Cars in books, June 1982

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REFERENCES to cars, or relevant items, oar arise from the most unlikely books. For example, in “The Country House in the 1980s” by John Young (Allen & Unwin, 1981) one is reminded, in the chapter about Woburn Abbey, that the wife of the Marquess of Tavistock is a Director of Aston Martin, there is a photograph of Lord Carnaervon outside Highclere Castle with his BMW, in which he presumably “roared off down the drive” after the interview, and a chapter is devoted to Kentwell Hall, in Suffolk. Although it isn’t mentioned, this is where Dick Seaman, who drove for Mercedes-Benz before the war, was brought up. It is said that although much of the 3,000 acre estate has been sold (I believe it ran to 5,000 acres when the Seamans lived there, 45 acres still surround the moated Elizabethan mansion — which is open to the public should anyone want to tread in the footsteps of a famous racing driver. Incidentally, the present owner does not . . . .

A reader has kindly lent me a most curious little book, written by Col. J. T. C. Fuller, for a series of books by Keegan Hall, Trench, Trubner Ltd., this one titled “Pegasus”. It was written at the Staff College, Camberley, in 1925 and deals in a most unusual manner with the evolution of mechanical transportation. The author was especially concerned about the problems of making vehicles fit the available roads, of which he said there were 178,000 miles in Great Britain, the maintenance of which cost £19,000,000 in 1914-15, £45,500,000 by 1921-22, the cost of macadamised roads being very high and their maintenance prohibitively expensive in sparsely inhabited country. In Jamaica, for instance, it cost £1-million a year to maintain roads, and both there and in England this worked out at slightly more than £1 per inhabitant. After light box-cars such as the Ford, useful only for small loads over short distances, lorries of from three to six tons were uneconomical. Special vehicles were needed, like the Renault six twin-wheeled car that had carried out wonderful performances in the Sahara. To this end the little book was illustrated with photographs of cross-country vehicles, such as the Sentinel steam tractor, Crossley-Kegresse, Morris one-ton roadless lorry, the Vulcan two-ton track-driven lorry, a 2 1/2 ton Guy of this type, a tracked 3-ton Daimler lorry and a FWD lorry and trailer of six-tons useful load, again using a Kegresse-type tracked-drive.

From “Edith Evans — A Personal Memoir” by Jean Batters (Hart Davis, 1977) we learn that Dame Edith Evans, the famous actress, was using a cream 25 h.p. Chrysler d.h. coupe in 1947, called Chloe after her late husband, driving it herself after her chauffeur had been called up, bravely but without skill, and that both Dame Gladys Cooper and Margaret Leighton were said to have been hair-raising in this respect, the latter in her Jaguar. Dante Edith’s Chrysler was later changed for a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud splendidly driven by an ex-Southdown coach driver whom she called “William”, as a suitable name for a chauffeur. — W.B.

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