Cars in Books, March 1978

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Very little of motoring moment appears in Kenneth Clark’s second -volume of his auto-biography, “The Other Half” (John Murray, 1977), and as Lord Clark writes of his travels one reaches the conclusion that he is less addicted to cars than his son, the Hon. Alan Clark, MP, to whom this book is dedicated and who is a well-known Rolls-Royce,. Bentley and Mercedes-Benz connoisseur. I hope this will not be taken as a sign that I only read books in search of motoring episodes —far from it, and “The Other Half” can be warmly recommended. However, one does discover that Bernard Berenson, the writer, had discarded his “panting Lancia” by 1946 but had retained his old chauffeur Parry, who now had charge of a “very badly-sprung car” for daily drives, in Italy. Incidentally, Parry had apparently been driving for Berenson since 1900. The only other item for mention here that caught my eye was that when no record of the Marseillaise could be found hy the BBC with which to conclude programme 12 of “Civilisation”, Lord Clark suggested going down to the Renault factory (in France) and getting the workers who were on strike to sing it!

There is a good deal more about cars in “Ladybird Ladybird—A Story of Private Enterprise” by Eric W. Pasold (Manchester University Press, 1977), which book a reader recommended. Although primarily a very long account of the rise of the well-known textile company and the family responsible, from 1300 to 1968, there is a healthy regard for motorcycles, cars, and aeroplanes therein. The author’s upbringing was in Austro-Hungary and his father was a very keen motorist, driving out front Fleissen to KarIsbad, joachimstal, Bayreuth and Coburg, over appalling roads, often having to push up hills, to visit churches and other places of interest, but really, according to his mother, as an excuse for motoring. There is an account of how the author’s father, Max Pasold, had a ride on an early car in Vienna, which was being demonstrated to Herr Geipel, a wealthy textile merchant, who decided against buying it—the make is undisclosed but it was of 16 h.p., priced, in 1905, at 17,500 kronen. A Benz, no doubt ? Max Pasold’s own first car was a 1908 red four-seater Dixi, made in Eisenach, in Thuringia. For years it was the only car in Meissen and his appetite for it was no doubt whetted by that earlier demonstration and by a short trip in a hired motor-carriage from Stuttgart, where he was spending his honeymoon, to Cannstatt, in the autumn of 1905. He would have purchased a motor car right away, had his father permitted it. There is a photograph of this Dixi, taken in 1909, reg, no. V-594.

Then come some interesting references to Skoda steam-engines being installed in the Pasolds’ mills, at first a 20-h.p. engine working at 88 lb. pressure, driving a 120-volt dynamo, later, in 1905, a new 70-h.p. Skoda, driving the knitting machines by flat leather belts. They also used a typewriter in the office, at that date…

After the war, when the family were no longer Austrians but Czechoslovaks, they ordered a new six-cylinder, six-seater Steyr (spelt in the book “Steyer”) with a pointed radiator. It was chosen after a trip at Easter 1920 to Vienna, and various road tests, but it had to be an Austrian car, Pasold insisted, The salesman said that under good conditions the top speed shown on the Stevr’s speedometer could be approached-100 k.p.h., or 63 m.p.h. In the Vienna showrooms the young son had seen a “tiny”, beautifully streamlined single-Seater Amilcar, but it was the Steyr that was brought home from Austria. This car was used in 1920 for a tour as far as Garmisch in Switzerland; the speed-limit in the villages was 15 k.p.h. and petrol was carried in cans.

While in Chemnitz, in 1923, learning his trade, the author saw a shaft-driven single-cylinder KG motorcycle in a showroom window but what his father bought him was a red Ardie two-speed belt-drive two-stroke, which proved underpowered for his journeys home to Fleissen, and unable to carry his girl-friend as well as himself, so he had to return to a push-bicycle. In 1924 he came to England, where our taxis resembled his father’s ancient Dixi! But how well the people lived! While in digs in Herne I lill young Pasold made a wireless-set for 4:1 (didn’t we all!), and as a boy had had Meccano sets which were supplemented annually— again a factor common to those days, in my experience … The young son flew from London to Amsterdam when going, home on holiday, in a Fokker airliner, H-NACJ.

By 1925 the Pasold mill had a new 150-11.p. Brunn Konigsfelder steam-engine and a 120-kg. generator, for business was booming. There is a great deal of nostalgic reference to the time the author spent in London, learning about the clothes industry in the City and entertaining girls at Wimbledon and Clapham Common. Ile had a 680-c.c. Zenith at home and his English friend had a 250-c.c. sidevalve BSA—”the young men talked about motorcycles and the TT races”.

Indeed, the Zenith had been purchased around 1925 for 70 guineas, the equivalent of over 20,000 kronen, or the cost of a cottage. It was the 680-c.c. side-valve model with three-speed Sturmey-Archer gearbox, semiracing ‘bars, and a maroon-and-silver saddletank. Collected from Prague, it needed running-in, and Karlsbad was the over-night stop. It is obvious from his book that Eric Pasold knows all about the joys of motorcycling and fellow enthusiasts are recommended to read Chapter 13. The Zenith was entered fiir hill-climbs and even races but proved too slow to win. So it was exchanged for an o.h.v. Brough Superior, also with the 680-JAP engine, and this was ridden in company with a friend who had saved up to buy a McEvoy. These machines were used for a tour of Southern Germany, the Tyrol, Switzerland and Northern Italy in 1928 and by then other young men in Czechoslovakia had motorcycles, the author’s two cousins a Rudge and a BMW, his friends a Matchless and an OEC, and Nortons, Douglases, FNs, Indians and Harley-Davidsons were said to be popular —the good days of British Trade abroad! Pasold’s young brother had a 175-c.c. two-stroke McEvoy n which he won his class in speed hill-climbs. Alas, the Brough eventually crashed and was burnt out; it was repaired with spares from Nottingham but the old magic had evaporated…

In the Bohemian resorts, carriages still rolled noiselessly on rubber tyres “but the chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce’s, Cadillacs and Minervas were much in evidence”, many on CD plates. The Brough had given way to a Buick roadster with dickey seat. It was in this car that the author drove to Leibitschgrund. eventually to buy this factory where, in 1926, ancient carding-engines by Platt Bros. of Oldham were driven by a 350.-r.p.m., 1,000-h.p. upright steam-engine built by Ringhofer of Prague back in 1896. At guild this time Pasold Senr. was driven by his chauffeur, Wollner, who later drove the son. He was to base the production of underwear on those mass-production methods used by Henry Ford to turn out cars, Bata to produce shoes. He even went to Hollywood at the time of the introduction of talking-pictures, being lent Cadillacs by the film-stars.

Eric Pasold having taken British Nationality, the Pasold factory at Langley in Buckingham shire was opened, later to make he famous Ladybird children’s garments. When profits permitted an SS Swallow was purchased for the Company, William Lyons described as “Mr. Lyon” selling it to the foreign company for only £244—”a shiny black-and-red sports saloon … sometimes rudely referred to as the “pregnant banana”. In 1935. this was replaced by an Alvis Speed Twenty, also purchased with the firm’s foreign currency, which was a car used for journeys home.

As the Company prospered Pasold took to gliding at Dunstable and then in 1926 he learnt to tly• at Heston in an Avro Cadet G-ACHN (he went solo in a month, after 101-hours” dual). The navigation Lest involved flying from Heston to Brooklands. thence to White Waltham, and back to Heston. By the end of 1927 the author had flown 48 hours solo and the following year he bought the Hornet Moth G-AEKS, which had belonged to Prince Bira, for £730. There is an entire chapter devoted to private flying and this, and the references to early commercial flying, are strongly recommended reading for aviation enthusiasts. Most of the vehicles and aero planes appear in the pictures in this book, incidentally. The Pasolds continued to use aeroplanes for business promotion, having a Percival Proctor V and three other British light-‘planes, before going over to American machines.

This enormous 668-page book cannot fail to interest those with a love of machines, business, and industrial progress–Pasolds’ profits rose from from £281,000 in 1954 to £2,120,000 by 1968 and they survived the period in 1921 when the American dollar was worth 4,200,000,000.000 marks! Incidentally, Eric Pasold, 013E, who retired in 1968, was flying the Company’s aeroplane at least up to 1962, and was still using Mcccano to work out mechanical problems, as a picture emnhasises From “P. G. Wodehouse—A Portrait of a Master” by David A. Jasen (Garnstone, 1975) I learn that although the famous author didn’t drive a car, when he went to live at 17, Norfolk Street, off Park Lane, in 1972, he not only kept a retinue of eleven servants but had a new Rolls-Royce. The only other Motoring reference is to Wodehouse’s wife buying a five-year-old Nash on impulse in 1955, in order to visit her husband at Watkins Glen—she drove it immediately the 200 miles from New York. After Wodehouse had given his car (make unnamed) to his housemaid, his wife Ethyl retained the 1950 Nash at their two-garage house in Rensenburg, USA. Finally, for this month. I note that in 1922 the Americannovelist, Scott Fitzgerald, invented the fictional “Rolls-Pierce”, in his story “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz”; was this, I wonder, prompted by the introduction of the Springfield 40/50 Rolls-Royce the previous year ?—W.B.

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