1936 Squire 1½ Litre Vanden Plas Sports Tourer ***Magnificent Prewar Car***
Oldtimer Australia is genuinely excited to offer for sale this 1936 Squire 1½ Litre Vanden Plas Sports Tourer.
The Squire is one of the most desirable prewar sports cars ever built. It is powered by an Anzani R1 double overhead cam inline 1,496cc 4 cylinder engine fitted with a David Brown Roots type supercharger. Output was quoted in period as an incredible 110 hp at 5,000 rpm! The power was transmitted through a 4-speed Wilson ENV pre-selector manual gearbox.
This particular car is the last of only seven cars built by Adrian Squire. It is built on a long chassis with underslung rear suspension and fitted with a Vanden Plas four seat sports touring body. It was delivered in white with white wheels to its first owner, Sir James Walker Bt of Ringdale Manor, Faringdon, Berkshire in the UK. The car was first registered on the 27th March 1936 with the registration CXL 353.
Walker owned the car for a short period before selling it back to Squire as part of a deal which involved him purchasing one of the race cars Squire was developing. This car was owned by the Squire Car Manufacturing Company Ltd at the time of the company’s liquidation in July 1936. It was sold to Scot Court and later Don May. At the time May acquired the car it had travelled 15,000 miles.
In May’s ownership, this car was subject to a road test published in the May 1937 issue of Motor sport magazine. The car achieved a top speed of 102 mph in difficult conditions and acceleration figures of 0-50 mph of 10.1 seconds, 0-60 mph of 13 seconds and 0-70 mph in 18 seconds. In June 1940 the car was sold to Castle Hill Garage of Maidenhead, Berkshire. There are photos on file of the car in May’s ownership, that note it was then red in colour.
In July 1946 or September 1947 (references differ), the car was purchased by George Oliver from Christchurch in Kent. He was a friend of Val Zethrin. At that time the original Anzani engine had been replaced with a Ford V8 due to a cracked cylinder head and the car was known as the ‘Oliver Special’.
In November 1966 the car was acquired by Bert Smith, who was the owner of another Squire. Unfortunately, the car was now in a sorry state and in very poor condition. Smith went on a journey to restore the car. He decided that the original Anzani engine was beyond economical repair and he sourced a replacement block and cylinder head from Zetherin. The car was returned to its original white and the restoration was completed by the summer of 1974. The car was featured on the front cover of the October 1974 issue of Thoroughbred & Classic Cars.
Smith sold the car at the Carter Auction at Alexandra Palace, London on the 31st October 1978. Its new owner was Joel Naïve from La Jolla, San Diego, California in the USA. After eight years in America the car returned to the UK where it was purchased by classic car specialist, Brian Classic of Cheshire. The car was the featured lot at Coys of Kensington’s auction held on the 3rd May 1987 at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. The auction was part of the National Classic Motor Show. The car’s new owner had the car on display at the Stratford Motor Museum. The car, now painted red, was featured in the December 1992 issue of Classic and Sportscar magazine.
The current owner, who lives in New Zealand, acquired the car in 1992 through classic car dealer Stanley Mann. He knew the Squire marque well as a good friend in the USA was a long term Squire owner in the 1970’s. He saw the Squire advertised in the April 1992 issue of Motor Sport magazine and subsequently purchased the car.
Modifications had been undertaken on the car over the years and the car’s new owner wanted to bring it back to its original specification. This resulted in him deciding to strip and rebuild the engine and all the ancillaries.
This car is well documented in Jonathan Wood’s definitive book on the marque, which notes that the current owner decided to repair and reuse the original engine block when he rebuilt the engine.
It was a long journey to sort the car and get the engine running right. One of the greatest challenges was the timing and this issue was ultimately resolved by manufacturing and installing new camshafts.
The end result is a credit to everyone involved, as today this car drives superbly.
In the January 1986 issue of Classic and Sportscar, Mick Walsh wrote glowingly about the Squire concluding that “ . . . I for one now nominate the Squire as the ultimate prewar British sports car.”
It was with great anticipation that we were able to test drive this car. The Anzani engine is fitted with a ki-gas starting system. When the engine is cold a few pumps are required to squirt fuel into the intake manifold. The engine immediately burst into life at the first push of the starter button. The mechanical symphony coming from under the long sleek bonnet is quite something.
One of Walsh’s criticisms of the Squire was the somewhat cramped cockpit, so it was a pleasant surprise that we didn’t feel cramped at all. The suicide doors provide easy access into the car and we found the driving position relatively comfortable.
The engine makes a wonderful sound that ‘on song’ could surely be heard from afar. It pulls strongly through the rev range with no hesitation. Whilst we didn’t drive the car hard, it is more than likely that the performance figures quoted in Motor Sport all those years ago would be achievable.
The four speed pre-selector gearbox is an absolute delight. To be able to move the gear lever, then have both hands on the steering wheel when you change gear by depressing the clutch takes some getting used to, but when you do it is actually very rewarding to be able to then focus on just steering the car. Pre-selector gearboxes are often criticized for being ‘slow’ and at times ‘awkward’. On this car it was quite the opposite, the gear changes were smooth and instantaneous with no hesitation.
It is worth mentioning the pedal layout is excellent and all three pedals have a great feel.
The Squire was highly regarded for its handling and brakes in period. Out on the open road, the car felt balanced and it was unfazed on a bumpy road. In fact, it was surprisingly refined. The brakes were excellent.
We stopped for a driver change on our test drive and importantly the car also started at the first push of the starter button when hot.
Whilst the car carries an older repaint it still presents beautifully today. The red paint still has a strong depth of colour and high gloss finish. It is not concours as there are a few very minor blemishes and stone chips here and there, but it is very good. All of the chrome, including the sloping trademark Squire grill which is a real feature on this car, is in excellent condition.
The soft top and side curtains present like new and have probably never been used.
The red wire wheels look fantastic and really suit the car. They are in very good condition and shod with Excelsior Comp H 5.50-18 tyres all around.
The interior of this car is quite something. As they say, the devil is in the detail! The front seats are a work of art themselves, but they are surprisingly comfortable and supportive. The upholstery is all in excellent condition. Even the carpets are in very good condition. The dash, instruments and controls all present very well. All of the instruments are crisp, clean and look to be in working order. The exposed gearbox completes the look and is another real feature. The car has indicators fitted for safety.
The engine bay is beautifully presented, which is not surprising given the owner’s mechanical bent.
Today the odometer reads 7,460 miles.
Accompanying the car is an excellent history file and a rare, spare engine block, which was previously fitted in the car.
- Extremely rare and desirable prewar sports car.
- Well documented in Jonathan Wood’s definitive book on the marque.
- Known and documented history from new.
- From long term ownership.
- Fully sorted, ready to show, use and enjoy.
- An appealing entry for some of the most selective and prestigious automotive events across the globe.
This exceptional motor car, is reluctantly offered for sale from a prominent private collection.
The car is currently located in New Zealand.
Price AUD $999,950.
Adrian Squire had a dream. Ever since he was a student at the Downside school in Somerset in the UK he wanted to design and build his own sports car. Squire left school in July 1926 and a month before his seventeenth birthday he produced a catalogue in which he described the specifications of his Squire sports car, which was to be powered by a 1½ litre engine. His motto “For comfort, speed & safety, buy a Squire.”
Squire attended Faraday House in London before securing a short apprenticeship at Bentley. He only stayed there for a few months. By mid 1929 he joined some likeminded enthusiasts in a garage repair business in Gerrard’s Cross, Buckinghamshire, some 20 miles northwest of London. Whilst working there he did apply for jobs at various car manufacturers and in September 1929 he managed to secure a job as a draughtsman at MG in Abingdon.
Fortunately, Squire received a significant inheritance on his 20th birthday and it was these funds which would enable his dream to become a reality.
Squire remained at MG for two years, leaving the company on the 5th August 1931 to pursue his dream of building his own car
He went searching for a suitable location and eventually settled on Remenham Hill, Henley-on-Thames. Squire Motors was established, which initially sold MG’s and later Rileys. Times were tough during the great depression and it wasn’t lost on Squire when Bentley went into receivership in July 1931.
In Squire’s original plans, his car was to be powered by an engine and gearbox of his own design. As optimistic and talented as Squire was, he quickly realised that designing and building his own engine and gearbox was not feasible. The cost would push the price of the car up to unrealistic levels.
Fortunately, Squire came across a half page article in ‘The Light Car & Cyclecar’ of 16th September 1932 where a new engine was announced built by British Anzani. The R1, was a four cylinder, 1½ litre engine with twin overhead camshafts which produced 70 hp at 5,000 rpm. With a supercharger fitted, the engine had the potential of producing close to 120 hp. The R1 engine was originally designed to be used by Fraser-Nash, but when that did not eventuate British Anzani was open to negotiating with Squire about the use of the engine in his cars. Squire negotiated a deal to use the Anzani engines branded with the Squire logo. To give the engine the performance Squire needed, he opted to fit a Roots supercharger manufactured by David Brown. It gave the engine an output of 110 hp. The engine was mated to a ENV type 110 four speed Wilson type pre-selector gearbox.
The R1 Anzani engine and ENV pre-selector gearbox were significantly heavier than the components that Squire wanted to build himself. This resulted in delays as he had to redesign his chassis and suspension.
Squire wanted only the best for his car and he engaged the services of well known coach builder Vanden Plas to build the bodies. The design of the body work was underway by Autumn 1933.
On the 10th January 1934 Adrian Squire registered the Squire Car Manufacturing Company Ltd.
Work continued feverishly and the birth of a dream occurred when the Squire 1½ Litre was announced to the world in ‘The Autocar’ issue of 14th September 1934. For some reason Vanden Plas was not able to complete its work by the announcement date and the Squire was announced as basically a rolling chassis.
Squire guaranteed that each car he sold would attain a top speed of at least 100 mph. Each car was to be tested at Brooklands and a certificate issued to confirm that it had achieved this feat.
The first Squire body was finally completed in early 1935.
In February 1935, Adrian Squire delivered his first car, the Vanden Plas bodied Squire demonstrator, chassis number X101.
Squire’s vision was to produce a world beating car which could win a Grand Prix on Saturday and take it occupants for a leisurely drive and a picnic on Sunday! He wanted to build the best car in the world to rival the likes of Bugatti and Alfa Romeo.
Unfortunately, Squire struggled to find buyers for his car. The high standards Squire had put upon himself when building his cars meant the car’s price was high. In chassis form a short chassis was priced at £950 and the longer chassis at £955. Squire offered four models with his preferred Vanden Plas coachwork which increased the price of a short chassis open car to £1,220 and a coupe to £1,320. The long wheel base Squires were even more expensive, £1,250 for the tourer and £1,350 for a drop head coupe. In comparison, an Alfa Romeo 1750 retailed for around £1,150, an Aston Martin MK II could be purchased for £640 and a semi-detached newly built house would set you back £400!
Additionally, the relatively untried Anzani engine when fitted with the Roots supercharger suffered from major reliability issues, which were to dog the Squire throughout its production life.
By March 1936 seven Squires had been delivered, however, the company was on its knees financially. On the 3rd of July 1936 a creditors’ meeting was held at the Remenham Hill works which sealed the fait of the company.
Only three days after the demise of his company Adrian Squire joined Lagonda as a draughtsman. In October 1936 he joined the engine department at the Bristol Aeroplane Company on a significantly higher salary. He remained with Bristol until his unfortunate death on the 25th September 1940 in a German Air Raid on the company’s Filton factory.
One of Squire’s customers was Val Zethran, who purchased chassis 1501, which was the fifth car built and the first long chassis. Once Squire folded, Zethran purchased the rights to the Squire name, the goodwill of the company, a number of parts and two short chassis, partly completed cars. It is thought that there may well have been a third chassis, which was an incomplete short chassis.
Of the seven Squires built by Adrian Squire, five were built on a short chassis and two on a long chassis. All seven cars are known to exist, as are the two short chassis cars built by Val Zethran.
- Squire 1½ Litre Vanden Plas Sports Tourer
- Preselector Gearbox
- 7,460 miles