Last October I referred in this series to “En Route” in which Roy Trevor described three significant Continental tours undertaken in Edwardian times in a 70 h.p. Mercedes. In concluding, I mentioned that the author was contemplating a further tour and wondered whether it had formed the subject of another book. Stanley Sedgwick, President of the Bentley D.C., provided the answer, when he lent me “My Balkan Tour” by Roy Trevor (The Bodley Head, 1911), and some other travel books which leave one in no doubt as to the suitability of the better makes of pre-1914 motor cars for tours over long distances and of many months’ duration.
Authors were industrious in those days and this tome of Trevor’s runs to 472 pages with its index and is illustrated with 104 page-size photographs taken, presumably, by the travellers, their story being committed to paper at Monte Carlo early in 1910.
This fresh tour was planned in the library of the author’s place in Sussex, after six weeks of social engagements. In discussing it mention is made of an African tour by Trevor and his new wife, but whether there is an interim book covering this is not known to me; I think not. Perhaps an extended honeymoon was thought too intimate to put on paper and, in any case, much of the ground was to be covered again on this fifth adventure. For the Balkan tour the Mercedes, which was stripped down, was reassembled in five days and made ready. It was one of the 70 h.p. models which the author says were made for five of the Cannstadt Company’s most influential customers, and each of which was fifteen months on order. They were offered by Mercedes when they thought “the old Sixty with her ‘ rocker ‘ valves had begun to pall! ” One of these privileged customers became ill and did not take delivery, so Trevor’s father was able to secure one of these special 70 h.p. Mercedes. The previously-mentioned Roi de Belges body by Rothchild which had replaced the original two-seater was again in use, the Mercedes carrying ten gallons of oil and 34 gallons of petrol, giving a range of a good 300 miles. The headlamps turned with the wheels, the sidelamps were mounted on long swinging arms for illuminating signposts or the machinery. The body had a glass screen and canopy, then distinctly unusual, a 20-in, steering wheel, and on the dash were two aneroid barometers, a watch, speed indicator and milometer. Specially-made luggage and a map-box weighing nearly 50 lb. when full were part of the equipment and five spare tyres on detachable rims and some sixteen spare tubes were carried, together with enough spares and tools “to do any ordinary engineering job that might crop up.” The Mercedes took five and their luggage and was away for four months. Tyres lasted no time at all; by Sarajevo one Semille non-skid had torn off the tread in handfuls and the others were in a sorry state
The book is mostly travel and history and not much of motoring interest is included although the first serious episode, which happened in Albania when the Mercedes fell into a ditch and split its petrol tank, is included. Remarkably, repairs were done in a garage that existed in Podgorica. After crawling for weeks at from six to 16 m.p.h. it was possible to get going again after leaving Herzegovina. ” Mercedes, imbued with the desire to reach the far horizon in the shortest possible time, her customary hum had developed into a weird screech as she tore onward. Gradually I gave her more and more, till, finally, I had the throttle and spark levers hard down upon their quadrants, and we were being hurled through the air at nearly 60 m.p.h. Mercedes rocked and swayed with the intensity of her exertions. The windscreen was up, but we were goggled and protected from the fierce blast, which whistled past our ears like a tornado, quite prohibiting any idea of speech; indeed, we were beyond the desire of speech; it was all-sufficient just to cling to the arms of our seats for dear life and give ourselves over to the enjoyment of those sensations which are like none other in the world.” On this road to Zara 70 miles were disposed of in about 24 hours. After which the going was as severe as before but, apart from boiling away its cooling water, which it didn’t do in the Alps, the Mercedes appears to have given no anxiety on a journey that would be a considerable undertaking even today.
Another book lent to me by Sedgwick was “Through Persia in a Motor Car” by Claude Anet (Hodder & Stoughton, 1907). The cars used for this journey were a 40-h.p. Mercedes, a 20-h.p. Mercedes, and a 16-h.p. Fiat carrying the chauffeurs and the baggage. The author thought that any car of less than 30 h.p. would be useless but a more powerful one unable to utilise its speed in Persia and that it was impossible to get beyond Ispahan. Tyres and tubes are again mentioned as the main necessity but could be sent quickly by post in Persia!
The experiences described in this book pale into insignificance compared to those in “Round The World in a Motor Car” by J. J. Mann (Bell & Sons, 1914). The car used for the expedition was a 15-20 6-cylinder Delaunay-Belleville with the Barbey self-starter and a Labourdette double-phaeton body possessing a glass front and Cape cart hood. The car was forwarded to the author in Calcutta boxed in a 250 cu. ft. case. It weighed I ton 14 cwt. 1 qr. laden and ran on Rudge-Whitworth wire wheels shod with 920 x 120 Michelin tyres. The globe-encircling journey occupied a year, from December 1910 to December 1911.
A more light-hearted tour was that which forms the subject of “The South-Bound Car” by Owen Llewellyn and L. Raven-Hill (Methuen, 1907). I had heard of this book but had confused it with “Towards The Sunshine—A Guide for South Bound Daimler Cars” by “Owen John” (Cassell, 1919), which is obviously a sequel and of which I have a copy but which does not give details of a specific tour or car. The original book is much more interesting. Owen Llewellyn wrote a weekly feature year after year in The Autocar as “Owen John” and was the author of “The Autocar-biography of Owen John” which I mentioned last month in my report of the Brighton Run. Raven-Hill was the Punch artist who went along to illustrate the book. They and two other passengers, one of whom had finished second in a T.T. race, left London in February, 1907, when there was snow on the ground, Edwardian tourists being undaunted. The author remarks that “The road to Spain is down Piccadilly, through St. James’s Park, and over Westminster Bridge, that is if you start from the Automobile motorhouse,” by which he meant what is now the R.A.C.
The car was a 30/40 Daimler and as with the Mercedes it was filled with spares, and had a fourteen-gallon spare petrol tank installed. It was equipped with two spare Dunlop covers (studded, again as on the aforesaid Mercedes), four spare Dunlop tubes, a spare water pump, two spare chains, a spare coil, two extra sets of accumulators, Parsons’ chains and 12 ft. of copper tubing.
An especial joy were the Parsons’ sparklet inflators, which alarmed the natives, enraged Customs’ officials but which inflated the tyres and survived a 50 m.p.h. collision when the bag in which they were carried was torn off the Daimler’s running-board by a cart.
The car had a Cape cart hood, but as it rained for only eight minutes, in Barcelona, it was used for stowing part of the luggage. It had been snowing when they left Paris and jolting over frozen roads caused a screw to fall out of the gearbox and let out the oil. This was replaced in Maçon and the engine tuned in a garage with electric light at Viennes, where a French chauffeur rushed in and smashed his screen on the Daimler’s hood and another car came in carrying four Americans. Otherwise, apart from a lamp jumping off its bracket when a caniveau at Pont-Remy was taken at speed (the Selvyt lamp protectors had not been fitted), nothing appears to have gone amiss, except for punctures, and in due time they “took off the side-brakes and rolled down into Sunny Spain without even starting the big engine that had borne us so well and so unfalteringly across the snow and ice of France, to this soft warm land of Manana.”
Not bad for a pre-I907 car, on oil lamps! The Daimler had crossed the Channel on the Invicta for a charge of £4, which was thought excessive. There had been some bogging down in the Pyrenean melted snow and the engine took five minutes to start on one occasion. The exhaust had split and was repaired at Tarragona. But after Madrid normal speeds were possible again, and even in 1907 this town was “full of cars.” But apparently no English ones had ever been that far. Fresh supplies of tyres went astray instead of awaiting the tourists at Bilbao, so the car was shipped back from there. The author was warm in praise of a chain-driven back axle and Roy Trevor said the same when his Mercedes fell into the ditch, live-axles seeming frail in comparison. The Daimler was capable of 60 m.p.h. The importance of high ground clearance was soon appreciated; there was mention of a forthcoming R.A.C. “fording competition ” to solve the difficulties that arose when crossing rivers and streams, to the detriment of clutch and electrics. Camera enthusiasts may care to know that those used on this journalistic tour were a Ralli, a Panoram, and a Newman & Guardia. This delightful book, which concludes with some Edwardian Spanish recipes, is yet further proof of the ability of high-grade touring cars of pre-I914 to undertake arduous foreign tours without experiencing any major troubles.—W. B.
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