Australian Capital Territory Branch History
by long-term member Geoff Tuckwell
The inaugural meeting of the ACT Branch of the Armstrong Siddeley Car Club was held at Charlie Stone's home. Members attending the first meeting were: Charlie Stone, Alan Simons, John Funk, Patrick and Mrs. Arthur, plus a visiting member from Melbourne, Selwyn Allen. This first meeting was more of a social occasion where members of the newly formed Branch chatted to one another with discussions naturally centered on experiences with Armstrong Siddeleys.
In the following few years a number of individuals joined, boosting Branch representation so that barely three years later, the ACT and Sydney Branches combined to jointly organise the 1975 National Rally. The ACT Branch members subsequently hosted Federal Rallies in Canberra in 1983 and 2007.
In 1976 a Classic Car show was held at the village of Hall. A number of Armstrong Siddeleys were on show and Ralph Tolson could be seen demonstrating a preselector gearbox installed in an 18HP running chassis. The gearbox was equipped with a perspex cover in lieu of the normal alloy one. Spectators were entranced by Ralph's masterful and practical presentation of the innermost workings of a preselector gearbox.
In late 1978, a Classic Car display was staged to herald the opening of a large shopping mall in the Belconnen area. The vehicles were exhibited on the third floor carpark and once again, Ralph's running chassis was on display. At one stage the "vehicle" was being delicately manoeuvered around the car park so silently that spectators could not hear it coming up behind them! The driver was sitting in a deck chair that was lashed to the chassis with a piece of rope and a piece of string was tied to the accelerator rod so that it could be used as a throttle. An article on this event was published in the March 1977 edition of Restored Cars Magazine.
In the early 1980s Penn Bradly moved to Canberra from Armidale in New South Wales and he instigated what came to be known as technical weekends that were held in Canberra over a number of years. With assistance from local businesses, Canberra-based and interstate members provided demonstrations of repairs and maintenance pertaining to Armstrong Siddeleys to an audience of local and interstate members.
It was whilst he was still in Canberra during the late 80's that Penn Bradly was a key to firing up Armsid Spares (now Armstrong Siddeley Spares Australia) as the main holding body for spare parts in Australia and which now services Club members worldwide.
ACT Branch members have attended many Federal Rallies, local Rallies and interstate events, one of the most memorable being when a Mk1 Sapphire driven by Graeme Handley and a Station Coupe driven by Shawn O'Brien (also towing a camping trailer) in the company of a couple of moderns left Canberra to attend the 1981 National Rally held in the Barossa Valley in South Australia. The motley convoy drove to the rally after first taking a detour to drive through (and camp in) Wilpena Pound. Another event that comes to mind is the Great Australian Rally that was held in Cape Schanck in Victoria with assistance being given by Australian Capital Territory Branch Members.
Over the years a number of outstanding Armstrong Siddeley restorations have been completed in Canberra, mainly by Fred and Pat Jones. Examples that come to mind:
- a Whitley that subsequently passed to Ralph and Stephanie Tolson who rallied and enjoyed it for many years
- a beautiful 20/25 Tickford bodied Cabriolet that currently resides overseas in Germany
- the only aluminium topped Typhoon in existence and whose appearance at the 2007 National Rally attracted considerable attention.
Besides restoring Armstrong Siddeleys, Fred and Pat also restored a number of American vehicles such as their veteran Cadillac.
Having a mobile and fluid population in Canberra means that members and Siddelelys come and go. This short history of the ACT Branch would be incomplete if mention was not made of two stalwarts of the Branch who passed away during the last couple of years (C2010): Graeme Handly and Ralph Tolson. These two members will always be sadly missed for their experience and helpfulness shown to members when in need.