The Spirit of Ecstasy

449A26D6-7E29-4A46-BB11-52AE62F7EBE6

I saw a program on TV recently about the Bentley Bentayga, the new signature 4×4 developed by the luxury brand to appeal to a new market and selling at significantly over $200,000. The iconic Jack Barclay showroom in London’s Berkeley Square has been updated to cater for this new market with an extensive and slightly brutal makeover.

I don’t want to sound at all grumpy old bloke about this development, the car certainly does look refined and comfortable, albeit that it could be easily mistaken for an Audi Q7, but I get a little worried by the need for brands to extend – to reach out to a new market.  Arguably the brand needs updating but should they resist the temptation to simply following the crowd? Or is it that these cars are intended to be highly aspirational but are simply not special enough.

9B00084E-8D8E-4641-AD57-D6CA9890F21D

The Bentley “B” on the bonnet is still in place but the bonnet ornament – the chrome winged “B” is no longer – almost certainly for good Health and Safety, if not aerodynamic, reasons. Sadly, it seems a thing of the past. Well not for all manufacturers …and being fair the winged “B” does appear on the bonnet of the beautiful Bentley Mulsanne.

B94D97F0-5220-40E4-B986-1D878518954D

Originally conceived as a way of making a dull radiator cover more attractive only Rolls-Royce and Mercedes seem to continue the fine tradition of bonnet ornaments. The most iconic of these pieces of classic automobilia is, of course, The Spirit of Ecstasy.

In 1909 the then Lord Montagu of Beaulieu – a family inextricably linked to the world of motor cars and the founder of The Car Illustrated – sought something distinctive for the bonnet of his new Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. He commissioned sculptor Charles Robinson Sykes to produce a limited run of four figurines that became known as “The Whisperer”.

Some myth and legend surrounds the model, the sculptur’s muse, but it is said to be the Lord’s secret love, Eleanor Velasco Thornton, a Secretary from his office. Ms Thornton is depicted in flowing robes with her index-finger to her lips, perhaps keeping their love a secret? The affair is rumored to have endured for over ten years.

2ADD6CA3-78FB-448A-AC7E-C1F2A67B28EC

By 1910 Rolls-Royce took a “dim view” as to the appropriateness of these ornaments and co-founder, Claude Johnson, commissioned Sykes to invoke the mythical beauty of Nike – the Goddess of Victory – to produce a dignified and graceful mascot. Sykes wasn’t so impressed by the brief but preferred to deliver the beautiful, “The Spirit of Ecstasy”.

It was a clear variation of The Whisperer but Johnson was very pleased with Sykes’ creation on its arrival in February 1911. Royce, however, who was then ill, felt it disturbed the driver’s view!

F1570BC8-02FE-4462-AFAE-318F67D4A9F9

Initially an optional extra by the early 1920’s the figurine was fitted as standard. Given changes to coach-work various versions of The Spirit of Ecstasy were used and in the 1934 Sykes was again commissioned to produce a kneeling version for the Phantom iV.

1349BFD0-FF41-4D66-89CE-66C0DB3A4330

As of 2003 – the Phantom model and all subsequent versions carrying a reduced the Spirit of Ecstasy only 3 inches tall and mounted onot a spring-loaded cradle that retracts when hit or the engine is turned off. Some years and a smart use of technology resulted in this retractable mount that clearly suggests Rolls-Royce’s determination to ensure the longevity of their iconic sculpture.

Whilst the majority are stainless steel a frosted crystal, illuminated version is a factory option.

82FA5C84-5280-42F9-9F27-5779AA174E03

Images with grateful thanks – Tim Bishop, Jill Reger, Banham’s and Rolls-Royce Motors

If you like this post please “Like” and share it with your friends and colleagues. We’d really like to hear of your experiences of the products/subjects featured in this post. please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks 

Brompton Bicycles

CA55BB49-BFB3-4800-AF01-37183428400B

I really like to cycle. There’s a “wind in your hair” moment – obviously beneath your safety helmet – when you appreciate the liberty of your pace but also the penny drops that you are actually doing yourself some good. Stamina and a general feeling of wellbeing improve immensely from bike riding.

If you are a City commuter then the idea of riding to work may be somewhat daunting. Aside from the perils of other road users, including the crazy antics of cycle messengers/couriers – who are very time poor – and the inconsideration often shown to pedal power by motorists there are distinct health and wealth benefits. Provided the weather holds, many Cities now have dedicated bike routes offering the cyclists a reasonably direct line between home, through parks and tunnels to emerge close to their work place.

Once you arrive at work – what on earth do you do with your prized bike? You can park it in a designated cycle rack with all manner of heavy “U” locks or chains seeking to prevent theft or why not carry it and place it under your desk!

Yes, armed with an engineering degree from Cambridge University and a somewhat thwarted career in computer science, Andrew Richie’s City Analysist father introduced him to those seeking to commercialize the Bickerton Bike. A patented model of collapseable bike produced entirely from aluminum profiles with no welding and reasonably light.

After extensive modification of the earlier idea to ensure that the dirtiest parts of the bike – primarily the chain – were central to the folded vehicle and named after the Brompton Oratory that could be seen from his flat, in Egerton Gardens, where he developed the first prototypes, James filed his second patent in 1979 for his folding bike. The Patent was granted on the 30th May 1984.

I am very relieved to hear that James Ritchie appears to be in that rare group of perhaps eccentric British inventors, that would logically include James Dyson and Clive Sinclair and Trevor Baylis, that are truely obsessed by their design and live and breath the prospect for their invention. Mr Richie certainly believed in his invention and spent an inordinate amount of time bringing it to market. He readily admits to being a perfectionist for whom all the design and manufacturing details needed to be just right. His belief has proved to be correct.

The Brompton is an iconic and memorable site on the street of London, New York and San Francisco.

His modesty as to his design talents is disarming. He quite rightly notes that he combined the elements of a bicycle that have been around since the Victorian era. He credits Alex Moulton – who we first heard of in relation to his design work on the suspension of Sir Alec Issigonnis’ Mini – see our pervious post here – Mini – the best selling car in Britain  who popularized the smaller wheeled bicycle and without this Mr Richie believes that he would not have conceived the idea of the Brompton.

F642B1DA-FA2C-42FB-982C-620AC36773BD

It appears that a favourite pastime for the legions of fans of the Brompton folding bike – aside from selecting your preferred vehicle from the company’s wide range of options, alternative parts and accessories that may be tailored to your individual needs – is to add a Brooks saddle, perhaps giving the bike a slightly more noble look. We have celebrated the iconic saddles made by Brooks in Smethwick (West Midlands) – please see our earlier post here – Brooks bicycle saddle

The cleaver team at Brompton based at their production facility in West London have devised and recently launched a Brompton bike that is powered by human and battery! See their video here Brompton’s First Electric Bike

7B7DC4EE-7605-49F3-BF45-35038FFEC7B6

Can I interest you in a Brompton? The ever popular M6L model is available in either blue or black – please click on the Amazon link below the image of each bike

C735BAA9-AD3B-4F6F-B493-B51D79105A5E

BROMPTON M6L 2017 Tempest Blue Folding Bike

E114F6AC-0B5F-4AFE-9D41-D4803F8CEDCA

BROMPTON M6L 2017 Black Folding Bike

Or perhaps you’d prefer the same look in a lighter Brompton bike – the H6L – please click the link below the image

218513FA-6836-43CA-9022-70B9D9D775E7

Brompton H6L Superlight 2017 Folding Bike Black Titanium

STOP PRESS

The Independent, one of the UK’s more objective newspapers, in June 2018, carried a very well reasoned piece concerning electric bikes – including Brompton’s very own version. Read the piece By David Phelan here Best Electric Bikes

If you liked this post please “Like” and share it with your friends. We’d really like to hear your experiences of the subject(s) featured in this post. Please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks

Image Credits – with grateful thanks Brompton Bicycles and James Richie

Morgan Cars

D362B711-1980-4184-BA7D-20341675D6DD

It may be seen as era specific, but back in the 1940’s, as any Hollywood movie will attest the “half timbered” car was not at all unusual. The huge eight seater Chrysler Town and Country dating from 1941 is perhaps, in many ways, the most iconic example of the Woodie, partly as it became the surfer’s station-wagon of choice. Wood was used as opposed to metal both for budget as well as design reasons. Others had equally evocative names the Pontiac Torpedo, the Nash Suburban and the Buick Roadmaster.

A0C3FB42-1B2C-4362-A141-0B2C1926D51E

In 1950’s railway carriages – particularly in France – were made of wood. Solid wood furniture was made up to the 1960’s ahead of “advancements” such as Formica. The surrounds of a Butler’s Sinks in any self respecting 1940’s scullery were always wood.

I recently saw publicity shot for a country house hotel that had a bright green Morris 1000 Traveller in the front drive. Denoting no doubt, that in addition to highly anticipated, hot and cold running water, the hotel would spare no expense to transport its guests back to a drafty era that creaked on the bends. The Traveller – for which I have great affection – was launched in October 1953 and was based on the Sir Alec Issigonis’ – the designer of the Mini – see our earlier piece here – Mini – the best selling car in Britain Morris Minor that debuted in September 1948.

87F4FC32-FB8F-4312-8D21-8D402DC953A0

So let’s be clear that the use of wood in car manufacturer – quite literally – “Went Out With The Ark”. Or did it?

I am fascinated by Morgan Cars, above all, for their quintessential Englishness. They have character and cannot be ignored when assessing iconic sports cars. They also continue to have a waiting list that at times has exceeded ten years but is said to currently be around six months.

Founded in 1910 by Henry FS Morgan in Malvern (Worcestershire, England) who ran the business until his death in 1959 at the age of 77. In 1911, Morgan started building affordable – they attracted a lower road tax as they were treated as motorcycles  – and stable three wheelers. An early version of the three wheeler was shown at the 1911 Motor Cycle Show and Harrod’s took an agency to sell them in London priced at £65.

My family legend has my late father (a Brooklands Circuit Trustee until his death in 1991) being nearly totalled in a three wheeler driven by his school pal and the UK’s first Formula One World Championship (1958), Mike Hawthorn.

660441F6-1DD3-48D7-A3AF-12A0AD333C0E

By 1935, in response to more realistically priced four wheeled cars, including Ford’s Popular, the more familiar Morgan “4-4” – four cylinders and four wheels – and Morgan’s first four-wheeled car, was launched at a price of £194. A four seater model was released in 1937 and in 1938 a four seater drop-head version was launched. In 1938 a 4-4 was entered for Le Mans. World War II intervened and production stopped until 1950 when an in-line four cylinder Standard Vanguard engine was used.

The company continues to be 100% family owned and produces more than 1300 cars annually that are all assembled by hand. Unusually, Morgan – despite some run-ins with the Health and Safety guys – particularly in the USA – continue to build their cars with an Ash wooden frame and body shell – the chassis being, of course, metal.

The Plus4 Morgan models launched in 1953, 1956 and 1968 used the Triumph TR2, TR3 and TR4A engines. See our previous post here – Triumph TR2, TR3 and TR4

C56749BF-AE57-405E-835A-A39AE211B94A

In 1955 production of the 4-4 was revived with the Plus8 chassis and a Ford engine.

7568C951-92E0-41A7-BD42-AACA33D3D602

In 1968, Morgan used the Rover V8 (later the Land Rover version) Engine – delivering much better acceleration – to launch the Morgan Plus8 – our featured image – and my favourite Morgan. This model was fazed out in 2004.

5EACA93F-453F-49DE-A134-1CE1D0EFE3E3

The Morgan Aero 8 was first introduced in 2002 and went through a series of incarnations with the most recent iteration being launched in 2015.

76A69A97-0015-45CB-99E0-B5D1A8C6495C

The Aero 8 was followed in 2008 by the Aeromax that was limited to 100 units. A targa-roofed version, the Aero SuperSports, was launched in 2009 but production ceased in 2015. An Aero Coupe, hard topped version of the SuperSports, was launched in 2011 and withdrawn in 2015.

Whilst a great condition Morgan Plus8 can now fetch a King’s Ransom why not place this scale model die-cast on your shelf. Please click the link below the image

FA418B47-75DD-4633-B9F0-70EBF6C26F21

MORGAN PLUS EIGHT MODEL CAR 1:43 SCALE GREEN CARARAMA SPORTS OPEN TOP K8

If you liked this post please “Like” and share it with your friends. We’d really like to hear your experiences of the subject(s) featured in this post. Please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks.

Photo credits – with grateful thanks – Charles Ware’s http://www.morrisminor.org.uk/40-traveller-wood, Hemmings and Richard Thorpe Classic Cars.

 

Triumph TR2, TR3 and TR4

927F63AC-FEB8-4A2C-958E-C33D6AC5485C

The response to our recent post featuring the Triumph Stag – see our previous post here – Triumph Stag was phenomenal. Whilst watching a film set in the 1950’s that featured a dashing young chap arriving to pick up his lady love in an early Triumph sports model, I decided to dig deeper into the Triumph Stags’ ancestry. I discovered that the star of the TV show was a Triumph TR2 – quite a stunner.

I have never suited the image of cordouroys, a flat cap and a pipe-smoker but these seem almost compulsory for the devotees of the sprightly, iconic and classic English sports cars.

A model described as the 20TS (unofficially the TR1) was shown at the London Motor Show in October 1952 – see below a rare photo of this prototype – to a mixed reception. The then Chairman of Standard-Triumph, Sir John Black, requested the assessment of the 20TS from BRM’s development engineer and test driver, Ken Richardson. It was so damning – a slow, poor handling death-trap – that Sir John sought Black’s help to redesign the car.

67F956F0-08B3-46CD-964B-5F0C997F45C8

Black’s efforts resulted in substantial improvements and in March 1953, at the Geneva Motor Show, the TR2 debuted. It benefitted from a parts pool culled from the Standard Motors range that gave the TR2 excellent reliability, albeit with rather basic handling and an uncomfortable ride. It sold between 1953 and 1955.

F53B4016-F944-4254-BAE9-DFC5B03123B3

In 1955, the TR2, as a result of minor styling changes and an upgraded engine became the TR3 – “Small Mouth”.

50F690FD-51A5-4A6D-A677-AEEF96C4AD6E

In 1956 Girling Disc brakes on the front were added exponentially improving the braking. Styling changes alone to the TR3 in 1957 resulted in the TR3A – as it is often described – was, for me, the nadir of good design for this series. Although far from “modern”, the TR3As were appreciated in both Europe and the US with annual production exceeding 10,000 vehicles.

In 1962 TR3B entered production and look virtually identical to the TR3A but with engine and carburetor upgrade. It was offered concurrently with the new TR4 in response to dealers concerns about the TR4 being regarded by the core audience as being too modern.

2C622DD8-F6FE-42D0-9FAF-C01EA21E6721

 

Realizing that the TR3 needed a significant facelift in 1961 Triumph engaged Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti – already well known for his work with Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and BMW – to design the TR4. His boxier body looked much more modern with a larger cabin, although under the skin it was largely a TR3 with upgraded steering. Michelotti designed extensively for Triumph, his work included the Triumph Stag.

5583263C-B3AF-4F19-AF0A-A397B9A1F8BF

In 1965, the TR4 became TR4A with a much improved ride, a more tuned engine and quieter exhaust.

FA5CB138-59E2-4D1B-83C5-689B1DB1B2A1

For me the TR4 with its wire wheels and elegant lines is the definitive small English sports car.

The TR3 and TR4 saw production runs in the region of 70,000 cars each so there’s lots of potential examples out there both those that are Concours ready and those that could benefit from a significant re-build. Checking sites like http://www.hemmings.com or http://www.erclassics.com will demonstrate that a price range – depending on condition between £5,000 and £30,000.

5B42D464-915C-4322-A378-B7CD8B25D99F

You’ve been promising yourself that you’ll find a classic sports car to rebuild – perhaps now’s the right time.

Would a Buyer’s Guide to the TR2 and TR3’s assistant you in your quest? If so, published in July 2018 is an Essential Buyers Guide –  click the AMAZON link below the image to order your copy

E2A6E46B-340B-44E3-B37B-AB45BCD84997.jpeg

Triumph TR2, & TR3 – All models (including 3A & 3B) 1953 to 1962: Essential Buyer’s Guide

If a TR4 is more your thing then there is also and Essential Buyer’s Guide for this model – click the AMAZON link below the image to get your copy

9515A4E2-D02B-4065-A5F4-A740BE4818E7.jpeg

Triumph TR4/4A & TR5/250 – All models 1961 to 1968 (Essential Buyer’s Guide)

You’ll, of course need a trusty Haynes Owner’s Worshop Manual – get a copy here that covers the TR2 to TR4A – please click on the AMAZON link below the image

64BAC587-8EDB-4032-BE2A-F028F2DE80D4.jpeg

Haynes 0028 Car Maintenance Service Repair Manual

I do appreciate that your enthusiasm may only stretch to wearing the T shirt – in this case a personalised vehicle registration plate – if so, please click on the AMAZON link below the image

FB5C4426-AD49-4561-99C3-E077F428A969

Triumph TR2, TR3, TR4, TR5, TR6, TR7 Chassis Plate T-Shirt *PERSONALISED* Model & Reg Plate (M, Charcoal)

If you liked this post please “Like” and share it with your friends. We’d really like to hear your experiences of the subject(s) featured in this post. Please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks

Photo Credits – with grateful thnaks – Hemings.com, Standard-Triumph

Mini – the best selling car in Britain

IMG_0121

Relatively few of us can actually remember the Sixties, there are, however, true icons that were spawned in the era of Pop Culture that have grown in popularity with the passing of time. They have cemented their place in world’s consciousness like no marketing campaign could ever achieve.

One such revered treasure is British Motor Corporation’s (BMC) truly iconic “Mini”.

A crumb of comfort to all budding design geniuses the Mini’s designer, Sir Alec Issigonis’, during his Engineering studies at the Battersea Polytechnic failed his maths paper three times. Despite this his skills were recognised by both Austin and Morris where he was employed in the late 1930’s – working on a predecessor to the Morris Minor – prior to their fusion into BMC in 1952.

After a brief stint with Alvis, in 1955 Issigonis left at the invitation of BMC’s boss Sir Leonard Lord to work with a small design team on three new designs. With the Suez Crisis in 1956 the project was scaled down to concentrate on a small car code-named XC/9003. The result was a transverse four cylinder water cooled engine and front-wheel drive which allowed a greater percentage of the car to be used for passengers. The car also featured a down-scaled rubber cone suspension system designed by Alex Moulton (the eponymous bicycle designer).

Mini 1

In August 1959, the car was launched as two models, the Morris Mini Minor – the first bearing registration “621 AOK” – and the Austin Seven (later to be known as “the Austin Mini”). Issigonis’ design was initially manufactured at Longbridge and Cowley – BMC’s plants – and later made under license all over the world.  The Mini become the best selling British car in history with a production run of over 5.3 million cars.

IMG_0123

Variants included the Clubman, Traveller, the half-timbered Countryman, the Moke, Reilly Elf, Wolseley Hornet and the sizzling 1275GT.

IMG_0120

Moke 1

Performance versions, the Mini Cooper and Cooper “S”, were realised by Issigonis in collaboration with John Cooper who specialised in designing and maintaining racing cars. Cooper saw the potential in these small cars that drove like a go-kart on ten inch Dunlop tyres. They were hugely successful winning the Monte Carlo Rally three times.

IMG_0119

In 1969, a coup for early product placement, Mini’s were seen being triumphant in the film “The Italian Job” – alongside Michael Caine and Noel Coward – Aston Martin DB4/DB5

Mini Psycho 2

My wife’s first car was a resprayed – from gold to red – and treasured Mini that was stolen in Streatham (South London, UK) in the early 1990’s much to her sadness.

In the mid-1970’s my Aunt Molly, simply one of the coolest people I have ever known, had a Harvest Gold version. She and her husband had lived in South Kensington and holidayed in Juan Les Pins. She wore Pringle and Ferragamo but Todds to drive in.

IMG_0126

BMW acquired the Rover Group (formerly British Leyland – the successor to BMC) in 1994 and sold-on most of it to other manufacturers, retaining the rights to build cars using the “Mini” name.

The last Mini – a red Cooper Sport – to made in Longbridge was built in October 2000.

IMG_0125

The later re-imagination of the Mini brand by BMW would have been inconceivable without the role played by the original but BMW are certainly making the most of its heritage. Launched in 2001, under the masterful eyes of designer, Frank Stephenson, the early designs of the “New Mini” embraced much of the retro feel of its predecessor and has certainly achieved the status of a classic design. Only time will tell if it achieves a similar iconic status in its own right.

Mini Con Cooper

If you liked this post please “Like” and share it with your friends. We’d really like to hear your experiences of the subject(s) featured in this post. Please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks

Images courtesy of BMW and others.