Cars in books, May 1977

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The fun of finding motoring mentions in non-motoring books continues. From “Beautiful and Beloved” by Roderic Owen with Tristan de Voss Cole (Hutchinsons, 1974), one reads not only of the magnificent (non-motoring) hoaxes played by the late Horace de Vere Cole (such as “the Sultan of Zanzibar” paying a fake visit to the Dreadnought) and of the shooting case involving Mavis de Vere Cole and Lord Vivian, but glean some motoring snippets. Thus, while we know that the painter Augustus John had a Buick in 1920, it seems that later, around 1927, there was a Wolseley in the family. Joe Churton, who courted the girl whom this book is about, at St. Ives in the early 1920s, flashed about, we are told, on a Rudge-Whitworth motorcycle, before moving on to “an aluminium Alvis with huge protruding exhaust pipes”. A 12/50, presumably, with, one suspects, one huge pipe. Later she went out with Ray Addington Adam, an Etonian “fond of motor racing” and with him started from Bristol in the 1937 Blackpool Rally, presumably in the SS-Jaguar coupe which appears in an illustration. When she was married to Mortimer Wheeler there was an adventure in France involving a fast night-drive in a girlfriend’s Delage, described as a new car, in 1939, which the owner insisted on driving herself. Later, in 1946, Mavis Wheeler was lent an old Lanchester belonging to St. John and she went down to “learn about the car’s little habits”. By 1953, it seems, the Lanchester was “on its last legs”. “Something called ‘the universals’ were worn right away”, to the mystification of the car’s user.

Then, opening “Curtain Calls”, by that so-readable travel-writer Leslie Gardner (Duckworth, 1976) which deals with his visits to Albania, Romania and Bulgaria and suggests that if Communism were 5510 10 come to the UK, it might not be quite so sordid as is imagined (!), I came upon a rare make of car, the Varshava, “with white-walled tyres as a VIP symbol”, in which the author commenced his sight-seeing in Tirana. Also in Gardner’s interesting travel book is a reference to HRH Prince Nicholas of Romania leaving Eton to ride an Indian motorcycle round the roads of Malta at a great rate. He is later described as living a life of almost perpetual self-indulgence. One of these indulgences was, surely, to race his Model-J Duesenberg at Le Mans in 1933 and 1935. He was disqualified in the former and retired from the latter race. No surprise need be occasioned by Gardner’s mention of the brand-new Skoda used by an official for some of his sight-seeing tour, but it would be interesting to know what became of the Rolls-Royce which Col. Joe Boyle gave to Marie of Romania in the 19301. Another car used for the tour in Bulgaria was a British Ford Cortina, which had seen 200,000 kilometres but “purred along like a sewing-machine”. It had consumed one set of India tyres, was on Czech tyres, but would be shod again with British tyres when the next set was needed. The driver was convinced that Ford make the sturdiest cars in the World—”The Sydney and World Cup rallies had proved it”. Which should please Stuart Turner. He even told of an “old-crocks race” held every year in Sofia, for which the British Ambassador entered his Rolls-Royce; “but Ford always won it”.

I enjoy Leslie Gardner’s travel articles in Blackwood’s Magazine and recommend his two latest books. Members of the RM Riley Register would, I feel sure, be interested in the author’s reference, in the first of these books, Is driving a 1 i-litre Riley to Sofia and the Black Sea and what happened when a policeman encountered it . —W.B.