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Dear Prewar Editor:
Crikey, not everything is what it appears to be. We just learned that once more when the answers for the latest quiz car came in. There were just three of you giving it a go, and two of them followed our ideas about the colonial car in question. A Rover, or so we believed. Neil Rankine wrote: “It's a Rover 6hp single. These had a solid rear axle housing and transmission tunnel to gearbox & engine all in one unit that formed the chassis of the car. Rover's first car and considered quite a good attempt.” And also John Tanner thought the same: “The car looks similar to the vary early single cylinder Rover, probably around 1904.”
But then, the answer of jury member Ariejan Bos came in, making us all confused. He wrote: “Not an easy one! I am not for 100%, but for only 90% sure that it is a 1905 L'Élégante, one of these relatively cheap makes which are almost forgotten now and of which there were numerous in France and especially Paris at the time. L'Élégante has a typical Lacoste & Battmann feature: the bend in the steering connecting rod. There are some other makes which come close, like Tony Huber, but also English ones like Mobile and Canterbury (all having an L&B-connection by the way and showing the same characteristic bend in the connecting rod!). Obscurity however was no obstacle for being sold wherever in the world: we know that the most obscure French makes were sold in countries as far as New Zealand!”
Meanwhile, we have discussed the photograph once more with Ariejan and can now rule out it’s a Rover. Have a look at the detail in the bonnet and the dumb-irons and compare those to pictures of Rover's earliest and you'll agree with him. Ariejan adds to that the clear different position of the steering column, the different cooling system and - even a stronger clue - the lack of a brake- and gear change lever on the car's left hand side. And... he adds a picture from an ad of the 1905 L'Élégante, too! There's no way back, it seems. L'Élégante and/or Lacoste & Battmann experts are never the less invited to throw their light upon this matter – but Ariejan is our man for today.
When you spend three days at the annual Beaulieu Autojumble,the three fields are mostly filled with men and their beloved motoring stuff. So it was a refreshing surprise to come across Jackie sitting in the Napier-Campbell Bluebird Special which had only recently emerged from the workshop of Lord Lorne Jacobs.
Jackie is no stranger to big cars with big engines because her friend Mike Vardy owns this Isotta-Fraschini-Fiat whose engine is a mere 16½ litres compared with the Napier Campbell’s 22.3 litres from its (earliest known) Sea Lion W12 cylinder engine. I had recently photographed the Napier-Campbell elsewhere, but these pictures were more fun as can be seen as Jackie climbed out of her new favourite car.
(Text and photographs Robin Batchelor)
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