Hints and Tips - The Lester PB

From: Joseph
Date: Fri, 7 May 1999
Subject: The Lester PB
To: BRITISH-CARS-PRE-WAR

The ex Donald Pitt, Harry Lester PB has finally arrived and is currently perched hauntingly in my garage. My son and I picked it up from the docks in Newark, New Jersey on Wednesday. Not a scratch to be found anywhere on GUR 963.

Although uninsured until Monday, I had to take a spin around the block (literally) with each family member. The only comment from my daughter was "it is so loud." Amazing the way my daughter knows how to put a smile on my face!!

The engine has now been rebuilt to Lester and Pitts' original specs. Mike Allison, being close friends with Pitt, did well by the engine both in his intimate knowledge of how Pitt had set it up and his unrelenting efforts for doing the job right. Q type "tulip" valves with triple springs and circlips; R type pistons giving a 8.1:1 compression ratio; a Phoenix bottom end with matching rods and an inlet manifold to Mike Allisons' own specs all contribute to the engine developing about 70 BHP on a 980 pound, unsupercharged M. G. from 1935. Magneto and other neat things too numerous to mention make this a torturing impossibility for a 19 year old, 6' 4" son to try it on for size. For once I thank God for my diminutive stature.

The all aluminium, boat tail body painted a greenish black, contrasts the deep, mahogany red leather seats with visual comfort matched only by actually sitting in it. The chromed headers and curving tailpipe gracefully travel aft on the passenger side, emitting the aural note of raspberry which is so talked about, but infrequently heard. The engine turned dash dotted with 2, 5" gauges and 5, 1" gauges scream "race me"!!! After 30 years of pathetic idleness in garages, I will do right by this masterpiece of human industry and oblige. Fully cognisant that it is the only example of a Lester P type extant, no need to admonish me in doing it safely.

On my last trip to England a month ago, I took 9 days off from work and "helped" Mike in the final rebuild stages of the engine at The Old Vicarage. It is amazing how much one can learn when things go wrong. I got some never before seen photos of the car at Looten Hoo in 1947 at a local Noggin and Natter one night, racing with the Q type exhaust from Pitts' collection. Although the ravages of time have miraculously spared her, she has a calming patina only true age bestows.

You say "Joseph, write an Article"!! Yes, and it will be replete with photos both old and new. Another kettle on the fire.

I will be at Mt. Equinox and at the New England 1000. Hope to see some of you there.

Joseph


To: Joseph
Date: Sun, 9 May 1999
Subject: Re: The Lester PB
From: Jack Hardy

Joseph,

The Lester PB sounds GREAT. I'm wondering what valve timing and carb size you got from Mike A.? When he was here for GOF a few years ago I asked him about carb size for my PA with PB bores, he said I could use 1 1/4 in carbs if I used NE valve timing. Is that what he did for you? I stayed with stock, as I was new to MMM cars and wanted to keep the project simple as possible.

Thanks
Jack


From: Joseph
Date: 10 May 1999
Subject: Re: The Lester PB
To: Jack Hardy

<<he said I could use 1 1/4 in carbs if I used NE valve timing.>>

That's it. According to Mike, this is not his invention but rather a common prewar mod. What is his is the inlet manifold.


To: Joseph
Date: 9 May 1999
Subject: Re: The Lester PB again
From: Jack Hardy

Joseph......,

Oops, I said I stayed stock, That is stock timing only, I've got 1 1/8 carbs from an L type as a previous owner had at one time.

Jack


To: Joseph
Date: Mon, 10 May 1999
Subject: Re: The Lester PB
From: Lawrence J Alexander

Joseph.........

Wonderful story - I wonder how my "envy" shade of green compares with the green of the car....? :-)

When you write the definitive story, for total accuracy, perhaps Luton Hoo would be a more correct spelling than Looten Hoo. My grandfather was the estate carpenter on Hambro's estate, "The Hyde", near Luton, and I spent many formative years in that area.

Lawrie Alexander
British Sportscar Center


Date: Mon, 10 May 1999
To: Lawrence J Alexander , Joseph
From: Ian Grace
Subject: Re: The Lester PB

Would that be Capt. Angus Hambro - or his family? - of Hambro Bank fame? I own a car once owned by that family. They had a couple of houses in Dorset. He bought the car - a 1930 Morris Minor - for his chauffeur to teach his children to drive. they are all in old age now, but remember the car vividly.

Ian Grace


To: Ian Grace
Date: Tue, 11 May 1999
Subject: Re: The Lester PB
From: Lawrence J Alexander

Ian.....

It was certainly Hambro of Hambro's bank fame, though I don't know whether Captain Angus was the master of The Hyde. Since I was a grandson of one of the servants, I didn't have much contact with the folk at the "big house"..........! Even though I was already showing an interest in cars in those days (I was fascinated by the little, oval windows in the back doors of the baker's late 20's Morris delivery van!), and there were a pair of wonderful, old hand-operated petrol pumps in the stable yard next to the cottage where my grandfather lived, I do not remember ever seeing any of the cars belonging to people from the "big house".

I do, however, remember seeing the "Flying Wing" on its final, fatal flight, while walking in the grounds with my grandmother. We watched it go by, quite low overhead, and she drew my attention to the fact that it was a rather unconventional plane. About twenty minutes later, after returning to the cottage, the radio program was interrupted with a bulletin announcing that it had just crashed. Odd, isn't it, the things that stay in one's memory from so long ago?

Lawrie Alexander
British Sportscar Center


Date: Tue, 11 May 1999
To: Lawrence J Alexander
From: Ian Grace
Subject: Re: The Lester PB

Lawrie,

I understand the family ran a Studebaker and a Rolls, among other cars. However, during the war, they laid up the bigger cars and used their fuel ration on the Morris. It was a 1930 Morris Minor Semisports - a fabric bodied 2-seater not unlike the M type MG, but it had standard running boards and wings, and the boot didn't open. The children who learned to drive on it nicknamed it the 'Bedpan' due to its shape - and the name stuck.

After the war, it was presented to the chauffeur for services rendered when he retired. He then passed it on to his nephew who also learned to drive on it. It then passed through various hands in Dorset and then disappeared for about ten years. It was found in a derelict state in a barn in the New Forest and hauled back to Bournmouth for 'rebuild' by a butcher of a restorer who eventually gave up and left it in an open-sided shed for about three years. I managed to liberate it from him about four years ago and re-commence the rebuild from the bare chassis.

The car is half rebuilt at present and will be shipped from the UK to Grand Rapids, MI in the next couple of months for completion (I have just relocated here).

Ref. your flying wing story, this sounds a lot like the prototype Handley Page Victor bomber which crashed on a flight out of Radlett airfield. My father saw it flying over, and the T-tail was fluttering badly. He could see that it was about to separate from the rest of the airframe - and it did just that a few miles up the road. Did you witness the same incident, I wonder?

Ian


To: Ian Grace
Date: Thu, 13 May 1999
Subject: Re: Hambro's cars
From: Lawrence J Alexander

Ian,

You were lucky to get so much provenance with your car! I chatted to my 82 yr. old mother (who grew up on Hambro's estate) this morning. She doesn't remember any of the cars (not surprising - she never even learned to drive!), nor Angus Hambro, so he must have been more of a "Dorset" Hambro than of the Hertfordshire group!

I asked her about the Flying Wing as well. The piece of the story I omitted was that she and I had earlier seen it on the airfield, visible from the train as we went from London to Harpenden. She wasn't sure if the field was at Radlett, but thought it was at De Haviland's factory airfield and that the plane was something DeHaviland were experimenting with. Maybe the same one your father saw; that would really be an odd coincidence wouldn't it!

Lawrie Alexander
British Sportscar Center


From: Peter Thompson
Date: 13 May 1999

The de Havilland factory and airfield were at Hatfield, not that far From Harpenden, but not within sight of the St. Pancras - Harpenden train. TheHarpenden line does run past the old Handley Page factory and airfield at Radlett - maybe that is where you saw this strange aircraft.


From: Lawrence J Alexander
To: Peter Thopmson
cc: Ian Grace
Date: 13 May 1999
Subject: Re: Hambro's cars


Oh, Dear, Peter...............just when we thought we'd got it all sorted
out!

Ian had written to me about a DeHaviland Swallow that seemed to fit the bill both time-wise and design-wise. However, I know I saw the plane from the train on my way up to Harpenden that weekend, before later that day seeing it flying over the Hyde near Luton Hoo. My elderly Mother, with whom I discussed this episode earlier today, suggested that there were two trains we could take to Harpenden - the LMS from St. Pancras or the LNER from Kings Cross. Would that, perhaps, explain things? Would it be possible to see the DeHaviland airfield from the LNER line? My recollection is that Hatfield was the name of the field where we saw the plane prior to its ill-fated flight.

Lawrie Alexander
British Sportscar Center


From: Peter Thompson
To: British-Cars-Pre-War
Subject: Re: Hambro's cars
Date: Wed, 19 May 1999

I don't think (in fact, I'm sure) that the main line from King's Cross a) does not go to Harpenden and b) does not pass close to the Hatfield de Havilland airfield (at least, not close enough to see it from the train). There was a single-track line from Welwyn to Harpenden which may have passed the airfield closer, but it was a real branch line (more of a twig line, actually), so it would be strange route to take from London to Harpenden. I'm sounding like a train spotter, so this must stop!

Peter Thompson


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