Cars in Books, January 1961

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Continuing to look for references to cars in non-motoring books, in ” Child Of the Twenties,” by Frances Donaldson (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1959), there is passing reference to an A.G., owned by her father, Teddy Lonsdale, and a later Morris-Oxford, both presumably vintage, and to her flying lessons, culminating in getting her A-licence on an Avro Avian and D.11. Moth, at the ” smallest licensed aerodrome in England,” somewhere in Sussex. Apparently the Moth was so badly serviced that it was afterwards displayed at Heston as an example of how not to maintain an aeroplane. (I cannot believe that you landed aeroplanes in those days by ” switching off the engine “—throttling back is presumably meant—or that the light ‘planes of those days had brake pedals.) The author is obviously a keen motorist, because she refers to the pleasure she gets when ” I drive my very fast car to London these days.”

Then, from ” Publish and Be Damned,” by Hugh Cudlipp (Andrew Dakers, 193), we learn that early in the war, before it acquired two Dennis fire-pumps, the Daily Mirror Civil Defence team used “a 1913 Packard fire engine they had picked up for a song and pressed into action.” Where, one wonders, is it now, should it have survived the scrap-metal drive. This book also tells us how at week-ends Harry Guy Bartholomew, Chairman of the Mirror and Pictorial from 1944 to 1951, ” drove his RollsRoyce at 70 to 80 m.p.h. to his boat on the Norfolk Broads.” I also came across some intriguing references to motoring in Looking Rack,” the autobiography of the Duke of Sutherland (Odhams Press, 1957). The Duke recalls that the first car seen in Sutherland was ” a fantastic steam car that could be heard chugging its way down the roads, belching forth steam, long before it came into sight,” driven by the American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, This may give veteran-car experts a clue to its make, for most steam cars proceed in silence ! Later we read of the second car to come to the country; Winston Churchill’s ” small red 10-h.p. Mors car, driven in a most dangerous fashion by a French chauffeur.” The year suggested is about 1899. Later the Duke of Sutherland recalls being driven round London by the Hon. C. H. Rolls in one of the first Rolls-Royce cars—” an excellent driver “—of a balloon ascent with Rolls that ended at Owlsmoor behind Sandhurst College and of his furious motorcycle rides as a young man with Dr. Simpson, the Sutherland doctor. Incidentally, many years later, as he mentions in his hook, he unveiled the memorial to Henry Royce at Derby. The Duke of Westminster is described as arriving at a Hurlingham polo tournament in a ” red racing Mercedes,” and the book, in telling of an age long past, refers to the Duke’s own railway station at Dunrobin and his grandfather’s private train and a great deal about aviation, including the Light Aeroplane trials of 1923.—W. B.