Vintage postbag

More on Imperia


I was most interested to read of your reference to the "Jam Factory" at Maidenhead. Please, though, I didn't invent this name. People's memories are short, and by the time it made news by "collecting" a V-1 in 1944, local gossip took the form of "they've got the Jam Factory". The last private car made there had, after all, been the Marendaz, which ceased production in the summer of 1936, and at no time did I ever hear the place referred to as "the GWK".

I don't even remember seeing any GWKs around Maidenhead in the 1930s, except in establishments like Harold Goodey's yard at Twyford, and Shirley's nearly as large one at Flackwell Heath. I do, however, remember a four-cylinder Imperia saloon, and wonder if it was the same one Mr. Stead saw in Maidenhead in 1930. It wasn't locally registered (the letters were London ones, UW, I'm almost certain), and the car was a black and red fabric saloon with artillery wheels, probably wood rather than steel. It did look very Panhardish, and was parked almost daily outside a doctor's surgery at the Tarrystone end of Cookham High Street. It would have vanished about 1938, probably into Lewis's yard near the Jam Factory, though I don't know.

I think that Mr. Stead is probably right in assigning the Cordwallis works role to the brother, rather than Mathieu van Roggen himself. Mathieu's name was, however, mentioned in connection with the abortive Minerva-Imperia revival of 1952-3, when several projects were "on the boil". One of them was, of course, the Italian Cemsa-Caproni, itself the genesis of the much later Lancia Flavia, but there was also a luxury car intended to use the mechanical elements of the 3.4-litre Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire. Finally, there was a light 4x4 with s.v. four-cylinder Continental motor of which quite a number were built. At the 1954 Brussels Salon, incidentally, Minerva exhibited a 2-litre four-cylinder air-cooled engine said to have "sleeve" valves, though as I haven't seen a picture of it, I don't know whether it was a Knight or an Imperia-type slide-valve. Does anyone have more reliable information on this?

Probably the last use of the Imperia engine otherwise wasn't in Imperias — which had switched over to Adler based I.w.d. machinery in 1934 — but in a pair of experimental sports Adler Trumpfs which ran in various German rallies of the period.

Michael Sedgwick

"Racing Cars You Could Buy"


"Racing Cars You Could Buy": most interesting, but if the Jappic gets in on the strength of a probable one only and the intention of "production", what about Lionel Martin's catalogued "GP Replica" even if it was called the Super Sports? The only one actually supplied to a client was Car No. 1950 supplied to Enrico Riva, Garage Via Geneva, Lugano, Switzerland, but it was identical in specification to the 1922 GP cars that raced at Strasbourg, Penya Rhin, Sitges etc., and was priced at £725 in chassis form.

A. B. Demaus
Tenbury Wells


I was most interested in the article on "Racing Cars You Could Buy". Can I add to your list, Bamford and Martin of Kensington? They offered two special models, a Sports and Super Sports which were copies of the 1922 Voiturette racers.

The Sports was supplied with the standard side-valve engine, suitably modified for racing and the Super Sports had the 16-valve DOHC racing engine.

In the event, only four "Replicas" were supplied to private owners, two s.v. and two 16-valve cars, though this is a slight "cheat" because one of each was a 1922 car refurbished. The s.v. was sold to Mrs. Agnew to become "Green Pea" and the other was sold to Count Zborowski, who immediately took it to Spain for the 1923 Villafranca and Sitges races, where it did very well with second and third places. Unfortunately, it was crashed very badly on the way home and had to he totally rebuilt, using a new chassis. The work was carried out by a young and very "raw" mechanic called Sidney Maslin, at the Count's home, Higham.

The other two cars were, a s.v, model supplied to W. G. Barlow early in 1923, which later formed the basis of the Halford special, and a 16-valve racer to a Mr. Riva in Switzerland.

Neil F. Murray

[This enlarges on Brian Demaus' comments. I heard recently that Zborowski had damaged a twin-cam car in France and here is confirmation. — Ed.]

An Edwardian accident


I enclose a copy of a photograph, from the collection of my late great-uncle, Lawrence Watson, which I hope may be of some interest. It shows the aftermath of a charabanc accident near his home at High Spen, Rowlands Gill, County Durham, in August 1911. The identity of the vehicle is, I regret, unknown to me, though my uncle was adamant that it was a (then) popular make which he should recognise. Unfortunately, none of the names that I could suggest was able to prompt his memory. He said that it was a serious accident, with loss of life. Nevertheless, the local farmer refused to provide straw on which to lay the injured until he had been fully assured of satisfactory payment.

David M. Landers

Pioneer car radio


Your piece entitled "A Pioneer of Car Radio" set me delving into the Standard Register archives and I came up with an unidentified cutting showing a 14 h.p. Standard which is claimed tube the first car in Europe fitted with a radio, "ex-works". It is interesting to note that the greater part of the dashboard had to be given over to the controls and the antenna was so huge that it created a hazardous blind-spot for the driver. No details of the make of the equipment are recorded.

I can, of course, identify the vehicle, which is a 1927 Standard 14/28 h.p. (4-cylinder, 1,944 c.c.) Pall Mall saloon which cost, new, £365. It came with a host of special equipment at this price, including a petrol can and carrier, whilst two compartments in the rear housed a silver-backed brush, comb, compact and mirror, with the second, for the gentleman, holding a silver cigar-box and match-box holder.

One such car, with all the extras listed, survives and I am enclosing a photograph taken in Killarney during the 'sixties when it took part in an International Rally.

J. R. Davy

Flashback to GP 10


I was interested in the letter from Mr. Cann regarding the clutch on 38/250 Mercedes. He is perfectly correct in his explanation of the clutch drag which sometimes occurred on these cars, one of the causes being that these cars were sometimes driven by rather ignorant "clutch riders". I owned several of these fine cars including GP 10 which I owned for some three years. I also owned two SSK short chassis examples and a beautiful "little" 36/220 which had been originally owned by Lord Howe. I owned two or three cars which had belonged to him, and the 36/220 was the only car to which His Lordship had not fitted one of his beloved pre-selector gearboxes. In the original Mercedes-Benz catalogue printed in German these cars were called the Grosser Rundfarten Wagen, which of course translated as Grand Touring Car. I had occasion to start my Rundfarten on the handle on many occasions and this could be quite an experience. The starting handle was about 4 ft. long and it was essential that the ignition control on the steering wheel was in the "fully-retard" position before commencing operations. On one occasion I recall having some difficulty in starting the Rundfarten on the handle, when my misguided passenger shoved the ignition lever to full advance. A terrific backfire resulted, which hurled me into the garage doors amidst clouds of blue smoke. There was always some difficulty in distinguishing between the 36/220 and the 38/250 as the difference in engine capacities was very slight. The 36/220 bore and stroke was 98x150 whereas the 38/250 was 100x150, a difference of only 2 mm. The distinguishing feature was that the 36/220 had three sections less in the radiator honeycomb which gave it a slightly lower line. GP 10 was, of course, Campbell blue when I owned it and I did many miles of Continental motoring on it. A beautiful car to handle. I always carried a supply of benzol with me in case I had to use the blower for any length of time.

Brian Finglass

Napier natter


After getting over the London-Brighton Run, which was fantastic as usual, I thought I had better get the following epistle off my chest. Hope it proves interesting.

After my letter, Mercedes Meanderings, in February 1982, I thought the above title appropriate. I've enclosed a picture taken from a glass negative of Samson. This picture, taken at Brooklands by Argent Archer, is most evocative and shows the car in its original form and what a marvellous job Bob Chamberlain has made. As you all may be aware the subject of Napiers has become particularly interesting to myself since I acquired the rough remains of six-cylinder L49 Napier, engine number 424, chassis number 853. When I first found the main parts of this car the engine and bulkhead, etc had been fitted into a large American-built White chassis, though it was documented as a Napier. I then became curious as to where the original L49 parts had disappeared to. I travelled to USA and in my researches and enquiries I found an original chassis and parts. At the same time I became the owner of parts of another Napier car, engine number 111. This is, in fact, the remains of the 1902 Gordon-Bennett car and the first of the D50 four-cylinder racers. It has four automatic inlet valves per cylinder and from my records I know that all prototype cars were numbered engine 111, 222, 333, and so on. In the case of the six-cylinder car I have some 75%, of it, and the case of the four-cylinder I have approximately 55 / 65%.

Now, what I would like to know is — am I perpetrating a fake, or restoring two fantastic cars? Whilst realising the difficulties of definition and provenance I am not doing more or less than many others have done.

I feel that Bob Chamberlain, and Samson too, are a great inspiration to us all. The great effort involved can only be described as magnificent, and if Bob is good enough to go to the not inconsiderable expense of bringing the car from Australia to England, surely he should be encouraged and applauded as a patriot. He should be allowed to run it at least once in the London-Brighton Run, thus giving the maximum amount of people the chance to see it. I see no real reason why he should not run the car as an acknowledged and bonafide replica. To see and hear this mighty car on British soil should be a great privilege. Technically there is no reason why it should not be run. It only goes as fast as you press that little pedal. It is up to the RAC, the organisers of the London-Brighton Run, whether Bob Chamberlain is allowed to run the car. Surely they are the people to say "yes" or "no". Just to make the matter quite clear it is the RAC's London-Brighton Run. They are the organisers and no-one else. Long may it remain so. After all they are the governing body of motorsport in this country.

Although I speak for myself I feel certain that that most progressive of Clubs, the VSCC, would welcome Samson in events. After all most of us in the VSCC know what it is to spend 3,500 hours building a car from a pile of junk. The VSCC is a club of doers and not watchers. There are many cars in the London-Brighton Run which pioneers of the veteran movement have rescued. Without these far-sighted men there would be no events. So, what is wrong with Samson II, Let us all work to make Bob's visit to the UK a memorable one.

Paul Foulkes-Halbard

[What with Originals, Specials, Rebuilds, Recreations, Resurrections, Restorations, Modifications, Imitations, Copies and Fakes, the Old-Car Movement has grown very complicated. The Napier Samson and the Napier L49 are surely recreations, acceptable if properly done? — Ed.]



I note in your recent editorial your comments on the Historic Car Movement and the question of rebuilds in its broadest sense. But I must point out that whether intentional or not the publishing of a photograph of a Riley Special on page 1476 with comments do not help this aspect of the motoring scene.

Fair enough, if people have pet names for their cars then let it be so, but for heaven's sake think of future owners of these cars that have been built from basically 60% Riley Coventry manufactured parts. A published photograph with a pet name attached will lead in the future in many ways to some future owner being told that he is or will be the owner of a car that has got a history and was a Riley model because it was documented in Motor Sport a number of years ago.

A Special is built to satisfy the builder's or contracted builder's criteria and will always be a "Special", and nothing else.

P. W. F. Scholes

[I agree, D.S.J. agrees, the Riley Register agrees and we are sorry it slipped in. — Ed.]

A number of things


Having been apprenticed to A. V. Roe & Co. Ltd. just after the first war, I am much interested in your article on the much loved Avro 504K. I was taught to fly on an Avro mono in the early 1920s by our test pilot Bert Hinkley. I well remember the glorious smell of burnt castor oil. The first ever bombs to be dropped in war were dropped by four Avro 504Ks. When they bombed the Zeppelin sheds at Friedrichshaven all returned safely. The bombs were 20 lb. and were just chucked over the side. The skid between the wheels on the 504K was not just to protect the propeller, but also to trip the unfortunate person swinging the prop! At Roe's we also made bodies for Crossleys, mostly 19.6 and 20/70 sports cars.

We also made the Harper Runabout three-wheeler, the stability of which was demonstrated by R. O. Harper, the designer, at Manchester ice rink. Perhaps you remember it. It had three wheels, one in the front. One sat on or partly in the thing and steered by handlebars. The Villiers two-stroke engine was situated just ahead of one rear wheel. I remember the splendid little two-cylinder water-cooled engine. This belonged to my mother. Other cars owned by my father were a 10-12 Belsize K-type, 15.9 0-type Belsize, Model-T Ford, Wolseley 10 an awful car), 20 h.p. Armstrong Siddeley saloon, 19.6 Crossley, and the marvellous 20/70 Crossley.

I must tell you of two of my scratch-built model cars. The first is the 1913 Talbot first 100 miles in the hour driven by Percy Lambert in 1918 and the 1932 Talbot 105 sports car, both rather nice and in the correct colours. Scale is 1:24.

W. L. Twemlow Booth