CARS I HAVE OWNED
CARS I HAVE OWNED
FROM 1924 to 19'27 I was serving an apprenticeship in Dartford, Kent, and week-end journeys were made to my home in Woking on a 492,e.e. " Longstroke " T.T. Sunbeam motorcycle. NVinter days were not 11-11 oh fun and when in the tram lines of Sutton we did art al Mighty slide with me going through Ow swing doors of a cono-r pub and the bike following, I thought it high t ime to leave two wheels-41w laii?llord rind
locals agreed. 1'17:let i m011y mnxt door was a Morgan Anzani in a show-room and then and there a deal wtts arranged. The Morgan lasted until the end of 1926, and so by mutual consent, did the apprenticeship and against family approval it was Couper for cars. I got is job with Barclay and Wyse in Great Portland Street. Naturally being able to drive a car was necessary, so a visit. was made to Jack Bartlett and 1 became the owner of a 1925 Amilear " Grand Sport " ; 1130 was the price and my £125 offer was accepted---I wish I had known kindly Jack then as I do now, I might have got the Amilear for i:100 ! I entered the Amilear for the 1927 M.C.C. London-Edinburgh Trial and very foolishly lent it to Jim Hall (of miniature motor-cycle record fame) and he returned the car to me with the crankshaft broken—we are just talking again, now. The car was never quite the same afterwards, and curiously enough 'wither was my girl-friend, so for a short time I reverted to a motor-cycle, a
& M. " Panther Cub," but girl friends, like trains, keep on turning up, and a used 1926 Morris-Cowls.' two-seater soon tilled the stable.
A short digression here to recall an incident in My first week with Barclay and Wyse : used Bentleys and " 30/98 " Vauxhalls were the main line of business, and one of my first jobs was to take a "30!98 " from the Showrooms to Knightsbridge on trade plates. Sorting out the gears and getting into a busy traffic stream was a nightmare--was my face red—and then into Ifyde Park. I did not know why the police turned me out of the Park for weeks afterwards ; it was the trade plates, of course.
A broken piston in the Cowley produced thoughts of other possible failings, so I sold that and bought another model of the same year, but with much less mileage. My record shows I did 8,732 miles on this car before selling and buying a 1927 Chrysler " 70 " coupe off my sister, at I remember, a sisterly price.
Collecting the Chrysler on a very wet November lith from Worcester the journey home was chiefly memorable for turning round twice and sometimes having brakes and sometimes not— chiefly the latter. My records show I only did 2,160 miles on this car and perhaps the directional instability and uncertainty Was the reason for its short life with me. Certainly family portraits of about this time show that. I was beginning to go bald. Earlier in 1929 I had joined Lagonda, Ltd., at Staines, and being on the outsidesales side most of my motoring was done— and some records and racing—on the Company's cars. The necessity of personal transport was, therefore, legs and the Chrysler was sold and my third This time we have persuaded W. M. Cooper, the well-known Rally driver and long-distance motorist, to contribute to this new series. " Mike " Cooper will be remembered in connection with his very effective runs at Brooklands in the famous Talbot " 110' BGH 23 and his successful exploits in pre-war Alpine Trials. Of more recent times, he collected the Grand Prix d'Honneur in the " Concours de Confort " in the 1950 Monte Carlo Rally with a Rolls-Royce Wraith, and repeated the performance this year, with a Mk. VI Bentley. He is interested in motor-cycle racing and is a familiar figure, in the capacity of judge or steward, at B.M.C.R.C. and
B.R.D.C. events.—ED. Morris-Cowley purchased, a 1928 squareradiator model with two-seater body, price .e,05. At the B.A.R.C. meeting at Brooklands on May 24th, 1930, there was a race for standard Morris-Cowleys. Entries were made at the post and by virtue perhaps of having a 11.R.D.C. badge on my car we were placed on scratch. I believe there were about a dozen entries for the two-hip race and by constant grass-cutting on the hitter edge of the track I finally finished third about 100 yards behind the winner, to whom we had given 28 seconds. I am afraid I do not, recall our lap speed [52.32 m.p.h.—Ertl, but I have never forgotten Timekeeper Ebblewldtes remark when we were waiting to start : " First time I have ever wanted a calendar instead of a stop-watch for a motor race." I kept the Morris eight months and did 4,782 miles on it, and then decided that a Continental honeymoon would be better served by something a little larger, so another Chrysler came along, this time a 22-h.p. drophead coupe of 1928 vintage, for £110. We had a most successful no-trouble trip, going through Belgium and Germany, Switzerland and France, if you discount the fact that my wife tried to take an S-bend over a bridge in Belgium at a speed at least 10 miles an hour faster than a Grand Prix driver would attempt it today. She OA away with it. We also used nearly as much oil as petrol. The first thing I could really say nothing about, but made up for that by what I Said about oil consumption when I got buck. Oh yes, that trip was also remarkable in that we creased from Belgium into Germany without seeing any Customs
and, not realising the seriousness of it, had trouble in liasle when leaving Germany for Switzerland. However, perhaps a few fragments of confetti were still in the cat for the Germans said as there was no record of our entering Germany they couldn't stamp our papers as leaving, and the Swiss claimed we were the first people to row from Belgium directly into Switzerlainl. They really could not have carol less, but trouble was waiting for us with the A.A. at twine, who, however, after about six months' negotiating, got 1.1.9 our 150 Customs deposit hoick. but said we were liteky we did not. Itas,-e to take the Chrysler back to Germany and clear their Customs.
\'ldle waiting for tis S.:50—it was cash in those days 1--we decided that we had better economise and the Chrysler was sold, having done 3,729 miles with us, and we bought a 1929 Austin Seven saloon for £85. This car stayed with us for 21,616 happy no-trouble miles, but we have still a good laugh when we remember how on a holiday to Devon my wife had to jump out on the first steep right-hand bend on Porloek Hill and 50 yards later I had to get out too, and run alongside—perhaps that was what Ow liand-throttle was really there for. In March., 1931, I had gate into partnership with Thn Birkin at Welwyn
;:tr.: ('ity, and the Law of Libel being what it is I will only say this lasted till ahout July, 1932, 'when I sold out my sluices, poriag that time I had a lot of worries, but a lot of grand cars to drive. A " 4.4 " Bentley at. Le Mans and in a 500 Mile Race. Lagonda, Alvis, AstonMartin and, in the last Brooklands Meeting of 1931, a Rover "Speed 20" which got me a second place after a lap at 97 m.p.h.--a remarkable car on which we spent very little money. I always thought it a great pity the Works never really recognised this model, and I believe only a few were built at the Fulham Service Department. These, however, were not my cars and I must skip them.
In 1932 I wanted badly to run in the Alpine Trial and I asked Lagonda's if they Would build nte a car suitable— and at a suitable price. General Metcalfe, the (I think) Managing Director and a very dear man, agreed and I had my first brand-new car, jil 2463. It had the standard double camshaft engine of' 2-litres with two S.D. carburetters, two spare wheels, an 18-gallon petrol tank, and a big radiator. The body had the long wings, a folding windscreen and the scuttle flared with two wind scoops. Finished in black fabric with blue upholstery it was one of the best-looking four-seater Lagondas ever built While running it in before the Alpine Trial I entered it for the J.C.C. Guy's Hospital Coachwork Competition at Brooklands, where it won its class award and then, placed amongst all the class-winners, proceeded to come first in that as well. .Just to prove, however, that it could perform we got our Class Cup (Glacier) in the Alpine Trial when our chief competitors were 2-litre. 3,1erefOlCs. We also used the Lagonda in October, 1932, at Brooklands when attacking the Double 12-Hour record with a 350-cc. B.S.A. and sidecar, as escort in the dark, We did not have to go Very fast, but lap speeds of about 60 m.p.h. behind the
outfit were fun, with the big Lucas P 100 headlights doing noble work.
I never got the Lagonda weighed, but it was heavy—probably about 30 cwt. or more.
I remember how disappointed I was when the factory were the only manufacturers not to advertise a Class Win after the Alpine Trial, but perhaps they were then concentrating on the 2-litre six-cylinder car with the Crossley engine —a car I tried and did not like. After 12,056 miles I sold the Lagonda at a small profit, and for a short time had a saloon model.
The urge for something for road competitions and the 1983 Alpine Trial then made itself felt, and having an introduction to Georges Hoesch I finally bought a new Talbot "90" chassis and had a four-seater body built for it by a firm in Letchworth.
At the same time I had by then bought a motor business in St. Albans, but, though I was the owner, I still bought and registered cars in my own name (I have since learnt better). While the Talbot was having the body built I bought from my firm (how odd !) an Austin Seven coupe with body by Mulliner. This was really to be a temporary measure, but my wife refused to part with it even when the Talbot was ready, and we finally did over 80,000 miles before selling it in 1941. The Talbot wiLs finished only a week or so before leaving for Merano, which was the starting point of the 1933. Alpine Trial. We set off full of hope only to find On our first Alpine Pass that we had an exceptionally good right lock, but practically nothing to the left —whether the coachbuilders had had the drop arm off I don't know, but anyway this was wrongly fitted, and had to be corrected. Then in Merano we changed all oils and out from the gearbox drain came a rivet ; this was not of the type used anywhere by Talbots—at least so they said—and it was a worried man who started in the Trial. Sure enough our
stepped at the traffic lights at Bignells Corner and an irate Alvis owner came alongside and accused me of touching his car as I went. by. Quite a rumpus started and a policeman appeared out of the fog. There was no mark at. all on my car, and I truthfully denied all knowledge of a bump. On asking him if he got the car's number he said " Oh yes KU 1374 " or something like that. " All right, gc> on," said the Robert to me, " if he can't remember your number (J115678) it could not have been you."
I sold this car in September, 1934, after 13,187 miles, to a friend, and years later saw it on the Holyhead Road going like a bomb. Those were the days of depreciation, and I rather naturally lost on it, though only to the extent of £123— although I had bought at trade price and sold retail. The Austin Seven coupe did us well between selling the Talbot " 90 " (how these developed-horse-power numbers keep coming back to us today) in September, 1934, and January, 1935, when Talbot " 90 " saloon AAR 875 was delivered. This had one of the sweptback bodies and was a very good-looking grey saloon with green upholstery. Until we sold it in February, 19:39, we did 40,115 miles. Again the weight was fantastic ; an engine of only 2,276 e.e. and 30 cwt. to propel. Maximum speed was about 78 m.p.h. on the level, and though shock-absorbers were controlled, from the steering column they never lasted very long. Nevertheless, whatever faults the car had it never gave trouble, and we did two longish holiday trips abroad, one to Spain in 1935 and one luck was right out, and a hopelessly. choked petrel main feed caused us to lose more than our maximum time before the first Control, and that was that. Once cleared we never had further trouble, and now before any competition I always drain the petrol tank and blow through fuel lines. One night coming back from London in foggy weather I
to Budapest in 1987, taking in YugoSlavin and Italy., and going from Lucerne to Paris, 872 miles, in 10 hours including all stow.
To revert to 1984, Talbots had given up racing, officially or unofficially, but with Tommy Wisdom and Hugh Eaton we persuaded them to let us run a team in the 19134 Alpine Trial. Three ears were built and, sponsored by Pass and Joyce. Ltd., they were just as the older team cars with "105 " engines and that most. attractive and clever four-seater body with the alligator tail. Finished in Talbot green theycertainly looked and performed the part. We managed to win the Team Prize without loss of marks, and while we were too late to enter for the Ulster T.T. as we had secretly hoped to do, I did persuade the Works to lend me " my " car for the September M.C.C. Brooldands Meeting and High Speed Trial. With no special preparation and fun equipment we managed to make fastest time in the Hourrun in the morning, at 85.06, and later in the day won a two-lap handicap at 80.02 m.p.h. and a one-lap scratch race at 80.20 M.p.h. I think the Works were pleased, because they agreed to lend me the car again for the October B.A.R.C. Meeting, and this time, with. equipment removed, we WOO a three-lap handicap at 100.81 m.p.h., after a battle with H. G. nob& Riley which we just beat by 50 yards. From then on we ran in most B.A.R.C. meetings until the end of 1938. The engine was changed to " 110 " in 1986, and though we never did 100 miles in the hour in an M.C.C. Hour Run we very nearly did in 1935, and The Times gave us credit for doing so, saying : "Unhappily the timekeepers would credit him only with the full 30 circuits, and not the 1,200 yards he also covered, still his speed was 99.61 m.p.h. for the 36 laps." Ah„ well
I have said quite a bit about BGH 23 because, although it did not become my Own property until the end Of 1938, by a very kind settlement with the itOpfrii brothers, arranged by J. E. Scott, I did rather look on the car as Mine by "squatters licence," and in fact also rap it on the road in two R.A.C. Rallies and one Scottish Rally. What a car for road and track ; I shall never forget it.
In 1939 I dropped the axle-ratio, fitted standard compression pistons, and generally made the car suitable for town and country planning, although always for Brooklands. Shelsley, etc., we drove the car to and from the course. In March, 1839, I bought a SunbeamTalbot Ten saloon, very stupidly selling it on the outbreak of war, and taking a small profit of £23 after 0,070 miles. A week before the war we were in Lucerne (a Swiss wife is a great advantage when her family are living there) and my Works, thinking that Cannibalism begins at Calais and I probably only got news from jungle drums, 'phoned me to come back in a hurry. This we did to Rheims, 825 Miles, in just under nine hours. We spent the night in the Lion D'or only to be woken up by a terrific clap of thunder, and for a few moments I thought the war had started and that we had just about had it. Next day on to Calais, where there was quite a little
flap going on. But Townsend Ferry rose to the occasion and no cars were left behind on that day.
Well, having Sold the Sunbeam-Talbot I was still left with, the Talbot " 110," the Austin Seven coupe and a 500-e.e. International Norton which I had bought in July, 1939. The Norton and the -Talbot had many similar characteristics, not the least being the terrific power available and the feeling that here was something alive and part. of oneself.
In February, 1940, with petrol rationing, I laid up BGH 23, taking in part exchange a 1987 Talbot Ten two-door saloon. I bought this car—oh yes at standing-in price—and proceeded to run it till October, 1940, when the Austin coupe was sold after 32,000 miles for 212 10s., and my wife kept the Talbot on the road, doing work which the Petroleum Officer agreed necessitated a supplementary ration. In May, 1940, the King at last agreed there was no hope of winning the war without my services and in I went—the barrel was even then being scraped pretty low. During October, 1040, I was stationed in Lincolnshire and one day my manager wrote me to say a man was after BGH 28 and had a 1940 Citroen coupe for part exchange. Could I get leave and do a deal ? The man turned out to be Peter Whalley (who later used Mayon. SPORT correspondence columns to throw out various challenges I), his Colonel refused to let junior Officers use a car (some Colonels were hell !) and if he had to store a oar for the war it might just as well be
something that would give him a lot of' fun later on. Leave I got—the excuse of seeing accountants about income tax generally worked—and saying to myself, surely I don't want a Citroen, I arrived in St. Albans.
I fell for the Citroen right away and fixed up an exchange which. later proved a very good one: The Citroen was definitely of 1940 Series and possibly the only one of its kind in the country—a drophead coupe on the long "Big 15 " chassis of 10 ft. I ins, and fitted with what Slough called De Luxe equipment. I have never seen another one like it and as long as petrol rationing lasted and sometimes on leave even when it didn't, I had a very happy time with this car. I kept it until June, 1947, doing 18,988 miles, though I very rarely managed to make a silent gear-change from second to first when on the move. Once, being on a course at Feltharn, I left the Citroi:M at Slough for a three-day check and on getting the car back got a speedometer reading of 88 m.p.h. Unfortunately, this was fOund to be between 10 per cent. and 12 per cent. fast, but nevertheless I think the car was good for 80 m.p.h. Front tyres lasted for 16,000 miles and by the time they had done more mileage on the rear wheels a complete set saw about 14,000 miles. I never had anxious moments with the front-wheel-drive and even if it was necessary to take the foot off the throttle when going into fast bends nothing untoward ever happened that was at all odd. The car was red and I gave it a repaint and a new hood in 1940, but found that a few months later the paint was fading —a fault I believe to be found frequently with this colour on many makes of' cars. The rear panel of the hood was detachable and On hot days with this removed it was an ideal way to travel. (Other makers of drophead coupes please copy.)
Well, as you may have read in the papers, the war ended and we had to face the rigours of an English Peace. The Talbot Ten was sold and the Norton as well, and another Austin Seven
purchased—a 1936 saloon of very low mileage which stayed with us for 23,610 miles and then produced a £55 profit. In July, 1946, we thought it about time we went abroad again, and with a growing daughter decided the Citroen was a bit too cramped for three in front. I went very thoroughly into the question of removing the big parcel tray behind the seat, extending the hood and bringing four seats under it, but the problem was too great and might have given trouble if we had removed the body panel behind the seat and in front of the dickey. I, therefore, abandoned this idea and as a temporary measure bought a 1935 3-litre Bentley Park Ward Saloon with ride control. I was a bit Oared with the future unknown possibilities of the motor trade and only kept " The Grey
Advent ure for our holiday and a mileage of 3,750 and still being innocent of post-war trade was quite happy with a 'selling profit of £20. We checked the car over in may works and though the car showed 80,000 on the speedometer there was very little to be done to it, but being cautious I thought a few spares might be taken abroad as a precaution. I 'phoned Hythe Road and asked for gaskets and a fan belt, only to be laughed at and told my request was unusual, but a fan belt might be required. I know them now, but how right was their attitude.
Our holiday included Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Switzerland, taking in the then-new Snsten Pass two days before the official opening. Though we had to move one barrier nobody seemed to mind. We did meet quite a number of other cars, some of which I was delighted to notice came from the other side of the Atlantic, :out %Odell may daughter trtithfully christened " Bouncing Boilers."
On returoing home and parting with the Bentley I found I was not as happy as before with the Citroen, but. I kept it until June, 1947, when, feeling that being in the Motor Trade must have some compensations, I took delivery of a new Arrnstrong-Siddeley " Hurricane " coupe. No, I don't think I will say what price I got. for the Citron, but the new owner was happy, and I see the cur fairly frequently and it is kept in beautiful condition. I got the Armstrong in July and it had under 1,000 miles on the clock when we went abroad for our 1947 holiday. It was a very hot day when we crossed London and though no thermometer was fitted we knew we were on boiling point. By the time we were 50 miles on there was no question of it, and by the waters of Maidstone we sat down and wept. If the car was running hot then what would happen across France and in Switzerland ? Luckily the next day was cooler and we crossed France successfully. In Switzerland we boiled on the Gothard, but frequent stops for photographs eased the situation and hid my shame. NThen we visited Zurich 1 visited the distributors there and asked them what they did to produce more cooling. They at first denied all knowledge of over-heating, but when I explained that I was an Armstrong agent and genuinely worried, the manager said, "Ah well, when you three got out of the car, I turned to my mechanic here and said—' Here come
three Poulel Rolf: ' " Anyway, when we got back home we cut more louvres in the side engine-trays, put a louvre in the top of the bonnet, removed the thermostat. and fitted a new hood with the rear panel detachable. all tla.se nu a lii hat ions were incorporated on later ears-and in 1948 we took the sante " Hurricane " abroad again with no troulde. I liked the car and you only had to look at the starter button and the engine sprang into life. Springing was a bit light on the front and some pitching occurred on certain surfaces. By virtue of automat ically self-adjusting hydraulic tappets, self-adjusting front brakes and many other good points, maintenance costs were kept to a minitmun.
So in January, 1949, I parted with I it 'It 700 (what a lot of fun the Swiss had with this registration prefix) and Kilf 700, another Arntstrong-Siddeley, took its place, but this time the very nice-looking " Typhoon." twodoor saloon. The " Hurricane " had done 12,100 miles. The "Typhoon " was my works' demonstrator, but used only by myself, and this was parted with--at list price, in May, 1949, after 3,409 miles—so nobody should complain about that. Various points had been improved and I was quite sorry-to see it go, but business is business and a Mark V Jaguar was on the way.
The Jaguar (ERO 700—I must have some influence with the licensing department !) arrived in May and I kept it for a year, doing 15,032 miles. What a fine car it was---104 m.p.h. on the speedometer when demonstrating it to the County Police, no trouble of any sort, and nothing that I could find to dislike or criticise. There are enough Jaguars aboutnow, so tItat little need be said, but here is real value for money, and what delightful people kind Bill Lyons has gathered about him in his factory.
Since early 1950 it has been Bentleys, Bentleys all the way, and again, lest unkind persons should think the Motor Trade is an easy Way to fortune, I can only add that really I was very fond of my Old Uncle and sorry when he departed.this life.
In the December, 1950, Moroa SPORT, Raymond Mays said as much as I can about Mark VI saloons, all of which I do bear ont. It is. I Oppose, possible to pass a few minor criticisms, but if these are made by non-Bentley owners I feel almost personally affronted. I want nothing better and each time I take the car out there seems sorftething new to eulogise over.
When a small boy asked, "IVIiat will she do, mister ? " I said very truthfully, " Everything, and very perfectly too."