No. 41: The Waldron Wayfarer
What follows might more properly be called “Fragment on a Forgotten Car”, because the Waldron was a one-off, although probably intended for production. When some photographs of it arrived in the office I was hard put to suggest what they depicted. One view made me think of a Lea-Francis, the radiator somehow implied a later Rhode, but the rear-decking of the saloon body was reminiscent of that found on some of the smaller Armstrong Siddeleys, except that it was more pronounced on those cars.
It transpired that what Mr. Peter Relph was telling us about was a very rare vintage light car known as the Waldron Wayfarer. What is more, he discovered it in the stables of its creator’s old house in Merseyside and is now well on the way to rebuilding it. The car was presumably started in the 1920s and a saloon body was completed for it in 1930/31. The specification covers a non-proprietary 63 x 100 mm. (1,247 c.c) side-valve four-cylinder engine. The prototype was given engine and chassis nos. 101, perhaps with a view to subsequent production, many manufacturers listing their first car well above the logical No.1 so as to keep confidential their output figures. Mr. Waldron, the car’s designer and constructor, registered it TF 3532 and the colour of the four-door saloon body was green and black. He used it for at least one foreign tour, when it wore an AA badge.
Mr. Peter Relph has now restored the car. I am indebted to him for the following information about this unique car. — W.B.
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Fredrick Barnes Waldron, or Fred as he was affectionately known to his colleagues at Pilkington Brothers in St. Helens, died at the age of 94 in 1976, after a short illness, at the Windle Pilkington Home, near Rainford, Merseyside.
“The Glassmakers” by T C. Barker indicates that Waldron was educated at University College, Sheffield. He joined the company in 1911 as head of the drawing office, and very soon became a Director and Chief Engineer at the Cowley Hill Works. During a distinguished career with the company, he made a major impact on the glass making industry, being responsible for the pioneer work done on the twin plate grinder which was a massive step forward in flat glass production. He had previously invented vacuum-operated suction pads and had also developed a “Lehr” with Lord Cozens Hardy. He travelled extensively abroad on company business and visited Ford’s production plant at Detroit in March, 1922, to view and discuss their automobile glass production.
Waldron, who was married to a member of the Dunlop family, lived in a large Edwardian house called “Norwood”, in Eccleston Park, situated between St. Helens and Prescot. The house, which still exists, reflects his engineering tastes and incorporated a number of his own ideas. As well as being a chartered mechanical engineer, he was also a qualified architect, and in his later life, whilst a widower, he must have decided that he needed somewhere easier to live and maintain. He, therefore, designed and had built, in part of the large grounds of “Norwood”, a modern detached house. He died intestate, and this house, together with its medium-sized garden, containing a dilapidated stable block which used to be part of the old house, was put up for auction. Whilst viewing the house, a local businessman, John Owen, noticed part of what appeared to be an old car in the stable. He was unsuccessful in obtaining the property at the sale, but some time later, having moved into another house in St. Helens, he mentioned the find to his neighbour, Peter Relph, a keen local vintage-car enthusiast. An immediate trip was made to see if the bits remained. On finding them still there the new tenants were only too pleased to part with them for the reasonable sum of £100. Together with the car came some drawings of a large vintage saloon designed under Waldron’s hand, and a short time later a number of photographs of this same car were made available — the photographs show the car on what was a holiday abroad. It has since been presumed that in the middle to late 1930s Waldron, presumably considering the design of the car outdated, cut the body into small pieces and dismantled the running gear, which for sentimental reasons he then stored in the stable block. Having worked on restoration in a similar, but not so extensive, rebuild before, Peter Reph realised the importance of collecting as much material, which could have come from the car, as possible. Anything amongst the piles of leaves and rubbish in the stable which could be a possible part was taken. Much of the ash body stored in the upper part of the stable was sodden and damaged due to a leaking roof. Certain parts were obviously missing — including the radiator, instruments and headlights. Tentative enquiries amongst local enthusiasts led Peter eventually to a gentleman in Prescot who, on learning about the rebuild of the vehicle, brought round some of the missing parts, explaining that years before, fearing collapse of the stable, he had taken them to avoid them being damaged.
It was originally proposed to strip all parts of the running gear and overhaul them before rebuild. But on cleaning it became obvious that only a partial strip was necessary. The side-valve power unit, of 1,250 c.c., is an integral casting containing gearbox, and flywheel housing, and is of unique design. The casting compares with a drawing in Relph’s possession under Waldron’s’ hand. The integral sump covers the engine flywheel and the clutch operates “wet”. The engineering of parts is excellent and it is thought that most of the smaller parts were made by Waldron, whilst the maim items were manufactured possibly by Entwistle and Gass, of Bolton, with whom Waldron had an association. The wheels were standard 4.75″ x 19″ rims welded to a solid convex disc, with the name “Linton Wheel Company Warrington” stamped on them. The chassis shows signs of later design changes, particularly in the inclusion of cross bracing, and the drawings confirm this. Braking is effected by rod to conventional expanding shoes within the drums. There are no proprietary parts on the running-gear apart from electrical equipment, and it is obvious that Waldron either had made, or made himself, all the running parts to his own design.
The body was made to Waldron’s detailed design-drawings by the St. Helens Carriage Works, 43, New Cross Street, St. Helens. This building, which has since been demolished, was on the corner of St. John’s and New Cross Street. The firm built specialist commercial vehicle bodies for local firms. It is known that Frank Lennon gave James Smith a £100-note in 1920 to build a travelling-shop body, which he did on an ex-WD Daimler chassis. The Wayfarer body was started in the shop in 1930 and was completed either late in the year or early in 1931. The upholstery bears the label R.E. Forster, Warrington, and the firm still exists as a furniture-trade outlet.