By Mike Robertson
We were fair belting along in Norman Maver’s 1913 Model T Ford. A little instrument near my feet showed 25 which I took to be miles-per-hour although in the open car it felt much faster. The bend at Skaill on the way to the Gloup was fast approaching. Had he noticed the bend? His foot shifted to the brake and heaving on it the car gradually slowed down and we took the bend safely.
Over 100 years ago this is what motoring was like and we got a glimpse of it in Orkney when the Scottish Section of the Veteran Car Company held their “Oor Orkney Odyssey” last week (24 – 30 Sept 23). As part of the “Odyssey”, on Friday, they took lunch at the Deerness Hall where the committee laid on soup, sandwiches and home bakes.
While they were having lunch I was able to look around the car park. To qualify as a veteran car it must have been built before 1918. Extraordinary, then, that one of the common questions they get asked is “Have you owned this from new?”. Fair to say most of the drivers or not in the first flush of youth but I didn’t see any who look like they were over 105!
At that time cars were often built by small local manufacturers with the emphasis on style rather than functionality. Some looked like horse-drawn carriages and one looked like a boat. Streamlining did not seem to be a priority but then they didn’t go all that fast. I particularly like the Napier which looked like a horse-drawn carriage with an engine and an elaborate car horn in the style of a serpent.
At the functional end there were several Model T Ford’s, the first mass-produced car. This was the car I got a run up to the Gloup in.
The car’s controls intrigued me. There are three pedals. The right-hand one is the brake, not power-assisted so you have to press quite hard. The left-hand pedal is the gear change and clutch. It only has two gears, a low gear with the pedal pushed to the floor and a high gear with your foot off the pedal. In between the two gears is neutral with the clutch disengaged. The handbrake is linked to the foot pedals so when you pull it on neutral is engage and the clutch disengaged. The middle pedal is for reverse which is engaged when the pedal is pushed down. The accelerator is a lever on the right side of the steering wheel and a similar lever on the left adjusts the ignition advance and retard.
A head wind made the ride back from the Gloup feel even faster. When arrived back at the hall the other cars had left and that ended my glimpse into the motoring past. It was great to see all these veteran cars in such good condition and full working order. Thanks to Veteran Car Company, Scottish Section for bringing this to us and thanks all to the Deerness Hall committee for putting on what, by popular agreement of the visitors, was the best lunch of their visit.
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