Another mystery car

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Discussion

uk66fastback

14,624 posts

226 months

Monday 4th February 2019
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So what did they have for the floor then in that shell? Cos when he got in it, his feet were in the floor!? I expected there to be a 'tub', but there didn't seem to be any floors in this one.

threespires

Original Poster:

3,514 posts

166 months

Monday 4th February 2019
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Great video. I enjoyed that

Dr G

13,897 posts

197 months

Wednesday 6th February 2019
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My latest round of googling (yielding practically nothing); Lloyd Motor Works in the late 1950s and early 1960s produced cars with similar design cues. The windscreen, door going into the wing, overriders, fin tail lights all present on various models.





Straws... Clutching...

eldar

14,391 posts

151 months

Thursday 7th February 2019
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The latter picture looks rather like a scaled down 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. Particularly the two tone finish.

tapkaJohnD

1,413 posts

159 months

Thursday 7th February 2019
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Lloyd/Borgward Arabella, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lloyd_Arabella

Give away "Arabella" on wing of car.

John

borrani72

176 posts

17 months

Sunday 10th February 2019
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Hi guys,

Very impressed by all the insight and work done so far.

My father had a copy of this book, so I've been wondering about the car for a few decades now! I always assumed, as with other unknown cars, that I would find its' identity in a book or magazine one day….


Whilst looking at the image, I became vaguely aware of something odd in the perspective. Didn't think much of it at the time, until I was looking at this photoshop version, where it became even more noticeable……





Then I realized that the rear wheel looks somehow closer to us than the front. Notice where the wheels are clipped at the bottom of the image – they are cut through at almost the same height by the edge of the picture, whilst the car is at more of an angle.

Because the photographer is quite high up – I picture him walking around with a large camera and a small stepladder – I'm pretty sure what we are seeing here is that the front track is narrower than the rear.




Above: Parallel lines show offset of wheels - note how tyre is above lower-line at front, below at rear - note also the front-wheel centre is above the line (sorry, not the clearest image I'm afraid)




threespires previously commented about a restricted turning circle, but if the front wheels are fairly inboard, this would not be the case, rather just an optical effect due to the high angle of the image.



PHOTOGRAMMETRY

As the image of the car is fairly close to being side-on, I thought I'd try some very, very basic photogrammetry (the science of making measurements from photographs).

Firstly, I printed-out the image. Then I measured the wheelbase and the diameter of the wheel discs of the mystery car. When I measured the wheel discs, they were so close to being the same size that the difference is indistinguishable by eye, so the results should not be effected by perspective distortion to any noticeable extent.



By comparing the relative sizes (wheel/wheelbase) from the photo' with those of a known car, it is possible to eliminate those vehicles that don't fit.



For Example:

The Austin-Healey Sprite/MG Midget was suggested as a possible base for the mystery car.

The Sprite Wheelbase is 2032mm and the wheel size 13 inch (330mm).

My printout gave an measured wheelbase of 85.2mm and a wheel disc of 17.8mm for the mystery car.


Divide 2032mm by 85.2mm = 23.85 (the ratio between wheelbases). This is telling us that my printout image is an approximation of a scale drawing at 1/23.85 scale (though only if the car is a Sprite, as this is where we got the 2032mm from).

If the mystery car is indeed a Sprite, then the same ratio that applies to the wheelbases will apply between the wheels of the mystery car and those of the Sprite.

So, multiply the wheeldisc size from the picture by this ratio – 17.8mm x 23.85 =424.5mm. The actual size of the wheel disc on the mystery car (though again, only if it has the same wheelbase as the Sprite).

Sprite wheels are 13 inch/330mm. Far smaller than 424.5 mm. The car is not a Sprite, unless it's wearing some very big wheels.



(Some caution is needed with this approach, because wheel sizes are based upon the size of the hole in the tyre, not the outer rim diameter of the wheel, which is slightly larger).



It would also be useful to know the exact height of the Triumph TR overrider discussed earlier by _Sorted_, to allow a comparison to the wheel disc size.








FORD/AUSTIN BASED SPECIAL?

Given the approximate size of the vehicle, it seems quite likely to be Ford 8/10 or Austin Seven based special. With that in mind, I decided to compare the image dimensions to these cars.

Not as simple as I had thought. The Ford could be a 7Y, an Anglia E04A, Prefect E93A, Model C 10 etc. I'm a little lost here, but the Anglia and prefect have equal track front and rear, so I don't think they are right.

Does anybody know whether there may be other Fords not listed above that were used for specials, or indeed whether they all have equal track dimensions? Does anybody have wheelbase and wheel sizes for any of these, some of the data I have found is contradictory?


I had more luck with the Austin Sevens. Firstly, in all cases, the front axle is narrower than the rear.

Early cars had a wheelbase of 6'3”, and wheels sizes of 26” or 19”.

Later cars 6'9”, with wheels of 19” or 17”.

None of these combinations fitted the mystery car.

Then I looked at the Austin Big Seven. Wheelbase 7'3”, wheels 16”

The Big Seven has the same wheelbase/wheel diameter ratio as the mystery car, and also a narrower front track, again like the mystery car.


Below: Austin Big Seven







Is this boot-lid (below) the same panel - up-side-down - as on the car above?






Comparing the mystery car to the Big Seven it occurred to me that, if I were building a special on this chassis, that flat, fold-down spare wheel cover on the back of the body might just make a rather good boot lid. Could this be the slightly ill-fitting panel just visible below the rear window on the mystery car?

By turning the panel up-side-down, so the hinge is now at the top/front and the latch end now forming the suitably curved trailing edge, this would give just the right curve for the rear-end of a fastback to follow. It would also leave the boot handle exactly where the mystery car has its' boot handle – somewhere behind and below the tips of the rear fins………




To this end, I found some scale drawings of the Big Seven (above, and the black 3-view illustration earlier), and scaling from the mystery car photo's, we would get something like this……….













AUSTIN BIG SEVEN

Summing-up:


The ratio of wheelbase/wheel diameter matches precisely the mystery car

Front track narrower than rear, like mystery car. (Front 1095mm, rear 1143mm on the Big Seven)

Engine would fit under the bonnet, even though taller than that in a 'baby' Seven

Antiquated 3-stud wheel mountings would preclude the use of modern wheels and could explain the after-market wheel discs – the only way to hide those utility wheels

Rear panel from saloon could be the boot lid of the mystery car

The inner wheel-arch of the Big Seven (photo below) sits quite high compared with the road wheel and could well explain the curved, tapering gap between the wheel-arch and door cut-out on the mystery car.



Below: On mystery car photo', I measured the gap between the wheelarch and door cut-out - it tapers downward




Austin Sevens, including Big Sevens, were commonly used as spacials, so good parts/upgrade availability in-period







Some of these, individually, could apply to any number of old cars, but I would suggest this Austin is a strong candidate as everything I can think to look at seems to fit so well……..


REGISTRATION

Perhaps, if we can assume it is a Big Seven, somebody would have a better chance of finding it through London registration documents that were mentioned earlier? Looking closely at the photo', it would appear to be a short number, between 3 and five characters long. I'm not sure that the year would be listed on these documents, but if it is, that could also help as the Big Seven was only built from 1938 to 1939.

It has been suggested that the last two characters are 'JJ', though I wonder whether they ar '13', but with the top of the '3' formed by two straight lines (like the top two strokes of the letter 'z'.


GULLWING DOORS

Perhaps those doors started life on a light aircraft – gullwing doors are not an uncommon solution in small aeroplanes.




I have asked Tobin Lee at impdb (the Internet Movie Plane Database) whether he would ask his members to help identify the doors. I shall keep you informed if anything comes of this, but hopefully somebody reading this can take this forward as it's well outside my area of expertise……..


IDENTITY OF BUILDER

I am convinced this car shows considerable expertise – those panel gaps are pretty impressive. Those lipped arches are very professional. That long, compound-curved bonnet seems distortion-free……..

Whoever built this has not just skills, but access to a well-equipped workshop. Enquiries regarding coachbuilders seem to have drawn a blank (so-far, at least), but I wonder whether the builder could have connections with the aviation industry (especially if those doors do turn-out to be from an aircraft) – which may explain the lack of any publicity in car circles.

Alternatively, could the car have been posed deliberately by the photographer – it's definitely front and centre, and looks as though the image was retouched below the rear wing to make the shape of the car stand-out more. Could it be parked with its' wheels on the kerb – just out of shot – so as to include it in the photo'?

Perhaps its' inclusion is some long-forgotten in joke. You know – “why don't we see if we can get Uncle Charlie's special into print”. Things were sooo different before the internet! If so, it's a pity they didn't share just a little information in that incredibly uninformative caption…….

Alternatively, was he somebody connected with commercial vehicle/ bus body building? Again, not moving in car circles…..


CHAS S DUNBAR

Chas S Dunbar, the author of the book, has a number of publications to his name – often credited as Charles S Dunbar. These are mainly on buses and trams, at least one on road haulage and another entitled TRANSPORT ODDITIES – a Swift Picture Book. This latter title was published in 1962 – if anybody has a copy, it might be worth just checking…….

I also wonder whether Mr Dunbar himself took the photograph. Also, if he's interested in 'transport oddities', I would imagine that little car would have caught his eye, even if he didn't have a book project where it would have been a more natural fit?


The book from which this picture was taken, Buses, Trolleys and Trams, was reissued around 2006, so somebody still owns and actively manages the copyright to the work and to the images. Hamlyn, the original publishers, are now part of Octopus books, so I shall make enquiries about who owns this image, and whether there might, just possibly, be any more……..







LarJammer

1,867 posts

165 months

Sunday 10th February 2019
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Very impressed! I somehow wonder if this thread will ever be left to die or if we will continue until a resolution is found. Hopefully in a barn.

borrani72

176 posts

17 months

Sunday 10th February 2019
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We need to find something solid - if we can find registration documents, or talk to the author, then just maybe we'll get some answers. Or maybe it's still tucked in a garage or barn somewhere........

RDMcG

15,027 posts

162 months

Sunday 10th February 2019
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borrani72 said:
We need to find something solid - if we can find registration documents, or talk to the author, then just maybe we'll get some answers. Or maybe it's still tucked in a garage or barn somewhere........
Still, the work you have done is very impressive and advances the case.

borrani72

176 posts

17 months

Sunday 10th February 2019
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Thank you

dandarez

11,259 posts

238 months

Sunday 10th February 2019
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Agree about the 'impressive'. Going to the extreme almost. Trouble is tasks like this can drive you literally insane! hehe

Re Hamlyn taken over by Octopus Books - best of luck with that, like many old publishers they invariably belong these days to a 'group' company - Octopus is now Octopus Publishing Group who own dozens of imprints (ie other book publishers).
I know a little having been a book publisher since 1987 but never got swallowed up like so many.

In fact, one newly set up book printing company nicked my 'imprint' name back in the 90s. I used to get phone calls from Heathrow usually with someone angry on the other end: 'We have 3 pallets of your books here - we know they're yours because your company name is on the labels, but you've not supplied a sodding invoice or document in sight!'
I used to just laugh and tell them I wasn't 'that' ***********. 'You'll find them on this tel number, xxxxxxxx'.
Then they'd apologise and laugh with me!.
I'd always hoped for a huge cheque to drop though my letterbox payable to ************. I think I might just have banked it too for a laugh!
I almost had one title printed by them, just so it could have said 'published by *********** and printed by *************. Last laugh was mine though when they, like many, got swallowed by a bigger than them company. I think they've disappeared altogether now.

As for chatting to the author of the book, you'll have a job! Charles Stuart Dunbar died in 1993.

I have some notes on him.
He began work as an ed assistant on a London newspaper before he becoming circulation and transport manager for an evening newspaper co between 1920-30. He joined the Birmingham & Midland Motor Omnibus Company, after which he established his own express parcels delivery company - Red Arrow Deliveries - and became the first Chairman of the National Conference of Express Carriers. During WW2 he worked at the Ministry of War Transport and then a inter allied transport org in Belgium. He was a freelance transport journalist/consultant and the first editor of 'Buses Illustrated' and published his own transport books. In 1968 he received the Crow Medal from the Chartered Institute of Transport.

However, good luck! Lots of us need to be put out of our miseries. biggrin

threespires

Original Poster:

3,514 posts

166 months

Sunday 10th February 2019
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RDMcG said:
borrani72 said:
We need to find something solid - if we can find registration documents, or talk to the author, then just maybe we'll get some answers. Or maybe it's still tucked in a garage or barn somewhere........
Still, the work you have done is very impressive and advances the case.
Yes, agreed. Excellent work Borrani..

dandarez

11,259 posts

238 months

Sunday 10th February 2019
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EstaMcVitie said:
Can't find car, but can imagine its build would be something like this.

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/car-transformat...
Never seen that before! Great video.
It mentions 'Laurie Falcon'.
Who? confused
Unless my mind is muddled, and I've just had too many beers, never heard of a Laurie Falcon!

Peter Pellandine was the man behind Falcon shells, after he and friend Keith Waddington had designed and built their first car in late 1955 - the ones in the film? The two set up a small factory at Robin Hood roundabout, Loughton, Essex and started to produce shells in 1956. The first shell, later to be called the Ashley 750, was based on the short wheelbase 6`3" Austin Seven chassis.

cahami

1,182 posts

161 months

Monday 11th February 2019
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Great to see more excellent work still being done to try and identify this car, my thoughts are that if you,your dad,uncle,grandad,mate had built this car you would have most definitely taken a picture of it albeit on a box brownie. Hopefully one day more photos will come to light but it seems that it was a 1 off very well built special that is no longer with us.

Loose_Cannon

1,422 posts

208 months

Monday 11th February 2019
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borrani72 said:
....I wonder whether the builder could have connections with the aviation industry (especially if those doors do turn-out to be from an aircraft) – which may explain the lack of any publicity in car circles.

.....Alternatively, could the car have been posed deliberately by the photographer – it's definitely front and centre, and looks as though the image was retouched below the rear wing to make the shape of the car stand-out more.

.....Alternatively, was he somebody connected with commercial vehicle/ bus body building? Again, not moving in car circles…..
Thanks for your work and one of the best posts so far on this brain melter!

I too have wondered whether the car was as much the subject as the buses, the picture has clearly been retouched at sill height to highlight the car, and for what purpose? Did someone at the publishers just like the look of it? If the photographer liked it surely he would have just waited 3 seconds for Mavis and Doris in the foreground to bugger off for a better shot.

The rear end also looks a bit touched in and unnatural. If the gentlemen walking past hadnt been skirting around it I'd swear the car had been painted in or just shortened to fit the picture. Also why are the young chaps not paying a super sleek sportscar any attention? It must have looked like a Chiron compared to most of the post war fodder trundling around nearby.

As for gull wings, you may be onto something with lightweight aeronautical panels. I originally thought it had regular doors with cutouts in the roof GT40 style as the roof looks so flimsy. Such a strcuture with no visible hinges supporting gulls would be an impressive achievement for a major manufacturer never mind a home build.

borrani72

176 posts

17 months

Monday 11th February 2019
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Thanks for your reply Loose_Cannon.

If the car was parked there just for a rushed photo', it could have been causing a bit of an obstruction. But it does make a great picture, and needed to have the buses in there to be in the book. Plus, having photographed cars at Goodwood Festival of Speed myself, I know how difficult it can be to get a clear shot. And just look at how many people are coming down that pavement.......

Of course, you could have had it parked near a bus garage or somewhere in the background, but it wouldn't be such a dramatic picture.......

As for the doors, if they are from an aircraft, I should imagine they would have an extruded aluminium box-section for the pillars, and a thin aluminium skin. If the lower section is, as I believe, quite shallow, it would be very lightweight - take a close look at the incredibly tiny, delicate aluminium doors on 1950s sports-racers from Ferrari, Maserati or Jaguar.........

Loose_Cannon

1,422 posts

208 months

Monday 11th February 2019
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I'm going to repost this picture as I often spend ages thumbing back through these pages just to find it! I'm convinced there are so many similar details on this that it must be the inspiration (minus the fins of course), and have emailed the chap who originally posted it to find out where it appeared but he doesnt seem to visit any more.

galro said:
As I posted in another forum I think the frontal styling might have been inspired by this drawing from the 1959 book sportscar of the future.

Edited by Loose_Cannon on Monday 11th February 13:57

Yertis

15,337 posts

221 months

Monday 11th February 2019
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borrani72 said:
The book from which this picture was taken, Buses, Trolleys and Trams, was reissued around 2006, so somebody still owns and actively manages the copyright to the work and to the images.
Question for dandarez, from someone involved peripherally in publishing. I'd be genuinely interested to know the mechanics of how they did that – they couldn't just dig out a packaged InDesign folder or hi-res PDF. So they either had access to the original plates (highly unlikely) scanned an original book (much more likely) or – maybe – dug out the original artwork and trannies. But I can't imagine that they did that either.

borrani72

176 posts

17 months

Monday 11th February 2019
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Thanks dandarez for your reply.

"Trouble is tasks like this can drive you literally insane!" Don't worry, probably too late anyway spin


I looked for Charles Dunbar online, and couldn't find anything beyond the books and articles, so this is a step forward. In fact, I still can't, even now that you have provided his middle name. Was this from a dust-jacket or somewhere else?

I can't find it now, but some time back it was stated that there was a list of photo' credits in the book, and that the mystery car picture wasn't on it. If this is so, it would be highly likely that Mr Dunbar owned the copyright himself, and was therefore the photographer (or possibly, the image was from publisher Hamlyns library).


I did also find this, way back on page 4......
piper said:
Wow this is spooky and it is now driving me mad to. I have always loved specialist cars but I do not know this one at all, however as a car mad teenager in the early – mid 1970s I used to catch a coach from Colchester to Victoria Coach station just to go car spotting, in those days going to London was the only chance of seeing anything special, walking down the various streets and Mews off Victoria I used to spot all kinds of rare and exotic cars, I still have the lists I made all those years ago.

Anyway on the way to Victoria the coach used to go down a very wide London road, probably approx 4-5 miles from Victoria; right in the centre of this wide road were parked cars in two rows of two deep, I am 99% sure I saw this car on a number of occasions parked there. I remember this little light blue coupe which I could not identify and the distinctive GT40 style door tops that went into the roofline, I remember the frustration of not knowing what it was and it being too far to walk to from Victoria, especially as I did not know the area. Even as a teenager I knew all the specialist cars like the Ashley Sportiva etc. That car has remained in my memory all this years and seeing that picture bought it all back. I hope someone identifies it soon.
Could Mr Dunbar have been working or living there in the early 1970s? Are there any addresses associated with Buses Illustrated, Swift Publications, other publishers of transport books, Red Arrow Deliveries, Ministry of Transport etc, that may fit the bill?



borrani72

176 posts

17 months

Monday 11th February 2019
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The Le Mans Special (page 63, bottom, this thread) is the MacMinn Le Mans Coupe......

https://www.undiscoveredclassics.com/featured-stor...






Ironically, what was finally built didn't have the same headlamp design as the mystery car.




Reverse rake headlamp nacelles were quite fashionable in America in the 1950s, and this would have been reported on by Motor, The Autocar and other motoring publications, not to mention the Observer Book of Automobiles. The combination of a low bonnet line, with the lights 'scooped-out' like this, with this feature is quite an unusual combination, but could have arisen entirely independently.

I have no idea whether the American MacMinn coupe ever appear in UK publications. It's quite possible, however, that the book could have been obtained here.

Whether influenced by the MacMinn or not, there are a great many details on the mystery car that echo other models of the era. Whoever built this, they certainly followed all the latest ideas.

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