The 2003 Black Country Vehicle Rally took place on Sunday 13th July at the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley. There were 148 entries ranging from the larger Guy commercial vehicles to the smaller Sunbeam and Star cycles. Many people came along to view the vehicles on what was one of the hottest days of the year.

Wolverhampton was the leading vehicle manufacturing town in the Black Country and its products were well represented. The entries included a large number of Sunbeam motorcycles and several A.J.S. machines. Also on hand were several DMW, Clyno and Mercury machines and an HRD and a DKR.

J. Jewkes' Hermes

Entry number 144 is the Mercury Hermes that belongs to J. Jewkes. It was only purchased about a fortnight before the rally, in a dilapidated condition. During those two weeks, Mr. and Mrs. Jewkes laboured hard to cosmetically restore the machine. What they achieved in those two weeks is amazing; the machine had changed from an absolute wreck into nearly new showroom condition. This must be one of the fastest restorations ever undertaken. They soon hope overhaul the engine and have the machine running.

Alan Richardson came along with his Sunbeam model 9 from 1927. This is a special that was built for hill climbs and was one of the first Sunbeams to be fitted with a saddle tank.

Also on display was Arthur Biggs’ D.M.W. ‘Bambi’ from 1960. Only 60 were made and this is one of the only three that are still in working order.

A number of superbly restored cars were present including a wonderful Little Briton from 1910 which still has its original body. Brian Rollings brought his Star Jason along, which is the only surviving 4 door Jason. Entry number 148 is the Sunbeam 16 (18.2) ‘6 Light Saloon’ that is owned by Colin Ault. . This was the car’s first outing since restoration. It was previously owned by Rutter’s Garage in Bridgnorth and was used as a funeral and private hire car.

The Hermes during restoration

John Meadows was there with his Frisky Sport from 1958. It was built at Henry Meadows’ factory in Fallings Park, Wolverhampton. John is Henry Meadows’ grandson and we had a very pleasant conversation about the company. John showed me some of his many photographs of the works and Meadow’s products. He told me about an American atomic bomb test in the 1950s that was powered by a Meadows diesel generator. Although the generator was situated a little distance from the bomb, it survived the explosion and was still in working order. This must be one of the few diesel generators to have survived an atomic explosion and is a good tribute to the quality and durability of Meadows’ products.

The commercial vehicles were all Guy products and ranged from a 1930 Guy model ON 30cwt tipper to a 1973 Big J4T. Entry number 111 is a Guy Arab bus which was the last Guy delivered to Birmingham Corporation. The Guy ambulance on display was the actual ambulance that was used in Guy’s works.

Our display at the rally

Frank Sharman and myself put on a display of the history of some of Wolverhampton’s vehicle manufacturers and this website was available on a computer. Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies also put on a display and David Evans displayed a wonderful collection of photographs of the interior of some of the Star Engineering Company’s factories.

The rally was well organised by Trevor Davies, David Evans, Ray Jones, Ron Lucas and Brian Rollings. Plaques were given to all of the entrants and were provided by Clive Knowles of the Black Country Metal Works.

All the vehicles joined in the cavalcades round the site.  Here Tony Chesters kindly gives a lift to an elderly visitor.

All in all it was a most enjoyable day and was well attended. Next year’s rally is due to be held on Sunday 11th of July at the Black Country Living Museum.

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