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Les Gammon partial history of GYK5

It was 1965 when I met my future wife, Joy. She was in College in Warwickshire and I was studying engineering in Birmingham, having already finished my five year apprenticeship at the Austin Motor Company at Longbridge.  I had always been interested in old cars and working at Longbridge with men who remembered pre-war car production further whetted my appetite. Whilst still at college I bought my first Austin Seven, a two seater Nippy Sports model.  In this I drove up and down to Barnsley in Yorkshire to see my girlfriend at holiday times.  I particularly recall the drives in winter, remember these were days before the M1 was completed and the trip is engraved in my mind as Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield, Litchfield, Ashbourne (under the Green Dragon sign and up a fierce hill) then off into the wilds near Buxton and Bakewell but avoiding both to continue through Chatsworth Park, then on to Sheffield and so to Barnsley. Tiring and adventurous but we did that stuff when young.

Girlfriend's father was Harry Glover, a very talented man, able to turn his hand to most things practical. He was Principal of the local art school and had been a Major in tanks in the war. He showed interest in my car and said on a number of occasions that the family bread had been delivered for some years after the war in an “old Rolls-Royce” which still languished with the baker.

After huge amounts of prompting from me we went to see this car, which he had told me was still sitting abandoned in Mr. Sykes the baker's garden.  Even in those days I thought it very unlikely that it would still be there, but there it was, abandoned in the long grass.  With much urging from me, he bought the car on the spot for £50 and we fetched it days later.  For a man used to towing tanks out of ditches this did not present any problems.

Back home we examined his purchase in the cold light of reason.  What we had was a 1926 20hp Ripon saloon, GYK5, which had not moved for three or four years and we had no idea how to start it or check it out.  The bad news was that the beautiful Ripon body ended after the “B” post, meaning that the scuttle, lovely Vee windscreen and front doors were all intact, together with the upholstery (albeit somewhat tatty) but the rear end was now a van (photograph 1).  It had walk-in rear doors and, intriguingly, a large swing out and upward hatch on the side of the body.  Mr Sykes said that this work had been carried out at the start of the war and before his ownership so that the vehicle could be used on airfields during the war to supply “tea and wads” to airmen awaiting the scramble call. He bought it when hostilities ceased and fitted racks for delivering bread around the Barnsley district.

Joy and I married in 1967 by which time Father-in-Law was well stuck into the car.  The van body was removed and burnt (photographs 2, 3, 4) and he joined the RREC. I was able in those days to read the Bulletin, which was black and white only and if I remember correctly an odd size format. It was full of people who are now considered heroes of this club. Eric Barrass was there of course, but also Maurice Booth, Edward Harris, Roy Brooks and another name that sticks in my memory, Oliver Perks who at that time had a Silver Ghost that he called Kathleen because its registration number began KL.

Over the next ten years work proceeded slowly but surely (photograph 5). The wheels were cleaned and painted, the bonnet stripped back to aluminium, the radiator cleaned and repaired and the whole chassis cleaned and painted.  Because it was taking so long and he felt a little out of things regarding club activities, he bought a Mk-6 HJ Mulliner-bodied 1950 Bentley B-147-HP,  reg.no. NWA 678.  I thought this was a lovely car and in it we attended, what I think must have been the 1969 Blenheim Palace rally.  We have tried tracing this Bentley without success. It does not seem to be on any data bases in UK so I can only assume it is either scrapped, which I think unlikely because it was so nice, or it has gone abroad.

Fast forward to 1982 which was our Annus Horriblis: Father in Law died; I gave up smoking and my wife and I set up in business together prompted by my having been sacked. The end result of all this, when the dust had settled, was that I inherited the 20hp.  Fortunately I had a large garage and for a few months kidded myself that I could finish the car and restore the remainder of the body. I did rewire it and got it running which was for me a huge step forward, but I recall a visit to Cranfield Coachbuilders in Oxfordshire to show them pictures of the car, and there was much sucking of teeth and calculating.  The upshot of this was that reason prevailed.  We had just started a new business, we had three small children and not a lot of money so the decision was taken to sell the car. It was bought by someone in Herefordshire and that really was the last we heard, until this year.

With my history with cars, it is small wonder that the wheel has turned a full circle. The love of old cars has always stayed with me and over the years we have owned various models including three vintage Bentleys and we still own two Austin Sevens.  Four years ago we took the plunge and bought a 1923 Hooper bodied 20hp, 77A6 (see entry under “Members’ Cars”).  It is very sedate and lovely to drive and satisfies my love of fine engineering. It also meant that I joined the club and gained access to the club website from which I discovered to my delight that GYK5 is still with us and lives round the corner from our daughter in Cheshire. Arrangements were made to visit and I looked out various old photographs from when we owned GYK5.  The current owner is David Hazeldine and he made us most welcome when we arrived.  The car looks super, having been completely re-bodied prior to David's ownership (photographs 6, 7).  He says that the new coachwork was completed by Derek Leyshon-James in Hereford.  This fits well because I sold the car to someone in that county and David purchased the car some time ago from a car auction there. The quality of the bodywork is really excellent with upholstery and weather equipment to match.  Quite a credit I think to the builder and in a nice 1920s style. We were able to show David pictures of the car and he was delighted to add to his knowledge of the cars past.  The car is used today much as most of us use these old cars, ie outings, sunny days and club events.  It is very satisfying to know that a car that once was abandoned and despised can make such a fine comeback. It just goes to prove again that Henry Royce was right when he said that the quality will remain (long after the price is forgotten).

Les Gammon