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SNAPSHOT 225: 1906 Thornycroft

This is indeed a sad snapshot; a discovery in the photograph album of a well-to-do family whose home was in Leicestershire. Holidays; posed family groups; their steam yacht and magnificent home and leisure activities all are amply illustrated, but this is the sole record of such cars as they may have owned. If not in fact their property, then one would expect the name of the car’s owner to have been recorded.

The caption reads: “Thornycroft car damaged by colliding with a telegraph pole around 1910 at Daventry in a fog. Photograph taken after the accident.” Those of us who want to find more detail about the car itself gain little assistance. Thornycrofts seem to have progressed from gilled-tube radiators to the honeycomb pattern we see here during 1905, but the long and thin front wheel hubs generally are an early feature. The engine does appear to be a four-cylinder, and a relatively advanced monobloc ‘four’ with overhead valves was current in 1906 -’07, this being the 24hp of 108 x 127mm bore and stroke.

From what can be seen of the coachwork, this was most likely to have been a formal body, but a curious feature is that this frontal impact seems to have been taken by the dumb-irons and front suspension, leaving the radiator unscathed. The lamps, mudguards and bonnet of course aren’t seen; maybe lost on impact or removed prior to an attempt to recover the car. The nature of the front-end damage suggests that a substantial dumb-iron tie-bar took the main force of the impact, but such a fitting was uncommon at that time and no tie-bar was seen in the photographs of contemporary examples of this make consulted – up to the point where Ariejan ‘Master of all things early motoring’ Bos was asked for help. Firstly, we can quote from his email:

“I do not have much to add, but can only confirm your assumptions. These wheel hubs were present on Thornycrofts up to and including 1906. Several of my examples of Thornycroft models of 1905 and 1906 have the dumb-iron tie-bar (see attachment), so it seems fair to assume that the crashed car had one too.”

Secondly, Ariejan attached a beautiful photograph of a Thornycroft showing a tie-bar: it was on a show stand at a 1905 motor show, and was displayed as “Built for H.R.H. Princess Christian”. This member of the British Royal family was born as Princess Helena, the fifth child and third daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, was married to the Danish-born German prince, Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, and lived at Frogmore House in the grounds of Windsor Castle and later at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park.

Finally, we can quote again from Ariejan’s email, since he made an extremely trenchant point:

“By the way, the comment in the caption:  “Photograph taken after the accident” seems rather superfluous to me …”

Thornycroft cars were produced by this firm, much better known for their commercial vehicles, for some ten years from 1903.


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