Veteran to classic

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

The roads of the 1920s

At the end of 1928, Owen John was commenting in his diary on a Citroen Six chassis which was on display in the company’s palatial Devonshire House showrooms in Piccadilly at the time of the Olympia Motor Show. I am not certain when Citroen took over these strategically placed and historic premises, but it was probably there that I went with my mother in 1924 to buy a car.

Times were hard, business anything but brisk, so the young salesman who advanced to meet us must have felt happy at the prospect of a sale. He was less pleased when we asked for one of the excellent clockwork Citroens then available, having moreover to climb up a step ladder to bring down the box. And, since I preferred the reproduction of a 7.5hp two-seater to the four-seater tin-plate model, all he took was 10/6d, and not 15/– for the one my mother was offering me!

Browsing through these old OJ diaries, one is reminded that by 1928 light aeroplanes were very much the “in thing”. So much so that a leading motoring weekly devoted an editorial to discussing the advantages and drawbacks of the aeroplane versus the car.

Racing drivers were beginning to use light aeroplanes, of which the DH60 Moth was then the leading machine, for travelling to and from race circuits, and the Hon David Tennant (whom I associate with cars such as Beardmores and Leyland Eights) kept his Moth at Brooklands, he and his wife using a Chummy Austin 7 as tender to it. Soon, however, many drivers discovered that the weather all too often grounded them in those pre-radio and beacon days, and gave up flying as transport. It is different today, but in the intermediate period the lure of flight cost Graham Hill his life.

I find confirmation of the unsuitability of small aeroplanes as serious pre-war transport in a very entertaining book, Judge For Yourself (William Kimber, 1986) by Sir Peter Bristow, a High Court judge. Describing his air experiences (he first flew in a Moth at Heston, was taught in them at Lympne, soloed on an Avro Cadet at Hanworth in 1934 and flew nearly 1416 hours in all), the author says that even with wartime Percival Proctors the success of A-to-B flights was one in three attempts in winter, twice in three in summer. I was glad to find in the same book a reference to the V12 Lincoln Zephyr belonging to Ewen Montagu (whom I once interviewed for Motor Sport), which was used to travel to a case in Droitwich.

In November OJ again went to the dinner which followed what he still termed the “Old Crocks’ Run”, travelling to Brighton in a big Daimler but missing the actual procession because it took place on a Sunday and his duties as a churchwarden kept him late. He complained that after-dinner dancing was restricted to those wearing evening dress, which those returning home that night did not have with them. As compensation, that vintage Daimler was “swift and silent”.

None other than Sammy Davis, speaker at the aforesaid dinner, was speculating in 1928 on what fun it would be if there was racing on Boxing Day — although few would want it after the Christmas festivities — reminding his readers that the MCC London-Exeter trial used to start on Boxing Night but was now a day later.

I have attended motor racing at Brands Hatch on Boxing Days, when Graham Hill came as Father Christmas, and for some years my “Boxing Day Barters”, run with the support of Motor Sport, started on Boxing Night. But now the celebrated MCC event (although, thank St Christopher, still with a night section) is not run until well into January, and racing at Christmas has ceased. Maybe, as Davis observed, we are less tough than the drivers of vintage times …

Oh, and while I am digressing, did you know that when the M-type MG Midget first appeared it was called by one well-known motor journal the Morris Midget? In 1928 another section of the Barnet by-pass was completed, although trees had yet to be planted alongside what was then a very open road. And early in 1929, on a journey to Coventry to try the latest Humber, OJ was pleased to find Daventry by-passed. Even now such by-passes still await construction, but in my home area only recently Kington, Bewdley, Leominster and Ledbury have been thus relieved of through traffic — and some of the romance of the road has evaporated.

It was in the snows of January that OJ made his journey to Coventry. He was full of praise for the road which ran from Oxford to Northampton “cutting across to Towcester”, by which I assume he meant what is now the A43; he said no other long-distance road equalled its “never-ending-ness”, like a rail-less railroad, huge with traffic. He turned off it to get to Daventry and Coventry, and I think perhaps the route was rather different then.

Coventry brought forth more praise from OJ for its magnificent churches and other ancient buildings which, he said, should be made to stand out from the central expanse instead of being encumbered by very second-rate buildings: “Coventry is worth preserving, and improving, for where else do history and manufacture, proverb and legend, jostle each other more closely?” Well, it took Hitler to do the improving!

Here OJ took over a new 20/65hp Humber (the first four-cylinder car he had driven was a Coventry Humber, in 1906; his Talbot had been a two-cylinder). He took it up the excellent, but once very much otherwise, road to Stonebridge and Lichfield and on through Rugeley to the Potteries, still the old narrow lane with most of its endless corners. From Rugeley to Stone, via Weston, the going improved and thereafter became very good. Turning half-right where the tramlines of Birmingham were being removed, a fine road sped the Humber to murky Stoke-on-Trent, where OJ noted the new Michelin factory which employed some 1500 men. At Leek the snow lay thick and crisp and even, so after a lunch at the “excellent” Red Lion Hotel, where Frenchmen were also eating the roast pork, he left the busy silk town and drove over the hills to Ashbourne, a foot of melting snow, dense fog and lots of traffic bringing out what OJ called “the vintage of the new Humber”. He thought the braking power as good as any of the features of this roomy, well-sprung car, which “behaved delightfully” on the 120 mile test. Avoiding Derby and more hills, he returned via Uttoxeter, Abbott’s Bromley, Bagot’s Park and through “all sorts of quiet little Meynell country villages” to Lichfield again, where the snow had turned to rain. WB

You may also like

Related products