Vintage postbag, September 1970

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Parnacott Facts

Sir, I was very interested in the latter from Mr. I. A. B. Munro on the Parnacar. I am the daughter and eldest child of A. E. Parnacott, and had a good deal to do with my father’s design work, although it is so long ago that my memory is patchy. My father started with the four-cylinder FN-engined Cycar, with transverse engine, which he hoped to build for £100. Only the prototype was made, largely by himself. It ran very successfully, and must have clocked up several thousand miles, and was very trouble free. It was entered for a number of road trials, but was really under-engined. It held the road extremely well, and was very smooth-riding even under extreme conditions.

The Cycar was well tested and plans were out to build some when the 1914 War broke out. Some working designing had been done on a bigger car, but my father got contracts with the FRC and War office and during the whole war was very busy indeed. After the war he immediately started the design of the Parnacott car and Mr, Munro was the chief man on the drawing-board. The design was far advanced and part of the car was built when finance failed and the whole project was stopped. My father had spent the whole of his money, and a financial gent had also spent a lot, but he failed to get the financial backing he had promised, and himself went broke. The years 1922 and 1923 were very difficult times. So a very promising project was abandoned. My father was very bitter, and I think he destroyed the plans, etc., because he was tied to the financier and if other money had been found that man would have had a large share in any success.

The engine and gearbox casting was a wonderful piece of work. I wonder whether there are patternmakers as skilled today as Mr. Hibbert? I know the foundry found the casting one of the most difficult jobs they had had, but the whole thing came out perfectly. I personally doubted at the time whether this enormous casting would be practical for quantities. You couldn’t swing it and machining it would have been a big job to tool up, but I have no doubt that the design would have worked. The casting was to be mounted on the rectangular box which was the frame-work of the car. (We called it the “coffin”.) The suspension was to be much as the Cycar, but there was an arrangement that the wheels banked at corners.

If anyone is sufficiently interested, they would look up the old patents–in my father’s name–in 1910 for the suspension and between 1920 and 1922 for the rest. I personally did the searching at the Patents Office for the patents, and many were taken out. They lapsed, of course, and anyone could use bits if they wanted. So many years have elapsed that I do not now remember the details much. I have sent the letter from Mr. Munro to by brother Douglas, who was still at school when all this took place. My other brother was au fait with the matter, but he died some years ago. My father died in 1947.

London, SE6. Ethel Cooke (nee Parnacott).