I was extremely saddened to learn of the loss of Jim who was so very enthusiastic about his days with Elva and was so delighted to see ‘his’ old van when we met up at the Bexhill Polgrove Park event.
Jim joined Elva Engineering in the early days and worked at the ‘York Hotel’ workshop in Bexhill and soon became known as the ‘snake charmer’. He regularly drove both the Morris PV and the Ford pickup and much enjoyed telling stories of varies long and eventful trips he made to collect chassis tubing, engines and many items from suppliers around the country. He often took completed cars to the docks in London and having unloaded, he would leave the trailer and head off to the Midlands to perhaps the Coventry Climax plant before returning via London to eventually get home some 18 hours later.
Now I have the pleasure of driving the 1947 PV, I hold the greatest respect for Jim and all the people who made similar trips, as it is hard work! Jim recounted stories of roaring through red lights with eyes closed through lack of brakes, wrapping up in blankets during the winter months, and delivering a Courier to the north of England when he was told by Frank Nichols in no uncertain terms that he was not to exceed 30mph.
Having set out in his well used overalls, he was somewhat embarrassed to be giving a room in a smart hotel by the delighted new Courier owner and sneaked out to catch an early train home rather than eat the tempting breakfast in the stained overalls! I met with Jim many times and he was always cheerful and enthusiastic. He was often seen speeding around Bexhill on his battery powered pavement car and I gave him an Elva badge to fix on his latest form of transport. He was that sort of man.
Jim was also an accomplished drummer and played with many bands throughout much of his adult life.
And why the ‘snake charmer’? Frank asked Jim to find out from the Climax engineers the best exhaust design for the FWA engines and it was left to Jim to produce these manifolds by hand for the many early race winning cars. Great job Jim. You will be greatly missed by family and friends.
Roger A Dunbar (March 2009)