For one, Luhrmann interprets it as a 1929 Duesenberg.
Though there are some ambiguities in the text, let’s assume Fitzgerald really did mean what he said: Gatsby owned a 1922 Rolls-Royce.
What would it/could it/should it have looked like?
Probably a lot like this:
The novel says Gatsby used it as “an omnibus” to transport guests around. It was equipped with luggage extensions, a folding tonneau cover, picnic baskets, and enough windshields to blind onlookers.
Look inside, at how difficult it would have been to drive one of these things. No wonder Daisy Buchanan couldn’t master it. First of all – not to make excuses for her – it had right-hand-drive, so she was already trying to drive on the wrong side of the road.
The accelerator, or throttle, is controlled by one of those levers on the steering wheel. (The other levers controlled things like idle and fuel mixture.) It worked like cruise control. Fuel economy was only about 10 m.p.g., so a lot of stops could be expected at Wilson’s Garage.
Notice the hand brake over by the door; at 4,200+ pounds, this thing would have been pretty hard to stop; not all the wheels had brakes attached to them in those days, by the way. Duesenberg pioneered four-wheel braking years later.
Good thing its top speed was barely 65 m.p.h.
To turn it on, switch the keys – there in the center of the dash – to the right. The starter button is on the floor, under your left foot.
There’s a clutch pedal down under the dash somewhere, used to help shift the three-speed manual transmission. Brakes, clutch, accelerator and steering all required the muscles of an extremely fit person to activate, control and modulate.
It was devilishly hard to drive. Pity the pedestrian who darted in front of one of these. Myrtle Wilson never stood a chance.
May 12, 2013