Cars in books, June 1994

Few people who enjoyed them will have forgotten the marvellous cartoons which Giles has contributed to the Daily Express for some 50 years. But it may be as much of a surprise to learn that he was actively associated with motor racing as it was to discover that Gavin Maxwell, although known to have used a GP Maserati on the road, used to race his Derby Bentley, and ran it in a BDC Fine hillclimb (as disclosed in this column last April).

All is revealed in Giles— A Life in Cartoons by Peter Tory (Headline Book Publishing plc, 1992). In this authorised biography of Carl Giles, the subject is shown as a lover of good cars, one who raced his Jaguar XK120 at Silverstone in 1952.

Apparently, when the book was written, the XK was gathering dust in his garage. But before you put in a bid, you should know that he refused to sell when a farmer offered him £250,000 for it.

Giles knew Stirling Moss, who is pictured with the cartoonist and the well-known Maserati 250F. Giles’s cars number not only the Jaguar but a Bentley Mulsanne Turbo and a Range Rover. As he also had a Nicholson 38 yacht and lives in a beautiful Sussex farmhouse, drawing cartoons can be assumed to be profitable. The book’s many enjoyable pages include the famous ‘Grandma’ series. Incidentally, Giles had a bad accident when his P&M Panther 600 motorcycle ran head first into a lorry. Then 18, he suffered numerous injuries, including a fractured skull

Tory recalls the dramatic story of how a zeppelin came down. While being marched down an English country road in 1916, its crew was apprehended by an English constable, to whom the German commander refused to surrender, as he regarded the policeman as someone of inferior rank. But this zeppelin, the L33, came down at Wisborough, not Cockfosters as Tory suggests.

If you want to enjoy again these period Giles pieces, all 192 pages of them, the ISBN is 0-7472-0678-3. My grateful thanks to the reader who drew it to my attention. Another reader, Graham Skillen, has brought to my notice the interesting fact that in Fiona MacCarthy’s biography of Eric Gill. The artist whose statue of Prospero and Ariel graces the the portals of Broadcasting House (see page 395 of April’s issue) and who was well-known as a non-motorist, it is said that he designed nevertheless the bodywork for the BSA three-wheeler.

Apparently this is endorsed by David Kindersley, the sculptor and engraver. Skillen points out that this work seems to have dated from around 1931, after production of these cars (with their handsome long bodies to accommodate the FWD, but little foot room) had started, with bodies by Carbodies and Avon. However. BSA made its own bodies from late in 1932, as shown in the accompanying photograph, so perhaps GiII was asked to evolve some design improvements for these later BSAs?