A Lifetime of Collecting Reflected in Automobilia

Toovey’s specialist Gordon Gardiner with an array of Automobilia from the forthcoming auction

Toovey’s are holding a specialist auction of Automobilia which will include pieces from the late Alistair Morris’ collection.

Alistair Morris grew up in Horsham. His career in the auction world began at King & Chasemore in 1978. The salerooms merged with Sotheby’s the following year and Alistair would eventually become managing director of Sotheby’s Sussex. An avid collector from his childhood, he built up the collectors’ department at Sotheby’s. His celebrated book Antiques from the Garden was published in 1996.

Specialist, enthusiast and collector, Alistair Morris

His great friend Gordon Gardiner comments “Alistair and myself wrote numerous Antique Collectors’ Club books together whilst working at Sotheby’s, it was great fun. After the success of our book on Toys I suggested we do one on Automobilia. I have always liked motor cars and all that goes with them. I had an interest from childhood when we had a family garage. I introduced Alistair to Automobilia at Beaulieu and he quickly became an enthusiast.”

The motor industry has always employed the best designers, engineers and manufacturing techniques and this is apparent in the function and aesthetic charm of these objects

I ask Gordon why Automobilia has such appeal to collectors. He responds “Automobilia connects the motor car enthusiast with the vehicles themselves. Very few of us have the space or the funds to acquire the cars but by comparison Automobilia can be collected on a much more modest budget.” I agree, these pieces of motoring history are great value and have long delighted my eye.

Gathered around Gordon in the Toovey’s offices you can see an array of Automobilia entered for auction from the collection of Alistair Morris and others. Many of the pieces are illustrated in their Automobilia book which has become a collectors’ item in its own right.

The large brass lamp is amongst the earliest pieces entered from Alistair’s collection. This fine acetylene headlamp is by Powell & Hanmer and dates from c. 1904-1914. Alistair once explained to me that these lamps were stirrup mounted to the car and detachable for ease of cleaning. The bull’s-eye condenser lens would have magnified the beam.

A Morris Motor Cars Distributor’s enamel sign from the collection of the late Alistair Morris

The Morris Distributor double sided enamel sign was a great favourite of Alistair’s because of the name. I remember his delight when he acquired it at Toovey’s. Like so many of the enamel motoring signs it dates from the 1920s and 1930s. It was made for Morris dealers to display in their showrooms.

I am looking forward to celebrating Alistair Morris’ life-long passion for collectors’ items at the sale. He worked tirelessly for our profession and I, like so many in the collectors’ world, was grateful for his encouragement, advice and friendship over many years.

Toovey’s specialist sale of Automobilia, including the Alistair Morris collection, will be auctioned on Friday 14th July 2017. With estimates ranging from £80 to £500 there is something to delight the motoring enthusiast whatever their budget. For more information go to www.tooveys.com or to reserve a catalogue telephone 01903 891955.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

The Mercedes 300SL Gullwing, the World’s First True Supercar

The iconic gull-wing doors which give their name to the car

As the September dew begins to settle around the Goodwood motor racing circuit, the evocative sound of racing engines and smell of Castrol oil from the 2015 Goodwood Revival are fading to memories. I am visiting my great friend John Young, the renowned racing driver, who has invited me to come and see his rare 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, one of the most iconic cars of the post-war era.

As we walk down the drive together in conversation, the Gullwing comes into view and its lines still have the power to excite. The silver beauty before us is particularly special, an example of the world’s first true supercar and in wonderful, original condition. John Young explains, “I bought the car in 1973 from Dennis de Ferranti, who’d had it from new. His father was a brilliant engineer who set up the electronics company Ferranti.” John, the former managing director of the Mercedes-Benz agents Rose and Young, has a particular affinity for the marque. His father, George, founded the firm with his friend Jack Rose. George Young bought out his partner in 1937. “Mercedes were amongst the best cars and selling well,” says John, “so a dealer franchise was hard to get, but we were one of the first in the country.”

The beautiful lines of the Gullwing
The Gullwing’s interior

Contemporary motoring correspondents in the 1950s were fulsome in their praise of these extraordinary cars, though most acknowledged their unforgiving nature if driven hard. John Young smiles as he exclaims, “When you drive a 300SL quickly, it’s important to keep the power on in the corners or they spin – you’ve really got to drive it! Moss was the master.” He pauses and then continues, “Moss was the best driver of these; he was very good.”

After the Second World War, Mercedes were only allowed to return to racing in 1950. 1951 saw a series of victories for the marque including a 1-2 at Le Mans. The Gullwing’s body attracted sensational interest amongst the press and motoring enthusiasts. Stirling Moss’s win in a 300SLR at the 1955 Italian Mille Miglia road race helped to seal Mercedes’ dominance in motor racing and his reputation as one of the greatest drivers of all time. Moss was accompanied by the writer and navigator Denis Jenkinson, known as “Jenks”. Jenks gave an account of Moss’s remarkable drive, writing for Motor Sport in June 1955. It emphasised the driver’s concentration and commitment and his particular gift for setting up and balancing a car at extreme speed through towns and countryside. Moss would later remark that the roadside crowds gave the event a “fiesta feeling”.

Unlike Jenks, John Young remarks that he is a “bad passenger” – unsurprising coming from a man who was used to being in control behind the wheel of a racing car. Amongst many racing drives in 1955, John was a works driver to the Connaught team and raced in the Goodwood Nine Hours Endurance Race in a Lotus-Connaught with John Coombes. “I’ll never forget my mate Roy Salvadori offering to show me a circuit,” he says. “I got in the car but, my goodness, you’d hold on when he was flat out. He went so fast that I slid under the dashboard!” Roy Salvadori famously won Le Mans for Aston Martin in 1959.

John Young, co-driver to his friend John Coombs in a 2.6 Alfa Romeo in the 1988 Mille Miglia Revival

I ask John if he ever competed in the Mille Miglia. He answers modestly, “I drove the 1988 Mille Miglia Revival in an Alfa Romeo 2.6 with John Coombs.”

Gentleman racer and collector John Young in his 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

Our conversation returns to John’s beautiful 300SL Gullwing. “These cars were really advanced for their time, with their tubular space frames and in-line, six-cylinder engines, which have a racing note,” he comments. I remark on the large side vents which, like the doors, are such a distinctive feature of the Gullwing. John responds, “They are important for discharging the heat from under the bonnet. Although the lines and details are beautiful, this is above all a properly engineered car.” You sit low in the car and the evocative smell of the original blue leather captures the senses. John explains that most of these cars had fabric seats and that this was a rare option. In the driving seat, your view beyond the ivory coloured steering wheel, instrument binnacle and painted dash is of the long, gently curving bonnet with its two characteristic bulges. Underway, the engine revs rise rapidly and there is a hard note to this engine, reminding you that its heritage is in motor racing. The excitement of the engineered, mechanical qualities of this remarkable vehicle delight the senses. John acknowledges the tremendous acceleration these cars are capable of. Although they were raced, they are truly grand tourers.

Returning to John’s terrace, we sit drinking champagne as the sun begins to set on what will be one of the last warm evenings of the year. With the South Downs before us, my friend John Young regales with stories of a glamorous motor racing age of gentlemen racers and enthusiasts now overtaken. Like its generous owner, this Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing stands as a wonderful testament to this remarkable post-war period.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 1st October 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Rolls-Royce & Bentley Day at Borde Hill Garden

Rolls Royce Bentley Borde Hill
A magnificent vintage Rolls-Royce and Bentley on the lawns of Borde Hill

Borde Hill Garden holds its Rolls-Royce and Bentley Day this coming Sunday, 20th July 2014. The gardens will be complimented by cars from these famous marques, vehicles which have often been called ‘the best cars in the world.’

Rolls-Royce 20hp Sedanca
Rupert Toovey’s great-grandfather’s Rolls-Royce 20 h.p. Sedanca

I grew up in a family passionate about motoring and cars, especially from the vintage era. Amongst the numerous stories was that of my great-grandfather’s Rolls-Royce 20 h.p. Sedanca. I have often wondered from this photograph of the car with his chauffeur whether it was bodied by the coachbuilders Hooper. In Rolls-Royce’s catalogue of 1905 the company wrote: “Doctors and others connected with the medical profession have, after trying the leading makes, declared the Rolls-Royce to be the only petrol car that they could bring up to a patient’s house and drive away without the possibility of disturbing the patient.” This may have been a tempting marketing quote for my great-grandfather, Edwin Hopewell-Ash, an eminent physician-neurologist and member of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Borde Hill
Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson Clarke at Borde Hill

Henry Royce was a gifted engineer of my great-grandfather’s generation. He had a particular gift for perfecting the design and manufacture in areas of emerging technology. Royce refined the multi-cylinder engine, addressing the noise, vibration and inflexibility of other marques’ earlier engines. The Rolls-Royce motor company has its origins in the 1904 partnership between Royce and the motoring and aviation pioneer Charles Stewart Rolls.

Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke and his wife, Eleni, are the current custodians of Borde Hill. This weekend brings together the threads and passions of Andrewjohn’s life – the gardens and engineering. He is himself a leading civil and computer engineer.

With Rolls-Royce now located at Chichester in West Sussex, it seems particularly appropriate that this famous marque’s heritage should be celebrated in this way in our county. Borde Hill Garden has many rare and remarkable plants; it is an exceptional living collection.

This weekend there is a treat in store for motoring and garden enthusiasts alike at Borde Hill Garden, Borde Hill Lane, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 1XP. For more information on opening times and forthcoming events go to www.bordehill.co.uk or telephone 01444 450326.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 16th July 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Boys, Toys and Automobiles in Sussex

A Kingsbury tinplate model of Sir Henry Segrave’s Golden Arrow land speed record car

Here in West Sussex, many of the thriving collectors’ fields are informed by childhood passions. The land speed record attempts were particularly evocative for those growing up between and just after the First and Second World Wars.

Toovey’s toys specialist Chris Gale and consultant Gordon Gardiner enjoy a Gunthermann tinplate model of Sir Malcom Campbell's Bluebird land speed record car at Toovey’s Christmas specialist auction of collectors’ toys on 3rd December

“I remember watching Donald Campbell demonstrating his Bluebird CN7 land speed record car at Goodwood motor racing circuit, Sussex, in July 1960,” recalls Toovey’s consultant toys specialist Gordon Gardiner with customary enthusiasm. Competition for the world land speed record was particularly strong during the inter-war years, as a select group of courageous gentlemen drivers pushed themselves and their cars to the edge of endurance. Among these drivers were men like Henry Segrave and Malcolm Campbell, Donald Campbell’s father. These successive attempts to become the fastest men on land were celebrated in a mood of patriotism and national pride. Their bravery and achievements inspired a generation of boys. Our interest in their triumphs continues to fuel our appetite for toys and paper collectables relating to the pursuit of speed.

A black and white photograph of Sir Henry Segrave in his 4 litre V12 Sunbeam land speed record car.

It is always great fun to stray into Toovey’s toys department. Our toys specialist Chris Gale is seen here with Gordon Gardiner enjoying a tinplate clockwork model of Malcolm Campbell’s Bluebird land speed record car by the German firm Gunthermann. German tinplate toys and trains from this period were made to high standards and are much sought-after by today’s collectors. In view of Gunthermann’s reputation for quality, I ask Gordon why this one does not bear their name and is just marked ‘Foreign’, rather than ‘German’. He replies, “There was a resistance to buying German-made toys after the Great War, so they marked this one simply as foreign to avoid any stigma.” I comment on the condition of this car, which to my eye seems to be remarkably good for its date. Gordon responds, “Most toy land speed record cars were well used by their original owners, so they are often quite play-worn but this one is better than most.” I always warm to the term ‘play-worn’. In all our other specialist departments, problems of condition are often noted as faults, but in the toys department things are play-worn, a fond metaphor for the passage of time and wear. “Nevertheless,” Chris interjects, “it is this model’s rarity and the fact that it still has its original box, albeit torn and incomplete, which led to its remarkable hammer price of £1100 in our Christmas toy sale.”

Chris reminds me of the Kingsbury tinplate keyless-clockwork model land speed record car which his department sold for £650 a couple of years ago. He says, “This is a popular model of the Golden Arrow record-breaker which was driven by Henry Segrave in 1929.”

A menu for a banquet in honour of Sir Malcolm Campbell following his land speed record at Bonneville Flats in September 1935

Interest in land speed record-breakers is strong in other collectors’ areas as well. Take, for example, the menu for a banquet in honour of Sir Malcolm Campbell, ‘as a tribute to his achievement in setting up the New Land Speed Record of 301.129mph at Bonneville Flats, Utah, USA’. It is dated September 24th 1935 and has a bas-relief photograph cover depicting Sir Malcolm. The black and white photograph also illustrated here shows Sir Henry Segrave at the wheel of his 4 litre V12 Sunbeam, which broke the land speed record at 152.33mph in 1926. The card mount is signed in ink by Segrave and other key members of the record-breaking team. Both lots were sold in specialist paper collectables auctions, headed by Nicholas Toovey, for £100 and £300 respectively.

Returning to Toovey’s toys department, I am interested to know what it is about old toys which delight collectors. “Part of it is fulfilling childhood dreams,” says Chris, “but it is also about their interests – particular vehicles, for example, or a certain historical period.” He continues with a smile, “Toy collectors are really generous with their knowledge and their enthusiasm, which is contagious.” I agree. Collecting is often about the acquisition and sharing of knowledge but it is also about community and sharing interests with fellow enthusiasts. After all, lively minds make open hearts!

Chris Gale and Gordon Gardiner are already gearing up for their spring toy auction, which will be held on 25th March 2014. Nicholas Toovey’s next paper collectables auction will be on 22nd April 2014. All are delighted to share their specialist interests with you and offer advice. They can be contacted at Toovey’s Spring Gardens salerooms at Washington.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 11th December 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

John Young: Gentleman Racer, Collector & Enthusiast

John Young racing his MG TC at Goodwood 1949
John Young in his MG TC at Goodwood 1951

The Sussex Downs have only just finished reverberating to the exuberant sound of racing cars and motorcycles at Goodwood Festival of Speed. Racing cars delight the senses with a cacophony of sound, the smell of racing oil and tyres and the spectacle of speed and colour. This week I am with my great friend John Young, a man whose life has been closely bound up with the fortunes of motor racing and automobiles. A works driver for the Connaught team in the 1950s, with drives at many of the great motor racing circuits and races, John Young is part of that glamorous and courageous cohort of racing drivers in the years after the Second World War.

When he left Dulwich College, John joined the R.A.F. “I wanted to fly a Spitfire,” he says, “but there were too many pilots just after the war for me to get a look in, so I left and joined the family firm, Rose and Young. We were agents for Mercedes-Benz.” He continues, “My father always wanted to race but my mother would never have let him. I was mad keen on cars when I was young and so he encouraged me.” John has always had a passion for glamour and speed and he is still mad keen about cars, having collected and owned some of the world’s most iconic automobiles. John’s enthusiasm has not diminished over the years. “I’ve still got my 1955 Mercedes-Benz Gullwing,” he says excitedly. The silver Gullwing is particularly special, the world’s first true supercar and in beautiful, original condition.

John Young racing his Healy Silverstone Chassis D20
John Young racing his Healy Silverstone Chassis D20 at Goodwood 1952

His first experience of speed came when he was taken to an airfield where Roy Salvadori was testing a Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica. John explains, “Roy came tearing to a halt beside where we were standing, asking for a passenger to balance the car and I volunteered!” This marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Roy Salvadori was an exceptional driver, winning at Le Mans in 1959 for Aston Martin and driving in more than fifty Formula One races. I ask John if he ever raced at Le Mans; he replies, “My mate Maurice Charles asked me to drive with him in his Jaguar D-type at Le Mans but he turned it over before I’d had a turn.”

John Young racing
John Young racing in the 1955 Goodwood Nine Hour Endurance Race in his Lotus-Connaught
John Young in his Ford Anglia on the XXVIme Monte Carlo Rally 1956

John Young raced at Goodwood, Silverstone and many of the famous circuits of his era. “We raced everything in those days,” he remarks. “I entered the Monte Carlo Rally with John Coombs and Roy Salvadori in a Ford Anglia and did the rally again with Graham Hill in a Riley 1.5. Even in my day, motor racing was becoming much more commercialized, but I started in an MG TC that my father bought me, which I raced at Goodwood. I then drove a Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica, which Coombs prepared for me.” Always the gentleman racer, in 1955 John was taken on as the works driver to the Connaught team. In 1956 he raced for them at Aintree alongside Mike Hawthorn, Roy Salvadori, Jack Brabham and Stirling Moss, who won the B.A.R.C. Grand Prix event in a privately entered 250F Maserati. “I owned a 250F Maserati Grand Prix car,” John says nonchalantly, a grin crossing his face. “I used it in the Brighton Speed Trials in the 1960s before I sold it to Fangio for his South American museum. Fangio was an extraordinary driver.”

John Young and Graham Hill in a Riley 1.5
John Young and Graham Hill in a Riley 1.5 on the XXVIIme Monte Carlo Rally 1958

In 1955 John raced in the Goodwood Nine Hours Endurance Race in a Lotus-Connaught, seen here. His co-driver was John Coombs, who, like John Young, also had a successful garage business and was instrumental in developing and persuading Jaguar to build a lightweight E-type to compete with the 250GTO Ferrari. “We were going well in the Connaught and racing into the evening,” John explains, “until Coombs came in saying his hands were cold and borrowed my gloves. Shortly after that he turned it over but, thank God, he was alright!”

John Young 250F Maserati 1960s
John Young in his 250F Maserati at the Brighton Speed Trials in the 1960s

John Young was offered a drive in a Connaught at the 1955 Dundrod TT in Ireland with a talented young driver Bill Smith. John recounts the story of the race. “We tossed-up to decide who would drive first. He won the toss but was killed at Deer’s Leap during that first stint.” John is still clearly affected by the memory of this loss. Two other drivers lost their lives at Dundrod in 1955. With such high safety standards in modern motor racing, it is hard to reflect on how dangerous the sport was in those post-war years. Philosophically John remarks, “You have no fear when you’re young and we had a good time in those days. It was exciting – the racing, the camaraderie, the travelling and the pretty girls!”

I ask John if he has raced since and he answers, “I gave up motor racing in the 1950s and took up boats – did a few things like the Fastnet Race – but I have done some classic car events like the 1988 Mille Miglia Revival in an Alfa Romeo 2.6, which I drove with John Coombs.”

John Young, co-driver to his friend John Coombs in a 2.6 Alfa Romeo in the 1988 Mille Miglia Revival

As I leave, I ask him why he doesn’t live in Monaco with his peers and he gestures towards the South Downs and replies, “Oh, I’ve had yachts down there but I love England. Look at that view – why would you want to be anywhere else!” His delight in sharing a story and his enthusiasm are balanced by his self-effacing modesty. A generous man, John Young epitomises the best of his era: a gentleman racer, a collector and an enthusiast with a deep love of life, cars and the Sussex countryside.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 17th July 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.