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History of an old car FP37

Salisbury Museum has just been donated a collection of about one hundred photographs, mostly from the 1940s.

They were donated by the daughter of a lady who died a few years ago aged 94. I had known this lady for a number of years and attended her 90th birthday in August 2013.

Amongst these 100 photographs is one of a car with the registration FP37.  There is an old-style petrol pump and a familiar telephone box behind the two gentlemen in this open vehicle.  One gentleman has a cigarette in his mouth . I do not recognise the building behind them; possible a military building?  Note the very flimsy front wheel tyres.

During WWII the lady’s home was near Amport House, Andover, UK.  Some words she had written were:

“It was in January 1945, while I was serving in the WAAF, that I met my husband.  We married in the following September, and before the year was out, I found myself pregnant, and a civilian once more.  My husband was still in the RAF…

The aerodrome had two squadrons of Halifaxes, 425, the Allouettes, a French Canadian squadron, and 420, the Snowy Owls, composed of English Canadians.  My job as a sergeant in signals was...”

I know that during WWII the lady was posted to the outer Hebrides amongst other places.

I have no idea how the photograph FP37 ended up amongst her photographs but her husband was a highly skilled mechanic.  There are no other photographs of FP37 in the collection but I did find that the vehicle still exists!  It is in an Australian museum.

I contacted the museum and had the following lovely reply:

“The vehicle is a STAR 3½ HP.  Production date: 1898-1899. “Vis-à-vis” 3.5HP, water-cooled motor. Belt and chain drive. Two forward speeds. Two independent hand brakes. Maximum engine speed 750 r.p.m. Licence Plate FP37 We don’t have recorded provenance between 1928 and 1965.”

Western Australian Museum’s Star was one of the first ten produced. It spent its working life in England where it was first purchased by Elijah Downes, owner of a Rhyhall engineering works. It was purchased for him by his son, Arthur Downs, who taught Elijah how to drive.

Bert Wickens, foreman of the Star engine-fitting workshop in Wolverhampton, drove the Star to the 1898 Motor Show at Olympia (London). It later fell into disrepair while being stored in a shed, before J.R. Harmston and friends discovered it in 1919 and carried out restoration work on the Star over two years.

In 1927 ownership was transferred to F.S. Rowden and in 1928 the Star ran in the London to Brighton Run.  Between this time and 1965, when Percy Markham purchased the vehicle in England, its whereabouts and ownership are unclear, although the Star Engineering company did acquire the vehicle at some point during this time. It was sold by Markham to WAM in 1970, and accessioned into the history collection in April 1970.”

Note the much sturdier front wheel tyres as we see it in the museum photograph.  

Can anyone shed further light on this vehicle, its history and as to why a local lady would treasure such a photograph?

What a remarkable car, and such a great back-story. Thank you Alan! This is an excellent example of how the early motor car chassis were basically the same as horse drawn vehicles of the day, with the original wheels, in this case, likely much like contemporary bicycle wheels.

In the museum photograph we can see that the passenger seats faced the driver. In the earlier photo they seem to have a custom made waterproof fitted over that seat to protect their baggage.

The steering system on the Star appears to be of this type (from a Benz of similar date), enormously inefficient and hard work to use!