DTW presents another look back at the archives of motoring writer Archie Vicar. This item appears to be a transcript from “Motorists and Motorism”, August 1975.
What a week and indeed what a summer it has been so far. In May I had a chance to sample Michelin’s tyres at a special “closed track” day at Silverstone. A Mercedes 240D and a Peugeot 504 LD served as test-beds for Michelin’s new all-weather radial tyres. Peugeot have thought to bring these diesel cars over as they have had enough experience selling them on the continent. Also, seems as if they don’t want to lose ground to Mercedes.
Both cars are on an equal footing – astonishingly quiet for derv burners. Of course, the Peugeot is the finer car to drive and the Mercedes is the one Jones will admire you for. Both cars hated the track and under-steered woefully. I gave up after twenty minutes and had a good chat about whiskey with a representative from Laphroaig who happened to be there. For laughs we took his Cortina 1600 out onto the track and the Pirelli Cinturatos CF67 he had fitted really made a noticeable difference. Much better than the Michelins.
All of that got me thinking about tyres again. So with the help of the nice men and women at Fiat, Renault and VW, last week I ordered up some rubber from Avon, Michelin and Goodyear to fit to the 127DL, 5TL and Polo N on the Motorists and Motorism long-term fleet. The tyres were compounded for general purpose, summer and winter; none of them made the slightest difference.
All these cars are painfully slow. The Polo is smooth but this hides a lack of response. The Renault sounds quite sporty yet covers ground as slowly as the Polo. And the Fiat wouldn’t start, at first. With any of the nine tyres, and at various pressures, the Fiat behaved the same: it understeered woefully and stalled.
Simca invited we gentlemen of the press to test their revised 1301 saloon. Seat belts are standard fittings and the carpet, which extends from door to door, seemed quite well fitted. I remember that because I dropped my pipe. We had a very fine lunch at the Bottle and Glass Inn in Dudley. They had excellent black pudding and Dudley’s best pork pie (making it Britain’s best pork pie). The Simca’s odd – it looks like a cross between a Mercedes and a Hillman. I am sure it will sell.
Still in the Midlands, and down to Brown’s Lane, Coventry, where we tested the XJ 3.4. Still two fuel tanks. Oddly, the lunch was again at the Bottle and Glass Inn where we had the same black pudding and pork pie. The power steering of the XJ is nice and light, I can report. All in all the smaller-engined car is not fast enough to show up the wobbles that the 4.2 litre car does. I asked about how various tyre compounds affected the ride and the man from Jaguar said the car was optimised for all tyres. The front seats are awful but the cloth is nice. Why people ask for leather is beyond me. I hope a 2.5 litre version comes out at some time.
Finally, BMW’s British office showed off their 320 two-door. If you had to point out one of the few good points about these otherwise tinny little cars, the worm and roller steering was the thing you’d mention. Dropped now. It’s rack and pinion. The brakes are still discs and drums but they are ventilated on posher models. The model range looks much like the old model range though.
Alas, the sporty character – what little there was – has been diluted. The 320 lopes rather. Fine for Renault and Rover but not for a car claiming to be for the press-on driver. The damping is terrible. Hopefully Triumph can maintain their advantage – new car’s due for 1980 a bird tells me. I drove the BMW across the Midlands which led me back to the Bottle and Glass Inn: that pork pie more than made up for the failings of the Bavarian box.
So, a week of tyres and pork pies. Best car: the Simca.
For more of Archie Vicar’s period car reviews, click here