Letters from readers, September 1967



We give up!


In view of the recent controversy concerning the petrol we used at Brands Hatch for the “Race of Champions,” last March, I would like to reiterate the following:—

The fuel that was fed into the two Eagles before leaving Rye was purchased from the Jet petrol station owned by Peter Berthon, located at Winchelsea Road, Rye, Sussex. As Sir Anthony Stamer states in his letter in your July issue, we ran both cars on this petrol during both practice and the heats. As we were running out of fuel we topped up Dan’s car for the final with the remaining Jet but Richie’s car was topped up with fuel which we bought from the B.P. outlet at Brands Hatch. Before the heats, Shell had graciously offered to supply us with whatever we needed. It was because of this offer that we chose to run on Shell until such time as we signed an oil contract. As a result we ran on Shell at Monte Carlo, Zandvoort, Spa and Le Mans.

As we have now signed an oil contract with Castrol, we shall no longer be running on Shell. I would like to state, however, that both the service and the products supplied to us by Shell were excellent.

Rye, p.p W. M. Dunne III,

Team Manager, Anglo American Racers.

[Ray Cunningham, Shell Motor Racing Manager (U.K.), said in the July issue that “the two Gurney-Weslake cars were, in fact, refuelled on raceday with a total of 60 gallons of Super Shell with ICA. He seems to have got his wires badly crossed in view of Anglo-American Racers’ confirmation of what Sir Anthony Stamer, of Jet Petroleum Ltd., wrote, also in our July issue. So far as those odd two or three gallons were concerned, Mr. Cunningham seems to have been confused again, unless he cannot distinguish Shell from B.P.—ED.]

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Buy British!


Apropos of the letter by Mr. A. Rennie concerning his intended advice to Volvo Concessionaires Ltd., about their advertising the new 144 with its “engineered ashtrays,” perhaps my experience of Volvo, will cause your readers to ponder as to who “Drives a Hard Bargain,” to use another Volvo phrase.

I bought a new Volvo 121 Estate Car in March 1965, and after being reasonably satisfied with it, until spring this year, I have had to pay out £84 in parts renewals, incurring having the vehicle off the road, and in the Volvo dealer’s garage for a total of 15 days in the last two months. I had to have a top overhaul, and decoke at 33,000 miles, a COMPLETE suspension rebuild at 35,000 miles, and I now have a vehicle that pours out blue exhaust smoke at all opportunities, with an allegedly rebuilt suspension that sounds like the London Philharmonic tuning up, with the Rolling Stones.

I have written personally to the Managing Director of Volvo A.B. at Gothenburg on FOUR occasions, and I have NEVER been answered, except to say that my letter has been referred to Volvo Concessionaires Ltd., at Ipswich, whose attitude is that “it is to be expected as normal, that such expense is justified at the mileage.” They are absolutely unprepared to make any allowance on these very heavy bills.

I don’t know what your readers consider reasonable in terms of mileage for a dual-purpose vehicle that should give the hardest wear available, but in my book 35,000 miles is a long way from satisfactory, and I offer my tale of woe as a warning to any would be buyers, who might be swayed by Volvo’s misleading advertising. Anyone who wants “engineered ashtrays,” might well consider buying a Volvo, but I want a well-engineered car that will give fair wear and tear, and for my money (and it cost a lot to find out) you don’t get it with Volvo.

Cockfosters, Gerry Kane

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A new aspect of the MoT “experiment”


Whilst discussing the above subject in the police canteen last night an interesting point came to light. It appears that at roughly the same time as an announcement from the Ministry of Transport to the effect that the experiment was being prolonged an order from H.Q. was received regarding the method to be adopted when receiving the report of a traffic accident. It was accompanied by a poster which was to be prominently displayed in the enquiry office of police stations in this county informing those involved that if there were no allegations as to the manner of driving by one or both parties or if there were no injuries then all they were required by law was to exchange names and addresses and details of insurance companies and go away as the police were not interested. Drivers were also to be told of this should we visit the scene of a traffic accident.

This state of affairs, regarding the law aspect, existed in the past anyway, but our Chief Constable had directed that if a report was received then it was to be fully investigated and a record made despite the fact no action might be taken.

As a result of this new directive, the accidents so far in the Division do not show a true comparison by a long way with the figures quoted in previous years. Personally, I have recorded less than 50% of accidents reported to me under this new procedure and from what was said the same applied to all present. From what I have seen the same procedure has been applied by a number of forces.

Could this be the source of information used by the M.o.T. when quoting the apparent reduction in the number of accidents taken in proportion to the number of vehicles on the road? I can offer nothing in support or opposition to their claim for the reduction in injury and fatal accidents. I am up on my total for the same period over the past few years in this respect. I cannot give comparable figures for the division as they are not at my disposal at the time of writing.

You will probably have seen from this letter that I am not wholly in favour of the 70-limit but I think that it could be applied for a period of two years or so to persons passing a revised and more demanding driving test and then made to identify themselves as such, e.g. a compulsory probation ” P “-plate or something similar attached to their vehicle. This line of thought is held by most of my colleagues. The rest appear to support things as they were B.C.

I hope that you, or someone in authoritive opposition, will find these facts helpful in opposing the recently announced “60” experiment.

“A motoring Policeman.”

[Name and address supplied.—ED.]

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Praise for Honda


It’s no good! I must take up pen and defend the Honda. J.S.T.’s letter on the 600 has stirred me into action for whilst I have no knowledge of the 600 I did purchase the first local S800. Having just transferred from a popular British sports car the difference is most marked. The Honda, after 4,500 miles, has such a general air of precision and refinement that the previous car now seems very agricultural in character.

I have nothing but praise for the Honda’s wonderful engine, which runs at piston speeds equal to the latest Formula I machinery but seems completely reliable and absolutely smooth. The whole of the mechanical side has an air of precision and of being built to fine tolerances. It has the benefit of having been designed as a sports car and not having to use components from a current saloon car. Road holding is excellent and completely predictable while the high geared steering is very precise and makes the wheel winding of my other car seem very tedious. The tiny gear lever operates with one finger and thumb just as fast as it can he pushed through.

It is quite the most fully equipped car I have ever owned having been designed as a whole and not had extras rung on afterwards. Performance wise I would say that the Road Test figures could easily be bettered by a well run in example as mine is still loosening up and going better and better.

The cockpit layout is superb with nice clear instruments, including a tachometer marked 1, 2, 3, 4 . . . and not 10, 20, 30, 40… as are a lot of British instruments. Since we think in thousands for revs why do we mark them in hundreds? It only leads to numbers similar to the speedometer.

As for reliability, well a cone plug came out and an oversize one was fitted under guarantee. I gather subsequent engines have been modified and that a high degree of reliability is being achieved by other local cars, some of which have done twice my mileage with very few teething troubles and I have not yet met a Honda owner who is not delighted. My car is returning 33 m.p.g. on cooking sherry which considering the way I use the acceleration is very good.

As for servicing, Messrs. George Brough Ltd, of Barsford, Nottingham, the distributors, have provided a service and courtesy the like of which I have never received in 26 years of motoring.

I know you can’t prove the general by the particular but here is one satisfied owner.

Radcliffe-on-Trent, Ian Cameron

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Comment on road test reports


I have been a regular reader of Motor Sport for the past twelve years but this is the first time I have put pen to paper to write to you.

I have always read your road test reports and would buy a car on the report you gave it. At the moment I am driving a Volvo 121 and have been very pleased with it. I am thinking of changing it and would like a 123GT. Is there any likelihood of your doing a full road test report on one of these cars in the near future?

Liskeard, William J. S. Pickup

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Unrestrained enthusiasm


As a Citroen enthusiast I was interested to read your remarks about the DS21, but I was even more intrigued by your assertion that the road-tester is supposed to be strictly impartial. Of the hundreds of road tests I’ve waded through, my favourite is your original report on the DS19. It was your obvious partiality which first hooked me on the car—without its unrestrained enthusiasm, I might never have taken the DS seriously!

As for the Citroen, it is simply the product of a truly technical approach, unique because, as Jupp Ernst has said: “the concept of function is raised to a more spiritual level.”

New Jersey, U.S.A. Brandes S. Elitch

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Government controls


With reference to the letter from Mr D. H. B. Johns, he should worry about Jaguar prices of Lucas equipment. Pity the poor owners of Ford V4, V6 or even the petrol driven transit van. The starter motor drive end bracket of these vehicles cost on December 31st 1966 18s.; one day later with full government approval the price was increased by 59s. to the princely sum of 77s.

If one compares this item with a similar bracket it would appear that the cost of production is something less than 10s. Of course one dare not say what one thinks. However one could not he blamed for wondering who has whom in. who’s pocket.

Wimbledon, S.W.20., K. C. Bond

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Out of the mouths of admen…


With regard to the Shell advertisement “40 years on” in the current issue Motor Sport it (the advertisement) claims that Fangio won the 1950 British G.P. It was of course won by Farina.

I often wonder where these advertising ‘bods’ find their misinformation.

Poole, Allan Cherrett

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Cause and effect


Having recently heard of Mrs. C.’s proposed new speed limit of 60 m.p.h. on all roads, and the news that the 70 m.p.h.-limit is to be extended on Motorways, I wonder what reply I might expect for this advert—also taking into consideration the increase in petrol prices, and the prospect of rationing!

For exchange: 1967 Cooper S, 7,275 C.C., immaculate condition, full rally equipment, hosts of extras. Will exchange for reasonable Honourable Japanese Moped. Cash adjustment if necessary.

Leamington Spa. S. A. Langston

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Government policy and the motorist


It’s started again! The gradual process of introducing new road legislation, designed in a way such as to reduce public reaction to a minimum. First the calculated leak, then the official announcement that consideration is being given… etc., etc. Oh, how familiar it all is! This time leading up to a permanent 60 m.p.h. limit on all non-motorway class roads.

Recently I was “privileged” to attend an open day at a research organisation which has become the primary advisory body to the Ministry of Transport on matters of road construction standards and practices and on matters of road user legislation. On the former task I think they are probably achieving a worthwhile and reasonable contribution. But on the latter aspect the things I learnt suggest that a great deal remains wanting.

Specifically all recent and proposed speed-limit impositions have been defended by the M.o.T. on the premise that there is indisputable proof, resulting from scientific experiment that such action can and has significantly reduced the incident of death and injury on the road. From close scrutiny and pointed inquiry made during my visit I am by no means convinced that such proof is indisputable and to borrow a phrase from the legal world should we not have proof “beyond all reasonable doubt”? Any professional experimenter knows only how well that for an experiment to produce the correct result, as opposed to the “desired” or palatable one, it is of the utmost importance that such experiments be controlled. However, the sampling techniques I learned about were often agreed to be statistically very weak and knowledge of the significance of important variables was apparently so lacking that in some cases to have ignored them completely would have been to have arrived at the same conclusion. I suggest that the M.o.T. is certainly getting the results it wants. After all, a few 60 m.p.h. restriction signs are a lot less expensive than building properly engineered roads, if the advertised result is the same!

In fact the only way we shall ever know whether the claims made for the results and measures taken do scientifically hold water is for a truly independent and competent authority to examine publicly the methods adopted by the M.o.T.’s advisers. And it is important that we should know. There is very little difference between a number of shareholders losing money because their company has marketed a product designed around faulty research and a number of motorists being convicted and fined as a result of exceeding a speed limit which is introduced for reasons based on unsound evidence.

At the present I am sceptical indeed whether we have proof beyond reasonable doubt. If some people are openly antagonistic towards increasing legislation, restriction and persecution, I can quite well understand; I cannot the pseudo-scientific uttering of the M.o.T. Indeed I could far easier stomach restrictions based on dogma or arbitrary grounds if it was openly admitted as such.

Could perhaps the R.A.C., A.A , B.M.A., R.o.S.P.A., B.S.M., M.I.R.A., etc. co-operate to form a highly qualified panel to conduct the aforementioned examination? Could the M.o.T. refuse such examination?

Church Crookham, H. P. Mason

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And now – an insurance colour-bar


On June 24th, I went to a Co-operative Insurance Agent to fill in a proposal form for Motor Insurance, having previously received a quote of £23 12s. 0d. for my 1963 Austin Mini Countryman.

Having filled this in, I received a cover note—a copy of which is enclosed—to run until September 25, 1967.

To my surprise, I received on July 6th the enclosed letter cancelling my policy, because I was born in Egypt. This letter, to me, forms an act of racial discrimination, even though I was born of British parents in the Anglo-American Hospital at Eigiera, New Cairo, and have lived in this country for 20 years of my 20 years 2 months! The other reference to a conviction was on July 2nd 1964. Without due care and attention, fine £10. As this was over 3 years ago, it is surely non-effective.

I appreciate that it is within any company’s right to refuse insurance, hut on such grounds is unbelievable. It strikes me that for a Socialist Dominent Society to impose racial discrimination —which in this case is undoubtedly ill-founded—when it was a Socialist Government who instigated the Race Relations Act 1966 is a typical lack of co-ordination. What comments have you on this please?

Southampton. K. B. Tiplady

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Sprite v. Honda


In your comparison of the Honda with the Sprite (Japan v. U.K., August) you write “Neither car will carry a decent-sized suitcase in the boot.” This may well be true of the Honda, but my 1965 M.G. Spridget takes a 2ft. x 1ft. 6in. x 7½ in. suitcase without any difficulty (and forgetting suits, that will hold nearly all the clothes I own!)

Sutton, D. Scrutton

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I am surprised to learn that M.L.C. regards the Sprite gearbox as antique and wide-ratio, for in fact the ratios in this box are closer than those in the majority of cheap sports cars, and indeed considerably closer than those of the Honda which he praises on the same page!

Farnham, Duncan McGregor

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Tools for cars


With regard to Mr. M. W. Watt’s letter concerning tool kits, I would like to list the tools that are standard on my car:—

4 double-headed wrenches
1 tyre pump
1 double-headed box wrench
1 tyre-pressure gauge
3 socket wrenches
1 jack
1 Screwdriver
1 Starting handle
1 screwdriver for cross-recessed screws
1 grease-gun and nozzle
1 can of touch-up paint
2 tyre irons
1 inspection lamp.

And the car? A Moskvitch 408.

New Moston. A. Bonson.

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With reference to your article on “Tools For Cars.” My M.G. VA 1½-litre—originally purchased by my father in 1938 and sold after the war. When I bought it back three months ago it still had a complete tool kit, including foot pump, comprehensive set of ring and ordinary spanners, brake bleeding equipment, valve timing adjuster and feeler gauge, hydraulic jacks, which still work, tyre gauge, and wire wheel brush. All these tools were set in a rubber box so as not to rattle, and this was under a false bottom in the boot lid. Surely this is a very comprehensive tool kit for a car costing £325 (in 1938). This car is finished, and will still now last out my 1966 M.G. 1100.

Causton. R. H. Howard.

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I am writing in reference to Mr. Watt’s recent letter on “Tools For Cars.” My father owns a 1956 3½-litre Daimler Regency Mk II. This car had one of the fullest tool kits I have ever seen. It included:

5 double-ended spanners
2 box spanners
1 box spanner for spark plugs
1 tommy bar
1 hub cap spanner
1 adjustable spanner
1 oil plug extractor for fluid flywheel
1 pair pliers
1 screwdriver
1 screwdriver and feeler gauge for distributor
1 circuit breaker file
1 oil gun for fluid flywheel.
1 oil can
1 grease gun
1 tyre pump
1 wheel brace
1 lifting rack
1 feeler gague for valve tip clearance
1 tyre-pressure gague
1 bleeder tube and container for hydraulic brakes
2 tyre levers
1 starting handle
Owner’s handbook
1 wheel brace extension

All of these were supplied as standard. I believe also that the tool kit of the Daimler Majestic and Majestic Major are just as good. Who could ask for more?

Cefa Coed. Adrian Bowen.

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If any of your readers had purchased a new XK150 Jaguar, they would have received the following as a standard tool kit

1 adjustable spanner
1 screw driver
6 box spanners
1 grease gun
1 sparking plug box spanner
1 tyre gauge
2 tommy bars
1 feeler gauge
4 open-ended spanners
1 distributor screwdriver
Jack and lever
1 valve timing gauge
1 pair pliers
1 brake bleeder tube and container
1 copper and rawhide mallet
1 valve extractor.

To say the least, quite a comprehensive tool kit.

Kirk Sandall, Ian R. Blythen.

* * *


Accepting your challenge regarding tool kits supplied, I am sure one would not find a kit to better that supplied with any Skoda car. The kit supplied with the late Octavia was comprehensive, down to touching-up paint and spare wheel nuts, but the 1000MB range now includes spare bulbs for headlights and indicators, along with fuses. A complete list of items would be too long and take up precious space in your excellent magazine, but if one realises the lack of garages in Czechoslovakia, a good tool kit is most necessary.

Before closing, I would be interested to know if Mr. Watt is an agent for Pozidriv screwdriver’s, or connected with their manufacture as I have seen a similar letter in at least two other motoring journals?

[This correspondence is now closed but we hope those manufacturers who supply just a 4d. box spanner and a cheap screwdriver will heed it.—ED.]

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The Fiat 500 is regarded by most as something of a toy—I had thought the same myself. At £417 it is certainly the cheapest car in this country but its practical standard equipment, including the tool kit, seems to be far more comprehensive than that found in cars costing four and five times as much.

The tool kit is comprised of a jack, very efficient and easy to use, which clips into place in the hoot, and a flexible plastic box, fitted to hold the two double headed spanners, stiletto punch, ring spanner, hub nut spanner and screwdriver. I find this kit provides everything required for changing wheels and other simple, on the road repairs and adjustments—even for a woman driver.

There are a dozen other pieces of standard equipment-not gold-plated but nonetheless efficient—which are ‘optional’ extras on most other cars. Such things as windscreen washers, a heater (surely essentials for motoring in this climate), a lock on the passenger door, interior light, adjustable lenses on the main beam and trafficator warning lights, padded dashboard frame—the list is endless.

Add to this a fuel consumption of 50+ m.p.g., acceleration (up to 50 in 3rd) giving faster cars a lot more trouble than they expect, a ‘happy’ cruising speed of 60 m.p.h. (there is small danger of exceeding the 70-limit but it can be reached) and excellent cornering characteristics and one begins to realize that ‘the mouse’ has something more than most toys.

East Horsley. A. Desmet (Miss)