A Letter From John Nevell

Dear Ashley,

I read with great interest your letter about the post-war Bentley. I totally agree with much that you say & guess that it may lose you some friends! It has inspired me to write to our club concerning the annoying use by some members of the term “proper motor cars” to describe Rolls Royces.

In the early fifties, as a young uni-student I used to avidly read a regular Saturday motoring article by an engineer, one Sturt Griffiths. I was fascinated by his road tests & general engineering pronouncements until one day he badly blasphemed by claiming that within 5 years, machinery would be so accurate that it would be the mass produced vehicle which would prove more reliable & cost effective. Cars like the Rolls Royce would fall behind. How DARE he!!!

My wife & I have been driving a 1992 Volvo & have 300,000 KM up. We have had to replace the exhaust tail pipe, routine replacement of fan & timing belts & we have fitted two water pump kits. Tyres & wiper blade inserts complete the repair picture. The vehicle handles impeccably is rattle free & is a real pleasure to drive. We have no plans to replace it & will probably do so only when advances in design make it obsolete.

Cars I have owned or shared in, have been a Silver Ghost, PI, 20/25, 25/30 X 2, MkV1 Bentley, R types X 2.

I agree about the handling of the MkV1. It was a sheer joy to drive. On one trip to Sydney I was driving (at speed) with my brother asleep beside me. It was a misty night & suddenly a white horse, side on, appeared in front of me There was nowhere to go. All I could do was stamp on the brakes. The result was nothing short of magic – a dead straight stop within inches of the horse. I would have thought it impossible. Bill woke, said, ”nice work Johnno” & promptly fell back to sleep.

Should someone offer me a gift of any of the above cars – my choice-, it would be a difficult decision but I think for practicality the steel bodied R type would have to win.

I lived on a property 45 miles from Mudgee, & for 13 years commuted during the week from property to my Mudgee practice. I therefore ran up considerable mileage. I sold the car & the buyer later told me that he could not believe that such an old vehicle could feel so “tight”. The road in to Mudgee included about three miles of my own road – self maintained so not exactly first class! It therefore says a lot that the most I ever had to do to the shock absorbers was to put in an egg cup of oil.

This car was not without some problems & was not cheap to maintain. Early on, the servo constantly performed badly & I once had it re-lined by the distributors only to have it virtually useless after about 25 miles on the way home. The problem proved to be oil seepage on to the lining and this was able to seep past the seal because of a slightly worn shaft. I think I solved the problem eventually by placing a small ridge on the shaft to act as a drip focus for the oil. Should anyone be interested I have long felt that these servos could be easily modified to be even more efficient & free of some of the problems.

A further problem in the form of annoying tap-tap, like a very loose tappet, proved to be the from the stud holding the valve rocker-shaft on to the head. The thread was stripped on the head. In an at times very hot (40C +) & almost zero humidity climate, the unsealed cooling system proved inadequate. This gave no further grief once I sealed it & used a small Mini overflow tank.

There remain people who worked for York Motors who could provide correct details of this story but I think it was service manager Bert Ward who rolled the first Shadow out here, either on suburban test or delivery run. He had of course been used to handling the Mk6s & Clouds. Bert Ward told me that it was often difficult to have the manufacturing team take his comments & suggestions on board. He felt that there tended to be a reluctance for one group (say steering specialists) to share knowledge with say suspension specialists.

Despite adverse comments above it is my ambition to once more owned a make that I have admired above all others for over fifty years.

Yours faithfully,

John Nevell