Motoring fun to be rationed

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Motoring was more fun years ago than it now is, I think most would agree. In July 1945, Motor Sport had an editorial as follows — well, I had to fill it somehow, didn’t I?

“Rather more than a month’s enjoyment of motoring on ‘basic’ ration petrol will have been experienced by the time these words are read. This new freedom is excellent and the future looks distinctly more rosy from our point of view than has been the case for a long time. We can expect rallies such as that at Chessington and the London Zoo to happen again, and it should not be impossible to have short trials on saved-up ‘basic’, perhaps in August — for officialdom this time encourages the saving up of our pleasure ‘Pool’. The ration is not sufficiently generous to give rise to a resumption of the MCC `Land’s End’ this year, but maybe in 1946…

“And how grand will it be to once again make those happy excursions to compete in, marshal, or spectate at trials. Once more can will park in convenient places at the foot of slimy gradients and long vigils will be observed as competing cars attempt the hills. Once again there will be hasty calculations as to whether it will be possible to spectate at another hill on the route before the competitors are due. Gumboots will be dragged off, maps consulted and cars hastily started and driven across country. After it all there will be gatherings of queerly garbed men and girls over tea when motor talk will prevail, interrupted only as the results are read out. We shall realise when such things happen again what we have missed these last five years. But it will not be as it was pre-1939 for many a long day.

“For some considerable time, trials must of necessity be infrequent, and very brief as to mute. Racing will take longer to recommence. Donington, Shelsley Walsh and Prescott look like being available fairly soon, but the Crystal Palace may not again see racing on the outskirts of the Metropolis [it did]. And the future of Brooklands — mysteriously excitingly new centre of speed in 1907, surviving the 1914-18 war to resume in 1920, when men motored fast with a vengeance, in tricky, spartan cars — after this war is, alas, decidedly uncertain.

“However, we must be thankful for small mercies, and the freedom ‘basic’ provides will be appreciated by none more than the enthusiast.”

It was marvellous when normality returned, even though most roads became congested and the price of petrol rose alarmingly. So I was surprised when, around 1950, John Bolster, who had created and bravely driven ‘Bloody Mary’, the sort of racing Special only he could have conceived, wrote in Autosport that motoring fun was over. In many ways, yes; but surely not on the ‘open’ roads which still remained, in good cars which were still being built, or were available?

Now it really has changed, with an anti-motoring Government determined to get us all into trains and other forms of public transport, with traffic congested as never before, even on the motorways, with speed limits abounding, enforced by ‘Big Brother’ cameras, with the cost of fuel, tax and insurance astronomical, and with a misguided Chief Constable calling for compulsory speed limiters on all cars.

Yet, in spite of all this, car owners refuse to give up their rightful means of personal transport. We must fight for such rights, even though motoring, for pleasure and as a way of life, is nothing like so enjoyable as it was before the war.