Letters from Readers, September 1968



N.B.—Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them.—Ed.

“Shopping for a Derby Bentley”


The above article—in the July issue—has been brought to my attention. The author states “. . . in the past 12 months £2,500 has been paid . . . etc. . . . and also (by repute) for a Vanden Plas tourer with an excellent racing history in recent club handicaps”. Should this be construed as referring to the 3½ driven by my daughter Ann (now Mrs. Shoosmith), the author is laughably wide of the mark—some four figures odd in excess!

In these modern times it is a very short step from “by repute” becoming “an absolute fact, old boy!” Note the rather squalid examples that appear to acquire “instant history” for no other purpose than that of “instant capital appreciation” for the delighted purveyor! I would appreciate it if more care were exercised and (as in this case) the author would check with the owner and/or the immediate past owner before publishing such utter poppycock!

Purely as a matter of passing interest, later on in this article one reads . . . “Then, if the back axle clunks horribly, you should try to cut the earlier figure a bit lower”. When the “dreaded clunk” is heard, first diagnose if this be due to a worn hub-drive or loose (or even broken!) differential bolts. If the former, not to worry too much—if the latter, “Think again”! For another big disappointment is now in store, for, contrary to item 3 in the opening paragraph, the necessary replacement parts (amongst many, many others!) are not “still available new from the makers”. Such few spares as are available are excruciatingly expensive!

Parkstone. Harry Rose.

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Cars in Books


If you are continuing your feature “Cars in Books”, and if you have not already seen this book, you may be interested in “Goodbye West Country” (Putnam, 1937), by Henry Williamson, author of “Tarka the Otter”.

This book is, of course, out of print, but should be obtainable from one or two libraries. It is an autobiographical journal which contains accounts of meetings with T. E. Lawrence, journeying to see the Hitler rallies (when the author travelled with Sir John Heygate in his M.G.—who featured in “Cars in Books” last year) and some splendid accounts of journeys in an Alvis Silver Eagle, including one late at night after a broadcast, when the Alvis was turned over. There is a good photograph of the car on its side, before it was towed away for repair.

This Alvis travelled to Norfolk in 1937, laden with five or six children and towing an enormous trailer, at the beginning of the author’s farming career (“The Story of a Norfolk Farm” and others). There it was converted into an ugly box body and used, in the spirit of the times, for purely utilitarian purposes—towing harrows (quite an event to see an Alvis cultivating at 20 m.p.h. on flat Norfolk fields), carting corn sheaves, and pushing hay into cocks with a sweep attached to the front—all without protest, and accompanied by that sweet, gurgling sound from the exhaust which Bentleys have when ticking over.

At the end of the war—and the Norfolk farm—the Alvis was given away and for some time spent its days towing gliders into the air at either Lasham or Dunstable. This I think finally tore its heart out, and it was disposed of in the Redhill area, never to be heard of again. How one would like to see it again! I have the Eagle mascot from the radiator water cap, but nothing more. The author meanwhile had, after a Ford 8, treated himself to a very pretty 1937 Aston Martin 2-litre roadster, holly green, on which much money was lavished. But alas, after three new engines, the car remained sick, with water and oil mixing through the hopelessly narrow gaskets. This car cost £1 per mile to run, finally, but there were some splendid moments at 90, over Exmoor.

Chichester. Richard Williamson.

[A number of the “Cars in Books” articles have featured the works of Henry Williamson.—Ed.]



Your always interesting feature “Cars in Books” refers to “Cape Town to Clyde” by Richard Humble, in the July number of Motor Sport. For the record, it would not be a Gipsy II engine in a DH Puss Moth. The Gipsy II was an “upright” engine, a more powerful development of the Gipsy I. The Puss Moth was designed with the Gipsy III, the first de Havilland “inverted” engine, which, amongst many other good points, allowed the pilot a much better forward view. From it was developed the Gipsy Major, which many of your readers will know from Tiger Moths and other aircraft.

Incidentally, the Puss Moth was a great advance in private flying comfort, and de Havilland employed the Swallow coachbuilding firm to furnish the cabin and make it close to aerial motoring.

Chipping Sodbury. P. E. Gordon-Marshall.

[Correct—I have looked at the book again and see that Humble remarks, on landing at Wadi Haifa in a shade temperature of 116°F, that “As soon as we landed I switched off the engine—it was over 90° and I expected something to seize and run out at any moment. At that time I had not had the privilege of meeting the designer of the Gipsy III engine or I would not have worried”. (Another motoring reference, in effect, for Frank Halford raced at Brooklands.) This should be reassuring to the Hampshire doctor who is rebuilding a Puss Moth in the upstairs rooms of his house at this very moment! The reference to Swallow is interesting, especially as Gordon England told me the other day that R. E. O. Hall, his racing mechanic, left him to devote his knowledge of lightweight upholstery, which he learnt from Gordon England’s methods for his fabric saloon bodies, to upholster Puss Moths, which led on to Rumbold’s, the aeroplane upholsterers. Perhaps Swallow came later?—Ed.]

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So Shell have introduced a new motor oil! No, I don’t mean the one Franklin Engelmann advertises on the telly, I mean Shell Super Oil 101—the one they don’t advertise! What’s the difference between this and Shell Super Oil 100? Apparently Shell Super Oil 100 is a 20w/50 (not to be confused with Shell X100, which is also a 20w/50), and Shell Super Oil 101 is a 10w/30. To make matters worse, the original Shell Super Oil Multigrade was a 10w/40, and all three Shell Super Oils are packaged in similar tins, requiring a close inspection to differentiate between the types. Follow? Good!

Now, go into a Shell garage and ask for a pint of Shell Super Oil and you will be given a pint of Shell Super Oil 100—unless your car is a Ford, in which case you should be given a pint of Shell Super Oil 101. This is how Shell have instructed all their garages. Why? It appears that the Ford Motor Co. insist on a 10w/30. So Shell have had to produce one—or else!

My concern about all this is that I run a B.M.C. 1100 Automatic in which a 10w/30 or 10/40 (such as the original Shell Super Oil Multigrade) must be used; 20w/50 oils are not approved by B.M.C. for their A.P. automatic transmissions. So when I saw F. E. playing with his viscometers on telly, demonstrating the new Shell Super Oil 100 as a 20w/50, I started investigating, because I have Shell Super Oil (original 10w/40) in my engine. It seemed obvious to me that I wanted the new 101 oil (10w/30) for my car, but, owing to Shell’s instructions to its garages, I have, when asking for this oil, become involved in furious arguments with attendants and garage owners who insist that Shell Super Oil 100 is for my car and that 101 is only for Fords. Also I have found that many Shell garages do not even stock 101, some attendants saying, “100 is the same, sir”. I should like to have the Shell Company’s observations on this matter, as their garages seem to be as utterly confused, as I am sure a lot of motorists are.

My feelings are that Shell should find out what the customer wants, not force their wishes on the customer, and distinguish different oils with different packaging, or many motorists, like me, will be changing their oil at the next service—to Castrol or Duckhams or . . . or anything but Shell.

Cardiff. M. K. Smith.

[This makes me glad I always use Castrol!—Ed.]

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Those Seat Belts


You may care to publish this as a warning to others.

Just over a year ago my Renault 16GL was supplied to me by an agent who fitted inertia-reel safety belts before delivery.

A couple of weeks back, the belts started to become troublesome, frequently locking up for no apparent reason, and investigation showed that this was because the inertia reels had become loose through starting to pull away from their floor anchorage points.

The Renault 16 is made with three reinforced belt anchorage points on each side, but of course inertia-reel belts require a fourth fixing point for the inertia reel itself, and some brainless idiot masquerading as a mechanic had bolted them through the floor without as much as a washer to spread the load. Needless to say, I went straight back to the agents. The service manager was profuse in his apologies but pointed out that he could not possibly check every job that was done.

This was a great comfort to my wife and myself, who have been trusting our lives to these belts for the past year.

London, S.W.19. H. C. A. Clements.

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What is it?


I wonder if you could help me identify the car in the enclosed photograph. I encountered it on the A47 between Furnace End and Coleshill.

I was naturally very interested in the obvious masking of the rear wings and windscreen. The rear lights appeared to be false, and what appeared to be a “B” over the boot lock turned out to be a figure 13. As soon as the driver realised that I was trying to take shots he turned off and accelerated away.

London, S.W.12. Bernard F. Router.

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Rover Tyre Wear


Arising from the excessive wear of the n/s Cinturato of the Editorial Rover 2000TC, Mr. R. Wareing has asked for the experiences of other owners. My Rover 2000 was first registered in February, 1966, and, with a mileage to date of 23,612, is still running on the original Cinturatos. I have just measured the tyre treads and found them to be, off-side front 4 mm., near-side front 3¾ mm. My tyres have, of course, been changed round as recommended in the maintenance manual.

From my experience, therefore, the excessive wear is not due to an inherent fault in the car, but would seem to arise from malalignment of the front near-side wheel. I may add that I don’t dawdle on the road and have enjoyed the same sort of remarkable averages as other owners. In fact, as a motorist for 38 years, and a member of C.V.M., I have no hesitation in saying that the Rover 2000 is, on all counts, the best car I have ever driven. Indeed it is no surprise that the Editor waxes so lyrical, but only that it takes 10,000 miles for him to find his tyre gauge!

Beckenham. J. M. Ross.



My attention has been drawn to Mr. Wareing’s letter in your July issue. I have an early model Rover 2000 and had exactly the trouble described, badly uneven tyre wear, but with the front off-side tyre. This was noticed after only 5,000 miles (Cinturato tyre).

During a Rover Service week at the garage from which the car was obtained the Rover engineer attributed the fault to incorrect toe-in and made an adjustment. A further 700 miles soon demonstrated that this adjustment had made not the slightest difference.

I then became far more critical and realised that the rear of the car dipped very much more when taking a left-hand bend than when taking a right-hand bend. Even my elementary knowledge of mechanics told me that, given equal bends and speeds, the front wheels would have different forces acting on them.

Two changes of shock-absorbers failed to cure the fault, and finally the rear springs were changed at Rover’s Fulham depot. When I collected the car from there a few days later their representative said that it looked as though the rear springing had been set up wrongly in the first place.

I have had no recurrence of the trouble in a further 30,000 miles, and I took the trouble, at the time, to inform Rovers of the unusual cause, and the history of tracing it, of my uneven tyre wear.

Stowmarket. R. H. Livett.



I read with interest the letter from Mr. R. Wareing regarding the tyre wear on the near-side front wheel of his Rover, and would just like to say that about three years ago I purchased a Singer Chamois and, after some 5,000 miles, noticed that the tyres had hardly worn, except for the near-side front. I decided not to change the wheels round as recommended, in order to study the wear for the next few thousand miles, and found that the tyre was almost ready for renewal after a total of 9,000 miles.

I returned the car to the local agents (still under guarantee) and they informed me that they would give the front-end a thorough inspection. The conclusion was that the car was perfect and no reason was given for the abnormal wear. At 12,000 miles I sold the car and never bothered about it again until recently, when I purchased a second-hand Hillman Imp de Luxe and noticed that the near-side front tyre is almost ready for renewal and yet the remainder are all quite reasonable.

It would seem, therefore, that the Rovers are not the only cars which suffer from this peculiarity, and it would be interesting to know if there are any other cars which wear out this tyre almost before the owner has time to change the wheels round.

Oadby. N. J. Raven.

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“How Fast?”—Indeed!


I am thoroughly incensed at this further piece of cloth-cap nonsensical thinking revealed in the new booklet, “How Fast”, issued by the M.o.T.

Why on earth are we now to be forced to accept a maximum of 60 mph. on all roads other than motorways? This proposal is, in my view, a “try-on” to see if the punch-drunk motorist has any strength left to oppose further measures, and unless vigorous opposition is now shown by all sections of the motoring community we are, I fear, yielding yet more of our “freedom” on the roads and paving the way for even lower speed limits in the future.

Please try to do everything you can to hammer this horrifying and monstrous proposal, through the good offices of your excellent magazine.

Caddington. P. J. Sellers.



Now that the Minister of Transport is to consult road-users about speed limits, those who decried the petition to which so many of the readers of Motor Sport signed their name will realise that organised democracy has its place in modern society.

It is essential, however, that the Minister be informed about the dangers of the pressure groups who serve on his advisory committee. These were the people who, in a minority, persuaded Fraser to impose the 70 m.p.h. limit which Barbara Castle enforced in spite of strong opposition from the members of the Advisory committee who had not been consulted. All pressure groups use force to win the day, and this is not a basis for a good solution to road-traffic problems, whether it is applied by minority or the official groups. Persons of long road and vehicle experience tend to have opinions based on facts, and it is the collection of these that will give a sound basis for future legislation which the general public can understand and trust.

The finest contribution Mr. Marsh can make to the safety of all road-users is to eliminate the use of fear as a teacher and substitute education and intelligence. Frankly, I would rather accept the opinions of the police on road matters than that of the Road Research Laboratory, since their efforts over the 70 limit when the susceptibility to political pressure became so obvious.

The President of the International Road Safety Federation does not believe in blanket speed limits, and this is borne out in practice by the police in this country, who issue a summons for exceeding the speed limit or for dangerous driving, but not for both together.

Motorists accepted the breathalyser because they know the dangers of drunk driving, but experience has shown them that blanket speed limits do not prove that all speeding is dangerous, and most humans accept that skill must be tested in any phase of life if it is to be of use to mankind.

Stockport. J. C. Armstrong.

[It is certainly time for the 280,000 drivers who signed our petition to protest strongly to their M.P.s and also to make known their views to the new, reasonable-thinking (we hope!) Minister of Transport. This petition, of which it was said recently that “in a political context which suited the present Government’s book it would have been sanctified as the ‘Voice of the People’,” may appear to have been brushed aside by Mrs. Castle, but it could have caused postponement of an overall 60 m.p.h. speed-limit. Action now, loud and strong, may just prevent motoring in Britain becoming a sorry 50 m.p.h. farce from 1969 onwards.—Ed.]

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Choice of Cameras


I have thought of a place where your Rolleiflex camera would fit perfectly!

The constant reference to your stowage problems which has plagued the journal for some years might be solved by your buying a Minnox camera and using it as a key fob.

Sheffield. D. R. Mawson.

[The answer to the first paragraph is that the cased Rolleiflex measures 6 in. x 4 in. x 3½ in.! In answer to the second paragraph, “No, thanks”! I am sorry if the constant reference to the camera I use offends; the intention was to have a practical yardstick of the value or otherwise of the cubby-holes of cars tested, and so often one needs to lock away a camera, while not wishing to lock-up the car.—Ed.]

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98,000 Miles in a Mini


As a regular reader of your excellent magazine, I notice that correspondence from other readers often sings the praises of foreign cars and condemns their British counterparts. Could it be that the average complacent owner in this country only comments when he has experienced difficulty?

To do justice to the British Motor Industry, I would like to relate my experiences with a standard Mini.

I have enjoyed seven years of incredible motoring with my Mini, during which time I have clocked over 98,000 miles. This vehicle has never failed to start or reach its destination. In fact, the only occasion that I ever remember having any trouble on the road was when the front suspension failed, and I limped home carefully. This was at 67,000 miles and I took the precaution of replacing the drive-shafts at this point.

The only other replacements have been genuine “wear and tear” items such as shock-absorbers, a couple of wheel bearings and exhaust systems, tyres, brake linings, a battery and, more recently, a replacement water pump and generator. I have done most of the maintenance myself, but this has consisted only of routine greasing, two “decokes”, and adjustment of brakes, etc., in addition to the work listed above. In case I have given the impression that this car has led a sheltered life, perhaps I should add that it has always been driven very hard, on the basis that the major mechanical parts could be discarded and replaced when necessary at a modest cost. In addition, it has also carried some enormous loads on many occasions. (I have moved house four times since I bought the car.) I have used the car for travel abroad, the most impressive trip being from Cherbourg to Barcelona and back (850 miles in 24 hours each way) with four adults plus a mountain of luggage. I have also taken part in a number of club rallies and driving tests, so I think it is fair to say that the car has had a reasonably hard life.

I take my hat off to Alec Issigonis for conceiving what must surely be the most brilliant basic design of all times, and to B.M.C. for having the courage and vision to produce such a skilfully-engineered vehicle.

I look forward to the new British-Leyland giants continuing the B.M.C. traditions and producing even better cars in the future.

Maidstone. B. Cash.

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Answering Criticism of the Rolls-Royce Convertable


I have just noticed in the June issue of Motor Sport a little paragraph under “The Things They Say”, with reference to the hood on the Silver Shadow Drophead Coupé.

There are sound reasons why the hood does not disappear entirely when down—these all to do with the bound and rebound of the rear wheels, back seat width and luggage-boot capacity—not to mention the rear suspension itself.

As for the side indicators, these have been positioned in “the middle of nowhere” to conform with all the various countries’ regulations concerning their position and height.

London, W.1. D. E. A. Miller-Williams,

Publicity Manager, Rolls-Royce Limited.

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A T-Series Bentley in Australia


Having recently purchased a Bentley T-Series, I was particularly interested in the article by W.B., “Long Weekend with a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow”.

In general, I quite agree with W.B.’s impressions, but I thought it might be of interest if we compared notes. I purchased a Bentley instead of a Rolls for the following reasons:

(1) I prefer the appearance of the Bentley to the Rolls.

(2) The radiator cover of the Bentley (the “traditional” as the Rolls) is better engineered, e.g., as regards aerodynamic drag (and possibly wind noise), and also could be less damaging to an impacted pedestrian.

(3) Less “snob value”.

For the above reasons I consider the Bentley to be better than the Rolls—although the retailer has stated that he hopes some day I will graduate to a Rolls! ($200 extra, i.e., less than 1%).

Be it Rolls or Bentley, it is indeed a very fine car, but I, being a perfectionist and a mechanical engineer, find it not entirely perfect. I have owned many “fine” British cars and have driven well over half a million miles. During the last decade I have found city driving a horror, but with the Bentley even this has changed to a pleasure and probably, as a consequence, somewhat better health.

The greatest source of noise is the tyres, especially on wet roads. In my opinion, and perhaps in slight contrast to W.B.’s, the acceleration is more than adequate—in fact, starting off from traffic lights I often wonder what other cars, renowned for high performance, are waiting for! I have still not completely mastered the steering—I agree it is over-sensitive, especially in contrast to power-steering on other cars I have owned. Apart from this, the steering is indeed a great joy.

I have also experienced engine stalling and also apparent back-firing during rapid acceleration—but maybe this is unfair comment at this stage, because my car has not yet had its first service (3,000 miles).

As yet, I have not taken the car on a long country trip, but I would expect the fuel consumption to be comparatively low. In city driving —usually one hour for 10 miles—I am averaging, as you did, 12.5 m.p.g. In my previous car—and a very good one at that, having an engine capacity of 3-litres—I averaged 15 m.p.g. under the same driving conditions.

I was rather dismayed that the transmission has no hill-hold—a most desirable feature that all my previous (and much less-expensive) automatic transmission cars have had. As regards accessibility of spark plugs, I sincerely hope that I never have to remove one. I have queried without success how to adjust the rate of the Kienzle clock. I am rather puzzled about the electric servos in the air-conditioning system, especially when with out warning they start up whining for apparently no reason at all.

In my opinion the tool-kit is quite inadequate and of very poor quality. This is the only car that I have had to shop around for extra tools. I believe that the opinion of Rolls-Royce is that owners should not make any adjustments except in cases of great emergency, and they consider the kit adequate for this purpose. Within a day of taking delivery of the car, I discovered “an emergency” for which the tool-kit was quite unsuited. Fortunately, I had other tools in the car which enabled me to remedy the trouble in less than a minute.

Inadequate rear vision, there being blind spots at the rear quarters, appears to be one of the worst features of the car. The centre rear-vision mirror leaves much to be desired—additional external mirrors seem to be essential.

The non-starting safety feature in the parking light selector switch has been abandoned because apparently many owners were unaware of it, even although a clear instruction is presented in the handbook. This caused irritation to retailers, especially when called late at night to get cars started simply because of ignorance of owners concerning this very good safety feature! Surely this safety feature could have been incorporated in the ignition switching instead of abandoning it altogether? However, I preferred the original method, especially as it was an anti-thief device as well. Surely most Rolls-Royce and Bentley owners are not mugs—but maybe Rolls-Royce think so, especially as they are so unwilling to provide useful technical information about their cars. Quite rightly servicing should be done by R.-R. specialists, but owners sufficiently interested should be provided with any technical information they desire especially as an insurance in cases of emergency when R.-R. specialists are not readily available, as in remote areas so common throughout most of Australia and probably elsewhere. My efforts to obtain a descriptive technical manual have failed—but I have been presented with some information of no great use. It also puzzles me why Rolls-Royce refuse to reveal the maximum brake horsepower. This can be easily calculated with reasonable accuracy—unless, of course, the engine is very inefficient—perhaps It is! However, I quite agree that the b.h.p. is “adequate”.

Victoria, Australia. Chartered Mechanical Engineer.

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It Pays to Advertise!


It pays to advertise . . in Motor Sport.

I put an ad. in last month’s copy under “Wanted”, for an Isotta-Fraschini engine, Tipo 8A, 1928 model, and a Renault 45 carburetter, 1926 Model. Within a few hours of publication a man from Cornwall rang to say he had an Isotta engine, correct model and year! Twenty minutes later another ring told me of a carburetter for the 45 h.p. Renault. Dashed down to Cornwall on the night sleeper, bought the Isotta, and am collecting the carburetter on Monday. Good old Motor Sport!

Shortlands. E. A. Price.

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Honda Vindicated


As a contented owner of a New Honda S800 Mk. II, I am anxious to reply to Mr. W. J. Spencer’s comment in the August issue.

Naturally I was concerned about his observation that “cracks” were present in the cylinder head, so I took the opportunity of carefully examining my own. Similar defects were present, in the same situation, but all were quickly removed by lightly rubbing with emery paper. In point of fact, they appeared to be no more than superficial casting irregularities which, in relation to the substantial thickness of the cylinder head, seem to be insignificant.

I am always eager to defend this sophisticated, well-made and hitherto extremely reliable motor-car, when I recall my unhappy experiences with a well-known British equivalent, the sale of which was forced on me in favour of my Honda after only a few months of ownership.

Cardiff. D. Michael Davies.


In answer to Mr. M. W. J. Spencer, I do not know whether Mr. Spencer wears spectacles? but it would seem that he needs them because the cracks he is referring to, I quote: “On one of the cylinder heads”, are alloy casting marks, Which occur in the process of manufacturing die-cast alloy. The marks in question are, in fact, on the camshaft cover, in the end of which is housed the distributor drive.

He did say cylinder heads!

Well, as far as I know there is only one cylinder head on a S800, at least there is on mine, so all I can say is a chap who does not know the difference between a camcover and a cylinder head has no right to comment on a masterpiece of engineering. I do hope this clears this point.

As for the salesmen, well!

Please, Mr. Spencer, read very carefully about the S800 and then tell me an alternative motor car that matches my S800 for economy, performance, road holding, and, most important, reliability for the


Malton. T. Green.

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Good Service From Champion


I feel that the following experience may form a heartening contrast to those of your readers who complain of indifferent or non-existent service from manufacturers: Early this year I purchased a set of 18 mm. Champion plugs for my Riley Lynx, which competes in a modest way at V.S.C.C. meetings. After about 1,200 miles one plug failed completely for no obvious reason, and I returned it to the factory for investigation. The Service Department replied saying that the insulation had proved to be cracked, possibly due to detonation, but that as a gesture of goodwill they were sending, free of charge, a replacement set of plugs. Their letter was accompanied by four new plugs.

Shortly after acknowledging their generous action I received another letter saying that, having realised that mine was a six-cylinder engine, they were forwarding two more plugs, also free of charge. Need I say more, except to add the usual disclaimer?

Shrewsbury. John Flitcroft.

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Stupid Advertising


Having just finished reading your August edition of my favourite motoring magazine, I thought I must put “pen to paper” over the Vauxhall advert, appearing on page 705.

There seems to me to be a lot of absolutely useless information called up simply to fill up space. Quote:

3 in. prop. shaft.—3 in. where?

Matching shock-absorbers.—Do most manufacturers supply odd sets?

Front anti-roll bar.—Surely not unknown!

No less than four chrome exhausts.—Why four, I simply do not know!

And to finish the car off, it is painted in a horrible matt black with lots of stick-on stripes and G.T. badges.

Please, please persuade Vauxhall to stop ruining a basically good car with pieces of useless trim and disgustingly hopeless adverts.

Stirchley. John L. Turner.