Ballot in the 1921 GP
I was interested for two reasons to read G. L. Easterbrook Smith’s letter concerning Ralph de Palma’s Ballot in the 1921 Grand Prix dc l’ACF at Le Mans and his quotation from Peter de Paolo’s description of the race in his book.
Firstly, I owned for a short period the car that has recently been so carefully restored by Mr. Humphrey Milling and, secondly, when I was in New York early in 1957 I had the good fortune to meet Peter de Paolo at Rene Dreyfus’s restaurant “Le Chanteclair”. Even if you, Sir, take a report by the late W. F. Bradley with “large pinches of salt”, a statement by de Palma’s nephew, who rode as his uncle’s mechanic in the race, deserves greater credibility. You question how the modification to the gear-lever could have been made without Ernest Ballot’s knowledge or consent. It was done in New York when the car as over there for de Palma to drive at Beverly Hills, Havana and Indianapolis before it returned to France for the Grand Prix.
It has to be remembered that Ralph de Palma’s car differed from the others in the team. Apart from the central gear-lever, the braking system was different. The cars driven by Wagner and Chassagne had Hispano type servo operation whereas de Palma’s did not. Peter de Paolo told me that the car had a lower back axle ratio which allowed the engine to reach 3,750 r.p.m. whereas the other cars were limited to 3,500 r.p.m. It also had a replacement crankshaft made by Harry Miller after the original one broke at Beverly Hills. The car was maintained by de Palma’s own team of mechanics plus Jules Le Boux who had been sent over from the Ballot factory. The other members of the team were the two de Paolo brothers, Johnny and Peter, Joe Brown and George Murdock. Uncle Ralph seems to have exacted a high standard of work and discipline from the members of hits team.
Beaconsfield. A. S. Heal
(On Mr. Heal’s authority I am willing to accept the authenticity of the central gear-lever – Ed.)
I have read many articles in Motor Sport covering the history of the Vintage era in which I am mainly interested and which gave me much pleasure. But I seem to now have only 1957-66 editions left in my possession. Has there ever been mention or history on the design details etc., covering the Imperia slide-valve car of Belgium origin, produced in the ‘thirties and assembled at the old GWK works in Maidenhead (my old home town)? I remember only seeing two models in use locally, a saloon and tourer, with vee pointed radiators I also recall the prominent signboard alongside the main Bath road before reaching Maidenhead Bridge over the river near the railway arch at Taplow which read as near as I can remeinber
“Home of the Imperia, the only slide-valve car in the world”
Perhaps a reader might possess some knowledge about this somewhat rare car with unusual engine valve design (short-lived as it was).
Chichester. P. A. King
Miniatures News in the December issue contained a reference to children’s pedal cars produced by Leslie Wilson of Shelsley Walsh fame and based on the 12/50 Alvis which won the 1923 JCC 200-Miles Race. In fact, these toy cars were approximately half-scale models of my 1924 200-Miles Race Alvis and even carried the correct registration number, RW 12. They were beautifully made with steel flitch plated ash chassis and 16-inch pneumatic-tyred wire wheels. The dummy engine was fitted with real sparking plugs and the body shape was faithfully reproduced in polished aluminium. Leslie Wilson manufactured about 50 of these cars which were priced at 15 guineas. Apparently a more realistic price would have been nearer £25 so the project was not a financial success.
I have always hoped to find one of these pedal cars as it would be just the thing for VSCC events when oil supplies finally dry up but not surprisingly they all seem to have disappeared without trace.
Harrow. Eric Benfield
30/98 and 3-Litre
Enclosed are two photos of a 30/98 Vauxhall which I purchased in 1933 from a Mr. Penfold who owned a garage in Kakabya, Kenya, then the centre of a minor gold rush which I had been persuaded by a friend in the Kenya police to join, and had come out front England to do so.
Since before coming I had sold a 3-litre Bentley in England I thought that the Vauxhall would in some measure compensate for my very considerable sense of loss. This in fact it did.
The car was a 1924 – possibly earlier – E type with side-valve engine which preceded the later OE type with overhead-valve engine.
I think I am correct in saying that it had a 3-1 back axle ratio.
I had many hundreds of miles of trouble-free motoring over the sometimes appalling roads in Kenya in those far-off days and I must say that the car made a very good substitute for my Bentley.
Then came tragedy – the outside handbrake operated on the transmission shaft between the clutch housing and the gearbox and one day this shaft sheared – I supposed the metal was tired.
The car was towed into a garage in Eldoret owned by two brothers – Lofty and Tom Pretty – and there it was left to moulder in a corner.
I believe the part was ordered from England but I never remember hearing whether it arrived or not or whether the car was put on the road again. Not long afterwards in early 1936 I returned to England myself.
I fed constrained to add the now familiar adage “if only I had known”.
The whole point of this letter is to try to find out if any reader remembers this car or knows what happened to it, or if it still exists. If so – please write.
The registration number looks like A2201 in one of the photos, whether this was English or Kenyan I have no recollection.
The 3-litre Bentley referred to I saw listed in the Bentley Drivers Club list of owners and cars, the registration number being GR3161.
In – 1972 – 40 years almost to the day after parting with it – I went up to a garage outside Leominster in Herefordshire to see it.
The rather beautiful boat-shaped body by Felbert et Fils of Paris was no more. I could just distinguish the chassis no. NR514 on the dash and the flared front wings were the same. A restoration was being carried out.
S. Coast, Natal. R. W. Langton
A Lea-Francis on the “Monte”
As a regular reader of Motor Sport I notice from time to time you ask readers if they can identify certain cars from photographs you reproduce.
With this in mind I am enclosing a photograph (a copy from the original which I have in my possession) which may be of interest to you.
The car is a 1938 (3.12.38) Lea Francis D/H Coupe which was entered in the Monte Carlo Rally by Miss Violet Wilby who is on the left of the photograph.
Miss Wilby, who now lives in Gloucestershire, kept the car until 1964 taking it back to the continent several times. Originally finished in pale blue the car was camouflaged during the war and used for the Ministry around the London area.
I purchased the car in 1974, reputed to be the only one of its type left in this country, in virtual scrap condition as it had stood in the open for several years and have since completely stripped it down to the last “nut and bolt” – it is now stored away until such time as I win the Pools or some other unlikely event!!
I have had the Leaf computerised at Swansea and it is now classed as a “2-axle-rigid-body coupe”!
Cheadle Hulme. Ian Williamson
Two Historic Vehicles
Enclosed please find two pictures which may be of interest to you. The first is of the Silver Ghost armoured car “Slievenamon” which escorted Michael Collins in his Leyland Eight at the time of his fatal ambush at Beal na Blath, Co. Cork. The gun inexplicably and controversially jammed and the Scottish gunner McPeake could offer no explanation for it. The Ghost is now stored in the Army Museum at the Curragh.
The second photograph is of Jimmy Foyle’s 1923 Fiat 510S. This has an Italian coachbuilt body and is a two-seater with dickey. According to Jimmy Foyle, the flat radiator was optional at the time and was the same as that on the Super Fiat. The car was imported secondhand to England in 1928 and is YE registered. It was later brought to Carrick-on-Suir where Jimmy found it and rebuilt it to its present state with the help of his Australian Fiat friends. The only non-original item currently on the car is an Autovac and having read the article in November Motor Sport, he has decided to keep the Autovac and not risk any inflammatory demise by reverting to the dashboard tank.
Thank you for an interesting magazine.
Kilkenny. Kieran White
Re-Registering Old Cars
Doctor Shapland’s difficulties recorded in your December issue are directly contrary to my own experience in similar circumstances.
My experience was with a DE Type Delage which spent its working life in Australia, was dismantled prior to my buying it and which reached me as a bare chassis frame and a heap of pieces.
After rebuilding I took myself along to the local taxation office where the staff have suffered my particular brand of insanity over many years with great tolerance, and from whom I have always received great courtesy and assistance.
Having explained the situation to them that here was a 1922 motor car which had never been registered in the UK it was suggested to me that a 1978 registration number would look a bid odd, and if I would leave the matter with them they would seek Swansea’s authority to allocate something more suitable. I repeat, this suggestion came from the tax office rather than myself, the car had not been M.o.T. tested, neither did I wish to tax it at that particular time.
A few weeks later I received a letter from the local tax office informing me of the registration number – two letters, four numerals – which had been allocated and that in due course the registration document would follow, and it did. The local police came along to identify the Delage against the import entry, which, thank heaven, I got with the “heap”, so I was in business.
I write for the sake of “fair do’s” and to make the point that there is sometimes gold in that which does not always glister.
Just in case any rules were bent in my case I have no reason to suppose they were I would ask the Editor not to publish my name and address, and sign myself “Fortune“.
(Name and address supplied – Ed.)
What is it?
Ref. Motor Sport, Dec. 1978 – page 1785 – “What Is It?”. Rollsamel – one word – was the trade mark used by Messrs. Postans and Morley Bros. Ltd. of Trevor Street, Birmingham for their cycle and motorcycle enamel – until around 1927/28. At an earlier date, this firm’s trade was more associated with cars and in those days, their Trevor Motor Grey was the correct colour for Morris Cowleys. Of the old paint trade car colours, only French Grey was marketed – colours such as Vauxhall Purple, Humber Grey or Napier Green, giving way to Motor Crimson, Motor Scarlet, Saxe Blue and Dark Motor Blue.
From memory, the makers of Robbialac objected to their marketing package in court and their narrow necked tin was replaced by a more orthodox one containing brushing cellulose, marketed under the name of Celamel.
Rolls-Royce Ltd. had no connection with this firm, and the pseudo Sankey wheel was used for advertising purposes.
Cwmduad, Carmarthen. Philip S. Smith
A Solution To A Problem
In reply to your correspondent Mr. R. Meere (Dec. issue) the product to which he refers would appear to be “ROLLSAMEL” (one word). I see that it was being advertised in The Motor Cycle dated June 11th 1925 as “This New Enamel” but without the manufacturer’s name and address.
However The Motor Cycle and Cycle Trader (May 21st 1925) gives the sole manufacturers as Postans and Morley Bros., Ltd., Trevor Street Works, Birmingham. There seems to be no reason why any connection with Rolls-Royce should be assumed. It is not unusual to incorporate “Rolls” in a trade name (e.g. Rolls Razor) and there is every reason to suppose that if “R-R” did give their blessing to any particular product they would expect their title Rolls-Royce given in full.
“Rollsamel” was in fact a registered trade mark (445269). By 1930 Postans, Morley Bros. and Birtles Ltd. were hard at it pushing “Celamel”. I seem to recall sending to them for a free sample, and their replying that due to unforeseen postal restrictions the samples would not be available. In order to be able to give some idea as to how long “Rollsamel” remained on the market would mean thumbing through many old issues of The Blue ‘Un and The Trader since my index of references compiled over a period of many years has its limits.
Amongst my own curios I have what must have been an advertising paper-weight. It takes. the form of a single-cylinder, automatic inlet valve De Dion engine beautifully cast even to the hexagon nuts and the valve spring. It is about 5½” high and weighs approximately 12 ounces, The plinth bears the inscription “EXECUTE 40,000 FOIS* TOUS L’ONT COPIE AUCUN, NE L’A EGALE*” I was away from school the day they did French but presumably a loose translation would be “40,000 made, Imitated by everyone equalled by none”.
I do not suggest that these items are particularly rare – if they are how is it that I have one? But I would be interested to know how old it is and also in what metal is it cast? – my guess is an alloy of lead and antimony.
Tywardreath. J. S. Bacon
(These engines were issued by De Dion Bouton themselves, I would think around the year 1900 – Ed.)
Solution to a Problem
I have only just seen the enquiry regarding “Rolls Amel” in the December issue of Motor Sport. My interest in this product started in, I believe, 1926 when I decided to repaint my 1922 Morris Cowley, Mr. Cooper our local hardware and paint supplier recommended me to use this make of paint. It was an excellent product of the “coach paint and varnish type”. It had a very high finish. I used a very dark maroon for the bodywork and a light grey for the wheels, the wings valances and chassis I painted black. I gave everything two coats of colour and one coat of varnish. After the final coat I locked up the garage and gave the key to my mother to hide for two weeks to allow everything to dry hard. The result was beyond expectations. Experts in the trade were full of praise for it as an inexpert effort. I am sorry I am unable to remember the name of the makers of the paint. I bought it as a kit with all brushes, abrasives etc. included, I cannot even remember the cost now, memory tends to fail at an age of 75. I do not think this “Trade Mark” had any connection with Rolls-Royce. Sorry I cannot give Mr. R. Meere a more detailed description of this product.
I do hope you and Mrs. Boddy are in good health and trust the new year will give you peace and prosperity. Motor Sport is still the best.
Leicester. Bernard Randle