A compliment to Sir Alec Issigonis
Once upon a time Peugeot Freres concentrated on up-market family cars renowned for their longevity, high degree of quiet running (to enhance which, for many years, they used a worm-drive back-axle) and a comfortable ride. In more recent times the model-range of this old and greatly-respected French manufacturer has been extended to less-costly cars, including the cheeky little 104, which had led Peugeot into using transverse engines, driving the front wheels through gears using the engine sump and its oil hence the compliment to Issigonis. They have achieved this with a reasonable degree of refinement, which the BMC should have managed when building the original, enlarged Issigonis designs. This I discovered after using the latest Peugeot 305 over a considerable mileage.
The 305 does not altogether disguise its transmission. Snatch can be promoted if you fool about with snap throttle-openings from low speeds. There is some subdued gear-whine. The steering becomes heavier on lock, with strong castor-return action. Otherwise, this Peugeot wears its corner-safe front-wheel-drive unperturbably.
Some of the noted Peugeot refinement has gone, however. The all-alloy o.h.c. engine, which I tried in the SR 1 1/2-litre size, becomes noisy at speed, although happy to rev. freely towards 6,000 r.p.m. The doors of the booted four-door body shut tinnily and a loud clang as of a metal plate contacting it sometimes intruded, a sort of mechanised ghost, which couldn’t be located. In a mile or less the Veglia speedometer had ceased to work, ashamed perhaps of its oddly-calibrated m.p.h/k,p,h. dial, although it does incorporate trip and total mileometer readings, when it functions. The body is quite spacious. It somewhat resembles that of a Fiat but from the rear looks horribly ordinary, rather like an early Viva or Kadett. The Blaupunkt Autoradio played a cassette of weird music interspersed with a blurb in praise of the 305, which I hope was not intended to brainwash road-testers. The interior of this 305 is rather plain, with some awful circular interior door-trims. There is, however, a sweet little tachometer, a Kienzle clock, and two stalk controls, the th. one incorporating the confusing “round-the-gate” lights-controls beloved by the logical French (it also operates wipers and washers), the r.h. one sounding a penetrating horn by an easy flick-action. All the dials are clearly seen through the steering wheel but the clock is masked by it. A complex heating and ventilation system is controlled by numerous levers and knurled knobs, The heater settings, etc. are illuminated when the lamps are lit, but I thought the provision of a lights tell-tale as well as a full-beams tell-tale unnecessary, although both, if large, are fairly subdued. There is a too small lockable cubby and a big facia shelf, but pockets or smaller stowages would have been useful. Deep but flimsy under-facia shelving is provided, however. The interior door handles are well contrived, but the doors allow mud from the road to penetrate to the base of their frames, which is detrimental to dresses, etc.
Overall, this Peugeot is pleasant to drive. There is good response for traffic negotiation, the gear change is light and only baulks into first, and then in two rubbery movements rather than cog clash, and reverse gear is easily selected. The hand-brake lies low between the front seats. The seats do not look anything special but are extremely comfortable, The ride is good without incorporating a French-roll and the servo split-dual-circuit, disc/drum brakes are effective. The clutch is light and the rack-and-pinion steering accurate, The adjustable-by-lever headlamps give a good beam, but the screen-wipers did a poor job. Rear-fog-Iamps, rear window demister, and hazard-warning switches are all well-placed. The body sides are protected by beading. The engine has a manual choke. It was impossible to check fuel and oil consumption with the milcometer u/s but the former seemed to be in the region of 30 m.p.g. or better. The front-hinged self-propping bonnet opens from a n/s release control to show an accessible battery and an oil dip-stick that indicated minimal oil-thirst, but deeply embedded sparking-plugs. The test-car was shod with Michelin “X” tyres.
Peugeot believers will not find much wrong with the new 305 and those not biased towards Peugeot cars, which now have 2% of the UK market, should also ‘find it a good, well-made family car at the price of £3,599, – W.B.
The Rover 2600
Some observations about the Rover 2600 are due, after borrowing one for nearly 2,000 miles while Leyland Cars looked over the Editorial Rover 3500 which had lost oil from its back axle, as the latest of its rogue tricks. More will be published about this eight-cylinder Solihull motor car after the mileage has mounted. Suffice it now to remark that I still enjoy driving it, and looking at it, in spite of its rogue nature, By the way, I did it an injustice in my last report on it, when saying the driver’s seat-squab adjustment had ceased to function. This squab is adjusted by a little r .h. lever which, like the the choke-control, can easily be concealed by the driver’s coat or jacket and it was this that caused me to think the freely-rotating wheel my left hand readily descended on was the squab-adjuster gone wrong; whereas it is just a piece of trim . . .
The overhead-camshaft six-cylinder 2,597 c.c, Rover naturally hasn’t the extremely impressive acceleration which its bigger, multi-cylindered brother displays when its engine is taken, in “hold-2”, from around the customary 3,000 r.p.m. up the rev.-scale, without going near the red-factor of 6,000 r.p.m. But the smaller-engined Rover gives very adequate and nicely progressive pick-up if use is made of the five-speed gearbox . I found the 2600 Rover taut and pleasant to drive, although at first its powersteering seemed to be affected adversely by the Dunlop Denovo tyres fitted, an impression that soon wore off. The engine may not be so hushed as the 3,528 c.c. vee-eight but it is not noisy and I liked very much the way in which it performed. As to petrol thirst, it gave an overall 25.2 m.p,g. and on a less-arduous run this improved to 26.3 m.p.g. For those who wish to get a better petrol consumption than even a well-tuned Rover 3500 can return, and to save £1,182 on purchase price, comparing both manual-transrpission models, the Rover 2600 is strongly recommended. As the only outward difference in the six- and eight-cylinder Rovers is the numbering on the rear badge and the width of the “footwear”, it is the vee-eight Rover owner who is at a disadvantage when snobbish status symbol values are applied to cars’ – W.B.
The Lancia Gamma
It had been so many years since I had driven a modern Lancia that it was indeed pleasant to be lent the new Gamma saloon, in which I attended the special gathering of Lancia cars at the VSCC Shelsley-Walsh hill-climb: However, I do not propose to say much about this £7,136 Lancia here, because the Deputy Editor has driven both the saloon and coupe versions of this fine motorcar from Turin and will be taking one on an exploratory Continental journey quite soon, and his reports will follow. My impressions: after a mere 385 miles were how very quiet and comfortable this Gamma is, and what useful torque it produces, in spite of its 2,484 c,c. horizontally-opposed engine having but four cylinders. There is, though, a reminder that this engine drives the front wheels, by the clatter and snatch that accompanies fierce step-off, although not the wheel spin which this would promote in a Renault 30. The brakes were so good as to go unnoted, and the same goes for the excellent power-steering, but the gear change, once such a proud Lancia attribute, was very notchy, at least on cold oil.
The thick steering-wheel rim masks the fuel and heat gauges, and the Gamma has adopted some unnecessary gimmicks, such as the fast setting of the screen-wipers calling for use of a facia control, whereas one otherwise uses one of the three stalk-controls, a partially glass-windowed boot lid, which was useful when reversing, however, blinds for the rear window, complex air -vent controls incorporating eight, knurled knobs, and oddly symbolled and labelled instruments. The heater controls involve using a lever, a switch, and four buttons, and six button-switches grace the facia. So a Lancia driver has to know his car if he is not to be kept busy, and possibly confused. Stowages for the smaller objects are lacking, but there are neat “pips” for interior door-locking and electric windows. The needles of the 140 m.p.h . Veglia speedometer and Electronico tachometer (which reads to 7,000 r.p.m . with no rev. restraints) do not zero, the clock is down on the console, and there is nowhere to park one’s clutch foot. Surprisingly for an Italian car, much dazzle from the plated wiper-blade arms is produced in bright sunlight.
The handling is very good but with a rather soggy ride, and some lateral sway. The clutch action is heavy and altogether you would have to have money to burn before indulging in this costly but very individualistic motor car. – W.B.
A British Runabout
It has a willing light-alloy engine. It has a separate chassis. And a no-rust fibre-glass body. It’s British, this very useful run about or second car. I refer to the Reliant Kitten Estate-car, with which I have covered more than 3,000 miles while resting a more cramped, far more noisy, Fiat 126. The Reliant has much to recommend it, even if it is amusingly crude in certain respects – the 1970s answer to the pre-war Austin 7, perhaps. The Estate-car body holds four comfort ably, with room behind for a great deal of luggage or the Motoring Dogs. The back seat folds, turning the thing into a little van. The front seats, although small, are unexpectedly comfortable, they lift for access to the rear seat, but need holding up while the occupants enter, and they have adjust able squabs .
The four -cylinder 62.5 x 69 mm. (848 c.c.) push rod o.h.v. engine is so full of life that the lightweight Kitten seems faster than it is, accelerating briskly to a happy cruising speed of 50 m.p.h. and it will pull out another 25 m.p.h. if pressed. It is quite non-cacophonous at speed, unlike the maybe better-engineered Fiat 126. There is a sticky manual choke, much needed until the aluminum engine is warm. The clutch is sudden, endorsing that aforesaid Seven-analogy, but the 4-speed and reverse gearbox is not unpleasant to use. The non-servo, all-drum brakes, although not adjusted for months on end, remain powerful, and the chunky tread on the 10″ diam. Goodyear radial-ply tubeless tyres reassuring. You steer the Kitten with a nicely thin -rimmed and very small moulded 3-spoke wheel. It needs over 3 1/2 turns from lock-to-lock but that lock wouldn’t disgrace a London ‘cab. The Kitten’s front wheels tend to slam much mud over the body sides but this does not penetrate to the door sills, as it does on a certain new French small-car. The simple instrumentation consists of a 100 m.p.h.(!) speedomet er with total, decimal, mileometer, matched by a fuel level/heat gauges dial. Neat black tumbler-switches on the left of the moulded facia look after the lights, rear-window demister and heater-fan, that on the right the hazard warning, and farther over on the facia similar switches serve the wiper/ wash for windscreen and back-window. The reservoirs for these washers prime properly after emptying. A single r.h.multi -purpose stalk-control is used, an adjustable fresh-air vent is set in the centre of the dash, and the two-lever heater/ventilator gives plenty of warm or cold air, and efficient demisting. Wiper s and washers work well, and the side-opening back door has a proper “keep” .
I find this Kitten extremely useful. It cruises at 50 to 60 m.p .h., reminding me that a friend who used to photograph pre-war motoring events used to say th at you had to keep going, in his Riley Gamecock, at a speedometer 50 m.p.h. to get to places on time – so what 1,100 c.c. did pre-war the 850-c.c. Kitten betters today. An amusing idiosyncrasy is that to get at the engine of your Kitt en you have to unlock its bonnet, so no-one can steal the power unit ! The front -hinged bonnet-lid then supports itself; if no wind is blowing, to reveal an accessible tubed dip-stick (no great oil-thirst) and a small Lucas Pacemaker battery that tends to corrode its positive terminal. The headlamps are rectangular Lucas, giving a good beam. The facia has an open cubby before the passenger and there are neat interior door-locks. A Triplex Zebra zone screen is fitted and Fina anti-freeze is recommended.
The main purpose of the Reliant Kitten is running local errands, although I have used it for longer runs with less reluctance than I did the Fiat, much as I love the Italian mini-compact. Driven thus, in conditions that are all against fuel conservation, I got 47.2 m.p.g. of 4-star at the last count, with many stops and starts into the bargain and no hanging about (I am an impulsive man ). Clearly the 50 m.p.g.-plus will come up on long hauls – the DoE assessments for the Kitten are 38.9 m.p.g. in urban running, 49 m.p.g. at a steady 56 m.p .h., and I know Reliant are able to show you much better than that under favourable conditions.
So this amusing and willing little package, so easy to load and accommodating in its loading capacity, is economical and can be bought for £2,353, or as a saloon for £2,235 . It has given practically no trouble and is always an instant starter. At first the rear-lights and stop-lighs were unreliable, due to rust having taken the temper out of their sockets. The horn failed. The driver’s door and window-winder fell off, but was replaceable in a matter of minutes. This before first-service. Otherwise, no bothers; and unlike on a FWD mini-car, there are no front universal joints to pull at the steering or wear out. Kitten servicing is at intervals of 6,000 (standard ) and 12,000 miles (major ). I think this somewhat primitive but so useful British small-car (not so small within, either) may become something of a cult, as more economy-car customers heed its advantages and try one. – W.B.
If you are a potential Fiat X1/ 9 two-seater customer who has been put off by the rather limited, and gaudy colours offered in the UK, it may interest you to know that the company are selling a limited run of the model in black with white upholstery. These appear to be the main features of a new X1/ 9 derivative called the Lido, which is priced at £3,910 .
If you, like me, have suffered a deterioration of sound from your car cassette player because of inaccessibility, Ross Electronics of 32 Rathbone Place, London W1P 1AD have come to our rescue. They have made cleaning simple by producing a plastic storage case which involves a miniature torch with angled lens, dental style anti-misting mirror to check head condition, a cleaning tool with straight and angled brushes, special cleaning fluid and a non-abrasive cassette head cleaner – Voila’ the job is done. The price is £ 4.61 including VAT – in these times certainly not extortionate. – W.J.T .