Cars in books, January 1959

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Those who keep their eyes open for references to cars in novels, biographies and autobiographies, will be surprised how frequently actual makes are named.

Reading Robert Standish’s account of the somewhat lurid life of E. Phillips Oppenheim, titled  “The Prince of Storytellers,”  I was disappointed that the famous writer’s early cars are not named therein, because he kept a chauffeur before the 1914 war (paying him 30s. a week) and retained one after the Armistice (his wage increased to 70s. a week). There is, however, a later reference (apart from a hint that Oppenheim hired Daimlers while on a visit to London) that he owned a big Wolseley in the years immediately preceding, and during, the second World War. Oppenheim lived near Monte Carlo, to which the thoughts of motoring enthusiasts turn this month. After moving to Guernsey he pined to return to the Riviera and, abruptly, the Wolseley was shipped to France and Hill, the chauffeur, started on a drive of nearly 1,000 miles with the entire household, to a house Oppenheim had bought at Roquefort-les-Pins. Already petrol was rationed and had to be bought in the black market en route. The Oppenheims were still in Roquefort when British families were evacuated from Cannes, and when they finally came to England by way of Spain and Portugal the Wolseley  —  could it have been a 25 h.p.?  —   remained in its garage in France by order of the enemy. Perhaps it is still there!

From “One Man … Many Parts” it is evident that Lord Gorell is not particularly fond of the motor car. He even refers to “a recklessness rivalling that of racers in a modern motor-car rally” apropos of a drive behind a drunken coachman. But Lord Gorell does tell us that his father, isolated eight miles from Colchester and ten from Ipswich, added a car to the dogcart and landau before the 1914-18 war.  It was a big Napier, at the wheel of which the footman, allowed for once to take the wheel, swept up the drive in a grand manner, mistook the accelerator for the brake, and demolished the front porch of Stratford Hills House!

Lord Gorell bought a car of his own, circa 1921, but omits to inform readers of his interesting and stimulating autobiography as to its make.  —  W.B.

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