The number of active one-make clubs and organisations emphasises the specialist nature of enthusiastic car-ownership. Inevitably, from this, has stemmed specialist garages and spares stockists covering certain makes of cars. If such firms exist, it is better usually to deal with them than with garages in general when spares or overhaul of a particular make is concerned. So we sent a reporter to take a look at some of these concerns; we must emphasise that they were chosen at random and do not necessarily represent the only concern in their particular field.—Ed.
Jack Compton has been in the family business of Jack Compton Ltd. all his working life. Seventeen years after its foundation he joined the company, which was then being run by his father, and has been looking after its affairs as Managing Director since that time. Founded in 1921, the company has developed a good reputation with both pre- and post-war Rolls-Royces.
Mr. Compton was quick to show us round one of the firm’s two business centres, at his home in the Surrey village of Woldingham. He opened up barns and stables full of Rolls-Royce spares, engines here, wheels and headlights there, all piled on top of each other so that the mind began to boggle. As Mr. Compton is Secretary of the Rolls-Royce and Bentley Owner-Drivers’ Club, their headquarters form nicely converted out-houses at Woldingham, and include a bar, recreation rooms and a bistro-type restaurant.
Mr. Compton, whose very appearance epitomises what one imagines to be a “typical” Rolls-Royce owner, explained that the company simply expanded progressively after his father had bought and sold a Rolls-Royce. More such transactions followed, although almost exclusively in the same type of car. Restoring a Rolls-Royce can be expensive and difficult, and Mr. Compton was quick to reel off a lot of advice that would be invaluable to a prospective customer—the Silver Ghost is difficult and expensive, there are not many Phantom Is but Phantom IIs are more common, etc. Jack Compton Ltd. also help Rolls-Royce at Crewe with queries over pre-war models, now that they do not have many older mechanics left.
Jack Compton could not say exactly what had made his firm successful, but he thought it must have spread by word-of-mouth through the trade, for they do very little advertising.
John Bland‘s compact little premises at 27 Southfields Road, Wandsworth, have seen a good many cars restored since he started trading there in 1935. But his experience goes back much further than that; Mr. Bland started in 1919 with a firm of piston makers, later moved to a garage in the country and became a works manager before starting up at Wandsworth. All the knowledge gained in those times is now being used to good effect as Mr. Bland is Chief Scrutineer for the Vintage Sports Car Club.
Mr. Bland’s main interest is in Talbots, although he also renovates other makes, such as the occasional post-war Hotchkiss and Delahaye. He ran Talbots just after the 1914-18 war, when spares were virtually unobtainable, and to overcome this obstacle he started making them himself. He has been doing so ever since. One would not find any models very easy to restore, Mr. Bland stated, because there is practically nothing one could get spares for. For example, it would take six months to rebuild a chassis, but the coachwork may take longer still.
Mr. Bland, along with Robert Ashton, who has been with him for 26 years, make most of the spares and have a good range of machine tools for that purpose. This is rather difficult, though, for Mr. Bland said that Talbot did not issue any drawings to the Press and some models did not even have a parts list. A great many spare parts are also imported, mainly stuff that is unobtainable in this country, and in return Mr. Bland, like all of the specialists, sends his own parts all over the world. “There is virtually no other source of supply,” he said.
“If it’s a Morgan we are interested enthusiasts,” was how K. F. “Duggie” Douglass described his company, F. H. Douglass. That is a fairly accurate statement, for they deal in Morgan vehicles and nothing else. Mr. Douglass said they worked a six-day week at their premises at 1A South Ealing Road, London, W.5—except for one week in the year when they take the Saturday off to go to the Motor-Cycling Club’s Silverstone race meeting.
Mr. Douglass’s father started the company in 1929. Mr. Douglass, Snr., had been the Manager of the firm of Maudes Motor Mart and when the Morgan Company brought out their first three-wheeler in 1910 Maudes were appointed agents. “We have had the Morgan bug ever since,” Mr. Douglass stated.
“Duggie” Douglass joined the firm in 1946 and until 1950 the company dealt only in three-wheeler cars. Apart from that difference, the only way the Company as it was in the early days and as it is now has altered is in their stock of spares. Today’s selection is far larger, although a lot of the spares, especially for some of the twins, are getting very dicey to obtain. Mr. Douglass recalls one customer who went to him with a list of 48 parts that he wanted. It took a month to locate some of them, but F. H. Douglass were able to supply all but two of them. Normally orders for spares are turned round the same day.
The firm are in touch with Malvern every day and are regular visitors for spares. These go all over the world, and Mr. Douglass related one incident which gives a good idea of the Company’s reputation: five U.S. servicemen stationed in West Germany flew themselves over to this country for the day to get spare brake parts for a Morgan. They arrived in a jeep outside the shop, dressed in full flying gear, collected their spares and returned straight to Germany.
The workshops of Hofmann and Burton at Henley-on-Thames are some of the most impressive of all. There is space (although the firm are finding they would like to expand once more), plenty of light and a methodical order about the place, which, when we visited them, was chock-a-block with cars, mainly Bentleys, in various stages of restoration. H. & B.’s reputation is so good that there is a waiting list of some three to six months before a car can be taken in. Hardly any of these are post-war.
Fred Hofmann first became a Bentley fanatic as a child when he saw a 3-litre chassis on test in Wembley. From that point he was determined to work with these cars and it was therefore no surprise when he joined Bentley as an apprentice in 1923. He remained with them until the outbreak of World War II.
When Mr. Hofmann’s Company was started in 1949 it was in much smaller premises in Henley, doing work mainly for half a dozen local people. Now they have been in the modern new premises in Reading Road since 1955 and have customers all over the world. George Burton, who was formerly with Pat Whittet, the engine tuners at Lightwater, joined Mr. Hofmann in 1952 and deals with the business side, leaving the practical work to Mr. Hofmann. The Company have 12 employees, themselves all devoted enthusiasts.
At one end of the premises there are the machine tools—”There are no genuine spare parts these days,” said Mr. Hofmann—and upstairs there are drawers and drawers of genuine Bentley blueprints, 25,000 of them in all. These original drawings have been entrusted to Hofmann and Burton by Bentley and are nowadays often used by Rolls-Royce/Bentley themselves.
Bernard Mason‘s motoring activities really started just after World War Two when he began a private car hire firm. Before the hostilities he had been an accountant but simply did not want to return to a nine-to-five job. In those first few years the hire firm began to flourish but Mr. Mason found that the main item of expenditure was on repairs to the cars, and it was from this point that the company as it is known today got into its stride. The cars being used were Daimlers, because of their suitability to hire work, and Mr. Mason’s love of these cars grew with his knowledge of them. Nowadays, he prefers to specalise, “because I know my models,” he said.
Mr. Mason’s first garage was in Maldon Road, Enfield, which was opened in 1949. Shortly afterwards the company moved to Winchester Road—the location by which they are best known—and two places were run until a compulsory purchase order was served on them by Edmonton Council. Now Masons are in Bridge Road, Edmonton, and still looking for more suitable premises.
Bernard Mason, whose main out of work activity is local politics, believes the business was built up thanks to a personal touch. Customers, he believes, want to deal with the man in charge, not a works storeman. They have extensive Daimler spares but if a customer with another make of car came to them for help, Masons would probably not be able to help. They deal in Daimlers, do repairs and service to Daimlers but very little else. The company holds spares between 1932—and know where to locate certain others dating to 1924—which Mr. Mason values at about £15,000. They have eight people on the pay-roll, including Mr. Mason and his partner, John Popham. All are qualified mechanics; “We don’t employ boys,” Mr. Mason said.
As Anthony Crook Motors Ltd. was formed to distribute and service Bristols by a partner of Bristol Cars, the company can surely be regarded as the people to see about anything concerned with this make. After being based at premises in Caterham, Esher and Walton-on-Thames, Anthony Crook Motors uprooted the whole firm five years ago and in order to centralise took premises near Olympia and along the Great West Road at Chiswick.
The Olympia premises are for exhibiting and demonstrating cars, while those in Chiswick deal with spares and service. The Chiswick works, whose Chief Tester is Donald Stock, the man who physically built the first Bristol, have spares for all models from the first in 1946. Mr. Crook told of the recently installed two-level drive-in bay where cars are serviced while the customers wait. No booking is needed for this and Mr. Crook believes that with this service and the amount of spares available, Bristol have the edge over their Continental rivals. Spares, he informed us, were little more expensive than those of a high quality mass-produced car although the bodywork, being made of aluminium, is costly to repair.
The staff of the Great West Road, the nucleus of whom have been with the company for 21 years, undertake to complete restoration of cars and their coachwork. From the 400 model—the first made— to the 406 all had Bristol 2.2- or 2-litre 6-cyl. overhead valve engines and a great many parts were interchangeable, although since the 407 was introduced in 1961 Chrysler engines made specially for Bristol cars have been used.
Anthony Crook Motors are Bristol people, although one of their regular customers is actor Peter Sellers, whom they supply with all his cars, no matter what make. Mr. Crook would like to take on more such customers but just do not have the time.
Scuderia Manning, as Harry Manning calls his company, is very much a one-man show. He does not have any employees but spends long bouts at the workbench, and when we visited his premises in Upper Weybourne Lane, Heath End, Farnham, he was sitting surrounded by tools at the bench eating his lunch. Behind him were many Lancias, for it is in this make that Mr. Manning has chosen to specialise.
The company was started after Mr. Manning had been demobbed from the Royal Air Force just after the war. Before hostilities he had worked in is surveyor’s department and so when he set up on his own it was without garage premises. At that time he travelled to customers’ homes in order to perform the repairs and it was not until 1949 that a permanent site was obtained. That was next door to the present position, to which they moved four years ago. The company do all types of repairs but are not keen on bodywork jobs. They also trade in second-hand Lancias, but have been known to handle an occasional Alfa Romeo.
Most of Mr. Manning’s dealings are with these second-hand Lancias, mainly Flaminias and Aurelias. He has no trouble finding spares for Aprilias, but for the Aurelia bits he makes about six journeys a year to Italy, filling a car with spares and bringing it back to this country. Relations with Lancias in Alperton are first class, Mr. Mantling told us; all the jobs they don’t want, especially on Aurelias, they send to him.
But what had made him choose Lancias in the first place? Before the war his father had impressed upon him that it was the car to have, and in order to save enough money to buy a second-hand model Harry Manning cycled to work, 26 miles a day for 18 months.
Phantom Motors, which was started in 1960, deals in more modern Bentleys and Rolls-Royces. They also trade in a few pre-war cars, but vintage cars of this type are more in Hofmann and Burton’s line. The owner of Phantom Motors is a well-spoken young man, Tony Worthington, who had worked in several other garages in the vicinity but wanted to own one of his own. He thought out the matter carefully, deciding that there was a genuine market for a good Bentley/Rolls-Royce specialist in the quite wealthy area of the Hampshire and Surrey borders. Be finally bought what he describes as “three patrol pumps” in the little village of Crondall.
There are four employees in the garage, including two Rolls-Royce trained fitters, while the owner himself also works on the cars. On the day we visited him he had been called out to an emergency repair on the Hog’s Back, The garage has been gradually added to, and, it is hoped, will shortly be extended further. Phantom Motors carry out all schedule servicing on these cars, including repairs to the bodywork, and deal exclusively in Bentley/Rolls-Royce.
They are not official concessionaires of these cars and since January 1st this year, Mr. Worthington informed us, all post-war spares can be obtained only from agents. Among the spares at Crondall are chassis parts such as brake systems, fuel and water pumps, electrical equipment, gaskets, hoses, valves, etc. There is a building stacked with these, about £229 worth of post-war material and about £350 of pre-war bits.
Tony Worthington had been working on these cars for some nine years and after that time was inclined to stay with them. They are the most satisfying car to work on, because everything is so well put together, he said. Post-war cars are cheaper to work on by virtue of the simplified design, Mr. Worthington believes, although workmanship is every bit as good and the materials probably better. They deal predominantly in post-war cars and it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to buy pre-war cars at reasonable prices. The cars are objects of speculation and, as Mr. Worthington said of his concern, “We are not exactly the Stock Exchange.”—R. F.