What is it about English writing from before the eighties that immediately makes you want to sit in a comfortable leather chair in a study and look out the window. Or, if none of that is available, make you feel like you’re doing it anyway?
I don’t know, but I love the feeling, and, except for certain attempts at literary fiction, it almost always works, whether the book be a mystery classic, a travel book or, as in this case, a classic car magazine.
Now, Old Motor is not a magazine that I would normally have purchased, as I’m currently completing collections of publications that existed when I was actively buying new magazines (remember when magazines were better than the internet… well, they still are, but no one seems to care). Old Motor died in March, 1982, when I was 7 and not buying much more than Legos my parents would get me.
But, there’s a motive to my madness (apart from the fact that I love old car magazines), and that reason is that Old Motor is nothing less than the precursor to Classic & Sportscar, which is probably my favorite magazine ever. So if I want to complete the C&SCs, I need to go back in time and get the Old Motors.
And man, am I glad of that. The first issue (January 1963) is a wonder that deserves to be immortalized for several reasons. Perhaps the most interesting is that the magazine features vehicles that I’d never heard of (in 1963 most of the articles dealt with prewar vehicles). Have you heard of the Sloane or the Gilchrist? I hadn’t.
Better still, it’s a mag that allows you to slow the pace, and brings on that timeless feeling that the Empire is still around and life will continue as it always has, interrupted only by an occasional tea. It’s not a long issue, but it allows you to lose track of time and not be entirely certain whether it’s 1850 (although cars as we know them hadn’t been invented then) or 1950. My own sense was probably that it was 1912.
Many readers won’t find that feeling seductive, and I guess that’s fine. But I love it. One of the reasons I read is to feel a connection with the past, in different cultures. And it usually works but, for some reason, that immortal, timeless England seems to be the best world to connect to. So civilized, so pleasant, so unhurried. (I always recommend The Remains of the Day to anyone who wants to understand it, even though the book itself is at once paean and critique). The first half of Brideshead Revisited works, too. Or anything by Wodehouse. Such a wonderful world.
And now, I can add Old Motor to the list of things that transport me there. I need to get on ebay and track down the second issue!
Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer who aims to transport people to places far from their everyday reality. Nowhere is this penchant more evident than in his collection Off the Beaten Path, which takes the reader far from the usual North American and European setting – while still celebrating our common humanity. You can check it out here.