Letters from readers, September 1960
I am writing to tell you that the authority of Motor Sport was recently quoted in no less a place than Dorchester Quarter sessions,
Briefly. the facts of the case were that the Police procecuted two young men, one a National Service Airman, for dangerous driving. with an alternative charge of driving at a speed dangerous to the public. The airman was driving his father’s Sunbeam Rapier, and his friend, his father’s Renault Dauphine Gordini. The Police alleged that they witnessed at 11 pm one evening what they considered to be a race between the Gordini Dauphine and the Rapier at speeds up to 85 mph, the Renault overtaking the Rapier several times at 101 mph “surprisingly quickly.” The Police stated that they could not catch the two young men with their patrol car, which was a Ford Zephyr.
Moton Sport was quoted by the Defence, who stated that the Motor Sport road-test of the Renault found the top speed to be 69 mph. When cross-examined the Police driver confronted by this fact said : “Oh yes, but the Sunday Express claims it to have a top speed of 78 mph.”
The two young men were found “Not guilty.”
I am, yours, etc, JM Callawan (Mrs), Hythe.
Good old Colin
I somehow missed reading the last paragraph in Mr Bunker’s letter in the July issue (which is strange being a long-standing Deek fan !), but I really must join Peter Ross in the August issue in censuring his remarks about Cohn Chapman’s ability as a car designer.
After several extremely interesting discussions with Colin Chapman about car design (having owned three different Elites—a prototype, the Border Reivers’ competition model and a completely standard model which I use today along with a Mini-Minor as personal transport). I can only say that I would put Colin along with Alec Issigenis as the two most brilliant designers in the World today. Furthermore, as he proved at Silverstone last month. Colin is still a driver of considerable ability. and anyone who, at the age of 32, can have built up a complete little “car-building empire” employing 130 people in the short space of six years deserves the title of “Genius.” Of course he has had his failures —what successful businessman or designer has not but from the humble beginnings of Mk 6 construction kits, through the fantastically successful Eleven and the brilliantly-conceived Elite to the present-day Formula car there is a long succession of the successful application of original and ingenious principles which have now become accepted practice. Lotus have been largely responsible for pioneering the use of spaceframes, and it was Colin who first recognised the possibilities of the Coventry-Climax “fire-purnp” engine; Lotus who have revolutionised suspension on British sports and racing cars. And every single idea which comes from Lotus bears the hallmark of Chapman’s brain, even though it is often his team of brilliant enthusiasts who finally bring each individual idea to fruition.
Ask Moss, Ireland, Clark, Surtees, Gurney, or any other driver who has raced the present-day Formula car, what he thinks of it. They will all tell you that it is basically an incredible car from the handling point of view and that it so obviously has the performance potential. They have been plagued with a succession of comparatively minor troubles this season; none of them basic design faults. But then, do not forget that this car was not even on the drawing-board until mid-November last year—not nine months ago !
Finally, I think I would be echoing the sentiments of all those who have worked for and with Colin Chapman, whether they be designers, mechanics or his team drivers, when I say that despite differences of opinion on business matters from time to time, he is not only a brilliant genius but a most likeable rascal !
I am yours, etc. Ian Scott Watson, Greenlaw.
Not a Brands fan
On page 665 of the August issue of Motor Sport I was very interested to read the account of the New Brands Hatch, where it is hoped to win the British Grand Prix over from Silverstone and Aintree. So interested, in fact, that I deeided to pay my first visit to Brands, pay being the operative word.
On arrival at the circuit l was rather surprised to pay 10s to put my car in a very overcrowded car park. Entrance fee of 6s was, I thought, was quite reasonable, but this is neither here nor there, my reason for writing is to say what many, many, must have said by now to their friends.
Considering the authorities have spent in the region of £40,000 on the fabulous track, they might have spent a small amount on building and fitting out some decent toilets in place of the disgusting hovels that exist at present. The public address system has much to be desired, and the punctuality of the start of the events was also rather poor.
I would suggest that the “Powers that Be” should have a good look at the facilities for spectators at a decent circuit such as Goodwood. As for getting the Grand Prix at Brands—Ill eat my hat if they do.
I am, yours, etc. MJ Slevin
Safety Belts—A new aspect
How many people are going to be killed by the safety belts, etc now being sold for motor cars ? Those that I have seen in pictures or in the flesh have all been based on aircraft practice. For this service, the lap straps and harnesses are not primarily intended to deal with crashes. When an aircraft fires, the chances of anyone outside arriving in time to get the victim(s) out is very remote.
When someone is handy, it is virtually impossible for even a very strong man to lift an unconscious body and fiddle with pin, toggle catch or release disc whilst keeping an eye on the fire and holding one’s breath against lethal fumes. (It is worth remembering that a faceful of flame may, or may not, disfigure. A lungful of hot gases will certainly kill.)
In the case of a car “brew-up” it is much more likely that help will he available. All the manufacturers seem to have missed this point. If it is worth while wearing protection against the very remote possibility of a 2g-plus crash, then it is worth while thinking of the fire risk. No harness is any good unless it can be released from on top of the shoulders in Such a way that the wearer can be lifted or slid out sideways notwithstanding steering wheel etc fouling. And that is not just theorizing.
I am yours, etc. Roy Jenkins, Skegby.
I recently I hired a car from a well-known company who specialise in self-drive hire.
In their advertisments they offer new 1960 saloons by several of the largest makers in various engine capacities. When I collected mine I had only driven it a short distance when it became obvious that the engine was very considerably down on power. On looking into the cause of this, it was found that all aluminium plate had been inserted between the carburetter flange and the intake manifold flange. This plate had holes drilled into it which reduced the area of the intake diameter to about half, thus achieving the same effect as limiting the throttle opening to half.
This method of governing the engine speed made overtaking quite a hazard.
Needless to say, no mention whatsoever was made by the car hirers of the fact that engines were governed. One wonders what impression would be gained by a potential customer for such a car, either from overseas or home after driving one of these cars which, in the mildest terms were flat and dull. I understand that car hire firms do considerable business with visiting American and other overseas visitors. This aspect to the matter prompted me to write to the car manufacturers concerned. From them I learn that while they are very strongly against this practice they are well aware of it and are of the opinion that it is growing. They expressed their intention of taking the matter up with the car hire firm concerned. Arising from this is the aspect of untrue representation by the hirers, who advertise for example 1960, B50 and B65 models for hire, while in reality they are only B25 and B321/2’s.
Quite another matter is the covering of these vehicles by insurance. I got mine with what I understood at the time to be full comprehensive insurance. Imagine my astonishment to read in the local press that a car hire firm had recovered a large sum from someone who had been in an accident with one of their cars which was insured third party only.
When I took this point up I was shown a very small notice which was in the wall of the hirer’s office which said something to the effect that clients are invited to enquire about quotation for full insurance cover. This was held to be sufficient to warn clients that the cars were only covered by minimum insurance. During the present holiday season when many people hire cars to drive themselves, it will be well to bear these two pitfalls in mind.
I am, Yours, etc. Hirer-Had.
[Ever since Adam tasted apple certain members of the species have practised the art of “grab-grab,” which seems to reach its zenith in the City. Here is a particularly unfortunate example of commercial grabbery we are delighted to expose—Ed.]
Borgwards for businesmen
Three years ago you printed some comments of mine on a Borgward which I had bought without trial on the basis of a Motor Sport road-test. At 40,000 miles, having replaced only an ignition switch, I traded it in for a TS which I ran for 35,000 miles without any replacements whatever. Then, because of a “deal”, which it would have been foolish to refuse, the TS was traded in for an Isabella de Luxe. This car gave 60,000 miles of care-free service in temperatures that varied over a range of 140 deg F, and road surfaces that ranged from broken mud and icebound gravel to hot four-lane express-ways. Replacements on the De Luxe car consisted of four new tyres at 40,000 miles, two rear shock-absorbers at 45,000 (the result of a 22-hour 1,100-mile journey carrying a 900-lb load), two track-rod ends and top front wishbone bushes at 47,000, and dynamo brushes at 50,000. Normal maintenance—plugs, points, etc—was taken care of at about 12,000-mile intervals, and a compression test at 50,000 showed all four cylinders to be over 137 lb, which was thought to be rather impressive ! The TS engine consistently bettered the manufacturer’s claims (what a pleasant change) by about 4 mpg, normal highway cruising at the speed limit of 65 mph yielding an average of 38.2 mpg. (This may sound exaggerated until one realises that 200-300-mile runs can be covered virtually without a gear change on some of the long, straight fourlane highways here and any properly run-in TS will do this mileage at these speeds on your M1) Then, because of another very attractive trade-in offer, Number 4 Isabella was acquired a month ago, another de Luxe.
Before each new purchase was made, various other machines were tried out—just in case something more appealing existed. But no other car, either from a dollar-value or mechanical point of view, was found to approach these sturdy, Reutter-seated, 95-mph, roomy, economical, comfortable, irs, road-hugging, tireless, responsive machines which cost but a couple of hundred dollars more than a narrow cart-sprung box of breakfast food, and out-perform and outlast them them handsomely. This is probably a fair comment on the basis of a 140,000 mile “test” of a model which is used almost exclusively for business and from which complete reliability at all times is demanded and confidently expected. Biased ? I should think so ! Though of course it is realised that the breakfast-food boxes are probably perfectly suitable for less demanding work such as mimsing about the city in high gear within easy reach of service facilities. I owned one just before acquiring the first Borgward— no, that’s not fair ; it was actually a forebear of the cereal container —but the dreadful gear-shift and truck steering caused incipient ulcers which resulted in a hurried termination of ownership after ten days, and no subsequent trial of even the more expensive variation on the theme has given any real reason for a revision of opinion.
Any businessman who has to live in his car and covers large mileages at his own expense would do well to take a long hard look at the Borgward when making the next change. Even in UK, with the hefty import duty, he might find himself financially ahead after a couple of years, to say nothing about the ease and comfort which will be a revelation to him if the change is from a cart-sprung machine. In those parts of the world where a TS can be bought for the same price as a Peugeot, Volvo, Zephyr, Magnette, Velox, Rapier, Fiat 2100, Simca V8 or Vanguard, it would be even more worthwhile to examine this car which will out-perform all of those mentioned, except perhaps the Volvo—about equal performance there—outlast all except perhaps the Volvo and the Peugeot, and be more economical to run than even those two. In the road-holding department its splendid front-end geometry and independent rear suspension make it more sure-footed and stable than any of them. However, it is well to know that this is not a top-gear car; the TS engine calls for intelligent use of the gear lever if the best performance is to be realised, but the all-synchromesh, four-speed, column-mounted gear change is one of the best of its type, so this is no great hardship. The instruction manual rather quaintly informs us : “It should not be tried to accelerate the vehicle by depressing the accelerator pedal. This procedure is quite useless and detrimental to the engine. It is advisable to keep engine revolutions.”
I am enclosing a renewal of my subscription for another two years. If something better than the Borgward does come out, I am sure that Motor Sport, as usual, will be the first to draw attention to it. I write from a land where a strip of paint transforms a dull motor car into “the brand new car designed in England especially for Canadians”—to wit, the Varaihall Victor into the Envoy. And the advance blah-blah had us all thinking that Luton had finally come up with something new !
Ah well ! Other Toms, other Moores.
I am, Yours, etc. MC. Hogan. Vancouver.
I wonder if any of your readers have experienced steering, independent rear suspension, braking and rear-wheel skidding troubles on the 290/1 3-litre type Lagonda. As the owner of a 1956 model of this mark, I have had persistent difficulty with instability of the rear suspension and steering wander at high speeds, with a strong tendency to go into tail skids (two 120-degree swings, and one of a complete 360 degrees). Effective braking has also been a difficulty always. Prolonged experiment has been successful up to a point ; the experience of other owners would be most gratefully appreciated.
I am, Yours. etc. WW Wadell, London, SW1
A Eustace Watkins Wolseley Hornet
I enclose a photograph of my 1935 two-seater, 14-hp Wolseley Hornet Daytona Special, which I was very lucky to acquire from a relation who had owned it all its life. It still has the original engine, and has now done just over 180.000 miles, including motoring on the Continent, and 2,000 miles round the mountains of Norway in 1951, using only 2 pints of oil. I find it a most delightful and responsive car to drive, even if not fast by modern standards.
The body is by Eustace Watkins and I believe comparatively rare. I wonder if anyone can tell me how many were originally made, and if any of your readers are still running them ?
I am, Yours, etc. RJ Rickards, Canterbury.
I recently purchased a new Anglia from Ford. I have done 1,300 miles and had my dynamo repaired and new brake linings due to grease leaking on the old one. My boot does not fit, rubber is coming off one of the doors, which by the way rattles. My prize complaint is that when it rains it leaks so much that I cannot have a passenger in the front. The only praise I have for my car is for the gearbox which I understand has Porsche parts.
My brother recently purchased a VW and I did not realise how good a car it was till I really examined it. It may be an ugly looking car but at least it is not always back at the garage.
I am, Yours. etc. MG. Isaacs. Golders Green
Rover versus Citroen
I must reply to Mr. Cropp’s comparison of the Rover 100 to the Citroen in this month’s issue. The Rover is indeed a very fine motor and always has been but surely he cannot compare the comfort of a suspension more suited to the 1930’s to that of the Citroen suspension, which, I am sure, will be considered quite up to date in twenty years’ time. In the past 21/2 years I have covered approximately 101,000 miles throughout Scotland in three Citroens, all of which have been continually cruised, where possible, at 80 mph and more with no trouble whatsoever, I have driven most cars, including Rovers, and would not like to have tried cornering them like the Citroens.
I would suggest Mr. Cropp tries the same run as he described, in a Citroen for I suspect he has possibly never driven one at all.
His “over 50 mph” average does not impress me as I have averaged over 60 mph for 200 miles with a Citroen which is “less” than 2 litres.
I am, Yours, etc. CH McIean. Edinburgh.
An MG-A in Rhodesia
Very little has been printed recently in your excellent magazine in recent months about the MG-A and Twin Cam. I would like to give a brief appreciation of my experiences with my 1957 MG-A which I bought new in December 1957.
It has now covered nearly 40,000 miles and is as sound as when new. I recently fitted a new crankshaft and bearings after overdoing things (5,600 rpm in top gear) on the first occasion that the car was on tarmac in over a year ! The pistons have never been removed and oil consumption is negligible, in spite of 34,000 miles on dirt roads with only the standard gauze air cleaners. New front shock-absorbers were fitted at 38,000 miles. The rear ones are still perfect.
Averages in the 70s are commonplace, even over the worst of our roads which by British standards would be fit only for “trials.” These averages are quite easy to reach due to the comfort of the suspension at speed, the sensitive steering and the good brakes.
I drove from Blantyre in Nyasaland to Broken Hill in Northern Rhodesia during the rainy season of 1957-58 ; a distance of 736 miles, all but a hundred dirt. It took 12 hours, including stops! The road was greasy and often under several inches of water. In one place mine was the only car to get through a section in which even Land Rovers were bogged. In these conditions the only other car I have found which will travel as well (but not quite so fast) is that much discussed German “beetle.”
Premium petrol is not usually available at most of the bush stations I have been on, but with standard grade I return 39 mpg at a steady 60 mph. The wire wheels have given no trouble. My only serious complaint is that dust pours in the doors and the battery cover, and all attempts to remedy this have so far failed. Another fault is that the rear brake adjustment occaisionally slacks back a notch or two on very bad roads.
Other cars I have owned in this country are an Austin Westminster which was only four months old when I sold it because the front suspension had completely collapsed twice…. and a side-valve Morris Minor which I bought secondhand, and gave excellent service for 30,000 miles including racing, in modified form, and rallying, with some success.
I am, Yours etc. Roy Williams, Samtya
Not Britax alone!
I am sure you will not mind me drawing your attention to an advertisement by Britax (London) Ltd., which recently appeared in Motor Sport.
This advert contains a large insert which reads : “The only diagonal belt approved to British Standard BS3254 as recently announced.” The advert implies that no other car safety belt or harness using a diagonal strap is approved. This, of course, is not true as both our own type CH/2 diagonal harness and a Siebe Gorman diagonal harness were among the first three to he approved by the British Standards Institution.
We have referred the matter to the British Standards Institution as they are involved and I know that it is against your policy to publish anything which is not accurate or which is damaging to other advertisers.
I am, Yours, etc, for Irving Air Chute of Great Britain Limited.
GE Streeter, (Sales and Service Section), Letchworth.
Miniature cars in Malaya
Your May issue has just come to hand and it was indeed interesting to read the letter of AG Watson on “2 cv versus Austin Seven”. The new BMC babies appear to have been selling like hot cakes in UK and I thought you might like to know exactly how these little cars have been received in Malaya.
First of all, the 2 cv is virtually unobtainable, which is a great pity. Nevertheless, opposition is extremely fierce, and I would quote the following prices (converted to sterling) of a few of this country’s small cars.
These prices are fully inclusive of import duty, tax, etc, and only the “de-luxe” versions are available. On top of this, the buyer can expect a discount of around 10 per cent in a straight purchase (it may be as much as 12 per cent, but never more than 71/2 per cent in Singapore however, so that the “de-luxe” Mini-Minor is selling at £458. Moreover—and more important—is the fact that the Fiat and NSU cost a mere £10-£20 more than the BMC car. If the same state of affairs existed in UK I wonder how popular the home product would be ? I have only seen three NSU’s in Malaya, and there are not many more than twenty Lloyds. These two suffer from an acute shortage of spares since their distribution is handled by a rather small Singapore concern interested in selling cars—not spares. On one occasion, when a front differential coupling on my 1956 Lloyd sheared its spline (this engine is also mounted “crosswise “) I was told to wait till the next shipment from Germany— three months ! I eventually secured the part required, the proprietor cannibalising a new car in the process.
How different it is with that fine car,—the Fiat 600. There is no greater value for money, except the VW, which is beyond this range of capacity. There is absolutely no doubt that the Italian product is infinitely superior to the BMC car in practically every respect other than acceleration and all-out speed, the latter having 215 More ccs to do it with. The Fiat is just as roomy, and it is regretted that the British car has been given generous interior dimensions only at the expense of body design and aerodynamics.
Moreover, it is getting on for six years since the Fiat 600 came into being and this is obvious when observing the general quality and excellence of finish both inside and out. Alas, the same cannot be said of the BMC car. It gives the impression of having left the factory without being properly finished. I dislike the feeble ashtrays which, are inadequately supported by capdboard, these wire door handles, wipers whose pivots are so insecure that they move along the scuttle in a direction opposite to the blades, and the vast front tyre consumption.
However. the “babies” are selling well (I hear the Fiat sales have dropped since their inception !) but my opinion is that they are not quite ready to be put on the extremely competitive small car market on a world scale.
In fact I estimate they will just about have got all their “teething troubles” worked out by the time I come home on long leave in just over 21/2 years’ time ! Then perhaps….
I am, yours, etc. ED Read, Johore