Cars

1935 Ford three-window V8 back on the road

1935 Ford V8 coupé - Photograph by Tom Pilston

1935 Ford V8 coupé – Photograph by Tom Pilston

Ford Motor Co Ltd chose not to exhibit at the 1935 Motor Show at Olympia. Instead, for the same period, 17-26th October, they went westwards to the more fashionable part of Kensington for their own Ford Motor Exhibition. In the exclusive surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall they announced the new 22hp V8 Model 60. This was an ‘economical’ model designed to comply with the British taxation system, and formed the basis for the European smaller capacity eight until the outbreak of war. For annual road tax purposes this 2226cc engine was rated at £16.10s, whereas cars powered by the larger 30hp Ford V8 attracted a tax of £22.10s annually. But the smaller engine proved unreliable and the Model 60 was short lived. Many owners asked Ford to exchange it for the Model 62 unit which came out in 1936.

The car belonging to David Acon, which is described here, is a three-window coupé that was probably built in Canada as a Model 48 30hp. This model was also built in that country as a ‘colonial’ version for sale in British Empire markets. This particular car was sent over to Dagenham for assembly with the smaller engine, transmission, rear axle and right-hand drive controls. British built cars can be identified by the trafficators on stalks, sidelamps on top of the wings, different headlamp reflectors with the vertical post and, of course, the 30mph warning line on the speedometer.
JB 7203 was ordered at the Albert Hall Show by Dr Robert Shepard and his wife Zoë and supplied through A W Heybourn and Co Ltd, of Maidenhead. It came with its side panels, wheels and headlamps finished in Ivory. This paint job was an extra which cost Dr Shepard another £2.10s after a 50 per cent discount. At some time very early on in the car’s career, as recorded in the 1939 log book, it was fitted with the replacement Model 62 engine which it retains.
After Dr Shepard’s death in 1940, the car was laid up for the remainder of the war. His widow had it re-commissioned in 1950 by Stevenson’s Automobile Sales Ltd, of Maidenhead. It was then used for a short time before being returned to the garage. In 1962 two schoolboys, Jem Bowkett and John Brice, badgered Zoë Shepard into letting them clean the car up and get it running. By the time they went back to school at the end of the summer holiday, JB 7203 had been cleaned, was running and had water in its cooling system. Unfortunately the big freeze of 1962-63 took its toll and one of the stainless steel water jacket plates was pushed out of shape by the ice, which popped the welds securing it to the block. The car remained in this state until it appeared in a Sotheby’s auction in 1978, when it was bought by an American collector living in the United Kingdom, Bob Bass, for £5000 – much more than it was worth. David Acon remembers buying a second-hand E-type around that time for £1250, for example.

Eventually Bass took the car back to the USA, where unsuccessful attempts were made to repair the damage. Bob Bass died in 2012 and David Acon, who had been researching an English Model A Ford cabriolet, got to hear about it, loved the coupé shape and realised how rare it was in right hand drive form. He bought the car and had it shipped back to the UK. No sooner had it been cleared through Customs in November, 2013, than David dusted it down and it was taken directly to the Classic Car Show at the NEC, where it was displayed on the Early Ford V8 Club stand. Up to that time the car had covered only 19,652 miles. It had spent most of its life in storage. The various buildings in which it had been kept had been dry and the car had survived in very good condition. It was completely original – nothing had been altered apart from the engine exchange by the Ford dealer early in its life. The paintwork was a little dull and one or two small areas had been touched up, but that was all. Even the floor mats were the original ones.

The main problem was the damaged engine. David took the car to Ford V8 engine specialist Jim Turnbull, of Royal Kustoms at Holton Heath in Dorset. The brief he was given was that everything possible should be done to keep the car original. David says ‘He has done a brilliant job and enjoyed every minute of the chase.’ The fuel tank had to be replaced – it would have been difficult to repair the original; the fuel gauge was inoperable and spares for it are impossible to get. Jim installed an original electric replacement, as fitted to the 1936 model, so as to keep the original instrument face. Replacement electric fuel pumps for this model are apparently quite hard to find, too. In the end Jim collected together four old ones and made a good working one out of them. New wheel bearings and brake shoes were fitted, as well as new tyres. The back axle and gearbox were inspected, cleaned and refilled. The dynamo and starter motor were overhauled but the water pumps had to be replaced with new/old stock. A small section of the wiring loom had to be replaced and a new coil obtained. The engine itself remained the main problem. New/old stock spares for these smaller V8s are very hard to come by. Jim explains that the stainless steel water jacket plates which had been damaged by the frost were originally welded to the block, a very tricky operation that virtually no present-day welder would tackle. In the end, they were reshaped to the original dimensions, electron beam tack welded in place, then brazed and silver soldered. The engine was rebored and fitted with new pistons and rings. The crankshaft was reground to a size for which shells were available. The camshaft proved to be reusable. The aluminium heads were beyond repair, having crumbled away in places, but a new/old stock pair was eventually found. The radiator was completely blocked up with dirt and rust and had to be recored.

This is a very pretty car. Its cloth bench seat has attracted the moth, but will be left in its original condition. The roof lining is complete. The original rear blind is in place and the opening rear window works perfectly. The instruments were in working order and just needed to be cleaned. The two-seater dickey is still upholstered in the original leathercloth. The paintwork is faded in places and there are knocks and some damage to the Ivory finish, but it will not be repainted. No attempt has been made to disguise the fact that the engine has been completely rebuilt. The rarity of JB 7203 should not be forgotten: it is the only known 22hp model coupé to survive that was made in Dagenham in right-hand drive form. In post-war years many like it, and similar models, were sought by the early stock car racing fraternity and driven to destruction. David wants it to remain in its Oily Rag state and be shown at selected events that are appropriate. What better year to do this than 2015, which will mark 80 years since it was built?

1935 Ford V8 coupé - Photograph by Tom Pilston

1935 Ford V8 coupé – Photograph by Tom Pilston

1935 Ford V8 coupé - Photograph by Tom Pilston

1935 Ford V8 coupé – Photograph by Tom Pilston

Words: Michael Ware
Photographs: Tom Pilston
This article originally appeared in The Automobile magazine

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Future of the Past?

What a pleasant surprise to find two new books on a subject so dear to our hearts, and both from American collectors whose immediate predecessors , not all that many years ago, would have been only too eager to strip down an important historic racing car or a dilapidated Delahaye or Talbot-Lago Aerodyne and give it a “ground-up” – a full, nut and bolt restoration to far better than new condition in the expectation of taking Best of Show at Pebble Beach.

Fred Simeone is now one of the most senior and best respected concours judges in the United States, specialising in the Preservation class, for for whose introduction (at long last) he was partly responsible. His book, in particular, is a serious treatise on the Oily Rag philosophy, dealing at length with such topical questions as “To race or not to race?”, “How to use an untouched treasure responsibly” and “What to do with and older restoration?”. A long chapter devoted to parallel collecting fields such as clocks, furniture, pictures and even ceramics points out that museums, in particular, now turn their backs on restored examples of even the finest and rarest of such objects unless it can be shown beyond all doubt that the process had resulted in no significant loss or, worse still, gain. These institutions now prefer to buy objects which have never been touched, when procurable, and to leave and display them that way. Why? Because they have become aware of the liberties that are often taken in the restoration process to enhance value. One essay makes it clear that dealers and auctioneers have already picked up on this trend, often suggesting reserve prices up to four times higher for what we in our field would call barn finds than for tarted-up equivalents.

One reason for this change of attitude, of course, is that the supply of untouched older automobiles is diminishing worldwide as long term owners die off or reclusive hoarders, tempted by high prices, bring them reluctantly into the light of day. As Fred Simeone himself points out, established current collectors seldom sell prized exhibits, which of course only intensifies competition for those that do come to the market. Fakers, lured by financial rewards that were undreamed of until recently, respond to the situation in the old familiar way, leaving untouched vehicles as the only foolproof response for curators who want to be sure they are preserving examples of original materials, craftsmanship and finish.

But can they be so sure? One of the most fascinating chapters in the Simeone book is a photographic essay featuring the dismantling and analysis of a Bugatti Type 35B, chassis 4959, engine 204T, which turns out to be, as claimed, one of the works team that contested the Targa Florio in 1930. But the body, despite appearances, is a much later assemblage of largely genuine components, very few of which started life together and none of which was originally associated with the chassis. The conclusion is that the vehicle in question was assembled in the UK in all innocence by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable owner a long time ago, when discarded body parts were freely available, cash was in short supply and the end result was of no great value anyway. This is by way of illustration of Simeone’s point that, in the absence of proven provenance – ie, documentary evidence, as opposed to visual indication or word of mouth – nothing is certain.

The tendency nowadays for long term owners to dispose of their treasures at auction, with buyers increasingly content to bid on the internet unviewed, does not help the situation. As the book points out, by the careful use in catalogues of terms such as “attributed to”, “purporting to be” and “said to have”, auctioneers seem to absolve themselves of responsibility for the kind of misdescription that can lead to expensive litigation. Some of them, of course, try to work the trade within these limits in search of higher hammer prices. We ourselves can provide a recent example of this. At one prestigious sale this year an exotic French routier of ravishing if decayed appearance, evidently untouched externally, was offered, or so it appeared, with its missing engine and gearbox dumped casually in the cockpit, giving the lot the appearance of an unfinished restoration. Nothing was said in the catalogue about this but, according to respected and very knowledgeable English dealer we spoke to afterwards,who had been allowed to examine the car for a client, the engine and gearbox offered were the wrong type and did not belong to the car, or even to each other. Worse still, the entire chassis appeared to him to be of recent, rather crude construction, suggesting, to him at any rate, that what was actually on offer was a very pretty, unrestored cabriolet body and nothing else. As far as he knew, the resultant concoction found a buyer “but pity help him when he discovers what he was acquired.”

Simeone sums up his attitude in one particularly neat passage: “An important automobile which has undergone an older or even a recent restoration is still important. It maintains many of the characteristics which make it important but as a historical document it has lost much of its relevance to the past.”

Even more telling is a note by Michael Furman. He is a well known American photographer who for 25 years has specialised in studio images, beautifully posed and lit,or freshly restored concours contenders. “Then why” he asks, “Would I be attracted to an original, unrestored car? I have come to learn that what makes a car important is its relationship to people. The people who designed it, built it, maybe raced it and possibly even died behind its wheel. The softness of worn leather, the tarnish of undisturbed metals, the patination of untouched painted surfaces all come together to tell the story of its experiences – its connections with the past and with the people whose lives were enriched by the interaction.”

This is an important but expensive book of relatively limited appeal. It would be more likely to have an influence on collecting trends that Fred Simeone clearly anticipates if it were more carefully edited. Countless typos do not suggest scholarly input at quite the right level….

The other work we are considering here, Vitesse-Élégance, is not a compilation of essays but a beautifully produced, carefully edited and very detailed examination by Serge Bellu, the well known French journalist, author, lecturer and editor for 20 years of our respected contemporary Automobiles Classiques, of some 43 choice exhibits from the extraordinary Mullin Collection in Oxnard, California.

It is the third in a series of such tomes focussing this time on French cars ranging in date from 1911 to 1960, and is illustrated throughout by carefully lit, wonderfully detailed, mostly full page studio photographs by Furman, whose mature views on his specialism (quoted earlier) may well have been influenced by the fact that, for this assignment, his brief was not to present in their best light bit to scrutinise through his lens in strict order (front, back, sides, rear) a portfolio of largely untouched, original subjects with such intensity as to bring out all the subtle textures, faded colours, chips, dents and scratches that give them their irreplaceable historic validity.

Of the vehicles illustrated, only 10 or 11, including three cyclecars and a motorcycle, are in what we would call Oily Rag condition – mostly just about capable of self-propulsion, but otherwise untouched. Most of the other are tasteful restorations, but a few are recent recreations labelled as such and perhaps justifiable on the grounds that they represent lost originals of such significance that the collection would be poorer without them. Marques represented in some numbers, nearly all French of course, are Voisin (14 examples and clearly a favourite marque, as it is with us), Hispano-Suiza (five), Renault (three), Panhard et Levassor (two) and Peugeot and Citroen (two each, plus a Peugeot motorcycle). Among the many single exhibits, we particularly loved the Sizaire-Frères fabric laundalet by Weymann, somehow extracted from the Schlumpf reserve collection and displayed exactly as found. Others in the same state include a marvellous Darl ‘Mat Peugeot cabriolet, complete apart from its boot lids but still rotten in places, and a Panhard X63 saloon at which many a vintage enthusiast would have turned up his nose nose only a generation ago but that we, certainly, would jump at for our Oily Rag collection were it to turn up in one of the French provincial auctions David Howard haunts on our behalf.

This, of course, is the great virtue of a collection that looks beyond fashion and superficiality to character, texture and truth to trend. Mullin himself is a successful investor whose name is as familiar on Wall Street as it is at Pebble Beach or Amelia Island. But, Clearly, he is a curator at heart, and his vast museum a serious enterprise rather than just a dodge. Apart from its catalogue raisonée aspect, this book sets out to examine the factors which drove such visionaries as Voisin, Le Corbusier, Gregoire, Paulin, Ledwinka and the other futurist designers and engineers of the Art Déco period to look beyond the ordinary, deriving inspiration principally from aviation in the same way their present day counterparts look to the computer and its endless manifestations as a driving force in their own search for the next step forward.

This article originally appeared in the May, 2013 issue of The Automobile. Both books are available from Coachbuilt Press

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‘THE DERELICTS’

Here’s a spin on the Oily Rag theme; purchase a rusto-wagon (preferably from SoCal, where the oxidation is merely cosmetic), remove the body in your high-tech shop (in this case, Icon), have your laser system digitize the chassis, and create an entirely new undercarriage and power system to hide beneath your ‘oily rag’ 1950s car.  Not preservation, certainly, especially when the engine is a new Chrysler V10 and the interior is based on an Hermés crocodile dye briefcase made for JFK…

The Derelicts a short film by eGarage from eGarage on Vimeo.

Love to hear your thoughts on this one.

- Paul d’Orléans

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THE SPIRIT OF THE OILY RAG

Lovely Aston Martin DB2 in green and rust…

This year’s Oily Rag Run, the third of an annual series promoted by The Automobile magazine (www.theautomobile.co.uk), was the most successful yet. Fifty ancient cars in varying stages of decrepitude descended on the sleepy north-east Essex village of Great Easton, some 45 miles from London, where Paul and Andrew Wood, proprietors of the eponymous Rolls-Royce dealership of worldwide fame, had bravely opened their immaculate showrooms and workshops to these alien invaders.

Practically the whole of the extended Wood family, plus several employees, had responded to locally-based historian David Burgess-Wise’s request to serve as the focus for the Run, offering, tea, coffee and home-made refreshments to participants and hangers-on throughout the day.

Paul Wood’s own collection was on display, in addition to many tens of millions of pounds’ worth of customer cars and a number of perfectly restored Rolls-Royces of all ages lined up for sale. These included the ex-Stanley Sears 1926 Rolls-Royce Phantom I, currently on offer with very low miles and its original coachwork by Charles Clark of Wolverhampton. The interior has to be seen to be believed, a Louis XV fantasy, all gilt and gingerbread, commissioned originally by one of the co-founders of Woolworths.

From the Wood family collection; fantastic Bugatti Royale

Award winners included specialist wheeler dealer Neil Tuckett with his rusty but complete and totally original 1924 English-built Model T (Most Feral Car); Dutchmen Henk Afink and Ernst Jan Krudop who set out to drive all the way from eastern Holland in their 1920s Morgan Aero three-wheelers, only to have one of them break a crankshaft en route (Most Travelled); and L Dean, driving Tom Fryars’s 1914 Crossley RFC light tender which came complete with contemporary ordnance (Car We Would Most Like to Take Home). A special award went to Ron Mellowship, who finished the course, believe it or not, in his ultra-mature 1896 Bergmann Orient Express dogcart.

- Jonathan Rishton

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A HAND-MADE WORLD

Jeff Epps and his ca. 1956 Ford F350 flatbed truck…

We’d been looking for a suitable Desert Racer, planning on some fun in the Southwest in two weeks.  I already have my original-paint ’73 Triumph TR5T ‘Adventurer’ purchased at the Bonhams Las Vegas auction last January, part of the du Pont family estate motorcycle liquidation.  Conrad wanted something similar, as he’s planning to spend a little time in Cali next year.  Whole container loads of Britbikes have been poached from California garages since the 1980s, and we don’t see many pre-unit Triumphs or much from the 50s and earlier, but ‘overlooked’ machinery is still to be found, in abundance, and fairly cheap.  BSA A65s, B50Ts, Triumphs post 1970, etc…derided in their day, but with modern eyes, well designed and fun machines.  Since we’re not seeking high performance or drag-racing with Kawasakis at every stoplight,  such motorcycles provide spirited riding indefinitely, and are easy to maintain, with parts readily available.

Conrad Leach seals the deal with Jeff Epps on the '71 Triumph TR6R

A scan of Craigslist revealed a likely candidate; a ’71 Triumph TR6R ‘Trophy’ with high pipes, looking complete and in decent shape, in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains, in Sonora, CA.  I have family in Sonora, the 2.5 hour drive isn’t daunting, and I had a feeling it would be worth the trip, as the area is full of ‘mountain men’ and eccentrics.  An empty van, a full tank, a few tie-straps, and a wad of cash; we were en route.

A neighbor's 1963 Willys Wagon, which has been sitting a long time, but is rust-free. We are inquiring!

Jeff, the vendor, was shocked that Tom Tom brought us right to his door, on the dirt road with no signs, in the hamlet of Soulsbyville.  His compound, one /fifth acre of dry dirt, a few trees, two wooden shacks, and a couple of old trucks, was clean-swept, with neatly stacked cordwood, a pile of which formed a tall curved wall keeping his home from view of the world.  Clearly, the man is organized and tidy, even if the grounds are humble dirt and wood.  Sonora is dry, with Scrub Pines and Manzanita dominating the foliage, and little grass; I knew the Triumph would be rust-free, at least.

The single male is prone to keeping a motorcycle in the kitchen…

Jeff’s home is entirely hand-built of plywood and studs, and he keeps a BSA Victor in his kitchen – it’s his pride and joy, shiny as a new apple.  A stack of Classic Motorcycle magazines decorated his den table…clearly he’s an old biker, and a real enthusiast.  The Triumph looked good, we did the deal, and shot some Wet Plates (our official ‘oily rag’ photo technique) of the man and his world.

Wet Plate photo of Jeff Epps, with BSA flat-cap, and his 'new', 1960s, Ford truck…

He’s thinking of selling up the whole place – yours for $55,000 – and moving higher up the mountain, so he can ski daily in winter. Sonora is slowly changing, with miles of anonymous strip malls and chain stores, looking like every other boring suburb on the planet.  We’ll have to drive a little farther to find the likes of Jeff in the future…

Wet Plate image of Jeff and his Ford F350; he's built a wooden pent-roof house on the flatbed, for toting snowmobiles and cordwood…

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BONHAMS ‘PRESERVING THE AUTOMOBILE’

Bonhams auctions are singing the Oily Rag tune at the Simeone Foundation just outside Philadelphia on October 8, 2012.  With 63 unrestored cars (and a single Sears motorcycle!) coming under the hammer, anyone looking for an ‘as found’ project should give the catalog a good look.

The 1932 Aston Martin LeMans 'barn find'…

The Simeone Museum, site of the Auction, is an impressive collection of racing cars from the turn of the Century to the 1980s, most of which are in original, unrestored condition.  Mr. Simeone is well known as an advocate for many years of a ‘don’t restore’ policy, which has at times aroused controversy and even derision in the magpie world of megabucks collector race cars.  He is to be saluted for his steadfast adherence to his principles, a keeper of the flame of originality, and his museum is truly a must see if you’re in Philly.  I visited the museum in 2011; for photos from The Vintagent, click here.

From a Simeone Museum tour in 2011

The Bonhams lineup fits well with the Simeone philosophy, and the cars range from as-new looking Ferraris, to a barn-find 1932 Aston Martin LeMans, an Isotta Fraschini 20s limousine, a Ford Model T with Raceabout Speedster body , to  Cadillacs and a Thunderbird ‘Thelma and Louise’ convertible.  All gloriously original. Plus of course, Bonhams usual massive array of automobilia and spares, some for the very cars on sale. Check it out here.

From the Simeone Museum; a lovely unrestored Alfa 1750

- Paul d’Orléans

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AN ELEGANT PARISIAN OF A CERTAIN AGE…

An open door, a seat of crackled leather, a curvaceous windscreen, an open top, a sunny day…all invitations to motoring pleasure beyond description

I’m a nut for Facel Vegas, at least the big sedans with Chrysler Firepower Hemis installed…they’re the best combo of French style and a reliable, powerful Yank engine.  The very height of chic in the 1950s and 60s, big Facel’s – made in Paris! – were favorites of movie stars and the denizens of le demi monde.  Famous owners included  Pablo PicassoAva GardnerRingo StarrJoan FontaineStirling MossTony CurtisDean MartinFred AstaireMaurice Trintignant….and the list goes on.  Nobody wanted an old Facel 10 years ago, and prices languished (meaning, you could find one cheap!), but now shiny ones are selling for six figures.

The big Facel has an unmistakeable grille, all in pressed stainless steel. No rusty brightwork here…but the body? Well…

These photos recently surfaced of an original-paint Facel Vega FV-2 Convertible, the only one made in this model, of 11 total big Facel ragtops.  The very essence of faded glamour, her lipstick red leather interior beckons…

1950s heritage is hinted in the swelling boot, from a day when curves were appreciated…

The Facel Vega marque was created in 1954 by Jean Daninos; although FACEL had been in business making metal parts since 1939, a lucrative contract with Ford to build 54,000 Simca/Ford Cométes gave Daninos the impetus and capital to build a car of his own.  After the gorgeous, expensive, and powerful FV and HK models, using big American V8s, Facel Vega branched out to a smaller sports car, the Facellia, which used a disastrous Pont-á-Mousson engine, whose utter unreliability caused the downfall of this once spectacular marque by 1964.

Good for a burbling 120mph, the four-seat convertible just might outrun the rain.

- Paul d’Orléans

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