Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Ranalah
Val Zethrin, Kent, England (acquired new in January 1936)Thomas Walker Gibson, Forest Hill, England (acquired from the above in 1937)Robert White, Surrey, England (acquired circa 1955)George Robson, London, England (acquired circa 1956)William Comer, Lake Park, Florida (acquired in 1959)Walter Weimer, Washington, Pennsylvania (acquired from the estate of the above in 1975)Henry Petronis, Easton, Maryland (acquired from the above by 1983)Private Collection, California (acquired from the above in 2011)Current Owner (acquired from the above)
RAC Rally, March 1936, Zethrin/Boyd-Harvey, No. 90Brooklands Junior Car Club Members’ Day, June 1936, Zethrin, No. 37Brooklands Junior Car Club Members’ Day, July 1937, Zethrin, No. 66
Royal Concours of Elegance at Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland, September 2015Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, Cernobbio, Italy, May 2016 (Mention of Honor)Royal Automobile Club, London, England, 2016
The years between WWI and WWII were a golden age for English sports cars. During this period, British motoring enthusiasts supported manufacturers that specialized in high-quality, high-performance automobiles. Companies including AC, Aston Martin, Bentley, Fraser Nash, Invicta, Lagonda, and Riley all made excellent sports cars – but the most intriguing and special are the precious few designed and built by Adrian Squire.
In 1924, Adrian Morgan Squire, at 14 years old, began planning an automotive masterpiece. In a six-page illustrated catalogue, he set out the specifications of an ideal sports car. It was to be a lightweight open two-seater with a 1 1/2-litre four-cylinder engine.
In 1929, he briefly apprenticed with Bentley Motors, which introduced him to the great engineer W.O. Bentley and English coachbuilder Vanden Plas. Squire then went to work for MG, and, after just two years in Abingdon, set off on his own.
At age 21, Squire received financial backing from a friend, Gage Spicer, heir to a paper-manufacturing fortune. Squire and Spicer were soon joined by two other investors, 20-year-old Jock Manby-Colegrave and 26-year-old Reginald Slay.
The Squire Car Manufacturing Company was established in 1931 in a Remenham Hill garage. Squire carefully developed his design over the next three years, with the goal of creating the finest English sports car ever produced. He carried out the project with an uncompromising approach, resulting in a technical triumph, although ultimately not a commercial success.
In August 1934, Squire debuted its first complete car. It was state of the art in all respects, setting new standards for acceleration, handling, and braking. The car was powered by a twin-cam inline four, designed and built by British Anzani Engineering Company. As equipped, the engine featured a revised valve train and a David Brown Roots-type supercharger. These changes created a highly efficient engine, producing 110 bhp from just 1 1/2 litres.
The supercharged engine was coupled to an advanced Wilson ENV pre- selector gearbox and placed in a ladder-frame chassis, with X-braced cross members for increased rigidity. The chassis had to be strong enough to withstand the stress imposed by the brakes, the car’s most extraordinary feature. In an era when most cars were overpowered and under- braked, the Squire was a notable exception. Each corner had a massive 15 1/2" diameter magnesium drum, with cooling fins and Lockheed hydraulic operation.
Weighing just 2,300 pounds, the Squire offered superb performance, recording 0–60 sprints in 10 seconds and a top speed of 105 mph. Testing the car in August 1935, Motor Sport discovered that “fast corners can be taken at 75 mph as steadily as if the chassis were held by some invisible radius rod.”
A new Squire cost £1,220. Included in the lofty price was a guarantee that the car had exceeded 100 mph at Brooklands, as well as complimentary visits from factory mechanics to ensure that it remained in top condition.
In 1936, after finding buyers for just seven cars – five short chassis and two long – Adrian Squire sold the remains of his company and joined Lagonda. He died in 1940, during a German bombing raid on the Bristol Aeroplane Company, where he worked as an engineer. He was just 30 years old.
The Squire presented here, chassis 1501, was built for Val Zethrin, a wealthy automobile enthusiast from Kent. Zethrin had first seen a Squire in 1935, parked near the Regents Palace Hotel in London. He immediately placed an order for the first long-chassis Squire, then commissioned Ranalah Coachworks Ltd. to build a four-seat touring body, painted maroon and trimmed in dark red leather. Zethrin received the Squire in January 1936 and registered it “CLO 5” with London County Council.
Zethrin, who later bought the remnants of the Squire Car Manufacturing Company and built two additional cars from spares, was a true devotee of the marque. He entered CLO 5 in the 1936 RAC Rally and raced the car in Junior Car Club events at Brooklands in 1936 and 1937, winning a one-lap handicap race at 87.5 mph.
During his ownership, Zethrin modified the original radiator with a more modern cowl made by Serck. After an accident, Vanden Plas repaired the coachwork, altering the fenders slightly from the original design.
In 1937, Zethrin sold CLO 5 to his good friend, Thomas Gibson, chief engineer at the Sydenham Gas Works in London. Over the next 18 years, Mr. Gibson and his wife, Doreen, toured with the Squire, often on journeys to France and Norway. In a 1989 interview, Mrs. Gibson recalled that her husband “loved every throb and note of her engine and appreciated all that had gone into her design.”
The Gibsons sold CLO 5 around 1955. The car then passed through the English motor trade for several years before being exported to the US. In October 1959, William Comer of Lake Park, Florida, purchased the Squire and retained it in his small collection of European sports cars until his death in 1974. The Squire was then sold from the Comer estate to Walter B. Weimer of Washington, Pennsylvania. By the early 1980s, it had passed into the hands of noted collector Henry Petronis.
In February 2011, the unrestored Squire was offered for sale at Retromobile, where it caught the eye of the current owner, a discerning collector. The consignor recalls being struck by the Squire’s “fantastic composition with a rakish body and that most beautiful radiator grille. Here before me was the first of just two long-wheelbase cars made and its elongated proportions suited the car perfectly.”
Recognizing the project’s potential, the consignor bought the Squire and entrusted its restoration to his own firm, world-renowned experts Classic Motor Cars (CMC) of Bridgnorth. Widely regarded for their exacting work, CMC won the International Historic Motoring Restoration of the Year in 2011 for its efforts on the Lindner Lightweight E-Type.
According to the consignor, the guiding principle of the Squire’s restoration “was to retain as much of the original fabric of the car as possible, a goal which we achieved.”
Although CMC completed the vast majority of the work in-house, certain aspects of the restoration were carried out by outside specialists with expert knowledge. Tim Abbott, who had already rebuilt four Anzani R1 engines, rebuilt the original engine, while specialist Derek Chinn took the lead on the supercharger. Similarly, the gearbox was sent to Cecil Schumacher, the UK’s leading authority on Wilson pre-selectors.
No detail was seen as too small to ensure originality. A finishing touch was the reissue of the Squire’s original registration number, CLO 5, forfeited on its export to the States in the 1950s. The work was completed in May 2015, after more than 4,100 hours of labor. Today, the Squire appears as it would have when collected by Val Zethrin 80 years ago.
In September 2015, the Squire made its post-restoration debut at the Royal Concours of Elegance, held at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland. The following May, it was invited to the famous Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, where it was awarded the Mention of Honor in its class. Later in 2016, the Squire was invited to spend a week on display in the Rotunda at the RAC in London.
Not only is the Squire beautifully restored, its presentation is supported by an extensive history file containing restoration invoices, historic photographs, various correspondence, numerous articles, and a FIVA Identity Card issued in February 2016. Most remarkably, the file includes an extremely rare original Squire brochure.
The offering of this Squire represents a significant opportunity, as the other surviving examples of the marque are fixtures in the most admired private collections in the world, including those of Dr. Fred Simeone and Arturo Keller, and are not expected to be for sale in the foreseeable future.
Charismatic, historically significant, and extremely rare, the Squire is recognized among the greatest supercharged sports cars of the 1930s. Built to the very highest standards and brilliantly engineered in all respects, these remarkable cars represent the realization of Adrian Squire’s lifelong dream, nurtured and perfected over many years, and utilizing his talents as craftsman, designer, and driver.
This exquisitely restored long-chassis model is particularly appealing, given its distinctive Ranalah coachwork, period competition history, and well-documented provenance. For the collector who demands only the very best, we encourage serious consideration of this exceptional automobile.