This time I am again indebted to a reader for sending me some interesting items out of history. These consist of a selection of pages from The Badminton Magazine of 1915-21. W. H. Berry was writing the motoring features for this eminent magazine in the war days, and one of his contributions comments on American firms which were taking advantage of dumping cars on the English market without any idea of following up sales, under the abnormal conditions created by the war, with a good service system. Berry names Willys-Overland, Maxwell, Cadillac, Studebaker and Oakland as amongst the reputable makes. An interesting traffic census is given, which shows that at Edgware Road seven motor-bus services were in operation in 1915 against 12 in 1914, 1,977 motor-omnibuses passing a given point in 12 hours, compared to 2,633 in 1914. Taxi-cabs, however, which decreased when war began, had multiplied by 221, to a total of 1,354. Trade motor vehicles were checked as 416 in 1914, but 634 in 1915. This was followed by a tribute to General Botha’s C-type 25-h.p. Vauxhall tourer which he had used throughout the South African revolution and which was in Vauxhall Motors’ Great Portland Street showrooms bearing the general’s torn and oil-stained British flag.—“curious to relate, a specimen of a cheap article which may be bought in any toy shop for a few pence.”
Another British car in the news was a Clement-Talbot, a page of six pictures showing it on its “across Australia exploration trip,” “the feat that set the seal on the fame of this maker in Australia.” Moreover, Sir Charles Cheers Wakefield, the Lord Mayor of London, was shown with his 20-h.p. Crossley landaulette, and Napier had lent The Badminton Magazine a 16/22-h.p. landaulette, gaily decorated, for their Red Cross Day in October.
By 1919 the notes were extended and took on a more technical flavour, racing being covered, with, in the pages before me, a photograph of the 1919 Indianapolis Sunbeam. By 1920 Oscar E. Seyd was writing the motoring pages and was loud in his praise of the new-type G.W.K. disc-driven light car. He continued to exert the technical flavour. One interesting picture, in case you thought only one was ever built, is of a fleet of no fewer than five Butterosi cars, three two-seaters, a tourer and a saloon, presumably photographed outside the Paris factory of the Societe Nouvelle des Automobiles Butterosi (which had recently been invaded by fire and flood), as it was stated that “few of these machines have yet reached this country.” In fact, apparently four had crossed the Channel and “were at once driven up to Glasgow by members of the firm’s British staff” (for the Scottish Show). We learn that “the best French practice has been embodied in the design, together with a strong touch of the American,” the car being an “assembled” job with a 12-h.p. Aster engine, four-speed unit gearbox, Atmos carburetter, R.B. magneto with thief-proof key, and Hele-Shaw clutch. The two-seater cost £500, the saloon £645, and the steering could be “readily mounted on either the right or left-hand sides, a point which those who take their cars abroad for extended periods may find a convenience.” What you did about the pedals isn’t stated!
Seyd tried the 1920-model 40/50 Napier landaulette on the then-favourite test route in the Box Hill area and found the performance of this S.U.-carburetted 2 ton 5 cwt. car much to his liking. But praise and write-ups seem to have followed the advertisements very closely!
In 1921 we find the new road signs illustrated—they are those still used in England in 1957. The type of licence-holder we use today was then a new requirement under the revised licensing regulations. Eccles had introduced a new light two-wheeled trailer caravan to meet the increase in caravan popularity. It cost 295 guineas and a complete Ford 1-tonner caravan was offered by Eccles at £695. W. Cooper’s 1921 11-h.p. Morris-Oxford with wood-planked two-seater sporting bodywork was the subject of a write-up— it was said to do 38 m.p.g. and to have climbed Bwlch-y-Groes in the course of the London-Bala Trial—and space was devoted to a careful explanation of how closely the Rolls-Royce manufactured at Springfield, Massachusetts, resembled the Rolls-Royce built at Derby. It was said that Claude Johnson was invited to drive two chassis on his visit to America, one built in the U.S.A., one in England, and say which was which, and that he failed to do so. “Only by examining certain soldering work and nuts and bolts with a magnifying glass,” the story continues, could he have done so. Forty experts from Derby were said to be at Springfield assisting the American Works Superintendent, with some 400 New England mechanics working under them. The 20-Ghost Club may like to know that production of the 40/50 Rolls-Royce in America is given as about to reach some nine cars a week by the middle of 1921.
The Fiat Register Bulletin of last December contained an interesting “Cars I Have Known and Driven,” by E. W. J. Rich (Motor Sport certainly started something when it published its first “Cars I Have Owned ” article in April 1940!). The author refers to such rareties as Airedale, Willys-Knight, Douglas, Austro-Daimler and Steyr. He remarks that he isn’t sure where the Airedale was made. It seems the factory was at Esholt, Yorkshire, and that production occupied the years 1919-1924.
The Mercedes-Benz Club has started a register of spares for pre-war cars of this make. Details from E. O. Hamblen-Thomas, 77, Gresham Street, London, E.C.2.
A great deal of useful data about overhauling a Type 43 Bugatti, in an article by H. G. Conway, and on 4½-litre Invictas, in an article by Donald Monro, will be found in last autumn’s issue of Bugantics, journal of the Bugatti Owners’ Club.
The Trophy for the Top Gear Scottish Rally Championship is, appropriately, a silver replica of that famous Scottish car, the 1922 sports Beardmore.
David Manning has been restoring an interesting Fiat 509A, reputed to have been the centre-piece of the Fiat stand at the 1930 Geneva Show. It is a coupe endowed with front seats reminiscent of the luxurious plush armchairs found in West End cinemas. It was laid up from 1939 until last year.
A rare car, in the form of a straight-eight, front-wheel-drive Alvis, is being built up from a large quantity of parts by G. N. S. Davis, of Cleeve Prior. Data is required.
According to a story in the Berwick Journal, a 1923 22-h.p. Sizaire-Berwick changed hands in Tweedmouth in 1936 for £6 and, after recent use as a taxi, was bought back by the dealer concerned, “in excellent running condition,” for £5. It is said to have been supplied originally to the order of Lady Waldie Griffith of Kelso and has the D-fronted radiator and front-wheel brakes. Unless it is soon saved it is destined for a scrap-yard.
The Light Car Section of the Vintage S.C.C. now has a new Hon. Secretary, John Side, of Yew Tree Cottage, Rotherwick, near Basingstoke, Hampshire, J. Wrigley having resigned. It is hoped that regular monthly social meetings will be resumed when petrol rationing ends. The Light Car Rally is to take place on May 18th, on a “basic” basis if necessary, probably starting and finishing at Thame.