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In last month’s Newsletter I mentioned that every so often we would be generously lent cars to use when participating in Club events forty-plus years ago. One such was Charles Shepherd’s Bullnose Morris, Simeon Quid, which we took to the East Anglian Traction Engine Club’s rally in September 1973 at Ugley, a village on the Essex border with Hertfordshire. (The Ugley Women’s Institute was much in evidence……) This sort of ribaldry was entirely acceptable at the time but nowadays?? Charles wrote an account in 1972 of its acquisition, an extraordinary story which eventually made the national papers. Charles, Club President at the time, takes up the story:-
One sometimes reads about or even meets people who pick up bargains in the most unlikely way. One even dreams that someday, something exciting in the bargain line might come our way, particularly in the vintage motoring world. This story begins just over four years ago, (1968), One of my workmates who lived in Tollesbury at that time, told me about the Bullnose which was a regular sight in Tollesbury and the surrounding district, owned jointly by two retired schoolmistresses, both spinsters. I was very interested at least to see the vehicle because it was exactly the same model, year and body-type – two-seater and dickey, which my Grandfather once owned.
I motored over to Tollesbury one Sunday afternoon and luckily found the owners at home. Miss King, the elder of the two, was very willing to talk about her car and recall some of her highly amusing motoring experiences, like the time she unknowingly escorted H.M. The Queen through Chelmsford on her way to distribute the Royal Maundy at the Cathedral, much to the delight of the crowds! I was then shown the marvellous machine which was housed in and maintained by the local garage. As we walked to the garage I was told how “Sim” got his name, (yes, this car is male!). Miss King had bought him in 1936 from another schoolmistress, a Miss Piper for just £1. When she got Sim home, Miss King found a shilling piece under the seat so Sim had really cost her nineteen shillings. The car was used from that day until July 1972 as daily transport, being the one and only car Miss King had ever owned, which included driving from Doncaster to Eastbourne for summer holidays, “It took me ten hours my dear”, with the exception of the war years when Sim was laid-up in a barn in Yorkshire and the rats made a nest under the seat, much to Miss King’s disgust.
“Simeon” is a Greek word meaning “snub-nosed” and “Quid” was his cost. The car lived up to my expectations, I could tell that he was lovingly cared-for as best as financial circumstances would allow. In my opinion a new hood and a repaint would have made all the difference to his appearance, but I was too tactful to say so! Having duly admired the car, I gently broached the subject of a sale offering a handsome price. I was informed that several serious offers had already been made including one for £400 and that, at the moment, Sim was not for sale. However, my name and address was noted down in a little book, along with several others and Miss King promised me she would contact me when she decided to give up driving. We parted on amicable terms and I put all thoughts of purchasing Sim right out of my head.
Nearly four years afterwards, one evening in November, the phone rang and I was astounded to hear that Miss King had kept her promise: Sim was suffering from charging trouble and she was unable to swing the handle herself. Moreover she decided to give up driving owing to failing eyesight. She asked me if I was still interested in buying the car because out of all the interested parties, she had decided that I would give Sim the loving home he deserved after the many years of happy motoring he had given her. I explained that I had bought an Edwardian, a 1909 Renault, and with my 1937 MG VA all our garages were full. Miss King sounded disappointed. Somewhat casually I enquired the price, “You can have Sim for what I paid for him in 1936, £1. I know he’s worth around £750 but I am only concerned that he should go to a good home.” I nearly dropped the receiver,- a running Bullnose for £1 with six months tax and MOT still to run, I couldn’t resist it. I tactfully asked my father if he would mind another car in the family—and another garage—he couldn’t really refuse could he at that price!
I’m now the proud owner of Simeon Quid, a much refurbished car since our last meeting. Miss King has had Sim repainted, the interior seat reupholstered plus a new hood and sides-screens, a new core fitted in the radiator and finally the dashboard has been stripped and revarnished. This was all done prior to my purchasing him. The charging problem has been sorted-out, a small matter of rewiring! Sim is on the road again eagerly awaiting the coming rally season and other than just a thorough clean-up, he will be seen just as I bought him.
I would like to end my story by adding a footnote. As I handed Miss King my £1 note she gave me a shilling. “We must keep the tradition going”, remembering the shilling under the seat in 1936. So Sim cost me nineteen shillings and I have the receipt to prove it. In 1958 Miss King wrote to Lord Nuffield giving him the history of her car and what a reliable machine he was. I have been given Lord Nuffield’s personal reply.
Charles Shepherd, 1972.
We took immediate action once the Government changed its advice from “Stay at Home” to “Stay Alert” and I drove immediately to the petrol-station and filled-up the Sunbeam’s empty tank. It was my first experience of physically paying for anything since the third week in March but despite my reservations and suspicions that everyone there was infected, three weeks later I’m still functioning!
With far less traffic than normal it was a pleasure to drive through the lanes in the Box and Brett valleys later that afternoon, eventually stopping to take a photo by the ford in Kersey. Little did we realise that we had been spotted by Chris Briggs, (Riley enthusiast and former Club member), peering through his curtains but unable to catch our attention as he was desperately phoning to attempt to book a delivery from one of the supermarkets. Having recorded our outing for posterity we drove up the street and wended our way home but it wasn’t long before Chris phoned to say that he’d hoped to speak to us at Kersey and that we had stopped adjacent to the former site of probably the finest Tudor house in the village which had been dismantled in 1926 and re-erected at Bures. The owner, Mr Balfour, renamed it Dunstead House, the property from which Alex Walford, my father-in-law Harry Booth and I had removed the stationary engine from the generating house in the late 1960s as described in my other piece, Gardning! An extraordinary coincidence.
Chris then spoke about some photographs he’d seen which had been taken of a family-outing in 1912 in a car which he had identified as a Napier. The photos were from an album owned by the Proberts at Bevills, a fabulous Tudor house along the Sudbury road. Those of you who took part in our “Tour of South Suffolk” not long ago will remember that it ended at the chapel above Bures where there was also a view across the valley to the Dragon cut into the soil in recent years by the Proberts whose responsibility is also the upkeep of the chapel!
Paul Gallifant.I’m indebted to Chris Briggs, Leigh Alston and especially Geoffrey Probert for permission to use the photos.
Out in the Napier
These photographs as I mentioned last month, are from the Probert family archive and show a family outing in a very large Napier during the summer of 1912 from their home, Great Bevills at Bures. They stopped in Kersey by the church before walking down through the village to the ford where the scene shows two girls arm-in-arm without a care in the world happily ignorant of the impending catastrophe of the First World War two years hence. The photograph of the car itself was taken at Monks Eleigh, a few miles further on. Geoffrey Probert, whose grandfather may have been the photographer, says that he knows nothing about the car but remembers a family anecdote mentioning that a car was donated to, “make Spitfires”.
I know little about Napiers, I’m ashamed to admit, but I’ve been fascinated to discover that the company was first established in 1808 eventually employing between two and three-hundred people making a variety of precision machinery ranging from printing presses for the production of Hansard to lathes and drilling-machines but by 1895 only seven employees remained. Montague Napier, born in 1870, took over and revived the company’s fortunes but he was also a sporting cyclist as was S.F. Edge, both men belonging to the renowned Bath Road Club. Edge asked Napier to “improve” his Panhard which had won the 1896 Paris-Marseille-Paris race by replacing the steering-tiller with a wheel and altering the oiling system but Napier wasn’t satisfied with the result and installed an engine of his own design which so impressed Edge that he encouraged Napier to manufacture a car of his own. Besides being a successful sportsman, Edge was also a consummate salesman forming the Motor Power Company in the late 1890s and agreeing to buy the entire output of the Napier factory. By June 1900 eight sixteen hp cars had been ordered and Edge entered one in the Paris-Toulouse-Paris race with Charles Rolls as mechanic but it failed to finish. The following year Napier built a fifty hp car for Edge to drive in the Gordon Bennett Cup but once again it retired. Third time lucky and in 1902 Edge won the Gordon Bennett Cup on a 30hp Napier, the car painted in what became known as British Racing Green. In 1904 the company produced the first commercially successful six-cylinder car and by 1907 had 1200 employees turning out 100 cars per year but by 1912, the year of the photograph, the production was averaging 700 per annum. Besides making 2,000 lorries and ambulances and over 1,000 aircraft during the First World War the company became a sub-contractor for the manufacture of aircraft engines, in particular the RAF 3 and the Sunbeam Arab, both proving to be unreliable in service. So Napier designed their own, the hugely successful 12-cylinder Lion which was later adapted for both land and water and used in record-breaking by Malcolm Campbell, Henry Segrave and John Cobb, the latter’s Napier-Railton being in recent years at Brooklands in the custodianship of our Club member, Geoff Dovey.
Car manufacture stopped in 1924 although Napier did try to buy Bentley Motors in 1931 but the company continued instead with its considerable aero-engine business and, of course later, the Delticdiesel for marine use and rail traction. English Electrictook the company over in 1942.
David Iles’s mention of three Morris Eights and the photograph of Adrian Last’s “lifer” in the August Newsletter reminded me of the early 1960s when I had one. They were overshadowed by the Austin Seven which was definitely the “cool” car to have yet the mid-thirties Eight was far more refined, had hydraulic brakes, a top-speed of just under 60 mph and didn’t puddle-jump as did the Y-Type Ford.
I recently came across a snap of my Dad repairing a puncture on the Eight which his father had bought in the late 1930s, probably second-hand. Dad would have been seventeen and the family were making their way north for a holiday but just before reaching Derby a big-end began to rattle. They drove to an all-night garage where the sump was dropped, the offending con-rod removed and work put-in-hand for the bearing to be re-metalled, machined and refitted by next morning. (Or perhaps they were shell bearings?) The family booked into a hotel for the night and after breakfast they collected the car and continued their journey. It would probably take longer than that to have a new computer installed in a modern car nowadays; it’s the down-load which takes the time, I’m told!
I’ve told the tale of my pillar-box red, (Valspar), Morris Eight too many times, a car I bought for £17 in the autumn of 1962. It was completely reliable if not completely tasteless with its whitewall tyres, “moon” discs embellishing the wheels, Perspex sliding roof and “Paul’s Rod” carefully sign-written on the rear bumper just below the Welsh dragon I’d painted on a plywood spare-wheel cover I’d made; (I still have this item in my workshop but it doesn’t suit the Alvis!) Shortly after finishing it in May 1963 I proudly drove it to school and parked it with the staff cars opposite the Headmaster’s office. Just before break-time, an hour-and-a-half later, a prefect appeared at the door of the class-room and the message was relayed that I was to remove the car forthwith and park it anywhere but on school premises. I obeyed, of course!
I mentioned earlier that the advertised speed of a new Morris Eight in the mid-thirties was a fraction under 60, the tourer 58mph and the saloon a little less and so one lunch-time I took a pal with me as passenger and drove from school towards Maldon and I vividly recall seeing the speedometer reading 58mph downhill somewhere near Gt Totham. The car seemed completely unstable and after that I never exceeded 35mph!
In July 1963 I drove it to the north of Scotland sticking strictly to my self-imposed 30-35 mph all the way up the A1 as far as Darlington where we camped for the night before heading eventually for Loch Maree via Queensferry as the bridge over the Forth was still being constructed. Our route entailed reversing up a particularly steep hill in the Highlands and repeating the same manoeuvre up the Kirkstone Pass in Cumbria on the return journey, reverse being a lower gear than first. I used the car at Teacher-Training College at Egham and for journeys to and from there to home avoiding London by using a route through Slough, Watford, Hatfield and Bishops Stortford, a ninety mile trip but never travelling at more than 35 mph because I didn’t want to repair it and I never did! An excruciatingly embarrassing afternoon with Maserati expert, Sean Danaher’s father, a metalwork teacher at Stanway and latterly Dunmow, who restored cars in his spare time, instantaneously converted me to “proper” cars and I immediately sold the Morris in the summer of 1964.
Shortly after this, in 1965, Merriel’s brother bought a 1937 Morris Eight tourer which we borrowed during the summer of that year in order to research the craft-thesis which all of us training as teachers of practical subjects were required to do. I chose to research the East Anglian steam-engine builders such as Paxman in Colchester, Ransomes in Ipswich, Garrett in Leiston, Burrell in Thetford, Fowell at St Ives, Savage at Kings Lynn and John Collings who built three traction-engines in his farm sheds at Bacton in north-east Norfolk, an enormous undertaking. Burrells and Collings were the only companies which had completely closed-down, the Thetford works being used for manufacturing women’s foundation-wear and apart from the empty assembly shed at Bacton, no trace of anything relating to the making of steam-engines remained. The other companies seemed to be doing well but all, I believe, have now disappeared. The Morris took us to each of them with no trouble of any kind, not even a puncture! I took snaps of the various buildings including some interior views of assembly shops and every one of the companies was very welcoming and lent me original handbooks, catalogues and photographs.
For a short time we had a Morris E-type which had very stiff steering, due no doubt to poorly lubricated king-pins, but the car was not to our liking and was soon on its way. Later we had a 1946 Wolseley Eight with a body of similar shape to the E-type, a rather nice badge-engineered car until it stripped its fibre timing-gear; I ordered a new one from Elephant Motorsand fitted it in the garden. I understand that Lord Nuffield “bought” one for his wife. An early side-valve Morris Minor Convertible followed, the passenger-seat removed in order to accommodate the Moses basket for Emily. The engines for these early post-war Minors were, I believe, a stop-gap utilising a Morris Eight unit until the introduction of the immortal A-series. A flat-four had been planned but not used which is why there is so much space under the bonnet! (I stand to be corrected by the more knowledgeable on this subject!)