Cars in Books, November 1982

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Cars in Books

FROM ‘1111/ Corgi paperback “Nice One Cyril”, by Cyril Fletcher 1980): “My father had his first motor car while we lived at Trowbridge. It was a three-wheeler Morgan with two front seats and two very small scats at the back for two small children. We were not really small by then, and it was agony squeezing in there. Driving over Salisbury Plain in the winter we would manage to go at the alarming speed of 40 miles per hour, and in an open car with the wind driving across the plain my ears would nearly drop off with the cold and pain. . . . By now I am perhaps twelve. Iris a cold day and I am sitting at the back of an open GWK tourer car at the side of my sister Ida. Because she is two years older than me she is much larger. She is still able, in a sisterly tussle, to pick me up and fling me down. But we are sitting quietly and expectantly. There is a sense of drama about my father, who is sitting at the wheel wearing a cap, very flat and very straight on his head. He has a handsome aquiline nose . . . he is Clerk to the Council of Fri= Barnet, and we are living in a house in Southgate (Victorian, £80 per

• year),” apparently they are going to visit his wife’s mother-in-law at Watford, but seeing that Cyril’s father’s wife had fallen out with her mother-in-law, she refuses to come out of the house, while Fletcher and the children sit for half an hour in open car. His mother eventually decides to come with them, and bangs the house door whereupon both panes of stained glass fall out of the front door and shatter on the tiles. “We have now been sitting — rather upright in those motor cars of the 1920’s, for half an hour and are very cold. My father has not uttered a word for half an hour and the back iif his neck and ears are very blue.” — W.B. An obliging reader has sent us the following; John Hanson (born John Stanley Watts in Canada, 1922) mentions a host of cars in his book “Me and My Red Shadow”. His father worked for General Motors for a short time, then bought a “shop-soiled” Chevrolet tourer with a faulty back-axle, which he dare not trust to get them to Toronto, only 30 miles away. He came back to England (they were English people: and Mr. Watts, senior, got a job as a tester for Armstrong-Siddeley, later getting a job as final inspector at the A rrol-Astor factory in Lochabriggs, near Dumfries (E5 per week). “At the factory, he was given the job of testing Sir Malcolm Campbt’ll’s ‘Bluebird’, and I remember how proud I was when I was able to tell the other boys one day that my father had touched 108 miles per hour in ‘Bluebird’.” (Where? — Ed.( Originating from Coventry, the family made the long trip several times a year, often in cars that were terrible crocks, one being a 1929 Austin 7 which only started from the top of a hill, and boiled climbing hills, then his father bought a bull-nosed Morris, for E22, which also boiled on hills. Just when they were settled happily. the Arrol-Aster factory closed down. The car they produced was a long, handsome. straight-eight, rather like a Diamler — hardly the sort of car to be producing in those days. They cost about 1.1,000 each, literally a fortune, and were fitted with eve, luxury, including an intercom for the chauffeur. “The Christmas before the factory closed, Dad acquired the job of delivering one of these luxurious monsters to Birmingham, so that we could spend Christmas in Coventry. On the way, we stopped at a post-office in Preston. which happened to be next door to the local —

unemployment exchange. We were all in our Sunday best and, in no time at all, the car was surrounded by a crowd of belligerent, out-of-work men, who tried to tip the one over. They assumed that we were the idle rich.” John’s father then got a job at a large new service station (works . manager), “The South of Scotland Garage”. The family went back to Coventry just before the war, John first getting a job with Morris Engines, then Hoburn Aero Components, making high-priority components for Rolls-Royce and Bristol Aero Engines (in the production control office). The factory was bombed out, and his father had the job of transforming an empty shoe factory in Kettering into a machine shop, buying a secondhand Morris 8 for his son’s birthday but his father flogged his Rover and commandeered John’s Morris 8 (back to a bike for John().

About 1952 John Hanson (he changed his name by deed poll), took the train from London to Coventry to pick up a new car ordered several years previously, the only available one offered being an overseas model Morris Minor, complete with heater — he was very proud of this little car — even when parked behind Ted Ray’s enormous Austin Princess, outside the Paris Studio, in Lower Regent Street. During the run of “The Desert Song”, the Morris Minor was sold, a Triumph Renown being bought, later changed for a Ford Zodiac. One day, passing a garage in Morecambe where there was a new Jaguar Mk. 2, he sold the Zodiac, and became the proud owner of a Jaguar — the first of many, also having a 3.4 Jaguar at the same time as Des O’Connor, sometimes giving Dec a lift of 140 miles to London and dropping him off at the Stork Club.

W.B.