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Homepage. This page: A small pre-war magazine designed to be of interest to buyers of secondhand cars.

The Used Car magazine, April 1938.

If you were looking to buy a secondhand car in the late 1930's, but were confused about what car(s) to look for, their values, and needed help in identifying the good from the bad, then help was at hand. The Used Car magazine was designed to help private motorists choose their next used car, which may well be the first motor-car they'd ever bought. The used car market was a complex world to wade into, just as it is today, and anyone without a basic knowledge of how it works, could easily lose their shirt, either by buying a duffer, or else something entirely inappropriate for their needs.
This issue of The Used Car dates to April 22nd 1938, and was issue number 3 of Volume 1, so a very early copy. The price was 2d (two pence).
A pre-war copy of The Used Car magazine
Excluding covers, the magazine runs to 96 pages. Open the magazine and page one contains a list of contents, headed by a photograph of a Standard car, with its bonnet open. The Used Car was "... The only British Periodical devoted exclusively to the interests of the Used Car Purchaser" and the list of articles certainly backs up this claim.

Advertisers in this issue.

Although still a young title, the publishers had managed to persuade a number of motoring-related businesses to advertise within their pages. Page Two for example, features a full page ad for the "Jackall" built-in jacking system. A lady is shown sat behind the wheel of her failing motor-car, actuating the system via a lever protruding through the car's floorboards. At least she wouldn't be getting oil all over her hands, struggling with a wobbly old car jack, a benefit not lost on those who wrote the copy.
Henly's, "England's Leading Motor Agents", chose to advertise in the magazine with a full page ad describing some of their stock. Cheapest of their cars was a 1936 Ford 8 Tudor saloon, yours for just 54, followed by a 1935 Studebaker Miracle Ride saloon, for 25 more. A 1937 Vauxhall 14hp (169) and a 1937 Rover 10 (195), sandwich a desirable S.S. Jaguar 2.5 litre Sunroof saloon at 169. A 1937 S.S. could have been on your driveway for 259, whereas those with - much - deeper pockets could have telephoned Euston 4444 and put their name on a 1935 Hooper-bodied Rolls-Royce saloon, on offer to Sir or Madam at 895.
Denman's, also of London, decided to run a half-page listing on page 36. Amongst the traditional British makes and models, lurked a selection of American vehicles - Nash, Chrysler, Graham, Pontiac, Lincoln and Chevrolet were all represented. The real cheapies were grouped down towards the bottom of the ad. Cheapest of the lot was a 1929 Austin 12 Open Road Touring, perfect for a vintage get-together today, and back then yours to take away for a crisp tenner. For the same money you could also have chosen a 1929 Citroen 12, complete with a new set of tyres.

Princely in-car radios.

Not all advertisers were simply trying to sell you a new set of wheels. On both the rear cover, and also page 16, are full-page advertisements for Princely in-car radios. Inside the magazine, it is the Princely Regent radio that features, a five-valve receiver incorporating leading-edge technologies such as an "Advanced Super-heterodyne circuit", and a "Clear vision illuminated non-glare dial". The price? 7 Guineas. The radio on the back cover is a six-valve version, available to suit all cars for 12:12 all in. Both were available direct from the Princely Radio and Television Corporation of Great Britain, whose headquarters was on Edgware Road in London. No self-respecting pre-war car should be without a vintage car radio of some kind!
Princely car radios

Used Car Bargains in 1938 - the 100 challenge.

Obviously it isn't possible to compare asking prices then and asking prices for the same cars today, but it is the relative differences, then vs now, that I find interesting. Say you had 100 to spend on a used car in 1938, and were looking to squirrel away a car for your retirement fund. A flick through the private ads would bring up a tempting list of potential candidates. Here are some of the cars that would have been a wise choice to wipe an oily rag over, and park on jacks in a dry garage for a few decades ... although saying that, I'd want to drive them all ...
  • 1929 Bentley 6.5 Litre Foursome Coupe, taxed, 55.
  • 1933 MG Midget J2, available at Mitre Motors of Streatham, 69.
  • 1933 Morgan JAP Super Sports, 39 guineas.
  • 1936 Singer 9hp Le Mans four-seater, on sale at Henlys for 98.
  • 1933 SS Coupe, 49.
  • 1934 SS1 Sports Saloon, 69.
Then compare the following cars, also available for the 100 budget .... not that there's anything wrong with any of them, but compared to the assortment above, I know which I'd have plumped for (all other things being equal) if planning a retirement fund ....
  • 1937 Austin 7 Ruby, 10,000 miles, 85 (so 30 more than the '29 Bentley).
  • 1937 Ford 8 saloon, 69 (so equal in price to the MG J2).
  • 1934 Morris 10, 45 guineas (6 more than the Morgan JAP).
  • 1936 Standard 10, available in black for 92 (but I think I'd find the extra 6 and buy the Singer Le Mans instead).
  • 1934 Vauxhall 14 De Luxe, yours for 49 (or the same price as the 1933 SS Coupe above).
  • 1934 Austin 12 De Luxe saloon, 65, ie just 4 less than the 1934 SS1 Sports highlighted above.
I wonder if there are any secondhand cars in today's Auto Trader, that a speculator would expect to make a profit on if they were bought now, tucked away, and sold again in a few decades time, supercars excepted?

Absorbing articles for the 1930's motorist.

"The Used Car" was more than just a list of cars for sale, and interesting as the classifieds are to flick through, there are some good articles worth reading too. Richard Twelvetrees, for instance, introduced the next in his series of articles about assessing a car's various systems. This week he looked at the motor-car clutch. He takes the reader through the checks that he thinks are essential when viewing a secondhand car - for example, is there a great deal of free play at the pedal? is it smooth in operation? and does it slip when you try to pull away, with the footbrake applied? Next week's issue would look at the rest of the transmission, and the most common problems that could occur there.
An article on vetting a used car
Mindful of the fact that not all of its readers would know their big end from a gudgeon pin, the editor chose to include a light-hearted look at how to check-over a used car if you're not fully versed in all things motoring. The full article runs to several pages, but this excerpt, titled "Number of cylinders", sums up the tone of the article nicely ....
Number of cylinders.
"Finding out the number of cylinders is a task that can be undertaken with only a minimum of technical knowledge. On the nearside, as well as on the offside, are located bonnet fasteners, the function of which is to hold down the sides of the bonnet. When these are lifted the engine is exposed to view. If the bonnet fasteners will not unfasten it may mean that the engine has not received attention for some time. In extreme cases, where bonnet clips - this is a less technical term than fastener - are rusted on, they often respond to the touch of an axe if sufficient force is applied. In counting the number of cylinders their firing order can be ignored. But for the benefit of non-technical readers it may be explained that the firing order of the cylinders is the order in which they fire.
Having disposed of the engine, one can profitably turn to another part of the car, namely, the cubby-hole. A thorough search should be made of the interior, for cases have been known where previous owners have left behind them small coins, pipe cleaners, and possibly, though not probably, articles of value. The exact law on the subject is obscure, some authorities contending that articles found in this way constitute treasure trove, while others assert, on the strength of the case Rex v. Skinflint, that articles found in a used car may be legally considered a windfall, thus appertaining to the new owner."
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