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.