About tales and tittle tattle at afternoon tea at The Motor House

In which Our Man James seeks to recover some of the lesser known Motoring stories, the accuracy of which are not totally guaranteed. They will probably not have appeared in the media, rather have just slipped out during a period of relaxation between polishing etc .

Feel free to add to these gems so that they are not lost .

There is for instance the tale of the Butler of a Great House ( not Jeeves), who having had a disaster on the horses, ran off with the family jewels. He was quickly apprehended one morning and taken to the local police station. At tea time the Mistress of the house realized to her horror that there was no one to serve afternoon tea, so she hurried to the police station, withdrew all charges and brought the butler home. The butler in question served his mistress for over 60 years until her death. The jewels were never recovered and nothing more was said.

The Mistress was given a brand new Talbot 8/18 shortly after her wedding in1923. She had a problem with gear changing which remained with her throughout her life. It is said that her Morris 1000 never actually reached fourth gear and when challenged, the Mistress would say that she liked the sound of the engine best in third. At times the butler was employed as chauffeur to drive the Morris 1000. On a picnic one day in the Derbyshire Dales there is a fond memory of the Mistress and her guests, taking cucumber sandwiches in the car, whilst the butler/chauffeur stood dutifully outside until the meal was finished. Alas it can snow very hard in the Derbyshire Dales so the unfortunate man had turned to a snowman by this time. He brushed himself down and took the party home without a murmur of complaint.


"Perryman Platz"

- - - - -   An Austin Seven tale of skill, daring, and intrigue!  - - -
- -

Colin used to own an Austin Seven called 'Bunny'.   It was quite a rare
machine; a Gordon England Cup Model, manufactured in 1928.   Like all
Sevens it had the most direct steering ever invented, coupled with
practically no brakes at all.   Like a lot of small vehicles of the era
the hand-brake operated the front brakes only, whilst the foot brake
functioned purely on the rears.

About a month after I had passed my driving test, in 1954, Colin  rang
me up to enquire if  I was willing to put my new found skills to good
use.    The plan was to save him having to pay road fund tax for Bunny
to travel just the few miles from Sheen, where he then lived, to Slough
Farm.   The execution of this plan was to be that he should tow me with
the company Morris Minor, that he then drove.   (Company Morris Minor -
how things have changed.)    The object was to compete in a production
car trial.    Well you know how it is. Offer any young fellow a drive in
any vehicle at that stage of his driving career and he will jump at the

So it was, then, that the following Sunday lunch-time found us tying the
two vehicles together with the thickest piece of rope that ever moored a
battleship. "We won't go round the bypass" said Colin "it will be
quieter through Kingston."    We set off, with me trying desperately to
keep the rope tight, whilst steering a very erratic course in the wake
of the Minor.   All went fairly well  for a few miles.   I only got
within two and a half inches of the Minor's back bumper about six or
seven times, and all the while the brakes were getting warmer.   Brake
fade is not a term which you hear very often these days, and is an
experience to which those who have not driven an elderly vehicle will
ever have been subjected.    The brakes, when they got hot, were like
you did not have any!

As we got up Facett Road behind the 'Tech ( sorry - University now )
Colin had to stop fairly smartly.   I had as much chance of pulling up
behind him as the proverbial snowball in hell.   With quick thinking, or
more-probably with just blind terror, I pulled out , avoided his  bumper
and came to rest alongside him. The rope entwined round just about
anything that stuck out!    Colin, those of you who knew him will
remember, did not flap easily.    With great aplomb he wound down his
window, bid me a cheery good afternoon, and queried "What are you doing
there?"    So there we were, parked next to each other, and tied firmly
together like a pair of kippers.   We dismounted, untangled the rope,
realigned the vehicles, tied them back together, and continued the

There were a couple of other incidents, by comparison fairly minor, on
the remainder of the journey, and finally we arrived at Farmer Telling's
field.    The phrase 'mechanically if not mentally intact' comes to

It was my first visit to a Malden and District event, and thus was both
character building and habit forming.   I spent the afternoon as bouncer
and passenger in a TC MG belonging to Pip ( surname forgotten ).    The
event was organised  I think by Walter Ruskin, and the entry of about a
dozen or so vehicles included such luminaries as Bill Thrust, Robert
Barnstable, Eve Hawkings and Ian Bell.

Then it was time to return home. Tow rope was re-tied, lights were
switched on ( do you remember six volt lights? ) and we set of  as the
dusk came upon us.   It was always a necessary part of the plot to
attend the local hostelry prior to undertaking the return journey
proper. ( Oh! for the days before the breathalyser )   Finally we were
on the way.   Obviously the forward journey had taught us a lot, for the
return was completed practically without hitch.

I say practically as there was a fairly major problem when we were only
about half a mile from Colin's home.   The problem was a dear old lady.
As we were waiting at the Black Horse to turn right into Upper Richmond
Road she appeared.   She hovered.   She dithered.   I by this time had
learned to keep the rope taught.   She stepped between the two cars,
tripped on the rope and went base-over-apex down onto the ground.   I
was out so quickly it was untrue in order to stop Colin pulling away -
which I achieved.   We picked her up and sat her on a nearby seat.   The
poor dear was complaining of her arm, which it later transpired she had
broken.    Colin went off and phoned for an ambulance  ( when did they
invent mobile phones? ), which I seem to remember took a long time to
arrive.    Pam comforted the old lady whilst Colin and I moved the
vehicles out of the way.

Whilst we waited for the ambulance, and the inevitable policeman  ( who
turned up on a push bike - and no he didn't cuff us round the ear with
his rolled up cape ) I made the tow rope belatedly more visible with my
handkerchief. Finally the ambulance arrived , the old lady received good
attention, and we all went home.

The ramifications of this incident were tremendous.    Colin's firm were
not too amused that he was even towing another vehicle with their car,
let alone having accidents with it!   Colin's firm's insurers were even
less impressed, and suggested that Bunny's insurers should become
involved!!   Then there was the untaxed status of Bunny - the policeman
on his bike was quite interested in this particular particular!!!
After many months it got sorted out and we put it all down to experience
- in my case the first experience of having to produce my new driving
licence.   So far as we know the old lady received an adequate payment
in compensation and her arm was completely healed.

Oh! yes.   Why the strange title to this little story?   Well, the lady
was named Miss Perryman.    Colin and I always referred to that corner
as Perryman Platz from that day forward.

Mike Whittome


Resource Management

Last October the Wall Street Journal published an article showcasing
 the most innovative and interesting uses of prison labour - restoring
 classic cars.
Outside Las Vegas, at Nevada's Southern Desert Correctiona Center,
medium security inmates are given the option of working in the prison
body shop, restoring old cars. At the time of writing the shop had 3
cars in various stages of restoration.
The prison body shop, known for the advertising motto 'we have the time
 to do it right', made the Nevada Department of Corrections some one
hundred and thirty thousand dollars last year, whilst teaching inmates
new skills and bringing old cars back to life.

Are you reading this Home Secretary?

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