26 May 2013

AD37, Anno Domini 1936

The Ekco AD37, an upright table model operating on AC/DC, was released in March 1936, price £8.18s.6d in the walnut Bakelite pictured, and £9.3s.6d in a black Bakelite and ivory urea formaldehyde version. The set was manufactured at both Ekco's principal factory in Southend-on-Sea, and at their small manufacturing and distribution operation in Haren, near Brussels, Belgium. This last was a means to mitigate the effect of continental import duties, levied by weight, but closed in 1937 for reasons of economics. A battery version (B37) was also available, as was a wooden stand.

19 May 2013

Triumph - German First & Last

Held at the Heritage Motor Centre, Gaydon, STAR90 - the Standard Triumph Anniversary Rally - celebrated 90 years of Triumph and 110 years of Standard, and attracted hundreds of cars of both marques.

Reginald Walter Maudsley founded the Standard Motor Company in 1903, building the single cylinder Motor Victoria. Triumph was founded earlier, in 1887, by German Siegfried Bettmann, manufacturing bicycles, then motorbikes from 1902, but didn't produce its first car, the 10/20, until 1923. The Triumph Super Seven (above), was built between 1927 and 1934.

The Dolomite appeared in 1934, Triumph having decided to cease making small cars and concentrate instead on the luxury market. All 1930s Dolomites, other than the Straight 8, feature Walter Belgrove's distinctive waterfall grille.

Triumph remained independent until 1939, when Standard bought it out of receivership. The company addressed itself anew to the market for small cars, building between 1949 and 1953 the Triumph Mayflower (above), which shares some design cues with the larger contemporaneous 'razor edge' Triumphs such as the Renown.

In 1953 Standard introduced the Eight, a four-door saloon with a new 803cc 'small car' overhead valve engine. The following year saw the launch of the Ten, the SC engine increased to 1,147cc. This engine, increased next to 1,296cc and finally to 1,493cc, was built right up until 1980.

1953 also saw the introduction of the first Triumph TR, Standard having determined to compete in the market for sports cars. The model evolved from TR2 through to TR6, with a change to a six cylinder made in 1967. The all-new TR7 was introduced in 1974, and survived until 1981. Its last incarnation was known as a TR8 - a TR7 with a Rover V8 engine (above).

By the late 1950s, Triumph had greater brand greater recognition than Standard. What had been the Standard Vanguard's segment of the market was met by the Triumph 2000 (above), designed by Michelotti and introduced in 1963. This was produced through to 1977, alongside more powerful versions, the Triumph 2500 and Triumph 2.5 PI (petrol injection).

Michelotti also designed the Triumph Stag, revising a pre-production Triumph 2000 to form a four-seat convertible that was available between 1970 and 1978. The Stag (above) was intended to compete with the Mercedes SLs, and despite its temperamental 3.5 V8 power plant was very successful in the States. 

Designed as successor to the Triumph Herald and Triumph 1300, the new Dolomite was introduced in 1972, one later version being the 1500 SE (above), which used the final incarnation of the SC engine that had started life in 1953. The final Triumph was the Acclaim, essentially a Honda, built until 1984. The Triumph brand is currently owned by BMW.

18 May 2013

Mary Arden's Farm - Confusion's Masterpiece

What is now presented as Mary Arden's Farm, the childhood home of Shakespeare's mother, is actually an amalgam of the house in which Mary was indeed brought up - Mary Arden's House - and the neighbouring farm of the Palmer family. 

The farm, located in Wilmcote, about three miles outside Stratford-upon-Avon, would by the standards of the 1570s have been an affluent one. Its own cider mill and stone dovecote were all part of the huge enterprise needed to sustain the farm's workers.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust had for many years preserved as Mary Arden's House the farmhouse discovered, in 2000, to have in fact belonged to Adam Palmer, and now known as Palmer's Farm (below).

The Trust had however bought, back in 1968, the adjoining property, then known as Glebe Farm, to prevent redevelopment next to what had been thought of Mary Arden's House. Glebe Farm is now correctly identified as the Ardens' house.

17 May 2013

Lorenz & Colossus

At Bletchley Park is displayed a working replica of the Bombe machines used in the decryption of WWII Germany's signals, encoded through Enigma machines. On the same site is the National Museum of Computing, home to a working replica of Colossus, the world's first electronic computer, used to break Lorenz-enciphered messages. Lorenz was used by Germany's Army High Command to communicate with its Group Commanders, as it provided greater security than Enigma.

Lorenz, ultimately emulated by a machine largely made of telephone exchange components and known as Tunny by the Bletchley code-breakers, used twelve rotors, compared with the three of a standard Enigma machine. It was brought into service in 1941. A Lorenz attachment fitted to a conventional teleprinter added, to the standard five impulses used for each letter - the equivalent of today's 1s and 0s - the five impulses for each letter of the key, automatically generated by the machine. There was a pair of wheels for each impulse, plus two motor wheels that added a degree of randomness.

The coded messages, known as fish at Bletchley, each fish name being one of the communication routes, were transmitted by radio and fed straight into a receiving Lorenz machine. By addition of the same key, this produced teleprinter output in plain text. The key changed with each message, as opposed to Enigma's diurnal key changes. There were 16,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible initial wheel settings. The British could intercept the coded messages, but not break them.

It was not until August 1941, when a long message was sent twice, using the same initial wheel settings, by a Lorenz operator, who in the second message also utilized various abbreviations, that a way into the fish was found. Cryptanalyst John Tiltman took ten days to decipher both messages, and Bill Tutte deduced mathematically how Lorenz worked. From mid-1942 Lorenz-encoded messages could be decoded, but an automated solution was essential to speed the process of determining the ever-changing key. 

A machine - known as Heath Robinson - was designed by Dr Max Newman to determine the Lorenz starting rotor positions, but this was slow. Post Office engineer Tommy Flowers was brought in. Within just nine months he had designed and built the Colossus prototype, which made use of punched tape and optical reader input, and 1,500 thermionic valves. This was operational by December 1943. The coded message was run again and again, each time against a different starting position for a pair of wheels, searching for an output pattern that, based on carefully calculated probabilities, indicated when the correct positions had been determined.

By the end of the war there were ten Colossus Mark IIs at Bletchley, each using 2,500 valves. Colossus was kept secret until 1975, the mechanical assembly drawings having been deliberately destroyed in 1960. Between 1993 and 2008 Tony Sale, ex-MI5 principal scientific officer, led a project to rebuild a Mark II Colossus, with just eight photographs of 1945 and a few fragmentary circuit diagrams, thankfully kept illegally by some engineers, as source material. The rebuilt machine stands where Colossus No. 9 stood during the war.

05 May 2013

April Fools' Car Show - in May

The 2013 April Fools' Car Show, again hosted at Canal Central, Maesbury Marsh, was rescheduled to May due to snow on 1 April. The sun brought out over fifty vehicles, of great diversity. Particularly cute was a 1971 VW campervan, towing a Heinkel Trojan bubble car, in Cadbury's trademarked (for chocolate) purple.

There were some real rarities, including a Morris Marina 1.3 estate, a lovely Peugeot 304S cabriolet, and a pair of steam vehicles - a Stanley steam car and a Super-Sentinel DG4 steam waggon, built in Shrewsbury in 1931.

Exotica included a unique special-edition Bentley Arnage Mulliner Black Label, a Ferrari F430, and the pair of gentlemen's expresses pictured above - an Aston Martin DB5 and a Jensen FF (Ferguson Formula), the first road-going production car equipped with four wheel drive.