Cars in books, June 1978

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Among the many enthralling books about flying that have come my way, I rate “All Weather Mac” by R. H. McIntosh (Macdonald, 1963) as extremely interesting and I cannot think why Motor Sport was not sent a review copy at the time of its publication. I knew that Wing-Comdr. R. H. McIntosh, DFC, AFC, was a well-known air-line pilot in the pioneering days of Croydon and so on, with a great reputation for beating fog and bad weather, but I had not known so much about his other flying tasks, from long-distance record attacks, racing, test-flying, flying-circus work, air-taxi flying with a DH Puss: Moth over 23,000 miles to the Cape and back, from Stag Lane, with Mrs. Westenra, its owner, etc., etc. I mention this to indicate that the book is essential reading for aviation enthusiasts. However, we are concerned here with cars in books and this one does not refer to many. However, one would dearly like to know what make of “ancient car” was used to retrieve this very great pilot alter his Handley-Page 0/400 had crashed at Le Bourget on the Paris Run in January 1922 (no doubt a Renault?) and what was the make of the “little German car” which was used by that happy-go-lucky pilot Freddy Minchin, at Croydon in the nineteen-twenties and which once ran away down Crown Hill one night after he had missed his customary jump into the driving seat on an equally customary “bump-start”. It seems a little early for it to have been an Opel, but what else? Although it was 1931, the “ancient Ford” which took McIntosh and Mrs. Westenra away front a landing at Luebo aerodrome during the Cape flight and back there the next morning, was presumably a Model-T

The second volume of Dennis Wheatley’s autobiography “The Time Has Come …”, titled “Officer and Temporary Gentleman 19 14’919” (Hutchinson, 1978) I found rather puerile in places; and the chapter about books_the author had himself enjoyed very weak and one wonders about one thriller-writer criticising others, outside the review columns! Wheatley fans may not forgive me for saying this, but there it is. However, the book provides some fuel for this feature, because we meet again the 30-m.p.h.  Triumph motorcycle and sidecar, used for joyriding with girl-friends, and the hired Daimler in which the Wheatley family went for a fortnight’s holiday tour to Wales in 1914… “crawling through the Welsh mountains”. Wheatley’s father got a very poor impression of the Queen’s hotel in Aberystwyth (if such it was) and as it poured with rain most of the time, they eventually “beat it with all the speed of which the Daimler was capable back into England”.

There is a pleasing account of how the Triumph was ridden from London to Goring-onThames on the very eve of the 1914/18 war so that the author could meet friends there in the Territorial Yeomanry and the night ride home when he realised war had been declared, the deserted roads of the period, even in August, being well portrayed. At Goring “I might have been 200 miles from London”, and “not more than once in a mile did one see a motor”. The Triumph, usually temperamental, is described as running “as though it were a racing motorcycle that had been tuned up to the highest pitch for a trial at Brooklands” which makes me think that Wheatley may have known the old Track.

Otherwise, the book is mostly, from the viewpoint of cars, concerned with Rolls-Royces the One -allocated to Col. Buchan who, as a banker, had been gazetted to the War Office on the outbreak of hostilities, that used by Haig’s Chiefof-Staff General Sir Archibald Murray at the Front, that of the General commanding the artillery of the IVth Corps, and the one owned by Mrs. Mosscockle whose place, Clewer Park at Windsor, she had turned into a convalescent home for Officers (but Wheatley shows a surprising ignorance in saying the gas-bag on its roof was fitted in the belief that these lightened the weight of cars to which they were fitted, so saving petrol!). There are a few other references to cars, such as the big Daimler on its way to Brighton which ran Wheatley’s mother over to Brixton Church, during the war, early cars including a 60-m.p.h. Mercedes mentioned in his first volume of this autobiography, and mention of the roomy back compartments of the older cars, so that two fellows could get in accompanied by two girls. Reverting back to the deserted roads of 1914, in towns it was apparently different, because Wheatley speaks of being as much as Li hours late due to the heavy traffic at the many cross-roads, when riding hiS Triumph from near the Crystal Palace to Woolwich early in the war …!

Finally, for this month, a reader has kindly sent me a photocopy of the chapter about motoring, “The Ride”, from “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair (l’ocket Books, Inc.). It is a very wellwritten piece, describing a journey in an obviously high-grade and powerful open car, used by an oil tycoon and his young son, on American intercity roads in the Year 1912. Again, the sense of freedom, of how it was possible to drive for miles in the very centre of the road, pulling over only to allow approaching vehicles to pass, is wonderfully put over; as to the make of the car concerned, there are only very slender clues but perhaps, as this must be partautobiography, someone who has read Upton Sinclair’s full autobiography can tell us if he mentions personal automobiles that might tit? “Dad”, as the driver is called in this chapter,. keeps his speed down to 50 m.p.h.; he has trouble with 30 m.p.h. speed-traps on long straight roads, with slippery roads in the hills (and stops. to tit chains), but only in the towns does he find any congestion, there being “thousands of speeding cars”, for instance, in Angel City, which sounds excessive for 1912, until you realise that by then thousands of Model-T Fords alone had been produced. There are references to 15 m.p.h. speed-limits on curves, disdainfully ignored, to by-passes, soon to be as lined with shops as the town roads they were intended ro relieve, because the traders followed the traffic, to building plots. for sale at 1,675 dollars on land purchased at one-thousand dollars for a vast area, to roadside signs, and this is a piece of writing that vintage car historians should try to read. W.B.