It has been suggested to me that, as a one-armed driver with sporting inclinations, my experiences may be of some Merest, so -I make no apologies for the ensuing effusion.
Before a potential disabled driver goes to the expense of buying a car, it is as well to have some idea of the likely success of such a venture, and though this to a large extent must. necessarily rest. with the individual, there are one or two points which may not immediately come to mind. It is not a mere question of the physical difficulties to be overcome, but goes a good deal deeper than that. There is what Might be called the psychological aspect of the case to be considered, and, whilst making no claims to be anything of a psyehologist, I think it is obvious that the suecess or otherwise of a one-armed driver depends primarily on that driver’s mental make-up. .lust as in the case of the fully-equipped driver, where it is fairly common knowledge that some people, however much experience they may acquire, will never be at home in a car by reason of their temperament, so with the one-armed driver. Whilst some people would, through no fault of their own be completely incapacitated by their loss from ever driving at all, others, again with no conscious effort on their part, find that their difficulties are the purely physical ones engendered by their disability, and the purely mechanical ones engendered by car-design, all of which can be overcome without a great deal of trouble. It is not, I think, very difficult to discover if one has the nerve to continue driving, especially if one has been a driver previously, as one’s mental state is very soon apparent an emerging from the seclusion of hospital, and even before that. Having trade up one’s mind on this point, the next business is the acquiring of a car, and there are not really very many snags attached to this, apart from the initial difficulty, whieh is the extent to which one is tied clown by the special fitments necessary, and I am not certain that my own case is representative on this point, of which more later. In my ease I had a friend, ‘Who was also a drivingtest examiner, and who gave me his advice on the fitments required. The first thing was a preselector gear-box, which rather narrowed down the field of selection, and as I had to have a sports car, which to my mind implied something
open and preferably two-seated, this narrowed the field still further. Finally the choice lay between 1,100 c.c. Alta and 9-h.p. Riley ” Imp,” which were in production that year (1635), the ” Imp” getting the decision on expense considerations.
Modifications to this motor were comparatively slight, and I found the works very helpful in carrying them out. As I was now left-handed, the gear lever quadrant had to be moved from the right to the left of the steering-column, and on top of this quadrant was mounted a Y-shaped bracket carrying the switch for the traffic indicators (extras which were mounted at the bottom of the windscreen pillars, though not interfering with the fold-fiat screen) and the headlamp dipping switch. These I could reach comfortably with my fingers without removing my hand front the wheel. This question of removing my hand from the wheel became almost an obsession with the examiner, and was, I think, carried a little to excess. For instance, I had to have a horn button mounted on the offside door, which I could work with my knee, though this was later discarded in favour of one on one of the steering-wheel spokes. Also, on my pass certificate I found that the centrifugal clutch, fitted as standard in conjunction with the preselector box, was made one of the essentials necessary to my holding a driving licence, the idea being that I should not take my hand from the wheel to hold the car on the handbrake when starting oft uphill. This displeased me and I very rarely used the clutch, preferring to risk damage by using the bottom gear brake band as a normal type clutch, added to which, after a little bit of tuning, the engine would never run slowly enough for the centrifugal clutch to act as such. Having obtained a car and a driving licence, the next thing is to discover the snags attached to driving entirely onehanded. Probably as a result of getting used to the new conditions, coupled with the satisfaction of driving again, very little difference is noticed at first, once the controls have been mastered, and it is only after a considerable mileage has been covered over some regular route, with the average speed rising successively each time that route is covered, that it is realised that to start with one must, almost unconsciously, have been using a good deal of extra care. It is only after these initial stages have been completed, and when speeds Are beginning to approach the normal that the pitfalls became apparent. Where a difference in technique becomes most obviously necessary is, as may be imagined, in cornering. To turn a corner away from the driving hand, in my case one to the right, the wheel has got to be pushed up, and there comes a time when, if speed is a little excessive, it is impossible to get one’s hand past top dead centre, which is apt to be a little alarming. Corners in the opposite direction are comparatively simple, as the wheel is then being pulled down, but even here it is not all quite plain sailing, a little excess speed being again slightly disturbing, as skid correction becomes considerably more difficult one-handed. I mention this excess speed on corners as I think any
driver, however careful, sooner or later fiuds himself being a little exuberant in this direction. Following naturally on the subject of cornering comes the question of roadholding and at suitable steering-gear. As to the first, Nvhilst I do not gay that an out-and-out sports car is the only car for a one-armed driver, I (I() say that he will be well advised to have one which has at least sports parentage, as steering, roadholding and brakes sill then have been developed by experimental, and not hitand-miss methods. As for steering-gear, I consider it essential for a one-armed driver to have a car fitted k ith highgeared steering (the Riley’s was 11 turns kick to lock) as, t liough low-geared steering may be lighter, high gearing cuts out any suggestion of winding, which it is quite impossible to do quickly onehanded. The ham), can be kept in one position on the wheel all the time. :Highgeared steering is quite light at any reasonable speed, when its qualities are most needed, and at lower speeds, Olen quickness is not so important, lightness II otherwise does not matter so much. This lightness is considerably affected by shock-absorber adjustment and by attention to tyre-pressures, and I mention these points, 1.)i)v ions; though they are, because they are of such importance to the onearmed ” dicer.'” On the Riley the shockabsorbers, ordinaryfriction-type hartlords, were, after experinant, kept very tight, in spite of the resultant necessity to split-pin as many nuts as possible, to the detriment of the body and shocker braeket. Tyre-pressures, after converse ‘%it-IL a certain tyre representative, I found made at considerable difference to steering lightness if kept. harder (2 lb. per sq. in. in the Riley’s case) at the front than at the rear, and this, though dead against all inst ruet it atbook rules, seemed to produce no ill_cifeet. The very obvious device of
keeping the steering,-gear thoroughly greased and free I mention as being so very necessary, and yet so often overlooked, though not. I„ hope and trust., by MOTOR SPORT readers. This greasing question was the CalISC of my scrapping the beautiful (?) automatic labrication NySt ern Oil the Riley, alter it. was disvoycred t hat practically no oil at all was reaching the steering-box ; it was replaced by the messier, but more certain, grease nippleg re: e gun system. As for the ordinary run Of maintenance, there is not a great deal that. a one-armed driver cannot do himself, if he is prepared to spend a little extra time and patience On each job. Greasing, changing oil, etc., are all easily managed, and wheel-changing is by no means an impossible feat, though inclined to be a little prolonged, especially if the wheel hubs are a bit stiff on the splines ; a spot of grease and fairly regular at is well repaid. It is rather embarrassing for an enthusiastic sports car owner to have to stop some passing family saloon to ask for a,,,…istaitce in than wing a wheel ! Other jobs are quite ea,ily done if one eon key oneself tip to the pitch of getting them started, partienlady as, once started, they have to be completed before any more motoring can be done. Decarbonising, for instance, is quite a simple business if a friend is avail
able for head-lifting and valve-removing. Heavier work than that is rather outside the range of what is possible, even with abundant equipment, a feature which is usually lacking in that impecunious state peeuliar to such a large number of the sporting fraternity. For anything appro:whim?: a major overhaul, the services of at Lr,arage are necessary, with the accompanyiag disadvantages inherent in the somewhat. impersonal methods of approach usually adopted by such establishments, and the likelihood of a large bill. Thus it behoves at disabled driver to take special care that all maintenance jobs, as well as items stich as running in, are faithfully carried out., Ps a safety factor against having to have work done which cannot be personally guaranteed. TO return to special fitments, it will be seen that these limit the choice of car very considerably. I believe, though I am not certain, that, in the old days before the present sy,:tein of driving-tests came into being, and the R.A.C. carried out any tests necessary, it was possible for anyone to get a licence for any type of car provided they could satisfy the examiner that they could handle that car safely. Apparently, judging by my own case, one eannot now even go through a test without having at car already modified to suit the examiner concerned. This brings up the subject of road safety as applied to disabled drivers getter: dly. I imagine that in almost every case at driver will
have had some eXperieltee prior to his taking to the road as-at disabled driver, and I contend that that, esTerience added to the increased sense of responsibility ineuced by driving :Ls such, renders a disabled driver just. as safe as any other on the road, and probably a good deal safer than some. The point at issue is this : I know, from a little illicit practising, that I can quite easily and confidently drive any car fitted with at central gear lever. Is there any ‘‘ ay whereby I can obtain a licence to drive such a car ? I am, Vows etc_
W. S. GinsoN.
Lancaster. [We publish this letter for two reasons. In the first place, we admire the w miter’s refusal to give up motoring in spite of injury in a car-smash. Secondly, unpleasant thought though it may be, after our soldiers, sailors and airmen have won this war for us, there may be quite a number of would-be sports car uWmocrs who have lost a limb. If these comments help to keep them amongst us as active drivers, this letter performs a real service. A good rear-view mirror, and frequent consultation thereof, is something all drivers, disabled or otherwise, should find helpful in ” incident-prevention.”—Edi
Letters from readers, November 1972
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