In Driving Member, the magazine of the Daimler and Lanchester Owners' Club, appeared a small item. John Pochin, registrar for sleeve-valve Daimlers, invited club members to his home, Barkby Hall, for a meeting. Picnic on the lawn, and the chance to see John's collection of Daimlers.
John is not just the registrar for sleeve-valves; he knows more about them than any other man alive. We simply had to be there.
Now RA3910 has not travelled far in its life, despite it being 83 years since it left Daimler's Radford works, so it would be a major expedition.
I emailed John Pochin at 8pm on the Saturday after receiving the magazine to accept the invitation. I checked my inbox at 9pm. John had replied, so we had to follow up on the promise.
It seemed too much to travel all the way to Barkby on a Sunday morning, so I looked around for a suitable stop. A B&B on the east of Derby, about half a mile from the house which had been the first home of our Daimler, seemed an obvious location. I booked for the Saturday and Sunday evenings.
The trip south on the Saturday afternoon was not without problems. We got hot and boiled a couple of times on the M6. Calling in at my place of work, we replenished water supplies and took refreshment. On to the "D" road, the A500 which goes through Stoke-on-Trent. A long hill caused more boiling of the coolant. Checking the engine bay, we noticed that a plug had disappeared from the top of the carburettor float chamber. I located a twig which filled the hole temporarily.
Refuelling at ASDA, a detour to Homebase gave us a supply of wooden pegs. One was carved down so that it fitted the hole in the float chamber. After all, a route into a supply of petrol is a fire risk, and we didn't want a conflagration!
The route to Derby was completed with little problem. We stopped to check coolant, and found it satisfactory. We settled in to a comfortable room in our B&B, then headed down to the nearest pub for some food. We were accosted before we could get inside by patrons anxious to learn more of this rare vehicle. We managed to get our food ordered before the kitchen closed for the evening, and enjoyed a gentle drive back to the B&B.
In the morning we travelled slowly to Barkby Hall. Following the obvious route up the drive, we parked on the grass close to the hall, between a Green Goddess fire engine and the fence dividing the grass from the gravelled area in front of the hall..
John Pochin's collection of Daimlers has to be seen to be believed. His sleeve valve models were lined up in front of the hall.
The two cars nearest the camera were built n 1911. Next is a shooting brake of 1913. The blue car ("Monty") was built from "bits" as a hill climber. The engine of it dates from about 1924, the chassis is a little later, and the body comes from a 20's Bentley. In the distance can be seen "Horatio", a 1927 35/120 Limousine, with a very opulent interior. The Austin 7 at the far right of the photo is there just because the top of its windscreen lines up with the top of Horatio's radiator. That limousine is HUGE.
Other earlier Daimlers are undergoing work in the stable block, which is set up specially to house the collection. The earliest datesfrom 1897. Some think it may date from 1896, which would make it the earliest Daimler in existnce.
Both before and after lunch, our car was in demand for examinations and explanations. After lunch, John Pochin had the Big Tour. He wanted to know our car's ins and outs, and its history. He told us not to worry about the missing plug on the carburettor. Horatio had lost its plug many years ago. We showed him photos of what used to be, and he came up with a brass tap with the right thread to fill the hole. The engine was started, to his approval.
Having shown John most of the features of our car, I told him that it was time to go for a drive. Readily accepting, John started climbing in to the passenger seat. "Yes, that's the easiest way in", I said. "Slide over - you're driving". John is well used to sleeve-valve Daimlers and had no trouble with the controls (unlike me!). We drove to the estate lodge and back, smiles on everyone's faces. "I'm not parking it on the grass where it was", said John. "It's going in front of the house with mine".
Accordingly he reversed RA3910 between Monty and Horatio.
As we were thanking John for his hospitality before we left, his son Simon piped up - "If you are ever thinking of selling, give my dad first refusal". We hope to drive our Daimler for many years to come, but will keep the request in mind.
Approaching Loughborough on the trip home, we were flagged down by an enthusiastic man leaning from the passenger window of a passing car. We stopped behind him in a layby, and he told us that he was restoring a 1930s Lanchester. Another friend! We had to refuse his offer of refreshment and continued home.