Vintage postbag, March 1986

“Bugatti at Brixton”


I was interested in “Bugatti at Brixton” as I now own the 5-litre mentioned in the article. Several years ago I was approached by the Leicester Mercury, who asked if I would provide an open car for the starter of the Mercury walk, to flag the walkers off. I was pleased to provide my Type 44 and a picture appeared a couple of nights later. During that week I had a call from a Mr Bouldin (not Baldwin), the ex-technical storeman at Bugatti, Brixton Strangely enough he lived in Wigston, only a couple of hundred yards from our patternmaking and foundry business “The Cooke Group”. He explained his interest in Bugatti and I invited him to the office to talk about his association with the make. He told me he received the Type 46 into his stores in February 1930; it was imported as a demonstration model with Weymann saloon body and Col Sorel used it personally and as a demonstrator. Mr Bouldin worked at Brixton for 14 years, until it closed down on January 1st 1940. He gave me quite a lot of interesting documents amongst which was the references he had from the Colonel on Ettore Bugatti notepaper, and a growing reference it was.

He told me the Type 46 was sold to Mr George Foreman through Mr Wilkinson, of Prospect Engineering Co. Newby, Scarborough, and in 1949 was bought back by Mr Wilkinson. The car was used quite extensively by Mrs Turner, who was a great friend of Mr Wilkinson’s, but only for about 3 months after which at the end of 1949, the car was laid up and stood in his showroom until I bought it from Peter Wilkinson after his father died in 1975. Peter was very kind and gave me his father’s books, photographs and, above all the original French Bugatti agent s plate.

Prospect Engineering was an un-official agent for Bugatti and handled quite a number of Bugalti cars and hence Mr Bouldin knew Mr Wilkinson well.

He knew the car was at Prospect Engineering and after so many years had lapsed wished to meet Mr Wilkinson and see the car. In September 1974 I drove Mr Bouldin to Scarborough and we chatted long about Bugattis and the close association the two men had in years gone by. Mr Wilkinson was then in poor health and his eyesight was failing, but he entertained us well, with his usual bottle of sherry. Mr Bouldin was retired during this association and was a great help to me with the history of not only the T46 but telling me of the history at first hand of “Bugatti, Brixton” I was saddened to hear he had died a few yeas ago, after suffering a heart attack a few years previously.

The 5-litre was in a sorry state when I bought it. If was original except for the trim, which had been covered in a kind of coarse hessian. It was complete in every respect and I am particularly pleased with having a French body. The restoration has just, been completed in our own restoration works at Saddington after much research in Mulhouse to obtain the correct colours, wood and hide-trim, etc, though most of the interior wood, trim was restorable. It is in our private museum in between roadtests and will be seers during the coming Spring and Summer time. I have pleasure in enclosing a photograph as it now is. I am most grateful to MOTOR SPORT for exciting me into writing this, and long may the journal continue


A Veteran Daimler


It was nice to see the Daimler on the cover of your December issue. This was the last of several cars rebuilt by the Daimler Apprentices Motor Club before it was disbanded after the Jaguar takeover. The car had previously been dismantled arid was reassembled in time for the 1960 Brighton Run, for which it had been entered by the DAMC. Unfortunately two days before the run one of the chainwheel jack-shafts broke and there was insufficient time to make another. Two of us had been allotted the task of assembling the engine and gearbox and I recall trying to guess the timing setting from the numerous file marks on the cam gear! I remember turning the starting handle for a considerable time to1, upon disengaging it that the engine was already running and that I had been keeping up with it. The 1946 Coventry registration number was obtained for the Motoring Jubilee celebrations of that year.

On a John O’Groats theme, I remember Frank Walker and George Fabel ot the experimental department taking the Lanchester Sprite to John O’Groats in 1957, ostensibly to test the Hobbs transmission but probably as a schoolboy outing. They left at 5 pm and were back at the factory the following afternoon, which was an average of well over 50 mph.


Dorothy Sayers’ Cars


“Dorothy L Sayers – a Biography” by James Brabazon (Gollancz. 1981) sheds interesting light on the care and accuracy with which she invariably deals with motoring matters in her novels. Her son’s father (referred to in the biography under the pseudonym “Bill”) seems to have earned his living among cars and motorcycles and to have been a frequent visitor to Brooklands. He is said to have taught Dorothy to appreciate the sweet sound of an engine running smoothly, as well as how to repair and service when necessary. Later, Dorothy married Oswald Atherton Fleming, (“Mac”), who as well as being a motor racing correspondent for the News of the World occasionally organised meetings at Brooklands. It transpires that he and Dorothy had experience of We “Ner.a.Car” before she acquired a Belsize.Bradshaw which later gave her cause for anxiety. When Parry Thomas was killed at Pendine Sands, it was Mac who wrote the News of the World’s dramatic account of the decapitation by a driving chain.

It is therefore no surprise to find that in “Unnatural Death’ (1927) the detective, Lord Peter Wimsey hits on the method of the killing when he traces a fault in a rnotorcycle to an air-lock in the fuel feed. In the short story “The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in the Bag” (1928) the scene opens with a furious road-race along the Great North Road between an OHV Norton (with its “sharp rattle”), and a Scott Flying-Squirrel (“Feline shriek”), In this story Wimsey puts in an appearance in a large open tourer with an unnaturally long bonnet. by 1931 (“The Five Red Herrings”), he is driving a Daimler Double-Six.

Since at one point the speedometer, hovers at the 85 mph mark, one might suppose this to be the Park Ward coupe introduced in 1930 with its Thomson and Taylor-tuned engine. No doubt this is also the car, in which. in “Murder Must Advertise” (1933). Wirnsey joins a drunken and dangerous contest between (if my memory serves) a Bentley and a Chrysler — the Bentley being left far behind and the Bright Young Thing in the Chrysler being startled to see the huge lights of Wimsey’s car looming suddenly behind below it surges past.

One might also mention the Alta owned by Wimsey’s nephew while at Oxford, in which he is accustomed to risk his life too often for parental comfort. This is in “Gaudy Night”, (1935) so the car could presumably have been a 17/95 or 21/220. One should also refer to the other book in which the motoring plays a significant part in the plot. “Have His Carcase” (1932) in which an alibi is faked with the wit of a two-cylinder car, the HT leads of which could be readily shorted by a broken off needle, Wimsey remarks that this is no doubt why the villain chose to use a Morgan, the only alternative being, a Belsize-Bradshaw.

James Brabazon also points out that the episode in “Clouds of Winess”, in which Wimsey dramatically produced a last minute reprieve by chartering a plane in which he is flown across the Atlantic by an intrepid pilot anticipates Lindbergh’s solo crossing by a year at least—which must have heightened the drama considerably.

It is satisfying to find a novelist taking care over such interesting details in books written over fifty years ago.

Hadfield. Sussex, STEPHEN HAY.