Vintage postbag, January 1971
Firstly may I be allowed to comment on Mr. P. F. G. Wright’s notes on 2-gallon petrol cans. The only Pratts cans that I have come across are of a green colour, although the shades have generally varied. I have a can similar to Mr. Wright’s, this being the one with the Pratts script on the front and the apostrophe “PRATT’S” on the top. Pratts is also in block capitals on both sides. An earlier Pratts can I had had three Xs on the sides. The Pratts can that I have is dated “7 29”. I also have a black “SHELL” can which has a nickel plated (I think) handle, dated “3 35” and a “REDLINE” can dated “10 30”. All these cans have had to be repainted as they were found mostly in a rusty state, although traces of original paint remained. Nevertheless it is difficult to match these colours because the original paint has faded and might even have been completely repainted in a different colour let alone shade.
How nice it would be for someone learned in these matters to produce a little booklet showing the correct liveries of the many petrol cans that were circulating in general use in the ‘twenties and ‘thirties. To have to guess at what colours to paint the various letterings and scripts is not really satisfactory, although the fact that not many people seem to worry unduly about this is quite evident. It will be interesting to see if any other readers have similar views.
Secondly, with reference to Mr. K. J. Fidgen’s letter about Talbot and W & G ambulances, it would be most interesting to hear about the activities of W & G. I believe that in their early days they had some connection with Napier, especially with taxicabs. Perhaps the only known survivor of the breed is the 1927 example owned by the London Ambulance Service apprentices. My father readily recalls the “old Du Cros”, a fire engine which was stationed at Mitcham in the early ‘thirties which was fitted with solids.
I read with interest your section “Cars in Books”, especially the bit about “To Venice and Back in a Two-Seater” by E. Halford Ross (Cassell, 1924) which was kindly lent to you by a reader. It is a pity that the make of the car was not mentioned in the text, which seems rather strange. However, I can tell you that it was, wait for it—a Cubitt. This I know because it is written in Halford Ross’ second, and companion book “Spain in a Two-Seater”. This book was published in 1925 by Faber and Gwyer Ltd. I hope that they won’t mind me writing out the first page, which gives the identity of this car with sundry antedotes. Chapter I is titled “The Outset”:—
“On the afternoon of Saturday, August 23rd, 1924, my wife and I motored from London to Southampton. Opportunity for a holiday had come round again, so we had packed our baggage into our two-seater car and started out with the intention of seeking warmth and sunshine, for the summer at home had been (with almost the sole exception of Ascot week) miserably wet and dismal.
“The car is a Cubitt, the same one that took us most faithfully to Venice and back the year before. It has been repainted and generally screwed up by its makers; had been supplied with a set of five new Dunlop Cord tyres; and fitted with a Memini carburettor, because a friend said he had a brother-in-law who had heard wonderful stories of the success of these instruments in motor-racing during great stresses of temperature and altitude.”
One last thing, and that concerns a certain advertisement that appeared in Motor Sport. A certain firm who specialise in the selling of historic vehicles made a statement that I think ought to be corrected. They imply in a heading that they have, to quote: “The World’s only mobile church”. Perhaps the gentlemen of Brook Mews North should know about the nicely restored 1929 Ford Model-AA travelling gospel van owned by Mr. A. Blower—this being a purpose-built job, not just a conversion.