Vintage Postbag, June 1992

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Aston thriller

Sir,

One winter’s night in 1988, my grandfather came home from his weekly lodge meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, telling of an interesting conversation he had had with one of his fellow members. During the evening my grandfather learnt that his colleague, a gentleman by the name of Frank Addis, was the son of John Adsley Oriel Addis, works foreman for the firm of Messrs Bamford & Martin, makers of the Aston Martin light car. Apparently his father had been with Lionel Martin at the start in 1912 and left when the receiver was appointed in 1925. Frank was also at B&M as an apprentice for three years.

As a relative newcomer to the classic car scene I was rather impressed (to put it mildly) and wondered whether I might get the chance to meet Mr Addis. Barely a fortnight later I not only found myself sitting with Mr Addis, reliving some of his B&M memories, but also unexpectedly in possession of his late father’s photographic record. Some 70 photographs formed this fascinating collection, many of which featured Astons in well documented events such as the French Grand Prix of 1921 and the famous Brooklands record-breaking runs of the following year.

Not long after, I emigrated to Nottingham. Finding myself a little closer to the home of Aston Martin I decided to engage myself in a little research as, at the time, the photos and their subjects were largely unknown to me. Nothing too drastic, just the odd library book or two. By a fortunate stroke of luck I stumbled upon Mr Neil Murray who happened to own ‘Green Pea’, one of the Astons featured in these shots.

Having since spoken to Neil and other knowledgeable enthusiasts, it has become apparent that John Addis (or Jack, as he was more commonly known) was an absolutely vital ingredient in the early development and success of the Aston Martin car. Lionel Martin himself was known to have had such a high regard for this man’s engineering skill that he sought Jack out without hesitation the moment World War I hostilities ceased, to form the backbone of his relaunched company.

Bearing in mind that many of Jack’s photos have not been published before, nor had his invaluable contribution been acknowledged to any great degree. I decided early last year to commence work on The Jock Addis Collection, a biography of Jack’s life featuring his long lost photographs. Now, to the main point of my letter — a plea for help! Although Jack died in 1942 I am hoping there is someone out there who knew him personally. Or perhaps someone has something, anything, from Aston Martin’s Bamford years that might illuminate his story further. I would be extremely grateful to hear from anyone who could assist in any way.

Martin H Henley,
592 Carlton Road,
Nottingham,
NG3 7AB.
0602-598278.

Bugatti ID

Sir,

The so-called ‘Mystery Bugatti’ featured in last month’s issue was chassis No 2534, one of a batch invoiced to London agents Jarrott & Letts in June 1925. Capt Middleton d’Este owned it until his death in 1979, when it was acquired, minus the monoposto body etc, by South African enthusiast Clive Woolley who retains it, albeit now in shortened Type 13 form. It is listed only in 1980’s first edition of the British Bugatti Register, as it was then still in the UK.

Capt d’Este converted the car to a single-seater, the driver sitting low alongside the offset driveline hence the need for the longer Type 23 frame. The engine was destroked to 1100 cc and a supercharger added. It is alleged he had completed a mere six laps of testing at Brooklands before the army summoned him to a spell of duty in India, since when the car has never run. The only reference I can find to him is an entry of an 11.9 hp Bugatti at Skegness in June 1925 by HAM d’Este of St Margarets.

As BOC Registrar I must counter your mistaken observation that the Type 13 Replicas in the second edition of the British Bugatti Register are credited with continuous histories. As you rightly say, it would be ambiguous, nay nonsensical, for any ‘old’ car with a new chassis frame to qualify for this attribute. Indeed, several Bugattis on original frames, some with known chassis numbers, do not so qualify. My own Type 13, which incidentally is fitted with the lightened flywheel from Capt d’Este’s above-mentioned aborted record-breaker, falls into this latter category.

Finally if I may, I would like to correct two minor points in your Bugatti Trust feature. We claim availability of some 30,000 rather than 70,000 copies of Bugatti factory drawings, and our sectioned engine is a Type 30, not a Type 44.

David Sewell,
Bugatti Trust,
Prescott.

Meadows puzzle

Sir,

I am writing to seek your assistance in establishing the identity of a six-cylinder motor that I have. From its general appearance it is obviously a Meadows, but its bore and stroke of 76×120 mm, mean that it is of only 3.3-litre capacity, and I have been unable to find any reference to a Meadows engine of this size.

There are no identification names on the block other than the engine number, EPC 6869, stamped into the rear engine mount pedestal. The crankshaft is carried in four main bearings and all bearing caps have substantial steel strongbacks fitted. It is currently fitted with alloy conrods, but as the motor is destined for a special that I am currently building, these will be replaced with suitable steel ones.

I also have 2×17 in and 3x 18 in 72-spoke wire wheels that I have been unable to identify. They are English but have an unusual centre size with a nominal bore of 71mm and 70 coarse splines. These too are intended for my special, but I need to establish just what they are so that I can try and locate suitable hubs. Any assistance you or your readers can give would be greatly appreciated.

Richard Anderson,
PO Box 3173,
Napier,
New Zealand.

Fiat info sought

Sir,

I have a 1935 Fiat Balilla 508S Berlinetta Aerodinamica, registration FYE 405 (1939, London). It has been unused for many years. I know it was at one time (1962) in Chertsey, and one was also advertised from Chertsey in 1958 by ‘Bailey’ of Unity, Drill Hall Road, Chertsey. Where are you, Mr Bailey?

The rumour I have is that the car was stored at Brooklands during World War II, and only came to light when the building it was in was to be demolished. Possibly two of these cars came to the UK. One was allegedly destroyed in a fire. Any information is sought. I also need spares, including an engine and gearbox.

John Colley,
30 Thornhill Road,
Llanishen,
Cardiff,
CF4 6PF.
0222-762771.

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