best of British
NOW better known for their achievements in aircraft engineering, England’s Armstrong-Siddeley company spent 40 years creating luxury cars in the 20th century.
And although their car manufacturing days are long over, there remains many passionate devotees of the vehicles that were made during this time.
Many of them are set to gather from across Australia in Beechworth this month as part of the national Armstrong-Siddeley Car Club annual rally occurring in Beechworth on March 17.
Among them will be Beechworth resident Graham Caron, a proud owner of two Armstrong-Siddeley vehicles.
He has had an affinity for the vehicles ever since purchasing “a stripped down wreck” of a 1953 model back in 1997, which he spent over a decade restoring into a roadworthy vehicle.
Through Graham’s hard work, the car has undergone a complete restoration, including rust repairs, all mechanical parts and the interior, and now sports a two tone elephant grey and silver grey exterior, an opulent red leather trim and a polished wood panelled dashboard.
Graham proudly said he built or sourced much of what he needed for the project on his own, apart from outsourcing the upholstery work.
“I’m pretty well a do it yourself sort of person,” he said. “Old cars can be addictive.” Graham said he purchased the car as a project simply because he “liked the shape and the look of it”, but each year he has grown more attached to working on the vehicle and socialising with fellow Armstrong-Siddeley owners.
A few years ago he also bought a 1956 model, but he said improvements on that machine are still a “work in progress”.
His 1953 vehicle has seen a lot of travel over the years, being driven to rallies as far north as Queensland and Broken Hill.
“They’re a good car for long dis- tance cruising, although they’re a little bit more thirsty than modern cars,” he admitted.
Graham said he loved showing off his car at rallies.
“People come over to have a look and ask me about it,” he said.
Graham said this month’s event is the first time it has returned to Beechworth in 15 years, with the rally previously having been held in the town in 2003.
He said the appeal of the vehicles was that they are “one of the more prestigious English makes, although they are not so well known”.
Graham added that because of the company’s indelible link with aircraft design, “they’re very well engineered, prestige cars” and became more and more aerodynamically designed as time went on.
Graham is not the only one in the family with an affinity for British vehicles – his wife Pauline, drives a classic Morris Minor 1000, which also draws plenty of comments from onlookers when the pair are out and about.
Also heading to the rally is Markwood resident Robin Gibb, who owns a 1926 Armstrong-Siddeley roadster.
Robin said the car has a long history in the region, having formerly been used at Baileys of Glenrowan before he bought it in the mid 1990s, and he has done lots of work on it over the years.
He has long appreciated Armstrong-Siddeley cars, saying his first car was also made by the company.
He said the lines of the car “just take your fancy” and he enjoys working not only on his car, but also on the various steam trucks he has on his property.
“I’m always fixing machines,” Robin said, adding that he is looking forward to mixing with fellow owners at the upcoming rally, and seeing the range of other Armstrong-Siddeley cars.
Next year will see the centenary of the formation of the company, a milestone many Armstrong-Siddeley vehicle owners are quite excited about.
The public will be able to see a display of Armstrong-Siddeley vehicles between 9-11.30am at Beechworth’s Police Paddocks, behind the former courthouse building on Saturday, March 17.
For more information call Graham on (03) 5728 7264.
PROUD MOTORIST: Local Armstrong-Siddeley devotee Graham Carson pictured at the old hospital façade in Beechworth with one of his cars, a 1953 Armstrong-Siddeley.
PROUD: Markwood resident Robin Gibb with his 1926 Armstrong-Siddeley roadster.