Czech the steer­ing

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Carsguide Confidential - Paul Gover

WHEN Adolph Hitler marched into Cze­choslo­vakia in March of 1939 he changed the course of his­tory in one very sur­pris­ing way. He switched the coun­try from right to left-hand drive. Just like Ger­many.

That move ex­plains why a big bunch of very up­scale Sko­das in the com­pany mu­seum in Mlada Voleslav have their steer­ing wheels on the right-hand side. They were built be­fore the sec­ond great mis­un­der­stand­ing.

But it brings me no closer to un­rav­el­ling the mys­tery of steer­ing wheel lo­ca­tion.

At the dawn of mo­tor­ing, if you drove on the left you also sat on the left. And vice-versa for right-side driv­ing.

So Bri­tish driv­ers sat on the left and Ger­man driv­ers sat on the right, some­thing I only dis­cov­ered when I saw a 1908 Mercedes Sim­plex in a Bri­tish mu­seum this week. It had right­side steer­ing so I as­sumed it was built for Bri­tain but it was ac­tu­ally de­liv­ered in Ger­many.

Sit­ting close to the gut­ter was ap­par­ently quite nor­mal be­fore the 1920s, per­haps be­cause it was eas­ier for a chauf­feur to step out and open the rear door over the kerb. Some rich Ja­panese still pre­fer things that way.

Or per­haps it was be­cause it was safer for the driver to sit a lit­tle fur­ther from on­com­ing traf­fic.

I spent a day driv­ing left­hand steer­ing Ben­zes in Bri­tain this week and, sur­pris­ingly, it feels quite good. It’s eas­ier to get through small gaps and place the car in tight traf­fic.

But I’m still won­der­ing why we’ve ended up with the setup we have, and who set the stan­dards. Google helps — but not a lot.

And that’s with­out think­ing about the McLaren F1 of the 1990s, which had a three-seater cock­pit with the driver sit­ting in the mid­dle.

1932 Skoda 860 limo: It’s right-hand drive

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