Driving the New B.M.C. Mini-Cars

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The B.M.C. laid on a party for Continental journalists on August 19th (at which Paul Frere was rumoured to have lapped in 2 min. 2 sec.) and for British journalists on August 20th at the F.V.R.D.E. at Chohham for the purpose of sampling their new babies in motion. The release date was August 26th, for those papers which had not “jumped the gun.”

I was able to drive six miles round the speed track and snake in a Mini-Minor and while such a brief acquaintance tells you very little, it did confirm in no uncertain fashion the safe-handling qualities of these remarkable little four-seaters. There is a not too excessive understeer tendency which changes to oversteer on a corner if power is turned off. 60 m.p.h. shows on the speedometer in third gear and 70 in top, and at the latter speed there is some engine hum but noticeably little wind-roar.

Later it was possible to see how easily a one-in-four gradient could be taken in third gear from a rolling start, the cars also restarting unconcernedly in bottom gear on this hill. Driving round an untreated (dry) skid-pan confirmed the absence of any vicious oversteer. The steering is very precise and reasonably light and special treatment of the rack and pinion seems to have eliminated the kick-back usually associated with this layout. The long gear lever and floor starter button are reminiscent of far earlier Austin Sevens. Steering calls for 21/ turns, lock-to-lock.

Details of controls layout, etc., must wait until it is possible to publish a full road-test report but the flashers stalk on the right of the steering column is useful and the de-luxe Mini-Minor I drove had speedometer with transparent needle for easy reading of the figures, ash-trays and lamps in each rear parcels container, etc. There are double sliding front windows and the rear windows open slightly, an arrangement said to provide highly efficient ventilation.

At lunch it was interesting to chat with Alec Issigonis about the new cars, which must surely completely undermine Continental mini-car sales in this country and probably throughout the World. He remarked that he found it easier to silence the mechanical side of the car with the transverse engine than with the power unit normally placed. He gives tyre life as 12,000 miles from the driving wheels, 13,000 from the back wheels, but Dunlop Duraband covers will eventually be available which are expected to triple these mileages. Issigonis says he discarded air-cooling for various reasons, of which a very important one is that he could go up on compression-ratio by 1½ ratios with water-cooling. He is a firm believer in high compression-ratios for maximum petrol economy.

It now remains to check on a few pertinent points, such as petrol economy, ability to negotiate mud, and accelerative abilities, which we shall do as soon as one of these refreshingly new and “different” cars is placed at our disposal for road-test. Further comments on the new B.M.C. project will be found on pages 678-680 and in our Editorial. — W.B.

Alec Issigonis, designer of the sensational new rubber-suspended B.M.C. mini-cars, was born in Smyrna in 1906 and came to this country in 1922 at the age of 16. It was not until then that he first saw a motor car. He studied from 1922 at London University and his first job was with a firm who specialised in car suspension units. From them he went to another firm as a specialist in suspensions. He joined Morris Motors Limited as a suspension expert in 1936 and was shortly afterwards given the job of design in general. As a hobby he and Dowson built the successful rubber-suspended Lightweight Special. It is stated that the preliminary sketch of the Morris Minor as we know it today was made on the back of an envelope in an air-raid shelter during the war. In 1952 he went to Alvis Ltd., where he was responsible for a very advanced 3¼-litre V8 high-performance car with hydraulic suspension which never went into production. In 1956 he returned to the British Motor Corporation, where he now holds the appointment of Chief Designer.

The D.A.F. in Production

Last March the first two D.A.F. 600s, the little car with belt-drive automatic transmission which aroused considerable interest at last year’s Earls Court Show, were delivered. One went to the first person to place an order some years ago for the new Dutch car, the other to the only lady burgomaster in the Netherlands. as a gift from her municipality. The D.A.F. is now in full production and 150 dealers have been appointed in Holland. It is planned to export 20,000 D.A.F.s to America next year, as a “warming-up” move to whet U.S. appetites.

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The London Motor Club are again holding their popular London Rally, the ninth in the series. This year it will take place on September 18/19th. Starting points will be London, Leeds and Taunton with the Finish at the Royal Ascot Hotel, Ascot. Entry forms are available from Mrs. J. Actman, 18 Marlborough Road, Richmond, Surrey.

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Romford Enthusiasts Cur Club are holding a sprint meeting at Snetterton on Sunday, September 13th. The course will be  ¾ mile long starting on the home straight and passing through the Esses and Coram Curve. Proceedings commence at 2.30 p.m.

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The Malvern Urban District council are holding a Concours d’Elegance in Victoria Park, Malvern Link, on Saturday, September 12th, commencing at 1 p.m. Classes range from Veteran and Vintage to “Specials” and motor-cycles. Entry forms can be obtained from Mr. R. A. Gammons, Winter Gardens, Malvern.

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