National Motor Museum, Gaydon

On Saturday 1st October, a monthly Breakfast meeting was organised by Peter Simpson from the JEC at the National British Motor Museum at Gaydon, Warks. On this occasion Peter wanted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the XK8 (X100)starting production and, to this end, invited all XK8/R owners from various Jaguar clubs. In the end over 250 owners of XK8/Rs attended, as well as XKs (X150), e-types, XJ40s, X300s and many more Jaguar models.

Since the club visited the British Motor museum in Gaydon during April 2015, there has been a multi-million pound investment in the site. The first thing to note since our visit is that the entrance to the main museum has changed and is now situated on the left side of the building, no doubt to give a better display area within. Also, there is now a separate exhibition hall on two floors for JLR, with many Jaguars from the Dr James Hull collection, as well as some important prototype Jaguars and Land Rovers.

road-rover-front-viewOne Land Rover that stood out at the museum, was an early 1955 prototype. As sales flourished in the early 1950s, Rover began to explore the concept of a new model which would be positioned between its car range and the Land Rover models. It was to be more car-like but retain the cross country abilities of the Land Rover, without its utilitarian image. Rover settled on the name “Road Rover” for the project which began in 1952. road-rover-side-viewThe initial “Road Rover” design was based on a modified P4 car chassis fitted with a Land Rover engine. Initially a four wheel drive unit was planned but later prototypes were rear wheel drive only. The austere and simple body was nicknamed “Greenhouse”. In common with its sister Land Rover with which it shares a resemblance, the first “Road Rover” made use of aluminium body panels.

road-rover-rear-viewBy 1955, Rover took a different approach to the project, the later Series II prototype taking styling cues from the American station wagon. The Road Rover project was finally abandoned in 1959, although a few years later, the work begun on ideas for the Range Rover, which would span the gap between car and 4×4 vehicles which Rover had identified two decades earlier. Here are pictures of the Road Rover.

With regard to Jaguar prototypes, one that very noticeable to me, was the Jaguar C-XF. Unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show in January 2007, the Jaguar C-XF which was the work of Jaguar’s Design Director Ian Callum and the Head of Advance Studio Julian Thomson. This was their fourth concept car following the R-Coupe of 2001 also on display, the R-D6 of 2003 and the ALC of 2005. The sequence of these four cars demonstrates a remarkable transformation of Jaguar design from the style traditionally associated with the marque to a new, very different and, above all, very modern and contemporary

Despite the C-XF being a departure from any previous Jaguars, Ian Callum was very conscious of the Jaguar heritage. In his view, throughout its history Jaguar had created some of the most striking, modern and beautiful saloons. The object of the C-XF was to create a car which in the modern age had equally a greater impact, as the Jaguars of the past had in their day. The classic saloons, such as the Mark II and the original XJ gave Jaguar a unique position, which in Callum’s words “We’re having back.”

jaguar-c-xf-rear-doorThis concept car is bigger than the XF that it ended up as. Almost as long as a 2010 MY XJ LWB and lower. Fortunately, an XJ is parked in the museum next to the C-XF so comparisons can be made. Note that there is no visible door handle on the rear door; instead, it is incorporated in the rear window surround (familiar to some Alfas and Hondas) to make it more sporty. Unfortunately this wasn’t carried over the the production XF.

There are also a number of other Jaguar prototypes and concepts on display, such as the 2001 R coupe concept, 1988 Jaguar XJ42, 2000 Jaguar F Type concept and a 2002 polished aluminium XJR (X350 model). It appeared to me that virtually all models throughout Jaguar’s history were on display. One that caught my eye – possibly because of the colour as you can see from the photo below – was a 1933 SS1 16hp Tourer.


Doug Warren

Petroliana – a brief history

In August I went with two Suffolk Jaguar friends from Thames Valley and Kent to a special show in Surrey, organised by a local property developer in aid of Help the Heroes. Held in the grounds of his farmhouse, about 800-1,000 cars turned up including some very rare machines. Robert Lewis has his own collection of about 35 cars, all beautifully restored and painted, including an SS1 Airline, an SS1 drophead, an SS100, an SS 2.5 litre, an XK120, some MGs and several Edwardian cars.


Midway through the morning we heard an announcement that there would be a 20-minute talk in the garage housing his vintage cars. We didn’t hear what the subject was, but went there anyway. Having made our way through the crowd to reach it, the speaker stood up and announced he was going to talk about petrol. Our spirits sank, as it didn’t sound very enticing and we’d be stuck there for at least 45 minutes.

alan-chandler-copyHow wrong we were! He was a good speaker and made his hobby, the history of petrol distribution and pumps, absolutely fascinating. I would like to thank Alan Chandler, and provide a link to his website: I cannot do justice to him, but the following represents just some of what he said.

The first steam-powered, self-propelled vehicles were difficult to operate. Their boilers required at least an hour or more firing by a stoker (‘chauffeur’ in French) to create enough steam to start. The 1865 Locomotive Act, known as the ‘Red Flag Act’, also imposed a speed limit of 4mph (2mph in town) and demanded a crew of three with an additional person walking at least 60 yards in front with a red flag to warn others and help with horses.

The internal combustion engine was much lighter and more convenient, making personal transport by car a real possibility. However, largely because of the above legislation, its development in Britain lagged behind that of Europe and America. Cars were expensive and, in its earliest days, motoring in Britain was the preserve of the wealthy few, not helped by the sometimes arrogant attitude of rich motorists causing additional resentment.

pratts-petrol-cart-and-cansFuel, then known as motor spirit (‘petrol’ was a trade name used by Carless Capel & Leonard), was distributed by rail and horse-drawn tankers, then pumped by hand into barrels. It was sold from chemist shops, or purchased and delivered to the owner’s home, in 2-gallon cans. Only a limited quantity could be carried or stored – its explosive potential was understood – and a deposit of 2/6d (eventually rising to 9/-) was paid on each can. There were more than 200 different distributors but no filling stations and many roads, especially outside towns, were unmetalled. So, up till the First World War, long-distance journeys represented quite a challenge.

chariot-pump-copyHowever, as motor cars and their use became more popular so the demand for fuel increased. Chemists, blacksmiths and general stores began selling petrol on the roadside, pumping it from barrels on carts (‘chariot pumps’), or via free-standing pumps or wall-hung pumps, into 2-gallon cans which were then tipped into the car with a funnel. The first public pump selling motor spirit is thought to have been at Brooklands Circuit in 1908.


bowser-skeleton-pump-copyAlmost all such ‘skeleton’ pumps were imported from S.F. Bowser or Gilbert & Barker in America, as there were no English makers. Australians still use the term bowser.

One advantage of this system for early motorists, who understood the variation between brands and were suspicious of unscrupulous vendors, was that they could easily see the quantity they were paying for, use a filter with the funnel for particles and see the fuel (to check it really was petrol) as it was being poured into the car.

As demand and the quantities of fuel rose and the fire risks increased, so did the need for underground storage tanks and more sophisticated ‘skeleton’ pumps. However, motorists were suspicious of these: how could they be sure they were getting the right amount of uncontaminated fuel? The favoured solution was to pump the fuel up, two gallons at a time, into glass cylinders where it could be inspected and then fed by gravity through a hose into the vehicle’s tank.

glass-cylinder-pump-copyTo make the pumps more visible to passing motorists and attract custom, the pumps often carried a beacon light, the equivalent of today’s huge neon sign at the entrance to a petrol station. They also developed stylistically; French-made pumps were quite impressive and Art Deco designs became popular in the late 1920’s and 1930’s.

Excavating an underground tank and purchasing the equipment was expensive. Shell was the first to come up with the idea of doing this for a discounted price, repayable in instalments, in exchange for a commitment to sell only their brand of fuel – the first ‘tied’ garages.

aldermaston-filling-stationThe first purpose-built filling station was opened by the AA – an organisation originally founded by motorists to warn each other of police speed traps ahead – at Aldermaston near Reading in 1919. As the number of cars on the road expanded dramatically, with the launch of the Austin 7 in 1922, and Ford’s expansion at Dagenham and launch of the Morris Minor in 1928, so too did the number of petrol pumps. glass-globe-turbine-pump-copyThey also developed technically as the need grew to dispense larger quantities more quickly.  Five-gallon glass cylinder pumps became more popular. When metering pumps came into use, a small glass globe with a turbine inside replaced the measuring cylinder, but assured the customer that gasoline really was flowing into the tank.

Brands such as Pratts, Shell, BP and Esso and others became larger and more dominant, with more ‘tied’ arrangements. The popularity of pumps which could dispense three or four different brands of fuel diminished. The first electric pumps appeared at the end of the 1920’s and began to be seen in the newer filling stations and roadside garages in the 1930’s, slowly replacing earlier pumps throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s.1930s-electric-pump-copy

Alan Chandler says that his personal interest is in the early history, up to the 1940’s. However I’m sure that the history of petrol stations since the second world war could be equally interesting.


Richard Gibby

A day at America’s car museum – part two

Since the publication of the first part of my article on this inspiring venue in April, I have received a deluge of requests from two members asking when the next instalment of the museum trip would be published. Wait no longer, because here it comes. But, before we begin, let me first extend a warm welcome and a hearty “G’day” to our readers in Brisbane and Melbourne…it was a great pleasure to meet up with you folks again. And, lest we forget, “Hello” to a very special person in Seattle.

Those with good memories will recall that I signed off just as we were about to venture along the ramp down to Lucky’s Garage on Level 3. We would take in some of the stunning displays on the way down for this is the Custom Coachworks Ramp, so named after the sparkling exhibits which reside along its length. This display of the best automobiles of mostly the inter-war years would have any sensible petrolhead salivating and is one of my favourite zones. So, what is it all about? Well, basically, heritage.

American coach-building heritage

Early cars were known as “horseless carriages” and they looked it, being built by horse-drawn wagon/carriage companies that pioneered the West. They were owned by the lucky few. When mass production brought down prices, thereby increasing availability to ordinary working people, owning a car was no longer sufficient to set any self-respecting entrepreneur, businessman, socialite or movie star apart from the masses. Sensing the opportunity, many of the remaining traditional manufacturers turned their coach-building skills to create custom bodies on chassis supplied by the car manufacturers which both satisfied the needs of the rich clientele and started the “golden age” of handcrafted automobile coachwork. Space is sadly lacking to detail all such coach builders here, but I will take a stab at a few that might ring some bells.

packardBack in 1917 the Lincoln Motor Company was founded by an uncle of Walter M Murphy, who duly awarded the California franchise to his nephew. Walter set about dressing the Lincolns in handmade coach-built bodies and sought the help of George R Fredricks, a renowned coach-builder, whom he moved to Pasadena in California to build specialist bodies not only for Lincoln, but also for top-drawer marques including Packard, Rolls Royce and Duesenberg, particularly the iconic Duesenberg Model J. Celebrities of the day – Rudolf Valentino, Buster Keaton et al – soon had them filling their garages.

The Brewster Company could trace its origins even further back to the early 1800s, but it was in 1910 that it built its automotive coachworks, catering for the high end of the market. Families including the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Astors were regular clients. Its bodies could be found on
 American-built Rolls Royces, and, in 1924, Rolls Royce of America bought the company. I believe that Rolls Royce was the first foreign car maker to set up production facilities in the United States, in 1919 in Springfield, Massachusetts. It still remains the only place outside England where they have been built. Sadly, the great Depression, high costs and marketing blunders put paid to both Rolls Royce USA and Brewster by 1937.

Leaving Brewster in 1920, draftsmen Tom Hibbard and Ray Dietrich formed Le Baron Carrossiers. The Le Baron name was chosen from a list of French words that they thought would sound classy over the phone! Well, it must have worked for a New York State Lincoln dealer hired them to design a sporty body for the old fashioned 1920 Lincoln he was selling. It was a sales success and they went on to design bodies for Packard, Cadillac, Duesenberg, Lincoln and Chrysler, the latter still using the Le Baron moniker. Look for aerodynamic designs and a signature “sweep” of the body panelling to pick out their work.

The lucky owners were many and varied but they all had one thing in common…money. You needed lots of it to procure one of these dream machines. Let’s take a look at a few as we pass down the automotive line up.

Custom Coachworks Ramp

Representing American “royalty”, and probably the richest of all, was John D. Rockefeller who made his fortune by refining oil and founding Standard Oil, better known in the UK as Esso for obvious reasons. He was also a great philanthropist and died in 1937 at the ripe old age of 97.

Having captured the great man’s life story in four lines, I can now go on to say that, until 1905, it appears that he was anti-car, plastering his estate with signs stating “No motor cars allowed”. A little ironic, really, considering the industry that he helped build, but we all know that Americans don’t do irony! Nevertheless, he must have experienced a change of heart because, after that date, it was reported in the press that he had taken a great interest in “automobiling” and would learn to run a machine himself. The family acquired many coach-built automobiles over time, including two Simplex Crane model 5’s (circa 1918) fitted with Brewster bodies – one an open top for the summer, the other a closed vehicle for the winter. Presumably, they hadn’t invented convertibles then.simplex

Coach-built cars were also a magnet to Hollywood stars. Gary Cooper bought the only Duesenberg SSJ made at that time. Having seen this 125mph, short wheelbase model fitted with a 400hp supercharged engine with ram horn intakes, his friend, Clark Gable, decided he must have one too. So the factory made another one, hence doubling the total production run to two! As is often the case today, the factory never actually sold it to Gable, merely loaning it to him free of charge thus benefiting from the publicity which ensued. As a footnote, Gable took delivery of an early XK120, and one or two more after that, which helped Jaguar’s profile in the USA. Check out MDU 420, which I believe was one of his.

It wasn’t just stars of the thirties that these cars were sold to. One of the highest paid actors of the silent era was Tom Mix (did he play cowboys?) who had a collection to match his status. He owned a Duesenberg Convertible, clad in coachwork by Brokaw Auto, which brandished cow horns from the radiator. His friend, Harley Earl – more on him later – designed him a car with a leather saddle on the roof! Sadly, not on display here.

pierce-arrowOne of his contemporaries, equally highly paid, was Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, an actor, comedian, screenwriter and director who started his career in 1913. He mentored Charlie Chaplin, discovered Buster Keaton and Bob Hope and was offered a $1 million contract by Paramount, a staggering amount for 1920. Yet, he is little remembered today. This is most likely due to the scandal surrounding the death of a young actress at one of his parties. He was accused of raping and accidentally killing her – serious stuff – and convicted on, some may say, flimsy evidence. Between 1921 and 1922, he was tried twice before finally being acquitted with a formal apology after his third trial. With his films banned and publicly ostracised, he worked occasionally as a film director until he was able to return to acting. Finally, on the same day that Warner Bros signed him up for a full feature film, he died of a heart attack at only 45 years old. Very sad. But, he did own an imposing Pierce Arrow PA 38-C Brougham. It featured a hidden cabinet for Prohibition-era liquor and it was only driven in fine weather, since it had no windscreen wipers! In today’s money it would cost $300,000. There is a blue 1916 example on display here. It is significant since it is a “Nickel Period” car which, as the name suggests, had all its brightwork made from nickel, unlike the earlier brass-adorned vehicles and the later “Chrome Period” cars. Not many “Nickels” however, have survived.

lincolnStrolling further along, we pass the Simplex, a Rolls Royce 20/25 Silver Ghost town car bodied by Willoughby, a 1924 Lincoln Model L, also a town car, with coachwork by Judkins (this car completed the Pebble Beach 1500 mile Motoring Classic in 2006) and a 1929 Cadillac Series 341B Victoria Coupe.

cadillac-victoriaIncidentally, 1929 was Caddy’s most successful year to date and the Series 341B sported new innovations such as safety glass and an all-synchromesh transmission. The latter was as revolutionary as their 1912 self-starter, making driving that much easier and relaxing.

duesenberg-yDon’t miss the bright red 1930 Duesenberg Model Y roadster: 265hp, straight eight, DOHC, manual three-speed, capable of hitting 120mph – sublime! A little further along, we see another ‘Duesy’, this time a Model J convertible sedan which starred alongside Bruce Willis and James Garner in the film “Sunset”. It boasted a 6900cc 32-valve straight eight engine, designed by Fred Duesenberg and built by Lycoming, producing similar outputs as the roadster.

duesenberg-jBoth Duesenbergs are to die for, so who was behind these beautiful machines? 
Errett Cord, a former racing car driver,
 mechanic, successful businessman and,
 moreover, a talented salesman was the person
responsible for the Model J. He initially 
became involved with the Auburn Automobile
 Company, turning around its poor
 performance and eventually becoming its
 president. Whilst in this role, he bought the 
Duesenberg Company in 1926 and capitalised
 on its reputation of building successful racers
 with models such as the J. Poor Fred died in 
1932 as a result of rolling his car at high speed
, becoming the first person to die as a result of
an accident in a car bearing the owner’s name.

buick-abadalFinally, behind a magnificent 1920 Buick
 Abadal, stands the last, but 
far from least, car on the ramp: a 1923 V8 Lincoln 124A
 touring car with an interesting history to
 accompany it.

lincoln-124aSince delivery in 1923, this car has been owned by one family and has never been licensed. As the story goes, the Titus family ran a Ford dealership in Washington State and took delivery of the Lincoln, Ford having recently bought the company. Unfortunately, it was too expensive for those used to buying Fords and they could not sell it, so they kept it. One of only 1,182 built, it was the first car to cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge on its opening day in July 1940 (see the first part of my article). In July of 2007, the Lincoln once again made the inaugural crossing of the latest Tacoma Narrows Bridge which, thankfully, still stands today. The car has also carried Franklin Roosevelt and Queen Elizabeth II, amongst other notable dignitaries. As a footnote, I believe that the dealership still thrives in Tacoma, and in Washington State in general, as Titus-Wills.

Harley Earl

Well, we are now at the bottom of the ramp and about to enter Lucky’s Garage, so maybe I will save that for another time. But I couldn’t leave before mentioning one of the most influential stylists of the first half of the twentieth century, Harley Earl. He started work in his father’s custom coachbuilding shop in Hollywood, catering to the movie stars of the time – see earlier. Later the shop was bought by Cadillac, whose General Manager, Lawrence P Fisher, asked Earl to design the 1927 La Salle. It was a success and impressed Alfred P Sloan, CEO of the mighty General Motors. Sloan hired Earl to create the Art and Colour Department at GM, thus establishing the first styling department at a production automobile manufacturer and moving design from the bespoke to the more available mass produced vehicles.

Earl was an innovator and introduced the practice of making full-scale clay models of the car bodies to refine the design before production, lending a more sculptural approach rather than the rectangular shaping seen on engineering-focussed designs. The practice still goes on today, despite CGI. With the completion of the Buick Y Job show car, he effectively originated the one-off show car used to gauge public reaction. We call them “concept cars” today. Wrap-around windscreens, two-tone paint and the ever increasingly flamboyant “tail fins” were some of his signature design themes. And for those of you (well one, really) lucky enough to own a Corvette, that was one of his initiatives also.

See you later.

Neil Shanley