Belated Book Review
During the war, when there was precious little private motoring — a state to which we have recently returned — readers used to sustain Motor Sport by sending in all manner of news items, reminiscences and specialised articles, and this extended to digging out obscure or long-forgotten motoring books and doing belated reviews of them. These reviews spurred on the Editor to search amongst non-fiction books not specifically devoted to motoring for references to motoring matters. He found something about 3-litre Bentleys in “England Have My Bones,” by T. H. White and in “I Bought a Mountain,” by Thomas Firbank that should enthrall everyone of the 563 members of the Bentley Drivers’ Club. Much of general motoring interest was discovered in Gilbert Frankau’s “Self-Portrait,” and quoted in these columns. Now another interesting reference, and to Edwardian motoring at that, has come to light in “The Rollings of a Mossless Stone,” by Percy L. Naish, that was published by John Ouseley, circa 1911. The book is primarily about hunting and foreign travel, but in 1902 the author acquires his first motor car, regarding it as a necessary adjunct to living in a village in Kent. The make of this early car is not given, but it had coil ignition, water-cooling, and belt drive and the usual tribulations of the period are recounted. A journey of 170 miles to Somerset occupied three days, whereas by 1910 the author was able to complete this drive in nine hours’ running time. Indeed, his Edwardian car seems to have given every satisfaction, and the book concludes with an account of a Continental tour in it. It was a 22-h.p. S.C.A.T. (written as “Scat”) “with folding glass screens, both brake and change-speed handles inside the door, and curtains buttoning on to the glass screen when up, and extending to the back of the car, with talc windows, so that in wet weather one can drive all day without a drop of rain getting to the occupants or the luggage.”
There was a compressed-air starter on the dash that would also inflate the tyres. Naish cunningly carried most of the luggage in cardboard boxes in the tonneau, to reduce weight, only his wife and himself being aboard. He passed his driving-test in the thick of London’s traffic, paying tribute to the Motor Union official who “put his life in the hands of anyone who appeared at Caxton House on wheels . . . ” The S.C.A.T. weighed 85 cwt. unladen and it cost 27s. for certificates of fitness, international fees and “G.B.” plaque and £38 2s. 6d. deposit on the triptyque. The “Dependence” rear lamp had two side windows, so, its bracket having been moved to the near side, a bit of green paper rendered it legal abroad.
The tour occupied twenty-five days and 750 miles were covered on French soil, mostly in easy stages, although one day’s run came to 140 miles. In this distance the worthy S.C.A.T. gave no trouble, nor did any punctures occur, although the tyres were rather cut about by bad roads in the Trouville district. The weather protection apparently was effective, because rain did not delay the tourists, the hood sometimes being up all day. Fuel consumption came out at about 18 m.p.g. and petrol — note this, you who pay 2s 1 1/2d. a gallon or who cannot get any at all — cost is 1s 10 1/2d. a gallon, which the author says was “rather a princely price.” Return carriage for the car and two persons to Dieppe from Newhaven cost £10 and hotel bills amounted to £26, inclusive of all meals out and tips. Which suggests that this was an age when not only was motoring in a good car entirely practical, but when everything else in the garden was very beautiful, too. A Stepney and one spare cover were carried, also a good supply of Vacuum A oil and the “washing tools” comprising sponges, leathers, etc., while Naish took the precaution of having locks put on his tool-boxes and a chain round the spare wheel. On one occasion a crashed Renault was encountered in a field, on another the wrath of the owner of a large Panhard was incurred when Naish forgetfully moved over to his wrong side for a moment to avoid a bad patch, just as the other car was passing. The French, it is observed, kept well over on corners, in contrast to the bad habits prevailing in England, but Naish reminds us that at 30 m.p.h. in England you were probably the fastest on the road, whereas 45 to 50 m.p.h. was the usual speed on open French roads. A ferry boat with a “large de Dion motor, which I think worked a turbine,” was encountered at Quillebeeuf and at Harfleur Latham, Morane and others were seen in flight during the Aeroplane Fortnight. Altogether, I regard this old book as quite a find.
As concentration on motoring papers and motoring books will be a natural reaction to “no-basic,” I may as well mention another little book I read recently, although it is in a different category, being a proper motoring book and still obtainable, I believe, from John ‘Murray. It is “The Dawn of Motoring,” by Kenneth Murchison, who owned a 1901 4 1/2-h.p. de Dion-Bouton voiturette. It captures the atmosphere of horselesscarriage travel at the beginning of the century rather nicely. W. B.