Tripping the light fantastic

Those who road test modern cars do not say much about the lighting. Perhaps all cars now have perfect illumination?

It amuses me a little to think that I have motored behind candle, gas and electric lamps. The horseage carriage lamps were on Cecil Burney’s 1898 3.5hp Benz, CO53, and they cast long shadows as we returned to Weybridge by 8.45pm from a VCC event in 1934, 26 miles in 1hr 55min.

Acetylene lamps were on Ronald ‘Steady’ Barker’s 1909 30hp Napier in which, during the late 1940s, we had been to see Major Sholto Wilson’s great 1908 Napier Sixty which ‘Steady’ later bought. ‘Steady’ invited Wilson to join us at a VSCC pub night. As we were about to leave, the Major went out to light the lamps, and half the occupants of the bar followed. “What are these people doing?” the match-holder asked. “They’re waiting to see you light-up,” we replied. “How would we get home if I didn’t?” he said.

A splendid gentleman, who lived entirely in the past, he had bought the Sixty new in 1908 and used it into the 1930s, when he decided its braking was unable to compete with drivers jamming on the new-fangled four-wheel brakes.