Vintage postbag, March 1962

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The Cars of My Father

Sir,

Before sending Motor Sport to my son in British Honduras each month, I gain particular pleasure from reading “Vintage Postbag,” as my motoring memory dates from 1915. In that year a White Steam car turned our pony trap out of its shed, but that was the swan-song of the old “steamer” as my father did not succeed in getting it on the road again, but the back seat made a very comfortable sofa in the nursery. We eventually joined the motoring public in a 2-Seater Bedford with the petrol tank under the dickey seat, and as the petrol was gravity fed to the carburetter we toured the hilly Somerset country largely in reverse.

A French Zebra (11.5 h.p.), gay with much brass, served us for many miles, but we usually returned home with the Stepney attached, as the roads were atrocious and tyres poor; it was not uncommon to have two or three punctures on an outing. As far as I can remember, a Stepney was a tyre on a rim which was clamped to the punctured wheel, a noisy, flapping affair which did not improve the steering if it was a front wheel in trouble.

Then, believe it or not, my father bought a Briton (12.9 h.p.) from a gentleman named Julius Caesar! We felt frightfully sporty in what then seemed to be a long low car, and it was painted in the pastel shade of duck-egg green later used by Lagondas.

A series of unlovable cars followed, among them a Belsize, a Cluley and a Bean which we positively hated—sorry Bean enthusiasts. An Ariel which was a pretty little car proved to be too frail for our treatment. The Buick which followed could have been tough enough had it not already exhausted its strength. The F.I.A.T. was popular with the family but I remember better the Wolseley 2-seater which suffered from big-end trouble—so often an outing ended with the nasty tell-tale knock in the engine.

Then in 1925 we saw our first Windsor (10-h.p. tourer) in a garage in Lyndhurst; it was a case of love at first sight, and we toured thousands of carefree miles in this perfect little car. The story is that a foreman of Rolls-Royce set up on his own and produced the Windsor with a radiator resembling a small Rolls. Later we had a second Windsor but somehow the inspired engineering was missing.

During the era of the Windsors there was also a little Citroen (7 h.p.?) in our old stables. It did some very fast and economical journeys but as a strict 2-seater was unsuitable for a family of four; my brother did try riding in the hole in the back on one occasion but suffered sorely from bruises and car sickness. A Dutch Spyker (15.9 h.p.) did not stay with us long, as any stiffish incline raised its temperature to boiling point.

I must say I have a specially soft spot for the French(?) D.F.P. (12.1 h.p.), as I learned to drive in it, but the steering was pretty sloppy and the lights were unreliable. We covered quite a number of miles blind on night jaunts—somehow one could get away with it in those days. We found a pair of Napier lamps in a break-up yard and with its long oval bonnet the car attained quite a Napier-like appearance.

A Morris-Oxford 2-Seater carried us from the late ‘twenties into the ‘thirties; about that time a Bignan was offered to us and showed off its paces at 70 m.p.h. up Southampton Avenue. My father, probably wisely, would not be persuaded by the salesman or me to buy. Two Talbots and a much-loved Alvis followed and then the 1935 Rover Twelve finally captured my father’s allegiance to one make of car for all time.

I hope you will have survived my dissertation on cars my father has owned.

Winchester. MOLLIE ASHENDEN (Mrs.).

That Lorry

Sir,

I was most interested in your recent correspondence concerning the so-called “Liberty” lorry. The vehicle in question illustrated in the January issue is not a Liberty but is in fact a Halley, built in Yoker, Glasgow, circa 1923-24. It was known as the S-type and featured a 4-cylinder engine with two sets of cylinders on a common crankcase. The gearbox was separated from the clutch by a short shaft and the power drove to a worm-drive rear axle. The lot was mounted on a chassis of rolled steel channel with cast dumb-irons.

Halley’s Industrial Motors Was founded by my grandfather, George Halley, whose untimely death in 1921 precipitated the end of the original firm in 1926. It was reconstituted and for some five years produced in a small way until about 1934.

For this information I am indebted to my great-uncle and to my father, both on the staff of the original firm.

Incidentally, my family are very anxious to acquire a Halley vehicle (preferably pre-1926 for sentimental reasons) and would be extremely grateful for any information received.

Milngavie. MICHAEL D. HALLEY.

Sir,

Having just read Mr. Hussey’s letter in the current Motor Sport, I would like to support his contentions that Mr. L. W. Barr’s photograph of the Pratts’ lorry is probably a “W. & G.,” most likely built in the late ‘twenties, as it is fitted with pneumatics instead of solids.

“W. & G.” used to build a very line line of dust carts, coaches and, of course, L.C.C. ambulances on both their own chassis and on the Roesch Talbot chassis, with reduction gearing at each back wheel hub. The coaches were about 32-seaters and for their day very low in floor level.

On one occasion they built 12 coaches, six fitted with the old 25 Talbot 4-cylinder engines and six had 6-cylinder Lycoming engines. When ready for delivery to a South Coast resort a convoy was made up, with the supposedly slower Talbots in front. The Talbot drivers had finished lunch by the time the “Lyco” drivers had arrived.

W. & G. were also responsible for the old yellow cabs, and were sole agents for Panhard-Levassor in the early ‘thirties.

As a student I spent a year at W. & G.’s—one of these days I will send you some memories of that time.

Radlett. J. SANGER.

Sir,

With reference to the photo of the lorry, it is certainly not a Liberty, but looks a little like a Halley, made in Scotland, I believe, up to the ‘thirties. I know a small amount about the former make because, as a boy in the 1920s, I had to fit new solid tyres to these lorries, and A.E.C., and chain-sleeve Albions as well.

They were beautifully made, as strong as a battleship, and having roller-bearing axles, at the time we were still using phosphor-bronze sleeves. This work took place at Maltby’s Motor Works in Sandgate, Kent, where the M.M.S. lorries, and char-a-bancs, were made from pre-1914 till about 1925. They were made largely in the works, with a channel girder frame and various fittings made by the blacksmith. A White and Poppe engine was usually used, T-headed of course, and often likely to catch fire. They had a chain-drive gearbox and hand throttle, and were exceptionally quiet. One monster char-a-banc was made with a 6-cylinder engine, and reputed to do 60 m.p.h. It was used at times to take parties to the Derby. These M.M.S. buses were used by two local firms, one lot painted yellow and the other green, and I remember seeing them advertised in the summer, with wireless, while taking circular tours, and this in 1927 or so.

The proprietor, Mr. Maltby, had a twin-cam Dorman engine fitted to a 2-seater bull-nose Morris-Oxford, and caused a certain amount of interest with it.

Beddington. F. L. UDEN.

Sir,

Regarding the interesting photo of a Pratts’ spirit lorry on page 27 of Motor Sport for January 1962, sent by your correspondent Mr. L. W. Barr of Chelmsford, this, in my opinion, is definitely not a Liberty.

The high-curving front dumb-irons, starting handle position, cab, lamps and mudguards, and most of all the set-back position of the radiator, all mark it as a vehicle of British manufacture. I would say it was a W. & G. made by Messrs. W. & G. du Cros, Ltd., of Acton, London; a firm once associated with Clement-Talbot, who had a small output of high-grade lorry and bus chassis soon after the 1914-18 war. They also made some early taxicabs and. I believe, a particularly good ambulance chassis for the L.C.C. which remained in production till the 1930 depression. The radiator in the photo looks typically W. & G.

If this is wrong, my next guess is that it is a McCurd, made at Hayes, Middlesex, in a workshop which is now part of the H.M.V. gramophone factory. This also was an excellent lorry.

Durban. E. G. HOBSON 
[This correspondence shows what a lot of research has still to be done on commercial vehicle history. Many more letters were received and the subject is now closed.—ED.]

Gaskets for Old Engines

Sir,

May I just say how pleased I am that Lieutenant Clarke was able to report so favourably on the James Walker Gasket Service, because it is our constant aim to provide that “personal touch” which is so elusive these days. Indeed, as specialists in the design and manufacture of all types of packing and jointing, we are always ready to offer our advice and assistance in connection with any sealing problem.

Over the years we have had the privilege of supplying any number of our special copper asbestos gaskets for the cylinder heads and manifolds of vintage cars and also other vehicles where conventional spares from stockists have proved impossible to obtain. Your readers are invited to avail themselves of our experience and facilities.

Woking. K. K. GIBBS for James Walker & Co. Ltd. 

Dating a Minerva

Sir,

A question mark shows that your reader A. J. Airs from New Zealand is in doubt about the year of manufacture of his Minerva.

It is actually a 1928 model, belonging to the first series of the 6-cylinder 1,800-c.c. cars built between 1928 and 1931. Only in 1928 had these cars a fabric-covered body. The wheels shown in the picture, incidentally, are not original, plain disc wheels being normally fitted.

Brussels. PAUL FRERE.

Veteran Commercial Vehicles

Sir,

On the subject of old commercial vehicles, your readers may be interested in two photographs or vans run by this company some years ago.

One is a 1901 2-ton 6-h.p. twin-cylinder Daimler which we believe to have been the first commercial vehicle in this area. It was painted chocolate with yellow lettering, had bunsen-burner ignition (the pressure being kept up by a valve in the exhaust), surface wick carburetter and automatic inlet valves. It had four forward and four reverse gears, and achieved 12 m.p.g. One of its main troubles was that the tyres kept coming off. The driver spent a month at Coventry learning to drive it but never mastered the technique satisfactorily, and in 1902 we had to spend £71 as a result of an accident. After a £48 overhaul in May 1904 we sold it. The canvas tilt survived for many years, and ended its life just before the second war on the back of a Birmingham baker’s van.

The second driver of the Daimler, finding he could not see behind him without turning his head, rigged up a small mirror in such a position that he could see the road behind him without having to move. We were subsequently approached by the Birmingham civic transport authorities who asked for details of the method of fitting this device, as they wanted to apply it to their own vehicles.

We replaced the Daimler with a 1904 30-cwt. 16-h.p. twin-cylinder Lacre (Albion) box van, which cost £465. This was painted dark green with gold lettering. It had wooden wheels, low-tension magneto ignition, Murray patent carburetter and governor, and ignition plugs operated by push-rods from the camshaft. It had three forward and one reverse gear, and we got 18 m.p.g. from it. We kept it for to years and had excellent service from it. The photograph was taken in Handsworth High Street, Birmingham.

We still have part of an Overland car here now. It was used by the managing director for some years before the First World War, then had the body stripped and a platform back fitted for use as internal works transport. Apparently horses were more reliable, and part of the back axle of the car was incorporated in a testing machine, which is still in regular use.

Tipton. C. A. L. HARRIS, p.p. Bullers Limited.

Alvis Cars and Buckingham Engines

Sir,

I was interested to read “A letter from D. M. K. Marendaz” but I am afraid the statement in the first paragraph is not correct. I understand the position to be that D. M. K. Marendaz was an apprentice under the chief engineer, the late T. G. John, at the Siddeley-Deasy works, Coventry. T. G. John left Siddeley-Deasy in 1919 to form his own company, T. G. John Ltd., later Alvis Car & Engineering Co. Ltd., and subsequently employed Marendaz as one of the staff. They disagreed and Marendaz left Alvis in 1920 and had nothing further to do with the company from that date onwards.

The Buckingham cars and engines were made at the Alvis works from 1921 to 1923 but the company had nothing to do with the manufacture of the Buckingham stationary engine. 

Coventry. G. H. WILTSHER, Publicity Manager, Alvis Ltd.

Anyone Here Seen Kelly?

Sir,

Can anyone remember an enormous American truck called the Kelly?

It had an engine of about 60 h.p. (R.A.C. rating) and a bonnet shaped rather like a Renault, but goodness knows where it kept its radiator.

Wolverhampton. W. H. DOBBS.

We regret to record the death, at 69, of Ken Taylor, formerly Parry Thomas’ head mechanic and late of Thomson & Taylor (Brooklands) Ltd.

The B.A.R.C. has confirmed that it will hold a Jubilee Celebration on July 14th, so there could be a tine assembly of historic cars (and, one hopes, some cyclecarst) at Goodwood that day.

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