All manner of interesting letters, photographs, documents and scrapbooks reach Motor Sport from time to time, rendering life just that much more pleasing as each is examined and digested. Some time ago there arrived some very old photographs exceedingly well preserved, of an unknown gentleman in his various automobiles, starting with a Benz Ideal and a Bollee tricar and graduating to a neat voitureite with dog-cart body, the make of which defeated even St. John Nixon, Secretary of the Veteran Car Club, although his guess was either Renault or Darracq—the “T” shaped steering tiller with controls grouped about it, tubular chassis, 1/2-elliptic springing, brake sprag, chain drive, wire wheels, tiny bonnet suggesting a “one-lunger” engine almost equal size wire wheels front and back, and the enormous coffee-pot lubricator (?) on the dash and the even larger carriage candle-lamps provide the clues for veteran fanciers to unravel, and rather suggest a Peugeot. These photographs were most likely taken some time between 1898 and 1902; the proud owner has chosen the same location for each of them, but wears a bowler hat in his more sober carriages, but a real chauffeur’s cap when seated in his Bollee. Incidentally, none of these vehicles carry registration plates, but on the front of the Benz is the name of a Parisian cycle company, unfortunately undecipherable even under a powerful magnifying glass. With these historic photographs came two others, one, marked 1908, of the premises of the Surrey Motor Co., outside which stands a smart coupe de ville, probably a Spyker, its brass headlamps unprotected but its side lamps wrapped up in dust-proof bags. The remaining postcard size picture shows some Lacre commercial vehicle spares neatly packed in a storeroom. If anyone can throw any light on these pictures we shall be glad to hear from them.
In rather a different category were four scrapbooks which arrived shortly afterwards, bearing the odd title “Hunters on Wheels.” This was clear when it was explained that they were compiled by E.M. Inman Hunter to commemorate the motoring activities of himself and his father. The arrangement is a tribute to hours of patient work. For instance, the first page of the first volume contains some two hundred badges, many in colour, cut from various periodicals, covering such obscure makes as Kleiler, Meteor, Premier, McFarlan, Kissel, Gwynne Ten, and Calcott, etc. but including such “moderns” as Auto-Union and E.R.A. The “Ballad of the Car,” by Harold Begbie follows. We then see the official form, issued by the W. Riding of Yorkshire authorities, granting the number C 1066 to M.C. Hunter, pere, in respect of the motorcycle he built whilst apprenticed to the G.N. Railway. A Danum engine with automatic inlet valve was used, and the date is 1905.
Next we see pictures of the Adams “Pedals-to-Push” car, designed in 1906, also by Mr. Hunter, senior. There is a good photograph of the power unit, with four pedals as the sole controls, the gearbox being epicyclic. Another picture reminds us that the Adams works were flooded by the Ouse, about the year 1910, at which period the flying meeting at Doncaster attracted the Hunter camera. In 1911 came the first 6-cylinder Adams, a side valve with spoked flywheel, retaining the in-built mechanical tyre pump that was a feature of the marque. M.C. Hunter also, in 1911, designed the 80 by 130 mm. 4-cylinder Cheswold car and in 1913 patented cast-aluminium number plates, the price of which was 16s. a pair ! He opened a garage on the eve of war, using an “18/24” Siddeley-Deasey as a personal car. Incidentally, he was agent not only for Ford, but for the two-speed, belt-drive Calthorpe Junior motor-cycle, price £26 5s.!
His son’s early interest in things motoring is evident from the first of these scrapbooks. His first speed trial, attended as a spectator at Scunthorpe in 1922, is followed by Parry Thomas’ signature, obtained after sitting in “Babs” at the Schoolboys’ Exhibition, and during his last year at school he spent his holidays in the drawing office of Strachan & Brown, coachbuilders.
The first motorcycle owned by “E.M.H.” gets several pages ; it was a 1923 2 3/4-h.p. Cedos two-stroke and his father took him from Kew to Winterton, Yorks, on the pillion, a run that occupied twelve hours, due to a puncture, running out of petrol and a broken kick-starter, as an annotated map-sheet shows, although the return was “without mishap.”
Brooklands was first visited in 1930 and letters seeking an apprenticeship to the industry follow, Lagonda and Bentley offering no hope, but Aston-Martin, Ltd., “taking in” E.M.H. in that same year.
A patchwork of calculations, drawings and plans show that our young apprentice commenced construction of a J.A.P.engined three-wheeler in his spare time, but abandoned it for lack of funds. The scrapbook continues the story. We find a picture of the 1931 Aston-Martin “works” team—Cook, Bertelli and Harvey—and the name plate and pit-code from Bertelli’s car.
Inman Hunter’s first car, a 1931 Rover Ten saloon, is celebrated by its licence disc, a chassis description from the Autocar and photographs. We come to 1937 and a group, superimposed on cuttings of reports of the Donington Grand Prix, of enthusiasts about to set off for that great race, brings back nostalgic memories of things we shall never do in quite the same way again. Inman Hunter’s “special,” based on a “10/23” Talbot and with a rotary-valve head designed by his father—who has since written a comprehensive book on such valves—is covered by many pictures and relevant documents. We see the Austin Big Seven used by M.C. Hunter for his own rotary-valve experiments. Space precludes mention of all the items attractively laid out in these scrapbooks. We see a reminder of 3,500 miles “hitch-hiking” during R.A.F. service, Hunter’s search for old films for the V.C.C., and the acquisition of his first Aston-Martin, before he leaves for Australia. Masses of pictures of cars owned by members of the V.S.C.C. of Australia, of which Read’s Isotta-Fraschini, Pitchett’s Mercedes-engined Crossley, Smith’s 3-litre Sunbeam (which would not offend Anthony Heal) and Collins’ Wensum “30/98 ” Vauxhall with speedometer and rev.-counter mounted out on the scuttle, particularly stand out. Incidentally, both Collins’ and Tattersall’s “30/98s” use modern down-draught carburetters on their original manifolds. This Australian visit ended with a return journey in 63 hours in an Avro “Lancastrian.” But Hunter went out again, this time with Capt. Geoffrey Wikner on his Exhibition Flight in a converted Handley Page “Halifax III” bomber in aid of the R.A.F. Benevolent Fund, edited that great film “The Overlanders,” using a Morris Eight tourer the while, and returned, with his wife, in the P. & 0. R.M.S. “Strathmore.”
Scrapbooks such as this are well worth keeping. The present “basicless” era is just the time to sort out old cuttings and photographs and do something about them, although considerable artistry and hard work will be necessary to equal Inman Hunter’s method of preserving his personal motoring memories.