Copy of Article Text Below
My Year's Motoring
The Editor Looks Back On The Cars He Drove During 1980
This annual feature was started more than 25 years ago in order to summarise my findings and opinions about the cars I had road-tested for MOTOR SPORT in the preceding twelve months. In those days I was the only road-test reporter this paper had, but since then others have taken part in this exacting but usually very enjoyable pursuit and the number of cars we try in a year has consequently increased, so this summary does not comprise all the cars MOTOR SPORT sampled in 1980. However, as that great Rolls-Royce Director, the late Lord Hives, used to say, it is always easier to start something than to stop it. So I cannot resist another look-back at the cars I was allowed to drive during the twelve months ending last December.
The first, ignoring the 1.8 Alfa Romeo Giulietta which was a hold-over from the 1979 road-test year (it had proved as enjoyable as all Alfa Romeos are remembered as being and notably sure-footed in the exceptional flooding of that December 1979 period), was a rotary-engined Mazda RX-7 on which a colleague, who has since left us, was conducting a long-duration test and which I was permitted to try for a brief period. It is recalled as a very well contrived, likeable, smooth-running sports car, about its only serious shortcoming being slightly suspect brakes. It was memorable in other ways, too. Taking a friend home to South Wales from London one winter evening we heard a noise that could have been the boot-lid flapping open, when I was doing a rate of knots along the outer lane of the crowded M4. In fact, a rear tyre had collapsed. The Mazda remained commendably stable in this predicament but by the time I had managed to edge my way over on to the hard shoulder the cover was ruined. Embarrassing, because the car was shod with special and expensive Pirellis. However, the Pirelli people proved extremely efficient in sending out a van to within a reasonable distance of my home the next day, bringing a replacement, before we set off in the Mazda to watch the MCC Exeter Trial.
I think that car must have disliked me - perhaps somehow my then-somewhat unen-thusiastic-attitude to Japanese imports had been conveyed to it. Because, having changed that burst tyre, we stopped to pick up my friend's wife in Pontypool, so that he had to crouch in the restricted back compartment of this essentially 2+2-minors Ma/da. I then set off to demonstrate its effective performance and good road-holding over that endearing hill road between Abergavenny and Brecon. It was a freezing cold night and dinner was calling. We had no ice on that road, fortunately, but when almost home, driving along a country lane I know very well indeed, the RX-7 hit black ice. Full lock one way, then the other, was of very little avail but again we were fortunate, because instead of overturning in the ditch, the roadside bank proved just sufficient to stop the spinning car and without stopping the engine I was able to select second gear, drive back to a turning-place I knew of, and complete the journey. "You must be cold; you look quite pale", said my wife to our guests on arrival. . . .
Renault at Acton then allowed me to have another go in a Renault 30TX. I had tried this spacious Renault family conveyance when it was a new model and had been impressed by its size, comfort and speciousness, but less so by some of its front-wheel-drive characteristics and its desire to be in neutral when I wanted second gear. This time the fuel-injection V6-engined top-model Renault suffered less from wheelspin on a fierce getaway, but under these conditions some judder remained and the clutch was heavy and fierce. Up-to-date and advanced mechanical aspects of the Renault's specification did not disguise somewhat soggy cornering, a trace of lateral float about the suspension, and not particularly brisk performance. Against that, this was a luxury package all right, with many useful amenities and we had one particularly enjoyable run in it, over that bleak road via Stay-a-Little, this being part of the 1924 RAC Light Car Six Days Trial route, to Machynlleth, that Welsh town well-known to followers of the RAC Rally but almost local to me, and after lunch, on along the pleasing scenic route through Cemmaes Road to Llanwnog and home through Llanidloes.
This French experience was followed by another, when I remade acquaintance with one of the Renault's rivals in the guise of a Citroen CX2400 GTi. It was a very long time since I had done much with one of the big Citroens and I was allowed enough mileage with this one to appreciate this highly individual and entirely logical way of travelling in much comfort. An acquired taste certainly, and it takes time to understand and employ to the greatest advantage all the Citroen's sophisticated controls and driving ploys. But with experience one should enjoy it, with the proviso that I still consider that this ingenious car deserves better than a four-cylinder engine, even if this does have fuel-injection and electronic ignition and pokes out 128 DIN b.h.p. at very modest revs. The gearbox is not outstanding either, the clutch is heavy and its pedal masks any room for the driver's left foot. But as a car which, because of its effective power-hydraulic brakes, good pick-up, and effortless over-the-ton cruising speed, is very fast indeed on a journey and also as relaxing to ride in as one expects of a car with all-independent, self-levelling hydro-pneumatic suspension and splendid seats, a Citroen owner's fanaticism is easy to understand. I see that I did nearly as big a.....
Top-Right - THE RENAULT 30TX had improved since it was first sampled and was the personification of luxury, but is still a soggy and somewhat sluggish barge.
Bottom-Left - UNORTHODOX, very comfortable, very logical - the fleet-of-foot Citroen CX 2400 GT