Matters of Moment, November 1965

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Guy Fawkes Day

November 5th is the day when much money goes up in smoke and some people burn their fingers. This year it is the day of Sotheby’s first Vintage and Veteran Car Auction Sale.

Pictures, works of art and the better pieces of antique furniture have had their values inflated until they are virtually unobtainable by the majority of house-owners, as a result of auction sales. But very often when the owner of a great mansion dies, the whole contents of the house have to be disposed of, and the effects come up for sale unavoidably. Those who take their historic or merely ancient motor vehicles to such sales seem, however, to be overtime by a sordid desire for quick and very substantial profits.

This growing inflation of values’, this distortion of commonsense in the matter of prices when old vehicles are sold, is detrimental to honest enjoyment of such cars as objects to be cared for and used on the road; perhaps in V.C.C., V.S.C.C. and One-Make-Club rallies and competitions. And, contrary to the views of Maurice Wiggin of the Sunday Times, a considerable number of people like vintage cars for more than their rarity value.

It places such cars outside the scope of most of those who intend to run them, as distinct from salting them away until such tune as the next opportunity for financial speculation arises; it will very soon make such valuable vehicles almost impossible to insure! It puts, in fact., a new face on an old hobby, tending to make even genuine enthusiasts regard their cars in a new light, for although they may consider that it should be possible to recoup the not-inconsiderable cost of overhauling and maintaining an old car when the time comes to sell it, they are unlikely to feel happy about using in trials and races something which, almost overnight, has come to represent a small fortune. Obviously, prices rise with the deflation of currency, but we consider it, to say the least, optimistic to ask £500 for a just-vintage Austin 7 saloon; to value a vintage sports car, immaculate but not unique, at Upwards of £3,000, or to set a minimum value of £800 on a mediocre vintage small car with perhaps a slipping clutch, to quote mythical examples. The only way to beat such an intolerable situation is to refuse to pay absurd prices.

Brighton Run Sunday

In happy contrast to the speculators, hundreds of heavily-clad enthusiasts will once again coax pre-1905 veterans from London to Brighton on November 7th, in an R.A.C./V.C.C. event which stems from a lighthearted newspaper stunt in 1927, the forerunner of all the many enjoyable vintage and veteran vehicle runs which have since taken place. Support the veterans by spectating by all means, but please give them steering and pull-up space. Lord Montagu of Beaulieu has again entered the Editor of MOTOR SPORT as driver of his 1904 single-cylinder 6.h.p Brushmobile, and we hope to get it safely to Brighton for the third time. The start is from Hyde Park at 8.00am.

Towards the Police State

There is still evidence of time-wasting in the Courts and of unhealthy persecution of motorists by selfimposed informers. For instance, the Surrey police brought a charge against a woman learner-driver because the car she was driving had an L-plate which was 6 in 8.5 in. bigger than regulation size. The driving instructor who was in the car was fined £1 for aiding and abetting. Some control of signs and numbers on cars is desirable, but surely a caution would have sufficed, especially in this age of tigers in tanks and toy animals on back shelves, etc.?

According to the Yorkshire Post, Donald Leech Of Tranby Avenue, Osbaldwick, near York, has been making signed statements to the police about drivers who have exceeded the 30 minute parking limit in York. The A.A. says it doesn’t like the sound of this!

Then, testing a very safe £8,900 car on the Cricklade-Cirencester road the other day, we touched 100 m.p.h. on the Clearway, reduced speed, and later came quietly to rest when a roadworks traffic signal bade us STOP. Some minutes later a scruffy van tore down the offside of this two-lane road against the oncoming traffic, swung into the space between us and the stop-sign, and blocked the passage of on-coming traffic. Out of it jumped a morbid-looking man, who rushed up to us, signalled for our driver’s window to be wound down (it drops hydraulically, in fact) and thumped loudly on our door panel. The window being lowered, he said we had been driving like a maniac, that he was from the Road Research Laboratory, and that he had taken the car’s number. He demanded our driving licence. . .

By this time, traffic in both directions was stationary and curiosity had caused a roadman to join the van driver at our window; when asked hadn’t we driven furiously, this dear old man just looked puzzled. We pointed out that what might seem dangerous in an aged van is entirely different in a modern car, that there was no speed-limit and little traffic on this road (which was dry), and that we had no intention of showing our licence, except to a police officer.

This merely caused a reiteration that our assailant was from the R.R.L., Crowthorne, and that he had driven smaller cars—he quoted their model numbers—of the same illustrious make as the one we were occupying.

Knowing how some magistrates listen more closely to hysterical witnesses than to innocent motorists, we got out and asked the man in charge of the STOP-GO signal whether we had had any trouble in pulling up. ” None whatsoever,” he said—why, wasn’t there ample room for this van between our car and the stopping point ? Next we asked other drivers, who were now standing beside their cars in the road, if they thought we had passed them in a dangerous manner or if they regarded 100 m.p.h. as dangerous under the circumstances. None did.

The lorry driver obstructed by the van justifiably began to get cross,. so We asked the van-driver to accompany us to a Police Station. He leapt into his seat, drove off, and the last we saw of him was dashing into Cirencester’s 30-m.p.h. limit at an undiminished 60m.p.h. . . .

Two thoughts arise—(1) Under such circumstances it is comforting to be in a car so well designed that the driver can lock all four doors from one button, and (2) That if someone so excitable and aggressive drives cars for the R.R.L., his findings lack the authority one has a right to expect from cool, dispassionate scientists employed by a government organisation!

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