Two More Siddeley Specials

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When I described the Siddeley Special owned by Mr. D. W. Brown, B.Sc. (Motor Sport, June, page 395) I chanced to remark that I thought I could account for five of these imposing cars. Since then two more have been reported from the scrap yards but, far more stimulating I received a message from Mr. A. B. Kensington to say that he has a pair of Siddeley Specials in regular use. He kindly invited me to investigate and one Sunday afternoon in the searing heat of July, while Tony Brooks was winning the French G.P. at Reims, I made my way by an elaborate cross-country route (thus avoiding congested main roads) to Cholderton House near Andover, where these cars earn their keep, with a Ford Escort and a 1935 Ford V8 station wagon to help them out.

Both are four-door close-coupled saloons similar to Mr. Brown’s, the bodies built by Armstrong Siddeley themselves. One car is a 1936 Series B model, which had but one previous owner, a famous architect. The other is a 1934 car which appears not to possess a Series No. and which had two previous owners. The only obvious difference between these two Siddeley Specials is that the later has four lidded ventilators, a pair in the scuttle and two more at the top rear end of the bonnet, and wire wheels, whereas the later model has those typically AS disc wheels. Mr. Kensington has owned this pair of Siddeleys for a considerable time, although he purchased them since the war. Incidentally, he has had a long association with cars, buying his first, a flat-radiator Ninety Mercedes with saloon body, before he had reached the age of 21, to the disgust of his trustees. After this he embarked on a long run of Mercedes ownership, including a 10/35, 24/100 and 36/220, while interspersed with these were other exciting motor cars, such as a 16/24 Gregoire, a “Four Inch” T.T. Humber, which he raced at Brooklands in 1914 etc.

After again admiring the dignity of the massive Siddeley Specials, their nicely laid-out dashboards with speedometer and rev. counter in the centre and electrical panels on the extreme right, the windows in the front doors which both wind and slide, and the roller blinds within the boots for the protection of excess luggage, I drove the 1934 car out on to the scorching roads to savour its driving characteristics. Four up, the great car ran effortlessly and quite quietly, across Salisbury Plain on half throttle, the speedometer between 60 and 70 m.p.h. with the engine running contentedly at about 2,000 r.p.m.

The view from the high leather seats across the great breadth of a bonnet which terminates in a handsome shuttered vee-radiator with its Sphinx mascot riding unperturbedly on the filler-cap, and the rugged construction of the entire vehicle, makes the Siddeley Special a most representative but desirable example of the white elephant species.

After a change of direction the big car would yaw somewhat, a movement easily quelled by the unexpectedly light and accurate steering. The pre-selector gear change controlled by a lever on the right of the steering wheel hub (marked, not 1, 2, 3, 4 but LOW MEDIUM, NORMAL, HIGH) and engaged by depressing the vacuum-servo assisted clutch pedal, was precise and taut. I did not push the car into the upper 90s, as its owner has done, but I did sample its excellent top-gear acceleration, after humoring the engine by retarding the ignition with a little lever that matches the gear-selector lever, and experience the full pick-up of the light-alloy 5-litre power unit in NORMAL gear, still without needing to take it above 2,500 r.p.m.

These two Siddeleys serve their owner daily and are by no means positive museum exhibits. He uses Energol oil, gets about 11 m.p.g. of petrol, which can be elevated to something approaching 20 by extremely moderate driving, and remarks on the stability of the cars on icy roads. They are essentially reliable, although broken valve springs were experienced after the engine of one car was run after being laid up by the previous owner and the other car was for a while devoid of any save bottom and reverse speeds. It was great fun to have visited them at Mr. Kensington’s charming William-and-Mary country house and they increase the number of Siddeley Specials I can count to nine.—W.B.