Just a little primrose…

The Garage is full and the pockets are empty – and yet one keeps looking at the classified ads. After all, a pre-war classic car is still the ultimate dream. And occasionally mentioning individual cars is a good way to carefully fathom the patience and tolerance of the wife. Unfortunately most of the affordable cars are rather underpowered – and to even think of Bentley & Co we would have to mortgage the house, if not the soul. But then, on a nice summer day, a 1936 Armstrong Siddeley 20/25 in the rather (ahem) restrained colour ‘primrose over black’ was put up for sale…

The 20/25 was offered from June 1936 onward as long and short chassis and with various body styles. Until 1939 (then as 25HP), 447 short 20/25 left the factory in Coventry. Less than 30 of these cars are known to have survived till today. Most of the short 20/25 were delivered as ‘Touring Saloon’; furthermore, the factory offered the more sportive (and expensive) Atalanta Saloon as well as the ‘Town and Country Saloon’ with or without division between passengers and driver. In addition, coachbuilders such as Maltby or Tickford offered individual bodies.

A newly-constructed 3.6 litre 6-cylinder engine with 83 bhp powered the 20/25. In line with the Armstrong Siddeley policy of the 1930s, the car was only available with a Wilson preselect gearbox, making a significant difference in comfort compared to previous non-synchronised ‘crash boxes’ that required double clutching. With a price tag of 575 Pounds, the 20/25 Touring Saloon was clearly an upmarket vehicle, costing 4 times as much as a wee little Austin 7. In general, the customer had the choice between the colours blue, green, grey and black…

… or a more friendly primrose yellow. According to factory records, the 20/25 on offer was already delivered in this colour in 1936 via the Armstrong Siddeley branch on Bond Street in London. The original owner, of Scottish nobility, appears to have been quite extrovert in his days… But fast forward to 2014: After a short flight from Cologne/Bonn to Birmingham (seemingly being the only non-Briton on the aircraft) I reached Edmund, the seller of the 20/25 in Wales. The first steps led of course to the impressive garage, where the ‘little’ primrose 20/25 was patiently sitting next to a Reliant 3-wheeler.

The car had been in the possession of a Scottish clan chief for 30 years and was known to the Armstrong Siddeley Owners Club for decades as being rather original. Hence it was no surprise that a thorough inspection revealed some traces of the years, which did not deter me though. After all I am still not a fan of ‘aseptic’ q-tip type restorations and spotless ‘trailer queens’ that never see the open road. So yes, there will be some bits and pieces to carefully improve – but very much preferable to botched ‘restorations’ (read: ‘bricolage’ ) under lots of filler and shiny paint.

What a joy – the engine purred like a kitten – or growled like a tiger when pushing the accelerator pedal. There was still some time to marvel at the many lovely details of the car… not only the countless Sphinx logos but also minor details such as the nicely crafted window cranks and door handles as well as a small oil can in the engine compartment. OK, ready to go!

 

Now off to a test drive! After pouring rain during the whole day, the sun came out just in time. What an engine sound, what a torque… the preselect gearbox was a pure joy and the heavy 20/25 pulled nicely even uphill in fourth gear. Wow… Welsh alleys and villages passed by as nice reflections in the chromed headlamps, a perfect backdrop for a spontaneous purchase…

Nevertheless I took one more day to sort not only the many photos taken on site but also my thoughts. A breakfast with Peter from the Armstrong Siddeley Club the next morning finally helped me to take the decision… my lovely wife had already surrendered the evening before and just asked ‘and how do you want to bring the little primrose to her new home?’.

Before the FlyBeEmbraer Jet took off from Birmingham to Cologne/Bonn, Edmund and I had agreed on a price and concluded the deal. One pre-war car less risking to lose its original body for a ‘Special’ conversion and a new, challenging chapter for us…

And getting the Lady to Luxembourg is another story

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