An interesting relic of the earliest days of motoring in this country has come to us by courtesy of a reader, Mr. R.D. English – a notebook containing running expenses of two motor cars, or horseless carriages owned by his grandfather from 1904 to 1906. Later this same gentleman owned a White steamer and more Daimlers and had the Middlesex registration number H 10.
Carefully entered in this 1896 notebook, with a calendar for the following year inside its front cover and miscellaneous tables, including “rates of postage” showing letter post at 1d., on the inside back cover, are the expenditures on these two cars.
The first was a 1904 M.M.C. and the biggest items on the first page are £3 for an accumulator and £2 10s. for repairing a cover. The registration transfer cost 5s. and later a Dunlop tyre was bought for £3 10s. The accumulator could be charged for 1s. and 40 gallons of petrol cost £2, with a refund of the same amount on the 2-gallon cans in which it was delivered.
In July, 1904, the owner apparently decided on some extra equipment, buying a horn for £1 1s., a rear lamp (12s. 6d.), an oil can for 10s. 6d. and a pair of goggles for 3s. The horn doesn’t seem to have been very reliable, for in August it needed two reeds (2s.) and a rubber bulb (4s. 6d.), while another pair of goggles was bought, this time for 12s. 6d.
In July a small contretemps seems to have happened, for we find “Straightening axle 12s. 6d. ” and three “G.M. stauffers” (3s.) were needed.
However. the M.C.C. seems to have given satisfaction, for by September, 1904, perhaps with thoughts of the approaching winter, a rubber mat (13s.), a footboard and easing (10s.), and a can for spare oil (6d.) were bought. The biggest expenditure seems to have been on accumulators and the recharging thereof, although in September new induction valves cost £1 4s. and a month later comes the entry “Assistance £5,” followed by “steel for gudgeon – 1s. 6d,” which seems to tell a story. In November an odometer set the owner back £1 5s and an apron cost him 17s. 6d.
So far only one new tyre had been needed, but in November a set of Grose’s non-skid tyres was fitted at a cost of £15 15s. and 15 ft. of Bramton chain was neeeded to restore the transmission (£2 12s. 6d.).
The quantity of petrol recorded is 114 gallons and if we assume 20 m.p.g., this 1904 M.M.C. appears to have run some 2,300 miles in that year. It needed 8s. 6d. for oil (at 2s. 6d. a gallon), using probably just over two gallons, as the last gallon was bought on December 31st. The owner must have possessed tools before having a car, as he bought only box spanners, but he was equipped with a voltmeter and a Michelin repair outfit.
The total cost for the year was £55 18s. 6 1/2d., which included 3s. 9d. for repairs to steering (after the axle episode?) and 1s. 6d. for brazing a pipe, which seems to have been a copper tube added for some reason to the air intake. There is reference to 1.t. wire and to a “valve for burner tank” but I think the car must have had accumulator ignition.
It is pleasing to see that of the total expenses £2 11s. 6d. was deducted as “charged to office for travelling,” an early instance of motoring (very partially) on an expenses account.
Did the second year cost appreciably more?. We cannot tell, because the first page of the notebook is undated and so a full year may not have been covered. But in 1905 the M.M.C. cost £90 9s. 3d. to run. This time 206 gallons of petrol (usually at 25s. to 26s. 8d. per 40 gallons) were used, suggesting a mileage up to December 23rd, when the car was presumably sold, of about 4,120. Three 5-gallon drums of oil were bought (at 12s. 6d. each) and tyres began to prove expensive, for two Michelin tubes cost £3 11s. 6d., a Pullman non-skid £7 18s. 5d., a new Grose tyre band £4 0s. 9d., a repair to a Grose tyre £1 10s., and £2 10s. was paid to Smith’s for retreading a tyre and tube repairs, and another new Grose tyre absorbed £8 12s. 9d., after which a new 2s. Michelin outfit was needed. Goggles, too, seemed expendable, for another pair in July cost 5s. 6d.
The year 1905 started with the purchase of a Salisbury flare-lamp and 9 lb. of carbide, but apparently there was electric lighting as well, for bulbs and a switch were bought.
More trouble was experienced this second season, for a bent lamp caused 30s. to be spent over “assistance with repairs,” and at the end of March a new cylinder-head was required (£3 5s. plus 2s. 6d. carriage). A mysterious entry is “Wilson’s material and 4s. for labour £3 1s.”, but I imagine this refers to hood or upholstery renovation. The odometer gave trouble by April, 1905, and a petrol pipe had to be brazed.
A Daimler accumulator had cost £3 15s. in February and smaller sprocket wheels were fitted, at a cost of £1 15s., in June. Here comes a note of £5 5s. spent on “assistance” and then new castings for the change-speed, and minor controls seem to have been needed and the axles (plural) had to be straightened again (£2 I7s.). The M.M.C. was now cleaned (which had cost 6s. since January and usually got done for 1s. 6d.!).
Off again, with a new induction valve in July and new plating for the air control and new Bowden wires. Towards the end of that summer the change-speed seems to have become faulty, a radius-rod was repaired, and the accumulator needed repairs also. In November new copper was riveted into the water tank and assistance in repairing the cylinder had cost £8 10s. When a timing wheel and pump wheel needed replacing in December the owner seems to have disposed of the car, having in any case bought a 28-h.p. Daimler for £500 on December 7th. He saved £17 10s. 4d. on the M.C.C. by selling the platinum tube (which does suggest hot-tube ignition) and other spares, getting a £5 credit on two accumulators (faulty?), and charging his office with £3 4s. 4d. travelling expenses.
In January, 1906, the Daimler required, amongst other things, one Coventry chain, a Michelin tube, two Durandel bands (£8 14s. 2d.), and 3s. was spent on “writing number-plates.” Moreover, sprocket wheels cost £1 13s. and in March a Michelin cover cost £8 7s. 6d. and a canvas cover case 10s. 6d., this presumably being a spare tyre. Fifty-two gallons of petrol had been bought on January 26th, presumably for home storage, and 40 more in May, of which it is noted that three gallons were used for cleaning the radiator! This must have been a bigger car than the M.M.C. for it cost 3s. 6d. for cleaning. Various small items were required from time to time, but tyres were a heavy item – a Continental rest £8 14s. 8d., with £19 14s. 8d.. for Grose bands, and in December, 1906, two Durandels cost £9 9s. and two Coventry chains £2 17s. 5d. We find that this Daimler was run on Price’s Motorine C oil and Pognon plugs, the latter at 5s. 6d. each, and two Terry fan belts were required, while carbide was still bought for the lamps. A screen was rigged up during the year and the office charged £2 7s. 10d. towards expenses, but after this the entries finish and we are left wondering whether the Daimler continued to give as much satisfaction as the present Mr. English derives from his Volkswagen, for which he also keeps a careful log.- W. B.
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