Looking back 1896
Looking back 1896
This is an article from the August 6th, 1921 issue of The AUTOCAR. In it the editors look back at 25 years of motoring, or automobilsm, as it was then still known.
OUR Bank Holiday number in 1896 opened with a disquisition about alarm signals. We rashly fancied that the approach of a motor car would be " more or less unaccompanied by noise." What warning signal should be adopted ? Society had lately been scandalised by the cycling world, in which a passing craze existed for an invention of Satan ' imported from France, and known as the " cyclorn." (Here followed an elaborate description of an ordinary bulb hooter.)
English people had found the " squork, squork," of these instruments very distasteful. Motoring was not to be hampered by the adoption of larger and more objectionable hooters. No sane person could object, to the musical " ting-aling " of a bicycle bell. Why not fit autocars with similar bells, supplied with 6 inch domes in order to make their sound carry? Veteran readers will recall that a few of the earlier cars, notably the two-cylinder Lanchester and the Serpollet steam car, were sold fitted with such bells in lieu of horns. One wonders what the 1896 motorists would have thought of a Klaxon.
Auxiliary Power for Cycles.
The new design selected for illustration this week was the joint product of The Autocar and Mr. Pennington. It was so far ahead of the time that it has never yet proved a commercial success. Obvious and practical as its fundamental principle is. The notion was to mount a very tiny petrol engine on an ordinary push cycle for auxiliary purposes, such as climbing hills or travelling against a strong wind. The engine was to be .1 V twin with a cylinder bore of about 35 mm. Mounted in front of the steering head, it was to be connected to the standard pedalling gear by means of a clutch and an additional chain. Mr. Pennington had characteristically burked the real problems, of a design which has baffled hundreds of inventors since.
An Adventurous Journey.
The most interesting contribution was by Mr. H. 0. Duncan. It. Described his experiences in taking delivery of a BollÔøΩe tandem (chassis No. 2) at Le Mans, and bringing it over to England and across London, Mr. Duncan went through a training course at the Bollée works. Whilst, waiting for chassis No. 2 to be finished, he was daily taken cut by Camille BollÔøΩe on chassis No. 1, and one hopes that salesmanship did not overcome conscience when he stated that the daily trip consisted of a sixty-mile run lasting about three hours. Chassis No. 2 travelled by train to Calais. Mr. Duncan intended to put the Bollée in the cloak-room at Victoria until a lorry could collect it. He arrived at 5.30 a.m., and found the cloak-room did not open till 7 a.m., so he decided to risk being stopped by the police, and to drive home to Slough. His tanks were full of petrol -railway and steamer folk had not yet suspected its dangers- so he " lighted up," and made a start. The day was Sunday. The intrepid Duncan lit a cigarette, and began cautiously on first speed.
Attitude of the Police.
Finding that the police seemed more interested than annoyed, he ventured to change up on to second gear in Kensington. As nobody had interfered to Hammersmith, he gathered fresh courage. And snicked in top gear -16 m.p.h., if you please- for the rest of the way. The present, writer has tried to steer a Bollée, and much admires Mr. Duncan's pluck. A few scorching cyclists tried to racehim, but the wind was ahead, and the Bollée soon dropped them. Horses took no particular notice, which Duncan ascribes to the uproar created by British railways. He reached Slough by 7.45 a.m., went to Windsor in the afternoon, and drove back to town on Monday morning. The police remained quiescent -probably because the Emancipation Act was now awaiting the Royal assent.
On Monday evening he drove out to Mr. H. J. Lawson's house at Hampstead, and had a. little trouble with constables on the Heath. Mr. Duncan's story -a delightful oasis in the arid desert of hearsays which necessarily filled our pages at that date- is a peculiar compound of frankness and salesmanship. He gives the fuel consumption as about 16 m.p.g. : this would frighten nobody when .680 spirit cost but ninepence a gallon, and nobody had begun to dream of 200-mile trips. On the other hand, he describes the machine as vibrationless ! The tube ignition took about five minutes to heat up, which just gives you time to put on your gloves.