Cars In Books, November 1979

I am indebted to Mr. Ian Rennis of Durban for telling me about some motoring references that appear in “A Botanist in Southern Africa” by John Hutchinson (Gawthorn, 1946), a celebrated book a copy of which fetched £40 recently. The author describes his travels by car from Cape Town to as far north as what was then Tanganyika. The illustrations in the book show that he used an 11.4 h.p. Citroen tourer. It looks to have been in standard trim, with Michelin tyres on its disc wheels. It is the model with the deeper radiator than, for example, that of the Citroen that Hamilton-Gould runs in VSCC events. It was used at a time when the main road from the Cape to Cairo was “little better than a good single track farm-road in England”, so that in a well-sprung car (? — the Citroen) the humps would throw the hapless passengers up into the hood. Rain water also swished right over a car. Apart from getting a back wheel tightly stuck on the stump of a Brachystegia in a river, so that it would go neither forwards nor backwards, as a brake had jammed, there were no adventures described in the extracts sent to me. One picture shows the Citroen half-submerged, however, at Ceres. It seems that Professor and Mrs. Compton and Mr. N. S. Pillans were in the party and that General Smuts was present. A Government Post lorry came to the Citroen’s rescue. Botanical Survey caravans, in Africa in 1930, possibly Morris Commercials and American vehicles, are also illustrated — can anyone enlarge on this? There is an interesting reference in “Writers’ Houses — A Literary Journey In England” by Michael and Mollie Hardwick (Phoenix House, 1968) to “an old Wolseley car” in which a family party drove into Kent one day in 1922, to pull up at Chartvvell Manor near Westerham — which was how Winston Churchill found the manor house in 82 acres of grassland that was to become his home. The Wolseley could well have been a pre-war car, one imagines, and the make is interesting, because later Mr. Churchill used an overhead-camshaft Wolseley Ten two-seater to drive to and from the Houses of Parliament. Did he perhaps have an allegiance to this make, possibly through Vickers connections? — W.B.