Rally car builder James Anderson’s ‘dashcam’ footage on show

A still from footage by James Anderson captured by a camera mounted on one of his Anderson Special cars. Picture: National Library of Scotland
A still from footage by James Anderson captured by a camera mounted on one of his Anderson Special cars. Picture: National Library of Scotland
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Remarkable “dashcam”-style footage pioneered in the 1960s by a rally car designer has gone on show at the National Library of Scotland’s new film repository.

James Anderson, who owned a garage at Newton Mearns on the southern edge of Glasgow, attached cameras to his self-built cars, which provide historic film of motoring in and around Glasgow.

James Anderson fixing a camera to one of his "Anderson Special" rally cars. Picture: National Library of Scotland

James Anderson fixing a camera to one of his "Anderson Special" rally cars. Picture: National Library of Scotland

The inventor of the acclaimed “Anderson Special” vehicles and keen amateur film-maker also captured a young Stirling Moss racing at Turnberry in the 1950s.

His films, which are available at the NLS’s Moving Image Archive at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow, also include 1931 footage of trials of a pioneering “railplane” built above a railway line in Milngavie.

Liam Paterson, an assistant curator at the archive, said the car footage suggested Anderson was demonstrating his technical prowess.

He said: “The film is incredibly clear and shake free. It may have been to show off how smooth the car’s suspension was. He built cars from scratch to an extremely high specification.”

James Anderson's 1931 footage of the experimental railplane built over the railway line in Milngavie. Picture: National Library of Scotland

James Anderson's 1931 footage of the experimental railplane built over the railway line in Milngavie. Picture: National Library of Scotland

The vehicles, specially designed for rough ground, were developed for road and hill races.

They were described by commentators as “smooth-running, agile and powerful” and said to have reached 100mph.

Anderson’s innovative touches included headlamps which swivelled out, and positioning the speedometer at the end of the bonnet so the driver could focus on the road.

One of Anderson’s cars, and a model of the railplane, are on display the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, opposite the Kelvin Hall.

James Anderson's 1931 footage of the experimental railplane built over the railway line in Milngavie. Picture: National Library of Scotland

James Anderson's 1931 footage of the experimental railplane built over the railway line in Milngavie. Picture: National Library of Scotland

Paterson said the wide range of subjects in Anderson’s films, which were donated by a relative, showed his fascination with all forms of transport.

He said: “He was interested in anything that moved.”

Anderson’s footage of the railplane shows passengers emerging from the craft - a cross between a monorail and an airship - including chief engineer Hugh Fraser.

Its 130m-long test track was built in 1930 in an attempt to prove its potential for rapidly moving people over congested streets without the need for extra land.

The railplane had a predicted top speed of 120mph, but the track was too short to prove it.

Built by airship maker William Beardmore and Company in Glasgow, there were planned railplane routes to Balloch at the southern end of Loch Lomond, London-Paris and Jerusalem-Tel Aviv.

However, George Bennie, its inventor, failed to attract investors and he died bankrupt in 1957.

The films are among nearly 900 transport-related films in the archive, more than 500 of which are already available to view at the centre, which some also accessible online.

They include footage of the construction of major roads such as the A8 and A9, ship launches, motorcycle racing from the 1930s, and trams travelling through Glasgow.

Highlights are shown on a giant video wall positioned at the archive’s entrance, which is visible from the far end of the access corridor, virtually the length of the Kelvin Hall.