George Edward Milligen Collection: Soft Top Cars
This page provides information and photos of the soft top cars including phaetons, sports cars, and tourers that are known to have been in George Milligen's collection.
Bentley Mk VI Four-Seater Drophead Coupé 1947
This is a 1947 Bentley Mk VI four-seater drophead Coupé with coachwork by H.J. Mulliner. Bentley was founded as Bentley Motors Limited by W. O. Bentley in 1919 in Cricklewood, North London—and became widely known for winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930. In 1931 the company went into receivership and was purchased by Rolls-Royce. A drophead coupé has been described as a two-door four-seater car with a folding roof and a sloping back.
The Mark VI Bentley was very similar to the Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith but had a shorter wheelbase. The majority of the 5,201 units built were of the 2-door or 4-door saloon style but the drophead Coupé version was supplied 'bare' to be fitted with coachbuilt bodywork outside the factory. This example had been purchased by an Indian Prince His Highness the Maharajah Sir Pratapsinha Gaekwar of Baroda and was built to his specification. George purchased the car in 1976 for an unknown sum.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £18,000-£22,000. It sold for £27,600 including premium.
Bentley Speed Six Two-Seater 1929
This is a 1929 Bentley Speed Six 'boat-tail' two seater with coachwork by Barker & Company. It is said to have been ordered by the Duke of Kent who changed his mind and was sold to Ralph Jump a stockbroker. It had many owners and was laid up during WW2 and later rebuilt. George Milligen purchased the vehicle for £15,000 in 1974 and used it extensively. The engine was replaced at some point with a 6.5 litre engine from a similar car which was rebuilt to the same specification as the Speed Six. The original registration number is unknown but it was re-registered as KYA 639 to save money and later the number changed by George to JD 9961.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £250,000-£350,000. It sold for £309,500 including premium.
Bentley 4.5 Litre drophead Coupé 1929
This is a 1929 Bentley 4.5 litre two-seater drophead Coupé with coachwork by Salmons & Sons of Newport Pagnell. Bentley built 665 of this model including 244 of them in 1929. It had a fixed-head 16 valve four cylinder engine which could produce 105-110 bhp and propel the car at 90mph. George purchased the car in 1974 for an unknown price and had the engine rebuilt and some othere repairs carried out on it.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £90,000-£110,000. It sold for £117,000 including premium.
Delage AK5 1914
This is a Delage 15.9 hp Type AK5 six cylinder two-seater with coachwork by Delage. The Delage Automobile company was started in 1905 at Levallois, a suburb of Paris, by Louis Delage (1874-1947), an ambitious young engineer who had been working for the Peugeot car company. Initially, the company built cars from components from other manufacturers but by 1908 had new production facilities, competed in Grand Prix motor racing, and by 1909 were making their own engines and fabricating advanced body designs. Delage cars began winning important races but WW1 intervened and the new factory was converted to military production. The company reverted to car manufacture after WW1 but went into voluntary liquidation in 1935.
This model had a 2.7 litre sidevalve engine with six inline cylinders. The catalogue says that George bought this car as his mother had driven one during WW1 while his father was engaged in 'Secret Service work'. I have to confess that I find this story about his father a bit far-fetched and can find no official documentation about it but who knows? George paid £2,500 for the car in 1964 and used it in rallies and drove it to France.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £25,000-£30,000. It sold for £58,700 including premium.
Delage D8 1931
This is a Delage D8 four-seater sports tourer with coachwork by Chapron of Paris. The D8 was a luxury car produced between 1929 and 1940. It had a straight-eight 4061cc engine driving a four speed gearbox and was capable of 75mph. It was fitted with drum brakes on all four wheels, a traditional suspension with rigid axles front and back and semi-elliptic leaf springs and 'friction dampers'. The model had several kings and celebrities of the time as owners including the Kings of Sweden and Yugoslavia and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. As you would expect, George had a lot of work done on the car while he owned it including a major restoration in 1965.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £80,000-£120,000. It sold for £100,500 including premium.
Excelsior Adex-C 1925
This is a 1925 Excelsior 'Adex-C' two-seater and dickey tourer with coachwork by Maythorn of Biggleswade. Compagnie Nationale Excelsior, more simply known as Excelsior, was a Belgian company established by Arthus de Coninck at Zaventem near Brussels in 1903; they started making cars in 1904. The later Adex cars had a 4,767cc six cylinder engine with an overhead camshaft. The company was sold to its competitor Impéria in 1929 and from then until 1932 the company was called Impéria-Excelsior, after which the name Excelsior was dropped.
There are thought to be only three or four Excelsior cars left in the world. George purchased this one for £1,500 in 1967 and had it stripped, rebuilt and rewired.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £30,000-£50,000. It sold for £51,000 including premium.
Fiat 501B Tourer 1926
This is a Fiat 501B two-seater tourer with coachwork by Short Brothers of Rochester. The 501, otherwise known as the Fiat Tipo IT, was Fiat's first production car after WW1 and introduced at the Paris Salon in 1919. It was designed by Fiat engineer Carlo Cavalli and by the time they stopped making it 47,600 of them had rolled out of the famous Fiat production facility at Lingotto, Turin.
The 501 had a simple design with a 4 cylinder 1460cc sidevalve engine. George purchased this example in 1933 for £50 and used it as a runabout finding its very low first gear useful for farm work.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £3,000-£5,000. It sold for £6,900 including premium.
Invicta S-Type 1931
This is a 1931 4.5 litre low chassis S-Type Invicta sports car with coachwork by Vanden Plas. The model was launched in 1930 and it has been described as 'the traditional British sports car at its best'. The six cylinder engine was built specially by Meadows of Wolverhampton and it had a top speed of 100mph. George Milligen bought it in 1942 for £175 and said afterwards that the bargain was due to the seller being chased by the police for murder. George made good use of this car and did 50,000 miles in it including annual trips to the South of France.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £160,000-£220,000. It sold for £265,500 including premium.
Lanchester Laudaulette 1909
This is a 1909 Lanchester 28hp laundaulette with coachwork by the Lanchester Motor Company. The Lanchester Engine Company Limited was set up at Armourer Mills, Sparkbrook, Birmingham in 1899 by the three Lanchester brothers, Frederick - considered by many to be one of the most influential automobile engineers of the 19th and 20th centuries, George, and Frank. From 1895 work was taking place on prototypes with the first being taken onto public roads in 1896.
The first production Lanchester cars appeared in 1900 and seem unusual to modern eyes having two-cylinder 4033 cc horizontal air-cooled engines, a twin crankshaft design, steering using a side lever or tiller rather than a wheel and a gearbox using epicyclic gearing. They also had what is believed to be the earliest instance of disc brakes on the front wheels and used a 'wick' carburetor that had been developed by Frederick.
Initially coachwork had to be added by external companies but in 1903 Lanchester set up a bodywork department. The company went into receivership in 1904 despite a solid order book and was quickly re-financed and became The Lanchester Motor Company Limited later the same year.
The design of Lanchester cars developed over the years and six-cylinder engines became available in 1906 and steering wheels from 1908. This example has a six-cylinder 3.8 litre engine with coachwork finished in vertical green and black stripes called for some reason 'Dutch Pink'. George purchased the car from its original owner Major Saville Onley of Blickling Lodge at an auction in 1947. The car had been in storage since 1930.
George took part in the V.C.C. Eastern Rally in 1949 which was held at the Norfolk Broads Yacht Club in Wroxham not too far from his home at East Ruston Manor. He was awarded 3rd prize in the Road Safety Drive for Edwardian cars in the 1909 Lanchester.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £35,000-£45,000. It sold for £62,000 including premium.
Lancia Lambda 1929
This is a 1929 Lancia Lambda 8th Series Coupé with coachwork by Albany Carriage Company of London. Lancia & C. Fabbrica Automobili was founded on 29 November 1906 in Turin by Fiat racing drivers, Vincenzo Lancia (1881-1937) and his friend, Claudio Fogolin (1872-1945). Lancia is renowned in the automotive world for introducing cars with numerous innovations. These include the Theta of 1913, which was the first European production car to feature a complete electrical system as standard equipment.
The Lancia Lambda is an innovative automobile produced from 1922 through 1931. It was the first car to feature a load-bearing unitary body, (but without a stressed roof) and it also pioneered the use of an independent suspension (the front sliding pillar with coil springs). Vincenzo Lancia even invented a shock absorber for the car and it had excellent four wheel brakes. Approximately 11,200 Lambdas were produced. This example is from the 8th series; 3,903 were built between 1928 and 1930 and they were fitted with a four cylinder overhead camshaft 2569cc engine. This car was registered 1 January 1929 and was given to George by an old friend who had owned it since the 1930s.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £20,000-£30,000. It sold for £24,150 including premium.
The car was auctioned again by Bonhams in 2012 and sold for £59,740. 
Martini Roi-de-Belges Double Phaeton 1906
This is a Martini 20/24 hp Roi-de-Belges double phaeton with coachwork by W & F Thorn of Islington in London. The Martini automobile company was founded in Switzerland in 1897 by Swiss businessman Adolf von Martini, son of Friedrich von Martini, the inventor of the action used in the Martini–Henry rifle. This model had a 4085cc four cylinder engine and was sold in chassis form for purchasers to have the bodywork added according to their own specification by their chosen bodywork company.
The original owner of this example was Colonel William Campbell from Ashford and the car was registered on 9 March 1906 with the number D 2404. It was later owned by the author Arthur Mee - famous for his Children's Encyclopaedia. George purchased it for £2,150 in 1965 in the auction of the collection of John Cuthill Sword observing that he had learned to drive on a Martini car.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £25,000-£30,000. It sold for £32,200 including premium.
Maudsley 'Sweet Seventeen' Tourer 1910
This is a Maudsley 'Sweet Seventeen' Tourer with coachwork by Maudsley. The Maudslay Motor Company was founded by Cyril Charles Maudslay, great grandson of the highly skilled and innovative engineer Henry Maudslay.
Henry Maudsley (1771-1831) invented many new kinds of machines and processes that were vital in the progress of the industrial revolution including a machine to make wooden pulley blocks for ships which is preserved in the Porstmouth Block Mills, improvements to the hydraulic press, the invention of the screw-cutting lathe capable of making precision screws, and a micrometer capable of measuring to one ten-thousandth of an inch.
Maudsley's company built the first tunneling shield and steam-powered pumps for Marc Brunel's pioneering tunnel under the Thames and in 1838 after Henry's death his company Maudslay, Sons and Field of North Lambeth supplied a 750 h.p. engine for Isambard Kingdom Brunel's famous Great Western, the first purpose-built transatlantic steamship. They patented a double cylinder direct acting engine in 1839 and introduced some of the earliest screw propulsion units for ships, including one for the first Admiralty screw steamship, HMS Rattler in 1841. By 1850 the firm had supplied more than two hundred vessels with steam engines, and exhibited their engines at the 1862 International Exhibition.
Cyril Maudsley (1875-1962) and his cousin Reginald Walter Maudslay (1871-1934) set up the Maudslay Motor Company in Coventry in 1902 and the company continued in business until 1948 when it was taken over by the Associate Equipment Company (AEC). To start with they built marine internal combustion engines but they didn't sell well. Reginald left in 1903 on starting the Standard Motor Company - also in Coventry.
The company diversified and built an early petrol railway locomotive for the City of London Corporation to draw trucks from the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway to the Corporation meat market at Deptford, this requiring 50 tons to be drawn up a gradient of 1 in 36. It was fitted with a three-cylinder engine developing 85 bhp at 450rpm, with cylinders of 9" bore and stroke. Transmission was via a 2-speed change gear. The locomotive weighed 12 tons, and was provided with an 8 hp auxiliary engine which was used to start the main engine. This was the first commercially successful petrol locomotive in the world. By 1904 the company had a range of cars on offer including one with a 9.6 litre engine - they were amongst the most expensive on the British market.
During WW1 the company were building lorries and aircraft undercarriages for the British War Office and reconditioning radial engines. The company never went back to private car building after the war and manufactured heavy goods vehicles and coaches.
The four cylinder 3.3 litre 17hp 'Sweet Seventeen' got it's name from an article in the Autocar magazine of 9 October 1909. The engine had a number of unusual design features including a very easy way of moving the overhead camshafts aside to get to the valves for servicing, and removable panels on the block making it easy to get at the bearings; it was claimed that you could change a bearing in 15 minutes. George purchased the car from the executors of a Mr. Loads of North Walsham for £50 in 1948 and it had been laid up since 1914.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £28,000-£32,000. It sold for £36,700 including premium.
Maudsley was obvious very proud of this model as a poem he had written about it was discovered in his papers. The 'No 60' referred to in the poem was 60 Piccadily the address of the showroom in London:
Have you heard of the beauty that’s just come to town
A Warwickshire lass of undoubted renown
She comes of a stock far famed and well born
The same lovely features being found in her form
They may sing of Godiva, old Coventry’s queen
But you can’t match this beauty of Sweet Seventeen
Her radiant face in a bonnet so round
Rivets your glance as she skims o’er the ground
While her body is moulded with exquisite grace
She can move like a racehorse or go your own pace
And yet she’s so quiet, of such charms you may dream
She’s a regular darling, our Sweet Seventeen
She’s as sound as a bell is our Coventry charmer
So strong, yet so light, no rough roads can harm her
And just through the city she moves with such grace
The whole of the town wants to see her sweet face
But hurry, oh hurry, if business you mean
Or you won’t stand a chance with your Sweet Seventeen
If you find yourself walking down Piccadilly
This lovely creation you may chance to see
Number 60, the house where she pleases to dwell
See her once, and you’re sure to fall under her spell
You simply can’t help it, she is such a queen
Amongst cars, and her power is a Sweet Seventeen.
Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster 1957
This is a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster car with coachwork by Mercedes-Benz. George acquired it in 1966 for £1,900 and used it frequently. The engine had been rebuilt by previous owners and shortly after he got it he arranged for it to be repainted to his personal specification of blue lined out with red. The 300SL was the first production four-stroke car with fuel injection. Mercedes-Benz produced 1,858 of these cars with most of them being exported to the USA. I can remember drooling over this model as a youngster when it appeared.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £50,000-£80,000. It sold for £105,000 including premium.
Mercedes-Benz SSK Tourer 1929
This is a 1929 Mercedes-Benz 38/250 Model SSK short-wheelbase two-seater tourer with coachwork by Carlton Carriage Company of Willesden with full pedigree. The first owner was Major John Coats of J. & P. Coats Limited of Dundonald Northern Ireland. The manufacturers claimed that this model had obtained First, Second and Third places in the 1927 Grand Prix for sports classes. The car had many owners in its long history with George becoming the 11th when he purchased it in 1941 for £400 and had it restored. The car's engine was very powerful and it had very noisy turbochargers.
No estimated sale price was included in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue. It sold for £4,181,500 including premium.
MMC Albany Dog Cart
This is a 1900 Motor Manufacturing Company (MMC) Albany concave dog cart with coachwork by MMC.
A dog cart' was traditionally a light horse-drawn vehicle designed for sporting shooters with a box behind the driver's seat to contain one or more retriever dogs. The dog box could be converted to a second seat when necessary. Dog carts were frequently referred to by Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novels.
The Motor Manufacturing Co. of Coventry was the successor to the Great Horseless Carriage Co. which was started in 1896 by a rather 'dodgy' character named Harry Lawson and went into liquidation in 1898. Lawson was convicted of fraud connected to these companies in 1904 and sentenced to a year's hard labour. Amusingly an engineer working for the Great Horseless Carriage Company was summoned for driving a vehicle at more than two miles per hour and without a man carrying a red flag. As far as I can work out, MMC made the cars whilst Daimler, who shared the same building at Motor Mills in Coventry made the engines. MMC also went into liquidation in 1904 - presumably when Lawson was convicted - and Daimler took over the premises.
George puchased the car in 1945 and entered it in the Brighton Veteran Car Run on several occasions.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £100,000-£120,000. It sold for £111,500 including premium.
Renault AX 1909
This is a 1909 Renault AX 8 hp two-seater with coachwork by Rippon of Huddersfield. It was built at the Renault factory at Boulogne-Billancourt, on the banks of the Seine in Paris where Louis Renault had begun to build cars in 1898. The year this car was built he had started purcchasing the Ile Seguin which became a centre for mass producing cars. The AX model had a two cylinder straight 1060cc engine, was built between 1908 and 1914 and was often used by cab drivers. Renault offered the vehicle complete or as a bare chassis with the bodywork being built by the builder of the buyer's choice. In this case it was Rippon of Halifax. George purchased the vehicle in a sorry state in 1939 for £12 10s as his first 'collector's' car. He had it restored to an 'as new' condition in 1953.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £14,000-£18,000. It sold for £27,600 including premium.
Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Tourer 1922
This is a 1922 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost barrel-sided tourer with coachwork by Park Ward. The company started making the Silver Ghost in 1906 and completed 7,874 by 1926 so this example would have been one of the last produced. The vehicle was fitted with a straight-six 7428cc engine with two spark plugs to each cylinder and a four speed manual gearbox; the same chassis and engine was used for Rolls-Royce armoured cars.
This car was built for the shipbuilder Arthur C. Connell of Dougalston, Minlgavie in Dumbartonshire to his specification. Like several other cars in his collection, George had purchased this one an the auction of the collection of John Cuthill Sword in 1965 and paid £5,800 for it.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £60,000-£80,000. It sold for £122,500 including premium.
SAVA Sports Two-Seater 1915
This is a SAVA 24/30 hp sports two seater with coachwork by the Belgian company Société Anversoise pour la Fabrication de Voitures Automobiles (SAVA) which was founded in Antwerp in 1910 and produced cars and motorcycles. They may have produced armoured cars during WW1 but there is very little information available for me to be sure about this. In any case, the factory was badly damaged by bombardment. They re-started production after the war but closed in 1923 when taken over by rival company Minerva.
This car has many unusual design features including overhead exhaust valves and side inlet valves and two spark plugs on each cylinder - one at the top and one at the side.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £20,000-£25,000. It sold for £51,000 including premium.
Sizaire-Berwick Two-Seater 1923
This is a Sizaire-Berwick 25/50hp two-Seater and dickey with coachwork by Park Ward. Maurice (1877–1970) and Georges Sizaire (1880–1924) founded the Sizaire-Naudin company in 1903. Before WW1 cars were produced at Courbevoie, on the northern edge of Paris. They produced 139 cars before the outbreak of war with 80% of the production being shipped to England with bodywork mostly fitted by Frederick William Berwick at Highgate. Jack Waters (later stage name Jack Warner), the actor who later portrayed 'Dixon of Dock Green' had trained as a mechanic and got a job at the repair facility in Balham - his first job sweeping the floors for 2d per hour. In August 1913 he was sent to work as a mechanic in Paris and drove completed chassis to the coast - in effect test driving them on the way.
In 1915 Berwick built a new factory at Abbey Road, Park Royal near where I was born, but during the years of WW1 most of the production capacity was used for war production. In 1919 Berwick founded the company F. W. Berwick & Co Ltd. In 1920 he started production of British-built Sizaire-Berwicks in the UK that continued until 1925. Two of Berwick's employees were William McDonald Park and Charles William Ward who would shortly afterwards form their own coachbuilding company Park, Ward & Co.
This example must have been one of the last produced at the Park Royal works which closed in 1924. It had a 4536cc four cylinder sidevalve engine and many interesting technical features. George purchased the car for an unknown price when it was auctioned in 1965 for the Montagu Motor Museum. The first recorded owner was Frank Willoughby Cotton, a successful motorcycle manufacturer and, according to George - who I am beginning to think may have had an active imagination, Jack Warner. George drove the car on the rally to commemorate the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £30,000-£45,000. It sold for £36,700 including premium.
This is a 1927 Sunbeam 3 litre tourer with coachwork by Sunbeam of Wolverhampton. It had a 6-cylinder double overhead camshaft engine and was designed by Vincent Bertarione and considered to be one of the outstanding sports cars of the 1920s. After several owners it was purchased by George for £60. He completely restored it and had it painted ivory-white. The catalogue says it was used to take George's elderly mother Violet to France.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £40,000-£60,000. It sold for £62,000 including premium.
Windsor Two-Seater 1927
This is a 1927 Windsor two-seater tourer with coachwork by James Bartle & Company. Windsor cars were designed and manufactured by James Bartle & Co. Ltd, in Notting Hill (London) between 1924–1927 and the model was named after the managing director Cecil Stanley Windsor (1879-1926). The company had started life as iron founders and amongst other things made equipment for gasworks, including a number of gasometers, and cast iron bridges to span canals. The company ceased trading in 1927.
Bartles produced a light car, of which this is an example, between 1924 and 1927. It was fitted with a four cylinder overhead valve 1353cc four cylinder 10.4 hp engine. George bought this vehicle when he was in his 90th year and had it restored and added a kingfisher mascot to the radiator cap.
The estimated sale price in the 2004 Bonhams auction catalogue was £9,000-£12,000. It sold for £16,100 including premium.