Your article “In Sunbeams, to Scotland” (Jan. issue) brings back many memories but also the thought that those cars of fifty or more years ago were quite remarkably reliable. Even tyres weren’t bad considering the rough, and sometimes loose surfaced, metalled roads. A vivid memory of summer in those days is of the thick, grey covering of dust on country hedges.
In the winter of 1929 I did what I’ve always thought of as quite a good run from Perth to London. The car was a 1928 Hillman 12 Safety Saloon which you will recollect was a fine looking car with a splendidly built & appointed body solid leather, good carpeting, lots of real wood and so forth. But all this meant that it was under-powered. I think its maximum speed was about 45/50 m.p.h. and its acceleration wasn’t all that brisk. I was going off to India and in the back were all my possessions including a large steel trunk. My sister accompanied me although I drove the whole way something over 430 miles via Stirling. We left at about 6.30 a.m. and, apart from petrol stops, drove virtually non-stop, my sister plying me with sandwiches, thermos coffee & cigarettes at appropriate intervals. We reached our destination in Acton at about 11.30 p.m. having followed my usual route of Penrith, Appleby, Brough, Scotch Corner & down the A1. I at least knew the road because having been working in London and being the owner of a 490 o.h.v. Norton, I used an accasion to do the trip London/Perth overnight on a Friday and return Perth/London on the Sunday night, or Monday morning if Monday was a holiday. One does, or at least did, odd things like that in one’s teens. My best time was about 13 hours. Anyway, the Hillman had a trouble-free trip and I cannot recollect the Norton ever faltering. I did, however, sometimes run out of water for the Norton’s acetylene generator but this was no problem as I found that one’s own water supply always seemed to produce a better light than tap water.
Another demonstration of reliability in 1926 was a tour of 1,000 miles or so in Scotland covered in a week by my brother and me in a bull-nose Morris, open 2-seater. We had both just learnt to drive in this car and being jealous of our driving skill agreed to drive hour about, each trying to cover more miles in his hour than the other. We didn’t take in much of the scenery but covered a lot of ground. Again trouble free apart from a broken petrol pipe which was repaired with tape. Considering some of the wild and woolly roads we travelled on in the far north west of Scotland, the absence of tyre trouble was remarkable. I wonder if this would be due to the harder rubber & higher tyre pressures of those days?
Marlborough H. A. NIMMO