I start with the sad news that we have lost two more veteran car friends in the South East since my last notes. Hazel Grossmark, wife of the late Derek Grossmark, passed away on 4th August. On 24th July Air Marshall Sir Freddie Sowrey KCB, CBE, AFC dies at the age of 96. Sir Freddie had a long and very distinguished career in the RAF starting in 1941 during WW2 when he joined as a pilot officer. He steadily rose through the ranks until being appointed as Air Marshal in 1978 and finally retiring from the RAF in 1980. However this was hardly retirement as he then became very active in many organisations which he continued to do right up until his death. In 1990 Sir Freddie purchased his 1901 Darracq which he then restored himself before taking part in the Brighton Run each year until the age of 90.
I have previously reported that Brooklands Museum is recommissioning the 1904 Siddeley 6hp that has a significant historical connection to the museum site. The car was purchased new by Ethel Locke-King, the wife of Hugh Locke-King, who built the Brooklands Motor Racing Circuit on his estate in Surrey. The Siddeley is reputed to be one of the first cars to drive on the completed circuit in 1907. Named Daisy, the Siddeley took part in the Veteran Car Run in 1930, 1932 and 1934. Hugh Curling Hunter, a private racing driver, bought Daisy from Ethel Locke-King in July 1939. He drove Daisy on the 50th anniversary Run to Brighton in 1946 and then throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. Daisy last ventured to Brighton in 1969. After that the car was laid up for many years until the Hunter family loaned Daisy to the Brooklands Museum for display only. Ownership of Daisy has now passed to the museum with permission for it to be used around the site, but not on the public road.
Brooklands volunteer and De Dion Bouton owner Roger Horsfield has been tasked with getting Daisy mobile again. As the 6hp Siddeley and Wolseley are identical, other than the radiator and bonnet, Roger turned to me for help and advice. The two makes of car were made alongside each other in the Vickers factory in Crayford, Kent. On inspecting the car Roger found many problems. There was a lot of play in the kingpins so new bushes were made. New tyres and tubes were fitted to the wheels, which was when they discovered a major problem with the rear axle. Both hubs had broken and the halfshafts tapers damaged. Blaker Specialist Welding Repairs Limited of Billingshurst was commissioned to make new hubs and repair the tapers. Whilst this was taking place further work continued at Brooklands. The radiator water tanks were in poor condition requiring the letting in of large repair patches. The water pump needed new internals and a broken engine lug caused a few worries. The exhaust valve and guide were badly worn so the valve stem was turned down and a guide made up for the cylinder head. Unfortunately this was made too perfect and would later cause the valve to stick when hot. But I’m getting ahead of myself as the car wasn’t running yet! With all the above work completed Roger and other museum volunteers spent every Thursday for several weeks trying to start the engine without success. So I was called in to help. I thought that the inlet valve spring was too strong but Roger was not convinced as he assumed it must be the same as when it last ran. But as that was 50 years ago anything could have happened in that time. A couple of weeks later I returned to the museum with my inlet valve and carburettor to see if it would run with them fitted instead. First we tried changing the inlet valve and on the first rotation of the starting handle the engine was running. The lesson here is never assume anything! Immediately Roger leapt aboard and went for a trundle around the museum grinning from ear to ear. This is when the exhaust valve stuck open and other issues came to light, so further work is required before the car can be regularly demonstrated to museum visitors.
The Bonhams auction at Beaulieu Autojumble usually contains a good number of VCC eligible cars and this year was no exception. Of note were the three cars from the Coleman Collection. Following Alan’s death last year and Debbie going into a home their cars were offered for sale. The 1903 Miniature Velox certainly lives up to its name and is only one step up from an Orient Buckboard. It’s an extremely small car. Keen bidding pushed the price to a far from miniature £52,000. The 1909 Renault AX attracted a lot of attention before the auction and, again, there was keen bidding that saw it sell for £30,000. The Coleman’s well-known 1916 Saxon fared less well and failed to sell under the hammer, but was converted into a sale later. A further nine VCC eligible cars were included in the auction. Its was good to see Debbie Coleman in the VCC marquee on Saturday lunchtime.
In my last notes I mentioned that I will be standing down from writing these notes at the AGM in November. So far nobody has expressed an interest in taking over. Please do give it your consideration so that the South East Scribe Notes can continue to appear in the Gazette.
David Ralph (Section Scribe)