16 Nov 2015

On gearlever knobs

Just to emphasise the point made in the previous story about the recent major advances in technology in cameras and the processing software this photo of my 1971 911's gearshift knob was taken at 1/100th second at F1.7 at 6400 ISO in my garage.I used the Sony a7 with a 50mm Minolta lens.The Velvia film used in the Indian photos in the previous post was 50 ISO.
This gearlever knob is the original knob which was moved from the original gearlever to the Rennshift quickshift lever when I fitted the quickshifter .Why did I fit the quickshifter and detract from the originality of the car? Because I wanted to change gear without feeling that I was stirring a pudding full of golf balls.The quickshifter did significantly improve the gearshift quality but it is still a black art. One which I have not totally mastered after 6 years of use.
Gearlever knobs were the original go faster car accessory.In the UK there was a jazz musician and very accomplished racing driver called Les Leston who started a motor accessory business in the 1960s. It became very succesful and Les Leston made a lot of money which he was able to enjoy until the ripe old age of 91. Considering he had been a very succesful racing driver during the sport's most dangerous years and before that he had served as a gunner in Lancasters in RAF Bomber Command during the second world war and he had been married three times reaching that age was a very major achievement.
Les Leston pioneered fireproof race suits.He sold everything from gearlever knobs and keyfobs to steering wheels.There was even a Graham Hill F1 World Champion line of accessories which included neckties.Can you imagine a car accessory shop selling neckties today? Times have changed.
Les Leston had sales vans which went to all the UK race meetings and as well as selling through stores such as Halfords he had his own big retail shop in High Holborn, London opposite my favourite store as a young boy,Gamages.I used to go by train from my home in N Surrey upto London with a friend on a Saturday morning when I was just 12 and spend the whole day wandering around in looking at shops such as Les Leston's and watching the Horse Guards in Hyde Park.My parents seemed to have no concerns at all. No stranger danger then.That's where my wandering around in cities bug developed.

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