When good behaviour counts

Have you heard the silly story of cars whose mechanical characteristics might perhaps cause adverse comment from those unacquainted with them?

The cream of society was drawing up at the red carpet in its top-class, highest-grade cars for an extremely exclusive social occasion, a few years after The War To End All Wars had ceased. As they walked up to the mansion entrance one Duchess said to another Duchess, “Did you notice the smoke coming from Lady X’s motor? I hope her chauffeur understands what he is doing.” Adding, as the Daimler drove silently away and a Lanchester 40 took its place, “And listen to the Hon Mrs Y’s new car. Our Rolls-Royce neither smokes nor emits unacceptable sounds,” which were what that entertaining writer, the late Anthony Bird, in the first comprehensive history of the respected Lanchester marque (Cassell, 1965), referred to as “the characteristic plangent moan of an epicyclic geartrain taking up its work”. This was cured on later 40s by using a master clutch which took up the starting load on the indirect ratios.

In the course of an impeccable dinner the menfolk turned to motor talk, one saying to another that he had wanted to buy the wonderful new Leyland Eight designed by Parry Thomas, who had publicly admitted that he intented it to be better than a 40/50 Rolls-Royce, the one and only time any designer had made such a confident and daring claim. But he had abstained, in case it was thought he was supporting a company refurbishing wartime trucks.

To which his companion responded by admitting a desire to have one of the new overhead camshaft 40/50 Napiers but had had to desist, as his wife thought this would be seen as too close to the taxi trade.

I am joking; but there is more than a grain of truth in this.