New B.M.C. Small Cars to Chllenge the World
Last May Motor Sport was delighted to be able to publish an Editorial praising the Standard/Triumph Organisation of Coventry for having at long last produced a refreshingly different British car, in the form of the all-independently-sprung Triumph Herald. Now the British Motor Corporation has gone a considerable step further towards meeting Continental competition at home and in export markets.
With their new ADO.15 project, in the form of the new Austin Se7en 850 and Morris Mini-Minor 850 cars, designed by a team of engineers brilliantly led by Mr. Alec Issigonis, which are described elsewhere in this issue, the B.M.C. introduces economy cars which are as original, as up-to-date and as practical as the best models from the leading European factories. Motor Sport has fought for years for a new approach to small-car design by British engineers, in order to combat the popularity of Continental best-sellers. Certain foreign small cars appeal to hundreds of thousands, even millions, of motorists, because they have discarded the rigid back-axle, “cart-spring” suspension, the propeller shaft and other design-items which, so far as economy cars are concerned, are an unwanted legacy from the long-distant past.
The Triumph Herald designers pointed the way and now the new B.M.C. small cars go a stage further. With all-independent-suspension using ingenious Moulton rubber-cone units which need no lubrication, are virtually indestructible and which offer variable rate suspension; with the engine set transversely at the front, driving the front wheels, to eliminate both the propeller shaft and long control runs; with tiny wheels that lower the centre-of-gravity and reduce unsprung weight to a minimum; and with spacious accommodation for four adult occupants in spite of very modest dimensions which are those, not of the normal small car, but of the baby or mini-car class of vehicle, these sensational new B.M.C. cars offer a promising challenge to the world’s automobile factories.
The B.M.C. has produced curves which show that in performance their ADO.15 design outstrips the three best-sellers from Germany, France and Italy. Although they refrain from naming the cars they have in mind, these are obviously the Volkswagen, the Renault Dauphine and the Fiat 600. Up to 50 m.p.h. the latest Austin Se7en and new Morris Mini-Minor equal the VW on acceleration and leave the other two small cars behind; above 50 m.p.h. they leave all three behind, if the B.M.C. has drawn its curves correctly. On price — under £500, p.t. included — the B.M.C. cars make these and many other foreign economy cars an expensive luxury, at all events on the home market.
We have waited a long time but at last a British design-team has exercised refreshing initiative and been allowed to develop its ideas commercially. We offer the warmest possible congratulation to Mr. Issigonis and his employers on this fine British achievement.
The advent of these ingenious, spacious British mini-cars which look like setting new standards of safety and performance-cum-economy remind us of an amusing, war-time incident. It so happened that a certain serious-minded lady of our acquaintance, who, very very keen on aviation, sought to serve with A.T.A.on the outbreak of hostilities. Alas, on her test flight she managed to taxi into a parked bomber, which displeased her superiors. So she found herself spending the war with the Ministry of Aircraft Production, vetting vital Air Diagrams for the R.A.F. Painstakingly did she check and re-check these elaborate canvases which depicted the correct way to operate complicated mechanisms, make night-landings, drop bombs, ditch and bale-out in emergency, and so on and so forth. She had to be quite certain she understood everything she encountered and one day she found an instruction to Air-Crews which read ” PULL YOUR FINGER OUT.” This puzzled her and she sought enlightenment, did this prim and correct lady-editor of Air Diagrams. Curiously, no-one could be found to enlighten her but she persisted with her enquiries and the last we saw of her she was putting her query to a gold-braided Air Vice-Marshal . . .
Whether this officer was able to explain the apt expression to their mutual satisfaction isn’t related, nor do we propose to attempt an analysis of it here . . ! But it is what the British Motor Corporation has done, and for which they deserve the strongest commendation.
More Mass Convictions at Salisbury
In July we drew attention to the mass convictions of motorists at Salisbury, where cases, mostly parking offences, were dealt with at the rate of one every 72 seconds, with fines totalling more than £134. We suggested that such a procedure was scarcely likely to promote a good relationship between police and public.
We are sorry to have to report further mass convictions of motorists in this well-known Wiltshire town. This time 102 cases involving exceeding a 30 m.p.h. speed-limit were heard in a day, fines being imposed that totalled £264.
We attended the Court that morning and heard this quick-fire disposal of many of the cases concerned. One case was defended, unsuccessfully, by a solicitor and one motorist appeared to defend himself, but was also unsuccessful. This took considerable time, so the amount of money taken from motorists that day is, to say the least, remarkable.
The cases all hinged on speed over fractionally more than 440 yards of road from Salisbury towards Fordingbridge, at Downton. The police hid behind a bank in a Civil Defence Land Rover and, when a particular car was selected for timing, a signal was given by radio to a constable, with a stop-watch and another radio signal was sent by another constable at the other end of the ¼-mile, so that the watch could be stopped, identification of the car timed being based on its registration number. If a speed of 30 m.p.h. was exceded a further radio call resulted in the driver involved being halted further down the road and cautioned.
Some significant facts emerge. The defending solicitor and the motorist who defended his own case spoke of the large number of cars timed and of cars in a stream of traffic being timed. One policeman misquoted the number of a car about which he was giving evidence, others seemed uncertain of the colour and sometimes the make of the cars concerned. Cars were timed from opposite the posts (supplemented, let it be noted, by paint lines the police put on the road) marking the built-up area, no allowance being made for a driver to lose speed after passing the signs. However, no action was taken against drivers whose speed did not exceed 37 m.p.h. — which may be regarded as leniency, or as an admission that some safeguard was deemed desirable for the inevitable time-lag between receiving a verbal signal and starting and stopping a watch. Pre-prepared slips of paper were apparently held ready to give to motorists caught in the trap.
We do not for a moment dispute the right of the police to operate a speed-trap over a road with dangerous characteristics or on which a bad record of pedestrian and/or vehicle accidents exists. But in the case of this ¼-mile at Downton the road was described as wide and almost straight. Moreover, if the object of the speed-trap is to endeavour to prevent accidents and preserve life, why hide the policemen behind a bank out of sight of the motorists? And why use a C.D. Vehicle? Placing a police car in full view would cause motorists to reduce speed but stopping them after they have driven through the stretch at speed is no way in which to pretend to safeguard lives; if, indeed, any had been endangered. It smacks of watching a man rob a bank and catching him on the way out, instead of properly guarding the premises to ensure that no burglary occurs.
However, the Chairman of the Magistrates, Ald. H. E. Cooke, has stated that “It is not part of our job to comment on the effect of the methods used or the effect of mass prosecutions of this type. We are quite satisfied the method provided accurate evidence of speeding.”
Even if we accept that hand-timing in conjunction with radio signals may permit sufficiently accurate determination of speeds for the purposes of the police (who quoted to two places of decimals), is it good policy, to occupy six able-bodied police officers for three days on operating such a trap from a road-side field? With crime increasing by leaps and hounds and a bid being made to restore public faith in the police force, this becomes a pertinent question . . .
During our sojourn in Salisbury Police Court we noted that case after case was heard without the drivers involved putting in an appearance. Apparently Salisbury motorists accept the fact that, however long their driving experience, however clean their past record, the magistrates will fine them £2 for speeds up to 40 rn.p.h., £3 if they drive through a limit at over 40-m.p.h., always with licence endorsement. What did strike us is the fact that, with 25 cases averaging out at a speed of 40.26 m.p.h., the road in question is overdue for promotion to a 40 m.p.h. speed limit, instead of being used by concealed policemen and their radio truck to raise fines of the order or over £260 in one day’s sitting of the Court — because this is the speed which average motorists, who are hardly potential suicides, accept as safe over this particular stretch of road.
We understand that more and more motorists who once drove down A.30 to the West Country, frequently pausing to use the amenities (and shops) of Salisbury, now prefer to use the A303 route. If (It) would seem that they will be wise to continue to do so.
The Aintree Police
Referring to last month’s editorial concerning police persecution at Aintree (page 576) the Chief Constable of Lancashire has failed to reply and consequently it must be assumed that he agrees with our remarks. In the meantime we have received a letter from the Observer at Anchor Crossing on the occasion of the British Grand Prix, who states that he has held this position since the first meeting at Aintree and has always had full co-operation from photographers. This gentleman tells us that he noticed a police officer on the inside of the course, standing with his back to the cars, about a foot from the edge of the circuit, flourishing his stick and bawling at the various photographers and others who were present. When the opportunity arose our correspondent went across the circuit and in a reasonable manner asked what the police officer was doing. The officer said that he had received orders from the Colonel and Mrs. Topham to remove everybody there. It was pointed out to the officer who was the Observer in charge of that particular section, and our correspondent confirmed that he had had no trouble whatsoever with any of the photographers, nor had he had trouble with the few people who were standing well behind the large gate, in which position they were perfectly safe. The officer then commenced to be most difficult and unpleasant, asked for the Observer’s name, which he gave to the officer, and he, in turn, took the officer’s name. He had no option but to order the officer out of his area.
Another correspondent complains that after paying 34s. to get into Aintree he was prevented by a police cadet from taking up a vantage point by the empty rails at Anchor Crossing and told to double-park at Picnic Loop.
It appears that our criticism of police methods at Aintree were timely and that if Mrs.Topham wishes to continue to receive the support of Press and public she should take steps to ensure that in future the police inside her fences act in a civil manner.
A Note for Stirling Moss’ Fans
Stirling Moss was fined recently for crossing from one lane to another in the Mersey tunnel when driving away from Aintree after the British Grand Prix. The action was taken as the result of information lodged by a fellow motorist. lt is interesting to note that the Mersey tunnel authorities are prepared to act on such information whereas when a case of genuine dangerous driving is reported to the police they invariably take a disinterested attitude and tell the informer that it is up to him or her to bring a civil action.
Reverting to Moss and the Mersey tunnel, it is amusing to find that the person who so readily informed against him stated that Britain’s most popular racing driver was at the wheel of a powerful sports car. In fact, Moss was driving a Triumph Herald . . .
The “fast” lane in the Mersey tunnel is often slower than the “slow” lane when the former is blocked by over-cautious drivers or crawling commercials and this encourages drivers to go from one lane to another. It seems incredible that a fellow motorist should report Moss, not very accurately either, for what is a comparatively harmless motorist misdemeanour. People have been “sent to Coventry” for less and Stirling Moss has tens of thousands of fans. The person who informed on Stirling is Mr. J. L. Hull “Elms,” Arch Road, Newton, West Kirby, Cheshire.
The August Bank Holiday meeting at Brands Hatch was attended by an enormous crowd, estimated at around the 40,000 to 50,000 mark, and they had a large and varied programme of racing to watch.
The major race of the day was the John Davy Trophy for F.2 cars, which was run in two heats, the aggregate times of which were added together to find the winner. In the first heat Chris Bristow sprang a surprise on Jack Brabbam and Roy Salvadori, both in Coopers, by getting away first and maintaining his lead in the B.R.P. Cooper-Borgward for the remainder of the race, while Salvadori and Brabham scrapped between themselves for second place — honours eventually going to Salvadori. In the second part Brabham appeared, having changed his anti-roll bar, and immediately took the lead from Salvadori and Bristow, indulging in his usual crowd-pleasing slides. Bristow was never very far behind though and when the times were added together it was found that he had won by over a second from Salvadori.
Peter Ashdown gained another win for Lola in the Wrotham Trophy, which was held in two heats and a final. Although Graham Hill appeared in a Lotus Seventeen he was no match for the flying Lola. As he came past the stands Ashdown pointedly looked over his shoulder at Hill as he appeared round Clearways. In the Final Ashdown won from Gammon, also Lola-mounted, with Hill well down in third place after a bad start.
The highlight of the day’s racing for most spectators was the 21-lap race for over-1,600-c.c. sports cars. C. J. Lawrence kept his Morgan Plus Four in front of Protheroe’s XK120, Baillie’s Corvette and Sears’ Healey 3000 for 16 laps by superb driving. Gradually Protheroe closed the gap and rather unnecessarily switched on his headlamps, but Lawrence was not to he unnerved and Protheroe eventually managed to get by on Top Straight but the crowd let it be known with whom their sympathies lay at the end of the race by giving Lawrence a tremendous ovation,
The under-1,300-c.c. saloon car race provided excitement as Shepherd and Williamson raced closely for the whole race in their much modified A40s with Climax-like exhaust notes. Shepherd held the lead for the whole race although pressed hard by Williamson, but at Kidney Bend on the last lap his engine blew up in a cloud of smoke.
After the lunch interval a five-lap handicap race for Veteran and Edwardian cars took place which was won by Sir Francis Samuelson in his 1914 3-litre Sunbeam from Cecil Clutton’s Itala. — M.L.T.
Miniatures news, October 1963
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