Cars in books, December 1977

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This column leans this month on a reader, Mr. J. S. Derry of South Africa who writes as follows:

Would the following be of any use for the feature “Cars in Books”? In “Over Seventy” by P. G. Wodehouse, published by Herbert Jenkins, Wodehouse writes in Chapter three, second paragraph, as follows: “My income rose like a rocketing pheasant. I made £505 1s. 7d. in 1906 and £527 17s. 1d. in 1907 and was living, I suppose, on £203 4s. 9d. In fact, if on November 17th, 1907, I had not bought a second-hand Darracq car for £450 (and smashed it up in the first week) I should soon have been one of those economic royalists who get themselves so disliked.”

Somewhere, Bertie Wooster speaks of his “Widgeon Seven” hitting nicely on all four cylinders; this I think can only be an Austin Seven.

I bought my first copy of Motor Sport in January 1954, and have only missed three since then; once due to being o holiday and two due to Rhodesian sanctions. The two latter I managed to borrow. I have often thought of giving it up since I am not in the economic class which buys the cars you so admire but the magazine is so interesting that it’s like a drug – I can’t stop buying it.

Having been born in 1913 I deduce that I am a contemporary of Mr. Boddy. From 1928 to 1939 I read Motor Cycling and from 1945 to 1953 I read Motor Cycle. I envy D.S.J. his ownership of a four-cylinder Honda though I fear I have failed to progress and heaven is an overhead-camshaft Velocette. My present car is a Peugeot 404.

Best wishes and nostalgic sighs to W.B., D.S.J, and Motor Sport – the book one can’t give up.

Then I am indebted to Mr. R. H. Canter of Bentley for recommending “The Remainder Biscuit” by Robert Hartman (Andre Deutsch, 1964), wherein appear some interesting motoring references and a fascinating account of life at Eton in some museum”. It would throttle down to 10 m.p.h. in top gear. But no sale was made because Mr. Hartman Snr, thought that the French were the best mechanics in the World so he would have a French car. He chose a Hotchkiss, “a splendid car which had been built to resemble as much as possible a Victoria or a piece of Hepplewhite furniture. It had a low round bonnet, doors at the side, a hood which excluded the driver, no windscreen, a display of large brass lamps, and a horn which boasted of a yard or more of flexible brass rubbing between the bulb and the voice”. It was apparently a 1906 model (so could the Rolls-Royce which the Hon. C. S. Rolls demonstrated have been an early 40/50?). An ex-Royal Navy Submarine-fitter called Sanger was appointed to drive the Hotchkiss and was “taken to London and provided with a chauffeur’s winter and summer, fine-weather and foul-weather, outfits”. Alas, he made heavy weather of maintaining this fine Hotchkiss and while it was out of action, and a pit was being dug in the stables for Sanger to get beneath it, a Vulcan was purchased. This also proved stubborn and on one occasion when it was going Mr. Hartman ran over a little girl outside Egham Station. She was quite unharmed, the wheels passing on either side of her, but Mr. Hartman decided to give up owning cars and to hire them in future- which he did, a steam car, which blew up, being engaged to take his son to Eton. – W.B.

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