This weekend I went camping at a friend’s farm, and we carted out stuff down to a disused chalk quarry in an old Range Rover from the 1970s. I know because I’ve suddenly become interested in old cars, so I looked at the serial number and spotted the date. It looks intimidating, with lots of sticks and levers, but one of my friends had a great time driving us over the bumpy fields while we held on for dear lift, jolting away in the back. I wish I’d been brave enough to try driving the thing, probably not illegal because it was on private land, and the vehicle was decommissioned from road use anyway. But I didn’t enjoy the last time I tried driving a manual transmission in a British car, and that wasn’t exactly a retro vehicle.
The experience of driving 100 years ago was a lot different than it was today. It wasn’t just that the roads were different. The function, role, and social implications were different. And the cars were very, very different. But how, exactly? Try and google “driving vintage cars” and see what you come up with. A lot of vanity “experiences” with cars from the 1950s and 1960s, the golden age of motoring (or are we in that now?), nothing about driving WWI era ambulances, if that’s the sort of thing you’re interested in.
However, a lot of WWI ambulances were fitted on Model T beds, and you can find videos and instructions on how to drive those. And here you can see a shot of the interior of a British Daimler from 1914, not dissimilar to the Range Rover I jolted along in last weekend. It looks very complicated but probably only because it’s not what we’re used to. Getting a Model T on the road for the first time is probably no more difficult than learning to drive in your mom’s Nissan pick up truck with a sticky clutch, no power steering or brakes, and no radio for that matter.
But how would you drive one of these?