Nostalgia for Brian

Nostalgia is the driver for many people attending vintage and classic car auctions but there’s also a touch of nostalgia for Brian, director of Dorset Vintage and Classic Auctions, at our next sale.

One of the two Austin 7 lots on offer is a Hamblin Cadet made in Sherborne – a 1960s body on an early ’30s chassis brought about thanks to the passion for recycling old cars by stripping them of their worn out bodies and using the chassis to create something new, frequently “sporting”.

Such is the case with this little Austin, now carrying an open two seater body with cycle wings, finished in British Racing Green and with a style reminiscent of the Cooper Formula 1 cars of the period. But for Brian it has a particular fascination because he started his working life more than 50 years ago as an apprentice at Hamblins where he made the radiator support panel for every Cadet, including this one.

“It was very nostalgic to see the car come in and I’ve enjoyed looking her over,” says Brian. “The guide price of £8,000 to £10,000 is a true reflection of the current demand for these Austin specials and not just because of my handiwork hidden under the nose cone!”

Recycling old cars was the only way for many people to get onto four wheels after the distinct paucity of home sales following World War II, when supply was restricted in favour of exports. This applied to vans, too, and those that were sold tended to have a hard life before being cast off, too worn to have any further purpose.

With that in mind, small commercial vehicles from the period are rare so enthusiasts will be keen to see the 1955 Ford Thames 300E (guide £6,000-£8,000) in the sale at Athelhampton House on June 7th. A “small window” rear doors model with the thick bar grille at the front, it is an excellent promotional tool for any business and will draw attention wherever it goes, more so than a modern small van for the same money.

Away from work, an MG “B” was often the order of the day and the sale has three examples, a convertible (£9,500-£11,500) and two GT hardtops, often referred to as the poor man’s Aston Martin, plus the more powerful “C” (£20,000-£22,000) that replaced the Big Healey. The two convertibles are finished in Tartan Red and, like the white GT (£3,750-£4,750), have wire wheels, while the red GT (£4,000-£5,000) comes with Rostyle wheels that were a big feature of upmarket cars of the period, having been made popular on the Rover P5B with the Buick-derived V8 engine and the Ford Cortina 1600E.

Motorcycles also feature strongly in the sale, with two examples of the Velocette “Noddy” bike, so called because they were used by many police forces for local patrols where the rider had to nod acknowledgement if he saw a senior officer. Their quiet running made them perfect for sneaking up on villains but the lever gearshift made them less easy to ride. The 1949 machine (£1,400-£1,900) is a Mk1 while the 1958 Mk III (£800-£1,200) is a barn find.

Of course they were no match for the boy racers on their big bikes such as the 1957 BSA Rocket Gold Star, of which there is a replica example among the lots (£6,000-£7,500). Many buyers of such bikes cut their teeth on the Triumph Tiger Cub 350 cc - there is a 1958 example (£800-£1,200) in the sale.

At the end of our auction, a special sale in cooperation with Dukes of Dorchester brings two very special cars from Guernsey. The first is a 1908 Thomas Flyer 4/60 Tourabout (£150,000-£250,000), not dissimilar to a Rolls-Royce Ghost of the period in appearance but much rarer to see. The second is a 1937 Delage D6 Olympique 3 Litre Two Door Sports Saloon (£30,000-£50,000), a long bonnet design so typical of the period with sweeping wings, rear-hinged doors now featured on modern Rolls-Royce Ghosts, and magnificent interior woodwork for the five seat body.

“It was wonderful to make acquaintance with the Hamblin Cadet,” says Brian, “but then I enjoy meeting all the cars that come to the DVCA auctions. Every one triggers a memory of some sort although the Thomas Flyer and Delage Olympique will challenge most people to remember when they last saw one, if ever!

“I have tried to draw together an interesting catalogue and there’s still time for late entries but the gathering of motorcycles and sporting cars will be a special draw now that summer’s here. And for those who like to relax by looking at automobilia we have a very varied selection of handbooks, press packs, calendars, and pictures with an interesting collection from Guernsey currently being listed for the sale.”