V-E-V miscellany, April 1985, April 1985

We hear that another Brescia Bugatti has come to this country, from Czechoslovakia and we hope will soon be seen in action. In Fuengirola, Spain, a beautifully-kept Model-T Ford of about 1920 vintage is in daily summer useage, we are told, owned by someone who has had but two cars, his first also a Model-T, that was destroyed in the Civil War. Chris Booth has sent us some pertinent details of his Morgan-Blackburne, hoping that more information may be forthcoming as to its history. He points out that its special components are identical to those used for the Ron Horton / Robin Jackson Morgan and that its KMB Blackburne engine is of the some type, and thought to be the only one still retaining such KMB features as steel flywheels, strengthened con.-rods, larger main bearings, shorter cylinders, and single-ring pistons. The body is admittedly mostly a copy, although the unuseable original is retained, and Mr Booth is naturally anxious to know if this is, as he thinks, the R. R. Jackson Morgan and if so, why it is referred to as a replica by commentators and others. If any information is forthcoming, letters can be forwarded.

Having been permitted to look at a book printed privately for the John F. Andrews family who had transport interests in Wales from the time of the horse, some interesting facts can be extracted. The frontispiece photograph shows a 5-ton Robey steam-waggon which S. Andrews & Son of Cardiff acquired in 1920. It is shown pulling a furniture pantechnicon on ordinary wooden wheels, the explanation being that the waggon was restricted to a legal speed of eight mph. After many pages devoted to horse-trams, one of which was working between Pwllheli and Llandbedrog up to 1925, I spotted a picture of light cars on Pwllheli Parade in the early 1920s, one of which is a 10.4 hp Calthorpe. In 1904 some petrol ‘buses were acquired by the company and two years later there were 26 of these, the horses having been reduced in number to 2,162. But difficulties in maintenance caused losses. However, the Company had many strings to its bow and in 1926 their “David Evans” stores was using a one-ton Model-T Ford van, driven by a Mr. Morris. For their Roach Mews Garage in Cardiff the Company turned Emile Andrews’ chauffeur-driven circa-1913 Metallurgique car into a crane-equipped breakdown truck, having in 1908 been to London to acquire some Belsize taxis. By 1911 they had a licence to keep 100 two-gallon cans of petrol, increased to 200 gallons by 1912, the petrol tins being delivered by horse and cart. After the war a fleet of ex-staff car royal blue open and closed Daimlers was kept for hire, together with a lone Talbot (Reg. No. LB8486, while one of the Daimlers was NY-572). The charge was a shilling-a-mile but, although prestigious, maintenance was costly, and the Daimlers were replaced by new 1928 Austin Twenties, which were more successful, being reliable and cheap to run, hire rates coming down to 9d a mile. When these Austins became dated they were replaced with secondhand Sunbeams, circa 1934, which look to have been 25 bhp saloons. These were “magnificent cars but replacement parts were difficult to find,” although several members of the Andrews family bought similar Sunbeams. In 1938 and 1939 these gave way to nine new Austin 12J4s, for hire at 8d a time, but requisitioned by the Fire Service on the outbreak of war. During the Austin 20 period an ex-‘bus Lancia breakdown track was used. In 1926 hand-operated, swing-arm petrol pumps were installed at the Cardiff garage, and by 1934 electric pumps were dispensing Shell-Men, Shell, BP Ethyl, Glico, National Benzole, Power and Cleveland Petrol, at from 1/3d a gallon. After the 1960s Andrews Garage took on a short-lived Wolseley agency, after which they sold Alfa Romeo, Reliant Scimitar, Marcos, Audi, and BMW cars. In 1965 a vintage / veteran show was staged, which included a 1,750 cc Alfa Romeo. One final flick of this book shows pictures of what is claimed as the first flying meeting in Wales, when Brooklands pilot Astley tried to fly his new Birdling monoplane “Wasp” from PwItheli recreation ground at Whitsun 1911 but failed to clear the retaining wall…

Some facts hitherto unknown to me about a racing motorist who flew light aeroplanes have been revealed through the kindness of a reader intending some old Press cuttings. Alfred Ellison, who raced the 1912 GP Lorraine-Dietrich at Brooklands after the war, with his brother George, were very skilled and ambitious users of aeroplanes. Having learned to fly at the Midlands Flying Club they left Castle Bromwich in 1934 on a business trip to the Cape, in DH Puss Moth G-ABMP, Alfred, who had been an RFC pilot, flying the machine and George navigating. They got within one-and-a-half days of the then England-Johannesburg record of 71/2 days, although professing not tube after any records. The Puss Moth was damaged in a night landing at Cairo on the return flight, so the brothers came home by Imperial Airways, to Croydon, the Puss Moth being shipped back. They took part in most of the air rallies of the time and Alfred and his wife claimed to have flown 15,000 miles in sin weeks, before leaving in a DH Leopard Moth for another European rally. This aeroplane was sold in Nairobi to Beryl Markham. Alfred Ellison, who was apparently the first pilot to shoot down a German Albatross, is described as always immaculately dressed, which ties in with the picture of him wearing a trilby hat in the 15-litre Lorraine at Brooklands.

Another of our readers who is keen on aviation, Philip Gordon-Marshall, recalls demonstrating Puss Moth G-ABYU to the Ellisons early in 1934, on behalf of Brian Lewis’ Aviation, one of the Ellison brothers flying back from Castle Bromwich to Heston with hint. Could this have resulted in the sale to them of G-ABMP, which was flown on at least one occasion by racing driver Whitney Straight? — an aeroplane with motor-racing connotations!

As a sequel to this. Gordon-Marshall sent me the copy of the Whitney Straight house journal Straightway, edited by Mary de Bunsen, that contains his light-hearted story of how in 1938 he flew R. E. Gardner’s J2 Piper Cub G-AFFH out to Nice, for Whitney Straight to borrow, after it had been converted from float plane to landplane. Starting from Hamble, this journey took six days, the 37 hp engine giving a cruising speed of 45 to 50 mph and a top speed of only about 55 mph with the seaplane propellor, time being taken at Lympne to fit an extra fuel tank, a small ex-Tiger Moth inverted-system one. The trip was, however, safely accomplished and after the twin Edo floats had been retrieved from Customs at Nice and refitted, Whitney Straight took the machine up solo, the first time he had ever flown a seaplane…

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We hear that the see-eight 1,100 cc Harker Special road-equipped racing two-seater is coming on the market.

It is nice to know that the occupiers of the Sheffield premises in which Stringer-Winco light cars were built in the 1920s are researching this make. If any old employees see this, or other information exists, we should be glad to know. George Bance is anxious to know how the restoration of the 1931 Sunbeam he sold six years ago to a Mr Stowe of Birmingham is progressing. The Reg. No. of the car is GO-7828 and letters can be forwarded. We have proof that the 35 nun film of the Talbot’s 100-in-the-hour record still exists. The well-known 1908 60 hp Napier meticulously restored and run by Ronald Barker has been acquired jointly by Tony Jones and Trevor Tarring, suit will remain in this country, as Barker wished and for which he no doubt made some financial sacrifice. As solace he has acquired the ex-Stephen Langton Renault 45, among other constructional projects.

Finally, although we don’t like washing dirty linen in public, we cannot resist quoting the following piece from The Tunes about Sears’ sale of his Rolls-Royce Collection: “Less valuable financially, but fascinating historically, is the 1923 20-horsepower launderette…” — W .B.