ONE hundred years ago this week, The Northern Echo was reporting on a curious court case involving Darlington’s oldest and best known garage, the Cleveland Car Company of Grange Road, and the vicar of Arkengarthdale, the Reverend William Butterworth.

Mr Butterworth had been daunted by the enormity of his new parish – 15,000 acres – so had approached the Cleveland, which billed itself as the “finest garage outside London”. It had been formed in 1898 as an off-shoot of Cleveland Bridge as the managing director needed somewhere local to service his new Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

In the showroom, which was probably then in Smithfield Road, the vicar’s eye was caught by a two-seater “Trumble” – our guess is that the reporter meant a Trumbull, which was a two-seater “cycle car” made between 1914 and 1915 in Connecticut in the US. On May 7, 1915, Isaac Trumbull and 30 of his vehicles were on their way to England on board the Lusitania when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat. This, quite literally, sunk the company.

“He (the vicar) pointed out that he lived in a very hilly district and that there would be many stiff climbs over rough roads, and he naturally asked if the car could do that sort of work,” reported the Echo.

“The salesman said it would.”

He took the Trumbull on a test run, but it broke down on the road to Croft. Still he agreed to buy it for £210.

He picked it up a few days later, but on his journey home, the brakes gave way near Richmond “and the car had to be run into the side of the road in order to avoid an accident”.

He paid for £61 of repairs but when it broke down immediately, he sold it at auction in Darlington for £120.

He was suing the Cleveland for the difference.

But he admitted he had signed an invoice saying the car had been “seen, tried and approved”, and although he had the judge’s sympathies, he was only awarded £10.