Vintage Postbag, March 1969

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Survival of an Alfa Romeo Bimotore

Sir,

I noticed with some interest the “Tailpiece” depicting Austin Dobson and the Bimotore Alfa Romeo, and the letter from G. P. Harvey Noble.

It may be of interest to your readers that this fascinating car is still in existence, and was in fact acquired by me some eighteen months ago.

After its successful ownership by A. R. P. Bolt it came to New Zealand about 1950, being bought, I believe, by John McMillan as a source of spares for his Type B Monoposto, the Ashby/Hutchison car. On arrival the car was found to be in better condition than expected and so the engine and gearbox were removed and the car was sold to veteran driver George “Wizard” Smith, and as late as 1956 raced in the New Zealand Grand Prix fitted then with a Chrysler engine. When I acquired the car it was fitted with a G.M.C. truck engine and had spent many years as a club hill-climb and beach-racing car.

It is hoped to rebuild the old monster to a form as near to its original Bimotore style as possible, although it is unlikely that it will ever have two engines again. The rear engine is, I believe, that now fitted in Patrick Lindsay’s Tipo B, and the original front engine is now in the hands of Bill Clark here in Christchurch, who is doing a wonderful rebuild on the Nuvolari 1935 German G.P.-winning car. I have hopes that Bill will eventually make this engine available.

I would be extremely grateful if you or any of your readers can assist with any information, memories or, more especially, photographs that I can have copied. These items would be appreciated regarding the car in either of its forms as I hope to gather together all the history of this car.

Christchurch, New Zealand. Gavin M. Bain.

* * *

Austin 7 Saloons

Sir,

The Austin Company’s catalogue for the 1928 Austin 7 shows a picture of the Gordon England fabric saloon on page 15, price £170. This faces, on page 14, details of the Gordon England Cup Model which was priced at £150, the same price as the manufacturer’s saloon which was offered in either coachbuilt or fabric form. There was also catalogued a fabric saloon by Mulliner of Birmingham, the only Austin 7 to have wind-down windows in the doors, the others all having sliding windows.

I took delivery of a Gordon England Silent Saloon at the Wembley Works in the late spring of 1928. The body was beautifully made of plywood with well fitting doors and covered in the best quality fabric. The seats were of pigskin leather and very comfortable. Unfortunately the Gordon England principle of the body being flexibly attached to the chassis at three points only was not a success for a saloon on the Seven chassis. If the single rear point of attachment gave way the body sat down on the back wheels and became immovable. The instrument panel was intended to float independently of the body, being, like the front seats and floor, separately attached to the chassis. The theory may have been right, but in practice, on the bad roads of the late nineteen-twenties, the instrument panel and the body hammered each other with devastating effect.

Production of the Gordon England saloon was short-lived and ceased after the end of the 1928 season.

Cults, Aberdeenshire. George F. Collie.

* * *

Gordon or Gordon England?

Sir,

There is no shadow of doubt that Mr. Nicholas’ Austin 7, illustrated in the December issue, is in fact a Gordon England saloon. Actually the Gordon concern, whom Mr. Hughes suggests may have made it, never produced bodies for Sevens, although curiously enough their name and address always appeared in the instruction books issued with these cars.

The characteristic gap between the rear of the bonnet and the scuttle, which was a feature of all closed cars having G.E. bodies, is plainly visible in the photograph; this gap tended to increase as the mileage totted up, and prompted many owners to have welding and strengthening work carried out at chassis level in order to remove it.

The writer can well remember as a rapturous schoolboy in detention covering endless foolscap sheets with drawings of these stylish little cars; there were many thousands on the road at the end of the vintage period, red/black and blue and silver fabric were the two most popular colour schemes.

E. C. Gordon England’s notable successes as a tuner and competitor at Brooklands, and as an aviator pioneer, seem to have overshadowed the story of the coachworks at the Palace of Industry, Wembley. As late as September 1930, an advertisement in the Austin Magazine invited the reader to send for a copy of “England Coachwork on the Austin”. However, when the Olympia Show numbers were published a few weeks later, it became evident that no G.E.-bodied cars were being exhibited; instead, there was a photograph of Gordon England at the wheel of one of his track cars, the caption saying that he had been appointed Automotive Sales Manager to the Vacuum Oil Company.

It would be interesting to know if any old employees of the Company are still extant; like the Swallow-bodied cars of the same era, they provided the chance to own something combining real craftsmanship and individuality with the low cost and servicing facilities of the mass-produced chassis.

-Claygate. L. R. Hawkes.

* * *

Pity the Poor Historian : 1922

Sir,

I have read Mr. C. McCloughan’s letter on the above, but have not read the book. I note the facts referred to in this book on the Leyland Eight and to the car in which Michael Collins was killed in Ireland in 1921. This car was brought back to England and for many years lay in Thomson & Taylor’s workshops at Brooklands.

He also refers to the bullet in the windscreen which killed Michael Collins. This it entirely wrong as I often saw this car and there was only one bullet hole, which was through the door, and I often remarked that the sniper must have been the Irish Crack Shot who killed the said Michael Collins.

If my memory serves me right the Leyland Eight went out of production in 1922/23 and cars that appear after that date were mostly built with spares left over.

Wolverhampton. E. L. Bouts.

* * *

Oh Dear!

Sir,

Since you have allowed a thoroughly irresponsible letter to be published in your good magazine, in an article which is clearly referring to my 1932 Morris Cowley advertised in the December, 1968, issue, I hope you will see fit to publish my letter, as its owner, as Mr. M. Turner writes on something he obviously knows nothing about, not even having seen the car.

Firstly, I have not received so much as a single word or letter from the Morris (Cowley) Club; I didn’t even know they existed, so could hardly be expected to be a member.

Secondly, the Cowley body, chassis and engine, are entirely original. I have confirmation of this in the form of a letter by none other than Buchanan-Morris of Morris’s, Clearly, Mr. Turner has not done his homework.

True, I did buy the Cowley for £395 originally, it then being advertised as “Concours”, which it certainly was not. It even broke down on the day it was delivered by the company who sold it me. I immediately had to buy five brand-new tyres and tubes—cost £42 18s. It was then re-sprayed, cost £60. All small chrome work re-chromed, £27. The brass parts, being exposed by a company whose name I can give privately, professionally, cost £11, and most certainly not “Scraped” as Mr. Turner, in his ignorance, claims. Complete engine overhaul, including new clutch, one new piston, three new valves, gaskets, etc., £80, new horn £8, not to mention numerous smaller expenses.

After a year of hard work, love and care, this totals £623 minimum. I advertised it at £680 with £650 in mind. Hardly excessive. I did not intend selling for profit as implied; full cost of Cowley would easily exceed £650.

As a vintage enthusiast, I’m sorry to have to sell the Cowley. However, as a member of the Lea-Francis Club, and having acquired recently a very rare 1926 model, I am very keen to “save it”. Unfortunately, my circumstances are such that I have to sell the Cowley in order to find the capital for this.

It is a pity that Mr. Turner cannot find likewise to do, instead of writing shallow, and misinformed, views on something he knows nothing about.

Beckenham. P. Quayle.

[Now let’s hear from those who have bought serviceable 1930 to 1939 vehicles of this type for a little less than £650.—Ed.]

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