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A Lady's Guide to driving like a lady; REVIVED QUEEN OF SPEED'S 1920S CAR MANUAL FOR WOMEN.

Byline: Maggie Barry ??Motoring edito

1 Wear a hat. Tight but not too tight. It's bad for the hair

2 Be polite and always see the other fellow's point of view

3 Don't be witty with policemen. It will not improve matters

The first Queen of Speed, the Hon Mrs Victor Bruce was a racy lady on and off the road.

Also known as Mildred Mary Bruce, she was one of the first pioneering women to get behind the wheel of a motor car but more than that, set speed records on land, sea and in the air.

Her first achievement was the Monte Carlo Rally in 1927. She set off from John O'Groats and drove through sleet and ice to reach Monaco in sixth place and was the first woman over the line.

It was to be the start of many records in speed and endurance, on land and on the sea with her speedboat, in the air with her plane and even in the ring with her horse.

And off the circuit, her life was just as racy.

She had a wealthy lover, Stephen Easter, with whom in 1920 she had a son. In 1926, she married another gifted racing driver, the Hon Victor Bruce, but as they grew apart she took up with her business partner Eric Noddings.

She ran various companies and dabbled successfully in property – and she never lost her love of speed. She test drove a Ford Capri Ghia at 110mph at the age of 78 and when she was 81, looped the loop in a De Havilland Chipmunk.

She died in 1990 at the age of 94 but not before penning two books, her biography and The Woman Owner Driver: The Complete Guide for Lady Motorists – first published in 1928, now republished by the British Library.

A stickler for a skirt and pearls, Mildred told women they did not have to forego fashion on the road: "Most of the tight–fitting hats of today are quite suitable for motoring, but there is one little point to guard against, and that is too tight a fitting.

"It is bad for the hair, makes it greasy, and quickly removes the cherished wave, and if worn for long hours at the wheel causes bad headaches."

She was keen to get more women on the road: "There may be several reasons for that hesitation, but one of the most important, I fancy, is a lurking doubt on the part of the would–be owner–driver of her capacity to control a motor car in the crowded conditions of today.

"It is not a question of physical strength. The fact that women can drive motor cars is proved by the fact that women do. Once they decide to take the plunge and choose their hat, the big decision is saloon or convertible."

Mildred added: "These are points which each of us must decide for herself.

"With regard to the question of closed versus open cars, I suppose every motorist of some years' experience has been through the transition stage when, in spite of the growing popularity of the saloon, he or she has fought for that fresh air which we think we love so much. 'It isn't motoring when there isn't a roof over your head,' or 'I like to be able to see the scenery without ricking my neck'. I have said these and similar things myself."

Mildred was no slouch when it came to maintenance but said women did not need to know every nut and bolt.

She said: "Since I am writing for the average woman ownerdriver, and not for the enthusiast who is jealous of any attention given to the car by other hands than her own, I do not feel it necessary to go at all deeply into details of the major matters of car maintenance.

"It is the exception, I should imagine, rather than the rule, for a girl to undertake the task of decarbonisation, even though she is content to go round the car with a grease gun and the makers' handbook religiously once a week."

But she was insistent on good manners: "How would you like to have a klaxon blown in your ear; would you appreciate having your best Sunday clothes splashed with mud; would you like to have to push a pram across the tram lines at the double to avoid the apparent annihilation of the whole family?"

On parking: "When the car is to be left for a few minutes only, it is usually possible to find a convenient side road in which to park; but if you wish to pull up in a main but not very crowded thoroughfare, it is always advisable to ask the nearest constable whether he minds the car being left for whatever the time may be that you expect to be away.

"If you have chosen your halting place wisely, he will probably be complaisant, while warning you not to be long; if the place is not suitable, the policeman will usually help by suggesting where you may stop.

"Don't on any account just leave the car and sneak off , hoping for the best."

And if it all goes wrong: "In the case of an accident, or any kind of clash with the police, silence was never more golden. Say no more than is inevitable; and on no account enter into an argument as to whose action caused the accident.

"The last thing you want is a public debate. As to the police, the less said the better. Remarks made in the heat of the moment, in sarcasm, or in alleged wit will not sound the same when reproduced from the policeman's notebook in the ultimate court proceedings.

"They will not serve to improve matters for you and will most likely merely increase the amount of the fine." Good advice, then and now.

"In the case of an accident, silence is truly golden


TRANSPORTS OF DELIGHT An illustration from The Woman Owner–Driver, above, and left, Mildred – the Hon Mrs Victor Bruce – shortly before setting off on the Monte Carlo Rally

NEED FOR SPEED Racy on and off the road, Mildred set speed records by land, sea and air
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 16, 2014
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