To strike a new note among the present prolificacy of motoring books I have often thought that one on “Cars In Court” might be interesting, dealing as it could with all the many cases from the Red Flag and Brooklands Noise-Suit days to the present, including those legal affrays in which racing cars have been involved, with successful speed-limit defences thrown in for good measure. To date, however, I have not found the required co-author. However, if such a book is ever written it ought to contain a recent case in which Motor Sport came to the rescue.
Many of those who attended last year’s Brooklands Re-Union were delighted to see on view in the Paddock the ex-W. S. Bennett sports / racing Alta, albeit without its engine. Had the car’s admirers known that it never returned to the Black Motor Museum in Leeds, which had lent it, they would have been upset, although no blame attached to the Brooklands Society. To assist in trying to find this historic racing car the museum’s representatives placed an advertisement in Motor Sport. A Mr Davis Watson, described as a one-time racing driver and now an agent for historic-car sales, saw the advertisement and told the museum he had been approached by Grahame Fleming, Registrar of the Alta Club and formerly Hon Secretary to the Brooklands Society, and had agreed to buy the Alta from him at a provisional price of £6,000, of which £1,250 was his agent’s commission. The car was shipped, crated, to Australia, and we understand it is still there. Fleming, who had signed a receipt for the car, undertaking to insure it for £10,000 (which he never implemented), had told the police he had sold the Alta for scrap. In court Fleming’s story was that, having nowhere to store the car, he tried to contact the museum but, getting no reply (the Museum said it has a 24-hour answering service), he dumped the Alta on waste ground and then contacted Mr Watson. He was defended by Mr Michael Oliver and received an 18 months’ suspended prison sentence and a fine of £500. This seems hardly the way to deter car thieves and we recollect prison sentences being served on those who had taken cars for joy-riding, with no intention of selling them. It would be interesting to know if the money obtained by selling stolen property has to be made good, in addition to a fine? This is a sad case, as one would not expect a Club official to act in the way Fleming did, but it is certainly one for “Cars In Court”, should such a book ever be written. — W.B.