Vintage Postbag, April 1953


Under the heading “Progress?” your correspondent J. D. K. Watson described his early experiences with a Calcott which his father bought in 1925. In case the ritual of “cooking” the magneto in an oven and changing the plugs while the engine was running should dismay possible owners of this make, may I tell you of my own experiences?

I have now a 12-h.p. Calcott first registered in February, 1920 (DH 1930). It had been left out in the open for I don’t know how long and looked a very sad sight as a result. I was told the car had only done 2,500 miles, which the four figure milometer ambiguously confirmed, and which I accepted with mixed feelings.

It came by rail to the nearest station and was towed to the garage. I decided the engine must be made to go first of all. I fitted new plugs and leads, remagnetised the magneto, cleaned and refilled the sump, gearbox, differential and radiator with the appropriate liquids; put some petrol in the tank; it started after a few swings. A very thrilling and satisfying moment. The original beaded-edge tyres were quite perished, and a new set were made by Dunlop for less than the cost of those for the majority of current cars. Minimum cover insurance was £14 per annum. [This seems on the high side. — Ed.]  And so I set forth, the car filled with local children who had helped with the cleaning and polishing.

The two-wheel brakes lock the wheels when the pedal is jammed down hard but don’t stop the car very fast. A new battery immediately operated the self-starter and new bulbs in the lights.

Expecting the worst, with wife, two young children and luggage, we set off for a Christmas holiday in Lincoln. The car did its stuff wonderfully, and we averaged 27 m.p.h. and did 26 m.p.g. Using the heaviest grade oil I could get, the consumption for the 300 miles was as near nil as I could measure.

Before the summer I am hoping to repaint the body, re-upholster the seats, and make some sidescreens.

Though I have always been interested in cars in an amateurish kind of way and like to see a motor race whenever possible—a typical reader of Motor Sport, I expect—I can’t claim any great ability or knowledge as a mechanic. Neighbours seem naturally attracted to an old car, and are kind and helpful — as are public libraries. Total costs from June, 1952, to date, and this includes literally everything I bought, are :

Car, new bits, tools, tyres and all things that last, £75 9s. 5d.; petrol, oil, insurance, tax, garage rent and all things which get used up, £36 13S. 3-1/2d..

It’s all great fun and I hope this will encourage anyone who is thinking of getting an old car. I need hardly add that I should be very interested to hear more about Calcotts from anyone.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Sam Scorer.

London, S.E.3.

P.S.—I don’t believe in progress



Regarding the letter from Mr. H. Howell Thomas in “Vintage Veerings,” March issue, perhaps I may be able to help.

(1) Fitting T.V. suppressors to magnetos is not quite so effective as to coil ignition, but the best method would be to fit one suppressor in each plug lead as close to the distributor as possible. The distributor should be cleaned thoroughly first with a soft brush and pure soft soap and water, working the soap into a lather. This will dissolve the deposits on the distributor, which should then be rinsed in running water and dried thoroughly.

(2) As to detergent oils, my opinion is that no detergent oil should be used in any engine not fitted with a full-flow oil filter of the fabric type. The reason being that a detergent oil carries with it particles of carbon in suspension which, unless removed, will deal with any bearings left in the engine in no uncertain manner.

It is a fact, however, that on engines nearing the evening of their useful lives, the collection of sundry lumps of carbon behind the rings and the ridge of carbon round the top of the bore does keep the oil consumption down. The Vauxhall is an excellent example of this trait. I would advise Mr. Howell Thomas to stick to a straight oil of reputable brand and he will find his chariot will rotate for many a moon yet.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Paul Gilbert




Mr. H.  Howell Thomas was fortunate indeed that his local garage advised him not to use the detergent oil in his 1927/8 Humber.

A few months ago I was persuaded to use a well-known detergent oil in my pre-war M.G.  I duly refilled but after a hundred miles or so, I began to wish that I had not, for when re-starting from traffic hold-ups, I laid a smoke screen and my oil pressure began acting strangely.

Upon returning home I drained from the sump a thick black muddy mass. It seemed to me that the oil had dissolved everything but the pistons!  I vowed never again — Castrol for me every time!  There was however, one advantage, I had a complete de-coke without removing a single nut!

I am, Yours, etc.,

C.A.J. Norman

Great Bookham.



I was naturally interested to see Mr. John Barlow’s letter in the March issue and also the photo of my father’s steam car.

There is a number of apocryphal legends anent the latter…   It is said that the steam engine with which it was equipped originally supplied motive-power for a lawn-mower. My ingenious parent extracted it from the mower and installed it in the car illustrated. The corrugated roof, by the way, was in fact the condenser for the power plant.

My father made history by driving it from Carlisle to Edinburgh IN TWO DAYS, and I recall that my mother, who was of a less adventurous disposition, did not approve of such haste.

The car had one highly undesirable habit. It would capsize at the least provocation, so my father elongated the back axle and put a wheel at each end of the axle, thus converting it from a three to a four wheeler. History relates that after this metamorphosis its tendency to over-turn was even more marked, and on one occasion my mother was forcibly ejected from the passenger seat, and, after a number of involuntary gyrations, she eventually found sanctuary in the bottom of a ditch. The weather in Cumberland is often wet and this particular ditch was performing its proper function as a water-course. It was at about this time that I was born, which, all things considered, is a little surprising.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Ivan Carr