Fragments on forgotten makes



No. 30 –– The Crouch

The Crouch was one of the multitudinous family of light cars which came into being in essentially simple form before the First World War. It survived into peacetime, developed into a sporting 4-cylinder, but went the way of many, failing under the onslaught of mass-produced cars like Morris and Clyno by 1927.

Through the co-operation of Andrew Whyte of Jaguar Cars Ltd., I was able to discus the Crouch at first-hand, with Mr. R. S. Crouch, Bus Sales Manager of Transport Vehicles (Daimler) Ltd., one of the sons of the founder of Crouch Cars Ltd., who was extremely enthusiastic, introducing me to his mother, who remembers clearly the golden age of Brooklands, where the name of Crouch was well-known, and the uncomplicated motoring of the ninteteen-twenties.

The late Mr. John William Fisher Crouch was a trained engineer, who had been apprenticed to the Daimler Company soon after the birth of the motor industry and then served with Siddeley-Deasy, the family possessing, amongst many Brooklands cups and other trophies, a fine silver cup presented to him for exploits at the 1908. Risington Pike Hill-Climb when he was a test-driver for Siddeley-Deasy. In 1912 he decided, with his father, who had gained early experience with a Leon-Bollèe tricar, to set up a company for the manufacture of a simple light car, a cross between the crude cycle cars and cumbersome small cars of the period.

Modest premises were taken in Bishop Street, Coventry, but a move was soon made to a far more ambitious factory at Cook Street, Coventry, known as Tower Gate Works. The site was adjacent to the gateway to Coventry, which still stands, and was, in fact, bisected by the remains of the city wall, which had been proudly preserved, so that it had to remain standing, the stores on one side of it and the remainder of the works on the other side.

The original car was a 3-wheeler, from which was derived a four-wheeler called the Crouch Carette. It had a vee-twin watercooled 85 x 90 mm. (1,018 c.c.) engine of Crouch design and manufacture amidships, driving through a Thermoid cone clutch and 3-speed gearbox by chain to the back-axle. Suspension was by Lanchester-type cantilever springs, steering by rack-and-pinion, and this 8-3/4-cwt. 2/3-seater ran on 650 x 65 mm. tyres and cost only £145 even in 1916, when war costs were inflating prices. Practical rather than handsome, it had a wide, roomy body and a humped-boot covering the machinery. The chassis, gearbox and axles were made in the Tower Gate Works. It was the proud boast of the Crouch Carette that its rear-bonnet could be removed in one minute, rendering “the works” fully accessible.

Ugly-duckling the pre-war Carette may have been, but it began to make its name in reliability trials, Mr. Crouch being a keen advocate of competitions, no doubt encouraged by his early experiences as a driver in such events. It was not until after the Armistice, however, that Crouch cars appeared at Brooklands.

In 1921, James Cocker was running his 86 x 96 mm. (1,115 cc.) primrose Crouch at the Track to some purpose, lapping at 72.7 m.p.h. to win the Light Car Handicap from an A.C. and a Douglas at the Easter Meeting, when he also had the distinction of coming home first in the Junior Sprint Handicap ahead of Malcolm Campbell’s Talbot. This Crouch improved its lap-speed to 76.97 m.p.h. at Whitsun that year, winning the Light Car Short Handicap, while in August it got round at 78.43 m.p.h., to win the 75-m.p.h. Short Handicap from Oates’ Lagonda and Birkin’s D.F.P. This astonishing small car eventually lapped at 79.5 m.p.h.,. gaining several more places.

These years of the early ‘twenties were the hey-day of the marque. The exploits of Cocker attracted other Crouch exponents to Brooklands, such as J. W. Tollady, who had a garage at Oxford, the Parker boys from New College, Oxford, Pressland and others, Tollady running a pre-war mid-engined model, called “Grandpa” in deference to its antiquity. He even essayed the 1922 J.C.C. 200 Mile Race in it and although he had every sort of trouble, as recounted in my “History of Brooklands Motor Course”(pages 96-99) Pressland’s more modern Crouch was running when the course was closed. But the next year Tollady’s old car came home fifth in the 1,100-c.c. class in this long race.

In those gay days Mr. Crouch frequently rode to Brooklands from Coventry in one of the racing cars, which the factory prepared for the owners, or took the family down in one of the later primrose and blue sports models, and his elder son had a Crouch while still at school!

The 90º vee-twin engine was positioned at the front of the chassis in the post-war models, with propeller-shaft transmission. The tubular front axle was sprung on double 1/4-elliptic springs and the steering heads were notably elaborate, incorporating ball races.

The Tower Gate Works now employed perhaps 400 workers. The factory was divided into the machine shop, equipped with Cisco, Flatter, Draper, Newhaven, Lodge & Shipley Fairbank, Putman, Parkson, Colchester, Barnes, Bradford, Hendy Norton, Holbrook and Monarch lathes, driven by leather and Balata belting, a Herbert wet-grinder, a Moreton and Weaver 2-Wheel tool grinder, mandrills, etc., the milling shop, containing Corona radial and Cincinatti pillar drilling machines, a Guest grinding machine, Denbigh and Richard Lloyd horizontal millers, a Churchill Universal miller, Archdale driller, and Richard Lloyd, Darling & Sellars and Webster & Bennett millers, etc., a smithy, a rough stores, a general stores, top stores, four offices with Remington typewriters, heated by gas fires, a carpenter’s shop, subsidiary stores and oil stores, a stores annexe, a shed, the repair shop, the erection shop, the fitting shop and a drawing office. Power came from a Westinghouse 15 b.h.p. 200-volt electric motor running at 940 r.p.m., heating was by gas and slow-combustion stoves and a Satan G2 petrol pump fuelled new Crouch cars from a 200-gallon underground tank.

The earlier bodies were supplied by Carbodies but later Crouch Motors produced their own bodywork, and trimmed and painted in a couple of sectional wooden buildings, the larger measuring 137 ft. x 30 ft., divided into two 112 ft. x 25 ft. shops, in Stoney Stanton Road, to which completed chassis were driven through the streets of Coventry. These sheds had been put up for munitions manufacture during the war; the site they occupied Priestley’s Bros. Garage now stands.

Mr. R. S. Crouch recalls that the racing cars were prepared in the erecting shop and remembers how he and his brother, as boys, once climbed into Cocker’s car and somehow set it going, causing it to break through the wooden wall of the shop before they could stop it. In those days Fred Bennett was carpenter and odd-job man, Carvel and Perry, who later went to Newsome’s, were testers, daily braving the hazards of leaving the works down a narrow road to the blind exit beside Tower Gate, and Sharman, who still works in Coventry, built up back axles.

After 1922 the vee-twin engine was regarded as outmoded and the 4-cylinder Anzani (and sometimes Coventry-Climax) engines were used. At least half the total Crouch production, which was probably around 3,000 cars, was Anzani-engined, and this embraced the famous and very handsome boat-tailed sports model Crouch, which was road-tested in the second issue of this journal, when it was The Brooklands Gazette, in August 1924.

Top speed was around 70 m.p.h. and Alfred Moss drove a racing version at Brooklands, with which he won the 1923 Easter Private Competitors’ Handicap at 65.45 m.p.h. This aluminium Crouch lapped later in the year at nearly 85 m.p.h. From a big picture of it which hangs in Mr. R. S. Crouch’s office the close likeness of Alfred, the father, and Stirling, the son, is strikingly apparent.

At this time Tollady’s astounding 2-cylinder “Grandpa” was nearly as fast, and the Parker brothers, Colin Stuart and P. Thornton were still racing 2-cylinder models. But the 4-cylinder Anzani Crouch had made its mark earlier than this, when B. S. Marshall finished 4th behind the victorious Talbot-Darracq team in the 1922 Coupe Internationale des Voiturettes at Le Mans.

Perry, Wybrew and Healey, who went to Daimler, were amongst the loyal staff at the factory, the last-named a demonstration driver and salesman, of whom a pleasing tale is told. He was taking one of the eyeable sports models to a customer in Torquay and stopped on the way for a haircut. Coming out of the barbers, he was approached by a fruiterer, who wanted to buy the car on the spot. Sales were not so easily made in 1924, so, after a telephone call to Mr. Crouch, the car was sold at the kerbside, some excuse being made to the original customer, who got his sports Crouch in a day or so

A useful publicity stunt was worked in conjunction with a Coventry Carnival, a Crouch being offered as a prize to aid funds for Coventry and North Warwickshire Hospital, the matron of which was a friend of Mr. and Mrs. Crouch and the Crouch family. To publicise the competition, some 20 Crouch 2-seaters and coupés were lined up before the Hospital, past which trams then ran, bearing placards which, collectively, read “The Crouch Car Is The Carnival Prize—1s. Tickets….”

The demise of Crouch Cars Ltd. may be attributed to mass production of cars of lesser quality and the high costs of racing, and the Crouch Motor works were auctioned in February, 1927 – I find myself wondering why an Adler front axle was amongst the 645 items which came under the hammer, and suspect that the 50 “Flexekas” were left over from those used to seal the valve guides of the old 2-cylinder racers! It is very nice to know that although no Crouch has been made for 38 years, the family is very happy to recall the days when these cars were a highly-esteemed Coventry product and that Mrs. Crouch has a modern Ford with the Reg. No. DU 123 which came from an 11.9-b.p. Crouch saloon which remained in use by the family long after the Tower Gate works was demolished. The paved path of the Lady Herbert Memorial Garden covers the old road through the works, on the left of which were the main assembly shops, and, naturally, the aforesaid City wall is still plainly in evidence. And Mr. Crouch’s widow still enjoys motoring.— W. B.
Discoveries.—A 1934 Daimler 2-seater, bought to save it from the scrapheap, is seeking a good home, and another reader has a set of four Edwardian “King of the Road” lamps for sale. Data is sought in respect of a 1933 Vale Special, 1925 18/50 Crossley, Marmon Roosevelt, 24-h.p. Sunbeam, and a “Three Musketeer” M.G. JB 6867. Letters can be forwarded.

Hugh Rose.—It is with deep regret that we announce the death on January 4th at his home of Raymond Hugh Rose, M.I. MECH. E., Technical Director of Cosmic Car Accessories Ltd. Born in Southampton in 1886 and educated at Taunton, Mr. Rose trained with Humber’s, Coventry, became Chief Draughtsman with Sunbeam Motor Co. Ltd., Chief Designer with Belsize Motors, Crossley Motors and Calthorpe Motors successively; joined Bean Cars as Technical Adviser; became Chief Engineer of Guy Motors, Chief Designer with Sunbeam Motors and later with Rileys. Mr. Rose was Technical Director and Designer of Lea-Francis Cars Ltd. of Coventry from 1939 to 1959.