The Naming of Cars
(with apologies to TS Elliot for lowering the tone)
Cars which are mere transport are anonymous. Cars which are more than that deserve to be named – and treated right. It goes without saying that one’s first car is always named, one’s most treasured car and more likely to be remembered than one’s first sweetheart. In the later, and supposedly more sensible times of my life, none of a collection of Minis and (mostly little) Citröens and VWs and rather bigger Land and Range Rovers bore names (with two exceptions), even though carefully chosen - despite being bought ostensibly for mere transport. Even my Rover 800 Coupé (probably the nicest car I have ever had – petrol head journalist have a lot to answer for), which was my first real proper grown-up motor car, bought in my mid 50s, remained anonymous, as does my present Rover 75. The same hard bitten petrol head journos have a grudging respect for this car, and, coming up to115,000 miles, it serves me very well, but is no more than, as Miss Jean Brodie would have put it, such a serviceable car. I am sure that it will last until LSL 929 becomes a nearly brand new 50 year old Daimler (obviously to be named) and can take on the mantle of top car, when the 75 will be replaced something small enough not to compete and comfortable enough to take the brunt of day to day transportation (perhaps a Fabia).
Here now, by name and in chronological but sometimes overlapping order, are the cars which have counted.
1932 Morris Minor 2-seater, side valve, dodgy brakes, shared while at Uni and rebuilt with friend, whose father had a well equipped workshop including an ML7, and then run by me for another five years. It was the same as the first car shared by my mother and uncle, who had called theirs Cuthbert after a little known king of a far off Scottish island (or something).
(equals M for Morgan – Henry Morgan, got it?)
Transitional early 50’s Morgan, Vanguard rather than TR engine, cowled radiator grill but twin spare wheels. Better with the hood down than up in all weather, which weeded out the girls with no spirit and too much fuss about their hairdos.
(equals A for Alvis)
1931 Alvis 12/50 wide 2-seater with dickey seat. As Clutton and Sandford wrote in ‘The Vintage Motor Car’ of the Alvis 12/50: “we cannot but consider it one of the classic designs of the time, and it remains of all Vintage sports cars the one which needs least apology.” I dismantled it to a bare chassis for a rebuild, but a rebuild of the house roof took away the funds which was to have had a new duck’s back body built at Wilkinson’s of Derby. Someone bought the original body and the chassis and oily bits were sold at a price which represented one of the only two profits I ever made on a car.
(equals B for Bentley)
My father, who, given a choice between interesting and sensible, always choose interesting, thought, now that I had qualified as a solicitor, I should buy, say, an RR 20/25 or the like. At the time he had sold his Daimler Century and bought an owner driver (no division) RR Phantom III from the grandfather of the man who in due course was my best man. The grandfather, feeling that at his advanced age he should get a small car, had bought a Silver Dawn and wanted a good home for the Phantom. Apologies for the digression. 1934 Bentley 3½ litre Hooper bodied saloon. You can understand why they called them the silent sport car. This had a lighter touch and look than later Rolls Bentleys and were highly tactile cars to drive.
(equals L for Lanchester)
In those days (late 60s) good old cars were still cheap and common for daily use. I was now married and what could be nicer for a second car than this delightful Barker bodied Lanchester LD 10 from the early 50s. When new it might have cost almost as much as a Jaguar while being not much bigger (but much better made and finished) than a Ford 10. It weighed rather a lot for its engine, but it was a sweet car, and every few miles one would pull into the side to let by the string of cars you had collected behind you. All good things come to an end, and so Lady was replaced by a series of Minis (I put on my coat, my hat, my gloves and my Mini. I want three, in different colours to match my outfits.) and other practicalia.
(equals D for Daimler)
Except that this was not a Daimler. As a schoolboy I was captivated by the description in a show number of Motor of the Lanchester Dauphin. During the reign of Benjamin and Lady, I saw an advertisement in Driving Member for an unusual 2-door Daimler Century with a Hooper body. It was being sold by a schoolmaster and amateur car dealer at Bedales. When I got it home and did some cleaning, I uncovered the chassis plate LJ 252. It was the Dauphin but converted to Daimler (just what I am about to do with LSL 929). I arranged a family holiday in Switzerland to coincide with their Daimler Club’s annual rally. We turned up, not simply from England, but having travelled further in Switzerland than their presumed longest distance prize winner. Someone hurried out to buy an extra prize! This car too was sold at a profit.
(equals D for Daimler)
Growing children meant a bigger car. Whilst we knew one family with a Bentley 8 litre limousine (Ozymandeas), with room in the back for a card table for the children to play on and a division to keep them, ice creams and the dog safely away from the grown-ups in front, I settled in 1985 for a Daimler Empress II, 1951, 3 litres and, like the Dauphin, Hooper bodied. Supremely elegant, given time to work up speed, quite capable of long distance touring more or less keeping up the rest of the traffic and, with the help of a couple of Range Rovers (one of them a CSK), my main car until the advent of the Rover 800 Coupé. Her name suits her ponderous performance and faded glory. After more than 20 years it is at last time for a change.
A nasty accident when, at 40 mph, a laden horse trailer took charge of my Passat on a downhill stretch of the M6 and swung it like a pendulum until the trailer hit the central reservation and I could slow down (the horses were unhurt, my riding companion merely opened her thermos and poured two cups of tea and, yes, we completed our ride on Southport sands) prompted me to buy a Land Rover for towing. An ex army 2-door LWB model, with so much space behind that it was like having your own private lorry. I covered its army drab with Dulux brilliant white gloss and painted one large domed bolthead on a front wing black, as no large white is every pure white.
My CSK Range Rover suffered rust in the body frame (only the outer panels were aluminium) but LRC of Congleton offered me a PX for a 40k mile SWB pickup with a petrol engine as sweet as a nut. It is not called Rattletrap for nothing, lives under a hedge, get washed once a year, trundles to and from the tip, the builders’ yard and the garden centre and is easy to find in the station car park. As a bonus it almost guarantees that I will not get stopped for speeding on the motorway.
(equals by coincidence D for Daimler but actually descriptive of the car - or maybe the owner)
This was my late father’s last interesting car as he scaled down from the Phantom III, via a Bentley Mark IV to a the classic 4½ manual Continental. Dotty’s restoration was fully documented in Driving Member under “Dotty Tales” (click here), and is my preferred drive, hood down in all weather and tonneau clipped over the passenger’s side.
(equals D for a Daimler that as yet is still a Vauxhall)
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