No a Lanchester was not an bomber from World War two, that was the Lancaster. The Lanchester was an elegant car from the 1930’s, it was furnished in burled walnut and leather with rich carpeting. But of course most luxury cars came that way in those days. What was special about the Lanchester was its almost automatic gear box. It was known as pre-select gear change, it still retained a clutch pedal, but it was only required for moving off in first gear. Once the car was in motion the driver shifted gear by removing his/her foot from the gas pedal, slipped lever into the next gear and return foot to the gas. No more need of the clutch pedal until the car stops. As you can imagine this system took a little getting use to especially if one is unfamiliar. That was the case with me, I had only recently bought the Lanchester and spent most of my short ownership time cleaning and polishing it in preparation for my big Saturday night date. I was taking a particularly pretty girl out for a drive to a country pub and hopefully a snog in the spacious back seat later. The two six volt batteries in my car had seen better days, so the car needed to be started using the crank handle. Not a worry because it always started on the first turn. Saturday night arrived and off we when heading out of Portsmouth, my petty passenger seemed quite impressed sitting in my spotless car. Everything was going well we were happily chatting and getting along fine, at least until we came to traffic lights. I had to stop for the red light and the car stalled, not serious I’d just jump out an crank it again. That is what I did, one quick turn of the handle and the engine burst into life, great! However, the light was still red and I had neglected to move the gear lever into neutral. The instant the engine started the car began moving through the intersection against the lights. I didn’t have time to remove the starting handle and needed to jump clear or be run over. By the time I recovered from the initial shock the car was gathering speed and my passenger was yelling at me to do something. Fortunately speed was not a major factor in those days and the other cars in the intersection all managed to stop and allow the Lanchester a save passage through. By now I was running alongside the car and having great difficulty getting in, you guessed it, the doors were suicide doors. That means they open from the front of the car and fly wide open. My girl friend was shouting at me, get in I can’t drive and I was shouting put your foot on the brake! which one is the brake?My God if she touches the gas pedal I’m dead!!! In one last desperate attempt I leaped onto the running board,struggled into the driver seat and brought the car to a safe stop. No real damage had been done to my car but the budding romance was over. I drove my pretty girl home pleading my case to no avail. The spacious back seat remained spacious and empty. That was my first, last and only car fitted with pre-select gears that I was ever to own.
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