Motor World Review, August 1961
Model Year-In-Review Edition
Best Sedan – 1961
Relative Rating: 100.00
Our readers may remember the controversy of our 1957 Year-In-Review publication, where a tiny little sedan shocked the States. Well, we hope you’re ready for another shock.
No, we don’t have a micro-sedan this time. Our selection is a mid-size, and at first glance it doesn’t look out of place anywhere in America. But once you look underneath, you’ll wonder where the differential is. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, it’s up front.
Meet the Sinistra Senator, the little premium sedan from the desert Southwest.
This oddball company has been making nothing but front wheel drive vehicles since 1947. And the oddity continues under the hood, in the form of the Senator’s 135 horsepower overhead cam V6.
Comfort and safety are the Senator’s game. Wide, reclining front seats for two and a rear bench with unexpected legroom greet the passengers. The driver gets such modern comforts as a 3-speed automatic transmission and power steering. There’s even a fully transistorized radio for all to enjoy.
Though the disc brakes provide impressive stopping power, we’re a little concerned with Sinistra adopting unproven radial tires. Still, the whole package seems to work well; the Sinistra provides confident handling in all conditions.
The Senator is the most expensive car in the class, but pays off in the investment with an incredible package.
Now, we’re ready for your mail questioning our sanity once more.
Best Sport or Touring Car – 1961
Fenton GT 244 V8
Relative Rating: 97.44
Once again the marketplace is chock full of sports cars and tourers of all stripes. It has taken many miles, and even more smiles, to separate the wheat from the chaff. This year’s top selection is the GT 244 from Fenton.
Its numeric designator comes from the 244 cubic inch V8 under the hood, putting out a modest 167 horsepower. At least, modest when you consider the competition.
What’s not so modest is how the Fenton GT eats up the road. While it’s not the absolute top of the class for sheer lateral speed, it’s near the top. But it also doesn’t have nearly the propensity to spin that much of the competition seems to have. It’s also pretty inexpensive, having the fourth-lowest sticker price of any model we tested.
As an added bonus, it’s also one of the most comfortable in the class, making this a very formidable blend of both sports and touring.
It is, in our opinion, the must-have in this class.
Best Utility – 1961
D&H Buck, Olympus Aquarius Offroad (TIE)
Relative Rating: 95.06
And yet more controversy for our pages this year. For the first time, we have been unable to make up our minds as to the best of a category. So we must award both the Olympus Aquarius and the Deer & Hunt Buck the honors for the utility class.
In so much as they are great vehicles, they are also polar opposites.
With the Buck, you get an uncompromising work van, powered by a 170 horsepower, 366 cubic inch V8. Deer and Hunt seems to be catering to workmen on a whole different level, with a plush, heavily padded bench seat and a transistorized AM radio standard.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Aquarius is a plush, comfortable off-road utility. Also powered by a 366 V8 (albeit a very different one), the Aquarius features a 3-speed automatic transmission with 4WD and the ability to lock the differentials. It seats 6, but in a unique design form, that is not in 2 rows, but rather 3.
These picks are sure to please their respective markets.
Best Engine – 1961
Birmingham 128ci “Comet” 4-cylinder
(+5% relative rating bonus)
Of the engines put before us this year, we are most impressed with the 128 cubic inch “Comet” 4-cylinder from Birmingham. A new design for this year, it may not thrill enthusiasts with its output of 86 horsepower and 104 ft-lbs of torque. But we like it for its mechanical simplicity, ease of service, and relatively good efficiency marks. For that, Birmingham Motors receives our Best Engine award for 1961.
Sedan Class Reviews
Ardent 410 Custom
Relative Rating: 88.89
“…the 173 cubic inch engine, once a mainstay for them, is showing its age. So, too, is the suspension and the coachwork on this now venerable series…”
Pros: High reliability, best in class practicality, low maintenance cost
Cons: Poor safety, poor fuel economy, poor handling
PMI Usurper Sedan
Relative Rating: 98.61
Fixture violation: Mirrors (missing) (further violations will result in penalties)
“…big, sleek, and powerful. Probably too big for some, but for those who love space and power, it can’t be beat…”
Pros: Powerful engine, high comfort, prestigious model
Cons: High cost, low drivability, worst in class reliability, worst in class fuel economy
Dominion Victory 140
Relative Rating: 83.33
“…tiny engine is still remarkably well suited to the car. For a young person starting out on their own, it makes fine transportation. However, it seems unsuited to those who have reached a certain station in life…”
Pros: Low purchase price, low maintenance cost, best in class reliability
Cons: Worst in round comfort, poor safety, poor performance on rural roads, poor handling
Birmingham 2000 Sport Sedan
Relative Rating: 95.23 (Including bonus)
“…does indeed give quite a value of sportiness for the money, even beating out some dedicated sports cars in the handling tests. Unfortunately, our testing showed some flaws with its trunk space, as well as its ability to tackle a dirt road…”
Pros: Engine of the year award, great handling, good economy, reasonable price
Cons: Poor handling on rural roads, trunk not easy to load or unload, poor reliability
Relative Rating: 91.67
“…much like the Dominion in many aspects, but with more punch in the engine and better planted to the ground. But it’s not expected to hold up as well as the Dominion…”
Pros: Reasonable price, decent performance
Cons: Poor comfort, poor drivability
Takemi Prominence S
Relative Rating: 87.50
Fixture violation: Rear side markers (incorrect color) (further violations will incur penalty)
“…aside from having decent road manners, the Prominence is just too mediocre at everything. It doesn’t stand out in any sort of positive way when stacked against the competition…”
Pros: Low purchase price, good fuel economy
Cons: Poor reliability, below average comfort
Utility Class Reviews
Vermillion V100 V8
Relative Rating: 92.90
Fixture violation: Mirrors (missing) (further violations will incur penalty)
“…has dethroned the previous reigning offroad king from Dominion. It sets a new bar that doesn’t seem like it will be beat any time soon…”
Pros: Best in class offroad, good utility
Cons: Poor drivability, below average comfort, relatively high purchase price
Epoch Model 40 Special
Relative Rating: 90.74
“…Epoch has proven they can build a delivery vehicle. We are still left wanting in the power department, but it will certainly do its job given enough time…”
Pros: Low purchase price, great utility, high fuel economy
Cons: Poor handling, low power makes heavy loads difficult, poor safety
Sport/Touring Class Reviews
Caliban Type SC Rev.3
Relative Rating: 86.74
“…the once glorious name of Caliban has of late been dragged through the mud by the company’s inability to keep up with the flood of competitors. It does not help that the handling of the new Type SC is so unpredictable…”
Pros: Best in class lateral acceleration, high reliability
Cons: Worst in class comfort, worst in class drivability, worst in class economy (tie), poor safety, high maintenance cost
Relative Rating: 90.31
Fixture violation: Antenna (missing) (future violations will incur penalty)
“…good selection for a budget-oriented sports car. Not as potent or as comfortable as others, but reasonably balanced…”
Pros: Best in class practicality, low purchase price
Cons: Worst in class sportiness, low drivability not justified by performance
IP Flaire 1900 GTX
Relative Rating: 85.55
“…just doesn’t have the panache of most of its competitors. It’s even cheaper than the LMC, but we don’t feel it’s that good of a bargain…”
Pros: Low purchase price, high reliability
Cons: Worst in class performance, low comfort, uninspired handling
Erin Laguna GTS
Relative Rating: 93.87
Fixture violation: Reverse lights (wrong color) (further violations will incur penalty)
“…surprisingly has a V12 under the hood. It’s very small, but revs willingly. Though the Laguna is a handful to drive, it is most definitely fun…”
Pros: Fastest 0-60 (tie), good handling, good comfort
Cons: Poor reliability, can be hard to handle at times
Sakura Duchess 25x
Relative Rating: 79.37 (After early import penalty)
“…least expensive of the sports cars. While it’s fun to throw around curves, it seems to take its sweet time getting up to speed…”
Pros: Good handling, low purchase price, high reliability
Cons: Low prestige model, lowest top speed, poor acceleration, poor safety, below average fuel economy
TSR Kansai Luxor
Relative Rating: 90.30
“… seems to have toned down some of the excesses of the previous model, yet retains its comfort, but still is hard to figure out. It handles well in routine driving, and can get up over 130 given enough road, but it seems quite out of place…”
Pros: Best in class drivability, high comfort
Cons: Worst in class fuel economy (tie), worst in round reliability, ludicrous purchase price, extremely high maintenance costs, mediocre performance figures
Bogliq Nihilist Empower
Relative Rating: 91.50
Fixture violation: Rear side marker (incorrect color) (further violations will result in penalty)
“…engine screams its glorious song as you push it through the range of throttle. This will, hopefully, drown out the screams of pain from your back…”
Pros: Fastest 0-60 (tie), best in class safety, great lateral acceleration
Cons: Poor comfort, poor reliability, nightmare for maintenance, handling can be unpredictable
ACA Apache 350 GTP
Relative Rating: 96.25
“…a truly worthy grand tourer. Smart, comfortable, and willing in nearly every aspect. However, it’s a bit hard on the skidpad, and quite hard on the wallet…”
Pros: Best in class comfort, prestigious model, best in class practicality, good economy, highest top speed, good acceleration
Cons: High purchase price, high maintenance cost, poor handling
Exhausted. Will post the next round’s rules in the morning, along with the up to date overall scores.