In the Sears family ownership since 1936 1903 Clement Talbot Type CT4K 18hp Four-cylinder, 'Roi-d'Italie' Tonneau Coachwork by J.Rothschild et Fils, Paris Registration no. AP 107 Chassis no. CT4K 5032 Engine no. AC4L 101
There are a very small number of veteran cars which have formed the very lifeblood of The London to Brighton Commemoration Veteran Car Run almost since its inception and have, in their own right, earned their place as part of 'the Brighton establishment' there are fewer still, if indeed any, which have remained in the same family ownership since 1936 and have transported four generations of the same family to Brighton in such style on practically every run since then. AP 107, the Sears family's remarkable 1903 Rothschild-bodied Clement Talbot is one such car.
The late Stanley Sears may justifiably be described as one of the father's of the old car movement worldwide, setting new standards in restoration and conservation of early motor cars in the 1930s. The Clement Talbot was the second car to join The Sears Collection, the first car, an 8hp Darracq having proved rather too slow for Sears's driving preferences. Sears, writing many years ago, records the Clement Talbot's arrival at his Bolney home as follows:
I put enquiries out in various directions for something better and was informed that there was a 1903 Clement Talbot near Shalford in Surrey, so an appointment was made to inspect it. This was a fine car with a Four-cylinder. 18hp engine and body made from teak by the famous Paris Coachbuilder of Rothschild et Fils. The mudguards were also of wood, and although the car looked very shabby, close inspection showed that the woodwork had been perfectly preserved by many coats of varnish which had assumed a cracked finish with age. Again this car was bought for what would have been a song today, and as it was in running order I drove it back to Bolney. I was at once impressed with the remarkable pulling power of the engine, but as with the Darracq, it was obvious that there was a large amount of wear in all parts. So again a thorough overhaul was called for and this time I determined that it was to be up to new standard in every respect, particularly in view of the beautiful coachwork, which was an open Four-seater rear entrance tonneau. While the chassis was being brought up to original condition, all the varnish on the body and mudguards and the paint on the bonnet and wheels was completely stripped to the bare wood or metal. Then 12 coats of clear varnish were applied and each one laboriously flatted by the hand of that Master Craftsman Mr. Elphick of Haywards Heath. The beautiful grain of the wood was shown up to perfection, and the new bright red upholstery and red paint lined in blue and yellow on the bonnet, wheels and chassis contrasted strikingly with the varnish. The car looked magnificent with the gleaming brass of the lamps and fittings and I pride myself that I was the first person in England to restore a Veteran car to absolutely new condition throughout............ I covered over 6,000 miles on this car before the war and gained many class awards in Rallies and Concours d'Elegances. The car has proved to be extremely reliable and has taken part in every London to Brighton Run since 1937, always arriving punctually and without trouble en route.
How many veteran cars come with those moments of acquisition and restoration so comprehensively recorded? Stanley Sears's collection grew rapidly, the skilled eye of the connoisseur ensuring that only cars of great significance were to share the motor house at Bolney with the Clement Talbot. These were to include, amongst others, the 1904 Mercedes 18/28hp Racing Two-seater, the 1905 Rolls-Royce 20hp TT Car, a 1901 Mors 10hp, (now the property of The Royal Automobile Club and regularly driven by H.R.H Prince Michael of Kent), the 1914 Grand Prix Opel, the 1914 TT Sunbeam, the Bentley 4 ½ litre Supercharged Team Car - not to mention a mouth-wateringly spectacular collection of Edwardian, vintage and post vintage Rolls-Royces, all restored and maintained to the Sears exacting standards. Significantly the Clement Talbot has remained in the Sears family collection longer than any other car a clear favourite.
AP 107's history began in 1903 when entrepreneur Julius Drew, sixth child of a Bedfordshire clergyman, took delivery of this car at his Sussex mansion, Wadhurst Hall. Drew had made his fortune from his 'Home and Colonial Stores' in London, established by him in 1883 to supply 'basic food to the urban working class'. That this venture was successful is evidenced by Drew's retirement just six year's later and his acquisition of the magnificent Wadhurst Hall. His 18hp 2.7litre Clement Talbot was well chosen.
The French built motor car was state-of-the-art with four cylinders (cast in pairs) of 85x120mm bore and stroke, displacing a useful 2714cc, four speed gearbox with direct drive on top gear, shaft and bevel drive rear axle and mechanical inlet and exhaust valves. Surely a winning formula.
Parisian Adolphe Clement had entered the burgeoning motor industry with capital derived from exploiting his acquisition of the Dunlop pneumatic tyre patents in France. The Clement cars ranked alongside Panhard-Levassor, Mors and Berliet at the very top end of the French motor industry which itself then led the world. English aristocrat, the 20th Earl of Shrewsbury and Talbot, initially under the banner of The British Automobile Commercial Syndicate Ltd., imported Clement motor cars into England, marketing them in 1903 as Clement Talbots and later, when a new manufacturing facility had been established in Ladbroke Grove, London, in 1904, simply calling them Talbots. Julius Drew, grandly listed in Burke's Landed Gentry in 1900 as Drew of Wadhurst, certainly aspired to mixing with the elite social classes and most probably knew the 20th Earl, so inspiring his choice of motor car. The coachwork chosen for his new car was by Rheims, Auscher & Co., Manufacture de Voitures, 131 Avenue Malakoff, Paris, who traded under the name of J Rothschild et Fils, their financial backers. The Autocar of 9th May 1903 illustrates an 18hp Clement Talbot carrying 'Roi d'Italie' Protected Tonneau coachwork by Rothschild and this very closely resembles the car offered here confirming Clement's Royal patronage and suggesting that this car may well have been supplied originally with a removable canopy. Various aspects of the coachwork on this car suggest this to be the case. Stanley Sears believed that the illustration in The Autocar was of his actual car.
AP 107 remained in the ownership of Julius Drew until1920, passing that year to one S.J.Upton of Holmshill Farm at Chiddingly, Sussex. It is believed that it continued in use until 1924, passing then to a Roy Whitlea, and was to take part in its first Brighton Run in 1931.
Still today bearing Julius Drew's coat of arms on the coachwork side panels, AP 107 now reflects the attention and careful use it has enjoyed in an amazing 77 years of Sears family ownership. It is generously equipped with BRC Alpha No. 110 acetylene headlamps and P&H oil side lamps and Lucas King of the Road oil rear lamp, while audible warning of approach is provided by a Boa Constrictor bulb horn. Dashboard instrumentation includes a S.Smith & Son 0-40mph speedometer (on occasion tested to its limit!), an eight day clock and water temperature and pressure gauges. A later and more efficient Zenith carburettor was fitted to the car just 102 years ago. The late Stanley Sears enjoyed the distinction of being elected President of The Veteran Car Club of Great Britain from 1960-1962 and fittingly the car carries his VCC badge and that Club's official dating plate (Dating Certificate No.14).
AP 107 comes with an excellent history file including a copy of the Clement Cars sales brochure for 1903, along with a quantity of MOT certificates and tax discs. Recent work carried out to maintain the car to Sears standards has included a magneto overhaul, conservation of the leather upholstery by The Leather Conservation Centre at Northampton while mechanical work has included glaze busting the cylinder walls, fitting of new valves, valve springs and re-cutting valve seats, new piston rings and cam followers, refurbishing of camshaft with new cam lobes, a new crankshaft thrust bearing and a re-lined clutch.
This impressive (we've ridden in it) motor car, a real presence in any veteran gathering, has been checked over and serviced to ready it for the 2013 London-Brighton Veteran Car Run, enabling the successful buyer to drive this car on the Brighton road on Sunday, so continuing AP 107's remarkable history as part of the 'Brighton establishment.'