Jim Moule wrote
Martin Shaw from Perth just told me that you now own Royce Cole's 1947 Rover 16 Sports Saloon.
I know the car well, having watched its restoration. I would be happy to correspond about it, if you wish.
I have just been browsing your website so I have some idea of what you already know. Sorry to be "picky" but you could correct the spelling: Macquarie Street, home of Sydney's medical specialists and named after Governor Lachlan Macquarie, a Scot and the best of the early governors of NSW. He was responsible for the many fine colonial buildings in the street, such as the Barracks and St.James Church. Royce Cole was first introduced to me in about 1974 when I was President of the Rover Owners' Club. A young friend of his raved to me about the quality of the restoration that Royce has done on an FC Holden (boring). He had then purchased a 1955 or '56 Rover 90 that was rusted up to the top of the back mudguards and proceeded to restore it BEFORE joining the Rover Club.
Have you heard stories of people who restore cars in secret with the ambition of turning up unannounced at the Club Concours and winning the prize for the best restoration? Well, it almost never happens and it didn't with Royce either. There were a number of very fine restorations being completed at that time and Royce had restored his car without being aware of the importance of authenticity. Consequently, although the car was stunning, it didn't win any prizes. Royce was the finest amateur craftsman that I have ever met and I am sure that younger generations will not produce anyone like him.
He was largely self taught. Having run a shoe-making business that could not compete with cheap imports, he sold out and moved from the northern suburbs of Sydney to Toukley on the Central Coast (about 60 miles north of Sydney). Royce studied all sorts of handicrafts. When he restored a car or anything else, he did everything himself - mechanicals, painting, upholstery, electrics, - the lot. To make a bit of money on the side, he made jewellery boxes for posh shops in Sydney. He also made some of our Club trophies. His work with timber was unsurpassed.
Anyway, having been bruised by his experience with the '90', Royce acquired that '16'. I can't remember where he got it. There were quite a few still being driven as everyday cars back then and it was not difficult to pick up an easy restoration project. My impression is that the '16' was in fair but dilapidated condition when he got it. A lesser person might have done a cosmetic job on it and put it back on the road in a few months (I would have!). Royce of course had other plans and over the course of the next several years, he took the car apart, restored every nut and bolt and put it back together.
Unfortunately, Royce could never resist improving on a design if he could so there were some things that were not quite authentic because the original design was faulty. (He might have used modern hose clips, for example, rather than the old wire clips that damage hoses.)
Royce did win the Club Concours d'Elegance and also the Alan Tester Award for Meritorious Restoration in the year the restoration was completed. The car was rallied extensively over the next few years and performed very well. Meanwhile, Royce began work on restoration of a Rover 2200 for his daily transport and that car proved to be a very fine effort as well.
Royce was well into his 80s when he died. The cars that he restored are his memorial. It is surprising that so many people who never knew him speak his name with such reverence. I doubt that his wife Gwen is still alive. [Gwen is currently resident in a nursing home at Toukley - RVS & Alan Smith]
. Kevin Brown was the Treasurer of the Club. He owned a 3.5 Litre. I haven't heard of him for twenty years. He was an 8mm film buff and would have had a lot of footage of the '16' when it was first restored. Royce was also a great help to other members of the Club. He produced lower front guard pieces that could be fitted to P4 cars that suffered from rust in front of the front doors.
I have a couple of colour slides that I took on a rally to Armidale just after the car was finished. I don't know how I could get copies of them to you. Do you have a photo of Royce? I think that I have one somewhere. Meanwhile, I have attached a photo of one of my restorations, a 1935 Rover 14 Australian Coach Saloon. If I find anything else about your car, I'll send it on.
I'm sorry that the car left our country but there are many more old Rovers here that are either under restoration or awaiting restoration. It is a pity that the Aussie dollar fell to such a low point as it caused us to lose many fine cars, including two other pre-War Rovers. Both were Rover 9/20 cars, both excellent restorations. The owners couldn't get interest from locals so, reluctantly, they let them go overseas. The Australian climate is quite kind to old cars so we have more than we really need. This leads to lowering of market value. Unfortunately, we tend to lose a lot of English cars while the majority of vintage cars here are American.
The acquisition of my car is a funny story. I had been looking for an early '30s Rover for over a year, writing and travelling all over the country, looking at wrecks that would have been massive restorations. One friend was restoring a 1933 Rover 14 Pilot that he found at Bogabri with a peppercorn tree growing up through the middle and out of the sunroof. He had to cut down the tree before salvaging the car! Another car, a 1934 12, was found on a tip and took 30 years to restore. In both cases, the owners died within a couple of years of finishing the cars. Another car was a 1936 14 Sports Saloon, home model. The owner died a week after inviting me to see it. That car is still under restoration!
One day, I was respraying my 1951 Cyclops in Alan Tester's backyard when a phone call came through. The caller was the executor for his mother's estate. The estate included an old Rover car, running and registered, new tyres, new battery. They said it was a "Bluebird" model. Alan Tester immediately thought "Blue Train" and said if it did turn out to be a Blue Train, then he wanted it. Anything else, I was welcome to it (as he had a big collection already). We drove around to a neighbouring suburb, pulled off a sheet and found a perfectly preserved car with original interior, paint, chrome, etc.
As the car was then 40 years old, the paint was polished through to white undercoat, the carpets were missing,, the chrome was badly worn and pitted, and the engine was burning oil like you wouldn't believe (50 miles per pint!). It became nicknamed "The Blue Haze", though, on the back door capping, there was gold lettering: "Bluebird of Happiness". As the trim and paint are all blue, we chased back through the records and found that the car was probably used as a display car at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, reflecting the popular song of the time.
It has a body by TJ Richards of Adelaide so there are many differences when compared to Home models. Nearly all European cars of the time came into Australia CKD (completely knocked down) and received Australian bodies for tax reasons. I drove the car for a couple of years, then took it off the road for six months (so registration was continuous), got the engine rebored and remetalled, resprayed the body in exactly the same colour and tidied up the chromework. The resulting "restoration" won me the Pre-war 1st prize at Castle Hill in 1978.
The car has been driven extensively since but still looks and runs very well. In 1984, I bought the remains of a 1913 Rover Clegg 12 and restored it over two years. Our daughter was born in the middle of the restoration and we had outgrown both our house and our garage so I put the car on the road quickly and built a new house, based around a six-car garage. After ten years, I decided that "The Bluebird" and "The Cyclops" were enough for me to maintain and use so I sold the veteran.
I have attached a few photos to support this tale. I'm pleased that Royce's car has gone to someone who obviously appreciates it. Too many fine restorations end up in the hands of people who keep them in plastic for investment or, worse, run them into the ground and throw them away.
Please keep in touch.