FRAGMENTS ON FORGOTTEN MAKES
NO. 5 – THE CUBITT
RECENT letters in “Vintage Postbag” about the Cubitt brought in our mail the following amusing letter from the son of the gentleman who was largely responsible for this make of car : “In reference to the Cubitt. This car was manufactured by my father at his Aylesbury factories. It was no venture of a “hundred off” nature, but one with the aim of mass-producing cars.
“Father’s bold entry into motor-car production must have made its contribution to the industry although financially disastrous.
“After the disaster father withdrew to Farringdon, near Exeter. We had there a blue Cubitt with a bench seat in front and ‘dickey’ astern, which was used as an estate-car. Smeeth, the chauffeur, who liked to go out and about, one morning allowed me and another boy to come with him when taking the Cubitt ‘on test.’
“After a mysterious halt outside the White Horse, Smeeth came back to us and said : ‘I am now going to get sixty out of this car.’
“We went to the top of the incline above the pub and Smeeth tore down towards Farringdon Corner (on the road to Exeter from Sidmouth).
“We were spellbound. I can still recall the needle hanging at 48 and finally it made 58 m.p.h. And this is the first time I ever broke silence on this matter. It was the fastest I had ever been.— ERIC PUTNAM.”
Realising that Mr. Putnam, Senr., might be able to provide some “fragments” on this long-defunct make we asked his son to make the necessary introduction. This he kindly attended to and we lost no time in motoring down to Bournemouth to keep the appointment.
Mr. Putnam, who now has big publishing interests, told us that during the First World War he bad big contracts from the R.F.C. To complete these he took a big factory just outside Aylesbury on the Bicester Road.
When the Armistice arrived Holland & Hannon & Cubitt Ltd., building contractors who had been making munitions, decided to get in on the expected boom in motor cars and consequently sought a suitable factory in which to mass-produce a medium-power touring car. Mr. Putnam became imbibed with the possibilities and agreed to provide the factory in exchange for shares in the Cubitt car concern.
Cubitt moved their machinery into Mr. Putnam’s factory, consisting mostly of lathes, and under Major Dobson. Mr. May and motor-car draughtsmen, the venture commenced.
In the 600-ft. long buildings car production was started. Cubitt also built their own bodies, in a building on the north side of the Aylesbury/Bicester road. It has been rumoured that the factory was, before the war, occupied by the body-shop of Iris Cars. Herbert machine tools were acquired and mass-production attempted, the Cubitt’s cylinders being cast in Belgium. A special Lightweight pressed-steel disc wheel was evolved by a Belgian engineer and used for the car, fitted with Dunlop rims. Each car was exhaustively tested and the 16-h,p. four-cylinder worm-drive Cubitt gained an excellent reputation as an ever-lasting car, distinguishable by the lattice work below the radiator. What killed it.? Mr. Putnam says late delivery, supplies to the agents being as much as nine months late due to difficulties in obtaining proprietary components. A further setback occurred when Mr. May was killed when his car overturned on a corner as he made his daily journey home from the factory—it was thought perhaps because, a keen smoker, he took his hands from the wheel to light his pipe. This tragedy threw the works into confusion. Mr. Putnam went to Aylesbury for some weeks to help but he was not an engineer and was unable to direct that side of the company.
Incidentally, Mr. Putnam used regularly a Cubitt two-seater with a special dickey seat. While he had interests in the concern he visited Detroit and on his return was able to cut the cost of manufacture of wooden body framework from pounds to shillings at the Aylesbury factory.
Eventually S. F. Edge, then absorbed in pig-farming, tried to put new life into the Cubitt in association with D. Napier and Sons, the radiator shape being changed, but the make faded into oblivion after 1925. In its time all models, two-seater, tourer and saloon were made in some numbers and one tourer was bought by a Government department in Australia.
Some further letters about the Cubitt have been received and are appropriately attached.—W. B.
The Cubitts of 1923/4/5 all shared the same engine, a four-cylinder 80 by. 100 mm. unit of 2,815 c.c., of en bloc construction and an L-head, with thermosyphorn cooling, battery ignition, and an inverted cone Ferodo-lined clutch transmitting via a four-speed and reverse gearbox to a worm-drive rear axle. All models bad detachable steel disc wheels. The 1923 models were known as E. & F. with a wheelbase of 10 ft. 6 in., top gear ratio of 4.5 to 1 and 815 by 105 wheels. Prices were £340 for the chassis, numbered 3,469 onwards, and £360 complete. The chassis number can be found on the front dumb-iron or on a plate on the dash. The 1924 models were known as K, F, L and M with a wheelbase of 10 ft., top gear ratio of 4.7 to 1 and 815 by 105 wheels. Prices were £310 for the chassis and £335-£550 complete. The K4 of 1925 had a 10 ft. 1 in. wheelbase, top gear ratio of 4.125 to 1 and 30 in. by 5.25 in. wheels: this car cost £260 as a chassis and £335 complete. The L4 of the same year had a 10 ft. 7 in. wheelbase, top gear ratio of 4.7 to 1 and 32 in. by 6.20 in. wheels; chassis price was £275 and the complete car cost between £500 and £525. Manufacture was by Cubitt Engineering Co., Ltd., Southern Works, Aylesbury, Bucks., and ceased after 1925; spare parts could be obtained from Gladwell & Kell Ltd., Ampton Street Works, Grays Inn Road, W.C.1.
I am, Yours etc.,
Derby. D. G. GILMAN.
In response to your correspondent who enquired about Cubitt cars.—the vicar of the town of Ramelton, Co. Donegal, Eire, possessed a Cubitt and also a Hupmobile, circa 1920. I remember both being in regular use.
The local inhabitants were considerably more intrigued by an occasional passenger who appeared at rare intervals and was believed to be the late Mrs. Kate Meyrick of London clubland fame “resting” between enterprises.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Hitchin. C. L. HAMILTON.
I read with considerable interest the letter from D. Murray-Wilson (Vintage Postbag, March) in which he referred to a Cubitt car purchased by him in Birkenhead around 1928.
In the middle ‘twenties my brother and I then small schoolboys, were occasional visitors to the home of the new family at 5, Rose Mount, Oxton, Birkenhead, where a Cubitt was kept. This car was fitted with an aluminium or aluminium painted four/five-seater tourer body, and was circa 1923 manufacture. Unfortunately I recall only one other feature with certainty. This was the windscreen wiper, which in my experience was unique, being manually operated via a Bowden cable. The spring-loaded action provided a double wipe for a single depression of the operating lever. However, after some discussion my brother and I are left with the impression that the specification included large diameter disc wheels, a radiator shell with a curved top, and a radiator badge displaying the name Cubitt in enamel.
The car was certainly comfortable as we are both able to testify, and since it was usually driven by Mr. New’s daughter it had to be reliable and a ready starter on the battery.
I cannot say whether D. Murray-Wilson’s car was the last of the Cubitts, but it may well have been the one to which I have referred above for I have reason to suppose that it was disposed of during 1928.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Marston Green. C. H. HUNT.