Hints and Tips - Skinner Specials

From: Ian Grace
Sent: 12 June 2001
To: british-cars-pre-war
Subject: Skinner Specials

Folks,

Just received my summer Bulletin - with a goodly collection of excellent pre-war photos. I think John Warburton is doing an excelent job as the new Editor.

In one of the photos of the 1936 Howard Park sprint, there is a photo of Barbara Skinner's special alonside John Bolster's special. This Skinner Special was the Zoller-blown White Special - based on a 1934 SV chassis given to Barbara by William Morris as a wedding present (when she became Mrs. Bolster.)Oh - so how did THAT get a blue form?

Her previous special was the car that became the Red Special. This was a 1931 SV Minor chassis which had originally been prepared as a publicity stunt car, which ran (in differing configurations) at 100 mph (Powerplus assisted) and 100 mpg (coasting down hills, unblown), and based on a hundred pound Minor. So, how did THAT get a blue form?

Both these cars were entered in various VSCC events in the thirties (and, happily, both have survived).

Am I missing something here? Were the regs. different back then? I doubt whether we had blue forms back then, but I think the eligibility regs. then were largely as they are now - or even tighter (when did PVT's creep in?). In any case, the White Special was only TWO years old when entered at Howard Park!

Are these the only SV Minors ever to have been entered in VSCC events?

Ian Grace
Vintage Minor Register


From: Stuart
Sent: 12 June 2001
To: Ian Grace
cc: british-cars-pre-war
Subject: Re: Skinner Specials

Ian, I think Mrs. B's entry at Howard Park may be accounted for by the other invited clubs. This was not a "VSCC only" event. Frazer Nash, Brighton and Hove, W.A.S.A. (Women's Automobile and Sports Assoc.) and North West London clubs were invited, which probably accounts for the presence of S. Allard in the results. Alas, not an historic precedent for putting Minors on the pvt list! Sorry!

>Am I missing something here? Were the regs. different back then? I doubt
>whether we had blue forms back then, but I think the eligibility regs. then
>were largely as they are now - or even tighter (when did PVT's creep in?).
>In any case, the White Special was only TWO years old when entered at
>Howard Park!
>
>Are these the only SV Minors ever to have been entered in VSCC events?
>
>Ian Grace
>Vintage Minor Register

Regards, Stuart


From: Ian Grace
Sent: 12 June 2001
To: Stuart
cc: british-cars-pre-war
Subject: Re: Skinner Specials

Stuart,

Many thanks for that. It was not my intention to slip SV Minors onto the PVT list - just interested what they were doing there - and now I know! Actually, did you know that SV McEvoy specials ('32, '33) are VSCC eligible now? They are eligible on an individual basis. The requirement WAS that they would only be eligible if they had their original Zoller blowers fitted, but not many actually had these, and none do now, so that requirement was relaxed. I'm waiting for the first one to be entered somewhere.

I know that the White Minor was in the hands of David Baldock not that long ago (and still might be) in tatty but original condition. The engine was replaced after the war with a Ford 10 unit (which it still has). The story goes that the original blown engine lives under a workbench in Maidstone. The owner apparently did some work for Bolster many years ago, and was refusing to let the engine go for sentimental reasons. I wonder if the engine and car have now been reunited? It would be nice to see this car in action once again.

Cheers,

Ian


From: David Whittle
Sent: 13 June 2001
To: british-cars-pre-war
Subject: Re: Skinner Specials

I agree with Ian, I think John's editorship has made an excellent start. In the latest vscc magazine I liked the brief bit about the Itala and how it was 'dug out' of an old pub after 20 years immobile and towed up and down the street on a solid tow bar behind a Morris commercial, until it started (only problem being the hand throttle was left wide open, the massive engine fired, well exploded, the instant torque caused such a shock to the tow wagon that it shed its gearbox sump!)

Ian message about Barbara Skinner started me thinking about the Bolster family, both Barbara and Richard did not make it through the war years. I have no idea if they were killed in action or as a result of bombing or something completely unrelated, does anyone know?

Regards
David Whittle

ps Ian, I liked the picture of your semi-sports Minor, as cherished by a previous owner!


From: Peter Jacobs
Sent: 13 June 2001
To: David Whittle
cc: british-cars-pre-war
Subject: Re: Skinner Specials

I have dug out a copy of a note I received from Sandy Skinner in 1994 when I was researching the Delages that were owned by the Bolster family. Apparently John V Bolsters first wife Barbara died during the war. His second marriage ended in divorce in the '60's. In 1994, Rosemary still owned John's special, Bloody Mary. Rosemary would have been about six years old when John and Barbara were playing with Delages and specials. John's brother Richard was killed during the war, and I think John died in the 70's.

Now if anyone can tell me what became of J.V.Bolster's straight eight Delage with drop head body by Fernandez et Darrin, registration AUV 872, then I will be delighted. The last record I have is that it was sold by dealer Brian Finglass in 1947 to a Mr Griffin, a master brewer with Watney who lived in Orpington. Following injuries sustained in a very nasty shooting accident the car was "given away" to a young man, possibly the son of a Ms. Fry, a girl friend he married after an earlier divorce. The value of the car at that time would have been very low, and it could well have been scrapped. Any clues to its fate will be gratefully received.

Peter Jacobs


From: Ian Grace
Sent: 13 June 2001
To: Peter Jacobs; David Whittle
cc: british-cars-pre-war
Subject: Re: Skinner Specials

Apparently, Barbara Skinner was indeed killed during the war. She died in a motoring accident on River Hill (between Sevenoaks and Tonbridge) in fog, and with poor, wartime lighting. There is a thought that she was driving one of her specials that day. Could this have been her Oxford Special YF 15?

Ian Grace


From: Peter Jacobs
Sent: 13 June 2001
To: Ian Grace
cc: british-cars-pre-war
Subject: Re: Skinner Specials

Ian,

As far as I know, Rosemary was the second wife of John Bolster. "Sandy" Skinner, a stalwart of the VSCC and its Frazer Nash Section has a family connection to Barbara Skinner. More recently Sandy has rebuilt the ex John Bolster "Bloody Mary" twin JAP engined Special. You may be able to contact Sandy via the VSCC ... I would say there is a good chance that he would know something about the Oxford special.

Peter


From: Ian Grace
Sent: 13 June 2001
To: Peter Jacobs
cc: british-cars-pre-war
Subject: Re: Skinner Specials

Peter,

Many thanks for that. Does that mean that Bloody Mary is no longer languishing in Beaulieu and will be seen in action again? I will contact Sandy and report back!

Best regards,

Ian


From: Ian Grace
Sent: 14 June 2001
To: Peter Jacobs
cc: british-cars-pre-war
Subject: Re: Skinner Specials

Peter,

A little more info on Barbara's fate. Apparently, John Bolster was driving. They were on a pub crawl and rushing from pub to pub (as one does!), and ran into the back of an Army lorry. He survived, but his wife was killed.

I spoke to Bev Hicks this morning who owned the White Special at one time. I also spoke yesterday to John Green in Somerset, who owned it before Bev. Bev interviewed John Bolster and has a large file on this car. He sold it to David Baldock, with the Ford engine fitted (which John Bolster had installed). David happened to be in Taff Jones' workshop in College Road, Maidstone one day. Taff had originally been Bolster's mechanic. He had been summarily dismissed, and had kept the engine as a memento of his time with Bolster. Taff lifted a tarpaulin at the back of his workshop to reveal the White Special engine. David offered him a thousand pounds for it, and the reply was, "When I need a thousand pounds, I'll think of you." He went up to three thousand pounds, with no joy.

I must contact David (who is in ill health at the moment) and see a) if he still owns the car, and b) if he managed to winkle the engine out of Taff. We believe that Taff may well be dead by now, but his sons still run the workshop.

As for the Red Special, it is still in the hands of the chap who has owned it for many years (Mr Browne? - don't have my notes here), but he is suffering from Alzheimers, and other mental problems, and is not letting anyone anywhere near the car at the moment.

John Bolster's second wife (Rosemary) and their daughter are still around and may well have some data on the various specials including, I hope, YF 15. I hope that 'Sandy' Skinner can put us in touch. Incidentally, two of these Oxford based specials were built, the second one going to Bill Skinner, who had no connection with SU. Nothing more is known of this car - so far.

Ian


From: Ian Grace
Sent: 15 June 2001
To: Peter Jacobs
cc: british-cars-pre-war
Subject: Re: Skinner Specials

Peter,

A bit more information. I spoke to David Baldock this morning, who still has the White Special.

He believes that Rootham Hill was the location of the accident. The car was a Fiat 500. One pub closed at ten, and they were rushing to the next, which closed at 10-30. The Fiat wreck survived the war, and was going to be used to provide spares for a 500 special, but - bearing in mind the sad history of the car - nobody wanted to use the parts.

David removed the Ford engine from the White Special in eager anticipation of obtaining the original engine from Taff Jones, but this never happened. Taff retired and moved to mid Wales, tasking much of his machinery (and the engine) with him. he was still boring engines well into his '90's. All attempts to trace him or his sons have failed (well, have you tried tracing someone named Jones in Wales?!). Consequently, David bought a standard SV Minor engine for the car, but other pressures mean that he has 'never dealt with it', it being in largely the same state as when he bought it from Bev Hicks.

I shall be going to visit David in August when I am over in the UK, to see the car and go over David's files. I might then put something together for the Bulletin.

Ian


From: annabelle swain
Sent: 06 November 2002
To: Guy Weatherall
Subject: Re: bolster/skinner lore

I am the issue of the Bolster/Skinner union ( if you will excuse the pun)

I am not sure that I can add any more to the saga, but would be glad to discuss any of the information with the participants. There are certainly a few errors that I could correct, but need to be sure that I have the right address!

Sincerely

Annabelle.


From: Guy Weatherall
Sent: 08 November 2002
To: annabelle swain
Subject: Re: bolster/skinner lore

Annabelle,

Lovely to hear from you. The debate that is listed on Vintage Knowledge was on a Vintage cars mailing list of which I am a member.

You have got the correct address, and I would be happy to forward on any notes to the list to correct anything. I can also forward on your offer of discussing / adding to the saga.

Regards

Guy Weatherall
Lutterworth UK
www.VintageKnowledge.co.uk


From: annabelle swain
Sent: 09 November 2002
To: Guy Weatherall
Subject: Re: bolster/skinner lore

Thankyou Guy

My son, Tom, in Sussex, found this email discussion and forwarded it to me here in Aus.

I have been researching these matters myself with a view (perhaps a bit optimistic) to writing a book. But as one was already started and shelved, by a professional writer, what hope do I have? Anyhow, here are a few things that I CAN put right or confirm:

John Bolster,

Wife No. 1 Barbara Skinner
Issue, 1 daughter, Annabelle

Wife No.2 Elizabeth (Betty) Dunnell (nee Ranier) (with 4 children from previous marriage)
Issue, 1 daughter Marilyn, 1 son William (Bill)

Wife No.3 Rosemary?
No issue.

Barbara was killed in the Fiat, her own car with John driving, location uncertain at this stage. I was led to believe that they were on their way to a party, following friends in another car. The friends overtool a bus? and Bolster followed, only to meet oncoming traffic. I am not sure how correct this is as I was never told directly how it happened. The family had had so much grief over the period that such things were not mentioned, and I was only about 20 months old when it happened.

The Red car was the original Morris "demonstration" car and was hill-climbed by a professional (see the book "Shellsley Walsh") who, after an injur sustained in another car, was unable to compete in the Red car, so Peter Skinner, Barbara's younger brother, took the wheel; and apparantly continued to do so to great effect thereafter.

I remember that Barbara had a go in the red car and put up a really good time in it, at a time when she was currently competing in her old car, "Smokey". The red car had a long pointed tail and appeared more like a land speed Sunbeem that a Morris Tourer!

The "White" car, as it seems to be called these days(it was always known as the Skinner Special in my time), was a part of the Le Mans entry, featuring 3 Morris cars and 3 MGs, all driven by the cream of the lady competitors of the day. (Names will be supplied later, when I find them!) These ladies were known affectionately among the French fans (and there were many) as "Les Girls"

David Baldock had more info than I when I went to see him (and the Car) a few years ago, and he took me for a drive in his red 3 litre Bentley. I hope he is much better now. I would have liked to buy the car back, but that was out of the question at the time, there was no way that David would part with it! I got the impression, maybe erroniously, that David was aware of the location of Taffy Jones in his retirement in Wales.

I am happy to answer any questions that I can, and will add more to the family story later when I have more time.

Cheers(as Bolster would have said)

Annabelle


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