Vintage Postbag, February 1959
I have been reading with considerable interest the correspondence appearing in your columns with reference to the Arab car, the more so as I happen to be the son of the “eminent diamond merchant” who was mentioned in the original article on the matter.
I am afraid I do not at this length of time recall the chassis number of my own, but I do know that I took delivery of it in mid-April or early May of 1926, and that at that time my financial resources were not such as to permit me to have a body built, so that for some weeks—maybe it was months— I drove it as a chassis with a temporary bucket seat mounted upon it. Later a fortunate Stock Exchange speculation permitted me to have a light two-seater body built by a firm in Camden Town who I expect have long since gone out of business.
I can confirm the comments of your correspondents. The tendency to break hall-shafts was marked and was in fact the reason why I finally disposed of the car, but by that time it had had a coupé body built for it by Gordon England, which may well have been too heavy for the rear axle.
I cannot speak as to the r.p.m. because mine was never fitted with a rev.-counter. I do recall a very marked tendency to oil-up plugs. You could not let the engine tick over when K.L.G H.S.3 or H.S.4 were fitted, although they were undoubtedly the best plugs for the car. The trouble was finally cured by fitting a 4s. Bosch.
As to maximum speed, the highest I ever attained, which was betwee Brough and Scotch Corner, was 87 miles an hour, and when I was travelling down from Scotland in convoy with a friend who was driving the sports model 3-litre Bentley, there was very little to choose between the performance of either, and I know that the following morning we had not the slightest difficulty in covering the 100 miles to Leicester in two hours.
My car was undoubtedly manufactured at Letchworth, in a part of the works then occupied by Kryn & Lahy, and it was from the then secretary of that firm that obtained my original introduction to Reid Railton, whose baby, of course, the Arab was.
If anyone knows the whereabouts of the chassis carrying the registration number with which I sign myself, I should indeed be interested.
I am, Yours., etc..
” YO 4022.”
By a rather remarkable coincidence I had written to Reid Railton and to Tim Powell of Universal Power Drives Ltd., asking for particulars of Arab cars, about two months before your October 1958 article appeared.
The former wrote in September from California to say that all the literature he had about the Arab was lost by fire shortly after the war, but he referred me to The Autocar, 1926 or 1927 where an illustrated description was to be found. In reply to various questions of mine, he replied that he designed the whole car himself. It was of 2,000 c.c. About twelve were built. Engine his own design: about 50 b.h.p., semi-elliptic leaf valve springs, the carburetter, the o.h.c. The only association with Parry Thomas lay in the fact that Railton had previously been Thomas’ assistant for several years.
Tim Powell’s car differed in many ways from the one owned about the same time by my brother, the late Chota McGuffie. My brother’s firm, which was then called either A. P. Compton & Co. Ltd. or Arrow Coachworks Ltd., and was at Wimbledon, built the body of each car. The two chassis came from Thompson & Taylor’s, where they had lain for a year or two unused and not completed. My brother’s car was not nearly as low-built as the other. I remember going out in it and it was an exceedingly exciting vehicle with amazing acceleration, and, it seems, a (tuned) speed of 94 m.p.h. It became a constructive total loss after hitting a lamp-standard near Buckingham Palace.
Tim Powell says he seems to remember that the engines were designed and developed by Reid Railton but he thought they were only of 1,100 c.c. The clutches gave considerable trouble. He has one of the valve springs to this day. He writes: “I had tremendous fun with mine and got the thrill of my young life when I showed it to Reid and he told me that if he had kept one for himself, he would have done exactly as I had.”
I am, Yours, etc.,
On reading of the proposed ” Boxing Night Informal” and seeing a reference to Amilcar in the list of cars entered for the 1924 trial, I thought that my own car may have been referred to, but on looking at my “gold” I find that the date was 1926.
There has been a lot of correspondence recently in ” Vintage Postbag ” regarding the Rhode, Salmsons and Amilcars. My Rhode was a very smart affair with an overhead camshaft engine and a beautifully made aluminium body. The exhaust pipe, in 2-in, copper, ran alongside at high level and was bound with asbestos string at the point where one entered the car. Performance on the open road was, for its time, very good and not bad by any standard, its only fault being a tendency to oil up in traffic, and it was very difficult finding plugs to meet both conditions.
After the Rhode I had one or two Salmsons and then turned over to Amilcars. These were, in my opinion, wonderful little cars. The side-valve engine had a characteristic something like that of the Morris Minor side-valve, in so far as it would rev. tremendously but had very little torque.
On my last car I had an overhead valve conversion fitted by Messrs. Boon & Porter, of Barnes and with this conversion I succeeded in getting a “gold” in the 1927 Edinburgh. It picked-up the horsepower and torque considerably, but the engine became a little bit tricky in regard to valve springs and I always had about a dozen spare springs in reserve. The enclosed photograph of this particular car might be of interest to you.
I am, Yours, etc.,
G. H. Buckle
I enclose a picture of my Amilcar which will delight the heart of Mr. Hobbs, your December correspondent. I am sorry I am unable to offer him a ride in it. It is a most exciting experience. The model is a 1926 Petit Sport with a front axle of at Grand Sport to provide the necessary four-wheel brakes.
We were delighted to read the article by Mr. Keith Street in the December 1958 issue and can assure him that there is no sign of his Rhode car either in Singapore or Malaya. Nor the Sunbeam, for that matter. Lim Peng Han has the remains of a Bugatti which might be the same one Mr. Street saw in 1932.
We have some fine vintage cars in Malaya, including a genuine 1915 model-T in absolute original condition. This belonged to an old Chinaman who resided in Serendah and he was so fond of it he built his house round it. It is now part of the kitchen, like the domestic stove, and whoever removes it will have of necessity to remove the gable end as well.
I am, Yours, etc.,
G.D. Needham, Malayan Vintage Car Register
I have seen your correspondent’s letter referring to the transmission anchorage of the Marendaz Special being the only car, other than Armstrong Siddeley, employing the same type.
There was an essential difference: the Marendaz Special had a very large-diameter spherical ball on the front of the gearbox and inside this the universal joint, taking the drive from the engine, was located. In this way there was no relative movement as between the drive and anchorage.
On the other hand, the Armstrong Siddeley cars had a very small ball fixed to the box which moved around a different centre to the drive. This type was pioneered by use on Marseal cars, 1919 to 1925, in conjunction with a joint basically the same as the presumer of the Rzeppa joint of the present time.
I am, Yours. etc.,
Capt. D.M.K. Marandaz, for Marendaz Engineering Corporation Ltd.
The most probable explanation of the three-letter number-plate on the old Rover (p. 24, January Motor Sport) is that it belongs to the adjoining county of Huntingdon (EW). The suffix “E” was probably allotted to a local garage. Surely no cars were ever made in Huntingdonshire ?
As with some of the ordinary index marks, there seems to have been an effort to make the early trade plates self-evident, but practice varied from county to county. It should not be too difficult to compile a definitive list of early trade plates. An authoritative work on index marks is badly needed; few of the published lists are really complete or up to date.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Perhaps I may be able to help solve the puzzle of the three-letter number-plate on a 1906 car.
I can distinctly remember some three-letter trade number-plates issued to garages. The EW-E stands for Huntingdonshire, which is not far from where the picture was taken. The letters EW are the index marks for this county and these trade plates were no doubt issued to a garage with five or more sets of them, going from EW-A right to EW-E and beyond. The car is a 1906 6-h.p. Rover.
I am, Yours, etc.
Before we lose our heads in a rather childish argument about Trojan prices and performance, could we consider the matter rationally for a moment ?
Trojans, like other commodities, are subject to the age-old laws of supply and demand. A few years ago, when the Trojan Owners’ Club was formed, there was a marked revival of interest in these vehicles, and some of the few then available changed hands at quite high figures. Now that more have been discovered, prices have quite naturally tended to fall. With a relatively small number of buyers and sellers at any one time, there can be nothing like a regular “market,” and hence no “market price.” If someone wants a thing badly and in a hurry, anyone who has one to sell is in luck and gets a good price — and vice versa!
Let us admit that a Trojan is not everybody’s cup of tea. In the “open market” it is worth nothing and no ordinary dealer would look at one for re-sale. Nevertheless, it has certain definite virtues which appeal to a limited number of users, and, incidentally, cannot be found, to the best of my knowledge, in any other car. Why should these users be jeered at because they happen to want these qualities and are willing to pay for them? A Rolls-Royce or a Bentley would be quite useless to me for the kind of motoring I enjoy on my Trojan, but I am not silly enough to suggest that on that account their proper place is the scrap dump.
I gather that there is something in the air about a race for Trojans. Quite good fun, perhaps, but what does it prove ? Nobody pretended, even in their heyday, that Trojans were fast; their forte was rough going and steep, sticky hills, and in this respect few cars, even today, can beat them. There is no such thing as a perfect car, and we all have our likes and dislikes, though they may sometimes seem queer to others. Live and let live, say I.
Finally, I should like to emphasise that I am writing purely as a private Trojan owner, and not as Chairman of the Trojan Owners’ Club.
I am, Yours, etc.,
What is reputed to be a 1906 Imperial manufactured in Manchester has recently been unearthed.
Any information which would assist in a definite identification and, it is hoped, eventual restoration, would be greatly appreciated.
I am, Yours, etc..
I read with interest the letter from D.W. Peacock, and I would like to add futther “coals to the fire” with regard to the three-letter registration numbers.
On page 342, volume XIV, of the Times History of the War (1914-18) will be found a photograph of a “Campion” motor-cycle clearly bearing the registration number “AML 56.”
I am, Yours, etc.,
Having read in your columns of the various uses to which vintage cars are put, I feel that your readers may be interested in the enclosed photograph. This shows my 1926 33/180 Mercedes coupled to a trailer-borne Caravel sailing yacht. The car weighs 2-1/2 tons and the boat nearly as much. You can imagine the combination is rather fearsome.
I am currently overhauling the engine of the car and would be interested to hear from any of your readers with experience of similar models.
I am, Yours, etc.,
I wonder if any of your readers, perhaps particularly old employees of The Sunbeam Company of Wolverhampton, can help to solve a minor mystery which has puzzled me ever since I first began to take an interest in motor car history some 35 years ago.
About 1927 there lay in the premises of a breaker-cum-dealer in Annandale Street, Edinburgh, a small Sunbeam two-seater of unmistakable early Coatalen design. This car had an R.A.C. rating of 10.4 h.p. The car appeared to be a sealed-down version of the Coupe de l’Auto cars of 1912 and appeared to be of about that date of manufacture. Radiator, lamps, windscreen fittings, etc., were of brass, unplated, and artillery wheels were fitted.
A curious feature of the car was the centre-gate gear change, whereas practically all cars of that date had right-hand change. I remember this car very well as it fascinated me and as an impoverished student I spent much time scheming how I might legitimately acquire it. The coachwork was of authentic Sunbeam construction and the whole car bore evidence of a works production job without later modification,
The engine was of typical Sunbeam design of the period, the cylinders being cast in pairs with non-detachable heads and a wealth of brass and copper piping was in evidence. The gearbox had four forward speeds.
The whole car was tiny and could just accommodate driver and passenger. Now it is, I think, certain that no such car was ever Iisted by Sunbeams and no reference to it appears in “Motoring Entente.”
What then is the explanation? Was it a “one-off ” produced at the whim of the “patron” or was it the prototype of a light car which never went into production?
Perhaps some of your readers who lived in Edinburgh at this period remember this little car and can vouch for the fact that I have not “dreamt it up.” It is just possible that this might unearth an interesting little bit of Sunbeam history.
Alas, I do not know what happened to it. Almost certainly it was subsequently broken up.
I am, Yours, etc.,