The Armstrong Siddeley Car Club

The Club's History - The First 50 Years

By Founding And Life Member, Penn Bradly

The idea of an Armstrong Siddeley car club came about when Jim Rudder and Noel Stokes met with the writer, Penn Bradly, in the latter part of 1959 to investigate the idea of a specialty Armstrong Siddeley club. We agreed that we all knew some other owners and knew of the location of several Armstrong Siddeley cars. The logistics were discussed and eventually the three of us formed what is now fashionably known as a working party to evaluate the feasibility of a club and to go out and interest other owners. We met several times in the latter part of 1959 and in early 1960 and by this time we were in the position to call an inaugural meeting with seven of us ready to 'give it a go'.

The seven inaugural members, all from Sydney, were:

  • Colin Escott of Mosman (a young solicitor)
  • Paul Caro of Wahroonga (a young accountant)
  • Len Munns of Hurlstone Park (sales consultant)
  • Jim Rudder of West Ryde (telephone technician)
  • Noel Stokes of Baulkham Hills (telephone technician)
  • Peter Vincent of Roseville (trainee engineer)
  • Life Member Penn Bradly of Lindfield (trainee valuer).

The inaugural meeting was held in April 1960 and was a success. The Club's first constitution had already been drafted by Colin Escott and was adopted on that night. The annual subscription was, from memory, the princely sum of two guineas ($4.20 in today's currency), plus two shillings per member per night supper charge going to the host/s of the evening. Those elected were: Penn Bradly (President), Jim Rudder (Chairman), Colin Escott (Secretary) and Paul Caro (Treasurer).

The remaining three people formed the balance of the committee. It was agreed that we meet on a monthly basis on the last Monday of the month in members' homes on a rotational basis. All seven members of the Club quickly worked to increase our numbers to a viable level.

By the third monthly meeting we were being swamped with potential new members and the logistics of using members' homes as meeting venues was already being questioned. This meeting decided that we needed to hire a public hall for meetings, having the following specifications: suitable size, inexpensive, centrally situated and with good parking. With all this, the age old question arose for the first time about the fellowship risks of holding meetings in an impersonal hall. It was agreed that we should try such a change and the Sea Scouts hall at Rhodes seemed to be the one best meeting our criteria that was available. However, this venue was not pursued at this time and we continued with the crush in members' homes.

At the fourth meeting we read out a letter from Bristol Siddeley Engines Ltd (the Armstrong Siddeley factory) stating that production was to cease. Accompanying the letter was a large box of Armstrong Siddeley publicity photos including two huge ones for the 'walls of our Club rooms'. These two photos were never framed and one wonders where they are kept today or if they still exist. The many smaller (but still large) photos were mounted by the writer in a Club album that is presently held (c2018) by the New South Wales Branch. At this meeting a two-minute silence was held in respect for the passing of the Armstrong Siddeley Marque.

Let me at this point, categorically state, that the Club was not formed because of the cessation of Armstrong Siddeley manufacture which became public knowledge in February 1960, whilst we were still in the working party stage.

Penn Bradly, Founding and Life Member of the Armstrong Siddeley Club taking
control at the Federal Rally in Canberra, 1975. At the July 1960 meeting we discussed the vehicle history sheet concept and everyone was asked to fill in a questionnaire on their car. This data was put onto history sheets and formed the nucleus of our now virtually all embracing history sheets. The club photograph album was also started.

Sunday 7th August 1960 saw the Club's first outing, being a picnic day at Cherry Park at Kurrajong Heights, the secretary stating that the convoy of Armstrong Siddeley cars amazed other 'vulgar road users'. Remember, car clubs and car outings were relatively rare, at least in Sydney in 1960 and one-make car clubs were very rare indeed. Those who had trodden the one-make car club route ahead of us seemed to be Rolls Royce, Riley and Packard, all having been formed in the preceding five years. The shining prior example was Alvis which had a ten year start, commencing in 1950. Our founding secretary moved to Yass in October 1960 to take up a junior solicitor's position in a local law firm. In the October notice he made comment that 'there were almost as many women as men at this committee meeting and this good example should be followed and developed' and thankfully it was. During the latter part of 1960 and early 1961 the Club grew magnificently, we started to develop technical resources and a Club library was formed when Bristol Siddeley Engines donated one of each of all the handbooks, manuals and technical books still on their sales shelves - a magnificent gesture to our Club. We were at that time the only Armstrong Siddeley club in the world.

Many events were held over this period including a trip to the Lithgow ZigZag Railway and a picnic day and barbecue at Bents Basin. There was even talk of a ball in a country town hall but this did not eventuate.

RallyThe Club's first Annual General Meeting was in the home of Madeline Percival at Homebush (a keen Whitley owner). At that meeting we saw a new President elected, being Arthur Payne of Carlingford. Arthur was an inspiration and his oil company executive organisational experience showed through. Arthur purchased his Sapphire 346/1 in Caracas, Venezuela and used it also in the UK before bringing it to Australia when he emigrated. Arthur's first task was to re - write a new constitution for the Club, which was adopted during his presidential year. This constitution (with minor amendments) did us proud until c1972 when we formed the Club into a Limited by Guarantee Company. This was done to protect the members, following a horrendous court case involving a Racing Speed boat club, where each member was found to be 'jointly and severely liable' for the club's racing program accident.

November 1961 saw the Club's first Concours d'Elegance. It was held at St Ives Showground and it was followed by a formal dinner. The idea of joining CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motorsport) was canvassed with an inconclusive outcome. The committee thought it should be shelved for at least a year and I can't really remember it ever being seriously raised again.

Most monthly meetings were addressed by a guest speaker and technical topics seemed to be in vogue with presentations on:

  • Preselective gearboxes
  • Electrical systems
  • Replacing back axles etc.

We had many really excellent speakers who contributed towards building our collective knowledge base. Many of our members had significant levels of technical knowledge, especially the late Frank Cross from Buckle Motors who was a veritable source of historical maintenance data as he had been technically involved with Armstrong Siddeley cars since c1932 and was still actively involved until his sudden death in about 1967. Another early stalwart was the indefatigable Jim Rudder who had an immense technical knowledge especially of electrical componentry. It should be realised that in the early 1960's our beloved Armstrong Siddeley cars were in daily use and most members had them as their only car; multi-car families were comparatively rare at that time. The Club published a monthly news-sheet that became, of course, the foundation for the Southern Sphinx.

The Club's triangular shaped badge was designed by Dawn Rudder and it was adopted in about 1962. It includes the Sphinx emblem and the characters 'AS' to denote the marque.

Early 1962 saw a change of meeting venue to St Barnabas' Church Hall at Broadway on the fringe of the CBD. This venue was used for a couple of years and proved very satisfactory. We later moved to the aforementioned Sea Scouts hall at Rhodes and then to the Ryde Council building where we had undercover parking. So successful was the fledgling Club that we were processing 15 to 20 new membership applications a month.

During 1963 the Club's first Branch was formed in South Australia with John Bull from Adelaide being the convener. This of course necessitated further constitutional change. The idea of branches being formed was welcomed as we saw the Club becoming a national one. The Club notice papers had now become a simple magazine and it was agreed to call it the 'Southern Sphinx', this name being first used in February 1964.

Arthur Payne's presidency was changed to that of Roland Bennet with both these presidents contributing magnificently to the Club's stability, fellowship and development. In 1963 we held a country weekend in Wagga Wagga which was the forerunner to many such successful weekends and proved to us all that we were prepared to travel and meet other Armstrong Siddeley owners around Australia. The success of these weekend events led Ross Fitzpatricke to organise our first Federal Rally in Wagga Wagga during Easter 1968. This was a huge success and it became the major national event thereafter.

In early 1966 the Victorian Branch was formed, made viable by the immense efforts of Joyce Cheyney and her husband Vic. Joyce had great foresight and energy and did so much to shape the nature of this Branch. Selwyn Allen, who was still then at school, took over the job of Victorian Historian and continues (c2018) to collect and record most of the History Sheets for Victorian cars. Selwyn then was driving the same 14HP Tourer (now beautifully restored) that he still owns.

The Club's first Concours d'Elegance judging in progress at St Ives
Showground, 1961The first Federal Rally dictated that we should acquire perpetual trophies. The inaugural six trophies were donated by:

  • Penn Bradly - Star Sapphire / 234/6
  • Ron Badman - 346 Mk1
  • L. V. Deakin - 346 Mk2
  • Harvie Hunter - 16/18HP
  • Frank Hammond - Pre - war
  • Arthur Ackling - Vintage

These large art deco styled trophies were selected by Elizabeth Hunter who had contacts in the trade. They are fortunately large enough to still (c2011) continue to have the current winners' names engraved thereon. Since that time, several additional trophies have been donated by other members.

During the first ten years of the New South Wales Club we ran all manner of events including economy runs, treasure hunts, navigation rallies, theatre nights, music evenings, technical days etc. The early years stamped on the Club a culture based on fellowship and people helping one another. At the time of the change from Bristol Siddeley Engines Ltd to Rolls Royce - Bristol Engines Division in 1968, the factory was in consolidation mode. The library held by them was deemed redundant and it was sent to me by Denzil Lusher to distribute to all Branches of the Club. There were some 90 to 100 books from c1922 to c1960 and these books formed the foundation for each Branch library.

In early 1969 the Newcastle Branch was formed by (amongst others) Alan Mason. At its most successful, this Branch was strong enough to organise the 1971 Cooma Federal Rally. Unfortunately the Branch operated for only about five years, closing due to insufficient members.

The South Australian Branch was re--formed by George Hume, his son in law Garth Pennington and his daughter Barbara Pennington in 1970, the original Branch having ceased in the 1960's. This re-formed Branch soon prospered and organised the Swan Hill Federal Rally in 1973, the first of many more to follow.

Alan Purss, a long-standing member of the New South Wales Branch.

In July 1972, seven people met at Charles Stone's home to form the Australian Capital Territory Branch. Selwyn Allen was resident in Canberra at that time and attended this first meeting. The Branch was strong enough to organise its first Federal Rally in 1975.

In mid 1977 a meeting was held at Athol Duncan's home in Queensland and some twelve members were present. This Branch has members scattered as far apart as Brisbane, Toowoomba, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast, the tyranny of distance posing unique challenges for them. The Newcastle Branch library was transferred to the Queensland Branch.

As the Club spread across Australia members from other States took various positions on the Board, including that of President. The list of Presidents (many of whom are sadly no longer with us) is:

Period President
1960 - 1961 Penn Bradly
1961 - 1962 Arthur Payne
1962 - 1963 Frank Cross
1963 - 1968 Roland Bennett
1968 - 1969 Albert Norman
1969 - 1970 Penn Bradly
1970 - 1971 Ronald Badman
1971 - 1973 Penn Bradly
1973 - 1973 Donald Sutton
1973 - 1975 Paul Caro
1975 - 1976 Penn Bradly
1976 - 1977 Donald Sutton
1977 - 1978 Lee Rodda
1978 - 1979 Brian Lees
1979 - 1980 Paul Caro
1980 - 1981 Brian Watt
1981 - 1982 Alan Purss
1982 - 1983 Graeme Handley
1983 - 1984 Anna Lees
1984 - 1985 Penn Bradly
1985 - 1995 Frank Douglas
1995 - 2000 Hugh McMinn
2000 - 2007 John Graham
2007 - 2011 Robert Woods
2011 - 2015 Tony Carter
2015 - 2018 Hugh Boulter
2018 - present Rowan Fitzpatricke

The Club has recognised the exceptional contribution made by the two Life Members, Penn Bradly and George Hume.    

After much encouragement, we established an Armstrong Siddeley spare parts business in the late 1980’s despite some resistance from a few members who felt that this was the domain of business and that members should look after their own needs. Your writer was the first person to run the Club’s spare parts business which grew nicely and was progressively enlarged into the amazing operation we now have, currently (c2018) captained by Geoff Tuckwell with assistance from Shawn O’Brien & Andrew Clearwater in the ACT, Steve Tully & Ian Bell in SA, Alan Purss in NSW, Colin Hallam & Nello Mafaddo in Victoria and Cliff Grice in Queensland. We obtained the residue of Armstrong Siddeley spare parts from Buckle Motors of Sydney, Southern Motors of Adelaide, Stokoe Motors of Melbourne and British and Australian Motors of Brisbane and these formed the nucleus of our stock. Since then we have worked tirelessly to procure, make and/or fabricate all manner of new items for our members. We are extremely proud of our Club spare parts service that is supplying members’ needs worldwide.

In 1994 the Club President, the late Frank Douglas, thought we should start to use our cherished cars for serious touring and exploration of Australia. The first major event being a Central Australian tour of over 10,000 kilometers including a side trip to visit Uluru (Ayre’s Rock). The attendance was exceptional and for the first time several of our overseas members made a special effort to attend. Frank also ran two further 7,000 kilometer trips to the inland including a trip to Andamooka in South Australia. During one of his trips to the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland (with some serious sailing as an adjunct) he couldn’t believe how few of us had any idea of sea navigation! This particular trip was a huge success and those attending from Melbourne (the most distant starting point) covered at least 8,000 kilometers on the road and a considerable number of nautical miles at sea. I suspect that this was the first time the club had hired a largish boat - it proved to be an extremely memorable trip for all the participants.

Soon thereafter, Hugh McMinn thought we should have a Tasmanian tour with our Armstrong Siddeley cars, his idea culminating in yet another very successful trip.

In 2008 your writer ran a tour to Corner Country, Channel Country and Longreach in Queensland. We started in Cobar and ended in Dubbo twelve days later. Some overseas members were amongst the thirty-six who attended.

So successful have these trips been, that immediately following the 50 Year Celebration Rally in 2010, the Victorian Branch organised an eight day tour of Victoria. There is a trip mooted for sometime in 2012. Serious motoring is what our Armstrong Siddeley cars are particularly good at and it is pleasing for the Club’s members to have the opportunity to participate in these tours.

The Armstrong Siddeley Car Club and its members have made a significant contribution to the preservation and promotion of the Armstrong Siddeley marque through sharing their interest, knowledge and expertise. The efforts of some members have been acknowledged in this document but the Club must also extend its gratitude to many others who, although unnamed here, have donated their time and goodwill to ensure the success of the Club during the last 50 years. As we look to the years ahead, many challenges will confront the Armstrong Siddeley Car Club. The future of the Marque requires that the Club continue to develop by being prepared to adjust in these rapidly changing times. This can and will be achieved by continuing to meet the needs of current members, whilst at the same time actively pursuing ways to engage the interest of future enthusiasts in order to ensure a new generation of Armstrong Siddeley custodians and ASCC members.

The Armstrong Siddeley Car Club
Armstrong Siddeley Car Club The Court House 325 High Street Learmonth VIC 3352
Phone Cameron Wright, President, 0408 595 461
ACN 001 059 212
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