An island gathering

Most of us have a ‘fantasy garage’ in our minds, but some people are able to fill that garage for real

Motor museums are of great importance for a number of reasons and this country is fortunate in the high quality of the many we have, from Lord Montagu’s National Motor Museum onwards. But in a very different category are the private collections maintained by discerning enthusiasts. One of these is that of George Daniels.

He explains that his object in having a wide range of interesting cars is not to compare them but to emphasise that homogeneity is the keynote, the individual performance of his varied selection of cars emphasising the individual characteristics of each one, as obtained by their designers’ understanding of such quality and performance.

All George’s 10 cars are taxed and insured so that at any moment he can have the pleasure of driving whichever one he feels inclined to enjoy. What he describes as a gathering rather than a collection consists of interesting cars of successive periods which produce the desired standards of satisfaction.

First there is the impressive 10.6-litre Daimler, which was introduced to George by Cecil Clutton. It was ordered by the Earl of Craven in 1907, who kept it until 1914 when Daimlers overhauled it. When George went to see it in 1970 it had, as now, its original paintwork, coronets on the doors and all polished copper fittings. Its then owner, Rupert Craven, had had it since 1960 and kept it in excellent condition. A wonderful possession, George uses it for continental tours. George finds gear changing a little tricky on it as it has only a hand throttle which must be closed in gear changing and emergency braking.

Perhaps even more impressive is the famous 1908 12-litre Grand Prix Itala, on account of its racing past, and in recent times its notable performances in VSCC-type events, notably with ‘Sam’ Clutton who, over a period of 50 years from 1935, gained success after success. It is now confined to touring and hillclimbs on account of its age, and recently took part in the Dieppe Grand Prix celebrations. George and Roger Collings used it for a trouble-free 4000-mile tour in Belgium and France not long ago, with great enjoyment. It will cruise at 70mph at 1000rpm and its owner says it is a most desirable and fascinating car to drive.

Moving to a later period, there is the famous supercharged 4½-litre Bentley single-seater raced at Brooklands by Sir Henry Birkin. George tells me that he bought it against his better judgement as he could think of no use for it. But ‘Rusty’ Russ-Turner, a previous owner, though he was the right person to look after it. So it was stripped down and George then raced at Silverstone, getting 100mph going down to Woodcote. It behaved impeccably without any deviation under heavy braking. In spite of its length he has also entered it for Prescott.

Daniels describes it as a great “fun car” in which to go away with a weekend case strapped inside, and in it he has pleasurably covered most of England. Remember Birkin’s 137.96mph lap of Brooklands?

After a search of over two years GD found the 4½-litre Bentley Vanden Plas tourer he wanted. Its acceleration up to 60mph was close to that of the supercharged car, noise was obviously lower, it used half the amount of petrol in fast motoring, and the steering turn-in was quicker, with lighter steering and braking.

In 1932, Daniels purchased the Alfa Romeo 8C which the previous year won Le Mans driven by Earl Howe and ‘Tim’ Birkin. Howe then entered it in the TT, finishing fourth and first in its class at record speed. It was later given to Campari in lieu of ‘wages’, who had a four-seater coupé body made for it before selling it to Marshal Italo Balbo, a hero of Mussolini’s air force.

The Bentley Continental was bought in 1953 from Jack Taylor of Taylor Woodrow, who kept it for only seven months. George acquired it from its second owner in 1970 especially for the journeys made between London and Yorkshire. It was also used for his annual visits to Switzerland. After it had served for 250,000 miles it was stripped and rebuilt using its original colour and upholstery, and is still in use when dignity, silence and comfort are required. With a top pace of over 100mph this Bentley is as impressive as ever.

The final car forming this gathering is a 1974 E-type Jaguar, its smooth-running V12 5.3-litre engine providing silent motoring from 5mph to 120. With the top down on a fine summer’s day it is motoring perfection, says George, enhanced by its ageless style of bodywork. Daniels is convinced that every Englishman should possess an E-type. It makes no concessions to any other make and was conceived, designed, built and raced successfully by an English company in Britain. It may be the last of an elegant line of sports cars, thinks the owner of this pleasing selection of his chosen motor cars.

In addition to his cars, George has four motorcycles. A 1979 MV Agusta is the quickest but likes to weave about so that George has not explored its potential above an indicated 100mph. “I have only fallen off once”, he tells me. There is also a BMW R100S and an R90S, and finally a 1952 500cc Sunbeam, excellent for local shopping trips.