London-Edinburgh Rolls-Royces


The correspondence and photographs which you published last summer about the London-Edinburgh Rolls-Royce and the "Brooklands" car bred speculation enough to suggest that a further fragment on the same subject may be of interest.

Not long ago I was fortunate enough to spend an evening in Cape Town with G. R. N. Minchin, who will be known to Rolls-Royce enthusiasts as the author of "Under My Bonnet" and "The Silver Lady". Neville Minchin was an "Edwardian" motorist with all the right ideas and a personal friend of Sir Henry Royce, so it is not surprising that he answered my questions on the early and sporting "Ghosts" with complete authority. In "Under My Bonnet", G. R. N. Minchin wrote on page 113: "The type London to Edinburgh was the semi-sporting, slightly tuned-up model, the nearest approach Rolls-Royce would make to a 'sports' car. In 1911 a specially-tuned model had been driven from London to Edinburgh on top gear, averaging 23 m.p.g., and on Brooklands track had done 101 m.p.h., a truly remarkable performance. From that car had sprung the type referred to."

I asked whether this implication of a single car was historical fact or a piece of journalistic simplification—entirely permissible in an autobiographical book. Swiftly the answer came: "Fact", which Neville Minchin confirmed by recalling that he had driven the car many times when it was in Cambridge and owned by his friend, E. M. Lees. Mr. Lees, it seems, was enthusiastic but unreasonable. He grumbled that the bonnet squeaked and he resented the fact that the car would not reproduce on the road the 100 m.p.h. it achieved at Brooklands. As the four-seater body was a lash-up for the Edinburgh journey and the chassis was fitted with a racing shell and a high axle ratio for the Brooklands run, his complaints were not taken very seriously. Neville Minchin remembered, too, the colour: which fortunately as I've now put away my paint brushes) checked with what I had previously been told. I have no doubt that as a bonus to a delightful and diverting evening with Mr. and Mrs. Minchin another small piece of early Rolls-Royce history has clicked into place.