Letters from Readers, September 1982



N.B. –Opinion pressed are those of our Correspondents and MOTOR SPORT does not necessarily associate itself with them. –E.D.

Ford Escort Experiences

Some random reflections on 14,000 miles with an Escort XR3. I feel that it is a well-finished, speedy, small saloon, but totally devoid of any character whatsoever.

I am very glad that I kept my old Triumph GT6 which has done 81,000 virtually trouble-free miles. I can quite see now the reason for the high prices paid for old very moderate sports cars; they had that undefinable thing called character.

Despite being German made, the XR3 has not been madly reliable; in fact generally not as reliable as the average BL product. Among other things it has had two new dipsticks; a prime example of modern technology gone mad. I have come to the conclusion that the best thing to do for peace of mind is to get some black insulation tape and stick it over the dashboard warning lights and revert to the old fashioned reliable method of having a look under the bonnet at oil, water and brake fluid levels. One XR3 owner told me his petrol light had been on since new and he assumed that it was meant to be like that. Quite a lot of people seem to have trouble with the brake warning light, fortunately mainly female, so it is an easy method of introduction.

I have a strong suspicion that the wide tyres with which the car is fitted are really a sales gimmick working on the theory that “all the best people have wide tyres”. I experienced great trouble last winter on them wide tyres in loose snow and on ice, being passed repeatedly by articulated lorries, which means there really is something wrong with one’s rubbers. When the weather was really bad I took out the old GT6 on Dunlop SP Sports; never renowned for its good handling, it was a hang compared with the XR3. The Dunlop SP D3s have worn out first at the rear at 12,000 miles. How odd; l always thought the car was FWD,

I find the platform or spoiler on the boot lid of the XR3 is excellent for putting drinks on at race meetings and for getting farmers to sign their cheques on: how thoughtful of the Ford Motor Company!
Fakenham, Norfolk D. AUCHTERLONIE

The Alfa Romeo GTV 2.0

I have read with interest your comments on the Alfa Romeo GTV 2-litre in the July edition. Having eagerly awaited delivery of my new Alfa Romeo, I was pleased to drive off on a long journey immediately after delivery. At the end of my first week’s motoring I found it necessary to return the can with numerous defects, particularly with finish. Following some eight weeks in their workshop, including a virtually total respray, I received the car again. Unfortunately it “failed to proceed” after no more than 20 miles and required collecting from a motorway.

Whilst I would agree it is in fact an exhilarating can to drive, handles well, is comfortable, and a good all round vehicle, I feel Alfa Romeo still have much to learn in the areas of corrosion and possibly design. Considerable rusting was apparent within days of delivery, when the vehicle was first washed, to such an extent that considerable paintwork and replacement of chrome parts was deemed necessary by the makers. With regard to the design I am assured by Alfa Romeo that it is normal for the braking system on this vehicle to make a “graunching” sound on braking at slow speeds when approaching a junction, alas I unusable to accept this design concept in an age of advanced technology.

I thoroughly enjoyed my one week’s motoring when it was performing satisfactorily. However, I have since passed the vehicle on to another member of the company and put my faith yet again in a British product. You may well ask how can any keen driver resist an Alfa!
London, NW1 G. A. BLADON

Savage Taxation

As you lamented in the April edition of MOTOR SPORT, it seems that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Geoffrey Howe is carrying on the long tradition of applying double standards to motorists in the United Kingdom.

It seems this time that while the motorist has to bear the burden, the major oil companies also appear to have had enough. Major companies are well aware of how to make their thoughts on the matter known at Government level; this is exactly what motorists would like to achieve themselves.

A well co-ordinated publicity drive by the road users of the United Kingdom is needed. If motoring organisations, clubs, magazines make the effort, the public would follow suit. A massive show of displeasure is necessary to force the Chancellor’s hand; it is precisely the result of the motoring public’s lack of effort that such offensive taxes have been imposed time and again.

The world has recently seen a very determined Nation protect the rights of a very small and distant island, perhaps it should re-direct its energy to pressing matters at home. May I finally add that, as a visitor to Australia, I find the monthly editions of MOTOR SPORT a pleasant reminder of what is happening on the motoring scene in Europe.
New South Wales IAN BLAKE


The history of the enduring and characterful sport of British speed hillclimbing forms the subject of a book which I have been commissioned to write.

Although the facts, figures and statistical achievements of the sport most provide the framework for such a work, I am particularly anxious to attempt to convey the authentic atmosphere of hillclimbing through the years. Since even my childhood recollections of hillclimbing date back only to the nineteen-fifties, I would be most grateful if readers who have memories and anecdotes concerning hillclimbing — whether as competitors or in other capacities — would get in touch with me. Photographs too are equally vital and naturally, cherished prints will be returned in due course.

It would be of further assistance if readers with good runs of pre-World War II journals who live within easy reach of York would permit me to refer to their collections to assist with my researches. CHRIS MASON
York [Letters will be forwarded — Ed.]


YET another driver — Pironi — dreadfully injured in a GP car, and having to be pulled from the wreckage. If the GPDA really want to save lives I would suggest that they stop complaining about circuits and take the designers to a good drag meeting.

They may possibly see one of the big “fuellers” go end-over-end at 200 m.p.h.

They will see that although the car has been utterly destroyed, the driver will get out of his crash-proof cage, with nothing worse than a severe shaking and a fright. But if you race an aluminium egg-box, it’s no use complaining about the terrible results of a high-speed crash.
Stockport, Cheshire ROY SANDBACH

Usual Disclaimers …

It was my sad task recently to consider a replacement for my much loved and respected 928S Porsche which I decided to divorce (has she really gone?) for no reason other than a polygamous-we desire to have another affair and four seats. I had lived in near total harmony with the 928S for 1½ years and the package of finish, performance, handling, economy, servicing frequency and maintenance costs must surely be unequalled. A truly delightful machine.

A dealer friend at Straight Eight Limited parked a slinky black Aston Martin Lagonda in my drive and I was hooked. The reasons were not clear, but I welcomed this exotic chariot into my life with some misgivings.

A service became due and a visit to Aston Martin’s Newport Pagnell factory and Service Division prompts me to record the event. In the space of that three-hour visit I became proud to own a British motor, car, and that’s a feeling I last remember some 20 years ago.

The welcome by Mr. Andrews, General Manager of Parts and Service, and Mr. Cullwick, the Reception Manager, to say nothing of the countless cups of coffee provided by Shirley, the Receptionist / Secretary, quickly made me feel a part of the Aston Martin family and gave me an awareness I was in the presence of people who were totally dedicated to this superb product.

A tour of the factory endorsed this further, and it was a sheer delight to witness craftsmanship in the form of hand-made body panels and leather being fashioned and hand-stitched to forth luxurious upholstery.

My engine proudly states, on a polished brass plate, that it was built by Bert Nash – and it was! Very lovingly built with enthusiasm by Mr. Bert Nash.

I was passed on to Derek Stone, the Workshop Controller, and that’s a man I’d like to get to know a whole lot more. He exudes pride in his work and I was on his wavelength in minutes.

It was my intention to tell Mr. Stone what I thought needed doing to my vehicle. But when he suggested we take the car for a short drive, I was pleased I had remained silent. Yes, you’ve guessed it. He found all the faults on my list and told me of two items that I had not noticed.

He drove my car rapidly and with feeling, and when he suggested a run out in a real Aston Martin (the Vantage, naturally) I could scarcely conceal my enthusiasm.

Someone ought to make a 15-minute movie of a drive with Derek in a Vantage for it is a very moving experience (pun intented) of harmony between man and machine.

I sat there muttering inadequate adjectives in sheer wonder while Derek propelled us through Buckinghamshire and I suspect six other counties) at speeds which even under oathI would not admit to.

I am now a convert to the breed by desire and only time will tell if my love affair will blossom. Most certainly, the Lagonda is more radical than any other vehicle I have owned, and I’m just a little nervous about voicing criticism for fear of offending Derek Stone or Bert Nash.

The revelation that building motor cars has anything to do with people comes as something of a shock.

The message I would wish to pass on to fellow Aston Martin owners is that, if you are not already acquainted with Newport Pagnell, you are missing a very great deal. If you are not an owner and, like me, you had thought the art of building hand-crafted automobiles had died, you are very wrong and I am certain that the enthusiasts at Newport Pagnell would dearly love to show you their craft — of which they are to justifiably proud.
Bray, Berkshire JOHN SANGSTER

De Havilland Aeronautical Technical School

I was intrigued to read “Air” on page 930 of the July MOTOR SPORT — and especially the reference to TK-4 (after your write-up of TK-2 the previous month).

I left school in Easter 1938 and went straight to the DHAeTS at Hatfield as a student on an intended four-year course of aircraft design and engineering. At that time, of course, there were only the two centres of aircraft design studies: the London City and Guilds and the DHAeTS (which had the great advantage of being privy to the practical facilities of the De Havilland Aircraft Co. at Hatfield and the hero Engine and Propeller Co. at Stag Lane).

New students like me soon learned about TK-4, which, as you say, crashed the previous autumn, and were quickly put to work polishing the high gloss cellulose finish of TK-2 (in the hope of reducing parasitic drag) which the Chief Test Pilot, Geoffrey de Havilland, flew in the 1938 King’s Cup Air Race. All the TK aircraft were designed and constructed by the school students at Hatfield (under the close supervision of the Parent Company, and were entered annually in the King’s Cup.

The last TK, about which you may not be aware, was designed in 1938 and built in 1939/40 and was an advanced design which was way ahead of its time: a tail-first canard, with wingtip dual fins/rudders and the Gipsy Major engine behind the pilot with a “pusher” propeller. The wooden construction was conventional, i.e. spruce spars, ribs and longerons covered with birch ply and doped linen. When I went off to war in the spring of 1940, TK-5’s construction was almost complete; but for obvious reasons both the Company and the DHAeTS were concentrating upon more vital matters at the time I did hear afterwards that Geoffrey de Havilliand attempted a first flight at Hatfield (then an all-grass airfield) but did not manage to get airborne — possibly because one design feature was a tailplane which theoretically was incapable of producing a big enough angle of attack on the mainplane to allow it to be stalled. However, its advance design concept was not imitated elsewhere until the late 1960s in the USA, and, had the war not intervened, TK-5 would have flown successfully in the early 1940s.

The School itself was located at Hatfield, in a hangar between the Parent Company’s large works/design offices and the swimming pool of the London Aero Club — the School having its own drawing offices, machine and fitting shops, and airframe assembly workshop and dope shop. (Incidentally, I still savour the memory of the Principal, Sqn. Ldr. Clapp, showing the parents of a prospective student round the machine shop, and, pausing by a milling machine upon which the cylinder block of a Red Label Bentley was illicitly being given a much-needed rebore, to explain that “he is overhauling a Gipsy Major aero engine”! We never did find out whether he twigged.) Students usually spent a year at the School itself before being periodically attached to various offices and workshops throughout Hatfield and Stag Lane. The School was quite separate from the Company apprentice school before the war; the two being amalgamated after the war, I believe.

All Captain Geoffrey de Havilland’s sons went through the School: Peter, the eldest; Geoffrey (killed in the early 1950s flying the advance delta DH 108); and John, the youngest killed flying a production Mosquito). Many of its other graduates subsequently rose to top positions in the British aircraft industry and abroad.
Goonhavern, Cornwall COLIN COULTHARD CB,AFC FRAeS, (Air Vice-Marshal, RAF. Rtd.)

Those in Favour. . .

It’s a very long time since you published a pro-seat belt letter, so please MOTOR SPORT swallow your pride and do so!

The problem with your arguments against belting up is that they are usually either inaccurate or just journalistic licence. Take for example your editorial of August 182:

1. Pre1965 cars are exempt as their age and structure was felt unsuitable for seat belts. The same goes for light vans prior to August 1967.

2. Seat belt wearing is being made law not because the NHS is crumbling but because it does save lives.

3. I don’t know which firms will benefit enormously from compulsory seat belt wearing because all cars are fitted with them anyway.

4. I didn’t realise MOTOR SPORT had been taken over by a bunch of left wing trendies. Police persecution of motorists indeed!

I suppose that in your defence of human liberty you are also in favour of hard drugs, child pornography and cock-fighting, No, MOTOR SPORT, you are completely misguided in your campaign against seat belt compulsion. I believe also that your claimed unpopularity is much overplayed. The British are a very apathetic lot you know.
Emsworth, Hants. MICHAEL D. LOCKWOOD

. . . and Those Against

In a recent reply to my MP, Mr. N. Hogg (East Dunbarton), on the subject of compulsory use of seat-belts, Mrs L. Chalker of the Department of Transport stated “. . . we have no evidence which suggests that there are circumstances when seat belt wearers are at a disadvantage to unrestrained occupants”.

It would, perhaps, be of advantage to the case presented by those of us who value freedom of choice in the matter if anyone who knows of an occasion where a person was killed or injured because they were wearing a seat belt was to write to Mrs. Chalker to correct this rather serious omission from the Department’s information.
Kirkintilloch. Glasgow Dr. GA. CORNER

Letters from Readers 08.13. -Opinion pressed are those of our Correspondents and MOTOR SPORT does not necessarily associate itself with them. -E D.