Vintage Postbag, March 1967
The Vintage ” Mod”
I think the Vintage ” Mod ” in your February issue is a Rover. It reminds me very much of a neighbour’s car which I last saw in 1925. I suspect the open door conceals part of the twin cylinder heads which protruded either side of the bonnet for air cooling. The seating was cloverleaf pattern with room for two passengers at the front and one at the centre back.
The vehicle I remember had a brief but lively existence in our locality. Our neighbour had only had it a week when he decided to take his wife and child on holiday. On a Saturday morning they were all installed ready to move off under the admiring gaze of a small crowd, but this publicity proved too much for the driver. He let in the clutch with a terrific bang, the cardan shaft tore in half like a cardboard tube and the holiday was cancelled.
Sutton Coldfield — K. C. KENYON
Re the Vintage car illustrated with the mini-skirted cloche-hatted flapper in it. I think it is a Deemster. Remember them?
Nottingham — ARTHUR BARTON
I owned a car identical to the photograph and it was a Deemster. This was purchased in Kirkcaldy, Fifeshire, from a motor garage owned by a firm called Nielson Bros. If I am right, the thing which did appeal to me was the self-starter, a long type of handle, almost horizontal with the floor boards; you pulled it up quickly and ” hey presto ” the engine started.
Hounslow — C. FORBES
The car shown on page 94 I would take to be a Bayliss Thomas, a type that was occasionally seen in the nineteen-twenties.
Darlington — W. S. ROBINSON
The car shown is a Rhode. Quite nice little cars they were too, in their day!
Poole — HARRY ROSE
I would think that the car is a Rhode. I once owned a 1926 10.8 h.p. 4-5 seater but I feel that the one in your picture (if a Rhode) is a slightly earlier 9.5 h.p. occasional four. This was a close-coupled four seater with a rather ” chopped off ” back, of which the Morris Cowley ” Chummy was another example.
Coventry — A. F. POYNTON
The car in your picture is either a Rhode or an Aerial.
Hassocks — W. COLLIN.
[You are all wrong! The car is a Hands, made by the Calthorpe Motor Cycle Company in Birmingham. More information will be published next month.—ED.]
The ” Zephyr ” Light Car
The following information may be of some help to Mr. Gazey (Vintage Postbag).
The actual title of the firm was in fact always shown as Jas. Talbot & Davidson Ltd., so I think the “Mr. James” mentioned was in fact James Talbot. The address was Waveney Works, Freemantle Road, Lowestoft. I would question the statement that the company’s capital was lost during the first world war. Most munitions factories accumulated quite healthy bank balances during the period 1914-1918 (the only notable exception was Scout of Salisbury who fell out with the Ministry) and in fact the Zephyr did not die until 1920.
It was resurrected after the war as a slightly vee-radiatored car of quite clean line, and was advertised pretty regularly in The Motor, Autocar, etc., in the period 1919-1920 (usually in the cheaper advertisement supplements at the back of these magazines) and during the same period the company also advertised their “Zephyr” pistons.
Chartham — MICHAEL WORTHINGTON-WILLIAMS
Another Daimler Double-Six
I am, in view of the Double-Six Daimler correspondence, enclosing photographs of the first Daimler Double-Six I drove in 1934. This was a 1931 machine with Sports saloon body, weighing over 2 tons, with a consumption of 4.5 to the gallon. It had a special high axle ratio and was capable of showing a speedometer reading of 95 m.p.h.
Although so heavy, the steering was perfect, the gear change although epicyclic was very hard on the left leg and the servo brakes required fairly frequent adjustment. This car was used for the worst type of work, short mile-and-a-half runs in Cheltenham in 1933 until 1938; I could recount the troubles experienced but do not wish to do so.
Thank you for a most interesting paper, which I always read from cover to cover.
Chepstow — D. J. H. FLOOKS
I was most interested to read of your search for the truth about ” Elcosine “—known to the Italians as ” Elcosina.”
In my research into Alfa Romeos I have long been puzzled as to the nature of this racing fuel used in the Vintage era and referred to in technical data on Alfa Romeos; thus I resolved to find out the formula to enlighten the readers of my forthcoming book on the ” 6C 1750 ” which I have written with Luigi Fusi.
Eventually Ing. Stefano Smazzi of Shell Italiano came forth with the necessary history of the fuels of that period, most of which must remain for the readers of the book, but this much I will recount: Elcosina was a petrol-alcohol mixture prepared by the Societa Anonima Elcosina Carburanti Nazionali of Torino and one of their mixtures (petrol plus 44% ethyl alcohol plus a small percentage of ether) was first used on the P2 Alfa Romeos in 1925 and gave a notable power increase.
Thus it acquired great publicity and the name became a byword for racing fuel so much so that all other racing fuels (by Shell, Esso, Littorci, etc. etc.) became quite unconsciously dubbed ” Elcosina ” for some years after.
London N14 — ROY SLATER.
Not to be scorned
Usually I find myself in almost complete agreement with W.B.’s opinions on old car matters, but having read February’s paragraph on V.S.C.C. eligibilities I must take exception to the rather sneering comments on cars of the period 1930-40.
I feel sure that W.B. will agree that examples of cars produced in the thirties must be preserved, whether they have outstanding merit or not, if for no other reason than to provide a living history of the world’s automobiles. Owning and running old cars is for most people a hobby, and the attitude of many vintage car owners that anything built after 1930 is automatically rubbish does nothing to keep alive the friendly atmosphere that should surely surround all who share in a hobby. Not everyone who likes old cars can afford a vintage car now that prices have been pushed up to ridiculous heights (due, I feel, to the unfortunate snob value that has been placed on them), and the young enthusiast who lavishes care and attention on an immaculate car of the thirties only to be told that it is rubbish is bound to feel bitter and resentful. The old car hobby is a good one, it must not be spoilt by quarrelling, bad feeling and petty jibes at the tastes of other people. Perhaps “Georgian” is a little grandiose, but eventually a suitable term will be found, and when it is it should be adopted, and interest in cars of the ‘thirties encouraged instead of sneered at. After all, they were for the most part reliable family transportation and were long lasting—Ford and Morris 8s, Austin 10s, Hillman Minx were to be seen in gay profusion into the early ‘sixties as well as lots more pre-war popular cars, so they can’t have been all that bad.
Surely it is wrong to attach a stigma to these cars and force the remaining examples on to the scrapheap, leaving only the inadequate evidence of photographs and human memory to perpetuate them. Perhaps some readers may be able to suggest an acceptable term for these cars besides the obvious Maligned … Scorned … Rebuffed …
Lancaster — J. E. MEADOWCROFT
Don’t Believe Auction-sale Prices!
I have been horrified by recent disclosures in the motor Press as to the business ethics, or apparent lack of them, of well known auctioneers. I hope some action can be taken to halt this trend, which I gather is not limited to motor cars but applies also to antiques and works of art. Any article put in for auction can have a reserve placed upon it, and it is up to the auctioneer to place a fair value upon any article, below which it should not be sold or the vendor would be cheated. This is perfectly fair and reasonable, but it is entirely another matter when the auctioneer makes it appear that the item has been sold for a very high figure. What is his purpose in misleading the public in this way? Is the answer perhaps that it is part of the process of “conning” the public into thinking they must pay high prices?
If you take the hypothetical case of a man who is the owner of a vintage Bentley or a Chippendale bookcase or a Renoir; he might read in his paper that a similar item had realised a large sum of money in an auction sale, the paper naturally having printed in good faith the prices quoted to them by the auctioneers. So this man is tempted to offer his property through the same medium. When he sees the announcement in the paper, he has no reason to suspect that the prices are entirely fictitious, that the items were in fact not sold at these figures, and that the true value may be as low as one-third of the price quoted.
It is the letter from your unfortunate correspondent with the Lagonda which has made me write to you about this matter. It seems very unfair that his car should have been bid up to £240 and that he only received £100 for it after sale. One is tempted to ask who the under-bidder was, and whether he might have bought the car, assuming of course that there was an under-bidder.
The legitimate dealers in the various trades concerned must think that this is extremely unfair competition to say the least, since it is based entirely on a complete distortion of the truth, and whether intentional or accidental, unfortunately suggests sharp practice. No, sir, if ever I wish to buy or sell a motor car, I shall do it either privately or through one of the reputable dealers who depend on fair dealing for their living.
DISGUSTED [name and address supplied.—ED.]
Some Lea-Francis Asides
I would like to reply to Mr. P. Pringle’s letter on Lea-Francis Affairs. I worked at Lea-Francis from September, 1924, to September, 1931. They were the Seven Happiest Years of my Working life. It was news to me about the chassis being driven alongside the trams to listen for Noises. Every car Lea-Francis made had a good Road Test before going to the Body Shop—Avon Bodies, Warwick— for open Tourer and Standard Saloons, and Cross & Ellis, Coventry, for the Sports Bodies on the 12/40 and Hyper Sports. I believe the same sports body was also fitted on the Alvis 12/50. I was promised the job when I was 13 by Frank Clark, who was charge hand of the Fitters Lodge with us at Kenilworth. On my 13th birthday he said, “Next year when you leave school I am going to take you with me and make a fitter of you.” So I started, fitting front springs and axles, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. when we were busy, doing 25 chassis a week. When front-wheel-brakes were fitted the axles were too heavy for me to lift so I fitted prop shaft, hand-brake brackets, steering column, side steering arm and front shock-absorbers. Every bolt was split-pinned in those days. I could do two an hour if I wanted to, so I was always on the look-out for a bit of day work on some Trials Car or Brooklands Racer, to make my wages up. I still have a photograph of myself at the wheel of Kaye Don’s Brooklands Racer. I sometimes went out with J. Hewitson (the Tester) when he went out with the Hyper Sports and Racer, I used to pump air into the Petrol Tank. I still think we were the first two people to do the ” ton ” as you call it these days, up the straight piece of Banbury Road, often crossing the river bridge at Warwick. The last time I went out with Jack it was to put the new Ace of Spades engine through its paces. I remember he stopped at the bottom of Fish Hill, Gloucestershire, then set off again to see what speed it would do from a standing start. He was so pleased with it that we stopped in Morton-in-the-Marsh on the way home and Jack treated me to a slap-up tea. I taught myself to drive in the little ” Grey Tub ” as we called it; it had the 8.9 h.p. engine. Then there was old DU40, which used to be Mr. Nash’s car (the works secretary) before he took delivery of a new 12/40, that had a bigger engine. I don’t think it was a Meadows. This was used for towing chassis to the body shop. I have seen G. Andrews get soaked many a time, sitting on a loose bucket-seat being towed in the rain! I think I have taken up enough of your valuable space in what, I think, is the best motor magazine printed.
Leamington Spa — A. SEWELL.
The Cars Nobody Wants
I was perusing a December, 1966, issue of your fine magazine when I happened to come across the article entitled ” The Cars Nobody Wants.” Upon reading further I was shocked to learn that it is Armstrong-Siddeleys that are unwanted.
Last year I owned a 1936 14HP Preselector Saloon which afforded me tremendous pleasure until it threw a connecting rod on my way back from a skiing holiday in Switzerland. As I had previously restored the car, I was loth to abandon it and walked on until I found a service station with a tow truck, but returning to the scene of the breakdown I found that it had been damaged meanwhile by an unknown, who had departed. Little could be done, and so I limped home on five cylinders. Replacing the engine with another Armstrong unit was beyond my capabilities and I did not wish to put a modern unit in the vehicle. I thereby advertised an injured Armstrong, but as you have remarked, it is a car nobody wants.
Quebec — T. S. DRAIN.
A 1926 McKenzie Autocycle
I own a 170 c.c. single-cylinder belt-driven, ladies’ McKenzie. When I purchased the bicycle I received a small leaflet and I would like to quote its contents.
” Important points in favour of the McKenzie:
(a) You can start the engine simply by cycling a few yards instead of starting the engine by running alongside and jumping on after the engine has started.
(b) You can cycle home in case of breakdown.
(c) You can cycle to next depot if petrol should run short unexpectedly.
(d) You can keep warm by cycling a few yards in cold weather.
(e.) You can have a feeling of safety with pedals.
(f) You can assist the engine when necessary (on peak hills).
Insurance: A comprehensive policy can be arranged for £2 5s.”
This is followed by some letters from owners, and I will quote some:
” … Soon you will have the little machine the height of perfection and may well be proud of it. You have an advocate in me, as I think it a little wonder.”— Rev. D. Holland Stubbs (Fareham).
“… Another attraction of the machine is that it is so clean to ride and no special costume is required—I frequently ride to tennis in white clothes with a light mack-over and never get a spot of dirt or grease.”— Kathleen Mackenzie (London).
“… When I bought a McKenzie three months ago I regarded it as an interesting but doubtful experiment. Since then it has carried me from London through the Lake District and over the Border Hills to Selkirk and Edinburgh, then by the Dalveen Pass into Galloway and back from there to London again crossing the Pennines from Brough to Barnard Castle easily. I have had no previous experience of motorcycles but the McKenzie is not an experiment—it does the work. My best one day run was from London to Lymm, Cheshire —192 miles, average 16 miles per hour. Petrol consumption 1-1/2 gallons.”— Robert .J. Jamieson (London).
I have yet to equal Robert Jamieson’s 192-mile 16 m.p.h. stint but as regards “points in favour” I can say most definitely that an outing on my McKenzie is usually preceded by six laps fast pedalling around the lawn before ignition !
Southampton — MARGARET MACRAE.