Archive for the 'cars' Category


The Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Dudley Vernon Steynor

Service conducted by  The Revd Canon Cavell Cavell-Northam


Dudley was born on 16 October 1909 in Malvern where he grew up with his two brothers and sister in a large family home enjoying the freedom of the Malvern Hills.  Kite flying, model aeroplanes, motor cycles and motor cars were just some of the hobbies pursued by the family.

His interest in music developed at an early age as the family were very close to Vernon Warner the young protégé pianist.

Dudley was in one of the first intakes at Stowe school and a contemporary of David Niven, Sir Nicholas Winton and Geoffrey de Haviland .  In later years he bumped into David Niven at Heathrow Airport. David recognised him immediately, which says a great deal about the Steynor profile.

On leaving Stowe he studied the piano in London at the Academy of Music   living in Kew with his brother Martyn.  Together they joined the Hounslow Flying club and learned to fly.

Following his studies at the London Academy of Music he was advised to continue studying in Europe and chose Berlin where he studied at the Edwin Fischer School, only returning due to the imminent possibility of War.

His wish to assist the war effort as a pilot was initially thwarted by poor eyesight.  Having spent some months on the ground as a Link Trainer Instructor, and following a weekend party at the house of Jumbo Edwards his Commanding Officer and pre war Olympic Gold Medal Rower, a further medical in London was arranged. This medical was with the Chief Medical officer of the RAF.  He proceeded to test his eyesight by initially requesting him to read the chart with his good eye and then, without changing the chart and while looking the other way, asked him to read it again!  Dudley passed.

Some months later Dudley bumped into the Chief Medical Officer, thanked him, and asked if he realised that in fact his eyesight in one eye was really quite poor.  He replied that he knew people who could see perfectly and were quite lethal in the air and some people, like  Dudley, who might not have perfect eyesight but were  excellent pilots. As one who spent his time on the ground he would prefer people like Dudley above him!

The outcome of this was a posting to Booker Airfield as an Instructor in charge of B Flight where he spent the rest of the war. Here he met Ann who was assisting the war effort by helping with the tea wagon along with two of the sisters of King Zog of Albania who was living in exile at Parmoor here in Frieth.  Dudley and Ann were married in 1943.

On being de-mobbed Dudley decided that a career as a concert pianist was no longer an option and proceeded to devote his energies to designing and developing various ideas.  The first of these was the Verdik Petrol Economiser which made significant improvements to the petrol consumption of the cars of the day, and was widely acclaimed by the motoring press.

There followed  a humane rat trap which he designed at the request of his uncle in Birmingham who owned a hardware shop and it was the mesh of this trap that led to his next significant development.

A famous burns’ surgeon was staying with the Hon Mrs James in Lane End and on seeing one of the traps announced this was just the mesh needed to make guards to protect children from the horrendous burns suffered as a result of accidents with electric fires.  Dudley came up with a suitable design and as a result was kept busy for a few years supplying the electricity companies and then gas companies with guards to fit to all their various models. It was not long however before the manufacturers started incorporating guards at the manufacturing stage bringing this market to a close.   Guards for open fires were a further development and these carried on selling for a number of years.

Dudley and Ann started their married life at The Cottage, Lane End next to the old Chapel on Moor Common.  William was born here in 1948.

In 1951 they moved to Colliers Corner on the day of the birth of their daughter Linden who Dudley delivered in the absence of the midwife who had not yet arrived.  Dudley always said he was not phased by this as he had been in the Boy Scouts!!!

The family was completed by the arrival of James in 1956.

Although continuing throughout his working life with his inventions he decided that with a growing family to support he needed a more stable income. This led to his ownership of Goodchild’s Garage in Lane End and then a Daf Dealership.  Soon Dafs could be seen wherever you looked!

Among his many and varied interests steam always held a fascination. The purchase of an Avelling & Porter Steamroller gave the local community a much loved landmark as he kept it next to the road outside his house.

In 1964 he was tempted back to flying when William started gliding at Booker, now Wycombe Air Park. Dudley was soon recognised as an excellent pilot and instructor and he continued enjoying his gliding in retirement up to the age of 84.

In early 1981 disaster struck. There were extensive power cuts across the area as a result of a heavy snow fall. Dudley had taken Ann out to get a hot meal when the power was restored. The resultant surge caused a fire in Colliers Corner and they returned to find five fire crews doing their best to get it under control. They had lost nearly everything they owned.

Undaunted, a mobile home was bought and placed at the bottom of the garden for them to live in. The initial clearing of the site was carried out by two young men who were keen to earn some money between their training sessions at Marlow Rowing Club. A number of local tradesmen were engaged to rebuild the house and by the spring of 1982 they were able to return. As a thank you for all the hard work Dudley took the two rowers gliding. In the years that followed he watched with great interest the developing career of one of those rowers, Sir Steve Redgrave.

Following the death of his wife Ann in 1996 he returned to his music and at the grand age of 87 produced two CDs of his favourite piano pieces.

Latterly he kept himself fit by doing at least 10 minutes a day on his exercise bike and completing fiendish Soduko puzzles until only a few months before his death.

His 100th birthday was a milestone he wanted to achieve. He thoroughly enjoyed his day which many here I am sure will remember as it brought Lane End to a standstill!

Escape from France

I am writing this at the end of the first week of the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow. The chaos there is considerable and we have first-hand experience of it because my daughter-in-law, Jane, used it on the way to visit her daughters, Harriet and Louise, in Switzerland. “It is amazing the authorities could make such a mess after having plenty of time to sort out any problems. Will they never learn?” were William, my son’s, words. With the benefit of my longer memory the answer to this question is “No”. It is part of our British ness – our sense of humour and our never-absent optimism.

Early in September 1939 two of my Banks cousins, Honor and Margaret, asked me if I would take them to France for their holiday. I could use their Austin 10 car and as they had never been out of England they were much looking forward to the adventure. It was to turn out to be rather more of an adventure than they had expected!

I was not too sure that this was a good idea with the political situation at that moment, but finally decided to ‘give it a go’. We went from Dover and enjoyed a leisurely trip to Cannes as is appropriate in an Austin 10 with its maximum speed of 50/60 mph. We stopped frequently and enjoyed the French food and when we reached Cannes – which didn’t impress us very much – we decided to explore the coast. Menton looked lovely and we decided to make it our HQ for a week before setting out on the journey home. It was while we were there that Hitler marched into Poland………….
I was extremely worried as I felt responsible for my cousins and told them that we must return to England at once. We decided to start at daybreak the following day with the hope that we would not be too late to get a boat back home. With my knowledge to the German mind after my two recent years in Berlin, I knew we had landed ourselves in avery sticky spot.
Our journey back was frustrating. You can’t hurry in an Austin 10 and the situation was, I think, rather over my cousins’ understanding. We kept going throughout the day, not stopping for meals, only to refuel. It was well after dark when we reached Calais some twelve hours after we started to be told we were too late, there would be no more sailings. They had cancelled all boats to England. However, they believed Dunkirk was still operating – but with no certainty that we would find a boat with space there.
We hurried on and with much arguing, and the fact that we had fully paid return tickets for the car and ourselves that finally secured us got us on a boat. This was blacked out and sailed zigzag in case there were submarines about.
I don’t remember what time we reached Dover, but life seemed so calm after the previous 24 hours and we had an unhurried journey to Great Witley to deliver the car and my cousins back home. A few days later we heard Chamberlain announce on the radio that “A state of war now exists between ourselves and Germany” after giving Hitler the chance to back down.

The subject of this addition to my website seems to have wandered a little. It started when, my daughter Linden described the journey she and her husband, Adrian, had just completed in a single day returning from the Scottish Isles, after their holiday there. I suggested it would be interesting to compare their journey, 400 miles, in a modern car with two drivers, motorways but far more traffic, with mine in 1939, 600 miles, in a car with a maximum speed of 60 mph and only one driver. Of course I had more urge!

Motoring Memories

Some of my friends collect old cars. But they don’t always keep them in good running condition. This can lead to uncomfortable moments. There was a meeting at the Bull and Butcher in Turville, 4 miles away, of a vintage car club to which I was invited. “I will collect you as there will be many vintage cars there and not much room”., Peter collected me in one of his several cars while it was still daylight and it never occurred to me to ask him if the old car’s lights were working. It was a pleasant evening that went on until well after dark. And then, of course, we had to get back home and I discovered the car had no lights. This did not worry Peter in the slightest. “ I have a torch which you can hold” he said. The road between Turville and my house are not very wide and the prospect of standing up holding a torch in an open car did not appeal to me. Peter failed to persuade me to give it a try – it was pitch black night and no street lights. In the end Peter got two club members to box us in and in this way we got home.

I have said little about my time with the Bond mini car apart from the moment when I left it at Stocks, 20 miles away, and was persuaded to use Miss Forbes-Dunlop’s Austin 10 when an emergency call from Ann required my immediate return home. This Bond was the first of a range of Bonds that sprung up in the early days after the war. It was a clever design – a 3-wheeler with the single steering wheel in front which also carried the engine, in this case a 148cc Villiers giving some 5HP and a maximum speed of about 30mph on the level. It had 3 speeds, all part of the engine unit and it would average about 100mpg. With seats for two it could manage a 1 in 6 gradient or a 1 in 4 if the passenger walked. It was a reliable and economical and that meant a lot in those difficult days. Germany produced the Messersmidt and Heinkel – both 3 wheelers, both of them with more powerful engines, faster and more expensive to boot if I may use such an expression for vehicles with little luggage carrying capacity!

I ran a DKW for a time. This had a small two-cylinder two-stroke engine with a dynastart which is a dynamo with its armature an extension of the engine crankshaft and therefore permanently engaged. It turned itself into an almost silent starter when you pressed the starter button. But there was a snag; the armature required very fine clearance and any appreciable wear in the engine crankshaft bearings and it wouldn’t work and demanded an expensive overhaul.

Motor Cycling

My motorcycling started in 1924, in imagination only, when the chemistry ‘lab-boy’ offered to sell me his 147cc belt-driven Francis-Barnett. I can’t remember what I paid for it but it must have been very little. I had very little money in those days. I asked permission to drive it home at the end of term, but was, quite rightly, refused – it was some 70 miles. So my motorcycling days started at Malvern Link railway station. The thrill of the mile, all uphill, to our house is something I still remember 82 years later. The F-B remained with me for the next 4 or 5 years during which I learnt all about the construction of the Villiers engine and its ability to run quite effectively in the reverse direction if its flywheel magneto was over-advanced. The engine is tough, utterly reliable and ideal for powering a beginners first motorcycle. With only two gears and an unbreakable and light frame and belt final drive. I enjoyed those early years before moving on to more serious motorcycling in the form of a 172cc Super-sports James, still with a Villiers engine with 5 ½ hp (instead of 3 ½ hp of the F-B) and its ability to seize solid if one failed to treat it the right way. (For those who like curious facts or co-incidences: from 1930 onwards I used to look in at Goodchilds Garage in a village called Lane End to pick up a gallon tin of Duckhams R Oil for my James. Apart from this I was unaware of Lane End’s existence and yet ten years later not only was it to be my nearest village but later I was to buy Goodchilds Garage and turn it into a successful DAF car agency.)

I joined the British Two Stroke Club in 1929 and entered several of its reliability trials after being graded as ‘expert’! One of these trials started in south Bucks and finished at Madresfield Court near my home at Malvern the next day. The airship R101 Had crashed at Beauvais during the night. That dates this day accurately.

I saw an advert in some motorcycling journal for a Villiers engine new and in its box asking for offers. I phoned to find out details. “The only mark I can see is a Y stamped on it crank case – I’ll take a fiver for it”. I hurried to collect it from him. The Y engine was the 172cc Brooklands racing engine. It was supposed to give 8 hp. It had a padded crankshaft and aluminium fins on the upper part of the cylinder. Otherwise it was a standard 172cc Super-Sports and fitted easily into my James. But my trials days were ending; I wanted something more social and I had my eye on a Morgan 3-wheeler. I bought a 1924 “Aero” with S-V Blackburne engine for £24 and a new experience began.


My father would talk at length about his motorcars. His first was a tiller-steered Lanchester and when his next one came with a steering wheel he was far from pleased. “It lacks the extreme accuracy of the tiller” he would reminisce. Father taught me to drive as soon as I could reach the pedals on our T-Ford. I would be about 9 years old (in 1918) and he would prop me up beside him, ready to put his pipe between my lips whenever we came to a village. I can never remember not getting away with this and so became a reasonable driver at an absurdly tender age. Little did I realise that I was about to experience the art of teaching – something that was to play such a large part of my life later on. My father, who was a dentist had Dyson Perrins , of Worcester Sauce and Worcester China Works, as a patient. One of the China Works’ artists was a Mr Watmough who also came to my father for some dental treatment. Mr Watmough had a Rover two-cylinder car which he couldn’t manage properly and my father directed him to me for some lessons in the limited space of our drive at Berwyn. All father’s cars were open ones with canvas hood and side screens until he was about 80 when he bought his first saloon – a black Austin 10 – and in which he was arrested for car theft. He had pulled in at a local tobacconist for his pipe tobacco and another black Austin 10 had pulled in behind him. When he came out he got into the wrong car and had reached the centre of Great Malvern, half a mile away, when they stopped him The days of individual keys for ignition and doors were far in the future. Also almost all Austin 10s were black. This was interesting because the policeman who arrested him knew him well and in the end he escaped being locked up – but only just.

Every year father took me to the Shelsley Walsh Hill climb. The owner of the land was a patent of his and we had permission to drive up the famous hill whenever we wished. I have driven it in a Fiat 17/50. When I left Stowe at 17 I developed a passion for motorcycles. I had bought a Francis-Barnett 147cc from the lab-boy there and I remember the thrill of riding it home from Malvern Link station – an uphill mile or so. I would have ridden it from Stowe but for JF Roxburgh’s correct refusal permitting me doing so.

There was no driving test in those days and I spent much time in trying to improve the bike’s performance. The ignition was by flywheel magneto – the backplate fixed by a metal strap. Remove this and the backplate could be adjusted to give perhaps just that little more advanced ignition setting which might result in obtaining just a slightly higher speed when flat out. The result can be spectacular. It must be remembered that a 2-stroke engine will run in either direction – it is only a matter of ignition setting. Church Street, Great Malvern is a steep incline terminating into the Terrace abruptly. There was usually a policeman at this point and he had stopped me there to await a gap in the Terrace traffic. My engine had coughed a bit as I brought it to rest – but it continued to run. When the policeman beckoned me on I gave him a ‘thank you’ smile and proceeded rapidly backwards. My riding skill was not up to this and I finished in a sprawl at his feet.

In 1928 I went to Kew to study piano with Vernon Warner and my Francis-Barnett went with me. But I now coveted a 172cc super-sports TT James in a shop in Richmond at £32.50 and when I was offered a good price for the F-B I bought it. Here was my ideal motorcycle. I joined the British Two-Stroke Club, entered their trials, advanced from beginner to expert and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

My next mode of transport was Morgan three-wheeler. This had a V-twin Blackburn side-valve engine and cost me £24. Mr Morgan and his family were patents of my father and when I lost one pf the front wheels on this three-wheeler at night-time on a straight road near Pershore Mr Morgan personally opened the works next day (a Sunday) obtained a new wheel and axle and helped me fit it. Later on I bought the first F1 Morgan (with Ford 8 engine) but it was not a success. The extra weight of the water-cooled engine was too much for the front suspension struts and they would give way and wheel would splay out. Mr Morgan’s reason for not fitting a detachable rear wheel was ‘have you ever had a puncture in it?’ I admitted I never had. He continued “punctures are caused by front wheels kicking up nails etc, which become caught by the rear wheels directly behind them. There is no rear wheel behind in a Morgan”. Demand, however, won and a new rear suspension with detachable rear wheel was adopted – but only in the last year before the new Morgan 4-4 came out and the three-wheeler production finished.

The war came and went. I had married and we had started a family. We were always struggling a bit for lack of money and I remember little about the various cars I owned. All furniture was bought a auction sales but the time came when we needed something bigger to carry a growing family. I reckoned we could afford £100 – but there was nothing I could find. And then in Motor Sport of all journals I saw “Rolls-Royce Phantom 1 for sale with estate–type body used for caravan towing Price £75. Skegness Caravan co.”

I was a member of the RAC and knew the chief engineer Mr Hudlass well (via my Verdik Petrol Economizer) and I arranged to get an engineer’s report on this Rolls for £5. This read so well that I sent them a cheque and the car became mine. Car collection collected it and so began several years of interesting motoring. I wanted Father to drive it before he was stopped driving by his insurance company which had a fixed age limit of 90. This places the year as late 1950s. He had never driven a Rolls-Royce and he loved it. He lit his inevitable pipe and settled himself comfortably behind the wheel and sailed blissfully over the crossroad near Frieth without looking left or right and convinced me that his insurance company had a point and it was time to stop and not spoil a long clean driving licence during the remaining almost ten years he was to have. The picture of the Rolls with Snowdon in the background was taken during a holiday in Wales. We were exploring at the top of the Llanberis Pass along the Pyg track. I do not recommend it, except on a suitable motorcycle. I cannot remember why I sold the Rolls. The purchaser Col Stephens, repeated the original Lands End to John O Grotes trip of the Silver Ghost for historic reasons which was written up in the motoring press and he equipped it with ‘everything including the kitchen sink’ and I occasionally met it at motoring events. I had always had a longing to own an Alfa-Romeo Spider. A holiday in Rome with my wife in 1981 (flown there by our son William who was by then an airline captain with BA) gave me the chance to see plenty of them and a determination to own one. With the help of a London Alfa dealer this soon became possible and we had may happy trips and holidays with it. There was only one snag. I was getting older and found it hard to cope without power-assisted steering. Above 10mph OK but parking in ever-smaller car parks was becoming too difficult and it had to go. It was bought my the Headmistress of Wycombe Abbey girls school who years later is still enjoying it. But I miss its presence in my garage, even if only just to look at. For some reason the Alfa-Romeo Owner’s Club made me a life member so I continue to receive their newsletter which I love to see. My last Driving Licence expired in Nov 2004 but I had already stopped by then, and so my driving life terminated, like my father’s, in being accident free and without an insurance claim.

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