Under the heading “Imported Horsepower” in Esquire for February we were pleased to read some complimentary remarks about British and Continental cars and to be told that “Foreign sports cars, like those pictured here, are a red-hot cult among the few hundred Americans who own one. Membership in the cult is by no means confined to New York and Hollywood big-money circles. In the clubs to which most of the fans belong you find country gentlemen, farmers, artists, writers, actors and a solid sprinkling of plain guys who have picked up a used model for little money and fixed it up themselves.”
“Among real sports-car fans there is neither border nor breed nor birth nor class distinctions based on income. Millionaire hobbyists wrangle amiably with grubby-fingered mechanics of high-school age over such abstruse problems as brake horsepower and standard compression ratio. Club members get together at dinner and find shop talk so exciting the dinner sometimes lasts through breakfast the next morning. They also hold runs, or rallies, once a month, at which the cars are put through a road test of around 250 miles for speed, reliability, hill climbing, etc.” In this article the Sports Car Club of America is described as “the leading group in the field with slightly more than 200 members,” and the Motor Sports Club is “a bad second, with only 75 members.” The Bentley Drivers Club gets a well deserved mention as possessing 20 American members. Bentley people are described as “a race apart, endowed with a sort of mystic adoration for the Bentley car, a beautiful streamlined job that flourished in the twenties. It was later taken over by Rolls-Royce and became another luxury car.” The bit about streamlining is gilding the wrong lily, but old-school Bentley owners will appreciate the feeling behind Esquire’s remarks. The article to which we refer concludes with some famous owners who prefer British and Continental cars to American products and some very apt remarks by Ralph Stein about the reasons why such people prefer to motor in the English manner.
These remarks deserve quoting : “Among other owners are such celebrities as John Perona of New York’s famous El Morocco night club ; Jimmy Melton, opera and radio star ; Paul Draper, the dancer ; cartoonists Ralph Stein and Charles Addams ; and colour photographer Leo Pavelle. Chicago millionaire D. Cameron Peck has several foreign sports cars among his private fleet of over a hundred and fifty automobiles. “Ralph Stein has tried to define the appeal of these cars. Passing over the obvious snob appeal of owning a flashy job costing several thousand dollars that stands out from its American brothers, Stein asserts foreign cars are easier to handle, steer better and give the driver a comforting feeling of mastery over his machine. ‘You know that you’re running the car,’ Stein says, ‘it’s not running you. By comparison, American cars are soft, unwieldy, uninteresting.” These are Stein’s words, not ours. He adds scornfully, “Show me the American car you can steer within a sixteenth of an inch.'”
The illustrations accompanying the article are, perhaps, even more complimentary, for the speeds quoted in the captions are 100 m.p.h for a drop-head Delahaye, 90 m.p.h. for the “1800” Triumph 2-seater, 104 m.p.h. for the Allard 2-seater, “with special gear,” while the TC M.G. “can touch 90 m.p.h. on four cylinders,” the modern Lancia “hits 80 m.p.h.,” the Jaguar saloon is described as “a town car that betters 95 m.p.h.” and a very fine special-bodied Alfa-Romeo drop-head “breezes along at 100 m.p.h.” This is good stuff, that will help to bring the dollars home to Britain.