Fragments on Forgotten Makes

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

No.50: The Salmson

With the excellent Salmson history by Chris Draper now published (it is reviewed elsewhere) it seems opportune to fill in with some fragments of the London side of this sporting make. This I have been able to do by interviewing Harold Garland, whose memory is prodigious, considering how far back we are going. Garland joined K.J. Motors of Bromley soon after the First World War, when they occupied converted farm buildings backing onto the cricket ground, in what was then a well-to-do neighbourhood, ripe for cultivating would-be car owners. The Proprietors were Fred King and Owen Wilson-Jones, men who probably got on well because of their contrasting temperaments. Wilson-Jones was a dedicated man, seemingly lacking a sense of humour, or any interests other than the business.

Jones used to ride from Surbiton to the works every day at that time on his solo Harley-Davidson. They dealt in all makes of cars but had one agency, that for the Willys-Overland, for which they were supplied with a black demonstration touring car. Things livened up when Bob Spikins arrived. His family had associations with Dent’s, the clock people, and young Spikins, later remembered for his Hudson Special and Singer Bantam, was able to own an Indian and a Harley-Davidson at the same time! He also rode a competition 350 Zenith-Blackburne and, attending car speed trials, persuaded K. J. Motors to take up the Salmson agency. (Garland rode frequently as Spikins’ passenger in MCC trials, later competing himself, but a series of misfortunes caused it to be 1966 before he gained his first “gold”, in a tuned Ford Popular tourer. He also rode motorcycles in such contests, but that is another story.)

Mr. Garland has already told, in letters to Motor Sport, of the incredible state of the Salmsons which were brought up the Thames on barges and dumped on the Chiswick sewage-farm, along with lots of Citroens and W & G taxicabs, the cabs, however, protected by packing cases (which made fine garages afterwards), whereas the Salmsons were just encased in sticky Vaselene. Naturally these chassis were nearly impossible to start and tows by one of Lepp’s Fiat lorries, which also used the sewage-farm site, were much appreciated.

Wilson-Jones did so well in 1923 with the “Spanish Murderer” Salmson lent to him by Salmsons that he was given a place in the “works” racing team. Garland thus found himself at the Track. He has all the early 200 Mile Race programmes and remembers Count Zborowski bringing his own mechanic, Martin, with him when driving a Salmson. The French mechanics did not appreciate this. In the race Zborowski’s car went slower and slower and so he retired and went home, leaving behind his overcoat. . . . Wilson-Jones devised his own 4-speed gearbox for his first racing Salmson, after he had been unable to cope with Ivy Cummings and the aged Bugatti “Black Bess” at the Bexhill Speed Trials, due to the wide ratios of the 3-speed box. It was an unfortunate day, because on the way down a boy ran into the road and was hit by the Salmson, luckily without much harm; fortunately the Police did not seem to realise it was a racing car and anyway, Garland had sounded the French horn he was carrying after the calamity, so all ended satisfactorily!

In the end the English Salmson Co., run by the Thompson family and managed by Dixon, failed and poor Bouvier, whose son was killed while flying in the Battle of Britain, died after the French Salmson Co. had closed down, completely down and out. . . .

At the Motor Show Garland was offered a job with the London branch of Salmson, although he thinks he was mistaken for another Garland, no relation! So he went to SMS at 17a, Motcombe St., SW1, off Belgrave Square. They had showrooms in Buckingham Palace Road, which was handy for drinking at the “Bag o’ Nails”. Those Salmson showrooms later became the well-known Scout Shop. A. Bouvier, who had a smart flat behind Barker’s, was in charge, a little perfumed Frenchman of quick temper, one gathers. He was also associated with the Manor Motor Co., in Manor Street, Chelsea, close to Wolseley’s new depot, with a branch in Motcombe St.

Other Directors were Sir P. Thomson, F. Huff, from Henley’s, and A. Dixon who lived at Hatch End. The staff included Fred Rolt, who had been Dixon’s war-time Sergeant, the Salesman, D’Arcy Nassau, while for a time the office was run by a Mr. Perkins, helped by a French typist, Mme Kirkhover, and a Miss Aberdower. Later came Sir Thomson’s nephews, Capt Edmonds, RN and his brother. Garland recalls driving a chassis to a Hersham bodybuilder to complete a car for Jack Dunfee and going as passenger in trials with Spikins and J.W. Johnstone. Later C. G. Marston was the British Director, with J. Heinrich, A. Parquier and A. Bouvier on the Board. The cars were still collected from the Chiswick sewage-farm, by Garland and a man called Barker. They would depart by ‘bus, Trade-plates under their arms, walk down Duke St., and get the required petrol in tins from Mr. Knight (old Knighto) on arrival. If the things started there was a fine race back into London, up the Cromwell Road, the run occupying about 20 minutes, although on one occasion Garland overturned a chassis after it had skidded on wet tarmac and hit the kerb. The engine never stopped, and he righted it and carried on. Driving Johnstone’s car Garland won the Novices Award in a Victory Cup Trial, but generally the job deteriorated into the chore of collecting Salmons from their unsalubrious parking place, and when around 1926, eight of the staff were made redundant, Garland quitted the Motor Trade as such, although with much driving ahead of him. He had one last Salmson association, when the owner of a 10/15 tourer who couldn’t get the hang of changing gear asked him for some tuition. This took him to Richmond, where he met his wife. Incidentally, Johnstone, who had wealthy parents living at Malvern, became fed up with lack of service for his competition Salmson and transferred his allegiance to Frazer Nash.

Mr. Garland recalls that the early 10 hp Salmsons had a very difficult valve adjustment which if not correctly set could cause push-rods to fly out of the engine at high revs. There are said to be two in a field off Purley Way which were never recovered! Wilson Jones evolved a simple form of adjustment on the push-rods themselves, which cured all the trouble. A firm called Bishenough Bros. in Ealing made up the conversions, which were collected by Garland in small batches, as the machine-shop turned them out. It was again Wilson Jones who after much cogitation discovered what caused some of the earlier Salmsons to emit a terrible rattle, like a big-end gone, when revving hard. He was foxed for a long time, as everyone at Motcombe Street had been, then found that one end of the cross-shaft that drove the water-pump and dynamo was housed in a plain bronze bush, which was flanged and held against the crankcase extension by several small bolts. This bush would wear and cause the rattle as it allowed the cross-shaft to vibrate laterally. Jones did some careful machining to set the bush a little deeper into its housing and that trouble was cured.

I am indebted to Mr. Garland for these fragments. He really should write a book and it is nice to know that at 77 he still drives daily, his personal car being a very smart VW Beetle, finished in blue, perhaps to remind him of his Salmson days. – W.B.

Related articles

Related products