Cars I Have Owned
by Charles Mortimer, who contributes this well-balanced and informative article to this popular series, modestly refrains from referring to his many successful achievements as a racing motor-cyclist, who gained his B.M.C.R.C. Gold Star for a 100-m.p.h. lap of Brooklands in 1934. He has also done quite a lot of motor racing and so has his wife Jean. He is also author of a recent book, “Racing a Sports Car,” pertaining to their Healey Silverstone. So, one way and another, Charles is fully qualified to write of motoring and the 43 cars he has owned.—Ed.
I am staggered to find, on reflection, that I have been the owner I of no less than 43 cars. My motoring appears to cover a period of 22 years, the first two of which were of the “pre-driving licence and private road” type. The whole period appears to divide into roughly four eras. The first, from 1930 to 1932, as described. The second, from 1932 until the outbreak of war in 1939, the third being the war years, and the fourth from 1945 to date.
My first machine was a 1911 two-speed Douglas motor-cycle. It was obtained in 1927 with the consent of my father on the express understanding that it was in no circumstances to be ridden either on public roads or on the ideal private circular road on which we lived near Dorking. It was for instructional purposes. I was obviously interested in things mechanical and it might well be that this old motor-cycle would teach me a great deal. It was not in running order when it arrived and, continued my father, I could strip it right down to the last nut and bolt and find out why.
It was a crafty move on his part but I flatter myself I was craftier. He, I felt sure, was banking on the “complete strip out” idea in the certain knowledge that the machine would never come together again. I, for my part, was equally determined that it should run first, if that were possible. At least, I was determined that in no circumstances should any work begin before a skilled diagnosis had been made. And it was so simple. The price of a beer to our local garage mechanic —five minutes work on the mag. points—the price of another beer—and I was a motor-cyclist in my own right.
From 1921 to 1930 literally dozens of motor-cycles followed, all old, many grossly dangerous, and all very, very cheap. The average price, I should say, was around 25s. with some as low as five shillings and some a fantastic £5. Every penny I had went on my motor-cycles. I enjoyed them to the full, and the memories of many still remain. But already I was beginning to think in terms of four wheels, and in 1939 came my first car. It was a 1921 G.N., acquired from a firm in Hampstead for five guineas, and it was accurately described as being “in need of attention.”
It was at this point in my motoring career that Nemesis first overtook me. Not as regards the car itself, That was value for money all right but I had glibly ordered our local garage to collect it from London and deliver to Dorking without getting a quotation.
I remember the awful scene to this day. The ecstasy at the arrival of the G.N. and the ghastly swing of the pendulum at the words of the driver of the towing vehicle as he handed me the bill. “The boss thought it would save trouble if the bill for towing was settled now to avoid booking.” I opened it, and nearly dropped dead. Five guineas! As much as the car itself. And my father, the only possible source for such an amount at short notice, didn’t even know of the impending arrival of the thing. To his eternal credit he came to the rescue, on the firm promise, duly kept, of full repayment. But the blow was a real one and it was many months before I was in any financial state to restore the G.N. to the ranks of the runners.
When I was able to do so, it certainly gave me as much pleasure as had my motor-cycles. I was, by this time, a regular visitor to Brooklands and, at 17, had one and only one ambition–to race a car. From its start as a standard two-seater the G.N. rapidly took shape as a much more racy affair. The wings were removed, as were the silencers, and the crowning point was reached when I saw advertised at a breaker’s yard a two-seater racing body which was described as having come off a G.N. A tedious train journey to the establishment followed and in due course the G.N. reappeared with its new creation precariously attached. Without covering really any mileage at all, for I still had no licence and was restricted to motoring on private roads, the G.N. did me really well for about a year, but I badly wanted something even more racy and it was swapped for a 1919 Grand Prix Morgan.
The less said about this machine the better. It had had a hard life and I was thankful to see it go. Its purchaser was, I recall, the first of several to return to ask for his money back.
The Morgan was superseded by what I can only describe as a “will-o’-the-wisp.” Its memory remains vivid to this day but, to my great regret, I have no photograph of the car, nor do I remember from whom I bought it or who ultimately bought it from me. The make? A Griffon. I wonder if any reader has heard of it? In appearance it was more like a 1926 Grand Prix Salmson than anything else. The chassis was wooden and the body three-ply, all beautifully made. It was a very racy two-seater and the passenger’s seat was staggered in the approved racing style of the period. The power unit was an eight-horse air-cooled, side-valve, vee-twin J.A.P. mounted in line with the frame and driving by chain to a motorcycle gearbox. There were two snags.
The clutch, which would just not transmit such power as there was without burning-out, and the tremendously long rear chain from the gearbox to the solid rear axle. Nothing I could devise would make this stay on its sprockets if the car went over even a small pothole in the road, and in the end I had to admit defeat. Although the Griffon gave me less actual motoring than I should think any motorist has ever had from his car, the thought of it remained in my mind for a long time after I had sold it.
If my subsequent steed had not reduced me to such utter penury, I think I might well have been tempted to buy it back and try again.
Had I realised it, I was now beyond all hope, for while I was not prepared to be without a car of some sort, I was getting desperate about this racing business. I was forced to admit that I couldn’t possibly afford to race a car even in the most modest events, so I decided to continue as hitherto with my cars while embarking on an oh-so-modest programme of motor-cycle racing.
The year 1932, then, saw me the proud owner of a 1928 172-c.c. Excelsior-Villiers and a two-seater A.V. with, again, an 8-h.p. side-valve J.A.P. twin, mounted behind the driver’s seat this time. As if the A.V. were not enough worry, my initial racing endeavours nearly drove me round the bend. It was fortunate that my four-wheel motoring was still of the private-road variety which involved, of course, no great distance being covered, Even so, the strain of maintaining the A.V. and the Excelsior was such that I literally couldn’t afford the cost of transport of the Excelsior to its first race meeting at the Leatherhead Randalls Park Speedway at Leatherhead. But I wasn’t going to be done so I pushed it from Dorking to Leatherhead and back for the event.
To my great surprise, I emerged the winner of the contest. The rain never let up all day, reducing the circuit to the state of a ploughed field. There were three starters in the 175-c.c. race. One got stuck in the mud at the start. One fell off and was nearly drowned and, remembering that to win a race one must finish, I took my time and had it all my own way. I should like to have watched the rest of the programme but had a long push back to Dorking ahead of me so, feeling very much like Stanley Woods after he won the Senior T.T., I left.
On the outskirts of Dorking I was stopped by a policeman who wanted to know why I hail been riding a machine sans mudguards, horn, silencers, number plates or licence. I denied it and said I’d pushed all the way, which in fact I bad. He said: “Do you really expect me to believe that any engine could still be as warm as this after having stopped for nearly three hours?” I gave him a graphic description of the race and he said he certainly wished he’d been there to see it and let me go.
Now that I had entered the competition field, my interest in four wheels began to flag. The A.V. was proving an expensive luxury and I felt it must go, thereby releasing some cash which would aid me in my endeavours to push Stanley Woods from his throne.
But now my father died and, for the next year, both cars and motor-cycles took a back seat. Although he had never been an enthusiastic motorist, I was fairly certain that he must have known about, and turned a blind eye on, many of my motoring excursions.
My first new car, a Morris Ten, followed in 1933 and with it a renewed interest in this business of motor-cycle racing. The Morris was duly fitted with a trailer, on which two racing machines were carried. The Morris, however, was soon changed for a 1933 Austin Ten which I acquired from my sister, and this, in turn, gave way to a 1932 16-h.p. SS1 fixed-head coupe. My arrival at Brooklands was greeted with jeers from my motor-cycling friends and I sold it after losing two rear wheels in quick succession, when half-shafts broke. I had not yet got the SS bug out of my system though and this car was followed by another coupe of the same make-1933 this time—which, while not having a performance in relation to its looks, was quite a satisfactory everyday motor car.
In 1935 I got down seriously to motor-cycle racing and rented a shed in the Paddock at Brooklands and operated with the Track as headquarters. In addition to the Brooklands and Donnington meetings I was riding abroad, and the SS, which was obviously not up to the job, was disposed of in favour of a very tough “ribbon radiator” Chrysler 75 fabric foursome coupe. This was by far the best car I had yet owned and, in the year I had it, it gave me the most wonderful service imaginable. It was, in fact, everything that I felt a car should be. It never failed to start, it was fast, silky and not at all tiring to drive over long distances, and with it all it had cost me just over £20. At the end of a year I hadn’t the slightest intention of parting with it but one day I was on my way to Euston from the Track when I spotted a car in Hammersmith that really rang the bell.
Standing outside a pub, just off Hammersmith Broadway, was an immaculate 1930 Speed Six Bentley Freestone and Webb four-some coupe. Looking back now, I don’t know just why this particular car should have made such an immediate impression, but it certainly did. There was a chauffeur in charge and I drew him into conversation. “It was really a most impressive car, wasn’t it ? Was it very heavy on fuel ?”–“About 10 to 12 m.p.g.” “Tyres ?”—”No, not particularly.” “The h.p.?”—”38.” “It must be very heavy to drive in town ?”–“Yes, it was, and in that respect he’d prefer something smaller—as a matter of fact the boss had in mind selling it on that account.”
Thereupon the scandalised chauffeur was prevailed upon to effect an introduction to the “boss” and, within minutes, I walked out of the pub the owner of PG 6345. I remember sitting in the Chrysler, for a moment, looking across the road at the Bentley. I felt I had bought a magnificent car. It was enormous, and I wondered whether I’d overdone it this time. And, as I pressed the starter of the good old Chrysler I had a feeling that I’d stabbed an old friend in the back. But I never had cause to regret making the change. The Bentley had a high tax and it used a lot more fuel than the Chrysler. But it hardly noticed the trailer with all my racing machines and equipment on behind and I can only remember one small spot of trouble during the time I had it.
I had entered a 500-c.c. Norton in the “Hutchinson 100” outer-circuit race at Brooklands. This event was the nearest two-wheel equivalent to the B.R.D.C. 500-Mile outer-circuit car race—in other words a flat-out blind. The machine had quite a good handicap and my hopes were fairly high when, on the Friday morning (the race was on Saturday), I discovered a broken frame tube while I was cleaning the machine down after practice. Obviously, if I was to run in the race, I should have to make a dash to Birmingham for a new frame and, having ‘phoned the works to tell them I was coming, I tanked up the Bentley and left.
All went well until I had passed Stratford-on-Avon, when I fell in with a V12 Lincoln Zephyr which was obviously also in a hurry. I had just got by him, and was putting on all the steam I had, when the car suddenly began to steer very oddly. At that moment we were negotiating a fast left-hand bend and without any more warning there were a series of tremendous crashes and bangs as the off-side front wheel collapsed and disintegrated into a mass of twisted spokes and buckled rim. The whole business was really most difficult to control. The car couldn’t have been going so very fast — perhaps 70 to 75 m.p.h.—and luckily nothing was coming in the other direction, for we seemed to use a great deal of road in the process of stopping.
For a long time I’d been wondering about riding in the T.T. and I decided to take the Bentley over to the Island for a week’s holiday to watch the Amateur race in September. I booked a passage, giving the necessary details of the car, but on arrival at Liverpool the Isle of’ Man Steam Packet Co. were so staggered at its size that they at first refused point blank to take it. After much persuasion, they contacted one of the directors, who was good enough to come down to the docks from his office in Liverpool to give the casting vote. His verdict was: “At your own risk-if we drop it in the drink in loading it, you take the can back.” Strangely enough it wasn’t too difficult to get aboard, but once it was on deck the trouble began, because it had to be turned with garage jacks to position it for craning-off on arrival. As I watched the wheels of the jacks sinking into the timber of the decks I wondered whether that item came under my agreement as regards responsibility. But it didn’t, and we parted the best of friends.
Due, mainly, to my mother’s generosity, my finances must have been steadily on the up-grade at this point for I see, on looking back, that, while retaining the Bentley, I became the owner of a 4½-litre low-chassis 100-m.p.h. Invicta. This was the 2/4-seater open model but was reputed to have been one of the T.T. cars and had rather more stark mudguarding than the standard cars. Although I have always had a sneaking regard for these cars, this particular example was a disappointment. Its roadholding and brakes were almost non-existent and, although it had plenty of power, it would develop the most alarming wheel-patter at speeds above 70 m.p.h. Altogether it depressed me a good deal for I didn’t see how I should find a buyer for it in its present state and I felt that to put it right might cost me quite a stack.
Imagine my delight therefore when, one day in the B.A.R.C. bar in the Paddock, my old friend Dick Wilkins asked whether it was for sale. I was surprised, to put it mildly, for Dick had always had really magnificent cars. At that time he was racing a 2.6 Monza Alfa-Romeo very successfully and I couldn’t quite understand his interest in the Invicta. But we arranged to meet, that evening, at the Talbot Hotel at Ripley with a view to doing a deal. We met, and at dinner I remember thinking that I must wine and dine old Dick well before taking him out in the Invicta. We didn’t hurry over dinner and it was dark when the demonstration took place, which was good from my point of view because the lights of the car were poor, anyway, and that, I felt, would keep the speed down.
After trying it, Dick seemed disappointed. He didn’t want to buy it outright, but would I like to do a swap on his 1935 Railton saloon? Once round the block in the Railton the deal was done and we both left for home in high spirits. I, for reasons already explained, and Dick because he had disposed of an “oven-on-wheels.” Never before have I known a car get as hot inside as that particular Railton did. Next day I took the car down to Thomson and Taylors to see what could be done about it. Yes–Dick had asked them the same question a few weeks ago! They could effect a big improvement but the modification was expensive, and I have an idea that this was almost the only car I had to sell at auction.
Another 6½-litre Speed Six Bentley followed. This time a Le Mans Replica four-seater, which proved to be the nicest to drive of the four Speed Sixes I was to own. I first saw UW 4989 in the most unlikely of places—Messrs. Lambert’s Ford showrooms in Kingston. Tucked in amongst Fords of all shapes and sizes, the fine old car seemed awfully out of place and it was not long before I had prevailed upon the owner to agree to a price reduction enabling me to cope. But I didn’t keep the car long, for two reasons. In the first place I found, and still find, an open car not very convenient if, as I do, one has to keep a lot of stuff in the car most of the time. Within a week I’d had a case of tools stolen from the Bentley while it was parked, and I’d also underestimated the financial strain of running two Speed Sixes at the same time. I rather think Guy Griffiths bought this car from me and it was handed over at Brooklands to Louis Giron on his behalf.
At about this time my dreams of unseating Stanley Woods from his throne in the motor-cycling world were beginning to fade. I’d been over to the Isle of Man, watched the T.T., and decided that that particular circuit was not for me, but for some time I’d had an ambition to lap the outer-circuit at over 100 m.p.h. on a 1,000-c.c., a 500.c.c. and a 350-c.c. machine. I managed a lap a 106 m.p.h. on a Brough, and went slightly faster on a 500-c.c. Norton but, try as I would, I couldn’t make it on my 350-c.c, Norton. In fact I had, at the time, done more than 50 laps on the 350 at over 99 but not one at 100 m.p.h. We’d done masses of alterations on the thing but nothing seemed to make any difference–it always lapped at just over or just under 99 m.p.h. Coupled with this, I’d started having a series of prangs at the Track. They began in a small way. I slid off the 500 at Chronograph Villa in a Mountain race. I hit a barrel and came off again, much harder in the Brooklands Grand Prix. Then, when I was trying the 350 on the outer-circuit it began to steer very strangely and finished in the sewage farm with a flat front tyre. The prangs quickly got bigger and better and the next one really shook me, for the 500 elected to seize and throw me off at nearly 110 m.p.h. on the Byfleet banking.
When, a fortnight later, I took the 350 out and did no less than five consecutive laps at over 99 m.p.h., but still not one of over 100, after weeks of work, I decided I was getting old and prevailed on a very good friend of mine, Jock Forbes, to ride my machines for me while I maintained them. This change involved an even greater motoring mileage, for Jock had ridden regularly in the T.T. and elsewhere, and wanted to continue doing so.
The next change came when, on opening one of the motor papers one morning, I spied a magnificent streamlined Gurney Nutting fixed-head coupe Speed Six Bentley advertised for sale. There was a photograph of the car and it was described as being specially built “to the order of a world-famous racing motorist.” No price was mentioned and on inquiry it was found to be steep. But I was awfully keen to buy the car if I could and, with that aim in view, I started to try to sell my Freestone and Webb coupe. In those days one couldn’t give big cars away and although my Bentley was in really beautiful condition, the best bid I could get was a rather half-hearted £25. [These prices are returning! Ed.] In the end I did buy the streamlined coupe although I don’t remember now what I had to pay for it, but I do remember bludgeoning the buyer of my own car into parting with £27 10s.
The Gurney Nutting coupe gave me quite as much trouble-free motoring as the other Speed Sixes although it wasn’t quite as silky and it was definitely more tiring to drive. It was very heavy indeed on fuel and was, at the same time, rather faster than the others but otherwise I have no very vivid recollections regarding it. Many months later I changed it for my fourth and last Speed Six, an immense boat-shaped Barker streamlined two-seater. This car was reputed to have been an actual Show model and was a real eyeful. Its looks belied its performance, however, for although it as as very nice to drive, it had nowhere near the performance of the others. It continued to serve me well until just before the outbreak of war, when I sold it to an enthusiast in Cardiff.
I now experienced my first and only brief ownership of a Mercedes. Arthur Baron had several in his fascinating emporium at Dorking and I finally picked on a very pretty 36/220 fixed-head foursome coupe. It had a fabric body and huge flared wings but once again I was disappointed—not in the engine—but in the roadholding and general pleasure of driving. In fact, I didn’t think it held a candle to any of my Speed Sixes and although I haven’t owned another Mercedes since, I’ve driven several, and still feel the same way about them.
Such war-time motoring as I did was not of a particularly thrilling nature, and was accomplished on a 1939 Vauxhall Ten and a 1939 Ford Eight, but at one period I did have in the stable a 1938 328 B.M.W., on which I had one or two really good runs. With the re-introduction of the basic fuel ration, I acquired a 1937 4½-litre Bentley Park Ward saloon—a really lovely car which I was very sorry to part with. But I never could refuse a profit and it was duly replaced with a 1935 20/25 Rolls-Royce Lancefield sports saloon which quite quickly suffered the same fate.
I then bought a 1938 V12 Lagonda short-chassis sports saloon and at the same time, but from a different source, another 4½-litre 100-m.p.h. Invicta four-seater. Both these proved to be real winners, although the cost of service and repairs on the Lagonda was staggering, and this was one of the reasons why I sold it. I replaced it with another 4¼ Bentley which I bought from Frank Kennington and which was, I believe, a prototype. It had a four-door pillarless body by Van Vooren and the book showed it to have been originally registered in 1933. Here again, I was very sorry to part, but we were now firmly established an a rising market and the profit motive kept rearing its ugly head.
At about this time the Invicta was involved in is spectacular episode which might have had a more serious ending. We were running it 1½-litre blown Alta at Hartlepool and had devised a self-steering towing attachment which enabled the Alta to be towed behind the Invicta without a driver in the cockpit. As we were loading up, I noticed that one of the tubular towing rods was slightly cracked. I showed it to Jean, and we decided to back it with lashings of rope, and to try to get home by taking things steadily. We had hardly left the town when, with a terrific crash, the bar broke. The subsequent contortions immediately snapped the second bar and the Alta was then held only by the rope. With visions of that breaking and the Alta disappearing through a shop window, I braked hard with the Invicta, whereupon, as desired, the Alta rammed it astern. Surprisingly enough, very little damage was done, but we had a 250-mile rope-tow home.
The Bentley was replaced with the nicest of the Rolls we owned-a 1934 20/25 H. J. Mulliner sports saloon. It was a wonderful car, which gave literally no trouble whatever in covering is really substantial mileage. If it had a fault, it was that it was inclined to use a little oil when driven hard, as I’m afraid it usually was. As the annual mileage was now well on the up grade we added a little fixed-head Fiat 500 to the stable and, in 1946, Jean and I took this to Switzerland for a holiday.
To anyone who has owned one of these wonderful little cars they require no recommendation, and during our holiday we covered nearly 1,500 Miles. We made our base at Geneva, where we watched Alfa win the Swiss G.P., and our only spot of trouble occurred between Dijon and Paris on the way home, when the engine went out like a light with a cracked distributor cap. Fortunately we had a spare one. In fact we had taken quite a substantial stock of bits and pieces, but this was the only thing we needed. At the end of the year I part-exchanged the Rolls for a later model of the same breed—a 1937 25/30 H. J. Mulliner razor-edge sports saloon, and we repeated our Swiss holiday with this car. The Grand Prix that year was being held at Berne and we made our headquarters there and again had a wonderful time.
We had found the little Fiat rather tiring when covering long distances in a hurry and we had great hopes of doing the thing in style in the Rolls. Strangely, we were disappointed. Needless to say, we had no trouble of any sort but, at the end of this trip, I came to the conclusion that the small Rolls of pre-1937 is not the ideal car if one is in a hurry, as I usually seemed to be. If, on the other hand, one had all the time in the world at one’s disposal, there is no car I would rather drive, but I never seemed to be in this position, so I sold the Rolls at the beginning of 1949 and replaced it with a 1946 Light-15 Citroen.
Although we didn’t realise it at the time, this marked the beginning of what I can only describe as the Citroen-era for us, and from that day on we have never been without one. Like all cars they have their shortcomings, but they embody more of the things that seem to me to matter, than any other car I have tried in the same price range. This particular Citroen had done some 5,000 miles when it became mine and I liked it so much that I sold the Fiat and bought a 1939 Light-15 Citroen roadster as a stablemate for the saloon. These two cars provided me with first-class motoring throughout 1949 and were joined at the end of the year by the Healey Silverstone, which I raced throughout 1950.
I began 1950 by resolving to make no changes in the stable whatever but, as sometimes seems to happen, I made more than for several years. I had had a new Morris on order for an eternity for Jean and when it developed into the new Minor and arrived in May, I sold her the idea that she would be better off by continuing to run her 1939 Ford Eight, while I used the Minor! Almost simultaneously I fell for a beautiful 1933 20/25 Rolls-Royce Gurney Nutting drophead sedanca coupe, and sold my Light-15 Citroen in favour of it.
But I still hadn’t learnt my lesson and, although it was a lovely car, I always found myself driving it flat-out and, wherever I went, I always seemed to be late. It just wasn’t fast enough and before the year was out I had sold it. At the end of the season I sold the Healey as well and now had no sports-car. So, early in 1951, bought another 4½-litre 100-m.p.h. low-chassis Invicta tourer. This car had been completely rebuilt to its original specification re-registered at the £10 tax rate in 1949, and was to all intents and purposes indistinguishable from a new car. I had some trouble with an oil leak in the engine which involved removing the block, and the fuel tank sprang a leak, but otherwise the car gave no bother. I happened to drop in on Jack Bartlett’s emporium in Pembridge Villas one day. This has always been a trouble-spot for me, for I practically never go in there without falling badly for at least one of Jack’s motor cars and, on this occasion, it was a car that I’d always wanted to own—the little Fiat 1,100 aerodynamic coupe that was for a long time owned by Lord Brabazon. So the Fiat left and the Invicta joined Jack’s stock. After a short ownership, I found that I still hankered after the huskiness of the Invicta and, following another visit to Jack’s, I came out again the owner of the 4½-litre while the Fiat fell in once more with the rest of his stock.
By this time my 1946 Citroen had been replaced with a 1950 model. When I originally acquired the 1946 car it was cellulosed black, which I thought rather drab. So, to brighten it up, I gave it some yellow wheels and a yellow body-line. It subsequently proved to he such a wonderful car that, perceiving an omen, I treated the Minor in the same way. When, in its turn, the Minor proved equally good, I felt that I must stick to this colour scheme, so I treated the 1950 Citroen likewise and, since then, have adopted the colour as standard on our “fleet.”
Since the beginning of this year I had been thinking a lot about changing the Light-15 Citroen for a six-cylinder of the same breed. I wanted to make the change, but couldn’t find anyone except vendors of the latter to “push me over the edge,” as it were. Motor Sport finally provided the push in its road-test, with Cecil Clutton’s excellent postscript, on the six-cylinder. Within a week I made the change, with some doubt in my mind for I had become by now, very “Light-15-minded.” To date, however, I have not only no regrets but I am sorry I didn’t make the change earlier.
My six-cylinder is a one-owner car, first registered in December, 1950, and there were 11,000 miles on the “clock” when it came into my hands in May this year. As I write, it has now added another 8,000 miles to this total and, in my view, it provides just those qualities that the Light-15 lacks.
To me, the greatest of these is the comparative quietness at speeds above an indicated 70 m.p.h. I expected to find it much heavier in traffic and much bulkier than the smaller model, and I expected not to be able to take it round corners in the same way but, in all these respects, I have been agreeably surprised. Fuel consumption has never fallen below 17 m.p.g. and, on recent runs to Snetterton and Silverstone, the figure was just under 21 m.p.g. Corresponding figures for the best of my Light-I5s were 24 and 28 m.p.g. Returning from Silverstone on July 19th, I did suffer a rather shattering malady with the car. On the way home, the engine developed a fearful rattle which got worse as the revs. increased and, over a certain engine speed, disappeared completely. By the time we had arrived home I was convinced that it was nothing less than a main bearing on the way out, but to my great surprise and relief it turned out to be the flywheel, which had become loose on its spigot! Since then, I have completed a 900-mile tour of Devon and Cornwall in the car, and now consider myself a complete convert.
Our family stable, at the moment then, consists of the Citroen Six, the 1950 Morris Minor saloon and my wife’s 1949 Ford Anglia. The Citroen and the Morris are, in my opinion, first-class motor cars in every way, and my wife regards her Ford just as highly. I shall get into awfully hot water for saying so but I feel, myself, that it falls neatly into Mr. Symondson’s excellently descriptive category of a “soulless hack.” Nevertheless, I do see that it has great virtues—the best of these being that it always starts on the coldest morning, nearly always keeps going, and that if it ever fails, there is the unsurpassed Ford service behind it.
Contributing to this series has made me realise that I have made far too many changes, despite the fact that I do a very big annual mileage. That fault will, I think, be subject to automatic correction for, as I write, we are on a well and truly falling market and already our small fleet has had several hundred pounds knocked off its market value. So it would appear that these three will have to stay some time. When I changed the Light-15 for the Six, I resold the Invicta to Jack Bartlett and I now have no open car. Although we seldom use one we find we miss it quite a bit. If we felt we could justify it, we wouldn’t hesitate for a moment—we would acquire an XK120 forthwith. But as we use the type so seldom, we continue to resort to something tying up a bit less currency. In any case, I think the vintage-type of car has tremendous appeal and, to be able to drive a motor car of this class occasionally, provides what is, to my mind, the only really complete change from the moderns.
That seems to complete the list. I suppose I should be a good deal wealthier in terms of hard cash had I never been bitten by the motoring bug but I know, for certain, that I should have missed an awful lot of fun and, all in all, I cannot conjure up any real regrets.