In late-January I received an e-mail from a senior TOC Member saying, 'I attach two photos of a supposedly AV 105 VDP for auction at Brightwells on 11 April. It does not look like a VDP body to me!'
As the person in question actually owns a VdP Talbot, this was rather a serious allegation. So I sent him back a teasing e-mail saying, 'It doesn't look like a VdP tourer to you, because it's not like any other 105 VdP tourer you've ever seen! In fact, it's described in the VdP Order Book as a Special 4-seater open Sports Tourer'. Fortunately, he took my teasing in good heart...!
We tend to think of AO & AM 90s and AV 105s as (relatively) short-wheelbase cars, and of most 75s and all AV 95s as long-wheelbase ones - but this is a rather misleading impression. In fact, 10% of all AO 90s were long-wheelbase models built on the 10 ft w.b. frame of the 75, whilst just under 19% of all AM 90s were as well...!
With the AV 105s this number was sharply reduced - perhaps because the AV 95s had already filled that particular slot in the market – but three long-wheelbase cars were nevertheless built. (It used to be thought that there were only two, but careful perusal of the Production Ledgers has now revealed that there were actually three). As follows:
1) Chassis no. 35330: a Vanden Plas tourer (the subject of this article).
2) Chassis no. 35479: a bodyless chassis for Bluemel Bros (the steering-wheel makers).
3) Chassis no. 35488: a James Young d.h.c. (owned by a TOC Member).
If one is going to build a body on a longer wheelbase chassis, one first has to design it: hence, whilst the 'Coupe des Alpes' tourers were to VdP design 835, and the production 'Alpine' tourers were to design 846, this long-wheelbase example was to design 968. And the other thing which has to happen, is that the customer has to be prepared to pay royally for not buying a regular, series-produced example. Hence whilst either a 'Coupe des Alpes' or an 'Alpine' tourer body cost £122 10s, this one cost £170 - or very nearly 40% more...!
What sort of person was prepared to pay so much for the privilege? Well, here's the second surprise relating to this car: it was built for the Fox & Nicholl Team Car driver Owen Saunders-Davies! He'd driven the 9' 3" w.b. AO 90 'PL 3' at Brooklands in 1930, and the 9' 6" w.b. AV 105 'GO 53' at Brooklands, Le Mans and elsewhere in both 1931 and 1932 - but when it came to his road car he wanted something rather different: an AV 105, but on the 10 ft w.b. frame of an AV 95, and fitted with VdP tourer bodywork - so that was what he got!
And yet, this car was actually more than that. It was the first AV 105 VdP tourer to feature an elongated bonnet and a foreshortened scuttle, both of them adorned with sloping, rather than vertical, louvres: in this respect, it foreshadowed the VdP 105 deluxe sports tourers which came along a few months later (to design 994) - but unlike them it retained the glorious un-valanced wings of the VdP 'Alpine' tourers (albeit, presumably somewhat elongated). And its doors were longer - as well as supported on three rather than two hinges - whilst its tail was also both longer and more sloping than those on the 'Coupe des Alpes' or 'Alpine' tourers.
The car will come up for auction by Brightwells, at Bicester Heritage, on Wednesday April 11. For more information, go to www.brightwells.com
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