History is full of 'what if...' moments, where the whole trajectory of the world and society seems to turn on a six-pence. Whatever you call it, the theory also affects the motoring world. Here, Autocar's writers imagine their favourite trajectory-changing moments.
What if... John Scott-Ellis had been doing 10mph more?
On 22 August 1931, John Scott-Ellis, the future 9th Baron Howard de Walden, is driving a small Fiat through the streets of Munich. This is a brave thing to do because young master Scott-Ellis is only 18 years old and an inexperienced driver.
But the weather is good, the traffic is light and he feels at ease. He drives up Ludwigstrasse and then turns right into Brienner Strasse, at which point a man walks straight out in front of the car. What actually happens is that the man is knocked briefly to the ground, gets up unharmed, apologises for not looking where he is going and that is that.
But let’s say Scott-Ellis is doing perhaps 30mph rather than 20mph. Now there is a sickening crunch. And by the time the ambulance arrives, the man, who appears to be in his mid-forties, is in a very bad way indeed. They scoop him off to hospital and do their very best but soon it becomes clear the situation is hopeless. The man never recovers consciousness and dies in his sleep three hours after the crash.
Scott-Ellis is understandably distraught even though his passenger, a friend of the family called Pappenheim and the person in whose house he is lodging, assures him the man never even looked left and simply stepped into the path of the Fiat. No one could have avoided the accident.
But Scott-Ellis is advised that the authorities may not see it in quite the same way. The Great War had ended little more than a dozen years earlier, people have long memories of young Britons killing German citizens and Pappenheim is concerned that, should he be charged with causing death by dangerous driving, he may not get a fair trial.