I was interested to see that you have purchased a PWT (Post-War Thoroughbred). I have hankered after several PWTs but I have only owned an MG YB. This I bought for £55 in mid-1970 and ran for six months (3,000 miles). It was tatty, the driver’s window jammed, the roof leaked, and it rattled, but it was quite the most enjoyable car I have ever driven [Better than your 12/50?—Ed.] I sold it for a small profit early this year because it had no heater and was colder to drive than my Alvis 12/50.
I bought my 12/50 from a friend in May, 1969, for £110. It, too, is tatty but has now done about 8,000/9,000 miles in my ownership and is very reliable. I’m appalled, as your correspondent D. J. Dee is, at the number of open cars one sees shut up; the 12/50 is invariably open as it is much quieter then, and one can see what other road users are up to more easily. I only put the hood up when it rains, as raindrops on my spectacles do not make driving easy for me!
In January this year I bought a 1938 MG SA saloon. It had had only three owners and 77,000 miles behind it (confirmed by said owners). The bodywork and interior are excellent, but the bearings are shot and head gasket blown. It cost £125. I’m having the engine professionally renovated and hope it will behave as well for me as one did for Pomeroy before the war.
Please let us have more articles on interesting cars, particularly your splendid articles like that on Mann’s Mercedes and Neve’s Silver Ghost. Frankly, I never read tests on bread-and-butter cars.
The Editor’s purchase of an Abingdon-built Riley prompts me to mention my experience with a Morris which, though less of a bargain, represented better value. On a number of occasions during the summer of 1970 I had noticed a 1938 Morris 8 saloon parked to the roadside. I eventually asked the occupier of the nearest house if it was for sale. It was but “there’s something wrong with the engine”. I found the chassis to be good and suspected valve trouble. An immediate transaction was made on the pavement—the owner was happy to receive £3.50 and I was happy to add the Morris, which possessed an MoT certificate and two months’ tax, to my stable of 1934 Morris 8 tourer and 1934 Morris 8 van.
Having got the car home, a quick inspection showed the firing order to be incorrect. A rearrangement of the plug leads worked wonders with the performance. Without any further work I was able to commute weekly between Cheltenham and Brighton in this 1938 Morris and, moreover, undertake the journey in four hours.
Not being able to purchase a maharajah’s Rolls-Royce out here, I look forward to returning to my three Morrises in a few weeks time.
Our £100 1950 Lagonda 2.6-litre saloon was found at Easter this year in a barn, four miles off the beaten track up the Duddon Valley, in Cumberland. I had sometimes considered that a 3-litre Tickford-bodied or 4-litre “Rapide” Lagonda would be a suitable stable mate to the old-type open Bentley which I have owned and enjoyed so much since 1952. But the older styling of the 2.6 had not particularly appealed to me in the past—certainly not at the price of £3,109 when new! It now occurred to me that I had not seen such a car on the road for years. So the visit might be my last opportunity to examine one at close quarters—the final expression of W. O. Bentley’s genius as a designer of classic motor cars.
The car proved original, even to the diminutive Lucas pass-lamps. The owner had gone to a lot of trouble and had charged the batteries in preparation for my visit but before I had manoeuvred more than a few yards along the steeply graded farm track or established whether even half the gears could be found in the box, I had managed to become firmly bogged. The remainder of the available time was spent getting the car out of the ditch and safely back in the barn.
Despite the abrupt curtailment of the trial, I had been able to obtain a strong indication of those pedigree qualities of the 2.6. The suppleness of the leather upholstery; the “note” and ready response of the twin-cam six-cylinder engine; the taughtness of the rack-and-pinion steering; the ride of the torsion-bar i.r.s. cruciform chassis over the farmyard cobbles and the obvious state of well-being in the electrical circuitry and instrumentation; all these in a car with a high comfortable seating position and completely flat unobstructed floor. Suddenly it did not seem to matter that the basic aluminium was showing through on roof and wing surfaces where the original black cellulose was lifting, or that the carpets were hatching a complete flying club of clothes-moths, or that the veneers were not all as decorative as the master-craftsman who fixed them would have wished. The Lagonda might be bought at a price which would leave sufficient margin for a good-class re-spray in a colour of our own choice. I could perhaps even afford to overlook my suspicion that the head gasket was leaking water into the cylinders. And the owner had by now admitted that he had no further use for the car, so he was open to offers!
The nominal figure of £100 was readily accepted when it was pointed out that the poor condition of some of the tyres posed a major problem to eventually driving or towing the car away. The deal was finally clinched by a cheque for £110 and an agreement that the owner would arrange to have the car delivered on a trailer, a distance of 95 miles, for the additional £10.
Any fears we had about the foolishness of buying so casually were quelled when a fat envelope containing the registration book, a maker’s handbook and a comprehensive workshop manual arrived. There was also written evidence that money totalling three or four times that which I had paid, had been spent not long before the car was laid up, on a professional rebuild of the engine and transmission. So the unseen mechanical conditions was no longer a cause for concern. In point of fact, body condition generally, freedom from accident damage and the chrome datail work, etc., all suggested that the car had had a good home for most of its indicated 90,000 miles.
One serious criticism of the 2.6 Lagonda in contemporary road-test reports was directed at the column-type gear-change linkage, due to a David Brown Group departure from Mr. Bentley’s design, for he intended to employ the Cotal electrically operated gearbox. No such criticism could be levelled at our new acquisition because it had been specially fitted with the splendid positive short-action remote centre change of the Aston Martin version. And a vacuum servo had been fitted to the brake system, which I knew my wife would appreciate. Mr. Bentley might have designed the suspension with the suburban roads of Stockport particularly in mind, although I doubt if he could have experienced the pitch and toss conditions which arise here with most small and medium size modern cars which it has been my misfortune to drive. The Lagonda can ride over this “surface” without shaking the occupants.
To investigate the availability and cost of parts, I obtained a set of engine gaskets within seven days from Maurice Leo Ltd., and at a surprisingly low price. Present indications are that I and my family will still be enjoying our bargain Lagonda motoring another 20 years from now.
[The Editor remarks smugly that he was able to drive his Riley away without doing a thing to it—Ed.]