VETS IN PRACTICE
One of Vauxhall’s earliest efforts is taking part in this weekend’s London to Brighton Veteran Run. We find out what it’s like to drive
E ver been confronted by one of those fiendishly complicated new coffee machines? Press its many buttons in precisely the right manner and it’ll transform you into George Clooney, sipping a delicately brewed cappuccino on a sun-kissed veranda. But us mere mortals can often end up with brown water slopping hopelessly out of a machine we struggle to master.
That’s what driving this Vauxhall for the first time is like. At some point you’ll inevitably revert to an ingrained style of modern driving, flick your left foot to dip the clutch... and find yourself with a valuable piece of Edwardian motoring history jolting forward out of control.
That’s if you’ve successfully started the 6hp up. There’s no key, but you must remove a floor panel to access and then prime the carburettor. Even when you’ve replaced the panel, you have to fumble under the nearside panels, attach the starter handle and give it a couple of good shoves ( keeping your palm firmly beneath the handle to avoid fractured wrists or fingers when the single-cylinder engine kicks into life).
The 1.0-litre unit is noisy on start-up, but settles into a steady patter. Then it’s quite a climb to assume your position at the controls that are beautiful in their sturdiness and attention to detail, but totally alien to those versed in relatively modern driving techniques.
Beyond the tips of your shoes are two pedals, but neither does what you expect. The right one does the braking, the left one jolts the car into the action using the lower of its two gears. You’re away... with not much time to acquaint yourself with its other control oddities.
The steering’s straight out of a marina – the boatyard, not the 1970s Morris – with a tiller you push forward to venture right, pull towards you to head left. Attempt the latter into a tight left-hander or wearing a beer gut and you’ll have to stand up to allow the tiller enough room to swing the narrow tyres into the turn, but once it responds it’s reassuringly direct.
On the far side of the pole to which the steering tiller attaches is a brass knob that operates the throttle. Twist it towards you to unleash all six horses – but to make the most of it you push the entire assembly forward to slot the car into its higher gear.
There’s a healthy clunk as the Vauxhall heads towards maximum momentum – speed is governed to 18mph, but on downhill stretches towards Brighton it can nudge 25mph. Perched so high, with only a set of skinny tyres and a fairly primitive set of rear drum brakes to slow you down… that’s plenty, thanks very much.
Once used to its bouncy ride and changing gear, the 6hp is a delightful companion that feels like it has another century of motoring left in it. It won’t transform you into George Clooney, but it has far more get-up-and-go than any coffee we’ve ever tasted.
Er... where’s the ignition switch? There isn’t one – and you have to take the floor up to prime the carburettor...
No need to worry about main beam or dip. One setting fits all.