Matters of Moment, September 1961

The motorists’ lot…

The old song used to tell us that “the policeman’s lot is not a happy one.” Today policemen should be happy, with beautiful cars provided by the taxpayers and plenty of motorists to “book” for parking and speeding. It is the motorist who is unhappy, for he is the subject of increased taxation whenever the country needs additional revenue. Since the beginning of 1960 car licences have risen in cost by 20%, purchase tax on cars is up to 55% and petrol tax is 132% of the price of one gallon of premium fuel. A lot of us must feel it is time to take up something else – the Editor is considering buying a net so that he can catch butterflies and pin them in little glass-fronted boxes, or sticking stamps in albums, or returning to Meccano…

Why does the motorist bear the brunt of every Budget?

Wanted—powerful single-seaters

The 1.5-litre G.P. Formula is working out splendidly, and the vee-six Ferraris are as purposeful, as fast and as satisfactorily noisy as any classic racing cars out of history, within the confines of less than 200 b.h.p. But a lot of people still pine for powerful, hairy racing cars in which the wheels spin easily and the handling of which is pretty close to a continual dice on ice. The B.R.S.C.C. is thinking along these lines, we believe, the aim being single-seaters powered with proprietary engines such as Jaguar, Aston Martin or big American engines, etc. However, dangerous handling and a shortage of suitable racing tyres might prove to be insurmountable obstacles.

The falling vintage market

Vintage car owners are amongst the most fanatical of enthusiasts but they represent a “hard-core” of the movement and their numbers are limited. In the past old cars have sold for very high prices as persons outside this “hard-core” sought to indulge in the joys of vintage motoring, while veterans changed hands for fabulous sums, ownership of a “Brighton” car having social prestige value. Recently, however, the vintage market has been falling – the rising cost of petrol and insurance, the nuisance of the 10-Year Tests, and the high standard of restoration expected by V.C.C. and V.S.C.C. have no doubt contributed. That this is the case was evidenced by the Second Beaulieu Veteran and Vintage Auction Sale, held last June. While this was eminently successful and fully achieved its purpose, the fall in prices was noticeable. Whereas at one time you would not go to such a sale without a couple of hundred pounds or so, this year such realistic prices as £25 for a 1924 Unic, £45 for a 1928 Morris-Oxford and £62.5 for a 1928 Hampton prevailed. Naturally more classic cars sold for far more, and the lunatic fringe still exists, as witness a 1900 de Dion was withdrawn when the bidding reached £1,375.

Quite a number of cars failed to realise the vendors’ hopes and it is significant that you could acquire a Rolls-Royce Phantom I for £47.5, a Rolls Twenty on average for £90, and a Continental Phantom II for £240. Indeed, the market for used Rolls-Royces seems especially precarious, possibly because their numbers are legion, spares expensive, and connoisseurs seek stately makes less frequently encountered. At all events The Veteran & Vintage Magazine reported: ‘Nobody seemed to want Rolls-Royces … we hate to say it, but we can’t help feeling that Rolls-Royces should be strictly rationed, if not barred altogether. You can have too much of anything, even The Best Car in the World, and there is nothing so calculated to dampen a prospective purchaser than a really down-at-heel wearer of the Spirit of Ecstasy.”

The futility of the 10-year tests

We have repeatedly drawn attention to the futility of the 10-Year Tests as conducted by private-enterprise garages. The Times is in agreement, publishing, on July 24th, a long article about the experiences of the owner of a 1948 M.G. that had done 76,000 miles and “had had several young owners,” who took it to five different examiners, the car being rejected by four of them, on different counts, but passed by the fifth garage in ten minutes. Confronted with this engineering conundrum, the M.G. owner’s own garage proprietor commented “Well, it just goes to show that it is merely a matter of opinion.”

Alas, for such opinions the motorist, as always, pays…

The last round

The last round of the Brooklands Memorial Trophy, sponsored by Motor Sport, will take place at Goodwood on September 16th. The event should see some keen racing between the current leaders, G. Oliver (D.R.W.-Ford), J. Derisley (Lotus 7A), and L. Keens (Lola), all of whom have 12 points, and P. Dodd (Lotus Eleven) with 11 points. First race is at 2.00 p.m.