Having heard a rumour that another motoring writer may have discovered the possibly skeletal remains of the aero-engined Mercedes in which Hartshorn Cooper was killed at Brooklands in 1921, I thought I had better re-open the search for another aero-engined giant which I have been pursuing over the years. Armo-engined monsters were among the most exciting cars of the vintage period, which is why they have figured in the old-car pages of Motor Sport over the years. The one I am interested in running to ground is the 35 hp Mercedes chassis into which Harry Hawker and his wife Muriel installed a 225 hp Sunbeam aero-engine at their home in Hook, around the time of Hawker’s ill-fated Atlantic flight, and his racing exploits in the 350 hp Sunbeam which features in Anthony Heal’s article in this issue.
The Sunbeam-Mercedes ran on, but did not race, at Brooklands and it was associated with some dramatic episodes in the life of the famous airman / racing motorist. It was in use at least as late as 1934 at a Herefordshire garage, as a breakdown truck. How it got there from Surrey and what became of it intrigues me. So the other day we drove to Leominster again, to follow up more clues. I found an 80-year-old who had worked at Hunt’s Garage, where the car was last heard of, which became Fryer’s, then Henlys. He later went to the Hereford Ford Agents and I talked to him in his garage, with the Ford he still uses, and in which hangs a 1947 photograph of the Dagenham Ford factory and the boat he used to take down the Thames when going there for courses in Ford maintenance.
He recalled the old monster, and the 40/50 hp Rolls-Royce which succeeded it as Hunt’s recovery-truck. We followed some clues he gave us, which involved driving under an unclouded December sky through some very pleasant country, where hunting of other kinds was in full cry, lunch being taken at a delightful country-inn at Bodenham just off the A417. For a time the clues went cold. But patience was rewarded and eventually I was able to contact Caps Hunt’s wife, Mrs Dorothy Hunt, who told me that her husband, since deceased, flew with the RFC and was friendly with Capt Broome who assisted Capt. Cockerell with a pioneer flight to the Cape in a Vickers Vimy in 1920, and was later a Vickers test-pilot. She remembered the Hawker car being used at the garage in 1934/35 and thinks that the garage manager knew it was lying at Brooklands and went and brought it to Leominster. I hope soon to meet Mrs Hunt, so there may be a sequel. Meanwhile, if anyone remembers the old monster, pictured above outside the Sopwith hangars in 1920, I would be grateful if they would contact me. — WB