[Having sensed that Major-General Sir Edmund Ironside. that great military person in every sense of the word, had enjoyed an unusual motoring life we were delighted when his son, Lord Ironside, agreed to write about his Father’s cars. We publish herewith his account of these cars, some of them unusual, and which accomplished some unusual journeys. — ED.]
Born on May 6th, 1880, my Father was already a tall and imposing young man by the time he was gazetted a 2nd Lieutenant at 19 in Queen Victoria’s Army, sailing immediately for South Africa to fight the Boers as a Horse Artilleryman. From that moment, he gradually outstripped all his brother officers in every sense, acquiring over the years the public nickname of “Tiny” Ironside. He was extremely well built in addition to being immensely large, and this presented problems to those who had to provide for him. Shoes, clothes and such things as theatre seats were never big enough. Gloves were too small and he often had to bend under doorways and ceilings to avoid knocking his head. He was, in riding terms, difficult to “mount” and, for the horse age in which he was brought up, this was a definite disadvantage. Only the Army could provide animals of sufficient size to bear his weight, and even then with some difficulty. One horse he had for many years in South Africa as a Major was called “Hippo”, giving him the nickname by which he was often known to his closer friends. And then when he was a General there was a 19-hander called “Mighty Atom”, which he used to ride out in London down Rotten Row. This horse was a very large thoroughbred indeed, but there were few like him.
His first mechanised mount in the years before the 1914/18 War was a four-cylinder FN motorcycle with shaft drive. It provided a comfortable and reliable “seat”. Later in 1912, posing as a Norwegian, he was to see these machines being assembled at the Fabriques Nationales Works when he joined the payroll of that firm for a short period on special service to obtain intelligence about their armaments manufacture. For a man who was fluent in 14 languages, this Belgian escapade was easy going by comparison with the two-year special service assignment alongside the German Army in South West Africa, for which a grateful Fatherland unknowingly awarded him their campaign medal.
He married in June 1915 and moved into his first rented home at High Wycombe after returning from command in Archangel in 1919, bringing with him his servant, Constantine Ossipov, the 16-year-old son of the leader of the nearby Vaskaranda village. Kosti, as he was always known to the family, formed a close bond with my Father and invariably called him Papashka, or Little Father, grateful perhaps for taking him out of Bolshevik hands into the free world. He was really more than a servant, for his duties included that of bodyguard. This was illustrated by an incident in Archangel when Kosti shot down the gunman attempting to assassinate my Father, with an automatic pistol. One shot ploughed through his fur hat, one ripped off an epaulette and a third grazed his breeches. Before the gunman had time to fire again, Kosti had shot him down, thereby saving his master’s life. This was just one of the miraculous escapes from bullets which my Father used to recount, but Kosti always remained the most constant and alert attendant, later becoming his chauffeur and eventually settling in France after changing his name to Osterley. The story is that, seeing this name on a signpost one day near London, he decided that it was a suitable anglicised version of Ossipov and so adopted it!
My Father was called away again almost immediately. Now aged 40 and a Major-General with a knighthood, he could afford to buy his first car in peacetime England, for my Mother to use whilst he was away. It was an open two-seater Riley with a two-cylinder engine and paraffin lamps. It was considered to be one of the best models of its time for private use. It even had a canvas cover as well as a windscreen, and a sliced potato rubbed evenly across the glass made up for the lack of wipers if it came on to rain. However, first of all he had to teach my Mother to drive. She recalls that every lesson ended in tears and it was only after he had left England that she was able to learn the art happily, from the local garage proprietor.
This trip in 1920 was my Father’s first acquaintance with large motor cars. He was leading a special mission to Hungary for the Allies to chase the Rumanian Army back to its homeland, and was issued with two practically new Rover-Sunbeam touring cars from a large government depot at Earls Court. These were the best that were available and, to make matters more difficult, they were equipped with acetylene lamps. The small entourage, loaded with 80 gallons of petrol, including Kosti (now temporarily in uniform for the occasion), set off under the magnificent seal of His Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, which read as follows:—
TO ALL WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
This is to certify that
SIR EDMUND IRONSIDE
is proceeding on a special mission to Hungary on the authority of the Supreme Council of the Allied and Associated Powers. He will be accompanied by one officer, one servant and two chauffeurs, and will travel in two motor cars, of which the following are particulars:—
(1) Rover-Sunbeam Open Touring Cars.
(2) Colour — Khaki.
(3) H.P. — 12/16.
(4) Cylinders — 4.
(5) Seating Capacity — 4.
(6) British Registration Numbers:— L.U.7505, L.U.7506.
(7) No. of Chassis — 1055, 1095.
(8) No. of Engines — 2107, V.B. 2108.
(9) Value — £650.
It is requested that all whom it may concern will give every possible assistance to Major-General Sir Edmund Ironside in the furtherance of his mission.
CURZON OF KEDLESTON.
It may have afforded protection to the person, but not to the cars. There were constant breakdowns, overnight stops for repairs, and at Basle the tempting sight of two large 75-h.p. Mercedes tourers with electric lighting going for a song was too good to be true. How easy it would have been to make an exchange, but Sunbeams had been issued and the Quartermaster expected Sunbeams back again. Besides, a British General on official duty had to be seen with British-made cars.
The most spectacular part of that long journey to Hungary was a hair-raising ride with the cars being transported by rail through the Voralburg Tunnel. The fact that petrol was almost unobtainable in war-torn Europe meant that the extra supplies were like gold and had to be watched all the time, so the party had to take it in turns riding on board.
After many more months of fighting in Turkey and Iran, my Father then came back to peacetime soldiering in 1921 as Commandant of the Staff College at Camberley, and with the prospect of a number of years at home he then bought himself another car, more suited than the Riley to his size.
As he comments in his diary of September 21st:—
“I shall want one for the family if not for myself. Cars are going down in price, but one with a movable seat capable of taking me is difficult to find. We are thinking of a 20-h.p. Austin. They are good powerful cars and stand up to the work, I believe.” And So he bought the Austin and trained Kosti to drive it. “After his first effort he was so delighted that when he came in he took the cook and danced her round the kitchen.”
Meanwhile, the little Riley carried on running. In November 1921 he records: “Took the little Riley up to Coventry to have the gears looked at and did the 80 miles in four hours. Roads north of Oxford in a bad state. I wonder when they will find something which will stand up against this appalling wear and tear of fast traffic. It seems to me that we ought to insist upon pneumatic tyres. I found one of the Riley sons, who took the car over. He was still running one of the same models.” That statement perhaps speaks for itself and for the name of Riley.
Then, in May 1972, the Duke of Westminster was advertising his Owen Magnetic for sale. This was just the sort of opportunity for which my Father was looking, a large bargain-price car costing over £3,000 new, having covered barely 11,000 miles, and only nine months old, now selling for £350. Thus at last lie had a “mount” that could bear him: “I have taken the plunge and exchanged my Austin for an Owen Magnetic. Whether I have taken my courage too much in my hands I do not know. The car goes magnificently in every way and is far superior to a Rolls. The electric drive is so very easy that the wear and tear on tyres and on the engine must be less. I think most people are too frightened of electric complications. The method of drive is really the best available. She was very dirty, and Kosti and I have been cleaning her up thoroughly and we are going to burn the paint off the wheels and repaint them yellow to go with the royal blue of the car.”
A new car is just like a new toy. It must be shown off on every occasion : “Ran down to Bexhill with the new car and my wife. She is not so easy to drive though there is very little to learn. Distance 97 miles. The car does about 12 or 13 to the gallon, but one need only use petrol and not bother about benzole, which saves probably 8s. every time one fills the tank. The mileage thus comes up to about 16, so that I do about the same as the Austin. I ran back through London, making 110 miles, and stopped at Le Grice Elers, a firm of motor people, agents for the Owen Magnetic. They say I have a wonderful buy and I really think I have. They overhauled the car and say there is nothing wrong at all. I hope it will do us well. We must get a luggage carrier put on to the back and then we shall be up-to-date with everything.”
But like all new “mounts”; everything goes swimmingly for a while, until the first fall, in this case just after a mere 10 days: “A very hot day. Up to London and a burst tyre in consequence. I bought a new Michelin Cable 935 x 135, which with the tube cost me £16.20.”
In June there was a drive to Epsom for the Derby, followed by visits to friends, attendance at official functions, and so on. The novelty wore off and the car slipped nicely into the background of English life. Various changes were noted. For instance in the middle of June: “Have fitted some things called ‘Amplokons’ to the Magnetic and put in two smaller jets in order to save petrol. The car seems to run just as well and probably a little steadier than she did, especially at the slower speeds. I see there has been a lot of correspondence in the papers about their use and, practically speaking, they have given good results, although theoretically they seem to be downed by all the experts.” And finally by the end of June he had made up his mind: “Car running magnificently. We have consumed nearly 90 gallons of petrol since we had it a little under two months ago. It is a small part of the running costs when all is said and done. Tyres are always a good deal more. I think we have made an uncommonly good buy. I shall be so spoilt with this car that I shall never be able to drive another one with gears and crashing every time.”
In August the valves were ground-in at Le Grice Elers, and in November a big-end bearing was replaced; and then Kosti, mad keen to join the Army, was recruited into the Tank Corps at the beginning of 1923. Also at this time, the first signs of trouble were appearing at the Crown Ensign Works at Willesden (817, Hawthorn Road, NW), when my Father drove there to have the electric switchgear repaired: “Discovered the Crown Ensign Works in a state of dilapidation, but the Manager and Head Mechanic both had a look at the car and the mechanic drove it round a bit. He said the difficulty was in the control mechanism and that the arcing was unavoidable. Otherwise she wanted nothing, They had a big Crown Magnetic there with a six-cylinder 38.9-h.p. Ensign engine and an open English body. They had a few improvements on her and you heard a little click when you dropped into each gear, which would make it much easier driving in the dark. She had a great bonnet on her like a Rolls. He tells me that there are about 40 Owen Magnetics in England and few of them have ever been in the shops for repairs.”
The car duly went to Willesden for repair and a fortnight later he went down to see it, getting involved in a little company promotion on the way: “They have only one really good mechanic and he had taken things down to show me. The transmission is all right and that is the main thing. After 30,000 miles it requires no adjustment, which is a good recommendation. I saw the Head-man, called Gillet — most civil. He dragged me in to see his Solicitor in Chancery Lane, a little man called Bower, and I told him that the transmission was really good. They say that the licence on the transmission has been badly handled in the past and that they now have all the World rights outside America and are going to float a company. I expect they will be after me to take shares, but as I haven’t any money, I cannot be tempted. He tells me that there were about 1,500 Owen Magnetics made and that is all. I am going to write him a letter telling him how good I found the car.”
By the middle of 1924, after a trip to Belgium, the car had covered 37,000 miles altogether. My Father bought Kosti his discharge from the Army and he came back again to him as personal servant and chauffeur. In the new age of mechanisation, of which my Father was a proponent, he was an obvious target of the Motor Trade, which was now very much alive to the possibilities of business with the Armed Services. On October 8th, 1925, he was the SMMT’s guest for dinner, the night before the Motor Show. The Home Secretary, Sir H. Joynson-Hicks, Guest of Honour, spoke of the increasing traffic and cost of building roads — exactly the problems of today. This was followed by a visit to the Motor Show, making comparisons with the new “cheap” American cars. Buicks for under £500, but the Owen Magnetic chassis at £750, an Aster at £620 or a Beverley-Barnes at £750, still seemed the best value for money. The most striking car was a Kissel sports-model. By the end of 1925, my Father was considering a new engine: “The old Buda engine is getting so very noisy at high speeds. A replacement Red Seal Continental engine for £150 would keep the car going for years. Our old Magnetic has been running since 1917 and has done 72,000 miles, and I see no reason why it should not go on for ever if it is treated properly.” He felt that a sleeve-valve engine would be the best, perhaps a Daimler, Panhard or Minerva, but the problem remained. He even went to the Willys-Overland Works at the end of King’s Road to consider a Willys-Knight engine. By 1926 he was back on half pay again and the coal strike put an end to ideas of engine replacement, at least for the time being.
With nothing to do, on half pay, and now living temporarily in Norfolk, my Father and Kosti spent a good deal of time doing odd repairs and tuning-up. The little incidents became the important event of a day, such as: “In running to Holkham, we managed to fuse all our lights and were stopped by a policeman, who allowed us to borrow a light and go on. He should have turned us in.” A new car was out of the question, in any case: “I am much afraid that my friend Morgan of the Magnetic Car Co. has gone broke. He failed to bring down the finished car to a man called Johnson, who was quite prepared to buy one on my recommendation, and I don’t believe he now has a single one on the road. I saw a certain number of Magnetics for sale by another firm, all the smaller kind, and he may therefore have sold up his stock. It is a pity, but I suppose, people are shy of anything new and also expensive. It is quite a different thing buying a secondhand car very cheap and running it. The amount of money required to run a car business in these days is colossal. All the other people connected with the Magnetic tell me that over £15,000 has been lost already in the Company. I can quite believe it, as the overhead charges are ludicrous.” The car continued to be maintained by Kosti and my Father, and it became a sort of lifeline in Norfolk, constantly in use, fitted with a trailer and looking spick and span.
Then, at last it was back on full pay again, in October 1926, at Aldershot, in command of the 2nd Division, which coincided with another visit to the Motor Show. He was disappointed by the large number of stands in the hands of the carriage-builders. “I liked the eight-cylinder Beverley-Barnes, but I have now seen them in three shows running and have never seen any on the road. I was sorry to see that the Magnetic was not showing this year.”
The petrol bills for the Magnetic in the last six months of 1926 showed 496 gallons at 13 miles per gallon, and a smaller second car soon became a necessity. So in January 1927, when the Magnetic was being dismantled and rebored, a Morris-Cowley saloon was bought, for £120: “I shall not register the Magnetic until the next quarter so as to save a certain amount of expense. The saloon will delight the family.” Finally, when the Magnetic was ready for the road again, at the end of March after a complete engine overhaul, the mechanic fractured one of the half-shafts, having apparently applied the electric-brake fully at 30 m.p.h. or so. This was put right and the car returned to the road again with a new heart, having covered well over 100,000 miles. The electric-brake must have been tricky to use as again in March 1927, a mechanic fractured a half-shalt, not knowing what the effect would be if it was applied at 30 m.p.h.
The car, after its major overhaul, was running perfectly again. With no Government car at his disposal as at Camberley, a large reliable transport was necessary for the Divisional Commander, who had to tour his Command regularly. At this time, Le Grice Elers were offering a 1922 Crown Magnetic, in yellow livery on a Berliet chassis, with the Minerva engine, for £350 and only 30,000 miles on the clock. Le Grice Elers wanted a quick sale and, lent the car for trial, as the owner — a lady — had just inherited £190,000 and was going to live in Italy. So, in August, my Father offered £200 and it was accepted. Kosti was immediately put to work with Simoniz cleaner and the result was a car as good as new, until a few days later in Norfolk there was a collision with the Walsingham Tax Collector, causing a damaged wing; not serious, but annoying.
In April 1928, he recorded 5,600 miles’ driving in six months, at 13 miles to the gallon, with petrol at 1s. 5d. per gallon after an increase of 4d. tax in the Budget. With an appointment to Command the Meerut District in India, plans were made to ship the new car out there and drive on from Bombay. On October 10th the car was loaded on to a Cunarder at Liverpool and for £26 was transported to Bombay. At Bombay, on November 16th, everything was ready for the drive to Meerut, including Kosti, who now had an Afridi boy assigned to him. According to local opinion, only the crossing of the Taptee River looked as if it would present any problem, and sure enough it did, on the second day out of Bombay, when they reached it in the afternoon: “‘Then began our difficulties. The most frightful arguments with the men in charge of the boats. After a deal of haggling and actual measurement, I proved to them that one ferry boat would not take the car. It took over an hour to collect the other boat and lash it securely to the first one. The whole was towed over quite easily by a kind of swinging method. the men wading in the water, and the passage took about 30 min. Then came the real difficulty, as they proposed that I should let the car down very Steep ramps into about a foot of water. The very minute it started I saw the chassis was going to touch and it actually did so on the edge of the boat, owing to the enormous length of the wheelbase. I had the car up again and the haggling began again for more ramp. I actually had to get my ruffianly Afridi boy to go off and fetch one from another boat. All the ferry-men began grumbling and I had to jump on them hard. Eventually, I rigged up something like a ramp and the car came down and rushed through the water and sand and up onto the road. I had taken off my shoes and stockings to help in the operations and ran up to get my coat and money to pay them, when I discovered petrol and oil pouring out on the ground. Fearing the worst, we got the car up to the top of the incline and I dived underneath and, for a moment, I really thought that the bottom of the crankcase had gone. But the damage was only to the surnp and I eventually blocked up the hole with a piece of stick. This doctored the oil question sufficiently, but the petrol tank was more serious. The exhaust pipe was fastened to the bottom of the tank and had been pushed up, making a little hole about 1/2 in. long. This we blocked up with soap and drove on into Sherpur to the Dak Bungalow. Here I found the petrol leak getting worse, so I had to do some thinking.
“The petrol tank had to come off and there was an end of it. The garage in Bombay had made such a fuss about taking it off that I thought it would be a big job, but we did it in half-an-hour and by 5 p.m. I had it off and on the ground. We were 1 1/2 miles from the actual village so I stopped a two-horse cart and a native gentleman inside gave me a ride with my tank to the nearest iron-man. He couldn’t solder so I had to go on myself into the town (which was having a Market day) and I eventually found a tin-smith. The whole place became pandemonium when I asked him to solder my hole at once, as he was actually engaged in making picture-frames and wouldn’t turn over. I found my Urdu becoming more and more fluent, as I warmed-up to things, and the crowd took a hearty part in our doings. We were a better side-show than any other. How they love an argument! I believe that if I had given up they would have been quite annoyed. Finally I said that I would do the thing myself and persuaded him to produce his various instruments. You cannot imagine the enthusiasm and amusement of the crowd when I began, and the old tin-smith and his assistant actually left their frame-making and came and watched me. Then came the matter of payment. He ought to have paid me for the amusement and advertisement given to the crowd. I gave him a rupee and with that he was more than pleased. Then, with two men bearing the tank, I returned to the bungalow, and started to put the tank back again. We had emptied the petrol — nearly 25 gallons — into basins and thence into a big bath. We then found the bath was leaking steadily and eventually found we must have lost, one way and another, about 10 gallons. Still, the tank was in and the leak stopped. . . .
“Eventually we ran into the village and tried to get some oil. A crowd of shouting people in the pitch dark and the man who sold the oil was found to be away but would be back in an hour. I knew that it would be more and so we pushed off, after I had knocked down two of the crowd standing around me to get them out of my way. Then the climax arrived, when a passing bhil-cart dragged off our spare wheel and the extra tyre attached. The wheel we found — the tyre no, and so we had to go on in despair. . . .”
Permanent repairs were made at Delhi and the car took up station at Meerut, settling into the steady routine of Army life, with inspection tours, hunting trips and everything else. It was seen all about the Command, often unexpectedly, to the embarrassment of Junior Officers, who nick-named it the “Yellow Peril”. It was not without its minor troubles, such as wing damage from bullock collisions, changing the Autovac to give a better petrol supply on steep hills, and replacing batteries, tyres and so on. That was all, until January 1929 when my Father was due for home leave and decided it was time to put the car up for sale. The advertisement in The Times of India read as follows:—
The property of Major General Sir Edmund Ironside, shortly going home:
32 HP Magnetic, gearless, clutchless. Easy to drive and maintain. Landaulette body by Clark of London — Aluminium bonnet. Rear trunk with two suitcases by Finnigan. Running board gun box. This car has been touring all over India in cold, hot and wet seasons. Any trial. General Ironside’s, European chauffeur instruct purchaser’s, driver in driving and maintenance. Photograph if desired. For sale at very reasonable price. Apply to C. Osterley, Flagstaff House, Ranikhet.
Its owner wrote: “Kosti has produced an offer for the Magnetic car for 2,000 rupees. This sounds a small price to give for such a car, but then it only cost me 3,000 rupees landed in this country after 1 1/2 years’ work at home. We have done nearly 50,000 miles in three years and all for a capital value of about £70. One cannot complain of that, if it comes off. I have told Kosti to close with the deal at once.”
Returning to Meerut after home leave, Major-General Sir Ironside sighted the Magnetic on January 24th, 1931, in Jhansi Fort, laid up in a garage and virtually abandoned. It was sad to see it in this state. What an epitaph for a line old car.
For the time being, at Holkam, my Father was driving the old Morris-Cowley saloon, which had followed the family from Camberley up to Norfol. This was replaced by another one in August 1930. When my Father finally returned from India he had to set about finding a replacement for the Magnetic. Nothing had been so ideal for him as the two Owen & Ensign Magnetics, covering between them from 1922 to 1930 at least 200,000 miles in all conditions across two Continents, when motoring was both hazardous and eventful at the best of times. This was well illustrated by his accounts and the fact that during these years, the necessity for a safe and reliable mode of travel was always in the forefront of his mind. He was an advocate of mechanisation, for which he battled hard from 1922 onwards, when he was in a position of influence. Later, when cars were more commonplace, other matters took precedence in his mind, but perhaps he created something of a record with the Magnetics.
The new venture, which was one of the first things I remember as a small boy, was the purchase on his 50th birthday, May 6th, 1931, of a straight-eight Wolseley saloon, Reg. No. YV 7923, from Watson of Aldeburgh, who supplied him with all his future cars up to 1939. He records, after taking it home: “Rather a triumph, as I haven’t driven a car with a clutch and gears for 15 years, but it is a delightful car to drive.”
Back on half pay again and home at Holkham, two cars were too much in the 1931 economic recession. The Morris-Cowley was sold and the Wolseley rebored to carry on transporting the family around Norfolk, whilst promotion to Lieut.-General brought with it the sinecure of Lieutenant Governor of the Tower of London. What a position for a man of action! The stagnation of half pay was intolerable, but he stuck it out.
Gradually the dead wood in the higher branches of the Army fell away and by 1933 my Father was offered the post of QMG of the Indian Army, after being on half pay for about 2 1/2 years in all. The new appointment meant another car and he also bought his first house, at Hingham. The new car was a large six-cylinder Vauxhall saloon [25/70 h.p.?—ED.] with a fluid drive [?—ED.], which like the Magnetics then travelled many thousands of miles up and down the Indian Continent, looked after, and mostly driven, by Kosti.
In 1934 the old Crown Magnetic was again sighted in the same garage at Jhansi completely abandoned and no more than a heap of junk. Home leave in 1935 brought promotion to General and, of course, the opportunity to buy another car with which to go back to India. Watson’s produced an eight-cylinder Stutz, which as an American make would be more saleable out there than an English model, but then after he had been using this for a month or two, Watson’s came up with a Daimler Double-Six, which with its fluid drive suited my Father better. I remember the first day we had it and my Father decided to clean the plugs. Being an inquisitive 12-year-old, I asked whether I could lift the other side of the bonnet and take a look. Of course the first thing I saw was six more plugs, so I enquired whether these were going to be cleaned as well. I was told that I was mistaken, as all the plugs were on one side of the engine and were now being cleaned. I protested, but it was not until my Father came round to look that he realised the car indeed had six more plugs and consequently 12 cylinders!
When the time came to return to India at the end of the summer, the plan was to drive the Double-Six to Genoa, put it on the Lloyd Triestino Victoria, and then sail off to Bombay. But things didn’t quite work out like that. After a troublesome trip with fuel feed failures and other stoppages right through France, the car finally had to be left behind in the care of friends at Cannes, with the idea that my Mother, coming later by boat, would pick it up at Marseilles. Everything went as planned, until she was watching the car being hoisted aboard and somebody showed her an English paper headline announcing “General Ironside appointed to Eastern Command”, Whereupon she closed her eyes and ordered the car back to England and proceeded on to India as if nothing had happened, particularly as the Government were paying for her passage. The appointment took effect in 1935, so that when my Father returned he found the car waiting for him. Kosti by now was looking for a better position and finally and sadly left the family’s service. However, the Army now provided a driver and servant and a private chauffeur was really superfluous.
The Double-Six Daimler ran well, but its main disadvantage was that it needed the continuous attention of one man; minor repairs, constant adjustments to the engine and so forth. It was a fussy car and was turned into Watson’s again in 1936 in exchange for a Chrysler, which carried my Father happily for another 50,000 miles in the two years leading up to his appointment as Governor of Gibraltar in 1938. On the Rock, surprisingly enough, he needed more cars than ever and he sailed out there with three models. The first was a large 40-h.p. Lanchester coupe, a real Governor’s car with extra rear seats and glass screens, which could proceed evenly and slowly in procession and allow the occupant to stand up and take salutes. There were not many makes designed for this military-style performance, and it was a thoroughly good car, later bringing him back through Spain in 1939, by special permission of Franco, to England again, to the new and final challenges of his career.
The second car was a Reo Royal, fitted with a torque-converter, and the third — the only new car he ever purchased in his life — was a small Ford saloon. The War came and the cars went up on chocks. But then finally came a Rolls-Royce, quite by chance, when my Father was CIGS in the first few months of the War. I mention it because it had an unusual feature in the design of the windscreen. Sir Geoffrey de Havilland had made a patriotic and generous gesture towards the War effort by handing over his personal Rolls with its aerodynamically-designed body as a gift to the Army for the use of the CIGS. The windscreen was divided and the flat surfaces in reverse slope met in the middle, giving the impression of the stem of a fast motor-boat. It was not a good arrangement for driving as the field of view was obscured at a critical point, but the car remained with the Army until Monty bought it back from them, when he finally left active service with NATO. As far as I know, he still owns it. In 1945 the Lanchester was sold and I later saw it running in Sunderland as a taxi. After that there were a succession of small Daimlers until my Mother finally sold the last one after my Father’s death in 1959, together with the Eagle mascot which has been on every car since 1920. Needless to say, the back-rest of the driver’s seat was stretched beyond repair!
Looking back over the decades. I have counted as many motors as years that have gone by, but I have only mentioned the principal models of which there is a definite record. I think that the significant factor is that from the point of view of travel worthiness, he got the best value out of the American cars. This I believe is still true today, all things being equal. But all things are not equal and the trend to Continental models really reflects the desire tor robustness and simplicity which often seems to be missing in the British designs. Not all models exhibit these features but many do, and they offer greater comfort over long distances. especially for a bigger man like myself. I always feel that the lack of room inside the Jaguar is ridiculous by comparison with its length, and the narrowness of Rover seats assumes that all men are built like fly-weights. It is difficult to find a roomy car in the popular ranges and even Ford’s big models lack space nowadays. I am sure that the average human size is not diminishing, yet car designers seem to take an opposite view and work on the theory that it is. One day, no doubt, they will discover the truth and then maybe we shall have cars of more generous internal proportions.