How many old car enthusiasts do you know who can recite to you the performance figures for their car? From where do these figures originate and how accurate were they when first compiled? During the period in which we are interested, the three mainstream U.K. motoring magazines of the day, Autocar, Motor and Light Car & Cyclecar road tested the new models as they became available. All three magazines included within their road test articles, a data panel which provided the reader with a quick reference guide to the cars salient features and performance. It is these panels that have been scanned and are reproduced below.
Unlike today's critical, sensational and confrontational approach to auto journalism, thirties car magazines were very reverential toward the car manufacturers and rarely openly criticised bad design or poor performance. Vehicle testing did not appear to be very scientific. Brooklands was often used as the venue for speed testing, while the article's authors placed a strange emphasis on the lowest speed achievable in top gear without the occurence of transmission snatch. How these checks were carried out and what measuring equipment was used, barely receives a mention. Another period language foible is the use of the word 'on' when making reference to the gear engaged - so 'on second gear', in the thirties would today be referred to as 'in second gear'.
Included here are data panels for, not only the Minor models of the period, but also for the 29-32 M.G. Midget and 30-31 Wolseley Hornet. (See How Fast 2!!? for the Midget and Hornet) To make life difficult for the prospective buyer, the Motor and Autocar used differing criteria for brake testing, making direct test data comparisons for the same model impossible, without first resorting to a calculator or slide rule. This may well have been an example of how the manufacturers could flex their (advertising?) muscle at the very compliant magazine editors in an effort to hide performance deficencies apparent in their factory supplied test vehicles.
Comparing the test results makes for interesting reading. For one particular model a 10 MPH difference in top speed is recorded between a car from one model year against that from another, while vehicle stopping distances vary considerably. Fuel consumption figures also look somewhat optimistic for some models. and it would seem that flattering the manufacturers was very much the order of the day.
Page created 27th March 2010