Some Experiences with the Less Usual Cars by DAVID SCOTT-MONCRIEFF

THE description of the Renault “45 ” in an old copy of the Motor, lying in a waiting room, unloosed a flood of memories. The earlier model ” 455 ” possessed it feature not described in the catalogues. If you burst one of the great. big front tyres the front braking system gave a terrific snatch. We missed the telegraph pole and nothing worse happened than a hole in a hedge and some cross-country motoring. A similar car, I heard later, suffering from the same affliction, stood on one corner and its occupants were found, to be no longer alive. Still, the ” 45 ” Renault was, in its day, a very pleasant means of progression when one had more friends and luggage than one could cram into the ” 30/98.” The estimated petrol consumption of 11-13 m.p.g. for the

” 45 ” is wildly optimistic. It was nothing like as good as that, in fact it was somewhere down on a level with the Isotta-Frasehini and almost; the nicest car I ever had, a Continental Phantom If Rolls. This cur had an astonishingly good performance which it executed in eomplete silence. It just sighed, in a wellbred sort. c.f way, and was somewhere else, which caused earnest people in gaily coloureit buzz boxes with stone guards over their dummy hub caps considerable chagrin. Talking of petrol consumption the two big cars I know, which are outstanding in this respect, are the S.S.K. Merc&hs and the Lincoln Zephyr. My S.S.K., with its compressor used sparingly, averaged 13-1 4 ox.p.g. regularly and even more remarkable was my twelve-cylinder Zephyr which, unless driven rather hard, gave me an unfailing 11)-20 m.p.g. I have talked to other Lincoln Zephyr owners about this, some of whom claim as high as 22 m.p.g. How lucky it was to be born in time to drive ears before they became era npletely standardised. There were some pretty remarkable ones Imilt during the decade after the last war. Who, I wonder, remembers the Excelsior, a big Belgian of about 6 litres ? I never owned one, lad used to drive one with a coupe body of which the doors con sistently stuck. It was one of those very handsome ears with an extremely high radiator and the roof only about 18 inches above it.. This didn’t matter enormously ; but when the carburetter caught lire through a sticky inlet valve, the rapid evacuation of ray somewhat Regency slurped person throug11 it window no more than 14 inches deep was mml, appreciated by the Onlookers. Then there was a Farman, a lovely car with. a body built of nolislaal mahogany arid fastened with copper like a boat. It went beautifully, but as soon as 70 miles SW hour was attained, bang, bang. bang went all the big ends. The crankshaft was reground, the oiling system checked

and rechecked, but it. was never cured and the owner finally sold it to someone it long way away. Whether the purchaser got it right in the end I never heard. A man I knew, the father of Buddy Fetherstonehaugh, band leader and racing driver, had a Barronne Viale that looked very like an Isotta. It was pretty. comfortable and ran very smoothly, but did nothing very amusing in the way of performance. Then there were shoals of small Italian cars, nearly all called by initials and mostly extremely well built. and well designed engineering jobs. The only one of these I ever got. really attached to was the old Targa Florio Bala, a grand old lady who I run quite sure has been driven as hard as she would go all her life and has never broken a thing. I do hope she has found a kind home.*

There was .a car made near Vienna called the Graf and Stilt. Why it was called the Count and Monastery I shall never know. You might just. as well call a car the ” Goat and Compasses.” I believe one did once conic to England, but I never saw it, although I drove several of them a lot in Austria. They were beautifully made, very strong, well sprung and adequate, if not brilliant, performers. The company was last heard of making heavy lorries for the German war-effort. I lut.ve had two air-cooled ears, a Frank qi,,be was broken-up, nho, many years nizo, after Kurulake had foul his fun Out of 111T. InIt before the cad MAW:IMO inserted a 23)00 Vauxhall engine In her,

lin and a little French S.A.R.A. The Franklin was a lovely car, but the SAILA. was a nasty, noisy, little thing with neither comfort nor performance. I can’t think why anyone ever bought one or, even more remarkable, made them under licence in Scotland !

In Hungary and Roturemia I drove the small Tatra a certain amount. It had little, I thought, apart front strength and good springing to commend it and reminded me of the old air-cooled Rover Eight twin of the early nineteen twenties.

have never driven one of the big ones wit It a VS engine mounted aft, but I hear that it is rather a line motor-car and a great improvement On the Crossley and the Burney, and a very early experiment on these lines, that I drove many years ago in Germany, called a Rumpler.

By the way, if you are ever allowed to go motoring in Eastern Europe again go and have a look at the Tatra mountains after which the ears are called. This is some of the loveliest country of its kind in Europe and very few English people seem to have discovered it. fn addition, in winter there is tual.vtificent. skiing, priees are very cheap and the cooking is of some interest. I was always rather surprised that the Czechs did not turn out a better car than the small Tatara as speaking generally they are jolly fine engineers. Even the Hungarians, that horsiest of nations, had it go at ranking it car. But it did not eome up to their horses, I heir wine or their gals, all of which are

tops. It wits made by the big engineering works of Weiss Manfred and was a poorly finished copy of an out-of-date American. The two that I drove had absolutely nothing to commend them ; I don’t think I can remember driving anything much nastier.

The Swiss make or made at least one car, the Martini. The one I drove was like everything else. Swiss, good, solid and expensive. The design seemed to have been profoundly influenced by Italy. We are rather apt to think of such few Swiss as are not engaged in making enekoo-eloeks or ministering to tourists as yodeling up mountains after goats; but they have many very large engineering works and are nuignitieent engineers. The Swiss built also a Picard-Pietet, which looked good, but I never drove one.

The Roumanians never needed to build ears. They had lots of oil which they sold to U.S.A. and got all the latest model American ears in large quantities. Even in 1941 all the taxis in litteltairest were huge shiny up-to-date American sedans.

Some years buck I drove a Swedishbuilt Volvo. I liked it.. It was a competent, effective sort of car, as profoundly influenced by American design as the Martini was by Italian. I only drove it over some very indifferent Scandinavian roads, but it scented to me that its European parentage had saved it from a great. deal of that spongy, floppy, featherbed feeling from which American cars Of that date suffered so badly. There mast have been a score or more obscure makes of Geri-aim ears, many examples of them never reaching this country. Two I remember because of associations. There was the Hattornag, built, in large quantities, which caused one to suspect that the Jowett. Company had engaged Barry Tate as their chief draughtsman and gone into the fowlh011Se bIlSilleSS. Any Gernein comedian on the singe of a muskc hall had simply to say the word Ilanomag ‘ and he got the same immediate response that his opposite number gets here by a mere whispered mention of the words ” kipper “

or ” mother-in-law.” It never failed. But I must admit, that the old Hanomags went for ever without a day’s trouble, like the .lowett., and made just the same

” phitten-ti ” noise. Another little-known Germami car that springs immediately to my mind was the Grade-Werke. For, of the two which, I believe, came to England, I had One when r was about fifteen ; the second four-wheeled car I ever owned. The first was an A. V. Monoear, which you started, believe it or not, by pulling a sort of lavatory chain, complete with plug, out of the back and running backwards with it. The Grade Werke was an even more amazing car. It had one enormous two-stroke cylinder, and frietiica drive like a G.W.K. It bristled, however, with features years ahead of its time, chassis and body as one, a hood that you pulled up with one Hick of the wrist and,

besides this, it must have been the first amphibious car to be put into production. in 1930 I drove tlw production dieselengines’ Mercedes car at Stuttgart, Unterturidwinf. They lent me one for a few days while may S.S.K. was being Overhauled. I was altogether damned by it. It was surprisingly lively acd they had managed to eradicate the characteristic diesel knock. The roadholding tanl steering were excellent. I don’t: believe, though, that, any were sold in England becaose of the disproportionately high ‘,rice they were asking for theta. I took out too, this was a year or so later, the fabled ” Grosser Mercedes. I did not like it very much. There was far too much Of it, and it had none of that quality so marked in a Phantom III Rolls, although this latter car is smaller, of causing you to forget that you are driving a large car. You felt the whole

that you were driving something built specially for a few privileged officials who wanted it built bigger just for the sake of being bigger. I must say it went like a bomb on the Autobahn and behaved perfeetly, but I just didn’t like it, there was a sort of nightmare quality about it.

And so, as the cavalcade of years draws on. the men-toles mount up. I’ve had over a quarter of a century of really amusing motoring and I’m only Iwo years over forty. I started when I was thirteen with an incredibly old motor-tricycle wit Ii one puny cylinder complete wi th automatic inlet, valve slung aft and a driving licence obtained by falsifying my age by six months. Up any hill more than a slight gradient I had to pedal madly to assist the engine. I nuty not have made money like Jack Barclay, or achieved fame like Raymond Mays, both approximately my contemporaries, but I’ve had twenty-live years of about as amusing motoring as anybody. Those years hold wonderful memories, and still there is a great deal of fun to come–even at 3s. Id. a