Cars in books, March 1976

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After having to rely on readers’ recommendations for the survival of this longrunning feature, we are off again, with material provided by my own reading sessions of non-motoring literature. First then, “I’ve Lived Like a Lord” by Edward Ward (Michael Joseph, 1970), whose father was Lord Bangor of Castle Ward in Ireland and who travelled extensively for the BBC and other organisations. Cars had to appear in this book! And they do. There is a reference to bringing home Randolph Churchill’s Hillman Minx that he had left in Madrid in the early post-war period, by a long route via Malaga and Granada, and mention of the modest taste in automobiles at that time of the Nizam of Hyderabad. It is made clear that although the current story that he was content to use a Model-T Ford was not correct, he did have, according to his constitutional adviser, “a very modest car, a Studebaker or something”, and that his son, the Prince of Berar, kept his Rolls Royce well hidden.

There is an account of the author doing a BBC recording at the Rolls-Royce factory, and when he and a BBC script-writer whom he eventually married set out on a long European tour for the BBC they used a Standard Eight. I suppose this was chosen as an economical car with a reasonably big engine, and its i.f.s. may have been an attraction, for those about to face war-torn European roads. This humble Standard certainly covered a big mileage, going to Italy, to Naples, Venice, and to East and West Germany, before returning home. On a subsequent European assignment someone produced “a large and rather old Cadillac”, which the owner-chauffeur refused to extend on a drive out of Paris towards Germany.

Next, there is an interesting reference to Ward being loaned an Alvis by John Parkes of the Alvis Company for his journeys throughout America. This was in the summer of 1950 and the tomato-red car was really far too small for the baggage and recording equipment the party had to carry. Ward would dearly have liked to take up the offer of those Americans who wanted to exchange their Buicks and Pontiacs for this Alvis two-seater. But he did his best to carry on, and to answer questions, about it. On his return to London, Ward saw Mr. Parkes and told him of the interest the Alvis had created, only to be informed that this particular model was to be discontinued, so that all his sales patter had been wasted. What, Edward Ward wondered, had been the purpose of this costly exercise, with the Alvis flown out to New York for him. Well, it seems likely that the model lent to Ward, after Alvis realised they had missed the New York Show, may have been a TB14, not perhaps the most successful of Alvis offerings? In 1953 you still hired a Renault Dauphine in France, as Ward did while house-hunting, a contrast to the Caracas taxicab used by Shell for a publicity tour all the way over the Andes to Venezuela, “a large and comfortable Dodge” but a seemingly expensive way of travelling which, Shell explained, was the usual procedure on such occasions, because the driver, being in his homeland, would be an admirable guide. An interesting book, with mentions of aeroplanes as well as cars.

Finally, for this month, there is “An Idler On the Shropshire Borders” by Ida Gandy (Wilding, 1970), which is a fascinating guide to little-known areas and beauty spots in the Clun area of Shropshire and Radnorshire (now Powys) but which from the present viewpoint is included because, although published only six years ago, it deals with the explorations by a doctor’s wife in this part of England and Wales between 1930 and the war. The car she uses is referred to only once, as “an ancient Baby Austin”. So one can picture a vintage Chummy, or maybe a Top-Hat saloon Austin 7, on those then deserted and remote roads. On one occasion they tied their coracle on the back of the car, which makes me think of it as a Chummy, especially as there is a hint that it was acquired in 1929 if not before and, remember, it was ancient then.

In “The Secret Orchard” by Roger Ackerley (Hamish Hamilton, 1975) there is passing reference to visiting Brooklands to watch the motor-racing, another one for the Brooklands Society to chalk up, although no-one has yet found, it seems, a similar reference in one of Ian Hay’s plays.—W.B.