I was very interested to read, in your “Cars in Books” article, the reference to Lord Iveagh’s 1902 De Dietrich Paris-Vienna racing car. Your theory that this was the car involved in the accident with the oak gate near Pigsty Corner may well be correct, and when I acquired the car from Francis Hutton-Stott in 1965 it bore unmistakable signs of an accident at some time in its life, the steering being dreadfully heavy with limited steering lock in one direction.
During the subsequent complete mechanical overhaul of the car, the front axle was found to be both bent and twisted and it was obvious that the car had been arrested at some speed because the steering column also showed evidence of the driver’s weight having been thrown heavily against it, bending the inner column. Also, the nearside chassis side member was distorted in the region of the front spring rear shackle. All these matters were duly rectified and the car now handles very well. As I think you may well know, having been responsible for the discovery of the car at Lord Iveagh’s estate in 1941, the car became estate hack for a number of years before being finally put away out of use in 1912 to remain undisturbed until a German bomb blew away the building in which it was stored. By the way, just to keep the record straight, the closed body to which you refer was in fact the original coachwork to which had been added a sort of canopy like a four-poster bed. Very fortunately, Francis Hutton-Stott was able to discard this appendage, leaving the car exactly in its original form of open four-seater, the rear half of which being completely removable for racing.
The performance of the 4-litre engine, despite automatic inlet valves, is still extremely good, although density of traffic on the Brighton Run precludes the use of the fourth “sprinting” gear to a very few miles these days. It has been suggested to me that this De Dietrich may well be the oldest racing car in running order in the UK; it would be interesting to know if this is so?
F. M. Wilcock.