1929 Armstrong Siddeley Shooting Brake


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Originally the property of HRH The Duke of York, later King George VI
1929 Armstrong Siddeley 30hp Mark II Shooting Brake
Registration no. UL 10
Chassis no. 12567
Engine no. 15270

This Armstrong Siddeley shooting brake was ordered new by HRH The Duke of York, later King George VI, a devotee of the Coventry marque since its earliest days. The Duke had first visited the Parkside factory in 1920 while on an official visit to Coventry; he was shown around by John Siddeley and ordered a 30hp model, which was followed by two further 18hp cars in 1922. Built in 1928 and delivered in January 1929, 'UL 10' was taken to the Duke and Duchess's Scottish home, Birkhall on the Balmoral estate, where it was used for three years.

Armstrong Siddeley had been created in 1919 by the fusion of the mighty Armstrong Whitworth engineering combine and the Coventry based Siddeley-Deasy Motor Manufacturing Company. Managing director John Siddeley's son Ernest had toured various car factories in the USA in 1919 and the first Armstrong Siddeley model - the 30hp - benefited from the knowledge he had acquired. Indeed, the fledgling firm even went so far as to acquire Marmon Series 34 for evaluation. Although quite different from the Marmon engine in detail, the six-cylinder Armstrong Siddeley power unit had a lengthy stroke and overhead valves like its American counterpart. The car's distinctive V-shaped radiator was the work of renowned motoring artist, Frederick Gordon Crosby, while its Sphinx mascot was a carry-over from Siddeley-Deasy, one of whose Knight sleeve valve-engined models had been described as 'silent as the Sphinx'. As one would expect of a company pre-eminent in the field of aero engine manufacture, Armstrong Siddeley built cars to the highest standards and soon gained a reputation for quality, its advertisements proudly declaring: 'You cannot buy a better car'. Its Royal patronage was well deserved.

Introduced for 1925, the 30hp Mark II was a development of the original 30hp model of 1919, inheriting a heavily revised version of its predecessor's 4,960cc six-cylinder engine while at the same time gaining four-wheel brakes. A favourite of the carriage trade, the 30hp remained in production until 1931, by which time some 2,700 had been made.

Its original logbook shows that this car was first registered to 'HRH Duke of York', whose address is given as '145 Piccadilly, W1'. The type of body is recorded as 'shooting brake', indicating that the car was delivered in this configuration and is not a later conversion. The second owner (from 1932) is listed as one George Balfour of Chiselhurst, Kent and then Dunalastair, Perthshire. 'UL 10' came into the current titled vendor's family's ownership in 1936 when it passed to the third owner, Sir Aymer Maxwell, the 8th Baronet of Monteith (his youngest brother was Gavin Maxwell, author of 'Ring of Bright Water'). Their nephew, Sir Michael Maxwell, 9th Baronet of Monteith, is the current owner. Sir Aymer found the car for sale in a Glasgow garage and used it until 1939 when a universal joint broke. 'UL 10'was then laid up in a barn on the estate until Sir Michael, the current vendor, disinterred it in the mid-1960s and got it running again.

In the early 1990s the Armstrong Siddeley was loaned to the famous historic racer and car collector, Neil Corner for use on his grouse moor. Neil totally refurbished the car, stripping and rebuilding the engine with new bearings, piston rings, etc and renewing the brake linings, tyres, radiator, upholstery and so on. The owner has described its performance as 'exhilarating and exciting rather than competitive', continuing: 'I do not think anyone has dared to try going over 60mph but it will hold eight in the back and two up front. The top gear performance is really very good.'

For many years this historic motor car was loaned to HM The Queen's Sandringham Motor Museum on the Royal Estate in Norfolk where it was one of the most popular exhibits (see correspondence on file). Its current mechanical condition is not known and thus careful re-commissioning is advised before returning it to the road.