Veteran Edwardian Vintage, October 1977

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A section devoted to old-car matters

A Straker Squire Relic

Earlier this year, when they were clearing out an attic at their former premises in Angel Road, Edmonton, Control Dataset Limited found an old order-book belonging to the old Straker Squire Company. This was passed on to us by Mr. M. J. Canwbell, who is the nephew of the late Bob Nicholl who, with Arthur Fox, was responsible for Fox & Nicholl Ltd. who ran the famous Talbot sports-car team, among other racing endeavours.

Straker Squire made their first car in 1906, after manufacturing steam vehicles from 1901, the works being in Bristol and the offices in SE London. The order-book just referred to runs front June to August 1907 and was presumably taken to Edmonton when the Company changed its title from S. Straker & Squire Ltd. to Straker-Squire Ltd. and moved there in 1918. The year in question was when they were introducing their new 16/20 model, and when they ran a 110 x 130 mm. entry in the Heavy Touring class of the TT. So I searched this aged order-book with some interest. Incidentally, all its entries, index included, are in a careful copper-plate long-hand; although type-writers were available by 1885, the S-S clerk didn’t have the use of one.

In fact, the entries are not very revealing and the only one applying to the racing Straker Squire is a very urgent order for larger hubs to be fitted to wheels used for the racing car, addressed A Liversedge & Sons in the Old Kent Road. This is followed by one to Dunlop’s, for 921 x 120 outer covers with cross-grooves, “for competition”. Woodwork for securing road wheels to chassis was also ordered. However, the TT was over by then, so perhaps these wheels and tyres were required for a lesser event, such as Brooklands. As I went further into the book I realised that many of the orders were for parts for steam-waggons, replacements for worn fire-bars, axle brasses, Straker boilers, gauge-glasses, glands, grease, etc., eccentrics, and so on. (If any steam enthusiasts want the names of the organisations using Straker Squire vehicles and their numbers, I will endeavour to oblige.) Some of these parts were drawn from LGDC stock, which SS were taking over.

The orders ranged from things like two-dozen Koh-i-nor pencils required by return, to alterations to thirty 24-h.p. radiators (at £5 6s. each), which may have implied using old stock for the new 1907 model, and the making of bodies by R. K. Fleming of Reading, presumably for the new car. These consisted of a side-entrance body with doors and rubber mats, costing £63, two similar bodies, one green with green stripes, the other blue with blue stripes (£64 10s. each) and a very superior 3/4 landaulette “seating 3 at back with folding emergency seat, electric light inside speaking tube, companions and ashpan (this nomenclature may have been influenced by writing orders for steam-waggon parts?), trimmed French cord and painted to choice, including rubber mats, leather wings, detachable canopy and bevelled glass windows.” The cost was £160. The deal was done by Mr. S. T. Lord, who also booked advertising space in motoring and other journals (a 1/2-page in Motor cost £7 10s.). He also drove Mr. Sydney Straker’s Straker Squire into a very close 2nd place in a race at the first Brooklands Meeting.

Those who are interested in fragments about forgotten makes should note that much work was done for Straker Squire by the Wolseley Tool & Motor Car Co, and that Straker Squire’s former association with a French Company persisted, as when one sample of each and every bolt and nut on the C.S.B. chassis, including engine, etc., was ordered from Cornilleau in Paris. Unexpected items were a table from Hampton’s of Pall Mall, 28lb. of Magnolia metal from Magnolia & Co., and an urgent request for a set of timing wheels, accurately cut with no back lash, for the 3 1/2 x 4 3/4 engines, from B.H.S. of Fishponds, Bristol, the wheels not to be hardened. Then the Kirkstall Forge of Leeds supplied ten front axles per drawing, for the 16-h.p. touring Straker Squires, at £10 10s. each. Wolseley were asked to send two camshafts for 105 x 130 engines by first passenger train to Nelson Square, and things like leather belts mingled with a nest of 20 lettered pigeon-holes, black-Japan finished (38s.), staples for a No.1 Hotchkiss paper-fastener, chain from Bramptons, and a “thoroughly good fitter to leave Bristol to start work on Tuesday morning,” as the summer of 1907 wore on. Outside repair work was also being undertaken, for a foot-brake drum for a 30-h.p. Tillings chassis was urgently required from Fishponds. A pair of back cylinders from Germany for a “Firstly chassis” is puzzling and what of bottles of perrier-water, ginger-ale and Apollinaris, ordered “by return” on July 16th front Schoolbred’s? Perhaps to take down to Brooklands on July 20th? Altered 30-h.p. bonnet fronts and a strengthened casting for the aluminium top cover of a 3 1/2 x 4 3/4 engine’s water jacket may mask a sorry tale! Gabriel supplied gongs, Lagge of Willenhall 35 mm. Grouvelle carburettors and Englebert, whom we associated with tyres, the engine oil. Interesting. – W.B.

* * *

A Rolls-Royce Conundrum

In the August issue George Brooks of Australis enquired about a Rolls-Royce landaulette which was driven to Scotland in 1906, asking whether it was Lord Northcliffe’s Legalimit car. This has brought a reply from Rolls-Royce expert Jobs Oldham of Jersey. He says that although each of the V8 Rolls-Royce chassis of this period were geared not to exceed 20 m.p.h., the prevailing legal speed-limit on British roads, there was, he thinks, only one two-seater Legalimit, with front bonnet, the car supplied to Lord Northcliffe. The picture of this car in Oldham’s book is apparently the only one ever published. It is thought that only three V8s were built, with parts for a fourth. The car that went to Scotland is thought to be one of two of the “Landaulettes par Excellence“, the third car being Lord Northcliffe’s 2-seater Legalimit. Oldham thinks a R-R travelling inspector used one of the landaulettes for a time, so the other would be the car that found a Scottish owner. The R-R catalogue of the time shows the VI chassis (as distinct from the 30-h.p. six-cylinder, and other models down to the 10-h.p. two-cylinder) to have been available with the Barker (“Northcliffe”) type 2-seater body at £1,160, the Barker Landaulette par Excellence at £1,235, the Barker Motor Landau at £1,275, and the Barker touring car at £1,150 all with “invisible” (under-floor) engine. Oldham wonders whether the last-named hideous thing was ever made. The 2-seater Legalimit had a wheelbase of 160 in., the landaulette chassis one of 90 in. These models were so far surpassed by the six-cylinder 40/50 Rolls-Royce that they were discontinued, Rolls-Royce not again using a V8 engine until the advent of the Silver Cloud II. – W.B.

* * *

Opel Follow-up

Just when it was too late to alter my suggestion, in last month’s articler on Mavrogordato’s 1914 GP Opel, that perhaps the intended single-seater body for one of the pair of such cars that stayed in England during the 1914/18 war was never fitted, I came upon an old photograph which proves me wrong. I should have had more faith in the letter written to me by Mr. S. C. Cull, who worked on thew two Opels for Capt. (later Sir) Alastair Miller, and which I published on pages 561-565 on the third volume of my “Story of Brooklands” (Grenville, 1950). This letter explained that, whatever plans Opel may have had before the war for attacking Percy Lambert’s hour record (Talbot, 103.84 m.p.h.), a single-seater body was on the GP Opel which Miller named Opel 1 when it appeared at Brooklands in 1920. Now I discover that Opel did indeed plan to attack the Lambert record, for which purpose, apparently, they quickly put on this single-seater body before the war.

The pre-war body was quite a crude affair. After the war the chassis was crudely lengthened at the rear dumb-irons, presumably by Miller, although I think the wheelbase may have been unaltered, the rear springs simply being longer. The steering was raked across the chassis in keeping with the single-seater body, which presumably explains the need for a fairing over the steering-box, which presumably explains the need for a fairing over de steering-box, which, now, no doubt, protruded over the edge of the o/s side-member, and probably for the steering drop-arm was curved on this car, unlike the straight drop-arm on Opel II, which retained its original two-seater, bolster-tank body, this being the car now owned by Mr. Mavrogordato.

Quite why Miller lengthened the chassis and rear springs we shall probably never know. Was the original chassis damaged during its stay here “for the duration”? Or perhaps Miller thought more leg room was desirable, or that the track-holding would be improved by the longer rear springs. Whatever the reason, the fact is that early in 1920 Opel I had this single-seater body, as the accompanying photograph clearly shows. It also seems that the outside hand brake was moved back, from its original position. Note also that there is no radiator stoneguard on Opel I. The car was painted white, according to Mr. Cull, (which endorses the opinion that Opel themselves carried out the work, before the war) but in the photograph, taken when Miller had both Opel I and Opel II (as they had been redesignated by him) at Brooklands the single-seater seems to have been repainted.

It did not long remain a monoposto because L. G. Hornsted, who was to drive this Opel, elected to have a smart red two-seater, streamline-tailed body put on it, later in 1920 this being made by W & B Radiators of Hammersmith, who also made the body for Alastair Miller’s 11-litre Wolseley Viper. When A. C. Westwood acquired Opel I some years later it had either a different tail again or the two-seater tail had been lowered. The petrol tank had been in the tail of the single -seater body, which is why, when Brian Morgan eventually set about rebuilding Opel I as a replica of the car as it had run in the 1914 Grand Prix he had to construct a new bolster tank and body.

On another note, the reason why Opel II was registered in Sligo, if rumour is to be believed, is that the Paddons liked to obtain that “El” prefix, because if a hyphen was painted on the number-plate between the “E” and the “I”, or between the “I” and the “I” of a string of figures so suffixed, hopefully the Police might go looking for a car carrying an EH registration, when the 20 m.p.h. speed-limit had been exceeded or an open exhaust or whatever arouse their interest!

Finally, as a corrigenda to last month’s article on Mavrogordato’s Opel, the owner makes the following points: – His friend is, of course, Bill not Dick Craddok -apologies -, the Opel is, I am assured, no longer inflammable, and its engine is a prompt starter if one is able to swing it, the wheels were rebuilt in 1932, the ignition distributor dates from 1934, the carburetter is original, the extra oil supply is controlled by a tap under the tank, not on the Bosch-oiler, and the recently-overhauled AT speedometer is probably of 1920’s origin. The car has a 2 3/4 to 1 top gear, on which it attains a maximum speed in the region of 110mph. – W.B.

V-E-V Miscellany. – Adrian Liddell last year drove his 1921 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost saloon 7,687 miles from London to India, with no more trouble than a broken windscreen, two split wheel rims, two tyre blow-outs and a puncture – a very stout effort. We had some difficulty in obtaining the results of the Concours d’Etat held at the Brooklands Society last June, even to being recommended to telephone a PRO who said he was not at the event and wasn’t a member; we believe that the prize went to Crowley-Milling’s 1921 3-litre Ballot, in its time a very well-known Brooklands’ competitor, and that the Amilcar Six we quoted in the August issue as having won this prize was, in fact, judged the best of thow cars which had raced both at Brooklands and Montlhery. In view of recent reference in Motor Sport to the 2-litre Miller that Count Zborowski brought to this country, in 1923, it is interesting that a complete history of this car, which Zborowski drove in the 1924 French Grand Prix at Lyons among other races, appears in the first issue of the new Australian motor journal, Cars and Drivers. We are very sorry to hear that Nevil Minchin, who has owned over 100 different cars and written a number of motoring books, is ill in S. Africa. Encouragement should be afforded many of us by a request, in the current issue of the Fiat Register Bulletin, from an 84-year-old member who is seeking and is anxious to acquire a side-valve Fiat Topolino of the kind catalogued between 1938 and 1940 and is apparently not adverse to rebuilding its engine. Incidentally, the Fiat Register has a note of 592 Fiats ranging from the earliest models up to the Topolino but it would like details of members’ cars where these have not been supplied. It is said that the shadier quarters of Bangkok are a good place in which to discover Fiat 500Bs and pre-war 1100s still in service. A big wartime Peugeot coupe de ville, thought to have been used by General Gauraud, has turned up, in a French barn and is to be restored. It appears that a Rolls-Royce Phantom I with a Mulliner body fitted secondhand by Offords, and a Rolls-Royce Tickford saloon, were wrapped as recently as 1975, the former in Hampshire. The beautifully-produced quarterly magazine of the American Packard Club, The Packard Cormorant, is now in its 24th year. The Spring 1977 issue contains an article by a Packard worker, a picture of the Packard office with “Packard” on the portals, and a piece about Packards in Britain. The Club held its Macauley Tour here, last month. -W.B.

* * *

A Racing Model-T Ford

When Reg Worthing – well-known in veteran and T-circles for his painstaking restoration of a 1913 brass-radiator Ford Tourer – rang me to tell me that, as a lad, he had in the mid-1930s, driven a Model-T Ford up the long, steep drive to my present house, delivering coal in one of the trucks of his father’s haulage business, and, more to the point, that he had just rebuilt a racing Model-T, 1 was immediately interested. So one Saturday the Rover 3500 was driven over the back lanes and by-roads of Powys and Herefordshire, to Mr. Worthing’s remotely located house. I was soon to discover that he is a great Model-T man, although in the past he has run Rolls-Royce, Vauxhall 14/40 and other vintage cars, and a veteran De Dion Bouton.

On the landings I saw original brass Model-T radiators and in his completely-equipped workshops, besides the two complete Fords, I was shown parts and spares galore (enough, he says, to build up about eight more Model-Ts), and a Baico brass-radiator, chain-drive Ford one-tonner in course of restoration, which will have a Canadian-built engine. The object of the visit, however, was to look over Reg’s recently-rebuilt racer.

At one time racing Model-Ts were so popular that it has been remarked that not only did Henry Ford put America on wheels, he unknowingly was to put it behind the wheel of a racing car. They dominated the dirt tracks, but were out-matched by the Millers and the Duesenbergs on the faster board tracks and at Indianapolis. In the American idiom of the 192os, the “T” was king of the backyards if outpaced at the brickyard. Famous drivers like Wilbur Shaw, Frank Lockhart, Dutch Baumann, Chet Miller, Mauri Rose and so many others had their motor racing baptism in racing versions of the Model-T. At Indianapolis, in the annual 500-Mile Race, these inexpensive propositions, first run there by Chevrolet in 1922, gained 5th place in 1923, and finished 14th, 16th and 17th in 1924, when a team of three Barber-Warnock Fords were driven by Hunt (not that one!), Harder and Alfred Moss, father of Stirling Moss, who was out there studying dentistry. Fronty-Fords made unsuccessful appearances in the “500” in 1925 and 1926 and a few reappeared under the “stock-block” ruling of 1930, Miller’s finishing 13th, finishing with a front spring borrowed from a spectator’s Model-T when the original broke (and replaced aftewards, it is said, without the owner knowing that his spring had ridden the bricks). Even as late as 1931 there was a sprinkling of these hoary Fords at Indianapolis, one with a Model-A engine. This time none finished, but the Tucker-Tappet-Special qualified at 111.32 m.p.h. …

Such efforts were aided by all manner of special speed equipment, especially overhead-valve heads, and those who could afford one might fit a Morton and Brett single-seater body. It was said that even Edsul Ford had a racing model-T, but a rather superior one, built at the factory! They were known here, naturally. At Brooklands, for instance, R. A. Rothermel entered a Model-T in 1922 driven by G. A. Vandervell of Vanwall fame (lap speed, 73.71 m.p.h.), Major Huth had his Alphabet-Ford there that year (lap speed, 69.17 m.p.h.) and Alfred Moss returned to England with his 8-valve, twin-cam, 7 ft.-wheelbase I.h.d. Fronty-Ford-Speed-Sport in 1925 and won the August 75 m.p.h. Short Handicap at Brooklands, finishing the race ahead of an elderly Bugatti and Depper’s Austin Seven (lap speed, 85.13 m.p.h.) with smoke pouring from the cockpit from a fire caused by a broken oil pipe. In 1926 Moss’ 8-valve twin-cam r.h.d. Frontenac went even better, gaining a 2nd place (lap speed, 91.05 m.p.h.).

In later years most of these modified Model-Ts had faded away. I remember only three such Fords. There was the road-equipped sports model owned by one of the Directors of Dee’s, the Croydon Ford Agents, before the war. It had vanished by the time the Hitler was dead, along with the Ford EC’s “mascot”, a brass-radiator landaulette which had been stored there, unrestored, when the war began. Then there was that I.h.d. “1 1/2-seater” with a “Speedway” 16-valve single-overhead-camshaft head made by the Speedway Engineering Co. of Indianapolis, with exposed valves and rocker-ends, the valves slightly inclined, a 4′ branch exhaust-system, a 4-branch inletmanifold with paired ports, I think, an updraught carburetter, and a Wolseley its radiator. This car had a narrow black pointed-tail body, its rear transverse spring was underslung, it possessed an undershield that fitted round the back-axle casing, and it was registered 6 TE. It appeared in comparatively recent times at a Ford Motor Company Model-T gathering and ran in the Brighton Speed Trials, road-rigged, with side lamps and modern, skimpy fixed cycle-type mudguards. The wire wheels were, shod with Dunlop 30 x 3 1/2 tyres and the car had a non-original steering wheel. It seems to have dissappeared. As does the sports-bodied Model-T owned by George Hampson. This was an all-black 1925 s.v. car, owned by Hampson’s mother and brought over from the USA.

The racing Ford which Mr. Worthing has so recently completed, his son making the two-seater pointed-tail body in time-off front working on the collection of military vehicles in which he specialises, was first registered in July 1922 and is thought to have been built in 1921/22, possibly by an American owner. It use registered as a racing car, XL 5010, and spent most of its life in the Bournemouth area, although “XL” is a London prefix, but it was discovered, in a sorry state, in Worcester.

The chassis and torque-tube have been shortened perhaps 18 in. and the back spring is underslung. It has a Laurel head, with 16 vertical valves operated by push-rods and nicely-machined forked rockers, rockers, valves and springs being fully exposed. Two big Solex carburetters feed into the o/s of the head and on the n/s the eight valves exhaust upwards into two large exposed pockets (which had to be re-made), which in turn feed into the two exhaust stubs which are coupled to the straight exhaust pipe running along the side of the car. For racing the Ford flywheel magneto was usually dispensed with and a normal h.t. magneto fitted. Mr. Worthing has, instead, used a modern distributor and coil, driving the distributor from the front of the crankshaft where the commutator used to go, the distributor head being inclined to the n/s, to feed four horizontal sparking plugs on that side of the engine. There is, also at the front, a water pump, driven by a flat belt. Fuel feed is by Autovac, a balance-pipe being incorporated with the suction pipe, which gives very responsive starting (an electric starter is fitted) and a wonderfully even, slow tick-over, although there is no choke. The valve rocker gear is lubricated by oil-can.

The hand-throttle is retained but a foot accelerator is contemplated. The steering wheel is from a Model-T, with the typical down-cranked spokes and wood-rim, and the only concession to instrumentation is the little Ford panel before the passenger, carrying the ignition-key and an ammeter. The track is standard width and the disc wheels are shod at the back with Goodyear Pathfinder, at the front with Spencer Moulton 30 x 3 1/2 tyres. The grey-painted radiator is topped with a Boyce Motometer. The 2-speed, pedal controlled transmission is retained (it is simple to Mr. Worthing, who was brought up on Model-Ts) and the final drive ratio is standard. The Log Book shows that originally this racing Model-T was yellow, but was later repainted blue. So Mr. Worthing has given it a smart dark blue spray paint finish. It admirably recaptures the spirit of those souped-up Model-Ts, fascinating in their day by their wide variety of specification and their ability to frequently vanquish far more costly racing cars. – W.B.

V-E-V Odds & Ends. – There will be two races for pre-1940 sports-cars at the MCC Silverstone Meeting on October 22nd, and the VMCC Championship race for solo vintage motorcycles will take place, but there is no separate race for Morgan three-wheelers, alas. Entries close on October 1st, to A. L. Bonwick, The Pines, Tenterden Road, Croydon, so those still wishing to race must hurry. The VSCC, 750 MC, MGCC, etc., are invited.

The third Carlisle Pageant of Motoring took place at Carlisle Racecourse on August 28th. It was led by a 1930 20/25 Rolls-Royce open tourer in which rode HRH The Prince of Wales and the Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria. Entries ranged from a 1909 Albion to Jaguar XK150s, with supporting motorcycles, military vehicles, commercial vehicles and stationary engines. In association with this Pageant a new 60-page booklet has been embodied with the programme. This contains a great deal of fascinating material, such as pictures of the Rolls-Royce which led the Parade, an introduction about Royal motorised visits to Penrith, a feature about Carlisle’s Turnpikes, an account ot Tiffen’s of Carlisle and the vehicles they sold, another similar article about Drummond of Dumfries and Carlisle (they used a Royce dynamo) and the North British they made, the only trace of which is thought to be a body plate from one of these cars, and further reminiscences of J. W. Kisser, Lord Lonsdale’s one-time chauffeur, correcting a few errors made in the 1976 edition of this booklet and illustrated, as is the whole booklet, with many rare photographs, and pieces about the old Barnes Border Garage and about cycling and motorcycling in Carlisle between 1880 and 1940. Procceds from the sale of this little publication go to HM The Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal and copies are available for 40p including postage, from Peter Connon, Newtown House, Newtown Road, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA2 7LT on mentioning Motor Sport.

We have just learned of the sudden and quite unexpected death last March, in Australia, of Ivan Hill, whose father was a Brooklands’ motorcyclist and who drove the Editor’s 1922 8-h.p. Talbot-Darracq successfully through the 1935 RAC Rally. He returned to this country last year to drive the Frazer Nash he owned before the war in the International Veteran and Vintage Rally and to meet up again with the Talbot-Darracq, on which he learnt to drive at Weybridge in the 1920s. Our belated condolence to Mrs. Toni Hill and family. – W.B.