One of the advantages of having a bookshop in the family is a never-ending supply of things to read. And I've just spent an enjoyable couple of hours with my head buried in "Motor Driving Made Easy", a book published by what was then The Autocar in 1935. It's intention, according to the frontispiece, was to offer "A complete guide to the beginner."

I confess to having started it in anticipation of some Chomondley-Warner style laughs, but it turned out to be a fascinating read. Seventy-five years ago, drivers were just getting used to the still-novel idea of the roundabout, and the first traffic lights were being introduced outside of London - they were known as 'robots' at the time.

The latest and most daring idea was the introduction of both the 30mph urban speed limit and the driving licence. Before then, anybody who fancied their chances was free to give driving a try.

Predictably, the writing style is dated. But a surprising amount of the advice contained within it translates directly into our modern experience on the roads. There's a chapter on skid correction which must have proved handy given the primitive state of tyres and brakes at the time - and the rising power outputs of pre-war cars.

And there's also some sound common sense. Try this passage:

"Speed, given the proper time and place, is a fine exhilarating experience; indeed, until you have had your car "flat out" with your foot on the floor and the tyres screaming in your ears, you do not know the machine properly.

“But speed is also extraordinarily deceptive. It is very easy, after a long run in open country where you have been cruising in the fifties or sixties, to drive through a populous town with the speedometer nearer the forty than the thirty mark… But if you want to go fast, you must be prepared to shoulder the responsibility it involves."

Seven-and-a-half decades on, that's as true as when it was written.

Technorati Tags: , ,