How can you be in two places at the same time - especially when those two places are nearly 5,000 miles (8,000 km.) apart? The answer seems to be to travel between the two places by Armstrong Siddeley 'Sapphire'.
Modern Merchant Adventurers
Moreover, it would not have been a practical proposition to have the exhibits out of the country for such a long time. They consisted in the main of new yarns and equipment for testing yarn and cloth for strength, twist, and so on.
Over Three Months Saved
And the time saving? By normal transport a period of nearly four months had to be allowed for goods shipped from England to arrive in Baghdad. By road they got there in sixteen days.
Back at Nottingham the caravan was fitted with heavier wheels, tyres, and springs but the only modification to the standard 'Sapphire' (with 20,000 miles (32,000 km.) on the clock) was to fit special shock absorbers at the front. When this had been done everything was ready for the road to Baghdad. But not quite: for due to pressing business reasons
Mr. Macpherson was unable to leave. So Mr. Hodson had to start out on the 4,800 mile (7,700 km.) journey alone, Mr. Macpherson promising to catch him up by air en route.
The R.A.C. itinerary is hardly reassuring reading for the intending traveller. In it there are such warnings as: 'Approaching Belgrade the edges of the road are beginning to collapse and motoriists should beware of going too near them'. At Istanbul, on the other hand, there is a very prosaic instruction - 'Cross the Bosphorous by ferry running every hour or two in summer, but once a day at 8 a.m. at other times'. No mention at all of all the unwanted wives supposed to have ended their lives there in the past, dumped into the water in sewn-up sacks!
For the section of the journey between Istanbul and Ankara the legend reads: 'This is the first stage of the road to the Far East, a road running across the vastness of Asia Minor, often becoming little more than a track over country possessing few hotels and none of the amenities of European touring'. Later, actual directions are missing, but the itinerary names various places and says: 'Enquire here for the road to so and so'.
From Ankara to Adana is: 'A hill road over the heights of Turkey culminating in the famous Cilician Gates Pass, whence the road drops down to the coastal plains and Adana'. A glimpse of Eastern magnificence and biblical history is conjured up by the entry for the Cilician Gates Pass: 'Tarsus near here - birthplace of St. Paul and scene of the meeting of Cleopatra and Anthony when the latter sailed up the Cydnus in magnificent luxury.
Shearing Half-inch Bolts
All the way the 'Sapphire' ran beautifully but there was constant trouble with the towing bar for the caravan. Bolts measuring half-an-inch (1.3 cm.) in diameter by two inches (5 cm.) in length were continually being sheared. This slowed down progress considerably and beyond Italy there was also trouble with the petrol tank being pierced by stones and rocks thrown up from the roads.
|The last stage, over the desert, was, perhaps, a bit monotonous. The road stretched absolutley straight for 600 miles (1,000 km.) or so, and at the same time carried little traffic. When it was built, ten to fifteen years ago, it was an excellent highway but it|
| has been greatly cut up by heavy vehicles during the years that have passed since then. Bumps abound. One car hit a bump and the driver lay disabled for 3 1/2 days before being found. Sometimes so much damage is done to a vehicle by such a bump that the only way to repair it is to wait until a complete new body can be shipped out from the country of manufacture.
As this is a motoring story there is limited space to tell of the adventures of Mr. Macpherson. He arranged a rendezvous in Istanbul with Mr. Hodson from where he was going to share the driving. They met according to schedule but things went wrong with passports and visis, involving many frantic excursions including the interruption of a congress of chief constables who could provide the required signature! When everything had been sorted out he chased the 'Sapphire" by private car, air and by Nairn's desert transport, continually asking: "Have you seen a 'Sapphire' towing a caravan?" He never quite caught up with it, always being told: "It passed through here a few hours ago". But eventually Baghdad was reached by them both.
The return journey was different. It was arranged to drive to Beirut so that the car could be shipped to Marseilles to save the trouble with the towing bar, which was a particular nuisance on the very rough roads. One breakdown occurred in the middle of the desert and Mr. Macpherson managed to 'thumb' a lift on a passing bus which they had watched arriving for forty minutes. This drive was a nightmare. So straight was the road that the bus driver let the vehicle steer itself, holding the accelerator down with a stick while he put his feet up on the seat.
Fields Preferable To Roads
Eventually, off they started again, only to loose the road and find welcome relief by driving for miles over ploughed fields. This provided better running than the normal road - in fact the best they had had for some time! Just as Beirut is reached there is a hill which rises from sea level to some 8,000 ft. (2,500 m.) in one straight climb, with a constant gradient of about 1 in 5. Right at the start of this the solenoid on the bottom gear in the electric gearbox went. As they carried a complete kit of spares the job could have been repaired but it was the middle of the night and therefore there was not enough light to do more than reverse the leads so that the top gear took the normal place of bottom.
Fast Run To Baghdad
'I am so pleased with the performance of my "Sapphire" that, with two co-drivers, I would guarantee on any future occassion to reach Baghdad in four days after leaving the channel port'. The "Sapphire" is a magnificent car in every sense'. Could one say more?
Hawker Siddeley Review June 1955