Baker's Dozen

An Account of the Cars Owned to Date by Edward G. Pool

Baker’s dozen seems an appropriate title for the story of the thirteen cars, or more accurately vehicles, I have owned since 1945. Particularly as a dictionary of slang lists us an alternative meaning: “To thrash vigorously.”

Early in 1945 I was granted a petrol allowance. I had been wounded and managed to persuade the authorities that a car was necessary for my frequent journeys between the Parachute Regiment Depot near Chesterfield and the Parachute Training School near Ringway, Manchester.

I bought an Austin Nippy. It had an aluminium body and appeared to be in excellent condition. I soon ran into a snag however, for having handed over my cheque, blown up the tyres, removed the bricks and started the engine. I sprang lightly into the driving seat only to find that the upslope of the. floor beneath the pedals conspired with the battery box to wedge my government-issue foot half an inch from the clutch. By chance the pedal still boasted a rubber which with the help of a local cobbler I soon built up enough for my foot to clear the obstructions, the short travel of the Seven clutch proving an advantage. So equipped, I drove home.

During my year of ownership, apart from routine maintenance, it only required my “skilled” mechanical aid twice. Pressure of ice protruded a core plug which was hammered home and the overflow pipe from the header tank was soldered more firmly into position.

There were certain disadvantages contingent to the ownership of this machine. It took careful adjustment to fit my 6 1/4 ft. into the driving compartment, the thickness. of a Regimental Warm being a critical factor during winter time. Motoring with the hood up was wildly, I nearly wrote mildly, impractical and owing to my line of vision I frequently overlooked the “No Right Turn” sign at the Piccadilly end of Berkeley Street, luckily with no police action.

The subsequent owner was at first mystified by the phenomena, common to Sevens, of the ignition lover showing advance at retard and vice versa.

Poor car! She met her Waterloo, to mix a metaphor, after a gunner party at Larkhill. She was reported to have covered two-thirds of the assault course at the time.

My next was a 3-litre Red Label Bentley. Mechanically perfect, superficially pillar-box red with black wings. Inevitably becoming known, at the Airborne Depot, as “The Red Devil.” Tyres were a problem at first, until I tamed a retreader who would accept a cover in the morning for delivery next day.

Driving this car was always a pleasure and we made many fast journeys between Manchester and London together. On one occasion we managed to pass a Monza Alfa-Romeo outside St. Albans, when it wasn’t looking in its mirror. We were promptly repassed, but meanwhile had a speedo reading of 95.

One night we were motoring down the Chester Knutsford road when we ran through a gigantic puddle. On emerging the headlights were out and the starter motor was turning. Switching off the headlamp cured the trouble, and we continued on sidelamps. Everything had dried out the next, day, and all was, thereafter, well.

We parted company one night. I was on the way to a dance when we ran into a patch of mist, came to a right-band bend and burst the near-side front tyre at almost the same moment. The tree we hit, as we sailed over an 8-ft. bank. helped to keep us upright and I continued by taxi. I hadn’t the heart to return to the scene the following day and so sold her without ever seeing her again.

During the Bentley interlude, I had bought a much modified, steel-bodied Austin Nippy with a spare engine. This was a special, but rather roug,. blown Ulster unit. I had intended to modify it along the lines of the Machlachlan car, concerning which Motor Sport was publishing a series of articles: however, after the demise of the Bentley it was pressed into service.

The engine in use was nt unblown, magneto-ignition type. Unfortunately, it only ignited at about 3,000 r.p.m. I had to get from Ringway to Hardwick in a hurry and after a tow start successfully negotiated the trip, including The Cat and Fiddle Pass, only to stall the engine during a fit of inattention, a mile from camp. Mechanically an innocent, I decided to fit the new magneto myself. I followed the instruction book carefully, or so I thought, only to be greeted with a deafening backfire when I pressed the starter. I then adjusted the vernier by trial and error, until the engine ran properly.

I loved this car dearly, and in return she gave me sterling service. Always over revved and over-driven she never let me down, even to winning me a bet by carrying me between Hardwick and Knutsford, over The Cat and Fiddle, with the gear lever sealed in top.

The depot was moved from Derbyshire to the Isle of Wight at this time and I left the Nippy to have the Ulster engine installed. Our C.O. was “I Bought a Mountain” Tom Firhank, who kindly lent me his Bentley (3-litre Red Label) to transport me thither. There is an interesting story concerning this car. One night in Folkestene; Tom Firbank was surprised to see a similar Bentley to his own outside his “local.” Introducing himself to the owner, they made a great libation at the altar of Bentley and subsequently each tried the other’s car. Returning to the car park, they thereupon did a straight swop, confirmed in the cold light of day, and as far as I know this transaction was never regretted by either party.

I was impatient with the delay in getting “bits” for the Austin and bought a supercharged, roller bearing T.T. Lea-Francis, once the property of Mrs. Chetwynd. It was sent from Lancashire to Southampton, chained by the track rod. I couldn’t resist trying the car and so spoilt a retreadable cover. A knowall, who also tried the car, said the steering was as good as a Bugatti, but this didn’t put me off Bugattis, see below.

A large lump had to be removed from the gigantic tank, in order that the driving seat could be adjusted to suit my proportions, and afterwards would never hold pressure and so I converted the fuel feed to twin electric pumps. I enjoyed this car enormously despite lack of stowage space. It also introduced me to speed trials, making nearly slowest time of the day at both Prescott and Brighton, and collapsing a wheel on Pardon in practice and this decided me to buy something for racing only.

had heard of an unsupercharged Type 35 Grand Prix Bugatti, which had always been well maintained before the war, and not used since. It is a good thing to know the history of a car with a roller bearing crank, I bought it. I also bought a “Queen Mary,” sleeve-valve Dainler, to tow the trailer and act as tender. I have three memories of the Daimler: first the respectfully raised hats it commanded, in anticipation of the coffin behind; secondly, its fantastic top gear, hill-climbing power; and thirdly, the row of so necessary priming cocks on the inlet manifold. It never had the honour of towing the Bugatti, as a garagiste who had been ordered to drain the water, failed so to do, and the bIock splintered.

The Bugatti taught me a great deal, though at some cost, for I overdid it once too often on the esses at Prescott, when trying to make up for a bad start, together we flew through the trees. Charles Mortimer was standing at the esses, at the time, and had just said to a young companion : “This chap seems to be taking the right line.” Whereupon Pool hit the bank on the right then the trees on the left. Collapse of young enthusiast.

As a result of the crash I missed the Gransden Lodge meeting, and didn’t drive again until the Manx Cup race, in the Isle of Man. In this race, the Bugatti proved a match for an extremely special B.M.W., despite a very unsuitable gear ratio. However, the bolt securing the ignition lead conduit to the inlet manifold fell out, allowing extra air into the manifold and so weakening the mixture to such an extent that we had to retire.

I had plans to develop this car along the lines of Alan Arnold’s twin-cam Type 51. Stupidly, I decided instead to buy an E.R.A. This was R. II B., Reggie Tongue’s pre-war mount. I soon learnt the folly of allowing the preparation of such a car to be outside one’s personal control. I decided that to set up a private workshop would be too expensive, and so after continual bearing trouble during practice for the British Empire Trophy race, I scrapped an extensive programme and sold the car to Reg Parnell, who put a 2-litre engine in it.

I only drove this car on perimeter tracks; the handling qualities seemed very good, although I found great difficulty in stowing my legs away and often wondered how Tony Rolt, for instance, managed during a long-distance race. As a tender to the E.R.A. I bought a Morris Commercial lorry and the less said about this the better. When I ride in lorries they seem to become afflicted with wheel shedding and this one was no exception.

Then came the Red Petrol Era, and while looking round for a suitable racing car I bought a Ford 10-cwt. van and a spare engine. A peculiarity of the machine was that the performance was immeasurably superior with the oil-swigging, fume-propagating original unit than when the spare engine was fitted.

My next was a 22-h.p. Ford V8, and despite the rude things said about this model, I found it a very satisfactory form of reasonably fast transport. I was motoring along the Newmarket-Cambridge road one day when a lorry driver, who had been waiting for me to pass at a side road, decided he would risk popping out in front of me. It was a pity that he selected top instead of bottom gear, for after a few convulsive jerks he stalled the engine when astride the fairway. I chose the ditch rather than this solid-looking vehicle and suffered no personal damage. The car was comprehensively insured!

I lived, at this time, about five miles from the station and shops, and needed a car to take the place of the old-time dog cart for shopping, visiting the pub and all local journeys. I acquired a 1925, Cloverleaf Renault from the original owner. Often this wonderful machine has carried me on much longer journeys than I originally envisaged for it. Together we were once snowbound at a village near Chippenham. I had to be in London the following day, and after a look at the lanes between the car and the main road, decided I would make an attempt to get up the Bath road. All went well until between Chipnenham and Yatesbury we were held up by a line of cars, on a long hill. A bus was astride the road, at the brow of the hill, and this seemed to be the signal for all car drivers to stop and settle down for the night. When we stopped we were greeted with a few ill-informed remarks about “old crocks” and “I wouldn’t like to be spending the night in that in this weather.” To which I responded that I had every intention of spending the night in London and pulling out of the line, in the face of the ill-disguised and loathing glances from the steamy windows of the stranded tinware, we climbed the hill, passed the obstruction with the help of ditch and verge and continued. The next hill provided another block and here they again “laughed when we continued to drive.” Again with the help of the unfenced roadside gallops we got by the block. If to alter the advertisement, we had been asked “where did you learn to climb hills like this?” we would have to have given some credit to the ground clearance and non-spin-provoking power of our 8 c.v. engine. That night, in the warmth of my flat, I heard the B.B.C. announcement that the Bath Road was blocked . . . Yes, but not by snow!

The twelfth, a 1924 20-h.p. Rolls-Royce limousine. Perhaps a little Gothic in outline, but none the worse for that. As a Rolls fan, all I need say is “She went like a Rolls.”

Climbers are notoriously bad walkers and when climbing in Scotland last winter she took us up impossible-looking, icebound tracks at a fast tickover on the hand throttle, saving me and my companions a great deal of unpleasant walking. Although she had a low maximum speed, she put up a good average over many long journeys and but for the tourist allowance would have carried my family to Sicily this summer.

Number thirteen, I had almost forgotten. A Morris. I can’t remember the year, the horse-power or the model. She was a mid-thirtyish saloon and she towed the Bugatti to many meetings. After a weekend at Shelsley, the master cylinder, the back-axle oilseals, and a big-end gave out, but she got me home, a gallant nondescript

I hope to keep up the average, which will allow me to own about eighty cars during my allotted span. I suspect I shall never possess a turbine vehicle as presumably they will be so costly as only to be available to Cabinet Ministers, senior Civil Servants and trade union bosses.

A pity, but you can’t have everything . . .