[A section devoted to old-car matters]
The Life and Times of Montie Grahame-White (Continued from the August issue)
Towards the end of 1898 Claude Johnson, later of Rolls-Royce fame, was organising the great 1,000 Mile Trial, to take place in 1900 with the idea of acquainting the British public with the capabilities of the new autocars. Johnson asked the Daimler Company to provide him with a car and driver for prospecting the route and Mr Critchley gave the task to Grahame-White (hereafter referred to as G-W). The car used was a belt-drive Critchley-Daimler but fitted with a twin-cylinder 5½ hp engine in place of the 41/2 hp motor with which it had been fitted since the Richmond Trials. It had the very short wheelbase of 4′ 8″, which had been the cause of belt slip on hills. Tension on the driving belt was by a worm and trunnion adjustment instead of a jockey-pulley. This hard-used demonstrator was duly given the more powerful engine and then had a top speed of 35 mph. It had two forward speeds, tube ignition, wheel steering, wire wheels and pneumatic tyres.
First, Johnson drove from London to Bristol on an 8 hp Panhard lent by Alfred Harmsworth, the 118 miles being covered at an average speed of better than 14 mph, inspite of a heavy snowstorm en route. Then after discussing organisation with local officials, it was on to Birmingham via Cheltenham, in rainy conditions. After more organising, Johnson returned to London but on December 20th, 1898 he and G-W left Coventry at 5.30 am on the Critchley. They had no trouble in reaching Manchester. However, going on to Kendal the next day was different. Rain, sleet and snow did not improve the run through the uninteresting country via Bolton, Preston and Lancaster and there were many stops to relight the burners and adjust the belts, so that inspite of an early start they did not complete the 74 miles until 5 pm. Worse was to follow, because the third day’s run involved climbing Shap. The car had neither windscreen nor hood and to combat the driving sleet and snow the intrepid autocarists bought black veiling at a haberdashers, to place beneath their caps and over their faces. This worked until snow clogged the veils and they couldn’t see! Shap in those days (it is now by-passed) had a surface of loose stones, which were covered with frozen snow with freshly falling snow on top, as the Critchley arrived. It took the two men some 20 dismounts, to relight the burners, fit new belt-fasteners, or repair the belts, and to combat belt slip a hole had been drilled in the floorboards through which powdered resin could be fed to the crude transmission system. Even so, they took 61/2 hours for the ten miles of the ascent, after which the descent was hazardous. After 90 miles of this they stopped for a much needed supper at an inn. G-W then spent two hours repairing belts, roughing up the pulleys and making a windshield for the burners.
Despite this they left early for Carlisle, a no-trouble 30-mile run. Johnson then announced his intention of returning on Christmas Eve over Shap to Kendal to try the Lakes route to Carlisle, G-W had oiled the car and adjusted the brakes while Johnson attended to Club affairs the previous afternoon. Leaving at 5.30 a.m., the frost was so severe that the night before radiator and cylinder jackets had been drained, but this time only frozen snow at the very summit of Shap stopped the Yuletide travellers. Water in the carburetter then caused loss of power, necessitating pushing the Critchley up Bangrigg Hill. Later on the car would scarcely pull itself along, even downhill and G-W discovered that an axle shaft had bent. It wasn’t until 1.30 on Christmas morning that they got to Keswick, but at that hour the “George & Dragon” rekindled the fire, produced a good supper and dried the soaked clothes. G-W found the axle almost solid when he examined it on Christmas Day but wanted to dismantle it and get the local blacksmith to straighten the shaft. However, Johnson preferred to telephone the Edinburgh Autocar Co and have another car sent out to him. So G-W departed for Coventry by train the day after Boxing Day, with the stricken Critchley, and Johnson continued his journey to Newcastle in a 5l/2 h.p. gear-driven Daimler driven by its owner, Roland Outhwaite. I suppose that if Sir Clive Bosson of the RAC were in a similar predicament today BL might well find an owner with a Daimler Double-Six prepared to transport him …
On December 30th 1898 G-W was reunited with Johnson, when he drove him on a gear-driven Daimler to complete the tour. After a report of it had been sent to The Prince of Wales. His Royal Highness ordered a 6 hp Daimler mail-phaeton and G-W was presented to the Prince and Princess of Wales by the Masterof-the-Horse, Lord Suffield.
There can be very few persons alive now who can truly understand what motoring in these pioneering days was like -not another autocar encountered as likely as not, poor roads. verv little understanding of the mechanism. hostile
pedestrians and police, and frightene horses. This notwithstanding, when G-W was 11w1ted to stay at Redisham Hall, Beccles, by Princess Carloine Murat, grand-niece of Napoleon, he drove over from Coventry in a 4-cylinder Daimler lent to him by the Hon Evelyn Ellis. The car was used for accustoming horses to a motor. sometimes with damaging results to the latter.
The 1,000 Mile Trial of 1900 saw G-W driving an official 12 hp 4-cylinder Daimler on the first day, with Miss Thea Weblyn and the Automobile Club Steward, Mr. Burrows, as passengers. He was then allowed to drive a competing 6 h.p. Daimler as far as Nottingham and having “tuned” its governor and increased the carburetter jet, he got more speed from it than others of its class. It was taken over by Foster Pedley, Daimler’s London Manager, for the rest of the Trial. Just before this G-W had handed the tiller to his passenger, Johnson’s brother Basil, who promptly put the Daimler in a ditch, which resulted in broken steering gear. G-W steered the car for the remaining 52 miles to the Cambridge Drill Hall in Newcastle by standing on the step and controlling the o/s front hub-cap with the sole of his boot! After which he was banished to the back passenger seat of the Harmsworth Parisian Daimler driven by Sir “Herky” Langrishe. That gentleman had an eye for the girls and took actress Irene Vanbrugh for a drive round Leeds. He drove into one control with a horse’s nose-bag susperided on a pole in front of the Daimler, not knowing that someone had put a notice on the back of the car reading “What an ass!”. The VCC would not care for such behaviour today ….
Moving from Coventry to Daimler’s London Depot, G-W taught many people to drive. After six hours’ tuition, he notes, Miss Thea Weblyn drove the big Ellis Daimler from Hampton Court to Datchet and back without help, inclucluding negotiating what traffic there was in Staines. In later years he recalls how well the Hon Mrs Asheeton-Harbord and Mrs Bernard Weguelin drove their large Panhard and Rolls-Royce cars in London. But one Master of Foxhounds broke the gearbox of a 1900 6 hp Daimler he was learning on, between St. Albans and Luton. G-W had to drive it back to London in reverse (the early Daimlers and Panhards had four speeds forward and reverse), contriving to reach some 11 mph, but his neck was immovable for some days thereafter.
In the summer of 1900 G-W acquired the 12 hp Ellis Daimler and took it to Walmer Castle following a request to the Daimler Co. from Lord Wolverton for a demonstration. This included a descent of Castle Hill, Dover with Lady Norreys in front and Lord Wolverton and two children in the back. Alas, the car ran away, only just scraping past a furniture van, until it could be steered into the SR goods-yard. The wood brake-blocks had burned away and the shoe brakes which could be pressed onto the tyres by worm gear had torn chunks of rubber from them, while the fearful swerve into the yard had torn off the o/s tyres and broken the wheel spokes! His Lordship decided to give up the idea of becoming a motorist for the time being! But he sent G-W £100 in gratitude for the escape from destruction.
As a result of this, Daimler’s substituted fibre-lined steel band brakes and lever-applied shoe brakes. At this time G-W was living at Broom House, Teddington, where the host and his wife owned a Leon-Bollee and a Critchley Daimler, replaced in 1901 with a Parisian Daimler, and a Simpson Strickland steam launch on the Thames. In those days arriving at a house-party by car caused as much consternation as did the descent of an aeroplane a decade later. When G-W was invited to Nuneham Park the owner first said no damned motor would enter his grounds, later relenting to one autocar at walking pace. The arrival of the Daimler brought guests and servants to the door. Indeed, driving down in their small Panhard, Sir Richard and Lady Paget had been made to leave it at the Lodge and had had to walk up the drive. Soon, of course, G-W had captivated his host, and even the Lord Chief Justice, as to the safety of motoring, after taking them for their first rides. But, taking the latest Daimler to Esher Place to demonstrate it to Sir Edgar Vincent (later Lord d’Abernon), G-W was given a ride in Sir Edgar’s recently acquired 8 hp 4-cylinder Panhard and had to tell the Daimler Co that the French car was both faster and smoother than the Coventry product. …
G-W left Daimler’s at the close of 1901 and went to live in Paris. There he met many of the crack racing drivers and learned from Henri Fournier that he had made well over 125,000 francs from the Paris-Berlin and Paris-Bordeaux races, as he had sold the winning Mors, with which he had been presented, for nearly £2,000, to Joseph Laycock. For some reason that gentleman disposed of it to G-W for £500 a few months later. Fitting a rear seat where the racing tail had been G-W enjoyed real power under the bonnet and his first taste of speed on a public road -this Mors had averaged over 53 mph in winning the 1901 Paris-Bordeaux race. G-W set off in this racing Mors for Dieppe, with his father, mother and sister. He was not yet accustomed to its speed, it seems, for near Paris, running into a fog bank, he crashed through shut level-crossing gates, damaging the gas headlamps and denting the bonnet. The journey was completed with an oil-lamp.
Herbert Austin had expressed a desire to see the famous Mors, so G-W took it to the Wolseley Tool & Motor Co. in Birmingham, arriving caked in mud, as there were no mudguards. Staying the night with Austin, the Mors was inspected next day by the great engineer, who was singularly unimpressed! He took G-W to see the low-built Wolseley “Beetle” racers, one of which G-W was to drive in the 1902 Gordon Bennett race and the horizontal 4-cylinder engines of which were being bench-tested. Austin had built two 40 h.p. and a 45 h.p. Wolseley for the event but the latter didn’t arrive in Paris until 12 hours before the start, having been driven from Boulogne by Girling, an Austin tester. G-W and Claude Johnson drove the two 40s from Boulogne to Paris, experiencing so much trouble that this took a day and all the night. Before they could start, a driving test in and out of the Paris traffic had to be undertaken, with a frightened assistant of the Ingenieur des Mines on the car.
After a short run on the 45 hp Wolseley he was to have driven, G-W reported lubrication defects to Austin and was allocated a 40 hp instead, actually of 30 hp, which its 61/2-litre flat-four engine developed at 800 rpm. Within half-a-mile of the start the crankshaft broke but Austin and G-W dismantled the engine by the roadside and fitted another. They recommenced 12 hours after the last car had been flagged away! Meanwhile the other 40 hp, driven by Johnson and Callan had returned, as overheating big-ends had necessitated retirement. Austin took only Quinquina and soda-water but G-W managed chocolate, bananas and Sandeman’s before starting, after which, with Austin in carpet slippers and a boiler-suit, they averaged 281/2 mph to Chaumont, and five competitors were overtaken. Both drivers had difficulty in keeping awake and when G-W opened up to just over 40 mph, Austin called on G-W to “drive steady” and reminded him he was a married man, clearly wanting to nurse the engine. They got to Landeck, after crossing the Arlburg Pass (5,800 ft), when the crankshaft broke again. The car was sent back to Paris by rail and G-W and Herbert Austin had three days’ rest in the Austrian Tyrol, during which G-W tried to persuade Austin to abandon horizontal engines, which he felt could never be properly lubricated at fairly high speeds. Austin was not convinced but the calamities that befell his racing Wolseleys up to 1905 seemed to bear out G-W’s anxieties.-WB.
(To be continued)
Arising out of the article in the August issue about Crow Bros of Guildford in the 1920s, a retired Brigadier has written to say that after owning two ABC motorcycles his father, then a Gunner Officer, had two ABC cars, one of which was PC 6347, before “becoming respectable” in 1925, after marriage, with a bull-nose Morris. It could be that the ABCs were supplied by Crow Bros. Our correspondent is at present looking for a 1920-21 ABC motorcycle to keep his Norton 99 and G3LCS Matchless company. He has happy memories of an 11/SS Marendaz (YW 6480), a Lancia Lambda (IB 3165), an Alfa Romeo-engined Type 35 Bugatti (ex-TS 4424) in Trieste and a Frazer Nash (MY 3940), especially as none cost or realised more than £150 apiece! Later came two VW Beetles, perhaps bought after Motor Sport’s enthusiasm for them, two VW Convertibles owned when in Washington DC, a VW 1600L Variant, a VW 1700 Devon Caravette, followed by a VW Scirocco, his present car being a VW Passat GLS, his wife using a VW Polo.
Another reader, living in Victoria, Australia, badly needs a Berretta resistance-lamp or tube to keep a vintage Philips 6/12-volt battery-charger working, as this will prevent electronic equipment from intruding into his garage. The required Edison tube is 51/2 long x 2″ in dia, with a screw attachment, if anyone can help. The Historic Commercial VC’s magazine for last summer contained an article on boyhood memories of lorries and ‘buses in S Wales in the 1920s, among other interesting material. To add confusion to the Hispano Suiza/Bentley controversy, a correspondent suggests that the Type 20 Diatto engine may have been influenced by the 16T and 30T Hispano Suiza power units. A few years ago The Dalesman published a picture of a circa-1910 Briton car (rendered as “Britian” in the article), thought to be one of the first motor milk-floats; in fact, it appears to have been a normal car with a huge milk tank on the running-boards. It was introduced by Mr W Metcalfe of Fazakerley and Garsdale (K-registration), and replaced his former motorcycle and sidecar. Flutenews, magazine of the Vauxhall OC, recently contained an article about the 20/60 Vauxhall of 1927-30.
The Rhayader MC organised a free display of veteran and vintage vehicles at this year’s Royal Welsh Show, as it has now done for 17 successive years. The vehicles in the illuminated marquee ranged from the 1898 Rochet tricycle and very delapidated Quadricycle of the same date and unknown make, both owned by Johnnie Thomas, to two 1938 Austins, one a very smart two-owner Cambridge Ten saloon that had run less than 40,000 miles, the other David Filsell’s Ruby Seven saloon that had one lady owner up to 1973 and has not required either restoration or overhaul. Morris enthusiast A Broughton brought his 1928 taxi, its radiator badge inscribed “Morris Commercial Taxicab International”. It saw service in London up to 1938, was used later as a hay-sweep, and restored about five years ago and has rear-brakes only, a bulb horn and open-fronted cab which Scotland Yard insisted on. A nice touch was a much-labelled suitcase by the driver, as was a gas-mask in its case in front of a war-time Royal-Enfield motorcycle. One of the best turned out cars present was Dr Sayce’s 1933 Austin 12/4 and other Austin exhibits were Seymour Price’s SU-carburetted 1929 Chummy 7, David Spooner’s 1933 Opal 7 and GT Middleton’s blue fabric-bodied 1928 12/4 saloon.
John Carter had his familiar enormous 1908 Rothschild-bodied Fiat, Peter Davis a 1907 20/28 hp Darracq 2-seater that sounded as if it has a metal-to-metal clutch and the drip-feed lubricator of which carries the name “Darracq-Suresnes”, and BJ Williams had his interesting 1908 Clyde out again for the first time since 1976, its three-cylinder engine mounted transversely, and the transmission involving the longest chain imaginable, and had brought his 1913 Morris-Oxford on a trailer. Ken Fazakerley of the VMCC showed his 1915 Sunbeam, which has 1926 mods, but a wicker sidecar. So the Show Ring resounded to exhausts as well as hooves and moos, Thomas’ son riding fastest, on the Rochet tricycle.
It was at the Welsh Show that we heard that another vintage Beardmore taxi was broken up not long ago in the Tenby area, that the aforesaid owner of the Morris taxi wants an Empire Morris back-axle if such can be found, that almost all the parts of a flat-radiator Morris-Oxford two-scaler were gradually found by a former owner, so that restoration by a new owner is proceeding, and we saw Reg Worthing drive off in the very fine 1915 ex-Tom Norton Model-T Ford tourer which he found in Newcastle Emlyn where it had been laid up for more than 50 year’s, and rebuilt last winter. And the run home in the 1924 Calthorpe proved to me that it is actually faster on the uphill parts of the A470 than the two local refuse-trucks that preceded it! -WB.