I was interested in Mrs. Ashenden’s letter. Perhaps a list and brief description of the cars I have owned may also bring back nostalgic memories to some readers, and might be entitled “Motoring on a Shoe-string,” as all the fourteen motorcycles and twelve cyclecars and cars were bought secondhand.
Starting in 1919, the motorcycles included two Indians, a 1916 Harley-Davidson, two 2-speed Scott Squirrels, A.J.S. and an A.B.C. (the instruction book of which I still possess), and I obtained much enjoyment from participating in local Club events. Those were the days when we were able to organise our speed hill-climbs on the public roads.
In 1924 I acquired a 1916 Grand Prix Morgan 3-wheeler, which was very reliable. I was not so lucky with the 1922 G.N. which followed it and soon replaced it with another G.P. Morgan, this time a 1921 model, the bodywork of which my brother altered to resemble the then new “Aero” model.
After two years I unwisely traded this for a 1922 Citroën 7.5 which was rather sluggish and was soon disposed of; it was replaced by a 1924 Rhode sports 2-seater with 10-h.p. o.h.c. engine. This car also proved to be disappointing, though I was rather attracted by the sporting body and large outside copper exhaust pipe. The crankshaft broke late one night and my wife and I were faced with a 10-mile walk home, but were saved this by the owner of a 2-litre H.E. who happened to be going our way.
I had a new crank fitted by my local garage, the total cost, including dismantling and fitting, being only £11, and quickly resold the Rhode. I then managed to find another G.P. Morgan, this time a 1924 model with 10-h.p. water-cooled o.h.v. Anzani engine. I ran this 3-wheeler for about two years with absolute reliability, not very fast but the big engine would take it practically anywhere in top.
My wife and I had some good camping holidays with these economical and simple little cyclecars, mainly in North Wales and the West Country, with our equipment carried in a box lashed on top of the tail.
Eventually I changed to a 1923 8/18 Talbot 2-seater. This was a charming little car in spite of its solid rear axle. The o.h.v. engine was silky and silent and one could touch 40 m.p.h. in 2nd gear. After two years good service the 8/18 gave place to a 1926 10/23 Z10 4-seater Talbot which was in mint condition, having only covered about 16,000 miles, although about five years old. I paid £60 for this car; the price when new I believe was £350. It had been specially fitted with front-wheel brakes and was a very refined car though rather over-bodied for its engine, which was a slightly-enlarged version of the 8/18. After three or four years I reluctantly sold it and tried an entirely different type of car, a 1931 12-h.p. 6-cylinder Wolseley Hornet with Eustace Watkins sports body. It had good acceleration but I did not like it and yearned for another Talbot, and was able to find a 2-seater version of my previous Z10 model, which had been specially fitted with a centre bearing to the propeller shaft, overcoming the tendency to a vibration period at about 45 m.p.h. which I had experienced on the 4-seater.
I ran this car for nearly six years till the war forced me to lay it up, and I eventually disposed of it for £8 and went back to pedal cycling.
It was not till 1950 that I was able to afford another car, owing to the post-war inflated secondhand prices—oh, how I wished I had kept the Talbot – but I managed to find a 1933 Austin Seven saloon in very good order for £78.
This gave the usual reliable service expected from those lovable little vehicles for the next five years, after which I sold it to a neighbour who ran it for a further five. It is still about this district, running and looking as well as ever although nearly 30 years old. I am wondering if the new Austin Minis will last as long. After parting with this car I was lucky enough to find a 1938 Austin Big Seven 4-door saloon. It was advertised as in impeccable condition and this proved to be no exaggeration, and had covered just over 40,000 miles. Even today, after seven years in my possession in which I have doubled this mileage, the original chromium and cellulose would do credit to many modern cars a year or two old. Not fast by modern standards but will cruise happily at 45 m.p.h. all day, which is enough for me under present traffic conditions. Last summer, having 73,600 miles on the clock and using rather a lot of oil but still running perfectly, I had the engine taken out for the first time since new. Reboring, new mains and big-ends and a few new valves were all that were required, and after running-in it appears as good as new. The crank did not even require regrinding.
I should be quite happy to keep this little vehicle for the rest of my motoring life, and may probably have to unless one day, who knows, I may be able to afford a secondhand VW.
G. C. GIDDINGS