From the Archive - Klaxon (May 2014)
From CMM May 2014, Issue no. 302
Our resident enthusiasts’ ‘agony uncle’ answers more of your queries in his own inimitable fashion. If you have a question for Klaxon write to him at CMM, PO Box 129, Bolton, BL3 4YQ. The old man himself has wriggled out of his restraints again for another column of singularly derisable eccentricities. I blame unleaded petrol myself...
My father reckoned that Rootes Group products were stronger than their competitors, and he ran a succession of Hillman Minxes. They always looked smart and never seemed to give any trouble that I can remember. Was there any truth in what he said, or was it pure supposition?
H.K., via e-mail
Interestingly, it was an idea that Rootes themselves fostered in their advertising - for example, they claimed that a Hillman was: “A better buy because it’s better built!” That’s just a slogan, of course - there wasn’t necessarily any justification behind it, although it may well have influenced people’s thinking. But Rootes certainly did have a reputation for sound, conservative engineering. And there were rumours that they used slightly thicker gauge body steel than other firms. Again, though, I don’t know if that’s actually true. However; Rootes Group cars lasted pretty well by contemporary standards, and they didn’t change their styling too often. Both those factors contributed to customer satisfaction and to good residual value at trade-in time. So, apart from anything else, your father’s choice was probably a sound economic one.
The way we were: display advert (Lockhart’s Service Depot, Dunstable) from Motor Sport magazine, December 1957:
“1955 Swallow Doretti Fixed-head Coupe. An easy 85 m.p.h. cruising speed, together with an ability to reach this and substantially higher road speeds with quite remarkable rapidity, combine to make this compact Gran Turismo version of the Doretti one of the faster cars on British roads today. It is noticeably more comfortable than some of its competitors, and the well-proven TR2 engine ensures long life, reliability and economy with the minimum of attention... £795”
(According to Georgano, only one fixed-head Doretti GT was built. So this must be it; looking very pretty in the photograph.)
I want to take up a pedantic point concerning your comment on the last ‘Quote of the month’. (The one where the BBC thought that Bugatti was an Italian car!) You wondered why the narrator had used the term ‘race car’ (which you said was an Americanism) instead of ‘racing car’. But surely ‘race car’ is used in this country too? I’m sure I have heard it on Top Gear and Formula One commentaries.
Ken Weller, Bucks.
Both the examples you give are other BBC programmes, so you are just confirming that the Corporation consistently uses the wrong term. In Britain, we say ‘sports car’ and ‘racing car’ whereas Americans say ‘sport car’ and ‘race car’. I would agree that ‘race car’ could be the correct usage in Britain, but only under one particular circumstance - where the speaker wants to differentiate between a particular racing car that will be used for the race itself and another one. For example: “They are now fuelling his race car” - as opposed to the other racing car that we saw him in earlier, but which will not be used in the actual race. (And you’re quite right - it is pedantic!)
Tom McCahill Corner: more gems from the pen of the legendary American journalist. (From Mechanix Illustrated, December 1954, ‘McCahill Tests The MG Magnette’)
“The gear box is as smooth as an eel in a bucket of castor oil and shifting is as quiet as a vest pocket full of peach fuzz... The brakes are four-wheel hydraulic and as sure as running into a pillow-covered stone wall. The 1.5-litre engine has two SU pots and a geiger-counter-sounding electric fuel pump...”
I believe that my Mk II Consul would be much improved by a set of wheel trims. But, to be authentic, which sort should I look out for at autojumbles?
James Horton, Middlesex
I’m not quite sure what you mean by ‘authentic’. Do you only want to fit trims that would have been fitted to the car from new, as a Ford optional extra, or do you mean trims that were available at the time for ‘after-market’ fitting by the owner? If the former, you’d have to check which sort was actually offered - from memory, I think it was a simple ‘rim embellisher’ (ie. a chromed outer ring), which was probably made by a Birmingham firm called Horvell Products. However; if you are happy to fit any trims that are of the correct period, then you’ll have more leeway. Several firms made them - best known was Ace, but there were also Bradex, Raydyot, ‘Flyte’ and ‘Styla’ (by KF Ward), and ‘Ke-Lan’ (by Chas Symons), amongst others. Most were outer surrounds filling the space between the tyre and the hub cap; some were full wheel covers, taking the place of the original hub cap (which could be useful if your hub caps are in poor condition). Of course, you may not actually have much choice, and you might have to take whatever you can find in the appropriate 13" wheel size!
I was interested to read the Top Tip about Armor All protective being used on plastic heater ducting. You may know that this product is also available impregnated onto tissues. These tissues would be ideal for lining the inside of the ducts where they would give up their chemicals slowly, over a long period. Better than spraying the product I would have thought.
Dean, via e-mail
I can see what you are aiming at. But how would you prevent the tissues from moving around in the air currents and possibly blocking the pipework? The best method of application might be to obtain access to the hot air exit point(s) on the heater body, and give a regular squirt of the product as part of a standard maintenance schedule. Presumably, some of it would get carried right through the system.
Quote of the month: “Hot days are not good for tyres; if we always ran in winter, on wet roads, tyres would last almost the life of the car.” From an article in The Autocar, 12/5/61, titled ‘The Long Straight Road’, looking at sports tyres for sustained high speeds.