Cars In Books, January 1979

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It looks as if this very long-lived series, which I hope may sometimes bring to the notice of readers books that will appeal to them and which should be available from the lending libraries if special application is made, will run into at least another year. It has lasted for over 20, anyway, and it is amusing to think that one well-known weekly motor journal dismissed it as a useless idea, not likely to last long. However, I have to admit that there is no motoring in “A. P. Herbert” by Reginald Pound (Michael Joseph, 1976) for the celebrated Punch contributor and versifier didn’t like cars and, indeed, was in league with Mr. Foley of the Pedestrians’ Association. So we will leave that one, just remarking that boat-enthusiasts may care to know that the famous Gipsy Moth which patrolled the Thames in war-time was powered by two 9-h.p. Thornycroft engines.

“Nicole Nobody”, the autobiography of the Duchess of Bedford (W. H. Allen, 1974) doesn’t provide much for this column either, amid the names dropping, which even a Duchess is not immune from. We do learn, or are told, that Princess Mdivani (wife of Dennis Conan-Doyle who I met when he came to Brooklands with “Chitty I” in 1934 to do a bit of personal names-dropping!) had a Rolls-Royce the dashboard of which was of mahogany and gold, with each knob set with a turquoise. One wonders if this is one of those Rolls-Royce legends … When the author married the Duke of Bedford he had a Lincoln Continental, Reg. No. DOB 1, this later being transferred to the Duchess’ brown astrakhan Rolls-Royce Phantom VI, given to her as a 50th-birthday-present after she had asked for “an ambulance, to travel in comfort” … The late Duchess of Bedford, as I have heard before, had “a large, high Rolls-Royce” which she insisted on driving herself, without a chauffeur, carrying out her own repairs and even changing a wheel at the roadside. The Duke of Bedford had his own chauffeur, Manning, after he had been fined £50 and disqualified for six months for passing an obstructing car on the near-side, on the M1, The Duchess says not being driven by her husband had lengthened her life by several years … Her Rolls-Royce has a tea-maker in it, at a cost of £600 – or is that more R-R folklore? There is in this book a description of a narrow escape abroad when the Duke’s brakes failed on a steep downhill gradient, in an unnamed make of car, a nasty situation which he coped with skilfully. The interesting point is that the Duchess attributes the brake-failure to use of the wrong brake-fluid, which has only recently come to the notice of brake manufacturers, or rather, the quick deterioration of certain fluids. – W.B.

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