Tag Archives: Company

Tax Minimising Special – Healey Duncan Drone

Upon the completion of his studies in mechanical engineering Ian Duncan joined the Bristol Aeroplane Company where he was promoted to chief technical assistant to chief engineer Roy Fedden in 1940.

Two years later Roy and Ian left Bristol to visit the US where they studied aero engine production methods on behalf of the British government.

Healey Duncan Drone, Castle Combe

Back in the UK Ian joined Roy at Roy Fedden Ltd in Cheltenham which was set up with a view to designing and building a flat 6 aero engine, a gas turbine engine and an idiosyncraticvehicle with a three cylinder radial engine at the back driving the rear wheels through a torque converter with Alex Mouton designed rubber suspension for the road wheels.

It is not known if lack of finance or conceptual differences led Ian and Roy to part ways, but by the end of the war Ian had briefly joined his brothers canning machine company before founding Duncan Industries (Engineers) Ltd, with former Fedden employees including Frank Hamblin and Alan Lamburn based 130 miles north east of London in the little Norfolk town of North Walsham.

Healey Duncan Drone, Castle Combe

Ian was inspired to build a much smaller vehicle, than what turned out to be the extremely unstable Fedden, more in the mould of the American Crosley micro car, from whom he ordered five 10″ wheels and tyres around which he based his Dragonfly prototype.

Despite only being 10′ 9 1/2″ long and 4′ 1 1/2″ tall the Dragonfly was bristling with novelties including three abreast seating, a transversely mounted BSA 500 cc motor cycle engine driving the front wheels through a chain driven differential with half shafts and French designed constant velocity joints, the only thing the Dragonfly shared in common with the Fedden was Alex Moulton designed rubber suspension.

Healey Duncan Drone, Castle Combe

In order to fund the building of the Dragonfly prototype Duncan Industries bought three Riley powered Healey chassis and curiously chose to modify bodies from a Hillman Minx, Ford Anglia and Ford Popular for each respectively.

A scaled up version of the Dragonfly body was then fitted to an Alvis chassis and 23 further Healey’s were fitted with similarly scaled up Dragonfly saloon bodies plus one convertible as were 29 more Alvis chassis, several Daimler’s, Bentley’s and at least one Allard.

Healey Duncan Drone, Castle Combe

In an effort to encourage British manufacturers to find markets for their products abroad the Government introduced a 66.6% sales tax on vehicles costing more than £1,000 in 1947.

With the Duncan Dragonfly based bodied vehicles all costing far in excess of this Duncan produced a bargain basement Drone body for which the windscreen, passenger seat and spare wheel were all listed as extra’s to keep the price down for the domestic market.

Healey Duncan Drone, Castle Combe

By cutting out every luxury the power to weight ratio of the Drone bodied Healey’s made them ideal for competition and today’s featured Drone was one of four Healey’s that took part in the 1949 Mille Miglia.

This particular car took the start at 6:25 am with James Cohen and Reg Hingett aboard. 35kms later Reg was dead after the car collided with a bridge and while James would eventually be repatriated back to the UK, he too would succumb to his injuries.

Healey Duncan Drone, Castle Combe

Repairs to the 1947 chassis seen here at a Castle Combe Classic & Retro Action Day were not completed until 2013.

Today’s featured car is one of just two Drones believed to have survived from the 15 known to have been built.

Thanks for joining me on this “Tax Minimising Special” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I will be looking at another Indy car. Don’t forget to come back now !


Huntingdon’s Fund Raiser – Mercedes Benz (W198) 300SL Gullwing Coupé

Today’s featured Mercedes Benz 300 SL is a regular on the award winning Mercedes Benz stand at The Classic Motor Show, NEC, Birmingham.

Mercedes Benz 300 SL, Classic Motor Show, NEC, Birmingham

Last year the owner of this 1961 Gullwing Coupé, that was first registered in the UK on the first of May 2002, allowed visitors to the Classic Motor Show to sit in the car in exchange for a donation to the Huntingdon’s Disease Association and raised £460.

During the event the interior leather suffered some accidental damage which was kindly repaired gratis by another exhibitor Jason Payne from the Leather Repair Company in Knaresborough.

Thanks for joining me on this “Huntingdon’s Fund Raiser” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow for a look at a 1924 Delage. Don’t forget to coma back now !


Windowless Aluminium Door Roadster – Mercedes Benz W121 B2 190 SL

In November 1955 Hong Kong Army Seargent Douglas Stearn drove a Mercedes 190 SL to second place in the Macau Grand Prix for the Zung Fu Company, finishing behind the Austin Healey 100 driven by Robert Ritchie.

Mercedes Benz W121 B2 190 SLR, Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands,

For 1956 Mercedes Benz built two light weight competition 190 SLR’s, featuring window less aluminium doors.

Mercedes Benz W121 B2 190 SLR, Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands,

Additional weight was saved by replacing the windscreens with perspex racing aero screens and deleting the soft top, front and rear bumpers.

Mercedes Benz W121 B2 190 SLR, Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands,

Power was also increased from 104 hp to 115hp which gave the car a top speed of 121 mph, though these speeds are unlikely to have been reached around the tight Macau street circuit.

Mercedes Benz W121 B2 190 SLR, Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands,

One of the 190 SLR’s was delivered to the Zung Fu Company, the offical Mercedes Benz dealers for Hong Kong and Macau to this day, for Douglas to drive in the 1956 Macua Grand Prix.

Mercedes Benz W121 B2 190 SLR, Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands,

Douglas duly won the race at his second attempt beating the Ferrari 500 Monidal driven by Mário Lopez da Costa and the MG A driven by Fernando de Macedo Pinto.

The 190SL seen in these photographs taken at Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands, was imported to the UK and first registered for the on March 5th 1957, it appears to have been converted to an approximation of the SLR spec by Redcastle Classics in 2008.

The whereabouts of the two original 190 SLR’s are unknown to me at this time if you know please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Thanks for joining me on this “Windowless Aluminium Door Roadster” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


Delicious And Wholesome – Ice Cream Vans

With the summer holiday season still in full swing, at least in the UK, I thought I’d focus today’s post on Ice Cream vans.

Bedford CF, Arnolfini, Bristol,

The first time I remember taking a photo of an ice cream van was in 2005 when I was collecting images that might make interesting subjects for poems, the reflected image of a Bedford CF Ice Cream Van standing in front of the Arnolfini in Bristol above never did get used for a poem, but ever since I have kept half an eye out for these bearers of Delicious Wholesome products.

Morris J-Type, Silverstone Classic,

The oldest Ice Cream van I have in my files is this 1949 J-Type Morris seen above early in the morning at last years Silverstone Classic.

Volkswagen Type 2, Volksfest, Easter Compton,

Earlier this year at Volksfest in Easter Compton I couldn’t resist buying a single scoop of Marshfield Farms finest from The Split Screen Ice Cream Company who claim to be operating the oldest Volkswagen Ice Cream Van in the country in the form of the 2012 British Street Food Award winning 1964 Type 2 seen above.

Citroën HY, Cribbs Causeway, Bristol,

Seen in another early morning photo is this 1968 Citroën HY, belonging to Ice Cream Events, which in an ironically, one couldn’t make this up, used to be operated by French Fire Fighting Services before being imported to the UK in 2011.

Ford Transit, Castle Combe

Since at least the late 1960’s, when they first came into my regular summer experience, Ice Cream vans in the UK have often had Disney characters painted on them, above Mel’s Super Whippy Ford Transit is covered in characters from the animation Cars and was appropriately seen at Castle Combe race circuit a few years ago.

Ford Transit, Porsche Curves, Le Mans,

The further traveled, but more modestly decorated 1995 Transit 150 above is seen on the banking of the Porsche Curves at Le Mans, France, during the 24 Hour race around 05:24 am !

Mercedes Benz Sprinter 311, Bristol,

It would appear that while Bedford CF Ice Cream vans are disappearing they are being replaced by Mercedes Benz Sprinters like the 2000 311 example operated by Carmelo & Sons seen above in Clifton, Bristol.

Thanks for joining me on this “Delicious And Wholesome” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at Lord Hesketh’s all new 1975 Formula One Challenger. Don’t forget to come back now !


English T – Ford Model T

Ford Motor Company started manufacturing vehicles in 1903 and that same year three Model A’s were exported to Great Britian, by 1909 the Ford Motor Company (England) was established and began working from an Office in London on March 8th 1911.

Ford Model T, 1911, Goodwood Revival

Ford’s first overseas assembly plant was opened in 1911 at Trafford Park in Manchester where Ford Model T’s were assembled with imported chassis, mechanical parts and locally manufactured bodies. The 1911 Model T above has the distinction of being the first car to be driven up Ben Nevis.

22 year old Henry Alexander, on the instruction of his father the first Ford dealer in Scotland, spent six weeks preparing a route to the top Britains highest peak 4,409 ft / 1,344 m above sea level. It then took Mr Alexander 5 days to reach the summit along the precarious route he had prepared. Mr Alexander repeated the feat in 1928 and to mark Centenary of the Model T reaching the top of Ben Nevis, earlier this year a team of 71 volunteers carried a replica model T to the summit assembled it and then disassembled it and brought it back down again !

Ford Model T, Landaulet, 1912, Goodwood Revival

Although the three pedal system for operating motor cars as used in most cars to this day was familiar when the first Model T’s were built in 1908 the Model T relied on a hand throttle operated on the steering wheel a left pedal that when fully depressed engaged a low gear, when part depressed disengaged the gear box and when not depressed engaged a high gear. The centre pedal when depressed engaged reverse and the right pedal operated the brakes which were attached to the rear wheel only.

Above is a 1912 Landaulet offering minimal weather protection to the front seat occupants while giving the rear seat occupants a choice of protection thanks to a folding roof. The Landaulet body style was a hangover from the age of the horse drawn carriage and has largely disappeared only Maybach are known to offer a Landaulet option at the time of writing.

Ford Model T, Huck Starter, 1915, Goodwood Revival

When designing the Model T Henry Ford new that as well as a motor car he wanted his vehicle to be adaptable to the requirements of a great variety of users in agriculture and industry. Amongst the stranger applications of the Model T was the mobile aircraft starter version.

The long pole that extends beyond the front of this 1915 ‘Huck Starter’ Model T can be aligned with the propellor shaft of an aeroplane and then engaged with it. The chain to the left of the operator connects the aeroplane starter shaft to the drive of the Model T which when engaged will rotate the aircraft engine until it fires under its own power.

Ford Model T, Fire Engine, 1923, Goodwood Revival

When production of the Model T started it took around 12 and half hours to assemble one. By the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 production time had been slashed to just 93 minutes , at one time nearly half of all the worlds motor vehicles were thought to be Fords, in the UK in 1919 41% of all new cars registered for the road were Fords.

The Model T was easily adapted into trucks and buses above is a 1923 fire engine that served on the estate of the Earl of Derbyshire from 1924 to 1948.

Ford Model T, 1924, Goodwood Revival

One of the great myths about the Model T was that one could have a Model T any colour one wanted so long as it was black. In fact this was only true after 1914, up until then Model’s T’s were not available in black at all, from 1912 to 1914 Model T’s were only available in Midnight Blue with black wings / fenders. After 1914 over 30 different black paints were developed to satisfy the various means of applying the paint to different parts of the cars.

The 1924 Model T above is little changed from the 1911 example seen at the top of the post.

Ford Model T, 1924, Atwell Wilson Motor Museum

With over 15 million examples produced when production of the Model T ceased in 1927, the Model T held the title of the worlds most popular vehicle until 1972 when it was eclipsed by the VW Beetle, though it should be noted the Beetle had undergone many more changes in it’s life time than the Model T.

The 1924 example above can be seen at the Attwell Wilson Museum.

Thanks for joining me on this English T edition of ‘Getting a li’l pysycho on tyres’, I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


Traffic Light King – GMC Syclone

Max Grabowsky established the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company on the 22nd December 1901 which built a truck powered by a single cylinder motor. In 1909 the company was taken over by General Motors to form the General Motors Truck Company from which the GMC Truck brand was born. In 1916 a GMC Truck was driven from Seattle to New York City in just 30 days, ten years later a 2 ton GMC Truck took five days and 30 mins to travel from New York to San Francisco.

GMC Syclone

In 1990 GMC identified a niche market for a ‘performance’ truck based on the GMC Sonoma complete with lowered suspension, four wheel drive, fog lights and under the bumper corner spoilers.

GMC Syclone

The Syclone model was powered by a 280 hp 4.3 litre / 262 cui turbocharged V6 motor that was coupled with a 4 speed automatic transmission. ABS brakes, to keep all those horses under control, were used for the first time on an all wheel drive truck application.

GMC Syclone

Volkswagen Golf / Rabbit GTi inspired, to European eyes, red detailing inside and out was rounded off with 16 inch alloy wheels carrying comparatively low profile tyres.

GMC Syclone

Car & Driver famously pitted the $26,000 Syclone against a $122,000 296 hp Ferrari 348ts and in all the acceleration tests up to and including the 1/4 mile drag the Syclone came out best only loosing out with a top speed of 126 mph against the Ferrari’s 166 mph !

GMC Syclone

Built in Troy MI by Production Automotive Services, unlike the regular Sonoma which was built in Shreveport LA, the only downside of the Syclone was that it’s lowered suspension limited the carrying capacity to just 500 lbs, still considerably more than a Ferrari, but considerably less than that 1700 lbs plus of a regular GMC Sonoma.

GMC Syclone

It is thought just 2998 Syclones were built between 1991 and ’92, with just 3 made in 1992 ! 113 are thought to have been exported, with 31 returned, making today’s vehicle seen in Bristol one of just 82 Syclones thought to be outside the USA.

Patrick Bedard of Car & Driver summed up the Syclone as the pick up that would ‘do a Ferrari blur on the local scenery’ and ‘makes this capability seem like a perfectly wonderful idea.’ Sounds good to me, a very good idea indeed.

Thanks for joining me on this `Traffic Light King’ edition of ‘Gettin’ a lil’ psycho on tyres’, I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


The Lil’ Car That Scared The Fat Cat – Doretti #1196

The Doretti was designed by former Bristol Omnibus apprentice Frank Rainbow while he was working for the Tube Investment Group. In January 1953 Frank was given 9 months to design and build the first Doretti car by Eric Saunders, managing director of the Swallow Coachbuilding Company which became part of the TI Group in 1946 after spawning S.S. Cars in 1934 which became Jaguar in 1945.

Doretti, Castle Combe C&SCAD

In 1952 Eric met Arthur Andersen of the Rome Cable Corporation, who was interested in the production of a vehicle specifically designed for sale in the USA and discussion turned to the production of a car to be designed by Frank with bodies to be made in Wales.

Doretti, Castle Combe C&SCAD

Using his connection with Sir John Black at Standard Triumph, Eric Saunders secured a supply of Triumph TR2 running gear for the Swallow Doretti, a name derived from a marketing company operated by Arthur Andersens daughter Dorothy Deen and Paul Bernhart which was to market the car.

Doretti, Castle Combe C&SCAD

Frank completed the first car with a Reynolds 531 chrome-molydenum steel tube chassis on schedule and it was exhibited alongside a Triumph TR2, which Doretti parent Cal Specialities Company was also responsible for distributing.

Doretti, Castle Combe C&SCAD

From 1954 to 1955 around 280 Doretti’s were built in a factory with a maximum of just 18 employees.

Doretti, Castle Combe C&SCAD

The success of the Doretti frightened Jaguar, which was by now a large customer of the same TI Group that facilitated the birth of the Doretti, into giving Tube Investments an ultimatum to disengage from the Doretti project or loose the Jaguar account. Doretti production halted overnight on the receipt of the ultimatum and thus the Doretti name lives on in around 180 of the cars that are thought to have survived.

Hope you have enjoyed today’s Cal Specialities Company edition of ‘Getting a ‘lil psycho on tyres’ and that you’ll join me again tomorrow for a look at another European sports car that changed the image of it’s manufacturer forever. Don’t forget to come back now !