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  A 1908 WHITE MODEL "L" STEAM CAR
By Robert R. Dyke

This car is with us today against the odds. Only about 150 White steamers are known to remain from the 10,000 that were made. I was very lucky in that eventually my investigations produced a story in pictures and words. Your car may have a story like this with a remarkable case of survival that others would like to hear Send it to me!

THE EARLY DAYS

William Garton was a successful business man dealing in sugar. He lived at his large house called Sarisbury Court in Sarisbury village on the outskirts of Southampton. He purchased a White steam car in 1905 and another in 1908. These cars are pictured above with the family on Sarisbury Green, possibly when the 1908 car was new. Imported as a chassis by The White' Company, 35, 36 & 37, Kingly St., Regent St., London she was fitted with a Cann & Company Roi des Belges body with the doors opening backwards (unlike the American Whites). According to the local registration records he ran the two cars until 19l5 when, due to World War I, his house was commandeered to be used as a hospital and the body was taken off the 1908 car so that it could be used for war service. The body was stored in a woodshed.

We loose track of the car from here until a young naval officer called Austin Farrar rediscovered her. Luckily for us, Austin was a keen photographer with a Leica camera and, being his departments photographer, he had access to film during World War II.

THE RESCUE
by Austin P. Farrar

During the summer of 1942 my job as a civilian in the Admiralty had me working in Southampton docks. The RNVR Lieutenant who was commanding officer of our Naval base in the docks was, like me, an enthusiast for old motor cars; and after the day's work we used to set off on bicycles to visit scrap yards in the district, where cars of all descriptions were being dumped because of restricted movements and shortage of petrol. Most of them were just worn out 'ordinary' cars; but among them were a few gems, and if we had access to somewhere to store them (at the risk of getting bombed) we could have made a fortune after the war. I had already rescued a 3-Litre Bentley, which I still have: towed away from a yard in Lancing for £20, used for years in its rough state, but now restored and valuable.

Southampton had recently had its share of Blitz, and there were several blank sites in the main shopping streets. One day I went into a cycle shop alongside a bomb site to buy an oil lamp for my bicycle; and found that the basement was an Aladin's cave full of old motor cycles and cycle cars which had been taken in part exchange and never sold. The proprietor was preparing to send them for scrap. I persuaded him to keep them while I contacted Bill Boddy, an expert on vintage vehicles, who arrived with some helpers and a van and cleared the lot. One of them which I remember was a motor tricycle with a basket chair for the passenger between the front wheels. I believe it is still around as I have seen photographs of it at rallies.


Above sitting by Lake Tal-y-llyn Lucy is about to climb pass while on the 1993 Tour of Snowdonia. Below she sits beside Bob Dyke Senior's 1906 Model "F" White which also has a Cann & Co Body. Note that this car although rated as 18hp is a foot longer in the wheel base than the 2Ohp 1908 Model "L".

One day we visited a scrap dump on the outskirts of Southampton, which I had earlier spotted from the main road to Portsmouth. There was a mixed collection of cars waiting to be broken up, some already dismantled, and several more in a field across the road. Among them was a Napier saloon of the early 1920's, and an 8 Litre Bentley Limousine which some vandal had disguised with a ROLLS ROYCE radiator. I was sorely tempted, but had already got the 3-Litre, and did not think I could cope with another. Then, under a heap of junk I sported a hub nut engraved with WHITE. I had been involved with steam from an early age, mainly marine steam engines, but had read about steam cars, and realised that the hub nut must belong to a White steam car. It had to be an early vehicle, probably pre-first war, so well worth investigating.

Helped by John Neal I managed to pull away some of the junk which covered it, and revealed a chassis, and a bonnet, which on opening contained an engine, a two cylinder compound, and apparently a radiator -- which had to be the condenser. There were several loose bits and pieces, and a rusty coil of steel tubing which I recognised as the flash boiler as I had built one for a model steam boat while at school. I sought out the proprietor who said I could have the remains of the White for £20 as it stood: but, he said, 'there's a body which was taken off ages ago and the chassis left with a truck body until it packed up and nobody new how to repair it, so it finished up here".

The body was in a shed in a timber yard about five miles away; and he could get it for me for another fiver. A few weeks later I went back and settled for the lot without any idea of the condition of the body, but it had to be worth a fiver; and with a little organisation of transport the chassis and body were reunited in our shed down at the docks, where I was already working on the 3-Litre Bentley. The tyres were in reasonable condition, and once inflated the chassis could be wheeled about. The body, which must have been up in the roof of the timber yard for about thirty years, turned out to be in almost pristine condition, with red leather buttoned upholstery, coach-painted in green and lined out in black and yellow with a crest on the door; though the covering varnish was badly wrinkled.

NEXT PAGE - THE RESCUE CONTINUED



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