Cars in books, October 1976
Not much this time, although a reader has drawn my attention to “Present Indicative” in which the actor-author Noel Coward refers to meeting a Russian Prince in Cincinnati in 1920 who had a “racing car which looked like a red pepper-, and to ordering his Rolls-Royce to Chicago from New York, when he stayed at the Lake Shore Drive Hotel there in 1926. It is explained that the Rolls-Royce was a “wild extravagance”. It is described as a vintage model with shining new Brewster body. This, it is explained, successfully concealed from the casual eye “the aged dilapidation of its engines” (Those unversed in mechanics do sometimes think that their cars are driven by engines, in the plural). The car had been bought because a Rolls-Royce never wears out, because the drive was on the right-hand side, which would be very useful in England, and on account of its ravishing appearance. In the long run it “cost as much as three Bentleys”, and often the proud owner would leave the stage-door, step into it, and have to step out of the other door into a taxi; but this unreliability he ascribed to the inadequacy of his chauffeur.
I have also been gratified to receive the following letter relating to my references in these columns to Waddesdon Manor, from Col. A. R. Waller, MBE, MC, Administrator to this National Trust property, who says he is a keen BMW man, having owned three cars of this make since 1966. He reminds us that Waddesdon Manor, which was bequeathed to the National Trust by Mr. James de Rothschild in 1957 and has since then welcomed more than a million visitors, can accommodate afternoon motor-club events, and has had such visits from the Singer, Fiat Riley, AC and Rolls-Royce Clubs.
In the article in your July issue, entitled “Chauffeur’s Corner”, it is assumed that the author asks if anyone can comment on the cars used at Waddesdon Manor between 1920 and 1930. “Assumed”, you seem to have confused the cars belonging to Lord Rothschild (who lived in Hertfordshire and was more noted for his Zebra-drawn carriage than his use of mechanical transport) and those belonging to Mr. James de Rothschild, the owner of Waddesdon Manor. It is indeed correct that there was a prewar Singer at Waddesdon; this sky-blue car was bought, second-hand, in Paris in 1913, and was brought to Buckinghamshire by Mr. James de Rothschild when he inherited the Waddesdon property from his great-aunt, Miss Alice de Rothschild, in 1922. Miss Alice had had a Lanchester; Mr. James de Rothschild had a Rolls-Royce as well as the Singer before he inherited Waddesdon. There was therefore no question of one owner “changing his allegiance from Lanchester to Rolls-Royce”, but rather of a Rolls-Royce being brought to Waddesdon by the new owner, who also retained the Lanchester for a number of years.
Incidentally, the Singer, as was stated, was strictly a two-seater; it was often driven by both Mr. and Mrs. James de Rothschild in the Waddesdon locality, but seems doubtful if it can ever have been used for “meeting servants at the station”, if they had had any luggage, and it could only accommodate one passenger. Aylesbury A. R. WALLER Administrator, Waddesdon Manor
This is most interesting and confirms that both Lanchester and Rolls-Royce cars were in use at Waddesdon, so it is possible that Fred Lanchester did have reason to try to interest the Rothschild family in a new Lanchester straight-eight.—W.B.