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

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Driving - WORDS David Simister PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Richard Gunn

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.

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