Cars in books, March 1998

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A long time ago I started the ‘Cars In Fiction’ feature in Motor Sport, soon changed to ‘Cars In Books’ to take in real cars in biographical works. The initial articles covered the novels of Henry Williamson and the many cars he incorporated in his long series.

What I did not know was that in his early novel It Was The Nightingale, about touring the French battlefields with a girl in the early 1920s, the well-known naturalist displays a fine knowledge of the Bedelia cycle-car, correctly describing how it was driven from the rear tandem seat and its odd belt drive controls. This vehicle was purchased from a garage in Calais for £45, and was said to have won the 1920 Cyclecar GP at Amiens, by which Williamson presumably meant the 1913 race. But the story rings so true that one assumes he must have had a real Bedelia. The couple, much in love, continue their journey from to Arras in the newly-acquired cycle-car, which has gas lighting, presumably added after the race… Back in England the hero takes his girl to a Hunt Ball in a Tamplin, at night, over icy roads, again behind acetylene lamps. Did Williamson have one of these too?

I am indebted to Leon Johnston, a reader since 1947, an MG enthusiast who owns examples of PA, IC, Magnette, BGT and 1100S, as well as his late father’s 1947 Lancia Aprilia. He is now building a Gould replica Ulster A7.

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