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SNAPSHOT 403: 1910 Bedford

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


2 responses to “SNAPSHOT 403: 1910 Bedford”

  1. David Grimstead says:

    A third version of the above photos appeared in a magazine in October 1910, where this car (Reg: LD 4315, North West London) was described as an “Elegant Bedford 18 h.-p. Cabriolet: The car has a wheelbase of 9ft., with a four-cylinder engine, dual ignition, and Bedford self-starter. The chassis and body and all fittings have been produced on the premises of Bedford Motors Ltd., and the wheels are fitted with heavy section Goodyear Quick Detachable Tyres.” The term “produced” had a broad interpretation; a feature of J. E. Lambie advertising…

    It seems engineer Lambie, living in Britain since the early 1890s, was previously co-director of another car agency assembling and bodying American chassis: “Lambie and Sharp, Reo Motors Ltd, Broad Sanctuary Westminster, London S.W.”, advertised from at least July 1907 to June 1908; their telegram address was “Jelamco”.

    Likely his co-director was Graham Sharp, although H. Gordon Sharp competed in a 2-cylinder 16-h.p. Reo at Bexhill in April 1907. Adverts claimed their Reos did well in Scottish trials as early as 1906 and that the cars were “made” at their London address but in May 1907 “110 tons of Reo chassis were delivered from America” after twenty-eight cars were ordered at Cordingley’s show. R. E. Olds surely called in to thank them during his tour of Europe during 1907.

    Lambie and Sharp advertised Reos through 1908 but by 1909 Lambie had changed his allegiance to a new car built on a different American chassis. This first Bedford was reported in May 1909 to have been initiated by Percival Lea Dewhurst Perry, who said it was to be a two-seater “British product, designed, however, along American lines”, with a 4-cylinder, 95 by 95mm, 18-h.p. engine, an epicyclic gearbox and cardan shaft drive. Perry had been until then the manager of Perry, Thornton and Schreiber, 117-119 Long Acre, London, sole English agents for Ford. The 1904 Central Motor Company, also at this address, contracted to supply Ford cabs to the London Automobile Cab Co. in 1905 but failed to supply. Perry, also a director of the latter, resigned from it in 1907 as its financial losses mounted due to late delivery and poor quality of its alternative French cabs.

    Perry and army officer’s daughter and pioneer chauffeuse Miss Sheillah O’Neill, were photographed in identical open two-seater Bedford cars (Reg: H 5375 and H 5376) in St James Park, London in May – at the same spot where Lambie’s previous Reos were photographed. This was to announce that three of the new pre-production cars were to take part in the Irish Reliability Trial; one each for Perry, O’Neill and Henry A. Bate. Unfortunately, O’Neil was ill and Mr. B. Paton, reportedly “of the sterner sex”, took her place. They did well, Paton won a class and only an accident to Bate, when a dropped radius rod pole-vaulted his car off the road, lost them a team prize.

    Some named Perry, who had driven Fords in previous trials, as the entrant but others reported that it was Lambie of 7-11 Little George Street, Westminster (just off Broad Sanctuary) who had entered under £150 A-class 15-18 h.p. Bedford cars for Perry and O’Neill, and a third for Bate in the £150-200 B-class.

    Only in July 1909 was it confirmed that the car was to be made in London and by October Lambie was literally seen in the driving seat and the manager’s seat as well – the first address of the Bedford Motor Company being Broad Sanctuary, Westminster. During 1909, Lambie had entered 15-18 h.p. Bedford cars in races and record attempts, some at Brooklands and as entrant, his business title was Managing Director of Bedford Motors Ltd., Westminster and Mr. B. G. Boultwood was his works general manager and had driven the cars at Brooklands.

    Perry entered a 22.4-h.p. Bedford for 21-year-old American driver H. Petit in a Brooklands handicap race in July 1909 but by October he was back with Ford, as managing director of their large new depot at 50-59 Shaftsbury Avenue, London and by 1911 had been appointed managing director of Ford in England, later in Europe. Petit remained a regular driver of Bedfords entered by Lambie at Brooklands.

    Although the Bedford was already known as “the British equivalent of the American Buick”, in late 1909 it was misleadingly reported that “Messrs. Bedford Motors Ltd. have purchased the manufacturing rights of the well-known American-made Buick cars, and are thus enabled to incorporate into their English made ‘Bedfords’ all the points so generally admitted as excellent in the Buick cars. The arrangements for the coming year are very complete, and the factory is now capable of turning out some 2000 chassis per year.”

    By January 1910, the Company and manufacturing address was given as Bedford House, 135,136 &137 Long Acre, London – the building’s size made it a local landmark. Adverts also identified the Bedford Works in Willesden to be where imported chassis were reassembled and English bodies constructed – it had doubled in size to meet demand by 1912. Kimberley Road off Willesden Lane was where Grosvenor Coachbuilders, operated by Shaw and Kilburn, had moved to from 300-308 Euston Road by WWI.

    Lambie’s publicity was more open about where Bedford and Buick parts were made during 1911-12, when adverts showed both brands together. Good publicity when driver Petit, supported by Mr. Dransfield of General Motors (Europe) Ltd, was awarded the “Gold Pokal” for winning the August 1912 Russian reliability trial in a Bedford 5-seater open tourer. During the previous year the parent company had set up General Motors Export Co. with Bedford Motors as its European hub making Lambie managing director of General Motors (Europe) Ltd. when it superseded Bedford Motors Ltd. Until late 1912 its telegram address remained “Jelamco” but changed when J. E. Lambie resigned in January 1913. Thereafter, all adverts identified the company’s cars as Buicks or Bedford-Buicks with the telegram address for Bedford House, Long Acre now “Buickgen”.

    Ignominiously in October 1917, Lambie, still an engineer, was fined 5s. by Amersham magistrates under the Aliens Registration Act when he visited his sick son in Norfolk – still an American citizen, he had worked in Britain for 27 years. Meanwhile, over at Ford, Percival Perry’s wartime work would lead to him being knighted in June 1918…

  2. David Grimstead says:

    Postscript: unsurprising to find that this well-appointed Bedford was designed for a widely travelled woman with aristocratic friends. Caption to a photo in a 1910 magazine states that it was built for Mrs. [Annie] Trotter of Waxwell Farm, Pinner in Middlesex – less than ten miles from Bedford’s plant at Willesden. She was the widow of Edward Trotter, a businessman, benefactor to social causes and trustee of the Working Men’s Homes Association and Blackwell Emigrants Home, who died in 1903. She continued their good works locally but died in Brighton and was buried in Pinner in 1920. Her obituary said she had been a close friend of the Queen of Sweden, Lord Radstock and appropriately, Adeline, Duchess of Bedford.

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