Scotsman Alexander Govan obtained financial backing from Warren Smith of the National Telegraph Company in 1899 and designed and built his first voiturette using De Dion and MMC engines.
A vertical, single-cylinder engine was forward mounted, driving through a 3-speed gearbox with shaft drive to a live rear axle. A distinctive wrap-around radiator cooled on thermo-syphon principles. Early cars featured tiller steering, but in 1901, wheel steering replaced the tiller.
This car features wheel steering and is a 1901 model. Argyll production records do not survive; however, car no. 85 in the Glasgow Transport Museum has been dated 1900 by the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain, and there is one other older survivor.
The first owner of this car was T. Pictom Bradshaw of Dublin, who accompanied the first leg of the Irish Motor Tour in this car in 1901. Pictom Bradshaw had specified robust wooden artillery wheels, adding £10 to the £248 list price. Motor News of November 1901 illustrated this very car.
This car saw minimal use during Pictom Bradshaw’s ownership and sat unused for 32 or more years in his garage. It was acquired in 1948 in amazingly original condition by eccentric Dublin painter Paul Egestorff, who parked the car in the living room of his first-floor apartment.
Egestorff paid the princely sum of £25 at auction, as he thought that the brave little Argyll was “gallant and outrageous and deserved saving from the scrap heap.” Although a contemporary newspaper report indicates the car bore the registration number RI50, that is believed to belong to Egestorff’s 1903 Winton.
The same newspaper cutting states that the car took part in a veteran car run in 1939, when original owner Bradshaw took the wheel. Fifty years later, collector Denis Lucey acquired this car and had to remove the bodywork to get it out of the apartment.
The Argyll then took pride of place as the oldest vehicle in the Museum of Irish Transport at Killarney. Powered by a single-cylinder MMC engine, the coachwork is remarkably original, the fragile spindle back seats supporting the history of minimal use.
The rear-entrance tonneau door still bears the Pictom Bradshaw monogram, and the car is equipped with FLEC oil side lamps and rear lamp. This car was acquired for $227,333 by the present owner in April 2007 at Bonhams’s dispersal sale of the Denis Lucey Collection at the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon.
Since then the owner has carried out almost undetectable repairs to the spindle seat coachwork and mudguards, reconditioned the radiator, fitted new tires and tubes, and overhauled the brakes. The seats have been reupholstered in black leather and the engine started for perhaps the first time in 70 years.