Mr. Bolton's Cars

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The Editor looks at the vehicles of a Pioneer Motorist, after an Interview with his son.

Mr. Francis A. Bolton, JP, was a very distinguished motorist, whose red cars were a feature of the Midlands meets and speed events from the turn of the century until the outbreak of the Kaiser War. I was made aware of this when Anthony Bamford, himself a connoisseur of vintage and historic cars, sent me a fine selection of pictures copied from the late Mr. Bolton’s photographic albums, with which this article is illustrated, and introduced me to his son, Mr. M. A. B. Bolton, who has kindly told me about his father’s enthusiastic motoring career.

Francis Bolton lived at Moor Court, Oakamoor, in Staffordshire, a member of the well-known copper-smelting family, with an elder brother living nearby at Lightoaks. He took an interest in the new-fangled form of road locomotion from the very early days, and was a Founder Member and Life Member of the RAC, and he also took a great interest in local motoring affairs. As he was also a Magistrate Mr. Bolton’s interest in the new motor-cars was seen as fortunate and possibly advantageous and Lord Montagu in particular made much of this in the pages of his motor journal.

As the new movement grew in strength Mr. Bolton organised meets of the nearby Motor Clubs at his house and when the Oakamoor hill-climb was held on a suitable 1 in 8 public road gradient bordering his estate he presented the Bolton Silver Challenge Cup, to be contested, thereat. He became President of the Derby & Staffs AC and took part in most of the pre-1914 local speed hill-climbs. His influence on the development of the motorcar was considerable and his red vehicles were well-known at Shelsley Walsh and elsewhere. But it is Mr. Bolton’s cars that I am concerned with here.

His first was a tiller-steered New Orleans, which Mr. Bolton acquired when he was about 33 years of age. It was followed by one of the more-frequently-encountered of horseless-carriages at the turn of the century, namely a 1901 10 h.p. Daimler. This had solid tyres on its chain-driven back wheels but pneumatic front tyres. The body was a side-entrance tonneau which would accommodate six persons, and on this Daimler Mr. Bolton drove all over Ireland for the “Irish Fortnight”, and took it up to Scotland, etc. This Daimler was followed by a 12 h.p. four-cylinder car of the same make, Mr. Bolton being friendly with the staff at the Coventry factory. This had a hood that would cover the occupants of the front seat, but an open tonneau behind. At the same time less exciting transport was provided by a bicycle equipped with a Singer Autowheel, the petrol tank clipped to the cross-tube, similar experiments at this time being conducted by Mr. Bolton with a 2 1/4-h.p. Humber motor-tricycle and a 2 h.p. Werner motorcycle.

Mr. Bolton’s affection for Daimlers progressed to a fine 14 h.p. model in 1903, the finned side tanks of its gilled-tube radiator presaging the full flutes of later Daimler radiators. It was now that participation in speed hill-climbs began, Mr. Bolton planning the bodywork of his cars so that the rear seats could be removed when they were stripped for action. Mr. Bolton had a nephew who was as enthusiastic about motoring as he was, and who raced motorcycles and who was using a 6 h.p. Regal car at this time. When the displaying of number plates became compulsory, some of the early owners like Mr. Bolton resisted the idea of having to be numbered, leaving it as late as possible. Mr. M. A. B. Bolton thinks that his father later rather regretted not having taken an interest earlier, which seems to be supported by the fact that subsequently he acquired E-3, E-5 and E-9 to accompany the higher “E” numbers allocated to his stable. These included E-60, which was first used on an 18/22 Daimler (with full-fluted radiator), with which Mr. F. A. Bolton made best time at the Derby and District MC’s Hill Cliff Lane speed hill-climb in 1903. The next number, E-61, was allocated to Mr. Bolton’s 1904 10 h.p. Decauville. Incidentally, E-1 was secured by the Earl of Dartmouth.

Always ready to try the newest cars, in 1905 Mr. Bolton acquired a very impressive 30/40 Daimler, with full touring body having a cape-cart hood and “button” upholstery. This would be the 124 x 150 mm., 7,247 c.c., dual-ignition model, new that year. It carried the E-60 Reg. No. and was run as a two-seater for speed events, winning on time and formula the Notts. MC Kettleby event, which gained Mr. Bolton the Dupres Cup. For estate work a 15 h.p. Ryknield was obtained (E-327), with just a sketchy bench-seat behind. This practice of converting earlier cars into “Station cars”, as Mr. Bolton called them, was continued, saloons sometimes being converted into open vehicles, the work done by Richardson’s in Uttoxeter. At Moor Court three large garages accommodated Mr. Bolton’s cars; incidentally, these sheds are still to be seen in the village. Later he was to build a very fine Motor House at Moor Court, with adjoining fully-equipped workshop. Moor Court is today a woman’s prison. There used to be a weather cock, with racing car incorporated, atop the Motor House.

At this time — 1905 — Mr. Bolton’s nephew. Mr. D. C. Bolton, had a 1½ h.p. Clement-Garrard motor-bicycle (E-369), and the Daimler won the mile race on Skegness sands. The next year Mr. F. A. Bolton went for a really big Daimler, the 8 1/2-litre 35 h.p. model, with spacious side-entrance tonneau body and a bulb horn that had its trumpet at the top centre of the radiator. The Reg. No. was E-474 and the successes gained with this Daimler included best time of the day at Longleat, best performance among the four cars of this make which ran at Kettleby in 1906, and best time in 1907 at Welbeck speed-trials, where it beat Cecil Edge’s 80 h.p. Napier, although Edge later reversed this defeat with a 60 h.p. Napier at the Coventry MC’s hill-climb. It is impossible to list all the many competition successes achieved by Mr. Bolton which embraced events at Blackpool, HazIewood, High Peak, Clipstone and so many others.

It was in 1906 that a 16/20 Beeston-Humber was added to the stable, this car, E-466, being seen many years later, when it was part of the Rootes Collection. On the two-wheeler side a very exciting-looking vee-twin Rex (E-603) with sprung front-forks was being exercised. For more formal occasions the chauffeur was given, in 1907, a 14/16 Argyll with a Brougham body, the luckless occupants of the front seats having no protection whatsoever from the elements. This was hardly the sort of motorcar, one imagines. that would have endeared itself to Mr. Bolton. He had a very appropriate answer when he took delivery of a massive and sporting 45/75 Daimler that same year. This was quite a long-wheelbase, chain-drive car, with the 10.6-litre poppet-valve engine. At first it was on wooden wheels shod with 820 x 120 tyres but in 1908 it was given Rudge-Whitworth detachable wire wheels and 880 x 120 tyres. The Reg. No. was E-602 and for touring, a windscreen and hood were fitted, and spare wheels carried at the side and rear of the body. It was also at about this period (1907-08) that a six-cylinder 20 h.p. Standard was added to the fleet. Mr. Bolton knew Mr. R. W. Maudslay, the designer of the first Standard car, and no doubt this purchase was a result. The big Standard’s main purpose seems to have been for the chauffeur to use as a “Station car”: it was Reg. No. E-608. From 1908 to 1910 this or another 20 h.p. Standard was used with a big landaulette body. It was this type of Standard that gained much publicity from being employed as transport during the 1909 Imperial Press Conference and the 1911 Delhi Durbar Celebrations, but these could not have influenced Mr. Bolton’s decision to buy this make of car.

At about this time the Bolton Voiturette was built at Moor Court, perhaps with the help of the chauffeur. It was a nice-looking little two-seater runabout, probably made to amuse the nephews, of apparent De Dion Bouton ancestry, the gilled-tube radiator hung below its coal-scuttle bonnet. It lasted until the autumn of 1910 and was registered E-662. It was quite a contrast to a relative’s unwieldy 8 h.p. Rexette Forecar.

Coming back to more sporting motorcars, Mr. Bolton’s next acquisition was a splendid 60 h.p. Ariel. Low-hung, with rakish bodywork, it carried proudly the old Reg. No. E-60 and was taken to Brooklands in the summer of 1908. The 59.6 h.p. (by RAC rating) 155 x 150 mm. Ariel was on scratch in the Merit Trophy race but was unplaced, but at Shelsley Walsh, where it weighed-out at 3,990 lb., it won the 1908 Closed hill-climb on time, ascending in 73.2 seconds. The car also competed in such events as those at Kettleby and Marchington, local venues I think, for I believe I saw such names on the signposts as I drove home in the Rover 3500 after my recent interview with Mr. Bolton’s son, enjoying again the excellent run into Wales from Bridgnorth. Here I should remark that, apart form being such an active early motorist, Mr. F. A. Bolton enjoyed golf and shooting and was also a keen photographer. Big framed pictures at each of his cars used to hang in Moor Court, and he also kept detailed scrapbooks of motoring affairs. I was, indeed, shown a big study of the Ariel finishing the Oakamoor speed hill-climb in a splendid cloud of dust, typical of the conditions in Edwardian times. When he wanted to appear seated in his cars he used Lowndes of Cheadle to take the photographs, on the glass-plates of the period . . .

From 1909 to 1910 the first of the Knight sleeve-valve Daimlers entered the Boltons’ service, a grand touring car, again given Reg. No. E-60, and with electric lighting, RAC badge on the radiator filler-cap, and an exhaust whistle. This was the 57 h.p. 9 1/2-litre six-cylinder model. A 15 h.p. Daimler landaulette seems to have supplemented it in the summer of 1910, later to be turned into a “Station car”. Motorcycles were not neglected, however, four cylinder FN, 3 1/2-h.p. Rex, 4 h.p. twin-cylinder Rex, a two-stroke of this make, and a 3 1/2 h.p. Triumph with pedals to assist its engine, all being seen at Moor Court at this time. In 1910 there was also an interesting but unsuccessful experiment with a 15 h.p. Daimler called “Red Spider”, which was given a light two-seater beetle-tail body and enormous, thin-section 1010x 90 mm. tyres, later altered to 870 x 90 mm. tyres. On many of his cars the bodies were to Mr. Bolton’s own design, made by Newers of Coventry, as on this light Daimler, and on the flush-sided 1909 Daimler tourer. As a change from his Daimlers Mr. Bolton tried a 28 h.p. 6-cylinder Lanchester, from 1911 to the end of the War. It was a landaulette with gas lamps and wheel steering.

In 1911 the Daimler connection was maintained, with a handsome 38 h.p. tumble-sided tourer. A 15 h.p. Standard then served as an estate-carrier, and a boat-bodied, cloverleaf 30 h.p. Crossley was acquired, with Napier-like radiator “filler-tower” (E-989). Nephew David Bolton had gone over to Martin and TT-Triumph motorcycles. The Crossley had detachable lamps and, I think, front-wheel-brakes. Mr. Bolton had known the Hon. Charlie Rolls for many years and Rolls was always trying to persuade him to foresake his Daimlers for a Rolls-Royce. A habit had been made at Moor Court of timing new cars as they arrived to check that their performance was up to requirements, estate workers having been posted at side turnings. Mr. Bolton agreed to have a 40/50 Rolls-Royce in December 1911 if it passed such a test. A speed of 100 m.p.h. has been mentioned, although it would have needed a streamlined London-Edinburgh Rolls-Royce on Brooklands to have achieved this at the time. Anyway, the local roads were duly guarded and the Rolls-Royce made its run. Unfortunately a horse and cart emerged from an unguarded farm entrance as this was in progress! Although disaster was averted, all four tyres burst as the car skidded to a standstill. It was given a very long, angular touring body and remained in commission, as E-60, until April 1917 — but it was Mr. Bolton’s only Rolls-Royce.

By 1913 the cyclecar craze was in full swing and so D. C. Bolton built his own, at Moor Court, at a time when he was running a more substantial 15 h.p. Straker-Squire two-seater. The little car had an 85 x 96 mm., 1,090 c.c.. Precision vee-twin engine converted to water-cooling by the adoption of Green copper water-jackets, this necessitating a neat little radiator. Besides the internal flywheels an external flywheel was fitted and there was no clutch, the drive going solid to the first countershaft, where a leather-lined cone engaged first speed, a dog clutch putting in the second speed. Final drive was by side belts, the frame was of channel-section steel and a Senspray carburetter and Bosch magneto were used. A simple racing body was made, the steering wheel cord bound, and an open cone-shape external exhaust pipe fitted. The Bolton-Precision ran in a Cyclecar Handicap at Brooklands in July 1913, without success. D. C. Bolton also built a 1 h.p. Bolton-JAP motorcycle and raced this and a twin-carburetter Douglas, at Brooklands. and he had a 3 1/2 h.p. Rudge in 1912/13, and is seen in one photograph on a 90 h.p. Napier.

As war approached one of the three Singer cars intended for the 1914 TT race and called a 10/35 Special, was obtained (E-5) and given a more road-worthy body by McNaught of Birmingham, which weighed only two cwt. There was also a 15 h.p. Vee-radiator Calthorpe, dating from 1911 (E-1127) almost certainly one of the 1910 Coupe de l’Auto team cars. This was painted cherry-red and embellished with black spots, these starting at 4″-dia., decreasing in size towards the bonnet. It had a Zenith carburetter, and was called “Ladybird” for obvious reasons. The Rolls-Royce was adapted for transporting racing motorcycles by being provided with a woodenpPlatform on its n/s running board.

In 1914 a similar car to his Daimlers was taken on by Mr. Bolton, in the form of a 30/36 sleeve-valve, worm-drive Siddeley-Deasy landaulette. This remained with the family until 1921, being augmented during the war, as was often done, by a Singer Ten d.h. coupe. After the war Mr. Bolton did no more racing. His first post-Armistice car seems to have been a 30 h.p. Sheffield-Simplex, a long and quite vintage-looking open tourer. Mr. Bolton was obviously anxious to sample Earl Fitzwilliam’s attempt to make “the World’s best car”, but he kept his Sheffield-Simplex only until 1920. It was replaced by a 24 h.p. Sunbeam tourer, followed in March 1921 by a 45 h.p. Daimler that remained in use to 1933. Indeed, the family affection for Daimlers continued. A Daimler Sixteen saloon eventually became a converted lorry, a Daimler Twenty took the E-60 numbers, there was a Daimler Sports saloon in 1934, and a fine 1939 six-light 24 h.p. Daimler saloon, used for the son’s wedding, and still in use in 1949. Clearly this is a motoring family, Mr. M. A. B. Bolton having an Ariel Red Hunter and his sister an open Morris Eight and MG cars, etc. Mrs. Bolton Senr. went over to Austin Sevens, starting with a 1929, saloon (given Reg. No. E-9) which the chauffeur used to lift off the ground by placing his arms round it; replaced in 1936 by a Ruby saloon.

After the war a Triumph 1800 saloon was bought, to enable Mr. Bolton Senr. to be taken out for drives, the number E-61 going on to it. His son recalls that it was always letting them down with small faults and “when it ran a big-end I left it at the side of the Oxford road and never saw it again”. When his father died his son inherited a 1936 30 h.p. Ford V8 wood-panelled shooting-brake, of the type made in Canada, which had caused quite a stir when the chauffeur had arrived at his prep. school at the end of term, to take him home in it. This was used until 1962. Mr, M. A. B. Bolton’s wedding present had been a 1947 Hillman Minx d.h. coupe, which naturally took over Reg. No. E-60. The Triumph had been replaced with a new Rover 90 with overdrive, which was licensed E-61. When the Ford V8 expired its place was taken by a Vauxhall Cresta estate — “with the lorry engine”— and afterwards another Vauxhall Cresta covered a useful 200,000 miles, only being scrapped when it was no longer possible to obtain replacement body panels.

The present Mr. Bolton has since had a succession of five E-type Jaguars, all of which have been virtually trouble-free. For the first one, in 1962, he specified the highest available axle ratio. When this proved to be unavailable he finally accepted the next ratio down in order to take delivery in time to take up a holiday passage booked to France. The car, a coupe, was eventually delivered at 11.30 p.m. one night when the Boltons were at a Hunt Ball and the first time Mr. Bolton drove it was to go home from the Ball at 3 a.m, the next morning, before leaving for France! This was changed for another 3.8 E-type coupe, this time with the high axle ratio, after two years. It proved very fast for running down to London and was equally happy pottering along in the Staffordshire lanes. It would do 123 m.p.h. at 5,000 r.p.m., he recalls. This was changed for a 4.2 E-type coupe, after another two years; Mr. Bolton did not much like the revised Jaguar styling and could no longer get the high axle ratio he wanted. But he likes the Jaguar E-type and has since had two more, both V12 roadsters. His present blue roadster is one of the last of the production run, although not of the special commemoration batch of 50 turned out at the end as a salute to one of Britain’s most memorable sports cars. Incidentally, Mr. Bolton, like his father before him, is a JP, and obviously one who knows what motoring is all about . .

Mr. Bolton’s wife, whom we met when they were both at Cambridge, had good service from a series of small Fords, including an 80-bore o.h.v. Anglia saloon, and today runs a Ford Fiesta Ghia, its Reg. No. E-60. E-62 is now on the family Ford Granada, E-61 on the V12 Jaguar E-type and Mr. Bolton’s sister retains E-9.—W-B.

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