Letters from readers: , September 1980

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Allard front suspension

Sir,

I was amazed to read Leslie Ballamy’s letter in the June issue of your fascinating magazine concerning divided axle suspension geometry with particular reference to Allards.

One of the first jobs I was asked to do by Reg Canham when I joined as Chief Draughtsman in 1950 was to improve the suspension and steering geometry of the Allard vehicles. The arrangement used at that time had radius rods pivoted to the underside of the side rails some 30″ behind the front axle but with only a single centre steering idler arm. Consequently there was marked geometric “fight” which caused the road wheels to turn in and out with suspension deflection.

As a simple (but not perfect) solution, I proposed the use of two idler arms positioned so that the track rod ball joint centres came in line with the suspension axis and coupled with a slave link, but I was informed that Mr. Ballamy held a patent on that scheme and they (Reg and Sidney) did not want to use it. (Patent did not in fact apply, I discovered.) However, I then proposed the logical arrangement for a divided axle scheme witnormal suspension deflections, ie axis parallel with each other and vehicle and with radius arms running forward to a cross-member between the forward ends of the side rails some 16″ ahead of the front axle. The single steering idler arm had double bosses so that each track rod ball joint was in line with its suspension axis. A car was converted and Reg and Sidney convinced. This scheme became universal on all Allard cars and was quite satisfactory (within the limitations of divided axle front suspension – I wrote an article on this subject in Auto Engineer, June 1955).

I was unaware of any influence by Mr. Ballamy in this matter and did not in fact meet him until some time later. Colin Chapman, and one of his colleagues, called occasionally at our offices and I supplied some drawings on one occasion but his requirements for the Lotus 7 type vehicle were rather different from ours. The C of G was so low that he had to lower the roll centre of the front suspension system considerably to obtain acceptable handling. The suspension rates were relatively high, and deflections consequently low, so small geometrical errors had little effect. My impression was that Colin Chapman fully understood all this but was determined to keep it compact and simple and of course he always has.

DR Hume, Sevenoaks, Kent

MG memories

Sir,

I thought it might amuse a few of your readers to recall the Group 6 Prototype MGB which was demonstrated to the public at Bishopscourt many years ago.

Alec Poole had been using this fiendish prototype for a whole season in lreland before they whisked him off to a full Works drive in an aluminium 2-litre for Sebring and all those boring trips.

As he was away, he arranged a very satisfactory agreement whereby I should use the Gp6 for the next season, with a little help from his fnends.

My only precognition of the horrid truth was when some scribe suggested that I had left red paint on the walls on both sides of the Enniskerry hill during a hillclimb (quiet leisurely, I assure you).

But finally, the day of truth dawned. Alec had his two-litre beast at Bishopscourt, surrounded by 37 very active works mechanics. It turned out that only six of them were male! Mind you, those six treated me and my beast very well indeed, and Alex and I decided that as we were shod in a similar fashion by Mr. Dunlop, then as he had the power/weight ratio advantage, I should get firmly established in his slipstream dunng practice. This we duly did. There is a lovely curve there where gentlemen were inclined to be somewhat embarrassed by having their 1.5 and 2.5 Climax engined single-seaters passed by a pair of red MGB’s approx 8″ apart. However, forward we battled, a little nearer “flat” every lap – my speedo was one of those strange ones fitted to so-called works prepared cars: it regularly registered 130-132 mph. It got out of hand behind Alex, and started rumours approaching 140.

I do, I really do believe that we went into that curve flat. Allowing for scrub, as we were both set up early, and under full power, we must have still been showing 130 on those silly instruments. Trouble was, there was no way to tell how fast we were going sideways, and here we meet the nub of the story. At the same forward speed, same angle, a close slipstream to offset power differences, the only way my wheels could have hit the grass was if they were 6″ further over. I’m allowing 3″ error of centreline on my part, but the rest was definitely the car! Have you ever had the ground swept from under your feet, sideways, at over 120? No I’m sure there must be a Club for it, with Innes Ireland on at least one committee.

After 147 gyrations, while I held firmly to the roll cage, crouched in the cockpit, my eyes glued to the fire extinguisher, all went quiet. I was dead in a field of hay, my car with me. I clambered out to meet my Deity, but had to climb on top of the car to see over the grass. Alas, and humiliation, I was greeted by a mirage-like view of Mr. Poole still storming around a track about six miles off, elevating two fingers in the great Churchillian tradition in my direction.

After breaking a half shaft later, and then the back of a borrowed trailer which would not carry my oversized beast, I concluded the evening and night by driving Bruce Ashmore’s full race Mini (having already broken his trailer) on the open road from Bishopscourt to Dublin.

Looking back on it, Bruce was the brave one! I suspect that following the public outcry, the track of my machine was switched to normal one night, so that BLMC (RIP) could go back to producing Spitfires.

Henry O’Clery, Saudi Arabia

H.W.M.

Sir,

The article in Motor Sport for July, dealing with the 1950 HWM, reminds me that on August 7th 1950 (Bank Holiday Monday) Rodney Clarke, Frank Moore, Bert Barrett and myself took Connaught A1, the single seater prototype, to Silverstone for its initial tests. Mike Oliver came up on Tuesday, when testing proper began, and we got the car to run properly on a pre-war Scintilla Vertex (borrowed from a Riley) in time for Kenneth McAlpine to crash it on Friday.

I received a phone call from a Mr. Peter Wilson only a few days ago; he had sought me out to ask questions about Connaught Cars, and I was delighted to talk to him and answer his questions. He commented that in his opinion Connaught Engineering never received adequate acknowledgement for their efforts and achievements. Whilst I can only agree whole-heartedly, I also feel that just tribute should be paid to those tremendous post-war enthusiasts to whom British Motor Racing owes an incalculable debt, namely John Heath, Rodney Clarke, George Abecassis, Luke Oliver – and I must add Kenneth McAlpine for his support of Connaugbt Engineering. With very little money, those men began this country on its path to motor racing supremacy. Let us not forget that the declared objective of Connaught Engineerng was “to put Britain at the top of Grand Prix Racing”, and in 1955 Tony Brooks won at Syracuse!

If we at Connaught had had the resources of BRM and Vanwall, we would – let us not speculate – it is nice to reminisce and dream.

CE Johnson, Woking, Surrey

Desert vehicles

Sir,

I seem to recall that between twelve and eighteen months ago one of your reader’s letters enquired if the statement concerning the numbers of reputedly derelict and abandoned cars in the streets of Riyadh, Jeddah, and other large centres of population in Saudi Arabia were true. From actual experience over the last few months, may I reassure your reader that it is a fact that literally hundreds of vehicles lie abandoned in these places, but hardly any of these could be described as abandoned “exotica” as they consist generally of run-of-the-mill Japanese or American cars. In many instances, the reasons for abandoning these cars are fairly obvious; they have been involved in a massive accident or they have suffered an extensive breakdown of components, eg propeller shaft couplings broken, or front suspension/steering gear totally collapsed or some similar mechanical mishap. 

In the eastern and western coastal regions of this sub-continent the summer climatic conditions are so unbelievably humid that extensive body rot from the roof down, but particularly of the floor platform, is another contributory factor. AII vehicles get an enormous amount of condensation within the structure and during the short wet seasons in winter and spring the car undersides are inevitably attacked by salts present in the ground, particularly when driven, as they frequently are, in “off-road” conditions. One has to remember that at one time most of this land was covered by ocean, and the residual salt concentrations remaining in the ground are very high.

Let me also reassure your readers that it would be impractical to obtain and resurrect one of these vehicles. In the first place, the previous owner (or his family) would have to be traced, which in itself would be an extremely formidable task, and quite likely prove to be impossible. In the second place, after all legal attempts had presumably failed, one would not be able simply to appropnate the vehicle as this would, in this country, be considered as theft, even if the previous owner was dead and had left no living or traceable relatives.

Cars have apparently been imported into Saudia Arabia in what may be called reasonable quantities since the early 1950s, and on the outskirts of Riyadh there are numerous dumps extending to about 1 square kilometre each, packed solid with broken-down, worn-out old cars which are totally unavailable to “convert” into desert wagons, beach buggies and the like. Because of the unlimited space available, the cars are not stacked, but simply standing on wheels, or floor platforms/chassis where these have been broken off in the accident. As the climate is quite dry in Riyadh and the relative humidity level very low for most of the year, there is little cause for these vehicles to quietly rust away.

Apparently, in late 1978, the situation in the township of a place called Qurayat had reached such appalling proportions that the municipality invited tenders for the removal of deserted junk vehicles “from certain Qurayat streets”. This practice has apparently been followed within other municipalities since. This “tidying up” operation has not, however, been extended into the open desert, and wrecked or broken-down cars and light trucks, where not worth removing for repair, are merely left to disfigure the surroundings. As there are approximately half-a-dozen good tarmacadam surfaced roads radiating from Riyadh as part of the basic infrastructure of the Kingdom, the only useful purpose that these countryside wrecks perform is to become landmarks for the enterprising week-end desert motorists of any nationality who reside here. By using a combination of surfaced roads and “passable” desert tracks, it is possible to follow printed instructions such as to “locate burned-out Datsun sedan (or whatever) on left and turn right immediately on to gravel track. Follow track for 42.6 kilometres to lone tree;” and, subsequently following similar instructions, make trips of up to 350 kilometres.

This may sound rather far-fetched to people brought up on maps and signposts, but where maps (until recently) did not exist, and the “signposts” consist of the sun, the colour of the sand or gravel, and possibly a unique tree, or rock formation, the abandoned wrecks take on the role of an important navigational aid, particularly as they can be spotted from afar with the aid of binoculars. Nevertheless, many of us expatriates would prefer to see the true desert revert to a condition where it is totally free of any litter whatsoever.

NB TowlerSaudi Arabia

Coopers

Sir,

I was very interested to read Mr DC Andrews’ letter on the subject of “Historic Rear-Engined Single Seaters”, and although I have my own views on this type of racing in that I feel that everything possible should be done to encourage the maximum number of enthusiasts to race historic single seaters for the benefit of the huge number of discerning spectators who so enjoy this type of racing, it is the purpose of this letter to correct a few historical errors made by Mr. Andrews.

Both Mr LC (Lye Choon) Chan, and his brother, LH (Lye Huat) Chan imported Mk 7 Coopers into Singapore, and both were powered by 1,100 cc V-twin JAP engines; however, great as was their success in Sprints and Hillclimbs, neither they, nor any of the other drivers of the 1,100 cc engined Coopers were ever able to coax these very fast but temperamental cars to last the full distance of a Far Eastern Grand Prix on full song.

The only success gained by one of these Coopers out here was when Bill Ferguson drove his 1,000 cc Mk 3 Cooper-JAP to victory in the 1951 Johore Grand Prix; Ferguson then went on to greater heights, winning the 1,100 cc class in the 1951 Tourist Trophy at Dunrod in a new 1,098 cc Coventry-Climax powered Kieft which he shared with Alan Rippon. Incidentally, Ferguson’s win with the Cooper at Johore was very nearly a unique occasion, as I believe I am correct in saying that the only other time that a “big-twin” engined Cooper ever won an International race of any distance, was when Stirling Moss won the 1,100 cc  race at Lake Garda in 1949.

Finally, neither of the Chan brothers lost their life in a motor racing accident, there was indeed a fatal accident in the Johore Grand Prix involving a Jaguar D-type; however the car, which had been converted to something very close to an XKSS type specification, was being driven by one “Fatso” Yong Nam Kee, the Chan brothers having by then retired from participation in the sport.

M Evans, Malaysia

The Chink in the Monte Carlo’s “Battledress”

Sir,

The current Lancia poster campaign showing the Monte Carlo in “battledress”, and the recent award for the Delta as Car of the Year, must be assisting the image of their products after the recent Beta corrosion scare stories. I believe the Monte Carlo is to be re-introduced to the UK with certain modifications later this year and I’m sure it will do well. As a Monte Carlo owner I have only the highest regard for the car’s looks, performance, handling and economy.

However, my own Monte Carlo was badly bent by a rampant juggernaut in February, causing £1,700 worth of damage. The car was taken to my local Lancia dealer, Jowett Motors of Bingiey, and following insurance assessment parts were ordered on March 11th. Since that date all parts, except a driver’s door have been delivered, but there is simply no sign of a door ever turning up. During the period from parts ordered to the present, Jowett’s service department have spoken to Lancia on numerous occasions; I have spoken to both Lancia parts division and customer relations department twice, Jowett’s have written to Lancia parts and I have sent a telex asking for a reply by return as to when a door would be likely to be despatched. Lancia had not replied to either Jowett’s letters or my telex (sent 10.7.80).

The situation is obviously now beyond all bounds of reason and I have never come across such supply problems although I have owned a number of specialist cars from Lotus and Alfa Romeo, plus the odd offering from Japan, Germany and France. I would advise anyone contemplating purchasing a new Monte Carlo to go ahead, because as a means of fast and fun travel the cars takes some beating, but order a couple of doors, in case of accident, at least a year before ordering the car and they may turn up together.

By the way, I bear no malice towards Jowett Motors, who have been helpful and sympathetic at all times, but it’s going to be a good old boring, outdated, badly finished British car for me next.

A CooperCleckheaton, W Yorks.

Renault Rumblings

Sir,

Several months ago, I decided that the time had finally come when high petrol prices and congested roads made it ridiculous to commute in anything remotely exotic. I looked around for the most compact, performance-plus vehicle that would get me into London with some enjoyment at about 25-30 m.p.g. Brief press comments in various media finally confirmed my impressions after a short road test, and I ordered my Renault 5 Gordini. In case anyone else is thinking of the same move, I offer a cautionary word of advice. Don’t.

Once one has become accustomed to a certain class of motoring, it really is difficult to move down. Niggles that would have been acceptable in a car which offered  excellence in most departments become totally unacceptable in a cheaper vehicle. 

1, Headlamps impossible to adjust accurately so that they do not dazzle other drivers.

2, Gear change beautifully light for 24 hours after oiling and then intolerably heavy until the next service.

3, Seat squabs uncomfortable after five minutes.

4, Throttle sticking – this is attributable tpoor location of the return spring which Renault will do nothing about.

These are just a few of the problems which my poor local dealer contends with bravely. Altogether a promising package, very poorly executed.

AFD French, Purley, Surrey

Buy British

Sir,

I have been a reader of this magazine since the days when W Boddy was an Austin 7 owner, right through his Beetle, BMW and now Rover days, and I have enjoyed every copy, which I read from cover to cover, including the adverts!

I have noted the remarks made by AS Corbey (Buy British) in the June issue. I live here in Spain where most cars are foreign and believe me they are no better than British cars in any way. There are basically two kinds of motorists, the enthusiast and the everyday user. Now, the majority of motorists are really only car users, upon who most of the possibilities of their cars are completely wasted.

Drive up any Motorway at 70 mph and you will overtake most people, so all this business of cars capabie of 100 mph plus, is purely academic. The same applies to cornering ability, follow most drivers round bends and you will find them doing half the speed of which the car is capable. So it boils down to propaganda and snobbishness!

English people seem to treat ownership of cars as a status symbol even today. On my last visit to England I found nearly every street corner in and around town occupied by used car pitches which are filled with beautiful cars with years and or thousands of miles of use still in them. Now here in Ibiza used cars are worn out and most of them are scrapped, this is because the locals buy cars to use, not to treat like family heirlooms to be cherished.

When a man goes to his tailor for a new suit, he does not ask what he will be allowed on his old one! There are car manufacturers who make cars for enthusiasts. So let people like British Leyland carry on making good everyday cars, and let us all treat our everyday cars like we do the gas stove as long as it functions well, not bother!

We have in our family a Fiesta, a Renault and Seat 127 all of which perform perfectly in the duties they were designed for. If we were in England these would most certainly be their English counterparts and not foreign.

AS King, Ibiza, Spain

 

 

 

 

 

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