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Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society caters for veteran cars, vintage cars & classic cars, as well as commercials and motorcycles.



:: [  Darracq GP Car of the 1908 TT Races ] ::

Fascinating photo taken January  and received from Mike Statham, who is part of the Research Team at the Friends of Insole Court, formerly Ely Court, Llandaff, near Cardiff in Wales. Could we identify make of the car?

The Insole family lived on the site from 1856 to 1938. They had extensive coal-mining interests across the South Wales coalfield, and were closely involved in the development of the Barry Railway Company and the associated docks. Their growing prosperity enabled them to invest in land, including a site within the ancient Cathedral-city of Llandaff. The building was started in 1856 by James Harvey Insole, who commissioned a modest double-fronted building, originally named Ely Court. But as the family's fortunes rose, in the 1870s James Harvey Insole commissioned a change to the appearance of the building into the Gothic Revival architecture-led works reminiscent on Cardiff Castle. The second development in 1906 - the height of the family's fortune - was undertaken on the instructions of George Frederick Insole (James Harvey's son), to extend and modernise the building. After World War I, in the light of Winston Churchill's decision to change the Royal Navy to using oil instead of coal,  and the loss of many European markets, the South Wales coal industry began to decline. The family's fortunes suffered a similar downturn, - with the death of Fred in 1917, and his son Claud in 1918 whilst on war service in France. The house passed to Eric, who lived there with his mother, and sister. In the 1930s Cardiff Council were looking to develop an orbital road system around the city and in 1932 bought the entire 57 acres  under a compulsory purchase order. The remaining family members were allowed to continue living in the house as tenants. With World War II fast approaching, the last of the Insoles - Eric and his mother - finally vacated the property in March 1938. (Wikipedia)

This had been an interesting delve into the early history of UK car registrations and into the history of rich owners who did not seem to be particularly pedantic as to which numberplates went on which car. There seems to be a connection between the Insoles and a G R N Minchin who was in on the very early days of motoring and motor racing and who subsequently wrote "Under My Bonnet" based on experience with 149 personal cars and having partaken in the 1900 and 1902 Gordon Bennett races, and who seems to have been involved in some way with early Rolls Royces. From various comments received, he also seems to have a somewhat dubious reputation amongst current Auto Historians.

The above photo is of a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. One of the joys of dealing with identification of Rolls Royces is that almost every car is individually known and documented and that there are a number of people who specialise in the upkeep and documenting the known histories of each individual car. It may perhaps be  that there are fewer Rolls Royces than perhaps some other exotic cars but it is also that those people who purchased Rolls Royces had the time, interest and infrastructure to keep the documentation of their vehicles with the manufacturer up-to-date in view of the type of superb attention they would have been getting from Rolls Royce and their dealers.

As an owner of a 1932 Rolls Royce I know the fun and  interest that can be found in investigating the history of my car. Early documentation on each car can be obtained quite easily which will show  dates of order and delivery of the chassis and dispatch of the chassis to the coachbuilder and eventual delivery of the finished vehicle to the owner. Similar information would have been kept for changes and alterations by subsequent owners to body or engine.

One of the specialists in the field of Rolls Royces, who has helped us out in the past on identification of early Rolls Royce vehicles is Tom Clark. His reply was quick and concise: No doubt about it, a ca 1909-11 Ghost in the ca 1100-1699 chassis series. The coachbuilder has to be Arthur Mulliner of Northampton. There's an identical car in The Edwardian RR v.1 p.266 (chassis 1130) but that has wooden wheels. Your photo shows very early Rudge Whitworth hub caps. Investigating further.

On the Insole Website is a photo showing two more Insole Rollses, photos 'Insole fleet 1920s' and 'Eric's Car' . One is registered EI 1287 and the other GH 5900. Tom Clark's interest in these Rolls Royces had obviously been aroused and he delved into his records to eventually determined that the Insole family owned potentially SIX Rolls Royces:  THREE Rolls Royce Silver Ghosts, ONE Rolls Royce Phantom I, ONE Rolls Royce Phantom II, and ONE Rolls Royce 25/30. 

The car in the above photo is a 1910 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow Cabriolet, Chassis 1280, Body by Arthur Mulliner of Northampton, Registered LB 4471 Car was owned from new G. F. Insole. It was scrapped in 1930. Would be interesting to know why such a young car was scrapped.

Then comes a bit of a problem. Insoles apparently owned two other Silver Ghosts with near identical registration. EI 287 registration is Sligo County Council, Southern Ireland, - now Eire. 1913 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, Registration EI-287, Chassis 2281, Limousine Body by Arthur Mulliner, bought secondhand in 1919 by E. R. Insole. NOT the car shown on the Insole website. Different wings, screen, etc. Not to be confused with registration EI-1287 at Insole Court, unless some trickery is at work re registration numbers, but cars are different either way.  EI-287, is chassis 2281 ex Rhodes-Moorhouse. Messing about with chassis and engine numbers continues. My 1921 5CV Citroen which carries verified chassis and engine numbers has a clone in the UK which while the same model is different body has my numbers. Seems happened about 30 years ago when both were imported. Bit aggravating. 

Problem then continues with: Rolls Royce Silver Ghost 1913, Registration EI 1287, Chassis 2281, Landau Body by Arthur Mulliner, bought secondhand in 1919 by E. R. Insole. This is not the landaulette shown on their website as being part of the Insole fleet. It's NOT the same car as 2281 ex Rhodes-Moorhouse even though they have confusing registration plates that look close but actually aren't. I suppose Insole could have had 2281 modernised when he got it in 1919, hence a new body, raised radiator, new bonnet, raised headlamps, new wings. Until we know if he had a vintage Ghost or not we won't be certain. New chassis were hard to get in 1919 during World War One and in his book Minchin devotes a lot of space to the shenanigans and price rises when people pursued new cars or upgraded old cars. Whether a wealthy man like Insole had the need to muck around with registration numbers to save a few quid I don't know, i.e. 'doctor' EI-287 into EI-1287. This was of course what Minchin did from day one. In his book he describes seeing a BJ-578 plate lying around a garage floor (at Mann Egerton?) and simply seized it and put it on many of his early cars with impunity.( Please refer to item on the 1906 Darracq photographed at Insole Court where Minchin's Darracq carries that very number ).  Others used Irish reg'n numbers for similar reasons - Ireland was in revolt and southern counties wouldn't give English police details of cars they were pursuing carrying Irish numbers. In 1921 tax discs came in which must have made it a bit harder to get away with. The Insole Court photo shows that old Rolls in company with cars from the 1930s so by then the EI-1287 reg'n must have been kosher. The trick was the EI being confused with H as well as Sligo itself not assisting the authorities

In addition Insole had a 1925 Phantom I,  chassis 9MC, touring body by Cunard.

The other car in the courtyard photo is GH 5900 which is also shown separately on their website as being part of the Insole fleet. GH is London CC registration from July-Sept 1930. This is 1930 Phantom II 162GN H. J. Mulliner limousine owned new by Insole. It eventually became a hearse and is now a Hooper limousine de ville, shown recently on the Insole website. It is now in Switzerland in immaculate condition.   '
Finished in light grey over black, this particular example is said to be in very good overall condition. Supplied new by the factory via Car Mart Ltd of Park Lane, London to E.R. Insole of Llandaff, Cardiff (and Grosvenor St, London) on 19th September 1930, it began life as a H.J. Mulliner-bodied Weymann Limousine. Then Acquired by James Howell & Co of Cardiff on 15th January 1935, 162GN passed into the hands of Sir David Llewellyn of St Fagans, Glamorgan just over two months later. With the Bwllfa Hunt's Master of Hounds for three years, it was purchased by Messrs Flewitt Ltd in June 1938. Often serviced at Rolls-Royce's Cricklewood depot during the 1930s, an accompanying copy of its chassis cards records that it benefited from a rebored / honed cylinder block and new pistons the year before WW2 broke out. Reportedly exported to New Zealand in 1972, it returned to the UK some nineteen years later. Rebodied at some stage as a Hooper & Co Sedanca de Ville (or so its coach plates would imply), it has been part of the collection since September 1995. Bought from Terry Cohn for 49,950 on the understanding that it needed remedial paintwork, it was duly resprayed by the Pengelly Garage of Aldington, Cheshire in January 1996

He also had a 1936 Rolls Royce 25/30 h.p. , Chassis GRM27, Park Ward saloon body and registered DGF-995 (now in the U.S.).

Sometimes quite a lot of information can be unearthed as a result of receiving a single photo!!


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