|1935 Squire Vanden Plas
The car described sold for $145,000, including buyer’s premium, at the Bonhams & Brooks Quail Lodge sale held August 18, 2001. The interest in the car, which led to a sale price $100,000 above the low estimate, can be attributed to a recent interest in “barn finds” and the historical significance of owning the “missing” Squire.
Robert Davis, a bachelor, passed away in 2000 and left his estate to his brother’s three children. The heirs, although not “car people,” were not anxious to dispose of the Squire until they knew more about the car, even though there were several offers. Through a convoluted turn of events, I was engaged to advise the family about X-103 and its future.
I met two of the family members and their spouses in Albuquerque in March of this year with plans to examine and photograph the Squire and to determine the best method of disposing of the car. The storage facility was in a very secure location; the facility manager would not allow access to the garage until evidence was provided that they were in fact the proper heirs to the estate. He had also installed his own locks on the unit, so it was an involved process gaining access, even once all the documentation was accepted.
The fantasy of finding a pristine example of a rare vehicle that had not seen the light of day for a quarter of a century was quickly dashed as we rolled up the garage door. It was readily apparent why the car had not been utilized. The driveshaft was disconnected and hanging on the ground, the tires had rotted and were flat, and all sorts of stuff was “stored” in and around the car. With a great deal of effort, X-103 was dragged—four flat tires don’t roll—out of the dark garage for further inspection. However, even displayed in its worst state it was apparent why the Vanden Plas roadster has been called the most attractive British two-seater ever built.
The dry climate of New Mexico had been kind to the Squire. There was no noticeable rot in the wood frame and the leather seats were still useable as patterns. A small section had been cut out of the right rear fender, but other than that, the body was solid. The Salmson replacement engine was intact, as was the original Wilson-E.N.V. four-speed pre-select transmission. However, the chronograph, which had been ordered for racing activities by the first owner, was missing. Family documents indicated that Davis had removed the device when the car was first stored and it was in his home for safe keeping. Unfortunately, after his passing, the home was burglarized and it can only be assumed that the near-irreplaceable instrument was stolen and fenced for a few dollars.
As evidence of Davis’s plans to restore X-103, a large wooden box containing components of an original-type Anzani R1 engine was in the storage unit. The engines that Squire used were purchased from Anzani with a Squire emblem cast into the intake manifold and breather cap. No mention of the Anzani name appeared. The original engines were also fitted with a David Brown Roots supercharger.
The heirs to the Squire decided to offer X-103 at auction during Pebble Beach. They attended the event on August 18th and were seated very close to those involved with the spirited bidding. They were delighted by the interest shown in the car and were gratified as the bids rushed past the $100,000 level. A British dealer was victorious and the “missing” Squire will return to its birthplace, no doubt to undergo a complete restoration.
Certainly, in this instance, bringing the car to a first-tier auction company, to be offered during the week when the world’s vintage-car attention turns towards Monterey, brought absolute top dollar for the car.—Carl Bomstead