Cars in Books, May 1964

Oh yes! Still they come! For instance, someone drew my attention to the reference to a Leyland Eight touring car in “The Big Fellow,’ by Rex Taylor (Hutchinson, 1958; Four Square Books, 1961). This account of the Irish fight for independence is about Michael Collins, betrayed and shot in an ambush on the Cork-Clonakilty road. The convoy in which General Collins was riding consisted, the book says, of “a Leyland Thomas racing type, straight-eight-cylinder,” three Crossley tenders, a motorcycle and a Rolls-Royce Whippet armoured car. One account says that in carrying the body of the dead general back to Cork the touring car broke down and was abandoned, but other accounts, given in appendices, say the melancholy journey of 18 miles was made in the Leyland.

Although described as a Leyland Thomas of racing type, the car was clearly a production tourer because Thomas did not appear at Brooklands with one of these cars until 1922. What I find interesting is that the day of the ambush was August 22nd, 1921, so this must have been one of the first Leyland Eights to be produced, because these cars first appeared at the 1920 Motor Show and road-test reports were not published until November 1921. The account which calls the car a ” Leyland Thomas racing-type” was by its driver, an Englishman, M. B. Corry, the co-driver being M. Quinn; he probably wrote it some years later and was influenced by Parry Thomas’ racing successes. The Rolls-Royce armoured car “Slievenamon” was of 1914-18 type, driven by a Scotsman, MacPeake. In November 1922 he drove the car away and sold it to the Irregulars, it is said for £500; he was later arrested and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. The Rolls was eventually found by Government forces under a pile of straw in a barn. A footnote in the Four Square edition says that in 1954 these 1914-18 armoured cars were stripped down [presumably of armour.—Ed.] and sold for an average of £60 each, some still being in use in Ireland as hearses. However, “Slievenamon” was rescued from a breaker’s yard “and is now at the Curragh.” Perhaps one of our Irish readers can confirm whether it is still there, and why the Leyland Eight which brought home the body of General Collins wasn’t thought worth preserving?—W. B.