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Over a century of Independence

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The lady in the picture has a severe expression but she celebrated Independence Day more than most – living to the ripe old age of 105. Her name is Mary McConnell Borah, daughter of Governor William J. McConnell and wife of Idaho Senator William Borah, and she was given the car through her husband’s connections, as a gift from someone seeking political influence, this being at a time when such things were very common and not prohibited. Mrs. Wilson, the President’s wife, had been given an identical car, for the same reason. The car is a Baker Electric Phaeton photographed in Washington DC in the winter of 1912 clearly showing snow chains fitted to the driven wheels. We begin to understand the lady’s expression as  she waits for the photographer in the freezing cold. The success of the electric cars was strong but also short lived. When petrol driven cars came with decent starters the electric cars died off.

“Politics was my life”, Mrs. Borah once said in an interview in later years. While her husband was still alive, they seldom took part in Washington’s social life. She had contributed articles, however, to magazines and newspapers on social life in Washington and at one time was working on a book that was to include her favourite anecdotes on the foibles of Washington society. Her memoirs ‘Elephants and Donkeys’ were published in 1976. Possibly this was also an inspiration to the scriptwriter of the tv-series "House of Cards"? Mary Borah’s husband William had an affair with President Roosevelt’s daughter Alice who produced a daughter. As the wife and then widow of a famous senator, Mrs. Borah had been a guest in the White House of every President from Theodore Roosevelt to Lyndon B. Johnson. What she remembers most about... ‘the most important official function given at the White House during my 22 years in the capital’ was ‘Alice boldly offering a cigarette to the young Princess Ileana’ - the daughter of Queen Marie of Romania.

(Text Robin Batchelor, pictures courtesy SHORPY)

Friday, 04 July 2014 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail
   

A Zandvoort Nr 1 Mystery (UPDATE: Fiat Balilla)

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Henrik Schou-Nielsen reacted regarding last week's article about Vintage Revival Zandvoort. Henrik owns the ex Willy Oosten Riley Imp that was raced at Zandvoort in the early days. The photo made us wonder about driver and identity of car Nr 1. Probably quite easy, but we couldn't get grip on the picture from this perspective. Now as we think there is little chance to retrace the mystery car we will expect that Henrik will come over in September with the Imp to recreate at least part of the picture. Is that a deal Henrik?

Thursday, 03 July 2014 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail
   

Two cylinders and a 2CV stickshift. Why should you want it?

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Do you like lots of metal and bright-work under the bonnet? Do you prefer complexity over simplicity? Do you like to pub-chat XL petrol bills and speeding tickets? Do you love to check the dipstick and do frequent oil changes? Then  better move on as the DKW F5 is definitely not your cup of tea. 

The light and simple construction of the DKW is a statement of pre-war ingenuity and mid thirties avant garde engineering. Front wheel drive. Two stroke 2-cylinder of 692 cc. When DKW came with front wheel drive on their smaller cars in 1931 it was most certainly no common thing. Still the design didn't suffer from experimental diseases. The F5 series was one of the best selling cars of the late thirties. 

Driving is a bit unusual and thus interesting. Except for the pre-war FWD the gearshift is very much like that of the Citroën TA and 2CV like with the shift handle protruding from the dashboard like a walking stick. Yet one can wonder who inspired who, the Citroën came three years later. For further comparison, there are 3 forward gears and gear lever is located on the dash. You engage clutch, pull out gear lever and turn left for first gear, push in and turn rlever right for second gear and then turn lever left for third gear. For reverse it is pull out lever and turn right. The gears can be a little tight to move at the start but once the car is warmed up then gears move a lot more freely."

So if you're looking for truly forward design in an affordable, easy accessible, easy to work on package, the DKW - most certainly in this attractive convertible variation - is certainly worthwhile considering. To be auctioned by H&H on 23 July.

(Photos courtesy H&H )


Wednesday, 02 July 2014 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail
   

French Talbot dreams getting real

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Some time ago PreWarCar bought a badly neglected French Talbot saloon and since then a lot of work has been done to get it on the road again. Initially most work went into identifying the car as it had no papers and only the chassis number was known. With invaluable help from the Sunbeam Talbot Darracq Register and the French Talbot Club (thank you Patrice Delangre, thank you Bill Clark, thank you Stig Fransson, thank you Charles van Lookeren) we finally concluded that we own a 1931 Talbot K78 Long. The differences with the better known M75 are the very long wheelbase, the larger bore of the engine and a slightly different radiator design. After getting the car registered (thank you Jan Altena) we needed to get it home and as we didn't look forward to a trailer trip with 1850 kilos on top we decided to drive it home 100 miles. Despite the fact the car still needs a lot of fettling and hundreds of small repairs, the 'big lumps' are functioning. However the car had not been run more than a few testmiles since 35 years, so it promises to be somewhat of an adventure. 

At the wheel of the large and heavy Talbot we found this is a most serious saloon. The long wheel base (3400 mm), weight (1850 kilo), well adjusted Hartfords give a comfortable ride, better than expected, even the dreaded speed bumps which are all over in Holland are taken with a smile. The 2,8 litre engine isn't exactly swift but pulls the heavy car with ease with a comfortable 55 mph cruising speed. More is possible for certain yet with an engine which has not seen any training over the past years we kept with a steady 45. Gearshift with a long stick is easy when taking the time for it and do some double declutching when the box asks for it. Steering is heavy, that plus the long bonnet, low windshield and long gearstick give the impression you're at the head of a roadtrain more than an elegant French Berline. On short turns one has to keep ones eyes wide open while guessing where the left side and the end of the car are going. In general you need both halfs of the road in tight corners which is something to think about when cruising the countryside...

As said still lots of things need to be done (dashboard is still a bit rough, yet at least the oil pressure gauge is working) to make the car a worthy member of the Pre-War Salooning community, but the beginning is there. We'll keep you posted.

(Illustration Claude Berton, courtesy French Talbot Club, photos Rick Nicolaas)

Tuesday, 01 July 2014 Attention: open in a new window. Print E-mail
   

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1961 Abarth Simca 1300 Tipo 130S
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