This is the next car owned by Adrian Stokes – after the Raleigh Safety Seven we featured in Snapshot 145. Adrian was a student at New College, Oxford, probably just after the Second World War – and, during his student days, despite the ban on students’ owning and driving cars, had a series of four of them, of which this is the second.
All we know from Adrian’s memoirs is that he bought the Singer as something more reliable and sportier than the Raleigh. We know very little more about it during his ownership – but we do know that it survives. On the Internet there is a colour picture of the car, now in bright red, looking totally as it appears in our Snapshot except for an extra bonnet strap. It was taken at the Association of Singer Car Owners ASCO Rally at Llangollen in 2016.
The Singer Le Mans was a sporting development of the Singer Nine. The Nine was launched in 1932 as an economy model that replaced the earlier Singer Junior. It was offered as a new economy model, replacing the earlier Singer Junior series, and sported a 972cc overhead-cam 4-cylinder engine and a four-speed gearbox. Neil Thorp tells us that the open 4-seater was named the Nine Tourer, and the 2-seater version the Nine Sports.
A four-seater finished thirteenth at the 1933 Le Mans 24 Hours race, and Singer duly celebrated this small success with the introduction in 1933 of the “Le Mans”, a two-seater with twin carburettors – the type being difficult to pin down: Motor Sport says they were twin SUs, but Neil believes that they were initially twin Solexes, with SUs coming much later.
The Le Mans was more highly tuned than the Nine Sports, with high-lift camshafts, a bigger and better-cooled oil sump, and a counterbalanced crankshaft. Power climbed from the original Nine’s 26hp to 34hp. It also had a particular advantage over its MG competition, by reason of its powerful and dependable Lockheed hydraulic brakes. With no running boards (at least for the 1933 and 1934 models), abbreviated “helmet” type wings in 1933 and then a more sweeping version adopted in 1934, an external fuel tank and twin spare tyres, it certainly cut a dash in the mid-thirties – and still had the sporty appearance and performance that Adrian was looking for after the war.
Although not especially successful at the track that named it, the Le Mans chalked up some impressive wins at hillclimbs, trials, and endurance races such as the Liège-Rome-Liège and the Alpine Cup Rally.
History does not relate how long Adrian kept his Le Mans, but he eventually moved on to another important sporting car. But that will have to wait for another Snapshot.
Photograph published with the permission of the Warden and Scholars of New College, Oxford.
I have sent this link to my father, L.A.F. Stokes, who was very impressed with the modern picture of it. He says: “The Singer was a rival to, and as good as, the MGs of the day, and took me and my friend John Macdonell all round France in 1949. I’m amazed that it is still around. I did have it at Oxford, where cars were allowed to students from their second year subject to various regulations.”