Wrong directions

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Reading in club magazines about how car dealers hunted their stock long ago reminds me of two rather similar episodes.

Jenks and I had gone to report the 1956 Monte Carlo Rally and, driving along the coast road from Nice, we came upon a breaker’s yard with some enthralling old vehicles lined up. We stopped the Porsche. The place was shut, with an Alsatian dog on guard. In the background stood a Bedford truck, possibly a remnant of the war, and a clean SS1 tourer.

The ancient cars included a pre-1914 Sizaire-Naudin, a vast Edwardian Renault landaulette, a pair of Panhard-Levassors of a similar age, a curious four-seater Phanmobile with engine above its single front wheel, and quite a smart 7.5hp Cloverleaf Citroën, hood up. Intrigued, I took a photograph, which I later used in Motor Sport.

The day after publication our telephonist was absolutely swamped with calls from dealers asking where this treasure trove lay. I could not resist telling her to inform them I wasn’t sure, but if they drove up the A1 to Inverness, found the first village after that town, turned left and right again, three villages on, the breaker’s could be on that road. I visualised dealers all over the country hastily getting out tow cars and trailers, maps and cheque books, and setting off. I now feel rather guilty and apologise to any who did this.

Before this, while in Harrogate during the war, I saw an advert in a paper for an Alvis, claimed to be a famous Brooklands car, capable of an impossibly high speed, with price to match, driven by a driver I had never heard of. The ploy was to ring and say that I wanted to race when the war ended, and this seemed just the job. Could they let me see the car? This agreed, we gave the address of a mansion a few miles away, and that evening Tom Lush and I set off in his Austin Ruby to see what would happen.

After a while a very bogus Alvis arrived on tow at the big house and several unsuccessful attempts were made to start it. It was then towed up the drive and parked outside the front door. A servant opened it, and we saw from our hideout that he was indicating that they had the wrong address, pointing out another mansion some miles on. Here the ritual was repeated. They then gave up.

We rang them next day, asking crossly why I had not been shown the car, as promised. “We couldn’t find your house.” So another address was given to them, to which they presumably went. Nothing more was heard of them. But if anyone bought this Alvis, and hopefully restored it, it would be nice to hear about it.

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