by Brian Allison
Hello again girls and boys.
I hope you have all been good today. You have? Then gather round and I'll tell you a story about a little boy named William. Yes Klaus, his childhood friends probably did call him little Willy, but doing that with your finger is not funny, so stop it or I won't tell you the story. Right, if we've all stopped giggling, I'll go on.
Once upon a time - 139 years ago to be exact - in 1877 in a town called Worcester, yes like the sauce Phil, Frederick and Emily Morris were delighted when a stork brought them a baby boy and told them he was called William Richard and was theirs to keep and love.
When William was 3 yrs. old the family moved to another town , this one was called Oxford. Yes Babs there is a car called the Oxford. Uncle Graham Graeme has one I think, I'll see if I can find a picture of one for you.
As William grew up he was very good, never cheeky, and always did his schoolwork as well as he possibly could, just like you all should do.
William loved playing with anything mechanical, and when he was 15 and left school he was delighted when he got a job as an apprentice to a bicycle repairer. William enjoyed fixing the bicycles but when he'd been working for a year and had not had a rise in his pay he fell out with the man who owned the repair shop and left his job.
"What are you going to do now?", his father said, "You need to be earning some money at your age.". William didn't know what to say, then looking out of the window he noticed the shed at the bottom of the back garden. "I'll start my own repair business." he said, "I'll use the shed for it."
So William started to repair bicycles in the shed. Besides repairing bicycles he also started to build them too. He bought all the parts he needed, built the bicycles, Put his own badge which showed a spoked wheel on them and sold them as "The Morris Bicycle". William sold quite a lot of bicycles, helped by the fact that he also rode them in all sorts of races from 1 mile to 50 miles long. He was very good at riding a bicycle. Yes, I know you don't need stabilisers on your bike anymore Paul, but William was very good indeed and was champion of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Berkshire at that time.
What is it, Val? Yes you are a clever boy, it does say Morris on the chain hoist in your daddy's garage, but that was made by another man called Morris who had a company called Herbert Morris and Bastert. Stop sniggering Rob. No Nigel I did not say a naughty word, Herbert Morris worked with a man called Bastert.
Anyway, back to William. He worked very hard and also started repairing motor cycles in 1901 when he was 24 yrs. old. Soon he did not have enough room in the workshop he had bought and needed somewhere bigger so he moved again to a bigger one in 1902.
William was very ambitious and when he had his new workshop he stated repairing cars too. So by then he was building and repairing bicycles, repairing motor cycles, selling and repairing cars, and running a taxi service. He was agent for Arrol - Johnson, Belize, Humber, Hupmobile, Singer , Standard and Wolseley cars. No, not a secret agent Mark, it means he sold their cars for them in Oxford.
After 8 yrs.in 1910 William had earned so much money that he could afford a really big workshop and bought one which he named The Morris Garage. That building is still there and I have a photograph of it to show you. That is a big one isn't it Tony.
With his big new workshop William decided that he wanted to make his own car, so he sat down and designed one. He knew that if he was going to build cars he would need even more room so he bought a disused army college in a place called Cowley.
The new car was called the Bullnose and William started building them in 1913, buying all the parts from other companies because he didn't have the facilities to make his own. Unfortunately he had just started making them when the First World War began in 1914. During the war only munitions could be made and he couldn't start building cars again until the war ended.
In 1919 only 400 cars were made, but William had heard about a thing called a production line which a Mr Ford was using in America. Using the same sort of system production was much quicker and his business boomed. So much so that between 1919 and 1925 he also opened plants at Abingdon and Swindon. In 1925 his works turned out 56,000 cars.
William now had so much money that when he heard in 1927 that a company called Wolseley was for sale he decided to buy it for himself rather than the company. Another man called Herbert Austin, who also built cars wanted to buy Wolseley and William had to pay £730,000 for it.
When William bought Wolseley they were in the process of developing a new car themselves which was to be a 8 Horsepower using a brand new overhead camshaft engine they had designed. Although he still owned Wolseley for himself he used this engine in his new Morris car, the Morris Minor which he started making the following year 1929.
Yes Mike, Uncle Gar has just bought a Morris Minor but not the one I mean. That came a long time before the one Izzy designed, which I suppose should really have been called the Minor mk2. Here's a photograph of that first Minor, you can see it's a lot different. The Minor was a big success and made uncle William even more money.
The next year saw the first car under the name MG which stood for Morris Garages. This was a sports version of the Minor and also sold well.
William was not a very patient man, and whilst all this was going on he was very frustrated because some of the people who supplied him with parts couldn't keep up to the orders he gave them. So in 1923, when his engine supplier, Hotchkiss couldn't keep up he bought the company and renamed it Morris Engines.
The firm who supplied his carburettors, SU, were also bought in 1926.
If you remember I told you before about my first car a Morris 10/4. This came in 1932 although the one I had was a 1934 model, the same year William was made a Lord. I've a photo of that too.
In 1938 he also bought the Riley car company and along with Wolseley he merged them with his other companies which was called the Nuffield Organisation.
Because of his success in business William collected quite a few honours. He was given a OBE in 1918, made a Baronet in 1929,and in 1934 was made a Lord as Baron Nuffield, which was promoted in 1938 to Viscount Nuffield. Further honours included a KGC (Knights Grand Cross of the British Empire)in 1941 and a CH (Companion of Honour) in 1958. So little Willy, as Klaus called him, was now, Viscount Nuffield or as most called him Lord Nuffield.
In early 1938 everyone was worried because of what was happening in Germany. A nasty little man called Adolf was running Germany and lots of people didn't like him and thought he would, sooner or later cause a big fight between Britain and Germany. They were right, but that's another story, for another time.
Because he was so successful in building cars the government asked him if he could build them aeroplanes. You've probably heard about the plane they meant, it was called the Spitfire. William said that if they let him use a new factory that was built in a place called Castle Bromwich he would build them 50 a week. Unfortunately though, after over a year, not one plane was actually finished. The government did not like this, and in May 1940 they sacked William and gave the factory to a firm called Vickers who owned the company, (Supermarine) who had designed the Spitfire. This was the only major blot on an otherwise brilliant career.
In 1952, when William was 74 yrs old he went into partnership with his old rival, the Austin Motor Company, and they formed a new company called the British Motor Corporation. He acted as Chairman of the new company for a year and then aged 75 he retired and handed over to a man called Leonard Lord. I might tell you about him sometime if you are good
William died aged 86 in 1963 he'd seen the birth of the motor car industry in Britain and played a major part in it's development and success.
He left behind him a lasting memory for everyone to see. He founded the Nuffield College at Oxford University and the Nuffield building at Birmingham. He also gave an endowment of £10 million pounds in 1943 to found the Nuffield Foundation to advance education and social welfare.
In 1938 there had been a great demand for what were called Iron Lungs; these were special machines used to help people who had trouble with their breathing. William promised to make and give one to any hospital who needed one, and kept his promise, giving over 1,700 of them to hospitals all over Britain and the Empire. He also gave generously to lots of other causes too.
Taken all round William Richard Morris was quite a remarkable man. He started with nothing apart from ambition and a talent for business and rose to the heights of a Lordship and vast wealth, but he never forgot how lucky he was and tried to help others achieve their ambitions, especially through learning.
So children, if you study hard at school and make the most of your abilities, who knows?, you might be as successful as William was.
Time to go to sleep now. Night, night, dream of your future.
by Brian Allison
Hello again boys and girls, time for another of Uncle Brian's bedtime stories.
I hope you've all behaved yourselves since the last story and not upset your teachers or Mummy and Daddy. I know Alison has been very good because her mummy told me that she had been helping her to bake a cake.
Talking about Sunbeams has given me an idea for tonight's story. So if you all snuggle down I'll tell you about a very special man who helped make Sunbeam cars famous.
Long, long ago in 1879, in a little town called Concarneau, in a country that has been responsible for some of the weirdest cars ever built, and also some of the most advanced ones too a little boy called Louis Coatalen was born. Yes David it was indeed France. Louis was very interested in all things mechanical and when he left school he got a job as an apprentice at a company called De Dion Bouton.
When Louis started his apprenticeship De Dion Bouton were producing steam driven vehicles and it wasn't until 1896 when Louis was 17 yrs old that they started making petrol powered ones. Louis was a very good apprentice and learned everything that he could about how the engines worked and all about how to design them.
In 1900 when Louis was 21 he decided to move to England to further his career and first worked for a company called "The great horseless carriage company".
You're right Phil, it would need to be a big badge to fit all that on wouldn't it? In spite of its fancy name, the company was mainly concerned with making fire engines, and very successfully too, but Louis only stayed there a year and in 1901 he started working for Humber cars in Coventry.
His design for the Humber 8-10 and 10-12 models proved very successful, and he progressed quickly to become Head of Engineering there. There's a photograph of a Humber 10-12 here for you to look at.
1906 was to prove a pivotal year for Louis, for it was then that he met William Hillman. William was a prosperous bicycle maker who wanted to go into car manufacturing. William like Louis was very interested in motor racing and they formed a partnership to build and race their own car.
Louis designed it and they called it the Hillman-Coatalen, Louis drove it in the Isle of Man tourist Trophy race in 1908. Yes Mark, the same place where they have the TT race for motorbikes now, but then it was the cars that attracted most attention. His partnership with William Hillman didn't last and in 1909 Louis felt it was time to move again.
One of the other English Midlands car makers in nearby Wolverhampton was a company called Sunbeam and that is where Louis moved to. The first car he designed for Sunbeam was called the 12-16 and was a terrific success. Sunbeam entered a team race called the "Coupe de l'auto" in 1912, in a place called Dieppe in France. The race was run over two days and at the finish the Louis designed cars filled the first three places in their class which was for 3 ltr. cars.
The first of the Sunbeams was also third in the Grand Prix class. A very, very good result and very good for business because lots of people heard about it and how good the Sunbeams were. A 12-16 also won the TT event in 1914 just before the first world war. That same year Louis became Joint Managing Director of Sunbeam and that only five years after joining the company.
During the war Louis concentrated on designing engines for the new aeroplanes that were needed for the fighting in France, so much so that when the war ended Sunbeam had made a bigger variety of engines than any one other company. Louis was highly praised for his work and considered to be the equal of W O Bentley and Sir Henry Royce in engine design. Yes Phil, that's right, they were the men who made Bentley and Rolls Royce cars.
After the war in 1922 Sunbeam again went racing and again won in the Isle of Man TT race. Then in 1923 they entered a Grand Prix car designed by Louis and a man called Ernest Henry in the French Grand Prix. They won that race and the following year they went back to France and did it again.
In 1923 and '24 they amassed no less than 17 class victories. You may have heard me mention one of their drivers before. His name was Henry Segrave. Very good Babs, he was indeed the same Henry Segrave who held the land speed record at one time.
In 1920 Sunbeam had gone into partnership with two long established French car makers called Clement-Talbot and Darracq forming a company known as STD Motors. Stop sniggering Leigh or you'll have no cake for a week.
During his time at Sunbeam Louis designed the engine for the 1925 land speed record attempt by Malcolm Campbell in his car which he called Bluebird, yes Mark, the same man who raced boats too, held on Pendine Sands in Wales.
Zebidee, will you please calm down. I know Mummy and Daddy have a caravan near there but there's no need to go completely mad. Now. where was I? Ah yes, I remember. Malcolm Campbell was successful in his attempt and in breaking the record became the first man to do 150mph thanks in no small part to Louis's engine.
Do you remember Henry Segrave who I told you about earlier? Very good because he was the next man to benefit from Louis's engine design in a land speed record attempt. In 1927 they had built a car which they called the "1,000 horse power Sunbeam". This had two of Louis's "Matabele" V12 aircraft engines and they took it to a place called Daytona Beach in America to make an attempt on the record.
They went to Daytona because the beach was even longer than Pendine, and yes Paul, the weather probably was much nicer too. They broke the record and whilst doing that Henry Segrave became the first man to drive at 200 mph. So Louis had provided the first engines to do 150 and 200 mph - some achievement.
Besides his expertise at engine design Louis was also one of the first car designers to fit front wheel brakes, and also to realise the importance of shock absorbers and balancing wheels. He's also generally regarded as the first to fit the engine oil pump in the sump.
When Louis retired in the mid 1930's he sold his shares in Sunbeam and bought a controlling interest in the French branch of the Lockheed hydraulic brake company. The money he earned from this allowed him to buy a yacht and a villa on the island of Capri in the Mediterranean Sea.
When Louis died suddenly in 1962 aged 82 while in Paris his fellow designer W.O. Bentley said "He was not only a first class businessman who made (and lost) a great deal of money in his active life with Sunbeams; he had other qualities which I liked even better; he was highly educated and amusing and a tremendous raconteur, and he was dedicated to motor racing".
Sunbeam expert Anthony S. Heal said "He led and inspired others to achieve miracles they themselves would not have thought possible."
So you see children, Louis Coatalen was a man who flourished in a foreign country and showed that with determination and optimism you can achieve great things.
Oh, one more thing before you go to sleep. Louis was a great cake lover just like you all are. In fact he liked wedding cake that much that he married four times. A true Frenchman as ever.
Night, night children . Sweet dreams of Sunbeams racing across golden sands.
A message from the Admin team
After a fairly full calendar of group events in 2016, the team has been reviewing how it all went before deciding on our approach for 2017.
Whilst it is clear that every event was thoroughly enjoyed by those that attended (even in pouring rain) we had hoped more of you would turn up. The best attendance at any of our events amounted to only around 0.5% of membership. Attendance at two events barely scraped into double figures, so clearly something wasn't working as we had hoped.
We believe that two key factors worked against us:
We remain committed to generating a Community feel in the group which includes 'real life' meets and events - but will try a different approach for next year, as follows.
2017 Group Events
We already have a dedicated group event scheduled, and this will be our flagship 2017 event. Organised by group founder John Simpson, it will take place on May 07 2017 at the Bubble Car Museum in Lincolnshire - revisiting the scene of our first-ever Group event. Full details can be found here.
This will be the only 2017 event planned and organised solely for members of our group.
However, with the need to 'go local' very much in our minds, we have agreed the following:
Group members will be encouraged to organise pitches/stands/areas at successful existing events in their own areas, then invite the group to attend. Details of these events will be shared in the group to encourage as many members as possible to show up and make it a great social event without all the stress and expense of organising our own shows.
We see the benefits of this approach as:
What you can do
If you would like to have a group event in your area and know of an existing show we could join - now you can make it happen. All you need to do is:
The Admin team will be happy to provide moral support and advice. We will also be happy (diaries allowing) to attend as many events as we can and provide some help on the day.
by Paul Sweeney
Since its formation on 1 February 2014, our group has grown and now has 10,000 members – that’s quite a milestone! It’s difficult to picture so many people, but even so we are far from the biggest Facebook group dedicated to British motors – and to be honest, that was never our aim.
Being a group Admin is of course an unpaid role – so why do we do it? Why do we give up hefty chunks of our precious leisure time for what can at times be a thankless task? It’s certainly not because we have nothing else to do!
Our motivation is that all of us shared the same desire – to create a little corner of this interweb thingy where we could enjoy looking at old cars, talking about old cars and learning new stuff about them - without having to run the gauntlet of trolls, oafs, buffoons, marketing men or rude potty mouthed types that we wouldn’t otherwise choose to spend our leisure time with. There appeared to be no existing ‘all marque’ British forums out there that had managed to be oaf-less, so we set about making it happen for ourselves.
Our aims do mean we are sometimes accused of various things by those who cross swords with us – I have personally been called many uncomplimentary names, but trolls are mere lightweights in the personal insults Department when compared to my lovely ex-wife - she could have been an Olympic Insults Champion! But I digress ...we were accused of having no sense of humour, too … some used to call us, “The Fun Police” which really couldn’t be further from the truth, but it was said many times.
Anyone who has read one of Zebidee’s wonderfully zany and surreal posts, Mike's hilarious blogs featuring his alter ego Fatbloke and Poppy the 'Harold', Gar's shared public agonies and eventual victory as he struggled valiantly with Princess OKI - and plenty more I can't recall right now - will know that whilst we are serious and determined when we need to be, we are also keen to have a laugh as often as we possibly can while doing this. After all, if you can’t laugh or at least raise a smile when indulging yourself in a hobby, why bother?
So where am I leading with all this? Just to say one thing really; I’m sure most of you appreciate the Admin team’s efforts and in return we want to thank you all. Thank you for sharing with us your cars, your memories, your knowledge, your experience and most of all your wit, your warmth and your humanity.
We have achieved what we weren’t even sure was possible when we started out on this road – we have created an online community to enjoy and be proud of. Long may it last.
Your Admin team
So who are we, these 10,000? Initially, group membership was overwhelmingly British chaps of the warm beer, flat cap and whippet variety but increasingly our members now include men, women and children of all ages from every continent on the planet and from all walks of life. Around 25% of you do not live in Britain and that figure is growing every day.
Some are wealthy and privileged, others are unfortunately struggling with hardship or disability and ill-health. Most of us fall somewhere in between, but we all share a passion for old motors and that is what binds us all together.
There are numerous ‘regulars’ in the group who recognised early on what we were trying to build and have helped us enormously, so we want to say a special thank you to them; you know who you are.
Finally, a very big and heartfelt thank you from me to my loyal shipmates in the Admin team: Edwin, Steve, Mike, Gar, Zebidee and last but not least John Simpson, the group's founder. The team does a fantastic job keeping everything running just the way we like it. I’m sure the members appreciate what you all contribute to the group as much as I do; take a bow, guys.
So whoever and wherever you are - please keep enjoying the group, tell your friends about it and hopefully you will feel as proud of it as we are. That’s the reason we do it.
by Graham Hemsley
Some of you may have read my previous blog that covered my accident in France in 2014 in Mabel, my 1960 Riley 1.5 and how that summer was a non-starter in terms of motoring around in France.
Thankfully, that is all behind me now albeit it's still a painful memory and my back still bears the scars......not that I can see them but if my wife says they're still there then that's good enough for me.
So fast forward a couple of years and I thought I'd just put a few words together on how Mabel and I get along out here in France.
Just by way of background, we're fortunate enough to have a small cottage just outside the village of St Mathieu in the Haute Vienne department of the Limousin region. We're a stones throw from both the Dordogne and Charente departments and we're classified as being in the South West of France albeit in the northernmost part.
Mabel is unceremoniously dragged down on the back of the trailer (the fun starts getting her up there) in May when I leave Bristol and is then taken back in October. Why not drive her down I hear people ask. Quite simply, I need a day-to-day car to do day-to-day “things”. Not sure Mabel would cope with being loaded to the roof with “stuff” to go to the dechetterie (the tip) and other chores.
Also, we go out quite a bit in the evening and as my wife is 99% teetotal she provides the taxi service and doesn't really like or want to drive Mabel. Hey, means I can indulge so I'm not complaining. But yes, I do go to the shops, vide greniers (boot fairs but so much better), friends houses like I would in the UK.
Back in England I use Mabel as much as I can between October and May and in the UK it's not uncommon to see classic vehicles out and about during the week. Out here in France however it does seem that unless you're going on a dedicated drive or to a show then classic cars are seldom seen. I could be wrong about that but can only talk from experience in our area.
As a result of being out and about and not on an official run or whatever and being a British car that few French people have seen or heard of, heads often turn when I pass by. Occasionally, in supermarket or builders merchants car parks people will come up and ask what it is. Oh a Reeeleee they say and seem genuinely pleased to see her.
There's quite a few Brits in the area where we are based and as in the UK I get the comments that I always get back home......”my father/uncle/relative of some description had one of those”. And as I do in the UK, I then say “I'd like a £1 for everyone that has said that”. Nothing different there.
Classic vehicle shows are a bit different out here though. I'm loosely connected with a car club called the “Rétromobile du Périgord Vert”. I say loosely as I attend a few of their events but do not pay the annual fee. That seems to solely fund the end of year meal and as I'm not there for that they seem quite happy for me to tag along. Most of the events are not their own events but larger organised events that we pitch up to.
Being France, food is inevitably high on the agenda. It's quite often the case that a meal is provided for the driver by the event organisers but any passengers have to pay whatever the going rate. Also, an aperitif is sometimes provided. As I never, ever drink and drive I am looked on quite oddly at times when I just ask for water.
On the other hand the club are going to an event after I've gone back to the UK and where they've decided to go for a meal, presumably in a restaurant as it's €35 a head for car and passengers! Now it would need to be a very good meal to justify that outlay.
Even if I were here I'd not pay that as without knowledge of which restaurant we were going to and what was on the menu (I eat anything but Julie, my wife, doesn't) it could be a serious waste of money. So the free meal will do me even if it is just melon for starters, sausage and chips for mains, a piece of cheese and a yoghurt for pud. That'll do for me.
On the day of an event we meet at the President's house. Now, that's not the President of France but the President of the car club which is about 20 mins from where we're based.. We then go off in a convoy to the event picking up members en route. Once at the event, it's then quite usual to go on a balade. That is a trip round the local area for as many or as few of the classic car owners that want to.
On a recent trip (Mabel was back in her barn in disgrace after deciding to leak copious amounts of petrol from the carbs) I went to a friend's house – he has a 1960s Volvo Amazon in superb condition and with around 28,000 kms on the clock from new. I'd like to say and show pictures of other Rileys but I've yet to see another out here.
Anyhow, after a 90 minute drive from the President's house with about 10 cars from the club, we pitched up at what clearly wasn't the event but a holding area for about 100 cars. The balade then commenced – all 100 or so cars fronted my a Model T Ford and other ancients. This time we were accompanied by motorcycle riders who went ahead at breakneck speed to block roads and turnings so that all 100 or so cars could serenely pass by. What the locals and other drivers on the local roads thought I have no idea. I just kept thinking about what would happen back in the UK and the reactions that might occur. Road rage could well be the order of the day.
Anyhow after a couple of hours (remember we'd already driven 90 minutes to get there) and going down minor roads and quite a few rough, rutted tracks that managed to cause a bit of damage to a few cars and a diversion through a horse-racing track (yes, we wondered about that as well) we arrived at a château. Ah good, the show I thought. But no. This was just a stop for aperitifs – cue wine and pineau (google it – it's lovely) being served. Not sure why, but here were adults dressed as pixies, elves and fairies there as well. All very surreal.
We then depart in the, by now, searing heat to the show. This was only a few minutes down the road but took ages owing to the crowds as it was a Vide Grenier (boot fair only way, way better) and car show combined. Searing temperatures meant rising car temperatures and the Volvo was so, so close to over-heating. However, we got there..........parked up and went for lunch. As I was a passenger it was €12. Food was only OK.
Once lunch had finished we wandered around the Vide Grenier and as it was so hot very few people were looking at the stalls let alone the cars so off we went home for the 90 minute drive back after being there for around about 90 mins. I'll not be going to that one again and neither will the club.
Back to the Mabel and her naughtiness – this is where I hand my head in shame – loose banjo bolt at the rear of the carb. A quick tighten up and all would have been OK........well actually it wouldn't as Mabel doesn't like the heat and temperature gauge rises and I'm sure I'd have been on the side of the road waiting for her to cool down. That's something to look into over the winter when we're back in Brizzel. The radiator is clearly past it's best so that may need to be re-cored and a good back flush is probably in order as well.
On the whole it's great driving around in France as the roads are so empty we often wonder if we've missed a Road Closed sign.
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