A one-horsepower way to save on fuel

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THE “Demelza” is a four-year-old model wich appears to improve with age, but its big advantage in today’s fuel crisis is that it runs superbly on water.

So wrote Mail motoring correspondent Malcolm Pickering, adding that “an afternoon’s road test convinced me that this could well be the transport of the future, despite one or two quirks”.

These quirks included erratic acceleration from cold and an unusual braking system that improved if you talked to it.

There was only one horsepower on tap, which was more than adequate but the fully independent suspension failed to smooth out all the bumps.

Instrumentation was minimal and there was no power steering, several strips of leather being used instead.

“You will have guessed by now,” wrote Malcolm, “that this is no ordinary road test.

“Demelza is, in fact a beautifully groomed hackney, harnessed for my trial run to a rather sporting back and front trap.”

The opportunity to step back in time – “or forward to the future?” suggested Malcolm – came from Harry Tones, owner of what was then, as now, one of Hartlepool’s biggest garages.

Though Harry made his living from motor vehicles, he had never lost his affection for real horsepower, stemming from his early days in business with a horse and cart.

Harry owned a fleet of four horse-drawn vehicles and believed their days as a form of commercial transport were not yet past.

“He points out that many of the big breweries still maintain their horse-drawn drays, not just out of sentiment, or even for their publicity value, but because for short haul, stop and start deliveries around town they are much cheaper than a lorry,” wrote Malcolm.

According to Harry, a good horse and cart would cost around £3,000 in 1979, compared with £10,000 or more for a new lorry and the running costs would be next to nothing compared with tax, insurance, fuel and repair bills on a modern commercial vehicle.

Sadly, Harry passed away in December last year. His obituary notice in the Mail included the lines:

If its a car or a van,

Harry Tones is your man,

if its a horse or a trap,

he is still your chap.

Contact Andrew Levett by emailing andrew.levett@northeast-press.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.