THIS month, two tales of hyper-enthusiasm, both of them true. Scene of the first is Moon's Garage, in Buckingham Palace Road. Three soldiers are ruefully enquiring, in a half-hearted fashion, what the hire of a car would cost. It seems that they have missed the last connection to Glasgow and dire penalties await them if they do not report the next morning. Outside it is dark, for it is a week or so after the declaration of war and, although petrol is not rationed, headlamps are already masked. As the soldiers turn away from the enquiry window, clearly not resigned to their fate, a Buick comes up to the lift, and as the driver gets out he chances to overhear a remark from one of the men. A brief account of their difficulty is quickly forthcoming; they are bidden to wait. The car is reversed, the tank filled to the brim. The driver leaves the garage, to return in a quarter of an hour with a heavy coat; the astonished and, we hope, eternally-grateful soldiers are told to go aboard and sleep. There is about eight hours in which to get them on time to their barracks, over 400 miles away. An enthusiast, watching, goes on his way, not a little awed. Enquiry the next night of the garage staff reveals that the car came in late that afternoon, or maybe it was evening, very dusty. The owner merely grinned at his favourite mechanic and went home. He was known, they all agreed, as quite an impulsive youngster and a great motorist.
Scene of the second tale lies between London and Kendal, in the Lake District. A keen sports car owner is asked, on his way out of his place of employment, to hand one of the van-drivers a book of petrol coupons for his van. It is a small Austin Twelve, loaded with the managing director's safe and other valuable property and is to start early the next morning for the aforementioned place, some 250 miles north, where the firm is to be evacuated for the duration of war. When the driver reports in the morning his van has vanished. You can guess what happened? The enthusiast drove it away the previous evening, painted the wings white, went and collected his leather coat and some coffee. . . . He is now in Kendal, having the thing unloaded. That afternoon he reported back at his office, well-satisfied with 500 miles' motoring when his own car was on basic rations. In some ways it was a bad business. You see, the regular van-drivers had been taking three days over the single journey! And some while afterwards a policeman stopped one of them in a distant village and politely suggested that he should warn his mate, who drove the Austin, not to rush along so quickly if he would avoid trouble. . . . But for unbeatable enthusiasm . . .
Both are genuinely true happenings, by the way.
Ordinary journals and papers usually have little use for technical motoring articles, and all too few of them insist on accuracy when references to things mechanical do crop up. So it was a pleasant surprise to find a complete non-fiction article of real merit in the March issue of "Reader's Digest." Under the unpromising title of "Farewell, My Lovely," Les Stout White had written up the Model T Ford and its passing from the American scene. The article was condensed from "The New Yorker." It made one wonder what became of the pre-1914 Model T landaulette which the now defunct Ford Enthusiasts' Club bought and which was standing in the grounds of the Autodrome School of Motoring, at Croydon, when war broke out. Another Model T, a tourer, has recently been seen outside a Midlands factory, another has actually been encountered on the road, and in commercial form these remarkable cars still serve, notably on aerodromes. Another surprise was to come upon a long article in a recent issue of "The Autocar" on C. W. P. Hampton's 1922 Targa Florio Mercedes-Benz, condensed from that published in MOTOR SPORT of March, 1937. No acknowledgment was given, but we console ourselves with the thought that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and that we must all help one another these hard times.
Once upon a time, and not so very long ago either, amateur builders of specials were legion—or very nearly so. Even vendors of second-hand cars were often in possession of such cars, which had passed-on from the original proud and ingenious owner. The more makes of which pieces were incorporated, the better the resultant vehicle was usually deemed to be. Of recent years, alas, the craze has seemed to die a natural death, but work that is going on in divers sheds and garages may result in some more hybrids taking the road when peace returns. It seems likely, however, that, far from such cars being just built-up from any bits and bobs that are at hand, a definite object will be in view all along in creating them. A big engine in a really light frame for performance; a small engine in a sound chassis for greater economy. The mating of given parts for the inherent quality each is known to possess, and so on. Someone may evolve a single-cylinder, £5 tax, 3-wheeler for absolute economy. Others, who crave a twin-cylinder vehicle, may give up thoughts of early small cars and put a motor-cycle unit into a normal chassis, or even make up a cycle-car chassis specially for it—the Scott-engined monocar which the late H. E. Symons evolved and which "The Motor" pictured for us again not so long ago would seem a very reasonable pattern. The engine presents a problem, for usually all the units you think up have separate cog-chests and other snags. Moreover, they are going to let you in for a rated h.p. of ten or more, which rather spoils the prospect. However, the unit of the Raleigh 3-wheeler might be considered. It is of modern conception, with coil ignition and a pump-fed carburetter; it has an integral, modern-style 3-speed and reverse gearbox, and is of a mere 7 taxable h.p. It propels its existing chassis and body along very easily at 50 m.p.h., and can be made, we believe, to give some 60 m.p.g. Secondhand examples should not be too difficult to obtain. Another line of attack might be to hunt up some of the more promising of the many experimental petrol or diesel engines that have made an appearance during the last decade and install such units in trustworthy chassis. To liner down existing engines to a lower horse-power would seem possible, and the idea of a 6-h.p. Austin Seven intrigues us not a little.