#0085 - Squire 1 ½ Litre Supercharged Roadster by Vanden Plas, 1933
This car is currently part of the Simeone Foundation Museum in Philadelphia.
A video about this car with Dr. Simeone and Jay Leno is available here at Jay Leno's Garage.
Preamble: Speaking honestly, this is a difficult one. Rarity sometimes devolves into mythology where classic automobiles are concerned, and in the internet age, once a tidbit has been published it tends to populate rather quickly. This can turn marginal truths into seemingly well supported facts. So, jumping right after the beast...
Squire Production: By most accounts, at least seven were built, but the total number of Squire automobiles is hard to place. We should say little else except that fewer than ten are expected to survive today. This small figure encompasses a number of different models that are, in fact, quite important to differentiate, because while Adrian Squire could not create a viable company, his vision was certainly scalable. This is a personal take, of course, but I feel that it's better to look at the variation among Squire cars as a representation of what would have been distinct models had the company found success, instead of an approach that found satisfaction in making a few bespoke specials.
Adrian Morgan Squire doesn't seem the type to have been placated by the obscure accomplishment that was his Squire roadster and touring cars. If you form the idea for your automobile company at age 16, (as so many of us do), but then make good on your vision by age 21, chances are the limits of your dream are rather larger than simply dabbling in the mix. Squire was apprenticed at Bentley and then employed at MG between ages 18 and 19, in the latter case serving as the assistant to the chief draughtsman. Then within a couple years he went from repairing and piecing together automobiles at his Remenham Hill Filing Station to full-scale production of a prototype sports roadster. That prototype is what you see illustrated here.
From about 1935 to 1937, the aforementioned run of at least seven cars included a short chassis and long chassis version, (at 102 or 125 inches). The former was initially bodied by Vanden Plas, and in at least one case by Corsica, while the latter became a 4-passenger tourer. Funding for the project was consolidated by an inheritance received by Adrian Squire, along with help from close friends who thought the idea was swell. This might seem like a glib assessment, but it's quite true if the Squire story is compared to any solid business plan. Indeed, the names that turn up include Gerard Francis Anthony Manby-Colegrave, nicknamed "Jack" for obvious reasons, who was a wealthy 19 year-old racing amateur at the time, Reginald Slay, a 27 year-old car salesman, and Val Zethrin, an enthusiast whose name tends to appear only in conjunction with Squire, and usually serves as a better research term than Squire himself.
Many sources place Zethrin as a customer who stepped in to purchase the assets of the Squire Car Manufacturing Company, Ltd., but surely there must have been some precedent for this act, which appears in print so suddenly, and one that could only keep the company intact for the few additional chassis it managed. Older sources mention that almost all (meaning at least four) of the original Squire cars were bought by directors, in which case the "directors" were surely friends of Adrian Squire, and Zethrin was likely among them. Speculation, for sure, but the Squire project seems more like a privately funded venture among a closed circle of enthusiasts, without the control strings necessary to create a solvent enterprise. For this reason, the Squire automobile was priced at up to £1,220 for a Vanden Plas bodied car. A stripped down "featherweight" version followed in order to curb costs, but the Skimpy as this cycle-winged version by Markham was know, proved (literally) too little too late.
A single-seat racing version was also created at some point, believed to have run at Brooklands in period by one Luis Fontes. Among those examples left, however, the single-seater is excluded.
But, Oh What a Car: Now that we've gotten my jaded opinions out of the way, we can talk about Adrian Squire's contribution to motordom. In the first place, Squire's chassis design was bit better thought out than most—and the most in this case includes the likes of Bugatti. The color of this particular car shows us that Adrian Squire had Bugatti in his sights, (I'm willing to guess it's an original shade because the car is actually illustrated this way in some rather old books), but in no small gesture was able to leap-frog the French auto maker with an underslung frame of remarkable stiffness. If he was the vanguard of any field, the underpinnings Adrian Squire devised for his roadster represented a formidable step toward today's modern concept of an ultra-stiff frame.
This, and the brakes, which came in at 15-inches, finned, cast in magnesium drums, and hydraulically operated, combined to make what is probably the most advanced platform of any pre-War road car.
The extent of the chassis work included (what many sources term) "crucible" bracing throughout the frame. For want of finding a visual of this design, something I'd love to see to put creedence to the term, we'd at least be right to say the chassis was overbuilt, but at that, all to the credit of the Squire's highly touted handling characteristics. As to the handling, present day Squire owner Bill Noon has explained on the well known Ferrarichat forum that during a Road & Track test of classic era sports cars, Phil Hill expressed a distinct preference for the Squire's performance over and above that of a Bugatti Type 55 Roadster, what we know as the Jean Bugatti Roadster, and the 8C 2300 Zagato-bodied Alfa. In context, this means the Squire was ahead of both manufacturers—a Type 57 or 8C 2900 would be more than a match, but they'd arrive years later.
Performance figures from the Brooklands days put second gear speed at 52 m.p.h., third gear at 76 m.p.h., and a 10 to 70 m.p.h. sprint in 15 seconds. Top speed is over 100, and without it being a stretch. Other features of note include a Wilson 4-speed preselector gearbox, (shared with the Talbot-Lago T-150 C, for instance), and a nifty dynamotor built off the front of the crankshaft. This device was used to start the car, and then by reversing the polarity became a generator driven by the motor. The dynamotor is housed in a keen fairing integrated with the coachwork along the front of the car, very much in contrast to the exposed front-mount superchargers seen on contemporary Bentley and MG cars—just another thing that was probably on Adrian Squire's mind when putting his dream together.
Additionally, if you've watched the Jay Leno video you've seen that he and Dr. Simeone make notice of the exceptional radiator filler cap, pointing out the ease of topping off with water, and that the cooling system is obviously pump operated as a result. The grille on which the filler cap sits, of course, is incredibly beautiful in itself—just a pure form when it comes to the art of the radiator.
The Anzani Motor: It's not out of the blue that Anzani, an Italian aeroplane motor manufacturer, came to provide the powerplant for Adrian Squire's pert little roadster. The full story begins with Alessandro Ambrogio Anzani, whose first love was motorcycles, and whose early motors displayed a distinct 3-cylinder vee arrangement. Radial aeroplane motors followed, the 10-cylinder variety even reputed to have powered the very first Cessna, while others were built into training craft during the first World War.
Automobiles came into the picture fairly early as well. Anzani appears to have been the highly enterprising sort—perhaps something in the blood of the Milanese—and opened British-Anzani in London on November 20, 1912. Initially, British-Anzani supplied motorcyle and aeroplane motors, but competition in this arena escalated, and by 1918 the firm was ready for a change. One key component in their ability to do so was Gustave Maclure, works manager and former head of the testing department at Rolls-Royce, (a connection that makes sense as Rolls-Royce has long been split between aero and automotive development). Maclure helped British-Anzani move into the automotive motor supply industry, solidifying a contract in 1919 with AC for 2,000 motors—4-cylinder 1,496cc units rated at about 12 horsepower.
Over the next decade or so, some of the most popular names in British auto history would be associated with Anzani, including Frazer-Nash, Aston Martin, and Morgan. Archie Frazer-Nash was even a director until 1929. Around that time, another corporate change brought in T. D. "Douglas" Ross from Austin. It was Ross who saw to the Anzani R1 (Ross-1) that went into Adrian Squire's car. And look at the specification: 1,496cc and 4-cylinders. But by now instead of 12 horsepower, there was as much as 110 horsepower thanks to dual overhead cams driven by a gear set on the back of the block, and a Roots-type supercharger around the front. This motor is a remarkable piece of work, finished to a high degree on Squire's request.
Conclusion: The Squire Roadster is very much like a Brough-Superior with four wheels. It's exceptionally well designed, built to immaculate standards, and possesses near flawless mannerisms for its time. What doesn't follow is the notoriety, but this is starting to change as the few Squires that do exist make the rounds out on the concours circuit. And in due course we must go on to mention that lack of notoriety has much to do with Adrian Squire's untimely death in September of 1940, at which time he was working at the Bristol Aeroplane Company, and was one of many victims of a German air raid.
So, with that said, thanks to Dr. Simeone, Bill Noon, and others who bring these cars out for the public. They are truly beautiful and fascinating from any perspective.
British Motor Manufacturers: An obscure site with a brief on the Squire Car Manufacturing Company, Ltd., Henley-on-Thames, in which they mention the Remenham Hill location of Squire's original shop is still to be found, now a Shell station.
Motorsnaps: With a rather nice bit on Squire.
Fiskens: Who, at the time of writing, had just uncovered Val Zethrin's 4-passenger touring car by Ranalagh.
British Anzani: Who offer a full history of the firm.
UltimateCarPage: With a feature on a later Squire Vanden Plas Roadster, among others.
Other sources have been used, including Jay Leno's Garage and the aforementioned Ferrarichat forum, however, most of these remain too poorly constructed to properly cite. (Which should say something about the facts presented in this piece, eh?) Should you have any additional information or corrections, please contact me.
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