Matters of Moment, July 1950


The Editorial in last month’s issue was written before petrol was de-rationed but published after this great happening had taken place. Nevertheless, much of it rang true. The private car remains preferable to the railway. And, now that the Government has declared that unrationed petrol has been made available because it requires revenue which the increased tax on that commodity will produce, the motorist should be, more than ever, a privileged being. As pedestrians see the main thoroughfares blocked see with crawling vehicles at fine weekends, they can say, truthfully, that prosperity and lower living costs should be on the way—“through the traffic jam to better times.”

Judging by the state of the roads every week-end since rationing was withdrawn, a vast number of car-owners are making hay while the sun shines. The untaxed cyclists share their new-found freedom, and thereby create great congestion and cause many accidents. We doubt, however, whether this vast increase in motoring en masse will continue at quite its present volume. Petrol, you see, is still rationed, unfairly so, by price. And when the ordinary motorist looks at his or her bank or turns out his or her bank balance, or turns out pocket or bag at the end of the summer, individual mileages are likely to be cut down drastically, leaving more room for the tax-free cyclists. Car prices will stabilise again and matters will be much as before. Indeed, those who have to keep a careful check on how much they spend on their motoring will find that their pleasure has been cut by two-thirds, not increased, by the transference of rationing from coupons to a heavier petrol tax. England, in general, will remain a country of’ little cars.

Nevertheless, the rich, whom Socialism so frequently provides for, can have more carefree motoring than at any time during the past ten years. And the less affluent, if they share their motoring expenses as sensibly as they once shared basic petrol, will have quite a good tine as well. If the accident rate doesn’t result in greater demands being made on the National Health Insurance than is put back into the Treasury by the new petrol tax, the Government will be happy, the country more prosperous, and everyone should be better off. The enthusiast at least has a clear conscience on the latter score, for skilful driving averts many accidents the unskilled would otherwise cause. So let us, with light heart if heavy throttle toe, hail our new-found freedom. There is just one thing, however, we must press for and that is: abolition of the per h.p. tax on pre-1947 cars. It is maddenly unfair. And it is the older, big cars which it keeps off the road, i.e., the very cars which drink heavily of the fluid that is to bring in the coppers which are needed to restore the country to prosperity . . .


The congestion into and out of Silverstone on the occasion of the G.P. de l’Europe has caused much bad feeling and may have set back the popularity of motor racing just at a time when it had reached a new peak in this country. The roads leading to and from the R.A.C.’s circuit are unsuited to the traffic a major race meeting now attracts. The selfishness of some users of the car parks, lack of internal organisation and poor co-operation on the part of the Buckinghamshire constabulary, added up to the unpleasant experiences of which so many racegoers still speak.

Perhaps we shouldn’t grumble as much as we did and do. Pre-war, enthusiasts wanted motor-racing to be as popular as football, horse-racing and other sports. At that time we suggested that only by reaching the masses via the big daily newspapers could real popularity for motor-racing be achieved. Only thus could the man-in-the-street be told what racing was all about or, more correctly, as much as he required to be told to make him want to see the aces in action. The war made many of the younger men and women mechanically minded. And then that long-called-for daily paper support arrived. The Daily Sketch and Sunday Graphic give the prizes for the Goodwood meetings. The Daily Express backs the B.R.D.C. Silverstone Meeting. Every Monday race and trials results appear in the News Chronicle. Small wonder, then, that motor-racing has “arrived” in this country—before we have a Grand Prix car worthy of the name.

If, because of dreary delays in getting home, high charges and poor spectator-amenities, this public support diminishes, big-time racing will indeed be in a bad way.

Fortunately Desmond Scannell thinks he will have things ship-shape and Bristol-fashion before the first cars trickle into the Silverstone enclosures on August 29th.

We hope that these problems have been solved. Meanwhile, at the smaller club meetings a very friendly and free atmosphere prevails. “The right crowd and no crowding”—now where have we heard that expression before ?