Payne & Bates

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Sir,

I would like to put the record straight with regard to two points in your article about the Payne & Bates company in the February edition of MOTOR SPORT relating to the surviving 1901 Godiva with dos á dos bodywork.

The first of these points is that the Godiva was not restored by Mr. Freeman, but by my father, John W. Mills, then of Coventry, but now retired from business and veteran motoring in the wilds of Herefordshire. From a very derelict motor car bought for the princely sum of £5, he completely rebuilt the vehicle to its current pristine condition in the mid-50s.

The Godiva was so badly and illogically designed that a friend was induced to offer my father a wager of a bottle of champagne, if he could cover the few miles frorn Coven, to Kenilworth unaided on completion of the restoration. In the event, this feat was achieved and my father won his bottle.

My second point relates to the implication that the vehicle’s success in last year’s Brighton run was its first in this event. In fact, my father, stalwartly aided by Ralph Wilde, successfully completed it in 1959. The occasion was not without its problems however and for most of the run either one or the other of them had to ride with his hand awkwardly in the engine cornpanment manually regulating the needle valve in the carburetter. Despite the pained expressions on their facts that appears in every single photograph I have of the event, Brighton was reached in time and today Ralph Wilde puts much of the credit for this with the bottle of a certain Scottish beverage that fortified them throughout their journey. The following year, my father’s attempt to repeat this success with the Godiva, this time accompanied by Eric Sharman, ended in his first ever Brighton run failure when a valve broke in two. Together with being first to arrive in Brighton many years earlier in his 1901 Benz, my father had many eventful Brighton runs. His determination to finish in time however led to what I believe is one of the most spectacular yet unrecognised stories of the event that I believe is worth repeating here.

A year or two earlier, whilst driving in torrential rain in his 1899 Star, with my mother as passenger, he had what most be regarded m the ultimate mechanical failure . . . a crankshaft which broke completely in two. Not daunted, he completely dismantled the engine by the side of the road. He then, leaving my mother to guard the car in the downpour, with the aid of a passing motorist managed to find a sympathetic garage that let him use their equipment. He then proceeded to BRAZE the crankshaft back together, returned to the car and reassembled the engine. To many people’s subsequent amazement, the brazed joint held and they completed the run with a few minutes to spare!

Melton Mowbray, Leics.
Nigel Mills