Fragments On Forgotten Makes

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No 70: The Vortex

The Vortex is indeed a “forgotten make.” which I had not heard of until a reader sent us a copy of Police Boo, magazine of the North Yorkshire Police, a journal which does not neglect motoring, because there is a section in it called “Gear Box”. It was a two-page article therein, by Dick Knight, that drew my attention to the Vortex. Moreover, both the magazine, through its Editor Jim Beman. and Mr Knight, have given permission for us to quote from this article, and we are indebted to them for their prompt and generous co-operation.

This forgotten car was made by Erik Addyman a member of the long-established family of that name who lived at the White House, Starbeck, near Knaresborough in Yorkshire. He was the son of James Addyman, a solicitor, who died in a cycling accident in Wales. Born at his grandfather’s Belmont House, in Starbeck, in 1889, Erik was educated in Harrogate and at Aldenham School in Hertfordshire and then apprenticed to Kitson’s of Leeds, to train as an engineer. When the 1914/18 war broke out, instead of being called up, Erik Addyman was sent to the School of Mines at Portsmouth, to apply his skills to depth-charges and the like. Later he was sent to Beardmore ‘s in Durnfries and is said to have designed the Beardmore Atlanta aero-engine, of which, like the Vortex. I had not previously heard.

By this time he was married, and had three sons. After the war was over Addyman was Locomotive Superintendent at the Starbeck and Neville Hill, Leeds, sheds, in charge of some 48 locomotives. As relaxation, he became an outspoken member of local councils and enjoyed climbing and pot-holing, and he was appointed a reserve for the ill-fated 1924 onslaught on Everest by Mallory-Irving. Then, in about 1922, he became a devotee of the cyclecar craze, and in the outbuildings at the back of the White House (which was on the Knaresborough side of the Lodge that served Belmont House, aforesaid, and which dated back to before the time when grandfather Thomas Addyman built that mansion, and that went back at least to the 1800s) he constructed his cars, his machine-tools having already been installed in the buildings.

It seems that the name Vortex derived from a carburettor which Erik Addyman had designed during the war Using angled steel riveted together for the chassis, an aluminium tandem-seated body was mounted thereon. A transverse spring was used at the front of the chassis, perhaps following the proven Model-T Ford or more recent AT lead, and half-elliptics were used al the rear For an engine Addyman made use of the 8 hp flat-lwin water-cooled unit 964 cc Williamson motorcycle available from the Douglas Company in Bristol. and this drove a three-speed-and-reverse epicyclic gearbox made by the constructor himself. Final drive was by a vee-belt to the nearside back wheel. Some Charter-Lea parts were used, this source specialising in supplies to cyclecar builders: for instance, we are told that that is where the brake drums came from, and that the brake shoes were brasslined. as apparently they were on pre-war FN motorcycles Indeed, it seems that there may have been front-wheel-brakes on the Vortex. applied by pedal, the hand-brake operating on the vee of the belt-rim on that near-side back wheel.

Steering is described as direct, and the wheels, shod with 26 x 3 be tyres, may well have had A7 origins. The venture seems to have lasted until about 1925, and the interesting thing is that five, perhaps six. Vortexes were built and all but one were sold. There was even an order for a sports-model. One of the cars was registered WT 4589 (a West Riding number), and was used by Erik Addyman into the 1930s, a Levis air-cooled, flat-twin, two-stroke engine, probably from an airship generator, replacing the Williamson power-unit after Addyman had crashed into the wall of the Lodge rather than run out into the main road (now the A59) when driving his car after a gliding accident had resulted in amputation of one arm (and two broken legs) which made driving difficult. It is significant that he rebuilt the Vortex with the Levis engine, after this crash. This car was walled up in one of the White House outbuildings but was rescued just before the house was demolished in 1969 (Mr Addyman having died in 1963) by Police Constable Alan Lane, who is rebuilding it Another Vortex is thought to be in existence somewhere near Harrogate..

It is also good to know that all Mr Addyman, gliders exist, the Stockport Northern Aircraft Preservation Society having the care of them. Addyman turned to building them in the early 1930s, soon after taking up gliding. He became Secretary of the Harrogate Aircraft Club, built his machines in the billiard-room of Belmont House (also since demolished), and flew them in the North of England, and experimentally at Starback on land which is now used as school playing-fields. One glider was called the Zephyr and two Addyman STGs (or standard training gliders) were built. Addyman intended to power one of the latter with a vee-twin, eight-valve Anzani engine he had acquired, said now to be in the Harrogate area, still brand-new. His serious gliding accident happened near the Sallersgage Inn, between Pickering and Whitby. in 1932.

It is remarkable that two Vortex cyclecars have survived. and I am grateful to Dick Knight for letting me give his story to a larger audience. in the hope that someone somewhere must surely remember more about this very rare make. Incidentally, Belmont House was on ground adjacent to the present Police stables, and the Lodge was opposite The Avenue, on the A59, while the site of the earlier White House is now the location of the Starbeck Adult Education Centre. — W.B.

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