A pretty puzzle...

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For those who like to try their hand at solving conundrums, here is rather a nice one!

In 1922 a company called Ramvans, describing itself as automobile engineers and trading from Eresby Mews in Kilburn, north-west London, was advertising “bargains in light cars”. The offer consisted of a “limited number” of “very slightly used” current-model chassis by a “well known” Continental manufacturer.

Specification embraced a side-valve water-cooled four-cylinder engine, three-speed-and-reverse gearbox with right-hand gate-change, torque-tube transmission and half-elliptic springs — those at the back of considerable length. The horsepower rating was 9.5, and CAV five-lamp lighting sets and five detachable artillery wheels were included. Ramvans apparently had four-seater leather-upholstered touring bodies or three-seater Bedford-cord-upholstered saloon bodies for mounting on these, and even English-built van bodies, for £225 each. The puzzle is what make were these chassis which had been imported, driven around a bit and presumably failed to sell?

Apart from a biggish scuttle petrol-tank, offside gear-gate considerably outboard of the side-member, minor controls on a ring above the four-spoke steering wheel, carburettor on the offside and exhaust on the nearside, clues are slender. It appears that another radiator had been fitted, perhaps different from the original (a rather ugly square-rigged affair reminiscent of an Essex or a Fiat of rather later vintage), and the dumb-irons beneath it had fairings on their inner sides, American-fashion. The asking price was competitive, no more than that of a ON.

All the 9.5hp light cars which might have fitted the bill were British, and Continental cars of similar rating had overhead valves. Could Ramvans have had a few chassis for demo use, hoping to import more if it could create a demand, and, if so, where would the bodies have come from? Has anyone any ideas?

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