Matters of moment, September 1978

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The Arrows affair 

Following the Fuss About The Fan came the legal banning of the Arrows FA/1 GP cars from any further F1 races. It was, of course, very naughty of Tony Southgate and others to have used drawings done for the Shadow to create quickly a new car for another team and Mr. Justice Templeman quite rightly found that these Arrows must be withdrawn. To those who see all modern GP cars as looking alike the matter will be confusing and, as the new Arrows FA/2 was ready to race almost immediately, not of much importance.

The experts know that under their stressed-skins, monocoques, body-panels or whatever, today’s F1 racing cars are significantly different. We can leave the rights and wrongs of Shadow versus Arrows to them, with the aside that it appears to be the details you mustn’t crib. After all, other maufacturers-copied the “Panhard System” in the dawn of motoring, Mercedes soon found their honeycomb radiator, channel-section chassis and gate gear-change ripe for imitation, and in more recent times many manufacturers in Europe and Japan have seen fit to copy the greatest small-car space-saving layout of the century, Sir Alec Issigonis’ transverse-engine FWD arrangement which he introduced so successfully for big-output BMC production.

Maybe it was as well that the Arrows dispute became subject to the might and majesty of British Justice, instead of being swept under the carpet, to perhaps emerge years hence at the mercy of irresponsible historians like those who, on Slender and shaky evidence, have labelled Ernest Henry a thief who stole blueprints from Hispano Suiza that resulted, in 1912, in motor-racing’s greatest technical breakthrough until the arrival of the supercharger, namely, Peugeot’s twin-cam, multi-valve GP engine….

The Japanese invasion

Much mental steam is being generated over Japanese car imports. With more than 800,000 Oriental motor vehicles in this country from sources that had hardly built a serious car before the war and with the rise in Japanese imports into this country having risen from 4,291 in 1970 to 166,684 last year, there is justification for anxiety and anguish over a problem which is unlikely to go away. But how pathetic for Britain to crawl on her knees to the Japanese Government requesting smaller shipments here of Jap cars, or to suggest restrictions on Japanese imports! It recalls all too readily the fable of the man who made the World’s best mousetrap – which those at Rolls-Royce must know by heart.

What we Should be doing is making cars of better quality than the Japanese, so that Oriental products cease to be a threat to British workers and to our standard of living. That mousetrap, you see… The situation would never have arisen had people refused to buy Japanese cars. Alas, patriotism seems to have worn thin, and it is better not to enquire too closely into the nationality of that mousetrap. However, it is mainly in the family-car field that the competition stems, with Jap cars which attract customers because of their dependability, value-for-money, generous “built-in” equipment, good finish, and 1,500 UK dealers anxious to promote these qualities, against the inferior suspension, brakes, and steering of most Jap cars. In the areas of top-luxury cars, high-performance cars, and sports cars, Japan has nothing with which to meet the cars of Great Britain and Europe, apart from the Datsun 260Z in the Middle-category, although Honda are talking of re-introducing a sports-car.

The fierceness of the Risen Sun in the motoring firmament was clear to see, a considerable time ago. Honda produced that enjoyable little twin-cam sports S800 that had such an astonishing appetite for high-revs., we recall a Rolls-Royce man in New Zealand speaking highly of his Six-cylinder Toyota before that make had penetrated to this country, and now Subaru has this clever 4WD car.

Some of the cause for the rapid rise in Japanese car sales here (over 75,000 in the first six months of 1978) can surely be laid at the door of those weekly motor journals which, courageously unbiased, published special Japanese-car issues when such publicity was most needed by the Orient? No doubt such publicity was very welcome and was greeted with inscrutable Japanese smiles. It enabled Toyota to arrive here with confidence in 1965, followed by Honda two years later, Datsun and Mazda the following year, Mitsubishi-Colt in 1974, and Subaru last year. Motor Sport has not so far done much to encourage Japanese imports, in the way that these weeklies have done, with their special issues and supplements, commenced many years ago and still continued. L.ast month the Deputy Editor was warm in his praise for the Mazda Hatchback, but he made the point that Motor Sport has never given much space to Jap cars. When one is offered for test we accept, as we invariably do with any Press car. If a particular lap model was of interest, we might ask to sample it. But we do not go out of our way to publicise products which are in direct competition with those of this country and the EEC to which we are so closely linked, simply because to do so does not make sense.

Indeed, the Editor has not so far driven a Japanese car this year, a Toyota or Colt since 1977, a Datsun since 1975, a Mazda since 1974, or a Subaru at all. In view of Motor Sport’s top-circulation, this could constitute a nice Public Relations exercise, by noting if any of these companies offer us test-cars and, if so, who applies first!

The introduction of Import Duties to try to stem the flood of Japanese Cars isn’t the answer, judging by the McKenna Duties which were introduced in what we now call the “vintage years” when the Model-T Ford was scaring the woolly pants off the Bosses of the British Motor Industry. They didn’t work. But on the subject of free publicity for foreign imports, at about this time one of the aforesaid weeklies published road-test reports on American cars almost every week, although we seem to remember that its Managing Editor ran Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars….Rightly of course, for, as we have said frequently in the past, a motoring journal should be beyond political bias and free to recommend the cars it considers best-suited to its readers.

The RREC comes of age

The Rolls-Royce EC, whose membership has risen from a handful to over 3,500 since it was formed at Paternoster Farm, Yarnton, near Oxford, in ;951, returned to this pleasant place Im August ; 3th. to celebrate its 2 1st birthday. All the former, and the present, Chairmen were there, members had come from America and Europe to attend, one Mk. IV Bentley having been driven to the party from Turin, and David Plastow, Chairman of Rolls-Royce. Motors Ltd., had Camargued to Oxfordshire in Order to address the assembly, which was supported by someio R-R and Bentley cars. It was announced during the afternoon that the Club’s intended Rolls-Royce Foundation, to house R-R documents and related history, has already been supported in the sum of 1,8o,000. It was a fine, typically English occasion, and not a single Japanese car in sight. And worth coming a long way to -attend in order to hear the Club’s inimitable Secretary, l.t.-Col. Eric Barrass, give his rendering of -Happy Birthday to Us”…

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