On some unwritten laws of the game
EVEN before the present war, our motoring was restricted and controlled by so many Acts and Laws and Regulations, enforced and supervised and ensured by blue-uniformed gentlemen in fast and expensive mobile boxes, that it is a relief to discourse on some of the unwritten laws which govern our world. True enthusiasts have come to accept such laws quite naturally, but I know from our volume of correspondence that there is a number of newcomers to the game who, while just exuding keenness, are not yet acquainted with quick motoring in all its aspects. So let us attempt to put out a few thoughts which will prevent these good people from unwittingly offending against a very strict code.
First: The White Helmet.— This headgear is rather becoming on good-looking men and attractive girls, but it is entirely out of place in any ordinary car. This applies not only on the road, but to competition events. The characteristically-cut, real Continental white hat may just be excused in a truly fast, Continental car of pure breed, but, apart from this, its place is in first-line racing only. In the two-wheeler world, pillion fairies, you may observe, very often wear the Persil-white helmet. Well, we will confine our criticisms to our own sphere, with the observation that anyone who can be persuaded to come out in all weathers to cling to a square foot of unsprung seat in the upper seventies can surely be excused a lot of things; and think of the awful headgear they would affect if they weren’t.
But in our world, helmets are best avoided altogether. If you must, stick to an old leather flying hat, and insist that the lady on your left wears something in dark Grenfell cloth.
Really, the whole lesson is: not to show off because you like fast motoring and fast cars. If I encountered youth in a smoking Cornet, dressed in dicing hats and goggles, the car’s doors wearing big number discs on which were painted numbers in quite an unofficial style, a thin strap serving in no way to retain the bonnet, stoneguards affording very problematical protection to radiator and lamps, a conspicuous fan-tail neither reducing nor improving the exhaust note, and imitation knock-on hub-caps glistening on stud-secured wheels, I should fold up with a pain much worse than that which I get from consuming unripe raspberries. As it is, I suffer quite nastily whenever I see any of these things on so-called sports-motors.
When it comes to carrying comic notices or deliberately wearing silly clothes in trials cars, I simply cannot understand the outlook of the crews concerned. Such goings on may arouse a smile at the time, but must do untold harm to the sport in the long run. If you saw folk playing tennis in bowler hats, or golfers bearing “Dig for Victory” or similar inscriptions, you would probably feel you had a perfect justification for being facetious, and so it must be when a public which does not regard trials any too lovingly sees silly, popularity-attracting devices on competition cars. In giving this much good advice, I am very much a man in a glass house throwing brickbats about, and not in a Triplex-glass house either. I have been too lazy to remove dummy hub-caps from one car I owned–fortunately a slow closed carriage, so I did not offend directly against our world— and at one time I used to couple dirty tennis shoes, gloves and helmets and goggles with real enthusiasm, no matter how ordinary the motor. Not owning a Bugatti or a “Floretta” I must have been the laughing-stock of not a few fast drivers, but I willingly admit this, nor shall I feel all the writing I have had the privilege of doing in the past for MOTOR SPORT in vain—military service may soon spell its termination—if only every reader will make a pledge never to offend in these matters, either in his war-time motoring or subsequently. I am not a spoil-sport. I like the loud sports jackets and weird trousers of the men, and the vividly -coloured clothes and startling make-up of the wonderful girls who form the back-cloth of every big motor-racing gathering. While I think racing men should present themselves and their cars in clean condition on the starting line, I know the amateur enthusiast must he allowed his filthy flannel bags and finger smeared motor at the smaller meetings. But I do detest road-motorists attempting to show off by wearing unnecessary clothes or by unnecessarily decking-out their cars, and I do feel definitely homicidal when people cheapen the game by displaying stupid notices on trials cars, or by otherwise acting foolishly in public—it is an unfortunate fact that the latter is not a warning of something that we do not want to happen when competition-motoring is resumed; it happened in the past, for I have seen such notices even in classic M.C.C. trials, and I have seen white overalls worn by a sports-car crew at a very minor speed hill climb, and I can’t forget rally cars of sober performance being over-diced in full view of crowds at the starting points. All this kind of thing really results from thoughtlessness or from translating enthusiasm in the wrong way. However, as in school and college, so in motoring, unwritten laws sometimes present pretty problems. For instance, even though you quite see in how bad taste is an imaginary racing number on your car, you might not realise that to carry actual competition numbers before or after an event is equally wrong. The best trials organisers request the removal of numbers as soon as a driver finishes in, or retires from, a trial, but too often you see rally cars and sports-cars entered for a high speed trial, displaying competition numbers days after the event in question has been decided. On all ordinary cars the background disc or square should also be defaced from the bodywork, although I think a really famous racing-car can justifiably be allowed such adornments, providing a reasonable attempt has been made to wash out the actual numbers. Again, there is the matter of pet car names. When I see things such as “Xexexetus,” “Mrs. Frequently,” or “Icancatchit” blazoned along a bonnet I try to look unconcernedly away; this is surely just as much an outrage against the enthusiasts’ code as anything mentioned so far. But in some cases, if a name that a particular car has made famous, or one which has some definite association with the owners, is quietly displayed, one has to alter one’s view. One of the best kept cars I have ever seen is the all black s.v. Aston-Martin, rebuilt for Forbes by William Lambert. It carries a small nameplate inscribed ” N****r,” beautifully rivetted to the bonnet, which in no way offends against good taste, although the name is only in memory of a well-known o.h.c. racing job of this make which the owner greatly admires. All my cars and most of my friends’ have had stupid pet-names, but we have never had any desire to paint them up in prominent places. Sometimes a clever mascot can serve instead, as with the long arrow which used to ride on the radiator cap of Major Ropner’s racing “30/98” Vauxhall, “Silver Arrow” at Brooklands in ’24. Yet those big pandas or teddy-bears which exotic blondes have a weakness for nursing in rally cars again definitely offend; mercifully most of them go off home soon after the daily Press photographers leave.
Some enthusiasts seem to think that because they cannot own a fast car there is no point in observing the unwritten code. Most emphatically do I disagree. Any car, no matter how humble, if driven by an enthusiast, should be decently handled, properly appointed, and proudly maintained.
When it comes to driving, misplaced enthusiasm is apt to offend against real as well as against unwritten Law, and either way it does our world a power of harm. The more obviously rapid or home-brewed or otherwise unconventional your car, the more unobtrusively and politely should it be driven in populated places. Learn an early lesson from the difference in behaviour between youth on a two-stroke and your really experienced rider on a really hot motorcycle. If you feel a desire to leave black marks on the road for no real purpose, or to make a filthy row “blipping” your throttle, reflect that she probably knows nothing of 0-50 figures and is far more moved by a Robert Taylor postcard than the likeness of your scarf to Birkin’s—and racing drivers do not jab the accelerator idly up and down when warming up, anyway, so why advertise the comparatively low loadings on your rods. When you have learned a lot and commence to enter competitions, do not let the excitement lead you into showing off or seeking cheap publicity; remember that you do not try to find loop-holes in the Regulations unless your factory’s prestige is at stake, and whether you win or lose, do not break-up the hotel furniture just because you are a “racing motorist.” If you do all these things, in my view—and if I have been too lenient or too critical over any or all of these rules I hope I shall be told—in my view, you will be a true follower of the Sport, no matter what your motor; may the open never-ending road be yours again in God’s good time.