Vintage Postbag, February 1967

The Price of Vintage Cars


Mr. C. A. Winder’s rather hysterical defence of excessive profits on the resale of vintage cars should be an adequate warning to would-be purchasers. No one objects to a healthy profit but a 100% mark-up in a low-overhead, high-turnover business such as motor-trading, is, to say the least, deplorable.

Bearsted, Kent — DONALD C. ROBERTSON


Mr. C. A. Winder in Vintage Postbag—” On the Dealer’s Side” —accuses Mr. Robertson of being naive. One searches in vain for a (polite) adjective to describe his letter and the views expressed therein. Who is ever going to buy a car from him now? I hope he will not be too offended if most of the Paddock moves up-wind of Winder at the next Silverstone meeting.

In any case, he has missed the point of this correspondence. Nobody objects to a dealer making a reasonable profit on a transaction. What is in question is the vastly inflated profit made in some cases by certain copers who do little or nothing to improve the car, but cash in on the gullibility of the public. If I read Mr. Winder’s letter aright he is not ashamed to include himself in this category.

Cheriton Fitzpaine — P. E. L. CARMICHAEL


Wishful Thinking!


You may not have seen the following under ” Byfleet ” in the 1966 revised and reset edition of “Surrey”, one of the King’s England County books published by Hodder & Stoughton and originally edited by the late Arthur Mee.

” It has little chance to forget the Age of Power, with planes overhead and cars careering ten abreast round the three miles of Brooklands, not far off.”

London, SW20 — D. GILBERT.


The Rolls-Royce Driving School


Lanchesters, as in so many facets of motors and motoring, preceded Rolls-Royce School of Motoring by some 15 years.

I enclose a Drivers’ Manual with photograph of a school of drivers on an outing, together with the outline of the training programme. Other interesting features in the Manual are diagrams with instructions on inducing and controlling a skid … with particular reference to parking facing the way you arrive! Also on “How to take a ford.”

Incidentally, many of the hints on driving would find their place in a 1967 Manual. This Manual was issued with 1903 Lanchesters.

Hayling Island — ALEN WARNER.

[I had an idea that someone would write to tell us of another Instructional School besides the one still operated by Rolls-Royce. The Lanchester School obviously trained men who had never previously handled a motor car, as well as those who wished to fully understand Lanchesters. Indeed, the Manual referred to states: ” It is not the inability to drive a motor car in particular that we find deficient in drivers in training; it is frequently inability or unsuitability to drive anything at all.” There was an eyesight test and scholars were rejected for “general slovenliness or bad time-keeping.” Three or four lessons were regarded as sufficient “to render a man fit to take charge.” As to “Fording,” the Lanchester must have been a strong car, for rushing an 18 in. stream at 20-25 m.p.h. was advocated. “… We have known the front wheels lifted almost clear of the ground by the impact … without any further consequences than the temporary silencing of the bell and horn ….”—ED]


The Zephyr Light Car


The other day I came across some information which you and your readers may be interested in.

My great uncle, along with two other gentlemen, all of them engineers, formed a company to make motor cars. Their names were James, Talbot and Davison—Davison being my great uncle.

They owned a small works in Lowestoft and originally made fishing tackle of various kinds. The work started in about 1912 and after a large amount of development they produced a vehicle. It was named the “Zephyr,” and its full name was the James, Talbot and Davison Zephyr Light Car. Unfortunately, just as production commenced, World War I broke out and the assembly of cars had to stop. Only two cars were made, so it is unlikely they are in existence today. With the war, the firm, like many others, was turned over to the making of munitions. Due to the war the capital was lost and the company was then liquidated. What happened after this is not known.

I have included a catalogue of 1916 showing the pistons the company made, also going under the name of “Zephyr.” In 1914 a Mr. A. J. Hancock took the world’s records for 3-9 hours and for 300-700 miles in a 25 h.p. Prince Henry Vauxhall equipped with Zephyr pistons.

As far as I know, Mr. James and Mr. Talbot are now dead, Ernest Davison living in America since 1945/1946 until he died in 1959.

I would be interested to know if any readers have, or know of, any information of this short-lived make.

Solihull — P. S. GAZEY (aged 15)


Quite A Party!


Talking of engines has brought back to mind a party I attended in Coventry as an apprentice when Daimler gave this party to about 2,000 employees to celebrate the trials of the Silent Knight Engine, with free concert and free drinks. Now I come to think about it, it was about the maddest thing that any firm could do, they must have recognised what the results would be.

I think it might be of some interest to you so will try and relate how it came about. Somewhere round about 1905-1909 an American, Mr. Knight, with his chauffeur, drove into Daimler’s Sandy Lane works in an open touring car painted chocolate colour which was fitted with a sleeve-valve engine. He gave several Directors a run and then we had orders to remove engine, strip down and clean and lay all parts out for inspection on tables. Then the drawing office people came down to check and redesign any parts thought necessary. In due course a 22 h.p. and a 38 h.p. engine were built and bench tested. As far as I remember the cast-iron sleeves caused no end of trouble as the surfaces could not be kept correctly lubricated and it was not until ground sleeves made from special steel were introduced with special spiral grooves for lubrication that the troubles were overcome.

After the modification two engines were run for a week non-stop under R.A.C. supervision. The firm then issued a challenge to any other firm that could do the same. I don’t think this was ever taken up. After the bench tests the engines were fitted into chassis, driven to Brooklands and driven 2,000 miles, then back to the works to be stripped down for inspection. After this a luncheon was given at the works to which all the heads of other motor firms attended and then were shown the engine. A week or so after, the firm took over the drill hall and all employees were invited to a free concert and free drinks. I attended, with some more apprentices. All went well for the first half-hour then all the men wanted to sing was “Oh, oh, Antonio.” The concert packed up, the Directors disappeared, the men dispensed with the waiters and just helped themselves from huge casks of beer at the back of the hall. Fights broke out, glasses were thrown through windows, police were called but were helpless to control 2,000 men. If I remember rightly the fire brigade arrived and hoses were used. The following evening the local paper came out with a headline “The Silent (K)night,” with a cartoon showing the fighting and glasses being thrown about and several verses and this verse.


The Daimler has an engine,

‘Twas called the Silent Knight.

It went for six days running,

And all was calm and bright.

The Company shouted ” Glory be, “

This feat we’ll celebrate.

Of how ’twas done, the story we

In jingle will relate.

The Daimler gave a party.

They had piano playing

And speakers too, but very few

Could hear what they were saying.

On Friday in the Drill Hall met

Two thousand ” Hands” or more,

And most of them got very wet

As down the drink did pour.

The singers tried their hardest

To get a decent show.

The audience howled louder:

Oh, oh, Antonio.

And all of them grew the merrier

The more drink they did mop.

And some fought with empty bottles,

Till the constables made them stop.

The Daimler gave a party.

Where is that party now ?

Where is the flowing whisky,

And the once infernal row?

Gone when the dawn of morning

Breaks on the scene of the fight.

Smashed chairs and empties broken,

The joys of The Silent Night.

This was one of the most exciting parties I have ever attended and one I shall always remember. I thought perhaps this latter episode might be of interest to you to file among your records of engine tests.

Cheltenham — B. G. FIELDING


Those Daimler Double-Sixes


I was extremely interested to read your article on the Double-Six Daimler. I have always had a great weakness for the Sleeve-Valve Daimler, and have all the sales-literature on the model right through the years from 1924 and there is something very odd about the particular car that you went to see; it seems to me, from the photograph of the engine, that the original power unit has been removed and a much earlier one installed.

In your article you say that the largest V12 was dropped about the time this car was made; I am sorry to contradict you, but the Double-Six 50 as it was known was still being made in 1934 and I think could be obtained to special order in 1935. In 1935 King George V had his last and this was fitted with overhead valves and shortly after Queen Mary had an overhead valve one. This is now in the Motor Museum at Brighton, but it has lost its original power unit, unfortunately.

The Double-Six 50 was to replace the 57 h.p. six and came out in 1926. A saloon was made with a body very similar to that which had been fitted on the Austin 20 and known as the Ranelagh Coupe, which my mother had had with the big commode at the back for the spare wheels.

The Daimler Double-Six 50 saloon was known as Model W. It cost £2,450 and could be had as a four-light saloon with fixed head or a six-light with folding head for the same figure; both models had the commode at the back a la Austin 20. The letter W denoted the chassis type, which was the smallest of the three; the others were P, with a wheelbase of 13 ft. 7 in., and 0, 12 ft. 11 in. The model was guaranteed for five years but, owing to troubles, this was soon withdrawn. The Double-Six 50 was virtually two 25/85 engines mated together. I remember going out in a saloon with my mother when the model appeared; in 1928 a smaller Double-Six appeared, to be known as Double-Six 30; this was virtually two 16/55 engines mated together. The Double-Six 30 was offered in four alternative chassis lengths, O having a wheelbase of 12 ft. 1 in., V 11 ft. 10 in., M 11 ft. 9 in., and Q 10 ft. 11 in. At the time I am talking about we lived at 62 Eaton Place, Belgravia, and all these great cars were an everyday sight to me as Belgravia was then supposed to be the best part of London. We garaged our cars, an Austin 20 Ranelagh and a Hupmobile Straight-8 with coachwork by Victor Broom of Rochester Row, Camden Town, in Belgrave Mews South, in a large lock-up which we rented from Lady Cory, who had a 40/50 (Silver Ghost) Rolls-Royce and a New Phantom. Most of the cars in the mews were Daimlers, however, and our chauffeur, Charlie Dredge, who is still alive, aged 81, was a very friendly little man and got on well with the other chauffeurs. Next door to us in the garages was a chauffeur called Dogman and he had a Double-Six 50 P-type Limousine, a 35/120, a 25/85, and his own Clyno.

Exactly opposite to our garage was a Double-Six 30 (YX 195); the chauffeur’s name was Church, and the car was a 1928 model-Q with an H. J. Mulliner Weymann body very similar to the four-light fabric body that was a standard model on the Sunbeam 20 of the period.

YX 195 belonged to a Col. McGaw who lived in Chester Square and was a wonderful car; it was finished in primrose and black and went everywhere. Brian McGaw and I were at the same prep school in Sussex, and our Hupmobile could not keep up with the Daimler, which would do about 84 m.p.h.; by 1939 it was still being used by Col. McGaw and had done over 200,000 miles. It had been everywhere, including I believe China, and right across the States, also to Norway and Sweden as well as to Scotland many times. When the war came it was sold to the A.R.P. and made into an ambulance, but during its life it only had one overhaul.

The Double-Six was generally considered a bad model, but it continued in production up till 1934 (my last catalogue). In 1930, though, the engine was completely redesigned (this must have taken place in 1929) as the whole of the cylinder head arrangement and carburetters and induction pipes were altered to be the same as those on the new 25 “High Performance” model, which superseded the 25/85 and was made for owner-drivers.

For 1931 the Double-Six 50 had a shorter stroke, 104 mm., instead of 114 mm., and it continued with this till the end, but for 1930 a new and third type of Double-Six was introduced. This was known as the 30/40 and had the same stroke as the bigger model, which had been renamed 40/50. The R.A.C. ratings were 49.4 and 40.18. The Double-Six 30 was also continued up till 1932 but it does not appear in the 1933 catalogue; only the two larger ones were still made.

It is owing to this change of engine that makes me wonder if the car that you have seen has lost its original power unit and been fitted with one of an earlier type, as the photograph that you show is identical to the pictures in the earlier catalogues that I have, i.e. 1926-1929.

Incidentally you say there is no means of priming the sleeves on this particular engine; actually there is, and if you look at the photograph you will see that above the induction pipe there are two, what look like compression taps. These are supposed to be filled with engine oil when making a cold start, and then turned as soon as the engine fires so it sucks in the oil. Later this arrangement was done away with and an oil primer was fitted, which could be operated either by hand or by foot.

I think I am right in sayilig that there were three of these special Double-Six 50s built in conjunction with Reid Railton. One was a four-door saloon with two spares at the rear; I saw this car at a hotel we stayed in on the outskirts of Edinburgh about eight years ago. It had lost its original engine and had if I recall a Buick 8 instead, a great pity. Then there is the one you have seen and the one illustrated in ” World’s Classic Cars.” Personally I suppose it is a matter of opinion, I always thought all three were absolutely hideous.

When I was at Oundle in 1933 one of the boys in my house, Foreman by name, from Chelmsford, had a father who was a great Daimler man. They had a new 25 saloon as an everyday car, also a wonderful Double-Six 30 boat-decked tourer with Arthur Mulliner body, painted cream with all copper fittings; it was a beautiful car.

Hooper built a very fine owner-driver saloon on the 50 h.p. for the last year it was made, priced at £1,895. I could have bought one of these from Stratstone in their Store Street Depot in 1939 very cheaply, but could not have afforded to even license it at the time

Of the sleeve-valve models the best was without doubt the 35/120. It could be had in five different chassis types for the year 1928; the V and S types were specially for owner-drivers and in S type, the model would exceed 85 m.p.h., but very very few were sold.

King George V ordered new 57 h.p. models in 1924 to replace his 1910 cars; the 1924 models were later converted into Double-Sixes. Queen Mary had a Double-Six 30 but I am not sure of the chassis type. The last Double-Six 50 that I saw in a showroom for sale for a very large sum in 1947-48 was near Wandsworth; it had a very ugly limousine body by Windover of a type that was standard Windover design and appeared on 6-cylinder Daimlers and on the Rolls-Royce New Phantom.

It is a tragedy that none exists today, but Daimler made so many models and spares became difficult too, and once I was told by a breaker that he would rather scrap a Daimler than any other make, as there was so much copper and brass in them apart from aluminium, and one Daimler paid better than eight Morris-Oxfords!

Your article on the Packard 12 interested me too, as my uncle, R. A. Beaumont-Thomas, had two which he imported from the States. He bought them while on a visit there in 1936, and one had a de ville type body by Le Baron. I see someone remembers this car, but refers to my uncle as “Messrs. Beaumont and Thomas,” which is all wrong. He was not a firm but a real connoisseur of fine machinery. I cannot tell you how many Packards in all that he had, but I remember a very fine Sport Phaeton in 1924.

Grouville, Jersey. — W. J. OLDHAM

[Much of this has appeared previously in MOTOR SPORT and in Profile No. 40 but is repeated for current consumption. The Double-Six 50 was dropped as I stated, to be revived later in poppet-valve form. Mr. Burnett’s low-chassis car which was described in the December Motor Sport was, I think, built originally with the first series of engine. The Buick-engined car is not thought to have had the Railton-devised low chassis.—ED ]



I enjoyed reading the article on the Daimler Double-Six in Motor Sport (December), also the very informative letter from Mr. Tony Bird, a former regular driver of one.

I enclose a photo, taken at Esher in the summer of 1933, which shows a P-type double six 50 h.p. car, which was being used by an American millionaire. It belonged to Daimler Hire who kept a few of these giants for visiting tycoons. It may perhaps interest your younger readers to know that — apart from the fabulous Bugatti “Royale” — the Daimler P-type 50 was the largest private car ever marketed. Available during the period 1926-1930, it had a wheelbase of 13 ft. 7 in., and a weight in excess of 3 tons.

Only a little smaller were the larger examples of the 35/120 (6 cylinder) model. This was in production during the period 1925-1931 and a wide range of chassis types was offered, the two largest being the N-type (low radiator) and P-type (high radiator). Both had a wheelbase of 13 feet and a weight of nearly 3 tons. I believe the 35/120 was considered the best car made by Daimlers between the wars. Although not in the giant class, other very big Daimlers of those days were the O and R-type 35; the P-type 28-85 (the largest 25 h.p. car ever made); the O-type double six 30; and the A-type 30 (6 cylinders). A point of interest is that although some specialist bodies were fitted, the great majority had standard landaulet bodies made by Daimlers. Looking back one wonders whether it was good policy to produce so many different types of chassis.

I lived in London for most of the period 1927-39 and throughout that time, numbers of these cars, both privately owned and Daimler Hire, were very much in evidence at all big occasions. It was a grand sight to see a string of them pulling away from a fashionable hotel after some big society function. With their splendid appearance and highly distinctive exhaust note they certainly formed a most impressive feature of the pre-war London traffic scene. Incidentally I learnt to drive on a Daimler Q-type 20/70—only a small car compared to those mentoned—it had a rakish 2-seater body, with gold-plated radiator, lamps, etc. It was about seven years old when I got it and was obtained for a modest sum but gave much pleasure.

Exmouth — A.H.C. PROCTER