Nostalgia – Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire

By Rob Harvey
By Rob Harvey

Marketing Manager - Bridge Classic Cars

Here is another incredible story from Keith Belcher, in his own words, about his Dad’s Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire:

“It was a Saturday evening in the late spring of 1962. Mum and Dad had visitors in our little house in Nearmoor Road. “The Gang” as they called themselves. Dad, Dennis, Big Eric and Little Eric and their wives. A get-together with alcohol flowing was not unusual. In those days, people used to drink and drive, mostly sensibly. Being now 12 years old, after putting my little brother to bed, I stayed up and listened intensively to the adult conversation. The chatter was about the space race, JFK’s presidency, the Cold War etc. etc. The conversation turned to how Dad’s business was doing. Dad explained that he had just taken on a new business partner and things were looking up. He had promoted Ray, his second in command, to Service Manager and he had given Ray his quite new Vauxhall Victor as a company car. That left Dad driving a van. He needed funds for new plant [and an expensive planned holiday] so a new car was not really possible.

Now Big Eric was a car dealer, a lovely bloke. He was the “Spiv” type of chap, you know, you expected him to open his jacket for you to see wristwatches hung on the lining, just like George Cole in the movies. He piped up “Hey Ken. I know where there is a beautiful car going for a song!” Dad replied “What is it?” Eric: “Well, I’m not really sure. It’s something like a Princess or a Daimler, you know a limousine supposed to be in superb nick. The blokes been gone for ages and his wife just wants rid. I bet you could get it for a song.” Dad said “Not my style Eric. Too old for me don’t you think?” At that statement everyone piled in the discussion saying that he should go for it, it would suit him and other stuff. Over the evening the gang ribbed and cajoled, poked and prodded Dad, they were relentless, until he promised to follow up on that car. I remember the laughter as they left that night. Little Eric coughed and turned with his arm up behind him as if expecting a tip and said “I’ll be leaving you now Sir….” (a reference to the popular TV series Bootsie & Snudge).

A few days later I went with Dad to 290 Highbridge Road, Sutton Coldfield. The smart lady led us down her garden to a garage. Inside was this gorgeous dark grey Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire Automatic car. It was on blocks, the wheels removed and completely covered in Vaseline. With sumptuous leather interior the engine was spotless and started easily. She explained that her husband was away and was going to be away longer than expected. She didn’t volunteer why she had not advertised it, but she was concerned that the car would have to be collected in darkness, so no one would see it go. Dad made a lowball offer of £250 cash politely but in a take it or leave it manner. To his surprise she agreed.

The next day a fitter sorted the wheels, drained fuel tank and put new fuel in. Dad had that car for some two years or so. RWD 828 was a lovely car. Later when driving it around he was approached occasionally by unsavoury characters and ladies would wave at him for no apparent reason. It turned out the car had belonged to a doctor who had been imprisoned for illegal abortions & was well known to the local working girls and of course their pimps. Needless to say, the registration 187 KHA was moved from the Vauxhall to the Armstrong. It was later sold for a thumping profit.

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