Early in the history of mass ownership of ‘autocars’, the magazine sought to engage and inform enthusiasts on the best ways to handle and maintain their cars.
However, few articles could have been as entertaining as this analysis of the “disturbing yet fascinating phenomenon” of skidding. Not least because it was purportedly penned by the appropriately named BPW Twist MA and began opposite an advert for the Fiat Pillarless Saloon, which, with 10hp, hardly seemed likely to require a dab of ‘oppo’.
“Caution on a slippery road is essential, of course,” warned Twist, “but it is those people who drive gingerly along in fear of a skid rather than in the expectation of it who are likely to find their car out of control.”
Reflecting the more carefree nature of the times, Twist went on: “Yes, in the interests of general safety, the best advice is – choose your time and your place with some care, and try to skid.”
Twist’s logic was that any application of opposite lock must become instinctive: “One cannot, as soon as the car begins to skid, remark to the passenger, ‘Pass me the issue of The Autocar for February 2nd, my dear, and turn to page 173’.”
Going on to explain how to handle rear and front-wheel slides, plus four-wheel drifts and skids prompted by over-enthusiastic application of the accelerator, Twist amplified his calls for drivers to train themselves on how to handle all situations. “A skid in itself is harmless,” he wrote. “The only danger is that there is rarely sufficient space, and the skid must be checked before an impact takes place with the sides of the road or some other object.”
He also found time to argue with a fellow correspondent, Mr SWF Smyth, who had suggested locking the wheels hard in the direction of the skid in the event of the front wheels sliding, in order to create grip.
“It will be impossible to spin the wheel right over to the other lock and correct adequately to avert disaster,” concluded Twist, no doubt after trying it for himself on a quiet road.
Finally, after pondering why some of the slipperiest bits of road in the UK were found in London on wet days at the corner of one-way traffic systems (“for what reason I haven’t quite decided”), Twist set out a tone that runs among staff to this day: “Controlled skidding may even be quite fascinating.”