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I recently allowed a picture of an elegant lady to catch my eye because she stood beside a 1913 Bullnose Morris Oxford. The caption said… “Our family car in the early sixties, my Mum bravely posing in front of it in the garden. One of my earliest memories was Lord Nuffield presenting my parents with a brand new Morris Minor, as a prize for having the oldest Bullnose still running. It was a lot warmer on the school run after that. Does anyone know where this one is now?” I contacted the picture’s owner with a recent picture of the same car and enjoyed the subsequent correspondence with the sender, Leigh Wootton. His father was the famous Aviation/Motoring artist Frank Wootton and his mother evidently enjoyed dressing for the occasion when they took their faithful old Morris CF 1177 out for a drive fifty years ago. I told Leigh that Morris made 394 cars in 1913 and out of the 19 survivors listed by The Bullnose Morris Club, his is no longer the oldest running car, that accolade being enjoyed by MX 8372 as described in The Automobile Magazine of September 2013.
This image shows the Woottons at the B.A.R.C Midnight Concours at the Grand Hotel Eastbourne, June 1959, where they won second prize in the Edwardian motoring category and HERE we see 3 year old Leigh behind the steering wheel. In 1958 William Morris ( Lord Nuffield) was promoting his latest Morris 1000 and it was the Woottons who won the prize described above. (Read the story here). Leigh tells me his Dad sold the Morris in 1967 and bought a Bentley which they kept for 20 years. You can imagine the delight on Leigh’s face when I showed him this video from British Pathè news archive and he saw his parents polishing their car at a 1958 Bullnose Morris rally when he was a mere twinkle in their eyes.
(Text by Robin Batchelor, pictures courtesy Leigh Wootton)
The Concours d'Elegance Het Loo at the former royal palace in Apeldoorn, Holland had a good contract with the weather gods. It was a splendid weekend. The only factor causing unexpected clouds was the use of alternative fuels like pipe tobacco (single seater Austin 7 Special 'Bob') and wood gas (the Opel Kapitän in the background). Central event of the Concours are the short track sprints organised by Dutch Vintage Sports Car Club. This year with new regulations that forced competitors to copy their own first time as close as possible. Big fun for public and the 40 vintage car pilots that partipated. A newby at the strip was this Rolls-Royce Panhard special named 'Monster' (yes also referring to its design) propelled by an aircooled 8 boxer spooned from a french tank. One point, the gearchange didn't have that typical Edwardian clunk, more a Borg-Warner-ish whoosh.Official results of the Concours can be found here (scroll past the first Dutch lines). Best of show in the eyes of the jury was a very nice 1929 Hispano Suiza Cabriolet de Ville. Great car, yet we were utterly surprised not to find in the listings the car which deserves a pedestal in itself. A fabulous original 1923 Bugatti T23 with boattail body (possibly by Lavocat et Marsaud). An unique car showing its age with pride and still highly usable. To describe its well preserved detailing the word 'lovely' is an understatement. Enjoy the fine inlaywork of the boattail's body top. Check the dashboard. And now let's zoom in on the 'xs' left door, or better let's open it: check that! Isn't that a work of art? An atmosphere absolutely positively impossible to copy by a restorer. It just makes us wonder. Isn't it the task of a concours jury to award the best cars of a bygone era? Or is it their task to judge perfectionist restoration & refrabrication work?
RM Auctions are holding a bumper auction on 26 July in Michigan to celebrate 20 years of collector car auctions in Motor City. There is a large selection of American-built motor cars in addition to several high end Europeans. The 1927 Phantom I Brougham de Ville left Derby in chassis form and was shipped to Parisian coachbuilder Henri Binder, who constructed this exquisite Brougham de Ville body for its new owner Jessie Woolworth to enjoy during her annual visit. The Woolworth inheritance allowed her to own several Rolls-Royce cars – a lady of taste. As I read of the 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Torpedo Tourer by Barker I am reminded of when the late Hon. Patrick Lindsay showed me the photo album of his drive from India to England via the Khyber Pass in his similar Rolls-Royce Phantom ll. In the first 50 years of the 20th century, more than 800 Rolls-Royce cars were exported from England to India thus firmly establishing them as the car of choice for maharajas, the tribal leaders of India during the British Raj with its harsh climate and road conditions.
Rolls-Royce maintained an American factory at Springfield, Massachusetts, from 1919 to 1931, where the Silver Ghost remained in production until 1926. The description of this 1923 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost gives interesting detail from these times, and how it acquired its ‘Oxford 7-seater Touring’ body. More interesting history of Rolls-Royce in America can be found in the description of the 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Ascot Tourer by Merrimac, this being a boom year when 350 R-R cars were sold.
Yet the car which plucked at my heart strings most was the 1924 Duesenberg Model A Speedster by Brandfon, currently in need of a thorough recommissioning. ‘Benny’ Brandfon once owned and raced the 1913 Peugeot GP so we have the stamp of the right man. In the 1920s the Brickyard beckoned, so using more passion and skill than money, he built a car to race at Indianapolis and with its 4 litre SOHC engine did a very competitive 101 mph. He loved his ‘Duesy Special’ and developed it into what we see today refusing to leave it to his son because “this old car keeps me alive.”
RM’s catalogue not only introduces us to some outstanding cars, it also introduces us to some outstanding people who designed, built and drove them and the times they lived in.
(Text Robin Batchelor, photos courtesy RM Auctions)
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