Classic Motoring Photographs

What a lot we owe Bill Brunell. A professional photographer in the glass plate era of the 1920s and 1930s, he left a unique record of crisp, beautifully detailed pictures of a motoring age long gone. The Motoring Picture Library has added 5,000 images from the National Motor Museum’s Bill Brunell Photographic Collection to its website

The model with her head through the sunroof of the Singer 8 Junior is most likely Brunell’s daughter, Kitty, who features in many of the photographs, and drove in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1928 with her father in his Singer Junior. They started from John o’Groats but retired. She competed in 1929 driving a Talbot 14/45 for which she designed the body. It became known as the Sportsman’s Coupe and Talbot was so impressed that it built another car for her for 1930, known as ‘Kitty II’. She married veteran competitor Ken Hutchinson.

Bill Brunell was co-driver to the Hon Victor Bruce in 1926 when they became the first Englishmen to win the Monte Carlo Rally and worked for the Ministry of Information and secret intelligence in the First World War.
Motoring Picture Library Manager, Jon Day said: “Brunell’s photography is an evocative reminder of the golden age of British motoring, capturing perfectly the mood and spirit of the era. From street and social scenes to events, trials and rallies throughout Great Britain and Europe, Brunell’s images are an important historical record with artistic merit in their own right.It has taken NMM staff and volunteers over three years to digitise the glass plate negatives. The originals have subsequently been re-packaged and archived.The Beaulieu Motoring Picture Library with an archive of over a million images, is one of the most comprehensive sources of motoring photographs in the world. It supplies pictures to enthusiasts and commercially to publishing, broadcasting and advertising.

The works racing Austin Seven team (above) of Bert Hadley and Charles Goodacre at Brooklands with Kay Petre in car nearest Brunell’s camera.


The National Motor Museum is 40. I first went to the rather ramshackle buildings of the former Montagu Motor Museum in the 1960s, and attended the opening of what seemed at the time a rather bizarre permanent home on 4 July 1972. (Although unaccountably missing from the picture of the Duke of Kent and Lord Montagu at the ceremony). Beaulieu has always had shortcomings. It has to pander to the cheap seats, with exhibitions of James Bond cars and “themes” that may not have much to do with motoring heritage. Yet you must allow for a certain commercial waywardness to ensure the turnstiles keep turning. There has to be sufficient income to sustain its exemplary research facilities and notable libraries. Beaulieu has a priceless collection of books and magazines, which it makes available equally to serious students and amateur researchers. It was also a favourite destination for small daughters who loved the rides and the model trains (below).

Notably Beaulieu works with exemplary grace. The library (pictured with the Duke now), under Caroline Johnson, is staffed with the politest and most patient people in the business. Stephen Vokins, the film and video archivist is a fund of knowledge, and public relations officer Margaret Rowles has the unique distinction among PROs of always seeming pleased to hear from you. I know similar libraries and collections who work on the principle that they are places for keeping things in, and not ever allowing anything out. Beaulieu, by contrast, is a triumph of communication. I have commented before on its Friends’ Newsletter, which is a modest publication, yet invariably has an enthusiastically written item containing something you didn’t know before. Happy Christmas Beaulieu, and double congratulations on being chosen as Museum or Collection of the Year, gaining a Lifetime Achievement Award for Lord Montagu.

Liberty Belle

Found this marvellous beautiful engine when I went to Duxford for my birthday treat. Aviation writer Bill Gunston says no aircraft engine equals the Liberty V12’s record of quick design, quick qualification and quick mass production. It had a long active life in aeroplanes up to 1935. One is still going, revised a bit, in Babs the exhumed Land Speed Record car of John Godfrey Parry Thomas, who died in it at Pendine Sands.

Produced in a hurry to meet a wartime emergency, the Liberty was designed by Jesse Vincent of Packard and EJ Hall of Hall-Scott in a Washington hotel between 30 May and 4 June 1917. One says ‘designed’ but of course it used features such as the water cooled separate 5x7 inch cylinders from Hall-Scott’s existing San Francisco engines as well as bits of Packard. The Vee was set at 45deg to fit narrow aircraft and the valve gear was exposed. By November 1918 20,478 had been made of the 27 litre engine which, coincidentally, was the same capacity as the 5.4x6in Rolls-Royce Merlin designed in 1933. Not many people know that. Surprise your friends.

Coil ignition was unusual for a 1917 engine

Engines had to be narrow to fit in slim aircraft

Valve gear lived outside
Babs was dug up in 1969 by engineering lecturer Owen Wyn Owen from what had become a military firing range and restored as a tribute to the brave Parry Thomas. The original Liberty, damaged in the crash had rusted over the years and was replaced by one built by Lincoln Cars, its twelve separate cylinders mounted on a Packard-Liberty crankcase.

Pictured at Brooklands in 2007, Babs was being worked up for a demonstration run. The chassis is braced by strut and wire, much as contemporary Bentleys were, to improve stiffness. Lots of batteries were needed to crank the enormous V12. What a noise history makes.

Michael Sedgwick Trust

“Oscar” ceremonies, awards for this and that, tend to get a bit overblown. Not so the Ron Staughton Memorial Trophy presented to the Michael Sedgwick Memorial Trust, “in recognition of promoting the cause of historical motoring.” Last year’s winner Neil Tuckett made a modest presentation to Michael Ware, chairman of the trust, against a backdrop of an original and unrestored 1924 Model T Ford. Appropriate: Ron Staughton was for years Director of Ford’s Heritage Centre at Dagenham. My applause is three-fold. Firstly the trust supported our research on Reggie Tongue, first owner of ERA R11B, making the book on him a practical proposition. His family provided a goldmine of material but making a commercial publication of it was at best uncertain. Secondly the Ford Heritage Centre has been helpful on many occasions in connection with our books on Ford. It also arranged the loan of a Capri for the Guild of Motoring Writers’ Classic last year. See older blogs. Thirdly motoring historians all owe a debt to the late Michael Sedgwick, a meticulous researcher whose work we all gratefully plunder, confident of its precision. The trouble with looking up Sedgwick is that, as you dip into the text, it is so lucid, articulate, absorbing and entertaining that you read on and on…

I read about the award in Beaulieu’s informative Friends of the National Motor Museum Trust’s revamped and useful Newsletter.

Buxton and Crich Tramway Museum

Enjoyed a 1977 Ford Capri 1600L on the Guild of Motoring Writers Classic to Buxton and the splendid Tram Museum at Crich. A 1.6 is no flyer, see entry from The Ford In Britain File below, but it drives nicely. I collected it from Ford’s historic collection, housed in a modest little building in the middle of the Dagenham complex. What a treasure-trove. A hundred cars from Ford’s past, from GT40 to Model Y. The Capri is typically well-maintained. A lady, who didn’t want it to fall into some boy racer’s hands, donated it to the collection when it had only 25,000miles on the clock.

Crews confer, Crich Tramway Museum

Curious to drive with such a narrow-rimmed steering wheel. Was it somehow fashionable then? I remember Rolls-Royces had them. Steering wheels are now fat and chunky following the style set by racing cars of the 1960s. Drum brakes didn’t feel bad although I didn’t work them hard. Fade resistance was one of the advances discs made, but they weren’t spongy or slow to react and stopping distances seemed about right. We weren’t going very fast. Four speed gearbox. You stop looking for a fifth after a time. No rev counter and a plain facia of plastic-looking wood. Two speed wipers – the intermittent control was very intermittent indeed, sometimes stopped the wipers in the line of sight and they weren’t self-parking. The windows have a novel system for disappearing into the doors – a handle that you wind round and round. Amazingly simple and effective. No electric motors to go wrong. Comfortable seats but no head restraints. I was glad nobody ran into us from behind. Good boot. Good quality materials for carpets and facia although a lot of black made it look a bit gloomy. Low road noise, narrow tyres, didn’t drive much in the wet but it seemed stable enough. Heavy steering at parking speeds was hard work. Engine tolerably quiet and visibility good with narrow screen pillars. The ride was even and showed no sign of aging with effective dampers. What a commendably good-value classic; the Capri looks the part and people certainly look at it and smile. The L was fairly basic with cloth and leathery-looking upholstery. It’s odd not having central locking. Ruth remembered to hold the handle up when you shut the door – just the way you used to lock yourself out of a car with the key inside. Wheels typically Ford painted to look like alloy or Rostyle. The bodywork has lasted amazingly well.

The Capri was well proportioned – not quite like Lyons’ old SS with long bonnet, low roofline and not much accommodation. It’s quite roomy and although there is some wasted space in the engine compartment, there is not as much sacrifice for style as one remembers. Splendid radio with buttons that went straight to Radio 4 on long wave and never varied wherever you were. Absence of airbags makes an airy interior. Gearshift crisp. Vinyl roof is a big fashion statement – hangover from Riley RM and others that looked like faux convertibles but only had them to conceal bad presswork and ugly joints. They had a lot to learn about shut-lines in 1977 – you could get your fingers down the sides of the bootlid, although the water channelling was good and nothing leaked even on this 32 year old car.

From The Ford in Britain File: 1974 Capri II 1300 and 1600

With the world in the grip of the first oil crisis manufacturers seized the opportunity to put now model announcements on hold. Not Ford. It took the plunge with the already successful Capri to introduce styling changes, provide more room inside, and while remaining strictly 2+2, introduce the hatchback making the car far more practical. Folding down the rear seat gave huge luggage capacity. It was surprising really that it had not been done in the first place following the example of the MGB GT. The crease along the body side was discarded, and the dummy air intakes ahead of the rear wheel arch dispensed with, giving a smoother more sophisticated appearance. Slimmer windscreen pillars and bigger windows gave better visibility all round and although the innovations with their attendant reinforcement round the double-skinned gas-strutted tailgate increased the body weight by 27.22kg (60lb) they were well worthwhile. Using much the same Cortina underpinnings the 1300 had a pushrod crossflow Kent engine and the 1600 the latest Pinto overhead camshaft engine giving it a lively turn of speed. Capris continued to be made in Britain until 1976-1977 when production was concentrated in Germany. The array of trim packs available with the first Capri was reduced; buyers had been confused and in many cases dealers ordering cars for stock failed to identify the most popular options. 224

Autocar 30 March 1974 road test

INTRODUCTION Dec 1973 production to Oct 1976 in Britain and Jan 1978 in Germany

BODY coupe; 2-doors, 2+2-seats; weight 1010kg (2226.65lb), 1600 1040kg (2292.78lb)

ENGINE 4-cylinders, in-line; front; 80.98mm x 62.99mm, 1297cc; compr 9.2:1; 42.51kW (57bhp) @ 5500rpm; 91 Nm (67lbft) @ 3000rpm; 32.8kW/l (44bhp/l). 1600 87.7 x 66mm; 1593cc 53.69kW (72bhp) @5200rpm; 33.7kW (45.2bhp)/l; 118Nm (87lbft) @ 3000rpm. 1600GT 65.62kW (88bhp)

ENGINE STRUCTURE 3034E pushrod ohv; chain-driven camshaft; cast iron cylinder head, block; Ford GPD carburettor, centrifugal and vacuum ignition; mechanical fuel pump; 5-bearing crankshaft. 1600 ohc, 1600GT Weber carb

TRANSMISSION rear wheel drive; 19.05cm (7.5in) (1600 GT 21.59cm (8.5in)) diaphragm spring cable-operated clutch; 4-speed manual all-synchromesh gearbox; hypoid bevel final drive 4.125:1. 1600 3.77:1. 1600GT 3.75:1

CHASSIS steel monocoque structure; ifs by MacPherson struts and anti roll bar; live rear axle with half-elliptic springs and anti-roll bar, telescopic dampers; Girling hydraulic disc brakes at front, 24.4cm (9.61in); 20.32cm (8in) rear drums (1600 22.86cm (9in)); dual circuit; optional vacuum servo (1600 std); rack and pinion steering; 57.73l (12.7gal)(15.24US gal) fuel tank; 165-13; 185/70 – 13 optional radial-ply tyres, 5Jrims

DIMENSIONS wheelbase 256cm (100.8in); track front 135.38cm (53.3in) rear 138.43cm (54.5in); length 434.09cm (170.9in); width 169.93cm (66.9in); height 129.79cm (51.1in); ground clearance 10.41cm (4.1in); turning circle 10.67m (35ft)

EQUIPMENT toughened glass windscreen, laminated extra, brushed nylon seats extra

Maximum speed 167kph (104mph) 1600, Autocar
1300 26.17kph (16.3mph), 1600 28.57kph (17.8mph), 1600GT 28.73kph (17.9mph) @ 1000rpm; 0-100kph (62mph) 11.4sec; fuel consumption 10.2l/100km (27.7mpg)

PRICE 1300L £1336.25, 1600L £1415.83, 1600GT £1632.92
PRODUCTION 84,400 all Capri II in Britain