Letters from readers, September 1972

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

Old-car prices

Sir,

I have just read with interest Mr. W. K. Parker’s letter regarding old-car prices (July Motor Sport), and I would like to put my oar into the affray.

First, I believe that it is dangerous to explain the rising prices of old cars mainly in economic terms. Anyone who has studied economic theory even at elementary level will appreciate that there is a wide gap between theoretical and practical measurements, mainly because of the difficulty of “weighting” the many factors that must be taken into account.

Secondly, I am sceptical about the idea that prospective purchasers of old cars see in their actions a means of offsetting inflation; a few may, but the majority, no.

Restoration and maintenance is often very expensive and the speculator, seeing his bills steadily rising, will quickly sell and put his money elsewhere, perhaps in a country cottage in Wales which may cost him less than a 3 1/2-litre Bentley and offer a quicker return on capital by letting the cottage to holidaymakers.

No, I believe that the majority of old-car owners or prospective owners fall into two main categories, those who are primarily interested in the old car and wish to enjoy ownership for its own sake, financial consideration taking second place; and those who see the old car as a way of being trendy, the social inadequate who needs the support of an SS100 in order to boost their flagging confidence when it comes to attracting dolly birds.

Whenever any object becomes popular, whether old cars, coins, or foreign currency, it attracts outsiders whose only qualifications are a highly developed sense of smell for easy money, and an ability for acting.

I accept Mr. Parker’s point that the prospective vendor of an old car will not wish to sell at dated prices, but I believe that prices have been pushed up artificially, mainly by outside people jumping on the bandwagon to make a fast buck.

I own a 1911 Ford T, and in my searches for spare parts more often than not I have found that the seller has based his valuation for the part he is offering for sale not on its real worth but on the price of a Rolls sold by auction and reported on the television, an assessment he may consider logical.

Finally. I recently replied to an advertiser in Motor Sport who asked for offers; the reply was a demand for a price far exceeding the object’s value. What next, “gazumping” ?

Aberystwyth. Dudley G. Christians.

———

Sir,

Mr. W. K. Parker, in his basic lesson on inflation, depreciation of money, etc., refers to the laws of the market place. I would add to his analogy by reminding him that no respectable market place trader would presume to sell his wares under another name and using someone else’s stand, and reverse W. K. Parker’s priorities to “Primary consideration that these things did not and would not lose their value”.

In common with most old-vehicle clubs we have a nucleus of active members who freely donate time and money to research and the tracking down of vehicles and spares for the benefit of genuine old-car enthusiasts. Countless are the occasions when dealers, under the guise of enthusiasts, have made use of our technical and dating information and spares facilities.

The chap kept out of the pub while busy restoring a car is, in my experience, the previous owner of the car advertised at an inflated price.

Has it occurred to W. K. Parker that “W.B.’s phantom people”, as he quaintly puts it, were conceivably schoolchildren in 1957/60 ?

Harry Edwards.

Galleywood. Morris Register Historian.

———

Sir,

I wonder what compels people to include the words “Genuine reason for sale” in their advertisements ? Surely, if a car is for sale, then there is a genuine reason why it is for sale—such as shortage of cash, got something better, gearbox about to collapse, wife hates it, not fast enough, uses too much petrol, etc., etc. Come to think of it, what is a non-genuine reason for sale ?

On another subject, I can answer Mr. Parker on one point in his letter—many of W. B.’s so-called phantom people, who would like to buy vintage cars at reasonable prices, were doing their 11-plus in 1957/60.

West Bridgford. Jim Whyman.

———

Sir,

Although W. B. may hold some illogical views, his remarks on the prices of old cars certainly make more sense than Mr. Parker’s. You cannot now, and never will, be able to compare the intrinsic value of a work of art, property or land, and a piece of, very often mass produced, machinery. The items which have a genuine appreciation also have perfectly obvious reasons why. In fact there are two laws of supply and demand. A “real” one applying to works of art, etc., and an “artificial” one which can be created over a period of time by people who stand to benefit from such a situation.

If, for instance, a 1928 Blitza Special was really worth £7,000 why isn’t one of our “wise boys” producing an exact copy, because machines and craftsmen can be used to reproduce like this, unlike artists? The reason is because the price beats no relation to reality.

When the professional has made his profit and started collecting Victorian bird baths, it’s the poor amateur who will have to decide whether to sell to an enthusiast for £100 or scrap it out of spite.

Stockport. A. P. Henshall.

[In thanking these readers for their support I think perhaps since Lord Montagu had to pay £17,000 at the recent Beaulieu Auction for a bogus, sham, replica, call it what you will, “Le Mans” Bentley which had never run at Le Mans, my comments were perhaps not exactly uncalled for ? — Ed.]

* * *

Road Gritting

Sir,

Regarding “Matters of Moment” in the July edition of your excellent magazine, concerning road gritting, I fully agree with the Editor and feel that if councils must use this antiquated method, then they ought to sweep up the excess grit, which could be used again and also would mean only one day of broken windscreens instead of several.

My local council seems to waste its time gritting perfect roads and leaving badly surfaced and rutted roads untouched for years.

Also my fellow motorists are just as foolish when they ignore the “gritting in progress” signs and either overtake me or tear by the opposite way, showering me with stones. As I motor in a pre-war open tourer this is particularly dangerous as I have been hit several times in the face.

Let’s hope they read this letter, if you would be good enough to publish it, and that they and the Council take note.

Eastleigh, Hampshire. D. Ballard.

* * *

The Rover 3500S

Sir,

Following the interesting letters relating to the above car I had anticipated that your next number would have contained further comment. Alas, this did not materialise, hence this letter.

I ordered my car in December and was promised availability on February 1st. This promise was factual and maintained. In the early days I suffered from a sticking petrol-filler cap, an “odd-bin” which sprang open over every bump, a strong smell of petrol which appeared overnight, and sundry noises from the front suspension over rough roads. We still have stone sets in this area and maybe the makers do not realise this. All these points were corrected in normal service.

My only complaints now are the way in which the plugs foul in constant traffic use, making the first over-taking manoeuvre, when conditions ease, a bit dicey, the amount of road-excited noise which certain surfaces create at the rear, and the considerable degree of waywardness in crosswinds at speed. This latter I do consider to be it source of potential danger.

It is understandable that the power-to-weight ratio should appeal to Motor Sport readers but, apart from that feature, it is probably unreasonable to regard the car as a sports model. You have only to check the list of available V8s on the market to realise that, at the price, Rover have provided a remarkable car. At the time it was being designed the top limit of first cost for tax purposes was £2,000, so to produce a car with so much attraction to the market for which it was so obviously designed is quite an achievement. It could become a great car without too much additional cost. I hope it does.

Marple. N. Care.

———

Sir,

Having read your road test on the Rover 35008 and several letters defending it, I feel I must write and express my views which are based on some 49,000 miles of Rover motoring.

Beginning with the test, it seems that far from being a Rover “enthusiast” W. B. reckons that it is a terrible piece of engineering. After a considerable mileage in two 3500s I can assure any future customers that they are one of the best cars in the class, if not the best, and that includes the BMW 2002, 2500 and Triumph 2.5 Pl.

I agree that parts of the trimmings are a bit garish (although some people like them!), but Rover were forced to put on this embellishment because of public desire. One only has to look at the new Ford Granada for a good example of how had a car can look if this is overdone. As regards space, the V8s and 2000s have plenty for the four people that they are designed to carry (the Triumph 2000 and 2.5 are only four-and-a-half anyway, not five-seaters!), and if one is to experiment a little with luggage most suitcases can be stood upright in the boot, something that could never be done in an XJ6 or probably a BMW either.

I also much appreciate the tidiness of the interior with its instruments and controls that are a lesson to all other manufacturers. All the Rovers I have owned have always been quiet and refined with superb 1.0g-plus brakes, wet or dry. Also with the maximum allowed toe-in at the front they have remained very stable even on motorways with no yaw. My car has real leather seats which I feel are only correct for a quality car such as this; but because some people thought them slippery Rover designed the grippy Ambla facings for the “S” after public demand. Now people say that they are too cheap (Triumph and BMW note!), all of which just goes to prove that you can’t please. anyone these days!

Referring to the extraordinary letter from Mr. C. C. Rawlinson. I must point out that, like a car, tyres also need to be run-in, and after only 3,000 miles they will still be hard and so it is hardly surprising that on a very poor grip surface like a damp road, the car cannot record the impressive braking figures for which it is renowned. I am very surprised about the comments from the makers but 20º of free play in the steering seems very out of order to me.

Mr. Rawlinson’s statement that the 3500 is only as good as a Humber Super Snipe is quite, quite ludicrous as anyone who knows these two cars will confirm. It may also surprise him to learn that not all owners of these class cars want to go around corners in vast oversteering slides—”boy-racer” fashion or drive up the motorway fiat out for hours on end as he apparently does.

The British Rover obviously has a lot of quality in its construction, as is evident from the paint finish and chrome work (the latter of which is plated to a higher standard than the required BS 1224, incidentally), and the nice attention to detail in the form of, among others, control and map-lights, opening front and rear quarter-vents, etc. This all goes to prove that the Rover is still a very smart car and way above the run-of-the-mill Vauxhall, Audi, Ford or Triumph. Long may it remain so!

Elstree. Douglas Cooke.

[I never implied that the Rover 3500S is a terrible piece of engineering, only that I could not live with the directional instability, the yaw, of the road-test car.—Ed.]

* * *

The adventure of the ill-fated Singers

Sir,

May I add a little more to the information prompted by your most interesting article and the subsequent letters from fellow readers ? I, too, was a one-time owner of one of these cars; alas, memory fails to tell me which one it was, from whom I purchased it and to whom It was sold. Suffice to say it had been an ambition to own one ever since I had seen them in action in the 1935 Ulster TT. At that time I was a very satisfied owner of my second Le Mans Nine two-seater. which I used for competition work and which I found handled easily and well, so naturally I was very interested in these new racing Singers.

Mr. S. C. H. Davis very kindly gave me a lift in AVC 484, from the TT course to Bangor, where the Singer Team had their HQ. I clearly remember how much I enjoyed the experience and the favourable impression the car made on me. Thank goodness the steering stayed in one piece on that occasion! The Reg. Nos. of the cars were:

TT Race No.: 35 Reg. No.: AVC 483 Driver: A. H. Langley

,, 36 ,, AVC 481 ,, J. D. Barnes

,, 37 ,, AVC 484 ,, S. C. H. Davis

,, 38 ,, AVC 482 ,, Norman Black

Whilst writing, I would like to add my grateful thanks for the pleasure your magazine gives to me each month and must give to many motorists of my age, who were keenly interested in motoring and motoring sport in the 20s and 30s — wonderful years! But at the same time you keep us right up to the minute too!

North Berwick. W. Keith Elliot.

[This correspondence is now closed — Ed.]

* * *

A straight-eight Daimler

Sir,

In May 1966 you published an article on the Straight-Eight Daimlers. You may like to know that the car pictured at the head of the article, No. 43534, is still going strong, having been in my ownership now for almost two years. I have also owned a 25/30 Rolls-Royce and have at present a P.III, but I find the Daimler handles, and stops, better than either of them; it also attracts more attention from spectators at rallies or weddings, for which it is frequently used. If any of the other Straight Eights mentioned in your article are still extant I would be pleased to hear from present owners.

Derby. N. H. Barr.

* * *

In reply to Jackie Stewart

At least one point raised last month by Jackie Stewart needs to be replied to vigorously, and that concerns criticisms levelled at modern racing “facilities”. New circuits such as those at Nivelles and Le Castellet are not condemned by certain drivers, spectators and journalists because they are modern and safe, but because their layout is unimaginative and dull.

The enthusiasm of many thousands of race-goers (or cranks, if you wish) for circuits like Spa-Francorchamps and the Nurburgring stems from the fact that they present awesome challenges for the drivers and their cars. Le Castellet, on the other hand, is typical of many new circuits in that it has one long straight and several slow corners through which the drivers go lndian-file, and any “challenge” is coincidental.

Viewing Mr. Jenkinson’s comments over the years in context, he has shared near-unanimous approval of the Osterreichring, for instance, opened only three years ago as Austria’s Grand Prix circuit. Drivers apparently find it safe enough, and spectators enjoy a spectacular view of the action—it’s an imaginative circuit which other promoters should look at, particularly if they have hillsides available.

When everything in motor racing is perfect, there won’t be any need for Mr. Jenkinson’s unique brand of criticism which is entertaining, apt, and usually enjoyed by all except the subjects of the remark. If that is fence-sitting, I hope he goes on doing it for many years to come.

Croydon. M. L. Cotton.

———

Sir.

It was with considerable pleasure that I read of the Ferrari 1, 2 at the Nurburgring. The combination of Ickx, Regazzoni, and Ferrari exemplifies all that is best in F1 at the moment and this result is a shot in the arm for the sport.

A most timely shot, too, when about all the publicity given to motor racing is through the rather distasteful serialised diaries of the World Champion and his wife.

The homely tales of the Stewart family and the cliff-hanging suspense of the ulcer saga are harmless enough, but it was disturbing to read of the deaths of Rindt and Courage in the context of sensationalist journalism when the piece is signed by the reigning World Champion. The publication of that harrowing photograph of Courage’s wife in her grief was indefensible.

Stewart would do well to dispense with the services of his slick PR advisers and have a word with Graham Hill, who is still at the top of his profession, and commands the respect of enthusiasts everywhere, not to mention affection.

Is Stewart’s forthcoming film really to be called “The Road to Dusty Death”? Perhaps we can hope that when he counts the takings from his efforts he will decide to retire and start his second ulcer ?

Congleton. R. Weedon.

———

Sir,

The letters in the August issue from and concerning Jackie Stewart will no doubt bring a deluge of correspondence so I will be as brief as possible expressing my opinion.

Grand Prix racing has now reached such a low ebb, due in no small part to Mr. Stewart, that it is far more interesting and enjoyable to read what D. S. J. has to say about many of the races than it is to actually watch them. To paraphrase Jenks, “Did I enjoy watching the British Grand Prix ? No. Did I enjoy reading about it ? Yes.” I am sure even Jenks would agree this cannot he a healthy state of affairs.

It is also apparent that while Stewart is saddened by motor racing deaths he is not adverse to using it to make money with the type of melodramatic drivel published in the Sunday Times. This may be unfair to Stewart but I feel that those articles can only have the effect of attracting the ghouls of the general public which motor racing can do without.

Bromley. Bryan L. Walls.

* * *

Photo-finish

Sir,

An addition to your list of dead-heats in motor racing. In the 1967 Syracuse Grand Prix, Parkes (Ferrari) and Scarfiotti (Ferrari) crossed the line together, after 308 kilometres.

Edinburgh. M. J. Gibson.

* * *

Tarring and gritting

Sir,

The enclosed cutting from the Press and Journal (the daily paper for NE Scotland) for July 5th will, I am sure, be of interest to you, following your timely editorial in the July issue of Motor Sport.

Something MUST be done to stop the obsolete practice of tarring and gritting, especially of main roads. Today’s traffic conditions render this method of road “dressing” quite inadequate. There is a dangerous double bend just north of Dyce on the Aberdeen-Banff road which was treated in this way last summer. There is now no grit on the road here at all, and in the hot weather of the last few days the surface has become nothing but wet tar.

The hazards produced by tarring and gritting are numerous. Some years ago I found a chipping which had worked its way into the thickest part of the tread of the front tyre of a 4-ton Thames Trader. When I removed the stone, I found it to be one-and-a-quarter inches long, with an edge sharp enough to cut cardboard with ease. It was one of millions such weapons used by Devon County Council on part of A379.

And two weeks ago I stopped for a while in a lay-by on A96, the trunk road from Aberdeen to Inverness; and when I drove off again I had the unnerving experience of finding my foot stuck to the accelerator! I had trodden in some wet tar! [Yes! — Ed.] My car is a powerful Daimler Roadster with a very sensitive accelerator pedal action, so that the consequences of this could have been dangerous. I had to stop at a filling station and get some petrol to remove the tar from my shoe, and from the accelerator and brake pedals.

I now intend to lobby local authorities and MPs on this matter. If all the readers of your excellent and highly-respected magazine do the same, we might see some action.

John Hearne,

Secretary, NE Scotland Branch,

Inverurie. Daimler and Lanchester OC.

* * *

AA inefficiency

Sir,

I should be interested to know if other readers have had a similar frustrating experience to my own.

In July last year I wrote to the AA informing them that in view of what I considered to be a savage and unjustified increase in their subscription, I should not be renewing after December 31st, 1971. This letter was acknowledged. In November 1971 I received a Standing Order Form for completion at the new rate; this I at once returned with a recapitulation of my letter of July. This letter was also acknowledged. In January this year another new SO Form was received; this I ignored, but when yet another form was received in February, I again wrote recapitulating previous letters, and requesting them to ensure that my name was erased from their records. This brought forth a bland reply that they had no record of previous correspondence, and enclosed yet another SO form for completion. This I again returned, stating that I had no intention of renewing, and again asking them to ensure that my name be erased from their records. No reply was received to that letter, for which I was thankful, but today yet another Standing Order Form has been delivered.

If the AA are able to waste stationery, postage, and a clerk’s time in this profligate manner it is no wonder that subscriptions have to be increased.

Fowey. L. R. Blewett.

[Computers ? — Ed.]

* * *

Correction

Sir,

If “W. B.” thinks New Zealand is a Continent (Motor Sport, June 1972, page 653) then he should pay the place a visit. He’ll see two small islands almost entirely covered with Holdens and Chrysler Valiants. A most depressing sight!

Natal, S. Africa. D. C. Forsyth.

* * *

Sense behind the Panther

Sir,

Please don’t scorn the Panther-imitation-Jaguar project. Didn’t you know it is a VSCC plot to stop those with good money and bad taste getting their hands on the real thing ?

Swansea. M. J. Shackleton Bailey.

* * *

Jaguar/Daimler matter

Sir,

Good old Jaguar! So the world’s fastest four-door two-seater car now has twice as many cylinders and goes still faster. I suppose that it would do no good to the image of the car to provide adequate passenger space as well, or to that symbol, the “Jaguar Owners’ Stoop” ?

For the Daimler Double-Six, which must now follow, why does Jaguar not take about a foot or eighteen inches out of the Daimler limousine wheelbase, which would leave an admirable large comfortable saloon, of which there will otherwise be none, if and when British Leyland discontinue the big Rover ? This would also enable Jaguar to stop badge-swapping by discontinuing the Sovereign models.

The Daimler/Jaguar badge swapping started when Jaguar put the Daimler 2 1/2-litre V8 in the Jaguar Mk. 2 bodyshell and called it a Daimler. At the time Jaguar’s excuse for doing this was that Daimler had no new models under development. According to Mr. B. E. Smith in “The Daimler Tradition”, at the time of the Jaguar take-over, Daimler had made a prototype replacement for the Century with the V8 engine and was actually negotiating the supply of body parts. If this is so, it rather looks as though Jaguar was less than honest in suppressing a promising new model.

However, what has happened to Daimler is probably just retribution for what it had done over thirty years previously to Lanchester.

Macclesfield. R. W. Ramage.

———

Sir,

Along with all enthusiasts I welcome at long last the XJ12, although the inadequate production and industrial stoppages will make its presence rather academic for some time.

Two aspects of this car, however, give rise to some doubts as to whether Leyland have yet again not done their sums properly. First we are told the XJ body was designed to-accept the V12 engine, but looking at pictures and reading the reports, it seems it is very crowded under the bonnet, with virtually no spare room.

This observation is substantiated by the elaborate and overcomplicated cooling system employed for only 5.3-litres. To go to such measures just to stop the battery melting is rather ludicrous; is there no room in that vast boot for the battery ?

If the much-maligned mass-produced US cars of far bigger engine size and also greater power can operate perfectly in desert conditions without stress, surely someone has made a slip-up. I should hate to buy a used example, say four years old, with the inevitable wear and tear of hoses, fan belts, etc., and motor far and fast on a hot day.

Once again Jaguar have produced a bargain which on showroom appeal is impossible to match, but what about long-term ownership ?

Weston Zoyland. B. Lowe.