This is not the Bedford of Vauxhall commercial vehicle fame – but, curiously, it is a motor car made by General Motors well before they took over Vauxhall in 1925. It is a Buick Model 10, built from 1908 to 1910 in Flint, Michigan. A remarkable feature, credited with helping in the Model 10’s considerable success, was its overhead valve engine, developing 40 bhp from the 2,703cc in-line four-cylinder powerplant.
The Bedford was the second foreign venture for Buick, the first being the 1908 agreement with the McLaughlin Carriage Company of Oshawa, Ontario to build Canadian bodies on Buick chassis and name the cars McLaughlins and, 15 years later, McLaughlin-Buicks. The Bedford arrangement dated from 1909 and was similar. Buick 10 chassis from Flint were bodied in London, mostly by Grosvenor, who later became Vauxhall’s preferred coachbuilder. The Grosvenor Carriage Company Ltd of Kilburn in north-west London was only founded around 1910, so perhaps the illustrations and their accompanying article in a British motoring magazine were a calling card for the fledgling coachbuilder.
The cars were more commonly known as Bedford-Buicks (a name that survived until 1920), but these two illustrations from 1910 made no reference to the Buick name; the body was stated to have been “…designed and built by Bedford Motors, Ltd. on one of their standard 15-18-h.p. four-cylinder Bedford chassis…” There was a clear attempt to imply that they were British through and through. The Bedford Motors company was based in Bedford House, Long Acre, in London W.C.
The name of this body style was a single cabriolet, claimed to combine the merits of an open and closed car on the same vehicle. The front pillars supporting the hood above the back of the front seat were removed bodily to the rear when the hood was folded. The front window of the passenger compartment, which these pillars supported when in place, dropped down behind the front seat when not in use. The side windows likewise dropped into the doors. When the hood was up, the occupants of the back seats were “completely protected in all weather, and even the driver and his fellow passenger have a considerable amount of protection from the high side doors and the “Jelamco” double-folding wind-screen.” A detachable leather canopy could be rapidly fitted over the driving compartment for “very bad weather”. Chauffeurs, seemingly, had to be tough in those days.
The body had more luxury accoutrements. The driving seat and interiors of the driver’s doors were upholstered in pigskin, and the passenger compartment was upholstered, appropriately, in Bedford cord with special laces and trimmings (although the name did not come from the English town but from New Bedford, Massachusetts, a famous 19th-century textile manufacturing city). Fittings were of sterling silver throughout, and included a watch, a barometer, a speaking tube and an electric light. Finally, a footwarmer was provided, operated from the exhaust. The chassis was modest and low-priced. The body was most definitely more upmarket.
But what of the strange “Jelamco” name for the windscreen? It was the telegraphic address for the Bedford company and referred to its director John Edward Lambie, born around 1867 in New Hampshire in the USA. Was he an employee of General Motors? Possibly.
Images courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive: www.richardrobertsarchive.org.uk