Drawn to Speed: The Automotive Art of John Lander (2015)
The Squire Obsession
My longtime interest in the Squire automobile goes back to the 1950s. In fact, my first published illustration was of a Squire roadster. The Sports Car Club of America journal, Sports Car, ran the illustration on the back inside cover in 1956. In 1973, I worked with Bill Jackson, who was then editor of Classic Car, on a definitive article about Squire. I did two illustrations for the Jackson article and one was the color centerfold for the magazine.
Adrian Squire took a small inheritance, formed his company and set out to build the car he had dreamed of since he was a schoolboy. He wanted to build an English car that would equal or surpass the sports cars being built on the continent in the 1930s. The resulting cars had everything a real enthusiast could expect. A twin overhead cam supercharged engine was mounted in a chassis that had outstanding cornering and braking abilities. This engine-chassis combination was topped off with a drop-dead gorgeous Vanden Plas roadster body. Perfection cost money, and in the 1930s few buyers could afford it. Seven cars were built initially and three more were assembled by the buyer of the bankrupt company.
My illustration shows the first car and factory demonstrator, DMP-219. Behind the car are Adrian Squire, in the tie and vest, and “Jock” Manby-Colegrave. Seated in the car is Reginald Slay. The three company directors were all in their twenties. Sadly, Squire and Colegrave were both killed during World War II.
The first Squire sold to a private owner went to the Hon. R.R.W. Sherman Stonor. Stonor’s Squire was delivered as a short chassis roadster with scarlet Vanden Plas bodywork.
Stonor became interested in driving in competition and later had the car rebodied. Stonor had Markhams of Reading build a cycle-fendered two-seat doorless body, which was referred to as a “Skimpy.”
The original Vanden Plas body was mounted on the chassis of a single-seat car that the factory had raced. This car, COA 420, was wrecked and dismantled.
The Stonor car with its “Skimpy” body was exported to Cape Town, South Africa, by the Hon. John de Villers before World War II. In the 1970s, it was restored in South Africa. The car has since returned to Great Britain and is enjoyed by its current owner there.
This is my illustration from the 1973 Classic Car magazine article.
The third short chassis roadster went to G.F.A. “Jock” Manby-Colegrave. Colegrave, Adrian Squire and Reginald Slay were the company directors. Squire and Cole-grave were old school friends.
At the end of World War II, the car was owned by Basil Porter Putt. Putt blew up the engine at the Prescott Hill Climb. He decided to replace the supercharged Anzani engine with something more reliable. He settled on a 1.5 liter British Salmson unit. In this form, the car passed through two owners, wound up in the states and eventually dropped out of sight. After decades in a storage unit, the car resurfaced after the death of its owner, Robert Davis of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was sold at auction and has been restored to original condition by its new owner.
When World War II broke out, Manby-Colegrave became an R.A.F. pilot and was killed during the Battle of Britain.
In an attempt to gain some notoriety through racing, Squire had Markhams build a single-seat body for a short chassis. Luis Fontes was the driver. In the 1935 British Empire Trophy, the car did not finish due to engine problems. The second race it ran was no better. The car retired with a split fuel tank. Finally in October of 1935, they managed a 3rd place finish in a race at Brooklands.
The single seater was not seen again. The original Vanden Plas roadster body from Sherman Stonor’s car was mounted on the chassis. In this form, the car was sold in May 1936. The new owner, Captain B.H. Pincent, wrecked the car and it was a total loss.
COA 420 is the only one of the seven original Squires that did not survive to the present.
In January of 1936, Val Zethrin took delivery of the first long chassis car. The coachwork was built by Ranalah.
When the Squire Car Manufacturing Co. was declared bankrupt in 1936, Val Zethrin bought all remaining parts and chassis. Two Squire mechanics stayed on with Zethrin to assemble three more cars over a period of time.
For quite some time, a long chassis car owned by Bill Comer in Florida was thought to be the car originally delivered to Zethrin in 1936. I actually went to see this car in 1973. A long chassis car found in France in 2011 proved that this was not the case. The French find had the correct engine and chassis numbers and paperwork leading back to Zethrin.
I believe the long chassis car in Florida was the second car that Zehtrin assembled. In addition to assembling the three cars, Zethrin came up with modifications that improved engine reliability.
In September of 1935, Squire was able, for the first time, to offer a complete car for less than 1,000 pounds. Squire had Markham of Reading supply a short chassis body quite similar to the body built for Sherman Stonor.
The car was registered to the Squire Car Manufacturing Co., and was used as the factory demonstrator.
After World War II, the car shows up in the ownership of A.G. “Bert” Smith. Smith also had the long chassis car originally delivered to Sir James Walker.
I could find very little written history of the car before its time in the Smith collection. There was a very nice write-up on the car in 1989, in Supercar Classics magazine.
In my illustration, I wanted to show both of the “Skimpy” bodied cars. Sherman Stonor’s car, UD 6784, was already shown in its original configuration in the picture I did for the Classic Car magazine feature.
Shortly after Val Zethrin’s purchase of his long chassis car, an order for another long chassis was received. The purchaser of this car was Sir James Walker, a well-known jeweler. Walker’s car was fitted with coachwork by Vanden Plas. This was in fact the last sale of a brand new Squire.
Sir James briefly replaced Reginald Slay on the board of directors on the manufacturing side of the company. Prices were lowered drastically, and the company tried to struggle on. The firm, however, went under in July of 1936.
In my illustration, I am showing Walker’s car outside a pub, which I have appropriately dubbed The Lost Cause.
Total factory production was only seven cars, not counting the three cars later assembled by Zethrin. The number is tiny, but their impact was great. Over the years, Squires have always been considered among the most innovative and beautiful cars of this era.
“1st Squire of Zethrin”
This was the first of the three cars assembled by Val Zethrin and crew. Coachwork was by Corsica. Unfortunately, the body did not seem to fit the chassis. The one-piece rear hinged hood enclosed the grille and covered the radiator cap (see photo).
The car passed through several owners in this form, and in 1995, it was bought by the late Pat Hart. Hart felt something had to be done to improve the looks of the car. He enlisted Don Vogelsang of Seattle, Washington, for the project. The result is an amazing transformation. A section of about 2" was removed from the body, and a new hood and windscreen were fabricated. The beautiful finished car has gone on to win several show awards.
“2nd Zethrin Long Chassis”
This is apparently the second car assembled by Val Zethrin. For years, it was thought to be the car Zethrin bought new in 1936. When I saw the car in Florida in 1973, it even carried the British registration tag, CLO 5. A car found in France in 2011, however, has the provenance to show it is the 1936 car.
I have included a photo I took in 1973. You can see the nonstandard nose and the fender treatment that is different from Zethrin’s original car. The third car assembled was sold without a finished body and was reportedly bodied as a Vanden Plas roadster.