(2) There was no blood—just guts.

(3) If you stand on a pedestal as a “great public figure” you must be prepared to be shot down.

(4) Then why were there “several drivers” at Monza anyway? I did not hear any American drivers saying this.

(5) Not Government, equivalent of the R.A.C.—the A.C.I.

(6) Have they seen 160-180-m.p.h. cars in action on a banking? I doubt it.

(7) This is the way the American drivers view racing and talk about it.

(8) He came much closer to death in the 1956 Mille Miglia; without one single tree he would probably have been dead. The steering box failed, but was a standard 4.5-litre sports-car box, well-proven last year in road racing.

(9) All right, you drive a standard 1500 Porsche!

Pro-American bias?

Sir,

As a reader of MOTOR SPORT for many years, may I protest at the waste of space in reporting at such great length the report of the recent Monza Meeting by “D. S. J.”?

His remarks about courage of European drivers, etc., would seem to indicate a pro-American bias, or is it perhaps that he finds their bizarre appearances attractive and thus allies himself with them? To my mind, the fact that European drivers on cars designed for entirely different work can hold their own with the Americans, upon their second meeting would indicate where the supremacy lies. Did he fail to notice a recent race report in which a Mr. Troy Ruttman was stated to have been unable to master gear-changing before corners in (I think) a Maserati? The almost gearless and semi-brakeless American monstrosities do little to improve automobile engineering, in my submission. Indeed, there appears to be nothing new in any of the American designs, and the Offenhauser has been going for many years now. To be completely fair, why not suggest four races, one at Monza, another at Indianapolis, and two further races at Monaco and Nürburgring—with the same cars competing in each race? Perhaps this (or rather the results) would quiten “D. S. J.’s” accusations of last year, and since, regarding courage and skill of European drivers. If not, he will no doubt shortly exchange his Porsche for a Thunderbird or something similar and we shall be treated to accounts of how he out-accelerated and (perhaps) out-cornered a 2 c.v. Citroen, proving of course that Indianapolis experience has made American auto-engineering what it is today. My opinion is that these American-style races occupy the position that American cars do, i.e., something loud, vulgar, with old designs re-hashed as new inventions, and catering for the type of person who likes his motoring—and sport—flashy and somewhat ludicrous.

I am, Yours, etc.,

R. Lee, Hove

We submitted this letter to Mr. Jenkinson, who replies as follows :—

“It is very obvious that this young man has never seen the “Indy” cars in action; nor, I doubt, has he seen a racing car doing 180 m.p.h.”—D. S. J.

A matter of balance

Sir,

Mr. Jenkinson’s writings and views in your August issue are more than interesting, as always. However, there is one opinion he expresses in his “Les Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans” (page 532) which—if he is serious—calls for a polite : “Not on your life!”

At the top of the second column (page 532) he says: “Astons were using 1957 cars . . . and their engines did have the latest cylinder heads but four main-bearing crankshafts on a six-cylinder goes back to the dark ages.

So it does, but if “D. S. J.” seriously thinks a seven-journal six-cylinder crankshaft is necessarily a better, more enlightened construction than a four-journal, I can only refer him to Dr. Ricardo, Dr. Ken Wilson, W. O. Bentley and Donald Bestow, whose views and findings in this far-from-cut-and-dried topic are shared by those in the U.S.A. responsible for the six-cylinder Chevrolet (many millions built).

Just one reminder for “D. S. J.” The six-cylinder Aston Martin engine in its original 2 1/2-litre (ex-Lagonda) form did not need a T/V damper. Neither does the 3 1/2-litre Armstrong-Siddeley (also a four-bearing engine). The justifiably popular and successful Jaguar (seven-bearing) needs and has a T/V damper, the size and weight of which varies according to the series and b.h.p. of the model in question.

Mr. Heynes is the first to admit that the partial balancing of the Jaguar crankshaft (journals equally loaded) is deliberate in order to ensure the third order major critical remaining susceptible of treatment (with a damper).

The “3 W” system of counterweighting used by Rolls-Royce (Merlin) (journals equally loaded) and their R.-R. and Bentley cars results in a total of eight counterweights and the unavoidable lowering of the natural frequency of vibration.

As “D. S. J.” no doubt is aware—aero engines are not saddled with flywheels, so the problem here is not so acute.

I am, Yours, etc.,
E. F. Goodall, Leeds

Service

Sir,

My recent experiences with regard to new tyres may be of interest to your readers. As a friend had received only 17,000 from a set of Dunlop Tubeless on his Morris 1000, and as I do not feel happy about tubeless tyres anyway (a personal feeling), I decided to ask for Michelin X tyres to be fitted to my new Gold Seal Standard Ten. Lambs Ltd., of Wanstead, Essex, the local distributors, agreed to fit any tyre I asked for, provided, of course, that I paid the extra cost of more expensive covers. They doubted, however, if Michelin X tyres were available in size 5.20-13.

I wrote to Michelin and found that it will be some time before this tyre will be manufactured for smaller than 15-in. wheels. They suggested I used the Michelin SDS type. Since all British “babies” use 13 or 14-in, wheels, this means they cannot use the “X” type. [For later news, see page 602.—Ed.]

I had Michelin SDS tyres fitted at a cost of £4 10s. extra and recommend them for roadholding, though since I have only done 4,700 miles since the car arrived on March 1st this year, I cannot comment authoritatively on life. I told my friends of my satisfaction and some have asked for similar arrangements, but have been refused by their dealers. One dealer refused to change tubeless for tubed, irrespective of make.

I feel that discerning motorists such as your readers should know that some firms will provide these facilities, and recommend that if they find one that does not they should take their custom elsewhere.

In my case it was the first time I had dealt at the firm in question, and I was entirely unconnected with them. The Gold Seal Standard Ten performs with and is cheaper than the Morris 1000 four-door. It is more economical than the 100 Fords. It is roomier than the A35. It has no import duty, which makes it cheaper than certain delectable Continental vehicles. I would like to read your comments after testing one.

I am, Yours, etc.,
B. D. Gable, London E 5.

Unhelpful attendant

Sir,

Having read with interest your comments on the availability of petrol and the helpfulness of garages during the hours of darkness, I thought the following example as good as any.

One Sunday evening I noticed a driver who had run out of petrol just outside Croydon. I gave him a lift until we came to Oliver Cutts, an Esso Service Station, at 11.30 p.m. Happy motoring came to an end when the attendant was asked for a can. “No, I can’t help, and nowhere else is open.” After a further wait we suggested empty oil bottles, but he said, “Oh, no!” and moved away, only to return and tell us to move off.

Fortunately a garage called Prynne-Stevens Ltd., just around the corner, supplied the petrol in oil bottles.

I remain an avid reader of the best motoring magazine.

I am, Yours, etc.,

W. J. Elles-Hill, London N.W.8.

Cars I have owned

Sir,

So many people seem to have written on the subject of “Cars I Have Owned,” that it struck me that my own humble efforts in this direction might possibly have some interest.

Ignoring my father’s 1908 Star and 1913 Sunbeam, the first car of my own was a 1919 G.N. My mother presented me with this car. I think it would be about seven years old when I first had it.

I ran this car for about three years, and the biggest repair bill in that time was fifty bob for a magneto overhaul. Except for the earsplitting din, it was a delightful little machine, and I had a lot of fun with it; runs round Shropshire and camping trips into Wales. I have heard some nerve-wracking accounts of these G.N.s—spitting off wheels, getting into two gears at once, and goodness knows what—but all I can say is that this particular G.N. didn’t do it to me.

The main reason that I got rid of this car was that, following an abdominal operation, I felt convinced that if I swung it I should inevitably burst! I sold it for four quid.

The next car I had was about the worst thing on wheels that I have ever touched. It was a (I think) 1926 Salmson. It had a revolting type of valve operation whereby one cam did service for both inlet and exhaust. The net result was that the engine seemed to have practically no power at all.

The brakes were operated by cables running through copper tubes, and had, if possible, less power than the engine. The clutch was like a rat-trap, and the gearbox was almost impossible to change on.

I swapped this car for another G.N., which car, however, I never ran (leastways not as a car!). I scrapped the body, cut the chassis through, and built a camping trailer on the back half of it.

We used to tow this trailer behind a 1923 Clyno my father had. This Clyno had, I think, a ball-race Coventry-Climax engine and was amazingly fast. One of the Clyno experts down at Colliers, South Yardley, Birmingham, told me that, with a bit planed off the cylinder block to heighten the compression, he’d had one of these cars do a timed 70 m.p.h.

The next car was a 1924 Jewett, and was an amazing little machine. It climbed practically everything in top and did about 45 m.p.g. I ran this Jewett until it broke its crankshaft.

I bought another Jowett, 1926 this time. It did even better m.p.g. but it seemed to be at the cost of pulling power; it was not nearly so good in this respect as the 1924 Jowett.

This 1926 Jowett had an annoying habit of jumping out of second gear, so a friend of mine swapped its box for the 1934 box.

The next car I had was a 1926 (I think) Clyno. I believe it was about 10 h.p., but any Clyno expert would know the model; the front brake drums were bigger than the rear. I think this was the slowest car I have ever had, and the slowest I have ever driven except for the 8-h.p. Fiat (the one with a radiator rather like a miniature R.-R.). I’m pretty sure the flat-out speed was not more than 35 m.p.h. However, we had some very enjoyable trips with it. As far as I can remember, it never went wrong, and would trundle along, up hill and down dale, so long as you put petrol, oil and water in it!

When I said it never went wrong; I was forgetting that, after I bought it (for £3), I found it had a cracked side chassis-member. However, Colliers put in a complete new chassis-member for £4, so I suppose I shouldn’t really grouse. I think I sold this car to a scrap dealer for ten bob!

The next car was probably the best I have ever owned—a 1923 16-h.p. o.h.v. four-cylinder Sunbeam. This car went like a bomb, and it had about the best lighting set I’ve ever had anything to do with. Also, it was the only car I’ve ever had which carried two spare wheels. This must have had some sort of moral effect on the car, because I never had a puncture with it!

My only serious criticisms of the car were that it was, for some reason, very tiring to drive for any distance, and that the petrol consumption was something fierce. About 15 m.p.g. driven gently, which rose to about 14 m.p.g. if driven hard.

I think the next car was a Ford Eight—about 1933. Reliable and economical, but not very exciting! Following this, a 1936 Talbot Ten—much more exciting, very lively, and a delightful little thing to drive. My only moan about this car was that it ran very hot all the time; it needed about a pint of water added to the radiator about every 90 miles or so. In hot weather you simply sat and sweated. The next car, and the one which we still own, was a 1946 1 1/2-litre Jaguar. As soon as we started to run it it became painfully obvious that it required a complete engine overhaul, but luckily, in spite of the fact that we bought it secondhand and when it was quite a few years old, the suppliers, West Central Garages, Wolverhampton, abided by their guarantee and really gave the engine a “doin'”. Rebore, big-ends, mains, etc., and I should think the engine is in really nice condition now. Let’s hope so, anyway. (Usual disclaimer, by the way.)

Just to make the mouths of the younger generation water, the prices of these cars (that is, the price I paid, or my father or mother, as the case might be) were: G.N., £12; Salmson, £17; first Jowett, £15; second Jewett, £10; Clyno, £3; and Sunbeam, £27.

I am, Yours, etc.,
W. H. Dobbs,
Wolverhampton

The compulsory tests of old cars

Sir,

In order to combat this latest abuse, may I suggest that you advise all readers of MOTOR SPORT and associated papers steadfastly to boycott any garage that sets up to carry out the scheme.

Garages would thus hesitate to jeopardise their legitimate business and the scheme would become unworkable.

I am, Yours, etc.,
C. J. Boswell, Norwich

[WE have already made this suggestion, in order that the garages doing the Government’s work shall not be hampered. We hope, all our quarter-million readership will inquire if garages they are about to patronise do vehicle testing for the Ministry and, when the answer is “Yes,” will go elsewhere.—Ed.]

In praise of N.B. maps

Sir,

Mr. Harbord’s judgment on the National Benzole Road Map make strange reading to me. Covering 931 miles—Cotswolds, Lake District, Yorkshire Moors, and back home—my friend and I relied entirely on National Benzoic maps to guide our A30 away from the “holiday roads” and tows, during the August bank holiday.

Our success was beyond expectations. Thanks to National Benzole we were able to go “as the crow flies” along “B” roads and beautiful country lanes, maintaining good speeds and avoiding traffic, and not once losing our way. Some of the places charted were mere farms!

This was our very first experience of serious map reading—both of us are in our early twenties—therefore I cannot comment on how these maps compare with others, but if better exist for clearness and detail I should like to hear of them, although a map giving more detail would appear to me to be superfluous.

Thank you, Sir, for that interesting journal, and please continue your propaganda against those “test” garages.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Geoffrey Croot, Welwyn

Was Moss afraid?

Sir,

I have read D. Jenkinson’s report on the 1958 Monza “500,” during the course of which he impugns Moss’ personal courage four times. (One gathers that Moss was in a perpetual funk.) Other members of U.P.P.I, have had similar treatment since the 1957 Monza fiasco and the statements are too persistent to be dismissed with other wild statements Jenkinson sometimes makes; e.g., ‘”The racing/sports car is not scientific”‘ (June issue).

Jenkinson is probably the best correspondent in the game but I do wish he would be less dogmatic. I for one do not accept that the U.P.P.I. withdrew from the 1957 “500” because of fear, nor can I accept that—”It was a very frightened and nervous Moss who got into the big car …”—this before practice had started, mind you.

One could possibly say that a Toreador was tense, or even apprehensive before a fight, but it would be manifestly unfair to say he was scared. I should say that courage is a pre-requisite to bullfighting equally as much as road-racing, and the questioning of it in this particular ease is unworthy.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Peter Hutchinson, Sutton-on-Forest

Good words for the Borgward Isabella

Sir,

Having just parted with a Riley 2 1/2-litre saloon—a model of some repute in the matters of roadholding and cornering—in favour of an Isabella TS saloon, I can only register my complete and utter amazement at the performance of this wolf in sheep’s clothing. After clocking up only a couple of thousand miles I can hardly claim to be exactly in with Isabella’s full potentialities, but what little experience I have already had has been sufficient to convince me that I shall never buy another car without i.r.s.

I had thought of buying a Sunbeam Rapier until I tried to get my 6 ft. 1 in. into the driving seat, and had had an opportunity of discovering the shortcomings of the intermediate gears. In any case, just where dues one find legless passengers for the back seat? I might have bought a Riley 1.5 except for the fact that I didn’t appreciate the attitude of the would-be vendor, who could not offer a demonstration in less than ten days.

In any case, their Service Department leaves much to be desired; at the time of my inquiry, they were supposed to be balancing one of the front wheels of my “2 1/2” “while I waited.” The offending wheel got as far as the balancing machine, with the necessary weights laid on the cover—somebody sounded off the “tea-break”; and the entire establishment downed tools. I continued my journey some 30 minutes later than I need have done, determined not to buy the “1.5”

I then remembered having watched La Trobe’s Borgward circulating at Brands Hatch—quite unconcerned among tyre-squealing Magnettes and a Rapier.

The London Distributor provided a model within about two hours’ notice, and although, I am ashamed to say, I did not buy it, I had an extremely pleasant two or three hours’ demonstration.

At equally short notice, Blundell’s of Folkestone delivered the model I now own to any house at Brookman’s Park.

The German handbook (unfortunately just about as useless as our own) in the Anglicised version recommends that the following speeds “should not be exceeded in the interests of economy”: second, 44 m.p.h.; third, 65 m.p.h.; top, 93 m.p.h. Thirty-eight miles to the Imperial gallon is claimed (mit hoher Oktanzahl Superkraftstoff!)—my Isabella is certainly doing well over 30 without endue lightfootedness on any part.

The gadgetry leaves little to be desired—a decent tool kit including tyre gauge, tube for bleeding brakes, and an inspection-light which plugs into the cigar-lighter’s socket, and a spider wrench, which is also the jack-handle. The boot is illuminated by the number-plate lamps, which have a Perspex panel at the rear to permit this.

The divided bench-type front seats have adjustable backs which will lie flat to turn the whole interior into a bed, there are separate low-wattage parking lights which are cut-out by the side-lights automatically, and dipped headlights can be flashed on to “high beam” by the steering-column centre button; the steering lock is as remarkable as the column-change gear-lever is pleasant (synchromesh on all four!)—in fact, I doubt if a certain “motoring correspondent” could find a phrase adequate to fit this car!

Admittedly the facia panel is true 1958, lacking decently calibrated instruments and either ammeter or oil gauge. However, there is a mileometer with trip, a clock and a water-temperature gauge.

Doubtless some people, British Car Manufacturers included, might endeavour to discredit some of the features listed—perhaps they might change their tune if they had overheard the comments of various British car owners who have inspected the Isabella and either ridden in it or driven it.

The only drawback would appear to be that, again according to the handbook, if the mechanism fails to function, I am supposed to retreat to the nearest Borgward Workshop. Fulham is quite a walk from Hatfield, but I am ashamed to say that the enthusiastic attitude of the staff there—mostly German mechanics—makes the trip well worth while.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Malcolm A. Woodward, Brookman’s Park.

Actually actuarial?

Sir,

My difficulties with insurance companies started when I tried to insure an Alvis Speed Twenty. Eventually I found a company willing to insure the car against Third Party risks only. Later, when I read the policy carefully I found it difficult to decide exactly what the car was insured against for there were so many exceptions.

The Alvis was changed for a Citroen roadster. Only the Registration Book description of the type of body saved me from having to pay the usual sports-car loading. Naturally, as the car was f.w.d., I had to pay a £10 excess for this reason.

All went well until the company charged me nearly £3 for insuring the car for one week over the normal three months’ period allowed at no extra charge abroad. Even at French rates, the equivalent of £150 per annum seemed excessive, so I resolved to change my company.

The next company, obtained through the auspices of a well-known careful drivers’ association, insured the Citroen without demur. Later, exemption slips followed until the policy looked like a stamp album.

I then decided to change the Citroen for a Jowett Jupiter. My company replied that they would not insure the Jupiter comprehensively. This I queried, but they remained adamant.

The Citroen was sold and a Renault 750 succeeded it. This time I fell for a company advertising a large no-claim bonus. On transfer I was allowed a 30 per cent. N.C.B., which seemed fair. Soon after I moved from Suffolk to Kent and the gross premium was increased by £5. An exemption slip informed me that it was not the policy of the company to allow the normal three months’ insurance abroad at no extra cost to Service personnel.

This company stated they would willingly insure a Jupiter comprehensively, but when I asked what premium they would charge for a VW Karmann Ghia they replied that they would not insure it since they did not insure L.H.D. cars!

I may add that I have driven for 13 years without accident, claim, or conviction, but this appears to make no difference. To some companies, at the wheel of a Jupiter I would become a maniac; to others, I would not but would become accident prone if the car were a L.H.D. model.

How can insurance companies have such different attitudes if their calculations are based on actuarial practice and not prejudice?

I am, Yours, etc.,
John Gully (Lieutenant Commander), Bexley.

[The ways of Big Business are invariably veiled in mystery!—ED.]

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