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Peter Haycraft Dibdin

Peter's Homepage

Peter Dibdin's Museum Contents

Peter Haycraft Dibdin in World War 2

See also Photograph Album's of PHD

Traumatic Years for Joan and Peter Dibdin

Link back to Complete Museum Contents 

Cars, Motoring and Holidays

Holiday Log from 1936 Holiday 

Photographs from 1936 Holiday

RAC route plan for 1937 trip to France

Touring Holiday Documents

Peter was a keep motorist from the age of 19 years old. From 1932 Diaries when Peter was 18 or 19 years old it seems that he bought a secondhand Unic Car. This must  before June 1931. On  27th Oct 1931 he notes that a Unic 1931 model with mileage of 31730

He took the maintenance and repair of the car very seriously and was a member of the Society of Unic Auto – the diary gives dates of  maintenance – “grinding valves” and mileages throughout the year. This work  was done in one of the local garages.

The following time line gives an indication of how busy his motoring life was and that it seemed that lack of money was never a hindrance. He was not immune from accidents which, when you consider how few cars there will have been on the roads, is quite remarkable. What the reader in 2015 or later will find astounding is the frequency that cars had to be decoked and have their valves ground. This entails removing the head from the engine, cleaning the piston heads and the combustion chamber, regrinding the inlet and outlet valves and reassembling the engine with a new head gasket. In the 1950's and 1960's this could still often be a regular necessity with a robustly driven car, however in the 1930's the car manuals and guides expected it to be done every 10,000 miles.  

Time line for Peter’s life with Cars 

Unknown date

1st Car

Bought Unic Car 1931 Model

5 June 1931


Unic Car crash - damage to Southern Rail Fence and to Austin 7 Upper Mulgrave Road

27 Oct 1931 


Unic 1931 model had a mileage of 31730

2 Jan 1932



April 1933



24 April 1933

Another Car

Secondhand Wolseley Hornet – ordered a new sparewheel cover

6 May 1933


Peter would accept the sum of £100 for the Unic from Commander Heaton at the Naval and Military Club

July 1934


Tour to Jersey

14 Sept 1935


Decoke and grind valves

20 July 1935

Another Car

Secondhand black and green Singer 9 Sports  Coupe £110 told insurance not sports model

Oct 1935


Offside wing

12 Aug 1936



1 Mar 1936


Decoke Singer

Aug 1936


RAC booking to Ostend. Moved from 1am to 10am

Sept 1936


Decoke and grind valves after German trip

28 Nov 1936



27 Feb 1937

New Car

Bought Morris 10/4 Black  £197/11/3 with jacks with £70 part exchange on Singer sports Coupe



Presumably the Morris could not be delivered fast enough so Peter changed to a Hillman

28 Feb 1937


Winter Trail with the Civil Service club  - see route sheet

Peter complained about the timing results of this rally and the results at one checkpoint were ignored.

2 Mar 1937

New Car

Bought Hillman Minx Coupe   £215 with £70 part exchange on Singer. Wireless maybe in car.
Bought Ashby steering wheel and deep note exhaust system



There were many problem with this car which was using too much fuel, oil and water and knocking – see sheet of problems

May 1937


Decoke and grind valves

5 June 1937



15 July 1937


Thorough check of 8 items of car - see documents

Aug 1937


Trip to France

1 Sept 1937


Wash and polish, adjust brakes, oil springs

Oct 1937


Decoke and grind valves          £1-17-0 labour

20 Jan 1938


Repair to Minx – Cavendish Pl. Regent St

Feb 1938


Damage to Radiator guard

28 May 1938


Police warning

Sept 1939



18 Aug 1942


Letter to broker from 4 Pinfold Road regarding Hillman

28th Sept 1943


Peter Died


It is difficult to establish what model of Unic Car Peter bought but it seems likely it would have been a fairly large vehicle and probably the 4 cylinder version. Whether he bought it second hand or new is unclear but it would have been expensive as he sold it two years later for £100. 

To put this sum of money in perspective Peter was earning in 1935, working for the Civil Service the sum of £2-10 shillings ie about £125 a year.

The Unic was of French design and manufacture

We note that during its first year Peter seems to have damage someone's Austin7 and Southern Rail's fence in one go. It is not clear whether it was his fault or not. His diary for this year gives details of the mileage and maintenance and it would seem that he was a member of the Unic car owners club. 

This is little information about Peter owning of this car but he did seem to own it for a couple of years. 
In 1935 he was looking seriously at the Singer range of new cars 
and on 20th July 1935 he purchased a black and green 1933 Singer 9 Sports secondhand similar to the one alongside.
This was the car that he took on his 1936 German trip, as seen from the ferry photograph below and the 1936 holiday photographs
There is a strange anomaly, because on 27th Feb 1937 Peter bought a new Morris 10/4 for the sum of  £197 however  on 2nd March 1937 he obtained a brand new Black Hillman Minx Coupe. He traded in the Singer at the time for the sum of £70.
2nd March 1937 Peter obtained a brand new Black Hillman Minx Coupe. He traded in the Singer at the time for the sum of £70.
Receipts and letters show that he had considerable trouble with the engine which was giving poor fuel and oil consumption and there are letters in which he is fighting with the manufacturers and the agents. Presumably the car was ok by the time that he took it to France on his 1937 August Holiday

The Hillman Minx "Magnificent" 
Foursome Drophead Coupe. 

Probably Peter's last car and may 
have been in his possession when he died.


This are document relating to a holiday tour to Jersey in 1934, just over a year after Peter's parents died but it seems likely that he did not take a car with him.

The two holidays that are well documents are in 1936 and 1937 when he toured on the continent with his friend and neighbour from before 1933, David Muir. He was a close friend of George David Muir born 5th Dec 1912 who lived at 81 Grosvenor Ave Carshalton Surrey and seemed to have had a soft spot for Peter's sister Joan. They were neighbours before Lionel and Cecily died in 1933.
They both obtained International Driving Permits on 11 Aug 1937 from the Royal Automobile Club before doing a continental tour. - note the date - 2 years before the war.
Records show that they both went on holiday to continent 1936 and 1937 and toured through Belgian France Germany Switzerland in a Singer nine sports saloon.


 Archived are receipts from these two holidays and leaflets about the various hotels that he visited. Also there is a detailed route plan from the RAC for 1937 in France as well as detailed maps for both journeys.

Photograph of Peter's Car at the ferry to Europe -  Singer Nine Sport Coupe in 1936

The Routes of these two holidays are show on the map of Europe which includes two similar journeys done by the author about 70 years later.

This map has been produced because of the amazing coincidences within journeys to Europe 60 years apart. Recently found archive material and maps show that  Peter Dibdin and David Muir made the two journeys to the continent and on the 1936 journey did go to Frieberg on their way through to Austria. Europe must at that time been showing the signs of war to come.
It is worthy of mention that the Swiss – Italy holiday of Lionel and Cecily Dibdin included traveling across the North of Italy going to Lake Garda, Verona, Padua and Venice as well as the special Journey to Cremona.
Sadly the plane from the area to Croydon Airport never survived beyond Dixmude in Belgium coincidently “Flanders Fields of WWI”

In 2007 we  followed a similar route in the van across Italy, intentionally going to Cremona, but without realising at the time visiting many of the same places.


Here is a copy of a Route card for a rally starting from London and ending at Donnington having travelled via Wales. This was presumably a Civil Service Motoring Association and Civil Service Car Club Winter Trial 28th Feb 1937. The journey took 22 hours and he arrived at each checkpoint at the prescribed time based on a speed of 24 mph.


It will be noticed from the time line about that Peter was quick to add extras to his new Hillman Minx. 

He also bought Ashby steering wheel and deep note exhaust system

It has be mentioned elsewhere that although he did seem to get most of if not all of the work down in garages, he was an enthusiast and took a keen interest in what he was buying and the possible extras to enhance the car.

A leaflet about shock absorbers was found within the archives.

The Hillman Minx, although bought new, did seem to cause a lot of trouble in the early day and there is a lot of detail that had to be sorted out by Hillman Cars at their main depot.

It seems that this car did serve him well in the long run and he still owned it in 1942.