from The Essential Paradise, series sourcebook
History and overview Edit
Before the 1939-1945 War, motorcars in The British Paradise Islands were relatively rare. Logistical problems existed in transporting vehicles from economical sources to the archipelago, a problem that the British military would overcome in setting up both Royal Navy and Royal Air Force installations in the territory. As well as many surplus military vehicles, including lorries, many civil vehicles used by service people remained after the War.
Many of the cars present in the BPI are of English manufacture and can be of any age from the late 1940s to current models. Older cars suffer from rust, as the Paradisian environment is salty and wet; but numerous shops exist catering to their service, including engine and coachwork rebuilders. It is generally considered cheaper for an owner to continue to maintain a desirable car, or to purchase a slightly-newer used car, in Paradise than to purchase something new and to encounter the delays and fees of importation.
Manual shift prevails in Paradise, due to the age of many cars (being from before automatic gearbox was common), due to the situation of roads, many of which require frequent changes of gear, and due to the universal interest in conserving the not-inexpensive Paradisian petrol in daily driving. As elsewhere, automatic gearbox is more prevalent in cars built after 1990.
Most cars in the territory are not particularly luxurious. Mercedes-Benz and Bentley cars are less popular, perhaps due to purchase and operating cost (though they are not peculiarly rare), than are lower-end Fords and Holdens. Few cars in Paradise need, use or even have installed air-conditioning. Though ordinarily hot, the territory is also well-aired with constant breezes, and riding with windows open is more pleasing, and in fact more common, than passengers’ being sealed-up with the air-conditioning on. Indeed having cabin heat in a motorcar is more desirable to the typical Paradisian who is more uncomfortable with temperatures of 12-18 degrees in storm season than with those of 28- 33 during high season.
Cars of British manufacture appear to be more prevalent till about 1990, after which one sees an increase in Australian imports. Reasons for this may be numerous, cost being only a part. As British makers begin to import more cars from Asian factories, conservative and patriotic Paradisians prefer those made within the Commonwealth and Australian-made mid-size and full-size Holdens, essentially similar to Vauxhall models in England, become more common. The full range of diminutive MITE-built vehicles, typically coming from India and Malaysia, are imported in increasing numbers after about 1985.
Car theft nearly never occurs, as the territory is small enough in land area that few places exist where a stolen car can be uses, repainted or modified, or cut-up for parts beyond the awareness of concerned citizens or authorities. It is not uncommon for residents to leave keys in their cars nor even for well-meaning strangers to shift others’ cars as community or business needs necessitate.
Paradisians tend to be conservative drivers, typically driving within the law, (including the speed limits which in some cases appear too liberal for road situations). Car-to-car accidents are rare and the sight of dented or demolished cars is not common.
Importation of vehicles Edit
Most cars arrive in the territory first at the Blue Bay container port on Morning Island. Those destined for other islands may be transported via lorry, collected by their purchasers at Blue Bay, or, in the case of those destined for Caravelle Island, shipped via daily cargo ferry across Paradise Sound. All incoming cars are thoroughly inspected, according to scheduling constraints, a process that may take up to 4 or 5 work days to have completed.
Used cars coming to the territory must be accompanied by a statement of provenance including suitability for territorial insurance coverage and the vehicle’s registration history. Vehicles of any manufacture not meeting basic standards (such as those with 2-stroke engines) may be denied roadworthy registration.
As a rule most British-, Indian-, Australian- and South African-built compact cars, having 4-stroke petrol or diesel engines, are acceptable in Paradise. Motorcycles and three-wheeled vehicles are common as well, the two classes being classed separately (not being grouped together as elsewhere) for purposes of insurance and registration.
Japanese cars are rarer, due more to diplomatic matters of economic parity than to their affordability or purchase cost. Most Japanese models will meet Paradisian safety and efficiency standards.
Noncommercial importation Edit
In Paradise the importation of cars from or meant for non-Commonwealth markets is strictly regulated. Left-hand-drive cars, such as from America and Germany, are not commercially imported nor particularly simple to either register as-is (which carries a myriad of restrictions) or to convert economically in or for the territory. Most cars that, to the tourist, resemble North American models will be Holdens (GM), Fords, and Jeeps from Australia.
Foreign diplomats and visiting dignitaries have not the unrestricted freedom, as exists elsewhere, to import and use their own vehicles in Paradise. In view of only very infrequent and very specialised exceptions, all vehicles meant for use on Paradisian roads are subject to the stringent Paradisian taxation, registration and operations standards.
Registry fees are assessed on weight, size and horsepower rating. Emissions are inspected biannually and a car may be checked by police representatives on the road under certain conditions. Taxes set at retail fuel depots compensate for a vehicle’s consumption.
Appearances of cars in the stories Edit
Cars are not wholly essential in Paradise, which boasts of localised amenities, good roads and a superb public-transportation system (in particular the bus routes). Many characters in the Comet-penned stories appear to never own or drive cars at all. Nevertheless, numerous mentions of particular cars occur throughout the Two Paradises realm.
Aside from MITE vehicles, the following receive mention in the stories:
- AC; AC Cobra
- Austin - various models
- Bentley - various models
- BMW - various models
- Daimler - various models
- Fiat Spyder; 500; 600 (1960s-1980s); X19
- Ford - various models
- Hindustan/Fiat Padmini
- Holden - various models
- Jaguar - various models
- Jeep, Australian spec
- Land Rover - various models (used by military and police)
- MG Midget (popular); B; GT
- Morris Minor (very popular)
- Morris/Austin/BL Mini (very popular)
- Porsche - 911; others
- Range Rover
- Rolls-Royce - various models
- Rover - various models
- Subaru Justy
- Suzuki Carry - various configurations; only post-1977 (4-stroke)
- Suzuki Metro
- Toyota minibus; other models
- Triumph Spitfire; GT6; TR4; TR6
- Vauxhall - various models
- Volkswagen - various models, including ‘Beetle’
Of the above, non-Commonwealth cars are typically British- or Australian-spec (in specific RHD).
Other vehicles Edit
Large and mid-sized commercial lorries and vans are typically of British or Australian manufacture, with Bedford, Leyland (typically the Comet, used as dustbin lorries), Volvo, Ford, Mack, and Holden all common. Trailer waggons will be shorter in wheelbase than their British or Continental counterparts, due to the tighter turns of rural Paradisian roads; the reduced payload is of minor concern in a territory of only 41,000 consumers. Paradise Transport use Routemaster buses, both single- and double-decked (green, not BT red). (The buses may in fact be of other manufacture; for, whilst several stories report the buses have manual shift, the Routemaster models after 1954 were in fact designed around the Allison automatic gearbox.) Large touring coaches do not exist, being deemed too cumbersome for Paradisian roads. Non-MITE taxis are often Vauxhall/Opel/Holden Astras, often estates, or Ford Escorts (usually green or clearly marked with green badges).
Specific mentions in stories Edit
In the novel East Of The Sun, upon first settling in at Cook Landing (mid-1983), Paul and Angel Cavaliere acquire what the author calls a Vauxhall Travelall, apparently resembling the lightweight, Isuzu-powered 1970s Chevrolet LUV pickup truck but being a 4-door estate having thin doors, a flimsy folding rear seat, rubber mats over a steel cargo bed, pickup-style tailgate with separate lift-up back window, spindly sticklike gearchange, and an oval instrument cluster. Though slow, noisy, indiscriminately made, and idiosyncratic in its running and handling, the pale-turquoise vehicle becomes well-loved by them both and they keep it throughout the Two Paradises arc.
Lord Paradise keeps a stable of Jaguars at Camelot estate, including two 3.8-litre Mark II saloons, a 4.3-litre XJ saloon, and a V8 Rover P6, all meant for guests’ use, in addition to a respectable collection of XJs, XKs, and Bentleys for personal and family use. In the novella Night On The Town Lord and Lady Paradise roar off in the dead of night in a V12 Jaguar XJ saloon to extricate Lady Susie and Darby St Claire from the hands of the US embassy. The silver 4-door car with white leather seats, large engine and manual gearbox is clearly meant as his Paradisian replacement for his beloved Chevrolet Caprice, featured in the novel Love Me Do and its sequels. More than once Lord Paradise appears driving a turquoise-and-white 1968 RHD 4.9-litre Chevrolet Camaro, typically without restraint or regard for speed limits; taking Lady Susie for a ride to the music store, he races a Porsche 911 down the daunting switchbacks of Ali Wani Drive.
Terri Peale gains a maroon early-1970s Triumph Spitfire for her 16th birthday and begins commuting in it to and from North Eden High School (a very short ride for her at Derby (but she is a 6th-form girl driving her own car).
Lord Jonathan Cavaliere gains a silver 1974 Jensen-Healey drophead coupé for his 16th birthday, in which he proudly begins driving Gwendolyn Dahl about. In the course of the story arc her brother and father admit their admiration for it.
Tippy Baylor confesses, to her cousin Gwendolyn, that her (married) beau bought for her a Fiat Spyder (probably red).
One of the cars owned by Janine Hewlett’s parents is a Ford.
Darby St Claire’s parents own a blue Ford.
Lady Chesney drives a yellow 1969 E-Type drophead in the novel Noemi’s Wold. Her family keep a dark-green Bentley in which Noemi is ordinarily taken to and from school.
Cars mentioned in stories taking place within the arc, but at locations beyond The British Paradise Islands, are not mentioned here.
* * *