Cars In Books, September 1982
A READER has kindly sent me a copy of the relevant page from “The Story of the Rio Tinto Mines” (Collins, 1974), on which there is reference to a raid on Rio Tinto in 1936 by a Socialist gathering, which included four requisitioned cars and 14 lorries. A Packard that arrived four days earlier, intended exclusively for the use of the Rio Tinto Chairman and his Board, had been commandeered by the workmen and when the Civil Guards opened fire at Panoleta, two miles from Seville, it was hit and the dynamite it was carrying exploded, killing 25 miners. The Packard’s remains stayed scattered along the road for some time, and it is said that members of the British Staff who had resented its purchase at the time of wage cuts, used to point to the debris with a certain relish! As our correspondent says, surely the purchase of a Packard by a London-based and controlled mining Company was unusual?
Another interesting item is to hand from Dr. Playford of the Department of Politics at the University of Adelaide, who writes as follows:
I have just finished reading Charles Edward Lysaght’s “Brendan Bracken” (Allen Lane, 1979). A few passages refer to Bracken’s cars, and some of them may be of interest to your readers:
(1) Page 88. Soon after Bracken became a member of the board of Eyre and Spottiswoode in 1926, he acquired a buff-coloured Hispano-Suiza, complete with blue carriage-lamps.
(2) Page 129. Randolph Churchill recalled Bracken arriving at Chartwell in 1931 in the Hispano-Suiza, “which the writings of Mr. Michael Arlen had led him to believe was the appropriate vehicle for a rising and fast-moving young man”.
Coming to fiction, a friend produced the following very interesting piece of dialogue, from “The Frontenac Mystery” by Francois Mauriac (translated by Gerard Hopkins, Eyre & Spottiswoode):—
“It’s a Fouillaron . . . came from Bordeaux in three hours . . . seventy kilometres . . . no hint of trouble the whole way. . . “
Madame Frontenac’s guests were crowded round Arthur Dussol, who was still buttoned up to the neck in his grey, dustproof coat. He took off his goggles, and smiled, screwing up his eyes. Cazavieilh, who was bending over the car, with a mingled expression on his face of respect and mistrust, was trying to think of some question to put to its owner.
“Adjustable transmission-belt, you see,” said Dussol.
“I needn’t ask whether it’s the latest model,” remarked Cazavieilh.
“Brand new. No one can say” (and Dussol gave the flicker of a smile) “that I’m ever behind the times.”
“True enough; one’s only to take a look at your mobile sawing-plant to see that . . What, if I may ask, are the special features of this car?”
“Only a short while ago”— began Dussol. as though lecturing to a class — “the normal form of transmission was by chains. But that’s a thing of the past. . . It’s all done now by means of adjustable belts.”
“What an A1 notion,” said Cazavieilh. “Just two adjustable belts — eh? is that all?”
“Synchronised, of course — it’s the chain-belt system. Think of it this way; two cones working quite independently. . . .”
Madeleine Cazavieilh led Jean-Louis away . . . José, who was passionately interested in this talk of cars, questioned Monsieur Dussol on the subject of gears. “One can vary the speed as much as one likes by means of a simple lever” (Monsieur Dussol, with his head thrown back, and a look of almost religious gravity, seemed prepared to lift the habitable globe) — lost as in the steam engine,” he added. . . .
At first reading one might imagine that the make of car named by Francois Mauriac was of his inventing, and therefore this item not really appropriate to this column. In fact, the Fouillaron was made at Levallois-Perret from 1900 to the outbreak of the first World War and what is more, it had a belt-and-chain transmission system providing an infinitely variable gear, although, achieved by expanding pulleys, not the cones which Dussol used by way of explanation of how the mechanism worked. So rare is this make of car that surely Mauriac must either have owned one or have been closely associated with one, I had myself wondering whether he has referred to the Fouillaron in any of his other books?
Another book of considerable interest has been sent to us by a reader. It is “Northumberland Yesterday” edited by Robin Gard and published for the Northumberland Local History, Society containing pictures of life in that county from 1860 to 1930. Among the many period photographs reproduced therein are a number relating to the early days of road and rail transport. Indeed, the section headed “On The Road” contains some splendid motoring scenes. For instance, a procession of cars is seen bearing competition numbers and led by what is possibly a Mercedes or Star, with a surprised horse waiting in a side road for them to pass, at Alnwick, circa 1910. It is suggested in the caption that this may have been an early RAC Rally but although this is hardly authentic, it was obviously the occasion of an important competition of some kind. In another picture two Daimler charabancs are seen starting from Ashington for London with football fans from the Collieries Welfare Social Club, in 1919, solid tyres sufficing for the long run, and there is another quite incredible shot of a chain-drive, solid-tyred Albion chassis fitted out with improbably top-heavy seating for the purpose of a ladies’ outing in Felton, again around the year 1910. Traction-engine and (Foden) steam-wagon shots are included, with the inevitable “incident” involving the former, but the most interesting pictures are of cars rood outside Northumberland garages. One of these shows J. Foster’s premises at Otterburn, with a young lady filling the petrol tank of a Galloway light-car. One wonders whether she later became the murder-victim, in the unsolved moors murder, as described in “The Burning of Evelyn. Foster” by Jonathan Goodman (David & Charles, 1977), which MOTOR SPORT reviewed when this was first published. Other vehicles in this picture include one of the Daimler ‘buses run by Foster’s and which figures in the murder mystery, and another ‘bus, which could be a Fiat or a Lancia. The other garage is that of the Ponteland Motor Co., said to be shown in about 1925. A Model-T Ford taxi with a non-standard radiator stands in front of a Ruston-Hornsby tourer, with what I think is a Rhode light-car pulling away from the kerb, in the background. There is also a picture taken in Beadnell village, looking towards St. Ebba’s church, circa 1930, in which one can distinguish a Morris-Cowley tourer and what looks like a Morris 2-seater, an 11.4 h.p Citroën tourer and a Wolseley saloon. One wonders if this peaceful square remains the same today? In another picture one sees Jim Witherspoon finishing a 40½-mile walk at Haltwhistle Market Place, in 1922, encouraged from a fine Daimler tourer, which is followed by other unidentifiable cars and commercial vehicles, one of which is carrying an “Oxo” banner. It is amusing to note the finish-line marked by a BP – “The Sporting Spirit” banner, this surely having been borrowed from a local motor club, who would have used it at speed-trials perhaps? – W.B.