The Prince Henry Vauxhall Centenary Celebration at Shelsley Walsh 17th/18th July 2010 Alisdaire Lockhart, Prince Henry Centenary event organiser
On 23rd April 1910, the Vauxhall Motor Company announced that it would enter a team of three special 3 litre cars in the Prince Heinrich of Germany Trial to be run later that year. The cars were a new design from Laurence Pomeroy and were designated as the C10 Type in keeping with Company practice for identifying new models.
The event took place in June that year and while these cars did not win the Prince’s Trial, they accomplished themselves so well against other entrants with much larger engines, that they attracted widespread interest and the Company continued to develop these cars for their sporting and record-breaking endeavours.
On return to this country after the Trial, these cars were fitted with narrow single-seat racing bodies for the August meeting at Brooklands, to compete for the O’Gorman Trophy. Two of these cars were entered in the race, together with Rudolph Selz on his personal Vauxhall racing car, known as Hans IV, and they finished first and second, with Hancock winning with a fastest lap of 80.82 mph. After the O’Gorman race, two of the cars had their touring bodies re-fitted, while the third car returned to Brooklands in the autumn for record breaking. On 26th October, Hancock established a new 21hp Class Record for the flying half mile at 100.08 mph., thus, the Prince Henry Vauxhall was born in 1910 to become the first British Sports Car and the first car in the world to exceed 100 mph for a 21hp car.
Hence, 1910 was a very good year for Vauxhall and the rest, as they say, is now part of history, but not quite…..
Fortunately, sufficient of these significant cars in the history of British motor sport survive to this day and there is a growing interest in these cars from within the 30-98 Register and wider for all to want to come together at Shelsley Walsh in mid July to celebrate the Centenary of the Prince Henry and to drink a toast to its legend.
In fact, of no more than sixty 3.0 and 3.5 litre cars that were made originally by the Company, only six survive world-wide: four original cars, one made up car and another in restoration. While of the one hundred and fifty 4.0 litre cars made up till the outbreak of WW1, rather more survive: five original cars in the UK with a further three in Australia and New Zealand, there is one made-up car in the UK and there are a further three in bits in Australia. To these should be added the remains of one of the Coupe de l’Auto cars, now in New Zealand and Roland Duce’s well known made up recreation of the 1913 racing car. Thus from a total production of around two hundred cars, only twelve original cars survive; there are two made up cars running and there are a further five cars in bits around the world.
So for eight of the Prince Henry Vauxhalls to appear at Shelsley Walsh in July is probably the largest assembly of these cars since the end of WW2, with all bar one of these cars in the UK at the event but, sadly, none of the cars in Australia and New Zealand were able to come to the UK this summer for the Centenary Celebration.
The event was divided into three parts: a special Dinner at the Elms Hotel close by at Abberley on the Saturday night, with over fifty friends at dinner; the publication of a new book on the Prince Henry Vauxhall, specially written for the centenary by Nic Portway with contributions from David Burgess-Wise and Peter Mussared; a Parade up the hill at Shelsley Walsh the following day, culminating in Bucks Fizz at the Coach House, thanks to Margaret and Ben Own, with generous sponsorship by the VSCC and New Wensum Publishing.
The Dinner was preceded by Pimms and canapés on the lawn in front of the Elms Hotel, in the presence of some of the Prince Henry and 30-98 E Type Vauxhalls due to participate in the Parade the following day. A high light of this part of the evening was the arrival of Charles Milne Atkinson and Liz Chudley, resplendent in “black tie” and ball gown kit on the 58 hp Daimler of 1908, which is believed to be the car that broke the hill record in 1911, at a time of 62.20 seconds. Another splendid arrival was Hickey in full-length Edwardian frock coat, cravat and waistcoat – so he can look smart if he wants to!
All were ushered into Dinner, past the model Prince Henry pedal car that Lawrence Pomeroy had made for his son Laurence junior, who went on to become a President of the VSCC. At the Dinner all were given a copy of Nic’s book and a special poster made up by Vauxhall Motors from the famous painting by Michael Turner of Percy Kidner driving V 1088 in the Winter Trial of 1912 in Sweden, and all present signed a copy of the poster for the Company archive.
Alisdaire Lockhart started proceedings by welcoming all present, including Nick Reilly – President of GM Europe and fresh from his negotiations with Angela Merkel – and David Nursey representing the Midland Automobile Club, who had generously hosted the Centenary Celebration. He went on to remind everyone that centenaries are both external and internal events: they remind the public of the significance of this important anniversary, but they also focus the minds of the owners on getting their cars together for the event – well, most of them! – but they also bring out rare and often unseen cars for the event. Over the past three months, we have had engines rebuilt, clutches re-lined, radiators repaired, car restorations completed, numerous magnetos tested and new water pumps made, while three “new” cars appeared for the first time: Chris Lambert’s exquisite 3.5 litre car of 1912, bought back to this country from Australia a few years ago, the authors re-creation of the 1912 Swedish Trial car and, probably most important, the first appearance on the road of the 1913 two seater Prince Henry, now in the fourth generation of ownership by the Cheverton family from new. According to Doug Hill of the National Motor Museum, the car had not been driven on the road for at least thirty-seven years and it is over forty years since being driven by any member of the family. We were all very grateful to the staff at the NMM for persuading the Cheverton family to let the car come to the event and to Judy Cheverton for attending the Centenary on behalf of the family: a car that is so often seen at the museum and in pictures, but so rarely seen on the road under its own power.
After the entrée, Alan Winn, Director of the Brooklands Museum spoke about the motoring scene in 1910, described the creation of Brooklands and its significance for speed and endurance testing, setting the scene for the arrival of the Prince Henry Vauxhall to break records and win races. It was quite appropriate that Alan should participate in this way, bringing together Brooklands and Shelsley Walsh as the two most important venues for competitive driving in the UK during the Edwardian era.
Dinner proceeded over steak & kidney pudding – Pom junior’s favourite – for most of us! - and was followed by summer pudding and coffee. At that point, Julian Ghosh proposed a toast to guests present; then David Marsh proposed the Loyal Toast and told everyone to be back at their tables in ten minutes’ time to hear Nic Portway talk about the Prince Henry Vauxhall. Nic focused in his address on the young men involved in the Company – Kidner, Hancock and Fraser, together with the older Hodges - who drove the Company and brought out the series of Prince Henry and 30-98 variations that dominated motor racing and speed events in the few years between 1910 and the onset of hostilities. Nic stressed the importance that these men saw in the success on the track, in hill climbs and in endurance tests to boost car sales in the home and overseas markets. A point not lost on Nick Reilly for those of us with him in the bar after dinner.
Nic then dived into his “goody bag” and produced Percy Kidner’s tool box, complete with route map of the Prince Henry Trial, Fraser’s note-book from the Experimental Department and various other Vauxhall memorabilia of the period – a fascinating insights into the life and times of a small, struggling motor manufacturer a hundred years ago.
In conclusion, Nic asked all to rise to propose a toast to the memory of the Prince Henry Vauxhall and its contribution to motoring history. Thereafter, all went to bed well fed and watered, with the event organiser wondering how many cars will appear for the Display and Parade next morning and praying for sunny weather. Both his prayers were answered!
A quick inspection early next morning found Roger Thomas with everything under control: the grass area between the pits and the Club office was neatly marked out with a place for all the cars that were expected, and sufficient extra space for those that arrived but were not expected! All the eight promised Prince Henry cars were there – a gift for any motoring photographer – plus support led by the VHC’s 1909 12/16 hp semi racer, to be driven by Andrew Duerden in the Parade with Judy Portway as passenger, for all to see what car preceded the Prince Henry model, plus David Dutton’s family 1909 A09 car, which despite a recently serviced magneto declined to start as the one hundred year old plug leads did not pass sufficient electrons to the plugs to ignite the petrol, Ian parson’s splendid 16/20 hp Vauxhall of 1914, fresh from a major engine repair; the VHC Military D Type, with new water pump, Mike Lemon’s evergreen 30-98 replica of the Mordecai car, my A/D Type roadster and all followed by Robin Townsend’s lovely early short scuttle 30-98 E Type, to show everyone what the 4 litre Prince Henry grew into after WW1.
In the lead car – Vauxhall’s 1911 Prince Henry – driven by David Kirke, were David and Moira Conway, showing three trophies won by his father driving a Prince Henry Vauxhall before WW1. A nice reference to the success of the car at the time.
So in date order, the Parade was led by the VHC’s 1911 Prince Henry, the only surviving car with parallel flutes, my recreation of the 1912 Swedish Trial car, driven by James Gunn, who screwed the car together, with David Dutton and David Biggins as passengers, Roland Duce’s Coupe de l’Auto replica, driven by son Alex as father was conducting some by-product of an Italian tractor manufacturer across northern Scotland, of all places, then Chris Bentley driving Chris Lambert’s splendid 3.5 litre car – the only survivor of the half dozen cars with “stretched” 3 litre engines produced by the Company before the advent of the 4 litre cars - Tim Watson driving C27, a very early 4 litre car with the radiator forward over the front chassis, while his wife was winning Supreme Champion with her Limousin cattle at the Royal Kent Show, followed by the Cheverton/NMM car, Chris Lendrum’s beautiful made up car, recently acquired from Tudor Roberts, and finally, the 1915 Prince Henry, owned by Lord Montagu since the early 1950’s and now in the NMM – a car that was previously raced by Di Threlfall in VSCC handicap races.
The only car missing was Reg Long’s ex Laurence Pomeroy car, now in the 39th year of his ownership, and I have nearly forgiven his family for organising a secret birthday party for him on the day he should have been driving his historic Prince Henry in the Parade.
After the Edwardian cars, the Parade was followed by a host of 30-98s: notable was Nick Reilly’s beautiful Grosvenor bodied two seater E Type, early E Types from Jeremy Holden, Harry Bowers, Peter Heath and Ian Cheese, the late Mike Quartermaine’s Salome in the hands of Nicola and Noel, and OE’s starting with one of the earliest from John Sutton, complete with hood and side-screens and shod with beaded edge tyres, through mid-period examples of the marquee, including the cars of Bob Jones, Nigel Gray, the VMC and Mike Rogers, to late models, including the 1927 car of Keith Knight.
All in all, rather more cars went up the hill than anticipated and all went at such a rush that poor Nic Portway, who was to describe the cars as they progressed up the hill, was left speechless and breathless trying to get in a few words on each car as they shot past his commentary box.
After that, down the hill: park the cars and back to the Coach House for a welcome glass of Buck’s Fizz, and a big sigh of relief from the organiser!
Two other great friends of the Prince Henry Vauxhall were unable to be present at the weekend: Mr Archer does not often now travel beyond Great Dunmow, although all the other leading Vauxhall restorers were at the Dinner – his acolytes - Alistair Templeton, James Gunn, Jeremy Brewster and Julian Ghosh. John Ellis wanted to be present but he had been “grounded” in South Australia until he sold OE 177 - he has sold it now to Chris Forrest to bring the car back to the UK, but too late for John to buy an air ticket!
So, on reflection: a good event by common consent: a splendid new book on the Prince Henry Vauxhall by Nic Portway and others, richly illustrated from Nic’s archive and a “must” for all Vauxhall enthusiasts – now available from New Wensum Publishing. Steve Welsh and Phil Jones between them have made a comprehensive photographic record of the event – dinner and parade – and their pictures are available for sale – contact Steve or Phil direct.
Steve has produced a wonderful photo record of the event and this available for all to see on: http://www.photoboxgallery.com/princehenry2010/photo?photo_id=782210286&vendor_id=3020510
So finished a unique event: thanks to the owners, some of whom had driven a long way to bring their cars to the event, to Vauxhall Motors, especially Bill Parfitt, MD of Vauxhall Motors, who seized the opportunity to support the event from the outset and who was to attend with his wife on the Sunday, until the President of GM World-wide said he would be visiting GM (UK) that week, so no fun for Bill that weekend; other support from the NMM who brought both of their cars to the event; to Nic Portway for his enormous contribution to the success of the event, to David Marsh for his sage advice and encouragement, to Alan Winn for his fascinating address at the Dinner, to Nigel Dawes for lending and to Julian Ghosh for his care of the unique and valuable Prince Henry pedal car over the weekend, to David and Moira Conway for bringing their Prince Henry trophies to our event, to the MAC, especially Roger Thomas, for the excellent facilities of the Shelsley Walsh for the event, and, last but not least, to David Bugess-Wise, who supported the event, wrote part of the book but could not be present over that weekend.
My thanks to them all – Alisdaire Lockhart – event organiser.