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My Year's Motoring
The Editor Looks Back On The Cars He Drove During 1979
This annual feature has become something of a habit, extending back more than quarter of a century, although it no longer purports to be a complete survey of all the cars road-tested by MOTOR SPORT in the year, as once it was, because others were driven by C.R., and these will be summarised in the March issue. The projected book about my 25 years of road-testing for this magazine, mentioned last February, has yet to appear, but that is no reason for failing to touch briefly on my motoring experiences for yet another twelve-month.
I see that before I got into doing this, last year, I was sounding-off about a number of developments which I felt were detrimental to the full enjoyment of driving by enthusiasts, such as the continual straightening of roads over which it was once a pleasure to steer a fast car. This still goes on, in spite of the intention of the present Government to curb the spending of (our) money in the Public Sector. Such road works are, no doubt, widespread but are more noticeable in one's own territory. For instance, hardly had an expensive road-cutting, considered unnecessary by the police, I am told, and wasting good agricultural-land in the view of local farmers, been completed on the A44 than they are at it again, a mile or so away, altering the same road at a blind brow. Trees and hedges are being sacrificed, presumably in the name of road safety. But if drivers are foolish enough to overtake on a completely blind brow they will do so round blind bends, so logically every bend on this and all other roads should be eradicated. . . .
As if costly road alterations like this are not enough, a great new bridge has been in process of building, for a long time now, crossing the River Wye by the A427 road, to connect it with the little village of Llanwrthwl. Now this leads almost nowhere, apart from the village, except by very narrow lanes eventually to the Elan Valley. Few tourists go much further than the name-plate to the village, which they like to photograph, as a name unique because of its single vowel. So even if the old bridge was in need of repair, how can an expensive new one be justified? Then there is another scheme, involving complicated bridging, to bypass a narrow hill between Llandrindod Wells and Rhayader, although there is a clear view for anyone driving up this hill - and just above it ugly kerbs mark the turn to Newbridge-on-Wye and have made it more dangerous than it was previously, by forcing those coming in the opposite direction to a position where the view of traffic is now restricted. In Newbridge itself, this once-pleasant village is being slowly eroded by changes, including a costly new piece of road to take traffic off a bridge on the way from Beaulah, the whole of this road (once the route of the RAC Six-Days Small Car Trials incidentally) having been drastically widened, except in the dangerous spots (!), for no apparent reason. Soon tourists will find none of the old roads, the country lanes, left to enjoy. But why? It would be interesting to know whether these escalating "improvements" are done simply to keep Council machinery in employment or as a sop to the ever-bigger commercial vehicles that will soon be let loose on British roads under EEC regulations?
Having got that off my chest, let us look at what I drove last year. The first car sampled was a Ford 2.8i GLS Estate, that very impressive combination of safe-handling fast car and admirably useful load-swallower. Its desirability goes further than that, however, for this Ford is an impressive-looking car to own, and in spite of its size and carrying capacity, it can be driven round corners not only quickly but with much pleasure, on those admirable Michelin TRX tyres. I was not in the least ashamed of driving to Coventry to see the latest in exotic Jaguars, in this splendid German-built Ford. In spite of the impressive handling, enhanced by good power-steering and effective servo disc/drum brakes, this sporting estate car also had a smooth ride. Indeed, there was practically nothing to fault, about a Ford I was willing to term the estate car with all the good qualities of a GT saloon. The one tested had air-conditioning, and with central door-locking and so on, it was indeed a very covetable possession. I was later told that, as a direct result of our road-test report on it, a reader had purchased one, which was nearly as nice as when the same thing happened after my report on a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. . . .
I have tried quite a number of diesel-engined cars but none so impressive, so nearly akin to a petrol-burning car, as the Volkswagen Golf LD. So much praise has been bestowed on this heavy-oil VW for its smooth-running once the crankshaft speed mounts, allied to a notable economy of diesel-fuel, that I need say little more here, except that all this praise is very well deserved. The ten-second or thereabouts spell-of-patience necessary before the engine will fire-up is a very small penalty to set against the money-saving aspects of this Diesel-Golf, and if the uninformed regard it as a taxi or as having run a big-end, by the sound it makes when idling, so what? I enjoyed this clever application of c.i.-engine, that endows the Golf LD with adequate acceleration and a top speed of over 80 m.p.h., without rendering it much more, if any, more cacophonous than a Petrol-Golf at a cruising 70 m.p.h. The only criticism in the report is about.....
Top-Right - The Editor at the wheel of Bill Lake's delectable 1922 Grand Prix Sunbeam.