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When we received this lovely picture from the nice people at Retromobile we all tried to answer the questions it contained. Are the overalls cotton or linen? We don't care - what's the car!? And how about the steering wheel? We have visited the steering wheel design before, HERE, and quick research shows various designs were available for the driver with a waistline to match his appetite. These days, it is not politically correct to say the *F* word, but the manufacturers called it the 'Fatman' steering wheel and they sold like hot cakes! They folded in such a way as to ease access to the driving seat. Actually, the Neville company called it the 'More Room Steering Wheel' and took out a patent in 1915.
Did our slim lady slide in through a door or climb over the side? Let's see what we know. It's a high quality tourer with leather upholstery, perhaps no weather protection, and a passenger-operated spotlight for reading signs on night rallies. We think it's American, and right hand drive (however the RHD could lead us to Delage or similar as well). Lincoln offered these steering wheels to their customers, so did Ford and Buick. You will know better than us, so please tell us what you think about the car - perhaps a well-known racing car? It's a pity we don't have more pictures from the photo shoot because we bet she has a pretty smile and all we have is this blank expression. Never mind - get along to Retromobile in Paris and enjoy the smile in the exhibition of Jacques-Henri Lartigue's photographs. It is his mistress Renée Perle, holding the windscreen instead of the steering wheel.
Update: the french fatman steering wheel as mentioned by Detlef Kayser
(Text Robin Batchelor, picture courtesy Retromobile)
The Ulster Tourist Trophy race may not have quite the same romantic cachet as motor sport events held in Le Mans or Monaco, but for local enthusiast Simon Thomas the now little-remembered races held between 1928 and 1936 have long held a special fascination. For years, Simon was content to indulge his interest by collecting programmes and memorabilia from the races, but always hoped to one day own a genuine TT car himself. The dream came true in 2001 when he acquired a Fiat 508S Balilla. When bought, its exact history was sketchy, but using his unique base of knowledge and reference library, he was able to narrow it down as the car driven in both 1935 and '36 Ulster TTs by F.H. French-Davis. The car was duly restored back to TT specification.
In 2010 Simon added a second TT car to his collection, this time a 1934 Jensen-bodied Ford V8, one of three similar cars that took part in that year's event. Again, Simon's own research led to the discovery of the car's true identity – it was the car entered by Stanley Wright and carried race number 5, and is pictured half-hidden behind car number 6 in the period photograph here. This car has also been returned to TT specification. Also in 2010, Simon completed his Tourist Trophy Trio with the acquisition of a 1931 Austin Seven Super Sports. This car had led a chequered life, ending up in Canada by the turn of the 21st Century. Now returned to Ulster, and looking much as it did when it competed in the '30s, Simon Thomas is justifiably proud of it and the other vehicles in his unique collection of TT cars.
For a better look at the collection, pick up the February edition of The Automobile, which takes an in-depth look at all three of these historically significant competition cars.
A car tells you something about the person driving it. Here a handfull of exceptional cars as offered by RM Sotheby's at their Arizona sale, 28-29 January.
The 1936 Jensen Ford Tourer is a rare beast, one of 30 built and 3 were imported to USA, one of which had Clark Gable's name on it. However, when he saw it, Gable didn't like the colour - he wanted the black one, but the dealer wanted that for himself. We still like Gable though because he once bought a '37 Ford V8 Woodie in a break from shooting the film 'Saratoga'. There's a '39 Woodie in the sale which has survived well and apart from new paint, is all original. Three immaculate V12 Packards are offered, a '33 Victoria, an ivory '36 Roadster and a '39 Victoria in black. Then we see Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg - they are all here, having once been driven by the rich and famous.
The elegant 1932 Rolls Royce Phantom II Continental Sports Saloon is a perfect example. Delivered new to Elizabeth Crawford Wilkin, the American-born wife of a British Foreign Service officer stationed in Bangalor, and an author in her own right. When new, the £2,570 price of this example of the 'the most desirable Rolls Royce chassis of its decade' with coachwork by Hooper & Co. of London would have taken the average British worker 13½ years to pay. There are three other Rolls-Royces offered including a 1930 model described as 'perhaps the most sporting and dramatic Phantom II ever built.'
The name Reginald Sinclaire has won our respect for having the good taste to open his cheque book in 1937 and buy a new Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster with driver-activated supercharger feeding its 5.4 litre straight eight OHV engine. One of the most prestigious and, in the eyes of many, the most beautiful automobile of the interwar years. Its combination of power, light weight, and sheer beauty made it the master of the road. It was also breathtakingly expensive, guaranteeing exclusivity among its owners. A fabulous car with every chance of exceeding the auctioneer's estimate. Owners come and owners go, but good cars go on forever.
(Text Robin Batchelor, pictures courtesy RM Sotheby's)
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