That's a fabulous story Brian - I often collate information for answers to enquiries about Sword Collection vehicles because as you may already know John Sword owned the largest collection of vintage, veteran & classic vehicles in Scotland at that time.
You know, I thought I recognised that registration number, but the car kept putting me off as I just couldn't place it - now I know!
The Museum of Transport has a number of vehicles bought at the two Sword Collection auctions and we have slowly been building up records as to all the others eventual locations. I might even be able to post a photograph of the car on the day it was auctioned, that is providing we have one.
I hope you don't mind, I'd like to add your info into our files if that's ok with you?
John Cuthill Sword (1892-1960) was a dynamic Scottish road and air transport manager who had a passion for collecting transport related objects.
To cut a very long story short he built up a transport empire here in Scotland, which included an airline formed in 1933 - Midland & Scottish Air Ferries Ltd. Based at Renfrew Airport (just outside Glasgow), flights to Hooton in Cheshire(!), Birmingham, Belfast, Liverpool, London & Dublin were developed.
He was also heavily involved with the public transport giant Western SMT, a bus service that touched every part of Scotland and Northern England. He also owned a number of non-transport related businesses, perhaps one of his more unusual being the manufacture of potato crisps in Airdrie, Manchester & Reading.
His collection is recorded at 250 vehicles of every type, however his collection went beyond "4-wheels", in that he had manual fire engines, model railway engines, motorcycles, etc, etc., and I'm convinced his collection was much larger than many people believe.
We have on record here at the museum one of his transactions where he paid an Ayrshire scrap yard the princely sum of £10 for an early 1900's car - don't think we'll ever find that kind of deal nowadays!
If you "Google" John Cuthill Sword the on-line Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has a very good article on the man - however you may have to register to be able to read it.
Last edited by Scotty on Fri Mar 23, 2007 10:56 am; edited 1 time in total
Joined: 27 Apr 2005 Posts: 11732 Location: S. Cheshire
Posted: Fri Mar 23, 2007 10:27 am Post subject:
Wow, sounds like an amazing collection. Interesting about the ref to Hooton as we (the family) were involved with Hooton airfield, and its attempts to be restored before the hangers disappear altogether, although certain people involved with that organisation were less than easy to deal with (an understatement), so we walked away 2 or 3 years back
R _________________ Rick (Admin. oldclassiccar.co.uk)
Various 1930s-1960s relics - Austin, Morris, Bedford, Dodge etc.
Thank you very much for this information and the trouble you've taken, it is very much appreciated.
I know this Arrol-Johnston - do you know if the Sharpe Collection is the same collection as a small museum in southern England (can't remember its name) that closed down about a year or two ago and all the objects were going to be auctioned? Or could this be it re-appearing again on the auction circuit?
Just to add a picture, this is our earliest AJ we have in the collection - a c1900 Arrol-Johnston Dogcart:
The three Sharpe brothers started collecting in the late 1950's when their father bought a Petrol station in Rayleigh in Essex.
Behind the petrol pump area was a selection of barns and a warehouse. When their collecting had filled these, they used various other barns in the area to store the expanding collection. They formed a motor museum at Ramsgate in Kent where about a quarter of their cars and most of their Automobilia was displayed.
I had visited the collection in Rayleigh many times over the last 25 years. If the warehouse was open I was allowed to wander around it unaccompanied and well remember my son aged about 5, climbing upstairs on the 1904 Napier double deck omnibus. Nothing was ever for sale, even to those with much deeper pockets than me.
When I was rebuilding my Standard Pennant I was tipped off that there was a Pennant in the field behind the Petrol station and again I was allowed in to view it. There were about 100 50's and 60's parked so close together that I had to climb on the roofs to get to the Pennant, that of course was right in the middle. Most of these cars were rotting into the ground and I don't think that any of them survived to the auction.
There were rumours of discord in the family as to what should happen to the cars and so they each chose a favourite that they could keep and in July 2005 Christies held a two day auction that had 400 automobilia lots, over 50 motorbikes and over 200 cars.
Prices went through the roof for just about everything and from memory I think about £6m was the total.
Thanks Brian - the AJ will surface again I'm in no doubt. The worrying thing is that classic prices are climbing again, just like they did in the early 1990's when "investors" started to salt their money into vehicles.
You may remember that everything was going for ridiculous money - I had an upright 1952 Ford Anglia that was tidy, but not concours back then. I was at a show and this guy walked up to me and offered me £3000 cash on the spot for it - I chased him and told him not to be so silly, it wasn't worth more than £900 and that was on a good day. But as you know they kept on cranking up the prices until eventually like the stock-market it all came crashing down around them! Remember "Old No 1" and the court case?
I still can't get over the 6-figure restoration prices on some vehicles that were being flaunted at auctions that barely made their reserve later on in the decade.
No, they're made of wood. Arrol-Johnston relied heavily on the old horse-drawn coachbuilder trades to build their bodies for the cars.
A nice little fact I've learned over the years is why so many early cars were called "Dogcarts" like this AJ - it would appear that many early vehicles had traditional shaped small carriages adapted as they were built to become one of these new-fangled horseless carriages bodies. The clever part is the coachbuilders simply took an existing design that would fit the bill and the "Dogcart" was such a carriage.
As the name implies the carriage was built to carry dogs, in fact they were kept in a compartment under the back seat - and guess where many of these new vehicles had their engines - at the back. So, it was a simple alteration to remove the floor from the dog box, drop the body onto the chassis, and bingo, the engine slotted right in.
I'll get some pictures and post them over this week sometime as a picture is worth a thousand words.
In the picture above, look at the front fender. You can see the reflection of the cowl light, and the fender almost looks like copper, (even though you can see the wood grain in the rear fender), which prompted me to ask.
There are no more "artists" in automotive design anymore. Can you imagine the hours it had to take to build one of those cars?
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