” BEE-BFE ” ASKS-WHY NOT?
GEORGE, believes in doing himself well. He also believes in holding forth to his friends on all matters with which he has any connection, and a good many with which he has none. However, a heavy lunch and some of George’s rather special sherry had left me at peace with the world. George is our trials secretary.
“The trouble with trials to-day,” boomed George, filling his largest pipe from my pouch, ” is that they are too. easy.”
” When I used to ride a motorcycle we had real trials. Miles of colonial sections, mud simply feet deep, and hills I ” words failed him as he tried to convey an impression of the frightful acclivities which he had conquered. ” What clubs really ought to have for going round those courses is something that will go over anything,—practically amphibian, you know—a sort of light tank, with apparatus for laying dye” his voice gradually receded into the distance, like a squadron of bombing planes crossing the sky,
“There you are,” said George, ” now we can go and choose the course for our next trial in comfort, I’ve got sonic good ideas for it.”
” I bet you have, but what’s this idea for a ,start ? ” I asked, indicating the strange device to which George had led me.
“That is my patent go-anywhere motorcar specially designed for clubs. to use in laying trials.”
The vehicle appeared to be mainly tyres. There were eight of these, fitted in pairs to twin wheels. I looked at the axles ; they both looked like back ones, as no steering seemed visible. The body was very small, and perched in the centre of the mechanism. No engine was evident. “Well, it looks original ; which end goes first, and why this sudden boom in rubber ? “
“That’s the whole beauty of it,” replied George, “it goes equally well in either direction, so that it cannot get stuck in a narrow lane. The engine is air cooled, so that it could cross a desert.”
“Vt ho wants to cross a desert, anyway ? “
“Don’t be silly. People often do.”
“Sorry, but 1 don’t—often, anyway, as I said before, why all the spare tyres ? “
” Those aren’t spare tyres ; surely you’ve seen a car with twin rear tyres before.”
“All right, but you must break news like this gently. Are all these tyres rear ones ? ” “Of course not. I’d explain if you wouldn’t interrupt so much. The engine
drives all four wheels, so they all have twin tyres. It would go over any surface ; you simply couldn’t stop it if you tried.” “That’s rather awkward. “What ),
“Shut up ! You know what I mean. It is the best drive it’s possible to have and it gives such a symmetrical appearance.”
” It looks like a spider wearing carpet slippers, if that’s what you mean,” I replied.
” Very funny, aren’t you ? But I tell you this is going to be a big thing. I shouldn’t wonder if the War Office takes it up. Think of it in places like Africa, where there are no roads.” “There are roads in Africa ; I’ve got a cousin out there, and he tells me,—”
“I mean in the wild, undeveloped country, where there are only savages and things.”
” Great ! ” I said. ” The savages could gather round and worship it.” ” You’ve no enterprise,” complained George, who seemed to be getting somewhat peeved, “just wait till you’ve been out in it. Come on and get in.” •
” Just a moment. It’s a small point, I know, but there appears to be no steering. It just has two back axles. How do you manage about that ? “
“Of course it’s got steering,—very neat, too, as the wheels always follow in track. The chassis is articulated centrally.”
“The chassis is how much ? ” I asked.
“Centrally artic bends in the middle, you fool! ” he yelled, completely exasperated. “Get in and we’ll go.”
I complied. The seating seemed reminiscent of a pony trap in which I had travelled when young. We sat facing each other, with the steering column (vertical) between us, and what I took to be the dashboard at one side of us, or relative to the vehicle, at one end of the body, or cockpit, or whatever the thing called itself. The engine, of rather peculiar appearance, occupied the other end. Sundry pedals occupied whatever bit of floor I tried to rest my feet on.
Another glance at the supposed dashboard showed me a fearsome array of knobs and switches.
“Well, George, I didn’t know you played the organ before. Why aren’t there labels for the different stops ? ” He put on a superior air and proceeded to explain in the tone one employs to instruct small children in the mysteries of mechanics. Some df the knobs, it appeared, were to do with the differen tials in the two axles. If one wheel spun in soft ground, it could be independently
cut out and the drive concentrated on the others. This seemed to make for brightez driving, as you would have to watch the wheels.
By this time we had reached a very sticky piece of going, which we traversed with a sinuous motion, and shortly came on a steep grass slope, up which the device wheezed and clanked, while George played tunes on the knobs.
“What are the pedals for ? ” I asked. ” Press one and see,” he said.
The first pedal produced a loud hissing noise, and glancing round I noticed we were leaving a narrow trail of blue dye, ejected with such force as to leave quite a cloud of powder in the air behind us. I pressed another and the vehicle promptly rose vertically about 4 feet. At least, the wheels remained on the ground, but the centre of the chassis, with all the mechanism, rose, and the vehicle proceeded with its back arched.
“That’s for crossing small rivers without getting wet,” remarked George. “Quite,” I remarked, trying to appear unmoved and treading on two more pedals, to the accompaniment of more hissing and another cloud of dye, red and blue mixed this time. Another feverish tramp round the floor of the vehicle produced the desired result, we sank once more to our normal position, and proceeded in peace over the battered countryside, getting more and more shaken about as it grew rougher—and rougher—and
“Wake up and come out, you lazy hound,” George was shouting, shaking me violently the while, “we’re just off to have a look at next Saturday’s course that I was talking about.”
” You go by yourself,” I replied, collecting myself gradually, and making sure nothing was broken. ” I’ve been.”
“What the devil do you mean ? You don’t even know where it goes.”
“I tell you I’ve had enough for to-day.”
“The man’s mad,” said George. “Wake up and come along or it will be dark before we’ve done anything.” “Oh, all right, have it your own way,” I grunted. You see, it’s no use arguing
with George. “BEE-BEE.”