Motoring Cartoons (mostly)
by Colin Hughes)
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
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.
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.
in most of his pictures is that any rope, belt, or string has a knot
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.
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
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
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.
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
(I have since
found an earlier copy which verifies my memory). A number of these pictures first appeared in "Punch".
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
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!
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
was never like this when I went round Crewe!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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
Colin W. Hughes and Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts' Club 2005