The accidental taxi-driver

Is it unusual that other people’s memories spark off those of my own? Anyway, my memory was jogged by Steve Cropley’s piece in Autocar about a colleague who was the first to drive the new 300bhp V8 yellow Monaro coupe in Sydney, some considerable time ago. Well, he was feeling pretty special as all eyes followed it along the main highway, until an old lady stepped out and shouted, “Hoi, taxi!”.

I had an even closer experience of this kind but with a very different sort of car. Full story? Well, in 1951, on my way to the MOTOR SPORT offices, I passed an undertakers in which I saw an elderly man up a ladder dusting a Rolls hearse with a feather brush.

Beside the R-R I noticed a vintage Delaunay-Belleville landaulette. On enquiry, the old gent thought the Guv’nor might sell it. No, it had never followed a funeral (my name being Boddy, caution was needed!). I called again, paid £35, witnessed the receipt signed with a quill pen, and went to get my immaculate ohc 4WB 1926 possession’s temporary insurance, only to be told, after the side-street broker had consulted a little book, that there was no such car. Well, I said, there’s one outside now…

Soon after I was on my way to Hampshire, legal in one respect. The mobile police who stopped me only wanted to ask the make and could they look at the engine? They never mentioned the absence of a licence. Taxed, I used this slow but sure DB to go to the office, to Silverstone and for picnics, etc. When its Autovac expired I found another on a later DB in a nearby breaker’s yard.

We even followed the last tram out of London, left behind by John Bolster’s 1911 Rolls-Royce and Lord Chamwood’s Coupe de L’Auto Delage.

But when it was garaged in the coach house of a bed-ridden old lady, her builders thought it was hers, never to be used again, and they removed the DB’s bevelled roof-lamp glass and the craftsman-made ‘companions’ for ashtrays…

Eventually, though, I got tired of my exposed driving seat while my wife and young family luxuriated in the back, and sold the DB to a young Army cadet who could not afford a Bentley but thought it somewhat similar (it had shaft-drive ohc and dual ignition) and also that its interior would be ideal for sitting-out Sandhurst dances with girl partners.

I may have been also influenced (the point of this story) by the fact that, when waiting for a daughter at Fleet Station, a man came out, asked if knew a certain hotel, and got in. I had time to spare, so drove him to the hotel. He asked what fare was due. “This isn’t a taxi, it’s a private car;” I replied and motored away before he offered to pay for the petrol…

Long afterwards I encountered my old DB in Guy Griffiths’ Chipping Camden Museum, a big effigy of me beside it, a bod appropriately among the antiques! Long after that the car was advertised by a leading auction house, my comments on what fine condition it was in quoted without my permission and despite the fact that! had not seen it for a long time!