There’s Nothing Standard about the Twelve
One of the many ‘horseless carriage’ providers to set up in the Midlands just at the start of the 1900s was the Standard Motor Company which began life in Coventry in 1903. Engineer R W Maudslay was given £3000 start up from Sir John Wolfe-Barry the man responsible for London’s Tower Bridge and within just a year was producing a car every 3 weeks. Over the next decade ever larger premises were sought as the company grew rapidly with the help of clever marketing including the supply of vehicles to King George V and the Viceroy of India for their trip to Delhi in 1911. WW1 and the factory transferred to supplying over 1000 aircraft for the front line including the famous Sopwith Pup model. Into the 20s and on through the ‘Great Depression’ Standard carried on producing cars in ever larger numbers and with plenty of variety across the range. Founder Reginald Maudslay died in 1934, the same year our Standard 12 Deluxe was built.
The Hunt for a Classic
The Rotary Club ran the Bognor Regis Motor Gala in 1978; one visitor was so taken with the twenty mostly pre-war machines on show that he made a point to return in 1979. The return visit gave David Garforth the inspiration he needed to track down a vehicle of his own to restore and display. David had been a car enthusiast since his teens and by 25 had owned some popular older machines including an Austin Ruby and a MG TC but for this latest venture he had no particular vehicle in mind, it just had to be pre-war. Exchange and Mart contained an advert for a 1934 Standard 12 in Bournemouth. A classic yes, although David was unsure of what it actually was. On arrival he met with owner Anthony Body who confessed he was selling the Standard because it didn’t fit in with his other classics all of which were ex funeral director’s cars. He claimed these were the perfect machines for him to show enjoying his introduction ‘here comes A Body in a hearse’! All sounded perfectly feasible to David and without further consideration a £50 deposit was handed over, the rest of the £500 paid on collection, even though weeds had grown up between the floor boards and the roof lining had been finished in white emulsion.
Once the ‘12’ was back in West Sussex David built a temporary workshop around the Standard and proceeded with all the vigor and enthusiasm available. The blue and black painted body was lifted from the chassis; luckily the metal on the chassis was generally in great order and by 1982 it had been cleaned and painted. With the body removed a large crack in the 12hp (hence the name) 4-cylinder engine could be seen from a distance; this could have put the whole project in jeopardy but an ingenious repair would be carried out involving hours with a hack saw and a cast iron window frame. David’s house was to enjoy a new Dormer window and so with the cracked section of block cut out David took the original skylight to an engineering friend and had the base of the old frame made completely smooth. Four bolts pulled the ex-window into place and it was sealed, amazingly it didn’t leak coolant and it still doesn’t today. The body now ‘paint free’ was re fitted onto the freshly prepared chassis and pushed the half a mile to the 1982 Bognor Regis Motor Gala, starting a trend that would continue for nearly a decade; each year the Standard progressed in its restoration. David tells me interested folk would check over the last year’s efforts and it became part of the event, will the ‘12’ be finished next year? The answer would be no! Although the Standard was bathed in primer, had a new wooden floor and sported a single headlight when it was pulled onto the showground in 1983. Thus it went on, 1984 the ‘12’ arrived minus an engine but the body was a revelation; finished in the original black and red, taking no less than 18 coats of paint split evenly between primer and color. The engine required a ‘re-bore’ and new bearings. Oversize pistons were fitted and a local lawn mower repair shop named ‘Talbots’ skimmed the cylinder head. Obviously all this took months before a careful reassemble could be undertaken. Thirty years on and the engine is still strong and rattle free. Other memorable challenges David talked through was the wiring loom that he had to make from scratch as most of the original was either missing or non-salvageable. With eyes rolled back and a wry smile David then explained the difficulty endured fitting the roof lining and re-making the sliding roof opening; each task on its own is worry to any restorer but both together becomes a nightmare. Surprisingly the seat base units were in good condition; ok the leather was cracked but not split but the seat backs would be re shaped and covered. Again matching old and new presented a problem but three decades on the ‘patina’ across the interior is uniform. September 3rd 1989, the first event attended by the Standard coincided with a best friends 50th birthday so a double celebration for David. After almost a decade of work the ‘12’ would go on to enjoy more shows and receive multiple awards in recognition of its fantastic condition.
On the Road
The driving experience in the Standard replicates most pre-war cars, none can be described as swift or nippy and the Standard is one of the heaviest I have been in. The four cylinders fired up happily enough, just the compulsory full choke required. Tick-over seemed smooth enough but again with most machines of this vintage you are aware it is running. After spending 25 years together David knows what to persuade and what needs more vigor when driving the Standard; 1st gear just gets the car rolling then through to top by 25mph. The 4 speed gearbox allows cruising at 40mph and adding another 10mph will be as fast as the ‘12’ wants to achieve before it becomes uncomfortable. Modern traffic is dealt with reasonably well although the vague steering requires preparation and judgment before jumping into any gaps. Once onto the open road the Standard is happiest although David confessed a 20 mile round trip is long enough, thus he keeps most journeys local. Oil pressure was strong and even the ancient dash clock works, once wound up! This car benefited from other factory additions, apart from the sliding roof, huge wheel trims cover the original spokes. The radiator cap sports a motif very much like the Rolls Royce ‘Emily’ and provides plenty for the camera to focus on. Twin suicide doors and a folding bonnet complemented by huge chrome headlights and running boards, all designs from the decade before the ‘12’ was built. The Standard may have looked dated even in 1934 but eighty years on it looks ‘stately’ and certainly attracted much attention where ever we travelled. I really enjoyed my afternoon spent with David and his Standard; a big car with real presence. In the same year Sophia Loren and Bridgette Bardot came into the world, the ‘12’ left the Coventry factory to face WW2 and 79 British winters, proving there is nothing ‘standard’ about this car.
History seems to show the Standard Motor Companies car production was at its best just prior to a war coming along and halting progress. With an amazing ability in adapting production from cars to fighter aircraft it is surprising the company stayed predominately with saloon models prior to WW2. Whilst others such as MG, Riley and Rover aimed to appear more glamorous; looking to other areas such as motorsport to encourage new custom. Post WW2 Standard took over the remains of The Triumph Motor Company and their bomb damaged factory. Austerity of the late forties forced a ‘one model policy’ which was the very attractive Vanguard until 1953 when the new Standard 8 arrived. Standard-Triumph was then able to offer sports cars to the public at affordable prices by the early 1950s under the Triumph banner with the introduction of the TR models. The more sensible saloons would remain under the Standard marque. New factories were also opened around the world and huge investment was made in the Canley plant in preparation for the Triumph Herald. Taken over by British Leyland in 1960 the Triumph brand continued to grow, proving more popular than the Standard models, inevitably the last of this great marque rolled off the production line in 1963.
Why a Pre War Standard 12
David explains what it is really like to own and drive his 1934 car on modern roads:
The first thought you have when you get in is the low seat so you have to put a cushion to sit on to see out of the window. Then you look for the seat belt, it feels quite peculiar not being there though I spent the first 30 years of driving without one, you do feel safer with a belt on these days. You drive round a corner and put your indicator out then listen to see if it operates, if nothing happens’ you then give the door pillar a bang with your fist and then it works. You always have a queue of traffic behind you so you look for a friendly layby and let them all past. You always keep a good distance away from the vehicle in front because Bendix brakes require a lot of pressure to break suddenly. The petrol gauge always says half full so you have to keep a dipstick handy to get an accurate measure. I suppose the biggest pleasure I get from her is at classic car shows when the public show their appreciation of a car that has arisen from the ashes to one in pristine condition and is very unusual these days. Also many say they have never heard of a Standard, although there were thousands of them built between 1903 and 1963. In fact the Vanguard was the first real stream line car after the war and was the most desirable car to get on the waiting list for. Another must is that you always check the oil and water levels before you use it.
1934 Standard 12 Specifications
Engine: 4 cylinders 1608cc 12 HP
Gearbox: 4 forward 1 reverse (part synchro)
Length: 13ft 4in
Wheel/Tyres: 18 inch wire wheels 475-18 tyres
Brakes: Bendix Hydraulic all four wheels
Fuel consumption: 22-24mpg
Cost New: £229.00 Average house price £515.00. A pint of draught Mild was 5d (3p) in a year when the ‘great depression’ reached rock bottom and Bonnie and Clyde’s luck finally ran out. The Flying Scotsman became the first steam Locomotive to attain 100mph and the Loch Ness Monster was seen for the first time.