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Hornet Specials

Hornet Specials no.18

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F.H. Boyd-Carpenter made his name  tuning and racing Austin Sevens from the mid-twenties onward. In 1926 he established his own coachbuilding business in Kilburn, N.W. London and from 1928 produced a pointed-tail Austin Seven Special. This was to be followed by the ‘Junior’ model, an unglamourous (and inexpensive) Morris Minor special in 1930. His company were quick off the mark when the Wolseley Hornet was launched in April 1930 when just a few months later this good looking special (based upon his Austin Seven design) took to the streets. By the standards of the day it was an expensive Hornet option with a £232-10s price tag, although surviving images testify that at least three found customers. (LAT Motor Sport nagative)

Wolseley Hornet specials no. 17

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GP 8217 was registered in London during 1931 therefore one of the early Swallow built Hornet Two-seater specials. The car is seen here taking part in the 1932 MCC London-Lands End Trial with C. F. Harris at the wheel. This image was shot at an unknown location on 26th March 1932 by a photographer using celluloid film in his camera, the resulting negatives producing far less detail than that seen on glass plates. C.F. Harris failed to collect an award and retired from the event. (An LAT Motor Sport image)

Wolseley Hornet Specials no.16

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1932 Wolseley Hornet March Special

Kevill-Davies & March of Bruton Street, London W.1 marketed a number of ‘specials’ from early 1932 onwards. One of their earliest designs was an open two+two body for the Wolseley Hornet chassis as seen in this April 1932 Autocar image, with a body supplied by the coachbuilder John Charles of Kew. There is a strong claim that these Freddie March designed bodies were the first to feature fully swept front wings, a styling cue that was to become a design hallmark of British thirties sports cars. (LATplate E2670)

Wolseley Hornet Specials no.10

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This image was first published in the 14th April 1933 edition of The Autocar. It shows a 1933 Windover bodied Wolseley Hornet Coupe special. The coachbuilding firm of Windover were based in Colindale, North West London having moved from their original premises in Huntingdon during the mid-twenties. They were historically renown for building high quality bodies on prestigious chassis although by 1933 lesser marques were receiving their attention and it is said that workmanship and quality dropped-off at this time. This Hornet Coupe Special is certainly pleasing on the eye and the coachwork looks to be outstanding. (Autocar photo-scan courtesy of LAT Images)

Hornet Specials no.9

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In early 1931 the Swallow Coachbuilding Company of Foleshill, Coventry launched two versions of their Hornet coachwork. Both were open types, a  boat-tailed two-seater and a flat-backed four-seater. Seen here is a heavily re-touched Autocar image of the beautiful open two-seater parked outside of one of Henley’s two Great Portland Street, W1 premises prior to their move to 385/387 Euston Road, NW1. The car initially retailed for £220, a full £5 more than the similarly specified Eustace Watkins offering. Swallow offered the models in a range of two-tone colour schemes which included matching interior trim and hood fabric. The firm’s Hornet models proved to be very popular and continued in production until early 1934. (Image courtesy LAT Images)

Hornet Specials no.8

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This is the second factory produced interloper to be described here in the Hornet Specials section. The Wolseley Hornet Semi-Sports was an open two-seater model capable of 66 mph (according to the factory blurb). It was launched in the summer of 1930, just a few months after the April launch of the two saloon variants. Unsurprisingly it looked somewhat similar to the very successful MG Midget in that its flat scuttle was the home to a ‘V’ windscreen while its boat tail had lines that aped that of the Midget. It sold for £198, some £13 more than the Midget but for that owners got an easily erectable hood, hydraulic brakes and a 1271cc six cylinder OHC engine. Although 6000 early Hornets sold between April 1930 and September 1931 the Semi-Sports version features very infrequently in period photographs – suggesting perhaps that it didn’t sell in large numbers. To the editors knowledge none remain today.

Hornet Specials no.7

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The Wolseley Hornet Special, along with the sporting versions of the Singer Nine and the many variants of the  M.G. Midget epitomise the club motor sport scene in the thirties decade. Here we celebrate the rich variety of Hornet Specials which were bodied by many of the trades finest coachbuilders.

RC 450, a 1932 McEvoy Hornet Special survives to this day. During the thirties it had an illustrious competitive career in the hands of H.C. Laird but currently awaits restoration after decades of inactivity. This photo, with Laird at the wheel, was taken in April 1936, at a time when the car was already over four years old. Although the location is not known the date and time of the event is recorded as the Derbyshire Sporting Trial held on 10th April that year. This Autocar photo-scan appears here courtesy of LAT Photographic.

Hornet Specials no.6

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The early Wolseley Hornet chassis proved to be a magnet to the coachbuilding trade. Just a few weeks after the models launch in April 1930 an open Hornet special built by the Hoyal Bodybuilding Corporation in Surrey made its debut, rapidly followed by many others over the forthcoming months. Over twenty such concerns produced a plethora of models in those early years of the thirties decade.

The Boyd-Carpenter concern of Kilburn, North West London was another coachbuilding company that recognised the potential of the Hornet chassis from very early on. In lthe autumn of 1930 it built a distinctive bullet tailed two-seater open body for the Hornet chassis which it marketed via Normand Garage in SW7 at £232-10s-0d. This example displays a late 1930 London registration of GK 6236. (LAT Motor Sport archive image)

Hornet Specials no.5

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1931 Wolseley Hornet ‘Sunshine-roof’ Coupe

This car is an interloper in that it’s not a Hornet special at all and is in fact a Wolseley factory product. The Wolseley Hornet Coupe was introduced in late April 1931 and was the Wolseley Company’s response to the growing number of Hornet specials being launched by the coachbuilding trade. The two-seater Coupe was priced at £215 and was luxuriously equipped with leather bucket seats, Triplex glass and a sunshine roof along with the standard Hornet fitments of hydraulic brakes and automatic radiator shutters. Duo-tone paint and a large luggage space behind the seats made this model an attractive proposition for those seeking a budget priced, fast, enclosed tourer. (Image via Philip Butland)

Hornet Specials no.4

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MCC London – Lands End Trial Saturday 26 March 1932 – Launceston, Devon lunchtime stop.

After traveling overnight from Virginia Water in Surrey and stopping at Taunton, Somerset for breakfast, competitors in the 1932 running of ‘The Lands End’ halted in Launceston for lunch before a scheduled finish from 3:05PM onwards at the tip of the UK mainland. The four open Hornets seen here at Launceston were all built at the Jensen brothers West Bromwich premises and very much constituted a combined Jensen/McEvoy team. The three Derby City Borough Council registered vehicles, RC 266 (Jensen Hornet), RC 450 (Jensen Hornet) and RC 500 (McEvoy Hornet) were driven by messrs H.C. Wardle, H. Laird & R.C. Vickers respectively. Strangely Jensen Hornet EA 5034 (a West Bromwich registration) was driven by Michael McEvoy. The team must have performed well as all four crews collected Premier awards. The fifth Hornet in shot is a 1930 Surrey registered Saloon driven by I. C. Tyler who collected a Silver award. (Extract from LAT Plate B7789)

Hornet Specials no.3

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From late 1930 onwards until 1935 the Wolseley Hornet chassis kept many coachbuilding firms in business. Around twenty such concerns built an array of ‘special’ bodies covering the whole gamut of body shapes and sizes. This series of images will attempt to illustrate that rich variety.

Michael McEvoy was quick to spot the sporting potential in the six cylinder Wolseley Hornet chassis when it first appeared in April 1930. By the summer of that year he had designed and built one of the earliest Hornet Specials and commenced selling them through his Leaper Street, Derby and Notting Hill, London premises. This mid-1930 Derby City Council registered car is possibly one of the earliest sold and is seen here taking part in the 1931 running of the Reliance Trial – crew unknown.

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