Posted by Admin on 25 July 2011, 11:28 am


Above Image: The Mass: Raymond Porter (driving) and George Marvin

From the Complete Encyclopaedia of Motor Cars, 1885-1993 we learn the car was of French origin, the engine and chassis being manufactured for an English importer under the supervision of an Englishman, J. R. Richardson, ‘Mass’ being an abbreviation of Masser Horniman, the concessionaire.

For this particular car the body was supplied by a London firm of coachbuilders situated in Ladbroke Grove, the final assembly being done by the Fountain garage in Cowes. The purchase price in 1910 was about £950, a lot of money in those days.

Having bought the car, the new owners had it towed on perished tyres to a workshop near the River Medina owned by the Marvin family, and began to remove accumulations of black dust that hid the once grey and now light khaki exterior and red buttoned leather upholstery which was as good as new. Made when quality was paramount, underneath the paint the body was galvanised steel.

As might be expected the brass (radiator shell, bulb horn, lamps, and windscreen fittings) were badly corroded and required applications of aqua-fortis (which had to be washed off before it could damage the metal) until they shone as when the Marvin’s chauffeur had polished them.

The windscreen of ordinary plate glass in a mahogany frame with a swivel adjustment for use when the canvas hood was raised was complete with celluloid side windows that had retained pristine transparency.

Steered by a wooden wheel with brass spokes which carried a hand throttle and ignition controls, the car was equipped with a handbrake located beside the spare wheel – the external expanding braking system operating on the rear wheels only, also on the propeller shaft.

The 22 horse-power engine comprised four separate water-cooled cylinders fitted to a single crankcase, and a ‘crash’ gearbox containing three forward gears and one reverse. Its cone type clutch was extremely fierce. It was 22 inches in diameter, and required a skilful driver.

To light the head and tail lamps, acetylene was made in a brass container fixed to the running board. A six-volt dry battery powered two sidelights.

The steel rims of ‘artillery’ wheels were attached to the hubs by wooden spokes, and a special device allowed the wheels to be removed without the use of a spanner.

The carburettor was gravity fed from a tank under the front seat, and a drip-feed oil tank was on the dashboard.

Expecting trouble due to gummed pistons, the owners were astonished when, having dried out the magneto in a domestic oven, they started the engine with only three turns of the handle. Later they discovered a conscientious gardener habitually had given the handle a swing each time he had occasion to enter the garage.

To replace the tyres, the Dunlop Tyre Company brought from storage the obsolete moulds. The total cost, including the fitting by the Newport firm, Hedley-Simpson, was £50.

With no log book to offer when applying in Newport for a licence, the young draughtsmen found a helpful clerk who, after contacting the Ministry of Transport, sanctioned the retention of the original registration number, DL557.

For two years mileage was added to the 8,500 previously covered by using the car as an ordinary means of transport, engendering much public interest at each appearance, and by entering carnivals in which it won several prizes. Then, hoping to sell it at a profit, they advertised in The Motor, stating a figure of £100. Within days a call came from Ohio, USA, requesting they hold it until the caller received from them all available information.

Delighted with what he learnt, the enquirer sent a cheque for £300, and instructions concerning shipment.

In spite of being crated and carried as deck cargo on a Danish ship that was delayed by frozen lakes, the Mass finally reach Cleveland in good condition.

More than pleased with what they considered a windfall, the vendors years later realised that, had they waited, such a rare model would have brought them a king’s ransom.

T. C. Hudson

© T. C. Hudson.

If this article is reproduced please acknowledge the author.

Above Image: The Mass: Raymond Porter (driving) and George Marvin




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