Letters from readers, September 1962

The cost of watching motor racing


As a spectator at motor-racing events since 1954, I am now being deterred by the exorbitant admission prices. Some years ago, Entertainments Tax was lifted and a drop in admission charges was then anticipated; however, they have steadily risen —examples this season include Easter Goodwood, 10s.; Whitsun Mallory Park, £1 ; and now Bank Holiday Brands Hatch, 12s. 6d. The last example includes car-park fees or, as the organisers put it, car-parking is free. This provides a perfect “let-out” in the event of the complaints about inadequate parking facilities. I would like to take a sample meeting where the admission charge is 12s. 6d. and assume, rather conservatively 50,000 spectators:

50,000 x 12s. 6d. equals approximate takings of £31,000 (ignoring profit from programme sales, etc.)

Outgoings: Say 500 staff at £5 each. £2,500

Say 95 entries each receiving £100 starting money (though a Fj driver is lucky to get a fiver) £9,500

Say 5 “star” entries each receiving £1,000 (i.e., 2 or 3 tatty pseudo F.1 cars and a couple of outdated sports-racers) £5,000

Say prize money of £2,500


Leaving a net profit from one meeting of £11,500

Quite obviously there is a lot of money to be made from organising motor racing! I appreciate that some money is spent on circuit improvements and flashy grandstands and restaurants (with equally flashy prices), but in the last eight years I have noticed few improvements in .either the toilet arrangements, which in most cases are quite insanitary, or in car-park or exit facilities. I would rather give my support to Silverstone Club meetings, where I am simply charged 10s. for parking my car than line the pockets of the property investors, who now apparently own most of the circuits; and let me hasten to add that I consider B. R D.C. Silver-stone charges reasonable.

If, of course, my notions on where the money goes are off the beam, I am convinced organisers and circuit owners will hasten to correct me!

Wembley. A. C. Pritchard

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Changing the axle oil


Arising out of the recently introduced Ford Zephyr/Zodiac range, there is an important question which I have not seen discussed in any detail. This is the matter of rear axle draining. I understand that no provision is made on the larger Fords for renewal of lubricant, and that the more recent Vauxhall models similarly dispense with this item of servicing.

Now, for years, motorists have had it drummed into them, by the Oil Companies, that one must change rear axle oil at regular intervals, as the extreme pressure additives required by modern hypoid axle have a limited life. Now two American owned manufacturers have summarily dismissed this traditional, and expensive, recommendation. Who is right?

Have we motorists once ‘again been “taken for a ride” by vested interests? Or are two of the largest, and presumably, most technically advanced manufacturers in the country, taking an unjustified gamble with their customers’ axles.

It would be of interest to have your readers’ comments, and perhaps we might even hope to persuade some of those shy little P.R.O. gentlemen from the Oil Companies to let us have their views. One can only hope that we shall not be told that materials have so improved as to render oil changing unnecessary, or that the quality of the additives have been suddenly made everlasting.

Fivehead. J. M. Shields

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You just can’t win!


With reference to your paragraph headed “Justice?” in the current issue of Motor Sport, I read this item in the Evening News and decided to follow it up by writing to the Minister of Transport, asking him what, in his opinion, constituted an emergency.

A week after writing, I had a reply from one of his staff, wherein he said, inter alia,”It is not for the Minister to comment upon decisions of courts of law, nor indeed to advise them upon the interpretations of regulations which he has made… The Minister is certainly in no position to form an opinion on a verdict on the strength of a second-hand report of the proceedings in court. In case your letter was intended as a suggestion that the regulations should be amended, I must say that the Minister considers that present provision for stopping in an emergency is sufficient. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT CASUAL PARKING SHOULD NOT BE allowed on the hard shoulders.” (My caps.)

I have since written, asking one question—what constitutes an emergency? Since then, a stony silence. You just can’t win, can you?

London, N.W.4. Barry Simons

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More legislation


Regarding the recent Birmingham experiment of driving behind dipped headlights in areas lit by street lamps, it has been rumoured that this may be made compulsory throughout the country.

This must surely be a Government scheme to prevent accidents at night, not by providing decent street lighting, but by letting pedestrians pick out oncoming cars by their headlights. The money paid by the motorist in road tax, vehicle tests and other such novelties should be adequate to provide good lighting in all build-up areas, particularly the small gas lit side streets where accidents involving children nearly always occur.

This must surely be another example of the way in which the motorist is always being robbed.

Southall. P. A. Thorn.

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Jaguars on Michelin “X”


I should like to reply to the letter from Mr. Conn McCluskey concerning 3.4 Jaguars.

I have been on Jaguars for many years now, with a change every other year, and can give information over some years on the old 3.4 and also Mark II 3.4 and 3.8 models, having paid especial attention to tyres.

My first 3.4, with tyres as supplied, gave me a great shock by requiring a new set at 8,000 miles; the next set, in spite of less strenuous driving, only gave some 9,000. I equipped with Michelin “X” tyres, which showed very small wear when the car was sold after a further 13,000 miles.

My next car was supplied with Michelin “X” tyres, one of which produced a nasty bulge and was changed at 16,000 miles, and on returning it to the makers I was given a 60% credit. The other three all lasted within a few miles of 30,000, in spite of a lot of work towing boats on trailers. This car would regularly average 23 m.p.g. on any long run, with a normal cruising speed of 70/80 m.p.h. whenever possible.

There does exist considerable prejudice against these tyres, mainly, I think, because they always look to be short of pressure, but for economy of fuel and tyre costs, they are definitely unbeatable. They do not, in my experience, make the steering heavy, in spite of a certain reputation for doing this, but if they are suitable for long distances at the really high speeds this car is capable of, I do not know.

My new 3.8 is fitted with standard tyres, and is a delightful car to handle, steering being almost perfect. I do not know if the front end has been altered, but it is definitely better than the older ones, but I have just looked at my front tyres after some 6,000 miles mainly spent in running-in, and I am somewhat horror-struck, as they cannot possibly do more than another 3,000 miles at the most. I will then return to my “Exes,” and prove what I already know, that these tyres are quite unbeatable for reliability and economy.

I am a disinterested person, but would like to know why these tyres are not more widely fitted to cars of all sorts. Is it vested interests?

Lostock. G. A. Marshall.

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Mercedes-Benz and  N.S.U.


The sad story of the Editorial “Mini Brick” which apparently costs more to run than my 300SL, prompts me to write to you again; in case you should wish to record for the benefit of other readers the log of the N.S.U. Prinz 1959 model mentioned before in your paper, which in my case, after many years, is still looked for eagerly each month. In comparison with. your “new engine,” “new brakes,” and the obviously necessary, but unmentioned, purchase of, probably, a “mini Squirrel” to pick up all the bits that you have mentioned in previous numbers as dropping or rusting off, the Prinz is obviously more suited to an impoverished Civil Servant. Here are the brief headings:

Mileage at 1.3.62 = 43,920

Total petrol bought, 20.10.59 to 28.2.62 = 915 gallons

Total oil bought 20.10.59 to 28.2.62 = 8½ gallons

Spares include: One windscreen shattered by stone; two sets of tyres and silencer broken accidentally in retreating against an unseen low wall; the only running spares being six spark plugs; one set of breaker points; one set dynamo brushes. The engine is still quiet and the oil consumption, 5,000 m.p.g., has not varied. The car is, in the season, called upon to tow my daughter’s 13-hands pony in the’ box which we had built on a special Bramber chassis specially made for us very kindly by Mr. Cook, the indefatigable and enthusiastic manager at Willand, Somerset.

You will realise that we include in our prayers each night the little phrase “Thank God we didn’t have British M… Corporation products.”

On March 1st an acquaintance tempted us with £365 to part with first N.S.U.; we bought another little car… yes, can’t you guess, an N.S.U. Prinz 1962, which to date has covered 7,160 miles.

Finally We still have the Gull-Wing Mercedes-Benz 300SL, 31,000 miles in our hands; average petrol consumption 22/23 m.p.g.; average door-to-door speed 50 m.p.h.; tyres, not Dunlops please, 15,000 per set; oil consumption a little better than 1,000 m.p.g. (i.e., oil changes at 3,500 miles, contents 3 galls.).

Having rod “Matters of Moment,” Vol. XXXVIII, No. 7, July, under the heading “Grand Touring Cars,” it is very obvious to us where your criteria came from seven years ago.

Chittlehampton. J. E. Mellor

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The speed of sports cars


The answer to Mr. Hawke’s query is quite simple. “Why,” he asks, “does a Riley Imp today cost three to four times as much as an M.G. J2 ?” The answer is that the Riley is three to four times the better car. The J2 when new was, in my opinion, “The Great Pretender,” and the biggest phoney of all time.

This car, the J2, was introduced to the public by The Autocar road-test and the banner headline-80 m.p.h. for less than £200— was a world record line-shoot. Like a prize mug I fell for it and took delivery of one of the first batch. To be fair, it was a nice looking little car, taut and trim. However, the main essential, speed, was missing. Not even a meticulous engine rebuild could raise the maximum over 63. The cylinder head was finally sent to Abingdon for (I cannot now recall why) inspection, and the reply came hack that I must buy an improved cylinder head and all would be well. I straightaway sold this road-burner, and to this day regard all M.G.s as the “Great Pretenders “—all puff and no go.

Haywards Heath. D. Mundy-Wilson.

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With reference to Mr. Hawke’s letter concerning the speed of sports cars, I owned an early J2 Midget, PJ 8778, taking delivery (by collecting it myself on a Saturday afternoon from the night watchman at Abingdon) in mid-October, 1932.

Rumour said that later versions of this car were de-tuned to some extent because owners were over-driving them, with a resultant broken crankshaft.

On one occasion, in November 1932, I did a timed flying mile at 75 m.p.h., the passenger doing the timing with a stopwatch, and the windscreen being folded flat. The road was the Caxton Gibbet-Cambridge one, and was as near flat as makes no difference.

I liked the little car very much, but to my mind a very much nicer one, which I had, and again collected myself, this time-one evening from Morris Garages in Oxford in June 1934, was the (as sold to me) KN, but later termed the ND Magnette. This was a rare car, with N-type engine and chassis, and a K2 body, and must, not be confused with the later KN Magnette, which was K-type chassis (long) and 4-door pillarless saloon body with N-type engine.

This KN (ND) Magnetic was BPG 7—has anybody any knowledge of its whereabouts?

Incidentally, how much nicer it is to-be able to collect yourself from the works, and not, as today, to be told that the Trade Unions won’t allow it. How much longer are we going to tolerate this restriction on our liberty?

I also had a second-hand Imp in 1936. The 73 m.p.h. quoted is a fair estimate. This one did break a crankshaft! and had an awful drumming in the “silencer” at certain engine speeds.

Upavon. John K. Maw.

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I am delighted that Mr. Hawke has found interest, and apparently pleasure too, in my book. But I detect a faint note of doubt about some of my quoted figures. I took months over their compilation; but I ant as fallible as the next man. However, checking back over my sources, I see that the J2 was indeed capable of over 80 m.p.h. For example, The Autocar quotes 80.35 m.p.h. Over the half-mile (August 8th, 1932). The testers expected an improvement in performance. “What is not so expected is that the performance should have gone up to a genuine 880M.p.h.” The speedometer was slow throughout the speed range. The price complete: £199 10s.

And may I correct Mr. Hawke on one detail I think important? My book is “A History of the World’s Sports Cars”; not “The”.

London, N.W.8. Richard Hough

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With reference to Mr. Hawke’s letter, the speeds quoted of pre-war sports cars needs a little elaboration. I have not read the book from which they were taken but from Road Tests in my collection some of the speeds can be bettered,

for example the 1928 Invicta could exceed 90 and accelerate from 10 to 60 in 15 sec. in top gear, while the 1938 Aston Martin with 8.2 to 1 c/r could reach 94. In 1936 Motor Sport tested a 1926 30/98 Vauxhall which did 85.

Apart from the improved fuel which has enabled higher C/Rs to be used the body styles today are quite different. The Jensen, Lagonda, Invicta and Talbot 75 were comfortable 4-seaters with more leg room in the back than most modern saloons. The J2 Midget was a very fast car with an engine that could rev, freely in spite of the two bearing crankshaft, in fact it had few equals as a point to point car over give and take roads. It was, however, very “busy” at over 60 and not restful for long runs as were the Lagonda and Invicta. Mr. Barre Lyndon’s books “Combat” and “Circuit Dust” tell the rivalry of the Austin, M.G. and Riley and show that the little side valve Austins could be developed far beyond the production standard.

I cannot quite understand the figure of 27 b.h.p. at 3,000 r.p.m. on the 747 C.C. Triumph; it would seem that 17 is a more likely figure. The blown 832 c.c. model of 1930 achieved 67 with an unladen weight of 12 cwt. and geared at 5.25 was doing about 4.400 at this speed.

Thirty years ago the skimpy bodies of today, difficult of access and full of drumming, Were tolerated only in the under 1,100 c.c. class or for competition cars. The true fast tourer like the 7.1-litre Mercedes maximum 103, weight 45 cwt. which could cruise all day at 2,500 revs, without the blower (92.5m.p.h.) and carry four people in comfort is, alas, dead and now we have the so called G.T. cars hardly capable of taking a married couple if they belong to an age when a change of clothes is considered necessary in addition to a toothbrush.

The specification and drawing of my dream car was first published in a weekly motoring magazine in 1931 and in the course of time I have made alterations, reducing the capacity of the engine from 7,266 (I wonder how many people recognise this engine) to a mere 4½-litres, but one unaltered feature is the amount of leg room required to take four people and their baggage in comfort— and this entails 36 in. headroom in the back seat.

Margate. N. J. White

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May I try to answer three of the letters in your August issue. Starting with Mr. Hawke and the J2. M.G. My first car was a 12 bought in excellent condition when three years old in 1936. Speaking entirely from memory, but I think accurately, the top speed was 78 m.p.h. at peak r.p.m. which was 5,800. My car was fitted with a rev. counter, which was non-standard, and I remember having this checked as I had been warned by other owners that to exceed 6,000 r.p.m. was asking for trouble with the crankshaft. The rest of the car was not in keeping with the engine performance, the brakes being of a miserable size, operated by Bowden cable and very inefficient. The steering was somewhat vague at over 60 m.p.h. I think these two factors probably made the Riley Imp a better car even if it does not go so fast.

Coming now to Mr. Parry and his Concours d’Elegance. Mr. Parry must realise that the original events of this type were exactly like the one in which he took part and they are well described in Montague Graham White’s book “At the Wheel Ashore and Afloat.” The wealthy owners of new cars with very individual coachwork paraded them in front of judges who, I would imagine, had no idea of what was under the bonnet and nor were they interested. They judged the whole turnout, including the attractive female passenger, purely on elegance. The modern concours has become very much more a standard of condition competition and really should be titled Concours de Condition. I think that organisers would do well to stipulate the method of judging which they will adopt so that competitors will not be disappointed.

Lastly, may I reply to Mr. Green on the action of the V.S.C.C. in raising the cost of entry to their Silverstone meeting and also charging for entry to the paddock? In my view the club committee have taken a very right course here in giving members of the club some privilege at their own meeting. All club members were given a paddock pass and there is no doubt that the congestion in the paddock was greatly relieved by making a charge to the general public. As far as the entrance fee to the meeting is concerned, why should not the general public pay the proper price for an afternoon’s amusement to which they make no other contribution? The money is all put to very good use in furthering the cause of the Club and also to helping those competitors who have the misfortune to incur heavy expenses while entertaining the crowd.

Birmingham. B. Morgan.

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With regard to your paragraph in the August issue of Motor Sport about Pirelli and Dunlop tyres deflating on Minis, I would inform you that, of the five original Dunlop tyres fitted to my Austin Mini van, three deflated due to the wall of the tyre splitting, the mileages being 8,582, 10,381 and 16,190, on the speedo, and should, therefore, be reduced by approximately four-fifths due to wheel change round.

The fourth tyre developed a fault in the wall at approximately 21,000 miles, and a bulge occurred at the fault.

In each case the defects occurred when the tyre was fitted to the front near-side wheel, and it would, therefore, appear that the hot air which is discharged at this position has an adverse effect upon the wall of the tyre.

Enquiry amongst other Mini owners has revealed that you and I are not isolated cases.

Cheltenham. D. P. Elms.

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An M.G.-A twin-cam inquiry


Recently, after reading your article in the current issue regarding B.M.C.’s use of the Crypton Equipment in investigating twin-cam M.G. troubles, I was not surprised when, two hours later, I went to my nearest M.G. “expert,” to discover what I believed was likely to be a blown gasket on my twin-cam was in fact a blown piston on an engine with an old-type vacuum advance distributor, so that I was able to insist on its replacement with the later type “pre-tilt” make.

The engine, unopened for 27,000 miles apart from an imminent “decoke,” was in good condition and running well, in what I feel must be one of the most exhilarating cars to drive and, in fact, a true sports car.

However, as the second owner of such a “temperamental” machine and being unable to find anyone who really knows anything about these engines, I was wondering if Motor Sport does in fact answer queries, and if so is there anything that can be done now that the engine is stripped that might manage to make such a notorious car a little more reliable. (My engine is No. 2057.) I am only asking since I have over the years gleaned many useful tips from your pages and greatly admire your outspoken attitude.

Withington. C. J. D. Russell.

[What do readers advise?—ED.)

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Tyre trouble on Minis


I was interested in your remarks on having a sudden flat tyre on your Mini fitted with The New Miracle! Dunlop C.41. I have had the same thing happen on my Morris-Cooper, also in the near front, and it was a Dunlop Nylon C.41 that was fitted. I have had another casing split round the wheel rim in the same way but have spotted it before any dangerous consequences occurred. This other tyre I cannot remember on which wheel it was fitted. Both tyres have had split casings on the inside rim.

Whatton-in-the-Vale. David Auchterlonie.

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Tyre life on Minis


The August issue of Motor Sport contains several references to Mini-Minor tyre problems. My original tubeless Dunlop Gold Seal covered a mere 9,200 miles/tyre. I then fitted four Dunlop Duraband RBI tyres, with inner tubes. To date these tyres have done 26,000 miles and should achieve 30,000 miles before replacing. Due to the small size of the Duraband this figure will be somewhat higher than the true mileage. I find the Duraband road-holding is satisfactory, but the ride is rougher and noisier than with conventional tyres. They are prone to squealing and perhaps one day people will stop telling me my tyres are soft, just because they look like puddings. It is probably pure chance but the tubeless had four punctures/9,200 and the tubed 1/26,000.

At 37,000 miles my Mini thrives on hard work, using 1 pint of oil/750 miles and 1 gallon of petrol/45 miles. Brake lining life is rather short and not consistent. If you happen to get a good Mini and you fit the seat what better way of examining the undersides of lorries and coaches?

Radstock. M. Chivers.

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I feel I must write and congratulate you on your excellent V.S.C.C. Oulton Park photographs on page 628 of Pictorial Review.

The right-hand one, however, is not the Meadows ‘Nash of P. Reeve but the superbly restored ex-Aldington Anzani ‘Nash of K. R. Higgs, which has performed many times at Brooklands in the Mountain Handicap, actually winning it one year at a speed of, I think, around 70 m.p.h., a marvellous feat for a side-valve 1,5oo-c.c.-engined car weighing about 17-18 cwt.

As can be seen from your results, it is now performing very well under its new owner, winning the F.N./G.N. Handicap at a speed of 60.15 Not bad! Considering it is now unblown and has a single S.U. on its relatively inefficient inlet porting.

It is now driven with great verve and skill by K. R. Higgs and I am sure it will obtain even greater laurels next season. Thank you for an excellent report on this meeting.

Birstall. Ian D. Atkinson.

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TV and the G.P.


I note that before each horse race shown on television we are told for at least 15 minutes who the riders are, the name, breed, colour, etc., of the horse, trainers’ and owners’ names, previous placings and so many completely irrelevant facts; and this for each race and each horse, and for a race lasting at the most four minutes.

I must also note that before the start of the British Grand Prix we were shown 22 cars in about 1½ minutes flat, the commentator hardly being able to get all the drivers’ names in in time, let alone the grid placings.

Why can’t we, for at least this, the greatest race of the year in Britain, be told, in plenty of time before the drop of the flag, what size tyres Lotus are using, who tunes Lola engines, where the Ferguson has got to, and who clips Graham Hill’s moustache.

Hailsham. Frank Catt (aged 19).

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How far in 24 hours?


I have just celebrated 84,000 miles in “one of those cars” by covering 1,000 miles in eleven minutes under 24 hours, straight out and home, from Manchester. One engine from new, decarbonised once. Oil consumption 1 pint; petrol 40 m.p.g.

I would be interested to hear if anyone else has done a comparable journey in any other car of similar mileage and age (six years).

Eccles. H. Eagle.

[And let no one say an average speed of 42 m.p.h. in a VW is dangerous!—ED.]