A. C. Bertelli
AUGUSTUS CESARE BERTELLI, whose name will always be associated with the second generation of Aston Martin sports-cars, has died at an age of very nearly 90 years. Born in Genoa, he came to Cardiff when four years old. In that city he served his engineering apprenticeship so not only the Alvis but the Aston Martin have links with Wales. He returned to Italy to work for Fiat in Turin for a year, during which he went as riding mechanic to Felice Nazzaro in the Coppa Florio. He came back to Britain when war was imminent and, unwanted by the Army on health grounds he joined the Grahame-White aeroplane depot at Hendon. He married his wife Vera in 1918.
After the war was over Bertelli went to Alldays and Onion in Birmingham and designed a new Enfield-Alldays car from the Enfield interests they had taken over. The new Enfield-Alldays was raced at Brooklands. Bertelli also worked on A. W. Reeves’ unsuccessful 1919 radial-engined Enfield-Alldays small-car. His more conventional racing cars were noticed by millionaire Woolf Barnato, who wanted an entry into more exciting motor-racing than he had enjoyed up to that time, and Bertelli went to his place at Lingfield and built McCollum sleeve-valve cars for the 200-Mile Race. When all the team cars broke down Barnato lost interest and A.C.B. moved on, to link up with W. S. Renwick, who had inherited a fortune, and produce the R&B car in Tyseley. That led on to Bertelli becoming the instigator of the new overhead-camshaft Aston Martin at the Feltham factory, in the grounds of the Hanworth Air Park.
I remember going there by electric-train from London and being very impressed by what I read of this new British sports car in the catalogue I had been given, on the journey home – o.h.-camshaft, valves inclined in one plane, a combination of thermo-syphon and pump cooling, dry-sump lubrication, underslung-worm back-axle, etc. That was to lead to the great years of these vintage AMs, the International, Le Mans and Ulster models, etc. and to their gallant racing appearances, with Bertelli sometimes driving. I recall being allowed out in a TT car. that had just come back from the race in Ulster, when AM took the Team Prize, in 1935, “Bert” telling us that although the specification might not be quite standard, all the mods. could be supplied to customers who paid for them, and that the car would be found quite docile, and road-worthy when we drove it through tram-infested Hounslow, etc., and this was definitely the case.
After this phase of the great Aston Martin story was over Bertelli moved on to High Duty Alloys, and after his retirement he raised pedigree cattle in Berkshire. Incidentally, the Welsh AM connection was endorsed when A.C.’s brother Harry Bertelli, who had made horse-drawn vehicles in Cardiff, moved in beside the AM factory at Feltham to build some very fine bodywork on these and other chassis. When he was well over 85 “Bert” went to see what the modern Aston Martin people were up to, and rode in a V8-engined car. It is nice to know that A. C. Bertelli’s life story and particularly its influence on the Aston Martin, one of the best-loved British small sports cars, has been well documented, in books and in the glossy magazine of the Aston Martin OC. W.B.
J. M. P. Dowson/Bob Dicker
WE REGRET to have to report that J. M. P. Dowson died recently in Worcester Royal Infirmary at the age of 71. Educated at Dunchurch School, Rugby and Pembroke College, Cambridge, Mr. Dowson served in the RAF and farmed 460 acres near Pershore. He will be remembered in our world as a close friend of Alec Issigonis, with whom he shared the building and driving of the rubber-sprung Lightweight Special, the competition appearances of which they shared. We offer condolences to his wife and daughter and to his son who has competed with the Lightweight since the war. Another link with the past has occurred with the death in hospital, after a short illness, of Bob Dicker, aged 86, that remarkable person who saw Brooklands being built, raced motorcycles there, went out to America with the Vickers Vimy that flew the Atlantic in 1919 and who in recent times was a staunch advocate of Brooklands and its history.