I really wish I weren’t living through a major historical event right now.’ It was meant as dark humour, but this post that appeared on my Twitter timeline in the murky depths of March 2020 made me realise that the Covid-19 pandemic would genuinely be a period forever remembered and analysed. More significantly, it meant that the daily reporting of all of us at Autocar would be looked upon as part of a historical record.
How ever could you have foreseen the blistering progress of the car, the rapid expansions of the industries centred upon it, the resultant wholesale transformation due for every area on the planet, the liberation of millions of people – or the invisible yet devastating environmental damage that all of this would cost future generations? Not in a million years you couldn’t. Yet all of this came to pass in so few years that Sturmey is only three generations removed from some of you reading this today. And Autocar remained published (almost) every week throughout.
The war against the Central Powers was the first major event the magazine lived through, but rather than try to continue as usual, we literally rallied the troops, asking the War Office as soon as war was declared what would be the best way that motorists could help. We then published a form that our readers could fill out and return to Lord Kitchener’s lackeys, offering loan of their “fast and handy machines for the transport of men and material”, being “only too glad if their cars could be utilised if required in the defence of their country or in the maintenance of its position”. Imagine offering your Vauxhall Corsa to fight the Taliban...
Come the return of peace, motoring began to be democratised and Autocar’s circulation soared, as along came mass manufacturing and affordable (relatively speaking) cars such as the Austin Seven – which became the subject of our first ever road test in 1928. Although performance, ride and handling weren’t exactly priorities for coverage back then, the car going well, not breaking down and being cheap to run were enough.
Our words were given credence by their authors’ engineering and design experience and our highly detailed technical drawings, while the sport was written by a top-class racing driver. On that note, any plans after 2022, Sir Lewis?