Letters from readers, September 1966
N.B. – Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them – Ed.
CLOSED OPEN CARS
Perhaps I can offer Mr. Ford some consolation by showing him the other side of the coin.
In August 1958 I bought a 1951 Morgan Plus Four four-seater. When my wife and I first saw it in the show-room the hood was erected. When I drove it away the hood was down and remained so for the next four and a half years, apart from one wet night when the car had to stand in the open and I had omitted to take the tonneau-cover with me.
In February 1965 I took delivery of a new Plus Four and the only time the hood has been up was last Easter when my wife’s mother came to stay and in deference to her white hairs and the inclement weather we endured closed-car motoring for the three days she was with us. Never again! Whether or not we strained the frame erecting the thing I know not. All I do know is that a week later the windscreen disintegrated in my lap. I think perhaps the Editor is right when he suggests that women have a subversive influence on open-air motoring! I happen to be singularly fortunate in this respect; in fact my wife (1919 vintage) has a reprehensible habit of yelling “Cissy!” whenever we encounter a closed-open-car.
Our travels last year included a 1,500-mile tour of Scotland and in a fortnight the Western Highlands will see us again, wet and windswept perhaps, but still revelling in every moment of our motoring.
There is only one snag from my point of view: I have to restrict my beard to a modest length of 10 inches to stop it from blowing up over my face and obstructing my vision.
Leighton Buzzard. JOHN TURNER.
[This reminds me that when I drove a Morgan Plus Four almost daily, usually with the hood down, I never suffered a cold in two winters, let alone ‘flu. Incidentally, was this the last car with a fold-flat screen?—ED.]
Your comments on Mr. Ford’s letter about closed-open-cars are derogatory to us, the fair sex. Mr. Ford says “the more expensive the sports car, the less likely the roof is to be removed.” I consider that the more expensive the sports car, the more expensive the girl friend (why never wives, I wonder?), the more expcn.,ive the hair-do created specially for him, which would be ruined in minutes with the hood down. If, like Mr. Ford’s, our hair was close cropped, of course we would enjoy the rush of dusty air—but would Mr. Ford like us? So, if you want the hood down. Mr. Ford, don’t take your girl friend out unless you have warned her. And don’t expect her to be looking her best that evening if you have not allowed time for a wash and set. Incidentally, the more expensive the sports car, the more difficult it is to get the hood up and down without our loving assistance from the other side.
Another point, Mr. Editor. We girls in general prefer to be driven by sensible human beings, not mad whirlwinds trying to be another Jim Clark. It scares us not to have a steering wheel to hang on to and doesn’t impress us a bit. My husband has, inter alia, a flat-nosed Morris-Cowley which we recently showed at the Jersey Battle of Flowers. This car, with its moderate top speed further limited to 40 m.p.h. over here by regulation, is just as guilty at 20 m.p.h. of ruining a hair style as any other. If the top of a car is open, no practical speed is low enough to have a hairdo, and remember that scarves squash the curls. So, let’s have that hood up. After all, it is much better for a cuddle, isn’t it?
St. Ouen. (Mrs.) A. B. Kiscit.
[I think my remarks, derogatory or not, are proved by Mrs. Kisch’s letter, namely that it was the influence of the fair sex that saw the demise of real motor-cars—fortunately beauty (and mini-skirts) offer some compensation — and accelerated the closed body, syncromesh gearbox, low-geared steering, warning lights instead of confusing dials, servo brakes, automatic transmission and so on, and, incidentally, prompted Wolseley, very sensibly, before the war, to include a lady’s umbrella in drain-equipped holder in one of their well-equipped saloon models, with those expensive hair-dos and curls squashed by scarves in mind, even in the days of bobbed heads. Cuddling may be cosier with the hood up, if, as Mrs. Kisch apparently experiences it, the hair-do doesn’t suffer as much as it would after a drive with the hood down! But if that’s the object of motoring, why not buy a closed car in the first place, even a limousine—as we have observed before, motoring sport has many aspects. Seriously, what is wanted is a really quick-to-erect hood giving coupe comfort when it is up. Which car was the best in this respect—perhaps the late lamented Jowett Jupiter?—ED.]
Mr. Ford’s letter on the subject of closed-open-cars takes me back a few years to my first Triumph TR. For some time my views were identical with his, until the hood expired in about a quarter of its allotted span.
Nowadays I only put the hood down if the length of time it may be kept down and the distance I have to travel justifies it. Most owners of 5-to-10-year-old production sports cars, such as Mr. Ford and myself, are fairly impecunious, and replacing hoods is not very amusing, and tatty ones are even less so. Hence driving a couple of miles and putting the hood down to do so is a form of economic madness in my book.
The subversive influence of women is, of course, another factor, but if the psychologists are right about open cars, then they are foolish to compete too hard.
While in corresponding mood, I would be very interested to see a comparison between the TR2 of eleven years ago and the present-day M.G.-B and TR4, leaving aside plushy accommodation and wind-up windows. As far as I can tell, in the right hands, the old TR is a lot quicker, more economical and more reliable and long-lasting, especially if it is one of the few 1955 models with 3.7 axle and overdrive. I certainly don’t intend to drive anything else until I can afford to run a big Healey, or someone offers me the right Morgan at the right price. One problem with TRs though—where can I get several gallons of anti-rust solution, cheap?
Devizes. R. L. STRAW.
[We have had a heavy post over this matter of using openable cars closed. The girls are usually blamed, God bless ’em, although one reader who has owned two Austin Healey Mk. I Sprites says he is only too glad to get the hood down, to let out the water that gets in after a heavy downpour, through the hood seams, through the sidescreens in spite of drilling drainage holes in the channels and through holes as yet untraced in four years of ownership! Another reader with experience of the Sprite says it takes so much time and skill to dismantle and stow the hood, plus strength to re-erect it, that he is not surprised many owners leave the thing up on fine days whereas his 1934 Bentley had a proper easy to fold and erect hod. Perhaps it all boils down to the British weather, which makes us a population of umbrella-carriers and closed-car users and seems to be getting worse, whether or not for the reason propounded on another page. I leave it to you.—ED.]
FOOLPROOF FUEL LINES ON THE OLDSMOBILE TORONADO
Even though you stopped driving the Oldsmobile Toronado half way through the test, you certainly became well informed about it. This can be attributed to your sharply trained reporter’s eye. We are of course pleased that you found the car had many virtues’ even if not enough to make it preferable, for you, to a vintage Sunbeam.
One correction we would like to point out. There have been no reports of fuel pipe chafing on a bulkhead on any Toronados, as far as we know. The spare fuel line placed in our test car was devised by engineers at the AC-Delco Division of General Motors Limited solely for use by any motoring correspondent who might want to fit a Petrometa to the car. It was to be used to prevent cutting the regular fuel line—and was to be removed after any such tests were completed.
Actually, the cause of fire in our first test Toronado is not known, and probably never will be.
London S.W.1. ROBERT JOHNSON.
[ I apologise for trying to be too clever. Never having had the luxury of a Petrometa for my road-tests I omitted to read the instructions which accompanied the spare fuel line so thought fully provided by General Motors for better equipped journals. The Oldsmobile Toronado is completely exonerated from the source of inflammability I wrongfully attributed to it.—ED]
HOPE FOR THE IMPECUNIOUS
Sir, Each month I read in Motor Sport the’ tale of woe related by many of your readers who have been intrepid enough to purchase a recent product of the British motor industry. Judged by an extraordinary number of troubles experienced with new cars, by my friends, supplemented by my reading certain well-known consumer magazine, I have reached the conclusion that excessively troublesome new cars are the norm.
At whose feet do we lay the blame for this sorry state of affairs—weak management or unintelligent workers? Blame whom we may, the fact remains that the simple procedure of supplying the customer with a product free from preventable defects is proving a task beyond our motor trade.
Nine years ago, in order to escape a life of trouble, I purchased a rebuilt 1938 Morris Eight, complete with those two indispensable assets, the sliding roof and the “openable” windscreen. True, the car is slow, but it does have the advantage of complete reliability. Running costs are small indeed thanks to lack of repair bills, no depreciation and low insurance. Even the Exide battery, fitted second-hand 10 1/2 years ago, is still going strong.
With this little car I have toured in eleven countries from Luxembourg to Finland. True, this year’s plan to tour behind the Iron Curtain appears to have come to naught due to my inability to find a navigator. Lulled by persuasive advertising into believing that any car over ten years of age is automatically due for the scrap heap, my friends are of the opinion that any such journey is doomed to failure. They little realise the trouble-free joys of motoring, if somewhat slowly, in a car built before the days of built-in obsolescence.
Behington. D. POTTER.
PROS AND CONS OF OIL FILTERS
Why do we have external expendable oil filters on most British cars today?
My experience with a 1963 Renault 4L which has no oil filter of the type mentioned above, if typical is surely interesting. Mileage to date 70,000 plus, head never been off, oil changed at 10,000 mile intervals (not at 3,000), compressions on all four cylinders 100%, bearings and oil pressure still 100%, the sump has never been off, and it uses no oil. To sum up, the engine appears good for another 70,000!
Now to quote my second experience, with a Morris Mini van which has an external oil filter with a replaceable paper element. This vehicle has had oil changes and filter changes as specified by the manufacturers and yet at 30,000 miles: oil pressure low (worn bearings) and bore wear is now evident at 50,000 miles.
Surely not a very convincing argument in favour of these filters, let alone the cost of replacing these paper element filters at the specified mileages.
By the way, both these vehicles were purchased new and used in the same manner, on the same roads, by the same drivers.
I would be interested to hear your readers’ comments on this subject.
Shoeburyness. R.D. MACMEIKAN
THE MOTORIST ALWAYS PAYS
I feel I must write and tell you of yet another instance of the poor long suffering motorist having to pay through the nose for spare parts.
I have a small engineering business and last week, one of my machine tools broke down and necessitated the fitting of two new bearings. Both these bearings are identical and I managed to purchase one at the local depot of a well-known bearing manufacturer for a cost of £1 1s. 4d., but as they had only one in stockI had to look elsewhere for the other.
I eventually found a motor accessory dealer who had one of these hearings and I duly bought it. Imagine my astonishment when I was asked for £1 10s. 9d and quite naturally I protested whereupon I was told that the proper purchase price was £2 1.s. and that I had been given 25% discount.
When I returned to my office I telephoned the manager of the motor accessory firm to question this price difference and he told me that this was caused by the bearing manufacturers because they have two price lists, one for engineering trades and one for the motor trade, and you do not need two guesses as to which is the higher.
This seems to me a very unfair way of dealing with this as the motor industry must he by far the largest users of bearings in the country. As I said in my opening paragraph, just another way of squeezing more money from the motorist.
Curbar. J. O. FOX.
FROM ONE BENTLEY TO ANOTHER …
Dear GN 82,
As a Crewe Bentley and a relative of the Derby Bentley perhaps you would care to hear my views on the family squabble you have decided to extend, i.e., the Vintage 8-Litre v. Derby and Crewe models.
Whilst everyone realises what a glorious hunk of masculinity you are and how well you have survived the last 35 year, are you so perfect? Have you not got a long stroke and limiting piston speed? Have you only got a low B.H.P.-per-litre figure of 30 at most, even I can beat that, and with the poor breathing you accuse me of having.
Please remember my parents are still in business and must have quite a good idea of what the public wants.
All the standard Mark VI cars would do 90 m.p.h. on pool petrol with a heavy saloon body, sonic would do quite a bit more, apart from the beautiful Mulliner Continentals which would do 115 m.p.h. and give quite remarkable acceleration.
What a self-centred, dogmatic snob your boss must be; my owner has had many vintage jobs like you, but says he can’t find anything wrong with my engineering, and for a post-war car will undoubtedly hold the same high esteem and devotion as your vintage models do.
Finally then, I must challenge you to a match at the Bentley Drivers’ Club race meeting on August 20th. I shall be there, ready to do battle as a proud Mark VI saloon with many of my brothers and step-brothers. If you are as fit and full of raging virility as you seem to suggest you will meet me to defend the great name you have.
Bebbing. LTU 951 (1949 MK. VI).
[Well, what did happen on August 20th?—ED.]
VINTAGE v. POST-VINTAGE BENTLEYS,
If you can bear another letter on this subject, I would appreciate the space to comment on Michael R. Elsom’s comparison of the two makes’ competition records.
The Derby-Bentleys that compete in vintage events all carry standard touring coachwork, of varying weights, but are seldom “modified” beyond the stage of removing the P100s. The “W.O.” cars are often stripped, shortened, lowered, etc., in the most radical manner (and to the detriment, in my view, of both their appearance and their original conception).
As far as I know the only Derby-Bentley to suffer this treatment was that of E. R. Hall, and its competition record shows it to be markedly superior to the “W.O.” cars, as can be inferred from a direct comparison of the distance covered at Ards (1937 T.T.) and Le Mans (in 1950).
At the level of club racing, the achievements of that new phenomenon, the “Mark VI Special,” tend to show that all you need to, do to Derby cars is “add lightness” and they will run away from the camions. Furthermore, development in this category seems only to be in its infancy, and already there are rumours of “Continental Specials” with 4.9-litre engines and close-ratio gearboxes.
Melksham. ALAN CLARK
[This correspondence is now closed.—ED.]
Thankful appreciation for remarking upon what has long needed to he said, regarding the unfortunate change taking place in motor racing.
One noteworthy feature of that age you regret the passing of— an item easily overlooked these days—was that it produced real men. They were recognised as such by the crowds and, consequently, brought life and dash and virility to their performances. Can you imagine them deigning to act as foils for film stars?
God help us all if motor racing needs film stars, pop stars, or any other form of dubious “stimulation.”
London W.8. GARRY COXALL.
BELT ‘EM ALL IN?
For some time motorists in particular and the public in general have been constantly reminded of the facts and figures in favour of the use of safety belts in motor cars. This has now been followed by the Minister of Transport introducing legislation whereby all new motor cars must be fitted with mounting points for seat belts.
Now I do not dispute the good sense of this or the fact that they can be instrumental in saving lives: but is it not time that the Government started to practice what they have been preaching for so long?
Where are the safety belts in the police cars, the G.P.O. postal and engineering vans and the midwives’ and district nurses’ cars, to mention but a few of the official vehicles?
I feel sure that many people would be interested to know just how many M.P.s have actively backed up the campaign by having seat belts fitted to their own private cars. At the moment the situation is rather like that of the bald-headed man trying to sell hair restorer.
Ribbleton. H. G. K. PRESTON.
OUR VICTORIAN OUTLOOK
When will you see the light? We are inclined to agree with that “certain god-like photographer” you do behave as if Victoria were still on the throne. We are referring to your sour, comments on supporting events for motor-racing. We, we are sure in common with many thousands of others, thoroughly enjoyed the supporting events and we’re quite sure that you were thrilled by the air display at the British Grand Prix meeting at Brands Hatch or perhaps you didn’t see it as you were wandering round the paddock on your free press pass or drinking champagne at some oil company’s expense whilst we shivered in the rain. No, Mr. Boddy, motor-racing is not a religion and may we humbly request that our future waiting hours at motor-racing meetings be as suitably enlivened as they were at Brands Hatch and that we don’t have to stand waiting through long, respectable quiet hours as you would like us to.
Ewell. J. SHINGLETON, R. W. SHINGLETON
[If Grand Prix races were of longer duration, as they used to be, with the excitement of pit stops, there would be no need for the long waits mentioned by our correspondent as the entire day would be devoted to motor racing. It seems to me a matter of the degree of enthusiasm. Followers of cricket spend long days at Lords and the Oval without expecting other forms of entertainment to enliven the quieter moments of the game. Finally, to answer Messrs. Shingleton, I was not “drinking champagne at some oil company’s expense” while they “shivered in the rain.” I was not at Brands Hatch for the Grand Prix cum air show cum rocket jumping cum jazz festival, but I am prepared to spend long days watching vintage motor racing which requires no embellishments other than that which the cars and drivers themselves provide.—En.]
From time to time in the editorial columns of Motor Sport you draw attention to anomalies in the treatment of motorists by magistrates’ courts. It occurred to me that you might be interested in an item in Financial Times of August 9th, in which it was reported that the M.P. for Pembrokeshire was fined £2 at Haverfordwest for crossing double white lines.
Having been fined £10 and given an endorsement for a similar transgression last year, I was rather intrigued by this case. I was also interested to know whether Mr. Donnelly also received an endorsement, but the News Agency were unable to help on this although they stated that there had been no mention of it in the local report. As far as my own case was concerned it happened on the A3 between Guildford and Milford. I was overtaking on a straight piece of road with the white lines in my favour, unfortunately the “overtakee” decided to accelerate when I was passing which meant that my manoeuvre occupied a slightly longer stretch of road than I had intended. Before I was able to return completely to the nearside, the white lines ran against me and my offside wheels were outside the lines for about 30 ft. There was no oncoming traffic, it was a perfectly straight piece of road and there was no suggestion of any danger.
When I was stopped by the police they admitted that the white lines were rather tricky and confusing at that point but I was booked, nevertheless. The annoying thing about all this was that it was not until later that I realised the significance of a remark made by one of the policemen at the time, when I asked him how he had observed the incident as he was certainly not behind me on the road. He replied that they had been parked in a side road, and from this the simple deduction is that knowing the road they would always find it easy to collect a few “customers” at that particular point.
Having said all this, it may well be that Mr. Donnelly’s case was a very minor offence and it may also he that he too received an endorsement, in view of the fact that failing to conform to the double white lines constitutes automatic endorsement, or so I was told at the time of my own sentence.
As your journal seems to be the last bastion of defence for the motorist in the face of anti-motoring attitudes I thought that this might be of interest to you.
London N.W.3. JOHN NEWTON.
THE E-TYPE TOO!
Alas—hardly “The Truth about the Toronado” I fear.
Surely Mr. Boddy’s legendary memory for detail has suffered a distressing slip if he allows our Transatlantic friend’s claim to be the “only car with four rear shock-absorbers” to go unchallenged.
Unless I am grossly in error, each side of our own, our very own, Jaguar “E” type’s final drive unit sports a pair of coil-spring/damper units.
Coombe Down. PETER EDWARDS.
[The Jaguar catalogue states that there is, on each side of the E-type, “twin coil high rate springs, each enclosing a telescopic damper.” These are, of course, integral parts of the suspension.— ED.]