Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club - for Rolls-Royce and Bentley Enthusiasts

Motoring Cartoons (mostly)

(Article by Colin Hughes)

(I acknowledge the rights of the copyright owners of the pictures in this article: fortunately the quality of pictures on the Internet is poor enough for those who really like the image to have to search out the original).

In my teens, I used to be an avid enjoyer of "Punch" magazine cartoons. Unfortunately, I never kept any of the magazines, and regret that, among many other cartoonists, I do not have examples of the amazing mechanically bizarre creations of Roland Emett. Emett to some extent inherited the skills of W Heath Robinson, whose name has gone into the English language as descriptive of any mechanical construction made of discarded bits and pieces of string, and whose work tended to cover the early part of the 20th century.

For those who do not know Heath Robinson's work, this is one from a series commissioned by Connolly Bros., well known for their leather used nearly universally in our cars, now sadly no longer in business. The cartoons were produced for their 50th anniversary in 1928.

A characteristic in most of his pictures is that any rope, belt, or string has a knot in it.

emett2.jpg (42796 bytes)emett1.jpg (69635 bytes) Fortunately, I also have friends of similar tastes prepared to lend me books of cartoons, so I can include a couple of Emett's. Although known principally for his branch line steam railway cartoons and the Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Railway of the Battersea Pleasure Gardens during the 1951 Festival of Britain: "When the Lobster is Hoisted, the Tide is Out", motoring did appear in his repertoire. These two appeared in "Punch" in the late 1940s, when new cars were in short supply.
emettcarpark1.jpg (41376 bytes)emettdetail1.jpg (60189 bytes) I happen to live in Hemel Hempstead, a New Town developed largely in the 1950s when Emett was at his zenith, and a feature of the new town centre multi-story car park is an Emett tile and mosaic map of the area. Locals seldom notice it, and the street furniture does not enhance it. An item for preservation when concrete cancer gets the car park, I sincerely hope.

Another early cartoonist influence on me was Fougasse: he is probably best known for his series of security cartoons published during the Second World War (still available as reprints from the Imperial War Museum in London), of which I remember at least two variants of "Careless talk costs lives" - one a London club lounge with portraits of Hitler and Goering, the other with a repeat pattern on the wallpaper of Hitler's face. During the late 1930s and 1940s, Fougasse was Art Editor of "Punch".

In motoring terms, the book "You Have Been Warned", first published in 1935, had among other things a send-up of the diagrams for hand signals in the UK Ministry of Transport "Highway Code". I guess that I was learning to drive around the time I read it and I found it appealed to my adolescent sense of humour. The real skill of Fougasse was his extreme economy of line.

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My current copy of "You Have Been Warned" is a 1959 reprint. My memory says that the first copy I read had the caption for hand signal 1c (bottom right of the left-hand picture) as: "The house over there with the green door is where cook's mother lives." Possibly it was edited to allow for the rarity of households still employing a cook (I have since found an earlier copy which verifies my memory). A number of these pictures first appeared in "Punch".

bthomas.jpg (62585 bytes) evans.jpg (66460 bytes) Mavs.jpg (44716 bytes) Fougasse followed Bert Thomas' time in the same job, and here are two from the early 1930s, one of which is by Thomas, the other by Theyer Evans, and relevant to our interests. The third is from the 1940s, and is the origin of the joke regularly made to R-R owners before filling stations became self-service. 

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W.A.Robotham (Rm), who was for some time in charge of Rolls-Royce Experimental Department on the car side, wrote his autobiography "Silver Ghosts and Silver Dawn" (Constable 1970). During the Second World War when Rolls-Royce Car Division team was working on the design of the Cromwell tank, there was continuous conflict on Ministry specifications for tanks. He included this illustration originating in Vauxhall's at this time as "The Specialist Menace". 

The late R.J.Gibbs "Gibby", RREC's Bulletin editor in the Seventies, was a good cartoonist; here is an example he produced in 1972 at the time of the first re-enactment of the Alpine Trial of 1912, when George Birrell was Club Chairman and closely involved with the rally organisation. The late Peter Baines as RREC Bulletin Editor once had a note from the Editor of the VSCC Bulletin congratulating him on the standard of the content, but regretting that we did not have cartoons to lighten the tone. VSCC is fortunate in having Apsley currently - see below. Volunteer cartoonists are welcome!
The RREC Annual Dinner at the Annual Rally which preceded the 1972 Alpine Rally (commemorating the 1912 Alpine Trial) had a menu cover by that best of motoring cartoonists, the late Russell Brockbank, commissioned by John Schroder. (Where is the original now?). Copies were still available from the Club Shop in March 2005.

Brockbank's ability to depict the character of individual cars one knew, or thought one knew, was unrivalled. In this picture, anyone familiar with his motorist character, Major Upsett, will recognise him in Tyrolean costume on the lower right of the picture.

Brockbank was published regularly in "Punch" and "Motor"; he became Art Editor of "Punch" to Fougasse as Editor, and as they were both car crazy, this meant that "Punch" nearly became a motoring magazine until Malcolm Muggeridge took over from Fougasse and turned it political. Members of the V.S-C.C. have regular doses of Brockbank in their Bulletin, but those only in the RREC are rather deprived, so the following may compensate for that lack. They mostly come from a collection, "The Best of Brockbank" published in 1975 by David & Charles, with a few from "Motoring through Punch", published by the same publisher around 1971, and "Manifold Pressures" published in 1958 by Temple Press.

This is a very good impression of "Silver Ghost", and I always have felt that the driver bears a close resemblance to Dennis Miller-Williams, the Publicity Director of R-R in the 1960s & 70s, who regularly drove the car. However, one's opportunity to overtake more modern cars in a Ghost is fairly limited these days, and having spent some time in the passenger seat of one, I doubt the ability of the windscreen to allow any match to stay alight long enough to light a pipe... Note that it is a right-hand drive Cadillac. Were there ever any?

Based on "Silver Ghost" again. Unfortunately or fortunately the spiral-wound tubing of a "boa-constrictor" horn is not that watertight, although some installations have a leather over-sleeve on the tubing: maybe an owner of one of these can comment on its performance after a wet drive.

This must have been after 1962 when the Cloud III was introduced, 3 years after the Mini. I would guess that the Bugatti (a Type 44?) is now worth rather more than the Cloud.

Note the box-lining on the bonnet, and the sham cane on the rear of the limousine de ville. How long is it since one no longer had to wind a ball of wool from the hank? I remember doing it for my mother when in my early teens. I would guess this is mid 1960s. 

Horizontal shutters make it a 20hp, but an offside mounted spare wheel is unusual for a 20hp, as most had a single spare, rear-mounted when carrying no luggage, or near-side mounted when loaded - artist's licence to give the " old car" ambience. I find children are fascinated by the visible side mounted spare wheels on my brother's Ghost, as these are clearly something they see as an old car characteristic.

Minis with applied sham caning were common in the mid 1960s, although I do not remember any with faux cabriolet hood-irons. There is always interest in R-R producing a smaller car, which leads me to the next picture.

A very good representation of the Radley Alpine Eagle, with the Vanden Plas Princess "R". The latter resulted from the terminated joint project with B.M.C. for the Bentley "Java", but retained virtually only the R-R F-60 engine in its Vanden Plas form.


It was never like this when I went round Crewe!

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language.jpg (29259 bytes) Some that are not R-R subjects: the first is one that most drivers as passengers will respond to, the second should appeal to those from other countries who nevertheless recognise the ability of many English words to have at least two meanings.

Finally among the Brockbanks, a couple for Bentley lovers. Firstly, what I think is his best cartoon ever, and secondly one that I like for its appeal to the literalist in me. Note that the Citroen is Paris registered (75 on the number-plate), which is a reflection on Brockbank's opinion of Parisian drivers' skills. I also wonder how many BDC members have grown similar moustaches to look the part.

A current source of appropriate motoring cartoons is the work of Apsley in the Vintage Sports-Car Club's Bulletin. This is an illustration from an article on Erithacus rubecula in the Motor House: covering the activities of Robins - the bird, not Reliants - nesting in one's garage.


Postcards and Birthday cards are another rich source of cartoon images. This is a McGill style card that I picked up in the Isle of Man in 1976. I only have it as a slide, so my apologies for not knowing the copyright holder of Mr Fitzpatrick's image. This is a visual version of a joke, usually referred to, but not told at after-dinner speeches at R-R events, or at least it wasn't in the 1960s: "The only R-R joke I know is the one about the golf tees, but I can't tell that in mixed company."

The next is a card sent to my late Father-in-law by a golfing friend, with a cartoon by Bill Kimpton, published by Rainbow Cards. At least the Everflex roof would not show the stud marks as badly as paint would have! Notice the Lagonda next to the Shadow II: again a car possibly now worth more than the R-R.


A couple of cards of appeal to photographers: first, one picked up in Wales. It shows more typical conditions for that region than we had on the Oxford Section's "On the Thomas Telford Trail" from 10-13 September 1999, where the sun shone, and it only rained overnight, twice. This is a J. Arthur Dixon card by Rupert Besley, whose images of West coast weather are typical of how one often reacts to it.

The second is from a photographer friend sent to me on my retirement. The situation is not unknown to me. This is a Paperlink card by Chris Madden.

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However, a final final photographic one is another Brockbank cartoon with Major Upsett. It is just possible that he knew something of the story of the grille design agonies that Healey had when designing the Healey, later Austin-Healey 100.

Colin W. Hughes and Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts' Club 2005