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  "ELVA Jottings #3" (August 2006)

There will not be too many people in the vintage motor sport world who do not know that Frank Nichols founded the ELVA Engineering Co. in the seaside town of Bexhill which is located in East Sussex here in the UK. All this happened a whisker over fifty years ago, and while I was not involved with Elva quite that far back, a glance in the mirror each morning reminds me that it has been a seriously long time!

Whenever I visit Bexhill I enjoy paying homage to the wonderful old buildings which housed the talented and growing Elva workforce, and to this day remain amazed that such wonderful cars were conceived in such small and cramped surroundings. I know what you all had in mind, a gleaming glass fronted tower block, Elva neon signs lighting up the seashore but in fact the workshops were little more than lock-up garages, and the only glow was from the magnesium swarf fires which occasionally lit up half of southern England. Small they might be, but important ... you bet. Now comes the crunch.

On my last visit I was staggered to find that the lovely old ex drill-hall workshop behind the York Hotel had gone! Okay it was getting a little tatty and we need more housing, but to knock down the old Elva workshop is sacrilege!

The dedicated and immensely talented Elva Engineering workforce in May 1957. From L-R .. Mick Stevens; Charlie Toghill; Len Sayers; Tony Recknall; Mick Moon; Arthur Rothan; Bee Stringer; 'Pop' Nichols; David Peckham; FGN; Bob Townsend; Arthur Lee; Jim Hearn. So many unsung hero's who worked miracles often 7 days a week.   Situated behind the York Hotel in London Road Bexhill, this small workshop gave birth to great sports racing cars. Here Frank looks proudly at an aluminium clad Mk.2 and the hard working team vans.
The York Hotel workshop sadly now demolished.   The London Road Garage first used to repair pre-war second hand cars which became the first Elva Engineering workshop mainly building chassis frames for the sports racers and very first Couriers. Now under threat from a road improvement scheme.

Thankfully the original workshop remains much as it was in the Fifties and in fact is still in use by a small engineering firm, while the nearby 'Fish & Chip' shop run at one time by John Nichols, still thrives. BUT the local authorities have plans to widen the roads and the whole site is under threat. Perhaps ironic that the birthplace of such stunning cars will be lost to the needs of the modern motor vehicle.

Bexhill Museum needs your cash

So now you are reduced to tears comes the point of these ramblings. We need your help PLEASE, or to be specific, the Bexhill Museum needs your cash. Let me explain.

The Bexhill Museum has had an Elva display for some years but the building is again small. However, the good news is that the whole museum is to be expanded, and part of their extensive plans is a much bigger and important Elva display.
Latest update about the museum

So can I point you to this letter from Julian Porter the curator. Click the letter to open a larger version. He does not only need your cash donations, but any items of Elva memorabilia from the BEXHILL days, including an early sports racer or very early Courier. Please search your garage now!

More information about the museum and the expansion

I have early Elva items already set aside for the new display and also have a number of fund raising projects planned.

As a start I commissioned a superb painting of the now demolished workshop which features the two wonderful team vans. Created by artist Chris Dugan the painting is being used to produce 1000 special commemorative cards and ALL cash received from sales will get this important ball rolling. I hope to also get some signatures of the surviving workforce on just a few.

Time marches on so do please help, by purchasing a single card, or perhaps a pack of ten to spread the word to Elva friends and enthusiasts around the world, at race meetings, social gatherings etc.

Use your imagination as we do not want to look back and think we did nothing to remind future generations of Elva's past. Frank and the team at Bexhill worked miracles and the town is very proud of their achievements. I think we all are too. If you can help then please contact me via the Elva website, or email the museum Curator Julian Porter at museum@rother.gov.uk but please talk to whoever you can, promote the cause and let's make this happen. Thank you and as Frank used to say we will be "chuffed to bits".

BREAKING NEWS ... I have just received the small batch of 1/43rd scale models of the two wonderful team vans as so beautifully captured by automotive artist Chris Dugan. These models were specially commissioned, look superb, professionally built and are full of 1950's character. I will post further information and pictures soonest. If you cannot wait then email me for more details!

Roger Dunbar


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