Cars In Books, March 1975

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My attention was drawn, by a lady who has no interest in motoring, to the following very interesting extract from “Another part of the Wood” by Kenneth Clark, the celebrated painter (John Murray, 1974), in the chapter entitled “An Edwardian Childhood.”

“…Early in the morning I was glad to leave the house and make my way to the stables. As so often in the early nineteenth century, they were better designed and constructed than the house, and their walls were covered by the biggest magnolias I have ever seen. Half of the large courtyard was occupied by motor cars, half was reserved for practically non-existent horses. In my childhood the cars consisted of a Rolls-Royce, two Delaunay-Bellevilles, a Panhard and a quiet, insinuating electric car which had been intended for use in London, but had so small a range that it could not make the journey from Sudbourne (Suffolk). How it ever got down there is a mystery. Although not mechanically minded, I loved the sight of these shining contraptions and visited them every day. On my fifth birthday (1908) my father organised a motor race in the park, and I used to think that this was my earliest memory. But what is a memory? I remember remembering this episode, but it has become static in my mind, like an old photograph; in this book I use the words ‘I remember’ only about episodes which I can still recall in movement, or which seem to cause a slight vibration in my mind. In this sense, all I can remember about the motor race is my disappointment that the cars did not all set off together, but were timed over a measured two miles (the length of two drives) and that it was won by a neighbour’s Mercedes ….”

This is very interesting and perhaps someone will know whether the speed trial referred to was a properly-organised affair or just a private contest to entertain the house-party? It sounds rather as if it were the latter and, if so, the course was considerably longer, at two miles, than any used for a full-scale meeting.

From “The Gambler” by Stuart Cloete (Collins, 1973) we learn that Col. Karri Davies who was with Jameson in the Transvaal raid of 1896 was using a big Pierce-Arrow in Africa in the 1920s. It is described as having a pump that automatically maintained the tyre pressures but it is more likely that it had an auxiliary mechanical tyre pump that could be used to inflate the tyres when required. The author’s mother gave him a Model-T Ford and a Buick was also used in the Witwatersrand out-backs. Returning to England, a big hired Daimler was employed to take the author and friends to the Derby and when he returned to Africa Cloete bought a big, secondhand Nash. Nothing much here but someone may wish to enlarge on Pierce Arrow tyre pumps. In that exposure of big business “Down the Programmed Rabbit Hole” by Anthony Haden-Guest (Hart-Davis, 1972), cars are, surprisingly, scarcely mentioned. But I was amused to read that in 1954, when the Hilton came to Castellana Avenue (Spain), all you could see from the windows were 1920 taxis and donkey-carts.

Now that there are so many chances of drivers finding themselves in possession of unwanted (and frequently unwarranted) convictions they would be well advised to arm themselves with a knowledge of how the Law, as it applies to motor vehicles and their drivers, is applied. This can be done inexpensively by buying John Wickerson’s “The Motorist and the Law”, a paperback published by Oyez Publishing Limited, Oyez House, PO Box 55, 237, Long Lane, London, SE1 4PU at £1.00. The author is a Solicitor and the book has been published in conjunction with the Law Society. We hope it assists you towards Justice!

“Austin Seven Specials” by L. M. (Bill) Williams, which covers the building, overhauling and tuning of these cars, has been republished by Foulis (address above), at £1.95. Originally published by P. J. Stephens in 1958, it has been reprinted thrice since. It is now somewhat out of date but the overhaul chapters should still be valid.

W.B.