Vintage Postbag

Sir, Whatever the merits of Mr. Bradshaw's other designs, no one could deny that his Panthette engine was a honey. It consisted of a 250-c.c. o.h.v. V-twin built with a car-type four-speed gearbox incorporating the bevel drive and fitted with a ball-change gear-lever. The valves were closed by the push-rods and opened by leaf springs, which always seemed to me a very queer arrangement. The Panthette which I borrowed in 1928, although underpowered, was a joy to ride but shared, with the 500 Fiat, the characteristic of attaining 60 m.p.h. in third gear whilst being unable to do more than 55 in top.

I have heard it said that the gifted Mr. Bradshaw did much of his designing whilst in his bath, the sponge-rack being replaced by a drawing-board. As befitted a man of genius the plug was drilled with a hole of sufficient size to compensate for the inflow of hot water in order to maintain an agreeable temperature. Thus, whilst ordinary mortals might pass the time composing speeches for the defence or exercising their voices in song, Mr. Bradshaw brought into being engine designs whose only faults were that they were before their time.


Sir. With reference to your readers' remarks concerning Mr. Granville Bradshaw's clever early designs, I can speak with some experience gained when trying to help in sales promotion for the well-known Bristol Car Agents, Welsh & Co. Ltd., who covered A.B.C. scooters, motorcycles and A.B.C. air-cooled light cars. They were splendid designs for the period; agreed they all had their teething troubles, but the motorcycle (photograph herewith) would be up-to-date today - 1960.

His scooters did not take on then but today there must be millions, later designed by the Italians. The licence to manufacture the motorcycles in France was taken by the Gnome Rhome aero manufacturers, whose works were on the outskirts of Paris - the writer worked there for a time. These machines were fitted with sidecars and sold to the French army. My brother also raced on them in France under the direction of Capt. A.G. Bartlett, now of Bristol Aeroplane Co.

I could write and send many photographs of these Bradshaw products. It is interesting to note that in those days, the young lady demonstrators wore smart "tailor-made" costumes, now it would appear, "scanty bikinis" are the order !

You are correct regarding Hawker's death.


Sir, I am carrying out research into the racing history of Austin "Sports" Twenties. Three of these cars raced at Brooklands in the 1920's, the one in which I am particularly interested being the famous "Sergeant Murphy " owned and raced by the late Felix Scriven, M.B.E., between 1921 and 1925.

Mr. Scriven took delivery of his car only a few days before the 1921 Easter meeting at Brooklands, in which he was entered for the 75-m.p.h. Short and Long Handicaps. The car won the former race by an unprecedented margin at over 70m.p.h., which, as the car emanated from standard parts of a heavy side-valve engine, shows how carefully it was assembled.

Subsequently, after some modifications, this car succeeded in lapping Brooklands at 94.86 m.p.h.

To assist me with my researches and to provide information for the building of a replica of " Sergeant Murphy," I am particularly anxious to contact a Mr. Jelley. All I know about Mr. Jelley is that he came fro mthe South and was employed by Mr. Scriven as a mechanic.

Ted Blamires, the mechanic who fitted the Parry-Thomas engine into Mr. Scriven's later racing car "Nanette" thinks that the gentleman standing beside "Sergeant Murphy" in the above photograph is Mr. Jelley.

I would be most grateful to learn of his whereabouts should any of your readers recognise him.


Sir, I must apologise for the delay in answering correspondents about the model-J Duesenberg, owing to absence on holiday. I must also apologise to Mr. Le Fevre and Messrs. Leyland for any implied insult to their "Hippo" model. I was so ignorant as not to know that there is such a thing as a Hippo with six wheels. The model I was referring to is the old-fashioned one with four legs.

Replying to Mr. Coverdale, I had not driven a "J" when Paul Bird and I wrote the " Vintage Pocket Book." I thus relied upon examination of the evidence and the first-hand opinions of people whose judgment I trust. Subsequent first-hand experience of my own confirms what I then said—that the machine was not as good as it set out to he. 


Sir, The demise of the steam wagon could, partly I think, be due to to heavy road tax inflicted on these fascinating vehicles. I remember talking to the driver of a small Foden wagon during the last war and he told me it was rated as a 5-h.p., and the road tax was then £85 per annum.

It must also be remembered that only the minority ran on pneumatic tyres, and the expense of alterations to the solid tyre type would have been very costly, and at that period, very difficult to obtain and therefore, as solids were not allowed on the roads, these wagons disappeared.

Apropos of the A.B.C. engines, was not there once a small aeroplane (circa 1917-18) known as the Sopwith Kitten, and fitted with an A.B.C. air-cooled flat-twin rated at 35 hp.?