Cars I have owned
[In which Robert W. Edbrooke says just what he thinks of a number of different makes and types. – Ed.]
I have little or no qualification for this opus, having owned neither a Bentley nor a Lagonda, while, as a resident member of the C.U.A.C., my activities were crippled by a suspended driving licence. Nevertheless, between periods of persecution by divers magistrates I have motored.
My first appearance upon the King's Highway in control of a motor vehicle was while piloting a 1920 7.5-h.p. Citroen, a worthy little car, an early French import, which was the forerunner of the "cloverleaf" model. Sans all the unnecessary elaborate instruments which adorn the dashboard of the modern auto, the car ran without a mechanical hitch some 20,000 miles, shedding its wooden wings at regular intervals. This Citroen gave way to a voiture which had hereditary connections with the traction engine.
Came the 1923 Bean. It was complete with right-band cog lever, whose selection became immobile both in cold weather and when gear oil found its way into the sliding mechanism, rendering the whole outfit useless. This machine galloped around displaying a vast red triangle upon its rear, announcing to all and sundry that four-wheel brakes were part of its specification; a feature it should have been completely ashamed of, considering their lack of ability.
Then, one winter's morn, I espied in the showroom of my local garage another Bean, but in a weird disguise. The sphinx-like lion had gone gay and a nickel plate affixed to the radiator bore the misleading name of "Hadfield Special." All this gave a rather ordinary 1928 fabric saloon an air of distinction. On the payment of a few pounds, and relief of my tourer, I became the proud owner of a "Special." Alas, I was deceived! All the snags of the previous car were embodied and more ergs were produced which made cornering even more exciting, but protection from the weather by its fabric skin was an improvement. It had incendiary inclinations, necessitating immediate Pyrene-action: "Death by misadventure" was the verdict following a vicious attack upon a 10-ton lorry. The latter in fright dived down a ravine and a week's toil did not see its recovery.
A relatively recently rebored Ford Ten was immediately acquired, pending delivery of a "Speed 14" Rover. Little need be said about the Ford now that G.A. Phelps has so ably dealt with the "8" of that year. Mine rendered great service in Norway, regularly mounting some 6,000 ft. on typical trial-surfaced tracks, first gear was never engaged (except for rolling) and she failed to boil.
The Rover, in spite of her so-called streamline body, proved to be a very durable car, covering some 66,000 miles without a rebore. The use of the freewheeling device necessitated relining of the brakes in under 2,000 miles, so it was thereafter forgotten. The mention of brakes recalls a continuous rear wheel skid (preceding an impact) of 161 ft. arduously measured by a persistent A.A. scout equipped with a 2-ft. rule. This performance was achieved with a cable hand brake, the Lockheed master cylinder characteristically refusing responsibility. The lack of ground clearance caused many a squabble with the Southern Railway ferrying facilities; invariably vital parts of the exhaust system would suffer when we took to their boats.
Finally, Rover suspension not coping with Continental pave, French influence became too strong, and a Peugeot 402B and a Citroen roadster took her place.
But to my tale. Ford was replaced by an Austin "Arrow" (BMC 122), which a certain Mr. Carver terms a works "Special." This machine hastily disintegrated, big ends being pounded out eight times. A subsequent owner narrates that he, plus "Arrow," gracefully cleared a brick wall; it always had these tendencies, but apparently required initial aid from a passing bomb.
The Austin lasted only a few weeks before a "P"-type M.G. Midget entered the arena. The noise, derived apparently from a series of organ pipes sweated to the exhaust pipe, I will refrain from describing. £50 having been expended on spares, water was found in the sump, and the car was hastily disposed of.
Next came a 23.6-h.p. 1928 Austin, bought for £8, complete with "Tickford Cabrio" body. In this unwieldy craft I set out for Athens. Venice was reached on the sixth day and war was declared on the seventh. Tracks were accordingly retraced on the eighth. The "Cabrio" section by Mr. Tickford was a great attraction to the Italians, the fire escape collapsing act being religiously performed for their benefit at each stop. All went merrily until, St. Gottardo in sight, a transmission coupling parted after multitudinous vibrations. The A.A.'s Foreign Touring Guide was inserted in lieu of the fabric and the remainder of the journey uneventfully completed.
The task of undertaking has now befallen her, mechanical corpses of all descriptions being hauled to their last resting-place, the breaker sitting proudly at the wheel and his latest prize following the tracks of this still majestic motor-car, with "popely" exhaust.
Hot foot from the Continent, one fact was clearly fixed in my mind: "independent suspension was an essential." Hence I purchased a seventh series Lancia "Lambda" (YT 1882), a new Peugeot and a 12.8-h.p. f.w.d. Citroen roadster.
The Torpedo "Lambda" thunders around with many of his brethren, but has pots of 79 x 120 mm., which I believe to be abnormal. [These were standard dimensions of the 16-h.p. "Lambda," although there were both larger and slightly smaller versions. – Ed.] I am seeking a short or shortened chassis in which to embody his trusty engine.
The Peugeot, a rapid car in spite of its lorry-like worm drive "diff.," has a comic frontal appearance, which intrigues small boys and horrifies aged women. The transport of batteries ahead of the radiator seems an intelligent solution; it prevents the boiling away of acid which takes place in numerous modern autos; also they are accessible, a great advantage over the type where removal of seats, floor boards, planks, etc., has to be gone into before the battery box is espied hiding under the rear axle. The dashboard gear lever is a little worrying to the uninitiated, and I regret having been so miserly when I bought the car as not to have had the Cotal electric change. Experience with this rather unorthodox car is sadly limited by the basic ration, and being the only car I have owned in which no wood was utilised I am anxiously awaiting results. Wood, which is so popular in pansy English coachwork, is surely reminiscent of coaching days and responsible for a host of squeaks and groans when a car is middle-aged?
Lastly, my Citroen, in which an epic journey on A.27 was recently completed. At Larkfield a halt was called for refreshment, after which the crew of four boarded. Immediately first gear was engaged a fiendish windmill whirring act took place, engulfing the whole outfit in clouds of steam. When the haze broke remains of the radiator were found distributed o'er the roadway, the proud, unaided work of the cooling fan….. The remaining drops of water were drained away, the engine restarted and the 30 miles to London were covered, sans cooling liquid, in thoroughbred diesel form. The next day the engine was pulled down, to show no serious internal damage, although all components were well hardened. The radiator was bisected with a table knife, and 12 ft. of copper petrol pipe now replaces the destroyed section. The motoring once again has a demoralising effect upon the populace; the repaired radiator emits shrill whistles calling for cover to be sought by all….
This little car really has had an unfortunate early life. An army truck careered over contrary traffic signals, necessitating the purchase of £52 worth of spare pieces, three months' toil and several visits to court before it was eventually on four wheels once more. The suspension is very pleasing, corners can be taken quite fast and safely, but steering becomes a little heavy on long runs.
I think that is about the lot; I hope to augment my stable in the near future by acquiring a Lancia "Aprilia," but my attempt is sadly hampered by people of similar tastes.