Magazine article The Spectator

Compulsive Passions

Magazine article The Spectator

Compulsive Passions

Article excerpt




Alan Judd

The late Alan Clark's motoring writings, Backfire (Weidenfeld, L18.99), have been rightly praised. Clark was Mr Toad, but he drove accurately as well as fast and owned some of the most desirable cars ever made. His fleet ranged from a Citroen 2CV to a modern Bentley Continental, but it is in writing about his older cars - his Derby Bentleys, his 1930s Buick, his Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost - that his passion and detailed knowledge really show. He couldn't write badly and, like everything else he published, this book is compulsive. He was once invited to be motoring correspondent of The Spectator but wanted too much money. In journalism as in motoring, you get what you pay for. You got me.

The first London to Sydney car rally was in 1968 and was won by a Hillman Hunter. In 2000 there was a millennium rally in which Anthony and Pamela Johnson, with Peter Hornby, came a creditable 11th in a Subaru Outback estate (the same Hillman Hunter competed - and completed). Anthony has written a very readable and for would-be rallyers - helpful account of their 32-day adventure, or ordeal (East into the Sun, L8, 01454 218569 or Much as I love cars, I'm not sure about spending 12 hours a day cooped up in one for a month, at least not with my back. But a bad back ought to have persuaded me because they raised 65,000 for the International Spinal Research Trust. Ten per cent of sales go to the charity.

Clark would have had little use for Hugh Cantlie's A Break from the Motorways (L9.95, Cheviot Books, 01668 213313, or since he liked to race from Kent to the north of Scotland with only pit-stops. If, like me, you prefer leisurely journeys punctuated by fingerings, halts, refreshers and potterings that become a reason for travelling in themselves and double the journey time, then you'll find this guide to what's available five minutes off the motorway very useful. It's well set out and illustrated and I'm all the happier to recommend it because it does not include my own favourite halt, which is just off the Al and quite busy enough already, thank you. But it does include a lot else that's enticing. …

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