Roads of the 1920s

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Continuing follow the motoring life of O.J., whom we left sampling the delights of the 18/55 hp Talbot in the New Forest, in 1925, and in view of Motor Sport’s interest in cars in books, it is interesting that next we find him criticising a new novel about a honeymoon couple who went from London to Land’s End and halfway back again in a car at which fun was poked because of the troubles this secondhand two-seater was supposed to have developed, which, said O.J., might have seemed a bit far-fetched twenty years earlier, but in 1925…! There is a period ring to O.J ‘s remarks, however, when he says that in its favour this could be called a “nice” book, one that any girl might safely be given by her father. Well, all that ended with the verdict given in the famous “Lady Chatterley” trial, and has got much worse under the influence of TV comedy and soap-opera, but even in 1925 O.J. was bewailing the “morbid” sex type of stuff that was considered the only form of novel… I am not aware which book this was, but it apparently contained much wit and humour and only upset O.J. because it failed to accept what had been preached for 30 years, namely that cars should be properly understood and treated by their owners.

All of which brought O.J. to the conclusion that the best advertisement that a car can have is a satisfied user. Which reminds me that, although it is not perfect — what car is? — the Ford Sierra XR4x4 I am using has run over 17.000 miles from new with no more anxieties than failure of a side-lamp bulb and loss if its near-side, rear mud-flap, the latter perhaps damaged by picking up sticks when running over forest-type roads. There is as much sense today, as there was when O.J observed, over 60 years ago, that whatever awful things might be said of cars, it made no difference at all, everyone wanted one and most people seemed to manage to get one, and a new one at that. He spoke of the greatest compliment that a car can have, namely a street or village abounding in one particular make. When that was written O.J. was probably thinking of Model-T Fords, and Motor Sport has in the recent past published photographs showing how popular these were in the 1920s, any town or market-place filled with them, of different types, ages and condition. Just before the second World War, it was Lord Nuffield’s Morrises that were seemingly the most popular car one would encounter in Britain, as remained the case after the war. Today, it is interesting how many Fords of various types and sizes one sees in any street or car-park, which reminds me that William Heinemann are very chuffed about their new book called “Ford”, by the celebrated author Robert Lacy, who came to London last month to publicise it. When I have read it I hope to tell you more about it, but I suspect that it will be more about the lives of the remarkable Fords themselves than about the very popular Ford cars.

Here, perhaps, it is desirable to remind you that O.J was still living in an age when traction-engines stopped on blind bridges to take on water were a menace, when petrol was something you got out of a tin, but when the comradeship of the road was, in his view, already a thing office past. no-one stopping any more, to check if another driver who had stopped was in trouble.

O.J then had a very odd experience, which I am at a loss to understand He had not previously driven an Alvin, although he had often heard that it was something out of the ordinary. Then, early in 1925, he was able to try one. He took it over in London, I suspect from Henly’s, and drove it the eight miles to Finchley without a float in the float chamber! O.J quite rightly said he did not know that a car would run without one. But this Alvin did so, with not much apparent difference from normal, if at some expenditure of petrol. It was only when finding the float-chamber empty that the absence of a float was discovered.

This seems very odd, because unless the flow ot fuel from the tank had been very drastically restricted, or the car was driven almost fiat-out (impossible in London. even 60 years ago) I do not see how the thing ran at all, or O.J. escaped smelling an awful stench of petrol… But it did, until he stopped close to the De Dion Bouton works at Tally Ho Corner where an old friend came to his assistance (by now he was out of spirit), first showing O.J the latest thing in new De Dion bodywork, in the form of a saloon with back seats that would fold away, allowing rods and guns and luggage to be carried with ease, a sort of forerunner of the present divided, folding back seats of so many saloons and hatchbacks. Incidentally, O.J. expressed the opinion that whereas in the early days it was the back-seat passengers who rode in comfort, the driver, perhaps a chauffeur, being uncomfortably accommodated, a throw-back to the horse age when you kept the coachman uncomfortable to stop him from going to sleep (although under these conditions O.J. had succumbed more than once, so that one hopes his horse knew the way home), by 1925 it had become the other way round. with the front-seat users comfortable, at the expense of those behind — but that does not quite match-up with the story of the paid driver having the best place on a car, with the Duke and Duchess bouncing up and down over the back-axle! Anyway, De Dion Bouton were out to reverse that concept — moreover, they had a float that fitted the carburettor of the Alvis…

The Alvis got along at about 50 mph, and had four-wheel-brakes that allowed O.J. to use that speed — remember, we are on the narrow, winding ways of 1925. This was not the very latest Alvis perhaps it was a 12/40 — but it impressed old O.J. Members of the 12/50 Alvis Register may care to imagine him driving it to Bishops Stortford and Colchester, first getting very lost in an area of glasshouses, until he found the new road he wanted at Cheshunt. The Alvis must have inspired O.J to think of motor racing, which he considered might become dull, because four-wheel-brakes and quick acceleration out of the corners would reduce the need for skilled driving round them, in a sense a foretaste of much later times! The road from Ware to Bishops Stortford was described in 1925 as a very twiddly lane, although pleasant and picturesque and being straightened in places — a bus had removed one of its wheels trying to negotiate one of these corners. And Stortford itself O.J. thought a more beautiful and interesting little place than many a more-boosted town, and beyond it he used what he called perhaps the finest example of unaltered Roman road, running Eastwards for 30 miles or so straight across country, through Dunrnow, Braintree, Coppershall, Marks Tay and on to Colchester.

Here O.J. put up at the “Cups Hotel”. the “Lion” being full. He continued this 400-mile assessment of the Alvis by going on to Ipswich and Lowestoft, encountering a great many old cars and lorries still in use, wheres many big houses were empty, their gates padlocked, only the sporting-rights having any value. He went through Blythburgh, overshadowed by a gaunt, most foreign-looking church, and Southwold, which was already turning into a modern seaside town, infested by mosquitoes. The Alvis continued past the place where the Godelia was moored, the fishing-boat that spent a night shadowing the R33, after that airship had broken from its moorings at Pulham. O.J finding good food at the “Queens” at Yarmouth. Then it was homeward bound, along the Newmarket to Royston road a speedway likened to that 30-mile run between Arles and Salon in the Camargue, where the Alvis was extended.

In Sawston a fearful bang made O.J. leap out of the car, to look at his tyres. But it was only the fire-alarm, bad he thought for shellshocked survivors from the 1914/18 War! So home via Hitchin Luton (where O.J got lost and didn’t see a single straw hat). Letchworth, Dunstable and Aylesbury, the only bad 1925 road that between Thame and Watlington. Of the Alvis, it was observed that the latest one was said to be quieter and O.J expected it had bigger tyres, there was no need for it to be any quicker, to have better brakes, or to be more economical. Which, from this motor-noter, was praise indeed. – W.B.

V-to-C Odds & Ends. The sole surviving Indianapolis 4.9-litre Sunbeam, to which we referred last month. and which is now running again WAS in fact rebuilt by I S Poison of Wickarnbrook in Suffolk There is to he a Celebration of 1960, Motoring’ at the National Motor Museum. Beaulieu. on July 13th The Skoda Standard recently carried an article by P V , in which two rather odd statement, appeared, one that before WW1 a car using Skoda’s 4 8litre eight cylinder engine won a 300-mile race from London to Holyhead, and that in 1908 a Skoda made the fastest Brooklands lap, at over 72 mph whereas by that time laps of well over 100 mph had been established by other makes The AC of North Wales is having iIs Betws -y-Coed Rally on August 10th, open to cars of pre-1959, and those of 1959-1964 by discretion of the organisers Austin A30s and A35s gather at Relvoir Castle on July 13th, and do not overlook the National Standard Rally at Woolerton Park, Notts, on July 19/20th. he Singer Owner, organ of the Singer OC. had an article about the lineage of the first Singer Nine sports models in a recent issue and announced 28 new members of this very keen Club in one month One of the largest multi-make events in the North of England, the Yorkshire Hcr. s Annual Pennine Rally, will take place al Calder Holmes Park. 1-4ebden Bridge. eight miles from Halifax, on August 10th Fntry forms from Billy Lane. Old Town, Hebden Bridge, W. Yorkshire HOT 880 Some parts clan old vehicle, possibly a ModelT Ford with wooden wheels and an overhead worm-drive back axle, lie vist off Bertha ‘s Beach in the Falkland Islands. where the terrain is suitable only for I. and-Rovers Perhaps someone out there may care to investigate, The Pre-War Al Club has its 6th Chatsworth Park Rally on July 13th In the VSCC Scottish Rally the Sammy Davis Cup was won by B Hopkins’ TT Replica Frazer Nash and 1st-Class Awards went to Spence (Lea-Francis Special) and T Hallam (Antani Frazer Nash) 2nd-Class Awards to Hopkins and J. Hallam in the aforesaid Anzani Nash). and 3rd-Class Awards to Gordon (A7) and Barker (A7) There were 14 “sectionsOnly two cars came on trailers and the only retirement was a Gordon England A7 In the VSCC Northern Rally 1st-Class Awards were won by Toms (Fiat 50591. Hyland (Alvis SE). Harvey (Riley Lynx). Leigh (Frazer Nash Coimore) and Downsborough (Alvis Firefly). 2nd-Class Awards by Hallam 11924 AC). Lees 13-litre Bentley), Harcourt-Smith (30/98 Vauxhall) Mrs Costigan (Riley Lincock) and Glover 11936 AC), and 3rd-Class Awards by Goodchild (Lagonda LG45R). Smith (12/50 Alvis) Potter Ilea-Francis, Marsh 130/98 Vauxhall), McEwan (Riley 9). Gnash (30/98 Vauxhall), and Phelps (Frazer-Nash-BMW) The Northern Trophy went to Wickham 11929 12/50 Alvis) The best novice was Stenhouse (Railton) Parker’s 12/50 Alvis retired with a broken spring and Jelley’s Riley 9 also failed to finish We regret to have to report the death, at the age of 84, of William Ashley Cleve who will be remembered by many as a very keen trials competitor. particularly with his Special made up of a combination of Morris parts, which was described in detail in MOTOR SPORT some years ago An article appeared on f3rooklands memories in a Somerset regional journal The Visitor, not long ago, the author of which names Percy Lambert as his uncle and Harold Iamhert, Percy’s brother, who raced a Bugatti at the Track before the First World War. taking him there in post-war times. apparently in a Lincoln Zephyr The Rt. Hon The Earl of Orkney, whose father. Capt Douglas Fitzmaurice was associated with Austro-paimIer. Steyr and Tatra cars before the war, has presented many Austro-Dalmler photographs and an A-D mascot to the National Motor Museum W B

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