As centenary commemorations take place around the country to mark the start of World War One, Vauxhall − Britain’s oldest surviving car manufacturer – is preparing its D-type staff car for several star appearances.
The car is one of just two D-type staff cars known to survive. ‘IC-0721’ (its military number) appeared in the Steven Spielberg film War Horse, along with Vauxhall Heritage Collection’s ‘Prince Henry’ model.
Saved from a London scrap yard in 1946, the car was restored to its original condition and has resided at Vauxhall HQ ever since. Earlier this year, the car returned to Ypres, where it was photographed for a feature in the current issue of Classic & Sports Car magazine.
Vauxhall was one of a handful of manufacturers who supplied vehicles to the war effort during the 1914-18 conflict. The company produced more than 1500 D-type staff cars for military use, which saw action in theatres as diverse as the Western Front, East Africa, Russia and Palestine.
Derived from the A-type model and built from 1915, the D-type staff car played a vital role during the conflict. With its sturdy chassis and durable four-cylinder, side-valve 3969cc engine, it could achieve over 60mph and deal with appalling road surfaces that would tax today’s most high-tech off-roaders.
Regarded by many historians as the first automobile war, the ’14-18 conflict saw for the first time companies like Vauxhall, Rolls Royce and Sunbeam work closely with the British Army to mobilise key personnel. King George V was transported to Vimy Bridge in northern France in a Vauxhall, and the staff car was also the first vehicle to cross the Rhine following the Armistice in 1918.
The Morning Post summed up the importance of Vauxhall’s D-type soon after hostilities had finished: ‘the four-cylinder Vauxhall cars have proved to be the most generally satisfactory of any British make for staff service.’
The D-type’s first outing is at the Farnborough International Airshow (19 to 20 July). It’ll be at the Brooklands Museum display stand before taking up residence at the museum itself for the school holidays. The car will then take part in the Brooklands Great War 100 event on August 3 before coming down to London for the Great War Centenary Parade in London on August 4.
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