Letters From Readers, September 1959



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

The Relationship between Police and Public


I see you have joined the ranks of the persecuted martyrs — those of us who must pay and suffer endorsement until reason prevails.

I got mine too — nine o’clock on a Sunday evening on a deserted Chelsea Embankment, running in a new A.35, luxuriating in the smooth, silent running of a modern car after the rattle and roar of a more aged model (keep well in — a couple of motor-cyclists behind). The inevitable — “timed for three-tenths of a mile — 43 m.p.h. (frantic look for lamp posts and houses; could only see Chelsea Gardens and the river) — most parts of London are subject to the 30 m.p.h. limit, sir — licence and insurance certificate, please — will have to report it ” — followed by a summons.

Well, fair enough, I suppose — it will spoil an offence- and accident-free run of 36 years and well over half a million miles, but still . . .

Sequel 1. One week later. Sweeping along same stretch of road along with 10,000 assorted cars and lorries at a brisk 40 m.p.h. — at bridge intersection beckoned on by an impatient pointsman (to make way for a race competitor?) — crossed the line at an astonished 48 m.p.h.

Sequel 2. Home to see T.V. news. Picture of same stretch of road — shots of racing motor-cycle (no sound) with pillion passenger, weaving through dense traffic at a brisk rate of knots (if there was no photographic trickery, not less than 55 m.p.h.) and very successfully followed by a camera crew, presumably car borne, all in aid of a newspaper-sponsored race (praised in your columns).

Public/police relations? I will still go to the aid of a policeman being kicked to death by teddy boys — but would I help a speed cop mend a puncture?

Hearing of case still pending — so . . .

I am, Yours, etc., “Frustrated.”

[We were all in favour of the Daily Mail Air Race, but it does make 30 m.p.h. trapping seem absurd under circumstances of clear, straight, roads. Incidentally, as racing on the roads of this country is illegal (except by cycling clubs ?) and the Daily Mail specified that competitors in the London-Paris race must obey the laws of both England and France, wasn’t the whole contest null and void before-it started, anyway? — Ed.]


Some Replies to “Hard to Please”


I read with interest the letter of Mr. D. R. Roach concerning his experience with the new Herald. It does seem a little unfair to condemn a complete make of car on the failings of one model, Several road tests have now been carried out on this Triumph, including your own, and I am sure that if these faults listed by Mr. Roach were general, at least one test would have discovered them. Perhaps Mr. Roach is unaware that the Triumph Herald carries a 12-month guarantee.

I wonder if Mr. Reach has informed the Triumph Motor Company of his findings, and if so, what was their reaction?

Please let us have more of your excellent road tests. I am sure many readers will agree with me when I say that they are undoubtedly the most detailed and informative to be found in any motoring magazine.

I am, Yours, etc., K. A. White. Northwood.



Mr. Duncan Roach Atkinson’s diatribe against the “Herald” does himself little credit — but quite a lot to you for giving it space. His very first point “it leaked like a sieve” is so palpably a grossly exaggerated synonym that it conclusively damns the whole letter, whose tone and observations follow a similar pattern.

No car has ever received such adulation from the press. Your own tribute, particularly, being one which is not lightly earned. This body of experienced professional opinion conclusively rebuts the mischevious charges of Mr. Atkinson whose mental age they suggest to be still low in the ‘teens.

One driver can do more damage to a car in 100 miles than another in 100,000, especially in the running-in stage. As Mr. Atkinson sold his after 2,000 it makes one wonder how many he had done before he pushed it to 30 in second and 70 in top. After I had completed 2,000 my Herald travelled at 80 m.p.h. for five miles without any fuss and my general experience with the car fully bears out that of the motoring correspondents. The few teething troubles I have had — from one of the earliest models off the line — have been most expeditiously dealt with by the company; and, of course, several modifications of minor points have been made to eliminate them.

I must compliment Messrs. Alford & Adler on the steering which is delightfully light and positive. Indeed, for long runs I now find myself sneaking out the Herald instead of a vastly more expensive car of 4½ times the h.p.

The merits of this small car are rightly earning a large and enthusiastic following. I only wish that the company would employ a firm of advertising agents who could do it justice. For the last five years their contributions have been quite worthy of letters such as Mr. Atkinson is a master!

I am, Yours, etc., W. H. Gardiner (Lt.-Col.). Rushlock.



Your correspondent from Dublin, S. Clune, who does “95 per cent. of my driving through heavy town traffic with many intermittent. stops,” chooses a Twin-Cam M.G.-A with a compression-ratio of 9.9 to 1 for the job and then wonders why it’s not satisfactory!

I may be wrong of course, but it seems unlikely that the Twin-Cam engine was produced specifically for the use of slow shoppers!

Why not sell your car, Mr. Clune, to someone who will use it as its makers intended it to be used? In its place an Austin-Healey Sprite would probably be more suitable, though possibly not as impressive at the yacht club!

I am, Yours, etc., A. Allen. Ledbury.


In Defence of the Dyna


In your tailpiece closing the Dauphine v. Volkswagen correspondence you make a statement calculated to start a controversy of almost equal heat, by referring to the “poor roadholding,” of the Dyna Panhard.

This stems, I believe, from an article by your Continental Correspondent following somewhat random sampling of various French cars. The phrase he uses is that the Dyna “if provoked had a will of its own, almost representing a built-in accident.”

May I assert, Sir, that these dangerous tendencies are a pure fable? I have owned a succession of Light Fifteens, which is not a car which leads one to become tolerant of poor roadholding; and after 8,000 miles my admiration of the Panhard’s excellent cornering, steering, and general handling in wet or dry, equals my appreciation of its performance and economy. After all it would be extraordinary if a car characterised by a low centre of gravity and rigid frame, small unsprung weight, front-wheel drive, firm suspension and an eight-and-a-half feet wheelbase, was dangerous on the road. Suitable “provocation” will cause an accident with any car; but I am sure that no one conversant with the technique of front-wheel drive will endorse your Correspondent’s remarks. On the contrary many other experts have commented on the Dyna’s stability.

I have no wish to dilate on the general merits of the car prior to your own test (which I hope will be soon). But obviously a car capable of 80 m.p.h. and returning over 40 m.p.g. with hard driving is worth objective consideration by your readers; coupled with room for six (and their luggage), air-cooling, perfect accessibility and remarkable silence; while the reliability and robustness of the engine is attested by its record at Le Mans and elsewhere.

Should you exchange the Editorial VW for a Dyna you will obtain the durability and economy of the former with increased performance and better looks (which do not invite zoological comparison).

I should perhaps add that I am a private owner who pays for his cars (and their repairs) by the sweat of his brow. I must have a reliable and economical car, while a bit of performance is all to the good. These virtues I have proved with the Citroen products mentioned, and I fully expect the same from the Panhard. But the casual and ill-informed criticism which prompts this letter is merely misleading the public.

I am, Yours, etc., “F.R.C.S.” Portsmouth.


The Dear Old Ford V8


Do I notice a feeling of affection for the old Ford V8 in the article by The Editor, “Two Days with the Latest Ford Zephyr?” “. . . The modern Zephyr does not equal that famous car in terms of absolute acceleration, even after a quarter of a century of engine development.” And later in the article . . . “A purposeful exhaust note somewhat reminiscent of the dear old Ford V8.” This is the first time I have seen praise for the Ford V8 in any motoring magazine — they rarely get a mention even, let alone any favourable write up.

I have owned a V8 for the last six years and I think they are very interesting automobiles. The model I drive is the 1936 Type 68 convertible and the original engine is still returning 17/18 m.p.g. and it has never been decarbonised or had the head off.

I enclose a photo of my favourite motor car — and I would also mention that it is a greater crowd gatherer than the latest Zephyr. As soon as I park it they come along for a look!

I am, Yours, etc., V. Outen. Lee Green.


Alvis Service


Three friends and myself have recently returned from a 2,000-mile tour of the Continent in a 1932 Alvis 12/60. Before setting out I requested from Messrs. Alvis Ltd., a continental spares kit, expecting at the most a set of sparking plugs, distributor points, etc. Alvis Ltd. however had a different idea as to what spares it would be prudent to take, for I received a parcel weighing ¼ cwt. containing spares valued at £28, on loan for the period of our trip. This kit contained not only the usual spares such as coil, fuel pump and sparking plugs, but also a gasket set, timing gears, knock-on wheel hub caps, engine valves, springs and cotters, radiator hoses, etc., and even a selection of nuts, bolts and washers. The items were declared in three foreign languages for customs’ purposes. My letter requesting the kit was posted on a Tuesday evening, and the kit was delivered on the following Thursday morning.

Incidentally, the kit was not required, the 27-year-old car performing perfectly all the time!

I am, Yours, etc., John R. Williams. 

[This is really splendid and makes me regret that I am no longer a 12/50 owner. — Ed.]


Insurance Facts


I am saddened to have to write in opposition to the views of a fellow citizen and countryman of mine, Mr. R. J. W. May of Johannesburg, as contained in a letter published in the June issue. He is, of course, entitled to praise the virtues of the Renault Dauphine, but he should not couple them with a hysterical tirade of abuse of that wonderful triumph of automotive design, the Volkswagen, more especially when his facts are not correct.

I refer to insurance of the VW in South Africa. I myself have no difficulty in insuring my VW against all risks at the lowest rate with a very solid British concern. All my friends who own VWs have the same experience. Moreover, the agents are quite willing to give you a list of insurance companies who do likewise. However, I believe there are some companies who refuse insurance or who load premiums, because they class it as a sports car — why, I do not know. Its performance is certainly not remarkable. I am, of course, aware that certain car dealers are frantic with rage and jealousy at the sales success of the VW, it being not only the biggest seller in South Africa, but its figures very nearly doubling those of its nearest competitor.

I, sir, am the fortunate owner of two cars, both being acknowledged world-beaters in their respective classes — a Type 190 Mercedes-Benz and the Volkswagen. Outstanding though the 190 is, for sheer pleasure of driving I prefer the Volkswagen. It has such a willing feel to it, and it brings out the sense “oneness” with the machine that I have experienced previously only in flying fighter aircraft in the last war. My only complaint is that the VW causes arguments with my wife — arguments about whose turn it is to drive it next!

It is obvious to me that whereas the Germans were unable to conquer us by force of arms, they are doing so with this automobile. And the sales figures prove it — the world has surrendered willingly.

No sir, I agree with you. When that pretty little buzz-box, the Dauphine, is merely a rust mark on the ground, the Volkswagen will still be conquering the roads of the world.

I am Yours, etc., R. F. Clarke. Johannesburg.


Ettore Bugatti’s Inventions


“Few of his published inventions give the key to his engineering design quality,” is the general summing up of Mr. H. G. Conway after his searches into the patent files of E. Bugatti. Mr. Conway should not be discouraged, even after his patient work, if the key does not yet fall within his grasp.

Without being cynical, patents may be filed merely to establish the ”Prior Art” in order to preserve the position in the event of one particular line of approach proving to be the right one. Some may be filed in order to confuse or mislead a competitor, and some for commercial prestige. Of the Bugatti patents I believe all were completely honest efforts. It is easy some forty years after to realise that a certain approach to a problem was the wrong one, but I feel that it is only the lapse of time, and the great improvements in materials and techniques, that have tended to make some ideas appear ridiculous. When considering Bugatti’s effort to cool exhaust valves and silence camshaft gears, we must remember that steels and gear-cutting had not reached anything like their present degree of excellence, woven vee-belts were simply not available to Bugatti at this time. The lack of things like these naturally influenced the approach of these early designers along paths that seem strange to us today.

The idea of mounting the flywheel on the end of the crankshaft by means of rubber cylinders or “congealed oil” seems to us amusing. When we look at it in the light of the reversal of forces that takes place about the nodal point of the crankshaft in an “explosion” engine, it becomes very clear what Bugatti was after.

The fact remains that because of the enormous superiority of his racing cars at the time, and because (in spite of his inventions) he achieved more than his contemporaries, Bugatti must have had something that a study or his inventions does not reveal — what was it?

It is well known that Bugatti preferred to draw three dimensionally and this must have been in order to help him to think in three dimensions. He was possessed of this level of thought to a remarkable degree. He had the capacity of being able to balance in his mind the various factors or considerations of the problem, and then compromise or blend them into the final design, even to the point of equating two scientific wrongs to give the effect he wanted. By this means he arrived at a law more accurately in line with the situation than was possible using more laborious mathematical processes. Bugatti was by no means alone in having this capacity, and it is not only peculiar to engineers, some great living statesmen have it, and it is invariably accompanied by artistic inclination. Bugatti is a more interesting subject because his creative work happened to result in something tangible, and which can be preserved, but it is important to preserve the faults in his racing cars as well.

I believe we can learn a lot from Bugatti and there is a natural desire to preserve his work. A musician first learns the mechanics of conveying the single notes of the music on to the keyboard of the instrument, and he is able to play a simple tune, his contemporaries were only at this stage when Bugatti was already blending chords into the light and shade of the melody. The instruments we use today are not the centre lathe and boring machine, so much as the automatic lathe and press. The product is considered more in the light of the way it can be most economically produced. This must be so — the world’s appetite for consumer goods is enormous, and even though Bugatti never entered this field where some factors, such as taxation are non-engineering, the same sort of talent is required.

To find the type of mind to do this work I feel it is necessary to teach engineering to individuals who possess some artistic ability. Unfortunately education authorities attempt to do the reverse, they fail, and then industry attempts to buy it, sometimes in the form of styled car bodies from Italy. Italy is a good market for this sort of thing, and if the taste of the purchaser is not all it might be and the results are disappointing, it is only because he shopped in the veneer or fashion department instead of seeking out the genuine article. Great art never tires, one design of car body should last for years.

His balance of parts and components more than off-sets certain scientific indiscretions that Bugatti practised, and it is the thought processes by which he achieved this balance that could profitably engage the minds of engineers today. I believe we are still waiting for some modern Newton to measure these things and offer them to education authorities in a form they would be likely to accept. We would then have some superior design talent that is at present disregarded because often it does not possess a sufficiently good memory to absorb the more conventional procedures of engineering training. I am sure engineers would co-operate in first observations; perhaps Mr. Conway may yet find the key.

I am, Yours, etc., A. K. Haworth, A.M.I. Mech.E. Scotland.


Where are the Cooper School Team Drivers?


Our attention has been drawn to a letter appearing in your August issue enquiring about the progress of our Racing Drivers’ Training Division.

We will answer the queries in the order that your correspondent placed them.

When the Division started training drivers early in 1957, it was hoped that by the middle of the 1958 racing season, sufficient progress would be made to justify works entries for outstanding trainees in a number of events.

However, it soon became apparent that the step from even the most careful and advanced training to actually competing in Formula 2 races was too great.

It is the Company’s wish that every care should be taken over the successful trainees initiation into actual competition, the danger of beginning in a car too powerful for their experience being obvious to all.

It was therefore decided that the then newly announced Formula Junior would be the ideal stepping stone, and work was begun on a design which is now nearly ready to race. Thus, as soon as suitable races are organised for this class of car, our successful trainees will indeed be seen on the starting line in works-entered cars.

Finally, it should he stated that it is easy for those with little knowledge to assume that it is simple and profitable to run a Training Division such as ours, but in our experience these critics are ill-informed.

The responsibility of allowing everyday drivers to drive even detuned racing cars is great, an opinion that the number of damaged cars we have to repair every week bears out.

I am, Yours, etc., Ian Burgess, The Cooper Car Co., Ltd. Surbiton. 



In January, 1957, a picture appeared in the News Chronicle showing John Cooper sitting at the wheel of a Cooper racing car. It was stated that he was searching for new driver talent for his cars. He intended to obtain this talent by forming the Cooper Racing Drivers’ Training Division. After making reference to Stirling Moss and Peter Collins, who began racing on half-litre Coopers, he then went on to say, “There must be other young men with ability approaching theirs, but today you want at least £1,000 to start.“ The report then went on to describe how outstanding drivers would be given further training for places in the works team.

On the strength of this report, I wrote to Cooper’s and received a letter back from them in February 1957. This letter stated that the Committee were pleased to inform me that my application had been accepted. This welcome news, incidentally, cost me five guineas.

I received my next letter from Cooper’s in March 1957, which informed me that I “had been selected to attend for initial instruction and testing at Brands Hatch (lap charge 15s.) on Thursday, March 28th.” It also stated in the last paragraph of the letter that “we consider the ideal number of laps for a test is twelve. However, we have no objection to you doing less if you consider a smaller number sufficient, but must limit you to a minimum of five. Please note that lap charges are payable in advance, in cash, at the circuit.”

I duly arrived at Brands Hatch on the appointed day. There I came into contact with other trainees and we awaited our turn to drive the Formula 2 Cooper-Climax. At this stage, I should like to point out that I was then 22 and had been driving for five years for a considerable number of miles in three different countries. I consider that I had a reasonable experience of various types of motor vehicles. My impressions on driving the Cooper at Brands were that it was more or less a pleasant little run round the track. We did reach a considerable speed along the straight, but after two or three laps I found I had to noticeably ease back on the bends to avoid getting too close to the car which I had to follow. In other words I consider the drive to have been well within my capabilities. So the test was concluded.

On June 19th, 1957, I received a stereotyped letter from Cooper’s from which the following is quoted: “While your driving proved to be slightly above the average of those tested, it was not of a high enough standard to justify your being upgraded to the second stage. As we have explained previously, all stages of instruction, apart front the preliminary test, are at our expense and we can only afford to subsidise outstanding drivers. However, if you feel that with more practice you will justify your upgrading to stage two, we have no objection to your applying for a further test at your expense.”

In the same month, a report on the Racing Drivers’ Training School was published in the News of the World by Keith Challen. He stated that 5,000 applications were received for the Cooper’s School during the first four weeks. Of these, 1,000 were accepted as possibles from details given of their driving experience. John Cooper is quoted as saying: “Of the 500 drivers that we have tried, only 15 showed any promise in handling a single-seater car and six of these had had some club racing experience. These 15 are being invited for further training and I hope to produce half-a-dozen up to racing standard for 1958 or 1959 season.”

After making inquiries to Coopers on the standard of driving they hoped to obtain, I was informed that 20 or so drivers had so far qualified, but a great many more had been tested and they felt that these might be able to qualify after a further twelve laps. The letter concluded: “To judge from your first report, you stand as good a chance as anyone of upgrading after a second test, provided that you make a better job of your gear changes.” Naturally, I re-applied for a further test.

This took place later in the year at an increased rate of £1 per lap, and I considered that I put up a reasonable performance. The result of this test I received in November. This was typewritten. It stated: “Your driving was above average and noticeably better than at your first test. It was not quite of a high enongh standard for stage two, but if you were to maintain the same rate of improvement during a third test, it appears almost certain that you will be upgraded.” It then went on to give a few constructive criticisms and concluded: “Please let us know if you would like a third test at your expense.”

I applied once more for a further test, which took place on March 31st, 1958, exactly twelve months after the first test. Five months had passed since I had previously sat in this type of vehicle and I was far from satisfied with my driving on this occasion.

One month later, in April 1958, I received the report of this test, which stated the following facts: “Your driving was an average of those tested, but your particular pace was only achieved by rather careless and untidy driving. Unlike your second test (where you were untidy as your pace increased), you were just as untidy at a slower pace, and we do not feel that your driving was of a high enough standard.” This was the usual stereotyped letter interspersed with longhand. It naturally concluded with: “We have no objection to your applying for further test at your expense.” I had by this time reached the conclusion that there was no point in continuing with this particular scheme. This was after a total of 30 laps:– Eight at 15s.; Twelve at £1; Ten at £1; Plus membership fee £5 5s. Total: £33 5s.

So, after one year in the Cooper Training Division, I had the benefit of 30 laps at Brands Hatch. Being optimistic, I estimate that I had a total of 45 minutes’ driving time, which has cost me the above sum.

In September 1958, I received a circular which informed me “that 49 drivers had been selected for stage two training. From those we selected the best ten drivers to go into stage three, the results of which will be known in the near future. The selected drivers will be given ample practice as we have already chosen the first events for entries in 1959, and we sincerely hope that these drivers will take advantage of the opportunities offered in the appropriate way.”

Like your previous correspondent concerning the Training Division, I also have heard nothing further of these ten drivers, and wondered if Motor Sport could enlighten me further on this matter.

I am, Yours, etc., B. Macefield. London, E.5.