Cars In Books, April 1981

A reader has kindly lent me a copy of “Arab Command” by Major C.S. Jarvis, CMG, OBE, which Hutchinson’s first published in 1942. It contains some great descriptions of action under the command of Lt.-Col. F.G. Peake-Pasha, CMG, CBE in the days of Lawrence of Arabia, etc., with many good anecdotes. Apart from references to early aeroplanes and armoured cars, the inevitable Model-T Fords, or “Tin Lizzies”, feature. Two were noted, well down on the back axles, each carrying a box containing £30,000 worth of gold, from Akaba to El Guera.

Lawrence and Peake used Model-Ts for inspections and Lawrence for some remarkable long, lone journeys across the unlit desert. The Ford of those days is described as “. . . . the only car that would stand up to rough desert travel, partly due to its very high clearance and its system of transverse springing. Moreover, it was a car that suited the Oriental driver, as it would put up with any treatment, and would continue to run satisfactorily when something like 25% of its essential parts were roughly contrived makeshifts, fashioned from such things as hairpins, lengths of telegraph wire, portions of iron railway sleepers and tyre levers.” [One wonders where they obtained hairpins, in the desert? — Ed.] When Lawrence and Peake had an overheating engine in the Tafileh area, due to a shortage of lubricating oil, the Ford ran well on oil made from the seed of the sunflower.

Later in the book it is mentioned that Peake acquired a Model-T Ford for his inspection work, regarding it as equal to the up-to-date eight-cylinder cars in the desert, whose “very resilient suspension of the latest models is no improvement on the primitive transverse springing of the old cars for really tough going”.  Peake covered very long distances in his Ford, such as the 250 desert miles to Akaba from the Syrian border, and on to the eastern frontier.  In 1930 he bought a DH Moth and was taught to fly it at the RAF aerodrome at Amman, by Roger Atcherley.  The Moth was burned out after an accident when Atcherley’s joystick became detached but Peake bought another aeroplane and used it for his inspections.  The book does not illustrate these Model-T Fords but there are pictures of later American cars and trucks, including Model-B Fords, which the American-car buffs could identify, and Major Glubb is mentioned many times, the relation of Mrs. Gwenda Stewart from our world. – W.B.