Calthorpe - The Automobiles of G. W. Hands

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Calthorpe - The Automobiles of G. W. Hands


1904 - 1927
United Kingdom

The Calthorpe Motor Company

At the turn of the 20th century G. W. Hands was running the Minstrel & Rea Cycle Works in Barn Street, Birmingham. The Minstrel and Rea cycles were quality products which were usually sold direct to dealers who put their own emblems on them. In 1904, Hands formed the Calthorpe Motor Company and introduced his first motor car, the 10 hp model with a four-cylinder Fafnir power unit and shaft-drive.

By the end of 1906, this had grown up into a 12/14hp costing 300 guineas in touring-car form. Alongside this, Hands was marketing a 28/40 hp four-cylinder model at twice the price; both models had Hele-Shaw multi-plate clutches, and were produced in the Calthorpe company's new factory at Cherrywood Road, Bordesley Green, Birmingham.

The following year saw Calthorpe concentrating on a new 16/20hp White & Poppe-engined model, which was sold at £325 with side-entrance touring coachwork, plus another £25 for hood and windscreen, and another £20 extra for having magneto instead of coil ignition. During 1907 and 1908, the Calthorpe Company's address was listed as John Bright Street, Birmingham; this was probably just a sales office, as many historians still list the cars as being manufactured at Cherrywood Road.

The 16/20hp Roi des BeIges was still listed in 1908, but it had now been joined by a 25 hp four, with similar coachwork, and a 10 hp two-cylinder. The distinguishing mark of the Calthorpe was its circular radiator, with raised header tank, which was seen on the 16/20 driven with some success by G. W. Hands in the 1908 Irish Trials; that same year, the marque managed a creditable fourth place in the 'Four-Inch' Race in the Isle of Man.

The 1909 Coupe des Voiturettes

Calthorpe automobiles also competed in the 1909 Coupe des Voiturettes or Coupe de l' Auto. By 19 10, the range had changed again; now it consisted of a 12/14hp, a 15hp and a 20 hp, all four-cylindered and all offering sound engineering at a moderate price. Hands was offering racing cars at Brooklands at around this time, and there was also a abortive entry in the 1910 Coupe des Voiturettes.

Rudge-Whitworth detachable wheels were added to the specification for 1911, in which year Burgess took sixth place in the Coupe des Voitures Legeres. The marque's sporting achievements were reflected in the models exhibited at Olympia in November 1912; on their 11.9 hp chassis, the streamlined Brooklands four-seater body was shown alongside the staridard two and four-seater torpedo coachwork, while on the 15.9hp chassis, the Grand Prix four-seater was displayed.

The Calthorpe Minor

All models now came fully equipped with five detachable wheels, plus lamps and tyres (by no means common practice at that time); all Calthorpes except the Brooklands and Grand Prix also had hood and windscreen as standard. A new model appeared alongside the 11.9 and 15.9 at the 1913 Olympia Show; this was the immortal Calthorpe Minor, one of the first and best of the new generation of 'big cars in miniature'. Even this managed to acquire a good sporting record, and was available with striking pointed-tail bodywork. The basic two-seater was only UK£168, and the car enjoyed plenty of success.

G. W. Hands 10/20hp
G. W. Hands 10/20hp, powered by a four cylinder side valve engine. It was one of two models produced by Hands after he broke away from Calthorpe.

Wiedman poses with his Calthorpe during the 1909 Circuit of BoulogneWiedman poses with his Calthorpe during the 1909 Circuit of Boulogne.

Calthorpe Coupe de l' AutoCalthorpe Coupe de l' Auto model which competed in the Voiturette race at Dieppe in 1912.

1920s Calthorpe 10.5 hp1920s Calthorpe 10.5 hp.

1921 Calthorpe racer1921 Calthorpe racer.

The Hands 10/20 and 15/45 hp

The Minor was the sole post-Armistice model, and the pre-war tradition was continued by the availability of Mulliner round-tailed sporting coachwork. In 1922 G. W. Hands broke away from the Calthorpe company to produce another light car, the Hands, in the old Minstrel & Rea Works in Barn Street which, in addition to cycles, was now also producing the Calthorpe motor-cycle range. There were two Hands models, the 10/20 hp four-cylinder side-valve and the 15/45 hp, which had the advanced feature of a single-overhead camshaft for its six-cylinder engine; it also boasted internal expanding brakes all round.

Meanwhile, Calthorpe had introduced a new model, the 12/20, which had the unusual feature for the period of a non-detachable cylinder head; access to the valves was only achieved by removing the top cover plate of the water jacket. This type of design provided water-cooled sockets for the spark plugs and avoided the use of cylinder joint gaskets, and at the same time permitted even water spacing and well distributed cooling. Both 10 hp and 12/20hp Calthorpes had four-speed transmissions now, and were noted for their hill-climbing abilities.

The 1924 Motor Show saw a third model in the Calthorpe line-up, the 1991cc 15/45, which bore a surprising resemblance to the Hands of the same designation. This was hardly a matter for conjecture, however, as G. W. Hands's go-it-alone venture had proved unsuccessful, and he had returned to the Calthorpe Motor Company bringing the new design with him. It had, however, only two-wheel braking in its Calthorpe incarnation. All-round braking was restored at the end of 1925, at which time the 15/45 also acquired a four-speed transmission.

However, the Calthorpe's day was virtually over. Mass-produced models such as the Morris, Clyno and Swift were now so good that the more expensive Calthorpe could show little advantage over them. Many believed the days of the high-quality light car were coming to an end, and sales of the fairly expensive Calthorpe were declining. A receiver had to be appointed in 1924, and the Bordesley Green factory closed, but very limited production kept going for a while. A final fling with the 1925 15/45 six-cylinder 2-litre car was really too late.

The Calthorpe factory finally closed down in 1927 and later that year it was reopened by the Colmore Depot as, ironically, a Morris service centre. It seems, however, that a few Calthorpes were built after that, in the old cycle works, which was now producing the famous Ivory Calthorpe motor cycles. G. W. Hands, though, was not connected with those last sad remnants of a once-famous company. He had taken over the Palace Hotel, in the UK's popular tourist town of Torquay.

About 5,000 cars were made in the post-war period; pre-war production is uncertain. Fewer than ten cars are thought to have survived.

Also see: Calthorpe - Pre-War British Sports Cars

Calthorpe 10 hp
1530cc side-valve two
cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 16 hp
2383cc side-valve four
cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 12/14
1810cc side-valve four
cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 28/40
4562cc side-valve four
cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 25
4250cc side-valve four
cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 12/14
2297cc side-valve four
cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 16/20
3261cc side-valve four
cylinder water coole
Calthorpe 15
3012cc side-valve four
cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 20
3817cc side-valve four
cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 12/15
1868 / 1924cc side-valve
four-cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 15
3016cc side-valve four
cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 10/12 Minor
1087cc side-valve four
cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 10.4
1261cc side-valve four
cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 10/15
1261cc side-valve four
cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 12/20 I and II
1496cc side-valve four
cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 12/20 III
1991cc overhead-cam six
cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 10/20
1327cc side-valve four
cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 15/45
1991cc overhead-valve six
cylinder water-cooled
Calthorpe 12/25
1720cc side-valve four
cylinder water-cooled

1913 Calthorpe Minor
1913 Calthorpe Minor.
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