I was interested to read about Johnson’s racing cars in “Cars in Books” in your September issue.
There was no mention of his Mercedes. In 1915 he was touring the music halls in England and garaged his 60h.p. Mercedes at a local garage in Derby for a week. He was giving boxing exhibitions at that time. I was apprenticed at this garage along with a friend of mine and Johnson used to come in for his car most mornings. On one occasion he asked us to start it up. We each had an attempt, but in spite of the half compression lever we could just only manage to turn the engine over. It had a large starting handle so we were both able to get a purchase on it. In spite of our united efforts we could just nicely crank it over but not enough to get the engine to fire. Johnson used to stand alongside laughing at us with a mouthful of gold teeth, he looked enormous with a very short neck set between such broad shoulders, and after watching us for a while he stepped forward and brushed us aside with one arm and engaged the starting handle himself. He spun that engine like one would an Austin 7 and said “It’s beef you want, boys!” It was our job to top up the petrol tank and it was always filled up with pure Benzol. It was a grand car and we were sorry to see him finally go at the end of his “Derby Hippodrome” visit.
Derby C. B, Oxberry
Club News, August 1935
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