Vintage Postbag



I can add a bit more, based on meeting and corresponding with Mrs. Williams some while ago. The information indeed was published in Bugantics and The Autocar but is perhaps worth repeating.

William Charles Frederick Grover-Williams (to get it quite right) was born on the outskirts of Paris at Montrouge on January 16th, 1903 and was arrested by the Gestap at the house of Robert Benoist on August 2nd, 1943. Our Army records have him missing in August 1943, later "presumed killed in action". His father was English, his mother French.

Mrs. Williams lived as a child in the north of France, and to quote: "my parents received some English officers (during the war) among whom was found an official Army Painter, the late Sir William Orpen RA; he asked permission of my family to paint me, making several canvasses among which was one which had a great success, The Refugee, which can be found in the Imperial War Museum in London . . . . "

I know nothing about her subsequent association with Orpen. I do, however, doubt the story that Williams was a chauffeur, having started racing in 1925 - hill climbs - and circuit racing in a Bugatti in 1926 (e.g. GP de Provence, 2nd). Could there be a translation fault for a "driver"?

However Mrs. Williams went on to say that Williams had a brother in the USA, a Professor at the University of Swathmore (whom I have been unable to trace) and "a sister in Brighton, widow of Mr. Whitworth, and two grandchildren a girl and a boy - the latter a BBC engineer at Birmingham". Knowing the ability of Motor Sport readers to come up with answers, one wonders if any of these four can be traced!

H.G. Conway

London W2



I was interested to read the letter in your June issue from Mr. Bevis as I bought the Alta owned once by John Heath, subsequently by Mr. Bevis and later by Dan Margulies.

This car (engine No.66) has had a new body built and is now being brought back to original condition mechanically. What is interesting is that of the seven 1 1/2-litre and 2-litre pre-war sports cars, three are alive and well in Australia (the other engine Nos. being 54 and 70). Of the six offset single-seaters built, one (No.56) is owned by Graeme Lowe in Australia and is driven regularly and reliably by him and I own the engine out of the Boyle car (No.58).

In addition there is one post-war two stage blown car (engine No.1111), at least one 1,100 car and another 1,100 c.c. engine. All in all, a fairly high percentage of total production.

J.T.C. Hewison

Melbourne, Australia

"Akela" memories


Memories - memories! The fifth Akela owned by Trubie Moore in 1923 was to be seen in his showroom (he owned the Headingley Garage, Headingley Lane, Leeds). He replaced the GN with a single-seat Horstman, in its day quite potent. My kindergarten was directly behind the garage - my education was not wasted! H.R. Humphreys, known to all as Reg, was a great character, the original "purveyor of motor cars to the nobility and gentry of the North since 1919". He sold my father a magnificent 1925 20 Rolls open tourer; and to me in 1929 my first car, one of the first MGMs, pure joy. He was ex-RFC and owned his own aircraft which he kept at Sherburn-in-Elmet, giving me and many of my young friends their first flip.

His best customer by far was the late Sir Ronald Gunter of The Grange, Wetherby, where he kept his racing cars when not at Brooklands. In 1928 we went over to the Grange as he wanted to sell me Gunter's beautiful racing Bugatti type 35 and me only 16! He was a great salesman.

His life blood was grand pianos. Ronald Gunter had a very big turn-over in ladies and was forever getting rid of those who had run the course. Reg had the job of giving them the hard word and to pacify them, presenting, as a going-away present from Gunter, one grand piano - in those days the sign of complete respectability! He bought scores of pianos!

I suppose there are still Reg's about but as far as I am concerned they are thin on the ground - more's the pity!

Joe Hepworth

London SW1

On the Zephyr


Your article on 'Fragments on Forgotten Makes, No. 40: The Zephyr' in May Motor Sport prompts me to recall a letter that I wrote to these pages in February 1967, concerning this marque.

I fear that Mr. Feakes is somewhat wrong in his statement that Davison was an American; Ernest Davison was in fact my great-uncle and hailed from Scotland. Whether he was responsible for designing the car is debatable, but it was certainly in collaboration with Ernest Talbot - who was the designer of the Zephyr piston - that the vehicle was produced. The statement concerning the failure to obtain suitable cyljnder block castings being the cause of the company's liquidation is also intriguing. A subsequent letter to Motor Sport during 1967 suggested that the reason for liquidation was due to the general depression in trade during the post-war years.

I cannot comment on the events that followed, save for Ernest Talbot to continue manufacturing his pistons which had been so successful in pre-war boat and motor racing. Ernest Davison emigrated to America in 1945/6, and lived there until his death in 1959.

Peter S. Gazey

Isleworth, Middlesex

Margulies v. Smith, re. Riley


Scratching my head over the claim and counter claim between Messrs. Margulies and Smith over which Brooklands Riley came fifth at Le Mans in1934, I contacted Gerald Hennings, who owned and raced KV5392 for so many years. Gerald has replied:-

"Mr. Smith is incorrect in saying that VC8304 was fifth at Le Mans in 1934 - that honour went to KV5392 and Dan Margulies is quite correct. Indeed if he still has the scrapbook I gave to John Melville Smith with the car he has the photographic evidence.

When I bought KV5392 from Stanley Burville (the Riley Man), he knew that KV5392 was the Brooklands run by Sebilleau and De la Roche in 1933. In that year it retired with a seized tappet. It was also run with knock-on wheels as a promotion gimmick. However Stanley was unsure of its subsequent history other than that all the Brooklands except KV5392 were sold off by Rileys at the end of 1933, KV5392 being sold finally in 1936 (with an Ulster engine) to the Briggs who raced in it at Brooklands for a season before selling it to Ian Cunningham in Edinburgh.

In view of this, I felt sure that KV5392 must have been the solitary Brooklands at Le Mans in 1934 driven by Bill Becke and Peacock into 5th place, 1st on index and winner of the Biennial Cup. This last, however, puzzled me and I can only conclude (not knowing the rules) that the car must have taken part (even if it didn't finish) in two successive races - or the award was related to the driver, not the car.

I wrote to Motor Sport and Autocar asking if they had a tail shot at Le mans in 1934 of the Brooklands (this was necessary because the front number plate was removed - a point I had observed from a visit to the British Museum Library in my researches). Neither magazine said they could help.

I then had a stroke of luck. While visiting my old Swimming Club (Epsom & Ewell), I was introduced to an "elder" of the Committee who worked for Autocar. He said he would have a look. Bingo! A tail shot (not published) showing clearly the registration KV5392 in company with No. 27, the 1 1/2-litre Riley. You will of course know that the 1 1/2's didn't run in 1933 - so that fixed the year too.

I later visited Bill Becke with the car and he was telling me how he disliked the smooth pedals and set to work with a hacksaw to put criss-cross cuts on them. He looked in the car, and there they were. He seemed in no doubt that KV5392 was the 1934 Le Mans car.

However, to round off this ramble, Bill also said that the KO wheel stunt was unnecessary since they had never had to change a wheel. In any case the spare wasn't the same size (it won't fit in the tail when inflated). So in 1934 KV5392 reverted to standard bolt on wheels which Bill felt were more secure. KV5392's present KO wheels were fitted by Ian Cunningham in 1936/7 (he told me this when I visited him in Edinburgh). Thus, the picture Dan Margulies is showing must be of 1933, not 1934.

I think that just about wraps it up, but I wonder if Dan has got that scrapbook. Anyway the negative still exists (I hope) in Autocar archives - perhaps it would be as well to publish it now once and for all!"

I do hope this helps to clear up the mystery.

Tony Bird

Kingsclere, Hants

President, Riley Register

Mays Sprint Car


As your correspondent Mr. Jack Maurice refers to me by name, may I make some brief comments?

In the course of the correspondence to which he refers, I pointed out that given the layout of the Mays car, the rear wheels would tend to lift on acceleration only if the chain drive gave a speed reduction. I emphasised that as the chain drive ratio was in fact 1:1, to judge by the drawing which apeared in The Motor of May 24th 1950, there would be no such undesirable effect: nor would there be any possibly beneficial jacking-up effect as some people seemed to think. The aim of the design seems to have been simply to enable the driver to sit back and to get most of the weight onto the rear wheels.

A. Archdale

King's Lynn, Norfolk

Vanished MGs


Quite by accident, whilst browsing through David Weguelin's superb ERA tome, I noticed a photograph of the very first car I owned - namely an MG registered BHX 238 which appears behind Seamen's ERA R1B in the paddock photograph at the top of page 31 of the aforesaid book.

I always suspected this car was used for competition but could never come up with positive proof. It seems it was built on an NA chassis and powered by a 1,286 c.c. 6 cylinder OHC Magnette engine. When I owned the car in 1955/56 the body was slightly different to that shown in the photograph but it bore a remarkable resemblance to a K3 with its pointed tail but sans blower and with ordinary 4-speed crash box. That pointed tail held a 27 gallon fuel tank (I filled it once!) and when full, with the car shod with Dunlop Racing tyres, as it was when I owned it, it was decidedly lethal in the wet.

The car had various interesting features (apart from being advertised for sale in Motor Sport more than once!), such as a scuttle mounted oil tank which could replenish the sump through an SU oil pump and carburetter device. Fully instrumented ki-gas fuel pump, twin pipes fitted with Brooklands fishtails etc. The car was quite a sensation to drive in and around Brighton if only for the noise alone. I bought the car for £185 from a garage in Hove and it really was in quite a state. Following an engine rebuild by Bannisters of Brighton and a total rewire etc. I sold the vehicle for the rather more reliable comforts of a TC MG.

I remember going to see the vehicle some years later with a view to repurchase when it was located in a bare chassis state at a house in Holmwood near Dorking. However, I believe the then owner had sold the body and was intending to construct a new and different style one himself. Incidentally, whilst parked in Brighton one day I was approached by an elderly gentleman who asked me if I had the bronze cylinder head that the car ran with, when competing at Brooklands - did it?

In any event I wonder whether the car still exists and if so where it is now. Whilst on the subject of "where are they" I also once owned a beautiful TC MG registered LKE 274 that I bought from an engineer in Kent who had back trouble, and had converted to an Austin 16 for that reason, and I also owned and raced the Derrington/HRG MGA VHY 781 that was the subject of Motor and Autocar road tests at the time that the crossflow ally head was being marketed.

I also had an Alta OHV converted SV Minor - fire engine red and leopard skin seat covers - ugh!. . . and could go on but I would be interested to know if any of the three MGs mentioned above survive.

M.C. Holt

St. Katherine by the Tower

Sedgwick or Sedgwick?


Michael Sedgwick and I have become accustomed to receiving each other's telephone calls and personal approaches from enquiring car enthusiasts. We are on friendly terms and tolerate each other's idiosyncrasies, but are not related and I would not claim Michael's encyclopaedic knowledge on motoring matters.

It behoves me, therefore, to dispel any possibility of mistaken identity resulting from your omission of Michael's first name in your comments on Alec Ulmann's latest outburst.

I know a little about Bentleys - and not much of that is technical - but I know nothing of Hispanos and Peugeots. If this line of research is to be pursued I leave it to others, but what a pity such a great enthusiast (for Mercedes and Hispanos) has such a chip on his shoulder about 'W.O.'

Nothing he writes will even scratch W.O.'s reputation and standing; it only diminishes himself to no purpose.

Stanley Sedgwick

Cobham, Surrey

Royal Mishap


The little piece on the Royal mishap when Queen Mary's car broke down, described on page 962 of the current issue of Motor Sport, was re-enacted five years later.

A Mr. Percy Titmouse had the honour of taking the Queen into Cambridge after coming upon the Royal car in trouble en route from Sandringham. The car was a 1934 Morris Ten-Four saloon. The enclosed photograph shows Mr. Titmouse standing beside his car.

I understand that Mr. Titmouse's family still live in the Cambridge area but I have not, so far, been able to contact them. As Historian for the Morris Register I would be pleased to be able to - perhaps they are readers of Motor Sport?

Harry Edwards

Chelmsford, Essex

[Letters will be forwarded - Ed.]

V-E-V Odds and Ends

We are sorry to learn that W.B. Scott, noted Brooklands racing driver, is seriously ill. A 1919 24 h.p. Sunbeam landaulette has been discovered in rough but complete state in the Midlands, and is to be rebuilt. Leslie Ballamy was at the Brooklands Reunion, driving that Rolls-Royce Phantom III-powered Derby-Bentley Special and having a ride up the Test Hill in Willis's 1925 Amilcar. There is further evidence that a 1913 Coupe de L'Auto Peugeot was at the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby up to 1919. The Rolls-Royce EC has been to the Isle of Man to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the TT victory there by the Hon. C.S. Rolls and has issued a fine Souvenir Programme of the occasion. The current issue of Bulletin of the Riley Register carries, among much interesting material, an amusing story about Freddie Dixon and the BARC officials. According to an article in a recent Sunday Express Colour Supplement the Empire-orientated Lord Beaverbrook once owned an Hispano Suiza. On a non-motoring note, Hornby trains are on the market again. The VSCC will be at Prescott on August 2nd.

Bill Lake's well known 1902 Mors has changed hands. This month's special events at the International Motor Museum at Beaulieu include a stationary engine rally on August 2nd, MG CC Rally on August 9th and The Graham Walker Memorial Run on August 16th. Re. last month's "Royal Mishap" item - Cecil Clutton tells us that Mr. C A. Harrison, who came to the rescue of Queen Mary in Albemarle Street, was a friend of his, who gave Clutton his first run in a Bentley, a rear wheel-brake 3-litre circa 1924. Mr. Harrison was a partner in Griffiths & Harrison in Albemarle Street and when the royal car broke down Mr. Harrison rushed out and offered to transport the Queen in his Invicta. It is said that Queen Mary sent him a tiepin as a mark of appreciation. See also Mr. Edwards' letter, above.