AT strangely regular intervals there is an outburst of professed indignation in Parliament against people accused of using their cars for pleasure purposes. Anyone who was once in the habit of “using” a car would laugh mirthlessly at the notion that much “pleasure” could be got out of a petrol ration which, at the best, is hardly enough to get an engine up to its optimum temperature, but as the Highest Cockalorums as regularly snub the men of wrath by telling them that there is nothing unpatriotic in using the ration in any way you like, argument is pointless, even though the hidden hand behind the men of wrath might be interesting if unveiled. But as I wander around, compulsorily, on my own feet, the thought will intrude that far too many owners play into the enemy’s hands by plastering their windscreens with excuses for using their cars. In hieroglyphic initials they tell what they suppose to be a critical world that they are really amateur firemen, or parashots, or air wardens or what not, and if they can’t claim to be serving their country in that way, they plead that they give lifts to soldiers, quite an unnecessary statement considering that everybody who could find the room for a military gentleman plus his generous equipment would think it a privilege to help him on his way. In the early days of the war, when the epidemic first broke out, I had thoughts of sticking up a big “T” for I was and am under the impression that the Taxpayer is doing his full duty in the present dispute with Mr. Hitler, but I refrained because on second thoughts it seemed to me that anyone but Rip Van Winkle knew quite well that a car on the road was providing quite a lot of the sinews of war. Let us clear our minds of cant, as Dr. Johnson once remarked; and we might also clear our windscreens of rubbish, for these tacit excuses only play into the hands of those elusive people, the anti-motorists.
I understand that the Army has discovered Prescott, and that the famous hill is in its hands at the present time. It would be interesting to know whether tanks and what not are doing timed runs up the course, and if so, how many have come unstuck on some of those deceptive bends which have been the downfall of so many good men and true.
As far as I can learn, there is no definite news of Ettore Bugatti, affectionately known to so many of us as Le Patron. I believe that, of late, he made Paris his headquarters for business reasons, but whether he escaped from the advancing tide of Huns or whether he is undergoing the horrors of life in occupied territory is not known. Fate has dealt hardly with Le Patron of late, for only a week or two before the war his only son was killed on the road, in Alsace, while testing a new Bugatti. Jean Bugatti was in England attending the International Meeting at Prescott at the end of July, 1939. Another delightful man I met at the same time was M. Paul, the director of the Molsheim factory, and about whom also I have no news.
The motor-cycle has been so overshadowed during the last decade by the small car which, so legend hath it, has a shoehorn in the tool-kit, that it is pleasant to hear that it is now coming into its own again. Motor-cyclists are among the best fellows on the road, always ready to bear a hand in times of trouble, even to their own inconvenience and delay, as I once found when I went off the road into a ditch on a rainy day. They are also the fastest travellers, for they can get through where the broader four-wheeler would be blocked, so their use for military purposes should be invaluable. A friend of mine who has just taken a commission was quite a hot motor-cyclist until, three or four years ago, he graduated to what some people might think a more stately equipage. He tells me that, on joining his unit, he found that the first thing he had to do was to learn to ride a motor-bike. This gave him some joy, for he has not done much motoring lately in his 25 h.p. two-seater, and he has solemnly gone through a course of instruction ending in solo practice on the road without petrol coupons.
SALMSON gf6Q Finest unblou n San Sebastian outside France. Act ually raced Lasarte, entirely rebuilt modernised. Touring and racing equipments. Box 1:119 go MOTOR SPORT.
Letters, December 1991
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