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John-O'-Groat's Car

In July 1901 John Stirling of Stirling's Motor Carriages drove a Clément Panhard from John-O'-Groat's to Land's End in 59 hours and 15 minutes to prove the motor cars resilience. The distance was about 900 miles (1,448 km), Stirling's claimed this was a 'record'. Stirling's Motor Carriages made sure they go the maximum publicity from this achievement. Articles appeared in The Autocar and The Motor Car Journal. Below is a transcript of The Autocar magazine of August 10th 1901.


Today the route between to two end's of Britain covers 850 miles and would take approximately 16 hours, back in 1901 it took a little longer .......


On Friday, July 26th, I decided to run over what I believed to be the most trying course for a vehicle of any description, namely, John-O'-Groat's House to Land's End, in order to put to the test a light motor car which my company is placing on the market, and which will be known as the "Stirling Parisian'' phaeton. Next day a stock car was oiled up and dispatched by train to Wick, where I followed it on Monday morning, after telephoning Messrs. Peter Lee and Sons, High Street, Glasgow, to have a supply of petrol for me at Perth and Carlisle.



After an early breakfast on Tuesday morning, July 30th, John-O'-Groat's was left behind in a morning mist. The roads had a thick coating of dust, for rain had not fallen there, as it had done the previous day in the South. The surface was far from good, being covered in many places with loose stones. Especially was this the case on the dangerous hills at Dunbeath and Berriedale (the latter with gradient of 1 in 9). At Mound Station we took a wrong turn, which sent us round by Lairg Hotel on our way to Bonar Bridge, adding ten or a dozen miles to the journey to Tain, which was reached in time for lunch at the Royal Hotel. Thereafter we drove on through Dingwall and Beauly to Inverness, which was reached at six. Passing through Dingwall, rain began to fall heavily, and continued until within ten miles of Inverness. After dinner, the weather looking more settled, we decided to continue our journey, which we did at eight o'clock. We had scarcely cleared the city, when the rain again made its appearance, and the roads were in the worst possible condition, and for the next fifteen miles we had literally to plough our way through soft spongy clay and mud of a dangerously greasy sort. The low gear was inevitable if the car was to be kept parallel with the road, only occasionally getting the high gear slipped in when the road surface became harder. Darkness coming on, and neither the roads nor the weather improving, we stopped for the night at Freeburn Inn, having covered 181 miles for the day.



Leaving Freeburn at 7.50 a.m., we traveled well over roads still wet and having some stiff gradients, on through Kingussie and over the Grampians, the summit of the road being 1,500 feet above sea level. A fine run down the other side was obtained, in spite of the loose state of the road. The crawling pace of a train just here on the Highland Line, drawn by two powerful engines, gave us a reminder of the steepness of the grade. Some time before the summit was reached, the sky was clearing, and by and by the sun shone out brilliantly, and continued with us as we quickly passed through Blair Athole, Killie- crankie, Pitlochrie, Dunkeld, and into the fair city of Perth, for lunch at the Station Hotel. Our petrol store was renewed here, and about 3.30 we left for Edinburgh. Burntisland was reached about six, and the Granton. Ferry crossed at 6.30. We reached the Royal Hotel, Prince's Street, Edinburgh, shortly after seven, and in time to keep a business appointment at 7.30. During the last two hours rain had fallen plentifully, and Prince's Street was almost deserted when we turned into it, after the long steep climb up Pits Street. Distance for the day, 140 miles. Edinburgh was left next morning at five. The rain had ceased, but the roads were heavy in places. Conditions, however, improved as we passed through Biggar and on to Abington, where we ran on to the fine "Glasgow and Carlisle" road. After passing through Crawford and Elvinfoot, we soon began the ascent to Beattock, followed by a flight down the gentle slopes on the south side. The road continued good through Lockerbie, and Carlisle was reached at 10.50, the run of 98.5 miles having been done on one charge of the petrol tank, which holds two and one-fifth gallons. After a good meal and replenishing the oil tanks, we left Carlisle about 12.30. A few miles out we met what appeared to be a Wolseley car making its way North. The road over Sharp Fells was in fair condition, and it was only necessary to get down to the low gear nearing the summit, the rest being easily surmounted on the second speed. Good running was again made into Kendal, where another meal was taken on board. Weather and roads continued fine through Milnthorpe, Carnforth, and Lancaster, but rain and wet, greasy roads were again encountered ten miles out of Preston—our stopping-place for the night. This was reached about 6.45. Run for the day, 186.5 miles.



Leaving Preston after an early breakfast on Friday, having had our tanks refilled the previous evening, we traveled by Wigan and Warrington, after which the road was somewhat difficult to find, being without the strip map by Gall and Inglis for this portion of the route. The road taken, however, was through Northwich, Sandbach, and Stafford, and as I had an appointment to keep in Birmingham, I traveled thence through Walsall, instead of the more direct route. After a stay of forty-five minutes, we passed on to Bromsgrove, where a late lunch was eaten, and the car oiled up. Good running was made through Worcester on to Gloucester, and thereafter to Bristol, which was reached shortly after nine, putting up at the Royal Hotel. Distance for the day, 193. Making an early start on Saturday morning, we entered the last lap of the journey. We found some trouble in getting on to the right road out of Bristol, going several miles out of our way through misdirection. After Bristol the roads were not of the best, and further south, where traction engine work is common, they were badly cut up. They, however, improved considerably as Bridgwater was approached. We stopped to shake hands with Mr. Roberts, coachbuilder, who is also an enthusiastic autocarist, and, in addition to his own business, undertakes the overhaul of motor cars of every description. Although it was our intention to spend only a few minutes here, we found an hour and a half had been absorbed in looking over Mr. Robertas well-equipped works and showrooms.



The roads were excellent to Taunton, and fair to Exeter. Leaving Exeter, we experienced a sharp thunderstorm, and we had to face two hours of heavy rain as we climbed the Devonshire hills, some of which are as trying as those in the far North of Scotland land. The weather thereafter cleared, and although the roads were heavy we had no more rain on the journey. The route now took us through Launceston, Wadebridge, to Truro, where we enjoyed an excellent supper, and thereafter went on to Penzance, where most good people were evidently asleep, and after leaving the well-lighted streets we plunged into the blackness and darkness of the road out to "the End." The good folks of the house had turned in, but very quickly “turned out” on hearing the sound of our motor, and received us with every hospitality, and thus our long journey was ended. Distance for the day, 199.5 miles. During the whole journey of nine hundred miles not a bolt or nut worked loose. The travelling time of the trip was 59 hours and 15 minutes. The petrol used, 28 gallons. The motor worked perfectly throughout. It required attention only on one occasion, and that was at Tain. We found it did .not start up so briskly after lunch, and we washed out the inlet valve, in which we found a little grit. Although the car is fitted with both tube and electric ignition, we used the latter entirely. The sparking plug was never cleaned or even taken out for examination until a few miles south of Launceston, when a few "misfires" were for the first time observed.  This was after we had covered 817 miles. On inspection, the plug was found "sooty," but otherwise in perfect condition. The cooling water used was four gallons.

A word should be said of the tires, which were Dunlops. They went through the entire journey without a puncture, and were not even re-inflated once by the way.

Glasgow, August 5th.

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