21 August 2011

Métallurgique - Wacky Racer

The 21 October 1966 issue of the Weekend Telegraph magazine was given over to the Motor Show of that year and a retrospective of 70 years since repeal of the 1865 Locomotives Act - commonly known as the Red Flag Act. An article entitled "Bizarre Cars" featured a vehicle described as a Metallurgic. The relevant text from the article is below:

"Such a driver [of powerful cars] is Douglas Fitzpatrick who owns a remarkable 1907 Metallurgic. The car's engine is not original. A new one from an airship was fitted in 1910, giving the car a top speed of 120 m.p.h. - a lot faster than most cars built today. It gives Mr Fitzpatrick great pleasure to overtake sleek modern sports cars. In winter he hibernates this extraordinary machine on the Norfolk estate where he has lived since childhood, and turns to his other hobby, music."

(Photograph by John Marmaras)

The car features in a 1957 Pathé newsreel clip of a rally of veteran and vintage cars held at Beaulieu Abbey (thumbnail stills above). A web description of this clip states that the car is Belgian - it is, properly a Métallurgique 60/80 hp Maybach; and that Fitzpatrick, shown polishing, owned Sheringham Hall, on the North Norfolk coast - he didn't, but he did live there.

The car was regularly entered in the Brighton Speed Trials, driven by Fitzpatrick. Extant is a photograph of the car, wrongly identified as of 1912, participating in the 1959 trials. It is mentioned in Tony Gardiner's book The Brighton National Speed Trials as having been entered again in 1961. The car, numbered 202, also features in a cine film of the 1964 Brighton trials.

Rupert Lloyd Thomas, commenting on the 1964 footage, quotes from Motor Sport, October 1964, which gives the car's capacity as 21 litres. The same capacity is given for a car described by La Societe Anonyme des Automobiles Métallurgiques as a type AZ, with an airship engine, and based in England (above). This suggests that it is the same car, but Fitzpatrick's had a live axle final drive, not a side-chain. Perhaps this latter car is a Métallurgique Maybach with its more modest original 10 litre engine.

Where is the Fitzpatrick car now?


Anonymous said...

Douglas Fitzpatrick lived for many years at Bradfield Hall before moving to Sheringham Hall. Hismany cars were a frequent sight in the surrounding villages. A very nice and generous man often seen out walking with his dog. Was he not Douglas Bader's flying instructor?

YMGW said...

Thank-you for your comment. Yes, Fitzpatrick is understood to have taught Bader to fly.

The above commenter added: "[Fitzpatrick] always treated the occupants of the local pub to a drink as he had to have a turnout from the bar to give him a push start."

Ad Schuring said...

I travelled in that car quite a bit. Douglas stranded in it in front of our hotel in Pijnacker Holland in the late 60's. I helped him park and move it to the Hook-Harwich ferry the next day and immediately had a crush on him. In return he invited me to Sheringham Hall next summers, where we swam in the Norh Sea, warched cabaret at the local poer, cheered along his raft race team, played croquet, listened to his 78 rpm disks on a huge acoustic player. We traveled in many of his cars around Norfolk. Remember getting pretty drunk when we visited producer Robert Stigwood who then had an estate in the area. We crashed into a churchyard with one of his Rollses on the way back.
In the Metallurgique we went across England to a hillclimb in Wales. His mechanic lived above the garages, and was called Gerry. Anybody knowing more information, do get in touch.

YMGW said...

Fantastic stuff Ad, thank-you; it seems that accidents were a recurring feature!

Richard said...

Douglas Fitzpatrick was a long time friend of my father, sharing a common interest in veteran and Edwardian motor cars. My early memories of Douglas were of a colorful, larger than life character who kept my brothers and I amused and delighted when we visited him at Sherringham. Trips along the coast road to Cley and Blakeney in the Metalurgique were always a thrill and quite hair raising - the expressions on the faces of drivers in the on coming direction were a master class in surprise and concern!
Douglas was a generous host and seemed completely unconcerned at having three young boys rampaging about the house. In retrospect I never remember Thomas being there when we visited, so it may have been that our visits were timed to coincide with his absences.
Gerry was a lovely character who used to accompany Douglas on trips out in his cars and being one of the few Germans that I had met at the time, would argue about Spitfires and Messerschmidts with us youngsters who at the time were mad about wartime aeroplanes.
Sadly Douglas died some years ago as did Thomas. Sherringham Hall went to the National Trust and the cars were dispersed. I'd love to know what has happened to them, the Metalurgique was the jewel in the collection but Douglas also had an Achilles, a Wolsley Siddley, a brace of Rolls Royces and a latter day Singer Gazelle which he had supercharged.
I too would like to hear anyone else's recollections of Douglas - just writing this I can hear his laugh and see him clapping his hands in delight, he was a lovely man

YMGW said...

Thank-you Richard for your reminiscences - Fitzpatrick sounds a fascinating chap. Does anyone know where the car is?

Anonymous said...

Yes, the car is "alive and well" and now owned by a fellow member of the Vintage Sports Car Club. I should be delighted to pass on any message. "grahamrankin@btinternet.com"

Anonymous said...

The car numbered 69 in the photo is not the Metallurgique but a similarly engined Mercedes/Maybach built by Roger Collings in the nineteen nineties.

Ad said...

Sorry for the typos in my earlier post.
Just was so thrilled to find these well kept memories of Douglas, the Hall and his cars that I did not notice them when I posted it.
So good to find that the Metallurgique is alive and well. Would sure love to see recent images of it, if possible in action.
I seem to remember it played a role in the car-race sequences of 'around the world in 80 days' and in 'Chitty chitty bang bang', that I just saw again n Dutch tv this Christmas (2015) .

Ad said...

more memories surfaced: the place we went to meet Robert Stigwood was East Barsham Manor also in Norfolk. Vividly remember now Douglas telling me that Mr. Stigwood had asked him to help finance the production of a movie for which the Beegees weke making the music (that must have been Saturdaynight feaver) . He sadly decided against getting involved in that historic project.

YMGW said...

Thank-you for your memories Ad. Quite a coincidence that Stigwood died fewer than two weeks after your recollection of his meeting with Fitzpatrick.

Ad said...

Yes indeed! Robert Stigwood may have been a background person, but what he has meant for the music industry and UK pirate radio, from the days he started working with Joe Meek and then managing Beegees, the Who, the Herd, Cream and then producing landslide movies like Saturdaynight Fever and Grease are quite staggering. May he rest in peace.

Art Tidesco said...

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