Motoring Twenty-five Years
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on the Road Ix 1910 began.what might, with a slight stretch ofimaginatien, . be ailed modern_niotoring. __The ownership and use of a car were still in those days a difficult and absorbing garne----even ; fo -these who believed it to be necessary to kill -something to qualify for the -title a sport And if the willingnes1to .Put- tip with all sorts of inconveniences and haidslup to ..endiire physical strain' of a high order when the Player %-a..s exploring far. afield, to -loialt no. further. ..than toraerfow, for ' the; most embracing, of plans,.: if these and other qualities ; cc:United, then I. am not -sure -that motering- a quarter of a 1.century ago had net a better right to be Called a sport than f-some of the pastimes of today. We 'dressed the part, ie is trtie; . in leather and fur, Mit none- of.Us pittefided that either NVO -preferable for comfort, to flannel or .tweed. , Both Were essentials. Today the shop-windows and the advertisements in every art Of paper are ordiñirv, day-by-day garments, ; from trousers to shirts,–all tieketed "sports;"' Do the alliides of those who troiright- the-game-out ore*perimcnt into world- success and lost their lives ot -it, from-ZboroWski to Segrave, ever pass that way, yead those, titillating cards and para-
graphs, and Wonder whit if 'is all abont ? . . _ . . That was at the end of the middle 'period, the end of the completely unprotected- open 'ear.—With its disitpkarinice went a good deal of-the kick7".olit , We Welcomed glass screens to break the razor-edge of the wind on our flayed faces, up our inadequate sleeves and round our frozen legs and feet. We thought it incredible that we should have waited five years or more for the most elementary protection, protec- tion which was a safeguard, in that it made it unnecessary to screw up our eyes, and gave us a sense of hearing—incredible but, somehow, salutary. We fitted these vast and clumsy panes of glass apologetically. Yet one of, my most vivid and pleasantest memories is driving a car, a fast one for those days, from London to Rome in January, without a windscreen and with what must have been the first "Cape cart hood" ever fitted. The hood was never erected (there was never time) and the low dashboard, cut away at the skies in an elegant curve, an inch higher than bonnet-level, admitted the maximum of cold and wet upon the two legs mien rest the edge. On those behind, in the tonneau, the fallen water, rain or snow, froze over 200 miles a day. Say what you like about the
modern fitness, we were tough in those days. There was not very much of the R.A.C. Rally to a seaside town of today about a timed drive to Rome when' Edward VII reigned.
It is, of course, ridiculous to make a fetish of discomfort. The attitude of superiority to modern comfort, even in the matter of that Rally, is all wrong. The more comfortable you are, within sensible limits, the safer a driver you are. We have known that for years now. Very likely the pain of those winter drives to Scotland and the Alps was a good deal more severe than we remember, their bliss considerably 'exaggerated through the spectacles of riper years. None the less it must have been a useful experience. Doing difficult things to an incomprehensible engine, by the light of matches which were incessantly blown out by icy winds (there were no torches then), ignition and fuel failures, beating the ,odds in spite of all, and arriving before the public family breakfast instead of at cocktail time the evening before—these ab- surdities, . if they -do nothing else, make us appreciate the better times of today.
The modern period, then, may be said to have opened with the electric lighting set, to be followed fairly soon after by -the engine-starter. The first, in about 1913, was an abominable contraption, and it went on being one until well after the War. I remember several acute occasions when the dial on the switchboard grew suddenly brown, curious sounds emerged from behind it, and immediately afterwards the infernal box of tricks burst into flames.. 'I also remember having the whole outfit stripped from the car before I would consent to drive it to Austria for the 1914 Alpine Trials. I carried a large cylinder of dissolved acetylene instead, and the type of lamp I knew many years before, the kind that sometimes blew up, always smelt of garlic and was really quitereliable: It gave 'aninfinitely better driving light than any I have had since.
Before the War the starter was rarely found. One British firm made a car fitted with an ingenious device that enabled you to spin the flywheel by a self-rewinding tackle but, apart from the American Cadillac, the only electric starter I knew was of the most improbable sort. After the War, and I daresay while it was going on, things moved a bit faster and by 1922, nearly every car of any pretensions at all had a more or less reliable starter. A very black period intervened, when cheap and very badly made magnetos packed repair-stations everywhere and brought to life the coil-andixittery ignition system which is still the most widely used. . The new type of high-tension -magneto, of a remarkable efficiency and reliability, may take its place and the incessant troubles-of ten years .ago. will be forgotten forever. During those ten years cars got faiter, more efIleient, more economical and cheaper, but they were never as cheap as they ure. today. They -become more comfortable, more and more weatherproof, . quieter, easier to, drive, safer. Brakes, *tyres, suspension and steering reeated a pitch of excellence undreamt
of only a few years back. .
, About -ten years ago, tato, roads began, to improve out of all knowledge and since the War we have been able to claim that -ive have the best surfaced roads in the world. Touring became easier' at --home: On the Continent, especially in France, the travellet by road had always been the expected guest since roads existed. He was Made coinfehlable and sped on his way with • a Warm feeling of _human sympathy; That was excellent business. Here until "eimparatively . recently we of the road were inhospitably, coldly and often dirtily lodged, nearly always very ill-fed. There were notable excep- tions, but as a rule you could say that the British country hotel was in a considerably worse state than it Was after the railway drove the stage-coach off the King's Highway. Bonifaee was asleep, more probably dead, and "his place taken by a public company. The British motorist who could afford it took himself and his car to countries where his simple needs were understood and, met. Since the War things have got a great deal better. If we have not yet regaMed the repute we held in the eighteenth century for the best inns in the world, we have advanced a great deal during- the present reign. Such things as H. & C., enough working bathrooms, proper lighting, adequate heating, cleanliness, civility, most of them unknown _twenty years ago in the sort of hotel in which one was unwillingly benighted, all are Cornnionplaces today There is nearly -always a good hotel awaiting the traveller in Great Britain, whether he reaches it by road or rail, -a hotel
where he will be properly lodged. -- That would have been the wildest statement in 1910, as _
wild as the prophecy that roads today would be rnudless, that tyres would last 20,001i-iniles; that you could have petrol squirted expeditiously into your tank a good deal more often ilLiraisyl-. run than you could buy real beer, that 'a -10-h.p. ear would go as fast the_old_00-14.—and that there would still be level crossings, 'trams and the Kingston by-pass