V-E-V miscellany, June 1983, June 1983

Hastening to switch off the television the other night as it started a programme on Karl Marx or some such subject, I was surprised to see some shots of Edwardian Fiats under construction in Turin and of a restored Fiat 501 being driven round the roof-top Fiat test-track at the factory there — something to do with the Italian industrial strikes of the early 1920s, and a reminder that the hiring of old motor vehicles to film and TV companies is big business these days . . . Indeed, one hears rumours of a TV programme on the complete history of the motor car, to end all other such documentaries, and another, based in America, that intends to do a documentary, or perhaps a drama, on the life of Parry Thomas. One wonders whether either will reach fruition? I mentioned recently low-priced pre-war cars advertised for sale in certain of the one-make Club magazines; now I see that two pre-war Vauxhalls, a J-saloon and a 1938 10/4 for spares, were being offered free to members of the Vauxhall OC. So there is little to prevent keen DIY folk from getting on the road in the older cars. 

The Southern Counties HVPT magazine reminds us that one of its members runs a rare 1924 Palladium Victory tourer, presumably the car I used to see in Chiswick just after the war, while its Newsletter for April contained a photograph of four pre-war Morris Eight vans used by the Milk Marketing Board with a line of petrol-pumps dispensing Shell, Power Ethyl, National Benzole, Esso Ethyl and Redline behind them. Unusual commercial vehicles on the market recently have included a 1914 Pierce-Arrow and an FWD. James Cheyne has won the Sammy Davis Memorial Award of the Aston Martin OC for his articles on the Halford Special, published in their journal. Lea-Francis cars are due to celebrate their 21st Concours d’Elegance and driving-tests at Stanford Hall on June 5th and Vauxhall National Day will be held at the Vauxhall Motor Company’s sports ground at Luton on June 12th. We hear that the Railton OC is to be allowed to erect its memorial plaque to Reid Railton at Brooklands and that T&T’s of Cobham are helping to sponsor its Golden Jubilee National Rally of June 11th / 12th at which driving-tests (not at Brooklands) will feature on the Saturday, a perhaps optimistic hope being that some 47 Railtons will attend and take part in a cavalcade from Brooklands to Cobham on the Sunday morning. 

I have just heard a rather delightful story relating to Major Dick Schreiber, who was a keen reader of Motor Sport until he died about two years ago. Apparently he always had a large car, a small car, both open-bodied, a motor cycle, two dogs and a horse. The large car at one time was a Rolls-Royce Phantom I, on which he taught his soldier-servant to drive. This Guardsman one day asked his master’s help in choosing a car. “Of course”, was the answer, with visions of having to find a Morris Minor or something similar. But his servant then said quietly that he would like a 40/50 h.p. Rolls-Royce but wondered whether he would be wiser to start with a Rolls-Royce Twenty. . . .

My recent reference to the Cheltenham coachbuilders, Martin & Young, proved of interest to George Gilbert of Cheltenham Cameras Ltd., who has sent us photographs of other bodies made by this firm, including the one on a 25 h.p. Talbot that I mentioned, and others on 25 h.p. Vauxhall and Rolls-Royce and a touring body on what looks like a 14 h.p. Sunbeam chassis. There is also a coupé body on what could be a Dawson chassis, and a view of the coachbuilder’s works, with a Prince Henry Vauxhall, a Model-T Ford van and other cars therein, although it is thought that only about a dozen bodies were made there. Mr. Gilbert goes on to say that Winchcombe Street was once the centre of Coachbuilding, with craftsmen wandering about from one firm to another, while elsewhere in Cheltenham Alfred Miles made fire-engine bodies, until the business was absorbed by Hawker-Siddeley. The long narrow building used by Regent Motors was only recently demolished to make way for the Plough Site Development and was where the first Gloster jet-fighter was assembled after a bomb attack had damaged the Gloster Aircraft works, says Mr. Gilbert. The WWI hangar must have been unique in the centre of a busy town; before it was demolished Mr. Gilbert, who has photographed Brooklands’ Re-unions from a helicopter, took its picture from the air. A hangar once at Brooklands is rumoured to be still standing, in the Bristol area, which in turn reminds me that Owen Wyn-Owen, whose road motoring fluctuates between his Speed Six Bentley and a Chummy Austin Seven, has made some more progress towards a full re-build of the 27-litre Thomas Special “Babs”, as the tail-section is now being redone by Vintage Wings of Stockport, Waving such items as the bonnet, wheel discs, upholstery, and painting for completion of the task. In connection with the recent discourse on Club magazines, the Spring issue of the Lagonda Club contained a long and absorbing article about experiences with all manner of these cars from high-chassis 2-litre onwards, purchased as used jobs and one made into a useful farm van, and some fascinating memories of what the Kew Service Depot of Lagonda Ltd. was like under Major Oates in the 1930s, before he, Ashcroft and Brocklebank started to build Lagonda Rapiers there. Bugantics continues to dispense Bugatti history and data, the latter including information on Marchal lamps and ball-bearings, in the Spring issue. 

I hear that a replica 1923 French Grand Prix “Tank” body is to be put on a Type 32 Bugatti chassis and that a Gwynne Eight with racing disc-crankshaft may also be rebuilt and given a body perhaps based on that on the Gwynne that was burnt-out during the 1927 200-Mile Race at Brooklands. — W.B.