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Homepage. This page: Like boating but only have a small car? Perhaps the Deloford portable boat was the answer?

A foldaway boat designed to fit on a luggage rack.

Cover for the Marston Deloford Portable Safety Boat catalogue
Picture the scene - a dapper 1930's chap with a modest budget and who by necessity drives a small saloon - most likely an Austin 7 or Morris Minor - but is also keen on matters boating, specifically boating while charming members of the opposite sex with gentile trips down picturesque local waterways, whispering sweet nothings and conjuring up polite smalltalk regarding the local scenery. A car with a mere 8hp (RAC) or similarly-sized engine beneath its compact bonnet might struggle to pull a boat and trailer, so what was one to do? Clearly John Marston Ltd of Wolverhampton had also pondered just such a plight in the late 1920s, and came up with this, the Deloford, as the answer to every car-owning, boat-mad, courting gent.

The Deloford was a portable boat, built from lightweight plywood and rubberised canvas. Inflatable rubber bladders, one positioned down either side of the boat, gave it buoyancy. It first went into production in 1929, the illustration shown here is from an advert dating to April 1930, and was priced at twelve guineas.
The Deloford portable boat
As mentioned, the Deloford was produced by Marston's of Wolverhampton, one of several companies that had by this time been taken over by ICI, and was perhaps better known for being the producer of Sunbeam bicycles and motorcycles. By the late 1920s the firm was looking to diversify, and entering production of this portable boat, designed to fit onto any small car's rear luggage rack, was part of their strategy for growth. By all accounts, a good number were sold. I wonder how many sank? And of those that sold and didn't sink, do many of these nifty nautical creations survive?
Sales literature from the era describes the boat as follows:

"To the amphibious, master of land and water, is the privilege of every motorist, who now carries with him on the back of his car or on his motor-cycle a Deloford Portable Safety Boat. Wherever he approaches water, fresh or salt, calm or rough, he can quickly detach the boat, and equally quickly erect and launch it for an hour or two's sport."
"To get away from the crowded highways on to the less crowded and quiet waters is quickly becoming throughout the world the modern tendency, and the Deloford Portable made in Sunbeamland, of British design and British material throughout, with its safety inflatable stabilising tubes, is exactly what every motorist requires as an essential to the fullest enjoyment of leisure moments."
"The predecessors of this boat have for very many years been used on almost every water throughout the habitable globe. At the seaside, on the rivers and lakes, on the canals, for Government aircraft, for safety at sea, and for exploration, and have under all these varying conditions proved their intrinsic worth. The Shackleton, Spitzbergen, Mawson Antarctic, and innumerable other Expeditions have been ordered to be equipped with these craft."
"However good they were, those former boats made by the inventor of the Deloford Portable, consisting as they largely did of a number of loose hinged wooden parts, were immeasurably inferior in convenience, rigidity and stability to the Deloford Portable of to-day, which you can now obtain at such a low price."
"The framework of the Standard Deloford Portable consists of an un-puncturable bottom braced with ash. Mounted upon this is the very simple but extremely ingenious and fool-proof mechanism for quickly and easily erecting the boat operated by its central 'starting handle'."
"The skin consists of a super-strong fabric, specially designed for the work, which fits the frame like a glove (and is as easily removed). Integral with the skin, and contained within stout pockets or 'blisters', are tubes of fine rubber, inflatable with an ordinary motor pump."
"To erect from the closed position, all you have to do is to spread out the skin, put the chassis in it, connect the gunnels with the steel noses, wind the handle, and slip into position the two central struts, which when raised spring smartly to attention, to their job, and to reinforce the rock-like rigidity of this incomparable craft."
"Now that is absolutely all, and such an all-round efficient safety boat, so almost instantaneous in continuous availability, had never been conceived before this boat was designed and placed on the market for the benefit, not only of this country, but of other countries, which are opening wide their markets to this unique product of Great Britain's highest quality manufacture."
"But not only motorists; anybody can easily carry the boat anywhere. It is unsinkable. It can be erected or folded in a very few minutes. It can be used on any water. It is unrivalled for bathing, sun-bathing, fishing and all other water sports at the seaside of anywhere else."
"The Deloford Portable Boat is certainly just the thing for you for sea, river and lake, picnics or for camps, for touring through the Canals independent of canal locks and hotel expenses, and for flooded districts."
"No longer need you hire a boat. You can take your own wherever you go. Get away from the crowded highway to the quiet and pleasures of the water-side."

Searching online brings up a reference in 2006 to a surviving boat that needed restoration. Was it saved? And how many others are out there, either in use or gathering dust in a loft somewhere?
Return to the motoring gadgets, tools & accessories pages at oldclassiccar. In addition to many other intriguing accessories designed with the early motorists in mind, this section at OCC also has a page that takes a look at a folding trailer, of a type designed to fold away and fit inside a car's boot area. You can read about the "Foldaway" trailer on this page.

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