Enjoy the full versions of the readers' letters in our latest issue, along with your chance to reply
Edited versions of these letters feature in our May/June 2019 issue but are published here in full, along with replies where relevant.
If you’d like to contact us in response to any of these letters, or any other issue, you can email the Boundless magazine team at email@example.com
And you can read more about the topics in these letters:
Adventures in the Lake District
I enjoyed your recent ‘Twist & Shout’ feature (March/April issue) on the new Alpine A110 'super' sports, a fabulous car. It brought back memories of our accidental ascent of the Hardknott Pass in 2015 in our Devon Monte Carlo motor home. Monty was based on a Renault Master LWB van, 6 metres long and weighed 3500kg. Not quite as agile as the Alpine. We were camping in Boot, Eskdale, a stunning part of the Lakes, and planned to visit the Roman Fort on Hardknott Pass, the Roman Road to Ravenglass. The fort was the highest in England and was home to 'Roman' soldiers from the Balkans.
We set off up the pass but unfortunately my navigator (the Boss) missed the signs saying 'Hardknott Fort' and 'Unsuitable for large vehicles'. The narrow road rapidly became almost vertical with tight bends and no chance of turning round. Soon we came to a grinding halt on a hellish hairpin, a rock face on the nearside and a sheer drop on the other. My tyres were scrabbling on the Tarmac, the clutch smoking, a string of cars inches from my rear bumper. Then the engine stalled and I had to hold the van on the handbrake whilst I 'danced' on the pedals, desperately trying to re-start... panic stations, even after 60 wonderful years of driving numerous scooters, motorbikes, dozens of cars and three motor homes (not at the same time!).
When we finally reached the top we were flagged down by an American tourist. She drawled 'How in God’s name did you get up here?'. It was a very good question. Then we had to get back down again, not recommended.
We’re storing up parking problems
A new development of housing close to where I live, in Devon, has a single allocated parking space for each dwelling, however not directly situated outside the house it is allocated to, but instead, in front of a nearby house. This has caused much social friction, using Police time and resources.
The nearby city of Plymouth has seen much new housing development, again, with inadequate parking, causing both social stress and vehicles parked on pavements, grassed areas and neighbouring streets. In Cheltenham High Street a significant development is being built right now, with one parking space for every two dwellings. The problems to come can only be imagined.
If we are soon to have plug in electric vehicles, suitable allocated parking is likely to be increasingly important or vital. How is it possible that Planning Authorities can be so short sighted to allow development without ample parking? I have never heard of excess parking provision being a problem, but inadequate parking will always be.
Skiing that’s up my street
I read the story by Patrick Kinsella about taking the family skiing (Nov/Dec issue). It was so interesting. Many years ago I tried downhill skiing. Did it go well? Well it was a very halting progress (mainly sitting on the snow).
Fast forward about 30 years and a mate, Tony, invited me go skiing with him. He said that it was Cross Country Skiing (XC for short). There are very few tracks in Britain so without any practice we had a holiday in Seefeld (Austrian Tyrol). The skis were different to downhill ones; longer, thinner and lighter, the boots were like basketball boots, nothing clunky, the poles were much longer than downhill poles. The runs, like downhill, were graded from blue (easy) through red to black (off piste or much harder).
I soon was able to stand up without wobbling and managed to complete a circuit of a track (loipen) called the Lenerweise. Then it was a trip out to through the forest to a local village. That was a bit harder, a couple of falls, but no refusals. The following day the lessons started. By the second day through the guidance of our tutor we had progressed to snowplough turns and negotiating hills-skiing both up and down them. Then Tony announced that we should have an extra day's lessons. That extra day was interesting. About 60 pupils, their tutors, and the boss of the XC ski school. We skied off piste down through forests in a local valley called the Gaistal. I found out much later that that was a black run and it was off-piste. I realized that in winter I could not walk there, but our skis made a slight indentation in the snow. We skied past the Zugspitze (Germany's highest mountain) and an avalanche slope (so that was why the instructors all had satellite phones). Moving relatively silently we came across wildlife. The loipen go past the bars and restaurants, but we only stop at the really good ones! I had found the a form of skiing that has existed for thousands of years. Just up my street (or is it loipen?).
On other XC ski trips I have ventured further afield from Seefeld to Mittenwald (Germany) through a hole in the border fence between Austria and Germany and other local villages. After seeing a film in the Swiss Transport Museum in Luzern, I took part with about 10,000 other skiers (including about 30 from GB) in the Engadin Cross Country Ski Marathon. It was sunny, if slightly cold (-17C first thing in the morning).
I 'normally' wear light weight clothing such as jogging bottoms, two or three layers including a lightweight jacket, really flexible gloves and a woollen hat. You may want take a drink with you. You only require a village pass (which is usually free from either the tourist office or/and hotel) that allows you ski on the tracks in the area (Seefeld has about 200km).
For families who have members that don't want to do downhill skiing, Seefeld has kilometres of Cross Country tracks and cleared footpaths.
Allan S Carter
Emissions: WLTP or NEDC?
I was reading the latest edition of Boundless and noticed you printed out of date, wildly inaccurate old NEDC fuel economy figures. You should be aware that the law changed in January this year to make fuel economy figures be set by WLTP only. This resulted in the accurate true economy figures of around 15-20% less being published in all documentation. The CO2 figures are still inaccurate using NEDC until next year when they too switch to WLTP and will rise by about the same 15 – 20%.
The problem with printing this inaccurate information is a buyer could easily be misled reading your article on the 320D seeing 67.3 mpg when an equivalent Mercedes C220D only returns 51.4mpg. Obviously it isn’t true, the BMW you printed as 67.3mpg actually only gets 53.3 mpg if you had used the correct information. You also did the same with a few other cars.
Our motoring reviewer's reply
I am grateful to you for reading the car reviews so carefully. You are right, we should have stated clearly which figure was being used, NEDC or WLTP. In the following issue, written at the end of February, I was careful to do just that. At the time of going to press with the BMW review in early January, its WLTP figure wasn’t published.
Yes, as you know, currently manufacturers are testing new cars by the WLTP measure. But they aren’t obliged to quote it, as we are in a transition phase. When they do quote it, I always use it. Worse, when manufacturers now quote an NEDC figure on a new model, it’s not a real NEDC figure at all, but one that’s been back-calculated from the WLTP test by a somewhat makeshift algorithm. So it’s not really comparable with anything much. It is indeed infuriating.
As you will also know, even the WLTP figure is only a sample, under controlled conditions. Conditions that all vehicles must follow during the test, yes, but conditions that can be very different from different drivers or different journeys in real life. Thus, in your example, the Mercedes C220d might possibly get 51.4mpg by some freakish coincidence on some journey or other, but by the same token might also get anywhere from roughly 35mpg to roughly 60mpg depending on driving style, speed, road and traffic.
I measure the consumption of every tankful I use. I have a spreadsheet going back 25 years, with dozens of cars covering something like 600,000 miles. My own fuel consumption figures are considerably worse than the NEDC (or indeed WLTP) claim. Moreover with the same car the consumption can vary widely – a long gentle motorway run might take me 20 percent further on a litre/gallon than a tankful that was predominantly stuck in London traffic, or driving well loaded through mountainous country.
One thing I’ve learned, incidentally, is that fuel consumption can be pretty accurately predicted without reference to the official figure. Various technical innovations – such as smaller engines with turbochargers, fewer cylinders, or extra gears in the transmission – have been barely able to offset other trends that have a baleful effect on consumption, such as greater weight and wider tyres. What matters for a given size of vehicle is whether its’s a car or a crossover (tall and heavy is worse for fuel), and whether it’s diesel (more economical than petrol) or hybrid (good in town, not on motorways) or plug-in hybrid (good if you plug in, not if you don’t). And do not on any account have a roof rack unless you really need it.
I am writing to you about something which has concerned me for some time. Why is it that all modern cars (approx. 1990s onwards) have plastic painted bumpers that are so easily scraped and cracked? Other alternatives used previously worked much better.
These bumpers do indeed look great painted to match the car's bodywork, but anyone with more than one brain cell can see that bumpers of any type are certain to be scraped or bumped many times during the lifetime of the car, no matter how careful the driver. Every day, we see dozens of vehicles with hideous white scratch marks and cracks to their bumpers, which spoil the whole appearance of the vehicle. Most are left that way indefinitely, because repairs and resprays cost so much that the average owner cannot afford to get them fixed.
The best bumpers were probably the chunky black wraparound plastic ones found on 80s cars such as the Sierra and Escort I used to have. Yes, they look drab, grey and dull when they get old, but they could take a lot of punishment without looking hideous like the modern painted ones do after the slightest damage. The manufacturers should not be allowed to make bumpers so impractical and easily damaged. I think they are taking us all for a ride here. Who is profiting from this?
Nissan Juke gearbox
Has anyone had any problems with their gearbox on a Nissan Juke auto? After driving 17,000 miles in just over three years, my gearbox studded when it changed gear. But, after contacting Nissan, they agreed to replace the whole gearbox – very good after-sales service.
Keep calm and carry on driving
The correspondence about peoples’ anger at other road users (Mailbox March/April issue) puts me in mind of a very wise saying, which I have heard attributed to the Buddha: The only person hurt by your anger is yourself. Readers might do well to bear this in mind...
Please reconsider the change of packaging for the magazine. Most councils do not accept this type of material for composting as it does not break down in the high-speed composting processes. For example, Cambridgeshire gives this advice – “Compostable or biodegradable 'plastic' corn starch caddy liners (e.g. BioBag), bio-plastic cups and cutlery (e.g. Vegware or Edenware) cannot be accepted in the green bins, even if they are EN13432 certified or display the compostable seedling logo, as they do not compost quickly enough for our fast composting process.”
Further confirmation can be found at recap.co.uk, which includes the comment “It is important to keep items such as plastic or bio-degradable bags out of your food and garden waste bin as it can mean that whole loads can be rejected or could cost lots of time and money to separate”.
If members follow the advice on the wrapper to place this in the garden waste bin that may lead to complete lorry loads being rejected at the processing plant if an inspection finds inappropriate material within the load.
I hope that you are able to make this change, but in the meantime I urge you to advice members correctly so that these are not placed in garden waste bins.
Our editor's reply
We very much appreciate your feedback. If you’re unable to put the bag in your food recycling bin or garden waste bin, you can put it in your home compost bin if you have a garden. If not, the bag will compost in ordinary household waste, so there’s still an advantage over ordinary plastic that takes years to break down when buried. You can find more details on our website at boundless.co.uk/compostablewrapper and we remind readers that each council has different requirements.
Women in motorsport
I read with interest the article 'Game-Changing Women in Racing' (March/April issue). But was a little disappointed that it failed to acknowledge the contribution made by the early women pioneers. Ever since men began racing motor cars over a hundred years ago, women have wanted to do the same, they had to fight prejudice and bias in a sport dominated by men.
When in 1907 the first purpose-built motor racing track in the world was opened in Britain at Brooklands, women were banned from racing there. It was nearly 20 years before they were allowed to race against men. One of the earliest pioneers was Dorothy Levitt who won her class in 1903 at the Southport Speed Trials. She went on to be the first woman to become a successful works team driver and find international recognition.
1930 saw the marriage of Tommy Wisdom to Elsie Gleed and the start of one of the most successful and lasting husband-and-wife partnerships in motor racing. Elsie, known as Bill, competed at Brooklands, Le Mans, Mille Miglia and many other events. Post WW2 saw her compete in the Alpine Rally and Monte Carlo Rally. Elsie’s daughter Anne Wisdom was Pat Moss’s co-driver in the event covered in the magazine article. For further reading I recommend the Book Fast Women by John Bullock.
I enjoyed reading the article ‘Women in Motorsport’. I was surprised that Lella Lombardi didn’t get a mention. She is the only woman in F1 history to have had a top 6 finish (at the 1975 Spanish GP). I saw her drive in the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch in 1974 and the British GP at Silverstone in 1975. I last saw her at Le Mans in 1976 where she came 2nd in the GTP Class. We need more female drivers in motorsport and, like Vicki Butler-Henderson, I hope this happens soon.
Desire Wilson. Image © Nick Rogers / Daily Mail / REX / Shutterstock
A black mark for my braking?
Following events involving Prince Philip in the Sandringham area, I watched an 86 year old woman on the BBC Breakfast programme describing how she is able to monitor her driving online and gets 100% scores every time. I assume she has the same device fitted to her car that some insurance companies require their customers to have. I like to think I am a good safe driver, but fear that I might score badly if I had one fitted to my car. Some years ago you published a letter from me about issues with the rear discs on the vehicle I drove at the time. They caused the car to fail its MOT test; they weren't worn out...on the contrary they were hardly worn at all and this was the problem. At the time I was in the habit of braking gently and progressively and I discovered that the system allocated all the braking to the front discs in these circumstances so the rear discs had become corroded through lack of use.
To prevent this happening with my current vehicle I have "refined" my driving technique. At various intersections in my local area, which are approached downhill, I find that engine braking has minimal effect on road speed despite lifting off the throttle asap. In the past I would have used my gentle, progressive braking technique: nowadays I brake late and hard with due consideration for other road users, of course. It does put the wind up my wife, though.
I pose the question to your readers... do they think I would get marked down for bad braking habits by one of these gizmos?
Automatic gearboxes on icy roads
I recently heard on the radio an expert from the Society of Advanced Motorists advising that in icy or snowy conditions it is always best to engage second gear when starting off in order to gain a better "hold" on the road. As someone with an automatic gearbox, I don't have that option. Plus with the steady increase in electric vehicles, manual gearboxes will become obsolete. Let's hope the winters stay mild.
We need the evidence
There is a lot of topical stuff in the Boundless magazine, but far too much of it is opinion and assertion by non-experts. Unless backed up by factual evidence this is valueless (apart from its role in making us laugh – or fume!). Motoring is entering its second-ever period of unprecedented rapid change (the first being the advent of practicable cars over a century ago). Don't get me wrong, I'm enthusiastic about the prospect of electric cars (and even about fleets of self-driving taxis to replace private car ownership, if that ever happens). But in this climate of change actual facts are vital, so please can we have some? Take Robert Llewellyn's piece about EVs as an example. What he says is unconvincing:
"Lifetime costs of EVs are already below those of petrol or diesel." Really? On what assumptions? This is surely untrue for many like me, a retired civil servant with car use below 3000 miles a year. EVs are still very expensive to buy, and the battery packs do not last very long before needing a costly replacement. And when EVs are ubiquitous, what will Government be doing to replace its lost revenue from tax on petrol? Surely these taxes will have to be put onto electric power for EVs instead, or if that's not feasible, put onto the purchase price of EVs?
"Battery technology offering 300 mile range for private cars is nearing commercial production." Great news if true. But is it, and how much will these batteries cost? Getting high-tech stuff out of the lab; cheap enough; and fit for everyday use by consumers is often a ten-year development process. And some early claims about performance are never borne out in everyday use. (Just look at manufacturers' unrealistic figures on MPG for petrol and diesel cars. And that is for a mature technology!).
"The Government should encourage EV use by installing a nationwide easy-access charging point network." This will indeed be necessary but there is a more fundamental issue. Where is all the extra "green" electric power to come from? If all the nation's cars went electric at fairly short notice, the result would be days of regional blackouts and no mobility – as the grid would surely have to introduce a rotating programme of power cuts in order to cope with demand. An awful lot of power stations are near the end of their life. I have no confidence at all in the Government's ability to join up the dots and plan ahead for a future of green electric transport. After all it has made a complete shambles of railway electrification policy, which is a far easier thing to get right.
Our editor's reply
Robert Llewellyn’s comments were presented as an interview and represent his views. We hope you find the Future of Motoring feature about EVs and fuel stations, researched by our motoring editor Dan Read, an interesting read.