Motor Sport-Readers' Car Survey (Part 6)
In concluding our Readers’ Car Survey we are publishing on these pages a table detailing all the makes which have been owned by readers who took part in the Survey, each make being quoted as a percentage of the total to show the relative popularity of each make and model. Naturally it has not been possible to evaluate all these makes in detail for a variety of reasons but in the pages that follow we make some general comments on those that have not been covered as well as providing a summary of those which have been dealt with in detail. The replies from the manufacturers of the Vauxhall Victor, Hillman Minx and Sunbeam Rapier are also included. Veteran, Vintage and P.V.T. cars will be discussed in next month’s edition of “Veteran, Edwardian and Vintage.”
By far the greatest proportion of readers, to reply to our Car Survey, own the smallest capacity classes of the “Big Five” manufacturers, and, as the accompanying supplementary table indicates, our readers’ ownership of cars approximates, with some exceptions, to the production totals of the manufacturers mentioned. B.M.C. accounts for by far the largest proportion of our readers’ cars, although they require six different makes to accumulate this total. Many of the cars listed were of course produced in pre-B.M.C. days under the Nuffield organisation, and the pre-War Rileys were made by the old Riley Motor Co. Even so, both Austin and Morris individually have a greater total than the next highest total in our Survey, which is Ford. That VW come third in our list is indicative of the reputation of this car and that the many complimentary words written about it in this journal have borne fruit, for no-one would pretend that it is the third largest selling car in Britain. Rootes require four different marque names for their fourth position and are closely followed by Standard/Triumph, with Jaguar/Daimler ahead of Vauxhall, who easily outsell Jaguar and Standard in World markets but obviously the sound but an exciting Victor range has not appealed to our readers, although the latest Victor and VX4/90 undoubtedly will.
Of individual cars the most popular are the B.M.C. Min twins. Austin Sevens are owned by 651 and Morris Minis by 745, giving a total of 1,396 to the 1,090 of Volkswagen saloons. Next in popularity comes the Morris Minor with 690, Ford Anglia (195E) with 518 and Triumph Herald with 415. These are all, of course, in the 1,000-c.c. category, and the most popular in the t h-litre class are the basically identical Riley 1.5 and Wolseley 1500 which total 336 together. The various permutations on the Rootes theme would rival these figures but the cars are nowhere near as similar as the Riley and Wolseley. The most popular sports car is the Austin-Healey Sprite, owned by 321 of the readers who answered the Survey.
Many owners pin their faith in older cars and in these cases they usually wax enthusiastic, often overlooking the troubles which age has brought along. Examples Of this are the Jowett Javelin, ZA/ZB M.G. Magnette, Standard Eight and Ten and Vanguard, Austin A35, Ford Anglia 100E, and, in sports cars, the TC and TA M.G.s. It is regretted that it has not been possible to survey these makes but as they are now out of production there is little of value to be said, especially as the majority are at the age when one can expect failures through high mileage and deterioration with age.
Taking those cars which we have dealt with in detail, we hope that the Survey has had the function of highlighting those items of equipment which are prone to trouble. Generally speaking we feel that the Survey has proved that cars are more reliable in respect of major components than the pessimists would have us believe, although individual makes, usually with some advanced design features, have suffered failures peculiar to that design in its major assemblies. However, a car which has been in production for a number of years invariably gives good service, although individual faults still do occur and faults can be introduced into a successful design by changes of material or design features.
On the majority of cars the engine, gearbox, clutch, brakes, steering and final drive give very little trouble at all, and from our Survey results it appears that you stand a far better chance of exceeding 30,000 miles without major trouble in these components, whatever the make of car, than you do of encountering failures. This excludes electrical engine accessories which will be mentioned later. Of the other components the suspension rarely gives trouble, although shock-absorber replacements often occur at low mileages. Several manufacturers pointed out that many shock-absorbers (in common with some other components) returned under warranty claims were invariably functioning correctly, the changes being made because of noise or merely some whim on the part of the owner that the car was not handling correctly.
Bodywork defects on modern cars are still far too numerous and even on makes where manufacturers claim to have cured water leaks, rusting of paintwork, etc., these faults are still appearing. No one manufacturer can be singled out because all suffer from bodywork defects to a varying degree. Several manufacturers point out that the increasing habit of local authorities of putting salt on the roads in winter time is having serious effects on underbody parts and protection has had to be increased considerably in these areas.
The equipment which suffered more failures than any other are the instruments and electrical equipment. Several manufacturers were reluctant to comment on the reliability of this type of accessory, the feeling being that as the design and quality control was out of their hands they could not be held responsible for these components. Some individuals, if pressed, remarked that Smiths and Lucas components displayed indifferent reliability in general although a great improvement had been noticed in the last two or three years. It seems to be the failure of relatively small items like windscreen wipers, petrol pumps, dynamos, speedometers, starter motors and so on, which can stop a motor car at most inconvenient times, which annoy owners more than a serious failure at high mileage. Although few people would commit themselves there was a general feeling that accessory suppliers, especially those with a virtual monopoly in their class, had an indifferent standard of inspection, although in our talks with Vauxhall recently it was mentioned that Lucas was now instituting a Reliability Division on similar lines to the one in operation at Luton.
Although faults of any kind are inexcusable, especially when it involves an extremely expensive purchase like a motor car, we were convinced by the majority of manufacturers that they do not sit back when a new car has been introduced and count the customers’ money, but get on with the job of tracing and eradicating faults which are thrown up in service; but as some of these are obscure and often difficult to locate and cure there is obviously some delay before modifications reach the market. Where a fault is undeniably, one of manufacture or workmanship most manufacturers are quite flexible over the warranty terms, Vauxhall mentioning that on early Victors they carried out repairs for a certain type of paint defect for well over two years beyond the guarantee period.
Therefore, although few cars are perfect and many do suffer from serious defects there are no manufacturers who are indifferent to the problems suffered by owners and the majority are taking great steps to improve the reliability of their products, as we have been able to see for ourselves at many factories.
Whilst going through the Survey forms it has become apparent that many owners expect too much from their cars. Many people, only able to afford a small saloon, seem to expect it to perform like a sports car and many owners having presumably chosen the car after a test drive criticise such aspects as steering, road-holding, braking, leg room and many other features which are or should be apparent during a test drive. While we have every sympathy with owners who have unsatisfactory experiences with their car (and indeed often take up the cudgels on their behalf) there can be little reason for complaint against design features which should be readily detectable during latest drive of ten miles duration, the minimum distance we feel in which it is possible to find how a new car works.
The Manufacturers Reply
To discuss the Hillman Minx and Sunbeam Rapier we went to the Rootes factory at Ryton-on-Dunsmore to talk to Chief Engineer Peter Ware and his staff.
The two cars were dealt with together as many of the components are common to both machines. On the engine it was felt that the high proportion of crankshaft failures, which quite naturally were more prevalent on the Rapier, occurred on cars more than two years old as a super-finished crankshaft was introduced at this time, in conjunction with new thrust washer material. Some failures have been caused by dirt in the oil system and modifications have been made to Improve cleanliness. At the same time as the crankshaft change the oil pump capacity was increased by 25%. Some pumps gave trouble because the required tolerances were not adhered to in production but more thorough inspection has cured this problem. Another measure on the Minx to relieve engine stress at high speed was to raise the axle ratio from 4.4 to 4.2. A change of valve material was made on the Minx IIIB to cure valve burning problems, and the valve guide fit and finish has been improved.
Cylinder-head gasket failures were found on the 1,600-c.c. engine due to errors in gasket crimping which were eliminated six months ago. Cylinder-head bolts were changed two years ago to improve head tightening. The changes of water pumps and thermostats are, in the opinion of Rootes engineers, almost always unnecessary, the thermostat often being changed due to misunderstanding of the pressurised cooling system and the water pump because of squeaking of the carbon pad, which does not affect its efficiency.
Oil leaks have been alleviated due to improved sump seal design and the tinting cover has a modified flinger and cover boss to prevent leaks, which was introduced a year ago. To reduce noise from the timing chain a rubber-faced tensioner has been introduced during 1962. Steps are being taken to improve exhaust system life which include efforts at combating the effects of the increasing use of salt on the roads.
With regard to the camshaft troubles it was pointed out by Rootes engineers that they felt running-in of the camshaft was as important, if not more so than the running-in of any other component. Tests are being made on running-in oils to see if initial wear can be overcome. The tappet base finish has been improved to very fine limits, while further development is proceeding on alternative heat treatment and materials.
Carburetter complaints can often be traced to icing, a phenomenon which occurred on one of the Rootes engineer’s cars on a warm day in August. By quickly lifting the bonnet he was able to spot the hoar frost around the air intake before it melted. Naturally, intensive research is going on into this problem, which does affect many different makes, but Rootes do not want to go to the expensive extent of using artificial heating of the inducted air as has been necessary on such ears as the Chevrolet corvair. On the twin-carburetter Rapier layout air leaks have caused carburetter problems and nine months ago a two-part manifold joint was put into production, effectively curing the problem. However, the problem of inexpert mechanics being unable to balance twin carburetters still remains.
Until recently the Minx and Rapier were fitted with a “Hydrostatic” clutch with a self-adjusting slave cylinder which requires that the foot be removed completely from the pedal as there is no free play. As so many people “ride the pedal” it has been decided to revert to an adjustable cylinder. Clutch judder is aggravated by starting in and gear, although some difficulty has been experienced with distortion on the clutch withdrawal lever fork which has since been corrected. The reports of heavy clutch pedal action are probably due to the booster spring sticking due to incorrect adjustment or lack of lubrication.
Complaints of poor gearbox synchromesh were dealt with some years ago when it was found that concentricity of the baulk ring was not being controlled accurately. This has now been cured. Jumping out of the gear-lever was caused on early Minxes by a displaced circlip which allowed gears to move on their shafts. Retention by a nut has been specified for two years. Other gearbox complaints, which include gear-lever noise, leaks, and broken gear-levers, have all been dealt with, the latter being caused by the use of Husky-type levers on Minx Specials.
Due to a variety of problems with the suppliers of the overdrive this component has been unsatisfactory but recent intensive development has improved the situation. Hydraulic knock has been overcome and water entry into the solenoid has been cured by more efficient sealing.
Brake fade problems have been eliminated on the Minx IIIA with an increase of drum size to 9 in., although it was felt that only the very hard driver would fade the brakes seriously. On the Rapier, disc brake pad life of 20,000 miles is felt to be reasonable. Disc run-out was the Main cause of brake disc replacement. Discs became stress, relieved in service, causing distortion, and action has now been taken with the supplier to stress relieve the discs before final grinding. Rootes feel that the main cause for criticism of steering heaviness is the worm and nut box which was replaced four years ago by the present recirculating ball type, although this is not substantiated by our own figures which Cover, in the main, cars less than four years old. Although Rootes recognise the possibility of longer tyre life to be achieved with Michelin “X” and other braced tread tyres, they can lead to heavier steering characteristics. A stronger front cross member was introduced a year ago and this has led to improved tyre life due to closer control of suspension geometry. Rootes -method of front wheel alignment is rather different to normal methods and this may lead to confusion with owners. It is recommended that the dealer checks the geometry after initial suspension settlement. Track-rod end replacements are probably due to lack of greasing. A greaseless ball joint was introduced on the Minx IIIB and Rapier IIIA.
Shock-absorber replacements are often made because of noise although the unit is invariably in good working order. Several modifications have eliminated the noise problem. A heavy duty suspension specification is available for those who feel the suspension is too soft. If the anti-roll bar bush is graphited when assembled no trouble should be experienced in service.
With regard to the instruments and electrical system Rootes did not wish to make any comments on these components as they felt that they were best dealt with by the manufacturers concerned, these being Smith’s and Lucas respectively in the case of Rootes products.
Rear axle noise problems are being tackled with improved production techniques and insulation has been improved with the use of “Metaxentic” bushes in the front eye of the rear springs. On the Rapier a bush type coupling is now used on the rear end of the prop shaft. Axle shaft finish by an improved rolling process is now in production which will reduce the incidence of oil seal failures.
The problem of water entering the body is a known complaint but if sealing is correctly applied there are no leaks. Modifications were introduced to improve sealing round the windscreen and back-light and a more stringent water test which subjects the car to a strong wind as well as water is, now in use.
The problem of salt on roads has helped to lead to a reduction of chrome plated parts, an aluminium grille being introduced on the IIIB Minx and a number of smaller items are now in chrome iron (the material which is often erroneously called stainless steel). A duplex nickel-plating process is used on the bumpers and improved materials are used for zinc based alloy parts.
Early models suffered trouble with rust on wheelarches as these were not covered by the slipper dip. A zinc dust primer is now hand brushed on these parts before body assembly and greater attention is paid to painting of the wheelarches.
The various problems with door locks, window winders, and so on have all been eliminated with improvements in manufacturing techniques. Other problems with ill-fitting doors, loose trim and bonnet catches are all matters of adjustment rather than any defect being present.
Of the other serious defects which were mentioned Rootes admit that the heater controls are rather sensitive but once their correct adjustment is mastered the flow of heat is ample. Routes do not carry out wheel balancing on the Minx mainly because tyres tend to settle down in early life and it is more advisable to balance wheels at the 500 mile service, which Rootes dealers can carry out if required.
At Vauxhall Motors Luton factory we talked with Sales Director G. C. Welby, Manufacturing Director Clark Ridell, Service Manager T. T. Brown, Assistant Chief Engineer H. A. Dean, Reliability Division Manager, R. L. Blades and Public Relations Manager M. B. Marr. The Vauxhall factory is rather unique in that it has its own Reliability Division which was formed in 1960. Its prime function is to carry out an audit on all defects found by a special band of inspectors who carry out a detailed cheek on between 10 and 12% of the daily production by means of road tests, water spray tests and so on which are additional to the normal quality inspection and production line road testing. As well as this information Vauxhall have available data from dealers after they have carried out their pre-delivery check and Vauxhall also send out a questionnaire to buyers of Vauxhall cars asking them for their comments on the workmanship of the car. This information is all collated and made available to a central Reliability Committee in graph form as an average quality grade per vehicle with a grade of 95 out of 100 as the minimum acceptable rating. The committee meets weekly to discuss any defects which have arisen and to decide how these will be tackled. As well as improving the reliability of their own products Vauxhall are now busily engaged in persuading their accessory suppliers to install Reliability departments, as their own experience has proved that the Reliability Division has improved quality by over 5% in the last year.
As a matter of interest Mr. Welby mentioned that the half-millionth Victor model had been produced on the day of our visit, the breakdown being: Series I-145,800, Series II-245,000 and so far 110,000 of the latest Victor have been produced.
On the subject of service Mr. Brown mentioned that service information of every kind is available to anyone who requests it, whether it be a trader or a private individual. He would be unhappy if 12.2% of all Vauxhall owners were dissatisfied with service as they aim to have a 99.5% of satisfied customers as a minimum, and in fact this figure is one which is used when assessing whether modification action should be taken on a component. If more than 0.5% of any item became defective a full scale investigation is put under way.
On the engine the most prominent complaint, that of timing chain troubles were due to an inefficient tensioner of the leaf spring type. This was modified in April of t959 and a service kit made available to rectify existing ears and the trouble has not re-occurred. Vauxhall do not recognise engine mounting failure as a problem which has occurred in any quantity although a few cars which have suffered oil leaks have had the rubber mountings contaminated by oil. Cylinder head gaskets received a change of material from copper to steel which has eliminated trouble in this department. To improve silencer life on the Series II the silencer was moved from the rear of the car to a position under the seats, but it is a case of balancing life against the noise level. The dynamo bracket did show signs of weakness in 1961 and it was strengthened in August of that year. The rear main bearing oil seal was improved, this modification being available for older cars.
No serious clutch troubles have afflicted the Victor clutch, the problem of slip being attributable to rear main oil seal trouble which has been remedied.
Of the gearbox troubles the gear selection was improved by the introduction of chamfered pinions in March 1958 after 87,000 cars had been made. This improved gear selection especially of first gear. It was mentioned that molybdenum disulphide based additives are not recommended for the Vauxhall gearbox as the extra “slipperyness” defeats the purpose of the synchro cones and causes too rapid engagement, with resultant noises. A number of modifications have been made to the steering column linkage mainly due to a broken washer which had the effect of stiffening the gear change.
The brake lining material was changed after a year of production to improve life and eliminate complaints of fade. New master Cylinder Seal material is now in use and the axle oil seals have also been improved in quality.
Steering problems are few, the only major change being the introduction in June 1959 of a brass sleeve in the tie rod bushes which has improved reliability. Complaints of shimmy and pulling to one side are invariably due to wheel balance and Vauxhall will soon follow Ford in balancing the wheels of all Victors; the Velox, Cresta and VX 4/90 wheels are already balanced at the factory. Shock-absorbers, which are made by Vauxhall, have been troubled with stickiness and slip due to machining inaccuracies and two years ago machine assembly of shock-absorbers was instituted, this machine refusing to assemble any components which are not within correct tolerances; the result being better shock-absorbers. Wheel bearings have not been a problem to Vauxhall and can only explain the 5.4% which have been changed by our readers as due to harder driving. Broken leaf springs have only occurred on relatively high Mileage cars and stiffer export springs are available for cars driven on rough going. Some antiroll bars did suffer from the outer anchorage point coining adrift but this was modified two years ago and no breakages of any sort have been recorded.
On instruments, a stiffer outer casing for the speedometer has eased cable failures and great attention has been paid to correct positioning of the cable in the car, the outer casing being marked for clipping to bulkheads etc. The insulation and sealing of the water temperature gauge has been improved. The oil pressure switch operating pressure was reduced by 2 lb. some time ago but no failures of any consequence are reported. It was mentioned that the speedometer was required by Vauxhall to be within 2 m.p.h. slow or fast at 75 m.p.h. the highest degree of accuracy which they feel can be obtained in large scale production. The fuel gauge needle is now better damped to eliminate fluctuation and complaints of inaccuracy. With regard to complaints of the lack of an oil pressure gauge or ammeter Vauxhall mentioned that these were fitted to the VX 4/90 but were not considered essential for the normal Victor.
On the electrical system it is felt that the battery is fully up to the work demanded of it although a larger capacity one is available for colder countries. Some starter motor trouble was experienced due to a loose commutator band which was not water tight, but this has been improved. Some occasional brush material troubles have been experienced. The ignition switch trouble was mainly due to the body corning apart and this was strengthened to eliminate this problem. Wiper motors tended to overheat due to poor thermal switches, but these were improved considerably.
Some rear axle problems became apparent when a new hardening process was introduced. This was eliminated and larger roller bearings were introduced in November 1960.
Bodywork water leaks became such a serious problem in 1957 that a Water Leaks Committee was organised to arrange crash action on alleviating this problem. This took a long time to cure completely, but was finally cured in 1960. Any trouble with water leakage out of warranty were treated generously during this period. Micro-blistering of paintwork was also a serious problem in early Victor days with “solvent popping” due to ingress of water during the sealing process, causing blistering after a time. Once again this was cured after a long investigation and the warranty was once again extended on paintwork troubles. A new paint process was installed last year which has reduced paint defect complaints on the latest Victor to acceptable limits.
Pollution from the atmosphere and salt on roads and in coastal areas is increasing paintwork problems and numbers of test cars and engineers have been sent to the worst areas to investigate the problem. Bumper rusting has not been a serious problem but other parts have suffered and material changes have been made to alleviate rusting of bright metal parts.
I thought you might be interested to read a report from an Englishman who has two German cars and has lived here for three years now. Before coming to Germany I had also been a car owner for seven years and my cars had included Morris Minor, Ford Consul, Morris Oxford, Hinman Minx, and lastly a Riley 1.5.
I am sorry to say, but from my experience, I would find it very difficult to going back to being an owner of a normal English car after having owned a couple of German cars.
I never have to complain about service and it is a wonderful feeling to know that when one gives a car in for service or repair, that it will be done efficiently and quickly.
On this score our English manufacturers are going to have a nasty jolt when and if we join the Common Market. The saying out here about buying an English car is: “All very good and well, but how many people can afford to keep a full-time mechanic for their car alone!!”
While I am also writing, why, oh why! can one not get good and clean service at an English petrol-filling station. The damage they do to our tourist trade is beyond count and I am filled with shame to hear my many friends complain bitterly after a motoring holiday in Britain.
As far as I am concerned, to own a car and to motor in Germany is a real pleasure, whereas from friends in England and from my visits home with the car it seems to be more like a fight all the time.
Lauterbach (Hessen), Germany. Michael Walker.
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The Survey covers a matter which interests me greatly, mainly because I hate to see foreign cars sell better in this country than English, in spite of the fact I have had to buy a foreign make myself because Of poor dealers and service. To my way of thinking there is nothing at all the matter with English cars, except the total inadequacy of dealers and their selling methods. In 1954 I bought an Austin-Healey and had such terrible service that I vowed I would never buy another car from them, who happen to be the main sellers of B.M.C. for this Province. Unfortunately I am not the only one with the same views. My big problem is to whom can I get all the facts and who will listen to them and do something to straighten things out?
I will not bother you any more on the above matter, as having read your magazine for many years now, I realise how hard you have tried to get something done.
Langley, Canada. James B. Brand.
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I feel I must congratulate you upon the excellence of the Readers’ Survey. I have found this article most entertaining. The pathetic excuses made by the manufacturers each month to “square their corner” made me feel disgusted. In all cases the troubles which should have been sorted out before production commenced have been dearly carried out by the buying public. “We’ve put it right now” is the feeble cry. I doubt it ! ! If the Survey is carried out in 1963 of 1962 models, the faults will still be there in one form or another.
I look forward to B.M.C.’s reply to the Morris Minor 1000, which has been going long enough to sort the bugs out. I don’t doubt the excuse will be the same, “The cars now in production are improved.”
There’s no doubt about it, Mr. Editor, the car to come out of the Survey best is VW, and the idiot who had the chance to manufacture same in England after the war should be made to pay for the unnecessary repairs the buyers of British cars have incurred. On second thoughts though, perhaps if we had made it the tale of woe would have applied to VWs as well as our junk!
Allesley. K. C. Lloyd.
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I would like to offer the following advice to those who suffer from engine noise and ill-fitting doors on the Riley 1.5. This probably also applies to the Wolseley 1500.
1. Remove one pair of fan blades (leaving only two) to reduce roar at high engine speeds.
2. To eliminate normal tappet noise disconnect the inner and outer control cables from the heater water valve on the cylinder block. B.M.C. seem to avoid noise being telegraphed in this way on the Farina version by mounting the water valve on the bodywork.
These generally fit badly near the top, causing irritating wind noise. This can be very quickly cured by bending the window frame uprights, which are surprisingly amenable to this treatment. This can best be done by opening the door slightly against a wall and then pulling the top of the frame inwards while sitting in the car with feet pressing hard against the ends of the window sill. It is probably wise to wind down the glass before trying this.
Local adjustments can be made by wedging pieces of twig behind the rubber sealing strip.
Datchet. A. T. Boag
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When I bought my ZB Magnette new in 1957 I was given, with other documents, a Schedule of Repair and Adjustment Charges issued by the M.G. Car Company, which sets out the maximum charges to be made for carrying out various major and minor jobs to the machinery.
Recently I was discussing with a dealer, recommended by the M.G. Company for the servicing of my car, trouble I was having with oil leakage from the engine, and their Service Manager told me that to remove the sump would be very costly as it would mean moving the engine forward to get the sump off because of the existence of the cross-bearer beneath the engine, which carries the front suspension. When I mentioned that the schedule referred to above gave the cost of removing, cleaning and refitting the sump as £29s. 6d. in 1957, he dropped the point. In the meantime I had written to the M.G. Company asking if they could let me know the total percentage which had to be added to the 1957 charges to bring them up to date, and to my surprise and regret I have received a reply stating that they “regret to advise that this service for issuing schedule of repair charges, owing to company policy change, has been discontinued, and is no longer applicable.” This seems a retrograde step, and repairers are left to Charge as they think fit. The old order sadly changes.
West Wickham. LT.-Col.. J. A. Gould, M.C., M.I.Mech.E.
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I have been interested to see your questionnaire in the February issue of Motor Sport, and I am enclosing this completed as far as possible. Unfortunately it takes four weeks at least for periodicals to reach us here by sea mail, so that I have only just received my copy and you will not get this back by March 1st.
I own two cars, a Morris Mini-Minor bought new in October 31st, 1960, which I use every day to go to my office and for running about the town. I never use it for any long journeys as the springing is not up to it for up-country road conditions and it is very far from dustproof. In any case I do not believe the car was ever intended to go on tarmac toads so that it is hardly fair to use it for this purpose or for long journeys, even if the degree of comfort allowed it, which it doesn’t.
The other car is A British-built Citroen IDT9 which I bought in October 1959 second-hand, with 9,000 miles on the clock. It had been fairly well looked after and I think this was the genuine mileage as the tyres were little worn and went on to give just over 20,000 miles before fitting a new set of Michelin “X”s. The price of this British-built ID19 here when new was about £1,240, which compares with the Mercedes 220, whose new-look model is now just over £1,350. Most IDs here though are the Paris-built model, which lands here far cheaper and sells at £969 for the saloon and about £1,280 for the Safari model station-wagon.
I have had three Mercedes prior to the Citroen—and I owned an old Light 15 about eight years ago—a 300B, a 220A, and a 180D. The 300 was not really suitable for these roads. The 220 and the 180 diesel gave me very good service and I sold them both with many regrets. They were dustproof and much attention had been paid to details of finish, comfort, etc. But none of these really gave the same degree of comfort (and I am 6 ft. 4 in., with very long legs) for long distances on East African roads as the ID19. The suspension is really superb and the seating very comfortable far long journeys. It is therefore such a pity that no attention should have been paid at all by the designer towards dustproofing, which is such an important factor on a long journey on un-bitumenised roads. The door locks and window winders seem very susceptible to dust and I have had a great at deal of trouble with both. One other thing which I cannot understand about the designer’s mentality is that it is obvious that it never for one moment occurred to him that anyone might at some time want to fit a car radio. There is no place provided and I had the utmost difficulty in getting my existing Becker into the car, where it is not entirely satisfactory due to difficulty in suppression.
I have also owned a Peugeot 203 saloon and a 403 stationwagon. Both of these were far from dustproof and I am surprised that the French should pay so little attention to this important point. I should perhaps add that, owing to my height, there is no medium-priced, medium-sized British family car which I can drive, let alone with any degree of comfort on a long journey. The Ford Zephyr, Standard Vanguard, Austin A95, etc., are all quite hopeless from the comfort angle, since they all seem to have been designed for a nation of dwarfs and there is no legroom at all for the unfortunate driver.
Turning to the Mini-Minor, I find far more legroom and comfort in the front of this, which I Can drive quite reasonably comfortably, than in all the medium and large-sized British so-called “family” cars. This is a very, fine design, but the car is completely spoilt for me by lack of attention on the part of the manufacturers to almost every detail fitting on the car. I have had so much trouble with the items I have listed in the questionnaire that I am now completely exasperated and wonder what is going to fail next.
I find it hard to comprehend why any manufacturer should put a car on the market without testing and proving such detail matters as how one is to top up the battery, check the tyre pressures (including spare wheel), etc., etc. Due to the futile design of the so-called “de luxe” hubcap, this has to be removed completely before the average service station’s airline connector will fit onto the valve. It is even impossible quite frequently to remove the dust-cap from the valve without first removing the hub-cap. This horrible item is difficult to remove, with its serrated teeth which remove the paint from the wheel rim, and difficult to replace. As for the spare wheel, this, as you know, has to be fitted in the boot with the inside of the wheel upwards, so that it has to be removed from the boot completely before the pressure can be checked. Does the designer never check these points himself before the car is put on the market for the unsuspecting public, or does he rely on the buyer acting as a sort of guinea-pig ? Even if the user complains about such horrors it seems that no notice is ever taken of what the user wants. I have tubes fitted since tubeless tyres are quite useless here.
Again, the wire door handle pulls. These have failed and been replaced three times during the life of the car, and, really, what an absurd method to employ to open the doors when the door catches themselves are so stiff. I did have this some system on my old 1930 Bentley Speed Six which had a close-coupled Weymann 2-door drophead coupe body with very wide doors, and leather-covered chain pulls were necessary to operate the door locks. But in this case the locks were properly manufactured coachbuilt jobs and operated smoothly and with little effort, whereas the Mini-Minor locks arc cheap and nasty locks which always require the maximum of effort to open them regardless of how well oiled they are kept, and are also hard to close properly.
I have not found that water enters the car, as so many of your readers seem to complain of, in fact, during the recent disastrous floods in Kenya it seemed to plough through quite deep floodwater keeping its ignition system remarkably dry and never hesitating, whilst many larger cars carte to a grinding halt with drowned plugs, etc.!
The horn is a feeble effort and it does require something more powerful to remove heavily laden, noisy and protesting native-driven lorries from the centre of the road!
It is interesting to note that the N.S.U. Prinz III saloon sells at £400 here, about £130 less than the ADO15, where all cars, no matter whence their country of origin, are subject to a flat import duty assessed on landed cost.
It is a pity that more manufacturers do not make use of this country for proving their new designs, instead of perpetuating the same old nonsenses. To give two instances : sonic three years or so ago the Hillman Minx was offered with full air-conditioning for tropical use, but the compressor was so heavy that the front suspension collapsed under the weight, and it damaged the front cross-member also; again, a friend of mine drove a new Rover 3-litre up here from Rhodesia and said the interior of the car was inches thick in dust, so much so that he had to take it to the local Rover Agent, who charged him £30 to remove all the interior trimming to get rid of the dust!
I hope that this questionnaire and what I have written above will be of some assistance to you, and that it may possible, ultimately, be of some use in getting the user what he wants, instead of what the Manufacturer thinks the user ought to have.
Nairobi, Kenya. Major R. A. R. Hoare.
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As a regular reader I feel bound to tell you how very much I enjoy your publication. On occasions it would appear that Ford Motor Company products suffer from a severe form of typographical hammering but on the whole your criticism is universal and fair. However, one does read of complaints regarding Ford products by owners who have experienced an alarming lack of satisfaction.
In this light I must say, from first-hand knowledge, that it is primarily up to the Main Dealer, as a representative of Ford Motor Company, to treat each complaint as though it were their Own Director’s car! The staff available at Cheapside who work on Warranty are extremely conscientious and helpful to both customer and Dealer. Should there be moans and groans continually unanswered, then there is obviously something radically wrong in the “Dealer to Ford Motor Company” negotiating Machinery. In our case we are always in touch with F.M.C.—if a knotty problem arises—and our queries are met with a lively interest, concern for a customer, and above all—action!
Carmarthen. J. A. Bowen-Jones.
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I applaud your survey into the reliability of readers’ cars. I presume, however, that most of your readers own British cars in the under-£1,000 class. In view of this; would it not have been better if you had left far more space on the pro forma for the listing of defects?
Colne. I. Nicoll
Next month we will publish the final analysis of readers’ preferences in the matter of petrol and oil and a tabulated panel on the factor of the cars analysed in our monthly surveys.