To those whose memories of motoring go back to the days immediately following the War, it should not be difficult to recall the peculiar glamour which attached to that period. This may have been due in part to the general reaction from war-time conditions, to the unleashing of enthusiasms pent up during the long
spell of motoring stagnation. Be that as it may, the first models to appear, and the early activities with these motors, seem to be invested with more than usual interest in retrospect, unequalled by anything that followed. To the writer, then a callow youth, avidly devouring word or sign of renewed activities, the first post-War models are
unforgetable. The first Show numbers, eagerly awaited, announced the New Age. And what motors they depicted. Time has dimmed the details, but one recalls vividly the air-cooled flat-twin Rover ; the 11.9 Bean ; the first six-cylinder Siddeley, V radiatored and impressive ; a radial-engined. Enfield of wonderous design ; as well as a host of old favourites developed from their pre-War brethren.
Days of fantastic prices, of motors existing only on paper, for which eager buyers paid incredible deposits on the slender promise of delivery in six months. In the meantime a substantial cheque would secure something pre-War to carry on with. Although listed sports vehicles were few and far between, the standard products seemed more closely allied to the sport than their present-day brothers. These included such rousing cars as G.N., Enfield, A.B.C., Calthorpc, Beardmore, run amply compensated for hours of drudgery with paraffin bath and valvegrinding paste. Then came showrooms and the road. In those days of one or in one’s first trial in a specimen of this marque ; and that through ham-handedness. The Charron-Laycock, regrettably demised, was a beautifully finished car,
two agencies to a business, the multitude of makes handled was surprising. Gwynne, A.13.C., Charron-Laycock, Hillman and a V-twin product of the Armstrong Siddeley Company, the Stoneleigh, were among the lighter metal
A.C., Swift, Lagonda, Carden and A.V. Monocar, any of which would be classed to-day as essentially sporting vehicles. The writer’s interest led him inevitably into a humble position in the motor trade, which he made use of to drive any and everything on wheels that came his way. Experiences came early. A test offered to the public. The Gwynne, with its narrow track and hip-bath body, would hardly he classed as a sports-car to-day, yet it endeared itself by a liveliness quite outstanding in a car of under 1,100 c.c., and would give some 1936 models a run for their money. One has poignant memories of failing on one’s first hill admirably mannered, and a notable performer. One remembers one of the breed running in the first 200-Mile Race, driven by Pradier.* The A.B.C., however, was a vehicle of outstanding sporting interest. A product of Sopwith, with aircraft design much in evidence, this was an enthusiast’s
car par excellence. An o.h.v. air-cooled flat-twin, big brother to the lamented motor-cycle engine of the same breed, delivered no mean poke, and Was a formidable wrist breaker if one was for getful with the ignition. Coupled with a light chassis and a four-speed box it was a fascinating specimen of its time. A dummy radiator, the cap of which formed the petrol tank orifice, caused much confusion among conventionally minded garage hands, and the gear change was unique. The writer’s first visit to London was made to collect one of these cars, and he was abandoned to his fate outside the showrooms by a heartless salesman with more important matters on his mind. Feeling very bucolic, and too timid to ask for irstruction, he wrestled with a deceptively ordinary-looking gear lever for twenty minutes in an agony of confusion, before discovering that it travelled through a vertical gate, and had to be pressed downwards and forward in order to engage first gear. Once mastered, however, it was a very snappy box to handle, and an average of nearly 40 m.p.h. was maintained from London to Doncaster, by way of ” laming it.” It Seems surprising, incidentally, that more interest has not been taken in the A.B.C. as a basis for ” special “motors by the spritit specialists, for the engine, apart from certain inherent — — * It was extensively streamlined and has been illustrated in MOTOR SPORT—En, valve troubles, lent itself admirably to tuning, and was beautifully made. Introduction to the now legendary G.N. was made in somewhat embarrassing cir cumstances. A second-hand specimen reposed in the dimmer recesses of the hundreds of trouble-free miles were covered on them, with never an involuntary stop. (To a true enthusiast, stops to attend to the vagaries of acetylene lighting don’t count—the machinery’s the thing !)
establishment, and, an unlikely looking gentleman in -a bowler hat having betrayed interest in the vehicle, we were Ordered to ” give hint a trundle down the road.” The car in question was a Vitesse model, and the ratios having been sorted out by a process of eliiiiinat
good progress vas made, until the aforementioned headgear blew off. Anxious to demonstrate the car’s versatility, we reversed at speed to retrieve it. To those conversant with G.N. steering no more need be said, beyond. mentioning that the term ” over-correction ” was made abundantly clear to all concerned, and a shaken prospective, purchaser decided that something less exciting would fill his need.
The borrowing of conveyances for week-ends lent itself to fun and games, and materially furthered the education. As junior member of the firm, one was allotted some interesting if uncertain mounts. In this fashion one had intimate moments with such machines as the Bleriot Whippet, with its beefy Blackburne engine and a problematically Variable belt-drive, which passed through the cockpit, protected by a housing. A club might well be formed, on the likes of the Rip-Cord Club*, open exclusively to those who have mended and replaced a broken belt on a Bleriot Whippet on a wet night, heartened by the witticisms of one’s female passenger. Two pre-War Morris-Ox fords featured frequently as leisure-time mounts: grand little cars, both, with the wellknown White & Poppe T-head engine. They required a certain amount of humouring, (plus a little piece of wood to hold the clutch out) when getting away from cold, and their maximum speed was in the very early forties, but many
*Caterpillar Club ?—ED. Another hack vehicle of hallowed memory was a Gkgg Datracq two-seater, on which one driver achieved a record descent of a notorious Lake land pass,
in convoys to London to the auction rooms. This entailed a journey of over 200 miles, frequently on extremely vintage motors, and being willing to try anything once, we were gladly entrusted with the more exciting specimens. One journey without a dull moment was provided by a fourcylinder Sizaire-Naudin of unknown date, of most sporting appearance and homicidal tendencies. A full half-turn of slack in the steering, smooth small section tyres and uncertain carburetter setting were contributing factors to the setting-up of new figures in the All-Comers’ LongDistance Skid in the Edgware Road.
heartily bending a stub axle. Preceding this, a fire in the bonnet was extinguished in the neighbourhood of Hatfield, by a well-meaning road-man, with clods of earth, which did nothing to improve either appearance or performance.
Amongst other memories is a last run. ‘with an Alphonso Hispano, a replica of which we managed to acquire in later days, a Prince Henry Vauxhall, a brace (or should it be scuttle ?) of Scripps Booths, and an early Bearcat Stutz., which looked as though it had come straight from Hollywood, and was about the fastest thing on wheels that at that time could be handled. An outstanding sports motor of the early post-War period was the Hillman. Many readers will remember the rakish aluminium .bodied two-seater, with its distinctive radiator, impressive copper exhaust-system and modern-looking tall. A trifle on the high side to modern -eyes,
due to defective brakes and the loss of bottom gear. His negotiation of the hamlet at the foot must still live in the
memories of the inhabitants. TO the Darracq’s credit, however, it must be recorded that on the up grades not a few post-War models were left astern. Another fruitful source of experience was a system whereby batches of less saleable ” second-handers” were taken but nevertheless a real speed-model. Ray mond Mays successfully commenced his racing career with ” Quicksilver ” of this marque, and Bedford took the
hour record with a similar car. A standard edition, which the writer drove and enjoyed over a long period, was distinctly fast for its day, and was almost as speedy in its high second gear as it was in top.