Cars I have owned

Last month we published John Perrett’s Engineering Memories, when he was at Brooklands and elsewhere. He now describes the ears and motorcycles he owned during this period. -Ed.

I have now retired: so I will look back again to the start of my career and say a few words on the cars I have owned and driven.

I owned my first car when I was four, a pedalear made by a local carpenter. Tearing about in  this, on the pavements of Richmond, I was a menace to all the old ladies. When I was 14 I took out a motorcycle driving licence (yes, you could at that age in those days). It took me a year to persuade my parents to buy me a machine (my Father had been in the cavalry and hated all things mechanical). One day a mechanic from a local garage arrived with his motorcycle, which my Father had agreed to purchase for me. It was a 350-ex. side-valve Royal Enfield. “Could you give me a lift home on the back?” he said. “Yes,” I replied, never even having sat on a motorcycle before but I had read a lot about them, We set off and although I don’t think he was impressed by my driving we reached his house and I returned home without mishap. The Royal Enfield was followed by a more sporting but far less reliable machine, a Dot with a Bradshaw oil-cooled engine. this machine was the envy of a friend of mine, so I sold it to him. Unfortunately he was no mechanic, soon became disillusioned, -and I lost a friend! I also lost some money, as my Father considered that I should never have entered into the deal and insisted that I return half the purchase price. Being short of funds I bought a model P Triumph for £2 10s. Later it was sold for £5. This time to the satisfaction ot both parties. Next came a 250-cc Excelsior-Villiers. With this I indulged m a little grass-track racing. Tricky, because both tyres were worn bald and I could not afford new ones. In spite of this handicap I managed to win a few races. There was so much poverty around that three of us shared one crash helmet! Fortunately my friends had a 250-cc. AJS and a 500-c.c. P & M Panther, respectively. This allowed each of us to race in our class. In those days crash hats were not obligatory for practising and the individual scraps during the practice sessions were often more fun than the actual races.

Bynow there were girl friends and, what with evening classes and rugby in the winter and swimming in the summer, there was little time for motorcycle-sport, so a GP Morgan-JAP was acquired. In wet weather one tended to steer by compass (bald tyres as usual) but a lot of fun was had by all. On starting work at Brooklands reliable transport became necessary, which was obtained in the shape of a Morris-Cowley. Much better tor necking than the Morgan… Transfer to Abingdon changed my requirements and a Scott TT Replica tilled the need for rapid weekend transport between Abingdon and Richmond. This went well but was really much too heavy for me, 480 lb. compared with my weight of 130 lb.; no spring frames in those days, so it bounced around a bit at speed. Needing a car one weekend, I did a swap with a friend. Unfortunately he forgot to turn the oil on and seized the Scott up solid. I couldn’t at ford a proper repair and the girls preferred cars to motorcycles, so the Scott went and I obtained a Standard Avon sports 2 seater. Returning to Brooklands I received a very generous otter for the Standard, so It went and an Austin 7 took its place. Alter a few months a good offer saw it depart to be replaced by a 14/15 Talbot Sportsman’s coupe. I soon found out what kind of sportsman was in mind when the bodywork was designed. The Talbot cost me only £14, but gave me an appreciation of the ability of Georges Roesch that I retain to this day. Later I got to know him well and found him very helpful, although I knew he cookl be difficult at times. He certainly did not suffer fools gladly. Even so, he was less “spikey” than Leslie Hounsfield, another brilliant designer with whom I had many conversations.

To return to cars. At this time, while driving to Brooklands daily “dust ups” with friends were frequent. I particularly remember lollowing the Wolseley Hornet of Jimmy Rands through the bends round the Paddock road and telling him later that the wheels of his car distorted alarimngly. The next day he followed my Talbot and told me that its wheels were distorting. Examination showed cracks all round the hubs. The old car had been hard used for a year or so and it now went to a local scrap yard. for £5. A few weeks later I saw it on the road. The new owner had given £20 for it and was somewhat put out when I pointed out the cracked wheels and other defects, all of which I had shown the scrap dealer. In those days, once having signed the receipt “as seen, approved and tested”, a buyer had no “come back” to the seller of a vehicle.

Next I bought a Th. Schneider. It was rather like a small Bentley, and had a polished aluminium body. It looked nice but the performance of the 1 1/2 – litre side-valve engine was