Cars in books, March 1963

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I have remarked previously on how references to cars appear in the most unlikely books. But none so unlikely, surely, as Barbara Jones’ scholarly work “Follies and Grottoes” (Constable, 1953). Yet you read of motor-cars therein, long before you are half-way through, when the author, poking fun perhaps, points out that, with craftsmen moving into aeroplane factories, vernacular verse has become technical terms and, to prove her point, quotes “such haunting phrases” from the new specialists’ magazines as “gave it the leaden boot,” ” the original tearing-calico exhaust note,” “polished the drop-arm, drag-link, front axle, track-rod, torque-arms, road-springs, shackles and similar,” “prototype Whittet,” “Bean Fourteen,” “Coupe de l’Auto Delage, “Gobron Brillie” and “Lorraine Dietrich Silken Six.” She goes on to comment on the evocative quality of “pieces of wood between the front dumb irons” and “I have been thinking about my mother’s Hupmobile Eights.” Well!

In the entertaining and excellent novel “The Merry Muses” by Eric Linklater (Jonathan Cape, 1959) one comes across the Morris 1000 used by Mrs. Arbuthnot and her attractive daughter and the Daimler owned by her father, Max Arbuthnot, solicitor and businessman, who has increased the £60,000 left to him by his father to a quarter-of-a-million. This Daimler is interesting. Linklater is fond of big and ancient Daimlers and it might be thought that the wealthy Mr. Arbuthnot was enjoying a vintage model of this famous make. But the story takes place after the end of the Second World War and we are told, on the first page, that this Daimler is a new car. It is also a comparatively small one, for on one occasion its owner rides in front with his chauffeur (who drives at a habitual 50 m.p.h.) while two of his friends occupy the back seat. Perhaps it was a 2 1/2-litre DB18, for the 3-litre Regency introduced for 1951 would surely have permitted Mr. Arbuthnot to have sat with his companions? Yet nothing short of the straight-eight Daimler seems quite suitable for a man of his qualities. On the other hand, late in the book there is an intimation, associated with wine, that the year may have been nearer the end of the ‘fifties, so perhaps this Daimler was a One-o-Four model, or a 3.7-litre six-cylinder 101 m.p.h. Majestic? Verily, cars in novels, if not in autobiographies, even when the make is named, tend to pose problems!—W. B.