1936 Squire 1 1/2 litre
Year of manufacture1936
Number of seats2
1936 Squire 1½-Litre Long-Wheelbase Tourer
Coachwork by Ranalah
Registration no. CLO 5
Chassis no. 1501
'Few cars have generated more interest from a tiny production figure than the Squire. It was conceived by a young Englishman, Adrian Morgan Squire (1910-1940), who had worked out the basic design of the car, even issuing a 6-page catalogue, while still at school.' The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile.
Adrian Squire was only 14 when he outlined the specification for his lightweight 1½-litre two-seater tourer. And there it might have ended had Squire been just another daydreaming teenager. Made of sterner stuff, he set about forging a career that would enable him to bring his dream to fruition. In 1929 he was briefly apprenticed to Bentley Motors before moving on to work for MG, and only two years later felt confident enough to set up on his own, aged just 21.
Squire was fortunate to have a wealthy friend, Sherman Stonor, later 6th Baron Camoys, who was willing to provide the necessary financial backing. They were soon joined by two additional investors: Jock Manby Colegrave and Reginald Slay, setting up Squire Motors Ltd in 1931. Squire Motors sold, repaired, and tuned sports cars, and it was not until 1934 that a separate enterprise, the Squire Car Manufacturing Company Ltd, was incorporated to build what Adrian believed would be one of the finest British sports cars ever produced.
Like George Brough of Brough Superior motorcycle fame, Adrian Squire succeeded in creating a class-leading product constructed almost entirely from bought-in components. In Squire's case the foremost of these was the 1,496cc four-cylinder twin-overhead-camshaft engine, designed by Douglas Ross and built by British Anzani, which nevertheless was badged as a Squire. Fed by a David Brown supercharger, the Anzani motor produced its maximum of 110bhp at 5,500rpm, an increase of some 40 horsepower over the un-blown version. A Wilson four-speed pre-selector gearbox was used, its 1st gear engagement band serving as the clutch.
Chassis members were bought-in also, from John Thompson Pressings, Rubery Owen, and Mechans of Glasgow. The stiff cruciform-braced chassis was available in two wheelbase lengths (8' 6" and 10' 5"), the latter always of under-slung pattern, while the braking system consisted of Lockheed-actuated drums of Squire's own design. A massive 15½" in diameter, they could stop the lightweight Squire from 30mph in less than 10 metres, an astonishing achievement for the time.
Priced at £950 in chassis form, or £1,220 with Vanden Plas coachwork, the shorter Squire cost almost as much as the equivalent Alfa Romeo or Bugatti, while the long chassis variant was even more expensive at £975 (chassis) or £1,350 complete with drophead coupé body. Each car came with a guarantee that it had exceeded 100mph at Brooklands.
After the first three Squires had been built, all in short chassis form, the first of the long-wheelbase cars was completed; this was '1501', the car offered here, which was ordered by Valfrid 'Val' Zethrin, a wealthy enthusiast who had inherited a family fortune made in the Swedish steel industry. Zethrin had first encountered a Squire in 1935, spotting one of the Vanden Plas-bodied cars parked near the Regent Palace Hotel in London, though rather than use Vanden Plas, Adrian Squire's preferred coachbuilder, Zethrin chose to have his car bodied by Ranalah of Merton, Surrey. Ranalah supplied a four-seat tourer body, which was finished in maroon and trimmed in dark red leather.
Registered 'CLO 5' by the London County Council, Val Zethrin's car was one of three Squires entered in the 1936 RAC Rally, though he failed to finish. Interviewed for Sporting Motorist magazine in 1962, Zethrin revealed that he used the Squire for 'racing, rallying and plain ordinary driving', going on to state that (it) 'remains the safest car I have ever driven, having superb road holding and magnificent brakes'. Furthermore, he considered the handling superior to that of the short-wheelbase model.
Not surprisingly, given that it cost twice as much as an Aston Martin or Frazer Nash, the Squire found few customers, and what few purchasers there were consisted mainly of Adrian Squire's friends. To widen the potential market, a cheaper Markham-bodied 'Skimpy' model was offered in 1935, though it still cost £995. Reducing the price to £695 for 1936 had little effect, and in July of that year the Squire Car Manufacturing Company was wound up. By this time the firm had sold just seven cars: five short-wheelbase models and two on the long-wheelbase chassis. Squire Motors continued in operation as a garage, while Adrian Squire moved on to Lagonda and thence to the Bristol Aeroplane Company. He was killed in Bristol during an air raid in September 1940.
But the Squire story did not end in 1936. Val Zethrin had been represented at the creditors' meeting and succeeded in buying the company's name and assets, which included sufficient parts to build two further short-chassis models. Of the nine Squires built, six of the originals survive together with both of the Zethrin-assembled cars.
Zethrin also took the opportunity to modify his own car, commissioning a bespoke aerodynamic radiator cowl from Serck to improve on the original exposed radiator. This was done in time for the Junior Car Club's Members' Meeting at Brooklands in July 1937, at which Zethrin won a one-lap handicap race at 87.5mph. Following an accident, Vanden Plas repaired Zethrin's Squire and at his request altered the wings to achieve a more enveloping profile. Later in 1937 Zethrin sold 'CLO 5', its next owner being a friend of his, Thomas Walker Gibson, chief engineer at the Sydenham Gas Works. Gibson took the opportunity to drive the Squire around Brooklands at 100mph prior to purchase.
During WW2 'CLO 5' was laid up at the premises of Gibson's employers in Forest Hill which, although a target for the Luftwaffe, miraculously came through the war unscathed. The Gibsons had previously used the Squire for continental touring and resumed this activity after the war's end, often travelling to France and Norway. Thomas Gibson eventually sold the Squire around 1955, and the car is known to have passed through the hands of various motor traders before finding a new owner in the USA circa 1957.
In October 1959, the Squire was bought by Bill Comer of Lake Park, Florida, who did little with it, and on his death in 1974 passed to Walter Weimer of Washington, Pennsylvania. Weimer embarked on a restoration, reversing some of the changes made by Val Zethrin, which included removing the radiator cowl and returning the front wings to their original shape. The restoration made little more progress, and in the early 1980s Weimer sold the Squire to noted collector, Henry Petronis, who likewise did little with it.
Having changed hands, the Squire next appeared in public at Rétromobile, Paris in 2011 where it was spotted by the current vendor, a discerning collector. 'It had just been shipped over from the USA and last turned a wheel in anger at least 35 years before,' he recalled. 'Many years previously a restoration had started and then ceased. Paint had been removed. The interior had had more than its share of rodent inhabitants, but I thought the car looked wonderful a fantastic composition with a rakish body and that most beautiful radiator grille'.
Despite the passage of time and its many changes of ownership, 'CLO 5' turned out to be remarkably complete, the only significant items missing being the quick fillers for the radiator and fuel tanks, and the scuttle-mounted oil reservoir. The new owner's guiding principal for the restoration 'was to retain as much as possible of the original fabric of the car as possible'. His in-house mechanic stripped down the Squire and supervised its restoration, the engine rebuild being entrusted to experienced Anzani specialist, Tim Abbott, while Cecil Schumacher overhauled the pre-selector gearbox. In the course of the rebuild, Tim Abbott incorporated various modifications aimed at eradicating the Anzani engine's known weaknesses, making improvements to the cooling system and valve gear, and reducing the mechanical clatter.
Early in 2013 the rolling chassis was delivered to Classic Motor Cars (CMC) of Bridgnorth, Shropshire. World renowned restoration specialists, CMC won the International Historic Motoring Restoration of the Year in 2011 for their work on the Lindner lightweight Jaguar E-Type. CMC allocated some tasks to specialist in pre-war cars, but most of the work was undertaken in house. Stripped of its panels, the ash body frame was rebuilt by Jarvis & Son of Neenton, Shropshire retaining as much of the original timber as possible. CMC restored the body, straightening the chassis and fabricating a new radiator shell to replace the twisted original. Traces of the original maroon paintwork were found during the restoration, and these were used to determine the correct paint colour prior to the re-spray. The interior was re-trimmed in-house, by the man responsible for re-trimming the short-chassis Squire 'X103' in 2004, while a pair of replacement quick filler caps was fabricated using those on the surviving Lightweight Squire for reference. Having consumed 4,100 man-hours of labour, the restoration was completed in May 2015 and the owner declared himself 'delighted' with the result, which saw the Squire returned to the condition it would have been in when collected by Val Zethrin back in 1935.
Some four months after the project's completion, the rebuilt Squire made its public debut at the Royal Concours of Elegance held at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, while in May 2016, 'CLO 5' was invited to the prestigious Concorso d'Eleganza at Villa d'Este, Italy where it received a 'Mention of Honour' in its class. Later that same year the Squire spent a week on display in the Rotunda at the RAC's headquarters in London.
As one would expect of a car of such historic importance, the Squire comes with an extensive history file, arguably the highlight of which is an extremely rare original Squire brochure. In addition, the file contains assorted correspondence, various magazine articles, period photographs, restoration invoices, a UK V5C Registration certificate, and a FIVA Identity Card.
With the other eight surviving Squires all in either museums or the world's most esteemed private collections, and thus highly unlikely to be offered for sale in the foreseeable future, 'CLO 5' represents what for most collectors will be a genuine once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own one of these fabulous cars. Exotic in specification, technologically advanced, historically important, extremely rare, and with in-period Brooklands history, this beautifully restored car represents everything the discerning collector could possibly wish for.