Letters from readers, September 1975

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Fallacious Parlour Games

Sir,

Today again we strive to bury our Dead, glorious or otherwise in this context. The Automobile Association, in its infinite wisdom as we have all been told, has awarded its “Square Wheel”.

Yes, all very amusing; let us band together once again and knock British Leyland. Just before doing so let us look at what the AA is doing with its newly increased subscription rates grasped in by direct debit.

Is this really what the people joining this offshoot of the Readers Digest really want ? They certainly aren’t getting the roadside service any more and you try arguing with the AA computer. Up to this year I had paid my own and my father’s subscription to the Association, last year the computer failed to recognise my father as a member despite his subscription being paid by direct transfer. Three letters, two visits to Manchester and three visits to Head Office at Bramhall all failed to revive the computer. Of course, as the computer told my father by every other post, there could be no service without the membership card and just as logically the computer failed to print the card. Result ? Two cancelled subscriptions.

Yes, I hear you say, an isolated incident amongst hundreds of thousands.

I quite agree and this is precisely what the “Square Wheel” is, taking no account of numbers of cars sold per manufacturer.

I also have a Rover 2000; it has had two major troubles, both of which were put right in the most efficient and convivial manner by Messrs. Rover/Triumph and their Service Representative. I shall certainly be staying with them as long as I am able to purchase cars.

Think again, AA before investing your remaining subscriptions in fallacious parlour games with which most like myself are thoroughly bored. Grappenhall, Cheshire JOHN D. SCHOFIELD (DR.)

PS—Please don’t sell your most refreshing magazine to the Readers Digest.

Servicing Exotics

Sir,

With reference to the Editor’s question in your July edition concerning servicing costs of exotic vehicles. Being employed by a company that specialises in this type of vehicle including Ferrari, I was very interested to read Mr. Cotterell’s comments on this subject.

Although a second-hand Dino is a very tempting purchase these days, Ferraris rely completely upon regular and thorough servicing. A vast majority of exotic car owners do not realise how complete the servicing and repairs are, and secondly, how long services take, e.g. a major service on a Dino being approximately 20 hours of meticulous care and skill. Our technicians are 100% dedicated to the marque and this is expected by our customers. I suggest that anybody not so should leave it to the professionals.

I agree that labour costs are high, but trained technicians are difficult to find and therefore high wages have to be paid to employees.

Customers who take servicing into their own hands or take their cars to garages not experienced on specialist cars are asking for trouble. We find that it does not pay in the long run. Usually the vehicles return to us in a terrible state of ill health.

It reverts to the saying “If you cannot afford to maintain it, do not buy it.”

Cardiff P. LEWIS

Not a Dying Breed

Sir,

I fail to see why Mr. M. N. Rushton should consider the MG car a dying breed. MG cars have never been sophisticated—some have been unattractive, although not to the extent of the current models.

Regarding the much-criticised “new” engine for the Midget, surely it matters little whether the Midget’s engine is derived from an Austin A30 or a Standard 8? MG engines have nearly always been borrowed from the saloon models of connected companies.

Personally I consider it much more sad that British Leyland have chosen to celebrate the 50th anniversay in the wrong year.

St. Albans, Herts. B. D. DAVIES

T. G. H. Moore

Sir,

I read your Obituary on T. G. H. Moore with profound regret, as I knew him very well in his Oxford days.

I remember many enjoyable occasions at the Inter Varsity Speed Trials, particularly one somewhat hectic event at Eweleme when he was using his 4½-litre Bentley as well as the Rudge motorcycle.

I remember particularly the aforementioned Bentley going down the hill into Benson, when I personally was sitting on a large box perched on the back seat.

Although I lost touch with him shortly after Oxford days and I had no contact with his family, I would like, as a stranger to them, to express my sincere condolence on their loss.

Frodsham, Cheshire S. G. WILSON

The Coach Menace

Sir,

I have often read, with agreement, letters in MOTOR SPORT concerning the standard of driving, or lack of, exhibited by some drivers. This criticism is often aimed at certain groups of drivers, be they taxi drivers, lorry drivers or just plain women. However, to my knowledge, one group has so far escaped mention in your pages. They are coach drivers. Anyone who drives on motorways at all must have at some time or other had a motorway coach rumble by at over 70 m.p.h., only inches from their car. This in itself would not be so bad, but for the fact that they are somewhat unstable in such conditions and often cause cars to be blown about in a disconcerting manner. Many times I’ve seen coaches travelling in groups of two, three or even four, 20 ft. apart at 70 m.p.h. When you consider the number of people whom the drivers are responsible for, one mistake by anyone in their vicinity could bring about an accident of disastrous proportions. Compared to this, a coach sitting on your tail waiting for a decent downgrade to pass, is a minor hazard.

How often have you seen coach drivers stopped by the police for some demeanor ? I for one can’t recall any such occurrence, which amazes me. After the recent series of well-publicised crashes one would think that the drivers would display some responsibility for their passengers and other motorists, but no, they continue to hammer on, blissfully unaware that they constitute such a menace.

Ringwood, Hants ERIC DOWNER

A Diesel Champ

Sir,

Thank you for printing my letter on “Free Wheels” in your May 1974 edition. Remind me to try my idea, using a bicycle sprocket, sometime.

Since that time I acquired an Ex WD Austin Champ, just for fun, pulling caravans and boats etc. When I found it only did 12 m.p.g. instead of the 18 I was expecting, I decided that the only answer was to fit a diesel engine.

Isn’t it funny, the easy bit was the fitting of the main power unit and gearbox, and the most difficult were the fiddly bits like exhaust systems, cooling systems etc. Anyway, it all went together, and was fun to drive, it always attracted the local enthusiasts, wherever it stopped. Economy-wise, I was very pleased. Solo it would return 30 m.p.g., or 55 miles per £ (40 m.p.g. on 4-star petrol equals 54 miles per £). With the caravan on tow, giving a total all up weight, including passengers etc. of 2½ tons, I was getting 20 m.p.g., but remember diesel costs 55p per gallon. Insurance was a bit difficult, but I got a quote from Hill House for £11 for Third Party only.

The biggest problem was power, fitting a BMC 2.2 diesel in the place of a 2.8 Rolls unit leaves something lacking. I think fitting 650 x 16 tyres instead of the 7.50 would have improved things. But anyway, speed is not necessary to have fun in this sort of vehicle. Incidentally, there appears to be some degree of interchangeability between the pistons and con-rods on the Champ and the 4¼ Bentley. (Shell bearings, even.)

Alas! This was not an ideal vehicle for travelling to work. Thoughts of a second car were destroyed by the increase in Road Fund Licence, and anyway, I would have had to start again, building up my NCB when insuring the second car. (Why can’t one of the insurance companies devise an “enthusiasts policy” for multi-car owners ?) So I swapped it for a Triumph Vitesse 2-litre saloon, which only requires about half an hour to remove the roof, and a bit longer to put it back. Didn’t Lancia do something like that ?

Pen-y-Groes, Carms. J. WILLIAMS

Help For an MG-A Twin Cam

Sir,

I would be most grateful should you allow me to clear up a few points through MOTOR SPORT.

1. I acquired in 1972 a very low mileage 1962 MG-A 1750 c.c. twin cam (Car No. YDH5/2016-MGATC, Eng. No. 2280-1750 c.c. Pistons 9.8-1 Exp. 6978-Cyl. Head Gasket AEH 548 MG-A G60). I believe this was a very limited edition 145 b.h.p. high performance model. Sad to relate it blew a hole in one piston in a matter of 2,000 miles. Are any of your readers in the position to enlighten me on the history of this model and where I may obtain a set of special alloy pistons for this engine? I perforce fitted the car with an MG-B GT engine which to date has provided me with 8,000 extremely enjoyable, although not such rapid motoring miles. A teleflo front hydraulic shock-absorber conversion greatly contributes to improved road-holding.

2. I recently acquired a 1958/59 Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk. 3 (Eng. No. DBA 1112E). A worrisome engine vibration at ± 3,400 r.p.m. was greatly alleviated by a new clutch and pressure plate. My garage man suggested fitting a harmonic crankshaft damper in order to obtain even greater smoothness. Would this be feasible? Any advice your readers could offer would be most appreciated.

MOTOR SPORT has afforded me great pleasure over the past 15 years and despite the future prospect of still lower speed limits; still more official harassment and ever increasing floods of low performance, badly assembled, cheap-to-buy, expensive to maintain, worthless on resale vehicles the world over, I heartily endorse your support for those things held dear by enthusiast motorists everywhere.

Bloemfontein, S. Africa CHRIS HOFMEYR

[Was this particular Twin Cam really 1750 c.c.? The standard capacity was, of course, 1,588 c.c. Letters will be forwarded.]

The Comradeship of the Road
Sir,

Since buying my Austin Healey Sprite IV, KLR 850K, I have grown used to other “Spridgets” flashing, waving, hooting etc. at me when I am driving along. Recently this friendly spirit manifested itself when, on a sunny hood-down day, an orange Midget WGY 278M, stopped behind me at some lights and the driver leapt out and rushed up to speak. On seeing that my car had headrests and his had not, he asked if I had a flat tonneau that I could swop for his Bactrian variety. As I did have, we pulled over, swapped tonneaus, chatted on our cars’ merits, said goodbye and drove off. What a coincidence that we were at the same place at the same time and had what the other wanted!

I am only a junior reader of your excellent magazine since I have only read it for the last ten years, but nonetheless keep up the good work and every good fortune for the next 51 years.

Upper Norwood ADRIAN FORWARD

The 1975 British GP

Sir,

I am sure I am voicing the thoughts of many when I speak of the British Grand Prix as a complete and utter shambles. Last season, the RAC disgraced themselves with that notorious pit-lane blockage, and this year, the tyre, once again, embarrassed the British people. Why the completely bald tyre was every introduced, I cannot imagine, as a grooved “dry” tyre would not decrease performance in dry weather and would be much safer in the type of conditions which prevailed during the first part of the British Grand Prix. With the tyre situation as it is at present, the driver needs to be a weather expert – at least we could have option of an intermediate tyre.

Then there was the business of the final placings, with March and Ferrari both disagreeing with the official results and nobody being in the wrong: the two teams – Ferrari especially – being very annoyed. Agreed, the marshals did the right thing to stop the race when they did, but the results should have been declared null and void, with no effect whatsoever on the championship table. This is the second year running that the British Grand Prix has ended in a disgraceful pantomime. Will we ever see a Ferrari racing in Great Britain again? – or even, if it comes to that, will we ever see a British Grand Prix again?

Shrewsbury PETER M. MESSENGER

That Silverstone Extravaganza

Sir,

Your report on the recent John Player Grand Prix was, like the 3-day extravaganza about which you were writing, excellent entertainment. In your heart of hearts you must know that we were simply trying to satisfy the requirements of a public whose attendance we need in numbers far greater than the total of expert enthusiasts such as yourself.

If our promotion really did give you the impression which you conveyed, namely that between us we and the RAC directed a pretty mammoth operation with a singular absence of aggro and blood-pressure, I am most genuinely gratified because that’s precisely what we tried so hard to achieve.

One of the few mildly discordant notes was struck, if I may say so, by D.S.J. himself in another part of the August MOTOR SPORT, wherein you appear to question the good faith of our announcement of our reasons for introducing the chicane. Presumably at the time of writing you had not seen film of the Indy accident which caused us to undertake detailed investigations and eventually to take the action which we did take.

As your sister journal Motoring News was kind enough to remark, our chicane proved to be a jolly good one as such things go, but even if it had regrettably proved to be a rotten one, our motives for installing it would have been precisely as stated.

P. C. T. CLARK Chairman, Silverstone Silverstone Circuits Ltd.

[ For further comment see page 1027]

Supplying Demand

Sir,

Mr. M. S. Bentley’s letter (August MOTOR SPORT) complaining of non-availability of special rear springs for his Midget from Leyland ST suggested that we are busy advertising goods that we do not stock. This is rather depressing since as a result of a major effort during the last year, we have reduced the number of out-of-stock items by over two-thirds and availability is now generally very good. When supplies of an item become exhausted, we have almost invariably ordered them from our suppliers many months before, and are the victims of late delivery. 100 of the special Midget springs, for example, were ordered by us in May 1974, and have only just been delivered —and I am happy to say Mr. Bentley will have received his by now.

We have a few major items—such as Mini limited slip diffs—where all our efforts have so far not succeeded in obtaining supplies, but we are acutely conscious of the problems this causes to competition drivers and are certainly not complacent. It is also true, of course, that small runs of specialised parts can be a headache to our suppliers but nevertheless delivery times of a year or more do make it extremely difficult to ensure that we never run out of stock of any of the four thousand or so parts we currently carry.

Abingdon R. G. SETH-SMITH

Manager, British Leyland ST.

Flying Schools Sir,

Regarding your caption to “Tailpiece”, page 927, August issue, the Ruffy-Baumann (two n’s) School of Flying was at Hendon, not Acton. The Hall and Beatty Schools were also there. I have their Advertisements before me now.

East Sheen L. E. SHELLEY

The Clairmonte Special

Sir,

I have read with some amazement Mr. Southworth’s letter “An Historic Lotus” (June Issue). In the winter of 1952 I ordered a single-seater car from Lotus to be built around a very fast 2-litre Riley engine which I happened to own and which I was hoping to race in the 1953 British Grand Prix.

The car took so long to make that the engine blew up in the Seaman Trophy race in 1954 and was too badly damaged to repair, so this Lotus never got built. It had got as far as a single-seat space frame and four wish-bones.

I was a partner at this time in a small Engineering works and we decided to build a 1½-litre sports car. We used the Lotus wishbones and space frame, but that was the only connection this car has with Lotus. We used a Lea Francis engine and gearbox, Morris Minor rack-and-pinion steering, alloy hubs we made ourselves, Austin A 90 Alfin drums on the front wheels and standard A 90 drums inboard at the back. We got a quick change centre section from Hallibrand made to take a Ford model A crown-wheel and pinion and made the side plates, back plates and the rest of the De-Dion ourselves. The suspension units were from Armstrong. The body frame was made by us and the panelling by Messrs. HBR Engineering of Sunbury-on-Thames. The Lea Francis engine and gearbox came from a crashed Lea Francis shooting-brake and I tuned and fitted it with four Amals and 10-to-1 compression.

I raced the car fairly successfully for about two years and then fitted a 2-litre Connaught engine. Turners made me the special 8-plug twin distributor head which, sadly, never went as fast as the cast iron standard Connaught head, but looks much more impressive!

I don’t suppose this rather long-winded letter will be of interest to anyone except Mr. Southworth, so perhaps you would be good enough to send it on to him.

Highgate, N6. C. M. CLAIRMONTE

P.S.: The car was known as the Clairrnonte Special and incidentally was placed in over 30 races.

Stung by a Stingray

Sir,

After reading Mr. P. F. de Frere’s letter in the June issue of MOTOR SPORT, your readers may be interested in my experiences with a “big car”. My present steed is a 7-litre Chevrolet Corvette Stingray which develops 390 b.h.p. and 460 lb. ft. torque. The car reaches 60 m.p.h. in 5½ sec. and can attain speeds in excess of 145 m.p.h. This may sound rather impressive but, as I am sure you will agree, is entirely impractical in this country. The car was manufactured in 1969 and has covered 43,000 miles. Since I have been the owner it has incurred the following expenses:

Starter motor £29.50

Solenoid £7.50

Fuel pump £9.50

Replacing pushrods and rockers £85.00

Replacing crankshaft pulley £45.00

Replacing four Goodyear Polyglass tyres £195.00

Replacing rear disc pads £22.00

Replacing power steering idler £26.00

Total £419.50

May I add that third party insurance costs £170 p.a. and that my particular car consumes 4-star fuel at the rate of 9 m.p.g. around London and about 14 m.p.g. on a long run. It is also worth mentioning that although spares are readily available in London, my car lay for three months in Scotland awaiting a crankshaft pulley.

To end a rather tragic story, the car has depreciated 50% in the ten months I have owned it. Be warned!!

London, SE24 M. J. MILNE

Be Fair to Austin Sevens

Sir,

In answer to Mr. J. N. Airey (“Overpriced Undesirables”), how dare he write like that about Austin Sevens ? It’s a common fact that the A7 is the most popular and desirable pre-war vehicle at the moment. Early 1930 A7s flat out at 35 m.p.h. ? Rubbish! My 1929 Chummy on its first run after a full restoration, with no engine adjustments made, did a running-in speed of 45 m.p.h.

A7s virtually had no brakes ? It is very easy to say that now with your fluid, disc, and power-assisted brake systems. And as for £1,000 asked for a 1927 Chummy, a very fair price I would say. Mr. Airey, you are behind the times. It costs £1,000 to restore an A7 nowadays. My 1929 Chummy restoration cost that and that’s not including the price I paid for the car in the first place. Better to pay £1,000 for a vintage car than £1,500 plus for a modern rot box.

Stourport-on-Severn. A. JEFFS

Midlands A7 Club

PS—W.B., noted your A7 remarks in Editorial. Traitor!

Thanks for the Memories

Sir,

Sincere and grateful thanks for the magnificent Golden Jubilee issue. The photograph on the cover of the Members’ Banking at Brooklands and the superb 1925 “3-litre”, is worth the money alone! I am proud to have had every issue for 46 of the 50 years. I seem to remember purchasing copies of the Brooklands Gazette from a “dispensing” machine at the Track, incidentally. Congratulations to you, “W.B.”, on your long association and devoted service to the magazine, and also to “D.S.J”, who I remember leaning out of Eric Oliver’s sidecars pre-war! Like all contemporaries, after a succession of motorcycles, including Scott “Replica”, “International” Norton, o.h.c. Velocette, Levis, etc., there came a succession of old Austin Sevens, culminating in a magnificent “Ulster” model in British Racing Green with pointed tail and outside “Brooklands” exhaust system—one had indeed “arrived”, for £25!! There was also a very fast Sports Morgan with 1,100-c.c. JAP engine—a crimson machine. It had remarkable steering—on turning the wheel to the right, the machine would go right, but on turning the wheel still further to the right the road wheels would start to return to the centre again. Some very hair-raising situations ensuing!

Prior to these vehicles, as a boy I remember many miles in my grandfather’s high open Overland and his 12-h.p. Clyno saloon—one of the last made in late 1928—a very good car.

On my mantelpiece are scale models of the 3-litre Bentley, Type 35 Bugatti and “Silver Ghost” Rolls, and in my bookcase such treasures as “Sammy” Davis’s “Motor Racing”, Tim Birkin’s “Full Throttle”, George Eyston’s “Flat Out”, Barry Lynton’s “Circuit Dust”, Raymond Mays’ “Split Seconds”, all the Bira and “Chula” books and not a few by “W.B.”.

So, I suppose, pretty typical, Dear Editor, but to me the greatest nostalgia of all is evoked by Brooklands—I was ever present in the late twenties and through the thirties, and the atmosphere was wonderful—elegance, beauty and interest, never again achieved.

How wonderful to have these memories of wonderful times at the Track and later Donington and the Crystal Palace, etc., shared in your pages in this “mad” modern world— together with current ideas, trends and reports.

Once again, sincere thanks.

Exeter DENNIS H. THORP

A Milestone

Sir,

Your jubilee edition was golden in more than name for in one edition you succeeded in combining all that is worthwhile and valuable in motoring sport 1975. Congratulations gentlemen for publishing an edition that will become a milestone in balanced yet exciting reading. It is hard, as I know only too well from my own years not only in motoring journal publication but also in other fields, to create an edition of a publication which not only is current but has a sense of history and at the same time strikes a balance for a majority of its readers. That you achieved this with your anniversary edition when there must have been so many worthwhile articles and pictures clamouring for inclusion is evident of the fact that whilst MOTOR SPORT may have its roots on the Byfleet banking its branches have not had their growth stunted as the years have passed.

You combine gentlemen all that is good in motoring enthusiasm whether it be for past or present and evidence that you do manage that rare feat of pleasing most of the people most of the time is revealed by your healthy circulation figure at a time when others wonder where their readers went.

May I wish you success in the coming years and hope selfishly that I will be around to see the 100th edition. Thank you for so much pleasure and for such valuable reference material over the years.

Bricket Wood, Herts BRIAN R. HARVEY

Idiosyncratically English

Sir,

May I take this opportunity of congratulating MOTOR SPORT and its staff on its Golden Jubilee.

While I sometimes despair over the layout and the grammer [sic!—Ed.] and even, dare I say it, the occasional editorial opinion, it is still the one paper I never go without.

I was introduced to the paper when twelve years old, some sixteen years ago, and have not missed an issue since. Even when living abroad, I had it airmailed out at vast expense.

I have never been able to pin-point my reasons for liking MOTOR SPORT so much. Maybe it is the excellent vintage coverage; or the superb photography and reproduction. Maybe it is the fascinating if rather muddled classified section or perhaps D.S.J.’s superb race reports and asides, or possibly it may just be the idiosyncratically English aura which surrounds it.

In any case, many thanks for a superb publication and my best wishes for the next fifty years.

Harpenden, Herts. A. M. T. EVERITT

Congratulations

Sir,

I am writing to congratulate MOTOR SPORT on completing 50 years or publication and I have enjoyed reading it all this time.

I should really be congratulating you, W.B., for as long as I can remember you have been the mainstay of MOTOR SPORT and still are.

I am a member of the Auckland four-wheeldrive Club and have used my Range Rover, but find things break much more frequently than on a Series II Land Rover or my old Allard, CLK 5.

I retired 22 years ago from competition motoring after 30 years of good fun. Now I am having a go again with four-wheel-drive. Please remember me to “Jenks”—the last tirne we met was the 1939 Colmore, a long time ago!

Howick, Auckland, NZ GUY WARBURTON

[These are just a few of the many congratulatory letters which have begun to pour in as we go to press. Thank you all for your support. We wonder whether the GPO would have taken one week to deliver these letters in 1925 as it has with Several of the shove 50 years later.]