Arthur Ransome Wiki

A 1920s Trojan motor-car, similar to Rattletrap

Rattletrap GA

Rattletrap with Miss Turner waiting in the back seat(PM26)

Rattletrap is the Beckfoot car of the Blacketts, described as a smallish, ancient motor-car with badly dinted (sic) mudguards and a luggage grid at the rear (PP1). Mrs Blackett turned the car round in a series of short dashes in the Tysons yard: Oh well, she said as she stalled the engine and got out and looked round the car: That front mudguard was dinted already several times. And that one at the back’s always unlucky. There’s no real harm done (PP17).

In The Picts and the Martyrs there is a picture of Rattletrap with the Great-Aunt sitting in the rear seat holding a parasol upright . Billy Lewthwaite drives her along the Lake road to Swainsons until he runs out of petrol (PM25). Rattletrap is crank-started: ... Billy, whirling the rusty crank, stirred old Rattletrap to life (PM25).


Arthur Ransome's car at Low Ludderburn was a Trojan, as recalled by Dick Kelsall (NBUS page 87), and this is widely believed to be Rattletrap's prototype. However there are objections to this:

Fiat 501 1923

Fiat 501 1923 - could this be the original Rattletrap?

Fiat 501 Tourer 1924 rear

Fiat 501 from the rear, showing similarities to AR's sketch of Rattletrap

  • the Trojan has only two forward gears, raising an anomaly; at the end of Pigeon Post Captain Flint drives her up to the camp: Rattletrap, knowing her old master, started off as if she meant it. They swung through the gate and sharp right into the road. The gears changed, second … third. Captain Flint said Hold tight, Dick ... She won’t do forty except down-hill, but she's a bit of a broncho round corners.... (PP33).
  • The car depicted in PM26 has spoked 'artillery' wheels, not the Trojan's solid ones.
  • Trojans had a top speed of 35mph
  • the Trojan carried its spare wheel on the side, not the rear, and had no luggage grid. 
  • the Trojan has no hand-crank (as can be seen in the front view in the advertisement below; it is started from within the car by a lever which connects directly to the engine below the driver's seat - its 'radiator' and 'bonnet' are just for show)

The Fiat 501 hypothesis[]

The Fiat 501 was built from 1919 and looked exactly like the car drawn by AR: it had artillery wheels, a spare wheel on the back and a luggage grid (the spare could also be side-mounted), a sloped windscreen, front seats that rose in a ridge above the bodywork, a horseshoe shaped radiator, three forward gears, could 'do forty' easily and it was very good on hills too. The 501 was built under licence in England during the 1920s and was a popular car. AR may have driven a Trojan, but Captain Flint clearly preferred a Fiat!

See also[]

Before Rattletrap[]

The Turner/Blackett family don't appear to have a car before the events described in Pigeon Post.

In Swallowdale, the Blacketts (Molly, Nancy, Peggy and the Great-Aunt) go out in an open carriage pulled by a black horse, and are seen by the Swallows (SA12). Next day Nancy says another beastly drive in the afternoon (SA13).

In Winter Holiday Molly Blackett uses a hire car to visit Holly Howe to discuss Nancy's mumps (WH9). Later, Captain Flint arrives at Beckfoot by hire car, which waits for him while he talks to Molly before setting off for the Fram (WH20).

Trojan Leyland ad

Advertisement for Leyland Motors' Trojan

Rattletrap's appearance in Pigeon Post is possible evidence of increasing wealth of Captain Flint.