Tag Archives: Footman James Classic Motor Show

Highlights of the Footman James Classic Motor Show

Our Special Correspondent went to Birmingham for the recent Classic Motor Show, here are some of the gems that he found.

1899 Decauville

This little Voiturelle is important in motoring history as it has independent front suspension, the first known example of i.f.s. on a petrol car. As can be seen, it has a transverse leaf spring operating on sliding pillars. Strangely there is no rear suspension and it is  powered by two De Dion singles on a common crankcase.

1951 Allard P1 saloon

It was no surprise to find P1 saloons on the Allard stand because this year is the 60th anniversary of Sydney Allard’s win with a P1 saloon in the 1952 Monte Carlo Rally, the only time the event has been won by a driver in a car of his own construction. This model was Allard’s best seller, 559 being made between 1949-1952.

It was powered by the familiar 3.6-litre side-valve V8 as used by Ford in the Pilot and even inherited this car’s steering–column gear change. The successful rally car had a 4.4-litre Mercury V8.

Morris Six

From the same era comes this Morris Six, the largest of the three completely new Morris cars introduced at the first post-war Motor Show at Earl’s Court in 1948. The sensation was of course Issigonis’s Morris Minor but a first for the make was that all three newcomers (the other was the Oxford) had independent front suspension – away with the cart springs at last! – in their case by torsion bars. Whereas the two smaller models still relied on rather gutless old side-valve units , the Six was given a new 6-cylinder overhead camshaft 2.2 litre motor which it shared with its Nuffield stablemate, the Wolseley 6/80.

Ford Pilot

The Pilot was Ford’s post-war version of their pre-war V8 and it suffered from the same antiquated chassis design – hence the transverse leaf spring suspension on solid axles. One concession to modernity was the currently popular steering-column gear change but it still operated on only a 3-speed box. The Pilot was nevertheless a tough machine and they built 22,000 of them before the arrival of the completely new Consul and Zephyr range at Earl’s Court in 1950 with their trend-setting MacPherson independent front suspension. This also spelt the end for the famous flat-head side-valve V8 in the private car range from Dagenham (but not at Ford-France) although updated V8s were to be the staple diet in America for decades – Fords were the first to make over 100 million of them!

Daimler SP252

By the mid-Fifties Daimler was being confronted with an ever-changing market for which the Century and faster Century Conquest models had been produced; the works had cast these into the likes of the Monte Carlo, Alpine and R.A.C. rallies to help generate a more modern image for the traditional marque. This led to the introduction of a two-seater sports car, the SP250 , the heart of which was the superb Edward Turner-designed V8 engine. By 1960 Jaguar had swallowed up Daimler in its entirety and produced a mechanically improved SP250 so naturally the engineers started to play around with possible successors. One line of thought was this SP252 , just two examples of which were made. Lyons himself apparently had some input to the styling but he didn’t like the final outcome and this killed off the project, especially when it was realised that such a car would be more expensive to produce and this would take it into E-Type territory.

Morris Family Eight

This is a rare car! William Morris had introduced his Minor at Olympia in 1928 as his answer to the Austin Seven. It had a Wolseley-designed overhead camshaft engine (Morris had bought the ailing Wolseley company in 1927) but by 1931 had replaced this unit with a cheaper to produce and maintain side–valve motor.

For 1932 two longer wheelbase models were added, the Eight Sports Coupé and this Family Eight, both of which retained the old overhead camshaft engine. Production was short-lived, probably until supplies of the older unit ran out.

Triumph Gloria

Donald Healey joined Triumph in September 1933 as their Technical Director and with his competition background managed to persuade the Board to enter seven of the new Gloria models for the 1934 Monte Carlo Rally in the January. They included three specially built Gloria four-seat Tourers with lightened chassis, all aluminium bodies, a 17-gallon tank and twin spare wheels. KV6906 was driven by John Beck Jr and Reg Tanner. Starting in Tallin in Estonia they arrived in Monte Carlo in 10th place on the Light Car class, finishing 27th overall (Healey came 3rd). All seven Triumphs finished.

The car’s Coventry-Climax engine. It had a capacity of 1087 c.c. and had overhead inlet and side exhaust valves.

Lea Francis 12h.p.

The 12 h.p. Lea Francis (actually 12.9 h.p.) was introduced in 1937. This car was shown at the Earl’s Court Show in 1938 and was one of three made with Corsica bodies. One of the company’s agents, Charles Follett, used a similar car with a stripped body to win “The Second August Long Handicap Race” at the August Brooklands Meeting in 1938 .

Aston Martin 15/98

You don’t often see 4-door Aston Martins although they did offer four doors on their first T-type series, an example being on their stand at the 1928 Olympia Show. This is a Bertelli-bodied car built on the long chassis to accommodate the extra doors; 50 such chassis were constructed. The 15/98 cars were powered by the 2-litre overhead camshaft engine.

1939 Triumph Dolomite 14/65 Roadster

By the mid-Thirties it was Triumph policy to move away from making small cars – they lacked the production facilities to compete with Austin, Ford and Morris – and to move up market to compete with the likes of Riley, Alvis and SS, at the same time playing down their more sporting image. After using Coventry Climax engines, Healey designed a new family of OHV Triumph 4- and 6-cylinder motors  which were used in the Vitesse and Dolomite ranges.

This Dolomite, with its controversial “waterfall” grille copied from the 1936 Hudson, was typical  of the company’s production just before the war. For those who did not like the brashness of this Dolomite grille, Triumph offered the 2-litre Continental model with the traditional grille from the Vitesse.

Rover 75
The Rover 75 and 60 were the company’s first new models after the war. Similar in looks to the later pre-war cars, these P3 series cars were very different under the skin. They had completely new overhead inlet and side exhaust valve engines, 6 cylinders for the 75, 4 for the 60 and forthcoming Land-Rover, and, for the first time on a Rover, independent front suspension using the André-Girling system already used on the pre-war Lanchester Roadrider.

Bentley R-Type Continental

Introduced at the Motor Show in 1951, this original version of the Bentley Continental has to be among the most beautiful cars ever made. Most of the R-Types were given this exquisite body by coachbuilder H.J.Mulliner.


David Blumlein, November 2012

A Very Classic Car Show

A trip up to the NEC with our Special Correspondent to the Footman James Classic Car Show is an educational experience, one that I would not miss for the world. Here is his look at some of the Rare and Interesting cars that were on show.

Volvo P1800 Aston Martin

In the early 1960s Aston Martin commissioned Tadek Marek to design a smaller version of his 3.7-litre DB4 engine. Rather than create the same engine minus two cylinders, Marek opted to develop a completely new 4-cylinder engine. Three prototypes were built and it was decided to fit one into a  Volvo P1800 as a test bed.


Four Pot Aston

It worked quite well although 30 kgs heavier over the front axle but Aston Martin realised that the engine would be too expensive to produce and the project was abandoned. The Volvo P1800s were assembled initially (1961-1963) by Jensen Motors of West Bromwich as there was insufficient space at that time in Volvo’s Swedish factory.


A to B


We’ve all heard of the Ford Model T, the Tin Lizzie, of which 15 million were made. In 1927 Henry Ford introduced his Model A as a replacement and then in March 1932 he announced his famous flat-head V8 which went on to be produced for the next 21 years.


Four For Ford


So what is a Model B? Basically it is a V8 chassis and body with the Model A 4-cylinder side-valve engine. It had a short production run in its home country, March to September 1932, although the 4-cylinder option remained available for cars and commercials up to 1934 and longer at Dagenham. Ford alone has since made over 100 million V8 engines!


Sud Power


Alfa Romeo was state-owned after 1933 and depended on Government investment to keep going. In the 1930s there was plenty of military work to satisfy Mussolini’s imperialist ambitions and the company’s chief output was lorries and aero engines. After the war Alfa was able to turn to the mass-production of cars for the first time with the excellent 1900 but by the 1980s more investment was needed to replace the marvellous Alfa Sud which had been built in the factory near Naples.


Cherry Picking


In 1984 a stand-by was hurriedly concocted, the Arna. It was a Nissan Cherry body with the front suspension, engine and gearbox of the Alfa Sud transplanted into it. It was assembled in the Naples plant and you could buy either an Alfa Romeo Arna or a Nissan Cherry Europe – apart from the badges they were identical.


Lanchester 14


Frederick Lanchester was one of the world’s outstanding car designers who pioneered so many of the features we take for granted in our cars today. I like to single out his brilliant concept of the “ counter-balance shaft” that designers resort to when they want to smooth out the inbalances inherent in larger capacity four-cylinder engines.

His eponymous firm was taken over by the BSA-Daimler group in 1931 and then some of the cars were little more than badge-engineered Daimlers. However, this process was reversed when the company put the Lanchester 14 on the market in 1951. It was a 2-litre OHV four-cylinder car with, interestingly, independent front suspension by laminated torsion bars. The car spawned in 1953 the six-cylinder 2.5-litre Daimler Conquest and a year later its twin-carburettor version, the Conquest Century.

Quite out of character the Daimler company entered three of the latter for the Touring Car Race at the 1954 Silverstone International Trophy meeting and, thanks to Reg Parnell and George Abecassis, they took the first two places in the 3-litre class; Ken Wharton’s car was unable to avoid a spinning competitor.



Alejandro de Tomaso was an Argentinian racing driver who drove in the 1950s in sports car races with a Maserati and OSCA. Having expressed strong opposition to the Peron régime , he found it expedient to abandon his native country and to settle in Italy whence had come previous generations of his family.

In Modena in 1959 he started up his own company. At first he made some prototypes and single-seater racing cars, the latter mainly for the recently introduced Formula Junior category, and even some cars for the new 1961 1.5-litre Formula One although these generally failed miserably, only achieving finishes in national events such as the 1961 Naples Grand Prix (5th) and the 1963 Rome Grand Prix (4th).

In the meantime he was developing road-going production cars, the first being the Vallelunga in 1963, a mid-engined GT coupé with an aluminium backbone chassis and a Ford Cortina engine, some fifty or so being completed. With an eye on the Shelby Cobra market in the U.S.A. he developed this backbone theme for a bigger car which appeared at the 1966 Turin Motor Show. This was the Mangusta – Italian for mongoose, the only animal that kills cobras! The car had a 4.7-litre Ford V8 with bodies coming from Ghia, styled by Giugiaro. It was rather heavy with 66 per cent of its weight over the rear wheels yet 400 cars were made up to 1971. It was  succeeded by the more successful Pantera, a steel monocoque design which had the benefit of much Ford investment.


Sole Survivor

Coventry-Victor was an engineering firm that specialised in supplying small capacity flat-twin side-valve engines to other manufacturers. In 1926 it produced its own three-wheeled car with a chain-driven rear wheel and in 1932 this was up-graded using more luxurious bodywork designed by C.F.Beauvais who was responsible for styling the Avon-bodied Standards, Singers and Crossleys of the Thirties.

In 1949 Coventry-Victor decided to build a four-wheeler and constructed six prototypes, four saloons and two open-bodied, which were code-named Venus. These had 747 c.c. flat-four engines mounted forward but driving the rear wheels.The car on show appears to be the sole survivor of this abandoned project as all were ordered to be cut up. It has been residing in the Coventry Transport Museum’s reserve collection and it is a pleasant surprise for it to be seen on public display at last!



This is the last of Vincenzo Lancia’s masterpieces and it went into production in February 1937, sadly the month of the company founder’s premature death. Lancia had a deserved reputation for producing well-engineered and technically innovative cars and the Aprilia carries on Lancia’s enviable tradition.

At the start of the Thirties Lancia realised the need to produce smaller-engined cars to appeal to a much wider segment of Italian society and the 2-litre Artena and the 1.2-litre Augusta were launched, two excellent cars. The Aprilia was conceived to take over from them. It possessed a pillarless monocoque saloon body with “fast-back” styling at the rear, the whole yielding an admirable (for the time) co-efficient of drag of just .047. It was powered by a typically Lancia V4 engine but this time it was a fresh design with hemispherical combustion chambers and had a capacity of 1.3-litres at first growing two years later to 1.49. Front suspension was Lancia’s independent sliding pillar arrangement from the Lambda but at the rear was a completely new independent design utilising a transverse leaf spring and torsion bars while the rear brakes were mounted inboard.

Such an exciting specification lent itself to sporting achievements – for example, Luigi Villoresi used a special Zagato-bodied Spyder version to win its class in the 1938 Mille Miglia and normal production saloons were still winning their class in the Mille Miglia as late as 1951 and 1952 .The Aprilia’s eventual successor, the Vittorio Jano-designed Aurelia, can be seen in the background – this was another masterpiece!

What do these following two cars have in common?







Standard Issue

Answer: they both use chassis and mechanicals supplied by the Standard Motor Company.

The SS1, the forerunner of the line of Jaguars, used the Standard 16 side-valve engine and chassis; the Railton Ten had an unmodified 1938 Standard 10 chassis!

David Blumlein, November 2011

Show Time

The 2011 Footman James Classic Motor Show is taking place this weekend. Unfortunately it is at the NEC, Birmingham. But more on that in a minute.

The show has expanded since last year and features many interesting, and in some cases, unique cars. This Volvo P1800 with a 2.5 litre, 4 cylinder Aston Martin engine is a good example of the gems on display.

Another one off is the only surviving Coventry Victor Venus dating back to 1949. It is a mystery as to how it is still around, given that the factory ordered all 6 prototypes to be destroyed.

Sometime in the near future our Special Correspondent will have a detailed look at a few of these gems, till then you will have to live with this gallery.

One thing that really does need to be done is for the Health & Safety Executive to prosecute the management of the NEC for the appalling lighting in the halls. Those condemned to labour on the stands for three days are in severe danger of getting Seasonal Affective Disorder. I cannot imagine that the hire of the NEC is cheap, so why proper illumination is not provided is beyond me.

One bright light at the Show is the enthusiasm and deep knowledge of the members of the various car clubs. Their dedication keeps long departed brands like Hillman and Humber alive. Long may that continue.

So, if you get a chance in 2012, go to the show, it is full of treasures and rarities.

John Brooks, November 2011