As the driver of the overturned Sunbeam referred to by “W. B.” in your September issue, I am in a position to fill in a few details about its pedigree.
It did indeed start life as a private car—a very elegant coupé complete with a dickey containing two folding seats. The car had already come down in the social world being the property of a local farmer who, if I remember, used the dickey to take his pigs to market. On the day the war broke out the farmer, anticipating the forthcoming petrol shortage, offered the Sunbeam for sale, and Duncan bought it for £7.50.—thus establishing the only occasion on which an outsider has got the better of a Devon farmer in a bargain.
Duncan then asked me to convert it to a farm lorry, and with tears in my eyes I sawed through the aluminium panels and removed the dickey to reveal a chassis of monumental rigidity and strength. On to this we built a platform and sides mainly from hatch planks collected from the beach. The resultant lorry spent the next few years carrying loads of half-a-ton and more up and down unsurfaced lanes with gradients of 1-in-4.
The engine was a 6-cylinder of 16-h.p. RAC rating. It must have had fairly low compression since it ran happily on war time “pool” although, as related in Duncan’s book, its favourite diet was illicit aircraft fuel. Every detail of the car was constructed with a care and precision quite alien to the present day tin boxes—I should think the designers’ philosophy was never to use one part where five would do. I dare say it was my admiration for the Sunbeam which led me to choose lighthouse engineering as my post war career.
N. L. Spottiswoode, Chief Engineer,
AGA (UK) Ltd.