Letters from Readers, September 1974

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

Mobil SHC


With reference to the letter of Kenneth Fantom, published in your June issue on the co-incidence of aroma relating to Castrol “R” and Mobil SHC, the former was a vegetable-based oil which carried a very heavy additive dosage and required certain stabilizing esters. It was these which provided the distinctive aroma of the oil when burnt. SHC is petroleum-based and it so happens that similar, but specially synthesized esters of high thermal stability are used in its make-up. Hence the odiferous nostalgia. There’s no moral in it, just a happy co-incidence.

London, SW — DONALD McGill, Public Affairs Department, Mobil Oil Company Ltd.

Free Wheeling


I have been reading with interest the recent letters on the subject of free-wheeling. However, I find it strange that there has been no mention as yet of one current production car which still retains a free-wheel device—I refer of course to the Wartburg. The main reason for this car having a free-wheel fitted is that it is powered by a two-stroke engine running on a petroil mixture rather than having a separate lubrication system—there would be a lack of lubrication on the “over-run” with a closed throttle. As the Department of the Environment still permit the import of this car into this country this bears out what C. G. Masterman said (Motor Sport July 1974) that free wheeling is not illegal. I do not agree with the “Driving” manual in their statement that “any form of coasting is wrong, because it lessens the driver’s control of the car, and particularly of steering and braking”. I contend that in the final analysis the control of steering and braking is dependent upon the driver, and any lessening of control in these respects would be brought about by the driver himself and not by the fact that the car was coasting. I have been the owner of a Wartburg for some eighteen months in which time I have covered over 30,000 miles, mostly in South Wales, which is not renowned for its flatness or its straight roads. I have found that the car has altered driving characteristics compared to a “normal” car and therefore requires a slightly different driving technique, but I would put this down to the soft springing of the car rather than the total lack of engine braking effect. I agree with C. G. Masterrnan that free-wheeling is not for the inexperienced—no engine braking effect and the lack of torque reactions when lifting off on corners can be disconcerting to say the least, but one can come to grips with these peculiarities if one is prepared to change his driving techniques. If you can do this, then there is nothing to inhibit you from spirited driving at all. To prove my point, in last year’s RAC Rally three Wartburgs completed the course with the free-wheel in use—also a number of free-wheeling Saabs finished as well. To my mind that shows that free-wheeling gives no loss of control of steering or braking.

As for fuel-saving—using the free-wheel on my car I can obtain 35 m.p.g. under normal (hard) driving, and over 40 m.p.g. with economy driving. These figures are approximately 10 m.p.h. better than cars of the same size, weight and performance. Once on the move the Wartburg free-wheel permits clutchless gearchanges without harm, so there is an obvious lessening of clutch wear. Also whilst the car is free-wheeling, the engine and gearbox are not being stressed, and consequently the life of these components would seem longer. A minus point is the obvious fact that the brakes have to be relied upon a great deal, so a complete brake failure can be a daunting prospect (but no more so than on a fully automatic car), but on a properly maintained and serviced car such a failure would not occur. I have also found that freewheeling has tended to encourage better and safer driving techniques, and so to my mind free-wheeling is definitely beneficial.

Bridgend — R. P. WILKINSON

[Alas, the Wartburg seems to have run its course in Europe, due to emission problems, but you will still be able to buy one for some time.—ED.]

Coasting comments


As a regular reader of Motor Sport for over 35 years I would like to offer my congratulations and thanks for all your efforts, on the occasion of your fiftieth anniversary.

Perhaps you would allow me to make comments on two matters. Firstly, concerning coasting. Around the 1931/2 era when petrol cost, retail, less than 5/- gallon and obviously less for bulk buyers, the bus companies introduced a fuel economy bonus scheme for drivers. This led to a large volume of coasting and at least one fatal accident was attributed to this cause. I have been under the impression that legislation to ban coasting in public service vehicles was introduced. It was certainly recommended by one coroner’s jury. Alas, it all stopped just as quickly as it started.

Secondly, many fine articles were contributed to your journal under the pseudonym “Baladeur”. Were we ever enlightened concerning the real identity of this knowledgable character who held so many of us enthralled at times or is my memory at fault?

One war-time incident which I recall never seems to have received any post-war mention. When the air raids intensified on London it was decided to have an auction of all the official German cars which had been impounded at the outbreak of hostilities. These were all crammed into the first floor of a large central London garage. I can’t recall which one. The sight of all those Mercedes, BMWs and a really large number of Opels has remained with me since. I believe that buyers had to have a Ministry of Transport permit authorising them to use the car for war purposes in the event of a successful bid. Do any of your readers remember more details which could open up this historic sale for the record before other memories fail?

Marple, Cheshire — N. CARR

More Support for the MG-C


I read with interest the letter from Mr.Fuller in the July issue concerning the MG-C. I have had experience with both manual and automatic MG-Cs both in open and GT form and would like to pass comment on this model.

When the car was first announced it was hailed as the replacement for the lusty Healey 3000 and thus when tested by various motoring journals, both here and abroad, tended to be compared to the 3000 and therein lies the big mistake.

This was a new car in its own right, and if I recall the early “C”s tended to ride high on the front, although on later 1969 models this was not so evident. The large well-proven engine has plenty of torque and is almost “turbine”-like for smoothness. Combine this with overdrive and 5-1/2 J tyres and one has a very fast sports car with a top speed that will leave many TR6’s and others hard pressed to match. Considering the engine size I would agree with Mr. Fuller that this is an economical car returning approximately 27 m.p.g. if not extended. Indeed it is quite spacious inside compared to the TR6 and many well-cared-for MG-Cs are holding their prices. It still has many things in its favour where spare parts are concerned. Body panels and engine spares are readily obtainable although gearbox parts are scarce but not impossible to get.

I believe if BL had concentrated on developing the “C” instead of killing it off (due to unfavourable press reports?) then the success of the Datsun 240Z in the MG’s traditional export market of North America may have been curtailed. Are BL now trying to redress the balance with that expensive MG-B V8? This car offers little more than a good “C” and has probably missed the boat regarding export potential. (BL get in touch with Chrysler re Sunbeam Tiger).

With the introduction of the new engine there should have been a new body or at least new panels to up-date the design. Why not use the well-tried “Stag” body as a basis for a new fast-back coupe using the MG V8 engine as an alternative to the Triumph engine? Market the car under the MG badge and the export potential for such a model would surely be increased and would be a worthy challenger to the Datsun 240Z and even the “new” Mustang. Maybe this is wishful thinking.

Whitchurch, Bristol — P.T. SHIRE

* * *


Through your columns I would like to take the opportunity of thanking Mr. Fuller for defending and praising the MG-C. Just over a year ago I was thinking of purchasing either an Austin Healey 3000 or an E-type. I soon realised that it would cost me a small fortune to obtain either a Healey or an E-type in the condition I required. At this time two of my friends bought MG-Cs and had nothing but praise for them, indeed for one friend it was his second C-type after owning a string of sports cars including an Elan, GT6 and an E-type. After a test drive I was convinced that the MG-C was the car for me and I subsequently purchased a 1968 GT model, which has provided me with reliable and enjoyable motoring.

In my experience the MG-C is a rugged sports car with a classic appeal in the same idiom as the Healey 3000 and Jaguar E-type; it should not be compared with the MG-B or similar capacity sports cars. I have found, like so many others, that the MG-C is a much underrated car which deserves a far better reputation (remember the MG-A Twin Cam?) and appreciation. I hope that the MG-C becomes the “classic” it deserves. I am certainly going to hang onto mine. Does anyone want to form a C-type supporters’ club?

A second car—yes, I am now looking for a roadster to supplement the GT.

Sutton, Surrey — G. T. WILKINS

[There seems to be sufficient interest developing in the MG-C to make a supporters’ club a viable proposition. Letters from interested parties will be forwarded to Mr. Wilkins.—ED.]

Praise for Piranha


Like so many of your other readers, I have a catalogue of complaints regarding poor products and rotten service from British manufacturers—my new Scimitar has so far had over twenty legitimate faults.

However, I hope you will publish this evidence that there is still at least one firm with standards. I bought by post a Piranha electronic conversion kit for a GT 1,275 c.c. Mini. After fitting by my local garage (I am both too busy and ignorant to do it myself), the unit failed to work. Last Thursday I telephoned Piranha at London who asked where the car would be available the next day. The next morning a Piranha representative duly arrived here, having travelled across the breadth of England from Liverpool, and exchanged the unit, and tested it. Quel Service!

Also, it actually does make the car smoother and quicker and after a 500-mile check has also improved the petrol consumption by about 10%. This is slightly better than the Mobelec and Lumenition ignition fitted on our two other cars. I have no connection with Piranha of course, except as a satisfied customer.

Guisborough — I. J. SIMON, M.A.

The Fourteen Days’ Grace


I feel I must put pen to paper about the subject of motor taxation which you touched on in the July edition.

I have in front of me four vehicle log books, the earliest one being for a 1952 motorcycle, and the latest being for my present vehicle, 1970 Renault. Stated on all of these log books is this wording:—

“N.B. A vehicle may be used during the fourteen days following the expiry of the licence provided that application is made for a renewal licence on or before the fourteenth day”.

This is an extract from page 4 of one of the earlier log books, the wording on the later log book is virtually the same, see page 1 paragraph 4. Therefore I would assume that the fourteen days’ grace must apply, and if I should at any time be charged with such an offence I would take the case to the highest courts to prove my innocence.

I must add that some years ago I was stopped by the police. I gave the above explanation and heard no more from them. It would therefore appear that the police are incorrect in prosecuting for this offence.

Also on the subject of the police I must say, maybe I have been lucky, but in all my dealings with them, on average I have nothing but commendation for them.

I felt someone must state this obvious discrepancy if only to help clear the matter for thousands of motorists.

Luton — D. B. MONTFORD

Seat-Belt Safety


I quote from page 710 of the July issue: “. . . maybe one day instead of fussing over air-bags and seat-belts, those who watch over us will insist on heated rear windows and such lamps’ washers [as on the Saab] on all cars”.

Are you seriously suggesting that headlamp washers will save more lives than seat belts? Do you not believe statistics? I realise that you, sir, with your vast experience, are far too good a driver to have an accident and only require to see the road ahead to avoid all obstacles. I would question whether all those who read this journal which is, after all, for public sale and not restricted to a group of your equally gifted friends, have your immunity.

I think we are entitled to more responsibility from the Editor of such a journal as this. How can people be persuaded to wear their belts and save their lives if those they respect, such as yourself, in effect dismiss them as props for incompetent drivers? It is this sort of adolescent logic that prevents so many people wearing the most effective single safety device yet invented. And it is only because so many do adopt this false bravery, that the poor substitute of air bags has even been thought of.

I’m sure you think laminated windscreens are a worthwhile safety device. You should make yourself aware of what happens when a head goes through one at speed.


Seat Belts—a Doctor’s View


The last time the seat belt controversy featured in your correspondence columns, I wrote to you as a consultant anaesthetist of many years standing, giving you my experiences of dealing with the surviving wreckage of motor smashes. I concluded by saying it couldn’t happen to you but imploring you to belt up as there was always the other lunatic.

Needless to say, my letter was ignored, yet you publish verbatim the letter by Simon Lerner, trotting out all the usual sickening rubbish put out by people who have never seen a face in tatters from going through the windscreen, a smashed-in chest, shin bones driven thro’ the floorboard, etc., etc.,ad nauseam.

Certainly one must have the freedom to indulge in the above horrors, but what about the services—the fire brigade, the police and doctors who have to sort out the resulting holocaust at all hours of the day and night?

— D. F. REES, M.R.C.S., L.R,C.P., F.F.A.R.C.S., D.A. Senior Consultant Anaesthetist Isle of Wight.

[It is not belts I’m against—it’s COMPULSION.—ED.]

Peerless/Warwick Register


May I first thank you for the space given to the forming of a Peerless/Warwick Register in the May Motor Sport . I have to date located thirty cars including one in America, so it is hoped to track down existing cars there, as over half the production cars were exported mainly to America. The cars located to date include the original aluminium prototype, the Le Mans car driven by Jopp and Crabb, two Warwicks which were fitted with Buick V8 engines although now fitted with TR units. As it appears that only about 300 Peerless and 90 Warwicks were produced (only half of which were sold in the UK) the thirty cars at present located must be a large proportion of those still in existence.

Mr. Orpin’s letter in the July issue of Motor Sport prompts me to extol some of the virtues of P/W cars. Produced originally in 1958 (the prototype in 1957) the spaceframe chassis had independent suspension all round, the rear being a De Dion unit (the only other cars so produced in 1961 were the Lagonda Rapide and the big Lancias [Motor Sport November, 1961]), disc brakes on the front, overdrive on 2nd, 3rd and 4th, all this wrapped up in a stylish 2 + 2 fibreglass body (the poor man’s Aston Martin).

Its drawbacks were minor by comparison with the overall design concept and given a longer production run would surely have been overcome, i.e. better soundproofing and raised suspension. I could go on for hours but will not bore you further. Many thanks for an excellent informative magazine.

Friesthorpe, Lincoln — DUDLEY THOMSON

Bad for Vauxhall


I was most interested in the letter from Mr. John A. Sangster (letters from readers: July issue) regarding the service he received following the purchase of a BMW. Contrast Mr. Sangster’s experience with the service (?) that I received as the unlucky purchaser of domestic models.

Last year I decided to change my smaIl fleet from British Leylands to Vauxhall Vivas in order to cash in on the crisper gearchange and smoother clutch that the latter offer. One of the cars I bought was a Viva SL Estate, new on the 1st October last, and delivered with driver’s seat belt missing and odd coloured ashtray, from Messrs Chester Engineering, Colwyn Bay.

From the start this car wouldn’t deliver enough power to pull your hat off. This was diagnosed by the garage as binding brakes due to a faulty master cylinder. A new one was ordered and took three weeks to arrive. When it did and was fitted it was found that the trouble wasn’t the master cylinder after all, but the brake servo working overtime. Another three weeks to wait? No, Sir. Eight weeks!

During that eight weeks’ wait the brake servo, which had been working overtime since I bought the car, went on strike when I most needed it (isn’t this always the case?) and I ran into a lorry damaging the (car’s) front wing. Another eight weeks’ wait? No, Sir. Four months! I finally obtained a wing panel myself—and here’s a tip for other Vauxhall owners in the same boat—by writing personally to a gentleman at Vauxhalls known as Mr. Hank Clark. The wing arrived two weeks later. This car, then, was in semi retirement from the date of purchase until mid-May last.

Other Vauxhall parts delays, for driving school cars that can ill-afford to be off the road, are: ten days for a rear axle pin, a week for a cylinder head and two weeks for a replacement gearbox.

To add insult to injury, one of my drivers recently took a Viva to Messrs. Chester Engineering for some minor work involving about £23. When he called for the car that evening he was told that it would have to be paid for on the spot. He did not have the full amount on him so his car was impounded overnight while he came looking for me for the necessary. When I wrote asking the Garage why they could not have sent me the account as usual I received a reply saying that I could have credit provided I could guarantee them £20’s worth of work each month. Their attitude being that repair expenses of £20 per month are normal for Viva owners—and I am beginning to believe them. My new Viva already has the beginnings of a clonk in the back axle and the noisiest speedometer I’ve ever heard.

So, to anybody contemplating the purchase of a domestic car, especially a Vauxhall, I have three words of advice: “Think, man, think!”

Penmaenmawr, N. Wales — W.H.FLETCHER

Good and Bad for Toyota


In Dec. ’73 you printed a letter headed “Toyota Troubles”. It came from Australia and maybe there is interest in a UK model?

I bought it after waiting three months for one of the sportier Escorts. On paper it seemed to have a lot going for it, and a wide choice was immediately available. It has just completed 4,000 miles.

Good features are (to me) as follows: 40 m.p.g. overall and at moderately high speeds. Roadholding, directional stability, and fast responsive steering. Short stroke, 5 mains engine is quiet, but see later para., has excellent torque from .about 2,000 r.p.m., and a claimed b.h.p, (SAE) of 73 at 6,000 r.p.m. equivalent to approx. 2,600 ft./min. piston speed, and a road speed of 90 m.p.h.

Fully reclining seats with head restraints are comfortable for this 56-year-old frame over about 400 miles in the day. The tank holds 10 gallons, so this is about its range. Tinted glass, and receptive radio are standard, as are the dual speed w/s wipers; fast, and frenetic! Ventilation and heating are good. Outside dimensions are about 2 in. less all round than the Escort; inside is as much room as one could reasonably expect. Driver’s positioning is well thought out; all the main controls come naturally to hand. The shape is pleasant, I think.

Bad points: Over a narrow rev, band around 4,000 r.p.m. (60) all hell broke loose; induction roars, fan produces noisy vortices, torque momentarily diminished, but at 4,300 or so quietness resumes and the power comes on again. The gearchange is silky, but beware the change from 2 to 3; a shade too much pressure to the right, and you miss 3rd and land up in the non-existent 5th; back to neutral and embarrassing if you’ve just changed down for the extra power to pass an HGV!

The brakes on my car are just not up to standard; no obvious maladjustment, but extreme pressure on the footbrake produces nothing like the Highway Code “emergency stop”.

And lastly the differential, which to me discloses the most interesting point of all. After 3,000 miles careful running-in I reached 70 m.p.h. at which speed the diff, produced a whine obtrusive enough to drown the radio and normal conversation. So back to the dealer, who I like and respect, because he verified the noise and fitted a unit from another car in his showrooms without any argument. This second diff, is more noisy than the first and he has agreed to change that.

My score is 2-0 in favour of dud differentials, and it could be interesting to hear from other Corolla owners?

But the real point is this: I am told on good authority that my dealer has no right whatever to undertake any work under guarantee until it has first been ok’d by a travelling Toyota rep. The not inconsiderable work he is doing for me is entirely at the dealer’s own risk; no Toyota rep. has arrived to authorise it!

Of course, had I known that Messrs. Toyota’s guarantees operate in this way, I never would have bought the car.

We hear that guarantee works costs the Japanese manufacturers less than £2 per car? I have heard it and now I begin to see the light!

Sywell, Northants — M. J. MAGRATH

50 Years Young


Please do not apologise for displaying that splendid photograph of Stuck at the wheel of the BMW CSL on the front of your July issue. It was a most fitting beginning to your 50th anniversary issue and a marvellous tribute to those remarkable machines and to the courage of their intreprid pilots!

In a more serious vein, I must congratulate you on behalf of myself, and, I’m sure, many thousands of other satisfied readers on completing 50 years of motoring journalism that is not equalled today and, I suspect, has never been.

My only, regret is that at the age of 27, I have only been able to digest nearly fourteen years of the fifty, although I must admit that I have found the diet most satisfying; excellent race reports (although I feel these could be a little longer and more comprehensive), unbiased road impressions, intriguing veteran and vintage coverage (this does seem a little distant for a person of my age, although it is appreciated for the insight it gives into early motoring) and the interesting (always) and controversial (sometimes) letters from readers. Then, of course, like a good brandy after a satisfying meal, there is my favourite “European Letter” from that most eloquent and knowledgeable of motoring journalists, D.S.J.

If the preceding 34 years were as good as the last 14, and I’m sure they were, I must feel a twinge of envy for my older fellow devotees of the sport of motoring as they have derived pleasure from something I have missed. However, I can look forward, God willing, to the next fifty years of honest, forthright, informative and occasionally witty reporting with a great deal of enthusiasm, and I feel sure that you and your colleagues will not disappoint me.

P.S. Please forgive one small complaint. I trust that it is due to the current world paper shortage, but please, if possible, can you revert to that crisp, reassuring gloss paper, instead of July’s “comic” material which was somehow a disappointment when I opened the issue. It is still the contents that count, though!

Surrey — J. W. AUSTIN

[Your “small complaint” is the basis of a big headache for us. Paper costs have escalated by over 100 per cent since August 1973 and had we kept to the same paper we should have had to increase the price of Motor Sport to 40p. per copy. By using a super calendared paper instead of a coated paper we have maintained the price at 20p, per copy and hope we have made it possible for many of our readers to continue to enjoy Motor Sport during this period of ridiculous inflation. The price will have to increase somewhat before next season starts, even using the “comic” material. We hope, however, by the November issue, to have established a quality and weight of paper that will give clarity to enable clear reading of outstanding contents.—W.J.T., Managing Director.]

Looking Back with Tony Rolt


I have read the article by A.H. with interest and would like to draw attention to one inaccuracy.

Tony Rolt was captured at Calais, and not at Dunkirk. Airey Neve’s “Calais, A Soldier’s Battle” mentions Rolt specifically and describes his bravery which led to the award of an M.C.

Having read also Duncan Hamilton’s “Touch Wood”, I was convinced that their personalities were entirely compatible as a partnership in the Jaguar team!

Epping — J. R. LEES-JONES