Vintage Postbag, November 1968

14/40 or 16/60?


Although I would not dream of crossing pens with Peter Pringle, is RPK500 a 14/40 Lea-Francis? In 1953, when the car was owned by F. Willcox and Maintained by D. W. Wright, they claimed that the engine was of 2,090 c.c. capacity and of 1927 manufacture and this would mean that it was a 16/60; the 14/40s being 1,780 c.c. (Incidentally, in Batsford’s Vintage Car Pocket Book the 14/40 is given a larger capacity than the 16/60!)

Of course, the engine may have been replaced, but I doubt if there are many left who can recognise a 16/60 from a 14/40, I know that I cannot. The late Ken Riley used to have quite a few come into his Holmesdale Garage (many with broken cranks, I regret to say), but to me they were just “Vulcans”—all had been modified to have two oil pumps.

If, as Peter hopes, the prototype 1½-leaf engine is in existence, that would be a great discovery. One of the old racing and development staff at Leafs was very impressed with its power and advanced design. Unfortunately it was mechanically extremely noisy even by Leaf standards, so it was decided to continue with the six-cylinder version—the Ace of Spades, as the firm was trying to break into the luxury market because they felt the 1½ sporting class was over-crowded. And whatever other criticism can be hurled at the Ace (mostly by the ignorant who rely on hearsay), it really was quiet. Mine smoked rather a lot, as you rightly pointed when reporting the Heston Driving Tests in 1956, but that was wear, not a design feature.

Now that I have plucked up courage to write, can I query you on a point in your “History of Brooklands”?

In 1929 in the first B.R.D.C. race, the 500, you write that PeIlew/Margetts were seventh. The Leaf racing mechanic I know is adamant that W. H. Green shared the drive with Pellew, saying that Green’s Leaf had retired, and when Pellew was injured by a piece of British Goodrich track tyre (they had too thick a tread), Green took over his (Pellew’s) car, the car being one of the “Lobsters”. Now he suggests that Margetts (who was apprenticed in Leafs) may have been entered as second driver, but did not actually drive.

My interest in this sterns from desire for historical accuracy and the fact that Margetts was the first registered owner of my Ulster. Actually it had been a works car for the T.T. and after. When the season was over they were all given new chassis frames and bodies and sold except for one, which was kept as spare car for the following season. Evidently this happened at the end of every season and what with new frames and bodies and the interchange of mechanical components the cars lost their identity.

Just to close a long letter, may I just mention that yesterday, on behalf of Peter Pringle, I had the privilege of interviewing an 87-years-young gentleman who joined Messrs. Lea and Francis Ltd. in 1897 at their Piccadilly showrooms and who last rode a Lea and Francis bicycle some three weeks ago!

Westerham. Keith Poynter.

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The Payze Light Car


I read with interest the reference to the Payze car in V.E.V. Miscellany, July issue, and I can offer a little more information on this vehicle.

The radiator was nickel-plated and made by Gallay Ltd. (cost about £10). The mascot mentioned is not original, a plain cap being fitted and a badge of similar size to the Rolls-Royce insignia bore the words PAYZE LIGHT CAR.

All completed cars (about six) were fitted with Coventry-Simplex engines, Moss gearbox (3-speed forward and reverse), Moss’ rear axle, enclosed propshaft and fibre coupling, the latter lasting only a few miles!

Production period was 1919-1920, in a converted jam factory in Cookham, the sales office of the company being in Gt. Portland Street; various dealers were appointed throughout the country. The body of the first car was built in London (aluminium on ash), subsequent bodies in steel being made at Cookham, all of which differed in detail, but had two front seats and one behind.

Production ran into difficulties when supplies of rear axles and steering box castings became unobtainable; some ten chassis were uncompleted and eventually sold locally for scrap.

Retail price was about £450, the first car was painted grey, and it went out on test before the varnish was dry, resulting in a rather interesting finish.

High Wycombe. R. A. Payze.

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The T.T. Humber Mystery


Mr. F. R. Waley, who wrote last month to say that he went touring in France during the summer of 1914 in a T.T. Humber, poses, by implication, no small mystery.

Three racing Humbers were made. My car stayed with Humbers until it was bought by Charles Sgonina, of Cardiff, who sold it to me in 1938. Of the other two, one—and here I quote no lower an authority than yourself—had the Humber engine removed by Philip Rampon, who fitted a Sunbeam Arab aero engine into the frame. The car appeared at Brooklands, blew up, and disappeared in the early 1920s. The third car was that raced by Wallbank at Brooklands into the 1930s with a tail instead of the bolster tank behind. I have pretty conclusive evidence that this car was broken up in County Durham in 1938 or 1939.

If either of these two cars was left in France in 1914 it certainly found its way back to Brooklands soon after the war. Or can it be that it met its end in France and Wallbank put the Humber engine back into the chassis which once suffered the Arab and raced that for the better part of a decade? If Mr. Waley or some other erudite reader is able to carry the story a stage further I believe that you, sir, and certainly I, will be interested to hear it.

Stretton. Kenneth Neve.


I can assure your correspondent, C. J. Tarring, that there certainly was a T.T. Humber IV, but to where it disappeared I have no knowledge. Sometime in 1913 it was suggested to me by Billy Tuck that I might like to drive this car, as a freelance. Knowing that these engines were putting out up to 93 b.h.p., and considering that the brakes were not powerful enough, I declined the offer!

In the race this car ran out of road and landed the driver, Frank Parks, in hospital with a fractured hip, etc.

Coventry. Tim Haley.

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Dating the Springfield Rolls-Royce


Motor Sport describes a new model, by Lesney, of a 1912 Silver Ghost, and after mentioning certain details on rear lamp and spare tyre, goes on to say “suggesting that this may be a Springfield-built car”. May I point out that Springfield built Silver Ghosts from 1921 to 1926, Phantom Is from 1926 to 1931, and never built any other Rolls-Royce chassis type? Of course, many cars, including a few of the early Ghosts, were fitted with American coachwork, but the terms such as “British Ghost”, “Derby Ghost”, “English P-I”, “Springfield Ghost”, “American P-I”, “U.S. Ghost”, etc., are always used to refer to the chassis.

Pittsburgh, U.S.A. Leslie Reggel.

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The Story of an Alvis Silver Eagle


The letter from Mr. Richard Williamson, which mentions an Alvis Silver Eagle featured in several books written by Henry Williamson, caused me to wonder whether or not the Alvis I owned in the mid-1950s might well be the very car mentioned.

I bought DR 6084 from Mr. R. D. Pearce of Sheffield in or around 1955. Mr. Pearce told me that he had bought the car from the Surrey Gliding Club at Redhill. At the time he purchased it, the club was still using it, and it was also licenced, and used on the road. The coachwork, or such of it as remained, resembled a commercial vehicle to such an extent that an observant policeman spent some time trying to convince Mr. Pearce that he should observe the 30 m.p.h. limit at all times. Fortunately, Mr. Pearce managed to convince him that the Alvis was still a car and not a lorry, and all was well. Mr. Pearce brought the car to Sheffield and proceeded to rebuild the mechanical side of things, and this he did to a very high standard. I think he did much of the work in his kitchen, with the engine removed from the car, and resting on a trolley which was pushed under the table when not in use. The coachwork was another matter. When the chassis was complete I understand there remained but one week before the family holiday was scheduled and the coachwork was rebuilt, mainly hardboard over the existing framework, in a very short space of time, and with the added difficulty that as the task was undertaken outside, and in a rather narrow space between two houses, it was impossible to step back to survey the lines of the body. Work proceeded in spite of all this, a very useful and not unattractive 2-seater, with small rear compartment, which would hold further passengers in some discomfort, was made. The Alvis served the Pearce family for several years, and I saw it advertised in Motor Sport at a very modest price indeed, and went along to inspect, as I had always had a healthy respect for the marque, and was having a most unsatisfactory affair with a very expensive to maintain M.G.

We haggled in the time-honoured manner, and the car was driven to my home. In those days, not distant by any standards, cars of that type tended to arouse ridicule rather than respect. However, I was really impressed and, with a considerable amount of tidying up work, and the provision of some bonnet sides from a Morris Commercial, and some bucket seats, ex-B.S.A. three-wheeler, the car began to have a more cared-for appearance. I remember replacing the distributor which Mr. Pearce had fitted in place of the defunct magneto, with a correct magneto which did not in itself work but which had a sound contact-breaker assembly which could be coupled to a coil, painted the car a somewhat deeper shade of green than that favoured by Mr. Pearce, and made some side curtains. The car was regularly and heavily used and returned 25 m.p.g. on touring work with a slightly lower figure for routine town driving. There was an updraught Claudel Hobson Carburetter and Autovac fitted.

I sold the car when the prospect of a virtually one-owner 12/50 in really outstanding condition carne for sale in the neighbourhood. This was to my everlasting regret. It was the first of some seven Alvis cars I have owned, and without doubt it was the best. My disgust at some of the features of the rather secondhand post-war “14” and 3-litre models which I ran for brief periods was sharpened with memories of the 1929 Silver Eagle, and when I complained to friends about the shortcomings of the later Alvises, and was told that they were good when new, it made me realise that the vintage Alvis was perhaps the most indestructible as well as one of the most charming cars ever made.

One amusing incident stands dear in my mind. We had repaired to the “Nag’s Head” at Castleton one Saturday evening, During the evening the landlord asked for the owner of DR 6084 to go to the car park. I went out and found that another visitor to the hotel had entwined his modern Ford or Austin bumper around my car’s back wing. He was being assisted to remove it in a most forcible way by several irate fellows who were really knocking him about and pulling his car all over the place. I learned afterwards that one was the President of the V.S.C.C., who was visiting this Northern venue, and the others were enthusiastic local members. I was quite relieved when the vehicles were disentangled and the poor little chap was allowed lo go.

The next owner. Mr. D. Gillott, also of Totley, kept the car tor nearly ten years, selling only when his family demanded a caravan. I am certain he really enjoyed the car, and no doubt he has a fund of memories. The only replacement during this period, apart from routine servicing, tyres, etc., was a differential unit. The original 4.75 crown wheel and pinion lost a tooth, and was replaced by a 5.25 unit from a broken car.

The present owner is Mr. R. Harvey, a native of Sheffield, who is now in Australia. He ran the car for some two years and stored it in Sheffield last year when his family departed for the Antipodes as he did not wish to sell it. I saw the car several times during his ownership and understand that a different gearbox (alas, not a close ratio) has been fitted when the original one finally expired, perhaps because the adjustment of the clutch-stop had been neglected. The induction side of the engine now carries three carburetters, and the interior has been tidied.

All the repair work beyond the scope of the home mechanic has been done on behalf of the last three owners by Arthur Manes, of Totley, who is well known for his meticulous preparation and tuning of Bob Fowler’s very successful Le Mans Aston. Arthur is an Alvis enthusiast of long standing, and still has quite a stock of bits and bobs for the older Alvis cars.

I remember reading “The Story of a Norfolk Farm” at the impressionable age of 16, and have read many of Henry Williamson’s books for other reasons than the motoring references. I hope the above is of some assistance in this matter, and if Mr. Richard Williamson would like any further information about DR 6084 I shall be pleased to be of assistance. Mr. Gillott assures me he could arrange for him to see the car in store if he so wishes.

Sheffield. John Tinsdeall.

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Role of an Anglin 7


Whilst over Southend Airport recently I saw Enzo Ferrari, boss of Ferraris, with his latest prestige car which he bought in this country. The car a 1927 Austin 7.

Westcliff-on-Sea. D. J. Cundy.

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Dolphin Memories


It was with great interest I read your “Fragments of Forgotten Makes, No. 39: The Dolphin”.

As I was apprenticed to Messrs. Lloyd & Plaister Ltd. at that time I remember them well and had quite a fair experience with them, and some rather funny ones, too. They made a 3-cylinder engine and one day when it was undergoing b.h.p. test and while on full throttle, the rope broke on the dynomometer and, of course, away she went. Fortunately the magneto coupling came adrift and stopped her. On examination, no damage.

Later Messrs. Lloyd & Plaister Ltd. built a light car called the Vox, which had a 2-cylinder Dolphin engine, and it was a very nippy little car.

One of these Dolphin engines was fitted into a railcar which they made for one of the East India Railways routes up over the mountains; we tested it out on rail sidings of the Great Northern Railway at Wood Green sidings. Happy days!

London, N.21. E. P. Akhurst.