[ 1897 DAIMLER 6.5HP WAGONETTE ] ::
Another from a number of interesting
period photos which was a glass negative sent to us by Alun Pugh of
Leeds (UK) " Can you please identify this vehicle outside the Royal
Clarence Hotel with a reg. plate of Y99.Somerset I believe?" -- Indeed
Somerset County Council registration. The car is a British built cca
1897 Daimler 6.5 Wagonette originally owned by G H Pruen who used it to
transport guests from the railway station to his Royal Clarence Hotel in
Burnham on Sea, Somerset. The Car is around today and is now at The
Haynes Motor Museum in Yeovil.
We have slightly repaired and toned the photo.
This photo is undated but
from the hat and clothes worn by the driver, it must have been taken in
relatively modern times. With no other background on the photo, we
decided to do a bit of research. From the shape of the bonnet, the tie
rod and dumbirons, the car would seem to be a turn of the century
Daimler; unusual air cooled radiator at the front. Registration Y 99
does not help greatly because registrations were not introduced in Somerset
until December 1903. All cars already in road use were registered first,
so there were at least 99 cars already
in the area ahead of it.
Daimler history at their beginning
was relatively complicated. Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft was started in Germany
in 1890 by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in the Stuttgart
district of Cannstatt. Original plans were to build engines but success
with race cars built to order for Emil Jellinek started producing in
1902 of the 'Mercedes' car, named after Jellinek's daughter. Also
made commercial vehicles from 1897 which were successful in the
In 1890 an engineering friend of Gottlieb Daimler, Fredrick Simms,
returned to the UK with one of Daimler's Phoenix engines
and eventually took over the Daimler Patents for the UK forming the
Daimler Motor Syndicate Co. He would receive 10% commission on all
British sales of Daimler-powered Panhard & Levassor cars. First UK
designed/made car left factory in 1897. UK Daimlers had a twin-cylinder,
1526 cc engine, mounted at the front of the car.
In 1895 a British promoter Harry Lawson went round buying up all manor
of motor patents to make money by licensing of the same. He bought the
UK Daimler patents and floated the Daimler Motor Co in premises of a old
disused Coventry Cotton Co cotton mill in Coventry which he renamed the
Thus there were now two separate largely unconnected Daimler Companies,
one in Germany and one in England. However Lawson reformed the Daimler
Motor Syndicate into British Motor Syndicate,
with Dainler Motor Co paying them Royalties. Various infringement cases
ensued which the British Motor Syndicate
initially won. This however stated to go wrong in 1904 and Lawson was
eventually imprisoned for fraud.
Daimler UK in the meantime had been
making their own cars and making licensed Leon Bollee cars.
Disagreements with Cannstatt resulted in Gottlieb Daimler leaving the UK
board, and resulted in a massive reshuffle of directors. All this caused
Daimler UK to have major financial problems in 1904 and company was closed down,
reorganised, and restarted. Few years later in 1910 it was purchased by
BSA (Birmingham Small Arms).
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu had a Daimler in 1900 and gave The Prince of
Wales a ride in it. The Prince then bought a Phaeton and later another.
As King Edward VII he then gave Daimler the Royal Warrant to provide vehicles
to the Royal Family. Every British
monarch since has been driven in Daimler limousines. In 1950, after a
persistent transmission failures on the King's Daimler car, Rolls-Royce was
asked to provide official state cars. The current official state car is
a purpose made Bentley.
So what about this car? It is photographed
above towing a trailer with the name of Royal Clarence Hotel. Research
on the Royal Clarence in Somerset places it in Burnham on Sea. It seems
it was an old coaching inn from about 1792. Originally on the head of a
causeway, it was swept away by the floods a number of times during its
construction. In 1836 it is mentioned that the hotel is going to be
're-opened'. In 1903 the hotel is reported as having a 'motor pit'
and a motor car for hire.
Also mentioned is that the landlord at the time, George Pruen, had a
1898 Daimler Wagonette registration Y 99 in which he used to collect
customers from the railway station. It used to backfire loudly and
frequently and hence got the name locally as 'Fiery Liz'! It is said it
was made at the Motor Mills in Coventry, costing £373 (equivalent of
about £45,000). It seems it served as a School Bus for a while.
Digging further advises that the car has been used as a Wedding Car in
the 1903 wedding of of James Andrews and Rosa Gough. This would
make it one of the earliest 'wedding cars'. At that time
the car is pictured as an open Wagonnette and not having the closed body
as shown on the above photo. It seems the enclosed weatherproof rear
body was added later, possibly 1920+.
The car remained in constant use until about 1929 by which time it was
said to have covered 500,000 miles. It was driven to the Bristol Museum
in 1947 where it seems to have stayed until the museum passed it on to
the The Haynes Motor Museum in Yeovil, Somerset. The
museum's curatorial director, said: 'When the car first arrived we knew
that it was one of the very first motor cars to be used in Somerset and
that it had previously been owned by a Mr G H Pruen from
current photographs of the car, it seems the enclosed body has been
removed and that a wagonette body has been returned. It also has
modified mudguards and presumably other changes which have occurred over
the last 100+years.
Interesting to note that apparently the car is allowed to be used as a
prop for wedding photographs, carrying on the tradition started in 1903