Small may be beautiful but for pre-war saloons tiny is terrific

| 25 Nov 2013

Everyone goes through classic car phases – one year it's all about small engined sports car, the next year's obsession is big-engined GTs.

Recently I have been experiencing a new (to me at least) phase, a worrying weakening of the knees whenever I see an upright(ish) pre-war baby saloon.

I have never particularly lusted after this 'genre' of car before beyond a quick "Ahhhh, that's sweet, but I bet it doesn't go much."

Now that is developing into a full-blown "Want, must have... and don't care how it drives."

Of course, when I say 'baby' I am giving myself a huge amount of leeway because all cars were either tiny or huge before the war, and the majority were small.

The only criterion my brain appears to be applying to this is that they need to be everso slightly aerodynamic. Not a full-on Paul Jaray experiment, but just paying lip service to Deco themes and a roofline that doesn't stand up in the air like a windsurf sail.

Thinking about it, and what appeals to me most, I guess what I am really lusting after is not a small car per se, but a small car that looks like a scaled-down version of one of those big cars that has tipped its hat in the vaguest acknowledgement of the principles of streamlining while still presenting the sort of bluff front that you could abseil down.

Imagine the more rakish coachbuilt versions of Rolls-Royce 20/25s and Bentley saloons and miniaturise them and that's what I need. I just like the concept of it, the compact merging of class and thrift.

A couple of right charmers that fit the bill include the Hillman Aero Minx that we all swooned over at the NEC last year and especially the pretty little pillarless Talbot 10 Airline Coupé that I needed smelling salts after seeing this year (main image).

I adore the scale and proportions of the car – quite a rarity thanks to being a pre-Sunbeam Talbot – and, while its 1185cc sidevalve engine isn't going to leave much rubber on the tarmac, it is exactly the sort of car that I could really enjoy going slowly in, even though it has a theoretical top speed of 72mph.

Imagine the joy of squeezing a family of four into all 4ft 10in of its width and setting off down some B-roads trying to shake the best part of its 41bhp out of it.

I must finally be growing up!

Hell, I'll even allow myself this 1937 SS Jaguar 1.5 because when you see such a thing beside post-war cars it is downright petite.

So is this really just a passing phase?

Probably, except I seem to recall that's precisely what my parents thought about all that nasty anarcho-punk music I started listening to in the early 1980s as an angry teen.

Some 30 years on my commuting music in the Jensen this morning was the debut LP from The Partisans. Oops.