Newsletter March 2010 – Number 21
Exciting new book coming out in May
Museums around the world you may not have heard of: Sommers Automobile Museum in Denmark
Questions from our readers
Contemporaries and Peers Instalment 3: Williams and Pritchard.
Lotus books (recommended reading)
Lotus books (one for the library).
Lotus interest on YOUTUBE
All previous articles relating to these are held on the website.
1. Exciting new book coming out in May
Inside the innovator
Colin Chapman was one of the greatest ever creative forces in the automotive world but he left behind a mixed legacy. Was he an unparalleled innovator who advanced the state of the art of sports and racing cars? Or was he an uninhibited exploiter of the uncredited ideas of others? In death as well as life Colin Chapman excites fevered debate about his achievements and methods. Now Karl Ludvigsen gets to grips with the legend, digging deep beneath the skin of Chapman and his cars to explore and expose the motivations that drove this mercurial genius.
2. Sommer’s Automobile Museum
The cars in Sommer’s Automobile Museum have been collected over 50 years. The first cars were for many years lent out to various Danish Museums, and were in 1980 brought together on the top floor in the Sommer Car Dealership at Naerum Hovedgade 1.
The Museum does not exhibit a great number of cars, but the collection is of a quality, which should enable the visitors to share the enthusiasm over technical history and over car history, which has been one of the major influences behind creation of the Museum.
There are several motives: First of all a romantic attitude towards motoring and technique, evident in the choice of sporty creations from the most exciting periods: The years between the two world wars plus the first 20 years after the 2nd WW. The collection also illustrates close relationship to the products Sommer has been involved with: Jaguar which the company imported from 1945 to 1972, and Volvo which was distributed from 1957 to 2003 and finally Gardner Marine Engines which were imported from 1947 to 1993.
The selection of cars is also influenced by a wish to illustrate technical development and to demonstrate how our forefathers long ago experimented with early versions of to-days technical solutions.
The collection also contains examples of constructions created by Sommer – starting in 1950 with an effort to create a Danish car production continued by limited production-runs in 1972/73 plus 1983/85 and also some individual creations.
The description of each car in the Museum comprises the technical specifications supplemented by stories about the motor car itself.
Several of the cars also provide the basis for anecdotes about how Sommer obtained the car in question and the Museum owes thanks to interesting persons at home and abroad, including several good friends, who have assisted in locating the cars or have been persuaded to hand them over to the Museum.
Volvo and Jaguar are important in the Museum, but Ole Sommer’s fascination by important technical solutions have also influenced the collection and has resulted in selection of sporty and noble automobiles, including Bentley, Bugatti, Lancia, Maserati, Riley.
The Museum comprises interesting automobiles built in Denmark, such as S1, Volvo Special, Joker and OScar. There are also more ordinary cars, experimental products, model cars etc.
Detailed technical and historic information is to be found everywhere.
The museum contains 2.000 model cars – many of these are owned by the museum, but the majority is based on 2 private collections, kindly made available by Ole Dorfelt from Holte and by the late motor journalist and author Hans Eric Boesgaard. Both of these collections have been created during frequent trips abroad.
Sundays 14.00 PM – 17.00 PM
When there is a temporary exhibiton also Wednesdays 18.00 PM – 21.00 PM
Groups of at least 20 persons all week. Reservation required. Please contact the office for further informations.
Closed on public holidays and between Christmas and New Year.
Admission: Kr. 50,-/person
Persons younger than 15 years only accompanied by adults.
Thank you Leo Jenbo for the suggestion.
3. Question (can you help?)…This time a request
We frequently get asked from around the world quite amazing questions , so far we have used a limited group to try and answer them, not always successfully. So we now put them on our website and see if any “friends” know the answer. Still many unanswered questions on our website can you help?.
I wonder if you could help me, I have a built up vehicle listed on the original logbook as an Austin Scorpion sports tourer, a petrol engined 747cc 2 seater sports car, chassis, frame or car number being SYCC 113/3144009 and an engine number of M119 167, date of 1st registration 1962.
I have been informed that it could possibly be a Colin Chapman or Brabham, any information you could give me would be much appreciated.
4. CONTEMPORARIES AND PEERS
INSTALMENT 3: Williams and Pritchard.
Quoted by Frank Costin in Thoroughbred and Classic Car, May 1992
“I have always admired Len and Charlie’s sheer technical ability having seen them carry out almost unbelievable feats .I think I am more qualified than most to appreciate their work ;for altogether they made the bodywork for no fewer than 15 of my designs.
I don’t think they themselves recognised how great they were”
Praise indeed. Much of the success of Lotus both competitive and aesthetic [sales / appreciation etc] may be attributed to their workmanship. See our website article devoted to Aesthetic appreciation.
Williams and Pritchard poses the skill of the ultimate craftsmen in their intimacy of knowledge and empathy with materials equipped to make them designers too with a rare gift of elevating craft skill to a highly developed aesthetic based on refined sense of proportion, massing and fitness for purpose.
History and Business Interests
Posterity has not recorded if the partners completed formal apprenticeships. The quality of their work might suggest this. It has been suggested that these craftsmen acquired experience working for bespoke London coachbuilders; possibly Hooper, Park Ward or Mulliner.
During the Second World War both men turned their skills to making panels for Spitfires. This was an interesting and appropriate connection. They would have been conversant with the high level of technology used and would have easily conversed with the engineers from De Havilland that became involved in Lotus. No doubt they probably understood the reason for the exacting standards associated with aerodynamics and would execute these accurately and not merely stylistically.
Immediately post war Britain was in acute austerity but Williams and Pritchard set up together c 1948 possibly in Enfield, North London. A suggestion has been made that they undertook repair work but possibly also some work on A.C. saloons.
Within a small area of North London there was a network of skilled craftsmen some of whom had attended school together. It is both natural and convenient that they should link up especially around shared interests in Motor sport etc.
Thus one of the most significant partnerships in Motor Sport was forged. I do not think it can be under estimated that Colin Chapman the innovative designer from so early on in his career should be able to access the services of such competent craftsmen who could so thoroughly integrate ad execute the designs.
John Teychenne [Progress Chassis] possibly assisted by Len Terry [see our series on contemporaries] designed and constructed what might have been a dual sports and trails car. This was registered as YHX 344.
This car was bodied by Williams and Pritchard. John Teychenne was impressed. John was based at 19 Ribblesdale Road which was opposite the Railway Hotel and the stable block where Colin was to establish Lotus. [See photographs. The actual site is under current redevelopment] It is very possible that Progress constructed the chassis for the early Lotus trial cars but their most significant involvement came with the Lotus Mk.VI. It is believed that approximately 100 cars were built from 1952.
The semi stressed aluminium bodies for the space frame chassis were contracted to W&P. The advertisements for the period quote prices for both chassis construction and separate body work.
The production of 100 cars during this period is extremely significant. Not many present day specialist firms achieve this for one model. The prices for the period were expensive [a future article on social history will convey the relativities]. The Mk.VI enjoyed considerable success on the track within the “1172” Formula. The regular work would have employed several men.
It is believed that at a stage in the early 1950’d during the Mk.VI production life that W&P were based as part of the stable block in Tottenham Lane, Hornsey.
It has been quipped that W&P were “an arm’s length in house body work team” for Lotus at this stage.
During the 1960’s it is believed that W&P may have had additional premises in Hammersmith , West London. However by the mid 1960’s it seems that they had located at 25 First Avenue, Edmonton, London, N18.
With the development of fibre glass it was natural that W&P would be interested. Their ability to first create aluminium moulds gave them a start in the process and thereafter the commercial possibility of higher volumes.
It is believed that W&P produced a rage of fibre glass items that included bonnets for Sprites, fastbacks for Spitfires,Taga tops for M.G.’s , Broadspeed Mini panels and tops for the Élan coupe.
It is believed that sadly both craftsmen have now passed away. Although there are other skilled craftsmen the concentrations of complementary and empathetic skills were a major significance in Lotus success. The skill, dedication and goodwill of the craftsman must not be overlooked.
Typical Constructional Detail
The quality of the workmanship is difficult to fully appreciate on a completed and painted car. The best way the editor feels that he can explain is with reference to the cowl piece for the Lotus Mk.VI. The design and construction of this item involves 5 pieces. On completion and seen externally this is barely evident. [Please see photographs and diagrams.]Some of the primary factors are:
The cowl piece be detachable for access to primary instruments and wiring
That it meet with the body and dove tail with passenger side
That it be recessed to meet and provide flush fitting to bonnet line
That it allow some protection for the driver and fitting of a simple screen
That it follows the chassis hoop; sits with the dashboard and provides clearance to instruments.
The component parts have to be welded without distortion and be secured with Dzus fasteners.
The Essential Equipment
Wheel often known as English Wheel
Hand tools, riveter etc
Cutters and hacksaw
Quality /time and Cost
Len Pritchard is believed to have said to the effect that a Lotus Eleven body would take one man approximately 10-12 weeks to complete .However in period with a multiple workforce and semi mass production this might be reduced to three weeks.
Although there can be no disagreement regarding quality there was a down side.
There is some evidence to suggest that Colin Chapman found these costs expensive and that a production car would be prohibitive on this basis. It would seem that there was some attempt to simplify the Lotus Seven and that the more accident damageable and expensive items [nose cone and rear wings] were made in fibre glass due to costs involved.
Lotus: Coachwork / Bodies
Formula 2 bodies.
Non Lotus :
Motor cycle fairings
Speedwell and Sebring Sprites
Replicas “D” Type under contract to Lynx and Wingfield
Mini Scorpion Broadspeed
Williams and Pritchard by Mike Lawrence, Classic and Sports Car, March 1989
Author John Scott-Davies
5. No additions to the recommended reading this month
6. Lotus books one for the library
Rob Walker by MIchael Cooper-Evans
This book tells the story of Rob Walkers life and his involvement in Motor Sport beginning in the 1930’s. There are strong links with Lotus, the cars, the drivers. the races all make this a fascinating story. This was a very different era of motor racing and covers drivers ranging from Moss to Jo Siffert.
7. Lotus Collectables
This is a 1:6 scale 4WD 3 speed nitro gas Powered Lotus Elise. The Car comes with a 4WD Engine, complete kit with body & a 2 CH pistol remote control with 2 servos! The car has a solid aluminum chassis! The car is 100% assembled and ready to race right out of the box. The car is 80% part compatibility & modification with other brands such as Traxxas, HPI & etc. You can change the body kit into car shells! You can upgrade/modify the engine. You can also add new tires, suspension & more!
8. Lotus interest on “YouTube”
One item on Youtube maybe of interest our readers
A lot of great footage.
Onboard with Jim Clark 1963
Thank you for your continued interest and support
Editors of the newsletter
Jamie Duncan (webmaster)