Cars in books, September 1965

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Mr. Frater, of Poole, writes:—

The following is an excerpt from “Sailing Days,” a volume of reminiscences of pre-war yachting by the well-known yachtsman Adlard Coles. In this excerpt he describes a drive from the River Yealm in Devon to his home at Southampton, using a car lent to him for the occasion.

“I was then rowed ashore in the dinghy and introduced to the vehicle that I was to-drive home. It was a racing car of very ancient vintage. Difficult to start and short of petrol, I had to pilot this strange object over the Devonshire hills and all the way back to Southampton.

“They showed me how to start the car. With a jerk and a leap it dashed forward, and with a terrific roar shot away along the road. The thing to do was to keep moving. Once the car stopped it might never start again. I did keep it going. We seemed to be going up hills like the side of a roof, but nothing worried the car. It roared up hills, and it roared down hills and all along the dusty narrow Devonshire lanes it roared its way, pedestrians jumping for safety and chickens running for dear life. Devonshire tors to the left of me, tors to the right. On to Newton Abbot; no stopping. Through Exeter, Honiton, and it was dark before I reached Axminster. The lights seemed very bad. Was only one working? But no stopping; on past Charmouth and Bridport, and up some tremendous hills. No changing gears in case something would go wrong; strong headlights glaring ahead, but no stopping. Carry on; then Dorchester, Salisbury and at last in the early hours of the morning I arrived at my home in Southampton. At last it was safe to stop the car, but it was almost with a feeling of regret that I did so, for during the long hours I had developed almost a feeling of affection for the creature as it boomed through the night.”

What could this “racing car of very ancient vintage” have been? Might the remark about not changing gears give some indication? Still, it is a pleasant, though perhaps not very informative, description of motoring, to find in a book otherwise devoted exclusively to sailing. [Could it have been an Edwardian monster on an aeroplane-engined giant, to require no gear change up such steep gradients?]—ED.

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