Sold for $990,000 at 2012 RM Auctions at Amelia Island, Fla.
A true sportscar is to be that alluring blend of luxury and performance. And for a brief period during the 1930s, a small manufacturer by the name of Squire Car Manufacturing Company was considered one of the very few to produce some truly amazing automobiles that combined spine-tingling performance with elegant design.
Adrian Squire would work with some of the best sportscar manufacturers even before he turned 21. As an employee of both Bentley and MG, Squire would learn first hand about the elements that go into creating a truly memorable car. But working for factories building such cars wasn't good enough for Squire. And for one reason: they didn't design and build his idea of a great sportscar.
Squire already had an idea of what the ultimate sportscar would look like. Even as a schoolboy, at the young age of 16, Squire would sketch designs. He eventually would create a whole catalogue of what he believed to be the 'world's greatest sports car'.
Even at a young age, Squire knew all of the necessary elements needed to make a great sports car. He envisioned a design with a chassis that had a low center of gravity. And in an era filled boxy designs, Adrian thought only of sleek, flowing bodywork that was light and that combined aesthetics with function.
Bentley and MG were noted for developing some of the best cars and Squire was right there helping to develop and build them. At the young age of 18, Adrian worked as an apprentice with Bentley Motors. He would later work as an assistant draftsman at MG. But like many young people in the world Squire believed he could do better. For his 21st birthday Adrian would receive an inheritance of £20,000, and he knew exactly what he was to do with it. Therefore, at just 21 years of age, he would go on to form Squire Motors Ltd. in 1931.
Based in Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, Squire would set to work designing his ultimate sports car. But the process was destined to take a while longer if Squire didn't get a little bit. That help would come from another manufacturer. Frazer-Nash had British Anzani engines at their disposal but would decide to forego them for another option. The 1.5-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine had been designed by Frazer-Nash's T.D. Ross. The production of the engine was then handled by Anzani.
But what was Frazer-Nash's loss would be Squire's gain and he would immediately have the engines cast with the name ‘Squire' in the block and manifold. Just like that, Adrian had his engine for use with his design. But the engine needed more power, according to Adrian. Therefore David Brown would be commissioned with building the engines to accept a Roots-type supercharger. This would boost the horsepower up to a rather robust 110 bhp.
With the engine making headway, Squire would set about preparing the rest of the chassis. He would turn to a Wilson-type preselector gearbox and a E.N.V. live rear axle. The car would have a solid front axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs at the front and rear. Braking power for the car would come four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes that used huge 15-inch magnesium alloy drums.
Some additional features Adrian's car would offer would include the use of adjustable friction shock absorbers. This allowed control over ride and handling. With the incredibly rigid chassis finished, Squire would ship the car off to Vanden Plas to create the sleek and flowing bodies that Adrian had always envisioned.
When it was Squire would get just about what he wanted. But he would find out his vision of the 'world's greatest sports car' would be very expensive. In fact, it would be so expensive he would turn instead to H. Markham, Ltd. to create less-expensive bodies.
As a result of the cost of his cars, which were nearly the same as a Bugatti, Squire would sell few cars. The first one would be bought in 1935. And by 1936, Squire would be shutting his doors to go work for Lagonda.
However, in 1935, before Squire shut his doors and went to work for Lagonda, he would sell the last car he ever built. The car would go to Val Zethrin of Chislehurst. Zethrin would end up becoming a prominent player in the final chapter of Squire history.
During its short existence, however, Squire Car Manufacturing Company, Ltd. would earn a place of unmatched supremacy. For its time, Squire's sports cars would achieve performance numbers better than just about every other car known to exist at the time and the advancements of design and handling as a result of Adrian's understanding and talent have led many to consider his cars to surely be the best sports cars in their time.
Adrian's understanding of what made for a great sports car would be undisputed just with an investigative look at his chassis' design. Adrian's understanding of how lower centers of gravity helps to prevent roll and any other uncontrolled movement was truly genius. The way the suspension stiffened under loading to its superior braking power that exceeded every other car of the period, including cars produced well into the 1950s and '60s, it was clear Squire understood what made for a great sports car. And when the braking and handling was applied to the 110 bhp, Squire had all the makings of a super car. He just couldn't produce it cheap enough to sustain its production and further development.
After closing his doors, Squire would go to work for Lagonda throughout the rest of the 1930s. Then, just prior to the outbreak of World War II, he would go on to work for the Bristol Aeroplane Company. Unfortunately, during the beginning days of the Second World War, during the Battle of Britain, England's airplane manufacturing facilities were strategic targets for German bombing. And during one bombing raid against the Bristol Aeroplane Company in 1940, Squire would be killed.
In the last couple of years leading up to his death, Squire's place in automotive manufacturing history would be completed by Zethrin. Upon closing, there would still be enough components to build a further three cars. Zethrin would purchase the rest of the components and would have the final three cars built.
One of those final three would be offered at this year's Amelia Island RM Auctions. Chassis 1063 would be the first of the final three to be built. Actually, the car had begun the process of being built just prior to Squire closing his doors. It just wasn't finished. Zethrin's presence, however, would change the direction of the coachwork applied to Squire's superior chassis.
Instead of approaching Vanden Plas or H. Markham, Ltd. once again, Zethrin would employ the small London coachbuilder Corsica. Corsica coachworks had been established at Kings Cross in London in 1920 by Charles Stammers and Joseph and Robert Lee. In a story similar to Squire's, Corsica would never re-open its doors at the conclusion of World War II as a result of two of its founders having died during the war.
However, while it was operating, this small firm was anything but a small player in the coachbuilding scene. The company was known for creating beautiful, low-slung sporting bodies for Daimler. But it would also build coaches for Bugatti, Isotta Fraschini, Mercedes-Benz and just about every British marque known to exist at the time. However, during its time of working with these many different manufacturers, Corsica would come up with a design for a drophead coupe, but it was placed on the chassis of a K-Type Magnette.
The size of the Corsica firm would actually be to its advantage as it would allow it to work closely with the customers creating a design based directly around their desires and whims. This meant the company could include designs and features inspired by the customer instead of the firm determining the look and feel of the car. This meant each one of their cars and a very personal feel to it. But for this first of the three chassis left by Squire, Corsica would return to its sleek drophead coupe design and would make one specifically for chassis 1063. This would make chassis 1063 truly unique as every other chassis before it had been graced with a touring coach design.
In September of 1937, the first of the final three chassis would be finished and it would be delivered with British registration BGB 34 to Glasgow. Little would be known of the car but at some time it would come to be the property of Cameron Millar. Then, in December of 1984, the car was exported to the United States as a result of being sold to Dr. Douglas Oosterhaut, a prominent plastic surgeon in the San Francisco area.
Over the course of its two years with Dr. Oosterhaut the car would be regularly driven. Then, in 1986, the car would be purchased by Bob Cole. Cole would own and operate the car for about a decade before passing it on to his son Rob, proprietor of Cole Classic Corporation. During its time with Bob Cole, the car would be regularly taken care of and serviced by Phil Reilly and Company.
Bob passed the Squire on to his son in 1995. In that same year, the car would be sold to collector Pat Hart from the state of Washington. Under Hart's ownership, the car would undergo an extensive restoration performed by Don Vogelsang in Seattle. During this restoration Vogelsang would make some minor alterations to the body but would keep to the spirit of the car's design.
The finished car would then go on to make its debut at the 1998 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. The car has remained part of Hart's personal collection from that day on until his death in 2002.
Upon his death, the car was stored and would not appear again until 2010 when it appeared at The Quail, a Motorsports Gathering, at Quail Lodge. Rightly displayed at the event in Carmel, California, the Squire would not find its way back to long-term storage for its current owner would come to purchase the car just a short time later.
Upon being received by its current owner, the Drophead Coupe would be returned to running order and would be seen numerous of times throughout the 2011 show season. At Palm Beach, the car would be voted as the People's Choice and Best of Show at Classic Sports Sunday at Mar-a-Lago. It would later receive the Breitling Award for Timeless Beauty at Amelia Island. Its final couple of awards would come in Pasadena and Del Mar, California. At the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, the squire would receive the Designers' Choice award. Then at Del Mar, the car would finish Best in Class. Beautifully presented in an all black finish with just enough chrome to make the car really stand out to the eye of the beholder, it would be understandable why it would receive such acclaim and such prestigious awards.
This multi-award winner would begin the 2012 season being offered for sale at RM Auctions' Amelia Island event. Heading into the event, this truly special Squire was certain to draw the attention of many onlookers and was expected to demand a great sale price.
And as the car drove up and the bidding began it was clear the bidders were fighting for a truly special, rare and momentous car. For while it was well known there were only 10 Squires ever built, this particular one existed in a world all its own. Not only was the car fitted with the most advanced and best handling chassis of its day, but it is also rare as it is the only Squire to be fitted with a Corsica body. But to top it all off, its truly unique body-styling beautifully represents that bridge between the hope and the final death of Squire's dream. And with multiple awards, this Squire Drophead Coupe would deservedly sell for a price of $990,000.
Truly a work of art to behold and an incredible performer, even to this day. Truly Squire created one of the world's greatest sports cars. Sources:
'Lot No. 166: 1937 Squire 1 ½-liter Drophead Coupe by Corsica', (http://www.rmauctions.com/CarDetails.cfm?SaleCode=AM12&CarID=r117&Currency=USD). RM Auctions. http://www.rmauctions.com/CarDetails.cfm?SaleCode=AM12&CarID=r117&Currency=USD. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
'1937 Squire 1.5-Liter Drophead Coupe by Corsica', (http://classiccarweekly.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/squire-drophead-coupe/). Classic Car Weekly. http://classiccarweekly.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/squire-drophead-coupe/. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
'The Coachbuilders Encyclopedia: Corsica', (http://www.coachbuild.com/index.php?option=com_gallery2&Itemid=50&g2_itemId=42931). Coachbuilder.com. http://www.coachbuild.com/index.php?option=com_gallery2&Itemid=50&g2_itemId=42931. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
'Squire 1500: 1935-1939 Squire 1500', (http://www.supercars.net/cars/3063.html). Supercars.net. http://www.supercars.net/cars/3063.html. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Squire Car Manufacturing Company', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 24 October 2011, 19:35 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Squire_Car_Manufacturing_Company&oldid=457197761 accessed 15 March 2012
'British Motor Manufacturers (1894-1960): Squire', (http://www.britishmm.co.uk/history.asp?id=836). British Motor Manufacturers. http://www.britishmm.co.uk/history.asp?id=836. Retrieved 15 March 2012.By Jeremy McMullen