An Entertaining & Informative Vintage Automobile Internet Magazine

*Update* Gustave Hamel in a fine gentleman’s speed car

*Update* It appears that readers Ariejan Bos and Richard Armstrong may have solved this mystery for us. Bos comented: If you compare this car with the 1906 Mercedes 120PS racer, the resemblance is striking indeed! Obvious of course are the many modifications to turn it into the ‘modern’ look of 1913.

We agree with him, compare it with the photo of a 120PS just (below) which was originally powered by a quite long six-cylinder. Can anyone add more to this interesting story?

Read Armstrong’s comment below and follow the links he has included. He believes that the photo was taken at the London Aerodrome at Hendon and that it was the the premises of the Grahame-White School. The second photo (below) shows additional buildings but, if you compare the original buildings they seem to be the same and the trees appears to be the very same trees seen (above).

Thanks to both of you gentlemen for your responses.

Original text (below)

This fine looking special on an original photo postcard, came from the late, well know british automotive writer Michael C. Sedgwick’s collection. He noted on the card “Hamel and his car” and the year as being 1913. Hamel appears to be Gustave Hamel a known early aviator. Below is a photo of him from a from the book, Flying, by Gustav Hamel and Charles Turner dated 1914.

The car make is an unknown, but it is quite “Mercedes like” and built in the spirit of many early British racing cars and aero engined “speed cars”, many of which were built on old Mercedes chain-drive chassis. The odd thing about this car, is that appears to have been built to make one think it had a large engine, but seems to have a small to medium-sized four under the hood, that is long enough for most any big power plant of the time. In case you are a new reader to our site and unaware of them, the covered object on the cowl, is a large acetylene search lamp, powered by the round generator mounted just below it.

The scene of the photo appears to be an airfield and our first thought was that it may have been at the Brooklands race track, which also served as an airfield. In checking many photos though, the fence in front of the car appears to be quite different than the type seen there. We are hopeful one of our readers from the UK or Europe will know the location. It is also hoped the the car may have been well known enough to also be identified. Let us know if you can help. Photo courtesy of Pre War Walt.

6 responses to “*Update* Gustave Hamel in a fine gentleman’s speed car

  1. If you compare this car car with the 1906 Mercedes 120PS racer, the resemblance is striking indeed! Obvious of course are the many modifications to turn it into the ‘modern’ look of 1913.

  2. That bank of hangars in the background would of course look vaguely familiar to anyone who has seen “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines”, which was set at a Brooklands-esque “Brookley”. Despite the fence my first thought was that they might be the original Vickers sheds at Brooklands, but the pitch of the roofs is wrong. The same applied to the bank of hangars at the Balloon School at Farnborough, which was my next guess. However, the wonderful FlightGlobal Archive came up trumps, with a picture which indicates that this is the then London Aerodrome at Hendon.

    Although the picture of Hamel shows nine hangars, the two furthest away are of a slightly different design. This link is to a page from Flight, Feb 11 1911 and shows the seven lower-roofed hangars, which are the premises of the Grahame-White School.

    This page at Control Towers UK has some brief details about Hendon – which has an interesting history and is now one of the RAF Museum sites – and at the bottom you can find two more contemporary pictures, showing how the Graham-White sheds expanded further:

  3. The top photograph of Gustav in his Mercedes GP racer was taken at Hendon, against the white railings, situated between the airfield and the Bleriot/Aeronautical Syndicate sheds. The hangars further away are indeed the Grahame-White sheds. Gustav bought his Mercedes GP racer, I believe it was a 1908 build, around the end of 1911/beginning of 1912. He had previously owned a Weigl and a Daimler, and had had two rather bad accidents in the Daimler in late 1911. Later he owned a larger Berliet, which was crashed by his chauffeur, on Edgware Road in 1913. Gustav was not involved in the accident, but some of his friends were in his car at the time. As far as I know, his Mercedes was the only car he still owned at the time of his death in May 1914, and I believe it was probably sold to pay off debts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *