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Spalding Guardian columnist John Ward revisits some mad motoring inventions

Inventor and Spalding Guardian columnist John Ward with some of his collection of the magazine, Car Mechanics.
Inventor and Spalding Guardian columnist John Ward with some of his collection of the magazine, Car Mechanics.

Inventor and humorist John Ward is a tad on the mad side with a catalogue of crazy creations like the Reliant Robin he converted into a fire engine for tackling small blazes.

But he’s not “a-loon” because ads for daft inventions filled the pages of his favourite motoring mag, Car Mechanics, in the 1950s.

Spalding Guardian columnist John is sharing his comedic take on life by revisiting hilarious claims made in those ads in the days when companies could say what they liked without being worried by Trading Standards or the Advertising Standards Authority.

John’s been delighting Car Mechanics readers since 2010 with twice yearly columns, has penned a special for the mag’s 60th anniversary this month and is finding himself in demand as a public speaker.

One ad asks: “Do you suffer from illusive locks?” Illusive locks are the ones you have on your car all of the time but it turns out they become illusive after dark.

The solution is a luminous keyhole cover, a snip at 2s 11d (nearly 15p) and worthwhile because luminosity is guaranteed for seven to eight years.

Another invention making John smile is the system declaring “car valeting made easy”.

John says: “It’s a bucket of water and a 6d (2.5p) sachet of Shim (shampoo). For 2.5p what were you expecting?”

Few people would spray paint their own car and expect a tidy job.

But that was before Celspray came along and you could link the gadget to your foot pump (the one used for inflating car tyres), and walk round your car pumping like mad with one foot while trying to keep a steady hand to spray de-ruster, thinners, primer surfacer or the final top coat.

Some claims were downright fraudulent, like the one for an ignition converter alleged to give you 20 per cent more miles to the gallon.

John asks: “If it was that good, why wasn’t it fitted to the car as standard?”

He was introduced to Car Mechanics by his dad, Bill, who started reading it two or three years before he got his first car, a Ford Prefect.

John’s own first car, bought for £7 when he was 17 or 18, was a Ford Popular.

There’s a serious side to John’s relationship with the car industry because he has a background in promotions and was part of the team launching the Ford Focus at the NEC in 1998. But that didn’t stop him inventing a rooftop garden for the sunroof, a ball and chain theft deterrent and an automated, waving royal hand. John said: “The idea for the royal hand was that if 56 million died the following day, you would be next in line to the throne ...”

• To book John for talks email john@johnwardinventor.co.uk

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