A Letter about a car







[July 4th 1901]

A letter to John S. Phillips (General Manager of McClure's Magazine)
[Letters of Rudyard Kipling, Ed. Pinney, Volume 3 pp. 60/61]
Dear Phillips

I enclose herewith cheque of 100. which I understand is what you advanced on the Locomobile. We are tremendously indebted to you for all the trouble you have so kindly taken over the business and it proves once more that the busiest men are always readiest to help other folk.

As to the Locomobile herself, she is at present a Holy Terror. If ever you meet Amzi Lorenzo Barber who I gather is President of the Company, you may tell him that I yearn for his presence on the driving seat with me.

I suppose she will settle down some day to her conception of duty but just now her record is one of eternal and continuous breakdown. She disgraced us on June 26th when I took two friends over 13 miles of flat road. The pumps failed to lift and we had to pump dolefully every few miles home . Also she took to blowing through her pistons.

We overhauled her on June 27th (all the day). She did some run-about trips on June 28th. On June 29th we laid out a trip 19 miles out and back. Itook the wife . She (the Loco) betrayed us foully 12 miles out—blew through her cylinders, leaked, and laid down. It was a devil of a day. It ended in coming home by train. The wife nearly dead with exhaustion.

On June 30th I telephoned up to town and got the London agents to send down a man to overhaul. She needed repacking throughout, and the main steam valve leaked. (Another day off.) I left her alone on the 31st. (being Monday) went up to town on the 1st. Came down on the second July. She covered the five miles from the station to my home in fine form. Yesterday, July 3, I went for an evening trip—a few miles only along the road. Her steam was beautiful, but she shut down her fire automatically, and amid the jeers of Brighton we crawled to the Brighton repait shop, where we left her. The explanation was that her petrol pipe was choked. She apparently must be taken to pieces every time anything goes wrong with her. She is today in the shop being cleaned, and I shall be lucky if I get her tomorrow night. I tell you these things that you may think once or twice ere you get a Locomobile. It is quite true that she is noiseless, but so is a corpse, and one does not get much fun out of a corpse.

Is McClure 's open to a story of her performance—say 5000 words under caption "Locoed!" If the worst comes to the worst I may reimburse myself that way for the cost of her repairs during the past ten days.

It isn't as if we wanted her for long tours—isn't as if we ever tried to get more than 10 miles an hour out of her. We got her for a carriage—a refined and lady-like carriage—and we treat her on that basis. Her lines are lovely; her form is elegant; the curves of her buggy-top are alone worth the price of admission. but—as a means of propulsion she is today a nickle-plated fraud. I guess Amzi Lorenzo goes about the world in a B'way surface car.

Yours locomobiliously but always sincerely
Rudyard Kipling