A GOOD PIECE OF WAR JOURNALISM crowed The Motor of 13 October 1914. The Manchester Guardian had reviewed a piece by the magazine’s Paris correspondent, entitled “A Day’s Motoring in the War Area.” There was no doubt that it would be all over by Christmas. Cancellation of the motor show at Olympia was a small price to pay for getting over the current unpleasantness.
Number one daughter is into vintage magazines and this World War I The Motor is one of her collection. War reporting apart, it was concerned with turning events in France to the motor industry’s advantage, Henry Sturmey proclaiming, “It is easy to shout ‘Capture German Trade,’ but by no means so easy to do it.” Sturmey had great hopes for the Russian market after the war following disappointment by the failure of British banks to support trade with Russia before it. Sturmey had set up a £30,000 deal for postal vans, the Russian government asked for six months’ credit, but his bank wouldn’t oblige so the contract went to Germany. Alas for punditry. Banks, governments, industrialists, economists and John James Henry Sturmey (1857-1930) never expect another four years of war, a shaky peace and the end of Tsarist Russia.
But what was the founder-editor of The Autocar doing writing in The Motor? Sturmey started The Autocar in 1895, but business connections with the rascally Harry Lawson and the equally dubious Edward J Pennington became problematical and he left Iliffe the publishers in 1901. The following year he tried to build American Duryea cars in Britain and founded The Motor in 1903. A towering figure in the early years of motoring journalism, he is perhaps best remembered as the developer, with James Archer, of a compact hub-mounted 3-speed gear for bicycles.
The Motor worried that readers might have difficulty recognising the chassis of the car illustrated as a Ford. “It looks more like a small Italian chassis than this well-known American make.” Ford had been making cars at Trafford Park for three years, yet The Motor firmly regarded it as American. Small wonder that by the 1920s its motor show appearance emphasised Britishness.
“With a body of low build such as this the entire appearance of the car is altered. This ingenious yet attractive body is by Oakley Ltd, 85 Regency Street, London SW. It is constructed of polished aluminium, with nickelled fittings in the rear of the radiator, which is surrounded by a black metal casing giving it a greater height and imparting the popular rounded edge appearance.”
However, there was no disguising the Model T, which teetered on its transverse springs. “A number of possible purchasers have taken exception to the high-pitched appearance,” counted as forthright, in an age when it was deemed discourteous to be critical of cars on page 297 that appeared in a full page advertisement opposite 299. “The body is built below the frame level, the footboards are lower than standard, and thus the general appearance of a low-hung car is obtained. Rudge-Whitworth detachable wheels with conical discs to allow of easy cleaning are fitted. Similar cars can be supplied for £220, with variations according to the fittings required.”
Oakley also made what The Motor called “an interesting modification of the Ford van.” This sold for £115, panelled in what was called matchboarding inside. It would carry about 10cwt (508kg), “and forms a most attractive proposition for the rapid delivery of light merchandise.”