A comprehensive guide to gentlemanly driving. From delegating the tiresome maintenance of your vehicle, to sartorial advice for the finest motoring get-up, Vic Darkwood shows you how to reclaim the adventure of motoring.
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published October 10th 2012 by Aa Publishing (first published June 1st 2012)
LUX FIX Studio
May 23, 2012
‘The Gentleman’s Guide to Motoring’, by Vic Darkwood
In comparison with the golden age of motoring which occurred between the world wars, driving a car these days has become at best a vulgar, humdrum chore and at worst an exasperating and life-threatening imposition. Despite the exaggerated claims of car manufacturers and advances in car technology over the last quarter century, something seems to have been lost along the way – namely, ‘style’.
My forthcoming book, The Gentleman’s Guide to Motoring, attempts to reclaim the art of driving a motorcar as the sanctified mission of a gentleman. Here then are some invaluable nuggets of advice for those wishing to prepare for a stylish motoring jaunt.
Naturally, the first necessity of any motoring trip is an unutterably beautiful vehicle in which to be seen. Those with a taste for luxury and a spare £1.7 million might consider the 1947 Bentley Mark VI Drophead Coupé with custom bodywork by Franay, coachbuilders of Paris, which not only boasts a built-in bespoke bar cabinet complete with glasses and silver flasks, but also a bright red interior made entirely from frog skin.
For those of more modest means all is not lost, even a humble Morris Minor or nifty Triumph Vitesse have the requisite je ne sais quoi for those striving for a little panache. Whatever your budget, on no account allow yourself to be seduced by any vehicle constructed after 1973, as this is when the art of car design died. After this year all cars began to resemble hoovers and absolutely nothing could induce a gentleman of quality to suffer the indignity of travelling in a domestic appliance
Next a gent will ask himself ‘What in the devil should I wear?’ The short answer to this is ‘tweed’; with, perhaps, an array of vintage leather accessories. Again, the well-heeled among us might wish to commission a bespoke motoring outfit from a reputable expeditionary tailor such as Norton & Sons of Savile Row or a cheaper option would be a second-hand clothiers specializing in tweed such as Hornets of Kensington Church Street. For those with an open topped vehicle, motoring gauntlets, a pair of motoring goggles and secure headgear are of course de rigueur. Ladies may preserve their complexions by wearing a full chamois-leather face mask as advertised in a1902 edition of The Autocar magazine. The approved look for both gent and lady can be seen below.
Another essential accessory when driving in open topped vehicles is a Windshield Pipe. It was originally designed in 1905 by Alfred Dunhill as a method of keeping one’s pipe alight in the face of savage wind currents, but sadly only vintage examples are now available at prices well-over £1000. Luckily, I was able to pick up this ‘Hurricane Standard’ 1940s briar and Bakelite model for under a fiver on eBay lately and I am therefore now fully equipped to enjoy a bowl of shag at breakneck velocity.
Further windproofing of the gentleman can be achieved by wearing a moustache snood. There is very little point in a gent sculpting his tash to aesthetic perfection if it is to be buffeted to blazes within minutes of hitting the highway. To protect the integrity of his handlebar a snood or moustache band should be warn. I have found one manufactured by Stern (the Bartbinde) available on-line from Barbe & Co at the exceedingly reasonable price of £18.53
A final essential is of course a picnic hamper. The driver who doesn’t wish to be humiliated by being forced to visit motorway service eateries and fastfood outlets should always have a well-stocked hamper in his boot. This should be designed along the lines of the Motor Tea Basket as featured the Army and Navy Stores Catalogue from 1907. Thankfully, hampers are still easy to find. My recommendation is the Fortnum and Mason ‘Belgravia’ Hamper. A snip at £500. Let’s hope this mention might induce them to send me one.
Vic Darkwood (below) is the co-founder of The Chap magazine and co-author of The Chap Manifesto. His latest solo book, The Gentleman’s Guide to Motoring. (published by AA Publications) is out June 1st 2012. RRP £9.99.
VIC DARKWOOD ON 'THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO MOTORING'
JUN 8, 2012
Vic Darkwood shows how a gentleman only considers automobile style and 'what the devil to wear' when motoring about town
It’s so easy to do. You slump down in front of the box on a Sunday night in the process of digesting a surfeit of roast chicken, and before you know it you have accidentally bumbled into a tawdry edition of Top Gear and, robbed of the willpower to change channels by the soporific effects of gastric juices, you actually watch it.
Before long you might easily come to the conclusion that appreciation of the motor car is the exclusive preserve of robustly blokey individuals – middle-aged men dressed in blouson leather jackets and denim trousers, waxing lyrical over trivia such as horsepower, petrol consumption and nought-to-sixty-isms.
But before you allow yourself to become alienated by the witterings of ‘petrol heads’, it is reassuring to know that they don’t have a monopoly on motor vehicles. A fellow blessed with an independence of mind, poetry in his soul and vim in his trousers, namely ‘a gentleman’, also has strong opinions on the subject.
Unlike those who sully themselves with vulgar notions of turbo-charging and fuel-injection, the gentleman only has three questions: How does she look? Does she go some? And what in the devil’s name should I wear?
To the first of these questions the answer should of course be, as stylish as hell. Any gentleman worth his salt would rather sell his eye teeth than consider being seen in a vehicle of post-1973 construction (1973 being when the art of car design effectively died).
With access to unlimited funds, the only possible choice for a gentleman driver would be a 1938 Hispano-Suiza H6C Saoutchik Xenia Coupé, a car so preposterously stylish that PG Wodehouse selected it as the car of choice of the Emsworth family in his tales of Blandings Castle.
Such a car is designed to be driven around in rather than to actually drive yourself, but for those of more modest means, all is not lost. Don’t give a second glance to dull and dreary budget modern cars, but go instead for a trusty Morris Minor or a brisk Triumph Vitesse.
To the second question, the gent pays but fleeting regard. A gentleman motorist only requires two speeds: a ‘moderate tootle’ for when he wishes to be seen about town or a ‘fair old lick’ when he needs to get from A to B as fast as is humanly possible. Anything more technical and a gent’s eyes are apt to glaze over.
To the third of his queries, the gentleman motorist will obviously lavish a great deal of time and attention. Buying a new car should be seen as an excuse to acquire an entirely new wardrobe and range of accessories. These will vary based on the design and vintage of your vehicle – for those with open topped models, gauntlet gloves, goggles and tweeds are de rigueur.
A particularly pressing concern of the gent will be his need to keep his pipe alight when travelling in an open topped car. A solution to this vexing problem was invented by Alfred Dunhill, the patron saint of motoring accessories, in 1905 – namely the Windshield Pipe. These days it is only possible to purchase the original article at great expense, but surely it is time its manufacture was resumed.
So next time you inadvertently stumble upon depressingly laddish Sunday night TV, don’t assume that cars aren’t for you. Brash Clarksonite car-culture might be a crashing bore, but that does not mean that the aesthetics and practice of motoring cannot be approached from a very different angle.