Vintage Postbag, May 1957




I was interested to read in your February issue the statement quoted from the Badminton Magazine that Springfield production of the 40/50 Rolls-Royce was to reach some nine cars a week by the middle of 1921; but I wonder whether this figure was ever achieved, except perhaps during isolated weeks? So far as I am aware (and this is corroborated by a well-informed article in the Journal of the Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club of America) production for 1921 was about 130 chassis, for 1922 about 230 chassis, and for 1923 (the peak year for Ghosts) rather over 400.

It is a pity that there appears to be only one Springfield car in this country (a very attractive 1923 Brewster-bodied tourer), another having been returned quite recently to the U.S.A.

I have for some years been compiling a Register of Silver Ghosts that are still in existence, and their proverbial longevity is well illustrated by the fact that 89 pre-1917 cars (some of the bodies are not original) and 21 pre-1917 chassis in running order are known. A further 83 cars belong to the period 1917 to 1925. In neither case, of course, can the lists be assumed to be anything like complete, though the net has been fairly widely drawn, with entries covering cars in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Eire, Iraq, Malaya, South Africa, Sweden and the U.S.A.

May I ask, through your widely-read columns, whether any of your readers who owns a Silver Ghost, but has not communicated with me in the past, would be kind enough to let me have details? The particulars required are the chassis and engine numbers, the coachbuilder and type of coachwork, and any known history. Needless to say, any literature or information whether technical or general would be welcome, as would photographs of individual cars (which would be returned), even though they may no longer be in existence.

I am, Yours, etc., M. H. Vivian. London, S.W.7.



I was very interested indeed to read the letter from Mr. W. C. Stevens regarding Talbots at Ladbroke Grove, etc.

It is particularly interesting to me personally as he obviously worked there in my father’s day, and I also remember the thrill of the Grahame White versus Paulin(?) flight to Manchester. I wonder if he remembers the Clement Bayard airship coming to Wormwood Scrubs to the hangar specially built, I think, for her? The second largest gas-holder is also a very vivid memory as when I was not spending time in the works or watching cars being tested round the private track with its banked corners. I used to spot the Great Western engines (I was also a train fan) from the top end of the works facing the gas-holder.

Regarding my old 12/50 Alvis big port, this car was only five years old at the time and in first-class order; 70 m.p.h. was quite within its scope, and I believe, many 12/50s could better this speed, as I also did with mine.

I was interested to hear about the 5/6-h.p. Indian. To be quite fair to it I probably still hankered after its bigger brother, and I also was posted abroad before I had had it very long. I quite agree about the wonderful twist-grip control system, and the machine, with its good three-speed gearbox and clutch, was much ahead of its time.

If ever Mr. Stevens would like to write to me personally I’d be happy to hear from him and yarn about the Talbot works of happy memories to me.

I am, Yours, etc., L. P. Mills, Major. Elton.



With reference to your article “Parisian Affair,” you mention that in the course of a discussion with Mr. Povey, of Talbots, the name of the Restelli car cropped up. It might interest you to know that the son of the designer of the Restelli, Signor Gianni Restelli, is the present manager of the Monza Autodrome. Signor Restelli recently gave me some photographs not only of his father, who died in 1956, but also some of the Restelli car to which you refer in your article.

I am, Yours, etc., T. A. S. O. Mathieson. London, S.W.1.



My nephew, Mr. J. W. L. Mantel, has drawn my attention to the photograph of my car featured in the February issue of Vintage Postbag, as he recognised the passenger as myself.

Dr. Bayley is driving my 8-h.p. single-cylinder de Dion which I bought in 1906. Mr. Bayley is quite correct in assuming we had stopped at the New Inn “under doctor’s orders.” I would also mention that Dr. Bayley was head doctor at St. Andrew’s Hospital at Northampton for many years.

I may add that I was the second man in Northamptonshire to possess a car, and am now in my ninetieth year. My first car was a 3½-h.p. single-cylinder Benz with solid tyres — which I purchased in 1896.

I am, Yours, etc., A. E. Richardson. Northampton



I read your magazine Motor Sport regularly and find it very interesting. In April 1956 I purchased a 1929 Austin Seven saloon. In long runs I have averaged up to 55 m.p.g., at a steady 30 m.p.h. She has been decoked twice in 9,930 miles and has let me down through mechanical failure but once, when the dynamo armature shaft key sheared, and the timing slipped. The 9,930 miles were accomplished between April 1st, 1956, and January 15th, 1957. when I had to lay her up whilst I do my National Service. I wouldn’t change her for anything; she is the best bit of transport I’ve had for ages. Up the 750s!

I am, Yours, etc., David Porter. Catcott.



My 1928 Morris-Cowley tourer may be of interest to readers. There are, to my knowledge, two more such models in Malta, but neither have been maintained to such an extent as mine. It was restored to its present condition approximately six months ago by an enthusiastic Maltese garage owner at a price somewhere in the region of £100.

If any reader can supply me with information regarding this car, I shall be very grateful, as unfortunately I do not possess a handbook.

Other than being a little temperamental at times as regards starting, the only trouble I’ve ever had was the blowing of a cylinder-head gasket. I was, without any difficulty, able to purchase a new one. This I considered rather lucky, as invariably something you require urgently in Malta is unobtainable.

Incidentally, petrol consumption is around the 35-m.p.g. mark.

I am, Yours, etc., P. Billingham. Malta.



My letter about the Graft und Stift seems to have raised an unusual amount of comment, and I should like to say how delightful it is to have one’s memory refreshed and corrected by those who know better.

Mr. Bentall is quite right in saying that my letter about the Graft und Stift was incomplete. I remember it as a pre-1914 name but I never saw one in Britain, and I think that the only two I have ever seen were in Vienna. One of these was the taxi which took me from the railway station to my hotel, and the other one was in a museum — I think it was at Schonbrunn — where it was labelled as the car in which the Hapsburg heir was assassinated. I hope that Peter Blackbury will understand that my letter was based on memories and that, being an exile, I do not have books which enable me to check up the facts.

Of course, now that so many people have mentioned the Steyr It comes back to my mind. I’ve driven one, and a very good car it was. But I think that Mr. Burger is wrong in thinking of the Tatra as Austrian. When I was in Vienna in 1931 there were a lot of Tatras there, but everyone thought of them as being Czechoslovak cars.

Since we have got on to the topic of unusual cars, I wonder if anybody can tell me anything about the Steiger and the Nazarro? I only ever saw one of each. The Steiger, which a customer of mine had in about 1930, was a squarish fabric saloon with a very long-stroke four-cylinder engine, which had 2-litres capacity for only 12-h.p. rating in those days. I seem to remember it as pulling a pretty high top gear (about 4 to 1, with wheels nearly a yard across). The Nazarro I saw in a sale, and it was a fairly large tourer with some likeness to the old copper-radiator Fiats of about 1927.

But what fascinating memories there are of those days. Who has heard of a Straker-Squire, a Valveless, a Delaunay-Belleville, Cottin-Desgoutte, or a Sizaire-Berwick today? Not one in a thousand. It would be very interesting indeed to compile the reminiscences of your readers before such memories are lost, and the fact that so many people were able to put me right over my letter to you shows that there is a wealth of interesting information still available. But we are getting old, and the memories will die with the individuals. It wouldn’t surprise me if some enthusiast has not already set up a system of filing cuttings from motoring journals under the names of manufacturers: if he has, there is a research library in existence already. But so much interest is now displayed in these vintage cars that I think it would be a good thing to set up one if it does not already exist.

I am, Yours, etc., Robert Peaty. Paris.



I have been very interested in the references to the O.M., because Mr. R. F. Oats, who was at once (one) time works manager to Messrs. L. C. Rawlence & Co., Ltd., the British concessionaires, was a very old friend and “maestro” of mine. He will be remembered by all Brooklands’ habitues‘.

I well remember often being late for school in the early part of the 1914-18 war owing to the delights of waiting to see him start some of his cars (he lived in Enfield at that time). I especially remember a blue Rochet-Schneider, which looked like an early Renault, with its radiator behind its engine, and a red, rotary-valved Itala, which always took some considerable time to start, due, I believe, to compression leaks past the rotary valves. It always departed followed by its own smoke screen.

In 1926 R.F.O. got me a job at Alfa-Romeo British Sales, followed in 1930 by one at A.F.N.s, and in 1933 I was with him at Automobile Supertuners, where I was able to work for the first time on genuine track racing cars. Reminiscences on these jobs appeared in war-time issues of Motor Sport.

After the last pre-war Brooklands meeting I lost touch with my “maestro” but thought he might have retired to his Cornish home. Short of employing a secret inquiry agent, I could not think of how to trace him, but fortunately a good friend of mine, who used to work with me at the Allard Company, moved to St. Ives. and I suggested to her that she might make some tentative inquiries in that area. She was extremely lucky because R.F.’s home town, which I did not know, is Lugdvan, near St. Ives.

I was delighted to have a ‘phone call from him one Sunday evening early in March, and to hear that, although he spends most of his time at his firm in Lugdvan, he still has an office in Warren Street.

Possibly he might he persuaded to write up some of his racing memoirs? They would certainly be interesting!

I am, Yours, etc., Harold Biggs. Enfield.


A T.V. broadcast covering the history of Brooklands Track will be a feature of a B.B.C. programme on May 21st.