Veteran to classic: Squire sports cars


It may have been the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the subsequent financial slump in the 1930s which caused a deterioration in sports-car design and construction — in fast car philosophy if you like—and which led to the formation of the Vintage Sports Car Club, a body which believed contemporary sportscars did not match up to older ones. Be that as it may, there was still an interest in real sports models in that post-slump, inter-war period. Among those keen people who wanted to cater for customers seeking such cars was Adrian Squire (Donald Healey had similar thoughts, which led to that Alfa Romeo crib, the blown straight-eight Triumph Dolomite).

This undoubted enthusiast decided to build a small number of very specialised fast cars in the 11/2-litre class, at first individually made for each customer. He took a factory close to the River Thames at Remenham Hill in Henley, and formed the Squire Car Manufacturing Company.

Squire adapted the R1 twin-cam 69mm x 100mm 1496cc Anzani power-unit. This was not openly stated, and I have only encountered one, perhaps two, such Anzani engines outside this sphere. It was a very useful engine to use, being of comparatively simple four-cylinder concept and able to stand supercharging — although I have heard that the head studs used to lift.

Adrian Squire made a very effective, if simple, chassis in which to install this engine. It was a low-slung frame of 12-gauge steel, with side-members boxed-in for rigidity and cruciform bracing further stiffening the structure, and the handsome radiator and rear-mounted 15-gallon petrol tank were isolated from the chassis. Cam-and-lever steering was used, the turning circle was small, and both hydraulic and friction dampers were eventually fitted.

The twin-cam engine was snugly installed beneath the bonnet and had coil ignition, with the distributor driven directly from the rear of the nearside camshaft (there is a modern ring to this!). A David Brown, Roots-type supercharger was located ahead of the engine (but beneath the bonnet) and was driven at one-and-a-half times crankshaft speed via helical niralloy gears. It blew at 10 lb/sq in, in conjunction with a 6.5:1 compression ratio, and was fed by a horizontal SU carburettor. The engine was safe to over 5000 rpm, and developed 105 bhp.

The supercharger was coupled to the induction manifold by a heavily-ribbed solid length of piping on the offside. The engine was apparently built at Remenham and the Anzani design incorporated a combined chain and double-helical gear drive for the two overhead-camshafts, tappet adjustment being by shims and plungers, obviating side-thrust on the Hadfield steel valves. Timing chain tension was maintained by a leaf spring, replacing the original idler sprocket. A water pump was driven from the front of each camshaft. The 14mm plugs were inclined in the hemispherical combustion chambers, the head being detachable, and the cylinder block was of nickel-chrome alloy.

The aluminium sump held two gallons of oil and was replenished automatically from a two-gallon dashboard tank by float action. A Tecalemit vibrator distributed oil from the aforementioned dashboard tank to moving parts of the chassis and the spring leaves. Between the front dumb-irons a large oilcooler was slung, feed being between the engine oil-pump (with its special Poloid gears) and the four crankshaft bearings. The flywheel was devoid of teeth, the engine starting by means of a dynamotor on the front of the crankshaft, which, being exposed, was sometimes mistaken for the supercharger.

Taking cognisance of the use being made of pre-selector gearboxes by ERA and other racing cars, Squire used an ENV box of this kind for his sports-car, the bottom-gear band serving as the clutch. He provided enormous magnesium-alloy brake drums with nickelchrome iron liners (machined inside and out) shrunk into them and further secured with 24 set-screws. The drums possessed cooling scoops, and elektron shoes were operated by the Lockheed hydraulic system.

The front axle was located by radius rods, with an ingenious threaded bearing at the front to absorb all movement. The half-elliptic springs were underslung at the back, four separate internal exhaust off-take pipes on the nearside dropped vertically into the common tail-pipe, and there was a quick action fuel filler. An open propshaft was used and the wire wheels had knock-off hub caps.

With its slatted raked radiator, the Squire was a handsome beast . It was to be made in two wheelbase lengths, 8ft 6in and 10ft 3in, and impressive Vanden Plas bodywork was available. The short chassis was priced at £950, the long-wheelbase one at £975.

Adrian Squire announced this exciting new creation in the late summer of 1934, and guaranteed 100 mph from it — not just as a spot-reading, or over a quarter-mile, but as a mean of two-way timed runs at Brooldands. By September 1935 he was advertising the light (18 cwt) two-seater at £995, the normal short-chassis two-seater at £1150, and a drophead coupe at £1120. On the long chassis there was a roomy four-seater at £1195 and a drophead coupe at £1350, A normal two-seater, with hood disappearing into the tail, weighed about 181/2 cwt, the four-seater only 13/4 cwt more.

On the face of it, success should have been assured. Unfortunately, money was still not easily available; you could buy an Ulster Aston Martin for £750, a Special Series Riley Lynx four-seater for £375, or an SS100 for £395, and Squire could not afford to have a stand at Olympia, as these others had. Optimism was short-lived and only seven Squires were built before the distinctly limited capital of £6000 was exhausted.

It was exciting while it lasted, however, for the Squire was a genuine 100 mph car, which could do 0-60 mph in 101/2 seconds (outstanding for a 11/2-litre car in 1934) and stop in 20ft from 30 mph, disturbing the mathematical pundits— and the owners when the chassis broke!

Squire had not intended to construct racing cars, but that remarkable young man Luis Fontes, who hired a Monza Alfa Romeo from T&T’s for his first taste of serious motor racing and promptly won the 1935 International Trophy Race at Brooklands (later losing his road driving licence for a time and concentrating more on flying), entered a single-seater Squire for that year’s BRDC 500-Mile Race, retiring when the fuel tank split. I believe this chassis was afterwards fitted with sports bodywork.

After the Squire Company had been disbanded, Val Zethrin got hold of some of the equipment and plans and assembled three more Squires in Chislehurst. The reduction in prices towards the end of Adrian Squire’s tenure did nothing to rescue his cars from their demise, and he was killed in an air-raid early in the war.

It seems his demonstrator (registered COA 420) was run for a time by a friend, Captain Pinsent. He spoke of roadholding better than that of an Alfa Romeo over wavy surfaces, and speeds in the higher gears of 50, 75 and 98 mph from his two-seater. Fuel consumption was 21-22 mpg and the brakes were most effective, causing front-wheel patter if stamped on at high speeds. Cooling water tended to boil away in heavy traffic, and the system had to be bled via two ball-valves after refilling. The supercharger seized up when something internal broke and later its oil supply, taken from the inlet cambox failed and its bearings ran. The C&A head-gasket had to be replaced with a solid copper gasket, and plugs oiled until Champion L10s, which burnt out after some 1500 miles, were substituted. That was the Squire, before the war . . WB